Bro-Reviews: Ingrid Goes West


The summer movie season has come to somewhat of a standstill, with many studios all but abandoning these last two weekends of August. It’s around this time of the year that many good movies slip through the cracks, only to be discovered later on during their second life on the home video market. A top candidate to have that same fate is Neon’s Ingrid Goes West, a film that received critical acclaim when it was first screened at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and has finally gotten a wide release in theaters.

In Ingrid Goes West, a mentally unstable, social media obsessed woman name Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) finds herself having to stay in a mental hospital after crashing the wedding of an unrequited friend (Mereidith Hagner). Upon her release, Ingrid is given an inheritance due to the death of her mother, and decides to use this money in order to move to Los Angeles in order to befriend a social media influencer named Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). After renting an apartment in Venice from aspiring screenwriter and Batman enthusiast Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) , Ingrid begins her quest to become besties Taylor.

Ingrid Goes West is undoubtedly an indictment on today’s social media obsessed world. While the story is obviously fictitious, it’s not too hard to believe someone could or would follow a person on instaface or any other form of social media platform to the point of obsession and wanting to be close to that person. In that regard, Ingrid Goes West is a harrowing film that displays just how preoccupied today’s society is with social media and using it as a means of replacing intimate, personal relationships with “likes” and nice comments from otherwise complete and utter strangers. This makes Ingrid Goes West not only a fascinating take on today’s social media driven world, but also an agonizing watch as we see the title character continually act socially awkward and downright creepy in order just to have an otherwise surface level relationship with someone she doesn’t know from Adam.

Elizabeth Olsen and Aubrey Plaza in “Ingrid Goes West.”

Also making the film a tough watch for viewers is the fact that almost none of the characters are likeable or relatable in the least. We’re meant to empathize for Plaza due to the fact that her mother, whom she seemed to have a close and touching relationship with, has died, and at first we sympathize with her. But all of that is nearly thrown out the window as we cringe at every awkward moment Plaza’s Ingrid makes when stalking Olsen’s character. Ingrid takes advantage of people in almost any way she can in order to not only pursue a friendship with Taylor, but also become a social media celebrity, a shallow and disturbing pursuit. Even though this is done on purpose, Olsen’s Taylor is also just as unlikable. Her willingness to put on filters and trying portray her life as heavenly is about as annoying as a Kardashian’s post on what clothes they bought that day, and is the epitome of superficial. Although Olsen’s character is supposed to be an example of everything that is wrong with social media celebrities, it makes her that much more annoyingly uninteresting.

But therein lies the genius in Ingrid Goes West. The film is attempting to tell audiences that life cannot be lived nor mimicked by what we see from those we follow on social media platforms. Life is not going to be as pretty as one of the filters we are able to use on social media posts, and it is downright unhealthy to the point of mental instability to rely on these filters to mask our lives and build relationships upon. The film is a commentary on what can happen to us and our society if we continue to overly rely on social media, taking advantage of the fact that nearly every single audience member has taken a look at a social media post much like how Ingrid looks at Taylor’s posts in the film and wishes that her life could be like Taylor’s, and we have copied her same actions and thoughts.

What ultimately makes the film intriguing and watchable, however, are the fantastic performances in the film. Aubrey Plaza’s portrayal of Ingrid is stellar, as she is able to play the character’s mental instability as quirky in some aspects and downright unlikable in others. Plaza continues to prove she has the comedic and dramatic chops to be one of Hollywood’s most talented actresses out there. Elizabeth Olsen continues to showcase she is the most talented of the Olsen sisters, and her take as a flat socialmedialite nails the current Instagram famous celebrity we cannot help but follow today. O’Shea Jackson Jr. demonstrates he’s not just a one trick pony after portraying his legendary gangster rapper father, Ice Cube, in Straight Outta Compton. Jackson Jr. is the most likeable of all the characters in the film, and his character’s obsession with Batman delivers one of the most hysterical sex scenes ever captured on film.

