Darke Reviews | Charlie’s Angels (2019)

I have missed you my readers. Have you missed me? There are a few reviews coming that I owe you, but first the viewing tonight. I had hoped to get this one to you last night, but there was a plague upon my house which kept me more or less incapacitated for several days. After some blood letting, no I am not saying whose blood, I am almost fully operational again. The members of my Dark Court went last night to the preview screening and all assured me I would enjoy this film. They gave me no spoilers, they know better. Now of course I remember watching reruns of the series as a little girl, Jaclyn Smith, Cheryl Lad, Kate Jackson, Tanya Roberts, Farrah Fawcett. That…might explain a few things. I have also watched both the 2000 and 2003 movies, not particularly fond of the camp surprising no one. I did miss the 2011 series. Near as I can tell so did everyone else.

I suppose the real question then is, should you say Good Evening Angels?

The story for this film was written by David Auburn ( The Lake House) and Evan Spiliotopoulos (Hercules, Beauty and the Beast 2017), which creates an interesting mix of a Tony award winning writer who also did a romantic drama and a guy who has mostly made a lot of the Disney animated sequels. Not sure what to make of that mix in styles, but when you add Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers, Brightburn) on the screenplay and in the directors chair it begins to take shape. Banks went mostly under the radar for me for years until I saw her in Hunger Games as Effie, then appearing as Gail in Pitch Perfect. I admit, I discounted her. I would say around Mockingjay I saw what was there all along (I have a bias against comedy you know this), then as Rita Repulsa in Power Rangers. She cemented her chops with me in Brightburn, but thats in front of the camera. What about behind? I am not a fan of her directorial debut Pitch Perfect 2, its fine, but didn’t resonate nearly as well as the first. She hasn’t gone behind the camera in 4 years and she’s been learning. More on that in a second.

The story presented is a long episode of the show. Someone has a secret, someone doesn’t want that secret shared. Spy games and spy vs spy ensue. Pretty clothes, disguises, and nifty gadgets follow. Women power in all the best ways. Basic works here. To embrace the premise of the show and take it seriously, which the movie does, you do not need overly dramatic complex or overwrought plots. You need a McGuffin, multiple locations, and some highly skilled Angels with just an air of mystery to the plot enough to satisfy the casual movie goer. It does that. While the movie does take itself seriously, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It knows where to poke, it knows where to have fun even at itself. This is what separates this particular remake of a 70’s series from so many of the others. Others go for the hard over the top ridiculous comedy, this is far far more restrained. Granted it is over the top in its own ways, but the humor in the movie is pure and good natured and charming.  Thats screenplay and directing done right Mrs. Banks

That also comes from the performers, Kristen Stewart (Personal Shopper, American Ultra), Naomi Scott (Power Rangers, Aladdin), and Ella Balinska (first major theatrical role) as our Angels. They have to carry this movie not “just by being pretty” (but they are three of the most beautiful women on the planet imo), but they have to have the acting and action chops as well. They do. I know a lot of people still write off K-Stew and well…in my opinion they are wrong. She isn’t the performer she was in 2008. She knows who and what she is now and as the saying goes “brings her whole self to work” and I can tell you that it shows. She’s both charming and funny in this role, while still pulling off a number of decent action pieces with her in frame. Scott continues to hold her own and shows she can and should continue to be trusted as her career continues to grow. I will admit Balinska almost steals the show from both of them a number of times, including one particularly adorable scene with Noah Centino. I could go on to list all the co-stars and cameo appearances in this movie but we’d be here all night.

TL:DR?

The movie is fantastically well paced and trimmed to cut all the fat away giving you the bare necessities and deliver on everything the trailer promised. Just shy of 2 hours there’s very little to cut from this movie without sacrificing some element that keeps it all working. It also keeps an interesting sense of permanency with some aspects to the movie where certain things are not undone and I am pleased for it. There are dozens of nods and winks to the original series and the early 2000 movies without being too overt or fanservicy. Movies risk with that going “remember this better thing?” yeah they avoid all of that. All of it.

I really enjoyed the hell out of this adorable picture. This will likely make my top list this year.  Yes, I am serious.

Should you see it?

If you had any interest in it I can confirm you will get your monies worth. If you were waiting for confirmation from the anti comedy girl that its palatable, you got it. If you weren’t sure – I can comfortably recommend this for a beautiful popcorn bit of fun.

Would you see it again?

My Dark Court wanted to. One of them was able to tonight (the others had prior commitments) I stand by them on this and would.

Will you buy it?

Absolutely.

Are there any problems with it, like at all?

Sure. Its a bit shallow. If you know the genre there’s not a lot to the movie, but it doesn’t matter. There’s not a lot to the characters themselves, backstory or development wise, but if you wanted to kick off a franchise this wouldn’t be a bad way to do it.

