Darke Reviews | Alien: Covenant (2017)

I have many fandoms. So once again I will say these words, “I am a fan of this”. I have read quite a few of the Alien books, comics, and other media over the years; at least until the late 90’s. I could, and can still, recite to you from memory the names of every member of the crew of the Sulaco and the Nostromo. I called one of my ex girlfriends Ripley as a nickname. I have literally watched every Alien movie more than once, multiple cuts of them, directors cuts, “assembly cuts”, I’ve collected deleted scenes and for awhile I kept trying to hunt down the laser disc (ask your parents kids) of Aliens just so I could see the extended death scene of Burke, Carter J.  I also don’t think Prometheus is a bad film. I see what the director was trying to do and have a feeling that he may have seen the death of his brother Tony coming and was trying to cope with it in his question for whats next, life and death, and being angry at your makers. I also get why this movie divided the fans, some forgive it (I don’t), some hate it (I also don’t).

So how was it’s sequel?

Four writing credits. That’s never a good sign right? Right. The movie has a story by Jack Paglen (Transcendence) and Michael Green (Logan, Green Lantern); which was converted to screenplay by John Logan (Skyfall, Last Samurai) and Dante Harper (first writing credit). So we have a mix of good, bad, and holy hell this is bad – which explains much. The movie decides to lift from Percy Bysshe Shelley and so shall I in excerpt:

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

It’s ironic really that a friend of mine and someone I look up to Satyros Phil Brucato posted today on Facebook about the responsibility of IP holders and writers in relation to their products; his is specifically about the dumpster fire that is Marvel comics right now. I find that both Ozymandias and Satyros hit the problems I have with this movie.

*pulls up a chair and stares at the Hollywood writing room*

I am a writer. I know what you do is very difficult. I have yet to finish a novel. I have yet to finish a script. You have done these things. I applaud you. BUT – when you are making a thing, based on a previous thing…there are dangers. The waters are not uncharted, many have navigated them successfully, far more have crashed upon the rocks of fandom. As Satyros pointed out,

When you work with legends… even, perhaps, create them… those legends are bigger than you are. You might legally own the intellectual property rights to a given legend, but the power of that legend belongs to its audience. A legend holds that power because it speaks to human needs, fears, aspirations and dreams.

The Alien series, the creature, the world it is legend. You, even its creators such as Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett, and the original director Ridley Scott – have a responsibility to the fans. Yes, you as owner and creator can do anything you want with it. I do not argue that. Your changes do not devalue my love of the original works, such as Alien and Aliens – both of which can easily be classified as near perfect films. What you do though when you try to retcon (Retro-Active-Continuity …ie changing the history you already wrote to …do something) your own world is leave us confused to the status of your world.  When you ignore literally every work that has come since the original you take a huge risk of alienating the fans. Jurassic World took the risk and didn’t do so badly with it – but the sequels of Jurassic Park are not looked upon with legendary eyes.

Alien and Aliens are. The links between the universes of Alien and Predator are. The comics, the books, all of it – people have passion about. There are people who have done full blown physiological studies of both the Xenomorph and it’s cycles as well as the Yautja (Predators).  You had a chance, you choose to do something …else with it; you changed your own history, science and so much else. Something you had a right to do.

 

The point is, this product in my opinion is nothing more than a disappointment. You told nothing new. You didn’t scare us. You didn’t make me care if the characters lived or died. You changed so many of your own rules and so much of the backstory people know and care about – nothing ends up mattering.

This is what brings us back to Ozymandias – look upon your work and despair.  Nothing beside remains. Round the decay.

I can talk about the acting – its fine. No one stands out to me. Fassbender can act we know this. Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts) can have a range of emotions, but I never saw her evolve. The character I was introduced to is the character I ended with. There was no metamorphosis of the character – she is a shadow of Ripley and that is not the fault of the actress. I have a new respect for Danny McBride (Pineapple Express, Your Highness) and want to see him act in more straight roles like this one. They are fine. They are all fine.

The effects are…good. Mostly. Every effect is very clean and looks in frame. I appreciate the effort there. It should be noticed and applauded by anyone in that industry and looked to for guidance in the future. There’s a lovely mix of practical and CG that works very very well. However, some puppetry looks…wrong to the point of being nearly silly.

Production value? Yes. Very high. Very well framed, crafted etc. The biggest complaint is the film is too dark. It’s been colour corrected to be darker but is also washed out because of it bluring the lines of contrast at times making it difficult to see what, if anything, is going on – but not in a way that illicits fear.

TL;DR

This should be the last of the Alien franchise for awhile. Mr. Scott, please leave it alone. Fox. Please leave it alone.

