live-action

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!

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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!

Sean Bailey talks ‘Beauty & the Beast’ prequel & remaking more Disney classics

bbDisney’s live-action remake of Beauty & the Beast clawed through box office expectations this past weekend, bringing in more than $170 million domestically (the sixth best opening weekend ever). It should come as no surprise then that Disney is looking for ways to capitalize on this success.

You can find the specific tallies of this weekend's box office along with our analysis here.

During an interview with Deadline, Walt Disney Studios’ President of Production Sean Bailey disclosed that they’re already considering a possible prequel or spinoff for the tale as old as time. Deadline also reports that there are no plans to do a sequel, suggesting the studio learned their lesion with Alice Through the Looking Glass.

That said, Disney does not feel pressured to franchise their ‘Beauty’ anytime soon. As it is, the plan is to keep on with live-action adaptations of “classic [Disney] properties.” Bailey took this statement a bit further, saying no 2D animated film is off limits if a filmmaker can find a way in. Bailey did make it clear though that what is off limits are the post-2000’s CGI 3D films from both Pixar and Disney Animation. Of course, this could (and probably will) change once the Mouse House runs out of remake fuel.

Until then, we can look forward to years of live-action remakes of our favorite childhood Disney films. And if they’re all as good as Beauty & the Beast, I’m fine with that (click here for our full review of Beauty & the Beast).

Which Beauty & the Beast spinoff film would you like to see? Or would you rather not see one? Let us know in the comments below!

Beauty & the Beast (2017)- Review

Director: Bill Condon

Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor

Synopsis: An adaptation of the Disney fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love (Source: IMDb). 

Rating: PG

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Another year, another live-action adaptation of a beloved Disney classic. Trust me, it’s more fun than it sounds. These Disney reimagining’s have, for the most part, excelled in the expectations department (with the exception of Maleficent). This reviewer would even go so far as to make the argument that last year’s The Jungle Book (directed by Jon Favreau) was one of the best films of 2016. Now, in 2017, we get Beauty and the Beast and though I have my doubts it will make many top ten lists come the end of the year, it’s still a strong retread.

It’s a tale as old as time (you knew that was coming) so by now you probably know how it goes. Belle (played by the ever-endearing Emma Watson) is a small town farm girl with big-time aspirations, like seeing the world and teaching other girls to read. These aspirations make her an outcast in the eyes of the townsfolk who simply want to keep the status quo. Emma Watson brilliantly maintains Belle’s rebellious edge as well as her quiet dignity. She doesn’t take crap from anyone but she’s also the nicest person you’ll ever meet.

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One stormy day, on an annual run to the market outside town, Belle’s father Maurice (Kevin Kline) is ambushed by wolves. He narrowly escapes with his life before taking shelter inside a long-forgotten castle tucked away deep in the wilderness. Kline subtly draws sympathy for Maurice. In addition to being taken hostage by the castle’s furry tenant, Maurice also lost the love of his life years ago and there’s a sense of “damaged goods” about him.

Dan Stevens as the Beast is equal parts terrifying and tenderhearted. It’s easy to see why someone like Maurice or the townsfolk would fear him: they don’t truly know him. Alas, that’s the moral of the tale so it’s fitting that, after Belle winds up a prisoner herself after arriving to free her father, the best parts of the film revolve around her and the Beast getting to know each other.

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Between the grandiose (and sometimes over-inflated) musical numbers, Director Bill Condon allows the scenes between Watson and Stevens to breathe and thus the intimacy of their performances takes over. This is where the pieces of their relationship start coming together: their similar sense of humor, their shared interest in literature, and equal intelligence. After a short while, it became clear that these two were meant for each other.

I found myself giddily smiling along as their romance bloomed. More importantly, I shed tears as they wept for each other in the third act. Their relationship was legitimately earned through time well spent. In fact, when Belle had to leave the castle in order to once again save her father (redundant, I know), the Beast’s rendition of “Evermore” (one of the new songs written especially for this adaptation) was a highlight for me.

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I haven’t even mentioned the colorful supporting cast yet. Most prevalent is Luke Evans, who perfectly portrays the cartoonish narcissism of Gaston as he tirelessly throws himself at Belle, even if Evans occasionally over blows the role. Josh Gad gleefully fills the britches of LeFou, Gaston’s loyal and sarcastic sidekick. Though not always the most likable characters, the pair provides a lot of the comic relief and star in some of the more memorable moments in the movie.

And though the castle is cold and dark, it too is full of personalities. Whether it’s Ewan McGregor as the flamboyant Lumiere, Sir Ian McKellen as the grouchy Cogsworth, or Emma Thompson as the cheery Mrs. Potts, everyone is a delight. They bring life to their otherwise lifeless surroundings, especially when it’s time to put on a show.

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The costume and set departments also deserve shout-outs. Though the practical stuff sometimes awkwardly clashes with the digital stuff, the world of this Beauty and the Beast is undeniably stunning and intimately detailed.

The more I think about this movie, the more I like it and the less its faults bother me. I will mention, however, that the last bit of dialogue between Belle and the prince felt out of place and left much to be desired. But after wiping that small bit of unpleasantness from my mind, I found a new love for this story.

Grade: A-

Beauty and the Beast is now playing in a theater near you.

Warner Bros. postpones ‘Aquaman’ to December 2018

Well it looks like Aquaman is diving deeper into 2018. Warner Bros. made the announcement Thursday that the James Wan seafaring superhero venture starring Jason Momoa has been pushed back two months, from October 5, 2018 to December 21, 2018.

This move doesn’t come as a huge surprise, however. Recently Disney and Lucasfilm announced that the second Star Wars spin-off film (centered around a young Han Solo) will be released May 25, 2018 and not inside the December window, which they have dominated since The Force Awakens. The opportunity to swoop in and claim a spot within the coveted holiday time frame must have been too tempting for W.B. to pass up.

This now means that Aquaman will be squaring off against Sony’s animated Spider-Man movie featuring Miles Morales. Originally, it was set to compete with Fede Alvarez’s next film The Girl in the Spider’s Web (also a Sony property).

Of course fans won’t have to wait until then to see the King of Atlantis in action. They can wet their appetites (Ha! Get it?) with Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which is slated for release November 17th, 2017.

Aquaman is directed by James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring) and also stars Nicole Kidman, Amber Heard, and Patrick Wilson.

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