36. The Meddler

The Meddler

I had very little of an idea of what to expect out of The Meddler.  I chose to see it as part of my 2016 March to 100 because of the solid reviews, Rose Byrne, and J.K. Simmons (have you seen Whiplash?  If not, see Whiplash right now and get owned by J.K. Simmons.).

That’s not a knock on Susan Sarandon.  I’ve always appreciated and respected her work and contributions to entertainment.  Her heyday was just a little before my time, though, so I didn’t experience her career as it unfolded.

That being said, a lot is asked of her in The Meddler and she knocks it out of the park.  The entire film (expertly directed and written by Lorene Scafaria in her sophomore outing as a film director) is similar to a home cooked feast full of comfort food where everything is excellent but it just wouldn’t work without the perfect main course that works well with every other dish.  Susan Sarandon is that main course.

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve seen every Susan Sarandon project.  There are more that I haven’t seen than I have.  Not by design; it’s just hard to watch all of the old stuff when you’re also trying to watch all of the new.  But she delivers on a level that I didn’t expect and nails a performance that demands comedic chops, heart-wrenching drama, and everything in between.

Sarandon plays Marnie, a recently widowed mother to Rose Byrne’s Lori.  In addition to recently having lost her father, Lori is also just out of a long-term relationship.  The two of them must figure out how to go on with their lives and how to do it together, even though they each remind the other of the giant hole that has recently surfaced in their respective lives.  In those situations, some people run to family and others run away.  What happens when only two people are left and they’re one of each type?

Well, lots of things.  This is the type of movie that I put into a self-invented “Life” genre.  It has comedy, it has drama, it has ups and downs . . . just like a normal day in most anyone’s life.  I love that as I have always felt that those types of films feel the most genuine and, as a result, play better to audiences.

Along the way, even though this film is largely marketed as a comedy, we get a more serious Rose Byrne than we’ve seen lately in films like Neighbors and Spy.  On one hand, that’s a shame because she’s so great at comedy.  But, truth be told, Lori whipping out zingers would have felt inappropriate and insincere and I applaud Byrne for not allowing herself to fall into a rut.  She has three films in theaters, right now (this along with X-Men: Apocalypse and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising), and all three films are different from the others as are all three of her characters.  She’s a very versatile actress and I’m glad to see her so successful.  In this particular film, look for the “You have a friend!” scene.  It’s a rare moment of lightness for her character and is both perfectly timed and executed by Byrne and Sarandon.  It was my favorite scene in the film.

The bottom line is that The Meddler is a charming, sincere, and heartfelt reminder that nothing is more important than family.  I know some people who need to see this movie badly.  I know they won’t.  But maybe someone else who needs to will and they’ll be inspired to pick up a phone, patch up some differences, and get their priorities straight.  Life is short.  Love your family.  And set aside 100 minutes of it for The Meddler, too.

36. The Meddler

35. Love & Friendship

Love & Friendship

I think my favorite vampire in all of fiction is Kate Beckinsale’s Selene from the Underworld series.  (My favorite vampire in all of real life is Rupert Murdoch.)  I like to pretend that Kate Beckinsale is always playing Selene.  In movies without Underworld in the title, I just think that she’s undercover for some reason that doesn’t really matter because Kate Beckinsale and that she might just suddenly rip off someone’s arm and use it to play polo with their head.  And even if that doesn’t happen on screen, it happens in my head, so it’s all good.

That didn’t happen in Love & Friendship.

The film adapts Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan, a flirtatious debutante who wreaks havoc everywhere she goes (Beckinsale).  As she goes about her troublemaking, she is surrounded by a colorful cast of characters, most memorably her American co-conspirator Alicia (Chloe Sevigny), Susan’s eligible daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark), lovable doofus Sir James (Tom Bennett, who steals every scene in which he appears), and the man in the middle of it all Reginald (Xavier Samuel).

