Movie Review – Night School



REVIEW: Night School is a film with a very well-worn premise that has been done many times before (Billy Madison and Old School to name a few) but there factors here that could make the film transcend my meager expectations.

One is the paring of Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, who are two of the biggest comedy stars right now. Both have achieved great successes in film, television and other ventures and have been delighting audiences with their great comedic chops. Another is the direction of Malcolm D. Lee, who has just got off his smashing success of the raunchy comedy, Girls Trip.

But there are signs that the film could be a bad one. One is the fact that the film has SIX credited screenwriters including Hart himself, which shows signs of “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Another sign is the time of the preview screening, which is the night before the local release date, which is usually a sign to drum up lots of advertising to get people to see a film that is most likely bad or the distributors want to withhold plot details of the story, which is highly doubtful in this case.

Will Night School succeed with flying colours in being a very funny comedy despite the factors that play against it? The exam starts now.


Kevin Hart plays Teddy Walker, a successful barbecue appliance salesman whose life takes an unexpected and amusing turn when he accidentally blows up his place of employment.

Due to that unfortunate incident and some extenuating circumstances (including working as a restaurant mascot), he is forced to attend night school to get his GED, where he soon finds himself dealing with a group of misfit students, his former high school nemesis who is also the school principal (Taran Killam) and a feisty teacher (Tiffany Haddish) who doesn’t think he’s too bright.

If I were to attend to a night school such as the one portrayed in the film, I would be down on my knees, pleading until my throat bleeds to be expelled from the class because Night School is one of the most insufferable comedies of the year.

Let’s begin with the positives before the stress starts to overwhelm. Tiffany Haddish is the lone bright light here and she does wring some titters out of the terrible script due to her line deliveries and innate charisma. She’s surprisingly nuanced in the part and is so likable, she should’ve been the lead instead of Hart.

And there is the supporting actors that succeed at some points, including Keith David, of whom there is very little screen-time of; Al Madrigal, who makes the most out of the stereotype that he’s saddled with and Romany Malco; who gets points for going beyond for his character, who misinterprets technology and current terminology like “woke”.

And now come the big red marks on this exam paper because this effort is such a huge failure. The direction from Lee is to just plant the camera and the cast do their improvisations, which is fine if your performers have support from a good script, which they don’t.

It certainly does not help that the improvisations go on forever and it kills the comedic momentum and in one case, kills the suspense. The class introduction scene in particular goes on for ages and ages that any chances of potential mirth become deflated and feelings of claustrophobia would set in.

It also doesn’t help that gags in the film are either so terrible that they it may make you gag (some involving flatulence, vomiting and even pubic hair), stolen from other sources (one joke is stolen from the TV show, Friends) or even repeated; there is one gag, which involves Killam doing an impression of an African-American attitude, is the same exact joke from Girls Trip, made by the same damn director here.

And when the jokes fail, that is when you start noticing other blatant flaws that you would not usually care for, if the jokes were funny. The film tries to have its cake and eat it too with its portrayal of learning disabilities, treating it as a joke and then attempt to take the factor seriously, but it just comes off as infuriatingly duplicitous and disingenuous.


The storytelling is also awful to the point of looking incompetent. Scenes would have no smooth transitions to each other and in one particular scene, which involves a daring escape, one person gets severely injured and all of a sudden, the scene is finished and it goes to a different setting. How did the characters escape without getting caught? And of course, to encourage students into studying, you beat the crap out of them in a heptagon ring. Corporal punishment still works! Hooray!

But the worst flaw of the film is that all the characters in the night school itself (aside from Haddish’s character Carey) are all unlikable idiots. Rob Riggle does stupid things without any plausibility nor reason as to why he does the actions that he does, Mary Lynn Rajskub is annoying and she has an awful scene involving ass-shaking and walnuts and Taran Killam does the same joke from Girls Trip, which is the impersonation of black people and yet it feels tired here.

And then there’s Kevin Hart himself, the lead actor, scriptwriter and producer. Hart tries incredibly hard in the role with his motormouth, self-deprecating style, but he only ends up being incredibly trying and frankly, it’s getting old. In Night School, he plays a character that the audience is meant to find endearing and who is constantly told that he’s not dumb because he has a learning disorder (which is not a spoiler because it’s in the trailer).

I’m sorry, I’m gonna take issue with that and say his character is a deceitful, manipulative and selfish fool. He encourages his classmates to steal and risk their lives(?!) for GED exam answers (trial GED exam answers!), he lies to his fiance about his situation when he could have clearly and harmlessly said otherwise, he expects generosity from a person that he bulled; it just goes on and on and on.

Not to mention that the ending is severely anti-climactic thanks to repetition once again and the attempt of unearned and predictable sentimentality, but I’m gonna stop right there before I develop an aneurysm. Night School is an irritating comedy with unlikable characters, unfunny gags, long droning scenes of improvisations and lack of direction that not even bright spots like Haddish can flare up this failure.



This review can be also seen at THE AU REVIEW. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Rob Riggle, Taran Killam, Romany Malco, Keith David, Loretta Devine, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Yvonne Orji, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Ben Schwartz, Anne Winters, Bresha Webb, Tilda Del Toro, Jeff Rose, Al Madrigal, Fat Joe
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Screenwriters: Kevin Hart, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg, J’Dub, Harry Ratchford, Matthew Kellard


Movie Review – The Predator


EXPECTATIONS: An acerbic, self-aware action comedy that just so happens to be a Predator film.

REVIEW: Shane Black is back! A brand-spanking new film by renowned action-maestro the man himself. For those who don’t know, Shane Black is responsible for writing cult-classic 80’s/90’s films like Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Last Action Hero and The Monster Squad.

He knows his action films and all of its tropes. He made his directorial debut in 2005 in the neo-noir buddy comedy, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, an underrated gem that led Robert Downey Jr. to the role that got him back to stardom, Iron Man. And we got the underseen buddy-comedy The Nice Guys, which showed Ryan Gosling as a comedic force and put Australian actress Angourie Rice into the spotlight.

So when Black announced that he was going to make a new entry in the Predator franchise (in which he starred in the first film) with his collaborator Fred Dekker (whom he worked with on Monster Squad), people started to go ape.


Then the bad news started. With news reports of drastic reshoots of the third act due to test screenings all the way to the incredibly stupid decision of Black hiring his friend/actor Steven Wilder Striegel to star in his film, without disclosing to anyone that he was a registered sex offender, resulting with Olivia Munn telling 20th Century Fox, who then swiftly cut out his scene with Munn. And Striegel was hired more than once!

