THE DARK TOWER REVIEW

The DULL Tower?

With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only the last Gunslinger Roland Dechain (Idris Elba) can defend the Tower from Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey), the Man in Black.

BE WARNED. I’ve never read the Stephen King novels so do NOT murder me for saying that I found this quite watchable. From the scathing ratings on Metacritic, I expected something so much worse.

BUT I’m sure if one of my favourite franchises that span SEVEN books was dumbed down and condensed into a 90 minute film, I might feel completely differently.

The strange opening certainly got things going with the credits explaining about a dark tower protecting the universe from darkness and some guff about only the mind of a child bringing it down.

Cue kids strapped in machines and some weird rodent creatures disguising themselves as humans (No wonder this had a 12A rating). Dark BUT engaging as the film flicked back and forth between “worlds” from Roland’s civil war stand-off to Jake’s apocalyptic nightmares.

I thought Tom Taylor played the role of Jake quite well. I couldn’t stand him in BBC’s Doctor Foster. Bullied at school, plagued by visions of the Man in Black. Paranoia or something more?

Matthew McConaughey lapped it up as Walter O’Dim. What a name! About as bad as his hair: “You will lose that power you have to resist my magics”. Waving his hand around like a Jedi and dispensing commands: “Hate, kill each other, stop breathing”. Creepy.

The pace didn’t really mess about. It jumped from one scene to the next establishing Walter and Roland’s rivalry as well as Jake being the key to  . . . everything. Snore.

It took a good half hour before Elba’s gunslinger (Steady now) was brought into the fold properly. A man hell bent on vengeance. Elba bossed it and worked worked well with Taylor to make that inevitable pairing much more bearable.

The special effects were quite impressive and Rasmus Videbaek’s cinematography was brilliant. Aided by another stellar score from Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road).

The main issue I had with The Dark Tower was that it felt a little too rushed. All that build up and promise for a mad dash finale that didn’t seem to leave much open. If there was supposed to be more sequels . . .

I had so many questions: “What was the deal with the rat things? Was it all magic and sorcery? Why alternate dimensions/realities?”. It took me an hour to realise that there were different versions of Earth. One still dormant in the 18th Century with futuristic gizmos apparently? Wild Wild West, this ain’t.

I was a little disappointed that McConaughey and Elba spent so much of the movie apart. When they were on screen together, it was gold.

Roland’s encounters with “the Earth people” were quite entertaining; “You have forgotten the faces of your fathers”, he solemnly declares to some drunk ladies on a bus as they try to chat him up.

If anything, I wanted more. 90 minutes wasn’t enough and it didn’t make full use of the supporting cast. You had Watchmen‘s Jackie Earle Haley playing such a measly role. BUT not as disappointing as Katheryn Winnick’s role.

You had Lagertha from Vikings at your disposal. Why give her such a weak part? Don’t get me wrong, there was enough emphatic exchanges between her and Taylor to make you feel for the mother and son. BUT again . . . it was NOT enough.

The action sequences were entertaining. I just wish there was a little more inventive gun play.

Considering this was the last Gunslinger who reloads quicker than the human eye, he still seemed a little laboured shooting from the hip . . . No, sorry. The heart. How did that annoying chant go?

There are blockbusters that push for the 120-150 minute mark when they really shouldn’t (*Cough* Transformers *Cough*) BUT I would have been happy to explore this universe a little more.

Shame. And that was someone who didn’t read the books.

DT offered action and entertainment to kill the time BUT it felt like it was afraid to take a chance and flesh out the stories involved.

2.5/5

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*NEW* IT REVIEW *NEW*

IT didn’t do much for me.

The highest grossing horror movie in box office history? Really?

A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting demon, taking the appearance of a clown (Bill Skarsgard), begins hunting children.

For all the hype, I expected something more. Not to say, I didn’t enjoy it.

BUT a horror movie is supposed to scare you, right? Unsettle you, creep you out. Stick in the back of your mind days after viewing. No?

As a kid, I was always creeped out by Tim Curry’s Pennywise. Perhaps if I watched the 1990 TV mini-series now, I’ll probably laugh my arse off.

BUT it didn’t matter how demented Skarsgard’s Pennywise looked, he just did nothing for me.

Now don’t get me wrong. It was very watchable.

The creepy opening sequence was brilliantly executed. Benjamin Wallfisch’s haunting score. That little yellow rain coat. The familiar feeling of unease rising as Georgie’s boat was engulfed by that infamous sewer drain.

Skarsgard was an excellent Pennyise. He delivered a stellar turn as the iconic movie clown. The make-up and special effects were deliciously gruesome and gory.

In all fairness, I couldn’t fault any of the cast. They were all perfectly chosen for the roles.

Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) was on scene stealing form at every opportunity as Richie. Throwing in the odd quip or funny insult.

Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special) played Bill very well. Nailed the stammer (I don’t know if commending a speech impediment is a great line but you get what I mean, right?).

