Darke Reviews | A Quiet Place (2018)

I have to admit from the initial trailers I’ve been excited for this movie. John Krasinski directing isn’t what did it, I have never watched, nor am likely to watch an episode of The Office. I don’t think I’ve watched a single thing he’s starred in. Emily Blunt is always a gift in film and to be fair is a draw here. No, what got me was the premise. A horror movie with a creature that attacks based on certain types of noise and sound. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Sure the Descent has creatures that *should* hunt that way, and The Cave has creatures that use echo location, but none of them explored fully a creature above ground that stalks and kills its prey if it makes noise. I specify above ground because yes, the Tremors films “Graboids” do hunt by sound. The set up here is different with a clear intent to invoke raw tension in the viewer.

I have a mouth and should I scream?

Yeah ok not my best lead in question pun, I just wanted to get to writing on this. Feel free to suggest better ones in the comments on Facebook. The movie was written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. The two have been collaborating together for well over a decade on various shorts and a single TV movie with this being their first theatrical feature film together.  Krasinski nabs a screenplay credit for any changes he made on set while directing. As I am not familiar with any of the pairs prior works, I can’t comment like usual on trends or patterns in story. What I can say is they provided us something that horror does better than almost any other genre; a tight focused character piece. The trailers tell you all you need. We have fast moving creatures that hunt day or night at the slightest of loud noises. They apparently are very strong and due to the near post apocalyptic feel the movie sets up very difficult to kill.

Can you imagine living in a world where you can’t speak to anyone around you? It’s entirely possible for me to go from the end of a work day on a Friday to the Monday morning without uttering a word or hearing another human voice. It happens quite a bit. I know how that leaves me on that morning and I cannot fully appreciate or realize what going days, weeks, months, or even years would be like. What does it mean to survive like that? With a family? With children? Is it even really living? The movie probes into these topics just enough with the charming backdrop of an upstate New York farm and monsters waiting for the kill.

I often pick on films for introducing concepts and not exploring them fully, if at all. This one introduces several fascinating concepts in horror and humanity and delves just deep enough under the skin to leave you thinking about it as the tension rises. Tension being something Krasinski as a director did extraordinarily well. Much as I tear into films that don’t have good rises and falls of tension, this one is like watching someone inflate a balloon. You see it getting bigger and bigger and you can’t be sure if it’s going to pop. Every now and then, a little air is let out letting you breathe for a moment, but then they get right back to it. It works.

With a small cast of four people everyone has to be on their A game to sell the drama underlying the horror. Blunt and Krasinski do their parts well, but with Emily this is to be expected and it’s clear John has talent to keep up the game while also being behind the camera. Noah Jupe, does well enough as the pre/early teenage son Marcus, who is trying to understand his place in the family and the world. Millicent Simmonds, who plays the eldest daughter Regan who is deaf, does a great job getting both the angry and slightly rebellious teenager while still respecting the rules of the movie.

There is also one other critical factor to this childs role in the movie – she too is deaf. More and more movies are being called to the carpet – rightfully so – for casting abled individuals in character roles that are disabled. It’s takes away an opportunity for someone who is capable of performing a role and giving it to an able bodied person. It’s worth noting that this also comes up for those who are Queer when straight people are cast in roles that are explicitly queer. While it shouldn’t *have* to be praised for this, the casting and production of the movie *does* deserve praise for casting Millicent as a character who is deaf. I keep saying representation matters and this is yet again an opportunity that was taken to prove it. Well done movie. Well done.

From a technical perspective the production does a lot very right. It feels odd to praise a movie based on silence for its sound design but I must. There is an ingenuity at play here with the right sounds at the right times, at the right volumes. It amplified everything in the theatre. A creak of a chair. Someone shifting in the seats three rows back. This made it so when the sounds got loud you really appreciated all there was to it. The editing was fantastic with solid camera work to support it. Then of course comes the creature design. I liked it. That’s all I am saying.

TL;DR?

I really enjoyed this movie. It was good tension ratcheting horror with the right pay offs at the right times. It delivered on all it promised me and I can earnestly recommend this film to people. If Krasinski decides to keep himself behind the camera in future projects we have a good director joining the fray.  I hope we get more of Millie in future films as well. She’s already declared that she wants to continue acting and advocating for the deaf community and we should support her. I really hope Hollywood does.