So with the up and down expectations, will the hard work from the cast and crew of The Predator shine through despite the bad baggage that it shoulders?


There are interstellar creatures called the Predators, who are hunters that travel from planet to planet to hunt. In this film, they are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from the top species of each planet.

When a boy (Jacob Tremblay) accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag motley crew of ex-soldiers (Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Augusto Aguilera, Alfie Allen) and an evolutionary biologist (Olivia Munn) can prevent the end of the human race.


Wow, I am in total amazement of how this film came out. When it was said at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival that The Predator was a gory R-rated version of Monster Squad, they were not kidding. The Predator is an absolute goof that will probably enrage purists, but thankfully like Monster Squad, it is an entertaining, yet sloppily told goof. But unfortunately like Monster Squad, it has all the same problems.

The story is told incredibly fast and the exposition and drama are all free of fat and trimmed to the bone (thanks to editors Harry B. Miller III and Billy Weber). Which is quite good because it gets to the point which is the Predators kill a huge amount of people and lots of blood, gore and offal spray all over the place. And on that red note, The Predator succeeds.

The action is well-shot, well-lensed (thanks to cinematographer Larry Fong) and is thankfully free of detrimental quick-cutting and shaky cam. And unlike the lighting in the prior entry, Alien VS Predator: Requiem, you can actually see what the hell is going on!


As for the story itself, the mythology and the story ideas (which will not be described in great detail) are so bonkers, that director Shane Black and co-writer Fred Dekker had to have treated all of it as a joke. There’s a scene in the film where Strahovski’s character provides a motivational speech (by going into detail on Holbrook’s character) for some of the characters due to their reticence. But Black and Dekker (Get it?) subvert the expectations of the audience, that it becomes funny.

And the entire cast and crew are all in on the joke. Even the musical score by Henry Jackman has orchestral cues that convey wonder and childlike joy, as if it was meant for a children’s adventure film. And children is the best way to describe all the characters (except Strahovski’s and Munn’s characters, who ground the film any time they can); in the way that they are all mischievous, rambunctious kids (they even call themselves The Loonies!).

Like all of the films that Black has written/directed, the characters are all acerbic and politically incorrect stereotypes (one’s autistic, one’s religious, one has PTSD, one has Tourette’s etc.) but all the actors gnash their way into their roles and they succeed, for the most part.


And then we get to the problems of The Predator. There were news reports of third act reshoots earlier this year and seeing the final product, it shows. The CGI/green-screen is quite sloppy, the action is dealt with so swiftly that it ends anti-climatically and some of the resolutions of the characters are left unknown due to the fact that Black never goes back to them. Hell, the swift pacing for the overall film may exhaust some due to the sheer amount of action involved.

The character stereotypes will definitely offend some due to the cartoony and inaccurate portrayals of characters with serious afflictions and some of the jokes do land with a loud thud due to repetition or just come from unlikable character traits (eg. the homophobia). And last but not least, the film is not scary in the slightest, as the stealthy moments like in the earlier Predator films are all gone and replaced with action, which will disappoint purists.

But considering that the prior films have been doing the same thing many times already with five entries (including the Alien VS Predator films), it makes sense that Black and Dekker would change the formula up a bit, but they only intermittently succeed. It’s quite fun if you can get into the silliness due to the fact that it doesn’t take itself seriously, but unfortunately, the lack of seriousness is its own detriment.




This review can be also seen at IMPULSE GAMER. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Sterling K. Brown, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey, Yvonne Strahovski
Director: Shane Black
Screenwriters: Fred Dekker, Shane Black

Movie Review – Teen Titans GO! To the Movies!


EXPECTATIONS: Something as enjoyable as Captain Underpants.

REVIEW: The Marvel Universe and the DC Comics film extended universe. If one were to think about the incredibly savage conflicts involved in superhero fandom, the battle between these two isn’t a bad place to start.

Ever since the Marvel Universe was king, the DC Universe tried to one-up them in every single opportunity, with mixed results. Only one of their films was critically acclaimed while the rest were either polarizing or just cinematic kryptonite.

But sometimes during conflict, humour can be mined and the jabs between the two universes had started to come into fruition in a major way when Tim Miller‘s Deadpool came out. Ripping the Marvel Universe and DC Universe to shreds as well as subverting action tropes and conventional storytelling, it took Hollywood by storm.

Which leads us to Teen Titans GO! To the Movies, which has the same meta approach towards its superhero peers. With the TV show that it is based on, struggling to be a success in the eyes of television critics as well as the fans of the original Teen Titans cartoon show due to its meta approach to itself and its rambunctious attitude, the Titans finally have the major opportunity to prove themselves with their own feature film. Will they succeed?


Based on the TV show of the same name, the film shows the adventures of its titular teen heroes, including Robin (Scott Menville), Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Cyborg (Khary Payton), Raven (Tara Strong) and Starfire (Hynden Walch).

The story revolves around the efforts of the group, who are disappointed over not having starred in a superhero movie of their own. They start attempting to rectify the situation by convincing a famed Hollywood director (Kristen Bell) to develop one for them. Complicating their plans is the dastardly villain Slade (Will Arnett) and his scheme to conquer the world.


For a family film to succeed, the film is supposed to provide satisfying entertainment for the entire family and not just for the children. Thankfully Teen Titans GO! To the Movies does exactly that, even with the inclusion of fans, and– You know what, I’m gonna go straight to the point here and say that Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is the funniest film of the year. An absolute blast from beginning to end that has a sense of humour that’s even more savage to superhero films than the Deadpool films.

One of the major reasons the film succeeds is that no subject gets away from a good skewering. Superhero films? You betcha. Superhero origins? Of course. The Hollywood industry? Why not. Family films in general? Throw them in there too! The Teen Titans GO! show itself? Bring it in! But even with the plentiful targets on display, the film never feels like it collapses under its own weight and that’s due to the incredibly fast pace and the delivery of the jokes.


Blink-or-you’ll miss jokes are plentiful like seeing the movie posters like Aquamanatee or Detective Chimp: The Movie). Pop culture references and parodies are executed brilliantly like an inspired sequence involving The Lion King and another sequence involving Back to the Future.

Also, film tropes and conventions are subverted just right with catchy musical numbers like a song where the characters commit many shenanigans called…Shenanigans. Or an upbeat inspirational song about life called…An Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life, sung by a talking tiger voiced by Michael Bolton of all people!

