Darke Reviews | Robin Hood (2018)

So last year in May we got the King Arthur: Legend of the Sword movie; which was rightfully trounced for being a near unwatchable mess of a film. I mean that literally as in the editing and camera work and the cutting made it nearly unwatchable. It was the start and end of what was supposed to be a “universe” of King Arthur movies. We also received The Mummy last year, another attempt to start a universe with an old property that the studio had rights to. It was buried very quickly as it should have been for well mostly being an unlikable mess. When the first trailer for yet another Robin Hood movie dropped my eyes rolled hard. The last time we had a good Robin Hood movie was roughly 1991 with Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, but lets face it the last Robin Hood movie that most everyone universally loves was in 1973 with the Disney animated classic. Ooh de lally!

 

So does this remake miss the bulls eye?

The story here opens with “This isn’t the history you know” and I am thankful for it as it sets me in the right tone for the rest of the movie. The story is an…original…take on the Robin Hood legend, written by Ben Chandler, who has absolutely no credits I can find. Chandler, and another newcomer David James Kelly, took the story and made a screenplay. Now a more doubting person may think these could be pseudonyms for other people, a version of an Alan Smithee perhaps; or perhaps they are real people. Regardless the script doesn’t have a movie it didn’t like. The best way I can set expectations properly is this is what happens if you put A Knights Tale and the Mask of Zorro (that’s the good one), put them in a Martini shaker and poured out the mixture with a dose of social commentary over a chilled glass with scenes and dialogue from a half dozen other movies. To do all of this successfully in and of itself is a work of art and original – and I love them for it.

Now the director, Otto Bathurst, does exist as I watched an interview with him about the production of this movie. He has won some BAFTA’s in the past for a show called Criminal Justice, he did an episode of Black Mirror, and the pilot episodes of Peaky Blinders; and Translation – he is very British. In making this picture I feel that he just out Guy Ritchie’d Guy Ritchie. This is the most Guy Ritchie movie I’ve seen in years, and I saw King Arthur. Elements that were attempted and failed horribly in that movie are done here and with near ecstatic success. The shots look good, even if there’s some dodgy CG on some of them, there’s also enough practical that the movie is elevated for it. Lars Andersen was brought in to consult to give Taron Egerton the real skills needed to fire a bow and at those speeds with accuracy.

The acting is fine. Taron Egerton is as charming as ever in the title role. He was born for roles like this and Kingsman and he is the action star we need. Jamie Foxx is well Jamie Foxx and looks to be having a good time himself as he delivers probably the most serious role in the movie. That isn’t to say the movie is a comedy or anyone else isn’t taking their roles seriously, but that everyone is so much larger than life, including Foxx, but he delivers the most grounded dialogue of them all. Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One, Ready Player One) knows exactly who he is emulating in his performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham and doesn’t even try to hide it and again I love him for it. The other standout who has to help carry the film is Irish actress, Eve Hewson (Blood Ties, Bridge of Spies) as Marian. In what is becoming common place (yay) she is a character with her own agency and plans and choices to make and Hewson does it all with flawless eyeliner.

Yes, eyeliner. This movie makes no real attempts to hide its costuming influences or to even be remotely historically accurate. The costumes are as bold as the personalities within them. There are leather jackets everywhere. At least one scene with stiletto heels and I am going to tell you it doesn’t matter. The movie made no attempt to try and I am ok with it. Again here is knows what it is and what it is trying to do and be and decided that if it couldn’t be 100% historically accurate it would go to 11 on not. The action scenes are easy to follow and look good on the camera, even if again the CG is a bit dodgy at times. The camera work is also quite intentionally giving close ups, inverted shots, and distorted fish eyes when needed, if you want to poke it may have been a bit on the nose there, but the movie once again is unapologetic for what it does.

TL;DR?

I love this movie so much. It is absolutely popcorn fare and wants you to know that it is too. The earlier reference of A Knights Tale and Mask of Zorro is accurate and really sets the tone for the entire film. Everyone knows the movie they are making and while taking it seriously and putting the effort in also remember to take every aspect of their performances up just that extra notch and we all benefit from it. Robin Hood doesn’t bother putting some of its elements as Subtext, it goes for it and is unapologetic in doing so. It is anachronistic as hell at times, knows it, but doesn’t stop to wink at the audience doing so. It merely asks that you get on the ride and enjoy.

I gotta tell you I did and so did both my companions tonight. I don’t think we’ve giggled like that coming out of a movie in a long time and truly enjoyed it for what it was. Quite honestly this is one of the best Robin Hood movies ever. It knows it’s a legend. It knows it is mythology. It’s a comic book movie without ever being based on a comic book and this movie succeeds where all the others failed and deserves your money and consideration for a sequel.