So I should see it then?

Yes. If you were interested, slightly interested, at all curious – yes. D-Box seating isn’t needed. It didn’t add much that I noticed to the experience.

Would you see it again?

Probably. If someone local wants to go.

Buying it then?

No question

You don’t praise horror movies this much – whats the deal?

Because most horror doesn’t try. It relies on too many old tropes or characters you really can’t wait to see die. This does none of those things and explores an idea we haven’t seen. Don’t tell me there is nothing original left and then ignore this movie.

Last thoughts?

#RepresentationMatters

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Darke Reviews | The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016)

Unsurprisingly I have a weakness for my fellow Ice Queens. I also have not been shy about my weakness for the amazingly talented and versatile Jessica Chastain. Then Hollywood gives us the sequel no one asked for from a movie four years ago, but with two enticing elements to a girl like me. Snow White and the Huntsman only made $155 million domestically ($396mm worldwide) with an estimated production budget of $170 million, and mediocre DVD sales ($50mm). With middling scores across the board (48% Critic/52% Audience) and neither a critical or financial success someone had the bright idea to go “let’s make a prequel…or a sequel. Ah hell let’s make another one.” I am almost sure they pitched it minus Kristen Stewart and her twilight baggage (an undeserved reputation). I am sure they pitched it as a franchise. The thing Hollywood as an industry is thirsty for like a lost traveller in the middle of the Sahara. Looking for the next thing they can split and create with abandon to make boat loads of money.

Did they find it here? Or is this reviewers heart like ice?

One of the writers  (Craig Mazin) is responsible for Scary Movie 3 and 4, Superhero movie and Hangover 3. Evan Spiliotopoulos, the other writer brought us Hercules (the good one) and a series of Disney Sequels no one asked for either. I can easily see Evan’s work on this based on the pacing and tonal controls of Hercules ever present through out, I am trying to figure out where Mazin’s hand comes in. I’d almost be interested to find out what the writing process for this one. The story is relatively cohesive even if it is basic and borrows heavily from other similar fantastical fare. I mean a quest to destroy an all powerful gold object that can corrupt those too near it? It seems…familiar somehow. Beyond the writers comes first time director Cedric Nicolas Troyan, who has worked as a visual effects artist and supervisor on the first Snow White and The Ring, and a second unit director on Maleficent. This background does explain much of the visual splendor the movie offers over substance. Not that it is entirely style over substance, but the visuals for me were quite nice even if many were barely seen.

I would praise the actors here. Charlize Theron is magnificent as the Evil Queen once more with an air of menace that I look forward to see her in more villain roles. Emily Blunt is passable, though it isn’t her acting but what she has been given to work with. Something to lament with the other characters as well. Hemsworth is fun, smiling, and charming. Honestly, I haven’t seen that many smiles in an action movie in  years. This felt more swashbuckling from his performance and I am quite ok with that; though at times he needed a good throat punch. I just wish he had kept the Irish accent the entire film. Chastain kept hers, was magnificent and was magnificently under used. More on that in a spoiler section at the bottom requiring roll over to read. Her chemistry with Hemsworth was good, not great. Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith all are at least memorable which is more than I can say about anyone else.

Technical speaking time the movie. One would think that a visual effects supervisor and second unit director might know how to let you watch a fight. One would also be wrong. One would think that he would know how to appropriately frame a shot. One would be wrong again. Now the movie is very pretty, but the shots are quick in places they need to linger. Linger in the places they need to be quick. Are far when they should be close and close when they should be far. It’s inconsistent in this as he gets some right and some wrong, but that inconsistency does make many moments lose impact they could have had and break tension when it could be ramped. The Ice was done in a way I hadn’t seen before and appreciated very much. Overall the Ice Queen was quite beautiful in her power. The set pieces evoked very specific geographic regions of the world and again I found quite beautiful.  In this space the movie got it right.

TL;DR?