If your intent was to make a movie that was gothic horror, or horror at all like the original – you failed.

If your intent was to touch on the action and sci fi horror/action of the sequel – you failed to deliver.

If your intent was to create a science fiction movie that raised questions and could allow for debate or good conversation – you missed your mark.

Hell, you even failed at making a continuous sequel that makes sense. You had no set tone. You had nothing compelling. The characters were erasable.

You created instead bland mediocrity that served no purpose and delivered no meaning or subtext – or entertainment value.

So…should you see it?

Look, yes, I am a fan girl. But I do my best to judge a movie on it’s own merits. It does a few things interesting but fails in every other regard to make me care or invest myself in the story. Guardians of the Galaxy with a terribly weak story pulled that off, so something like this should have been able to without trying.

It didn’t.

So no – don’t see it. It is in a word: Disappointing on every level.

How do you rank it in the franchise?

Well…I’d watch it before the theatrical cut of Alien 3? At least the AVP movies and Alien 4 were enjoyable in their badness. This is just bland.

So not buying it?

No. Not even on a dare. It just would anger me more.

Wow – you are angry?

Yes, because I went in with no expectations after the last one. I went in with a gleam of hope it could be better. I was upset by how little this left me caring.

So what next?

I am not reviewing Pirates 5. Didn’t see the 4th. don’t want to see the 5th (who asked for a 5th?). Wonder Woman on June 2nd is my hope now…I must be crazy.

 

This is Jessica Darke, last survivor of Alien Covenant signing off.

 

Darke Reviews | King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Preview screenings, yay! No one polling on exit? Odd. There are some movies I have seen in theatres I do not have reviews for. There are some, like High Rise, that are intellectually very good but I couldn’t solidify my emotions on it to write a review. Movies I have boycotted for Hollywood BS that don’t get a review but something else instead. Movies that are so mediocre that I cannot bring myself enough emotional weight to put words to screen and write a review (the final Divergent movie).

Then there is this one. A movie you probably didn’t even know was coming out and I was tempted to avoid writing a review lest it creep into your consciousness like some kind of mold or parasite from a bad sci fi movie and make you aware it exists. I would rather see it fall into the unseen reaches of movies that die with not a scream, but a whisper. Suffice to say then you get a review so you know to avoid this.

So what went wrong?

Let’s begin with the script. The rule of three is invoked. Story by David Dobkin, who has a story credit on one of my most reviled movies since I began writing R.I.P.D. and Joby Howard (Awake (2007)).  I really want to know how Dobkin can keep making movies, or more to the point ruining them. I am concerned now that I see Howard is a screenplay credit on The Flash, the DC movie.  But we’re not done yet as Howard gets a screenplay credit along side Lionel Wigram, who worked with Ritchie on Sherlock Holmes and Man from U.N.C.L.E. Ritchie himself also has a screenplay credit which tells me a story of some pretty decent on set rewrites after the script hit. Guy Ritchie has the final screenplay credit himself.

The story focuses on, Arthur Pendragon (Charlie Hunnam) and his rise from the ashes of betrayl by Vortigern. Young Arthur is raised in a brothel in Londinium from about age 6 until he is a man and is more or less a street tough and protector who is thrust into the plot against his will. Vortigern wants more power for nebulous reasons. Arthur must find his destiny, use the sword, save the kingdom.  The plot is thin and largely irrelevant because the editing has made it so. They, admirably mind you, try to do a lot of show don’t tell – but to succeed at it you need context. There’s exposition dumps amidst hastily edited and quickly read dialogue. There’s things that are never fully explained and matter even less in the end. I mean there is a REAL attempt to try not to explain everything but in the end nothing is explained and what is explained is done so over…

and over,

and over,

and over.

Then comes the directing. There’s a beautiful opening establishing shot that successfully establishes nothing in its 30 seconds of run time. It has no context, no bearing, and simply exists. Guy Ritchie continues to attempt to be clever by explaining a scene while its happening, cutting between the scene in the future and the explanation – but none of it really works as it comes across a muddied mess. There are attempts at wit that come and go and sometimes work, but rarely. I really can’t say what some of the actors were told to do in more than a few scenes which read quite similar to a block of wood. Don’t even get me started on the nausea inducing editing for the fight sequences involving real people. Between the camera jostling, changing angles, cuts, and overall movement it’s hard to make heads or tails of who is fighting what, where, or why. I mean the only reprieve here is that all of the bad guys wear black so they are different looking than the browns and off whites of the heroes. I mean that’s good right?

