Film Review: The Dark Tower (2017)

Release Date: July 31st, 2017 (Museum of Modern Art premiere)
Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel
Written by: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nikolaj Arcel
Based on: The Dark Tower by Stephen King
Music by: Tom Holkenborg
Cast: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee, Jackie Earle Haley

MRC, Imagine Entertainment, Weed Road, Columbia Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“You can’t stop what’s coming. Death always wins.” – Man In Black

Idris Elba is a bad ass. Matthew McConaughey is a bad ass. Both men are also super smooth, great actors and the apple of many people’s eye. Then you have Abbey Lee, a woman I just can’t help but be mesmerized by, even if she is just emotionless window dressing in a scene. Throw in the always perfectly sinister Jackie Earle Haley and you’ve got my attention.

Unfortunately, only one word can really describe this film and that is “mundane”.

The Dark Tower was a gigantic missed opportunity. Here, you have a massive and lush universe created by Stephen King over the course of nine books. While I am not a big fan of King, I’ve heard for years that these books are some of his best work and they have become the stories that seem to be the most beloved. From what I understand, this movie was not based specifically on any one of the books but was instead a sort of sequel to them.

The film initially started out with promise but as the picture rolled on, it got worse and worse. In fact, there were some absolutely horrible creative decisions made on several levels of this film, especially if it was going the PG-13 route in an effort to capture the widest audience possible.

I don’t really know anything about the director but the execution was terrible. The acting was mostly good but suffered from the direction and often times, McConaughey’s lines came out pretty wooden. At this point, in his storied career, McConaughey is never really an issue in a movie. I have to put the blame on the director, who apparently wanted McConaughey’s Man In Black to be so cold that he was absolutely emotionless in his line delivery.

The movie introduced a lot of ideas and concepts to filmgoing audiences that might not be familiar with the books but it barely scratches the surface with any of it. There is all this cool shit happening but you never really understand or grasp any of it. The mythos needed to be better established and explained.

The whole film is setup in order to lead to the big final confrontation between the Gunslinger and the Man In Black, something I am assuming literary fans have been waiting for. What we get in the big finale is friggin’ dog shit. Just imagine a wizard versus a gun happy cowboy. The cowboy goes ape shit, blasting off dozens upon dozens of rounds and trick shots until the wizard finally gets duped and shot through the heart. Up until that point, the wizard is using rubble and glass to block shots and even catching bullets in the chaos. It just comes off as hokey and stupid and McConaughey looked baffled by the whole thing as he was doing it. Although, Idris Elba looked like a mastodon of a man as he blasted off hundreds of shots while looking stoic and cool.

I think, based off of the ending, that the film anticipates sequels. I’ll be shocked if that happens because this was a silly and disappointing train wreck.

Film Review: Interstellar (2014)

Release Date: October 26th, 2014 (TCL Chinese Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Mackenzie Foy, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, Matt Damon, Timothée Chalamet, Wes Bentley

Legendary Pictures, Syncopy, Lynda Obst Productions, Paramount Pictures, 169 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down, and worry about our place in the dirt.” – Cooper

Man, where to begin?

Let me kick this off by saying that overall I did like this film. It wasn’t this generation’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, as I had hoped and granted, those are massive shoes to fill, but this was a fairly okay effort by Christopher Nolan at trying to emulate Stanley Kubrick. And I say that because this film felt like Nolan trying to create his 2001 and his brother, who co-wrote the film, admitted to channeling 2001 while penning this story. Unfortunately, it fell short of coming close to the level of grandeur and wonder that is Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also, it falls short of what Nolan has proven his skill level is capable of.

As far as visuals and sound, this film knocks it out of the park. I deliberately didn’t see this in IMAX, as I wanted to be wowed on a regular screen because that is how the majority of eyes will see this picture and to compare it to the amazing visual effects of other films throughout history, I wanted to see it on a level playing field and not on steroids. And truthfully, I’ve come to look at the IMAX thing as a fad like 3D. Until it is the norm in every theater, it isn’t what I consider the industry standard. It’s certainly a cool experience but films that rely on it, as greatly as Nolan has been over his last few films, just tell me that they are pushing their visual style and effects over their film as a whole: sparkle over substance. And that is what this film was. I got to the point where I was like, “Fuck these bells and whistles, just show me the damn film!”