Believe it or not the movie is good. It cannot, nor should not, be called great. It was simply ok. Just the right side of mediocre to have moments of entertainment. It does nothing particularly brave or adventurous with it’s plot other than remember to have fun sometimes. It is 100% paint by numbers and the palette is over used, but it isn’t used badly? It *is* better than Snow White.

I am trying to remember when more movies I saw were fun. I don’t expect it from every film, it’s not right for every movie. This needs to happen more often though. Again this is not a great movie by any stretch. Many are going to be bored by it. I have a spoiler corner with some other info below.

Should you see it?

If you have nothing else to do or are curious? Otherwise Redbox it or Netflix it.

Will Jess buy it?

Eh…probably? There’s enough that made me smile and enough beats I really enjoyed to own it.

 

Nothing coming out next week that I can see, but I may catch a showing of RWBY on the big screen and potentially Alien as well. So that may warrant some writing.

SPOILER CORNER.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

TURN BACK NOW.

Still here?

You sure?

Alright. Rollover.

There is one major flaw to the movie aside from it’s pacing. Missed opportunity. Three powerful badass women. Hemsworth’s constant mugging. You had an opportunity boys behind the pen and the camera and you missed it. You didn’t take the chance to let the girls be as powerful as the boys. They were badass, but the boy wins the day. You had an opportunity to do something new. That is ultimately what sums up the movie is a missed opportunity. The one major fight sequence where Chastain is alone and you don’t do anything with it and can’t prove it’s her. Then after that she barely does anything other than look badass and “never miss”.  *sigh* I won’t forgive the movie for it and it does need to be held accountable, but at least there are three powerful women a girl can look to and go “I wanna be her.” So that is a win…maybe?

 

Darke Reviews | Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Sorry folks, this one was late. I was a lil busy at Phoenix Comic Con and didn’t get a chance to see this until tonight. In my usual fashion I am forgoing sleep to get a review out. I am pretty sure this is a form of mild insanity. Ok, so as usual spoiler free, but if you have seen a single trailer for it you know it involves time travel. Ugh that makes it a challenge to write a review without spoilers on a movie that has such a wibbly wobbly timey-wimey narrative.

This isn’t to say the narrative is bad or confusing. Is it a hodge podge of other plots you’ve seen before? Yep. This is Groundhogs Day + Starship Troopers + Mass Effect + probably a few others I could name but won’t. The last Tom Cruise movie I saw, Oblivion (I really need a page so I can link to these), did this too. An amalgam of plots we’ve seen blended with some care and only a little grace to create a final product. Does it do it well?

For starters, this one is based off of a story by Japanese author Hiroshi Sakurazaka published in 2004. I cannot speak to the original source material beyond I can see the clear influence of it through the narrative and the places the movie went that we would not innately go in the US. The screenplay then has the dreaded 3+ Rule applied with multiple individuals adapting this. Christopher McQuarrie best known for Jack Reacher, The Tourist, and the Usual Suspects. In other words he likes using characters to drive the story forward. Good. There’s Jez Butterworth, who has the 2007 bomb the Last Legion and 2010 politico thriller Fair Game. No idea what he added or how he got the work based on history here. There is also his younger brother John-Henry Butterworth, who also worked on Fair Game. My feeling here is that the brothers wrote the original screenplay and McQuarrie was brought in for rewrites and polish. This is a fairly common thing in Hollywood and leads to the problems we often find in the plot.

What is the plot? Major Cage (Tom Cruise) is being sent into a D-Day style final battle against an alien threat called Mimics. During the battle he dies (this is not a spoiler) then wakes up (still no spoiler). During the course of understanding this he encounters Sgt Vanke (Emily Blunt) who has answers. Together they will try to stop the failure that is the D-Day invasion and hopefully stop the alien menace.

You have no idea how hard it is to avoid spoilers here. Director Doug Linman (Jumper, Mr. & Mrs Smith, Bourne Identity) brings an A Game we have not seen to date outside of Bourne to this. With the exception of ONE decision the entire film I think he did it all right. He deals with the time travel in a fairly inventive way and is smart enough to not let the plot over explain it. He sets ground rules and expects you to follow along or get left behind. No real time or effort is wasted in exploring  the why’s just the whats. This is brilliant. When watching a movie, I expect it to meet it’s own rules, by not firmly setting all the rules he gives himself some freedom and avoids traps and paradoxes other stories hit head on (Looper).

