Darke Reviews | Project Almanac (2015)

Excellent, another review for 2015. I was starting to get worried I’d make it to Valentines day without another interesting film in theatres around here to review. I also had the added benefit of seeing the film with a friend who appreciated all the facets of the film I did and reacted to many of the same parts as I did. It’s fascinating to enjoy a film with someone like that. The post film discussion as the credits rolled ensured that my views were both challenged and reinforced where required allowing for a better review for you to read or skip to the TL;DR of.

That said, some people may notice the produced by Michael Bay credit in the trailer. This is not a damning factor. Point in fact his influence seems largely absent, unlike TMNT. Post film we also discussed how a production credit by either talent (DelToro) or …whatever Bay is does not indicate the quality of the film. Many other facets must be considered such as budget, writing, acting, and direction. It also depends on how much the studio wishes to interfere with the director and project (see Hellboy or X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Here it appears influence was at the barest minimum from the likes of Bay, however production studio MTV was in full swing and influence with what appears to be a 10 minute music video for some bands and a concert event. Also production consideration from GoPro.

The director is Dean Israelite, who has this movie as his debut feature film. It is worth mentioning that Dean is the cousin of Jonathan Liebesman (director of TMNT); coincidence? I honestly don’t know, I lean towards a strong no. The question is how does he do? The short answer is not bad, but not good. It isn’t that he is a “meh” either, so much as that he has some interesting successes but some areas of the film that fall flat. The Chronicle-esque teen found footage shooting style is inconsistent and as with many found footage films lacks logic at a certain point. There are times no one would be filming what is being filmed and others where its just a bit too smooth and steady to be believable. That is an odd critique given my disdain for shaky camera work, but if you provide me a conceit you need to stick with it and there are times its just too clean to be real and it takes you from the film. A lot of this comes down to his choices and his determination so I must lay the blame with him. The same goes for the performances, which are a mixed bag through no fault of the performers themselves, so much as what they were given and how they were guided to deliver it.

As an example, our MIT applicant David (Jonny Weston) performs solidly throughout and only has a minor bit of de-evolution of his IQ as the plot progresses. His sister Christina (an uncredited Virginia Gardner) is forced to deliver some completely unrealistic lines to be the audience foil. Without verging into spoiler territory I am expected to believe a girl who would go back in time to see Star Wars Episode IV, has zero clue who Dr. Who is? That she, who has a brother who is a certifiable genius and a best friend who might be smarter has no idea what the word temporal means? We also have the ‘girlfriend’ with Jessie Pierce (Sofia Black-D’elia) who serves quite literally no purpose other than to be the girlfriend and to create a romance in the film. While their performances are solid enough, the characterizations of these two women are on the best of days weak and the worst utterly pointless. I almost have the feeling they were added to keep this from being Chronicle again with the focus on the male protagonists alone.

That being said, the writing has successes and flaws as well. First time screenwriters Jason Pagan and Andrew Deutschman may fail on writing females, but they at least succeed at science – somewhat. They are wise enough to not try to explain the temporal mechanics of the time machine and to use hand-wavium to go DARPA and leave it at that. The incessant movie pop culture references are distracting at a point; which I have found in my own writing to be a victim of, shows the signs of novice writers or the studio. Though I suspect a bit of both. They also have clearly watched other films along these same themes such as Primer, Looper, A Sound of Thunder, and Butterfly Effect. They succeed at handling time travel better than half of them and overall tell a better story than that same half. Though I would have preferred to hear a Philadelphia Experiment mention either as pop culture or history – take your pick. From a purely narrative perspective they didn’t do bad with a reasonable rise in escalation and even a nice slow start showing reasonable scientific progress, they just sort of failed on the character design a bit.


As found footage films go, this isn’t the worst of them. As time travel movies go, it also isn’t the worst. It was actually fun and even a bit honest what teenagers would do with a time travel device which is a bit refreshing. It’s wise enough to not explain its science (which tends to fail) and dumb enough to ignore the science it was trying to show early on.

Ultimately this is a perfectly serviceable and mediocre film which has some fun to it. It’s not great, it isn’t bad, but at least it isn’t a meh.

  • If you were at all interested in it, I would say matinee it at the very most.
  • If you weren’t interested but at vaguely curious Redbox/Netflix it later on.
  • If found footage, MTV films, or time travel aren’t your thing I have no idea why you are reading this review; unless it’s to see if I try to eviscerate it in prose.