Of course I am all for the pro feminism aspect of the movie. It does not even remotely shy away from it and a few times beats you over the head with it. You know what? GOOD. Let girls who come see this see themselves as bad ass action stars. Let them see they can wear pretty dresses, kick ass and save the world – and have fun doing it. We don’t need every movie like this to be Atomic Blonde, this is a nice accessible and fun balance to the mix and I encourage people to take their families to it.

Not…too young though. It is PG-13

Oh and yes it passes the Bechdel and Mako Mori tests by an order of magnitude.

Darke Reviews | The Addams Family (2019)

The family I wish I had when I was a little girl. Yes, I was always this way. I think I may have watched every episode of the series even in color, and the cartoon and of course the Scooby Doo appearance.  I’ve covered both Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993) movies in the past (almost 5 years to the day) and have not changed my opinions of them since. But we aren’t here to discuss those films, instead we are here to discuss the 2019 animated film based on the original comics and series. Some interesting trivia for you – the Addams family didn’t even have proper names from their first appearance in 1938 until the TV show in 1964.

Should this movie have gone without name too?

It makes me nervous to say the movie activates my three writers rule, with Erica Rivinoja (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Trolls) and Matt Lieberman (The Christmas Chronicles) on story, and screenplay by Lieberman and Pamela Pettler (9, Corpse Bride). They hit the mark and they didn’t on the story. Like it was amazing to see them go back to the basics and get 1964 style of the characters; while embracing some of the single frame comic panels feel as well; however, they missed on some of the parts that people love about the family. It’s like hitting a 20 on a dart board instead of the bulls-eye though, you got a good score but were just off the best mark. The story trudges through familiar territory for a family comedy drama, with teenage rebellion, the weight of family expectations, and the decisions to protect our children or let them grow. It’s fine I suppose, but doesn’t feel quite the same as the family the adults bringing their kids to this remember from the 90s or what I remember from the syndication of the 60’s show. Again it isn’t bad, it’s just not right like an ill fitting skin, er shirt. What?

The performances more than cover up the gaps with a power cast that is 100% a dream casting. Oscar Isaac (Star Wars, Ex Machina) as Gomez, Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde, Mad Max Fury Road) dropping timbre like a lumberjack (say it out loud) for the always elegant Morticia. Personal favourite actress Chloë Grace Moretz (Let Me In) as fan favourite Wednesday, breakout star Finn Wolfhard (It, Stranger Things) as Pugsley, Nick Kroll ( Secret Life of Pets 2) as Fester, and Bette friggin Midler as Grandma. Woof. It’s perfect. They nail it. I love them all – even Fester. Thanks to the 90’s movies Wednesday gets about a solid third of the movie to herself, and thanks to the original series the writers remembered Pugsley exists so he can get a driving plot. We also get solid and fun performances from Allison Janney (I Tonya, The West Wing) and Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade) as Margaux and Parker Needler. I have absolutely no complaint in any of the voice acting or performances. Everything and everyone was 100% on point without a single missed delivery.

Now, let us discuss the directorial and animation choices by Conrad Vernon (Monsters vs Aliens, Shrek 2) and Greg Tiernan (God of War and like all of Thomas the Tank Engine). While I didn’t agree with all of the choices made in the story, they made their choices and stuck to it. There are themes in the movie that they lean so far into they could have fallen over if they weren’t careful – but they were. They blatantly telegraph their opinions on certain matters in a way that makes me giggle. Among the choices is their target – young kids. This movie runs quick at 86 minutes with credits and it feels it. The movie is actually a bit too brisk and there were missed opportunities for dialogue between family members that could and likely should have been in the movie that would have added a few minutes but only barely broken the hour and a half mark to put in. It could have made some of the failings of the movie less impactful and instead turned some of them into absolute hits.

Then there is the animation

Credit: Charles Addams

They went back to the comics. They embraced it. They didn’t flinch and I love them all for it. When I say embraced I mean as I was doing my research for this review I found some scenes from the movie that are absolutely inspired by some of the single pane comics. There are some other great fan service moments that run through the film that will please those who remember like me, and simply amuse those who are only seeing things for the first time.

TL;DR

I’d love to tell you that this movie is an absolute must. Stop reading and go. I couldn’t do that in good conscience. It’s absolutely cute, endearing, and simplistic but I saw that in Abominable a few weeks ago. It again *IS* cute, endearing, and charming but I think I wanted more. I don’t think I realized just how young the target audience was for this based on the trailers and the 90’s movies left a pretty significant bar that it shouldn’t have to hurdle, but by virtue of human psychology does.

The Addams Family is an all together ookey movie that was a great way to introduce a new generation of children to one of the greatest, sweetest, and most loving families to ever hit comics or TV. It certainly won’t be for everyone who loved the 90’s movies and that’s OK too. I don’t agree with every choice that was made here, but I admire that they made a choice and didn’t go middle of the road or safe on some of the elements and symbolism through the movie.