Overall, Ingrid Goes West isn’t the easiest film to sit down and watch due to its downright chilling take on the current state of our social media driven society. But the film is able to ride the terrific performances of its lead actors to make the film topical, but hilariously educational in the sense that it is a cautionary tale of what not to put emphasis on in our lives. There’s nothing like a film that not only points the finger at the audience in an uncomfortable manner, but makes us laugh while doing so. In the end, Ingrid Goes West tells us to disregard the filters we use to mask our otherwise blisteringly uninteresting lives and to live them in the hopes that we can be happy and loved without the need for a “like” button to replace the real feeling.

Rating: 3/4 Stars. Pay Matinée Price.

Ingrid Goes West stars Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, Pom Klementieff, and Meredith Hagner. It is in theaters August 11th.



Floyd Mayweather versus Connor McGregor Reaction: We Deserved This

Rocky versus Thunderlips was more compelling.

After months of hype, numerous press tours, a weigh-in, and a fight, Floyd Mayweather versus Connor McGregor came and went. “The Great White Hope” versus “The Greatest Boxer Ever” was built as a spectacle of biblical proportions. A clash of the titans. A must see summer blockbuster film. The result? A con job that rivals the one Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao pulled on the viewing public back in May of 2015.

This is exactly what we deserved. We deserved to be hoodwinked and bamboozled by a has been boxer and a man in way over his head. We paid $99.95 to watch a farce. We epitomized the meme of Frye from Futurama and told Flyod Mayweather and Connor McGregor to shut up and take our money in the hopes that a woman beating dirt-bag and a racially insensitive loud-mouth would titillate us into believing we would experience an entertaining fight.

There was evidence of this fight being a farce from the start. Floyd “Money” Mayweather walked to the ring dressed in a black and gold jacket he stole from Michael Jackson’s closet and wore a black mask akin to the one Ms. Puff wore in an episode of Spongebob Squarepants.

Is that Floyd Mayweather or Mrs. Puff from Spongebob under that mask?

He wore this mask in order to hide a smirk and his utter disdain for the viewing public he claimed he owed for the Pacquiao fight and wanted to “entertain” the fans. Floyd knew the check had cleared before the first bell had rung.

Connor McGregor’s demeanor may exude confidence, but he knew he had no chance in this bout. This was an opportunity for him to further expand his celebrity stardom by participating in this charade, and he made like the Steve Miller Band and ceased the opportunity to take the money and run. He made millions of dollars by agreeing to get his face rearranged. Sure, his “**** you” suit was nothing short of clickbait worthy, but when your most memorable moment of this entire farce was a cheap custom suit you wore, we should’ve known just how abysmal the entire exercise would be.

The farce first started with the presentation of McGregor’s UFC title belts and Mayweather’s boxing championship belts. This was undoubtedly shameless advertising for both UFC and boxing, and resembled two kids holding up plastic WWE title belts before play fighting. Showtime desperately tried to convince paying customers they were watching an entertaining fight. Ring announcers/ color commentators Mauro Ranallo, Paulie Malignaggi, and Al Bernstein shamelessly lauded the awkward McGregor and continually gave him the benefit of the doubt. They contiually used some iteration of the word “entertain” throughout the 45 minutes of so called action. There’s no doubt McGregor was the aggressor and won first three rounds… because Floyd was toying with him.

Once round four arrived, Mayweather carried McGregor in a fight he predicted would not even go the distance. He had to give him those first three rounds so that audiences wouldn’t turn away so quickly. They should’ve changed the channel immediately after seeing the obvious product placement of Body Armor being used to hydrate the fighters, and the fact that Mayweather had no more than a scratch on his face and body while McGregor’s face and body looked like hell, and had to be iced down to avoid resembling a tomato.

Mayweather carried the overmatched McGregor.

Though past his prime, Floyd Mayweather can sleepwalk his way through a boxing match. All he has to do is his trademark shoulder-roll move and avoid being hit while landing a couple of combinations en route to a victory. Floyd Mayweather is arguably the greatest boxer of all time, a Las Vegas showman who listlessly performed his act and made millions of dollars by merely rolling out of bed in a tenth round TKO victory.