While the film is undeniably well-crafted and -executed, there’s also little denying that it’s designed for a niche audience.  The writing is sharp and witty, but the film is entirely dialogue.  “Walking and talking” is how I’ve seen it described.  That’s not any sort of knock or criticism; today’s audiences just have such short attention spans that I can imagine it being a struggle for much of the general movie-going crowd.  Heck, I have a fantastic attention span and it was a challenge for me, here and there.  Keep in mind that this is a Victorian era period piece and every effort was made (and successfully so) to replicate it authentically.

For anyone who loves that time period and/or Jane Austen, I feel confident that they would wholeheartedly enjoy Love & Friendship.  While I didn’t find it as uproarious as the marketing states, I was generally amused and even laughed a number of times.  The pace slacks a time or two, but it mostly flows pretty well and clocks in at a brisk 90+ minutes.  The characters are all believable with understandable motivations to their actions and are well-represented by the entire cast.

And to top it off, Kate Beckinsale still plays a fantastic blood-sucking vixen, even if it’s only in the metaphorical sense, this time out.

Even if I don’t feel like Love & Friendship is quite strong enough to justify its 99% Rotten Tomatoes score (and a Rotten Tomatoes column might be worth typing up in the near future), it still serves as a nice change of pace and a reminder that every film is ultimately rooted in story and character while everything else is the proverbial icing on top.

35. Love & Friendship

34. Alice Through the Looking Glass

alice-through-the-looking-glass

Johnny Depp kind of annoys the crap out of me.  I don’t think he’s untalented.  I don’t think he’s a bad person.  I don’t hate him or wish him ill will.  But I think he has come to rely more on over-the-top zaniness than actual acting.  He can act.  He just chooses not to, more often than not, nowadays.  And it has nothing to do with his role selection.  It’s possible to take these big, fun roles and still act.  But he instead just acts as silly as possible and cashes the checks.

It’s our fault, really.  We rewarded him so handsomely for his portrayal of Jack Sparrow that he quickly understood that he doesn’t need to do much of anything else.  And in the grand scheme of life, it doesn’t matter too much.  Let the guy make his money.  But it bothers me when others who are putting more work and effort into their performance are overshadowed by his schtick.

Others like Mia Wasikowska.  I wasn’t crazy about Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and it was mostly due to the overemphasis on Depp’s Mad Hatter.  The Hatter has never been more than a strong supporting player in Alice’s stories.  Until Burton cast Depp.  And then he’s the star.  It’s Alice’s tale; let her shine.

So, despite switching out Tim Burton as director for James Bobin, I was under no assumptions that  this particular telling of Alice would be any different.  Why should it be?  The first film made over $1 billion (yep.  See for yourself!).  Still, I’ve always been a fan of Alice’s adventures, starting with the animated Disney feature, through reading Lewis Carroll’s books, and then watching various other live-action adaptations throughout the years (Sammy Davis, Jr., as the Caterpillar, anyone?  Right?  I liked that one.)  As always, I sat down hopeful.  Especially since my last post so hurt my heart to write.

It turns out that my fears weren’t entirely warranted.  I was relieved to see, as the story unfolds, that Alice takes the spotlight, front and center.  Yes, the story is propelled forward by the Hatter, but Depp steps to the side and allows Wasikowska to take the lead and the vast majority of the screen time.

Equally surprising is that Through the Looking Glass is more fun, more entertaining, more unpredictable, and much better paced than Burton’s initial installment.  Even better, the story is tighter, smoother, and more complex.  What I especially loved is that there are no true heroes or villains.  The protagonists make mistakes.  The antagonists are justified in their actions or – if not their actions – their feelings.  It breaks from a formula that is so common it’s just become expected in virtually every film.  I found that refreshing.