So should I see it?

Yes. Take your friends. Go to a theatre with a liquor license, get some popcorn and enjoy! Hell it’s even family friendly and pretty PG by 80’s standards.

Would you see it again?

When do you wanna go? That’s a yes by the way.

Will you buy it?

No doubt in my mind.

Anything else on this one?

I thought tonight was just a standard early screener trying to get some money before Wreck it Ralph wrecks the box office the next six days. Nope, we got a free large popcorn and swag in the form of a really nice tumbler glass with the Robin Hood silhouette on it.

Look guys, this movie isn’t a Good Bad movie. This is a Good Good movie that went for the ridiculous and succeeded. Critics will likely rip it a new one, but I think they are missing the mark. Go in with the frame of mind hopefully this review put you in for it and have a good time.

Darke Reviews | Widows (2018)

To borrow from the YouTube channel CinemaWins, Viola Davis is always a win. The first trailer for this movie grabbed me. Liam Neeson on a failed heist, the wives of his crew having to pull off his last job or be killed by the people he robbed from. Michelle Rodriguez (who I still haven’t forgiven for The Assignment) as a working mom, Viola, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, this movie had star power; oh and thats without even mentioning the amazing Daniel Kaluuya who has been on fire since Get Out last year. I also happen to love a good Heist film, especially well layered and nuanced ones.

Should Widows have given up the score?

The movie is based on a previous British TV movie from the early 80s, by Lynda LaPlante, who has mostly been doing TV writing since the 70s and is still active today. It was adapted for this story by mystery novelist Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Dark Places, Sharp Objects), and the director himself Steve McQueen. This was a passion project for McQueen, who must have been influenced by the original tv movie, and he apparently has really wanted to do this project for awhile.  McQueens name became big in Hollywood with his Best Picture win for 12 Years a Slave back in 2014 (and nomination for best director). Widows is his first major project since that Win and I can tell you that it wasn’t a fluke that he won. There is a well crafted, nuanced, performance guiding director at the helm here. He knows what he wants his camera to be doing and knew how to layer his story appropriately. He also has an absolute right to insert some material into the movie that I was not expecting, but is unfortunately very timely. If anything the flaw in the scripting left little time to truly explore the number of characters and plotlines, even with the films two hour plus running time. Ideas, threads, and other beats are introduced but never fully resolved, or are brought in in the 11th hour to such a degree that I feel like we have a good fifteen minutes or more of movie missing; and I wouldn’t mind seeing that footage.

Viola Davis, again is always a win, as Veronica Rawlings, wife to Liam Neeson’s Harry. She largely has to carry the movie and can do so with ease, shifting between fear, determination, and pain with all the grace and skill of an actress of her calibre ( 1 Academy Award, and 2 additional nominations). Michelle Rodriguez surprised me a bit, I had a feeling she could do it, but she subdued herself well for this one. The two standouts for me out of the cast beyond Ms. Davis and her screen presence were the two who stood up and made their presences known in equal measure. Elizabeth Debicki (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2, The Cloverfield Paradox) has always played background or tertiary roles, in this one she steps it up, and due to her performance you can see a literal evolution of her character Alice before your eyes and it is one of the more compelling subplots. Our second supporting star is Cynthia Erivo who I praised in the under performing Bad Times at the El Royale. She has charisma, she had a singing voice, and here she shows she’s quite the physical actress as well. I really hope we get to see more of both of these women. The other names I mentioned during the intro are of course solid for the screen time they are given. Kaluuya is a stand out performance as he has brought us charm and politeness, balance and rage, and this time he brought menace. It worked. Duvall and Farrell of course are good, but I can’t speak to either of their Chicago accents, it’s not one I can mimic myself well enough to say they nailed it or not.

Beyond the cast there is a strong technical proficiency to the movie; with one particular long take from the hood of a car during a conversation telling two different stories that you can follow simultaneously and very effectively. Almost every shot in the movie shows an understanding of the camera, framing, colour and energy; matched with effective production design to highlight the stark contrasts displayed the movie just sails away and brings you with it. It does suffer from some scene cutting, dropped plots, and jerky pacing, but the sum of the parts overall out weigh this

TL;DR?

Widows is a very good film. There is a compelling cast, with an at its core simple story, that contains layers of storytelling involving corruption, debts, self-identity, and sense of self. Steve McQueen is a director to watch out for and he really knows how to control the camera and bring out the best in his cast. This is a movie that in another directors hands would have been a hot mess, but because of his passion for the project and his skill it turns out to be just shy of what I would call an excellent film

Should I see it?

If you are joining me on the boycott of Fantastic Beasts, this is your film this weekend. If you aren’t joining me on it, and enjoy a good heist this is a good heist film.

Would you see it again?

