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[film]the dark tower: review

There’s a moment when watching the Dark Tower where one is forced to consider how much the source material bears on the film. The Dark Tower is a sprawling (sometimes meandering) epic series of books with a lot of original ideas and more than a few execution errors. For all that it is an extremely loved sprawling epic series of books so anyone going into making a film version knew they had their work cut out for them to make those fans happy.

The bad news is this movie is not going to make those fans happy. I don’t blame them. The ties to the source material are tenuous at best. If anyone ever wants to hear my opinion of Queen of the Damned, I one hundred percent get watching something and wondering if the filmmakers even read the same book I did. The good news for you all is that all reports say the television series will be much closer to canon. So there’s hope on that front.

The good news is that as a film separate of it’s source material, it’s not a terrible film, if a bit of a formulaic one. The biggest issue it runs into is running time. Director Nikolaj Arcel tries to shove a whole lot of story into an hour and half of running time. Basically this gets translated into things that are touched on but never fully explored making it hard to be truly emotionally invested in the story or what happens to the characters.

Idris Elba’s Roland is perhaps the brightest point. Elba plays the line between lost soul, badass and straight man extremely well. Matthew McConaughey does well enough as the Man in Black. If anything I wish they had delved farther into his devil may care, quirky side that feels as if it’s only hinted at. Elba and McConaughey have good chemistry on screen together. Unfortunately Tom Taylor as Jake is fairly bland and while Jake is used as audience stand in he feels more like a plot device for most of the film than a full blown character.

My main complaint about the Dark Tower is the lack of female voices. It could be argued that Susannah doesn’t show up until the second book so therefore has no place in the movie, but there are many factors that don’t show up until later books that they included that the argument doesn’t entirely work. It does end up feeling a bit like watching dudes do all sorts of dude things. The two female characters with extremely limited screen and dialogue are pretty literally the mother and whore archetypes and that’s about it. In a film where very few characters have any level of depth, the women feel even more shallow than that.

For all it’s flaws, it’s an enjoyable movie. There are lots of fun moments and the action scenes are on point. It’s beautiful to look at and there’s a ton of fun King Easter eggs to keep your eye out for. I’d definitely say it’s a wait to rent however and skip buying it though.

[television]samurai jack

Once upon a time, in the dark ages of the early ’00’s, there was a moment of brilliant television called Samurai Jack. It told of an epic quest of revenge, redemption and time travel. For four seasons, we travelled with Jack on his quest to return home and defeat Aku. And then it ended with Jack winning a battle with Aku, but not the war as Aku transforms into a bat and gets away. Not going to lie. It was a bit disappointing as far as series finales go, but it wasn’t the worst.

Fast forward to present day and the time of the show revival for every show ever from the 90s and early 00s, including Samurai Jack. So how does season 5 Samurai Jack stack up against original Samurai Jack?Especially from Cartoon Network which has alienated a lot of fans with Teen Titans Go and Power Puff Girls? I’m happy to report that, as of the first episode, the answer is pretty damn fantastically.

In terms of story, it’s been 50 years since we last saw Jack. He doesn’t age and he’s haunted by the past and the people he’s let down. He’s still wandering, but the door to the past he believes is closed. His fighting skills are still sharply honed as we see in a show down with Scaramouch, an android assassin. Meanwhile Aku is training seven girls to become ruthless assassins in their own right with the sole purpose of killing Jack once and for all.

Artistically and animation wise they’ve modernized without losing any of the striking visual style that set Samurai Jack apart from so many other shows. Greg Baldwin does an excellent job of stepping in  as Aku for Mako Iwamatsu, who sadly passed away in 2006. It’s a solid first episode that should bring fans back for more and perhaps even garner a few new ones.