Also refreshing is the look of the film.  Every single art department earns three times whatever they were actually paid.  All of the designs – set, character, costume – are almost overwhelmingly gorgeous.  Throw in excellent set decoration to top it off and we have the nicest looking film I’ve seen in a long time.  Due to logistical and travel reasons, I saw this in regular 3D rather than IMAX 3D and I regret it.  If you see this film (which I ultimately recommend you do), see it in IMAX 3D if it’s at all plausible for you to do so.  When it hits blu-ray, I’m not sure if I’ll buy the 3D in order to fully immerse myself again or the 4K (if Disney is supporting it by then).  Both will be astounding.

Can I mention Anne Hathaway?  Well, it’s my column, so I’ve decided I’m going to mention Anne Hathaway.  In this particular role, she isn’t pushed very hard.  She does what she needs to and she does it well.  In general, though, she rocks it every time out.  But, apparently, we’re supposed to hate her.  Shut up.  Go away.  She’s fantastic.  As I said, she isn’t challenged in Through the Looking Glass as she has a relatively small and easy role.  But when she is challenged, she delivers.  And while so many bandwagoners go on and on about Heath Ledger’s Joker (which was great.  I’m not saying it’s not.  Take your troll comments elsewhere.), I’m over here pointing out that Hathaway completely took over The Dark Knight Rises and stole that film as Catwoman.  She WAS Catwoman and that is my favorite live-action portrayal of any DC Comics character, to this day.  So leave her alone.  She hasn’t done anything to anybody.

So, after last night’s huge disappointment, today I got a pleasant surprise from Alice Through the Looking Glass.  I will unquestionably watch this film more often than the original.  Injected with an energy and inventiveness that was painfully lacking from Tim Burton’s original, Through the Looking Glass is a fast, fun, light adventure with heart and depth, all while being enjoyable by any person of any age.  I can’t ask for more from a big-budget summer blockbuster.  I hope you see it!  (And I hope you see it in IMAX!)

34. Alice Through the Looking Glass

33.  X-Men: Apocalypse


Being the comic book aficionado that I am, I generally try (and succeed) to remain positive going into each new adaptation that hits theaters.  With X-Men: Apocalypse, though, I went it with some trepidation.

While they have performed better with Marvel adaptations – at least critically, if not financially – than Sony, Fox’s efforts have been slightly underwhelming as a whole, in recent years.  I absolutely loved both X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine.  But since then, I’ve typically felt satiated but not blown away.  Days of Future Past was good but lacked a lot of excitement and originality in its action set pieces.  The obvious exception to that was the Quicksilver scene.  That scene was great but was also shoehorned in to try to stick it to Marvel Studios.  I also found the movie version of Quicksilver to be unfaithful to the spirit of his comic book progenitor.  Also, Kitty Pryde suddenly had new, inexplicable powers and got the narrative shaft in favor of Wolverine.  Blink was frickin’ sweet, though!

Deadpool was a riot and a blast but lacked a lot of heart.  The cast was low-budget, as well, and it spent a lot of time trying to convince itself and the audience that this was Deadpool from the comics.  Fun, yes.  But it had very little to say or to sink one’s teeth into beyond the laughs.  So, a win, but it lost some of its groove upon subsequent re-watches.

And then there was Fantastic Four.  I didn’t hate FF.  I actually rather enjoyed the cast (except for Toby Kebbell who was beyond miscast), particularly Kate Mara.  The film had a great look and the special effects were on point.  But the story – particularly in the third act – just didn’t hold together in any way.  And Doctor Doom wasn’t just an awful adaptation but just an awful character, as well.  And as nice as the effects looked, we could have used more of them.  It wasn’t the total misfire that so many claim, but it lacked in several important areas.

So, I don’t have complete faith in Fox but they’ve also delivered enough times that I haven’t completely lost faith, either.  I sat down knowing it could go either way (and at least I’d get to see Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, which is brilliant casting).  I wish it had gone the other way.

Apocalypse is such a jarring departure in terms of quality and consistency when compared to Bryan Singer’s other films in the X-Men series that I’m wracking my brain, trying to ascertain what happened. I know he loves the property and the characters.  But it barely shows in this newest entry.