Jeremy Ray Taylor was very good as Ben, the new kid on the block (Yeah, I meant that reference IT fans). Jack Dylan Grazer was comical as the hypochondriac Eddie. BUT what do you expect with an overbearing mother like that? Sheesh. No spoilers.

The tension was built up perfectly in every scene and actually avoided going for the cheap scare. Unlike the majority of new horror movies or “found footage flicks” of late.

I loved the Stand By Me melancholy. The coming of age tale subtly composed against the darker murder mystery.

Pennywise’s appearance only scraping the surface of this seemingly idyllic town as the kids faced demented bloodthirsty bullies, lecherous pharmacists and freaky apparitions.

The grief theme was delicately handled with Bill. His parents nothing more than depressed shells. Zombies unaware of the horrors that dwell in the sewers.

Nicholas Hamilton (Captain Fantastic) was savage as the head bully Henry Bowers. He unsettled me more than Pennywise. That kid was messed up.

I did like how Pennywise attacked the gang by playing on their worst fears. The diseased leper and headless corpse apparitions were grotesque enough. And a highly unsavoury encounter between Beverly (Sophia Lillis) and her father left me on tenterhooks.

BUT the pace was a bit slow for my liking. There was a lot more humour than I expected. Sometimes a little too much that it killed the atmosphere. Sorry, I like my horrors dark.

I know they’re teenagers but the rock throwing altercation with the bullies with the overbearing 80s jams was a little silly.

If I’m honest, I found my patience running thin, the more Pennywise appeared. The running and screaming got on my nerves. I would have punched that clown in the face. Seriously. Beastly teeth or otherwise.

I don’t think it helped that I find clowns funny. So when Pennywise was delivering his freaky dance in one “creepy” scene, I was in stitches. A moment that has sparked endless (and hilarious) memes.

I mean, come on!

I didn’t jump. All the build up with no payoff. Maybe I was more inclined for the “cheap jump” trick than I thought. I just wasn’t on the edge of my seat or hiding behind my hands.

I felt Chosen Jacobs’ Mike and Wyatt Oleff’s Stanley got lost in the mix. Especially when Bill, Beverly and Ben’s love triangle came into play. BUT with such a mad bunch of eclectic characters, it was due to happen. Shame.

Maybe I expected too much from the hype.

My main qualm (and I know this has bugged people) was that it didn’t creep me out. Normally after I watch a horror movie, I go home and dread turning the lights on. None of that. If it weren’t for this review, I might have already forgot about IT.

Everything floats. Well, so did my interest.

IT wasn’t bad by any means.

IT created tension, delivered characters with depth and told an actual story but the pace tested and it just didn’t scare or unsettle me. The purpose of a horror film.

3/5

*NEW* INDIGNATION REVIEW *NEW*

indignation

A stellar turn from Lerman and good chemistry makes this uneven coming of age drama one to watch.

In 1951, Marcus (Logan Lerman), a working-class Jewish student from New Jersey, attends a small Ohio college, where he struggles with sexual repression and cultural disaffection, amid the ongoing Korean War.

I’m not familiar with Philip Roth’s works so I can’t make comparisons on the film’s adaptation of his 29th novel BUT it was a well acted, if tragically patchy affair.

This was a perfect transition for the Percy Jackson star. Proving that he will be one to watch in the future. I know some of you will be more familiar with Lerman in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (A film I have yet to watch) BUT I felt his character was too passive to make an impression in Fury.

However, he was a charismatic lead that carried the story when the pace tragically dragged. Context is crucial when approaching this piece. The backdrop of the Korean War became a tipping point for a clash in values and (most importantly) beliefs.

We follow Marcus as he escapes the call to war and the overbearing shadow of his overanxious father (Danny Burstein – Boardwalk Empire). A man troubled by the turn in tide and loss of life.

I did find myself fidgeting a little through all the intellectual academia anecdotes as Marcus tries to shy away from his heritage. BUT by doing so; he is soon under the watchful eye of a prospective Jewish fraternity and designated to a dorm with the only Jews on campus. Well, according to his high strung room mate Bertram Flusser anyway.

Ben Rosenfield (Irrational Man) was highly entertaining as Flusser. Outspoken and he doesn’t care who knows. Blaring classical music to the masses and sharing his views whether you want to hear them or NOT.

“There were no girls like Olivia Hutton back in Newark”.

BUT beneath all the (endless) Bertrand Russell (A renowned social critic. Yeah. I had to do some research after viewing) quotations and heated societal debates, there was still a boy meets girl love story at its core.

The lovely Sarah Gadon (Stephen King’s 11.22.63) delivered an engaging performance as the mysterious Olivia. The girl that would trigger Marcus’ sexual awakening in an age of repression. A much needed presence.

The pair had great chemistry and I was happy to persevere as their romance blossomed. Her upfront approach in sex was a complete culture shock for the timid Marcus. Putting it down to her parents’ divorce.

However as we got to watch their relationship grow, the pair soon opened up and we got a better insight into Olivia’s past. Punished with a “reputation” for her promiscuity. A reputation that threatened to cause a rift between Marcus’ friends and family.