Yes. Full price even!

Are you buying it?

Absolutely

Any other thoughts?

This movie won’t make the money it deserves unless FB bombs. It is stuck in a bad position and with the next several weeks doesn’t have a great shot and showing its legs. It has just 2/3 of the screens FB s getting, and 400 less screens than Instant Family, Wahlbergs new one.  This feels like alternative programming, with not as much faith. I’d at least have fought for 3,300 screens instead of the 2,800 it’s getting.

Next week Creed 2 will probably peel off any audience this would get and Ralph Breaks the Internet will try to take down the Harry Potter franchise. After that Widows might hold on, but the December crunch begins and the winter Blockbusters will come to destroy all that have come before.

I think this is sad for Widows and it deserved a better slot.

Darke Reviews | Halloween (2018)

The most anticipated horror movie of the year, coming out two weeks prior to one of the most anticipated days of the year for a certain crowd. Halloween has a lot to live up to and a lot to make up for. A brief history for those who don’t fully understand where this movie is coming from; which considering the track record of the series makes sense.

Halloween was originally conceived back in the late 70’s to be a serial style movie with a different horror story each and every Halloween. When the original 1978 version made 144 times its budget back the studio insisted on a sequel and effectively dumped money in John Carpenters lap to do something he really didn’t want to; a sequel. Thus Halloween 2 in 1981 and why Michael and Loomis die at the end of it, with Carpenter having the vain hope of ending that story. In 1982, yeah, barely a year later, Halloween III: Season of the Witch came out. This was more akin to what Carpenter envisioned and tells an entirely different horror event on Halloween. It was too weird for audiences who were in slasher heaven and the title confused them expecting more Michael. So 6 years later as the horror and slasher craze grew with Jason, Freddy, and Pinhead, we get the Return of Michael Myers (1988). This is the start of the late Moustafa Akkad reign on the series, as a producer since the ’78 version he began to have more influence on the series along with other producers such as …the Weinsteins. This was the start of the story getting really convoluted and barely following its own continuity. Michael was back, Loomis was back. Now they introduced over the next three movies a cult that gave him supernatural resiliency and more. It’s so much worse than this, but trying to keep it simple here. After Halloween 5 (1989), and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), there is a slight break before Halloween H20. H20 was supposed to be a clean return to form on the 20th anniversary of the original. It returned to basics with Laurie and Michael, but just didn’t quite grab audiences as much as it probably should; even though it has possibly the second most satisfying ending in the series. The last of the original Myers series is Halloween: Resurrection and the less said about this the better. I will not discuss Rob Zombies Halloween movies – except to say I hate them. I’d rather watch the Cult of Thorn run (4,5,6) more than those.

With me so far?

So the writers were in a bind here. How do you tell a Halloween story respecting the lore, the history, and the icon that is Michael Myers but deal with the mess left by the sequels AND remakes? Simple solution reboot the series, but not from scratch. From the original. Ignore everything that has come since 1978 and go. Get Carpenter onboard for the first time in forever and see what you can do. I don’t envy the task Danny McBride (Pineapple Express, Alien: Covenant), his friend Jeff Fradley (writer for the HBO show Vice Principals), and David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, and the critical darling “Joe”) had on this one. Ignoring the content of the other movies is easy, but really remaining true to what the original film delivered character wise and bringing that back 40 years later – thats hard. They are putting themselves, Green especially as a director and writer here, up for target practice.

They need not have worried if they did at all. They did craft an honest sequel to 1978, which has several references that make the necessary callbacks without reminding us of a better movie. With few exceptions no one here in the script does anything dumb or illogical. The characters make sense. They feel like they would make these decisions based on everything you know and it propels the plot forward; if anything aside from Laurie the script lacks care for some of the fodder leaving you to not really care as much when they die which removes some of the tension that could have added to the film. The kills, which are important in this genre are well executed and tastefully done and yes brutal; rather than gore porn or splatterhouse style. The camera remains as still as Michael letting you savor what you both see and don’t see in frame. There are so many shots in this movie that are perfect for a wallpaper for your phone or computer because of how they were filmed; which means credit needs to go to cinematographer Michael Simmonds.

The acting is fantastic from the majority, with Jamie Lee Curtis giving us the same sort of transformed character that Linda Hamilton did between Terminator and Judgement Day. Laurie Strode is damaged, but focused, she is brave yet so afraid. Curtis more than capable of delivering the nuance; while the script and shooting let her as well. Andi Matichak gives a very human turn as Laurie’s grand daughter Allyson, and importantly she feels like she’s part of this family. I’d like to enjoy Judy Greer more as Karen Strode, the daughter to Laurie, but the script and character do her no favors, nor do they give Toby Huss much to work with. I was curious how Nick Castle would be returning to play The Shape once more as he did a majority of the motion and body work in the 78 version; while three other actors did other takes including the one face shot. He nailed it. He and the Mask are a presence and malevolent.