And of course, the Marvel Universe and DC Universe get lampooned to maximum effect like how Slade is made fun of by the Titans for looking exactly like Deadpool, despite the fact that Deadpool is an actual rip-off of Slade. Or how the ‘Martha’ scene in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is parodied to amusing effect when their fathers are brought into the picture.

Even throwaway lines and offbeat casting are factored into the humour like the mentioning of Gene Hackman‘s real estate scheme or how Nicolas Cage is cast as Superman (when he almost played the superhero in a film by Tim Burton) and how his son, Kal-El Cage was cast as Young Bruce Wayne. It is jokes, gags and Easter eggs like that, which gives the film a lot of replay value.

And then there’s the adult-related jokes that will fly over the children’s heads but will startle the parents and fans into absolute hysterics. One joke involves a hit-and run while another involves the use of kryptonite against Superman in such a suggestive manner that I personally was in absolute shock. Other jokes involves time-travel and the way the characters change the origins of various superheroes will provides loads of laughs, mainly due to how dark and abrupt the jokes are delivered.


But what makes the dark and adult jokes feel earned and non-provocative is the level of childlike innocence and sincerity these characters have when they are portrayed on-screen. The obliviousness, the enthusiasm and the lack of cynicism is what gives the humour the punch it needs.

The voice cast deliver on all fronts, including the original voice cast from the TV show, newcomers who clearly have experience working in animation like Will Arnett (Bojack Horseman, The LEGO Movie, The LEGO Batman Movie), Kristen Bell (Disney’s Frozen) as well as off-kilter casting including Nicolas Cage, Halsey, Lil Yachty and even Stan Lee himself!

As for flaws, and there are very little, there are some moments in the film that could’ve had more development into the story as well as could’ve been mined for more humour i.e. how female directors like Slade Wilson are directing superhero films. And there will be some jokes that will irk parents due to how suggestive the jokes are. One visual joke that involves Superman as a baby will definitely put off some.

Exceeding this reviewer’s expectations, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is an absolute ball of a time with high-spirited animation, lovable characters, infectiously catchy musical numbers and a wonderful sense of humour that is either adorably innocent for its demographic and beyond; savagely meta towards itself and its superhero peers, ingeniously referential towards pop culture references and is hilariously inappropriate, thanks to the gags that will fly over the heads of children but will soar with adults.



This review can be also seen at IMPULSE GAMER. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: Greg Cipes, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Hynden Walch, Will Arnett, Kristen Bell, Nicolas Cage, Halsey, Greg Davies, Jimmy Kimmel, Lil Yachty, Dana Snyder, Kal-El Cage
Director: Peter Rida Michail, Aaron Horvath
Screenwriters: Michael Jelenic, Aaron Horvath

Movie Review – A Simple Favour


EXPECTATIONS: A vastly different change of pace from comedy director Paul Feig.

REVIEW: If there’s one director that needs a true change of pace out there, it’s comedy director Paul Feig. He started off great making a successful string of comedies, starting from the romantic-comedy hit Bridesmaids to the buddy cop-comedy The Heat and the espionage-action comedy Spy.

Then he hit a big of a snag with his reboot of Ghostbusters, which did well with critics and audiences, but it flopped in the box office due to the incredibly negative buzz from naysayers ranging from the fandom menace of the franchise to misogynists thinking that it was diabolically wrong to have an all-female cast to take over the franchise.

So when news came of Feig’s latest project, which was adapted from a mystery novel by Darcey Bell, it looked to be the perfect change for Feig. The trailers certainly hinted that way of a sexy, lurid thriller and even credited the film as coming “from the dark side of director Paul Feig“. With a talented cast of stars and newcomers like Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively and Henry Golding headlining, will A Simple Favour get Feig out of the rut of his last film?


Anna Kendrick stars as Stephanie, a video blogger/single mother of Miles; and she is known for his intimidating dedication to her motherhood duties, to the laughter of the neighbourhood. Over time, she comes across Emily (Blake Lively), a freewheeling and enigmatic marketing director, who is the wife of failed author, Sean (Henry Golding).

Stephanie and Emily slowly bond due to Stephanie helping out the latter with Emily’s son, Nicky, and Emily encouraging Stephanie to satiate her wild side. But one day, Emily asks Stephanie for a simple favour, which is to pick her son up from school. But Emily never comes back from work, which leads to Stephanie seeking to uncover the truth behind her best friend Emily’s sudden disappearance from their small town.


A Simple Favour may be a lurid neo-noir thriller but it is first and foremost, a Paul Feig comedy; a factor that does not factor much into the marketing of the film. While that may put off people expecting a straight-faced film in the vein of The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, A Simple Favour is an infectiously silly, yet very entertaining trifle.

Never having read the source material by Darcey Bell, it is unknown to this reviewer whether the story was meant to be taken seriously or not. But in the case of the film (and the film’s opening and closing credits, which looks inspired by Saul Bass), director Paul Feig and writer Jessica Sharzer have decided to exploit the luridness and ridiculousness of the plot for comedy. Utilizing improvisations, broad characterizations, plentiful twists, sight gags (involving female nudity, which is quite refreshing) and physical comedy to tell a story such as this, it’s a very narrow tightrope for the cast and crew and thankfully, they pull it off.


The cinematography by John Schwartzman looks suitably sterile, conveying the sleek exteriors and facades of the sets and characters, implying the darkness within; the editing by Brent White unsurprisingly brings out the maximum impact of all the improvisations (due to his work in prior Paul Feig and Judd Apatow films) and the musical score by Theodore Shapiro amps up the fun factor and serious stakes of the story efficiently. Special props to the choices in the cool soundtrack, including Laisse tomber les filles by France Gall and Bonnie and Clyde by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot.

And the cast are entirely up to the task of following Feig’s vision. Anna Kendrick looks absolutely revitalized after the string of problematic films and underutilized supporting parts like in the action-thriller The Accountant, the dark comedy Table 19 and the critically-reviled sequel, Pitch Perfect 3. She digs into the role with gusto and verve and anti-social adorableness, but she never loses her way to portray the humanity of the character, making Stephanie a likable lead.


