Dark Tower Review

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Time for a very traditional action film. By that, I mean that this film basically checks off all of the boxes that you would expect for an action movie but it doesn’t really do anything original. It’s a reasonably good film, but one that does have some issues. You can see how it likely cuts out a bunch from the book as they don’t explain much. I’m fine with no explanations as it’s fun just filling in the blanks on your own and finding out fun facts on Reddit. The main character is annoying though and Elba’s character probably should have been the lead without a sidekick. Lets take a step back and look at the plot real quick.

A kid named Jake has been able to see into another world lately. He can sort of see the future, past, and alternate realities. Unfortunately he’s not wise enough to keep this to himself and gets so obsessive about it that everyone starts to believe he is crazy. So when the aliens actually do come in to take Jake down for the count, nobody believes him. He manages to escape to the other world where he meets a traveling hunter named Roland who wants to destroy this guy named Walter who murdered all of his friends. Roland doesn’t want to make any friends, but Jake was never going to give him an option anyway so it is what it is.

The other world is basically just a large desert planet so there isn’t much to look at. The film is visually uninteresting so the best scenes are when they head back to Earth. Any scene with the kid and his parents is annoying, but the characters wandering around and eating hot dogs is a little more passable. The film doesn’t have a whole lot of humor as you may expect but when it does you just want Jake to stop talking and overreacting.

As you can probably tell I didn’t like Jake right from the start. It’s pretty common for the young protagonist to let everyone know that he has hallucinations and as a result nobody trusts him. It just seems like Jake should have taken a hint early on that nobody else was seeing these things or noticing that the world was going to end. It’s not like Jake even knew this either. All he knew was that he was having strange dreams and should have thought of a plan himself. Keep acting normal and play the game until he gets a better hand. Then Jake is just a liability throughout the adventure even after meeting up with Roland. He tries to guilt trip Roland and just doesn’t seem like the kind of companion you want on your team. My review may be a little rough on the poor kid, but I think he just wasn’t ready for this level of combat. It’s like I always say, the kids should stay at home while the grownups handle the fight.

Roland is a decent main character but he does come off as rather generic. I can roll with him deciding to take down Walter as a last act of revenge considering that saving the world is pretty out of the question at this point. The problem is, you can take him about as seriously as Drax The Destroyer since it would be an extremely simple matter for Walter to defeat him. Walter has advanced telekinesis at his disposal. While his mind games don’t work on Roland, he still has many ways to destroy him. Roland is fighting a hopeless battle in which he is greatly outnumbered. Naturally you want to put the hero in a bad spot for most situations, but once it gets too absurd you can only try to predict what form of plot hax will help him out.

Walter is the big villain and the only other character of real importance here. He’s a pretty charismatic guy and probably the most interesting character here. He has a pretty solid plan and came close to destroying everything. While he needs to learn how to play the match ups a little better and camp more against someone with a gun, he seems reasonably intelligent. You always want to have a good villain to make a film more exciting so having him here was definitely a smart move. There are other supporting villains, but they are really just here to reinforce Walter’s image. We do get a giant monster, but considering it wasn’t bulletproof you knew who the victor was ultimately going to be.

The film can be rather dark as the villains have already captured most of the kids and use them to destroy the tower. Fortunately the film doesn’t overdo it in focusing on this angle. You get the feeling that this movie exists in a universe that is surrounded by a lot of dark elements but keep those in the books. We get the atmosphere which is the important part. It’s not a fun movie by any stretch and it’s serious throughout, but at least we don’t get much forced comedy or subplots. As I mentioned, the supporting characters never get to do much so the screen time is always with the leads. The pacing is fairly quick and the film never drags on. While the ending is rather sad, the characters don’t dwell on it and are actually really happy all things considered. It’s likely their way of coping which makes sense.

If you do like the supporting characters then you should prepare yourself. The film is rather mean spirited towards anyone who hangs around the main characters. That’s actually a bit of a trope you’ll notice after a while. If you help the main character then you’ve likely just triggered a bunch of death flags. They can’t be bothered to come back and save you so it’s definitely Game Over at that point. They at least helped out in the long run so that’s good.

