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The Darkest Hour

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Released: January 13th 2012 (UK)

Director: Chris Gorak

Stars: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby

Certificate:12a(UK)

Reviewer: Luke Walkley

Set In Moscow, The Darkest Hour follows five young people who attempt to survive against an alien race who have attacked Earth- seemingly with the intention of stealing the world’s power and minerals.

The Darkest Hour managed to pose, what this reviewer felt, was an interesting prospect. However, several minutes in to the feature, it was clear this preconception was misguided. Slowly and surely The Darkest Hour turned into nothing more than a whipping boy for continuity errors, poor acting and even worse dialogue.

Firstly we met our ‘heroes’ and I use the term loosely, Sean and Ben (Emile Hirsch and Matt Minghella) as they travel to Moscow to promote a mobile app they have designed. When they arrive they find they have been double crossed by their contact Skyler. They then find themselves drinking in a club with two young tourists Anne and Natalie, cue generic talk and all of a sudden- No power. The inquisitive club goers file out onto the street to find the sky filled with glowing balls of energy and following the disintegration of a curious Police officer it becomes clear these glowing visitors are not friendly. Thus, the story unfolds and the next 70 minutes is what I can only describe as the most mind numbing and soul destroying of my life.

As I mentioned, the concept had intrigued me and it was with an open mind I headed into this film, but from the off, it becomes a mystery how these films are rolled off the production line and end up in our cinema screens. The storyline becomes lost in its own stupidity, abandoning any sensible idea and instead choosing to neglect any kind of character development or relationship formation.

The lack of development of the main characters could be overlooked had the storyline been strong enough to divert the viewer’s attention. Instead we care little for what happens and couldn’t care less about the fates of our protagonists. Several side characters attempt to offer a humorous reprieve, a war hardy Russian soldier and a crazy old lady do nothing but infuriate the viewer further with shocking clichés and horrific one liners that fall completely flat.

The special effects were non-existant for the most part. Sure we see the occasional ball of glowing light, but other than that the extent of the special effects extends to a couple of light bulbs flickering and the deaths of random survivors. If you think firing bullets into thin air counts as action sequences then you will be thrilled to know this film has that in abundance, much in the same way as the Predator remake- Predators did. Fighting an invisible enemy has a particular drawback from an aesthetic viewpoint, the viewer having nothing to look at being the main one.

The Darkest Hour, may contain some of the shoddiest editing I have ever been unlucky enough to witness. Riddle me this- the gang take quite a while climbing a large building to reach the top floor, so long in fact that it requires a fade out and fade in shot to reveal them still climbing the stairs. fair enough it was a big building. However, when the two men decide to return to the street in order to help another survivor, we see the action through the viewpoint of a scope their female friend is holding at the top of the building in which the men previously found themselves. As the young lady looks out onto the street, the laws of time and continuity suggest it should take the men a similar length of time to reach the streets many floors below…ALAS, there they are almost instantly halfway up the street… If only they could have used their time machine to greater effect whilst fighting the invisible enemy…

The Darkest Hour has everything I despise about films contained within its extremely short running time. First of all is the 3D release, when from what I could see, the only 3D aspect was the subtitles that translated the broken Russian that is used randomly throughout the film, as everyone else seems to speak perfect English. Its unbelievably poor acting and even worse dialogue make the film more The Funniest Hour than The Darkest Hour as you find yourself constantly cracking up at the awful back and forth between the instantly forgettable characters.

It sounds like I’m being too harsh, but believe me this film has no redeeming qualities, it lowered its original certificate to become a 12a in the UK and the 3D inclusion makes it appear as nothing more than a money grabbing cash cow for the studio(Summit, which coincidentally was sold to Lionsgate on the same date as its UK release.

The Darkest Hour was certainly one of the worst film experiences I have ever had, so bad it doesn’t even deserve the customary derogatory take on its name and how it was the darkest hour of my life… Awful, plain and simple.

Editor-in-Chief of Movie Marker. Likes: Scorsese, Spielberg and Tarantino Dislikes: The film 'Open Water' I mean, what was that all about?

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Movie Reviews

Bad Times at the El Royale ★★★★

Bad Times at the El Royale feels like a throwback to Tarantino in all his 90’s pomp.

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Director: Drew Goddard

Stars: Dakota Johnson, Cynthia Erivo, Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Lewis Pullman

Released: 12th October 2018 (UK)

Bad Times at the El Royale has seemingly fallen foul of the particularly hectic October release schedule in the U.K. As Venom and A Star is Born dominate the box-office and with the London Film Festival in full swing, El Royale has not received the recognition it deserves.

Boasting an impressive cast, Bad Times at the El Royale follows seven strangers whose stories intertwine at the El Royale hotel in Lake Tahoe. As each person’s agenda for being at the El Royale is revealed, tensions inevitably rises and the characters collide.

From the get-go, El Royale feels like a throwback to Tarantino in all his 90’s pomp. Director Drew Goddard, no stranger to managing madness following his debut A Cabin in the Woods, has crafted an immersive, intricately linked murder-mystery that feels like a grindhouse version of Cluedo. The violence is garish but necessary, the dialogue is short and snappy and the characters are most importantly, interesting. The hardest part of any film with so many moving parts, is making the audience actually bond with those involved. Goddard, who also wrote the screenplay, has nailed this – giving enough back-story for each, whilst holding enough back to keep us learning more.

Between Jeff Bridge’s bad-ass priest, Dakota Johnson’s kill-happy hippy and Chris Hemsworth’s dancing cult-leader, the wider cast have somehow managed to create a credible on-screen dynamic, despite the stark character contrasts. Cynthia Erivo’s soulful singer Darlene is the obvious standout and her interactions with Bridge’s Father Flynn provide some of the most film’s most satisfying scenes. Lewis Pullman’s unassuming concierge Miles is another strong performance deserving of a mention.

