Darke Reviews | Rampage (2018)

The video game movie. A long Hollywood tradition of pain and misery, with rare gems rising to the top of a pile of well something. Much like I opened with on Tomb Raider a few weeks ago there are video game movies that don’t suck; that said they usually have a story to them. There are only a few movies based on games started in the Arcade first; and we don’t talk about Double Dragon in polite company.

Yes – thats The Chairman on the right…

The hair. The eyebrow. It’s too much dahling.

So here we have Rampage. Someone, somewhere thought lets take the game of three mutated humans turned monsters beating up Illinois cities and turn it into a major motion picture event. Then someone else said “Ok. Here’s $50 million dollars.” I think I am in the wrong line of work some days when I point stuff like that out.

So should you insert a coin to start?

The movie has a total of four writing credits thus invoking my Rule of 3 for writers rooms. The story was by Ryan Engle who disappointed me with The Commuter and Non-Stop for Liam Neeson. Engle also gets a screenplay credit with three other men. Carlton Cuse (San Andreas, Brisco County Jr., Colony), Ryan J Condal (Colony,  Hercules), and Adam Sztykiel (Due Date, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip).  With this combined pedigree and multiple writers on a concept such as Rampage, this movie should be an absolute train wreck with wildly shifting tones, weirdly spliced scenes, and cringe inducing dialogue; and somehow its not.

Rather than humans who mutate into the monsters, they have animals mutate into significantly larger aggressive hybrid animals. The humans should be and largely are second fiddle to the creature carnage the movie brings. The dialogue is not much, but a few of the lines really work and will make you laugh – especially with some of the delivery. This is not a complex movie here and the concepts are simple and the writers played into those strengths to their benefit with only a handful of human driven moments that do “ok”. The real surprise was the fact the movie addressed consequence for actions (karmic and otherwise) a few times and left me and my partner for the night rather pleased.

Now the humans themselves are, ok its the Rock, you just want to see the Rock. It’s all good. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is charismatic as ever here, knows full well the movie he is in and delivers everything the trailer promised you and more. Naomi Harris does well with her role as a Doctor who had her hand in the creation of the mutagen and she  holds her own with him. The final standout is Jeffrey Dean Morgan ( Supernatural, The Walking Dead) who also knows what sort of movie he is in and goes for the most fun, hammiest – yet entirely in world and in character – performance he could. He worried us at first, then when they let him cut loose he just is all kinds of fun.

Director Brad Peyton (San Andreas, Cats & Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore) clearly has a love for mid and late 80’s action movies. He shoots sequences that are nothing short of absurd but played straight, and straight sequences with a sense of humor. There’s an early scene (non spoiler dont worry) where a guy is handed three weapons in the span of a minute walk from his car to a chopper as if its nothing, all the while some action hero music from Predator or Commando plays in the background. If you pick up on it – you’ll laugh at the ridiculousness of it, if you don’t you will be rolling your eyes at just how close to over the top it is.

This of course brings us to our creatures, Lizzie, Ralph and George. They look GOOD. Yes, you know they are CG, but the effects team blended them into the real world rather well. Your brain tells you this is computer, but it is interacting with its environment like its there effectively. The people in that environment look part of the scene (most of the time) as well. Its good use of colour correction where they brought up saturation levels just right.  While were on the topic of technicals, the action is magnificently glorious and easy to follow. There sound designers deserve a raise as during loud sequences you can often hear someone in the background saying something entertaining. You will find plenty of game easter eggs as well to a pleasing degree.

TL:DR?

Rampage gave me everything I wanted and a good bit more. This is the grab the popcorn and a drink of choice, sit back, turn the brain off and enjoy for an hour and a half. There’s not much more to say about it – it is just sorta fun and kept the promises the trailers made.

So should I see it?

Yeah. It’s a good time at any price. I would be curious how DBox or XD sound plays with it, I think they’d enhance the experience.

Will you see it again?

Being honest with myself, probably not in theatres, but before you ask yes I am going to buy it.

So the video game movie is good?

Yes, because it doesn’t try to rise above its overly silly concept but also doesn’t deride it either. It embraces it and all its merits and flaws and runs with it with abandon that should be cherished. It’s not quality cinema folks. Some movies can just be there to purely entertain and this does that in spades.

