Tag Archives: SkipIt

The Dark Tower

[2 stars]

If there is anything good that came from this tragedy of an adaptation, it is that it makes me want to re-read the original series again. Sony took an 8 book series written over 30 years and stripped it down to a 90 minute, lifeless overview. And let’s forget about everything you changed.

I know, I’m dog piling with ever so many others this past summer. There were such high hopes and plans when this project began: multiple movies bridged by TV shows. Something that could hold the scope and complexity of the world and characters that King created. As production neared, the studios panicked and scaled back, but rather than gamble and do one really great flick to try and hook people, they tried to just do all the books at once. That there is over 25 minutes of near-completed scenes on the disc that were excised, and which cover aspects like the Crimson King references, gives you a real sense of how badly they were flailing as the movie came to the wire.

Idris Elba (The Jungle Book) and Matthew McConaughey (Sea of Trees) play the larger-than-life, near-immortal combatants for the universe. Their work had incredible potential. Both men are tightly contained and complicated characters, though we never get to see much what that really means. Only Elba’s backstory is ever explored, and then only with a cheap, oft-repeated moment with his father. Tom Taylor (Doctor Foster), as Jake, also implied great potential, but was never allowed to grow and discover the new world and understanding around him. He ended up purely a pawn for the story to be told. And don’t bother looking for any kind of strong female influence in this version of the story, you’ll just get angry.

Better known as the writer of Antboy, the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Department Q, Nikolaj Arcel directed and co-wrote the mess that got delivered. To be fair, I don’t think all the bad choices were his…many were forced upon him…but it is his name on the screen and his legacy that has been marred.

If you have a choice still to make, read the books, skip the film. You’ll be glad you did.

The Dark Tower

The Emoji Movie

[2 stars]

Let’s start with the obvious. Emoji is like watching a grade-schooler’s attempt to re-imagine Tron. Mind you, whoever thought making a flick about emoji’s should have been laughed out of the pitch room to begin with. But they weren’t, so here we are.

That stated, Emoji does have two things going for it. First, there is a tough(ish) female hacker in a lead role. Second, its message is a solid, “be yourself.” Other than that it is a vacuous, obvious, unimaginative tale aimed at 6 year olds.

So, yeah, skip this unless you need to entertain a youngster or need a brain power-down from a crazy day. It is certainly an empty piece of colorful motion with a dance track. Which, honestly, is why I put it on in the first place. And yet, I could have, and wish I had, done better.

The Emoji Movie

Free Fire

[2 stars] So, if Monty Python and Quentin Tarantino had a co-production to recreate the Black Knight of The Holy Grail as a heist gone wrong, you’d get Free Fire. This is an almost ceaselessly vulgar and violent confrontation at (of course) a gun sale gone wrong. Whether that is a good thing for you or not, is going to be a matter of mood and taste.

Director and co-writer Ben Wheatley reteamed with his High-Rise writer, Amy Jump, to bring this blood-fest to screen. The humor is dark and just as often missed the mark as hit it. On the other hand, the sound effects and engineering are really quite amazing. The biggest directing mistake Wheatley made was never giving us an overhead shot of the participants making their way around the killing field. It would have helped a little with the geography of the fight if folks were more easily located.

At the extreme end of the characters are Sharlto Copley (Chappie), Sam Riley (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). Neither plays a believable character, but they certainly do so with abandon. It is the combination of both of them that is the excuse for the mayhem that follows.

As basic tough guys Cillian Murphy (Peaky Blinders), Jack Reynor (Sing Street), Noah Taylor (Deep Water), Babou Ceesay (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), and Michael Smiley (Luther) fill out the gangs. Each feels a bit like stock characters, but none are overly empty of interest.

But the two that really stand out as characters for me were Armie Hammer (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and Brie Larson (Kong: Skull Island). Each clearly has another life somewhere and all manner of things going on under the surface that we never get to understand, but which make their performances interesting rather than just loud.

Generally speaking, this isn’t a film for the weak of stomach or with sensitive hearing (language or gunfire). It, frankly, isn’t a very good film either, but it certainly will have its audience. I did laugh, on occasion, and winced a great deal through moments…even cheered once or twice quietly inside at the demise of a character or two. But there is little story and little to recommend. It is a vignette drawn out in loving detail for 90 minutes of lead filled hell. If that’s for you, then go for it, but there are plenty of better bullet strewn extravaganzas that actually have characters and plots you can latch onto.

Free Fire

Wiener-Dog

Seriously, WTF? I watched this entire film in the hope that it would eventually come together as something…anything. I was to be disappointed and annoyed.

Director/writer Todd Solondz had no sense of when to stop a joke (and I use that term loosely) nor much humanity. Because he is also the writer/director of the brilliant Welcome to the Dollhouse and equally brilliant, but horrific, Happiness, perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised with the darkness of it all. But in this case, I have no idea what he was hoping to get across, whereas his earlier work was challenging (to say the least), but ultimately with substance.

