MMT Quick Review of THE DARK TOWER by contributor Darryl King

Adaptation can be the finest form of flattery, but if you are not careful, it can also provide the shackles that bound up your artistic freedom. The “Dark Tower” is the latest Stephen King novel to adorn the silver screen.

The “Dark Tower” is an 8-part book series that extracts from different types of genres to formulate a special universe made of up multiple worlds with one basic connection, a dark tower. As the center piece of this universe, the tower was created to keep evil/darkness from reigning over the universe. If it were to fall, darkness would prevail.

Well darkness does fall, as the “Dark Tower” as a film doesn’t measure up to the literary works and comes short of becoming a good movie. With great actors and an incredible mythos, the “Dark Tower” had all the ingredients, but doesn’t develop or fully explore the symbolism and back story that made these books so beloved.

When it was announced that the “Dark Tower” run time was only 90 minutes, the prevailing thought was that there would be some narrative left on the cutting room floor – which was the case, as if the movie was afraid to delve deeper into the concepts of Mid-World.

Or maybe Nikolaj Arcel (Director/Writer) was handcuffed with how much he could adapt the story, and hampered with outdated themes. Because in a world filled incredible sci-fi films and special effects movie wonderment, believing that a western gunslinger hero could defeat a mystical demon with just bullets doesn’t easily render within modern imaginations.

The “Dark Tower” as a movie is a very basic story revolving around 3 characters – the retired good guy, the wicked evil guy, and a young protagonist. The acting in this movie is pretty good with Idris Elba as Roland Deschain aka the “Gunslinger”, Matthew McConaughey as Walter O’ Dim aka the “Man In Black”, and Jake Chambers played by Tom Taylor, but they are let down by the lack of connective tissue given for the worlds they inhabit.

The best parts of the movie reside within the first act, which introduces the strange world of the Mid-World. I wish that we had spent more time exploring the history of the Gunslingers, why they are revered and what makes Gunslinger Deschain special.

And what about the mystery of the Man In Black… how did he get his power and/or come into power.? Is he from the evil that lurks beyond the universe? And if so, is he powerful or just a conduit for that evil?

And lastly, where did the tower come from, and how could it protect the universe? Is it just a unit/tower or is it sentient, questions that would have made a great movie with an ability to franchise the answers.

The second act proceeds to leave the mystical Mid-World and travel to Earth to showcase the impact the battle for the Dark Tower has upon modern-day.  The perception is that Earth will connect the audience to this unique story, but it changes the movie from a fantasy/sci-fi film to a fish out of water story. While different, this film bogs down and then lacks focus.

Finally, we are led into the final act, which was a commonly rehashed and conveniently driven exposition of good miraculously defeating evil. This ending is a disservice to the mysteries of the fantasy and undermines the acting performances that are forced into a happy ending.

In the end, the “Dark Tower” doesn’t fully disappoint, as the acting and the slight exposure to a compelling narrative is engaging, but the film will have you desiring more without wanting another movie to fill in those gaps. As the viewer, you won’t care whether the Tower falls and that is why the movie fails…so I guess here comes the darkness.

Darryl King is a video director, film writer and avid Marvel/DC comic book/movie lover. Checkout his reviews of  Spider-man: Homecoming, Baby Driver, and Wonder Woman right here on MMT.

 

MMT Quick Review: SING (with junior contributor Jayla)

SING

The Voice meets dramedy meets CG animation is a great and brief way to describe SING – the latest feature from Illumination Entertainment (The Secret Life of Pets, Minions, Despicable Me). Illumination has already proven that they can churn out hits, and “Sing” has all the makings of one – including great songs, clever characters, and animation that pops and engages – but how does it fair?

“Sing” tells the story of koala Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), who’s in dire straits but is the proud owner (for the time being) of a famed theater. Desperate to raise funds and save the theater, Moon comes up with an elaborate singing competition idea. Enter a cute cast of animal characters played by several Hollywood heavyweights, including Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, and newer A-listers like Taron Egerton and Leslie Jones and the story becomes one comedic and emotional rollercoaster.

And it’s the latter descriptors that give me pause – as there are some heavy themes in “Sing” and I question if it’s as appropriate for the littlest of folk. The characters not only deal with financial crises, but there are family woes, criminal relatives – not to mention a hustler contestant – and relationship issues that are displayed – and that’s fine for older kids and adults, but our littlest contributor, Miss Jayla the 4-year-old, zoned out about midway through the film. I believe some of the concepts were a bit too weighty and she was anticipating a quicker resolution.

Unfortunately, she checked out before the big finale – which is very well-done and as uplifting as the audience needed it to be, especially after experiencing a disaster scene…but no spoilers so I’ll leave it there! And, unlike when she really enjoys a film, Jayla has not requested or watched YouTube clips for SING. I guess me and her mother had a better time with this one at the theater (there is a nod to Beyonce’s “Becky with the good hair” lyric that almost took me out!).

I also really enjoyed the performances – to me the standouts were Tori Kelly’s cover of “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing,” by Stevie Wonder, and Taron Egerton’s cover of the Elton John hit “I’m Still Standing.” And Jennifer Hudson as retired opera star Nana Noodleman – and Ariana Grande and Wonder singing during the end credits – gives the film a star power bonus.

Speaking of Stevie Wonder, the soundtrack song he wrote “Faith,” was recently nominated for a Golden Globe! (Check out the video below)

One thing that I didn’t enjoy or find funny was a singing group, composed of foxes I believe, that appeared to be some type of comic relief during the audition/rehearsal scenes. Problem is, the characters were Asian, speaking a language clearly not understood by, and in turn they didn’t understand, Buster Moon – leading to a very disappointing joke. It’s 2016 Hollywood, why aren’t we pass this? Do better.