If you have the time and inclination go on a Rampage this weekend.

 

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Darke Reviews | A Quiet Place (2018)

I have to admit from the initial trailers I’ve been excited for this movie. John Krasinski directing isn’t what did it, I have never watched, nor am likely to watch an episode of The Office. I don’t think I’ve watched a single thing he’s starred in. Emily Blunt is always a gift in film and to be fair is a draw here. No, what got me was the premise. A horror movie with a creature that attacks based on certain types of noise and sound. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Sure the Descent has creatures that *should* hunt that way, and The Cave has creatures that use echo location, but none of them explored fully a creature above ground that stalks and kills its prey if it makes noise. I specify above ground because yes, the Tremors films “Graboids” do hunt by sound. The set up here is different with a clear intent to invoke raw tension in the viewer.

I have a mouth and should I scream?

Yeah ok not my best lead in question pun, I just wanted to get to writing on this. Feel free to suggest better ones in the comments on Facebook. The movie was written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. The two have been collaborating together for well over a decade on various shorts and a single TV movie with this being their first theatrical feature film together.  Krasinski nabs a screenplay credit for any changes he made on set while directing. As I am not familiar with any of the pairs prior works, I can’t comment like usual on trends or patterns in story. What I can say is they provided us something that horror does better than almost any other genre; a tight focused character piece. The trailers tell you all you need. We have fast moving creatures that hunt day or night at the slightest of loud noises. They apparently are very strong and due to the near post apocalyptic feel the movie sets up very difficult to kill.

Can you imagine living in a world where you can’t speak to anyone around you? It’s entirely possible for me to go from the end of a work day on a Friday to the Monday morning without uttering a word or hearing another human voice. It happens quite a bit. I know how that leaves me on that morning and I cannot fully appreciate or realize what going days, weeks, months, or even years would be like. What does it mean to survive like that? With a family? With children? Is it even really living? The movie probes into these topics just enough with the charming backdrop of an upstate New York farm and monsters waiting for the kill.

I often pick on films for introducing concepts and not exploring them fully, if at all. This one introduces several fascinating concepts in horror and humanity and delves just deep enough under the skin to leave you thinking about it as the tension rises. Tension being something Krasinski as a director did extraordinarily well. Much as I tear into films that don’t have good rises and falls of tension, this one is like watching someone inflate a balloon. You see it getting bigger and bigger and you can’t be sure if it’s going to pop. Every now and then, a little air is let out letting you breathe for a moment, but then they get right back to it. It works.

With a small cast of four people everyone has to be on their A game to sell the drama underlying the horror. Blunt and Krasinski do their parts well, but with Emily this is to be expected and it’s clear John has talent to keep up the game while also being behind the camera. Noah Jupe, does well enough as the pre/early teenage son Marcus, who is trying to understand his place in the family and the world. Millicent Simmonds, who plays the eldest daughter Regan who is deaf, does a great job getting both the angry and slightly rebellious teenager while still respecting the rules of the movie.

There is also one other critical factor to this childs role in the movie – she too is deaf. More and more movies are being called to the carpet – rightfully so – for casting abled individuals in character roles that are disabled. It’s takes away an opportunity for someone who is capable of performing a role and giving it to an able bodied person. It’s worth noting that this also comes up for those who are Queer when straight people are cast in roles that are explicitly queer. While it shouldn’t *have* to be praised for this, the casting and production of the movie *does* deserve praise for casting Millicent as a character who is deaf. I keep saying representation matters and this is yet again an opportunity that was taken to prove it. Well done movie. Well done.

From a technical perspective the production does a lot very right. It feels odd to praise a movie based on silence for its sound design but I must. There is an ingenuity at play here with the right sounds at the right times, at the right volumes. It amplified everything in the theatre. A creak of a chair. Someone shifting in the seats three rows back. This made it so when the sounds got loud you really appreciated all there was to it. The editing was fantastic with solid camera work to support it. Then of course comes the creature design. I liked it. That’s all I am saying.

TL;DR?

I really enjoyed this movie. It was good tension ratcheting horror with the right pay offs at the right times. It delivered on all it promised me and I can earnestly recommend this film to people. If Krasinski decides to keep himself behind the camera in future projects we have a good director joining the fray.  I hope we get more of Millie in future films as well. She’s already declared that she wants to continue acting and advocating for the deaf community and we should support her. I really hope Hollywood does.