So should I see it?

Yep. Take the kids. Take the whole family.

Would you see it again?

I have no regerts. So yes. Yes I would.

So you’d be buying it then?

Without even a second thought.

Ok but are you being too kind to it because its your aesthetic?

Maybe, but what I can say is we had a half filled theatre on a Thursday evening, most of whom were kids between 4 and 10. When the Addams Family theme kicks in for the credits hearing a row of children snap, clap, and sing a long tells me everything I need to know about the movie and if it delivered.

There’s enough for the adults in the audience, but this one is for the kids and they ate it up. Even the kids who were a bit noisy in the movie were noisy WITH the movie and getting excited because of it, not despite it.

That’s saying something and it’s something worth listening to.

 

Also as a treat, here’s the 1964 opening.

 

Darke Reviews | The Lion King (2019)

How precisely are we going to discuss the Lion King going forward? You can’t really call this the live action one. It’s not the hottest take I know I know. I could poke fun if you say the 94 one is the original and pull out the receipts about Kimba the White Lion. That wouldn’t be entirely fair, no one consciously ripped off of a thirty year old animated TV series when they made the Lion King, but it’s disingenuous to say that the animators, writers, or even actors weren’t taking some childhood inspiration from it. Writers today might incidentally crib from Stephen King, Clive Barker, John Carpenter, some random episode of Silverhawks, He-Man, or Thundercats. The things we watch as children carry on and inspire creatives today. I couldn’t escape some of the dialogue from The Last Unicorn if I tried and I wouldn’t want to. Wanna bet me that “That’s what heroes are for” is going to make it into one of my stories or more than one? All of that said we have a Lion King twenty five years later.

Should it have stayed in the shadows?

Let’s sit down and chat about the writing. We have of course the “characters” credit you may see. This is just giving credit to the original writers, Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, and Linda Woolverton. The story credit on 2019 goes to Brenda Chapman, who was one of 27 (!!!!) writers credited on the original, but ultimately she also gets the Story Supervisor thus making it hers for this one, while the three previous names were the “screenplay” credits. Wow that’s convoluted. There is however a new credit for Jeff Nathanson (Speed 2, Rush Hour 2, Pirates 4); who apparently is a script doctor that gets a lot of uncredited work on movies like Twister and the original Rush Hour. If this man is a script doctor please take away his license to practice. Mister Nathanson, you literally took the script from the original word for word and ….did nothing with it. Wait, you did. You changed the dialogue on a handful of scenes that are iconic and changed them for the…lesser. You did nothing. Nothing else.

Jon Favreau the director who brought us Iron Man and the Jungle Book, but also Cowboys & Aliens does not escape my ire. Much like Nathanson you did…nothing. You were a glorified parking lot attendant telling people to go to the place they already knew to go. Your storyboard was the original movie and you didn’t deviate from it. Except, when you did. In those decisions you took a tight 88 minute movie and made it 118 minutes with nothing new to show for it of any measure. Except I don’t think you got a say in it, hence the traffic attendant with some producer at Disney saying “Do this exactly as we tell you and we will fund your next movie”. As the director, you are responsible for the look of the shots and the performances of your actors, but add a musical and now you are responsible for how those songs play out. To borrow from a greater movie, when you are called before your maker and asked why you did something, “I Was told thusly” is not sufficient. Mr Favreau, Jon…Jon you ruined one of the great Disney villain songs. (Side note comment on the post here on FB if you want me top 10 disney villain list). How do you ruin one of the easiest songs? I mean Aladdin didn’t include theirs, but you actually…ruined yours. Then your ballad,…I want you to look at the lyrics, Now look at your shots. Look at the lyrics again. Write on the chalkboard 1,000 times why you were wrong.

Actors! On stage. Ok…you did fine. No, that’s it. You were fine. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity, 12 Years a Slave), you nailed Scar. While you lacked Iron’s ham, you had your own gravitas and made it work. Clearly the best in the lot. Mr Jones, good to have you back sir. Why did they auto tune you though? You still have it. Yes, you sound different, but you are still epic. Alfre Woodard (12 Years a Slave, Star Trek: First Contact) you exude class as Sarabi. Who else who else, oh yes, Florence Kasumba. You made the Hyena matriarch Shenzi flipping intimidating and even a bit scary at times. Well done. Like seriously well done. The rest of the performances are just average, yes including Beyonce. It’s just meh.

There is also a lot of critique on the expressionless animations going around since the trailers dropped. I have news for you, its intentional. I understand what the animators were going for. This is Disney showing off just how good they are at generating photo realistic animals and terrain. That is almost literally all this movie is. They went for a naturalistic animal expression, motions, and body language. Even animalistic ticks as they are even just standing around are present. Due to that the more human facial expressions we are used to from animation never make it across. 90% of the time the animations are amazing and beautiful, if emotionless, but its the other 10% that concern me. How, how in an entirely computer generated movie do you create shots that look like they are on green screen or against a matte painting? Follow up question – why would you?