The problem lies with the majority of the characters – both in their characterizations and, in some cases, their casting.  Many will complain about the lack of characterization of some of them and, while true, I argue that nearly every movie in existence features characters that are there to be a plot device and not a fully fleshed-out being.

The real issue is that the majority of the characters behave in ways that directly contradict how they have been previously established, both in the source material and in the previous films.  Some will say that Days of Future Past changed the timeline and, therefore, characterizations, as well.  But it didn’t change anything from First Class through Apocalypse, so that doesn’t fly.  (Also, seeing as how this film takes place in 1983 and the original X-Men was set in the early 2000s, for their sake, I hope DOFP changed Magneto’s and William Stryker’s aging processes.)

Just to offer up some vague, non-spoiler examples, we have Xavier using his powers in the most unethical way imaginable on people he’s supposed to care about, and nobody bats an eye.  Cyclops is largely portrayed as a slack-jawed mouth-breather who talks his friends into bucking authority to go have fun.  Storm projects absolutely no sense of power, presence, or command of her surroundings.  Angel is just an outright jackhole.

And then there’s Mystique.  Mystique  (as portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, of course) gives up on everything her character has ever believed in and fought for.  Previously, she’s maintained her natural blue form at all times unless there was a tactical reason not to.  Mystique was proud of her appearance.  “Mutant and proud,” she said.  It was a nice message that was coming from someone who turns out to be a villain – adding complexity to the character.  But it was always believable.  Yet, here she is in Apocalypse, parading around in Jennifer Lawrence’s natural form, not Mystique’s.  By choice.  Through nearly the entire movie.  She gives up her entire belief system and the reasoning is tossed out in a throwaway line that doesn’t even really have any logic behind it and passes by so quickly that it barely even registers.

But the real reason for it is the star.  I’m not saying Jennifer Lawrence demanded it.  Maybe she did, I don’t know and I have no way to know.  But I have no reason to believe that and that’s not what I’m suggesting.  I like Jennifer Lawrence.  I think she’s supremely talented and even more likable.  However, it’s obvious that, since she’s become such a giant star, Fox wants her face all over the marketing (and it has been) and they want it recognizable.  So, they prioritize money over artistic integrity and severely damage the credibility of one of the franchise’s key players.  It’s possible to keep that integrity and make money with comic book films, Fox.  Just ask Marvel Studios.  Sony did.

The character designs are also a mixed bag.  The real problem is that, as usual, Fox (and Singer, as I d think he shares the blame in this regard) refuse to go all the way and fully embrace the wackiness of the world these characters inhabit.  It might be out of budgetary concerns or it might be due to fear of rejection.  But they only take half-measures to portray most of the characters we long to see in all of their glory.  So, as a result, we get half of a Mystique (rarely blue), half of a Beast (also rarely in Beast form and, when he is, he looks less like Beast and more like Blue Elvis), half of an Archangel (gets the metallic wings, but that’s it.  Keeps the stupidest hair in film, this year.), half of a Storm (the Mohawk is awful.  Rather than coming across as badass punk Storm, she looks like a My Little Pony cosplayer.), and half of an Apocalypse (the basic design is there but he’s kept regular-sized, probably to make him more human and relatable.  But he’s not supposed to be human and relatable, he’s supposed to be awe-inspiring and godlike.).

Nightcrawler looks fine (again, I don’t like the hair, but at least they kept him blue) and Jean Grey is great.  The Cyclops design is kept nice and simple, though I didn’t care for Tye Sheridan.  Most of the carry-overs from the two most recent films are okay and Psylocke also looks fantastic, if impractical.  But there is an overall lack of commitment to world building and it hurts the film.  We have seen over and over again from Marvel Studios that full commitment resonates with critics and audiences alike and brings in the money.  I don’t understand the continuous hesitation from Fox.

For the most part, I also feel like Fox held their wallet close to their chest when casting the new (for this timeline) characters.  This is also nothing new for them.  They did it for Fantastic Four and Deadpool, as well.  It worked out much better in those two films.  I already mentioned that Sheridan is weak.  I didn’t care for Alexandra Shipp as Storm, either, as she never radiated elegance, confidence, or strength.

