Film Review: THE DARKEST MINDS (USA 2018)

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The Darkest Minds Poster
Trailer

Imprisoned by an adult world that now fears everyone under 18, a group of teens form a resistance group to fight back and reclaim control of their future.

Writers:

Chad Hodge (screenplay by), Alexandra Bracken (based upon the novel by)

 

The first of a trilogy, THE DARKEST MINDS is a young adult sci-fi action movie similar to films like the THE HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT series that made a whole lot of money for Lionsgate.  20th Century Fox (or Disney for that matter) obviously hopes for the same.  But THE DARKEST MINDS is quite the disappointment.

The premise  involves a devastating disease abbreviated IAAN, whatever it stands for.  

98% of the children are dead and the 2% surviving develop powers that no one understands.  The audience witnesses only one of these deaths though millions have occurred in the world in a school cafeteria of all places.  The film gets worse.  Poor African American Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) sees the poor girl die and the film suddenly focuses on Ruby.  Ruby has some powers that cause her to be taken, again like all the other children in the world to concentration camp like hospital centres to be cured of the powers.  Apparently the government wants to harvest these powers for their own army to fight against …..?  This part is never explained.  There are several levels of powers possessed by children, colour coded.  Ruby is orange which means she has the rare highest of the powers and those with orange are to be eliminated by death – a case of adults scared of the unknown.  (The future is orange!  Joke for the British.)

   One can hardly blame director Nelson whose other credits are the two KUNG FU PANDA animated features which were not half bad.  So one could blame the source martial or the kind of film she had been instructed to direct.  Based on the story described, THE DARKEST MINDS could be a real scary horror/satire involving the end of the world.  Instead, it turns out to be young adult fantasy that despite a few good ideas (like the colour coded powers) no one believes in.  

The film poses lots of unanswered questions.  Questions like: Why do all the parents not care about their children?  How did the disease originate?  What is the reason for the superpowers?  The synopsis in wikipedia describes a vicious bounty hunt by the name of Lady Jane which only appears briefly in the film.  The character must have been either edited out of the film or perhaps she appears in the sequel.

It is hard to describe the film’s best scene as there are none.  The film’s worst scene has the two leads declare their love for each other in a long 5 minute sequence that keeps them babbling sweet nothings to the audience’s yawns.

To the director’s credit, the film was made on a modest $38 million, looks acceptable and probably satisfies the studios.  She has some good images on screen, like the raised coloured hands at the end of the film signalling sequels to come.  I would like to quote a line used by the late Toronto film critic, John Harkness from NOW Magazine to describe the Hulk Hogan film he hated: “Recommended for backward children.”, a line that got him into a lot of trouble for writing, but for obvious reasons I will not use it for this film.  THE DARKEST MINDS shows a little promise and is interesting in certain parts, but could have been a much better start of the trilogy.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tN8o_E_f9FQ

 

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Film Review: GET OUT (USA 2017) ****

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get_out.jpgDirector: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener

Review by Gilbert Seah

Imagine a horror version of GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER with a director trained in comedy with an act at Second City, Chicago, and the result is the priceless horror comedy GET OUT that opens this weekend and the most fun at the movies so far this year.

Now that Chris Washington (British Daniel Kaluuya, SICARIO, JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford). At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behaviour as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined.

First of all, there is the weird as hell maid, Georgina (Betty Gabriel) who has the uncanny ability to cry while laughing at the same time. Then there is the assortment of guests that show up, apparently for an annual event, all of whom treat Chris with the greets oddity. The best inspired character is the blind owner of an art gallery, Jim Hudson (Stephen Root).

Things take a turn for the worse when Missy hypnotizes Chris to strop smoking. Chis finds himself stuck in a void whenever Missy stirs tea in a tea cup, which is actually one of the scariest scenes in a horror movie this year – credit to director Jordan Peel.

Director Peel appears to figure that if he directs very act set-up to perfection, then the combination of all these acts would make a perfect movie. The tactic actually works. Each horror set up is devised with the greatest of both creepiness and campiness that delight the audience, judging from the laughter and scares of the audience at the promo screening.
Every actor performs his or her part to almost perfection. Peel appears to be able to elicit excellent performances from all. Catherine Keener is again a pleasure to watch, and I have never seen her in a bad film. She has the knack of picking the best films.

There are a few forgivable flaws in the script, which is also written by Peel. One is the careless placement of the red box, discovered by Chris revealing all of the family’s past victims. The box should have been kept under lock and key. The other is Dean performing the operation before the victim is wheeled into the operating room.

But the film is deliciously wicked, from the camp humour to the suspense to the sexual innuendo and racial connotations. The film is also brave enough to attempt a horror film in which a black man is the victim with a racial setting. (Director Jordan Peel is black.)

My favourite camp horror is Dario Argento’s OPERA. GET OUT marks a close second. Low budget but high in hilarity and entertainment. Highly recommended!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRfnevzM9kQ

_________

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Happy Birthday: Bradley Whitford

bradleywhitford.jpgBradley Whitford

Born: October 10, 1959 in Madison, Wisconsin, USA

[on if he’s felt typecast after “The West Wing”] You’re going to get typecast as whatever you do, but to be typecast as that guy who was complicated, passionate, funny, that’s fine. But yeah, people think you’re going to be a smart guy in a suit. But my God, what a wonderful experience. The only problem with it is it does spoil you; honestly, not to be pretentious but the creative experience, that kind of writing and those kinds of actors and directors and that arena, for God’s sake. What do you do after that? A show about a canning factory?

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