Film Review: THE DARKEST MINDS (USA 2018)

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The Darkest Minds Poster

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.


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.



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Film Review: 47 METRES DOWN (UK 2017) ***1/2

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47 meters downTwo sisters vacationing in Mexico are trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean. With less than an hour of oxygen left and great white sharks circling nearby, they must fight to survive.

Director: Johannes Roberts
Writers: Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera
Stars: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine

Review by Gilbert Seah

47 METRES DOWN, directed by Johannes Roberts and written by Roberts and Ernest Riera is a British horror thriller adventure about two sisters stuck in a shark cage 47 metres under the sea. There is nothing British about the film that can be noticed. The lead actor, Mandy Moore is American and her sister is played by Australian Claire Holt losing her Aussie accent. The only hint at British is the film’s title or it would be called 47 (or the equivalent in conversion) Feet Down.

The story follows sisters Lisa (Moore) and Kate (Holt) on vacation in Mexico. Lisa’s boyfriend has broken up with her because “she made the relationship boring”. While drinking and dancing at 1:00 a.m, they meet up with some local men who tell them about cage diving with sharks. Lisa is reluctant but Kate convinces her to come along. The men arrive and talk to Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine). The girls follow and both lie about being experienced divers even though only Kate knows how to dive. While under water, the winch breaks and the cage plummets below. Their oxygen slowly runs out while they fight against time and the sharks to be rescued with a spare winch.

Moore and Holt keep their characters in focus – balancing humour and terror. Matthew Modine, now in his fifties, still looks charming as Captain Taylor.
Roberts keeps his film exciting from start to finish with a solid pace that never lets up. The first time the full body of a shark is seen is when it suddenly appears a third through the film, swallowing the camera the girl dropped from the cage. The ending contains a twist that will surprise. The film is never short of scary set-ups. After the broken winch is fixed, the rope breaks. Roberts also knows how scary it can be in a dark scary sea where one cannot see the light from the surface or the ocean floor. Being lost underwater is much scarier than being lost in space. The film’s best and scariest scene is Kate swimming with a flashlight in the dark waters with nothing in sight but darkness.

The lean script omits details. Nothing is known of the sisters’ background, where they work or which American city they come from, except for mention of Lisa’s never seen boyfriend.

Why would two girls want to under extreme danger in a shark cage? The script spends time explaining the reason. One is that Lisa needs to prove to herself that she is not as boring as her boyfriend. The second is Kate insisting that they have a good time together and the third is the attraction of seeing sharks up close. The fascination is heightened in a scene where sharks go on a feeding frenzy devouring a bucket full of bloody fish parts.

The film is sufficiently cheesy to be fun. The skimpy costumes, the stereotyped locals and the clear ocean waters and white beaches are what can be expected
On the business side, the $5 million lean production has already grossed more than $13 million after the first week of release.


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Happy Birthday: Mandy Moore

mandymoore.jpgHappy Birthday actor Mandy Moore

Born: Amanda Leigh Moore
April 10, 1984 in Nashua, New Hampshire, USA

Read reviews of the best of the actor:

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dir. Paul Weirz
Hugh Grant
Dennis Quaid