Seven Devils all around you...

Darke Reviews | Beautiful Creatures (2013) Revisited

When I first started the reviews I wasn’t as professional and far less verbose with the Beautiful Creatures review coming in at a mere 354 words. My average now is closer to between 700 and 1000 words. Also when I saw this movie the first time, it attracted me enough to its style and world that I broke one of my rules. I read the book. No, thats not quite right, I devoured the books. I ordered the first book when I got home from the film, then in a single night read it. I ordered the remaining three books and read each one in a night. As we begin this review let me preface it with this statement: This book series would have made a fantastic movie!! I loved it. Ok I loved 3 of the 4 but that’s par for the course with trilogies that turn into quadrilogies. This is not a condemnation of the movie, but a mere statement that I am able to – in this case – judge each independently.

So yes, this is another one of the films Hollywood has tried to shuffle out in the young adult genre to find the next Twilight or Hunger Games. It had a rather awesome ad campaign which introduced me to the awesome sound of Florence and the Machine, at least made me aware of them. Seven Devils *shivers*



Adapted for the screen and directed by relative newcomer to the chair Richard LaGravenese. LaGravenese was no stranger to the writers chair being involved in the screenplay of the acclaimed Fisher King, Horse Whisperer, and Bridges of Madison County. He was even nominated for an Academy award for Fisher King. He understands quite a bit about human nature and the importance of the right dialogue to establish your characters. The importance of chemistry and charisma with the characters is as important. For these reasons, he gets a pass on most, but not all, of the changes from the original source material. Quite a bit of the original material would have been difficult to shoot on the best of days and other elements with the budget they had would have, to put it bluntly, looked as bad as the wolves in the Day After Tomorrow or something just slightly better than what SyFy does. Even the removing and combining of characters is accepted within the narrative considering the roles some of them played.

The source material from Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is rich and beautiful and southern. Granted I am partial as being a girl from South Carolina for the first part of my life. I love the southern life. I love southern charm. I love (most) of small town southern culture. The majority of this was captured on film, until Act III. The changes here are to put it mildly so bloody annoying in comparison. From a pure film narrative, they work, don’t get me wrong; but from book to screen they fail on every conceivable level.

What makes this movie work though is pure chemistry and charm. There’s a line in the film that fits the nature of the two leads “you can’t help it can you / drooling with charm”. It does. It does so much. Most of this is because of Alden Ehrenreich as Ethan Wate and Alice Englert as Lena Duchannes. Alden sadly, has not done much since, but was in the truly bizarre film Twixt. Englert has had similar lack of career evolution since then. Alone in the film each one is worth watching. Together they have chemistry unlike anything I’ve seen in a young adult film. Twilight, we know is an abomination when it comes to the love story, and the reserved nature of Jennifer Lawrence in Hunger Games makes the chemistry hard at times. Alden nails the southern boy wanting to get out of town, the shock of what he finds out, and the power of true love. Englert, she played the character so well I fell in love with the character as much as Ethan. Her fear, her hesitation, her desperation, her almost goth vibe – nailed. Together though, I rarely see a couple look and feel so natural – no matter the genre.

The supporting cast is nearly as incredible. Jeremy Irons chews scenery as the master he is in the role of Macon Ravenwood. Seriously, if you need to learn the definition of chewing scenery – watch him here, especially with his own southern accent. Viola Davis ( who you can watch chew scenery in How to Get Away with Murder) comes in equally strong as Amma. Two time Oscar winner Emma Thompson as Mrs. Lincoln seems determined to try to show up Irons in the scenery diet. She almost succeeds a few times. Emmy Rossum (Phantom of the Opera, Poseidon) and Thomas Mann (Project X, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) are relegated to side kick roles. Aside from sexy vamp, there’s little to say about Rossum here. Mann thankfully has shown up more in other films and is largely forgettable here relegated to Ethans best friend.

Ok, most of the effects are kinda weak. They aren’t the best but they are not the worst either. I have a partial love for the tornadoes seen in one of the trailers.Make up and wardrobe nailed it, until act 3.  There’s some ridiculousness there that gives me a headache just thinking about it.


I love this movie. It is totally unappreciated and deeply underrated. It isn’t a great film, it was not the second coming of YA in film – though I wish it had been. When I was in Ennis last winter it happened to be on TV and me and my coworker who I did not expect to like it both watched. He really likes the film. The two people I saw it with initially, both went in highly dubious and came out enjoying it – probably not as much as I did but still enjoyed it. While this one isnt at Frozen levels of obsession for me, it is still pretty high on my list.

As I said in the first review – see it. Embrace it. Love it. Beautiful Creatures is worth the watch.

You can also read the books – they are worth it too.



Darke Reviews | Enders Game (2013)

For those who know my opinion on the writer of this book, his stances and my own choices regarding this film: I have not changed nor violated them. I am, however, working to become a professional reviewer of film. While I can choose to watch or not watch any film I wish and will continue to do so should someone foolishly think they could pay me to watch a movie I do not support, I will need to review it. That day is a long way off, but in the meanwhile, we have a Sci-Fi movie released which had I *not* known about the original author would have likely seen. So I feel I owe it to my readers to cover this film.

All of this disclaimer aside let’s talk about Enders Game the movie.