So what’s the take away? SING has some extremely funny moments, a couple of disappointing ones, and is filled with great songs and performances. It’s an animated film opening during the holidays, so I’m sure it will do quite well. I wouldn’t recommend for the under 6 yrs crowd, but certainly 7+ yrs possess the patience and inquisitiveness to follow the story well.

Stop back and share a comment or two when you see it, and the giveaway winners from last night’s screening should really feel free to chime in!

Until next thought, Thomasena

SING opens in theaters nationwide on December 21.

Jayla (pic 3)Jayla is MMT’s kid contributor, and Thomasena’s self-described “littlest Gemini bestie.” Her favorite colors are purple and pink, and she enjoys Minnie Mouse and Snoopy.

 

MMT Recommends: SING Saturday – Free Screening Thanksgiving Weekend (nationwide)

Sing Saturday

Following the release of this summer’s animated hit The Secret Life of Pets, Illumination presents SING this holiday season and, in partnership with AMC Theaters, is giving you the chance to screen it Thanksgiving weekend for free!

Set in a world like ours but entirely inhabited by animals, “Sing” stars Buster Moon (McConaughey), a dapper koala who presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times.  Buster is an eternal—some might even say delusional—optimist who loves his theater above all and will do anything to preserve it.  Now faced with the crumbling of his life’s ambition, he has one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

The film stars Academy Award® winners Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon, alongside Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Grammy Award-nominated Tori Kelly, Leslie Jones, and Jay Pharoah.

Tickets for “SING Saturday” screenings are available on a first-come, first-served basis to the first 200 moviegoers in line at participating AMC Theatres on Saturday, November 26 (10 a.m. local time). Visit SingSaturday.com to find a list of participating theaters and sing your way to theaters this Thanksgiving weekend!

You can watch the trailer and read the full synopsis below, and get additional info about the film at the official website here. SING opens nationwide on December 21.

Don’t let fear stop you from doing the thing you love.

See SING in theaters December 21.

Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | #SingMovie

SING synopsis

Set in a world like ours but entirely inhabited by animals, Sing stars Buster Moon (McConaughey), a dapper koala who presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times.  Buster is an eternal—some might even say delusional—optimist who loves his theater above all and will do anything to preserve it.  Now faced with the crumbling of his life’s ambition, he has one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

Five lead contestants emerge: Mike (MacFarlane), a mouse who croons as smoothly as he cons; Meena (Kelly), a timid teenage elephant with an enormous case of stage fright; Rosita (Witherspoon), an overtaxed mother run ragged tending a litter of 25 piglets; Johnny (Egerton), a young gangster gorilla looking to break free of his family’s felonies; and Ash (Johansson), a punk-rock porcupine struggling to shed her arrogant boyfriend and go solo.

Each arrives under Buster’s marquee believing that this is their shot to change the course of their life.  And as Buster coaches each of his contestants closer and closer to the grand finale, he starts to learn that maybe the theater isn’t the only thing that is in need of saving.

Genre: Animated Feature

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll, Beck Bennett, Nick Offerman, Jennifer Saunders, Garth Jennings,Peter Serafinowicz, Leslie Jones, Jay Pharoah

Written and Directed by: Garth Jennings

Produced by: Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy

 

 

 

 

MMT Quick Review of FREE STATE OF JONES

Free State of Jones

I screened FREE STATE OF JONES last Thursday night, and really debated with myself if I would share a review or not. It wasn’t that I felt the film, which was released nationwide in theaters on Friday, was bad. However, I do have some reservations about my judgement due to the content and theme of the film, and the timing of its release prior to the Sundance hit THE BIRTH OF A NATION – which will portray the true story of real life African-American slave/preacher/activist/martyr/hero Nat Turner on the big screen.

In “Free State of Jones,” Matthew McConaughey plays Newt Knight, a Mississippi farmer who, after losing his teen nephew in a battle and realizing the poor are fighting a “rich man’s war,” leads white farmers and runaway slaves in a revolt against the confederacy during the Civil War.

Academy award-nominated writer/director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games, Big) heavily weaves a story that puts on display Knight’s civil rights efforts, his falling in love and taking as common law wife a slave named Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and even introduces (somewhat awkwardly about a quarter of the way through the film) an alternate storyline, which finds his great-grandson embroiled in a 1948 court battle and accused of committing miscegenation (marriage of two people from different backgrounds, in this case black and white).

McConaughey, Mbatha-Raw, and several of the rebels – especially Mahershala Ali as escaped slave Moses – give outstanding performances, despite the fact that it felt like the movie was inserting every piece of information Ross located about Knight’s actions after the war – which made it drag like an after-school special that should have been two parts instead of one.

Add that to the fact that I’d already felt like this was just another version of the white hero saves the day story, which seems to have no problem getting greenlit in Hollywood, and it certainly didn’t help my skepticism – or the fact that I admittedly checked my watch at least three times during the 2:19 minute run.

With all that said, the fight scenes were compelling, and I appreciate that, in his storytelling, Ross didn’t omit that it would not have been paradise amongst the rebels – where including slaves was concerned. Again not a bad film, just one I would have preferred to watch in the comfort of my home versus the theater.

But Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” on the other hand…I’m just saying, there with bells on.

That’s my take, but you know the drill – would certainly appreciate hearing yours in the comments!

Until next thought, Thomasena