There were amazingly shot sequences that used practical effects, which gave a lot of the important visual elements a sense of realism that can’t be manufactured digitally. This didn’t feel like a cartoon like the recent Star Trek films, it felt cold, dreary and authentic. In that regard, it had the real organic and realistic soul that 2001 had in 1968.

The score to the film and the sound in general were perfect. It definitely has an Oscar-caliber vibe to it and if the film isn’t nominated for the score by Hans Zimmer and for a best sound category, that would be a pretty shitty snub by the Academy. Additionally, it definitely deserves a nomination for visual effects.

The pace and editing of the film was pretty disjointed as things would pop in and out of the film that just didn’t seem to fit or be necessary. I feel like a two hour version of this film would play much better. The time spent with Matt Damon’s character on a dangerous planet is way too drawn out.

When delving into the story of this film, it is a convoluted mess. Yes, things are pretty straightforward but there are a few minor plot twists and developments that come out of nowhere and don’t fit the overall narrative of the film. For instance, Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper has a son who, for whatever reason, is obsessed with staying on his M.I.A. father’s farm even though it is killing his wife and child. This is a bizarre side story that just doesn’t fit within the film. And after his sister burns his crops and tries to kidnap his family, after he punched her husband in the face, he just stands there like a mute retard when confronted by her babbling about her dad’s magic watch sending Morse code through space and time through the power of love. It was reminiscent of the plot to a bad 80s music video.

Another bizarre plot twist that we are introduced to is when Anne Hathaway’s character Amelia Brand uncharacteristically pushes for the explorers to use the last of their fuel to visit the planet with her former lover on it. After being a hardcore scientist and being bred for this mission, probably all of her adult life, she is willing to throw all of humanity away on her own selfish heart. This just doesn’t fit her character leading up to that point and this also leads to the film pushing the concept that love is a dimension that can transcend space, time and every other barrier. Love is a force similar to gravity. The film lost me with this mystic woo. It suddenly felt like a Manga written by a 12 year-old girl.

And speaking of mystic woo, we come to discover that getting sucked into a black hole brings a person to some weird alien-crafted maze of windows that look into Cooper’s daughter’s bedroom at different points in time. This led to Cooper reaching out through love to send messages to his daughter years prior, which earlier in the film, were dismissed as a ghost. Cooper discovers that the ghost was real and he was the ghost. Cue panic-ridden crying and yelling by McConaughey for fifteen minutes as he is stuck behind his daughter’s mystic bookshelf in the center of a black hole.

The film confusingly represents love as a force like gravity and somehow love can make a wristwatch’s second hand talk to someone in the past with Morse code.

What is somewhat irritating is that Christopher Nolan consulted with a very knowledgeable physicist on this film but the scientific accuracy was pretty shitty. What I had hoped would be a scientific film where we might encounter another intelligence beyond our scope of comprehension, was instead a fantasy film wrapped in fairy tale where the superior intelligence was just fifth dimensional human beings trying to help their own race evolve and get off of a dying planet. I’d have to write a series of blogs or a book even on the amount of paradoxes here.

In regards to the black hole sequence, Nolan used his physics expert to help him create a realistic scenario and to make the sequence visually authentic. What we got was neither. Now while the black hole looked absolutely fucking amazing and grandiose, when McConaughey flew into it, we never experienced spaghettification. Also, black holes are so powerful that even light cannot escape them, hence the name “black hole”.

As McConaughey pilots his craft into the core of the cosmic maelstrom, we can still see things and the lights inside the ship give a nice cool glow in the cockpit. Maybe it is hard to tell a visual story in darkness but I feel like a black screen with the sounds of a ship being torn apart would have been more haunting, more realistic and added more credence and authenticity. What we got was Nolan’s version of the lone astronaut entering the monolith, except this one finds himself behind his daughter’s bookshelf. It wasn’t anywhere near as cool and epic as where David Bowman went in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hell, it wasn’t even as cool as where the crew went in Disney’s 1979 film The Black Hole. At least they flew through Hell filled with evil robots.

It is worth noting that this film also borrowed from 2001 in the character of the computer/robot named TARS, who was this film’s version of HAL 9000. Except TARS didn’t kill astronauts, he just joked about it and served more of an R2-D2 role.

