Dylan Dog: Dead of Night–This Dog Don’t Hunt

***Spoilers***

I don’t recommend Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

dylan dogA comic-based movie–Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. Dylan Dog…is based on a 1986 Italian comic book series by Tiziano Sclavi.

I watched this on Netflix.  A 2011 film, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is a mess from start to finish. Dylan’s director is Kevin Monroe, who directed the animated 2007 TMNT 4 (Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles). And therein lies the one of the problems–live actors are a lot harder to direct than animated characters. Animated films, (unless you’re Pixar) are by nature, two dimensional.

With live actors, you need a little more “directing.”

Monroe was blessed with two excellent actors in Taye Diggs and Sam Huntington. Brandon Routh in the title role needed a little more help. The only other film I had seen Routh in was Superman The Return. He is an extremely good looking actor and this is a mixed blessing. Mr. Routh needs some miles on his face–some indication of character that draws us (ala Harrison Ford) in so that we project our own back story on how they got there. Right now, Routh’s face is a blank sheet. His droning voice-over, meant to help us follow a confusing, muddled story, loses us in the first ten minutes. If Monroe, the director, knew how to work with actors, perhaps there would be a little more shading–something of interest to support the noir feel this movie attempted to create.

As Dylan, Routh was as flat as a cartoon turtle.

Knowing something about actors, having been one and worked with many as a casting director, I feel Routh is a work in progress. I hope that he continues to be cast without the burden of carrying a whole film and along with paying that acting coach, he does some theater–which is an actor’s medium. A little Tennessee Williams would do him a world of good not to mention what’s going on currently in theater. I freely admit I don’t know. When I left production, I left it all behind and now am a consumer–an audience member. I want to see what’s behind Routh’s big brown eyes.

Whatever limited appeal this film possesses comes from Sam Huntington, who was Jimmy Olsen to Routh’s Superman.

Huntington was the resident werewolf on the SyFy Channel’s Being Human. George Bush senior was described as that “first husband,” the one you briefly married before you settled down. Huntington’s prissy “everyman” is the essence of your college roommate’s boyfriend–the one who always shows up to help you move. He’s so funny as the reluctant zombie–grossed out by his zombie needs, that he makes you forget the awkwardness of the film.

 Taye Diggs is such a compelling actor that he blows everyone else off the screen.

And one more problem: Dylan Dog is full of monsters because Dylan is the “middle man” between humans and the world of monsters. Most of the movie is spent with monsters, on behalf of monsters and fighting monsters, yet all the fight scenes are versions of martial arts. Where are the claws, the fangs, the bolts of lightening, the melting people, etc.? Other than throwing punches and tossing people around, the demons, vampires and werewolves are pussies.

 

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Get Out: How a Popcorn Movie Became Food for Thought

Get Out: A Review

Some spoilers 

 

Get Out cover from IMDB page for Get Out
From IMDB page for Jordan Peele’s film, Get Out

Get Out is the directorial debut of Jordan Peele (Keye and Peele) who also wrote the screenplay. Starring English actor, Daniel Kaluuya as Chris, Get Out is a horror movie satire focused on racism. Borrowing elements from films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, Get Out skewers the pretensions of “white wine sipping” liberals by using the generational conflict between Boomers and Millennials. Get Out is also about identity and the importance of belonging.

It opens on a dark street lined with large houses behind well-trimmed hedges. We hear the tinny sounds of a song from the early twentieth century as a young black man emerges from the shadows. Looking over his shoulder, his phone to his ear, he asks, “Why meet here?” Like the music, the man is out of place; he knows it and so do we as a white sports car pulls up. He turns away as a figure exits the car, knocks him out and loads him into the hatchback. The music changes to something edgy. There’s danger ahead.

Next, we’re in a bakery. We see a tray of donuts as a young woman named Rose (Allison Williams) makes her choice. She and her lover, Chris, a successful photographer, are taking a weekend trip to meet Rose’s parents. Between kisses, Chris and Rose discuss her parents. “Do they know I’m black,” he asks. She tells him no, but as old-fashioned liberals, they’ll make him feel welcome. Rod, (Lil Rel Howery), a TSA agent and Chris’s best friend, warns him not to go — something doesn’t feel right.

But Chris goes and welcome him they do. Waiting on the steps of their comfortable New England home on well-tended acres, Dean, the neurosurgeon dad (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), Rose’s psychiatrist mom, greet Chris warmly. But soon, we know that Rod is right when Chris sees the Stepford Wives behavior of the two black employees. After the veneer of geniality cracks when Rose’s obnoxious brother challenges Chris to a fight, Missy insists on hypnotizing Chris and gives him a command that can render him helpless.

The next day, despite Rose’s protests, Missy’s club, a collection of creepy old people, (see Rosemary’s Baby) meets in the garden. The only black club member is young, wears clothes that scream nerd and has a way of talking at odds with his race and age. Chris thinks he knows him. He’s the man kidnapped in the opening sequence. When inquisitive club members (one squeezes his bicep) treat Chris like a prize Pekinese, it’s time to leave. And what about Rose, nurturing, supportive Rose? Or is she? Chris isn’t sure and neither are we. But Rod is; when Chris calls him, he urges Chris to get the hell out of white wine-land. Then, things go south during a bingo game. Recalling the kidney auction in the movie, Coma, the game ends when a blind photographer who envies Chris’s talent, wins Chris.