TL;DR?

Cutting the meat a bit short here, but its coming up on 2:30 and I do need sleep and really I just think you should see the movie. With a lean runtime of 106 minutes, John Carpenter back on the score, and some of the best horror cinematography I’ve seen in awhile Halloween is the return to form we’ve been waiting 40 years for. It isn’t perfect and suffers from some character issues and isn’t as tense as it could be Halloween was well worth the sleep deprivation for me and definitely worth it for fans of the franchise.

Should I see it though?

Yes. XD would be lovely to hear the music in admittedly and I did miss that opportunity.

Would you see it again?

Yes.

Buying it?

Yes. No doubts.

Are you overselling it at all? There’s a lot of hype on this one.

Manage your expectations. This movie isn’t the second coming of Michael, but it’s close.

It has some flaws and there is a kind of hollowness to it in some respects; yet I can’t blame those on the movie entirely.  The 1978 version is one of the first of it’s kind and without a doubt the most well known of its kind. John Carpenter and Debra Hill gave us something new and visceral then that Black Christmas (74), The Hills Have Eyes (77), The Town that Dreaded Sundown (76) and even Texas Chainsaw (74) just didn’t quite hit. Since then we have had 40 years of horror, with a majority of them being slasher flicks. There is next to nothing we haven’t seen before you can do in this genre and we all are a bit jaded here in 2018.

That didn’t stop McBride, Fradley, and Gordon Green from doing their best.

Personally, I think their best is good enough and this is the Halloween movie we need right now.

 

Edit: Because I included the original theme in the original review here is Carpenters take on it 40 years later

Darke Reviews | A Star is Born (2018)

As I pointed out on my Location tag earlier on Facebook, this is not my usual genre. Dramatic movies and I have an interesting interaction with each other. Mysteries work (Gone Girl). Human Interest Stories, generally don’t. Just general dramatic pictures about people don’t resonate with me as much. Most drama’s deal with the ups and downs of people like or very much not like us often in very realistic ways. They speak to the pain of the human condition and share the stories to those who might need to learn from it, learn about it, or get a glimpse into it. I don’t need other (inspired by, real, or imagined) people’s pain and heartbreak when my life has enough of that on it’s own. It’s part of why you won’t get a lot of those on my review site they don’t interest me intellectually or emotionally. They provide me nothing I crave or even need. Dunkirk as an example, was going to be a cinematic experience retelling a harrowing event in World War II history. It was going to be told by a technical master Christopher Nolan. It was going to be so technically proficient people were going to bend over backwards to talk about how amazing it was. I knew all of this the moment I saw the trailer. But because of all of this, that left me wondering what I’d get out of the movie. Another example is Titanic. Historical event, one I studied extensively prior to her rediscovery, but there I had a love story and an emotional beating heart that carried me through. Granted the tragedy itself to see something I knew so well recreated (based on current understanding) for the cinema was gut wrenching and delivered for me both an emotional core and intellectual appreciation.

This of course leads up to me seeing A Star is Born.

A movie well out of my normal tastes, but starring the one and only Lady Gaga. Many people will be talking about this in relation to the Barbara Streisand version from 1976. I don’t particularly care for her (she’s fine, just not my taste in music or acting), and thus have not seen that version. What many will not likely be discussing is that this is the fourth remake of the story. There is an original Academy Award winner, plus six additional nominations, from 1937 produced by Gone with the Wind’s David O. Selznick. In 1954 it was remade somewhere over the rainbow with Judy Garland and James Mason, this one was only nominated six times for the Academy and didn’t win there, but Judy and James both took home a Golden Globe for it. Then there is the infamous 76 version ( a good year if I must say), which according to Rotten Tomatoes only has a 32% score. There are stories abound on ego and personality clashes behind the scene with Streisand for better or worse coming out victorious on those.

Now we have in 2018 a new adaptation with screenplay credits going to Will Fetters (mostly romantic dramadys), Eric Roth (Munich, The Good Shepherd, Ali), and Bradley Cooper debuting in his first screenwriting and directorial credit. Cooper of course has a million dollar smile and rose to wide audience fame with the Hangover series, and Silver Linings Playbook opposite Jennifer Lawrence, More recently he has been working in providing the voice to Rocket Raccoon in the Marvel franchises. The three of them had a lot to work with as the movie has so many adaptations, but as near as I can tell they made it their own while still keeping the rise and fall of two performers who love each other at the core of the film. Make no mistake this movie does have a core and that is it. While it doesn’t delve deeply into the rise from a story perspective, it does show the fall and the prices paid continuously through out. A cynical critic may pick on the fact that Coopers own character is the focus of that fall and dominates the majority of the screen time.