Now if you are still reading – you may have noticed I said fight sequences involving real people. I am reasonably…no I am certain until video evidence shows otherwise – that at least three fights were the equivellent of a modern video game cinematic. Which considering the quality of those should not be condemnation; but as it is in a live action movie it becomes one. I cannot prove it but  I would bet the writers played CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3. There’s one fight sequence that lasts too long that I think came right from the game…or might as well have. The rest of the graphics and visuals do their best to give you something you haven’t seen before, but I was so distracted by the overall badness of the production I couldn’t stop to appreciate what did work.

TL;DR?

I am tired of writing about this. It is a kinetic, frenetic, frenzied mess of a film with no sense of itself. It isn’t bad enough to be mocked by MST3K or good enough for me to actually hate it. It just is a disappointing film in which the actors I think try but are hampered by a script held together by bailing wire and day old bubblegum; and direction that leaves me wondering what happened to Guy Ritchie.

Should you see it?

No. Not even drunk…ok maybe drunk, but you would want to be near the fall down levels and make sure to get an ride home after.

Will you buy it? 

If only to burn in ritual sacrifice to the dark deities that such things are not done again.

Jess – seriously, is it that bad?

At the moment this is the worst movie of the year I have seen. Lost City of Z, also with Hunnam the poor sod, was made with great care and good production values. This was made with good production values and potentially shrooms or chemical alteration of the people in the production. I wanted it to be good folks. I wanted to like it but its actually bad. Not even mediocre. I am ultimately disappointed with the thing to a degree I didn’t think it would manage.

Anything else?

It’s a total sausage fest? I mean there’s women in it but only one of them gets a name. Uther simply calls his wife “woman” at one point…

Ok so what should I see this weekend? What else do you have coming?

Go see Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. Please, let it make more money.

As far as Alien: Covenant, I am trying to avoid spoilers but headlines on places I follow….yeah my hopes are pretty dashed –  which means it can only go up in my estimation!

 

Sorry folks this movie is just really bad and made by and with really good people.

Darke Reviews | Free Fire (2017)

Haven’t heard of this one? Yeah few have. It’s kinda an under the radar indie flick from production studio A24. I came across the trailer on YouTube one day a few months and thought “Hey this looks kinda fun and like a Guy Ritchie movie!” I like Cillian (pronounced Kill-ee-an if you didn’t know)  Murphy quite a bit. Brie Larson is largely unknown to me, but she’s going to be playing Captain Marvel so I was curious about her, and Sharlto Copely is usually memorable in whatever he does.

Just to see if you are interested – here you go. This is NSFW (language mostly) –

 

So I was promised something, but did the deal go south?

The movie, if you couldn’t tell by the trailer is a love letter to 70’s action. Not just content to set it in the 70’s but also feel like how an action film would be back then. The action is tight. It is contained. The entirety of the movie takes place in a single building; which does take some incredible precision and vision as a director. At the helm for this then is Ben Wheatley, who also directed last years critically acclaimed film High-Rise. I had the opportunity to watch that one and never could bring myself to review it as I wasn’t sure how I felt about it by the end. Still couldn’t tell you. I know it was expertly directed and well acted but my brain was confused about it. Not so much on the confusion here. Wheatley clearly has vision as a director and knows how to get the best performances out of his cast and the camera.

I could talk about the script and story by Wheatley and Amy Jump (screenplay and editing on High-Rise). It’s straight forward – gun deal goes south. The trick is to maintain a healthy level of tension, realism, and character goals. The movie verges into the absurdist without ever crossing that line as much as say Hot Fuzz does, but still has the humor from the characters themselves being just bloody odd. My only gripe and it’s a single throw away line, but that makes it bother me a touch more – just because you can use a word or words because they were period appropriate doesn’t mean you have to. It’s a single line but it was jarring in the moment for me and wasn’t needed as it never came up again. Unlike say Tarantino who still feels like a kid able to use all the bad words simply because he can.

The actors are good. Murphy, Larson, Copley are just fine. The one that steals the show though is Armie Hammer as Ord. I was wondering about him after The Lone Ranger and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. but he really is charming when he has good direction. He absolutely stole every scene when he was the center and I loved him most of all. I have an idea about Larson now as well and can only say I am looking forward to her turn in the tights as Captain Marvel.

From a technical standpoint – it is shot really well with generally clean action and shots that help progress the story; then allow you a few moments to breathe before the next action piece. Unlike many films today, an intentional move by the director, gunshots hurt. A lot. The actors carry that through the movie and it works for and against the movie. It wears old at the 60 minute mark as the injuries have taken their toll and it becomes very quickly more of the same.

TL;DR?

