Darke Reviews | Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

This marks the first true sequel in the series. There are little to no references between movies one and four. Yes, a character or two comes back, but the events of the films don’t. Not until Ghost Protocol returns Michelle Monaghan as Julia who Ethan must stay away from bringing continuity between movies three and four. Ghost Protocol is often considered the reboot of the franchise and marks the first time the movies get a subtitle. Before it was just Mission: Impossible, MI: 2, then MI:3. Rogue Nation picks up with the aftermath of the events of Ghost Protocol, but doesn’t really count as a sequel in that the binding story and events of that film do not carry over. Fallout breaks that in that the actual events of Rogue Nation are the catalyst and driving force behind the events of Fallout.  Too nerdy or convoluted? Yeah it kinda is, but after 6 movies over 22 years with little continuity between them beyond Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames? This is also the first time that the movies share a director and principle screenwriter.

Done with the movie trivia? Ok good. I have more, but I will hold it off.

The question of course is should you choose to accept Fallout?

As stated above, this is the return of Christopher McQuarrie to the directors chair, it also marks his return to the script; this time as a solo act. That’s right, Writer Director combo. Sometimes dangerous, sometimes good. Since McQuarrie and Cruise have a good working relationship for about a decade it makes sense that Cruise would want him back on the chair.  They worked the first time with Christopher as the writer and producer of 2008’s Valkyrie, then again in 2012 for the underrated Jack Reacher with CM in the directors chair. Then yet again in 2014 with CM scripting the criminally underviewed Edge of Tomorrow, and of course 2015’s Rogue Nation. McQuarrie also has a writing credit on last years The Mummy, but they can’t all be good. Based on my viewing of that particular abomination I think some of the high points might be his work.

Now that we have a feel for McQuarrie I can confidently say that his direction is solid as it gets. He isn’t what one would call a visionary director, he isn’t a Speilberg but they all shouldn’t be. He’s leaps and bounds above a dozen other directors this year and they should take notes from him. He has very interesting camera control and knows how to frame shots to their fullest advantage. In a movie with three women only one truly gets a “sexy” shot and its while she’s drawing a butterfly knife and is about to use it effectively. He draws out solid performances from his actors, no one is going home with an Oscar here but that isn’t what a Mission: Impossible movie is about. Ok, maybe Cavill should get one for giving us a thousand times more range with his character than we’ve seen of him as Superman. Also worth noting, the Mustache should be nominated for an award as well.

The downside here of course is in the last movie I called out some pacing issues and a bit of formulaic elements to the structure and the villains. The villains of the piece were passable, but there was a lot of tell not show vs. say …Phillip Seymour Hoffman in MI: 3; who just exuded menace. Michael Nyqvist in Ghost Protocol was also formidable, but we just don’t get that here. That isn’t to say the Villain is MCU bland, – yes I will continue to jab at the majority of MCU villains – just that we don’t feel their weight on screen the way we could. I don’t fault Sean Harris for that in his reprise of Solomon Lane, He’s “fine”. They actually give him more to do in this one and I don’t mind him, yet he is still lacking something.

The plot remains very spy vs spy vs spy; which if you aren’t fully engaged could leave you scratching your head at some of the twists, turns, crosses, and loop de loops the movie puts you through. How could someone not be engaged though? Well that’s that pacing problem again. The movie runs a full two hours and twenty minutes when the credits begin to roll and it absolutely feels it. Nearly every scene lasts about a minute longer than it needs, but they do give you the much required moments to breathe and let a beat go on long enough too. It’s just a bit too long sometimes.

The real crime is the action beats. They are fun until they are boring. Look, we get it. Tom Cruise likes to run on screen. Tom Cruise likes to ride motorcycles on screen. Nearly every action set piece the movie has goes too long without any real tension to them, and most of them are chase sequences involving, Cars, Motorcycles, or Helicopters. You could trim a solid 15 minutes of the movie from these action scenes and it wouldn’t be detrimental to the movie. It is that noticable, it can be forgivable depending on your tolerances and attention to the length of the scenes; but it is a real problem for the film.

The Bathroom fight though? Yes. yes please. The physicality of Cruise and his stunts? Absolutely.