Blake Lively is a gradually improving performer, whose acting chops have improved over the years thanks to roles in the crime-thriller The Town, the drama The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, the fantasy romance Age of Adaline and the shark film, The Shallows. In the case of A Simple Favour, she inhabits the character of Emily with a magnetic, rebellious streak that is fun to watch, thanks to the brash line deliveries, her eye-opening presence and her effortless drinking. Okay, scratch that last one.

And there’s Henry Golding again, so soon after his charismatic acting debut in the rom-com Crazy Rich Asians. In A Simple Favour, he’s still charming as ever and he gradually expands his acting range quite well. And special props to the supporting cast including Jean Smart (as an alcoholic mother), Linda Cardellini (as a lesbian painter), Andrew Rannells, Kelly McCormack, Aparna Nancherla (all three as gossiping, judgemental parents), Rupert Friend (amusing as the famous fashion designer), Bashir Salahuddin (acerbic as the police detective) and others.


As for its flaws, the tone changes can be quite jarring for some moments (eg. implications of possible incest) and the plentiful twists and plot contrivances may not hold up to complete scrutiny (eg. extracting bodies, avoiding authorities etc.) but the biggest problem is not actually the film’s fault, but the marketing. While it does make sense and is actually quite necessary in retrospect to cover up the comedic tone, it does become a bit of a shock for those expecting something truly different from Feig.

But it matters very little considering that the film is just so much fun. With great lead performances, strong assured direction and scriptwriting from Feig and Sharzer, vibrant cinematography and an infectiously cool musical score/soundtrack, A Simple Favour may not be the drastic change of pace people would expect due to the marketing involved, but it is still an extravagantly entertaining trifle.


This review can be also seen at THE AU REVIEW. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells, Linda Cardellini, Jean Smart, Rupert Friend
Director: Paul Feig
Screenwriters: Jessica Sharzer, based on the novel of the same name by Darcey Bell

Movie Review – Beast


EXPECTATIONS: A compelling, unpredictable character study, with a great performance from Jessie Buckley.

REVIEW: According to a book by renowned author Christopher Booker, there are seven different plots in stories, which are:

  1. Overcoming the Monster
  2. Rags to Riches
  3. The Quest
  4. Voyage and Return
  5. Rebirth
  6. Comedy
  7. Tragedy

And since we have so many stories that essentially are encapsulated in one of these plots, what would make a story stand out from the large crowd? It would either be the execution of the story; or it could be the combinations of plots; or it could be the attempt to create unique and distinct characterizations. In the case of Michael Pearce‘s psychological crime drama, Beast, it is an attempt combine all three of the above.

Gaining critical buzz as the Toronto International Film Festival 2017 and this year’s Sundance Film Festival due to its intense story, combinations of genres and memorable performances, will it live up to the hype in this writer’s eyes? Or will it unleash the beast of the film critic within?


Set in the island of Jersey, a troubled young woman, Moll (Jessie Buckley) is in a state of oppression, thanks to the very short leash of her mother (Geraldine James). After leaving her own 27th birthday party, she goes into a nightclub to dance the night away.

The next morning, a man who she was dancing with threatens her with sexual violence until a mysterious outsider, Pascal (Johnny Flynn), helps her out of her predicament. The two eventually share a simmering chemistry, which drives Moll to escape her oppressive family. When Pascal comes under suspicion for a series of murders, she defends him at all costs.


The story of Beast was partially inspired by Edward Paisnel, the so-called “Beast of Jersey” who carried out a string of sex attacks on the island between 1960 and 1971. And while that plot is in the background, the plot in focus is about the character progression of Moll and her developing relationship with Pascal and thankfully, that is where the film succeeds.

First off, the direction by Michael Pearce overall works effectively in developing a brooding atmosphere and getting into the character’s skin. The cinematography by Benjamin Kracun captures the beauty of the Jersey island setting, lending it a Gothic fairy-tale quality; as well as the simmering passion and darkness within the characters like in a scene where Moll and Pascal embrace in the water.

Props should also go to the sparse musical score by Jim Williams, which provides ample tension as well as accentuating the emotional state of the characters succinctly i.e. during a scene involving a funeral.


The problem with the film is that some of its filmmaking techniques are so blatantly on-the-nose as to what it is metaphorically implying; that it becomes laughable. There is one specific scene that involves a full moon that implies that there’s a bad moon rising. Or in another scene where a police interrogation between a police detective (played excellently by Olwen Fouere) and Moll becomes so intense, a blackout happens, ruining the dramatic tension rather than accentuating it.

And when the film shifts from the relationship between Moll and Pascal to the serial killer plot, it becomes less interesting due to the lack of innovation and going by basic whodunnit tropes like incompetent rookie cops, grizzled veteran detectives, shifty strangers, exposition scenes involving interrogations, it follows them all to a T.


Thankfully, the performances from the cast just about make up for the film’s shortcomings. Jessie Buckley provides a masterful performance of nuance and absolute control of a woman who is emotionally repressed. The simmering rage, the wide-eyed innocence, the feral and rebellious attitude; Buckley nails every stage of her character perfectly and shoulders the film to the finish line.

Johnny Flynn lends a certain empathy and life to the magnetic, mysterious and enigmatic character of Pascal, who may or may not be the serial killer that the police are looking for. While that ambiguity is present, Flynn has such a charisma that it is easy to buy into the fact that Moll would be attracted to Pascal.

The other standout is Geraldine James as Moll’s mother. She easily convinces in conveying the oppressive, chilling side of her character. But what makes her performance great is that she also hints that she may not be as antagonistic as one might think, thanks to the paternal side that James conveys convincingly.

Overall, Beast is a compelling, if not entirely successful, character study that struggles to reach its goals due to director Michael Pearce‘s overzealous direction and some story contrivances and problems but thanks to Jessie Buckley‘s powerhouse performance, she keeps the film grounded until the perfect moments when it needs to go primal to make a huge impact.



This review can be also seen at THE AU REVIEW. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Trystan Gravelle, Geraldine James, Shannon Tarbet, Olwen Fouere
Director: Michael Pearce
Screenwriters: Michael Pearce

Movie Review – Searching


EXPECTATIONS: A crafty thriller that improves on its similar stylistic predecessors like Unfriended, The Den and Open Windows.

REVIEW: It is quite amusing to think that we have many films released over the years, regardless of genre, that span across many imaginative worlds, planets, fantasy settings and so on. With the vast amount of superhero films and blockbusters, it’s hard not to see why.

But the world that has not been mined more than enough, despite the great films we have made from it, is the world wide web. Such ingenuity can be extracted from such a setting that we can have great films like The Social Network, Catfish, Unfriended, The Den and so on, it is mindboggling to think that this isn’t done more often.