I suppose though, its particularly noticeable as whenever Lady Gaga is on screen as her character Ally, she rules. She has such tremendous screen presence and gravitas in her performance through the movie it would surprise you that beyond American Horror Story this is her first full on role in a major production. She nails ever scene and the camera just falls in love with her; credit to the director – Cooper – and cinematographer – Matthew Libatique (Black Swan, Mother!)- there too. We all knew by now that she was a stage performer from her years of giving us all that she has as Lady Gaga, her songwriting, production, and performances have helped redefine what the music industry could be. Here she lets the full weight of her acting chops go and it is a wonder to behold. Cooper of course is fine, as he has a different burden to carry here he does deliver it well. More on that after the TL;DR. Sam Elliot makes a surprise appearance but reminds us why we love him. The rest of the supporting cast gets very little time, and most everything is focused on Gaga and Cooper as it should be.

On a technical standpoint the camera work here is top notch telling a story in itself. There are so many scenes that have an air of craftsmanship to them that tells me this movie is Academy bait. The downside here though is the editing and length of the film. While the genre is not my usual, there is still a pulse to a movie and this one is stuttering. It goes for long, too long, beats without any real rise or fall, tension or growth of characters. At roughly the 90 minute mark I checked my phone to find out what time it was. There was still another almost hour to go after that and sadly it felt it. I am not sure what I could or would have cut, but it does lead to a slower pacing that distracted slightly through the later half of the movie

TL;DR

A Star is Born provided both emotional depth and intellectual depth for my entertainment needs this evening. My movie going partner tonight and I were able to talk about some of the aspects of the movie after and well there is a lot to talk about. This will without a doubt get at least a few nods at both the Academy and Golden Globes. I would truly be surprised if it didn’t.

The acting is amazing.

The screen work and camera work is amazing.

The songs are beautiful and heartfelt and the performances to go with them and the chemistry all work to make a Star is Born a bona fide great movie.

Would you see it again?

No, but you’ll need to read on to find out why.

Will you buy it then?

Unknown at this time according to my magic eight ball

Wait you didn’t answer if I should see it.

I know.

Ok, should I see it then?

The rest of the review should give you an inference, but  *sigh* Ok. I need to discuss something here. It violates my no spoiler rule, so here’s your warning banners. Stop now if you don’t want any spoilers.

Ok. No roll over text here.

This movie needs a trigger warning. There is an emotionally powerful and charged scene involving suicide during the movie. I didn’t know it was coming but I broke down crying watching it. I left the theatre immediately as the credits rolled to collect myself. I suppose the scenes were there telegraphing it, but it was still filmed in such a way that it was a gut punch I hadn’t braced for. It’s not glorified and it is horrifying. It is not gratuitous, but in those facets make it all the more poignant and painful to watch.

So please if you are triggered by Suicide in/on film do not watch this movie or be prepared to leave when you see the signs coming – and you will see them.

Sorry I don’t like dropping spoilers, but this may have decided if I saw this tonight or not. While I am glad I did see it, I am glad for the conversation I had after for almost an hour, if my head space had been worse or company I was in not nearly as awesome – it could have been a bad space night with a lot more tears and triggering responses.

Don’t worry, I am fine. I just feel I have a responsibility to my readers to let them know.

 

Darke Reviews | Jurassic World – Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Special thanks to my movie going partner tonight for the summation on the TL;DR on this review. I can surely say you make the movie going experience better. Thank you.

Now onto the review itself.

Hooboy. Despite appearances this is spoiler free thanks to the trailers.

Set three years after the incident at Jurassic Park, a group of conservationists and scientists, plus survivors of the first incident at the park return to Isla Nublar to take what action they can to save the dinosaurs. What they find there is treachery by the very company who sent them as a great white hunter betrays them and a weaselly white man in a suit working for the older gentleman has his sights set on pure greed. Instead of wanting to preserve the formerly extinct animals, he wants to profit off of them. Our heroes must find a way to save the dinosaurs from the machinations of corporate greed without getting anyone else killed in the process.

Wait sorry that was the plot of Jurassic Park 2. Or was it Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom? I think…I think they are the same. They pasted over the paint with fresh wallpaper and some new modern furniture, but the house, the frame, the wiring are all the same. I blame Colin Treverrow, who proved with Jurassic World he wasn’t quite up to the task based on the audience and critical mixture that happened with it. Yes, it made oodles of money, but not nearly as much as the studio wanted when you consider it remained uncontested in theatres for weeks but saw consistent 50% box office sale drop offs week after week. Anything that might have contested it was even worse so it reminded us of 1993 when dinosaurs ruled the earth. This got him yanked from Star Wars Episode IX direction and after the laughable book of Henry it may be awhile before we see him in the directors chair again. He gets the blame for this as he was originally to script and direct, but was yanked from this one as well. Derek Connolly the other writer on this one was also the writer for Jurassic World and Kong Skull Island ….and Star Wars Episode IX, so hold on to your butts for that one.

