The Dark Tower Movie

Is it possible to enjoy something and be disappointed by it at the same time?

The answer to that question must be yes, because that is exactly how I feel about my experience last night watching the Dark Tower.

WARNING: There are some spoilers below. Nothing major that would ruin it for you, but if you’re a purist you might want to stop and come back after you’ve seen it.


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I enjoyed the movie. I really did, and people who criticize it too harshly are either elitists who refuse to have a good time or who decided they didn’t want to like it before they ever sat down. The Dark Tower movie was far better than the Guardians sequel, yet another Spider Man movie, or anything else out there. I haven’t seen Dunkirk, but that is probably not a fair comparison, either. Dunkirk is Oscar bait. The Dark Tower movie is a fun summer film.

I enjoyed the movie because Idris Elba was amazing. Except for a single moment in the very end when he smiled too much, I was buying him as Roland. I never bought the story arc they told in the story for Roland, but I bought him, the actor, as Roland.

I enjoyed the kid playing Jake Chambers. The Dark Tower in the novels is not about Jake, but in movie he is the star, he is the protagonist and he is phenomenal.

I enjoyed Matthew McConaughey’s sleazy lizard lounge Man in Black. Sure, they put too much of him in the movie, but that was okay because I thought he captured the cheap sorcery and flippant caprice of the literary character pretty well.

I enjoyed the gunfights. I wish I could have seen more of those epic guns themselves, like a close up or a still shot or something, but nevertheless I loved those scenes.

I enjoyed that the movie didn’t answer all the plot elements of the breakers, and I enjoyed that they changed up the way they operated inside Algul Sient.

I enjoyed Jake making fun of Walter’s name.

I enjoyed the theme park.

I enjoyed hearing Roland say, “You have forgotten the face of your father.” Thank you big big.

I enjoyed all the homages to King’s other works, which are likewise part of the Dark Tower Universe, such as The Shining, Cujo, Salem’s Lot, and It.

I really enjoyed the opening screen that included the Ka-Tet Corporation with the turtle emblem as a maker of the movie. Way cool.


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But I was also disappointed. My perception is that a tinge of sorrow accompanied most people who loved the books as they watched the film play out, because the film was not the same epic story we’d fallen in love with. It is hard to even put into words, because its more about the feel of the movie than anything specific.

I was disappointed that they tried to distill several characters into Jake. I missed very much Eddie and Susannah and Father Callahan. And Oy. I really missed Oy. For those of you who haven’t read the novels, leaving out these characters would be like going to watch the Harry Potter movies and discovering that all the Weasleys had been written out, as well as Neville  Longbottom and they were all added to Hermione’s character. Or you went to watch the Lord of the Rings and discover Frodo was the only Hobbit around and that Sam, Merry, and Pippin were added to Frodo’s character. It is that disappointing.

I am disappointed that Roland’s motive was changed. Roland is all about the Dark Tower, not revenge on Walter. Walter is in his way and is his enemy, but all Roland cares about is the Dark Tower.

I am disappointed in the beginning. They start the film in New York. The story should have started with King’s epic first line. I really wanted the movie to open with Roland on horseback chasing Walter in the desert.

I am disappointed in the lack of musical allusion. If it was there, I didn’t catch it. For me, in reading the novels, the first hint that there is a connection to this weird world the Gunslinger inhabits and ours is when he hears the song Hey Jude in the bar in Tull. TDT has a soundtrack of wonderful songs–from Someone Saved My Life Tonight to Velcro Fly to Crazy Train. Zip, Zilch, Zero on that in the movie. If you’re interested, there is an awesome Spotify playlist for the Dark Tower songs.

I am disappointed in the ending. It felt like Back To The Future, and it was too much of a happy ending. There is never a happy ending for the Dark Tower. Never. It is a sad, tragic tale.

I am disappointed in the lack of connection to other works of literature–Asimov, Rowling, Browning, etc . . .

I am disappointed in the idea of Roland as a fallen gunslinger. He is not. He deals in lead.

I am disappointed I never got to see if Roland was drinking a Nozz-A-La on the bus.

I am disappointed the movie was only an hour and a half. Really? There is a bazillion pages of source material here, and we get an hour and a half? Come on, man!

I am disappointed that the Dixie Pig shootout was moved to the front, instead of the back where it should be. Not to mention that Roland wasn’t even at the Dixie Pig shootout in the novels, unless you count his todash type appearance.

