The Dark Tower (2017)

The Dark Tower

Idris Elba is the last of the gunslingers fighting to protect “The Dark Tower”.

When the credits began to roll at the end of The Dark Tower, I found myself eager to start reading the books. Sadly, it was not because the movie intrigued me (far from it). Instead, I need now to know if, during the process from page to screen, something was lost in translation (if not much more).

I can safely assume the book has valuable source material (I mean, it is Stephen King we are talking about), so how can a movie like The Dark Tower crumble so? First off, I could hardly accept Matthew McConaughey (undoubtably talented) as Walter (or, as he is known, the man in black). It is true that a lot of villains need a certain “charm” (think of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki in the MCU), but the notes don’t strike the right tone for McConaughey. He is just too likable a guy, I think. His Walter is out to destroy The Dark Tower, which will allow monsters into the universe. The only thing standing in his way (along with his almost superfluous team of…I will just call them geeks for the sake of time) is the last gunslinger, Roland (Idris Elba). Roland is able to fend off Walter’s magic (unlike Roland’s father, a small part played by big talent Dennis Haysbert), and also stumbles upon a new player, the young Jake (Tom Taylor). Jake is having dreams of the gunslinger and the man in black, but his mom (Katheryn Winnick) and step dad (Nicholas Pauling) feel he is just losing it after the death of his father.

Any movie that is adapted from other written material always has two audiences to play to: those that have experienced the written work, and those that haven’t. Perhaps the biggest mistake that The Dark Tower makes is that it focuses more on the former audience members and not the latter ones. Movies are always better at entertaining than they are informing us. In the case of The Dark Tower, it has neither going for it.

Parents, there are some parts of violence and swearing (no sex or nudity), so I would say middle school and up would be ok.

I walked away feeling sorry for those who made the movie, from director Nikolaj Arcel and young star Tom Taylor (who does seem to do ok as a young actor) to screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (who has done worse…cough, Batman & Robin!, cough!) Still, I feel the audience deserves the most of the apologies, because they could have seen something new and exciting, but got something bland, convoluted, and uninspired.

 

Overall: One and a Half Stars * 1/2

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Kubo

Kubo and his new friends go on an adventure like none you have seen before…

Those who know me will know that it is rare for me to cry in a movie. Kubo and the Two Strings, the best animated film of 2016 (sorry Disney and Pixar) did something even rarer: it had me crying while I left the theater. I can’t remember the last time that happened. It is one of those movies that, once it is over, you know you want to see it again.

I will tread lightly, because the film is one of those that has surprises that I cannot reveal (I would find it hard to forgive myself). The story tells of Kubo (Art Parkinson), an child of about 11 or so who is under the protection of his mother. He is not allowed out at night, or his Grandfather and Aunts will catch him. His Grandfather took out Kubo’s left eye as a baby, but his father died protecting him so he could keep his other eye. Eventually, they find him, and, with the help of a monkey and a beetle, Kubo is on a quest to find the missing armor of his late father to protect himself from his Grandfather.

Other vocals in the movie are done by Oscar winners Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey, as well as Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and George Takei. I will not say who plays who, as it does give away some plot points. What I will say is that this film is another great example of how voice acting can be done so well that (for the most part) we are not even thinking about who is playing the characters at all.

Now for the animation. Words cannot do it justice, but I will try. It is simply stellar. There are scenes where Kubo shows his magic of making paper do what he wants. Origami on film never looked so awesome.

Parents, the film is for any age, but warning: it can get a little scary (even I was saying “woah” at times). Still, if they are up for it, and as long as your kids can sit through a movie, they will be fine.

What I like the most about Kubo and the Two Strings is it’s courage. It’s courage to be risky with different animation. It’s courage to make a family film a little darker than most others. It’s courage to tell a story that is original. It’s courage to have an ending that is not what you may expect.

It’s courage to be sensational.

This is easily one of the year’s very best films.

Overall: Four and a Half Stars **** 1/2