TL;DR?

There are going to be a lot of people who like this movie. There were people in my showing who clapped for it. Myself and my Dark Court were not among them. With the Court it rated a meh at best, and to be fair that is all it is at best. I can forgive a bad movie that is a meh because it tried. I can forgive an original movie or even the odd remake that is a meh because they tried something original and appreciate it for what it does. Disney doesn’t get that slack.

Disney is a studio who has made $2.1 billion this year in the America alone. That’s with a B and only on 9 movies. The next closest studio is at $894 million with 23 movies released. Disney also has Maleficent 2, Frozen 2, and Star Wars coming this year. You don’t get a pass on Meh anymore, especially with tentpole productions. I actively dislike this movie.

Wow, ok should I see it?

No. Look just put the animated in. Share it with your kids and be happy.

Would you see it again?

No. I will see Aladdin again over this.

I am guessing…

I won’t buy it. You are correct.

Parting thoughts then?

I wasn’t hopeful for this movie to begin with. It met my expectations. I go back to what I said in the Aladdin review, Disney is at its best on these when it deviates from the original in new and inventive ways. The writing is bad enough I want to shake the writer and remind them of the Rule of three. I want to flog the editors for some of the weirdest pacing and cutting decisions that take away from many scenes which should have had emotional weight to them but just looked confused or rushed.

Also – how, how in Turings name did you make a stampede with no energy? A fight between lions and hyenas that just was…ok? That is unacceptable when you have no limitations on its capabilities.

I cannot recommend the Lion King to anyone – but alas I know it will make a few hundred million.

If nothing else we have a potentially good Mulan movie next spring?

 

Darke Reviews | Child’s Play (2019)

I’ve never quite been what one would call a fan of the Child’s Play series. I’ve watched most of them at one point or another and while not a fan appreciate how bat-guano-crazy they get; even with the first movie. I mean come on, this is a movie about a doll possessed by the soul of a psychopath who begins to kill people. A doll. This isn’t like Annabelle or any of the modern haunted dolls, this is literally the DOLL killing people. The Puppetmaster series at least acknowledged its camp in its own unique Full Moon way. To be fair, as Child’s Play went on the series got weirder and weirder, and did acknowledge just how strange it is as a series in its own way. As with any remake of a franchise that has some serious fans there was doubt on a new movie being made.

Should Chucky go back in the box?

The first thing to address is, is this a sequel, a remake, or a reboot? Based on everything I have to work with this is absolutely a remake with no acknowledgement to the original movies in anyway shape or form. It has all of the hallmarks of a remake as well, with callbacks to the original but most of them being ham-fisted; right down to getting the name Chucky. The screenplay that drove this is from Tyler Burton Smith, who as near as I can tell is not related to one of the producers the often lamented Seth Grahame Smith. Seth is known for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter; but also the writer for Tim Burtons abomination of a Dark Shadows movie. Knowing Seth is a producer and Tyler Burton Smith has video game writing credits before this gives me some insight to aspects of the movie; which is suffice to say emotionally flat. I acknowledge I might be in a bad mood, because I was offended by one of the trailers before it but the movie goes out of its way to make every human the worst possible versions of themselves.

Like I get it, as slasher movies (De-?)evolved we began to look forward to obnoxious people being killed and our killer being more of a protagonist than even our final girls. This took it to a new level that was just off-putting rather than perversely gleeful. Only two characters in the movie are remotely likable and they are tertiary characters at best. That is not good. Part of a horror movie is to feel tension that a character you like is going to be harmed. Here? Not only do you feel no tension, you are just waiting for them to die because they are just bleh; but thats not enough they have to upscale it before hand. It’s completely unnecessary and takes away from any impact the movie could have had as you know a horror movie. If the people are likable, then when the doll begins doing what it does…you worry. You wonder whats going to happen next and then have favourites you don’t want dead. Here…who cares? Not me. Certainly not the script.

I think the director tried to care, but I am not sure he was cut out for what he had to do here to make this work. Lars Klevberg’s only other work was the film Polaroid which was supposed to be released in 2017. Remember that one? Here you go:

I had completely forgotten about this movie until writing this review. I went to check did it come and go with a whimper, but found out it never even showed up. It was pushed back twice on the release schedule then never released here in the US. It *finally* got a German release in 2019, but thats about it. Looking at the two pictures I see a man who tries to go for cold barren landscapes, he wants to use his lighting to create mood using stark single colours to light a scene. He prefers relatively tight shots on his cast, but rarely a full close up. He tries to play with the camera, but forgets that the camera is a point of view itself and if you decide to track it as if it was first person you need to make the motion make sense. In other words he is trying, but needs to refine a bit before he gets there.

