adaptation

Review: ‘The Dark Tower’ flimsily stands atop solid foundation

Hollywood has been looking to Stephen King for adaptable source material for decades now. Some projects have become classic works of cinema, such as The Shawshank Redemption or The Shining. Others have been cast aside and forgotten like many of the restless spirits in King’s works.

Despite widely varying results, there is an obvious hunger for seeing King’s nightmarish imagination play out on the silver screen. Still, many have opted out of adapting The Dark Tower series, which is largely considered King’s magnum opus.

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Fast forward to 2017. Not only do we have a live-action retelling of Stephen King’s iconic novel, but it features two of the biggest stars on the planet in Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. And while the collision of so much talent may seem like the cosmic workings of a greater power (a turtle, perhaps?), I’m afraid this iteration of The Dark Tower is doomed to the limbo of forgotten Stephen King movies.

That isn’t to say The Dark Tower is an outright mess. It isn’t. It’s actually pretty fun throughout thanks to occasional flashes of inspired world building and a strong outing by Elba as the heralded gunslinger, the last in a long line of badass cowboys who guard The Dark Tower from forces that would do it harm.

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Matthew McConaughey’s Man in Black is one of those forces. He’s a powerful sorcerer who causes people to stop breathing or hate their own mother (no, really) by simply waving his hand. However, the Man in Black does more damage to the actual movie he’s in than anything.

Whereas the gunslinger seeks revenge for the death of those closest to him, no such motivation is given to the Man in Black. He wants to raise The Dark Tower and destroy the universe because he’s evil and that’s the type of thing evil characters in these types of stories do. It comes off as if no attention was spared to his development. Not even the Academy Award winning  McConaughey sparks any excitement from the one note writing. He delivers each eye-rolling line with spectacular boredom.

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But the Man in Black is only one convention inside an overly conventional film. Oozing from the mind of Stephen King, The Dark Tower movie should at least feel like a singular experience. Nobody tells the types of stories he tells and his creative influences are felt even during the most lackluster of his adaptations.

I knew where this movie was headed the moment Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) had his doodling pad ripped from his hands by the school bully, right down to the laughable final showdown. And I was right. You don’t have to possess any Shine to be able to predict each next step in this fantastical journey.

Grade: C+

What did you all think about The Dark Tower? Did you have fun with it? And what did you think about Matthew McConaughey in this role? Let us know in the comments section below!

Ghost in the Shell (2017)- Review

Director: Rupert Sanders

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt

Synopsis: In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world's most dangerous criminals (source: IMDb). 

Rating: PG-13

There’s more tension surrounding the live-action Ghost in the Shell than there is in the actual movie. In fact, a documentary centered on the film’s impenetrable marketing, controversial casting, and box office bombing would probably make for a more compelling narrative.

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To his credit, Director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) has adapted the surface world of the Ghost in the Shell anime into live-action with hair-raising accuracy. His film is gorgeous, glossing intricately detailed sets with cyber punk aesthetics for a neo-noir varnish. It’s as if Sanders scanned the pages of the anime directly onto the screen.

That said, the film is more shell than ghost. The profound source material has been stripped of its less conventional elements in favor of a final product that’s much more agreeable by Hollywood’s standards, which in this day and age equates to a superhero origin story minus the exhilarating fight choreography and exuberance that comes with discovering you have superpowers. Instead, there is an abundance of somber dialogue accompanied by long, gloomy gazes out windows.

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Thankfully, the talented cast does what it can to carry the slack of the lackluster action and dull, repetitive themes. Controversy aside, Johansson delivers a solid performance as Major. I (mostly) bought into her two most prominent relationships. And living up to his nickname, Japanese star “Beat” Takeshi Kitano highlights the film with a couple of legitimate badass beat downs.

Still, if you’re watching Ghost in the Shell and you get the feeling you’ve been here before, don’t worry. It’s not a glitch in the Matrix. It’s just your inner moviegoer telling you you’ve seen this all before in better movies.

Grade: C

What did you think about the new Ghost in the Shell flick? How did you feel about the casting? And who wants to make that documentary? Let us know in the comments below!