Towering Potential Falls

Dark Tower

 

Stephen King is a master of many things, and Hollywood has never been afraid to capitalize on the epic tales he has crafted over the years.  This weekend his legendary Dark Tower series gets its own chance to “shine” and prove to fans that the series can continue on. Did Sony studios plan to make a “sequel” to the books thrive, or will if fall victim to the shortcuts the film industry often takes.  Robbie K here to share his thoughts on another movie.  Why don’t we get started then?

 

 

LIKES:

 

Nice Set Up:  Doing my research, I realized where the directors were planning on taking this film franchise and the books it is based on.  The Dark Tower acts as a “sequel” to the books and builds as an introduction to the series.  It sets a nice framework up for those who haven’t read the series and prepares us for an adventure that could span multiple films/shows in the future.  It has simplified the complexity of King’s work and thrown hints at how his worlds are connected, perhaps inspiring some rewatching of his classics.

 

Action Scene: Dark Tower primarily is about opening us up to a world and setting the pieces and that unfortunately doesn’t bring much action.  However, the group managed to put a dazzling piece together involving our gunslinger and a round of minions.  Idris Elba finally gets to show off his legendary skills, outside of acting, as the lone gunslinger in his quest to stop the forces of evil.  The stunts are epic, the editing is on point, and the violence is contained to not be overly gory but still strong enough to be considered action instead of a bland use of a gun.  It took the movie long enough to get to this point, but I thoroughly enjoyed the climax fight.

 

The Acting:  I’m not calling this the world’s best acting, or even Oscar Worthy on most levels, but the acting is decent in the Dark Tower.  Tom Taylor as the new kid with the shine, does a decent job playing the troubled, awkward kid and portraying that strange view of the world.  His other emotions, however, needs a little work as these come off dry, awkward, and sometimes a bit underwhelming given the circumstance.  Matthew McConaughey brings his Lexus commercial approach to the mix, the cool delivery of his lines, holding an air of superiority and malicious intent.  He has the villain role down and instills a bit of chill when he appears on the scene.  Of course, the champion of this movie is Idris himself, hitting the role with 100% accuracy.  Elba’s got the rogue part down and the edgy, loner bravado brings the bang to the proverbial gun.  And the chemistry Elba has with his cast only amps up his skills, a talent I always like to see.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Rushed:  Sure the movie made a nice framework for introducing the series to nonreaders, it failed to deliver those important details.  The Dark Tower leaves a lot questions unanswered in terms of the origins of all the pieces involved in this war.  As for the parts they do fill in, these are lacking on so many levels, lacking real depth or mystery to get you hooked into the film. Even worse, much of the quest has little in regards to obstacles, with most problems being solved with little effort.  You get to hear all about the things lying in wait, but their actual involvement in the movie is little to none.  While this not only limits the story, it also limits the special effects and creature design we could have gotten as well.  A few CGI and makeup effects stand out, but the Dark Tower’s first film is rather lackluster given the potential of King’s books.

 

Anticlimactic:  Much of the movie is rather dull, drawn out in a manner of theoretical talks of ideal brain power, anarchy, and abduction.  All the fancy words and magic didn’t help a limited dialog that can be boiled down into a single-minded set of plots that we hear over and over again.  When things finally get going, and all the hot air from the cast is lit aflame… the action barely catches light before being snuffed out.  With the exception of one scene (see likes), The Dark Tower’s gun slinging is not what I expected.  This is particular true for the final fight between antagonist and protagonist that was more lame than impressive.  All the hype and rivalry to end so abruptly, not the direction I would have taken.

 

Predictable/Lazy:  There was so much potential placed on this movie, and the trailer painted what could have been an epic adventure.  Yet, somewhere the film fell victim to cheap shortcuts, low use of nightmarish effects, and a direction that went down the wrong tangent for an opening. It felt uninspired and lazy at times, and perhaps they cut a lot of good parts to fit into the short run time.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Overall the Dark Tower is not bad when you understand the plan to expand upon in the years to come.  As a stand-alone film, it does the job of introducing characters and the world, but it failed to reel me into the full-on adventure.  With a rushed plot, easy challenges, and lazy production approach, this film is mediocre at best given the hype of everything.  Therefore, this reviewer recommends holding off seeing this film until Redbox gets it in stock.