The movie is based on a critically acclaimed and award winning book released in 1985. The author Orson Scott Card has written twenty two different stories along the arc of Ender and the world around him. The subsequent releases were not always told in chronological order and may not even involve the titular character directly. I cannot comment on the contents of the book, its arc or how much the film is different from the source; though I am told by my best friend it is a good book.

The story itself focuses on a young boy, approximate age 12 in the movie, named Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield – Hugo) . He is a cadet in some form of military academy where every move is monitored. The monitors are Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Anderson (Viola Davis). After being put through an uncomfortably vicious and devious test by the monitors he is given the chance to attend an advanced school. The ultimate goal in this world is to use the youth and adaptability of children to create the next generation of military leaders in order to defeat an insect like enemy called The Formics who invaded us years ago and nearly destroyed us. Ender is put through even more challenges that grow increasingly difficult and separate him from his support structures. His sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin – Zombie Land), his classmate Petra (Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit), and any other friends he makes. The entire time creating enemies of other classmates. Eventually Ender graduates to command school and is put through even more simulations that pit his computer avatars against avatars of the enemy. Graff is determined to make Ender some form of messiah for the human race capable of ending the war with the Formics.

Ok thats the background and if you think its complex, the movie only does a marginally better job of executing on the principles. I lay that on a screenplay by the movies director Gavin Hood. This is the same director who gave us X-men origins: Wolverine in 2009. The rest of the review will wait for you to finish bashing your head on your desk from being forced to remember that abomination of celluloid. Hood is given the gift of good actors and solid source material that made it hard to screw up. He almost does at times and I am not sold on the ending in any way shape or form. There are some elements mid way through the film that even when fully explained make no bloody sense. There are also significant pacing issues that made me feel like I was in stop and go traffic on a California highway. Thats where actors come in.

The movie is absolutely dependent upon its children. Sixteen year old Asa Butterfield must carry this film on his shoulders. It lives and dies on his ability to cover the complexity of Ender. He shows the stress the character is placed under in one moment and then shifts to a calculating and tactical genius in the next. There are times he doesn’t work as well, where the character comes across just a bit too strong and others insufferably weak. It could be due to the age of the character, the way the character was written, bad directing or bad acting. I can’t say specifically, but it is a flaw. Sadly both his female costars (Breslin/Steinfeld), whom are both Oscar nominated for previous works, are given precious little screen time. They do well with what they have and again this may be directorial or story that keeps them out. I wish I could have seen more of both young women as they are quite talented and make the most of the time they are given.

As far as the adults. Hrm. I am torn. I want to say they did well. It’s Harrison Ford for crying out loud. Viola Davis and even Ben Kingsley. This performance almost lets me forgive BK for Iron Man 3 earlier this year. Almost. There’s just something about them in this movie that feels too much. Just a bit over the top and a bit shallow at the same time. The actors are fine, there’s just something intangibly wrong with it.

The technicals on this one are fine. The “Game” visuals are entertaining as is the 3D training battle ground.


I cannot in good conscience say to anyone see this movie as I want to deny Orson Scott Card any residuals. That being said, the movie was engaging until the last fifteen minutes and surprisingly entertaining. Those last few minutes are critical and completely destroy any goodwill the previous two hours brought.

Overall – the movie is an ok entry into the Sci-Fi genre this year. We’ve had better and we’ve had worse. It exists and some folks will truly enjoy it. Others don’t share my opinions on the author and do not have the same issues I do with seeing it.

For those folks, I respect your opinion and right to have them, I will say see it as a Matinee. I really do believe the end of this one hurts the overall narrative. (even if it was in the book, it was really ham handed).

Anyone else…

Curious – Cheap Seats (most of the money then goes to the house not the studio)
On the Fence? – Netflix
The rest of ya’ll – Give it an absolute pass.
Tomorrow night I review one of the most anticipated movies of the fall – Thor 2: The Dark World

Darke Reviews | Beautiful Creatures (2013)

Movie review time folks!! This time it’s for a movie I liked!!

Beautiful Creatures, based on a book which I just ordered from Amazon, is one of those love stories that shows you can still write a love story and do something interesting with it. I am not just talking Warm Bodies, where you have Romeo and Juliet with zombies ((quick review on that one – if you like Zombies and/or Romeo and Juliet go see it, you won’t regret it).

What BC delivers is charm. Charm in abundance with its newcomer actor Alden Ehreneich as Ethan Wate. I spent some time in South Carolina as a little girl and yes that kinda southern guy still exists. Alice Englert, another one relatively new to the silver screen, delivers a wonderful performance as a teen age girl caught between two worlds and with no good way out.

While the movie hits many of the traditional teenage romance tropes, it stops short on some of the expected ones. I believed in this romance set in a world where magic can make a room spin, vines grow and shadows live. These two young actors did in two hours what Twilight failed to do in five movies; giving me a believable romance between two young people who have their own worlds doing everything in their power to separate them.

Jeremy Irons tones down his usual insanity, likely tempered by Viola Davis and handles himself well against Emma Thompson who delivers an excellent villain. Emmy Rossum is fun to watch but almost ends up comical at times, almost.

Movies like this do give me hope for the young adult book and film market. I hope, hope, hope that other directors in the process of adapting similar material (City of Bones, Vampire Academy etc…) learn from how it can be done right.

If you were the slightest bit interested in the movie. See it.
If you enjoyed Twilight, see it. (I will resist another dig here, but…yeah just see it)
If you like teen romance, magic, good vs evil. See it.

Just in general see it and see it with friends.