Aubrey Plaza gets to run solo in this one as the main star of the movie and the mother of the child who acquires the doll. She tries and having seen the full force of her personality in Legion, Safety Not Guaranteed, and a ton of clips from Parks and Rec, she’s entirely wasted here. Her delivery is flat and I can only blame the direction, she tries but doesn’t have the inertia to or will to overcome that which holds her back. Gabriel Bateman, who plays the new Andy is fine I guess. If anything his performance feels the most natural and sounds like a kid reacting to what he has to. There’s an odd choice by the movie to make him hearing impaired, but it adds absolutely nothing to the movie to do so. I have a feeling there’s a draft of the script where it comes into play more but someone said this looks too much like A Quiet Place and cut it from the movie but not the hearing aid entirely. Mark Hamill is fine as the voice of Chucky, but the script gives him nothing to work with compared Brad Dourifs take in 88. This isn’t a slight on Hamill, we know what he can do with voice acting, but the script gave him nothing. Nothing to do with it.

The only thing remotely interesting in the movie is how they use the fact the Buddi doll is like a generation nine Alexa and connect to your home, phone, tv, and even roomba. Again the idea is interesting, but they don’t take it nearly far enough. The movie is a very brisk 90 minutes – with credits, so time could have been spent to do something curious, something new with it, or something to add to the horror, but it doesn’t. Even the gore, which I am sure other reviews may talk about was more mild than it was intense. I won’t even go into some of the more interesting logistical issues.

TL:DR;

This is the kind of remake that people warn you about. It tries to be new, but tries to keep ties to the original. It tries to be edgy and reinvent the franchise, but misses the point. The script is not great, the direction mediocre, the acting mediocre, and generally comes across as a flat movie trying to find relevance. When 2013’s Curse of Chucky and then in 2017 had Cult of Chucky come out and was a strong entry in an almost 30 year old franchise, this feature comes across even more unnecessary and painfully derivative from Don Mancini’s work on the other seven films. This strikes even more of a vibe as Curse and Cult are reasonably scary for the franchise.

Should I see it then?

No. Just no.

Would you watch it again?

Only if I was stuck in the body of a possessed doll and had no method of locomotion….

So not buying it then eh?

Not even a little thought on that.

Is it that bad?

The doll looks bad. The movie is bad. I kept hoping Charles Lee Ray would end it for me. Just watch Curse and Cult of Chucky and hope for the best that Don Mancini gets to do something with the franchise again.

Darke Reviews | Men in Black: International (2019)

I really had no interest in the Men in Black films after the second one, so I missed the third one (apparently a good thing?) and I even missed the animated series (yes it’s a thing). Will Smith lost his charm with me a very long time ago and so did the franchise. I was very dubious when I heard there was a new Men in Black movie coming out, but then I heard the cast; Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. I have a serious girl crush on Thompson and Hemsworth isn’t exactly what one calls something bad to add to a movie. Seven years since the last film put a nail in the series coffin and twenty two years since the original. The trailers showed some promise and gave us a heroine to get behind, so I went and watched it with the two members of my Dark Court.

Should we be neuralized to forget?

There are two writing credits on the movie, which is not across my writer threshold making it a good thing. Art Marcum and Matt Holloway who have screenplay credits on Iron Man, Punisher War Zone, and Transformers the Last Knight. Talk about hit or miss? It does, however, inform some of what I saw in the movie. A script that doesn’t do anything particularly original and follows the Men in Black formula pretty well. There are some clear bits of dialogue that represent expected plot points that got dropped as the production went on. The story is what was promised on the trailer, girl finds the MiB, gets recruited, gets sent to London office. Threat to the planet ensues.  They look good a long the way.

So not original? No. Formulaic? Yes. Is that a bad thing? No. Not always. I hear in critics circles and some regular movie goers saying “its sooo formulaic” as if its a bad thing. Every movie is a formula. Some are more recognizable than others. They get reused for a reason – they work. When you go to a bar do you complain that your drink is formulaic? You just paid the same amount you did for a movie ticket. All it means is that the pattern and structure follow something you’ve seen before, but with the content being adjusted for this particular narrative. The adjustments work here and I really didn’t have any major complaints. I don’t have much in the way of major praises either. It simply works at the baseline and in some cases, like this one, that really is not the worst thing in the world.

A good director helps though and fortunately F. Gary Gray is a good director. I like his work on Set It Off, The Italian Job, and the Negotiator. I hear that Straight Outta Compton was good. The framing of shots is good. The direction and required mystery components are handled well. He had two of the most charismatic modern actors in Thompson and Hemsworth. He used his Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson well, something frequently not done.  Side characters like Kumail Nanjiani (Stuber) and Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible) work well and suit the narrative and even add to it, which makes a pleasant change from previous films.