I think the deal went east on me. I can tell the actors had fun. I can tell the director succeeded at his vision. I can tell it is well shot and hit the vibe it wanted to. I also think the trailer  lied to me. It’s funny – not THAT funny. It’s got action – not THAT much action. It also has some pacing issues as the conceit draws a little long. The characters, even the unlikeable ones are memorable and charismatic so that’s a win over a lot of other films and another tip of the hat to the director.  I mean it is a film about arms dealers – how nice could they all be?

One other huge credit on this film worth mentioning in the positive column – It is ORIGINAL. It is different. That should be celebrated!

Should you watch it?

If you can handle a subdued slow burn 70’s style action? Sure. Otherwise nah. It’s everything I expect to come out of this production house so any real disappointment is on me.

Will you buy it?

Probably?

How is the action?

It is not action like we are used to. I appreciate that.

What next?

I am really really hoping we get Sleight locally. Check this trailer out –

Darke Reviews | Fate of the Furious (2017)

I can do my usual lead in paragraph if you want? I mean I said it with my Furious 7 review – you’ve already made up your mind to watch this one or not. You are invested in the series or not. This series which started out at least somewhat serious in tone (it has a flippin drive by) has become the beer and pretzels franchise. It doesn’t claim to be more than that – it stopped trying to be more than that a very long time ago. So I suppose the real question is should you see yet another film in this franchise after you thought they had nothing more to tell? Should you see a Fast movie without Paul Walker? Should you get behind the wheel to go see this?

or more importantly – should they have? 

The 8th…yes…8th installment of the series is directed by F. Gary Gary who has in his career since 1995 given us Friday, Set it Off, The Negotiator, and recently Straight Outta Compton. He worked with Deisel in A Man Apart (2003); which has some of that mans best acting. He is reuniting with Theron and Statham from when he ddirected them both in The Italian Job (also 2003); which had some pretty decent car stunts as well. It seems he is a perfect choice for this film series – and you’d be right mostly. The problem is the series has fully devolved into its beer and pretzels and cannot decide what tonal quality it wants to go for.

Will I be a serious film with real intensity and some brutality – well when Vin Deisel is the main focus? Yes.

Will I be a 7 layers of cheese dip with all the corny lines to go with it – well when Vin isn’t on screeen? Yes

Will I be somewhere in the middle, even briefly, when the group as a whole is on screen with him? Of course.

Yes he directs them all fine. I honestly think these guys could do a movie without a director at this point. ….I might even pay to see that. Yes the action scenes are fun and new (more later); but the character pieces never linger long enough to care about the stakes beyond your initial investment in the characters, which likely has been dwindling alongside the franchises respect for the laws of physics.

I think I have to blame someone I praised previously though. Chris Morgan has been on the franchise since Tokyo Drift. I think he is chained in a cage somewhere with nothing but a word processor and a printer being forced to write these at this point.  It is entirely possible he is using one of these to come up with the concept, plot, and events of the movie:

Admit it – you’re now thinking you should try it!

 

Nothing in the movie lasts long enough to care. The motivations are as foggy as a San Francisco morning (with one exception). The dialogue is just lazy. They didn’t even bother with having the two cyber specialists try to talk Hacker at the camera. A few vague words, lots of typing without actually see them doing anything. I kind applaud them for that one. Overall though its phoned in to the nth degree.

And it doesn’t actually matter.

You are paying to watch the actors do things with cars (usually). So how are they? Let’s bullet it as there are a lot of them.

  • Vin Diesel looks stern, talks about family, is generally bad ass. I honestly don’t know how much different the actor and character are at this point.
  • Jason Statham has some of the most fun I have seen from him since Crank?
  • Dwayne Johnson mugs for the camera. He flexes for us who go that way. He chews scenery. We love him for it.
  • Michelle Rodriguez is underused.
  • Tyrese earns that paycheck (credit CinemaSins) and mostly tries to be funny and fails – which I think is the joke. Humor and I don’t speak to each other often.
  • Charlize Theron is actually pretty solid when she wants to do a villain in a film like this. Nicely done.
  • Kurt Russell in this mode needs to be in all the things. There is a real possibility he ad libbed every line and I am 100% ok with that.
  • Scott Eastwood shows unlike in Suicide Squad he does have a personality.

Ok – so thats that.

How are the stunts and effects you ask? 

This gif is my answer.

Shark Jumping Duh

If you know this image – you are old. You also very clearly get the message.