*pulls up a chair and sits across from the two men* Look I get it it. You may have been given a raw deal from the studio. You didn’t have any great new ideas for a sequel to a reboot, which in itself is a sequel. So you went back to the well. Literally. You lifted the major beats and plot points from what is arguably the second best Jurassic Park film, then doubled down on all the beats you really loved from your last movie. The problem, gentle sirs, is that you crossed a line here. It’s a fine line in any reboot or sequel, of which you are dealing with both; but it is the line where you draw parallels to earlier works. You rehash scenes, beats, and locations from earlier – better works and all it makes us do is think of the better film or at least the scene where it was done better. I mean I will give you points for not having gymnastics beat a velociraptor, but that’s narrow praise.

Your main antagonist is near identical to the crib sheet you used. The secondary antagonist lacks any of the charm, wit, or sublime caliber of the original model – which makes him a comical parody of what was already a parody character. Did you not realize he was this thing? Then, oh…I just ….you expect J.A. Bayona, a horror director to shoot a scene that looks lifted right from a bloody Loony Toons cartoon. This is a mistake. This script was a mistake. It has moments which work, but they are but brief glimmers of something better that never arrived. Unless there was a contractual obligation the studio made a mistake here not bringing in another writer to tweak the script.

J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, Penny Dreadful – 2 eps), is clearly a talented director. There are very intentional costume changes that I noticed. He was able to get the actors to do more than phone it in which I think they were trying to do more than a few times. I get it the script hindered you, like a lot. I imagine the studio did as well. You had no easy task here. You did everything you could to tell a visual story that conflicted itself every twenty minutes or so and was plagued with such laughably bad decisions that Speilberg couldn’t have saved it. You too though have some things to learn. You have to earn your musical score. The music by Michael Giacchino was wonderful but did not belong in a movie about dinosaurs, volcanos, and evil corporations. It belonged in Middle Earth or some other middle fantasy setting. Your big bad dino’s theme cannot be at the levels of Sauron, or any other of the epic baddies, it wasn’t earned. I could tell you and your visual effects artists had the idea for one shot being awesome, and they tried so hard…but you beat it a minute later with a much better one. Then you beat it again five minutes before with one of the best. If the script didn’t go back to the well, you did too and too much of it and its sour.

I haven’t talked about the actors yet, besides mentioning almost phoning it in. Chris Pratt is Chris Pratt, though he largely looked bored here. Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire learned from the last movie and was wearing sensible hiking boots going back to the island. The movie makes sure you notice. No I am not joking. She’s fine otherwise. Justice Smith as the high pitched screaming kid from the trailer is fine; even if he has to utter the line every hacker in every movie says “I’m in.”  Daniella Pineda (The Originals) gives one of the most entertaining performances but I have a weakness for sarcastic smart feminists in STEM fields. It’s a thing. There is literally no one else worth mentioning, sorry James Cromwell, not even you.

I could spend another hundred or two words going over some not good CG work, really really bad science (I have rage), and ranting about this is a movie in search of an identity between action and horror and never quite hitting it.

TL;DR

Turn your brain off for two hours. You might have a good time.

I don’t actively hate this movie, its just another hollow high budget production that has a few moments that made me laugh or smile, but not enough for me to actually like it or feel anything about it at all. If any emotion I have towards the movie its a high level of irritation. I can’t even say this is a well made bad movies. Its a high budget mediocre movie that many will enjoy. I am so bloody happy for them I could cry. The biggest win is that the movie didn’t bore me and kept me engaged enough to want to see which plot point from previous movie they would lift next.

Should I see it?

After my dismal reviews on Avengers Infinity War and Incredibles 2, my overwhelmingly positive review of Solo, and less than stellar review of this one you decide. Personally I would say Matinee if you must see it. This is not worth full price, 3D or even XD.

So…won’t be seeing it again?

Nope.

Buying i..

Nope.

Ok what about Goldblum?

He is actually in the movie as a bookend. We needed more of him.

Is it really that bad?

Look I love the T-Rex. It’s amazing. It’s also a bloody apex predator. Stop giving it hero moments. Please.

 

Darke Reviews | Tomb Raider (2018)

Ah the video game movie. A classic in the cinema, usually panned by critics and laughed at by audiences. Movie studios have a history of abusing the video game titles to the point that the reputation has stuck, but let me present you with some that actually don’t suck.

