Tag Archives: Dark

Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness

[2 stars]

Resident Evil, the franchise that never fails to disappoint…or at least hasn’t since near the end of the second movie. There are actually two series of this adapted game, one live action and the other anime. Though they heavily overlap, they are from different sources and have different continuing storylines that run roughly in parallel.

Infinite Darkness continues the Leon thread of the anime sequence. And it continues to use the photorealistic style to mimic the game interstitials. And, aside from really bad plotting, that is its biggest weakness. While the landscapes and objects look amazing, and even the characters (when at rest), the second a character begins to move or talk, you sink rapidly into the uncanny valley. The lips don’t even mildly sync well to the voiceovers.

And why is it that all women look the same in these entries? The men are diverse in shape, size and visage. The women are all built on the same thin, lithe template only differing in hair color and slight facial distinctions. Honestly, I kept confusing the two main women in the short series and finally just had to memorize their hair color. What’s worse is that one of the character is a recurring character there to balance out Leon and I still couldn’t keep her straight.

Suffice to say that this series is for the die-hards only. Though, you may be happy to hear that I have heard rumors that the live action reboot that is on the way is somewhat credible and could revive that aspect of the franchise. So perhaps there is yet hope for the story that would not die about the virus and monsters that would not die.

RESIDENT EVIL: Infinite Darkness Poster

Bosch (series finale)

[4 stars]

There is nothing more wonderful for a show than to go out on a high, and Bosch most definitely did. In many ways, this was their best season yet, though it stood and relied on all the underpinnings of the previous 6.

Titus Welliver (Escape Plan 2: Hades) embodied Connelly’s detective. He created a tough, thoughtful man, driven by justice more than rules, but very specific about when he’s willing to color outside the lines.

Supported by Jamie Hector as his slightly messed up partner and Amy Aquino (The Lazarus Effect) as his strong but besieged Captain, he’s navigated multiple crimes and corruption, joy and tragedy. Lance Reddick (Sylvie’s Love) as the Chief of Police certainly contributed to both sides of that equation over time. And, as comic relief (often with more than a little edge) Troy Evans and Gregory Scott Cummins as the OG detective partners in the room make the best old married couple on TV.

Madison Lintz grew with the show as Bosch’s daughter. We got to watch her find her feet as an actor and a character. By the end, she has found her footing, with the surprising help of Mimi Rogers, and has blended the best of Bosch and her mother.

There is little doubt where the series had to end, given some of the changes that were made when it was adapted. Both readers and watchers will feel a sense of completion with the arc, regardless of how they came to it. Despite a number of parallel threads running through the season, all are tied up nicely (and one perhaps a bit too conveniently, but was necessary for dramatic effect). And there is still room for it to go forward if they execute on the rumors that are circulating. Suffice to say, if you enjoy police procedural, this is one of the best done in a long time. It is, in some ways, the male counterpart to Prime Suspect, but with a very different perspective and a very different set of flaws.

Bosch Poster

Fear Street: Part 2-1978

[3 stars]

When last we left our story in 1994, we thought we had an idea of what was going on…only to be disabused of that at the very end. So here we are in 1978 to learn more. Leigh Janiak returns to continue guiding the story, and this time it’s decidedly darker.

Gone is the wry humor, though there is a certain amount of sarcasm. Gone is the light fun. This one is deadly serious and angsty; much more a typical slasher in the woods film than the previous. Janiak captures the era in color pallet and sensibility nicely, but I did miss the fun of the first part. A change in her co-writer to the up-and-coming Zak Olkewicz probably helped inform that shift.

That said, the cast and her direction continues to impress: Embracing the genre and running with it while still managing to keep it female forward. The additions of Sadie Sink (Stranger Things), Emily Rudd, and Ted Sutherland to the sprawling tale also worked nicely. The three drive the majority of the action and expand what we know of the characters and the mystery from the ’94 frame.