I think the intent was dark humor with the dog as the forced thread for the vignettes. However, the first half of the film is about the same dog going from owner to owner (a lot like a cruel A Dog’s Purpose). Then we get an amusing and jarring “intermission” followed by stand-alone tales that have similar dogs in them, but with almost no purpose. It is even somewhat weirdly self-referential regarding film. Add to this the flat delivery of the dialogue, clearly consistent and a choice, and I’m left bereft of a clue. Perhaps it was intended as a post-modernist take on Brecht? Still, it just didn’t work.

Honestly, this is a waste of your time and of any film or hard disc it was filmed to. I honestly don’t forgive Solondz for wasting my time on this one.

Wiener-Dog

Sleepless

Unlikable people doing unlikable things in stupid ways doesn’t add up to a good movie. We don’t even get an anti-hero to latch onto. Jamie Foxx (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) and Michelle Monaghan (Pixels) are simply just bad at their jobs, whether or not they are also bad/dirty cops.

To balance that, as inept bad guys we get Dermot Mulroney (August: Osage County) and Scoot McNairy (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), neither of which seems to deserve the empires they lead.  The only truly likable character in the entire film is Gabrielle Union, but she also pulls some stupid moves. Octavius J. Johnson (Ray Donovan), is mostly just a hot potato used to drive the action; his portrayal of the son has little depth and generates little sympathy.

To be fair, all these choices and lacks are the fault of writer Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton) and director Baran bo Odar (Who Am I). The script is ill-conceived and poorly researched while the acting is relentlessly dark with few positive hooks for us to want to hold onto. Even an anti-hero needs to pull our sympathies in some way if we are to commit to them.

The cast was unable to rise above a bad foundation of this film. The idea that it could have a sequel (and boy do they set it up) was simply the bitter icing on the unpalatable cake at the very end. Basically, skip this one.

Sleepless

Assassin’s Creed

Well, it is certainly a pretty film. Yep, that’s about it.

I hate seeing potential unrealized, especially when a good idea (not making a movie of a game, but the base concept) and a truly talented cast are brought together. Michael Fassbender (X-Men: Apocalypse) and Marion Cotillard (April and the Extraordinary World) are usually hypnotic on screen. They are masters of hidden depths and small gestures. This script gave them no quarter despite their efforts. Even the additions of Jeremy Irons (Man Who Knew Infinity), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Essie Davis (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries), Brendan Gleeson (Song of the Sea), and Michael Kenneth Williams (When We Rise) couldn’t help it over the top to something good.

I get the sense that Fassbender brought in his previous Macbeth collaborators to save his passion project; Kurzel to direct and Leeslie to rewrite the script. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the work by the writing team of Cooper and Collage (Allegiant, Transporter Refuled). The characters have shifting motivations and the tale has incomplete logic and massive gaps. And, frankly, no one you really care about in the story.

Generally, there isn’t enough for lovers of the game series, nor enough to bring in those that have no previous investment in that universe. That pretty much makes it a pointless couple of hours and a dead end for what should have been a solid franchise. I know a number of you will still want to ignore these comments, as I ignored other’s, and will sit down to watch it. Just remember, I tried to stop you.

Assassin

The Happiness of the Katakuris (Katakuri-ke no kôfuku)

After being pleasantly surprised by The Bird People in China, I was curious to see this other Takashi Miike directed tale. Described as “Sound of Music meets Dawn of the Dead,” how could I resist? The result, however, did not leave me intrigued me enough to continuing digging much more into his more offbeat opus. To be clear, it has nothing in common with either of those seminal films on any level, it was just empty marketing hype.

So to the movie itself. Bizarre is a kind word for this odd musical. It starts off amusingly enough, strangely, but amusingly with a claymation sequence that attempts to set the theme of what is to come. And then… well, imagine an amateur musical production of a black comedy with a cast that can neither sing nor dance. Add to this that the entire plot is really about this family coming together, except there is no sense of connectedness between them at all. It is a broad black comedy, which probably isn’t helping on that count, but neither does it succeed. On an individual level, it is supposed to be about finding happiness by, for lack of a better way to put it, playing through the pain and not getting lost in the past.

The first two thirds of the film is essentially episodic, but with little more plot than an escalating sense of the absurd. There is one truly effective sequence, also on theme, in a toxic dump that sends up echos of WWII in a funny but scathing way. I’m not entirely sure it belonged in this tale, but I think I understand why it was there.

Claymation plays into the action a few more times, usually to keep costs for f/x down (this according to Miike), and they are strangely effective. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t all come together. The film and tale just spin off into a final statement that is, again, on point, but baffling from a story point of view. None of the frames, from beginning to end, come back together; neither the opening sequence, nor the voice-over purpose of the youngest Katakuri who narrates.

I will say that the disc appears to have an excellent dubbed translation of the commentary by director Miike… though there isn’t nearly enough substance to it to make it the sole reason you watch. I turned it on to see if, maybe, perhaps, I could get some insights that would help me understand what I’d just seen. There were definitely a few clarifications, but the rest was meandering and, frankly, stuff I’d already sussed.

Miike is prolific, with over 100 films to his name. At this point, I’ll wait for explicit recommendations before I pick up others. When he delivers, he really delivers, but with that kind of output, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that at least some of them are duds. Personally, I’d skip this unless you area  Miike freak or know and like the source Korean film that it is loosely based on.