So I should see it then?

Yes. If you were interested, slightly interested, at all curious – yes. D-Box seating isn’t needed. It didn’t add much that I noticed to the experience.

Would you see it again?

Probably. If someone local wants to go.

Buying it then?

No question

You don’t praise horror movies this much – whats the deal?

Because most horror doesn’t try. It relies on too many old tropes or characters you really can’t wait to see die. This does none of those things and explores an idea we haven’t seen. Don’t tell me there is nothing original left and then ignore this movie.

Last thoughts?

#RepresentationMatters

Darke Reviews | Ready Player One (2018)

I was born in the 70’s. I am a child of the 80’s. The better part of my teens were the 90’s. I had a friend with an Atari. I had the Nintendo, the robot, the gun. I remember all the Saturday morning cartoons and weekday ones. I remember hundreds of reruns of the cartoons and shows of the 60’s and 70’s. I spent a summer watching all of Lost in Space since it was on syndication when the pool I went to every day was closed. I did plenty of things on my bike, in my neighborhood, and with what few friends I had I consider reckless and can’t explain beyond “it seemed like a good idea at the time.” I was unbeaten in my high school at Star Wars trivia (ooh big title I know! shiver in despair *rolls eyes at self*).

I’ve also been riding the pop culture surge like everyone else. So this movie is all but made for me and everyone like me, with its heady dose of pop culture and nostalgia that the trailers promised.

Should you play the game though?

The movie is of course based on the landmark novel by Ernest Cline of the same title. Beyond that Cline is probably best known for his script for the Star Wars buddy road trip movie, Fanboys that was released 2009. Fanboys, like Ready Player One focuses on people who are obsessed with pop culture though that one is specific to Star Wars, RPO goes beyond that….way beyond that. Cline himself was hired for the script, which levies most of the “Its not like the book” arguments mostly null, and Zak Penn was brought on to assist. Penn is a mixed bag for me as a writer. His first script, which is a fan boy view of a film genre, The Last Action Hero gives him good credibility to be here alone. That said, he is also on the script for X Men The Last Stand, Elektra, and Inspector Gadget.

The story is as the trailers promised. Bland Token White Boy with SuperHero origin is an obsessive gamer who absorbs pop culture like most people breathe.  He and millions, if not billions, of others are trying to find the literal keys to the Kingdom of a virtual world; racing against the evil big business IOI (eye oh eye, not one zero one) who wants the kingdom to well monetize people. The movie is a touch prescient in that regard considering recent news stories about data. Along the way he meets and makes friends, rallies the Oasis, …and….well any more I’d be spoiling right?

The movie is absolutely generic in its plot. It’s not quite the heroes journey, as it doesn’t have enough of a fall in it, but it plays out with more than a few beats lifted from A New Hope. It exists. It’s fine. It does no real harm and has no real weight to it. There’s no real risk involved or felt for our main hero and while the movie without question celebrates the history of pop culture from the icons, to the music, to the actual history, it doesn’t put any real gate keeping on it. The phrase I dreaded hearing never came up. “Only true fans” ….Goddess I hate that phrase. The success of the hero isn’t his alone and there are other factors that keep it from being an absolute gatekeeping boys club. It honestly saved the movie for me.

From an acting perspective, Tye Sheridan (X-Men Apocalypse, Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse) as Wade Watts is as bland and forgettable as they come. He is so generic that he makes Kristen Stewart in Twilight look positively animated by comparison. I think this is by design. I hope this is by design. What likely isn’t by design is his total lack of chemistry with Olivia Cooke (Thoroughbreds, Bates Motel) who plays our female heroine Art3mis. She should have been the lead. We should have followed her. She’s dynamic, she’s engaging, and one of the more interesting characters. I’d watch a movie with her and Aech alone. The actress tried her heart out to do something with him, and nothing. I’ve been looking at photos of them all at press junkets and tours. He looks so bored and unengaged, while she is electric. The same goes for their characters. The epic speech from the trailer? Yeah it’s there. It’s like that.