I am disappointed that all the mysticism in the novels is encapsulated with the one element of “the Shine”, which it is not. The touch (as it is called in the novels) is only part of this mystical universe.


However, I do have hope. Perhaps a new director, better screenwriting, and a revamped approach can redeem the franchise for a second installment. Just think of the difference between Star Trek The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan. But for now I am content with the knowledge that the books are still there, and they are the kind of story that gets into your blood, and the characters become people you know, and the language, say thankee-sai, even worms its way into your head.

AND THE WINNER IS . . . GREENBEAN’S OSCAR PICKS

Before we begin, let me humbly remind you that I picked the winner for the last two years (Argo, The Artist) as well as most of the other categories.  So, having reminded you of that, let’s get straight to the prognostication, shall we?  If you like, you can detour here and read my synopsis of the best picture nominees if you click here or for an analysis of Oscar’s psychological state when choosing these films click here.

Best Picture

Best Picture?  Probably That and More
Best Picture? Probably That and More
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

The winner will be 12 Years A Slave.  It has to be.  Philomena and Nebraska are tied for runner up and I would not be mad if either of them won or even if Gravity or Captain Phillips won.  However, I think in the end, 12 Years a Slave was the best movie of them all.  Her is creepy and Dallas Buyers has too many problems with the overall production.  If Wolf or Hustle win I will be very, very angry.

Actor

  • Christian Bale (Hustle)
  • Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers)

The winner will be Matthew McConaughey.  More than any other actor I’ve seen in years, McConaughey was able to make me forget I was watching a movie and make me think I was watching a documentary of the real person.  Bravo Mr. McConaughey.  Bravo.

As an aside, I wonder if Leo DiCaprio will ever again portray someone who is not rich and powerful.  That seems to be all he plays these days.

Actress

  • Amy Adams (Hustle)
  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)
  • Meryl Streep (August:  Osage County)

The Winner will be Judi Dench.  Her only real competition on this list is Bullock who did a great job in Gravity, but this is Dench’s year.  Streep’s portrayal of the matriarch in August:  Osage County was overplayed and caricatured.  Blanchet was good in Blue Jasmine but not Oscar worthy and Amy Adams was not even the most impressive actresses on her own set.  Dench needs to win to make up for the snub she and Skyfall got at the Oscars last year.

Supporting Actor

  • Barkhad Abdi (Phillips)
  • Bradley Cooper (Hustle)
  • Michael Fassbender (12 years)
  • Jonah Hill (Wolf)
  • Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers)

The winner will be Michael Fassbender.  Fassbender is a superb actor who conjures great intensity with his eyes and posture.  His portrayal of the cruel slave owner was breathtakingly evil.  Leto and Abdi are close seconds.  Hill and Cooper have no shot.  I personally hope that Jonah Hill’s moment of glory is just about up.  I do not like him.  Besides, Fassbender sports an awesome beard and that is worth a lot of votes right there.

Supporting Actress

  • Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (Hustle)
  • Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years)
  • Julia Roberts (August:  Osage County)
  • June Squibb (Nebraska)

The winner will be Julia Roberts.  It is a tight three-way race between Roberts, Lawrence, and Squibb but I think in the end Roberts will pull it out.  I don’t see how Oscar can give an award to Lawrence, 23 years old, two years in a row.  Squibb was wonderful in Nebraska, but she was overshadowed by Dern.  By contrast, Julia Roberts swiped August out from underneath Meryl Streep and that is not easy to do, so she will win the Oscar.

Director

  • Steve McQueen (12 Years)
  • David O. Russell (Hustle)
  • Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
  • Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
  • Martin Scorsese (Wolf)

The winner will be Alfonso Cuaron.  He will win much for the same reasons that Ang Lee won last year.  His film was eye candy from top to bottom and he made a one woman science fiction movie interesting and profitable.  His only real competition is McQueen.  However, in the end, I think it will be Cuaron.

You can be sure that Sunday night I will be watching the Oscars live, and probably tweeting out live during the show.  I do hope Ellen does a better job than that awful man from last year.

Picture from thewrap.com

2014 OSCAR BEST PICTURE PREVIEW

What was the best movie of 2014?

