Darke Reviews | Knives Out (2019)

I do love public preview screenings. Since I am not associated to any associations I don’t typically get to see movies before the release date. Tonight was an exception. Granted I debated going to see Frozen II again and the manager at the theatre thought I was until I showed the ticket. I’ve been curious about the movie since the surrealish tongue in cheek trailer dropped a few months ago. I mean watching Chris Evans tell everyone he is not playing Captain America anymore by repeatedly telling people off frame to “Eat Sh**”. Daniel Craig attempting a Kentucky/southern accent in itself is an entertaining concept. Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Ana de Armas were additional incentive to get me in the seat tonight.

So is it time for a nice Knives out?

Yeah not my best play on words, but I’ll own it. Written and directed by Rian Johnson it was a pleasure to see him get back to his roots. Sure everyone knows him for the work he did on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which I don’t hate but many people do. Looper, which had a ridiculous amount of studio interference on his plot, casting, and editing. They literally forced Bruce Willis on him and made them change Joseph Gordon-Levitt to look more like Willis. Yeah that kind of interference. This movie however reminds me of his original film I saw, Brick. Its a murder mystery with all the twists and turns you would hope for but with a style I can’t quite put my finger on – wait nevermind. Where Brick was full on hard boiled 1930’s noir, this plays more like Poirot via Agatha Christie.

The plot is really quite simple. The patriarch of a family, (Christopher friggin Plummer) is found dead the night after his 85th birthday. The police are investigating everyone involved, and private investigator Benoit Blanc (Craig) has also been brought in to find out who was involved, what their motive was, and why they think they can get away with it. The family is peopled with jerks all with their own motives shallow and deep, so it truly is a whodunit.  This is *not* Clue, and I will reiterate that point later. It’s not even a black comedy. It is a murder mystery with humorous undertones at the execution of the investigation, which again hearkens back to some of the 1960’s and 70’s mysteries of a similar style. There’s even a full on Murder She Wrote clip in the middle of the film on someone’s TV. It doesn’t get better than that.

It helps to have some talented actors playing the despicable members of the family. Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween) as the eldest daughter, while Don Johnson (Miami Vice, Nash Bridges) plays her husband. Toni Collette (Hereditary) continues to pick all the right roles, this time taking the widowed daughter in law, while Katherine Langford (Love Simon) plays her daughter. Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water, Man of Steel), takes a more subdued role as the youngest son. Then you have Chris Evans (Captain America) as an arrogant (and amusing) grandson; with Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049) as a nurse who took care of the patriarch. Craig then is our southern fried detective with ridiculous accent and mannerisms; furthering my Poirot theory.

From a technical standpoint, its shot well using the expansive house and the surrounding area for maximum effect. The way the mystery unravels and reveals itself also is done with an experts hand in my personal opinion – which lets face it if you are reading this you are asking for.


I still have issues writing reviews for murder mysteries as I maintain my 100% no spoiler rule on new releases. I enjoyed myself with this one trying to figure out if everything being given to me is objectively true. There are enough correct lines and clever red herrings that you’ll know whats up, but be questioning if you are sure or what really played out.

Should I see it?

If you like mysteries? Yes. I think it plays to its strengths, looks to be the love letter I am assuming it is.

Would you watch it again?

Yeah I would. I don’t think I will be, but I have Frozen II to watch again.

Are you going to buy it?

Pretty sure I am. I think there is some decent rewatch value in it if for nothing else than to see everyone and I mean everyone competing to chew scenery.

Parting thoughts?

I laughed, I enjoyed it. Folks around me seemed to be enjoying it. It’s not a game changer in this genre by any stretch. I don’t think this will redeem Rian Johnson for people who don’t like his work, but for those who enjoy his projects this is going to be right up their alley.


Darke Reviews – Gone Girl (2014)

As promised I am getting this review done. Sorry it is a few days late, but I had some surgery last week and was pretty much told to not move much for a bit. Do I regret not seeing this the opening weekend? Not really. It looks like plenty of people went and saw it, letting it take the weekend by a hair over the horror movie prequel Annabelle (probably not seeing it).


Source Box office Mojo

So should you see it now that I have and can talk about it.

The movie is in the based on a book category by writer Gillian Flynn, who also has the sole screenplay credit. I will be honest, I am trying to remember when that’s happened before and the name involved wasnt Stephen King. (Ok I looked it up after writing that sentence, Anne Rice has book/screenplay credit on 1994’s Interview with the Vampire).  It’s rare the author not only options her book, but gets to write the screenplay and no others come in to “touch it up”. That being said this means any and all changes are approved by the author to some extent. As per usual I can’t comment on the book, but the woman next to me said the movie was actually darker than the source material. I find that fascinating, but not entirely surprising. As someone who also writes, if given the option I would make edits to my work after the fact if converting it for the screen. Change the little things, or even big things, I might not have seen in my first thousand passes through the writing process.

On top of the pure writer element to the movie, the director is David Fincher. I suppose this should have told me what I was getting into with the movie when examining his credits before this, at least once he realized what he can do directing. I will try not to hold Alien 3 against him. Fincher is the man responsible for Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network, and the americanized remake of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. That last one is the one I want to call attention to. I am writing a review about a murder/dissappearance mystery and cannot give spoilers. You realize how insanely hard that is? Not even a hint? While watching the movie, however, I was reminded of the Niels Arden Oplev (aka original) version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It took your brain places you don’t normally go and makes you uncomfortable while there. This movie actually can do the same.