Does this fight resolve the argument that boxers are more skilled the Mixed Martial Artists? Hardly. This was vaudevillian buffoonery at its finest, not a true measure of whether a famed UFC fighter could save face in the realm of boxing. It didn’t help that the UFC fighter, who won’t go down as even the best athlete in his sport, went up against quite possibly the pound for pound king of boxing, albeit a has been who came out of retirement to participate in the bout.

In the end, we should be ashamed of ourselves. I know I am. I tuned in hoping at the very least to be entertained by this joke, but I felt as if I was watching a summer box-office bomb that would never end.  I would’ve rather watched the King Arthur: Legend of the Sword movie released earlier this summer that Connor McGregor passed on to be in this fight. At least McGregor’s acting debut would’ve been something to behold.

We would’ve been better off re-watching Rocky III when Rocky fought Thunderlips. At least that was for charity. If you are trying to convince yourself what you just spent $99.95 and watched was even amusing, stop kidding yourself. If you aren’t calling your cable provider right now and demanding your money back, you’re doing it wrong. Maybe there’s a chance that by doing so, you’ll actually end up talking to a real person rather than a voice automated message. The sound you’ll end up hearing is the sound of popping champagne bottles, the sound of dollar bills smacking together, and Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor laughing whilst joyously screaming, “GOT ‘EM!”

The Cavaliers Celtics Megatrade

The NBA off-season continues to be more dramatic than last season.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have agreed to trade point guard Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics in exchange for point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-round pick.

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge finally pulled the trigger in an effort to pursue an NBA title. Acquiring Kyrie Irving gives them an All-Star caliber player and one of the most effective offensive players in the league, and he will compliment new free-agent forward Gordon Hayward very well. They also avoid having to pay a super-max deal to point guard Isaiah Thomas with this move as well, thus assuring they won’t have to overpay a 5’8 point guard who is a defensive liability.

Earlier this off-season, Kyrie Irving went to Cavaliers management and requested a trade, with the rumor he no longer wanted to play second fiddle to Cavaliers forward LeBron James and be “the man” on another team. While Irving was granted his request, is he really “the man” on the Boston Celtics? Sure, he’s their most talented offense player now even with the arrival of prized free-agent forward Gordon Hayward, but the Celtics aren’t going to build around Irving. They’ll play team basketball and incorporate everyone on the court, something Kyrie Irving hasn’t always been best at considering he  averages merely 5.6 assists per game for his career. Irving may have been gotten what he wanted in regards to moving away from LeBron James (*a dumb move, but more on that later*), but he isn’t going to be “the man” in Boston. And while there is also the rumor he will not commit long term to his new team, the Celtics will be hesitant to commit long term to an oft-injured ball dominant point guard.

Sure, the Celtics are now more offensively talented with the addition of Irving, but they’ve forgone their hard-nosed defensive mentality by trading away Crowder to the Cavaliers and trading guard Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons earlier this summer. Without their defensive tone-setters and swapping the same type of player, the Celtics aren’t much better than they were, and even then they weren’t able to be competitive in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavaliers. And considering the price they had to pay to acquire Irving wasn’t that much, we can still criticize Danny Ainge for being hesitant in trade discussions relating to now Timberwolves forward Jimmy Butler and now Thunder forward Paul George. All the Celtics had to give up was a starter or two and a future draft pick, so the Celtics could have easily had either Butler or George earlier this off-season and improve their chances of dethroning King James and the Cavaliers.

Kyrie Irving was tired of playing second fiddle to LeBron James, and forced his way out of Cleveland.

The Cavaliers come out winners in this deal in the short-term. They are still the best team in the Eastern Conference by making this move and will represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals next year. While Isaiah Thomas is the worst defensive player in the league and there are lingering concerns regarding his hip injury he suffered in the Eastern Conference Finals, he is another offensive option for the Cavaliers who can get his own shot. They’ve essentially traded a ball dominant point guard for another ball dominant point guard, so not much changes for the Cavaliers offensively. The addition of Jae Crowder bolsters the Cavaliers’ defense as well, as he can guard a team’s best offensive player night in and night out. Crowder also shot nearly 40% from behind the three-point line last year, adding yet another sharp shooter to their three-point shooting heavy offense.