The Happiness of the Katakuris

Life

You sit there at the end of this movie stunned… at just how bad and predictable it was. It is almost as if they just gave up as they realized what they had and edited it down to something approximating a good space-horror film before sending it out into the world to survive, or not.

It starts off promisingly enough. There is some light humor (thank you Ryan Reynolds [Deadpool]) near the top that suggests a good direction. There are nods to Alien in what is probably the best shot of the film from the opening sequence; what you think are titles turn out to be something else which is then followed by the title slate which does resemble the Alien logo. They knew what they had was a copy. But still, that is no excuse to have no characters… and I mean none. Characters are indicated, clichés put in place, and dialogue spoken that suggest actual individuals exist in this movie, but they don’t.

And if they did, allow me to state unequivocally they are all too bloody stupid to live. The number of obvious dumb decisions beggars imagination. Worse, no one, other than Rebecca Ferguson (The Girl on the Train) and Olga Dihovichnaya, appear to even know the ultimate risks and protocols that they signed up for.

Life never deserved the CPR that got it to screen after bouncing around the schedule. Despite some small attempts at biology, the Reese\Wernick script is embarrassing and worries for me for Deadpool 2, which they are also writing. However it does explain why Reynolds got all the good lines.

OK, to be fair, I’ve seen way worse in theater (yes, I speak of you Resident Evil: Final Chapter), but my expectations were a bit higher. An intelligent script alone would have helped. At least the f/x were good and no one was truly bad in their roles. I trusted the cast, which also included Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals) and Hiroyuki Sanada (Mr. Holmes), and Ariyon Bakare (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell); but despite completely committing to the tale, they couldn’t Spackle-over the gaping holes and bad choices.  But that is about as much as there is to recommend here.

Skip this. Don’t even bother to rent it. I had gone knowing it was a shadow of a shade of an idea, but had no clue it was going to be so bad.

Life

Evangelion: 3.3 You Can (Not) Redo

OK, yeah, I’m done.

After 2.22 I was gritting my teeth, but wanted to finally, maybe, understand the story as it got beyond the original, epic and classic series. But while there is a bit of information and explanation, and it is just as pretty as ever, it has just gotten boring and repetitive. On top of the issues of plot, Shinji even beats out Harry Potter for whiny-ness and lack of ability to act. Sadly, unlike Potter, he doesn’t have any positive qualities that make me want to back him.

But this installment isn’t even the last… there is another (at least) to come. But, given who is left, I’ve frankly stopped caring if humanity survives… I’m not sure they should.

There are plenty of great, new anime to fill your time with; don’t waste it on this series retread. It isn’t visually enhanced so much nor that much more story that it is worth your time investment. If you haven’t seen Evangelion…then the choice is yours, but I think the original series, for all its flaws and incomplete ending, was more satisfying.

Evangelion: 3.3 You Can (Not) Redo

Resident Evil (first to last)

Resident Evil, the original from 2002, is a surprisingly robust bit of entertainment. It is well paced, has good action, unexpected moments, a bit of humor, and a reasonable mystery. It also has a surprising cast. I’ve rewatched it many times always thinking I’ll just turn it off in a minute… only to be there when the final credits roll as a devastated Racoon City fills the screen. It is both a good ride and a commentary on hubris and the rise of corporate power. Despite being drawn from a video game, it took on its own life and became a success.

That success spawned 5 more movies whose total box office exceeds one billion dollars. That amount is even more shocking if you’ve followed the franchise down the drain as each successive movie got more ridiculous and less crafted (Apocalypse, Extinction, and Afterlife). By the 5th installment, Retribution, I’m not sure I could even tell you what the story is anymore, though there were attempts at nods back to the first of the movies to try and anchor it. Those attempts don’t work. Even the two interstitial animations (Degeneration, Damnation… and a third, Vendetta, due later this year) only serve to confuse things.

The Final Chapter (let us hope so) was much delayed due to timing conflicts for our heroine. In prep for seeing it, much like for Terminator: Genisys, I tucked in to rewatch the first and most recent of the series (not really wanting to invest time for the other 3 intervening films which were likely not necessary). For Terminator, this proved a necessity and a boon. For Resident Evil…

… remember a few days ago when I up-rated Snowden because it deserved to have a higher rating for its material and intent? Well, I’m down-rating Resident Evil: The Final Chapter for the same reason…

From the top, the movie attempts to rewrite its history and ignore implications. But as if that’s not enough, the filming is horrible, making fight scenes unwatchable, and the new plot is just utterly absurd, minus one nice small bit of thinking. I only watched the whole thing because we were in a theater and not at home, where it would have either been turned off or become the butt of a very nasty drinking game of “spot the stupidity.” Or, perhaps, “act out a better fight.” Resident Evil thrived on its fight scenes in the past, despite any other lacks in the script… but this last of the franchise can’t even stay that.

So, yes, skip this… with prejudice. The series never regained its footing after the second film, which still had some good qualities. Save your time and your money, and don’t reward shoddy work and insults to the fan base. Cause I promise you, you help this earn money through tickets or rentals or by any means and you empower other filmmakers to slap you around with impunity.