From an acting standpoint, ladies and gentlemen, we have witnessed Ben Affleck and his A Game. He is stellar in this movie through all the transitions he must go through, but to be honest I knew he had it in him. He has made some questionable choices in his career putting it mildly, but since his revival with Argo he seems to be on the right track. The person that truly surprised me was Rosamund Pike. When I first saw her in the nail in the coffin of Bond movies Die Another Day I was unimpressed. Then came Doom, my eye brows raised but she was generally bland. I saw the same blandness in Surrogates and Wrath of the Titans. Even in Jack Reacher and The Worlds End I wasn’t seeing much from her. So in the same vein of questionable career choices, while she didn’t burn as spectacularly as Affleck did, she wasn’t really impressing me. I must now issue a formal written apology. The woman can act. I loved her in this. The eyes, the emotion, and the weight she must carry through the flashbacks of her characters life with Affleck. Brilliant.

The supporting cast with such notables as Tyler Perry and the awe- wait for it – some Neil Patrick Harris really were able to bring the rest of the movie together and lift some of the burden from the two mains. Kim Dickens as the Detective and Carrie Coon as Afflecks sister had as much on the table as Affleck and Pike and delivered just as much intelligence and heart as the film needed. It all worked.

As a technical thing, the movie does run nearly three hours and at a certain point it begins to feel it. I am not entirely sure what, if anything, could have been cut but it was worth mentioning.

So I am going to jump to the TL;DR now

Gone Girl is an interesting film. I like where it took my brain. I liked what I saw. I liked what I figured out and what I didn’t. I was disappointed in some things not happening, but I suppose that is what makes the movie so satisfying.

If you need a good film. One that should be Oscar bait, I can really feel comfortable recommending Gone Girl.


Darke Reviews | A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)

Welcome to the first original review on the brand new site.  I checked all my logs and I have yet to do a review of a September release. This raises some questions about the worthiness of anything released in this month and if its worth seeing at all. True we are coming right off of the summer. People are done with vacations, school is back in session, and honestly of all the months in the year September is the least interesting. Sorry Virgo’s, you know its true. It is neither fall, nor still quite summer. September just is. So what does it say then that we have two releases this week that at least piqued my interest?

Let us begin the exploration of that question with A Walk Among the Tombstones.

Based on a book (what isn’t these days?) by Lawrence Block who based on his writing work for the silver and small screen has a love for the detective genre. This particular novel of his was adapted for the screen by Scott Frank. Frank has an interesting blend of screen play work prior to this with mob movies (Get Shorty), crime thrillers (Out of Sight), sci fi (Minority Report), capers (The Lookout), family films (Marley and Me) and even comic books (The Wolverine – the good one). I have absolutely no idea what to make of this man as he is all over the map.  If anything based on the works I have seen he does like writing stories that have actual character moments or an attempt at them anyway and seems to enjoy unusual social interactions.

This also marks Franks first theatrical directors credit, with only The Lookout in 2007 as his other feature film credit. I feel the need to say it now that Scott Frank may be best behind the page, not the camera.

Let me explain, still within my spoiler free realm (difficult for a mystery). The story first and foremost is a mystery with Liam Neeson as a retired cop playing PI. He is hired by the brother of someone in his AA circle to find the mans wife who was taken, ransom paid, and killed anyway. This is a full on classic private eye movie with the investigator in question working his way to the source of the crime and facing off with them.

I think I wish this film had been done in black and white. It may have added color, as counterintuitive as it is.  The movie has a solid R rating, but doesn’t show us anything and the hints of what it does show don’t carry any real weight. I wasn’t horrified. I wasn’t discomforted. They wanted to talk about something wrong and something broken but I don’t feel that they went far enough. Thats where black and white could have added atmosphere to the movie to give it more weight than the off and on rain did. They might have even been able to go further and hint at more horrific acts perpetrated by our bad guys. I am not asking for gore but better teases. Better innuendo that leaves my mind pondering just how bad it really was.

Granted, I could be desensitized after 30 years of watching movies that I can remember. But the lack of risk in the film combined with way too many shots of Liam Neeson just walking created more yawns than it did tension. It threw the pacing off as things happened and didn’t throughout the film with no perceived threat to the protagonist or even auxiliary characters. Another problem the film faced in the pacing department was the stories of those auxiliary characters eating up more screen time than I cared about. I suppose they could have been there to humanize Neeson’s character, but I’d have needed to care about any of them for that to work.

This isn’t to say their acting was bad. Neeson was surprisingly restrained in this film and despite what was billed (more on that in a sec) was not playing Brian Mills.  No one else other than Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley (Earth to Echo) did anything of note worth mentioning acting wise. Astro was plucky, but just nearly annoyingly so. The other actors for their parts did well enough, but I don’t think the direction was there for them to elevate the performance into anything memorable. Even our killers felt flat.

Now, I want to talk about the trailer a second. You cannot show Liam Neeson on a portable/cellular phone threatening someone or being even remotely menacing without intentionally making people think the movie is another Taken riff. This was false advertising to get your butts into the seats. To see Neeson play Mills yet again. This is not the movie we are getting. This is a slow paced murder mystery. Congratulations studio you may have duped your audience successfully, but I do not think they will forget it. This means your other trailers begin to have less weight the more trickery you try.

This film has three total action beats. Thats it. So…


A Walk Among the Tombstones really should have been called a Meander through the Tombstones Eventually. This is a slow burn mystery that lacks the impact or even originality of other films before it. I remember watching 8mm (I may do a review of that in October) and being somewhat intrigued/disturbed by a private investigators descent into a world far darker than he was prepared for.

This film doesn’t do that. It just doesn’t seem to want to care even though I think its trying to.

I can’t bring myself to care either.

If you were at all curious, you can probably wait til Redbox.

If you are a Neeson completist – do yourself a favor and see it in Matinee.


As always, please feel free to chime in below with your own thoughts should you see the film.