 

Most of the stunts with the cars are fantastic. The others are  “fantastic”. When they go practical you will wince, when they go CG you will probably wince for other reasons. It’s pretty typical for this franchise, but they do take it to 11 this time. Its true the series jumped the shark long long ago – but now they have forgone any pretense.  What absolutely kills me is the shaky cam in the non-car fights. You have quick, powerful, or agile actors – we don’t need the camera looking like its sitting on the San Andreas during  an earthquake to add ‘dynamism’ to the fight. If you need that to add energy – rechoreograph the fight. Please. No more shaky cam especially when you have talent.

TL;DR?

It is absolutely fun. It is absolutely stakeless on an emotional level.  Yes it has stakes and a threat, but I couldn’t care less. In other movies I would probably rip them a new one for such behavior, but Fast and the Furious has earned its stripes and there is real effort and love in the movie.  In an era of unnecessary grit and hyper realistic action Fate of the Furious is a glass of cool lemonade on a hot summer day.

Should you see it?

I have no regrets. I doubt you will.

Would you see it again?

At home with a few beers, pizza, and friends? Yes

So you buying it?

No question about it. Yes.

The magic 8 ball is leaving me confused did you like it or not?

Yes, I liked it. It gave me everything I wanted it to be and didn’t disappoint on any of the facets I cared about for a Fast and Furious movie. This is the 8th movie in a franchise not based on anything but itself. That doesn’t happen in Hollywood anymore – maybe ever. I am happy to celebrate that.

Darke Reviews | Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Wait wait ! Look at the year. Yes, I am keeping the boycott in place for this movie. Please, however, if you do want my final thoughts on the new movie – there is a VERY SPOILER section below. I did not see it. I will not see it. You cannot pay me to see it. The spoiler I got (and covered below) is a forever deal breaker on that ….thing.

What we are going to talk about today is the original anime, which I saw upon it’s stateside release way back in the day of 1995. Anime was all the rage in small town Maryland with folks drooling over Speed Racer in my senior class. During a cast party for one of our high schools drama club we watched Akira, so that would have been 93 or 94 for that show. I remember watching Ninja Scroll shortly after, Battle Angel, Gunsmith Cats, etc etc. I distinctly remember learning different styles of Anime at the time and levels to which they would go. Akira for instance was visually stunning but in many respects conceptually well over my head. So when I came across Ghost in the Shell during that time and watched it I was enthralled by the visuals – but did I get it?

Well no.

Ironic that the girl who has been questioning her own identity missed the point a few years prior when she saw a movie about questioning the identity and sense of self

So what can I say about the movie that you want to know?

Credit goes to the manga, the original book form, author Masamune Shirow; then adapted for screenplay by Kazunori Itô. The Anime is directed by Mamoru Oshii.

I want you to consider this was released in 1995. 21 years ago. The animation is still far and beyond some of what we get today for multipliers of the budget spent here. The movie is nothing less than a visually stunning masterpiece of artwork.  The last word there is important. This isn’t just animation – it is artwork – which means that every frame is an intentional choice by the director and artists to bring to life and focus on. As it is artwork it is also subjective and the movie does have multiple bits where it relies on the art to convey a feeling or express something it wants you to think about. The problematic part is these sections can linger a bit too long for many audiences. The messages are either not always clear or near hitting you over the head with what they are trying to do. It doesn’t detract from the beauty of the art, but does detract from the pacing of the movie.

What about the story?

Let me ask you some questions –

Are you alive?

What is life?

Define your sense of self.

Define your identity.

What makes these up? 

Now – what if you wanted to quit your job and you had to turn your body in and go back to another one?

Would you still be you?

These are overt questions the movie asks in text, not subtext (which isn’t spoiling anything) that it defies you to think about as it progresses along its primary axis. The Major, Matoko Kusanagi (voiced by Atsuko Tanaka) is a member of a paramilitary government organization in a world where nearly every human is partly cybernetic. Eyes, Ears, Part of your brain, joints, muscles – the odds are good you aren’t entirely human; but in this world that has left you vulnerable to a new breed of criminal who can hack your brain. Now, in our own world hackers can access the networks of our cars and take over steering controls by getting into the radio. No. I am not kidding. So consider then what a hacker could do if the computer was literally in your brain? Would you trust your own memories? Your own thoughts? Your own actions?

Thankfully the Major and the rest of Section 9 are there to stop people that do that kind of thing. The plot follows them trying to stop one in particular called the Puppet Master. In traditional Japanese fashion it asks a lot of questions, has intrigue, and rather good action sequences through out.

TL;DR?

21 years ago we were given a storytelling treat which asks the questions in a very plain way that for the most part if you listen versus hear creates a very powerful message; all  of this captured in state of the art animation from the lovely country of Japan.

