Darke Reviews | Crimson Peak (2015)

So first off, apologies about missing the last few days of reviews, been a touch sick. That being said, we do have a new film that fits right in with the theme of this month with it’s supernatural tones and haunting themes. As we start into the review a confession that I am a Guillermo del Toro fangirl, I’ve loved his entire filmography and still have a few films to watch. This is my most anticipated movie of the fall season from the trailer to now I have been getting hyped. Cast, Director,  all of it. I mean watch this trailer, with PJ Harvey’s cover of Nick Cave’s Red Right hand.

This is a trailer that drove me to watch a film. This did the job of a trailer, I was interested. I was hyped.

Was I too hyped? Was it worth it?

Let’s begin with writing. Matthew Robbins, best known as the writer of 1974’s Sugarland Express. He is also the mind behind urban horror tale Mimic, 80’s rebellion icon The Legend of Billie Jean (a personal fav). The man knows how to write character driven stories. He also does a good job with tension, but only a good job; that’s where co-writer del Toro comes in. Nothing will stick out to me more about del Toro than his work on Pan’s Labyrinth a film that any director should be proud of and how people brought young children to it. It was a tumultuous film I look forward to writing a review of soon, but regardless it has such beautiful tension and imagery. Now we combine forces of these two men, who had previously worked on Mimic together. Only good things can come from this right?

We also have del Toro at the helm directing and providing, and I use the term honestly, visionary ideas to the production. I think of what he did with Mimic, Blade II, and Hellboy when given a chance. It’s important to know here that del Toro isn’t just a talented writer, but he has also worked multiple film crews as well, working Art Department, Editorial, Casting, Stunts, and so one. There are few facets of film he does not understand which only makes him a stronger director and that is in play here. I have complained a few times recently how claustrophobic modern film is, where the quality of the camera and the way the sets are shot make films seem small. Here del Toro flips that on it’s head making the film feel both claustrophobic and large at the same time in a an extraordinarily talented way. He made interesting fade choices I haven’t seen since the early days of film that only add to the style and ambience of the finished work.

An excellent director can do miracles when given the right cast and that has been put together. Jessica Chastain I have realized is a magnificent actress, much like a female Gary Oldman. Her roles are so different and so powerful, but she vanishes into them and you forget quickly you are looking at Murph, Commander Lewis, Maggie Beauford, or Maya; here instead she is Lady Lucille Sharpe, a Victorian/Turn of the century lady. Her brother, Thomas, is delivered unto us by Tom Hiddleston, most famous for his Loki performances, but also from a vampire favorite Only Lovers Left Alive. I am ecstatic that he did this as it will hopefully force fangirls, and other fans alike, to no longer think of him just as the man who played Loki. Thor made him famous, but his talent will keep him so I hope. Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, Only Lovers Left Alive) joins her two former castmates as Edith Cushing-Sharpe, a young american girl with dreams of being a writer in the vein of Mary Shelley vs. Jane Austen. Rounding out the cast we have Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim / Sons of Anarchy),  Jim Beaver (Supernatural), and the man with incredible fingers, Doug Jones. Few people have seen Jones without a make up effect on him, but suffice to say he is an excellent creature performer.

That also tells you something of the film. There are people, mostly Doug Jones and Javier Botet that play the supernatural elements of the film. For those in the back, Real people. Yes, they are overlaid with computer work, but that is only after the prosthetics and make up is applied. The movie goes as practical as it is capable of for the story it wants to tell and thrives for it as physical performances enhanced by a computer are always better than a performance simply made by the computer in a film like this. The effects are creepy but not too creepy. The trailers will let you manage your expectations of what you can and cannot deal with. Continuing on the technicals, the sets themselves are perfect. I mean that. Perfect. The house is real as far as I am concerned. It is a place I want to go, it is a place I can go. The costuming is stunning as well and tells a story of it’s own.

Now, the story itself? It is a classic ghost story in every sense of the word. This is not a spoiler since if you are surprised it’s a ghost story, clearly you are not paying attention. It is atmospheric. It is pulpy. It is large. It is small. It is dark and it is bright. Not one aspect of the story is wasted or left to chance.