Regardless of whether or not the Cavaliers win the title next year, they know LeBron James is as good as gone. There’s only so much LeBron James can do to help this dysfunctional franchise, and the Cavaliers added an insurance policy for when LeBron James bolts for another team by acquiring Brooklyn’s 1st round pick. The Nets are sure to be one of the worst teams in the NBA this year, and the Cavaliers have effectively managed to mitigate the damage that will be done when LeBron James leaves, as they are sure to have a high draft pick in next year’s draft and can start rebuilding.

LeBron James holds all the cards once again.

One thing I cannot wrap my mind around, however, is why Kyrie Irving requested a trade. Even though the Celtics are an ideal situation due to the fact they are contenders, Irving has thrown away a guaranteed trip to the NBA Finals by jettisoning away from LeBron James. Over the last seven seasons, any team LeBron James has played for has made it to the NBA Finals. He’s managed to win three titles during that span. Irving was also a more efficient player upon James’ arrival back to Cleveland, and was the man who made the game winning shot for the Cavaliers in Game 7 of 2016 NBA Finals because LeBron James, the best player in the world and ever, deferred to him. Why would anyone abandon a situation in which you are the second best player on the team only because you are playing beside the best player in the league and the best basketball player ever, yet still treated as a superstar/ “the man?”

While there will inevitably be a Shaq/ Kobe situation in which Irving will say he regrets leaving LeBron James and the way in which their time together ended, for now the NBA’s Eastern Conference has been made somewhat dramatic. While the season opener between these teams on October 17th will be sensationalized in an effort to make the upcoming NBA season seem less predictable, the Cavaliers are still the class of the Eastern Conference. Every fan also knows, however, everyone is playing for second place, as the Golden State Warriors are the overwhelming favorites to be champions for the third time in four years.

Despite the move, the Warriors remain the favorite to win the NBA title next season.

Bro-Reviews: Logan Lucky

Ocean’s 7-Eleven.

The heist genre can be quite tricky to pull off now these days. While most moviegoers themselves fantasize of stealing a large sum of cash in the hopes of a rags-to-riches storybook ending, audiences have seen this story played out dozens upon dozens of times. The only director who seemed to get it right two out of the three times he directed such a film was Steven Soderbergh, who announced his retirement three years ago much to the dismay of film buffs around the globe. However, Soderbergh has ended his retirement and returned to the all-too-familiar heist film genre with his latest project, Logan Lucky.

Logan Lucky centers on Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), a would be NFL quarterback had he not blown out his knee at LSU, thus continuing a family curse that also extends to his his one-handed Iraq veteran brother, Clyde Logan (Adam Driver). After Jimmy is fired from his construction job, he and Clyde devise an elaborate plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway with the help of their sister Mellie Logan (Riley Keough) and incarcerated explosives expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig).

Logan Lucky rests upon the shoulders of its performers, and everyone brings their A-game to the picture. Channing Tatum continues to prove why he is one of the most  sought after A-listers in Hollywood today, bringing to life a smarter-than-you-think character who is doing this just to remain closer to his daughter. Adam Driver also gives a great performance as the down and out younger brother, and it’s roles such as these that allow Driver to expertly portray his awkwardness to make his character seem ever-so appealing. The rest of the ensemble also performs well in the film, particularly Katie Holmes, whose portrayal of Jimmy’s ex-wife makes you wish you had the gumption to pick-up a Southern belle like her. Hilary Swank also makes a welcome return to the mainstream in the third act of the film as a hard-nosed FBI investigator, and it’s great to see a talent like her back where she belongs.

Daniel Craig, Adam Driver, and Channing Tatum in “Logan Lucky.”