There are also points in the positive that this movie has such amazing continuity within itself. While there are some logical failings if you squint, it does hold true to itself and gives some decent audience misdirects that I am assuming are intentional ones. There are details however that are given their due course and hold up to any scrutiny given.

TL:DR

If you’ve enjoyed the franchise so far, this is a must see. Tom Cruise is in good form and Rebecca Ferguson shines when she’s on screen. Ving and Simon are perfect and you can feel the camaraderie between the characters and I believe the cast at this point. Cavill could use some work, but he is leaps and bounds above most things we’ve gotten with him in he past few years. Also, please give an award to the ‘Stache. They had to CGI that sucker for Justice League.

I think that Fallout is a very solid, good movie. It hearkens back more to traditional spy thrillers than a Mission: Impossible movie; but still is able to keep its tongue planted in its cheek for the moments it needs to where you have no choice but to go “really?”

So should I see it?

I think so. It does have some serious and unignorable pacing issues, but overall its a good ride. I don’t think you’ll regret full price, but XD or DBox would be wasted on this one.

Would you see it again?

You taking me?

Buying it?

Absolutely. I realized my collection is missing some of the others, which I plan to fix soon, but this one will be on my shelf.

Anything else?

Of my two companions tonight, one pretty much didn’t like it. The other thought it was ok. Neither are big on the spy thrillers of yore so I can’t ignore that call out that I made above. It was a servicable action piece in an otherwise mediocre year for those.

So what’s next?

Next week no review. Travelling for work, but the week after….The Meg! Don’t forget to sign up if you want to see it with me.

Darke Reviews | The Mummy (2017)

All please forgive me if you don’t get a full review tonight I am not in the right frame of mind. I am dealing with the loss of a fur-baby; so TL;DR only today.

Longer review pending – probably with spoilers – as I want to rip this movie apart. So people who enjoy me verbally (textually?) eviscerating movies you have something to look forward to.

The movie is bad. They made Tom Cruise not charming. The effects are “ok”. They have no idea on tone. Its edited badly.

It rips off of LifeForce AND American Werewolf in London simultaneously and not in good ways.

Do not see this.

See Wonder Woman again and again – or see the Brendan Frazier one.

Darke Reviews | Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)

There are times I know I am glad I almost never read the books for the movies I watch. Take for instance Jack Reacher, the 2012 movie I consider a near perfect film in its craft. The mystery is solid, well paced, the action while limited is view able and visceral. The acting is top notch and it has one of the best openings to a film probably in the last decade. It probably deserves a review of it’s own and I may have to get to that; actually a little sad I didn’t have one already. But that’s the movie. People RAGED over the casting of Tom Cruise as someone who is by the book supposed to be a mountain of a man. I suppose if I was a fan of the character in that way I might be upset, actually I know I was when Vampire Diaries came out and some of the characters I liked were changed. So I get it, but without that baggage I went in to an unknown property that I didn’t know was based on a book at the time and really enjoyed it.

The question is does the Hollywood mandated sequel meet the bar?

The movie of course is based on the book Never Go Back by Lee Childs, to which I have no idea the accuracy of said material (beyond his size). It was then adapted under my three writer rule by Richard Wenk, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz. Wenk has shown up in my reviews before as the writer of The Magnificent Seven and the Equalizer. He also was the writer on one of my favourite guilty pleasure vampire movies, Vamp. Herskovitz was a producer on the amazingly underrated The Last Samurai (also with Tom Cruise) and additionally working on the screenplay there. Leaving us with Edward Zwick, who was a writer on The Last Samurai, but also directed this movie. His directorial credits also include little films no one ever heard of such as the Civil War movie “Glory”, a little movie with Brad Pitt called Legends of the Fall, oh yeah and director of Blood Diamond and Last Samurai.

You may wonder why I go into this much detail on their prior works. I find it important as you can begin to see patterns in behaviors, styles of shots, dialogue, lighting, blocking everything. These guys have a pretty good pedigree. Which leaves me wondering what happened here? It has moments where the brilliance wants to shine. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is Ok. Good even, but its like diet low salt popcorn. Ultimately unsatisfying when it could have been so much more. The camera work, including some interestingly used Dutch angles, is ok. The mystery is ok. The…everything is ok. Why? Why is it just this? These guys have the skills to elevate it. Cruise is a producer, Christopher McQuarrie director of the superior first movie is a producer. There’s no excuse.