TL;DR?

At almost precisely 2 hours, I cannot say Crimson Peak is a perfect film. I closed the longer part of the review saying not an aspect was wasted or left too chance; yet there is some pacing that could have been addressed. Guillermo does a sublime job of building tension and releasing it as needed, but it’s not quite perfect. I cannot put my finger on it but there’s just something off that didn’t resonate as well. It could be the bad audience I had, the long work day before, or my own expectations being as high as they were.

All of that aside, if you are looking forward to Crimson Peak – see it. See it this weekend. It’s the only one studios care about. We need more of what this film, it’s cast and crew bring to the cinema. This movie is the art we thought it would be.

The trailer says beware Crimson Peak.

I say enter of thy own free will….

 

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Darke Reviews | Book of Life (2014)

I brought you a special review tonight, a book. This is a special book, a book that should be read (shown to your children). It’s even got sports in it! Are you kidding? Fencing, Fighting, Death, Giants, Monsters, Chases, Escapes, True Love, Miracles. Doesn’t sound too bad does it?

I do not use the above words lightly. I need you to understand this. If you know the words I used, you know how special they are. What they imply. I thought long and hard on the drive home tonight and realized the implications hold.

The Book of Life is a movie that defies modern day Hollywood. I have teased the rant to come on the issue of whitewashing in Hollywood. The issues of casting caucasians in the part where someone of another ethnicity either should have been cast as appropriate to the story or could have been cast with no detriment (and possible improvement). This is nearly the opposite in every respect and it shows.

First we have the movie produced by native Mexican deity of film making Guillermo del Toro (that explains a casting choice too now that I think of it). The director, Jorge R. Gutierrez has worked as an animator before this picture, and this makes his first big screen production in the directors chair – AND a screenplay credit. I am impressed. Sometimes this is a sin. Today it is a blessing. There is also a co writer credit for Douglas Langdale. Upon review of his previous writing credits I can only assume he has learned much over the years since the Return of Jafar.

The story focuses on the relationship between three friends, Manolo (The guitarist), Joaquin (the hero), and Maria (the firebrand). The two boys want to wind the hand of Maria, who is content with being in control over her own life and making her own choices. Little do they know their lives are the focus of a bet by two deities of the dead, La Muerte and Xibalba, over the fate of all mankind.

Remember the whitewashing issue I mentioned? Yeah here – most of the cast is actually hispanic, in a movie focused around a religious day for hispanic culture. SHOCKER. Yes, some argument could be made for commercializing the Day of the Dead, but that’s happening  en masse, at least this seems to show it some measure of respect. We have Diego Luna as Manolo, Zoe Saldana As Maria. Also we have Kate del Castillo (IMDB says she is one of Mexico’s most acclaimed and popular actresses), Hector Elizondo, Danny “Machete” Trejo, Gabriel “Hot and Fluffy” Iglesias, Cheech Marin, and famed and epic opera singer Plácido Domingo.

Yes, there are some casting choices that don’t fit the rest of the theme, but they don’t distract and they don’t annoy. Channing Tatum works in his usual fashion and honestly is as funny as he ever is. Christina Applegate still has one of the most beautiful voices around. Ron Perlman (DelToro connection) is …well Ron Perlman and therefor awesome. Ice Cube, perhaps, is the weakest casting in the voices and most distracting. Its right up there with Steven Tyler in Epic.

From a technical standpoint, the movie in 3D works. It is absolutely gorgeous in every single respect. Colour, lighting, sound, animation, aesthetics. It is near flawless. I could not get over how gorgeous (or comically absurd) the character designs were. How well the colors and depth of field were used through the film. The specific design choice to make the characters similar to wooden marionettes was brilliant within the context of the story being told. Aside from the odd gag, it worked beautifully.

TL;DR?

Yes, Fury comes out this weekend. I have to see it tomorrow. I don’t want to. I want to see this again.