And this film is supposed to be about Apocalypse.  We don’t need Magneto.  Again.  Look, I love Michael Fassbender in the role.  But he’s become to the X-Men what Lex Luthor has been to Superman.  Magneto doesn’t always have to be there.  Neither does Mystique.  Have faith in the new characters.  Let them shine.  If previously established characters fit organically into the story, then by all means, bring them in.  But both Magneto and Mystique are forced in with a shoehorn and the Jaws of Life and Apocalypse, himself, suffers for it.

The highlight of the film is Jean Grey.  I wish there had been more focus on her but Sophie Turner works with what she’s given.  The character is designed and written well, too, so she just works, all around.  I’m looking forward to seeing more of her.

(There’s also a great secret-until-it-was-totally-not-secret cameo that go everything right, thankfully.)

And, yes, I will see the next X-Men movie.  The final few moments presents the audience with that full commitment that I want from one of the movies in its entirety.  It gives me a little hope that, next time, just maybe . . ..  Unfortunately, though, I walked out of this film with less faith in Fox than I had going in.  I suspect studio interference is to blame for many of these issues.  As I said, I know Singer loves the franchise and his films have never suffered from these problems, before.  It just feels like reactionary decision making by Fox in the hope that they’ll be able to turn a very successful property into a Marvel-like Mega Property.  If I had to sum up the film in one statement, I would say that it feels like the characters are written for the cast rather than the cast being chosen to fit the characters.

I miss the feeling I got from the first few X-Men films.  I miss my only complaint being the marginalization of Cyclops (he and Jean are my favorites).  There are several direct throwbacks to the first two films in the X-Men series that huge fans of those films can’t possibly miss.  While they are certainly designed to tie the different films together (and maybe even suggest that the new timeline is trying to echo itself), sadly, it instead just made me wish that I was watching those other films instead of this one.

33.  X-Men: Apocalypse

32.  The Nice Guys


Right off the bat, here, I want to say that the marketing department gets a huge win for The Nice Guys.  I’m not a fan of much of anything from the seventies.  I don’t like the clothes.  I don’t like the cars.  I don’t like the hair.  I don’t like the vernacular.  I don’t like the mustaches.  I like little of the music. And I even like very few of the movies.  As far as decades in the twentieth century and beyond go, the seventies are just the worst in my eyes and I tend to shy away from most projects that take place during that period.

To make things worse, the last time director Shane Black made a film was Iron Man 3.  It wasn’t a horrible movie but I wasn’t crazy about it and it sits comfortably as my second-to-least favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe film (ahead of only Iron Man 2).

So, congrats to the marketing team behind this movie for getting me to buy a ticket.  They had an uphill battle but they won me over with the genuinely funny trailers and TV spots.

And then the movie won me over with the movie.  The short of it is that The Nice Guys is an uproarious concussion blast of entertainment from dawn til dusk.

The story centers on the murder of a seventies porn star.  Through a plausible series of events, this murder ends up being investigated by our three primary protagonists: private detectives Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling) as well as March’s precocious 13-year-old daughter Holly (Angourie Rice).  All three leads are effortlessly human, irresistibly likable, and eternally charismatic.  Their chemistry is instantaneous and the three of them gel like two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen.  Brilliant casting all around.

I want to throw extra attention towards Ryan Gosling.  I’ve always liked him but his performance as March is easily my favorite of his career.  His comedic timing and delivery is flawless and unrelentingly effective.  At times, he even reminds me of classic Tim Conway, which is a huge compliment.  But he never fully crosses over into parody (so, he doesn’t go Full Conway, I suppose) and remains earnest and heartfelt with his presentation throughout the lighthearted and the more grounded moments, too.  It’s impossible to not enjoy his performance.