From the other characters the only real standout I can mention is Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One, Slow West). I feel like they took all the feedback given about his attempt at villainy in Rogue One and made that a character. It made him easy to be in the role, but he’s otherwise…unremarkable. Others exist, one is slightly above the rest, but they are otherwise also…unremarkable.

Visually. The movie lives up to its hype. It’s Spielberg doing literally what made Spielberg Spielberg (this is such an odd sentence and represents much of what is wrong with the English language). This is literally what a PG-13 version of VR could and probably would look like. The PG-13 is important. I’ve seen Second Life. I know what happens when you get to R. The CG is allowed to look CG there and it works with the lighting choices Spielberg always makes. What impressed me most here in the Oasis action scenes is how busy it all was but you could still follow the action you wanted to. Just when it would edge on too much or too hard to follow they would slow it down and let you get back on the road. This is Spielberg here as we’ve seen lesser directors leave shots like these a mess. That same logic holds true through the rest of the film’s main sequences giving you just enough chaos to look right, but enough room to follow said chaos. It gives you the time to see the cameo (barely) and move on.

Yes, the cameo’s. The trailers didn’t show us everything. Yes, you will still geek out when you see them on the big screen. Also in the technical win department is the music by Alan Silvestri. Composer of easily one of the greatest themes ever, Back to the Future, he channels that skill once again and provides the epic. The soundtrack that accompanies is also appropriate for the film. Beyond that though is a plodding editing that leaves the movie running over two hours and starting to feel it at the 90 minute mark.

TL;DR?

Ready Player One is absolutely harmless pop culture and popcorn fair. It is a bland, unremarkable story of bland unremarkable characters doing things we’ve seen a hundred times before. What keeps it afloat is that love of pop culture with technical masterwork and that’s what will get the butts in the seats for it. It won’t keep them long though. It doesn’t have anything more to it.  It’s a visually arresting film that does everything it can to make up for the deficit the material and acting have.

That’s it. It’s Ok. It’s not bad (again thanks to the FX and Nostaligia Glasses) It’s not great or genre redefining. It’s the first real popcorn movie this year and it’s overall just there. I laughed a few times, I did enjoy myself so it came out better than I was expecting.

Should I go watch it?

Yeah, why not? Grab some popcorn, a coke, relive the nostaligia. Escape for a few hours. The real world will be there, and the movie won’t do any harm.

Will you see it again?

On the big screen probably not. I couldn’t tell if the 3D helped the movie, but it didn’t hurt it either.

On the big screen eh?

Yeah, I am buying it. I like hundreds of others obsessive geeks will buy it. Then rip it. Then go frame by frame to look for all we missed. Ok. I probably WON’T do that, but it crossed my mind. Though when I do buy it, I expect a lot of pausing to go hunting for my own little Easter eggs. I know they are there.

Anything else on the movie?

The product placement. Oof. I should be offended, but somehow I am not. I think just the nature of the movie made the Pizza Hut and Doritos and Tab just…make sense?

Have you read the…

Have we met? of course I haven’t read the book. It’s kinda a thing with me and movies.

So what next?

Next week I plan to see “A Quiet Place”, then Rampage after, a week off, then Avengers Infinity War.

 

There it is folks Ready Player One. It’s OK. Considering the rest of this year so far, that’s pretty good. This could have been a lot worse.

Darke Reviews | Pacific Rim Uprising (2018)

I love the original Pacific Rim unapologetically. Giant Robots. Giant Monsters. Fighting each other. Characters told with broad, but immediately recognizable strokes. A new feminist icon and “test” for movies in Mako Mori. Idris Elba. Robots that moved and felt like they were giant robots. Shots that helped you feel how massive these battles were and provided a sense of scale that *this* was bigger than life. It is absolutely ridiculous popcorn fare and few people who love it claim otherwise. It is *FUN*

So why did they get the sequel so wrong?

TL:DR

This movie isn’t worth a thousand word count review. I loathe it. I despise it. It is just bad. You know those Syfy movie of the weeks? This is what would happen if one of those was made with a budget. A needlessly complex film without focus on any of the interesting plot points they bring up. This is two movies, maybe three, put into a blender and spat out at the audience by an angry llama who understands the concept of disdain. It ignores any concepts of focusing on characters like the first did and instead jumps from beat to beat and character to character to the point we don’t care.