The film swaggers along accompanied by its killer soundtrack, which plays a crucial part in the films tonal change from chapter to chapter. It’s dark and violent, yet at times it’s engaging and even emotional. The sharp edits that mash-up the timeline don’t over-complicate the plot, but accentuate the frenzied feeling that Goddard is creating as we head towards the plot’s crescendo.

As expected there are some areas where a film with so much going on inevitably suffers. Jon Hamm’s Seymour is arguably the biggest victim of this, with his character perhaps not utilised as much as it could have been. The film also feels a little too fleshed out in parts, lingering on some of the less necessary aspects and leaving one or two plotlines unexplored as a result.

Bad Times at the El Royale really does feel like a Tarantino movie and that’s no mean feat, Goddard has taken his own style and applied tried and tested techniques to create a compelling, genuinely exciting movie and one that deserves to be enjoyed by a wider audience.

 

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Movie Reviews

LFF 2018 Review – Arctic ★★★★

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Released: 5 December 2018

Directed by: Joe Penna

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir

Reviewed by: Lauren Tina Brady

An expanse of white as far as the eye can see, gently sloping mountains in the horizon, a polar bear pads silently across the snow, pausing briefly to gaze back at the watching man across the valley.

At first Arctic reads as a classic survival narrative; the basic man vs. nature conundrum. I’d recently seen The Mountain Between Us, which draws some very obvious similarities; plane crash, hostile snowy environment, a great expanse needing to be crossed for a chance of survival. However, unlike relying on the pairing of Kate Winslet and Idris Elba for context,  Arctic’s dialogue is bare. This is largely due to the fact that there is only the protagonist for the first third of the film, played by Mads Mikkelsen.

At first it appears to lull you into that false sense of security of knowing exactly how this works out; he sticks to a routine of catching fish, laying out black rocks spelling ‘help’ against the snow and signalling for nearby aircraft. However, crucially, we don’t know who he is. He speaks very little, in both Danish and English. He offers no information to help us piece together a backstory and remains an enigma throughout, which feels fresh. The character becomes more than a person; he becomes the flicker of hope for survival, the spectrum of emotions that occur in the darkest of hours.

There is plenty of drama to keep us on the edge of our seats; he has a chance of escape quite early on – a small helicopter has spotted him and attempts to make it’s way towards him in strong winds leading to a crash. There are two people on board; one is killed with the other, a woman (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir), who survives but is badly hurt and must be cared for. Suddenly the odds of both surviving are halved; the danger is intensified.

Here is a tale of endurance over survival. This is where Mikkelsen excels; he digs deep to portray every possible emotion through a gruelling and ice-cold journey. He is silent but his face says everything. I laughed in delight, I wept quietly. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing this role.

It’s a feat for Joe Penna, directing his feature film debut. See it for Mikkelsen, stay for the sensitive direction and the stunning cinematography.

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Movie Reviews

LFF 2018 Review – Museum ★★★★

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Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios

Stars: Gael García Bernal, Leonardo Ortizgris, Alfredo Castro

Released: London Film Festival 2018

It’s Christmas Day, 1985. College dropouts Juan Nunez and Benjamin Wilson are ready to pull off an audacious heist that will have authorities searching for professional art thieves for years. Based on a true story, Alonso Ruizpalacios’ film sees the duo attempt to steal 140 priceless artefacts from the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Winner of the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay at Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year, Museum explores the mindsets of two would be criminals with nothing to lose.

The tale is narrated by Wilson, played with subtle compassion by Leonardo Ortizgris. Wilson’s role is much like Nick’s in The Great Gatsby, an opinionated and somewhat loyally biased eye through which Juan is diluted. Played by Gael Garcia Bernal, Juan is the film’s focus, a Mexican Cool Hand Luke drifting through his young adulthood. In the hands of another actor, Juan may have come off as entitled, lazy even, but Bernal’s performance layers the character with sympathetic naivety and relatable desire. A perennially youthful, multifaceted actor, Bernal paints buckets of emotion into every micro-expression.

The crime takes place after Christmas dinner, a lively family affair that sees Juan alienated and berated. At first, the silence is reminiscent of the hanging scene from Mission: Impossible; the tension equally palpable. But soon the action changes, pared back to a static style similar to the panels of a comic book. It is a technique repeated throughout the film, the continuity broken up into freeze frames that are not quite motionless, still alive with a touch of movement. Reducing these scenes to a childlike fantasy, Ruizpalacios succeeds in creating the ultimate sense of idyllic, youthful adventure.

Something often ignored in heist films is the aftermath, when the thieves must deal with the fallout of their decisions. Museum’s second act focuses on this aspect, allowing the introduction of an English art dealer, played by the superb Simon Russell Beale. Uncertainty builds from the start of their meeting, as the camera endlessly pans until Juan’s misguided perceptions come crashing down around him. In a script littered with intelligence and comedy, it is a pleasant surprise to see the characters’ raw emotion become the focal point.

Ruizpalacios seems content to pose questions that hang wispily in the air, unanswered: questions of cultural ownership, of morality and greed. He is more interested in the character study at the heart of this story, of a man who commits a crime out of boredom, a sense of nihilism or a desire for adventure, or perhaps a little of all three. It is a fresh idea in a crowded genre, making for a film that is impressive but never quite brilliant, a wonderful adventure that doesn’t aim to blow minds. But does that matter? As Juan says and Wilson relays: “Why let the truth ruin a good story?”, a sentiment Ruizpalacios takes quite literally. Luckily for him, Museum is without a doubt a good story.

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