Does it have pacing issues? Yes. Is some of the wording odd? Absolutely. Does it detract from the overall product? Not in the least.

The original Ghost in the Shell is not for everyone; most certainly not everyone in the West. It still however is an iconic moment of filmmaking that is easily equivalent to a Citizen Kane within it’s genre.

Should you watch it?

If you are a fan of anime and haven’t? Yes. If you are interested in the origins of the new movie? Yes. If you want to see something better than the new movie – Yes.

If none of these interest you – it’s ok. It’s like any fine art. Some people enjoy it. Some people don’t. It says nothing good or bad about either side. Just tastes – which are, should, and can be different.

How rewatchable is it?

Once a year – maybe. Once every 2 about right.

The Ghost in the Shell ARISE series or Stand Alone Complex are easier to watch repeatedly as their pacing is a touch faster and the stories more streamlined.

Ok so whats the big spoiler that has you outraged?

 

Roll over to read begins now.

Screw this movie in the face with a rusty chainsaw dipped in blow fish poison wielded by someone who has a personal hatred for that face.

As you know when the first casting came out I was against it due to Scarlett Johansson, who is a good actress, being given the role over someone like say Rinko Kikuchi, or any other of the dozens of Asian actresses who should have gotten the part. I have talked about White Washing before on several reviews. I am going to link to the bowl of raisins story again because it still explains it better. 

Mostly white people go “I don’t see the problem”.  It has nothing to do with her acting. I am sure her acting is fine. The problem is the part could and should have gone to any number of Asian actresses. 

You are going to see counter videos of people going to Japan and speaking with Japanese people what they think. They in the clips shown – don’t seem to have a problem. They of course are not looking for representation of themselves in Western media. They aren’t looking for heroes, icon’s, actors, actresses, stars, and the people we look up to here to go “I can be that”. Representation matters. 

Fine. Ignore both sides of the theoretical argument of who could have and should have been cast. The weak excuses about why it was done.

The spoiler. They literally white washed the character.

Literally.

The character in the movie was a Japanese girl named Motoko, who was kidnapped and had her brain implanted into a Caucasian cybernetic body and had her identity stripped from her. 

What the actual…

How..can anyone justify this? Please tell me. 

They literally took an Asian and “improved her” and made her white in the process. 

It doesn’t matter that most reviewers I have watched said its great visually, but ok otherwise. Just ok. 

They literally and figuratively white washed her and have spent the past year defending it. 

This movie needs to be burnt to the ground. This is a problem and folks – you need to help stop it. Please stop supporting movies like this.

Roll over ends.

 

Darke Reviews | Power Rangers (2017)

I really don’t know why I wanted to see this movie. I was not a fan of the show when it premiered the first time back in the early 90’s. I was a bit disappointed considering I had grown up on Voltron and thought I was getting a live action version. I was young. I didn’t know better.  So despite that the trailers did their job and I wanted to go see it. With that in mind I figure if I enjoyed the movie then it is a solid movie without nostalgia glasses getting in my way to either love it or hate it for its differences between then and now.

So should you go go to the theatre to see it?

I invoke the three writer rule as the movie goes to five. We have story by Kieran and Michelle Mulroney (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), Burk Sharpless (Dracula Untold,  Last Witch Hunter, Gods of Egypt) and Matt Sazama (Dracula Untold,  Last Witch Hunter, Gods of Egypt) and the final screenplay by John Gatins (Flight, Kong: Skull Island). At this point unless I am given photographic evidence to the contrary I am going to say Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama are a modern version of Alan Smithee. The real surprise here despite the rule being invoked – they told a decent story. Sure it’s origin story 101 but unlike so many other movies with a wide cast to introduce they actually let you get to know the characters. The dialogue, the character decisions, all felt natural. There’s one particular scene around a campfire that was in the paint by numbers guide, but it worked. No this isn’t going to win any awards for storytelling or doing something particularly new but it did its job. It does have a few plot holes you can pilot a zord through but you forgive them because the characterizations of your five mains are as strong as they are.

This is director Dean Israelite second feature film since Project Almanac; and while he shows more restraint than he did there he still has not quite mastered the camera. I will give absolute credit for trying a few things with the camera that worked, but then he went too long on them and it stopped working. I get the sense that there’s more to him, as overall the movie was surprisingly enjoyable. Directorially speaking the beats work mostly, the camera work is solid for a majority of the film and the performances and blocking are good. His sense of pacing was on point, but his tonal choices were a tilt a whirl of emotion. I remember looking to my sister during the movie going “well that was bleak” during one scene; yet they earned the beats they got and the emotions they drew out of me.