As you might imagine I have some definite ideas about that question, but before I attempt to answer it let me first tell you a little of how I perceived the 9 nominees.  To see what Greenbean thought of previous years films, click here, here, here, and here.  To see my analysis of why Oscar picked these films this year click here and to see what my predictions are click here.

oscars-2014-nominees

For now, let us take these in alphabetical order.  I’ll try to be brief, or as brief as possible.

12 Years A Slave–I think this film has a very real possibility for winning best picture.  The story arc is powerful and the acting, across the board, is outstanding.  My only complaint, and it is a tiny one, is that I prefer linear movies.  I love flashbacks, but I don’t really like starting me at the middle, taking me back to the front, and then when the film catches up to the beginning I think it must be the end yet we are no where near resolution.  I wonder, though, if the seriousness and the historical urgency the film has for contemporary culture might not hinder its chances of winning.

American Hustle–I hated this film.  There is not a single character in it I like or identify with.  By the time the credits roll I want them all to go to jail for a very long time.  There are two redeeming factors for this movie, however.  The first one is Jennifer Lawrence.  She is such a fantastic actress that she steals every scene she is in.  I think she could win another Oscar, this time for best supporting actress.  The second redeeming factor was the fashion in the movie.  As a child of the 70s I dig the retro hair and clothing.

Captain Phillips–This movie was very good and compelling.  The logical procession of the narrative maintains storytelling tension throughout.  Tom Hanks was really given the shaft by not being nominated for best actor because his performance was masterful and understated.  He played the role perfectly.  I do not think it will or can win, but I like it.

Dallas Buyers Club–Matthew McConaughey is the beginning and the end of this film.  His performance was powerhouse and disturbing, which is what it had to be.  The movie does a great job of capturing this time in history and the confusion which existed about AIDS amongst both the homosexual and heterosexual communities.  The movie fails, though, in the pacing and the development of other characters.

Gravity–Beautiful movie.  The images are amazing and the production quality is out of this world.  Sandra Bullock has the very difficult task of making us care about a character’s plight all by herself with no supporting cast to speak of, and she pulls it off.  Oscar has a historical heritage of neglecting sci-fi and space films in general so I don’t think it can win best picture, however Cuaron will probably win best director.

FUTURE FASHION FAILS
FUTURE FASHION FAILS

Her–The movie Her makes two predictions about the not too distant future.  The first one is that in the future computers will have unique personalities that evolve over time.  The second prediction is that men’s fashion will be in a terrible slump.  I had such a hard time focusing on the film because the clothes that all the male characters wear are appalling.  It is also a creepy movie.  I think Spike Jonze is trying to tell us a tale about technology and the human need for authentic relationship, but for some reason the movie kept reminding me Soylent Green.  This movie does prove the point, made so terribly in last year’s The Master, that if you need someone to portray a sexually deviant and creepy man, Joaquin Phoenix is your guy.

Nebraska–I loved this movie.  It is slow developing, in black and white, and not very flashy.  It is the opposite of American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street.  This will be added to my favorite lists of movies about aging (along with The Bucket List, Gran Torino, Red) that I recommend to younger people.  I also think that if a teacher were teaching adults (this is not a kid friend film) about the 5th Commandment–Honor your father and mother, that he or she would do well to just put this movie on and push play.

Philomena–Oh my, this movie surprised me.  I wasn’t expecting to like it, but I did, a lot.  It has a good dose of British humor and that dryness that we Americans love so much without being snooty.  This movie is not snooty at all.  It dares to ask serious theological questions and doesn’t try to give answers.  I love that in art.  I also adored the faith that Philomena had despite the failures of her church.  That is the Christian message indeed, that our personal relationship with the Lord is where salvation is found.

The Wolf of Wall Street–Debauchery.  Materialism.  Evil.  This movie is 3 hours of sin with nothing to like.  It shares the attribute with American Hustle that there was not a single character I liked.  I can’t understand why this movie was even nominated, other than the flash and influence of Scorsese, DiCaprio, and the fact that the only thing that interests Hollywood more than itself is rich power brokers.  This movie indulges itself not only with one pornographic scene after another but also with endless inflated dialogue and ego.  A prime example of the ego is the length of the movie.  Had it been cut in half it would have been a much better film.  The more I think about it, PBS Frontline would have done better with the material.  If this movie wins best picture it will mean that Oscar has gone insane.