The story picks up with Jack Reacher (Cruise), former Military Police Major, doing his best A-Team impression drifting in and out of towns and uncovering things that offend his sense of justice and morals. He begins phone flirting with Major Turner (Cobie Smulders) and is intent on meeting her. When he arrives he finds she’s been arrested on espionage charges. He also finds, that someone has filed a paternity suit against him while he’s been doing the drifting thing, and that he may have a 15 year old daughter (Danika Yarosh). She of course is drawn into the plot of murder, betrayal, and corruption as a potential pawn to use against Reacher.

This is just lazy. I mean I went to see an action crime thriller and ended up with what, the most awkward family outing? I mean it was a joy to see Reachers misogyny. I can’t tell you how thrilling it was to see him be “a mans man” a few times and just try to blunt force trauma his way through social situations. Every beat is neatly telegraphed or otherwise rehashed from the first movie. There’s flat out lazy filmmaking choices to ‘show us’ that Reacher has a good memory. Directorial choices make it so painfully obvious how he’s observing everything around him. It was absolutely aggravating because it should have been better.

The actors are fine, though it appears unlike the first movie someone added leg day back into Tom’s contract. I counted three scenes of him running, maybe 4. I stopped caring. This isn’t to say Cruise did a bad job. Quite the contrary, and despite my earlier protests, he’s fantastic. It is GOOD to see your hero has flaws. It is good to see your hero can be wounded. Even little things like his fingers twitching after the in media res diner scene. That’s what happens as you come down from a fight. It’s again what makes me think there’s a better movie that wanted to come out. Cobie Smulders (Avengers, How I Met Your Mother) is excellent. She matches Tom Cruise quite well and is absolutely believable in her role. I think there’s a long term action star here if she wants it. She did all she could do with the script she was given and more, which puts her a leg up on a lot of other actors as she was able to elevate a few scenes beyond how basic they were. She has good chemistry with Cruise as an actor even if the characters are in conflict. Danika Yarosh (Heroes Reborn) is also good. She’s honestly believable as kid who has been in and out of the system a few times and treads carefully the line of the stupid teenager by both script and directing. I repeat myself, the fact that her performance and character is as good as it is is in direct opposition to the overall emotion I felt at the end.

The fight sequences up to the climactic one are a hair too dependent on cuts and camera motion; a detractor. Just a few seconds longer, just a bit more stability and Just Ok fight sequence would have been good ones. The climactic one was pleasing even if the beat leading up to it was…*sigh* The action was GOOD, if you could see it. The fights were visceral and brutal and seeing the hero hurt was good, but they lacked something – at least until the climax. That one felt Excellent. Again…annoyance at what should and was trying to be better.

TL;DR

I had my hopes up for this one. That may have been a mistake. It was a simple paint by numbers action mover, with a lackluster mystery. Everything was just a few shades, a few beats, or few cuts from being really incredible but just ended up on the right side of mediocre.

I don’t hate the movie, I am just disappointed in it. I am disappointed in the director and writers who I’ve seen enough body of work to know what they are capable of and could have given something richer. I am annoyed by some very lazy choices in film making that are undeserving of what this should have been.

So what would you rate it?

Somewhere between an Ok and a Good. It’s serviceable and has enough moments of entertainment that it is absolutely watchable. I just found that there’s enough detractors that I couldn’t ignore despite wanting to. Audiences will find it ok and a lot of dudes will be going Reacher is a bad ass.

Should you see it?

If you’ve got a spare ten bucks and aren’t seeing the superior film The Accountant? Sure. Just matinee…or with Beer or something. But really go see The Accountant.

Will you buy it?

Eh probably? I just won’t be rushing out to get it or pre order it.

So you didn’t do the review a day after all?

No. Heart wasn’t in it. It’s also tiring. If you watch web reviewers, they generally limit themselves to once a week. It’s harder than it looks to do these and do them well. Giving every review for 31 days the right attention and credit is draining. I might do another run in the future. Maybe random ones. I do owe someone a review of either Dungeons and Dragons or the Core.