What takes the movie to the next level is the actors who had remarkable chemistry with each other. Dacre Montgomery as our Red Ranger Jason isn’t just a bland white guy lead. He tries to be more and largely succeeds; and I will be curious to see him in Stranger Things Season 2. British actress (of Indian origin) Naomi Scott (Lemonade Mouth) is our Pink Ranger Kimberly and much like Dacre really makes more of the character than I thought possible. RJ Cyler ( Me Earl and the Dying Girl) is our Blue Ranger Billy, who I am going to talk more about in a moment. Ludi Lin is Zack, the Black Ranger; which leaves us with singer songwriter Becky G  as Trini our Yellow Ranger.

Bryan Cranston returns to Power Rangers, this time as Zordon and I must say he makes an excellent face on the wall. Elizabeth Banks steals the show as a semi serious and surprisingly menacing Rita Repulsa. That isn’t to say there aren not fantastical elements to her performance deserving of a laugh but much like the heroes, her moments are earned well enough you enjoy seeing her.

Why did I not talk about the five mains more? Because they need to be talked about together. If you read my reviews with any regularity I speak of representation and how it matters. This movie has given us Asian, Indian, Hispanic, and Black actors in what is easily claimed as a superhero role. Ok so the movie hits you over the head with it with a line, but I forgive it for them actually bothering to do it in the first place. On top of that we have a character who identifies on the autism spectrum – and actually calls it out in film. This movie made a real effort to have multiple types of representation across the board and succeeded where other films fail. What makes it even better so it feels less forced than it is – the actors have amazing chemistry with each other. When two of the characters meet for the first time I was taken aback by how well they sync’d and felt right on camera together. This kind of interaction continue to go on as the movie moved forward; furthering my surprise.

So we have good representation and good actors who connected with a decent script and pretty solid direction – this lets me overlook the movies flaws.

Oh yes. There are flaws.

As I said, the camera work is improved over Project Alamanac, but definitely still needs work. I would shake the director of photography to make him use a steady cam, but I don’t think he’d notice the motion as there are more than a few shots that had noticeable wobble that didn’t need it. The fight sequences when the camera is still? Great. When it’s moving. Kinda a mess. The same can be said for the Zords. I know there’s a T Rex and a Pteranodon, but due to camera movement and poor design of the robots the others are kind of a mess. There are a few plot holes that are glaring and can leave you with a lot of questions if you think about them too long and some effects work – others not so much.

TL;DR

Power Rangers is a surprisingly good movie. There are a ton of callbacks to the series that even I picked up on. It, in my opinion, has a lot of heart to it and I feel there was some passion by the cast and crew in getting this made. It while following the formula of origin stories and generic teen filler movies somehow stands apart from them. The production crew was serious about making this as good a movie as you can while still embracing what makes it Power Rangers.  If anything, they did lose *some* of the hokeyness that was part of the charm, but the cast’s charm overpowers that flaw.

Should you see it?

It is different than the show as I know of it, but if you are even remotely interested yeah its a very entertaining ride.

Would you watch it again?

Probably.

Really? You going to buy it too?

Yes. No doubt.

Any warnings?

So Power Rangers the show is very kid friendly no matter the age. 5 and under I’d keep out, maybe 7 and under on this one. This is a solid PG film that wanted to dip its toes into PG-13 (well modern PG-13).

I like the movie and don’t have issue recommending it at all.

Surprise!

Oh and there’s some product placement in the movie used as a punchline – and I didn’t mind it. It worked and I liked it.

So where’s Beauty and the Beast?

I was on vacation. Haven’t seen it yet. Might this weekend. If so you’ll get a review.

Darke Reviews | Kong: Skull Island (2017)

I had two movie experiences tonight. Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale and Kong: Skull Island. These experiences were diametrically opposed with SAO being with friends and an audience who was clapping, laughing, crying with the beats of the movie. I haven’t seen an audience as passionate about a film and reacting so strongly in many many years. I was among those feeling with the movie and cried quietly after my friends had to head home.

It’s been a long time since I remember seeing a movie that made me feel like that and with friends and fans who were as engaged. I miss it and I cherish tonight’s experience.

Then there is Skull Island. There were maybe 15 people in the theatre, but two men behind me who may or may not have snuck in, were quite obnoxious and very very drunk. Kept calling me bro. As I was not in the mood to be assaulted tonight I said nothing. Do I think it may cloud my review of the movie? Perhaps.

The real question is should Kong have stayed on the island?