The story kicks into full scare mode with Rod’s rescue plans and Chris’s efforts to escape. Missy’s command leaves Chris unable to resist the horror movie science of those who intend for Chris to no longer be Chris. His predicament reminded me of The Skeleton Key.

When he presents his “sex slave” theory to a trio of black cops, Rod’s pride in being a TSA professional suffers. Stung by their reaction, Rod takes matters into his own hands. Friendship and betrayal come into play and the movie becomes a gore fest. The ending is cathartic and satisfying because we care what happens to Chris.

The plot of Get Out is full of holes, most having to do with risks taken by the villains, but the racial satire aspect gives this film an unexpected bite it wouldn’t have if Chris were white, and Daniel Kaluuya’s ability to draw us in keeps us invested. His friendly, open face allows us to see his pain when it dawns on him that the woman he trusts and loves may have betrayed him.

As the parents, Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener are good actors doing their best to round their flat characters. Allison Williams is effective as the enigmatic Rose, but it was hard for me to buy her transitions in the end sequence. Lil Rel Howery as Rod is a welcome comedy contrast to the creep factor. His energy gives the film a needed boost.

I enjoyed this movie, but I wondered about the title. Is the message, “Get Out” meant for Chris or for Boomers (and those older) who refuse to leave the stage and join the audience? As for me, I’m already seated, popcorn in hand, looking forward to the new cast and the next story.

The Why of Denise

My short story, “The Why of Denise,” has been published. http://strangefictionszine.com/the-why-of-denise/

It’s a story taken from my second book, Tales from Babylon Dreams, a novel about the pros and cons of living after death in virtual reality, and how a man’s custom paradise becomes his living hell.

There and back again: Netflix’s ARQ

*Spoilers*

Netflix feature, ARQ cover image
Cover image for Netflix feature, ARQ from IMDB

ARQ, a 2017 Netflix sci fi feature entertains, but like the three-hour time loop that drives the action, remembering details is a challenge. Written and directed by Tony Elliot (Orphan Black) ARC uses the time loop plot device, similar to Groundhog Day and Tom Cruise’s The Edge of Tomorrow.The protagonist relives the same events, changing his behavior to create a different outcome. Like The Edge of Tomorrow alien conquest, a different outcome for Renton, ARQ’s protagonist, means living rather than dying.

The Edge of Tomorrow is a Cadillac of a time loop film.

Cruise’s movie sports big name co-stars, elaborate CG nasty aliens and a save-the-world ending. Experiencing the same day thousands of times via a time loop, Cruise’s character begins as a self-serving asshole and ends up as a self-sacrificing, much wiser guy.

With its single dreary setting, dinky CG and flat characters, ARQ is a stripped down 1992 sedan.

ARQ’s time loop story is an economy ride but it gets you there. Rather than fighting aliens, it’s dystopia time!   There’s global famine, nasty air quality and a pitiless dictatorship. However, no teenagers show up to save the world.

The film keeps you invested due to its slick editing and a no frills but smart script.

 In a darkened bedroom, Renton (Robbie Amell—The Tomorrow People) wakes next to his lover, Hannah (Rachel Taylor—Jessica Jones). Seconds later, masked men burst in and tie them up. They want Renton’s “scrips” (money). These “Bloc” rebels are fighting “Torus,” a corporation that aims to rule the world. Renton, a scientist in hiding who had worked for Torus, suspects they’re not only after money; it’s Renton’s new invention, the ARQ.

In a world depleted of energy resources and food, the ARQ is a perpetual motion machine.

When someone mentions seeing apples in another room, it has the same affect as shouting, “squirrel” to a pack of golden retrievers. After their apple break, they return to interrogate Renton. When Hannah betrays Renton, revealing the hidden money, Sonny, the oldest of the group, shoots him dead.

Okay then. We’re back in the bedroom. Renton is waking up again.

He remembers dying. He’s not in heaven so what gives? Again, the rebels break in and it’s deja vu. The same scene plays out with different details but Renton dies again. When he wakes, Renton realizes that his perpetual motion machine has another feature: it loops time. So Renton keeps looping the loop, learning what not to do, trying to change what happens. But he’s not the only one who learns what’s going on and on. Hannah remembers. Renton wants to save Hannah but is determined to destroy the ARQ. Hannah will help Renton escape but only if he lets the Bloc have the ARQ. Like Bogart’s Rick in Casablanca, Hannah believes that she and Renton “don’t amount to a hill of beans” compared to saving the world from Torus.

When Sonny, a Torus spy, becomes aware of the loop, it’s game on.

As the scene kept repeating, the story reminded me of a game. With little backstory on any character and only the thinnest sense of a bond between Renton and Hannah, the pacing takes over. Each loop is a round as the players duck and weave, trying to move ahead in the same space. Character becomes superfluous as the game plays out.

As Renton, the cutting-edge scientist, I feel Robbie Amell is miscast.

He’s too young. An older, more experienced actor might have given Renton more shading. Rachel Taylor and the rest of the cast are fine, but the game aspect of this script results in the actors becoming pawns. The only actor I found interesting was Shaun Benson (Channel Zero) who plays Sonny, the bad guy. Whenever Sonny appears, rather than a game, the character aspect dominates. My guess is that Benson is a more experienced actor than the rest of the cast.

Overall, I found ARQ diverting but forgettable.

If you love sci fi and you’re home, looking for something to watch, you might want to check ARQ out, if only to see the variables of each loop. Who wouldn’t like to redo parts of their own life? When it comes stories driven by time travel and time looping, play it Sam; play it again and again.