The story is an unfolding mystery (which I like) and it all works and makes sense.  It’s fun and never takes away from the film’s jovial tone, despite the seriousness of the events.  At one point, I believed the story was about to take a clichéd turn but was pleased when the thread that I assumed was about to take up the rest of the film played out by the end of the scene.  It never becomes transparent or predictable and it never distracts from the characters, which is where the picture truly shines.

As with most films, it isn’t perfect.  One could nitpick.  But why?  Why suck the joy out of something so unequivocally joyful?  Just to come off as holier-than-thou and supposedly smarter than the filmmakers?  The flaws are tiny and harmless and not even worth discussing.

So, the fact that the movie takes place in the seventies is a total non-issue.  The setting of a film (both time and place) is often just cosmetic window dressing.  Whether a movie takes place in space, in an apocalyptic wasteland, in Aruba, in a phone booth, or in the seventies, it all comes down to character and story, which transcends it all.

And transcend The Nice Guys does.  You did it, Shane Black!  You won me back!  I’ll be there for your next film and for each one after that, as long as you keep putting out movies like this one.  I’m glad I didn’t allow my biases and preconceived notions keep me away from The Nice Guys.  And I’m also grateful to that marketing department.  Thanks for looking out for me!  See you, next time!

32.  The Nice Guys

31. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

neighbors2-poster03

Confession time: I didn’t see the original Neighbors until five days ago.  I wasn’t specifically avoiding it.  I just never got around to it.  But upon seeing the trailers for Neighbors 2, which I found fantastic, I made an effort to catch the first one before tonight.  I didn’t regret it.  I knew that Seth Rogen was funny and that Zac Efron has a way of being funny, as well.  I wasn’t prepared for how funny Rose Byrne could be, however.

So, I was pleased with the cast of the original and I’m also a self-professed Chloe Grace Moretz fan, ever since she stole the show in Kick-Ass.  If she can land some artsy prestige roles, she has serious awards potential.  I was looking forward to seeing her try her hand at a full-on comedy.

Sorority Rising is a fun time at the movies.  I appreciate that, like the first one, it features various styles of comedy.  There’s slapstick humor, gross-out humor, and more subtle, character-driven humor delivered (perfectly delivered, as a matter of fact, thanks once again to the brilliant cast) through the dialogue.  So, if you’re looking for a lighthearted (though very adult) romp to take your mind off of your troubles, you should find something here to enjoy, regardless of your tastes in humor.

Speaking for myself, while I lean towards the more subtle laughs that aren’t about jokes but rather about situations and dialogue, everything worked for me. I laughed at that stuff, but I enjoyed the other stuff, too.  Gross-out humor rarely clicks for me but what little there is in Neighbors 2 is bolstered by the more subtle reactions of the characters who witness it all.  Nothing is too over-the-top and the film benefits from that.  The gags and lines are a little outlandish, but the viewer can picture these things occurring in real life, under the perfect storm of circumstances.  So, somehow, the film evokes a funny-’cause-it’s-true vibe, even though none of it is actually true.  Nicely done.

What impressed me most, however, was how the film manages to deliver all of this crude, R-rated comedy without being disparaging to or denigrating . . . well . . . anybody, really.  One would think that an R-rated comedy about a sorority whose marketing heavily features dozens of college girls parading around in bikinis while being sprayed by a water hose might not be concerned about the portrayal of women but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  That entire scene is in the marketing and the context of it works perfectly within the film and would only offend those who refuse to see it for what it really is.  The film, in reality, is about women being strong, respected, and independent.  It was nice to see.

In addition to all of that, there are jokes referencing different religions, ethnicities, classes, and so on but the jokes are always at the expense of the characters, not whichever group is being referenced.  It’s clear that much thought and consideration has been put into the presentation of the film and towards anyone who might potentially see it.