Next week, Inferno. Because I hate myself, but mostly so I can get a sense of Felicity Jones before Rogue One.

 

Darke Reviews | Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

Do you realize it has nearly been 20 years since the first Mission Impossible film with Tom Cruise? How about this – 50 years since the original Mission: Impossible first hit the air? (side note: I had the opportunity a few years ago to meet Peter Lupus at a convention. The stories he told were incredible!) That one lasted 7 seasons, the 1988 reboot, sadly only lasted 2 and yet somehow Peter Graves looked no different. What we have established here is that Mission: Impossible has truly become a cultural touchstone across many generations and we should be thankful for that at least. While it may not have the impact Bond did to the spy genre, it certainly hasn’t gone away. This is one of those times Hollywood going back to the well was a good thing.

The question is did the well run dry with a Rogue Nation?

Some think it should have. It’s hard to run a franchise into 5 films successfully. Those not based on a book series are rare. So let’s start with the writing a moment. The story is by Drew Pearce and Christopher McQuarrie. Pearce somehow avoided my ire and righteous wrath for his screenplay work on detestable Iron Man 3. McQuarrie on the other hand has a masters hand with screenplays such as the perfection that is The Usual Suspects, the very serviceable Jack Reacher, and the criminally studio mismanaged Edge of Tomorrow; he also directs this film.

There are some odd pacing issues through this very traditional MI style spy thriller. It is a bit formulaic, but it should be. Just improve the formula a bit and keep us guessing a bit more and you’ve done your work to make a Mission Impossible film. The pacing, as I said, is a bit off where it drags for a moment here and there, but then brings you back in with a laugh or an “oh damn” moment. The theatre was laughing, wincing, and one guy even cried out in joy at a moment in the film (which got a laugh) – so pacing aside it knew what to do right to bring a reaction from the audience when it was needed and it was. Everything plays to type here from a story perspective and if there is any particular failing it is the villains. They just don’t carry the weight of Kaiser Soze or even what little Christoph Waltz has given us in the Spectre teaser. This isn’t to say they aren’t threatening or don’t have weight, because they do; however most of that weight comes from Ethan Hunt having to tell us rather than allowing us to truly witness it.

The US has a love/hate relationship with Cruise. I for one love him. He may be a wackadoodle in real life (I swear folks will never forgive him for the Oprah thing or Scientology), but on set all reports are he is a class act. Film wise, he has not disappointed me since 2001’s Vanilla Sky. Everything else I have seen him in he has been at the top of his game or at least the best thing involved in the films (I’m looking at you War of the Worlds). According to several video shorts, the airplane sequence is actually him, not a stuntman and not green screen. The driving sequence that closes out Act II is also him behind the wheel of the car. Does he have tropes in this film that he goes to? Of course he does. Once again it is clear he did not skip leg day. Tom Cruise loves to run on screen, when he can’t get a motorcycle – which he also gets. If that’s really the worst we can pick on then he is doing good. The rest of the performance is spot on and I want to say a few things I noted, but they verge to spoiler territory – talk to me about it after you see it.

Simon Pegg gets more to do this time and we should love the movie for it. He returns for his 3rd outing as Benji Dunn; I know most of us forgot he was in 3 along with the fact that 3 exists. I am not shy about saying I love Simon Pegg as a performer and he is further proof of how a great comedic actor can be the best in dramatic moments due to their understanding of timing. Ving Rhames and Jeremy Renner reprise their roles from the previous films, with Rhames not getting nearly enough screen time but making every moment count and delivering one of the funnier lines in the film. All others are serviceable in their roles, neither memorable nor horrible; save one who deserves special mention. Rebecca Ferguson. She effortlessly plays against Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. She is fun, conflicted, memorable, and also most importantly – bad ass. I would happily pay to see the sequel with her story as she is easily Ethan’s equal in the film 100%; and wisely the film does not pull what they did with Paula Patton in Ghost Protocol and overly sexualize her. She is female, she is pretty, but these are secondary to the camera shots for the vast majority of the film. Please Hollywood – take note? K. Thanks.