But what’s even more mindboggling is that is that the new upcoming thriller, Searching, is that this is the first Hollywood mainstream thriller to feature an Asian-American in the lead. It’s puzzling enough that we rarely have focus on Asian-American families on-screen but the fact above…wow.

And speaking of a potential wow, we have a new technological cyber-thriller from feature debut director Aneesh Chaganty, which has been gathering some critical buzz since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. With established actors (John Cho, Debra Messing) and rising talent (Michelle La), will Searching hit that wow factor?


After David Kim (John Cho)’s 16-year-old daughter, Margot (Michelle La) goes missing, a local investigation is opened and Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) is assigned to the case. But 37 hours later and without a single lead, David decides to search the one place no one has looked yet, where all secrets are kept today: his daughter’s laptop.

Where her social life on the world wide web becomes an illuminating rabbit hole that goes deeper and deeper. And with a limited amount of time, David must trace his daughter’s digital footprints before she disappears forever.


One of the major positives that makes Searching work is how writer/director Aneesh Chaganty and co-writer Sev Ohanian really attacked the material with a lot of verisimilitude, using the exact sounds and layouts of the programs like Skype, YouTube and Mac programs, and it really adds to the gripping storytelling. Even the video freezes and sound lags are used to great effect, adding to the atmosphere and immersion.

Also adding to the storytelling is the acts of the characters on how they use technology. One example is how a character would start typing a message and then erase it and change it completely. That is a clever bit of storytelling that adds much-needed character development and is realistic within people’s use of technology. There is even some very ingenious foreshadowing for eagle-eyed viewers, if they notice fast enough on side-windows and browsers, which adds to the replay value.

Another example is how these characters think they are invincible behind anonymity, thinking they can get away with their bad deeds, but when their secrets are revealed, we know more about the characters. The progression between their anonymity and clarity is scary since again, it stems from reality. The film even drives the point of internet addiction into the tale (i.e, not resisting opening e-mails, many tabs on the internet browser) and it sells the premise quite well as it alleviates supposed plot holes.


Next comes the great performances. John Cho, who has always been an understated actor in indie dramas like Columbus, Gemini and even the Harold and Kumar films. But in the case of Searching, he has his first leading role in a Hollywood thriller (To reinstate, any Asian-American actor for that matter) and he does a fantastic job.

Cho makes the character progression from grieving single father to obsessive investigator to a man driven with simmering rage look smooth and effortless. In one particular scene, his character goes from being aggressive to conflicted and eventually collapsing to the fetal position and it is a compelling gut-punch to witness and Cho really nails it.

The other two leads, Debra Messing and newcomer Michelle La also give great performances that are nuanced and convincing in portraying the hidden depths of their characters. La in particular, has the harder task mainly due to her limited screen-time and Chaganty’s attempt to skew one’s perception of her character, but the moments when she’s on-screen (particularly during the live-broadcast moments) is where she positively stands out.


As for the film’s glitches flaws, Chaganty does veer towards sentimentality at times. It particularly becomes prevalent when he relies on the musical score by Torin Borrowdale, which is quite jarring considering that the film takes place on technological screens, despite having some leeway in showing Cho’s character listening to peaceful music from YouTube.

Some restraint would have also been beneficial as to how much Chaganty and cinematographer Juan Sebastian Baron tend to zoom in/out of the screens to telegraph the drama or hint towards revelations, although it is understandable that it is done to cater to those in the audience that are not computer-literate. And there are the plot contrivances that pile up during the third act when the revelations and character reveals come into place (eg. how is it that this specific character was able to accomplish all that in that short amount of time.) that detract the plausibility of the situation.

Overall, with clever and immersive storytelling thanks to its creative use of the technological angle of the internet, great performances, rich characterizations, surprising twists and ample amounts of food for thought, director Aneesh Chaganty has made a great feature debut with Searching, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll come up with next.


This review can be also seen at THE AU REVIEW. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: John Cho, Debra Messing, Joseph Lee, Michelle La, Sara Sohn
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Screenwriters: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian

Movie Review – The Nun


EXPECTATIONS: And then there were nun.

REVIEW: It seems that every year for the past five years, we have horror projects produced by horror maestro James Wan. One of the major players (alongside Leigh Whannell) who started off the serial killer/torture porn film franchise, Saw; as well as the paranormal haunting film franchise, Insidious; Wan has become a major player in studio horror films today.

Now, he is continuing forward with The Conjuring franchise, which involves the first two Conjuring films (that he directed) as well as producing the two spin-offs involving the demonic doll of Annabelle and its prequel, Annabelle: Creation. With the entire film series grossing more than $1 billion at the box office worldwide, there’s no stopping the milking of the cash cow.

Now, the cash cow gives us The Nun, a spin-off of The Conjuring 2, which involves the demonic character of Valak, a demon nun that haunted Lorraine Warren (played by Vera Farmiga) to the depths of her very soul. With her talented younger sister Taissa Farmiga as the lead, along with a talented supporting cast of Demian Bichir, Jonas Bloquet, Charlotte Hope and Ingrid Bisu and an up-and-rising director Corin Hardy, how could this possibly fail?


Set in 1952 (19 years before the events of the first Conjuring film), a young nun at a sheltered abbey in Romania takes her own life under mysterious circumstances. A priest with a haunted past (Demian Bichir) and a novitiate who hasn’t taken her final vows (Taissa Farmiga) are sent in by the Vatican to investigate the matter, with the help of a villager with the nickname, Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet).

Together, they uncover the order’s unholy secret. Risking not only their lives but their faith and their very souls, they confront a malevolent force in the form of a demonic nun, by the name of Valak (Bonnie Aarons). Spooky events ensue.


Now where does The Nun rank in terms of the other films in the Conjuring universe? Unfortunately, it ranks near the cesspool that is Annabelle (from the director of Mortal Kombat Annihilation, no less). Let’s begin with the praises that the Lord, I mean, the film earns.

Composer Abel Korzeniowski and cinematographer Maxime Alexandre help make The Nun look like an appealing package, as they both do their best to lend the film an appealingly spooky vibe that hearkens back to critically-acclaimed films with similar subjects like The Devils and Black Narcissus.