I want everyone to see this film. EVERYONE. It is family friendly for certain at nearly all ages. There’s a lot for adults here. There’s a lot for dates here – the story of love and how its handled work well enough to make me cry at times.

On that – the movie did make me cry. It got to me. It also made me laugh and laugh hard at other bits. It didn’t anger me with how they handled Saldana’s character. Even the rivalry between the friends didn’t play out as bad as it could have.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again when it matters – the movie made me smile. It made me feel warm. It entertained on many levels and that is what movies are here for.

So yes, please go see Book of Life this weekend if you can. It’s what Hollywood looks at.  If you can’t see it this weekend, please at least see it.

It is so worth it.

 

PS – I am serious, I do consider that opening film I referenced a good comparison here. Right or wrong, its what I feel.

Darke Reviews | Pacific Rim (2013)

Hold on to your butts and fasten your seat belts. Pacific Rim has arrived. All summer I have been saying this movie or that movie will be the one to beat until PR shows up. I was absolutely right. At the edge of our hope for a truly great summer blockbuster we Are given this gift. This weekend we are cancelling the slate of mediocre and rehashed summer films. While there have been fun movies and good movies this is a great movie that puts them all to shame.

Guillermo Del Toro (Geek god, Hellboy, Blade II) directs a story written by Travis Beacham who only has the lack luster clash of the Titans to his credits. Please note this movie meets the rules – One Writer, One Screenplay by. Together the two have given us a story of men, monsters and giant flipping robots. They do it well and they did it epic. They spared no expense and it shows.

So what actually makes it epic? Well you have Idris Elba playing a soldier and a leader who will be the last man standing so his people don’t lose hope. He is the stereotype and plays it as if he isn’t. Scenery is his diet and he chews with raw abandon. When he yells you want to apologize to him, when he gives a speech you want to cheer. You also have Charlie Hunnam, from SOns of Anarchy, playing the reluctant hero who isn’t all that reluctant which is a beautiful breath of fresh air. It could be Rinko Kikuchi, new comer to americans, and her twist on the female lead stereotypes. She does play into a few of them but what makes it epic is the fact they don’t linger on those moments too long. There’s also Ron Perlman playing a Ron Perlman character in a GDT movie. Just know he is awesome and move on. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Charlie Day does an amazing JJ Abrams impression but also adds much needed humor and moments to breath in what is otherwise an amazing rollercoaster ride of a film.

All of the above are part of what makes it epic. So what else does? Geek Love. Geek Respect. Del Toro gives his nod to the sci fi that has come before. Star Wars reference? Check. Independence Day references? All over the damn place. Godzilla (old and newer) references, yep. The casting of the voice of GLaDOS as the computer voice, awesome. The one that floored me?  DR. WHO! There is a character who spends the entire second and third act dressed like Eleven! Del Toro loves movies. He loves fantasy and Sci fi and horror and dammit if he doesn’t put all the love for the genre into his work here and it shows. All of his passion and vision and drive to make movies is right here in two hours of film. He even gives credit to other directors in the special thanks! These people weren’t even attached to the film but that doesn’t matter he gives them a nod.

Ok so what about the Giant Robots and Giant Monsters? Also, epic. Now, here is where I have to give a warning, one of the few this movie deserves. Do not expect solid science. The story said we built giant robots and thus we have giant robots. They each have their unique design from each country they are from. They all have their own tricks but if you expect them to obey all the laws of physics, conservation of energy, force and mass equations – just stop. Stop now and turn that part of your brain off and eat some more popcorn. This movie isn’t about the science and because of that I can forgive the lack there of.

So here it is, at the end of the day – aka TL;DR

Pacific Rim is absolutely the must see film of the summer if you want your blockbuster and popcorn. It’s not for everyone and if you aren’t an fan you may not find it as epic, but then again you may.

Please if you are or were only somewhat interested, go see this film. Support it. Support the Genre and hopefully we can get more movies like this and less like so much else of what we have gotten this year.

Summer apocalypse cancelled. We have a winner folks and nothing else this summer has been or will be as awesome in the genre.