Overall, There’s not much reason to watch The Dark Tower. There’s no one area that you can point to and explain why it did this well. It doesn’t do anything particularly well, but I suppose it doesn’t do anything particularly bad either. It’s just an average action film and one that will hold your attention well enough after you finish it. It didn’t really leave much of an impression on me, but I wouldn’t mind a sequel I suppose. Just give the heroes some power ups so they’re not just random people with guns. It’ll make the fight scenes against super powered villains a little more believable. If you’ve run out of fantasy films and want to see another one then this is a reasonable film to pick up. Who knows, maybe you’ll enjoy this new world.

Overall 6/10

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The Running Man Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would likely be more negative.
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I wasn’t too familiar with The Running Man, but the plot definitely sounded like a lot of fun. A corrupt dystopian world has come up with a reality show where assassins chase convicts around. Seems messed up enough for this future. Then throwing in Arnold Schwarzenegger into the picture just makes the whole thing that much more epic. I can safely say that the film was pretty fun and is one that you won’t want to miss.

Ben used to work for the government, but when he defied their orders to murder a bunch of innocents, he was sent to prison. He helps some other convicts escape and decides that instead of trying to beat the system, he’ll simply find a way to survive it. He breaks into his friend’s home, but it is now owned by a lady named Amber. She doesn’t take kindly to being threatened so she gets the cops to lock Ben up. He is now going to be forced to be in The Running Man, where he will have to outrun several hunters who are each armed with deadly weapons. His two expendable “friends” (They aren’t, but the show thinks that they are so why not let them believe that right?) have also been thrown in though along with Amber. Can Ben take these guys down and figure out a way to shut the show down or is it simply too late for any last second heroics?

One thing you’ll notice about the film right away is that the soundtrack is on point. There are quite a lot of fun themes that play during the film and it certainly amplifies the experience. A good film gets that much better with a dynamic soundtrack and they really make the action scenes come alive. The visuals also look pretty good. Considering how old the film is, the effects have aged pretty well and I like how they envisioned 2017 to be. The city looks realistic enough even if it’s not quite so run down. I imagine that this film must have gotten a pretty decent budget back in the day.

The characters are also solid. Ben makes for a great lead. He’s heroic and dependable. Sure, he’s not quite willing to risk his life to join the rebellion at the beginning, but he doesn’t turn his back on others once he is forced into the game. He also doesn’t murder the villains once they are unarmed. If it’s the fastest way then he won’t hesitate to do so, but he won’t go out of his way just for revenge….for the most part. Ben’s a strong fighter and the heroes would have been doomed without his military expertise. I have to say that he pulled off the role quite perfectly as few actors can be as convincing.

The main villain, Killian is also pretty good. He knows how to work the crowd and does a good job of building up the suspense. He doesn’t even let Ben get to him as he knows that this will bring the ratings up. He talks a good game to everyone and while he is a ruthless boss, you’ll be okay as long as you stay on his good side. Mop the floors at your own peril since it can certainly get you into heaps of trouble. The sub villains were all right as well. The only bad one is Dynamo as he fulfills every overweight villain cliche in the book. He’s awful petty and also isn’t much of a fighter. Once you get past the suit, he’s the kind of villain who begs for mercy. The others at least had more dignity than that. Chainsaw put up a good fight before going down and I also liked Sub Zero. It was an interesting take on the guy compared to the Mortal Kombat version. Not as deadly, but fun all the same. The Fire villain was also pretty good since he got quite a bit of foreshadowing and hype. He probably should have moved a bit quicker though. Captain Freedom probably had the most personality from the minions and I like how he simply refused to get into the ring. Nobody was about to talk back to him.

Amber isn’t the best of heroines. She spends most of the film running and panicking. You have to give her some credit for getting away from Ben though. If you put yourself in her shoes, she totally did the right thing. Kidnappers always tell you stuff like “Don’t try to escape” and make a bunch of threats to keep you in line. She took a big risk by making a break for it and yelling and it paid off. While it didn’t work out well for Ben, at least she made a move. Too bad she couldn’t keep up that confidence for the rest of the film right.

If I had a minor nitpick for the film, it’s that the costume in the poster doesn’t really match the one in the film. At the very least I don’t recall the spikes being quite so big. It’s not really a negative just something that I noticed. The film’s camera work is pretty good. Sometimes it can be a little tough to see what’s going on in the background with the low lighting, but I feel like that was made to capture that CSI Miami kind of atmosphere as everything is a little grittier and more life like. Fortunately it was just in the camera work as the actual film isn’t really gritty at all. Some characters get stabbed and such, but at least in the version that I saw it wasn’t explicit or anything.