If anything the biggest weakness on the movie is an over-reliance on CG. More than a few of the shots and creatures would have looked even more amazing in the practical with make up, puppets, and the like. That said, the vast majority of the CG creatures and world looked good. The studios involved clearly spent their money well here and created that same lived in world of MiB with always some little thing in the background, which is a very Mos Eisley Cantina trick and I appreciate it. While some looked good, there’s two or three effects that just look exceptional and are definitely worth seeing.

TL;DR

I love that the writers and director went with the female lead on this one and that she is confident and capable. Not to say that she doesn’t make mistakes, but the humor in this movie is elevated even over the first one. All the jokes land and really for once don’t depend upon the embarrassment of someone to be funny. I *hate* that kind of humor and the movie didn’t have it. Thompson is a more than capable lead character and the charisma between her and her co-star in Thor is more than enough to light up any screen.

The movie much to my surprise works. It isn’t great, it doesn’t redefine the genre, but if you want to start off a new franchise you could do a lot worse than this. Point in fact this is one of the first times in a long time I actively want a reboot of the franchise with these two characters at the helm. Not only are the actors magnificently charming, I *like* both the characters for what they bring to the table. Men in Black International surprised me a bit. I knew I enjoyed it and was able to unwind watching it, but as I write I am finding how much I enjoyed it.

Granted, maybe its just me comparing it to last weeks movie? Either way…

Should I see it?

Yeah if you were dubious I think you will be ok. Like I’ve said, it doesn’t tread any new ground plot wise, is pretty basic but makes that work in its favor. Matinee minimum, super sound systems optional.

Would you see it again?

The Dark Court and I agree – probably not in theatres. Not a bad thing, just it doesn’t require that screen to enjoy

So you’re buying it then?

Honestly, yeah. I liked it.

Anything else to add?

This movie didn’t help with my crush. It might have made it worse? 

In all seriousness, the humor in the movie works and doesn’t do it at the expense of anyone, beyond some decent physical comedy from Hemsworth. I would recommend he talk to Brendan Frasier before he plays that card too much.

Ok so Next week?

Toy Story 4 – Probably not. I never fell in love with that franchise. I honestly didn’t particularly like the first one, don’t even remember the second, and didn’t watch the third.

Childs Play – I am curious. Pretty likely. No members of the Dark Court with me though. Maybe a Dark Princess will brave it?

Anna – maybe, for some mindless action fare? Still undecided there.

 

 

 

Darke Reviews | Aladdin (2019)

One of the times where I need to put the year not just to cover when I released the review, but also to make sure it’s clear as to which version of the movie I am talking about – even within the same studio. To be fair 27 years is long enough between versions. Though as I write this it just struck me why we claim to be so tired of remakes, when remakes are as old as Hollywood itself. Access. We have more access than ever before to almost any movie ever made any time we want. This really began in my own childhood as VHS became widely accessible and cable began to sink its claws into the world giving us more channels airing more of our favourites. Then came (and went) laser disc, only to be eclipsed by DVD, then BluRay, now Digital. You love The 1992 Aladdin and likely have watched it more than a dozen times, and if you have kids shared it with them as well. It’s never faded from memory because we have it on demand by our own hands. Now to be fair, I am not demonizing the audience for liking what they like and wanting what they want. I am just being a bit introspective as to why we might be judging some of the studios as harshly as we do.

This isn’t to say they don’t also deserve it. They are part of the access issue and let’s face it with few exceptions Disney hasn’t exactly thrilled everyone with these live action remakes. I suppose with Lion King this year we should just call it a Digital Remake. The same might as well be said for this one too, though not to the same extent. For me Maleficent was one of the best of the live action remakes because they remixed the story and did something new with it rather than a shot for shot remake.

So should we just put Aladdin back in the lamp?

The script this time was penned by John August who is credited for work on about a solid third of Tim Burton’s work from Big Fish (yay) to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (special hell for you), to Dark Shadows (I will put you in that hell myself), and Frankenweenie’s 2012 remake. Guy Ritchie clearly did enough rewrites to get his name on the screenplay and of course he is in the directors chair. I am surprised after King Arthur: Legend of the Sword that Disney took a chance on him, but here we are and yes they did. More is the pity.

Let me be clear (I almost typed straight but I’ll never be that), I did enjoy parts of the movie and I don’t hate it. This will seem incongruous to the lambasting I am about to give it so I wanted to make sure you knew early. This film has no energy with one exception and that exception is not Will Smith. Somehow and I don’t know how precisely they took One Jump and Prince Ali and put on the display, put on the words, but it had no energy to it or passion to it. Even the opening Arabian Nights just doesn’t have the right sound to it as it desperately tries to emulate the original. Sure there are changes, but that isn’t the problem. The problem is they try to hit the rise and sound as large but they don’t. They fall just short of it every, single, time. Guy Ritchie made ONE JUMP BORING. HOW? How does a director known for such kineticism take a song born to be kinetic and make it flat. The musical numbers aren’t the only issue. Some scenes are truncated, but not to the movies benefit as it introduces new complexity that isn’t handled well. With one exception I will get to into in a moment the movie is simultaneously rushed and too long at the same time. More than a few of the changes made to story and events we all know aren’t just different, but are flat out weaker on their own and by comparison. It sort of is a mess in that regard.