However, it’s Daniel Craig’s Joe Bang who steals the show. Craig has of course always had the reputation of a suave actor due to his excellent turn as James Bond, but he immerses himself so much into his red-neck character you understand why Steven Soderbergh chooses to bill him as “and introducing Daniel Craig as Joe Bang”. It’s as if he has actually discovered a new bona fide character actor out there, and there’s no doubt Craig should be up for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar come next March. Soderbergh also returns with his slick and stylish direction that brings life to the heist. Soderbergh is also able to get the most out his performers, continuing his winning streak of being able to work with and properly direct actors, something that seems to come at a premium these days with most directors.

What helps Logan Lucky rise above its otherwise generic plot is the setting and its willingness to dive into it. These are poor, simple folk we’re following in the film, and there’s something refreshing about having poorer people in the South be the heroes we root for instead of the pretty and attractive people we see in most other heist films. The film’s Southern charm made the characters rather charming and likeable, particularly when you realize that although these characters aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, they are in fact smarter than you think and are counting on you buying into that stereotype so that they can set out what they want to accomplish. Logan Lucky is the anti- Ocean’s 11. It’s not glitzy and glamorous, it’s grimy and rednecky. As one of the extras in the film says, it’s Ocean’s 7-Eleven.

If there’s anything to gripe about regarding the film, it’s that its not as hilarious as it’s been marketed. The marketing campaign would have you believe it’s an all-out hillbilly robbery romp, but it’s more a heist film with quirky characters and a surprisingly good amount of heart. One of the performers that tries to play it up for laughs is Seth McFarlane, who never quite jells in his NASCAR sponsor role to be memorable and or effective in the film.

Overall, Logan Lucky is one of those rare late-summer releases that’s actually a good movie. It’s the kind of film Burt Reynolds would have excelled in and made a boat-load of money back in the 1960s and 1970s. With exceptional performances, great direction, and willingness to get down and dirty, Logan Lucky marks a welcome return for legendary director Steven Soderbergh and is more than worth one last trip to the theater before Labor Day.

Rating: 3/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

Logan Lucky stars Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Seth McFarlane, Katherine Waterson, Dwight Yoakam, Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid, and Hilary Swank. It is in theaters Friday, August 18th.

Bro-Reviews: The Hitman’s Bodyguard

When Deadpool met Nick Fury.

It’s typically around the month of August we see the summer movie season slow down considerably. Although recent years have seen the release of blockbuster films such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad, August is the month many studios reserve for dumping films they have no confidence in in the hopes that audiences will go see them out of pure boredom. Many of these films are mindless, over-the-top action films catered to action junkies, and Summit Entertainment is hoping the presence of Mr. Deadpool Ryan Reynolds and Nick Fury Samuel L. Jackson will propel those junkies to go see the latest R-rated action buddy-comedy, The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard stars Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce, a former special protection agent who laments on his career whilst still protecting lesser clientele after a job that went sideways. When an Interpol transport mission is intercepted by the enemy, Interpol agent and Michael’s ex-flame Amelia (Élodie Yung) calls upon him for help transporting a witness to the trial of a power-hungry Eastern European dictator, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). That witness happens to be Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a hitman and Michael’s rival. Despite their hatred for one another, the two must band together to make it to the International Court of Justice in England in time to put Dukhovich in jail once and for all.

Before going any further, one must note the first trailer for this film was cut expertly, with Samuel L. Jackson cursing up a storm, loads of explosions, and the late Whitney Houston belting out her famous rendition of “I will always love you.” It was marketed as an anti-The Bodyguard, the 1992 smash hit starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. The trailer made me very excited to see the movie, but unfortunately, the trailer is better than the actual feature length film.

While Jackson and Reynolds do have chemistry, the two aren’t straining to portray characters, they’re playing themselves. Reynolds is in peak snarky but capable form, and continues to showcase he can rise above otherwise pedestrian material. Samuel L. Jackson is in peak “Samuel L. Jackson” form, yelling four letter swear words every other line of dialogue and clearly having a blast doing so. The two are well matched together, but the surrounding material just isn’t there for them to gain any momentum and carry the film by themselves.

Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.”

Salma Hayek, save for the typical cleavage shots, one butt-kicking action sequence, and one joke with another prisoner, is utterly wasted in the film. Her scenes consist of her swearing, swearing in Spanish, and exploitative cleavage shots. That’s it. Gary Oldman is sleepwalking through the film as the villain, and it’s time to hold him accountable for giving terrible performances in films such as this, The Unborn, Paranoia, and Red Riding Hood. There’s no doubt Oldman is a talented actor and can give a great performance when he feels like it, but he far too often chooses to take “for the money” roles such as this and goes through the motions.

The film also has jarring tonal shifts within the first 30 minutes or so. Scenes of Oldman’s Dukhovich slaughtering innocent people are meant to make us fear him, but then the film cuts to Reynolds and Jackson quipping one-liners in an attempt to make the audience laugh-off the otherwise horrendous events we’ve just witnessed. The film is also far too long at 118 minutes, as a tighter, quicker film could’ve improved it tremendously. It doesn’t help the film is also riddled with cheap-looking special effects and actors from other late-summer action films such as Sam Hazeldine (Riah Crane AKA the bad guy in Mechanic: Resurrection) to remind you you’re watching a late summer action film, and not a quality one.

Although the special effects are quite cheap-looking, the action sequences are brutal and do deliver. Director Patrick Hughes has shown he’s capable of staging action scenes very well in the underappreciated Expendables 3, and his direction of the action in the film livens it up. One must particularly note the final car chase, which displays Hughes’ talent for filming thrilling action. It’s these scenes that ultimately made me forgive the film for it’s otherwise cheap feel save for the leads they were able to sign onto the film.

Ultimately, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a disposable, substandard, harmless late summer action film that has the saving grace of two well matched leads and enough adrenaline pumping action. However, one cannot help but notice the film surrounding the two leads and action sequences isn’t up to par with them, ultimately leaving viewers an expandable and forgettable action buddy-comedy film.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. Rent it.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard stars Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Élodie Yung, Salma Hayek, Richard E. Grant, Sam Hazeldine, Kirsty Mitchell, and Joaquim de Almeida. It is in theaters Friday, August 18th.



Bro-Reviews: The Dark Tower

One (frustrating) step away from an epic.

Let’s face it folks, making a movie is never easy. Adapting legendary literature beloved by many people into a film is near impossible. This has never stopped Hollywood before, as “unfilmable” classics such as World War Z, Watchmen, Cloud Atlas, and Atlas Shrugged have all been adapted into feature length films, yielding mixed results at best. One of these classic works of literature that has also been label “unadaptable” is The Dark Tower by legendary author Stephen King. With an expansive universe that has been built for many years through numerous books, The Dark Tower could never get out of production hell, recycling through directors such as J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard. Years later, however, The Dark Tower has finally arrived in theaters, hoping to break the “unadaptable”/”unfilmable” curse.

The Dark Tower sees 11-year-old child Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) experiencing nightmares of a parallel universe called “The Mid-World”. Convinced his dreams are true, Jake sets off for an adventure to explore this universe, which he eventually discovers and befriends Roland (Idris Elba), a Gunslinger sworn to protect the Mid-World. Roland is on a quest to find the Dark Tower, the nexus point between time and space, in hopes to save all existence from extermination. However, Walter o’Dim/ The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) is hot on the unlikely duo’s trail, and the two’s mission appears to be near impossible to complete.

Throughout the development of the Dark Tower, rumors circulated the film was too big for director Nikolaj Arcel to grasp, with initial test screenings panning the film for being too convoluted and lacking in special effects. This of course led to re-shoots and studio interference to try to make the film more accessible to mainstream audiences in the hopes of making a bankable summer blockbuster. As I stated earlier, The Dark Tower has always had the reputation of being near impossible to adapt to the big screen, and that’s the case for many of Stephen King’s works. The Dark Tower was more than likely never going to be the epic hardcore fans had hoped for, but as it stands, there’s evidence The Dark Tower was closer to being an epic than one might have originally thought.