There is some unfortunate fanservice as we get a really long dance sequence. I suppose it’s a parody to the fact that if society did go downhill we’d be seeing that in every show. It’s fortunately not a huge deal though. The ending to the film is also pretty funny. I was personally expecting it to go down a slightly different path as the guy in the tube lands safely but then sees Captain Freedom and has to try and escape from him. How it was handled worked well enough as well though.

The writing is pretty solid with classic lines like “I’ll be back” and more than a few one liners from Ben. I love puns and one liners as you may know from my comic reviews and the film pulls it off well. It’s just another drop in the bucket to help this film reach “great” status. The climax is also pretty great even aside from the ending. The banter between Ben and Killian was really good and I liked seeing the heroes finally infiltrate the TV station. They were pretty well organized and it added some extra action and excitement to the ending. Even Amber got to win a fight on her own. The film carefully balanced the epic and funny moments with the serious atmosphere.

Overall, The Running Man is just a fun film. It really breezes by to be honest and the pacing was on point. It never dragged on and still managed to bring in a lot of content. We got to see Ben before the game, during it, and even become a resistance fighter afterwards. None of the pieces felt rushed either and it shows that you can still pull off quite a lot in under 2 hours. I certainly recommend watching this film. It’s not quite as well known as it could have been. It has all of the elements that you could want in a big action film.

Overall 8/10

Firestarter Review

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Note that this review is of the edited TV 14 version. All thoughts below pertain to this specific version as a review of the original would likely be more negative.

I’m sure that we’re all familiar with Stephen King. His books are definitely popular and he has written a ton of them. They’re about as mainstream as you can get for older fiction and many of his titles have naturally gotten films and miniseries. Firestarter came out quite a long time ago so we’ll see if the story is as chilling and action packed as it used to be back in the day. I can say that the sound effects really hold up!

“mm mm mm mm” is a sound that you’ll never forget after watching this film! Well, the plot involves Andy McGee and his daughter Charlene as they try to evade the cops. ….Just kidding, these guys are actually from “The Shop,” but they are just as deadly. Andy possesses telepathy and some brief telekinesis or the technology equivalent while Charlene has advanced pyrotechnic abilities. Charlene is said to have the power to blow up an entire planet (Once she’s older) and Andy can definitely become a threat depending on who he comes into contact with. The Shop must recapture these individuals and use their abilities to create more meta humans and take down America’s enemies. All in a day’s work eh!?

The film definitely feels dated for some of the scenes, but I’m always ready for a retro adventure. The feel of the film also tips you off that it’s aiming at older audiences with the few death scenes that we get. The film actually isn’t very violent considering, but the guy who starts to blow up at the hospital and the wife’s demise keeps things in perspective. Most of the other deaths happen with special effects thanks to the fire that is being thrown around.

The fire effects are pretty fun to watch and you’ll feel like you’re watching a TV show with super humans. No matter how old or new the show is, live action episodes tend to be fighting on the same level so a fire blast in the 80’s from Charlene can hold up just as well as a fire blast from a villain in Agents of Shield or The Flash. It’s a good or bad thing for the medium depending on how you look at it, I enjoy the effects so I’d say that it’s pretty good and fire is one of the basic elements so it’s natural that it would be perfected fairly early in TV history.

The fight scene with Charlene at the end it pretty intense since we’ve been waiting for her to fight! The action scene is longer than I would have guessed and it’s also more impressive than I could have thought as well. Bullets definitely aren’t a good bet against her and Charlene is basically invincible at this point. The only thing that she has to worry about is the time that it takes for her to power up.

Charlene is about as decent as a kid can be, but I still don’t really care for protagonists that are kids. It works better in anime I’d say. In a film, it’s just hard to take a child seriously and Charlene is also very gullible when the situation starts to get dangerous. I felt bad for Andy because if the powers had been reversed, things could have been a lot different. Charlene’s powers are incredible, but then she decides to never use them against someone again….during a moment where the situation is even more dangerous than usual. It’s good not to destroy someone of course, but she should still use scare tactics and hurl fireballs to keep the enemies guessing.