What saves the movie is the actors. First things first, Will Smith is fine and reminded me of the Smith of old with his charisma and makes Genie his own. He doesn’t try to mimic Robin Williams, but they don’t stray far enough that you forget him. Mena Massoud is fine as Aladdin when the direction and script let him be. He was clearly hired for a smile that can light a room from across a country and that isn’t a bad thing. The boy does his best and starts to overcome everything against him, until they get him to sing. Then the flatness harms, but at least he and Naomi Scott (Power Rangers) have charisma together. He does all he can, but she just does it better. When it comes to the heavy lifting of the movie it’s all on Scott and she does it. She is the powerhouse, from song to performance to character arc.  Prior to this I had no idea she could sing and I am pretty impressed with what I got. Nasim Pedrad also adds some of the charm to the movie as Jasmine’s handmaiden and is definitely one of the brighter spots, in the film. I tried, I tried to buy Marwan Kenzari (Murder on the Orient Express, Ben-Hur) as Jafar, but he didn’t have the necessary venom. He was flat as many of the other performances and emotional depth of the movie beyond Scott. I don’t blame him, I blame Ritchie and August. Mostly Ritchie.

TL;DR?

The movie is fine. It’s passable. It’s just irritatingly mundane. As the Dark Princess who attended with me tonight said, they did everything safe. Everything. There is not a single choice made that wasn’t the safe one to make. Some of the changes and inserts made were ridiculously safe for 2019 and with but one exception did not add to the movie in any way. The CG ends up looking better than we got on the trailers, but that only harms the final product as there is a ridiculous amount of CG so the Genie ends up looking odd since he is coded to be more photo real.

Guy Ritchie was the wrong choice for this movie and while there were some more Bollywood style shots, costuming, lighting, and set design – next time give it to a director from Bollywood. It’s hard for me to forget the initial casting news from this one and it does colour my opinion of the final product. You may think that isn’t fair, but I have to ask would a different director have been able to get the right passion and made the right choices? I mean obviously a different director would have made different choices, but would a Bollywood director have given us the BETTER choices.

Aladdin 2019 will suffer by comparison to the original and that suffering is earned. It only improves one or two things, but again doesn’t stick the landing on those things.

Should I see it though?

Meh? I guess. Like I mentioned in the tomb diving part above, I am fairly displeased with so many of the decisions in the movie, BUT….I don’t hate it.  So take my review at face value and make your choice accordingly.

Would you see it again?

For some of the Naomi Scott scenes? Yes, but…

But you’ll buy it and not in the theatre

You got it.

Any parting thoughts on this one?

I am not hopeful for the Lion King?

 

Darke Reviews | Hellboy (2019)

I need Ian McShane to narrate my life. Sure people talk about having Morgan Freeman do it or Samuel L Jackson for the complete other take; but for me, it has to be Ian McShane. I never fully appreciated the gift that he was until seeing him in the remake of Death Race (2008). This is a man who is all out of anything to give. This is a man who I am almost certain walks on set, reads his script, and generally goes “screw it” and does what he will and they just film him – and it always turns out awesome. If you’ve seen the John Wick movies you know this to be true as well. I only bring this up now because this movie opens with narration by Mr. McShane and it sets a very firm tone for what the movie will give you.  It wastes very little time establishing any of this and if you don’t like the first minute of film you won’t like the following hundred and nineteen. As a film goer and critic I appreciate it when movies manage my expectations in such a way. Jordan Peele did this with much praise in US and now we have one of my favourite underrated directors doing it here in Hellboy’s 5th movie installment.

But does it work?

As mentioned this is the 5th installment of a Hellboy movie, with the original DelToro in 2004, the animated Sword of Storms in 2006, the animated Blood and Iron in 2007, and The Golden Army in 2008. The last three have the creator of Hellboy as one of the writers and all of them have Ron Perlman in the titular character role, and the other live actors in their respective supporting roles. This marks the first time that Mike Mignola is not involved in the writing (but he does get an Executive Producer credit). To say that the tone of this movie is irreverent would be an understatement of apocalyptic proportions. Andrew Cosby’s (creator of TV series Eureaka and Haunted) script is very much in the vein of of the previous ones, with Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) trying to stop a very potent supernatural baddie from ending human life letting the creatures of the night rule once again and for Hellboy himself to face his own dark potential. To be fair, as the Vampire Princess I am kind of rooting for the monsters – it’s a blood thing after all.