Tracey Letts (Homeland) was excellent as the scrupulous Dean Caudwell. His casual conversations nothing more than preaching. Enforcing his values on Marcus. Believing the boy to have “lost his way”. Interrogating him on the exact details of his familiarity with Olivia and even his own beliefs.

Right down to why he didn’t put down on his application that his father was a kosher butcher? A ploy to hide his religion? Every question suggesting an ulterior motive. Making assumptions about the headstrong protagonist. The heated exchanges were quite riveting to watch and really showed Lerman’s potential with James Schamus’ dialogue coming to life.

Indignation certainly made an interesting contrast to the present day. Religion, divorce and sexual expression are still rife BUT have thankfully shown a lot more progression and acceptance compared to the fifties.

BUT it was all a little too “talky talky” for my liking. The premise felt like something more suitable for a TV movie or (even better) as a theatrical performance.

It didn’t help that when things seemed to reach boiling point with Marcus having to make a decision, it ended so abruptly and on such a bleak note that I was left feeling a little disappointed.

Despite some great performances from some underrated actors, I fear this arduous affair may get lost in the ranks.

2.5/5

*NEW* GOOSEBUMPS REVIEW *NEW*

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Black is back!

Corny, frantic BUT highly watchable.

A teenager (Dylan Minnette – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) teams up with the daughter (Odeya Rush – The Giver) of young adult horror author R. L. Stine (Jack Black – School of Rock) after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.

The opening 20 minutes was easy going enough as Minnette’s Zach moved to a new town and (even worse) a new school. And if that wasn’t bad enough. His own mother (Amy Ryan – Birdman) is the new vice principal! I liked the dynamic between Ryan and Minnette. It was a little disappointing to see that thrown out of the window for a cheesy little romance subplot between Zach and the mysterious girl next door Hannah (Rush).

Don’t get me wrong, the pair had good chemistry BUT it was all a little too schmaltzy for my liking. Thankfully it wasn’t too long before the obsessive Stine (Black) made his introduction. Welcome back, Mr Black. As soon as the big man kept randomly popping up at windows and fences, threatening Zach at every opportunity to stay away from Hannah, I was entertained.

It was a different side to Black. More subdued and obnoxious. Not quite as loud or in your face. BUT still on scene stealing form. He has been missed. And with Kung Fu Panda 3 fighting its way at the box office, we will be spoiled.

“If there’s danger, I will run the other way”. Ryan Lee (Super 8) was brilliant as social misfit Champ.

For fans of the real Goosebump books, all the little references were there. The whole magic spiel was a different take. Every creation Stine ever wrote coming to life. All the silly creatures that used to frighten you as a little ‘un (and may still do) were all there.

Slappy the dummy was the one that always freaked me out. And lo and behold, guess who made a special appearance? Black provides his sinister voice-over skills to bring the terrifying toy to life. Slappy’s movie makeover wasn’t quite as spine-tingling as his TV series counterpart. BUT I’ll let you be the judge.

1-goosebumps-slappy  slappy-goosebumps-dummy

Shudder. Moving on . . .

The special effects were actually quite good. The 3D gimmick wasn’t missed so save your pennies. I couldn’t really pick any moments that would have better with it. The effects weren’t too cartoony BUT this is a kid’s film, let’s not forget. Can’t creep em out too much now. That’s not to say there weren’t a few jumpy bits that might have got the best of yours truly (What?).

The adorable BUT highly violent garden gnomes suggested a darker undertone and gave me that old Gremlins nostalgia as the gang fought wave after wave of them in the kitchen.

It was silly, a little cheesy BUT good fun as our dysfunctional heroes try to get every creature back in their paperback prisons. The endless statistics that Black spewed up about Stine’s career were all true. Believe me, I checked. Selling more novels than Stephen King?! A passing cameo delivering the perfect punch line.

BUT that’s not to say it was perfect. Just like Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Paper Towns, Halston Sage was type cast (yet again) as another high school damsel in distress. Anyone could have played her and, by the end, you realized how unnecessary her character really was.

Amy Ryan was cast aside and reduced to nothing more than a naff running joke with her character avoiding the awkward advances of Ken Marino’s (We’re The Millers) high school coach. Unfunny and a real waste of another actress.

My main issue however, was despite this being a mad little movie; it felt rushed. Not enough of Stine’s ghastly ghouls were brought into the mix. Too many of them were quickly thrown in at the last minute that you couldn’t tell what was what.

It just seemed to push for a frantic finale after all that build up. Veep’s Timothy Simons was heavily underused as dimwitted Officer Stevens. More gags could have made with the guy. He had me in stitches in the two scenes he was lucky to feature in.

BUT grumbling aside, coming from a GB fan, this was a silly little blast from the past. It wasn’t perfect (and didn’t quite top the iconic TV series that ruined my childhood) BUT I could think of worst things to kill the time with the little ‘uns.

3/5 (Just)