Posts Tagged ‘idris elba

08
Aug
17

Movie Review: All Reviews Lead to the ‘Tower…’

Starring Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Jackie Earle Haley, and Tom Taylor.

Directed by Nicolaj Arcel

Every now and then you have to divorce what you know of the source material from the movie that you are watching. “Total Recall?” Not incredibly difficult. “Minority Report?” The movie fares better than original story. “I Am Legend?” Aside from the first part of the novel it’s fairly divorced. Like the movies of old where a director (like, say, Hitchcock) would by a novel just on its premise, not bother reading it, hand it off to the screenwriter to churn out a screenplay, then release the movie as a “based on the book by…” ‘The Dark Tower’ does that but goes about an extra half-mile. To sum it up: imagine having a friend take notes on the ‘Dark Tower’ series of novels. Then, you hand those notes to another friend who wants to answer the question, “What would this be about told from a supporting character’s point of view?” That would be the basis of this film.

If you have not read the novels, the movie isn’t entirely to be missed; it does have some entertainment value and it wasn’t done badly. If you have read the novel and its series, then this may reaffirm your fears. NOTE: I will try my best to “divorce” myself from the book series as much as possible in this review.

Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a kid growing up in modern day New York City. His father was a firefighter who was killed on the job and he’s being raised by his mother and stepfather, both of whom are somewhat concerned about Jake’s current preoccupation: a giant Tower. A Man In Black (who isn’t Johnny Cash). A Gunslinger. Jake sketches and draws these dreams and visions that he’s been having for the past year. But what do they all mean?

Cut to a place called Mid-World. It’s a place that is part fog-covered forest, part desert, and part-wasteland (there’s an abandoned amusement park with overgrowth). Wandering this expanse is the Gunslinger (Elba) who is looking for vengeance for the death of his father (Dennis Haysbert) who was killed by Walter O’Dim, aka the Man In Black. Walter O’Dim is a sorcerer with tech-assist – he can transport himself anywhere, make people obey his commands, and see everything that’s going on except he has no sway over the Tower. The Tower is a hulking monolith with multiple wires that protects all the “good” in the Universe. It is said that it can be torn apart by the mind of a child which brings us to Walter’s preoccupation of using children’s “shine” (read: psychic powers) to assault the Tower with their energy. Shots are fired but nothing can seemingly take it down.

Via a homeless guy Jake finds out he may just be the kid that can accomplish that. Following failed meetings with a psychiatrist (Jose Zuniga) Jake’s parents are planning on sending him away to a place where he can be CAT-scanned, interviewed, tested, etc. only problem is that the ones wanting to take him are “skins” – mutants from Mid-World sent by Walter himself to find the one kid that can help destroy the Tower and bring a fiery destruction to not just our world, but all worlds. Chasing his “dreams” (and evading the “skins”) Jake finds a house that has a portal straight into Mid-World. Jake steps through, wanders the vast nothingness, then happens upon the Gunslinger.

What follows is essentially the structure of “man on a vengeance” meets “the kid who is The One.” This, ultimately, is what undoes the movie for us die-hard Tower junkies. Those wanting a movie about Roland Deschain are left with the scraps that they gave Elba to play. Don’t get me wrong – Elba did a way better job than I imagined he would but they kept his character in a box only to be used in event that Jake needed help. If you’ve read any of the series you know that it’s not about Jake, but Roland. Try imagine a Batman movie centered on Robin and you’d get the picture. McConaughey shines as the Man in Black/Walter O’Dim however the character in the book was more about treachery, illusion, and trickery than being technologically savvy, using kidnapped children’s psychic powers to destroy the Tower.

Therein lies the problem with the film – what audience should it have catered to? With a more massive following among Tower junkies this film comes up way short. Sure, there are references to “Christine,” and other horror novels King has done as well as the number 19, the Ka-tet symbol, “All Hail the Crimson King,” the “skins,” etc. Again, it’s like someone wanted to throw the entire book series into a blender and make the best of what was poured out first.

When I heard about this film being done, first with J.J. Abrams then with Ron Howard, I was onboard. Seeing what they’ve done to it… I don’t know if I can forgive them of it. There are multiple movies that can be made from the series, for sure, but boiling down the main story from elements in the series (the house in “The Drawing of the Three,” sketching from “The Dark Tower” itself, the black crystal ball from “Wizard and Glass,” etc.) this isn’t even a “greatest hits” of themes from the Tower series, just laziness structured into a “child who is the One who can save us all” story arc. If I were Roland, I would give up on Walter and seek vengeance on that.