The cast do what they can with the material they’re given and they all do an okay job. While Charlotte Hope and Ingrid Bisu are given very little to do with their characters, Taissa Farmiga, who has experience in the horror genre thanks to the anthology series American Horror Story, the horror-comedy The Final Girls and other efforts, does a good job in making her character endearing and sympathetic.

Demian Bichir (A Better Life, The Hateful Eight) is clearly too talented to be in a film like this, but thankfully (like his appearance in Machete Kills), he never gives the impression that he’s above the material and does a good job bring credibility to the part of the haunted priest.

Jonas Bloquet shows the same kind of laid-back attitude he had while appearing in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, but he does bring some welcome levity to the film, coming across as both endearing and cocksure.


And now we get to the many sins The Nun commits. For a film that is just over 90 minutes, the film is incredibly tedious due to the uninteresting storytelling, with slabs of colourlessly executed exposition about the backstory of the titular character that not only is cliched and derivative of other, better stories, but like all bad prequels of villains like Hannibal Rising and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Beginning, it ruins the alluring and haunting mystique of the character, making it just a one-dimensional scary image ala the painting it really is, nothing more.

Speaking of one-dimensional, the characters are uninteresting and underdeveloped, which wastes the potential of the actors to do better as well as not giving the audience enough for them to care. And if you don’t care about the characters in a horror film, the scares are much harder to come by; even if the scares well-executed.

Hero image

But in the case of The Nun, the attempts at scaring the audience are so blatant and calculated, that the jump scares come across as funny, rather than scary. Sticking your hand in something = jump scare. When the soundscape goes silent = jump scare. When an entity moves a fraction of an inch = jump scare. It just goes on and on and on like that ad nauseum; being a film that does nothing entertaining very loudly for a plodding 90 minutes.

Then there’s the forced attempts at humour. While Bloquet does earn some chuckles to his credit, most of the time, the jokes land with a thud, including many jokes about his nationality as well as his attempts to woo Farmiga’s character to no avail.

And on that note, it is with tremendous sorrow to confess that The Nun has broken a sacred vow by committing a sin that films should never, ever commit: the sin of boredom. With boring, cliched attempts of mythology, an underused cast, tedious pacing and hilariously forced attempts at scares and humour, the audience is better off having “nun” of it.

The Nun? More like Nun Like It, Not!



This review can be also seen at IMPULSE GAMER. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Demian Bichir, Jonas Bloquet, Charlotte Hope, Ingrid Bisu, Bonnie Aarons
Director: Corin Hardy
Screenwriters: James Wan, Gary Dauberman

Movie Review – Mile 22


EXPECTATIONS: A competent action film with Iko Uwais as a true stand-out.

REVIEW: Oh, look! We have another Berg-er joint coming in cinemas! Mile 22 is the fourth collaboration between actor Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg after the three dramatic films that were based on true stories i.e. the biographical war drama Lone Survivor, the disaster film Deepwater Horizon and the crime drama Patriots Day.

All of them were solidly made, competently acted and received positive reviews during their time of release. Or they all could be seen as hero masturbation fodder for lead actor Mark Wahlberg, who has said that he could have stopped the events of 9/11, if he was on-board on one of the planes. No joke.

Moving on, for their latest collaboration, it marks a departure since Mile 22 is not based on a true story, as it is a basic story about transporting an asset from point A to point B, written by first-time screenwriter Lea Carpenter.

But with Wahlberg as the lead and a supporting cast who clearly have action pedigrees on their belts, including ex-UFC fighter, now current wrestler Ronda Rousey and martial arts extraordinaire Iko Uwais, it could lead to being something special. Does Mile 22 go the distance or will go off track and crash and burn?


There’s really no point in doing a synopsis for this film, as it is a story that we’ve seen many, many times. But it is a well-worn plot that has resulted with effective films like Martin Brest‘s Midnight Run, George Miller‘s Mad Max: Fury Road, Teddy Chan‘s Bodyguards and Assassins and Richard Donner‘s 12 Blocks.

Unfortunately, Peter Berg’s Mile 22 doesn’t rank anywhere near the quality of those films, as it is a chaotically edited, overblown and self-serious mess. Let’s begin with the positives. In an interview, director Peter Berg said the main reason he went on to direct this film was martial arts star Iko Uwais, and knowing his prior work, it’s not hard to see why.

Every time Uwais appears in a film, his on-screen presence and acting chops gradually improve and in Mile 22, he gives his best performance. Exuding charisma, an enigmatic presence and some welcome nuance (compared to the rest of the cast), if he keeps this progress up, he could eventually become an exceptional actor.


Unfortunately, that ends the positives and we go down the rocky road of the negatives. Unlike Peter Berg‘s prior films (barring the sci-fi blockbuster Battleship), the editing is an absolute travesty, on a storytelling level as well as a visual level. The action (particularly the fight scenes, co-choreographed by Uwais) is so riddled with fast cuts and shaky-cam, that it stings your eyes like a bad implementation of 3D. Think of the editing in action films directed by Luc Besson acolyte Olivier Megaton and you’re on the right ballpark.

Along with the eyes, what also gets hurt are your ears, because the acting from all the major players (barring Uwais) is so overwrought and blatant that it becomes farcical, if not downright annoying for some. The character that Wahlberg plays is apparently super-intelligent and autistic ala Ben Affleck in Gavin O’Connor‘s The Accountant, and yet he does the same venomous arrogant scumbag performance like he did in Martin Scorcese‘s The Departed; and yet he’s the lead. On that note, it’s already difficult to engage and sympathize with such a character. Unless you count the audience’s derisive laughter directed at him, then that could count as engagement.


To add salt to the wounds, Lea Carpenter‘s script gives him many monologues to deliver. Whether they are meant to show how intelligent he is or it is Peter Berg‘s way to add social commentary to the film via how the government is bad and military is good or it’s meant to be seen as character development, it never convinces because the delivery is executed in such a blunt-force fashion, it comes off as unintentionally funny, complete with bobblehead decorum of Barack Obama and Donald Trump. In fact, Wahlberg’s character monologues so much, Malkovich‘s character actually tells him to stop monologuing. According to an interview on Collider, Wahlberg’s monologues were cut in half. Wow, the audience luckily dodges that bullet.

Speaking of dodging bullets, Lauren Cohan does a good job with the action scenes (under all that fast editing), but her character (as well as Rousey’s) do not come off as people you would associate in real life. Cohan’s character has a character trait that she is divorced and she is having communication problems with her daughter (no thanks to the scumbag ex-husband, played by director Peter Berg). But the way it is executed (through a family app called Our Family Wizard, which is features quite a lot) and Cohan’s high-strung performance, it just comes off as funny.