From a plot and technical perspective? Well honestly the film is exactly what it should be – Hyper-reality. It is our world, our issues, but with a twist to make it and the characters bigger than life. While Ghost Protocol brought things down a notch closer to real and this one continues the trend; Mission Impossible was never meant to really be in our world any more than James Bond is. The movie understands very clearly where that line is and keeps a comfortable enough distance that we can all enjoy it. Well mostly anyway. Some of the fight sequence camera work moves a bit too quick and cuts away just a hair too much. The car, plane, motorcycle, and so many other sequences are both beautiful and energetic. I will give credit to the Cinematographer, Robert Elswit, whose credits have some truly inspired camera work (Salt, The Town, There Will Be Blood).

TL;DR?

Very well – your mission should you choose to accept is to see Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and tell me if you enjoyed it as much as I did. This post will self-destruct in…

Do I think this is the best of them? I think this one is close with Ghost Protocol, it might edge it out if I rewatch GP and then this again. It is truly a fun, popcorn and soda film (or beer if you have it). I remember looking to my partner for the movie tonight and going “this movie brings me joy.” It really did. I smiled. I relaxed and I was able to enjoy the film, which while not flawless, was still just plain entertaining.

There’s no 3D on this one, so no warnings there. XD isn’t needed, but if you like the sound then the first sequence will be your payoff.

There is mostly August dump slot coming from the studios over the next few weeks. Things they don’t know what to do with and hope makes a little money before everyone goes back to school. Things I will see because I keep being told ya’ll love the reviews, such as Fantastic Four (why do you hate me?), Man from U.N.C.L.E., American Ultra and Hitman: Agent 47. If however, you need something we know to be good to close your summer out then accept the mission and don’t get disavowed.

 

 

Darke Reviews | Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Sorry folks, this one was late. I was a lil busy at Phoenix Comic Con and didn’t get a chance to see this until tonight. In my usual fashion I am forgoing sleep to get a review out. I am pretty sure this is a form of mild insanity. Ok, so as usual spoiler free, but if you have seen a single trailer for it you know it involves time travel. Ugh that makes it a challenge to write a review without spoilers on a movie that has such a wibbly wobbly timey-wimey narrative.

This isn’t to say the narrative is bad or confusing. Is it a hodge podge of other plots you’ve seen before? Yep. This is Groundhogs Day + Starship Troopers + Mass Effect + probably a few others I could name but won’t. The last Tom Cruise movie I saw, Oblivion (I really need a page so I can link to these), did this too. An amalgam of plots we’ve seen blended with some care and only a little grace to create a final product. Does it do it well?

For starters, this one is based off of a story by Japanese author Hiroshi Sakurazaka published in 2004. I cannot speak to the original source material beyond I can see the clear influence of it through the narrative and the places the movie went that we would not innately go in the US. The screenplay then has the dreaded 3+ Rule applied with multiple individuals adapting this. Christopher McQuarrie best known for Jack Reacher, The Tourist, and the Usual Suspects. In other words he likes using characters to drive the story forward. Good. There’s Jez Butterworth, who has the 2007 bomb the Last Legion and 2010 politico thriller Fair Game. No idea what he added or how he got the work based on history here. There is also his younger brother John-Henry Butterworth, who also worked on Fair Game. My feeling here is that the brothers wrote the original screenplay and McQuarrie was brought in for rewrites and polish. This is a fairly common thing in Hollywood and leads to the problems we often find in the plot.

What is the plot? Major Cage (Tom Cruise) is being sent into a D-Day style final battle against an alien threat called Mimics. During the battle he dies (this is not a spoiler) then wakes up (still no spoiler). During the course of understanding this he encounters Sgt Vanke (Emily Blunt) who has answers. Together they will try to stop the failure that is the D-Day invasion and hopefully stop the alien menace.

You have no idea how hard it is to avoid spoilers here. Director Doug Linman (Jumper, Mr. & Mrs Smith, Bourne Identity) brings an A Game we have not seen to date outside of Bourne to this. With the exception of ONE decision the entire film I think he did it all right. He deals with the time travel in a fairly inventive way and is smart enough to not let the plot over explain it. He sets ground rules and expects you to follow along or get left behind. No real time or effort is wasted in exploring  the why’s just the whats. This is brilliant. When watching a movie, I expect it to meet it’s own rules, by not firmly setting all the rules he gives himself some freedom and avoids traps and paradoxes other stories hit head on (Looper).