Fear Street is turning out to be a wonderfully crafted, long story. As a series of movie releases over months or years, it would have been a frustrating wait and lose momentum. As a three week sequence it is building nicely and keeping me engaged. I’m curious to see how it continues to evolve into the 1666 origin time-frame and if it can pay off. But, even if it falls flat, the first two are credible horror flicks, full of fun, mayhem, surprises, and nice twists to the genre.

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 Poster

Promised Neverland

[3.5 stars]

There are so many secrets in this series that it limits what I can comment on. So, instead, it’s really a matter of whether it’s worth your time or not. It is.

Generally, Promised Neverland is a fascinating, if somewhat genre-standard, tale of children in an orphanage who discover nefarious plans. There are lots of narrow escapes and “big moments.” But it is also infused with that kids anime silliness in the characters that I find challenging to watch. At least when it is a constant stream of it. And it means most of the voice work is serviceable, but not brilliant. I did stick with the dub version on this one after trying both sub and dub. Honestly, the original voice work was no better, so I gave my eyes a break to concentrate on the gorgeous art and tale in front of me.

The story will carry you along. The second season already out and I can’t imagine that you could watch the first and walk away. The second season builds on the revelations of the first, and introduces some intriguing new levels to the story overall. I loved that the world kept expanding, but it also got a little unwieldy and just a bit illogical. Choices didn’t always flow naturally (on either side) and some of the character changes felt a bit forced. Had they split the action into two seasons to build up the background info, it may have felt less manipulated.

However, it does, for all intents, completely wrap up by the end of season two thanks to some very rapid fast-forwarding. In this case (unlike Trese), that approach worked as it was all lined up and it was really just watching the dominos fall rather than filling in gaps. It could have been pushed into a third season, but that isn’t the story they wanted to tell, so I felt comfortable with the choice.

The resulting story is definitely worth your time and will likely manage to surprise you. It has even inspired a live-action version that is in the works. So, clearly, it also has a following and I count myself among them now.

The Promised Neverland Poster

Moloch

[3.5 stars]

Part of the fun of this series is that you’re never quite sure what it is nor how it will play out. Police procedural, investigative journalism, psychological drama, or supernatural horror?

The story spins around two main characters. Psychologist Olivier Gourmet and newbie journalist, Marine Vacth. Both have complex and dark backstories and a challenging present. And both deliver layered performances. Not always sympathetic but ultimately believable, though that isn’t always clear at the time.

Three minor characters also come into play. Alice Verset, Marc Zinga, and Soufiane Guerrab (Lupin). We learn less about each of these individuals than I’d have liked, but it’s all sufficient to purpose. Only Zinga’s character grated; the script forces him onto a path that is more than a little questionable.

But overall this is a dark, fun ride. And the series is self-contained, leaving it feeling fully resolved. Which isn’t to say it’s all tied up with a nice little bow, simply that all the important elements have natural conclusions and the open questions are fun to contemplate.

Hard to Be a God (Trudno byt bogom)

[2.5 stars]

There’s nothing quite like a 90 minute tale told in 180 minutes. And while that’s probably a bit too quippy, it is certainly the effect this Russian sci-fi had on me by the end. That and a lingering sense of nausea from the wealth of filth and bodily fluids being bandied about.

But Aleksey German’s final film has an ethereal and hypnotic quality to it. The camera work is glorious and simply floats along. It is in black & white, but filmed with ability and care. And the camera has its own presence in the story as well, though it never really seems to be for a reason.

The tale, set up at the top, is that a group of scientists have landed on a planet similar to Earth but about 800 years behind in development and where the Renaissance never took place. It’s a grim and awful world indeed. One of the scientists has set himself up as the son of a local god. And that’s about all the story you get.  The rest is mayhem and casual violence and abuse. It is a long tale that has multiple interpretations, I’m sure, but the one that is loud and clear is that god doesn’t exist and the awfulness that we have in the world is of our own making…and even if god existed they couldn’t prevent man from screwing it up. (Don’t try to parse the paradox that, in theory, god made man as he is.) Oh, yes, and Jazz is an acquired taste (which is as close to humor that the movie gets). It didn’t need 3 hours to make all that clear.