In the end, Matthew McConaughey’s mission is a failure, in a sense, but I guess it inspired his aging daughter to work hard on equations and save humankind from their dying world. Her work leads to humans ending up on some Saturn-orbiting space station that is a complete rip-off of the cylindrical spaceship Rama from Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama. Being that Clarke penned the original 2001 novel and all its sequels, this brings Nolan’s “borrowing” of Clarke’s ideas and concepts full circle.

What you have, in my estimation, is a good looking, often times visually amazing film, that unfortunately sells itself short by tapping into the Stanley Kubrick/Arthur C. Clarke well too often. The major difference, is that Kubrick took risks and did things that challenged filmmaking and changed it forever. Nolan played it safe and didn’t leave us with anything daring, as he seemed to be more interested in making a commercial success and an homage, as opposed to something more authentic and true to his heart. However, this is the difference between Kubrick and Nolan. One is the professor, the other is a really good student that idolizes the professor a bit too much.

Is the film worth a watch? Definitely. Is it destined to be a beloved classic? Probably to some but it lacks the depth and originality to truly make it stand on its own legs.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Nolan films that don’t feature Batman.

Film Review: Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)

Also known as: The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Release Date:
 October 7th, 1994 (limited)
Directed by: Kim Henkel
Written by: Kim Henkel
Music by: Wayne Bell, Robert Jacks
Cast: Renée Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey, Marilyn Burns (cameo)

Genre Pictures, Return Productions, Ultra Muchos Productions, Columbia Pictures, Cinépix Film Properties, 94 Minutes (original cut), 87 Minutes (re-release)

texas_chainsaw_massacre_next_generationReview:

This is the fourth and worst installment in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. The reboot after this was a big step-up.

I rewatched this and the third film Leatherface for the first time in over a decade. Leatherface was really bad, this is worse. To be honest, it isn’t as bad as I remembered it but that is only because it has a few positives that none of the other films have. The main thing is Matthew McConaughey.

You can never accuse McConaughey of not giving 100 percent to a role. He played his part here, at about 150 percent. He was turned up past maximum volume and it was extraordinary. Sure, his material, his dialogue and his character were a ridiculous mash-up of awful but he shined with absolute insanity. I love McConaughey in this role and he owned it like no other previous psycho in this franchise.

Well, there actually isn’t another positive. McConaughey was just so good it is the equivalent to three positives.

So what’s bad? Quick answer: everything else. Long answer: initiate rant paragraph. Go!

The film starts with an animated logo that is pixelated and a credits sequence that has unintentional optical glitches. The dialogue was some of the worst I have ever heard and I watch a ton of Mystery Science Theater 3000 reruns. Some of the scenes made absolutely no sense… actually, all of the scenes. No, really… all of them. The acting, apart from McConaughey, was so bad that “atrocious” can’t quite define it. Renée Zellweger is the star of this but she just couldn’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit, especially with McConaughey’s mojo cruising through outer space. The conspiracy theory plot twist was one of the dumbest things I have ever seen play out on film. Leatherface was just a cross-dressing, wailing banshee that didn’t do a damn thing except scream the entire picture. The two other psychos were so uninteresting and unintelligible that they are only memorable because I just watched this. But the worst thing was Matthew McConaughey’s robot leg and how Renée Zellweger immobilized him with a television remote… a television remote! And then he is murdered by a low flying secret society airplane propeller that chops through his head. Then you find out that all along, all this Texas Chainsaw Massacre stuff was some sinister government plot to scare people so much that they had a “spiritual experience” before dying. None of it makes any fucking sense. None. And this was written and directed by one half of the creative team behind the original movie! So it is canon, right? Right?!

Rant paragraph over.

This film is so bad that even McConaughey’s complete awesomeness still puts this behind Leatherface. If you get this far into the Texas Chainsaw Massacre film series, you must be a glutton for punishment like I am. Or you were the kid who burnt their hand on the stove even though your mother told you it was hot. Or maybe you are just curious and want to see the greatest Oscar caliber performance in one of the worst motion pictures of all-time.

I don’t think words can really illustrate the experience that is Texas Chainsaw Masscare: The Next Generation. But words can’t really illustrate the feeling of being shot, you kind of just have to jump in front of the bullet.