I *LIKE* movies that do this. Give me a world. Go over the basics. I will either accept this or reject it. Too much detail creates traps that sharp minds will spring on the writers, directors, and their work. He does this fairly well and again with one exception doesn’t leave me angry at his choices; including the cast.

Tom Cruise is picking interesting films of late with two of his last three being firmly entrenched in sci fi. Both of which are doing their best to give us something new from the ashes of the sci fi we have had before. I know some people have issues with him on a personal level. I don’t care. I really don’t. Does he act well? I think so. Does he entertain me? With few exceptions, yes he does. He delves into relatively new territory here and I enjoy the exploration of his character as he lives, dies, and resets. He really pulls off the damage this can do to your psyche. You don’t get a firm count on how often it has happened, and you know it has happened  more times than they show, but you know it is A LOT of pain and death.

Supporting him fully here is Emily Blunt. You ask yourselves, the Love interest from Looper? The love interest in The Adjustment Bureau. The love interest in The Wolfman and the dramatic female actress from so many romantic dramas I can’t count them all. How does this person support Tom Cruise in a war movie? By being the biggest and baddest person on screen. She is fit, she is commanding, she is powerful. She is the force of nature that earns the nickname her character has in the story. Her power is what drives him and what drives the story forward.  Both characters develop as the story goes on  and sadly hers to a lesser extent than his. She however makes the action look effortless. She has a natural chemistry with Cruise that makes their battlefield camaraderie work.

The supporting cast really isn’t worth mentioning. They were cast for who they are and what they bring and are nothing but backdrop charactertures. Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson as entertaining as they are could have their parts filled by others with the near the same result. Sad that. The others bear next to no mention. They get little screen time and little impact. Both good and bad there.

Technically? Well here’s where I can get a little ..bothered. The creature design is clearly inspired by the biomechanical squiddies from Matrix. Down vote. They move like some of the things from Battleship. Downvote. In combination and with their additional details they do create a new creature in our sci fi consciousness which is still oddly interesting. Upvote. Too bad you don’t get to see a lot of them. I get that in film  with heavy CG you have to find new ways to hide things and blurry quick motions are an easy way to do it. This bordered on abusive and may have crossed the line. The power armor itself was awesome and even if it was inspired from non canonical sources in its design I have not quite seen THIS design before. I like what I saw and I like how they used it. The biggest problem of the movie is the camera work on the action. I do like to see it. They do great work on the slow beats in the battles but when the pulse is to be pounding, the eyes are too busy to make sense of it all. When you do see things I admit it looks cool as hell.

The only other technical flaw is the final credits. I am tired of blue print sequences ala Iron Man. I am tired of pop music that is vaguely ironic or tied to the film by the most tenuous thread. John Newman’s light poppy beat Love me Again is a mangled mess of a song to have attached to this movie. It took me so out of the film it was painful and jarring. It did NOT belong in the credits at all. This isn’t saying it’s a bad song. It isn’t. Its just a poor choice and was used simply because it has a “again”/time element to it. Even if it is slightly overused Imagine Dragons Radioactive would have been better. Linkin Park’s What I’ve done or Bleed it Out, while ‘older’ would have felt more natural to how the film ended from a musical queue. 30 Seconds to Mars – This is War or Kings and Queens, if you need something softer would work. Love Me Again – definitely not.

TL;DR? Thought so.

Yes this movie borrows heavily from many concepts done before, but it does it well. This is an important movie to sci fi and if the genre is something you enjoy – You must see this film.

If Sci fi and War movies are not your thing you either didn’t read this review or did and now know you shouldn’t see this. That opinion stands.

This is a REALLY good sci fi film. It doesn’t necessarily make you ask questions, which keeps it from being great, but weaves a solid narrative and interesting action with that science fiction bent. It does a lot really well and only fails in a few places I couldn’t talk about here. If this is your genre – this is your movie.

Please go see Edge of Tomorrow. We need more good sci fi and movies like this need our support. It wont change the world on its own but given time and a little patience it can help bring us to a brighter future of Sci Fi.

This weeks review – Dragons…..