They ignored nearly every rule of the characters they had from the first. They also ignored the rules of the world they had set up as well. The fights were BORING. That’s right, the fights were boring. Full stop.

I think this is what it feels like to know that a studio has contempt for the audience. To see it written on screen in every action they take.

Yes, Boyega is fine. He does his best and it almost helps. Almost. Please stop trying to make Scott Eastwood happen, Jai Courtney is more interesting.. I know his Dad seems to have too much of Hollywood under his thumb, he’s almost 90. It’s ok to say no to him.

Actual Picture of Scott Eastwood….thats not fair. This is more interesting.

So should I see it?

NO! Absolutely not. This is a garbage fire sitting on toxic waste trying to be put out by raw sewage, then presented to you as if it were a three course meal.

So uh..not seeing it again?

No. Nor buying it. Don’t even ask the next one.

Really? That bad?

My partner tonight and I spent the entire time on the drive home tearing into this like starved hyena’s. I think we were being too kind.

Tomb Raider tried, got the characters right but was boring. Death Wish was a direct to DVD movie that was tone deaf. Winchester at least tried for atmosphere. This bites is thumb at the audience with how it treats all of its characters.

Ok. SPOILER Roll over section

STARTS HERE

They kill Mako. First 30 minutes. I nearly walked out then, but the young girl Cailee Spaeny looked interesting and was trying; and they may have developed a plot around her and Boyega. Nope. They sidelined, then killed Mako in the least interesting way possible and instead we get nothing from any of the female characters of any note other than weird inconsistent arcs and one that could have been replaced with a lamp because she *literally* exists as an object for the men to desire and serves no other purpose.

ITS OVER

I hate this movie. I feel contempt for this movie. Do not see it please. You deserve better.

Darke Reviews | Tomb Raider (2018)

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

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

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

Should it have stayed buried?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TL;DR?

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

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

Should I see it?

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

Will you see it again?

Not in theatres no.

So you’re buying it?

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

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

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

How does it compare to the other two?

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

Next week?

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

Darke Reviews | Death Wish (2018)

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

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

Skip.

Skip.

Skip.

Ok.

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

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

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

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

TL;DR

This movie sucks. This movie absolutely sucks.

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

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

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

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

Darke Reviews | A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

Of course I haven’t read Madelien L’Engles book. Have we met? Yes, I know it came out in 1962 and was popular in middle schools and high schools everywhere. I was reading other things like Stephen King, Clive Barker, and everything I could get on vampires at the time. Regardless of that fact, along with Black Panther this was one of my more anticipated movies of the year. Why? Because 

Image result for Representation Matters

^ This ^

Beyond that, even though it bears repeating every time it comes up until it sinks in with those in the back, the film itself also looked like a modern fairy tale mixed with science – two things I adore. I suppose the question then is

How was the movie?

Let’s mix it up a bit shall we? Let’s talk about Storm Reid. She’s 14. She has to carry a movie that cost over $100 million to make. She has to avoid being a blank slate, avoid the pitfalls of the “she’s just a child actor”, sell being an actual human being with facets. Someone with anger, love, fear, doubt, uncertainty about herself and her worth, and her image. She also has to be likable while being all of this. She has to have chemistry with her cast, especially Chris Pine as the movie hinges ultimately on them being able to sell the relationship of father daughter and what they would do for each other.

I’d like to say, no I will say: She succeeds.

This movie would collapse around its (many) flaws if it weren’t for this child. The earnestness of her performance and it’s actual complexity allowed me and my film partner tonight to get lost in the film and feel. We both identified with this character (probably a bit too much) not because of her being an “everywoman/everyman” a tabula rasa to imprint on and see ourselves in. We saw ourselves in her because of her flaws. her quirks of personality, and her world view. Reid makes the character a compelling one when I’ve seen the majority of adults fail at such tasks.

She isn’t alone, 9 Year Old Deric McCabe as Charles Wallace and 15 Year old Levi Miller’s Calvin play with the same heart and conviction on dialogue that really doesn’t work; yet somehow they made it work. Chris Pine reminds us he is a very talented actor and the scenes he gets with Reid are sold with every fiber of his being. Mindy Kaling steals the frame every time as Mrs. Who and outshines even Ophrah (Mrs. Which) and Reese Witherspoon (Mrs. Whatsit). Even with limited screen time Zach Galifianakis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw make their scenes work.

