Darke Reviews | 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

I owe you all an apology, I got home from London Has Fallen  last week and didn’t have the energy to write a review that night. The next day I still didn’t. The day after still no. I realized the movie was that mediocre that I had no energy to write it because I didn’t care enough. The action was ok. The effects were on the whole cheap. The tension was laughable. The acting, you don’t watch London Has Fallen for acting. You just watch it to see Gerard Butler kick butt – which he does. So there’s that.

Now during the Superbowl this year they revealed a trailer for a movie almost no one had heard of called 10 Cloverfield Lane. It’s rare in this day and age for a production to stay under the radar. Seeing the first trailer without any media hype a mere month and a half prior to the films release on something with names attached is even more unheard of. Then using the Cloverfield name in conjunction with J.J. Abrams automatically begins to conjures questions?

“Is it a sequel?”

“Is a prequel?”

“Is it tandem?”

“How is it related to the blockbuster first film?”

The producers then use that media buzz to let people talk about the movie – which is a smart play. They also spend their time answering all of those above questions “No it isn’t”. JJ has lied to us before (It’s not Khan) and cannot be trusted in that regard when it comes to a production. Why else call it Cloverfield when you have all the same names attached? “It’s a spiritual successor”, is a cheap answer. My feeling is that they wanted to created an anthology of movies around the “Cloverfield” conceit; which by it’s nature of real people in completely whacked out situations would wear thin. I mean the idea has merit once or twice, but to franchise the concept of Cloverfield can’t possibly work in the long term as a film series as you then need to spend time getting us to care (or not) about the characters then eventually have a reveal to the scale of their situation. Much like Shyamalan and his twists, when people come to expect them they spend the entire movie looking for the twist which then takes the wind out of it when it appears even if it is done intelligently.

400 words in and I haven’t discussed the movie I just watched. I’ve talked Hollywood, a movie I didn’t care to review to warn you to see or away from because it was that mediocre, JJ Abrams, and the concepts of how to build a franchise. I am really avoiding talking about the movie.

I didn’t like it. I wanted to. I really wanted to. I *like* the original Cloverfield. I didn’t get sick watching it. I liked the look of the monster. I cared about the characters and wanted to see Rob get to his girlfriend and them escape the monster. I wanted to see this and see how it ended.

I didn’t care here. The acting was fantastic. John Goodman was in full heavy mode and brought his impressive abilities to bear in a purely one dimensional role. He made it something more by using his physical presence and his acting to try to make it more than what was written. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character of Michelle was engaging. She was smart, she was willful, and clever. I have liked her since Wolf Lake, Sky High, and thought her Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim was on point. She didn’t do anything out of character, she didn’t turn into a “Final Girl” she just was. It worked and I liked her. John Gallagher Jr. as Emmet was a solid everyman. I went to school with people like him, I’ve worked with folks like him. The acting was FINE. It was Solid. It was Good.

What they had to work with sucked. There’s no twists. The tension doesn’t hold because they let you see some of the elements too early. They, being Matthew Stuecken (producer of GI Joe Rise of the Cobra and the Mummy 3), Josh Campbell (editor of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Van Helsing), and Damien Chazelle (writer of Whiplash) have invoked the three writer rule.  I lay blame on Dan Trachtenberg, in his big screen directorial debut, as well. They give you too much too soon of the wrong elements and it takes away from the movie. It breaks rather than builds the tension because you become certain of things and those things are only solidified rather than challenged when opportunity presented itself.

I verge into spoiler territory if I say more, and even though I dislike the film I need to keep to the rules.

If the intent here was to give novice writers and directors a chance to tell a story within the guardrails of a type of universe under the watchful eye of successful novices such as Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) and Drew Goddard (The Martian, Cabin in the Woods), and Bryan Burk (Star Wars the Force Awakens), then I feel they failed. They succeeded in the attempt, but they failed in the guidance. I found nothing beyond the acting enjoyable here. The movie struck emotional chords in the performances, but gave nothing else for me to do with them. It was not well constructed or articulated.

If anything I would compare it to…hmm no. That would be a spoiler.


Don’t see it. Expect more from your sci fi. Expect more from your movies. They need to try harder.

This was an attempt to do something original, for that I could praise it, but when we have things like The VVitch out there which also do original and do it better. We need to expect more.

Do I recommend it? No. Save your money.

 Will I buy it? No.

Next two weeks have a chance to give some enjoyment with Allegiant and Superman v Batman. Here’s hoping.

Darke Reviews | Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

This review is of course SPOILER Free.



On top of that since anyone who reads my reviews is seeing this as a foregone conclusion the review will take a different tone and style than usual.

It’s been a full decade since the debacle that was George Lucas last run at the helm of the Star Wars franchise. His prequel trilogy is rightfully lambasted by many, though they do have a few redeeming qualities here and there. A few. By and large they deserve to be confined into cell block AA-23 and then thrown into a trash compactor. The acting was bad, the effects were bad, it was over produced and under directed.

J.J. Abrams comes along in 2006 and gives us Mission Impossible 3. He then goes in 2009 and writes his resume cover letter with Star Trek; a film many acknowledge (and bemoan) is more Wars than Trek. Lo and behold he lands the impossible job of reinvigorating a franchise many felt might be irredeemable. Talent is brought in to write in the form of Michael Arndt (Oblivion, Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and, in a brilliant move, Lawrence Kasdan. The man who gave us what is critically considered the best of the Star Wars franchise, Empire Strikes Back. Kasdan was also the pen behind other greats, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Silverado, and Return of the Jedi. This is what was missing.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The parts that were supposed to be intentionally funny – were funny. I laughed. The theatre laughed.
  • The reveals of old favorites – the audience cheered.
  • There is no Jar Jar, there is nothing like Jar Jar, if you consider that a spoiler…well deal with it.
  • The effects are PRACTICAL when they can be and there are A LOT of practical
  • That which must be CG is and the movie is largely better for it. The flight sequences with the X-Wings look so much better on the big screen than they did when I first saw the trailer.
  • John Williams returns to do the music.
  • Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac have real chemistry. I want to see more of them.
  • Girls can look up to Daisy Ridley’s Rey. She’s a good character.

The movie could be called

Star Wars: The Force Apologizes

Is it flawless? No. There are a small score of issues  I have with it. Some of the CG isn’t as good as it could be. Some of the acting isn’t as good as it could be. Some of the editing isn’t ..ok a lot of the editing isn’t as good as it could be. There are flaws. Yes.

That said, the movie makes every single attempt it can to make up for the last three movies and does so with great passion.

Should you see it?

Yes. Yes. Yes. I really enjoyed it. It took me back with Nostalgia and then gave me some new things as well.

Should you see it in 3-D?

If you don’t have a problem with 3-D, absolutely. There are shots that beg for the 3D treatment and shine because of it.

Should you wait?

Eh…no. Mostly so people can talk about it with you. They will want to.

Are you buying it?

Yes. Yes. Yes.