Ronda Rousey‘s talents are wasted here and her character (if you could call it that) is just a cardboard cutout that spouts quips and has very little screentime, which is a shame, as Rousey looks more comfortable on-camera than she has in prior films. And then there’s John Malkovich (who previously worked with Berg on Deepwater Horizon) cashing a paycheck while donning a Johnny Unitas haircut (toupee?), staring at monitors and barking orders (although he has the best line in the film) and we have Korean singer CL making her Hollywood debut, doing absolutely nothing to contribute to the film.


Speaking of doing absolutely nothing, there is a twist in this film that appears in the final act. A twisty-twirly-swirly-curly knot of a twist that is so eye-gougingly obvious in its foreshadowing and appearance that it makes honking noises as soon as it arrives. In addition to that, it also honks out “sequel, sequel” and it also delivers a meta “joke” (delivered by Uwais) in reference to an SNL sketch about Wahlberg, which is amusing in retrospect because it’s the one thing in the film that is not funny.

And that’s all that Mile 22 has to offer: unintentional laughter and the presence of Iko Uwais. Don’t go into this film looking for quality action of Uwai’s earlier films or even Berg’s earlier films, since the action doesn’t go the distance. But out of the two STX studio films out in August, Mile 22 is far funnier than The Happytime Murders, so it definitely has that going for it.



This review can be also seen at THE AU REVIEW. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, Iko Uwais, Ronda Rousey, John Malkovich, CL, Peter Berg
Director: Peter Berg
Screenwriters: Lea Carpenter, Graham Roland

Movie Review – Crazy Rich Asians


EXPECTATIONS: Likable rom-com fluff.

REVIEW: A film like Crazy Rich Asians is a long time a-coming. For the past 25 years since Wayne Wang‘s expansive drama, The Joy Luck Club, there hasn’t been a lot of films in the Hollywood system that were representative of Asian-Americans in substantial roles; let alone assemble a talented ensemble cast.

Here we have the independent film system, where we have many wonderful films spanning different genres of Asian-American persuasion like Justin Lin‘s Better Luck Tomorrow, Junya Sakino‘s Sake-Bomb, Emily Ting‘s It’s Already Tomorrow In Hong Kong, Danny Leiner‘s Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (which spawned two sequels) or my personal choice of entertainment, Jessica Yu‘s Ping Pong Playa.

And we have the Hollywood film system, where since The Joy Luck Club, we have had films that slot roles for Asian actors/actresses that are small in nature; roles they are repeatedly slotted in (eg. people skilled in martial arts) or worse; roles that are placated insignificantly for the China market (eg. Jing Tian in Jordan Vogt-RobertsKong: Skull Island and Zhang Jingchu in Christopher McQuarrie‘s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation).

Even when Hollywood attempts to tell a story that significantly involves Asian culture, the attempts come across quite poorly or misguided (eg. Rob Marshall‘s Memoirs of a Geisha, which cast Chinese actors for roles of Japanese descent), despite some exceptions like Clint Eastwood‘s Letters from Iwo Jima.

So now we have Crazy Rich Asians, the latest film from director Jon M. Chu, (who is known for directing glossy films like Step Up 2: The Streets, Now You See Me 2 and G.I Joe: Retaliation), which is jam-packed with both established and upcoming Asian talent, including Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Awkwafina and Michelle Yeoh. Will the film succeed as an entertaining film as well as a stepping stone for representation?


The story follows New Yorker Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), an American-born Chinese professor of economics and game theory, who travels to her boyfriend Nick’s (Henry Golding) hometown of Singapore for the wedding of his best friend Colin (Chris Pang).

Before long, his secret is out: Nick is from a family that is impossibly wealthy (or comfortable, as Nick puts it), he’s perhaps the most eligible bachelor in all of Asia, and every single woman in his higher-upper-ultra-peak social class is incredibly jealous of Rachel and wants to bring her down.

But that is all small potatoes in comparison to the biggest obstacle Rachel has to contend with – Nick’s disapproving mother (Michelle Yeoh).


Crazy Rich Asians is a winningly enjoyable romantic comedy and it is also a step towards representation of Asian-Americans in the limelight. Let’s start off with the positives as to why it succeeds as a film. In order for any romantic comedy to work, the chemistry between the lead actors has to be convincing, genuine, enjoyable to watch and they have to compliment each other as well as work separately. Thankfully, both Constance Wu and newcomer Henry Golding are up to the task.

Wu has already proven her mettle in the hit TV show, Fresh Off The Boat, and her roles in films like Zal Batmanglij‘s Sound of My Voice and she takes the reins of the role of Rachel like a pro; exuding charm, humanity and a steadfast demeanor that is both compelling and refreshing for a romantic comedy lead, let alone a female one.

Golding is likable and charismatic in his acting debut. Although he is not given much to do in terms of dramatic range, he not only convinces that he is in love with Rachel from the very first second he’s on-screen (and vice-versa for Wu), he also has an appealing presence that keeps him grounded and down-to-earth, making it easy for the audience to relate to him, aside from his wealthy origins.


The supporting cast are all great in their roles of variable screen-time, including Awkwafina showing good comedic chops as Goh Peik Lin; fellow Aussie Chris Pang lending fine support as Colin Khoo; Gemma Chan, who gives a fantastically nuanced performance as the conflicted Astrid Leong-Teo and Sonoya Mizuno, who finally has a fun character (Araminta Lee) to sink into, who is not a dancer, an android or an extraterrestrial being. But the real standout is Michelle Yeoh, who exudes grace and heart to the supposed antagonist of a character (Eleanor Young) with a performance that could’ve easily veered into evil-stepmother territory.

Another plus is Jon M. Chu‘s direction, which gives the film a strong visual and aural punch that works aesthetically as well as emotionally. Director Chu, editor Myron Kerstein, composer Brian Tyler and cinematographer Vanja Cernjul pace through the various characters with efficiency and briskness, convey the high-life of the titular people as garish and overblown as possible and capture the beauty of Singapore (both the metro and the country) settings beautifully. A well-chosen soundtrack certainly helps, with young artist Kina GrannisCan’t Help Falling In Love With You and Cantopop superstar Sally Yeh‘s cover of Madonna‘s Material Girl (known as 200 Degrees) being the standouts.

