Film review ‘THE DARKEST MINDS’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

It’s been a while since the last dystopian futuristic sci-fi fantasy in which pretty teens are oppressed by a fascist adult state. To satiate fans of that genre we now have The Darkest Minds, an adaptation of Alexandra Bracken’s young adult novel.

The film takes us into an unspecified future where a strange malady has caused some children to develop X-Men-like powers while other youngsters have mysteriously died. Fearing the teens’ powers, the US government, led by President Gray (West Wing’s Bradley Whitford) has locked them away in camps. Here, the youngsters are classified and colour-coded according to their abilities which range from level green, expanded intellect through various powers like telekinesis up to oranges who are capable of mind control. At the story’s centre is sensitive teen Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) who, upon being discovered as an orange is marked for death but manages to escape the camp and join a resistance group of teen fugitives led by Liam (Harris Dickinson) who of course looks like a male model and after few a seconds of antipathy toward Ruby, becomes her love interest.

Apart from a few confrontations with bad guys whose nefarious intentions are completely obvious to the audience but not to the supposedly psychic-powered Ruby, not much else happens. There are a couple of reasonably impressive displays of mutant powers but we’ve seen this done much better in the X-Men films. On a technical level the film has been competently constructed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson (who directed the last two Kung Fu Panda films) although it occasionally has the bland look of a tele-movie. Add to that some clunky dialogue, slow pacing and cringeworthy use of music and The Darkest Minds is little more than a cheesy teen romance and empowerment fantasy with a few post-apocalyptic trappings. There’s a vaguely emotional element here that recalls Endless Sunshine of The Spotless Mind but this film is a universe away from insight and inventiveness of Michael Gondrey’s movie.

The film’s depiction of a world in which teens are classified according to colours is an obvious reference to racial and cultural division while the attempts at ‘curing’ the mutant teens have resonances of those sinister camps where religion is used to try to turn gays straight. These weightier issues aren’t explored in enough depth, though and too quickly give way to the limp teen romance. There’s precious little explanation of how the teens developed these powers although this may have been an issue for an intended by unlikely sequel.

Stenberg is an amiable and sympathetic but not particularly inspiring hero while too many of the other characters are simply dubiously pretty teens. There’s nothing jarringly awful about this film – it’s certainly not a squawking turkey like The Host – but it’s no Hunger Games either.

Nick’s rating: **1/2

Genre: Young adult/ sci-fi/ romance.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Jennifer Yuh Nelson.

Release date: 16th Aug 2018.

Running time: 105 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


Film review: ‘MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

The Mission Impossible franchise has lasted two decades but rather than burn out it’s hit a satisfying groove in the last few years balancing dynamic action, gadget porn, a touch of humour and even a semblance of character development in central figure, Impossible Missions Force (IMF) operative, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise).

The latest film, Mission Impossible: Fallout sees Hunt tied up in another convoluted James Bond-esque plan to stop a madman destroying the world, this time creepy maniacal anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and his terrorist group known as The Apostles who, much like Austin Powers’ Dr Evil, steal some nuclear weapons so they can blow-up the planet.

With its multiple deceptions, octuple-crosses and occasional techno-babble, the plot of Mission Impossible: Fallout becomes a little murky at times. Story coherence isn’t really the point of these films, though, instead they’re all about elaborate stunts and pulse-pounding action sequences and despite a few slow patches this film delivers. With shoot-outs, bone-crunching fight sequences, car chases that will have petrol-heads spoiling their trousers, the obligatory but still exciting scenes of Cruise dangling from helicopters and of course the white-knuckle bomb defusal countdown, the film has plenty of thrills. It’s all completely implausible as Cruise survives falls, beatings and crashes that would kill Superman but we were warned, it is called Mission Impossible.

Cruise has found an ideal character in Ethan Hunt, a mysterious, emotionally-conflicted action hero with an amusingly vulnerable side who doesn’t always know what he’s doing but always manages to avert disaster. The supporting cast which includes series veteran Ving Rhames as communications expert Luther Stickell, Simon Pegg as comedy-relief gadget man Beni Dunn, Rebecca Ferguson as cool, kick-ass agent Ilsa Faust, Alec Baldwin as IMF Director Alan Hunley and newcomers Henry Cavill as suspicious CIA agent August Walker and Angela Bassett as CIA Director Erica Sloane, all make a substantial mark on this film.

The series has had an ever-changing roster of directors but Fallout has wisely stayed with Christopher McQuarrie who helmed the previous instalment Rogue Nation. He brings an effective balance of light and shade leavening the violence with humour and delivering a striking visual style that mixes some of the jittery close quarter combat excitement of Paul Greengrass with striking panoramas of London, Paris and the mountainous regions of Kashmir.

After decades of spy movie franchises, Mission Impossible: Fallout is hardly revelatory but it’s still a lot of fun.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2

Genre: Action/ drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Christopher McQuarrie.

Release date: 2nd Aug 2018.

Running time: 147 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


What’s on ‘Built For Speed’ Friday 3rd August 2018

This week on ‘Built For Speed’ we look at some very welcome comebacks as we review the latest feature film for Spike Lee (who has been focusing on more low-key projects recently) ‘BlackKKlansman’.  We’ll also here from some legendary bands who made stunning comebacks.  There’ll also be plenty of fine new Aussie music, classic rock and indie favourites.  Don’t forget our preview of gigs and TV for the week. Check out ‘Built For Speed’ Friday 8-10pm on 88.3 Southern FM.

What’s on ‘Built For Speed’ Friday 27th July 2018

This week ‘Built For Speed’ takes a look at the unusual French drama ‘See You Up There’.  We’ll also give you a wrap-up of other current release movies.  There’s plenty of fine music for you with some live power pop, new Aussie tracks, classic rock and indie favourites.  Don’t forget our regular preview of gigs and TV for the week.  Check out ‘Built For Speed’ Friday 8-10pm on 88.3 Southern FM.

What’s on ‘Built For Speed’, Friday 20th July 2018

This week on ‘Built For Speed’ we take a look at the latest offering from that now rare film genre, the musical, as we review the singing and dancing extravaganza of ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’.  We’ll also take a look at droll Kiwi comedy ‘The Breaker Upperers’.  There are many fine tunes for you to enjoy as we play some of Sweden’s best artists, new Aussie tracks, classic rock and indie favourites from the 2000’s.  Don’t forget our regular preview of gigs and TV for the week.  Check out ‘Built For speed’ Friday 8-10pm on 88.3 Southern FM.

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