First, let me make one thing very clear, this *is* in fact tied to the same universe as 2014 Godzilla movie. The studio in it’s…vain… attempt to mirror the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is trying to create one with it’s own properties (or Toho’s I guess?). This isn’t a spoiler as it actually has no bearing on the film, but the company Monarch from the first one is present here and it is no accident. There will be a roll over spoiler at the bottom though for those who want it.

The story credit goes to John Gatins (Flight, Real Steel, Need for Speed and Power Rangers later this month). Suffice to say his style of story is all over the place in his work history as much as it is in the movie. Though his story was adapted to screenplay by Derek Connolly (Safety Not Guaranteed, Jurassic World), Max Borenstein (Godzilla 2014), and Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler, Real Steel, Bourne Legacy). The people behind the pen and on the paper of this movie have left me a mixed bag of emotions as to how I feel about the work they produce individually and collectively – much like the movie. I feel that the people of the pen paid attention to the feedback from Godzilla being too slow, focusing too much on boring non dimensional characters, killing off your most interesting actor. I also believe that they overcompensated the other direction; but still never quite nailed the characters.

Just as I feared from the trailers the movie isn’t quite sure of the tone. It very obviously moved away from the sedate, dry, and washed out tones of Godzilla; but in it’s quest to be different didn’t stake a claim as to what it wanted to be. It knew it just HAD to be different than it’s predecessor so it tried everything! A bit of horror, bit of adventure, bit of action, bit of war, bit of comedy, and bit of Oh god look at the size of that thing – and little of it worked. I may have to send their agent a small booklet on the word subtlety and how to write  a script with it. None of the characters are particularly compelling and you spend the time wondering when most of them will be picked off by the denizens of the island. The amount of stupidity shown as nearly as big as Kong himself; while the broad strokes used to paint the near caricatures of human beings is wide enough to paint the deck of an aircraft carrier. You just won’t care, and the only reason you might is the raw charm of a handful of the actors.

Oh the actors. Hiddleston is doing his best to be the adventure movie lead despite the flaws in the script, directing, and just the movie itself. He tries and I care simply because he is Tom Hiddleston. Samuel L Jackson phones in a performance of Colonel Kurtz, I mean Preston Packard. Brie Larson does little, but tried to do more than look pretty. Not her fault either. More on that in a bit. John C Reilly is absolutely fine. He was not in full comedy mode, in fact he’s a touch tragic but due to the script and directing you don’t get that 100%.  There isn’t much else to mention here; which means I can begin the ritual execution.

What. Was. Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Thinking? Also what was the studio thinking? They want this to be a tentpole level feature that can help continue to drive interest in their plan for a Giant Monster Cinematic Universe, so lets hire the guy who did a few episodes of Funny or Die and some other comedy work. The direction in this movie is nearly as bad as the editing. I can think of nothing good to say here. The contrivances were god awful while the shot choices laughable in their forced attempt to be ‘epic’.  The pacing is all over the place, the characters have hints of being more and are flatter than the ground under a giant gorilla’s foot.

What does work are the visuals. Kong is amazing. The creatures are…ok, but Kong is amazing. There are fights with him, more than Godzilla offered and far more clear than the previous film. That is one of the movies few credits in which the fighting of Kong vs Monsters is very clear and easy to understand. I think they used music when they couldn’t figure out how to test the speakers or the dialogue may have been even worse.

TL;DR?

It’s not good. I am away from the experience and the movie just isn’t good. The visuals are good and they waste no time on the reveal of the big guy. So thats the positive column. It does try, and mostly succeed at giving us a King Kong story we haven’t seen before, but that isn’t much praise. The money shots of him standing and his size are there and worth it, but they do not carry a film.

Thats all I can say – I really believe it’s bad.

Should you see it?

If you are a Kong fan? Sure. Otherwise see Logan again or save the money.

What if I really must see it? I mean Hiddleston.

If you must, the 3D does add something. Mostly digital embers, but the depth of field is nice and the XD speakers were amazing in more than a few shots.

Are you sure the jerks that were behind you didn’t sway your opinion?

Yeah pretty sure. Its why i still write these vs impromptu videos.  It gives me time away to think. Honestly, the review is kinder than I thought it would be.

But Jess – it’s a giant monkey fighting weird reptiles movie. Isn’t it just good for popcorn?

Honestly. No, not really. Sure the big guy should be the focus, but the movie is just badly done.

Anything else?

Next week is Beauty and the Beast and The Belko Experiment, but I will be traveling for work so may not get to see B&B before Friday.

 

 

Rollover begins

Ok if you do see it stay for the end credits. I noticed it said “Rodan”, “Mothra”, “King Ghidorah”  are trademarks of Toho. Then we get an end credit scene where they absolutely set up King of the Monsters.

 

Rollover Ends