 

My scores:

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy:  6.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

Two Thumbs Up For Two Strings

Kubo.jpg

 

Another day, another animated adventure ready to happen, and for once it is not from Disney. Hi Robbie K here, writing another review on the latest and greatest of the silver screen. The name of the movie is Kubo and the Two strings, a stop motion project that curtails to Japanese culture. It certainly promises to be a magical experience, but as always I’m here to share some thoughts on the subject. Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

  • Original and creative
  • Animation and design of the movie
  • Emotional Balance

 

With all the cartoon sequels that come out, it is sometimes hard to find a new original tale to follow. Kubo breaks the mundane of sequels with a fresh new approach that will certainly stand out amongst the ranks of CGI films. The Japanese folklore theme provided a pallet of magic, combat, and monsters that are the essential components of an adventure tale. Kubo’s land is filled with a bounty of story elements that will keep the intended young audience entertained. Both good and bad guys each have a certain edge, flare, or other characteristic that helps them stand out and all are integrated into the tale well.

And it is all animated so beautifully! Kubo’s animation and design are certainly a strong component that makes the adventure so unique. Stop motion continues to be one of my favorites, because the animators often think outside the box to bring the magic to the screen. I myself was impressed with how the world popped to life in a fantastic display of color that added to the character’s personality. In addition, the world is also designed to represent the Japanese culture, but is presented in a manner that is somewhat warped to have that spooky/gothic edge that we’ve loved (like in Coralline!) And when the spirit world denizens make an appearance, they get their own extra glaze to mirror their ambience of the Moon Kingdom. If you haven’t guessed, I really liked the animation and feel that it is certainly one of the more unique styles I’ve seen in a while.

Where the animation and antics will get younger audience members invested in the film, it is the emotional punch that will catch the adult’s eye. Kubo’s story contains the heartstring pulling, gut wrenching moments that might just bring a tear to your eye. All the character dynamics are strongly built in this movie, much of which is designed around the importance of family and friends. Sure that is typical of any movie, but in Kubo this concept is also laced with the threat of death and how quickly those things can be snatched away. When combined with the music, the character design, and the voice acting…it all comes together to really hit home.

 

DISLIKES

  • The Action Component
  • Lackluster Solutions

 

It was hard to find fault in this movie for me, but alas there are some things I felt could have been improved on. First is the action component. Yes, I am an action junky and yes I know it holds a PG rating (I’m not that dumb). Hence I will say that the action is appropriate for the intended audience with enough excitement to latch your attention, but not too much edge to cause psychological trauma. But what I wanted was for them to use their concepts more. For instance, Kubo has some pretty cool magic, but I was expecting more spectacular spells and moves from all the hype of the trailers. I was hoping for the magic to be better integrated into the combat, perhaps integrated with some sword combat to really live the battles. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case as much of Kubo’s exciting qualities were used for comedic relief. Oh well at least it was done tastefully and retained the artistic style I so loved.

As for the lackluster solutions category, this pertains to how much of the conflict was resolved in this movie. Kubo’s fights start out with edge, pick up some excitement, and then end very…abruptly. With how creative the team had been with much of this movie, I was hoping to see that design carry over. But again the underutilization of magic resulted in these kind of boring, although very emotional, fixes that were dialogue heavy. This was especially true in the final fight, where Kubo was able to make a few speeches that preached the important morals like an after school special. While very important to the story, it just wasn’t what I expected and was somewhat of a disappointing end game after all the set-up. Is this a big weakness? No, because like I said it was important and well integrated into the story and that is important to me. Still…I was hoping for more.

 

The VERDICT

Kubo of the Two Strings gets two thumbs up from this reviewer and is certainly an adventure many will enjoy. The unique design, fantastically developed characters, and bright colors are mixed together for an entertaining show with a great story to boot. Yes it lacks some of the excitement I was hoping for, but they didn’t sacrifice the story quality in their editing. Based on all these qualities, this reviewer certainly recommends dropping to the theater for this one, and may even suggest catching it in 3-D should the opportunity present itself. Recommended audiences for this film are those who have kids, appreciate fantastic animation or are young at heart.

 

My scores are:

Animation/Adventure/Family: 9.0

Movie Overall: 8.0-8.5