All of this tells me the casting department deserves a raise. Each of the actors puts their hearts on their sleeves for this and goes for it – which makes this movie have the heart it does. Which left me in tears in more than one scene. Sadly, the script by Jennifer Lee (Frozen) and Jeff Stockwell (Bridge to Terabithia) is a bit rough at times. Lesser actors under a lesser director would have struggled with this. What I don’t know if the dialogue was there and edited out or just not there. The movie suffers as many do in their adaptations. Again, I’ve never read the book but I can tell you watching the movie that it was based on a book and that there’s a lot of material left on the cutting room floor or in the writers room.

There are technical flaws beyond the writing that need to be addressed as well. The movie runs screaming at a break neck pace for the first hour, barely giving time for the characters to breathe, to let scenes soak in, or even explain anything of whats going on. I firmly believe in show don’t tell, especially in film, but you have to actually….show. This might be intentional as I think of a scene on the Act II to Act III bridge, but I can’t be certain. There’s very weird edits, there’s scenes very clearly missing (including very obvious ones from the trailer), and again the dialogue at times is beyond hokey into the pokey.

I appreciate when you are in the realm of fantasy that not everything has to look “real”, that the cartoonish can work and I will forgive the movie some of this because there was such a distinction sold in the movie of what is earthbound and what isn’t. The movie pushed it’s luck here a few times, but always won me back. What ejected me more often than not was the music, not score, that was inserted into the film. The songs themselves are fine, but they just did not work in the moments they were using them or were just so jarring it broke me from what I should be feeling to wonder why they used lyrical songs rather than a fantastic score by Ramin Djawadi. There are some questions I have about the camera work that most folks won’t notice but film reviewers might. It’s called a Mid shot guys. You can do it. I promise. Not everything needs to be a 180 close.

So yes, this is a heavily flawed movie I have the power to dissect like a 10th grade biology student, but I don’t want to. Ava Duvernay (Selma) directed this with such conviction, brought out tremendous performances, and hits on more than a few points of modern culture for young people of colour in such a way that it rings true. Few other directors could have pulled off a few of these beats with such tact and even subtlety as they work well into the narrative of the movie.

TL;DR

This movie could be used as the literal definition of a good, family film. It doesn’t quite hit “great”, but they tried. They put everything into this and tried and it shows. Because of that a movie I could rip apart, and from what I hear others are, doesn’t deserve that

It does deserve our dollars though. Representation of a young child of colour being in front of the camera, and a long standing woman of colour in the industry behind it (not to mention Oprah Winfrey too). This movie like Get Out (congratulations Jordan Peele on your Oscar), and Black Panther is so important that it deserves our money, and yes, forgiveness for its flaws.

If that isn’t a reason to see it. I get it. Here’s another. I meant what I said about this being a good family film. It has so much heart, it has a good message that doesn’t come across as saccharine or insincere. It is enjoyable. It is a bit of light in the darkness we have in the world right now.

That’s also good enough for me.

Should I see it?

Yes. Big screen needed for some of the great visuals the movie has. IMAX if you can, 3-D optional. D-Box could be fun too.

Will you see it again?

Being honest? Not in theatre no, but thats due to other things I plan to do not from lack of enthusiasm for this.

Will you buy it?

Yes. I might even try to get it a 4K TV for it too. At least BluRay though.

Why so forgiving on this?

Because it made me feel. It sold the message it was trying to. I was with Reid’s character. I was her and there are a lot of films that just don’t earn the emotion the way this one did. I haven’t actually watched/read the other reviews that are saying this isn’t that good or is disappointing beyond their headlines.

I went in hoping for something good and pure, and looking for a sense of wonder and joy. I found it. I hope you can too.

What happened to the Death Wish review?

Life. Bad news Thursday as I mentioned on FB when I was writing it. Then worse news over the weekend. I will publish it this weekend. Promise, it doesn’t deserve it though.

What’s coming next?

I might go see Thoroughbreds this week during the work week. I loved Anton Yelchin, so getting to see him one last time might be worth it. I hope. Also next week is Tomb Raider.