I *LIKE* movies that do this. Give me a world. Go over the basics. I will either accept this or reject it. Too much detail creates traps that sharp minds will spring on the writers, directors, and their work. He does this fairly well and again with one exception doesn’t leave me angry at his choices; including the cast.

Tom Cruise is picking interesting films of late with two of his last three being firmly entrenched in sci fi. Both of which are doing their best to give us something new from the ashes of the sci fi we have had before. I know some people have issues with him on a personal level. I don’t care. I really don’t. Does he act well? I think so. Does he entertain me? With few exceptions, yes he does. He delves into relatively new territory here and I enjoy the exploration of his character as he lives, dies, and resets. He really pulls off the damage this can do to your psyche. You don’t get a firm count on how often it has happened, and you know it has happened  more times than they show, but you know it is A LOT of pain and death.

Supporting him fully here is Emily Blunt. You ask yourselves, the Love interest from Looper? The love interest in The Adjustment Bureau. The love interest in The Wolfman and the dramatic female actress from so many romantic dramas I can’t count them all. How does this person support Tom Cruise in a war movie? By being the biggest and baddest person on screen. She is fit, she is commanding, she is powerful. She is the force of nature that earns the nickname her character has in the story. Her power is what drives him and what drives the story forward.  Both characters develop as the story goes on  and sadly hers to a lesser extent than his. She however makes the action look effortless. She has a natural chemistry with Cruise that makes their battlefield camaraderie work.

The supporting cast really isn’t worth mentioning. They were cast for who they are and what they bring and are nothing but backdrop charactertures. Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson as entertaining as they are could have their parts filled by others with the near the same result. Sad that. The others bear next to no mention. They get little screen time and little impact. Both good and bad there.

Technically? Well here’s where I can get a little ..bothered. The creature design is clearly inspired by the biomechanical squiddies from Matrix. Down vote. They move like some of the things from Battleship. Downvote. In combination and with their additional details they do create a new creature in our sci fi consciousness which is still oddly interesting. Upvote. Too bad you don’t get to see a lot of them. I get that in film  with heavy CG you have to find new ways to hide things and blurry quick motions are an easy way to do it. This bordered on abusive and may have crossed the line. The power armor itself was awesome and even if it was inspired from non canonical sources in its design I have not quite seen THIS design before. I like what I saw and I like how they used it. The biggest problem of the movie is the camera work on the action. I do like to see it. They do great work on the slow beats in the battles but when the pulse is to be pounding, the eyes are too busy to make sense of it all. When you do see things I admit it looks cool as hell.

The only other technical flaw is the final credits. I am tired of blue print sequences ala Iron Man. I am tired of pop music that is vaguely ironic or tied to the film by the most tenuous thread. John Newman’s light poppy beat Love me Again is a mangled mess of a song to have attached to this movie. It took me so out of the film it was painful and jarring. It did NOT belong in the credits at all. This isn’t saying it’s a bad song. It isn’t. Its just a poor choice and was used simply because it has a “again”/time element to it. Even if it is slightly overused Imagine Dragons Radioactive would have been better. Linkin Park’s What I’ve done or Bleed it Out, while ‘older’ would have felt more natural to how the film ended from a musical queue. 30 Seconds to Mars – This is War or Kings and Queens, if you need something softer would work. Love Me Again – definitely not.

TL;DR? Thought so.

Yes this movie borrows heavily from many concepts done before, but it does it well. This is an important movie to sci fi and if the genre is something you enjoy – You must see this film.

If Sci fi and War movies are not your thing you either didn’t read this review or did and now know you shouldn’t see this. That opinion stands.

This is a REALLY good sci fi film. It doesn’t necessarily make you ask questions, which keeps it from being great, but weaves a solid narrative and interesting action with that science fiction bent. It does a lot really well and only fails in a few places I couldn’t talk about here. If this is your genre – this is your movie.

Please go see Edge of Tomorrow. We need more good sci fi and movies like this need our support. It wont change the world on its own but given time and a little patience it can help bring us to a brighter future of Sci Fi.

This weeks review – Dragons…..