Darke Reviews | Interview with a Vampire (1994)

As I write this review I reflect on the imagery and dialogue choices within the film, how they talk about the two lives – one before and one after. This is of particular note to me as the year I was born was the year the original novel by Anne Rice was released. As with most children the year they graduate high school is the year their new, second life begins; and that is the year that the film was released the oh so lovely 1994. This movie changed the face of modern vampire films as much as Dracula did back in 1931. It goes in waves, we are delivered the monstrous vampire (Nosferatu) then the romantic bloodsucker as Lugosi did. The 80s and early nineties vampire films were a turn from the 70s sexploitation and had become the rebellious monster (Lost Boys). We once again as a lover of the things with fangs, yearned to be seduced again, yearned to be romanced.

Along comes Interview with a Vampire.

The screenplay for the film was written by Anne Rice herself, so any changes to the story she had written eighteen years before can be forgiven as she had evolved as a writer over those years and had fallen in love with her personal demon Lestat. This is the story of Louis, a southern plantation owner begging for death. Death comes in the form of Lestate deLioncourt, who gleefully offers him death or…something more. The film centers around Louis coming to terms with his own existence and what it means to be a vampire. The introduction of a vampiric daughter, Claudia, the betrayal of his own dark father, his journey to find more of his kind are highlights of a rather large scale story told in a personal way. Louis pain reaches new heights as he finally comes to term with his own vampirism but that awareness has such sweet suffering. All of it based around the concept that he is giving the story to a small time journalist and this is the biography he has wanted to get off of his chest.

The director Neil Jordan, best known for The Crying Game, could probably call this his masterpiece. Nearly every decision made and performance reached is on him. The movie is staggering in the amount of sheer gothic visual imagery it contains. Even the musical cues are powerful throughout. The key performances are nuanced and executed well, which falls on a director as much as any actor. It also proves that yes, with the right director a child actor can perform to the caliber of her adult co stars. Please take note M. Night Shamalama-ding-dong.

Lets talk about the actors a bit. When first announced, as a fan of the books, I was incensed at the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat. Anne Rice herself was less than pleased. When I saw the movie however, he did play one facet of the magnificent bastard that Lestat is. He played it well. I think Townsends’ Lestat is better, but Cruise did a remarkable job. The role of Lestat was a huge departure from his usual A list roles and mainstream films. Others still pan him to this day, but the reality is he did a really good job at playing the Lestat as written in the novel on screen.

Brat Pitt (no I am not going to list his credits, if you dont know who he is, check your pulse), plays our main character Louis. Lets be fair, I don’t like Louis as a vampire or a human. I suppose thats what makes Pitts performance so outstanding is that he at least can make you put up with him for two hours. He covers the range of emotions well, but more importantly understands the changes happening to Louis as the decades become centuries. There is a subtle, but noticable shift in the character that Pitt executes on perfectly.

Both Pitt and Cruise however are upstaged by fledgling actress and twelve year old Kristen Dunst. She played the aforementioned dark daughter Claudia. She is a very naughty girl. she actually seems to force both actors to elevate their own performance. She handles the lines she is given and the physical cues she must perform like someone twice her age, if not three times her age. while if you look at her actual age to the age of the actors she plays against some of those dialogues and motions are far more uncomfortable. When you examine the fact that she is playing a fourty year old in the body of a twelve year old it really shows the ability of the actress and makes the scenes that much more powerful.

From a technical standpoint the film is again nearly flawless. The CGI minimal and what there is of it is difficult to notice in all but a handful of shots. The make up work is amazing and holds up twenty years later. The sets, costuming and lighting were spot on through out the film.

This isnt to say its a perfect film. There are some casting choices that bother me to this day even more than Cruise did at the time. Such as the casting of Antonio Banderas as a cherub faced red head with curls named Armand. I will leave you with that character to actor description for a bit. The technicalities of Claudia’s fate defy astronomy as they could only occur a few days a year.

For the TL;DR crowd

It is one of the best vampire films ever made; while it leans more to the dramatic than the horrific it is an honest vampire movie. It isn’t flawless but it is close. It’s drama however does tend to limit it’s rewatch value to a once a year kinda deal. The performances are amazing and that alone is a reason to watch. Again any changes from the source are tacitly approved by the author, which while not always a good thing, needs to be kept in mind for those who would compare novel to screen.