That said, I don’t feel I wasted my time or money on the movie and found it a bit fun. Maybe you will too.

Darke Reviews | Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Wow was it hard to avoid reviews for this today! The skims that I saw as I scrolled through my news feed were not good. Even talk at work today indicated this wouldn’t be good. Now to preface this review there are some ground rules to understand where I come from on it.

1. I have not read the comic, but was aware of it when I watched the original cartoon.
2. I have watched the original cartoon, every episode. My favorite is the catwoman from channel 6.
3. I have watched a single video/AMV from *one* of the new reboots (2003 I think). It was epic. It was dark. It worked. Wish I could find it again.

So where does this movie fall in?

First thing is first. Remove the Nostalgia glasses. Acknowledge how bloody cheesy the original animated series was. If you think it was serious in any respect, I present you Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X. A Giant Brain living inside the STOMACH of a robot. Beebop and Rocksteady. If you can now acknowledge how ridiculous some of this is, we can continue. That is to say nothing of the core concept. Teenage. Mutant. Ninja. Turtles. Trained. By. A Rat. If you can’t just skip the TL;DR right now.

If you have embraced the insanity of the concept and all that comes with it; I present to you TMNT. As I have said this is based on a comic originally written and drawn by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, who did the opening title sequence. If they didn’t do it – someone who imitates their style did. This movie does bear the dreaded triple writing credit beyond that. Josh Appelbaum (Mission Impossible 4 (the good one), Alias), Andre Nemec (who has all the same credits as Appelbaum), and Evan Daugherty (Snow White and the Huntsman, Divergent). They *did* embrace the insanity. Their sin? (ok one of them) Too much human. Too little Turtle power. Their homage? I can’t count the number of callbacks to the original run I picked up on and laughed at (mostly alone).

What about Michael Bay? Well…he is only a producer. The Director here is Jonathan Leibesman. The same man who gave us Wrath of the Titans, an unwanted and yet somehow better sequel to an unwanted remake of a classic film. He also gave us Texas Chainsaw Massacre 50. No that’s not it’s actual title. It might as well be. To his favor he gave us one of the better alien invasion sci fi epics with Battle Los Angeles. Yes, it had problems with the camera work but as a film it worked. He does much the same, good and bad here, with TMNT. His camera work makes much of the action hard to take in, but what you do see appears to be epic looking and kind of awesome. Decent tension and ok pacing.

Acting? Oof. well, it wasn’t too bad actually. Megan Fox (Transformers, Jennifers Body), Will Arnett (Arrested Development, Monsters vs Aliens) get far too much screen time and most of it’s groan worthy – but they make it work.  I don’t know if its the writing or acting or both. Whoopi Goldberg was here for a paycheck or perhaps some debt to satan for Sister Act 2? Tony Shalhoub as Splinter? A bit jarring yes, but because it is a man of his talents it works. The brothers are fine. The personalities mostly realized with the usual focus on Mikey and Raph. Their voice actors, including Johnny Knoxville do just fine. William Fitchner makes everything he does better (Drive Angry is a perfect example) and brings the ham and cheese with him as he chews scenery in a way that even Jeremy Irons can appreciate.

Effects. I have heard many comments about how creepy they are. “The noses are weird.” “The teeth and animations are just off putting.” Meh I say. They weren’t that bad. They’re strangely more appropriate than what we had before so I guess I don’t mind them. Not all of the effects are clean and the CGI over practical is evident but I got to ignore that to see the Ninja Turtles on screen for the first time in 20 years and they *do* look better than we got in the previous films. Period. Sorry my opinion on this one.

I want to give the Villain a bit of a special talk. I had a guy behind me dissing the look of the new Shredder. My only retort – you have to make a guy who is supposed to be a walking cuisinart look threatening. Sorry it needs to be armor. It needs to be samurai like. It needs a lot of blades. A LOT of blades. Did they go a bit overboard on it? Eh maybe, but so be it. This is a movie where a man in ridiculous bladed armor had to take on four six foot turtles wielding dual katana’s, nunchaku, sai, and metal collapsible bo staff. Check your suspension of disbelief at the door.


I had a group of people behind me who hated it. The guy next to me, whom I asked, and his  lady loved it. They felt it captured the feeling of the original run. The person I saw it with felt the same.

I happen to agree with them.