  • Silent Hill – Not the sequel with its hug off.
  • Mortal Kombat – fight me on this one. Its fun. It hits the beats of the game. Christopher Lambert is awesome.
  • Resident Evil – again the first one. Captures the spirit of the game. The sequel isn’t completely awful. The rest…oof.
  • Tomb Raider – the original Angelina Jolie one. Watch it again and tell me exactly how off it is from some of the ridiculous premises of the video game series itself?
  • Warcraft – It was dull, not bad.

So now we have a new Tomb Raider, clearly based on the the 2013 relaunch of the franchise and with a surprisingly high budget of $94 million – that is still less than was spent on Assassin’s Creed.

Should it have stayed buried?

Written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet, who makes this her first script to screen. It doesn’t look like it well be her last though, as she’s attached to cartoon to film adaptation Visionaries, ROM, MASK, and comic book films Silver & Black and Captain Marvel, and a 2021 Dungeons and Dragons movie?  With this list, I had to dig and find a bio for her to make sure it wasn’t some kind of Alan Smithee, but there’s even an Interview. Which is fantastic as we need more female screenwriters in the geek zone. I’d love to interview her some time myself. She sounds awesome.

Also on the script duty is Evan Daugherty, who gave us Snow White and the Huntsman, Divergent, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The picture of this movie comes together now. Geneva also gets a screenplay credit, along with Alastair Siddons (thats an awesome name) who makes this his first theatrical outing with only Tresspass Against Us (2016 film with Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson).

They pick up and took running with the task of literally adapting the 2013 game story to the screen and tripped.  They did get the new Lara right personality wise. They got her first kill right (guys not a spoiler. You see her fire the bow at people…you think she missed?). They just forgot about a few things in the process. Getting to the point for one as its nearly 40 minutes into the movie before they make it to the island and while some establishing of who Lara is is required it drags too long. Then once on the island, they neglect to truly show her resourcefulness which is one of the key elements of the game. No one can reasonably expect to see her dealing with wolves, deer, rummaging through chests and upgrading her weapons and equipment for the two hours, but – escalation would have been nice. Showing she’s not just book smart, athletic, but also cunning. They really did forget that.

I don’t mind some of the character study and the reluctant hero, but there was too much of that and not enough well….tomb raiding.

Director Roar Uthaug gets some of the blame for that. I am a fan of his 2015 film The Wave, which is about a landslide caused Tsunami in his native Norway. It too is more of a character study with good pacing around that, then the event , then the after effect. Had I known the director going in I may have managed my expectations a bit more, but it wouldn’t have changed my opinion too much. Between the script and the overall pacing of the film, plus an Act II plot that is totally unneeded the movie just comes across kind of flat.

Not that Alicia Vikander doesn’t sell being Lara. She does. She has the physicality I was hoping for, she happens to be one of the most beautiful women in the world (in my opinion), can act and is able to deliver on parts of the script or scenes that are otherwise weak. She feels like a reasonably real person in this rather than pure action heroine. She makes a fantastic Lara and yes, is better than Jolie in the part. Dominic West (Centurion, Punisher War Zone) is mostly wasted in his role as Lord Croft, as is Walton Goggins. I like Goggins, his turn on Justified has given him plenty of opportunities on the big screen such as The Hateful Eight, Maze Runner, and American Ultra. He tries but the script and probably some editing hamper him from fully realizing as the villain.

Which brings us to the technicals which I just have to sigh. The Visual effects are better than the first trailer and in 3D some of them look rather nice. The pacing is horrific however, which comes down to the editing and scenes decided to keep in. Which brings me to something that I think half the critics will pick on when they get the chance – DONT OPEN WITH NARRATION IF YOU ARE GOING TO INCLUDE IT WORD FOR WORD 10 MINUTES LATER. There will be some who complain the fight scenes are too dark, but I am oddly ok with it when its night and you are fighting. What I am not ok with is shaky cam, plus night, plus quick cuts. Pick One. Pick two maybe, but you can’t have all three and let your fight be appreciated.

TL;DR?

It’s not the best video game movie. It still isn’t the worst. It comes across as a solid meh. Tomb Raider commits the worst sin it possibly could – it was dull. There’s joke reviewers make when you do remakes and reboots, don’t include homage to the original material – it just make us think of a better movie. The same is kind of true here. There are so many calls to the game, but they fail to commit to actually delivering on the promise the game did. They fail to give us tomb raiding, clever and educated Lara. All I was thinking of watching this was how much I’d rather be playing the game.

They tried guys. They did. I give them credit for it, because I can see the effort put in. I can see what they intended to do, but I have to judge on what they did do.

Should I see it?

Matinee at the very best. 3D not needed, otherwise you can wait til it’s on Netflix or your source of choice.

Will you see it again?