Andy is a pretty decent main character although he doesn’t think things through as much as he should. His final scene comes to mind as a number of other commands would have been more effective than “Jump.” “Drop The Gun, Give Me The Gun, Throw The Gun, Shoot…..all of your bullets away,” etc. Beyond that, it’s hard not to like Andy when you consider his power. It’s very catchy since he basically says “mm mm mm mm” directly into your mind as he overcomes it. It was likely a directorial choice to add the sound effect, but maybe they asked Mr. King about it. Either way, it made his power a lot more interesting since that was a lot of fun. Andy definitely could have trained a little more though. He really scrunches up his face whenever he uses the ability so you can tell that he can’t keep it up for very long. (I felt bad for the Cab Driver since he’s going to go home a lot poorer than he thought!) Andy’s original scene in the hospital is super cheesy, but I’ll let it slide this time. He’s definitely a product of the 70’s/80’s and he’s got the accent to top it all off. He’s better than your average protagonist. Thinking about it….Andy may just not be hero material. After someone shoots Charlene with a sleeping dart…he doesn’t move away and Andy lets the guy shoot him as well. His reflexes are very slow.

John Rainbird is one of the main villains and he can definitely hurt the overall score. I dare say that he ended up bringing the score down from a 4-5 to 3 in the end. His scenes as he pretends to be a janitor are pretty painful to watch and you’re just waiting for him to take a loss the whole time. Again, Charlene was way too gullible here. John also has some mild resistance to the telepathy, which was disappointing, but it was partially Andy’s fault. John doesn’t have any redeemable qualities as a villain and he just pulled the film down.

The heroes get driven to a house by a nice resident at one point and I liked the guy. He was pretty sharp on the uptake and he was ready to defend the heroes. He was skeptical at first, but I would have been as well. The important thing is that he ultimately decided to help out and show the heroes what a true gunman is. He may have been knocked out of the fight pretty quickly, but the important thing is that he really tried.

Hollister could be called the main villain I suppose. He seems to be the highest ranking villain at “The Shop” and his ambitions are pretty great. He starts to play second fiddle towards the end though and he’s intimidated by John’s threats. He’s a much better villain than John, but I still can’t say that he was great. His plan was risky from the get go and he didn’t handle the Charlene situation very well. At least he takes a good amount of time out of his day to work on his haircut. It’s a start. We also have a doctor who is introduced at one point, but his most memorable scene is when he’s driving away on his trolley as he continues to look back to where Charlene is. It wasn’t his best move!

There isn’t really much of a soundtrack aside from the “mm mm mm mm” noises during the telepathy sessions. The effects are good though so that helps out as well. I don’t think it will end up being a terribly memorable film, but it was worth the trek. One final thing that reminds you that this is more of a retro film is one of the decisions that the villains make. As Charlene is blowing up a bunch of cars…a few of the men run towards one. This would prove to be their final mistake as it ended up exploding, but you have to wonder what they were thinking. They were seriously outgunned.

I do have to give the film a big thumbs up for one scene. Towards the end of the film, everything is burning so we think that the horses may be toast. Luckily, Charlene saves them and the camera makes sure to show you that they got away safely. It was a classy move on the film’s part and it shows that you can definitely avoid animal violence if you really want too. That was definitely a solid move.

Overall, Firestarter is an intriguing film. I dare say that it feels like an old school slasher during some parts of the film and more like a slice of life in others. The two main characters aren’t bad, but the villains range from slightly under average to terrible. The guy with the shotgun was pretty great although it was sad that he couldn’t do a little better in the gunfight. This is the film for you if you want a Supernatural type of adventure with escaped convicts and action. Still, you’ll have more fun watching DBZ Cooler’s Revenge if you want a story of a Saiyan overcoming hardship as he shows the world that he is more than human. As a sidenote, it’s interesting to wonder how Charlene would fair against the Avengers from the 2012 film. We can assume that a fireball would likely crush Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Captain America. Iron Man’s armor has been shown to be weak against fire and Thor had to dodge machine gun fire so I’m not sure how he would fair. Hulk could end up being the final obstacle and then it all depends on how long Charlene can evade him. Given time, I believe that she could defeat him as well. Still, I guess I would side with the Avengers if they all fought against her at once. (This is assuming that she is already in her awakened state of course, so no charge up is necessary)

Overall 3/10