And I suggest you do just that.  Without getting into details, I’ve had some tough things going on in my life, lately, but I forgot about it all while watching Sorority Rising and I’m thankful to the entire cast and crew for providing me with that escape.  I will state that you might want to see the first one if you haven’t already as there are numerous references and callbacks to events from that film (a guy in front of me got so excited at the sight of an airbag that he enthusiastically kissed the girl next to him on the cheek).  It’s not absolutely necessary, but having that knowledge will help you fully understand and appreciate a few more lines and happenings than you otherwise would.  But, one way or another, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is an easy recommendation from me and is my favorite comedy of the year, so far.

31. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

30. The Darkness

The Darkness

I’ve got to say, I’m perfectly fine with filling out my 100 2016 movies with a bunch of low-budget horror films.  They aren’t all great, but I usually enjoy them on some level, and I always appreciate looking at the supernatural and/or darker aspects of our world through someone else’s lens.

When I saw Kevin Bacon pop up in the advertising for The Darkness, I couldn’t help but think back to his 1999 horror vehicle Stir of Echoes.  I liked that one, but it was a little too “metal” (so to speak) for my personal tastes.  I prefer lower-key horror with moody atmosphere and slow-burn scares.  When a horror film heavily features “Paint it Black” in its marketing and soundtrack, it loses a bit of the desired unsettling vibe in exchange for perceived cool factor.  Quiet is much scarier than loud.  Regardless, that one was pretty good, so here I found myself hoping Bacon would feature in another winner, but one that adheres closer to my personal preferences.

Also, Ming-Na Wen, a.k.a. Agent Melinda May from “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”!  So hooray!  On top of that, Radha Mitchell, as well!  I know her best from one of my favorite horror films: “Silent Hill”!  That film is overlooked and disregarded simply because it was based on a video game (by the way, “Silent Hill 2” is one of my favorite games of all time.  When I bought it on release day and sat down to play it, less than ten minutes in, I had to put it away until the sun came up the next day, because it was freaking me out.  I was in GRAD SCHOOL at the time!  Kudos to Konami for hat entire series and for making some fun, creepy movies out of it, too.), but that’s unfair.  Very unnerving with unique creatures, an amazing soundtrack, a top-tier cast, and an amazing villain in Pyramid Head, it’s a cult classic, for sure.

So, this one has a great pedigree in front of the camera.  Director Greg McLean previously directed a small little horror movie in 2005 called Wolf Creek. That was a good one, too.  So, though I wasn’t sure why he hadn’t done much since, I went into this one feeling optimistic.

For the most part, that optimism didn’t bear itself out.  While I didn’t hate the movie, I also suspect that virtually everything I saw will be forgotten relatively soon.  No real impression – no mental footprint – was made due to the fact that nothing all that memorable or exciting took place.

I liked the atmosphere just fine.  And there were a couple of nice visuals.  But the remainder of the film was pretty by-the-book.  This includes the stupid, unbelieving husband (sometimes boyfriend but a husband here) who thinks the wife is crazy for thinking their house is haunted.  For all of the accusations of sexism towards women in Hollywood, things like this get routinely overlooked.  For what it’s worth, I’m not offended by it.  It isn’t an attempt at any sort of statement about men, women, or anything else.  The filmmakers simply needed to fill out their plot and they did so in a sadly lazy and unimaginative way.

And those are the words that sum The Darkness up pretty succinctly.  Not awful.  Not maddening.  Just bland.  I felt no tension.  I never jumped.  I wasn’t invested in the characters.  And Ming-Na only appeared for a few minutes.  We need more Ming-Na, people.  The beginning seemed like it was almost directly lifted from The X-Files: Fight the Future, as well.  So, right off the bat, I had already felt as if I’d seen it before.

A bit of a letdown this time, then.  It happens.  I imagine everyone in the cast and crew worked hard on it.  If you really want to see it, go.  Don’t let me talk you out of it.  Make up your own mind.  But, my suggestion is to wait for The Conjuring 2 and, in the meantime, check out Captain America: Civil War and Money Monster.

And that’s another ten movies down for me!  Don’t leave me, yet!  We’ve got a way to go!

30. The Darkness