Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
The Dark Tower
Starring: Tom Taylor, Idris Elba, and Matthew McCounaghey
Synopsis: Stephen King is a master storyteller who has a legion of fans. And his “Dark Tower” books have been among his most popular and highly anticipated as a film. On Friday, August 4, fans got that film. But judging by reviews and Box Office receipts, it might not be what they expected. The novel series is eight books, many quite dense. This first film, a 95-minute action story, was meant to serve as a franchise starter, but it also tries to pack a lot of dense mythology into a tight package. The result is something less than stellar. My biggest issue with this film, as a non book reader, is that it was a story that was hard to follow. The narrative, due in part to collapsing so much story into such a compact running time, cuts some corners. That led to more than a few questions. At the same time, the film is boring at parts. That’s also a problem. It’s short and leaves so much unexplained, but it moves at an odd pace that left me feeling disconnected from the overall goals of the narrative. That’s likely why the film made less than $20 million opening weekend, and likely means that rather than starting a franchise, this will be a one off. And that’s a shame. There is a great and talented group of writers that worked on the film – including sci-fi vets Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner – but it just doesn’t work, at least not in the version presented on screen. It’s fair to wonder if there’s a longer cut that was left on the editing room floor that might have filled some of the story gaps. I thought Taylor was decent as Jake, but was hamstrung, at times, by a poorly fleshed out character and world. But the real star of the film is Elba, who makes the most of his character and scenes. He’s the most engaging thing in the film, and sadly it takes quite a bit of prologue for him to even appear. That is another issue that goes along with the uneven pace, tone and storytelling. This isn’t a terrible film, it just isn’t a particularly good one. And this summer we’ve seen a rejection of ordinary, with “The Dark Tower” being no exception.
Rating: PG-13 for thematic material including sequences of gun violence and action.
Verdict: Two stars out of four.
Starring: John Boyega, Algee Smith, Will Poulter, and Anthony Mackie
Synopsis: This biopic from writer Mark Boals and director Kathryn Bigelow, the team that produced "The Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty," takes the action to the race riots in Detroit in 1967 and explores the true story of three black men murdered by police at the Algiers Hotel. This is a well-crafted, but sometimes suffocating and brutal film to watch, especially given the political climate. I liked the performances, especially Poulter (who plays the worst of the cops), Boyega, a security guard who gets caught up in it all, and Smith, a singer whose promising career derails after his experiences that night. This was a story that moved me emotionally, and is a sad but true example of the ways our country fell short in the past (and still does). For those not familiar with the story, I won't give away what happens. But this was a film well worth checking out, even if it doesn't reach the lofty heights of Bigelow and Boals' other collaborations.
Rating: R for strong violence and pervasive language.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.
Friday, August 11 - "Annabelle: Creation," "The Glass Castle," "The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature"
Friday, August 18 - "The Hitman's Bodyguard," "Logan Lucky"
Friday, August 25 - "Polaroid," "All Saints"
Wednesday, August 30 - "Leap"