And while German and his wife adapted the classic novel by Arkadiy Strugatskiy and Boris Strugatskiy, my understanding is that it is a rather loose interpretation on the order that Jodorowski or Fellini might do. Whether you want to dive into this or not is really up to you. There is something in it that kept me going for the full run, but I can’t rightly say I enjoyed it or that it left me surprised or shocked or enlightened. I simply went for the ride and came out the other side wondering how I might have better spent my time as a shorter version of the story was not on offer.

Hard to Be a God Poster

Trese

[3.5 stars]

Tired of the same old monsters and myths? Been looking for something dark and different? Trese may be it. While anyone who’s been into anime has learned all manner of mythology, folklore, and monsters in the Japanese and Chinese mythos, Trese takes on the Philippine book of creatures and spirits. Admittedly, it is all a bit self-conscious with a monster-of-the-week feel to it as the world is unveiled (and they’ve not even gotten to some of my favorites yet). But they only have six half-hour episodes to play in and a larger arc knitting it all together to cover, so there is some cramming-in going on.

And, because of that short season, the ending is also a bit rushed. It needed 8 – 10 episodes to build up the finale naturally. Instead we get a mountain of exposition explaining the connections and plans to the ending. This story really deserved better. Fortunately, it is open-ended. If it does well enough, perhaps they’ll give it a bit more room to breathe in a follow-on season. But with or without additional episodes, if you’re a fan of supernatural anime, this one should be on your list. It is different, well acted, and most definitely not for kids.

Trese Poster

Code 8

[3 stars]

This is a nice piece of science fiction by Jeff Chan and Chris Pare, where nothing is clean cut; all of the main characters are one shade of grey or another. It makes for a much more interesting story. Code 8 has been sitting in my queue for a while. With the announcement that a sequel (with the original cast, writers, and director) is now in the works, I finally decided to let it spool. And I’m glad I did.

The story isn’t perfect, but it definitely works at making a complex alternate world where random people get powers and how that would affect things. It is, of course, really just a thinly veiled metaphor for how we deal with immigrants and people of different races, but rarely in such heavy-handed ways as to pull you out of the story.

And the story itself is really very small and human. Robbie Amell (Upload) is trying to earn money to help his family in a world where he can’t legally or easily get a job. Stephen Amell (Arrow), Robbie’s real-life cousin, provides another path for him. What unspools from their choices is a good heist/action story with a lot of heart and a bit of corruption and sacrifice.

Alongside the Amell boys there are a few deeper performances. Kyla Kane and Sung Kang are worth noting. And then there were a couple smaller, unexpected roles. One of the nicest surprises is Kari Matchett (Leverage) as the sick mother. Matchett is always a solid and engaging actor, and she elevates all her scripts because she takes them all seriously. Yes, I’m a fan, what can I say? Another unexpected bit is from Peter Outerbridge (Haunter), who barely appears in the story but who has an outsized weight in the plot. On a guess, this is where the sequel will focus.

Code 8 isn’t your typical sf distraction. It attempts to give you a full world and interesting characters that feel real. Is it a bit exaggerated? Sure, a bit. But it assumes people are complex and that actions and events have consequences. It doesn’t make things easy, and you come to the end feeling satisfied that you’ve seen a full story. I’m honestly looking forward to its sequel, when it arrives.

Code 8 Poster

Solos

[3 stars]

You have to appreciate when a pandemic can inspire a series of, essentially, single-actor stories as this did for David Weil. Tackling the concept of isolation and humanity from various perspectives (while avoiding the obvious) and getting such top-notch talent to deliver it is really a coup. And watching some of the actors get to  deliver multiple characters in meaningful ways is an extra treat. As an added bonus, to my mind, what he created is some solid, original genre fiction.

Each 30 minute story is rich with personal struggles and interesting worlds. Or world, is probably much more accurate. Like Tales From the Loop, they are loosely connected, building up a bigger picture stretching over time.