Idris Elba continues his ascension to the top of the A-List with his turn as Roland. Elba is undeniably cool as the legendary gunslinger, and he projects his sense of frustration and seemingly aimless wandering due to the damage Walter o’Dim/ the Man in Black has done to the Mid-World and all of the other gunslingers. The Dark Tower serves as further proof the Elba is an actor to be reckoned with. Matthew McConaughey is delightfully creepy and suave as Walter o’Dim/ The Man in Black, and appears to be having a blast in the role. He’s also able to convey a sense of dread and impending doom every time he appears on screen, once again adding another tremendous performance in McConaughey’s “McConaissance” that has been going strong since 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer. Although there are moments of bad child acting, Tom Taylor is an appealing enough actor as Jake Chambers to display his wonder when first encountering the Mid-World and eagerness to help Roland, as he and Elba as make for a nice duo.

Matthew McConaughey;Idris Elba
Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba in “The Dark Tower.”

Of course, one would be remiss if they did not mention whether or not the Mid-World is realized in any fashion. There’s definitely enough imagery within the film that makes King’s parallel universe come to life, which is impressive considering the film’s muted $60 million budget. Scenes in which children are being strapped to machines and using their “shine” in an attempt to bring down the tower are frightening and original, giving the film a much needed chilly atmosphere. This atmosphere is also bolstered with the barren wasteland of the Mid-World, an abandoned theme park, a village safe haven, and secret Mid-World societies in the heart of New York City Roland and Jake come across during the film’s 95 minute run time.While the special effects are nothing to marvel at, they’re good enough to be passable in a film that clearly had budget restrictions.

However, therein lies one of the issues preventing The Dark Tower from rising above an otherwise conventional fantasy film. Although I’ve said it before, it needs to be said again; The Dark Tower was never going to have a seamless transition to the silver screen. King has written 8 books in the series, and never truly concluded his epic saga. With that in mind, it’s very disappointing the film was restricted to a lower budget and not allowed to be the $100 million summer blockbuster it could have been in order to have the Mid-World and all of its intricacies come to life. Action scenes involving the creatures of the Mid-World are so dark you can’t really follow what’s occurring on screen, somewhat muting the film’s otherwise stylish and pulpy action sequences. It would have been even more terrifying to see all of the monsters and creatures Roland gives exposition about when explaining how the tower guards the universe from such monsters and then see him do battle with them. The film also feels hacked to the bone at 95 minutes, and one cannot help but feel the studio interference in the film in order to make the film more appealing to a wide audience. At 95 minutes, the film could’ve used an extra half hour of set-up, exposition, and action to make The Dark Tower be the epic film it should have been.

Also plaguing the film are the 20 minutes or so we see Jake in the real world/ keystone earth. Much of the dialogue during this time is laughably bad, and it does not help that the young actors in these scenes clearly needed another take or more acting lessons in order for them to not come across as actors but as actual children living in New York City. On top of that, the ending of the film clearly has a rushed, “we ran out of money” vibe, leaving one with somewhat of a sour taste in their mouth as they exit the theater.

By no means is The Dark Tower a great movie, but it’s not terrible either. Considering most of the other Stephen King films such as Pet Sematary, The Mist, and Dreamcatcher that were all quite bad, The Dark Tower stands as one of the better Stephen King adaptations.  Unfortunately, one cannot but help but feel the studio interference onscreen while watching the film. The result is a near epic film that needed more time and money to have Stephen King’s legendary vision fully realized, rendering it somewhat conventional. Despite the feeling of what could have been, The Dark Tower is bolstered by Elba’s and McConaughey’s performances, has enough imagery, and stylized action to justify a trip to the theater.

Rating: 2.5/4. Pay Matinée Price.

The Dark Tower stars Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kanz, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Jackie Earle Hayley, and Dennis Haysbert. It is in theaters Friday, August 4th.