Not in theatres no.

So you’re buying it?

There’s enough I do like, despite the dissection above that odds are good I will.

Ok, but its a video game adaptation what did you expect?

I get that. I do. You can’t take a 10 hour plus game and cram it into 2 hours, but you could have done it better. When 40 minutes are wasted with set up and establishing the character in ways that could have been done shorter or more effectively. When you don’t fully commit to your adaptation in a meaningful way that embraces some of the true supernatural weirdness of the games you’ve done some thing wrong.

How does it compare to the other two?

Since the reboot takes a more realistic tone while still embracing the supernatural it’s not apples to apples. The original movies were over the top and so were the games. It worked. This just doesn’t quite as well. It’s watchable, but not nearly as fun as watching Angelina Jolie and Sir Jorah flirt while threatening each other.

Next week?

I am bracing for the impact that is Pacific Rim 2. I don’t think it looks great from the trailers on a visual front and when I want to see Giant Robots beating on Giant Monsters and other Giant Robots – you need to LOOK good. It’s a time I want some style over substance.

Darke Reviews | Death Wish (2018)

*sigh* Movies do not exist in a vacuum. They exist as snap shots of culture, whether in the form of parody (comedy), our fears (horror), our hopes (science fiction), or in some cases wish fulfillment (action). These of course are generalizations of the genres and what they represent as you look at the passage of time. Not every movie fits neatly into that or you can mix and match to your hearts content. I’ve talked about how this applies specifically to horror movies in other reviews and that there’s a cultural shift to the idea of home invasion being one of the major themes in modern horror. The faceless killers, the victims, and eventually the final girl. There’s even a half dozen movies this year in that particular subgenre of horror to reinforce this. What does this have to do with Death Wish?

First – Pause here. I cannot write this review without touching on politics. I almost didn’t write the review because of it. Movies and the subsequent reviews do NOT exist in a vacuum and I have to touch on some topics beyond opinions on movies. If you do *not* want to read any of that skip to the TL;DR.

Skip.

Skip.

Skip.

Ok.

Wish fulfillment. Action movies in the 70’s began the narrative of a good guy with a gun, with the original Death Wish (1974),  then of course Taxi Driver in 1976. Beating the crime on our streets as an every man. The 80’s action movies were over the top gung ho Rah-Rah films that were there to make us feel good and that we could always beat the bad guys, even when they are countries. 90’s action movies are hold overs from the 80’s with more grit and our broken hero. The past decade and a half the biggest, and most successful, action fare in the western market is superheroes. We want to be them. We want to be beautiful/handsome, have powers, and kick ass with little to no consequences.

It’s ok to want that too. None of it is a crime to want to be more. To be the one who makes the change. To be THAT guy.

When it stops being want and starts becoming do – then it’s a problem. In today’s world this movie is in nothing short of bad taste. It was delayed due to Vegas, then they release it anyway a few days after a school shooting. Take the hint. Stop while you are ahead, release it straight to DVD like it looks like it was made for anyway.

From a purely production standpoint. This is bad all the way around. Willis is the least compelling character in the movie and his acting is so bland and so dry it made the Sahara Desert look like the middle of the pacific ocean by comparison. He is absolutely the worst thing in this movie. He had no charisma, no charm, no emoting of any real caliber; which is in stark contrast to Vincent D’Onofrio who was literally the only one in the cast trying. The character of Paul Kersey just did not work this time in any way shape or form either. In the original he was an architect and a conscientious objector. He had no skills for this and actually had to escalate from a sock full of quarters to the gun and then it was a simple revolver.  Making him a surgeon in this one gave him useful skills for what he was doing. Gave him the ability to try to mask his tasks and assets to use to enable his plan. He didn’t come across nearly the amateur and then there was no escalation of the character into the killer. They took away anything that made Kersey an interesting, if not flawed character, and replaced it with bland. That’s without getting into the political aspects of the character in 2017. The attempt to lampshade the appropriateness of his actions with colour commentary by local DJ’s on morning shows is severely weakened by the fact it just rings hollow.

TL;DR

This movie sucks. This movie absolutely sucks.

It is timed badly, it is made badly. It is in poor taste. It just is awful in every aspect of its production and release. I would say the studio and the director Eli Roth should feel ashamed, but they won’t. They don’t.

If you want to watch a superior version of this film, set modern, that turns the lens onto the character itself, while escalating and still providing that visceral thrill and sense of wish fulfillment. Watch the 2007 film Death Sentence with Kevin Bacon. It is an actual sequel to the Death Wish Novel and then adapted into a movie. It works. This does not

I am skipping the usual outtro here, as this review is late. I’m not even bothering to attach the image. It’s that irritating.

This is a bad movie that shouldn’t have been released.