Interview with a Vampire is a must see for anyone at least once.

Tomorrow’s review doesn’t want to end up like Nancy

Darke Reviews | Oblivion (2013)

So there I was leaning on the railing of the front row as the credits rolled on Oblivion tonight. I am listening to the score by M83, which keeps reminding me of the epicness of Dune (Lynch 84), it’s powerful, it’s moving and fitting. I look back on the past two hours and twenty minutes and wonder – is big budget science fiction making a resurgence? We’ve had some OK Sci-Fi in the past year or so and some really good Sci Fi. Where does Oblivion fall?

It’s a trick question. It doesn’t quite fall in the mix because it *is* the mix. Writer/Director Joseph Kosinski (Tron Legacy) is clearly and strongly influenced by the science fiction cinema of his age – which happens also to be mine. As an aspiring writer trying to find my voice and my style for the so-called original vampire novel I am working on; I understand how challenging it is to write a purely original story in a world where so many have been told. I am aware like few others that its nearly impossible to not lift elements from your favourite works of fiction that you are trying to tell a story within. I see Kosinki’s love for Dune, all the cinematic works based on Phillip K Dick (if I name specific ones it’s nearly a spoiler), 2001, 2010, Event Horizon, and so many more sci fi films of the late 70s and early 80s. I almost want to say this movie is his love letter to the works of that time. Yet, it isn’t quite that either, he has managed to tell a beautiful three act story with elements of so many others in his own way and in his own narrative vision.

Let me tell you about his vision. We have Jack and Vickie, “the clean up crew” and an “effective team” on an earth ravaged by a war with an alien race. Because there are still aliens on earth, hiding and attacking that which Jack and Vickie protect our protagonists have their memory wiped to protect the security of the mission. Jack has a curious streak a mile wide and during his routine patrols explores areas of the ruined earth in his hi-tech ornithopter. Kosinki’s vision of a ruined earth years after the war is nothing short of breathtaking. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and that is no small feat. There are a flybys that had me scratching my head on the environment they presented, but I let it slide for the beauty and wonder it brought.

Now we get to act two of our story and we introduce the survivor of a crashed ship. She knows something and hiding it. Jack and Vickie both know she’s hiding something but react differently. Vicky just wants to complete the mission according to protocols and head to Titan with the rest of the survivors of the war. Jack, well Jack needs to know. This takes him deeper into the rabbit hole and where the story really starts to bloom. I would tell you more of act two and act three but to do so risks spoilers even with the most careful of writing. Suffice to say I didn’t see a few elements coming; while others I saw in the trailer and figured out instantly.

Breaking it all down –

While I normally could rant about trailers for hours, the trailers here did the movie justice and kept hidden what needed to be kept hidden.
The visual design of the world – nothing short of astounding.
The tech – I have problems. You won’t be able to unsee it once I say it, but I consider it lazy on the prop department so I cannot forgive. Jack’s rifle is a modified Nerf Longshot. The thrusters on his craft are the ear pieces to a standard call center headset.
Music – Nearly overpowering when it needed to be subtle, but it fit the movie.
Science – I often rant about the science in science fiction. This one has a few elements leaving me wondering, only one of which truly bothered me. A storm system that was fairly persistent.
Pacing – hit and miss.

So at the end of another day in paradise we have a film that embraces all the things we love about science fiction. We have a director that knows how to get a good performance of his three main actors and has a visionary eye that needs to be encouraged by the studio and fans. Is it flawless? No. Is it something that hearkens back to the best of the 80s sci fi? Without a doubt.

For the TL;DR crowd

Sci Fi fans – See it
Tom Cruise Fans – See it
Kosinski fans – You have already seen it and are just reading my review to confirm or refute me.

If you are a die hard cruise hater – pass
Sci-Fi not always your thing? – pass, this won’t change your mind.

If you aren’t sure on this – Matinee it and let me know what you thought below.

I do think people need to see this movie so that the studios take more chances on science fiction. It’s nearly a lost genre and when we lose it we lose something special. I think in the end I am looking forward to the Blu Ray release already so I can add this to my collection and watch it in my living room with the surround sound and a smile on.