Darke Reviews | Annie (2014)

In the land of unasked for and unneeded remakes we have our newest entry – Annie. It was interesting to initial reactions to this particular remake as the traditional white girl with freckles and red curly hair was being replaced with a black girl with her brown curly hair. Original stories talked about how producers Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith wanted their daughter Willow in the role. Ah Hollywood nepotism and the Smith family. Karate Kid, After Earth (*shudder*), and then Annie. We add Jay Z to the mix for – reasons – to help produce the movie. I kind of like to imagine that Jay Z was the reason Willow isn’t flipping her hair back and forth and instead we got a different young actress.

If you are not familiar with the original 1982 movie, comic strip, or musical from 1976, or comic strip from 1924 it is the story of Little Orphan Annie. Surprise I know! It covers the adventures of a young girl, her dog Sandy, her benefactor “Daddy” Warbucks, and a few other characters that would be extraordinarily racist these days.

For the new film, we have  couple of updates. She’s no longer an Orphan, she is a Foster kid. The satire of the New Deal and FDR is gone, replaced with mobile phones, modern politics, and social media. Also gone is the risk and the charm. Replacing it is a sense of bitterness of the world.

From an acting perspective, it doesn’t suck. Quvenzhane Wallis is the bright spot in this film. She really does light up the screen the way Annie should. She affects peoples lives around her the way that Annie should. She is everything I wanted from an Annie. Rose Byrne (X-Men First Class, Damages, Insidious) plays Warbucks assistant Grace and seems to be the only person really trying to have fun aside from the kids. Both Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz I think were given wrong notes by the director. Diaz plays obnoxiously over the top for the better part of the film finally coming down to a low simmer in Act III. Diaz may be a good actress but she is no Carol Burnett. Foxx for his part seemed to miss the mark on how to perform; which is odd for such a talented man. Where everyone else was singing in an almost Glee sense as if it was part of the scene, Foxx sings and performs his songs as if he is on stage – which creates a serious disconnect with the costars.

That disconnect continues through most every performance in the film. Sometimes they break the 4th wall, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes people react to those singing. Sometimes they don’t. It is all so random and arbitrary as to if the song is Glee style, performance style, or improv. It just doesn’t make sense as to when or where people will react to the songs being performed. That makes the performances awkward to watch and at times uncomfortable because you don’t know the rules. Only one or two are an exception to this and even they don’t make sense. Most  of this of course falls on director Will Gluck.

I am really not sure how Gluck got the unfortunate seat at the table on this one. His directorial roles stick to RomCom fare with Easy A and Friends with Benefits. He has produced more but none of them are musicals. So most, if not all, the problems with this film come down to Gluck and the producers not having a good idea of what to do, or how to do it. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the Smith’s checked out after Willow wasn’t cast. I would have thought Jay Z or Will would have better been able to influence the musical moments with their own experience, but apparently not.

TL;DR

The movie is an awkward, uncomfortable mess. It has so many tonal shifts and character shifts you have trouble keeping up and have no real desire to. In a common critique of modern films, it takes no risks. I remember the original where Annie was on the train tracks being threatened by Rooster (Tim Curry) and for a moment I was actually worried and felt real threat. Nothing comes close to that here. It’s as if Hollywood is afraid to show any form of risk or harm.

The movie suffers and honestly, isn’t that good. I can’t recommend the film to anyone – even if there are a few bright spots, because so many just fall flat or are painful to sit through.

 

 

 

 

 

Darke Reviews | Scream 2 (1997)

Ok, so yesterday I talked about a new classic, Scream. I advise you now do not read this review if you have not watched the first, by the nature of being a sequel in a slasher franchise, this does contain some spoilers. Consider yourself warned, I will keep them to a minimum, but it’s unavoidable. The 90’s were starting to turn around for horror after the year prior. We got The Craft, From Dusk til Dawn, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Wishmaster, and Mimic.  Sure there was still some crap, but we were getting some decent things now. We also have a quickly rushed to production Scream 2.  Scream was made on a budget of $14 million and made just over $100 million; seven times profit is nothing to sneeze at. Let’s try it again with more money right? How does $24 million sound. Not a bad start. People were still talking about the first, this is good. Did the trailer intrigue us though?

Actually, yeah it does. It takes the trend, that also started in the 90s, to rapidly exploit true stories into film and yet again puts a lampshade on it. The movie even starts with a movie in a movie, about the movie. It talks about books made just to profit from these stories, but more importantly talks about how the victims deal with it. Can they move on. What happens to them and those around them. On top of all this beautiful satire and storytelling the movie also brings back the rules of horror movies. It tells us the rules of the sequels to the films and reminds us of all the sequels to our franchises we’ve endured. Let’s face it , the word here is endured in so many respects. At this point we have had 7 Nightmares, 5 Halloweens , and 8 Friday the 13th’s.  We have had…Leprechaun in Space.

headdesk

What next Hellraiser in space? Oh…wait…

So, even though we are but a calendar year away from film to film, within the story it is a little bit longer. We’ve moved from high school to college and the survivors of the first have largely gone their separate ways, but they are pulled together when a new serial killer starts the real life killings over. You actually feel as if these were real people and that many are still friends; and the survivors of the Dixie Boy are still survivors. Sidney (Neve) remains our protagonist and has evolved as much as the movie has. It keeps aware of modern technology and how it can change the old tropes, you know like caller ID?  It still makes fun of stereotypes in interesting and brilliant ways. It adds additional intelligent and aware characters, especially of film industry, and lets that awareness help inform the movie. We have both Craven and Williamson behind this, working together again.

Of course, again the right actors help. Returning, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Kennedy. We also have yet more career starters with Timothy Olyphant (Justified, Hitman),  Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek), and (a pre Buffy) Sarah Michelle Gellar. Jerry O’ Connell tries to keep his career alive after My Secret Identity and being fresh off of Jerry Maguire. The interactions between the characters work, some telegraphed more than others, but they do work. The movie tries to write some elements like the first and it’s up to you to decide if they are real or imagined.  They even have good call back jokes to the original, with Tori Spelling playing Sidney.

Again the technicals on this work out. It’s a slasher film, which are surprisingly easy in many respects. If you can get good blood and a good blade you are in decent shape. I also had a realization watching this one as well. It plays equally well on the trope of the unstoppable killer. Here, and in the first, the killer isn’t perfect. They get hit. They fall. They trip. This adds to the human realism and makes it work. The fight scenes and escapes are well planned. The biggest problem this one has over the first is there are some deaths that rely on too much coincidence to make work. That leads me to the…

TL;DR

The movie is good. It isn’t quite as good as the first. The first film has some levels of coincidence to be executed properly within the story. This one relies on it too much. Timing of some events are too reliant on chance to be real and to be functional for a decent plot.

I still feel comfortable recommending this one to watch as part of a marathon. Just don’t expect the same level of play as the first, and thus this one is not quite a classic, but not nearly as bad as so many sequels to horror movies. I should note, that among the things this one pokes at is how bad sequels are typically. There are very very few sequels that are as good or better than the original. This one almost hits the bell, but missed it by that much.