My grade: (all things considered) C

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15
Jul
09

Movies on DVD Review: The Unborn

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There should be a law against making a horror movie this boring.

Starring Odette Yustman, Gary Oldman, Meagan Good, Idris Elba, and Carla Gugino. Directed by David S. Goyer

The story: Caey Beldon (Yustman) is going for her daily run when she spots a missing glove on the pavement. She picks it up and suddenly sees a kid, who then turns into a dog with a mask of a human face on which runs into the woods. She follows it and discovers a baby fetus buried in the dirt. Bad visions, right?

Cut to Casey talking with her friend Romy (Good) about dreams. Not a lot of information there. We, the audience, come to find that Casey’s mom (Gugino) committed suicide at a local mental hospital. Aside from that we find out that she goes to college (studying what, we never know) and has a boyfriend named Mark (Cam Gigandet). More and more she’s confronted by the spirit of a dead boy, but what does it mean?

Her life is further complicated when she develops a condition in which her eyes start changing color. Afterwards she finds out that she had a twin brother who died during childbirth because the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, suffocating him.

With a lot of pouting, walking around, more pouting, and more walking around, Casey digs through a box of her mother’s belongings and finds 16mm film of the mental hospital (why would someone keep that?) and a newspaper clipping about a woman who had escaped Auschwitz.

More walking and pouting as she goes to the old folks home and meets Sofi Kozma (Jane Alexander). Sofi talks with her a little bit but when shown a picture that includes the dead boy in it, she freaks and sends Casey away. Casey is surprised (as we all are) when Sofi gives a call back to Casey at midnight and invites her back to talk with her. We now learn about the dead boy: he was Sofi’s brother. It seems that he and Sofi were twins experimented on by the Nazis during WWII. Sofi’s brother died but then became possessed by a demon that tries to use twins to come into our world. “What is a twin but a reflection…?” Sofi asks (or a convenient plot device?) Sofi encourages her to find Rabbi Sendak. Another plot point: Sofi is Casey’s grandmother (which is interesting seeing as Casey’s mother was supposedly adopted. Funny how those coincidences occur…)

Casey confronts Sendak (read: more pouting) and asks him to perform an exorcism from an ancient book she stole from the library. Sendak (Oldman) has never performed an exorcism before and wants some time to think about it. The slow plodding of everything pisses off the demon who tries ramping-up the tension by killing Sofi by inhabiting the paralyzed senior resident Eli (which is the ONLY scary moment in the entire film). Then, the demon possesses a small kid who kills Romy.

Casey, Mark, and Sendak meet at a basketball court where Sendak says he’ll do an exorcism (read: “Yeah, I’m cashing a check here but I really am tired of your pouting and walking around.”) He recruits Arthur Wyndham (Elba), a man on the faith whose take on exorcisms is “non-denominational.” They, along with a crew including an EMT, travel to the mental hospital (the place where the evil is greatly concentrated) and perform an exorcism on Casey. The demon exacts his wrath and kills those without a name, limited screen time, or limited use (guess who’s left alive?)

And why, oh why, did Casey have to go through this? In one of those “Shamma-Lamma-Ding-Dong” movie twists… she’s pregnant with twins! Oh no!

The worst thing about this move (if you can get past the story/plot) is that as I’ve said earlier, it’s BORING. It’s like someone copied down the recipe for making a horror film but forget the most important ingredient of all: details. The detail of Casey being pregnant would have worked better at the beginning of the movie instead of the end, where no one really cared. In fact the movie lacks any emotional depth aside from Yustman’s constant crying. But overall, I just didn’t care nor did I find it all that scary.

And while I’m ripping into it, what was the deal with the slow-panning aerial view shots? We’re shown an aerial view of Casey’s house (insert audio BOOM), the retirement place (BOOM), the mental hospital (BOOM). Evidently evil likes heights and having its own sound effect.

Boring. Not scary. Completely B.S.

My grade: D- (It would be an F, but there’s plenty o’ Yustman walking around in undies footage)