But the most important of all, the crew give the film a spit-shine to the romantic comedy tropes that make the genre feel fresh again i.e. relying more on strong characterizations rather than stereotypes (whether cinematic or racial), showing restraint rather than histrionics or even overt emotions and conveying different cultural viewpoints on lifestyle, status and even film tropes. A scene in the third act that involves a conflict between Wu and Yeoh during a round of Mahjong is executed with remarkable subtlety and detail and is emblematic of all of these positives.


So far, what we have proven here is that Crazy Rich Asians is an above-average romantic comedy. But what makes it truly stand out from the pack is the accurate look through filial traditions and viewpoints, which lends the story and the romance a strong, emotional through-line as well as a compelling dichotomy between what is seen as wealthy and what is seen as traditional.

As for the negatives, it is quite overlong at just over two hours and the formulaic trappings of the romantic comedy genre in the script by Adele Lim and Peter Chiarelli do break through eg. scenes involving a dash to the airport or involving makeovers that have been done many, many times. And there are audiences out there that will say that the film does not represent the true nature of the Singaporean community.

But overall, it is with great pleasure to say that Crazy Rich Asians is a load of fluffy, old-school rom-com fun, thanks to likable leads, memorable characters, visual pizazz and some welcome thematic weight thanks to its respectful look on family traditions. Is it a major step for representation for the Asian community? No, but it is a loud step that people will know about thanks to its keen commercial sense and hopefully, there will be more films like this.



This review can be also seen at THE AU REVIEW. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Ken Jeong, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Sonoya Mizuno, Jimmy O. Yang, Christopher Pang, Ronny Chieng, Remy Hii, Nico Santos, Jing Lusi
Director: Jon M. Chu
Screenwriters: Adele Lim, Peter Chiarelli, Kevin Kwan (based on his book of the same name)

Movie Review – The Darkest Minds


EXPECTATIONS: Science-fiction fun, enlivened by a likable cast and striking direction from Jennifer Yuh Nelson.

REVIEW: Another year, another batch of young adult stories adapted for the screen. This year, we have Alexandra Bracken‘s The Darkest Minds, which is a five-book series that centre on Ruby (Amandla Stenberg), a 16-year-old girl with special abilities that she has only just begun to understand. She breaks out of a “rehabilitation camp” in which she has been imprisoned and teams up with a rag-tag group of fellow camp escapees with similar abilities (Harris Dickinson, Skylan Brooks and Miya Cech) to find the Slip Kid, a leader who offers shelter to young people in danger and who possesses the secret to controlling one’s powers.

From one could gather from reading the above paragraph alone, one could think of many influences and similarities to many other stories, but is there potential to make this one stand out from the crowd?


Animation directors turning to live-action films have been a critically successful trend, with filmmakers like Tim Burton (from his short film, Frankenweenie), Ari Folman (from Waltz with Bashir to The Congress), Yeon Sang-ho (from The King of Pigs to Train to Busan) and Brad Bird (from The Iron Giant and The Incredibles to Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol). But in the case of Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who has worked on all the Kung Fu Panda films and solely directed the sequels, her live-action film debut is unfortunately a letdown.

Let’s begin with the positives. The cast of young talent are all likable and play their thinly-written parts effectively. Amandla Stenberg, who has proven to be a capable actress in past roles in films like Everything, Everything and The Hunger Games, lends credibility to the part of Ruby, conveying the fear, the determination of her character convincingly.

Harris Dickinson not only has the best first name in the entire universe, but shows that his acting chops that he displayed in the queer drama, Beach Rats, were not a fluke, as he displays charisma and gravity to the part of Liam. Skylan Brooks brings a dose of genial humour to the part that transcends the role that is really an exposition device while Miya Cech has striking presence in the role of Suzume. Only Patrick Gibson struggles with his character Clancy Gray, as he comes across as more petulant rather than being enigmatic.

As for Yuh Nelson’s direction, she does lend the film some visually inspired moments, like a dream sequence that shows a prison escape. Unfortunately, that is all that amounts of the positives and now we have to get into the negatives and there’s a massive amount of them.


Yuh Nelson’s direction is surprisingly lackluster, following on the path of director Jimmy Hayward, who went from directing Horton Hears a Who! to directing the horrific comic-book adaptation, Jonah Hex. It is normal to assume that animation directors who cross over to live-action films would rely more on visual storytelling.

But in the case of Yuh Nelson, she depicts scenes of exposition in the most frustrating and mundane fashion, which includes droning narration, explanations of scenes occurring after the happenstance and even flashbacks to scenes that happened not even two minutes beforehand.

Even if the final product had more visual pizazz, the script would be the death knell of the film. Having never read the source material, the story plays on screen like a badly stitched tapestry of other and mostly, better films. Moments from The Hunger Games, Star Wars, The Maze Runner, X-Men, Harry Potter (where the film becomes annoyingly self-aware of how similar it is to it) and even X-Men Origins: Wolverine (I’m not kidding about that one!) are all executed here, in both definitions of said action.

The derivative script also compounds to the predictability of the story, which involves characters that are introduced in the third act and the film makes it becomes blatantly obvious what the character reveals are going to be.  One character in particular has the exact same motive as a famous villain in the X-Men franchise. Guess which one.

The predictability also ruins the tension of the action, since the audience already knows who is going to survive, as there are many more book sequels to make. But as of writing this review, the box office dictates that the film may be a one-off; going along the lines of similar films like Eragon and The Golden Compass.


As good as the performances from the young leads are, the supporting cast of adults leave a lot to be desired. But a lot of it isn’t their fault and it’s all due to how thinly-written their characters are. Mandy Moore looks out of place here, giving an unconvincing performance as a doctor as well as a freedom fighter; Gwendoline Christie once again, plays an imposing figure with no memorable impression or personality; while Bradley Whitford barely registers in a cameo.

And just like Whitford’s performance, The Darkest Minds barely registers as a film. Despite the appealing young leads and some visually inspired moments, the film is a disappointing debut for director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, due to a lackluster script, mundanely predictable storytelling and a startling lack of originality that will have you exclaiming “Saw that! Saw that! Saw that! Thank you, can I go home now?”.


This review can be also seen at IMPULSE GAMER. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.

Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Mandy Moore, Bradley Whitford, Harris Dickinson, Patrick Gibson, Skylan Brooks, Miya Cech, Lidya Jewett, Gwendoline Christie
Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Screenwriters: Chad Hodge, based on the novel of the same name by Alexandra Bracken