It really brought the heart of the original comics and animated to film. It is very superficial, but lets face it most kids movies are folks. This *is* a movie for kids. There’s enough here for adults, especially all of the aforementioned callbacks, but it is a childrens movie. That grants it a lot of forgiveness from me.

What also grants it forgiveness? It was a fun little romp through my own childhood. It just kinda works

Final recommendations:
TMNT is better than most reviewers are giving it credit for. It is not for everyone, but if you have kids – its an absolute this weekend. The kids I saw leaving the theatre in their masks were running and tumbling and just enjoying themselves. What else is it supposed to do?

If you are an adult who wants to see it – take off the nostalgia glasses, sit back, and just try to enjoy it. You just might.

If you weren’t interested – neither this review nor the movie will change your opinion.

At the end of the day TMNT is kinda fun.


Darke Reviews | Transformers Age of Extinction (2014)

Where do I begin? Lets start with me for a moment. I am able to go to movies alone. It sucks. I can entertain myself just fine. went through Transformers (1986) while waiting. I miss having someone to talk to. It’s also nice to be able to get a drink and not worry about your stuff. I was literally surrounded by college age ‘bro’s’ talking about illegal shark fishing, abusing police power, and all the other things I thought were just a stereotype. I watched as nearly half a dozen people just ignored the 50 people in line behind them and just slipped in because they were too cool. Their words, not mine. I am constantly amazed by the stupidity of people to talk about things loud enough for strangers to hear.

Stupidity makes a good segue into this review. In this 4th installment of the Transformers franchise, does Michael Bay redeem himself? The franchise? My faith in Hollywood? My faith in American Audiences?

Short answer, nope. Trust me when I tell you I want to violate my rules and give spoilers – just to vent about how much this movie irritated me on every conceivable level. The sad thing is the film itself didn’t actually make me angry. The film itself left me at a colossal – MEH. I couldn’t muster a single emotion watching this and oh how I wanted to.

Ehren Kruger, the writer of the last two TF movies has reached a new level of suck. I don’t know how much is him or how much is Michael Bay. Lets see, sexually objectifying a character who is 17 years old. Trying to justify her being in a relationship in the dumbest law name I have heard of (it’s seriously called Romeo & Juliet). Low angle shots. Everyone is sweaty, dirty, and in orange light. Classic Bay. Rotating cameras during action sequences. Camera cuts so quick you might as well just close your eyes for all you are getting out of it.

I don’t think Kruger/Bay realize we didn’t like Transformers for the humans. I don’t know anyone who has watched any Gen of the cartoon and gone “wow…that human is my favorite character. I want more humans and their lives on this show about giant robots.”

Speaking of giant robots. I could tell you maybe five names of the ones in this. Five. One because they kept uttering it every chance they could. Two because it was Prime and Bumblebee. The other Autobots? No clue. Decepticons? Forget it. NONE except two had names and there are A LOT of Decepticons. So we are back to faceless, nameless robots fighting more faceless, nameless robots in jerky, fireworks filled camera frames. Even the Dinobots (you saw them in the trailer, that isn’t a spoiler) are hard to identify.

I know you don’t go to Michael Bay for deep character development. You also don’t go to him to be simultaneously confused and bored. At this point I also think he is trying to be intentionally offensive. Stereotypes everywhere to their extreme. One character called Lucky Charms the entire film.

Characters, thats a generous word. We have Mark Wahlberg trying to prove he can still do action, but this was not the right movie for him. Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer clearly lost a bet. we have the return of the most boring actress in Hollywood, Nicola Peltz (Katara in M Nights Airbender). She has gotten better since then, but only by a little.

I really think Bay is deliberately trying to insult us as an audience with how bad this movie is. I think he is going to sit in his mansion as the checks roll in with a smug look on his face knowing he is going to make money hand over fist with this THREE HOUR waste of celluloid. so that brings me to


DO NOT SEE THIS. Go see How to Train Your Dragon 2, Maleficent, X-Men, Godzilla, anything but this.



This movie is garbage. Bay really is trying to flip american audiences the bird and call it a movie. Audiences are going to pay and the studio will regrettably make a 5th one.

Stop them. Don’t see it. Spread the word. Do not let others see it.

When I wasn’t angry. I was bored. When I wasn’t feeling insulted I was feeling bored. 3 hours. 3 bloody hours.

Michael Bay must be stopped. No matter the cost.