The movie does a decent job setting up who Hellboy is and what he believes in pretty quickly with a well done show don’t tell scene. We’re given the crash course rehash of his origin with some very clear comic book characterizations and other characters, like The Lobster, not previously seen in a Hellboy picture being lifted from page to screen. Cosby clearly does love the material and embraced every aspect of the over the top nature of it and brought it to the script; perhaps at the detriment of giving us any compelling characters beyond Hellboy, Broom, and Alice Monaghan. The movie suffers from an eternally brisk pace that doesn’t let you ever linger long enough to care much about anything which can leave you wanting if you don’t feel for the stakes.

That being said I am pleased to see Neil Marshall back in the directors chair again. His filmography is regular watching in my crypt from The Descent, to Dog Soldiers, to Doomsday, and Centurion. This didn’t feel like one of his movies though.  Sure Doomsday mashes up a zombie apocalypse movie, MadMax, and a medieval film all in one, but the overall look, feel, and tone here doesn’t feel like him entirely. It’s shot well and you can fully place everything being done and have a great sense of scale and geography during some of the fights and sweeping shots; which is definitely him, but its the closer moments that are somewhat off.

That might come down to the technicals. Normally Marshall is all but 100% practical in every shot; with few exceptions. He doesn’t shy from the gore when appropriate, nor does this movie; but the visuals they look well bad. When some of the blood effects and creature effects in movies a from over a decade ago look better than one made now, you have a problem. Many of the digital creations are more detractors for the movie than they are supporting, which is sad because there is practical work at play here. My gut tells me, and I bet I could research and prove, that this may have fallen victim to post production touch ups and overwork similar to the 2011 prequel of The Thing. There was intense and amazing practical work done, but someone at the studio came in and had the team redo all of the effects with digital over the practical. It is infamous in how bad it is at times. This looks about the same. Again this is sad because Hellboy looks great, some of the low key practical effects through the movie also look great – but the digital is not good.

People will want to know how is David Harbour (Stranger Things) vs Ron Perlman in the role of Hellboy. He’s good. I am biased, as many will be, that Perlman is better. I think some of it comes down to how well and how often Perlman gets to emote and how clear he sounds doing so. There’s a lack of clarity in the speech and lack of presence in that speech that overall hurt Harbours otherwise ideal casting. He looks good in the part, he emotes when he can, but I think the movie doesn’t really give him the chance to be as iconic as Perlman was.  The next match up of course is Ian McShane vs John Hurt as professor Broom. They aren’t even the same character and thus cannot be compared. I mean it is the same character but the take on it is so radically different you would not know it. McShane does as he does on American Gods, and chews all the scenery and we love him for it, but much like Harbour we aren’t given enough with him to make him more than Ian McShane, which is unfortunate. Daniel Dae Kim (LOST, Hawaii Five-O) is also done a disservice as Major Ben Daimio. He is able to elevate the part just enough to make it work, but only barely. Sasha Lane (Miseducation of Cameron Post) is the only one who manages to make a real impression playing Alice, but only barely.

TL;DR

The original Hellboy had a budget of $66 million (just over $91m adjusted) but it shows in the painstaking care of the practical. Lionsgate did this movie no favours in its $50 million budget. The intense practical of the 2004 Hellboy makes it a stand out film, while unfortunately the intense digital elements here cut this one off at the knees. This is a movie that has a very talented director, a capable cast, a script from someone who clearly knows his source material and the result is something of a muddy mess. Hellboy clearly deserved better than it got and unfortunately what looks to be some level of studio hands in the pot allowed a movie filled with sound and fury signifying nothing.

This feels more like something you would have expected from an early 2000’s Miramax movie instead of a late 2010’s Lionsgate one. This isn’t to say it’s awful. Quite contrary to that it actually is kind of fun at times in a throwback kind of way. I have to wonder if knowing their hands were tied the director, cast, and crew just embraced the travesty and rode with it like Slim Pickens. Everyone tries here. Everyone clearly looks like they are having a good time. The music director clearly was enjoying themselves and this certainly doesn’t feel like any other comic book movie you will see this year, largely due to the intense amount of digital and practical blood effects. This movie is an R Rated one and took full advantage of it.

Yes, but should we see it?

Yes, but preferably with alcohol or *lots* of popcorn. It is that sort of beer and pretzels movie that shouldn’t be but is and knows both of those things are true. I did enjoy myself, but I can’t tell you this is a good movie either.

Would you see it again?

Not in theatre, no.

Ok, what about buying it?

Yeah, I have no issue with that. I can order a pizza, open a bottle of bloo, er wine, sit down and just enjoy.

So it’s a …?

This is an entertaining, turn your brain off for two hours, have a drink and enjoy movie. I can’t be certain it was meant to be that way, but the net result is that.

I wouldn’t hold out hope for a sequel, but stranger things have happened. Also I still need Ian McShane to narrate my life.

 

Next week, I may or may not see the Curse of La Llorona – but face it we’re all waiting for End Game.