To be honest, they aren’t all perfect. A 30 minute near-monologue is hard (unless you’re Tilda Swinton). They aren’t easy to write believably either, though the stories provide some clever ways around the normal pitfalls. If you haven’t spun it up yet, I definitely recommend this series. What follows is some short, more specific thoughts on the various episodes. But even when I’m rather critical, I enjoyed them all in different ways.

Leah
Anne Hathaway (Locked Down) is amusing, and the set up nice, but the story falls flat emotionally. It’s just a little too forced, and ultimately a little too obvious. That doesn’t make it uninteresting, but it lacked a certain subtlety and sympathy so we could care about the ending.

Tom
Anthony Mackie (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) is everywhere these days, and with good reason. He has great emotional range, but is still superhero material. While the overall story and performances here are solid, I do feel like the cadence of it is just a little off. It repeats its rhythm once too often as Mackie recounts his situation, helped by a dollop of overly sweet and manipulative music that’s too present to ignore. But the differentiation between his two selves is wonderful. And the choice to not fully explain everything is perfect.

Peg
The great Helen Mirren (The Good Liar) exposes her soul as she banters with the disembodied Dan Stevens (Earwig and the Witch). Without moving from her seat, she spins out a world of visuals in our minds and builds out a story that grips us and makes us laugh along with her. Talk about the power of the voice and subtle facial expressions.

Sasha
This is the most on-the-nose pandemic tale. It is an exhausting mix of fear and left-wing analog to Fox news-itis. Uzo Aduba (3Below: Tales of Arcadia) is energy incarnate and tragic in practice.

Jenny
Constance Wu (Hustlers) delivers perhaps the funniest performance of the anthology, giving it even more of a punch as it turns. It is also the least real-time tale, being heavily edited to compress and keep the energy up as well as to provide a particular sensibility to echo the character and the situation.

Neera
Every anthology has a story that falls short, and this one is it. It isn’t compelling and it is scientifically and emotionally lacking in logic. All this despite an excellent effort by Nicole Beharie (My Last Day Without You) to make sense of it all with her powerful delivery. But that performance can’t really save the episode as a story. 

Stuart
As a finale we get the voice of god, Morgan Freeman (Nutcracker and the Four Realms) and a reprise, of sorts, by Dan Stevens (Earwig and the Witch) to help pull it all together. It doesn’t quite make a package of it all, but it ultimately provides a scaffolding for the collection if you squint. But, beyond that, you do get to see Freeman bring the script to life with subtle voice and considered reactions. It’s a bitter-sweet wrap-up, but that’s what you’d expect from this kind of show. And the journey and performances were certainly worth it.

Solos Poster

Awake

[3 stars]

Like Bird Box, this is a big science fiction concept done with a small, intense focus on the characters rather than the effects. It is essentially pure suspense as Gina Rodriguez (Smallfoot) fights for the survival of her family. She delivers a tough ex-vet in recovery and desperate to prove herself, which provides a believable set of skills and emotional drive.

Mark Raso and Joseph Raso wrote and directed an intriguing (if scientifically silly) concept and let it spin out around the characters. The best part of their conceit is that the characters really do become less capable of logical thought as the story goes on. It covers and excuses a wealth of bad choices and behaviors. Though the biggest piece of the puzzle is ignored till near the end in a way that is a bit questionable, to my mind.

While the cast is actually rather large, most characters, again like Bird Box, only intersect with the story for a short time. But a few more impactful characters get time to shine. Shamier Anderson (Stowaway), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Annihilation), Finn Jones (Iron Fist), Frances Fisher (Watchmen), and Barry Pepper (Maze Runner: The Death Cure) are the memorable ones; each for different reasons.

Many people are going to want a bigger, more action-focused story here. And there is action and battles, but that isn’t the point. This is a character story. It doesn’t quite make perfect sense at all times, and the ending will leave you with as many, or more, questions than you may like. But the ride is full of tension, making it worth the time.

Awake Poster