‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’ Review

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Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Writer: Paul W.S. Anderson

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Iain Glen, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Eoin Macken, Fraser James, Ruby Rose, William Levy, Rola and Ever Anderson.

Synopsis: Picking up immediately after the events in Resident Evil: Retribution, Alice is the only survivor of what was meant to be humanity’s final stand against the undead. Now, she must return to where the nightmare began – The Hive in Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse.

 

After six films and fifteen years, the Resident Evil films are done. Whether you like them or not, the films had staying power due to its devoted fanbase and the love that Paul W.S. Anderson and star/wife Milla Jovovich had for the franchise (again, whether you liked it or not). Now, The Final Chapter has arrived and it sends the film franchise off on a somewhat proper note for the film and the characters. Not without it’s problems of course.

The film opens with a new recap of how we ended up where we are, but also giving us the backstory of how the T-virus was created and why. We then find Alice, who is coming out of bunker in a now destroyed Washington D.C. and while she’s finding her bearings, The Red Queen – played by her daughter this time around in Ever Anderson – suddenly appears and tells her about a cure to the T-virus that can end everything and stop Umbrella from accomplishing total domination. Alice reluctantly agrees to go back where it all became: The Hive in Raccoon City. Along the way, Alice meets a new group of survivors lead by Alice’s old friend, Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and eventually the group makes it to the dangerous Hive to stop Umbrella and a returning Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) and Wesker (Shawn Roberts).

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Like most Resident Evil films, the film leaves most of the characters from the last film out and skips a potentially big plot point. Alice is by herself at the opening, but we don’t see any signs of the characters like Ada Wong, Leon Kennedy or Jill Valentine. That’s always been something I never liked about the Resident Evil movies, they add and drop characters like nothing. It is something that drove me absolutely crazy, and all for the sake of following Alice.

Nothing against the Alice character, she has come to become her own character and her arc does reach an conclusion here thankfully, but in true fashion in these films – it’s utterly ridiculous in its own way, but in a way that somehow makes sense in these movies. Jovovich already knows the character in and out, and at this point she could have played the character in her sleep, but she still finds a way to spew out one-liners the only way she knows. Alice is also the only one that really gets in some of development.

The rest of the cast is okay, but none of them really do anything that lasts or too memorable, which begs the question again, why not bring back characters people love and know? That would have upped the ante and the real risk of the mission to finally stop Umbrella, especially this being the last film. Anyway, with the expectation of Iain Glen and Ali Larter, the rest of the cast is just there. Shawn Roberts, who has already played Wesker literally does nothing throughout the film and just stands around looking at computer screens and talks to Dr. Isaacs. Eoin Macken’s Doc, Fraser James’ Razor, William Levy’s Christian and Ruby Rose’s Abigail have a short scene each to let us know who they are, but it’s never enough.

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Even when it comes to Ali Larter’s Claire, it’s almost like she’s a completely different character, and that’s saying something considering she lost her memory in Afterlife. Iain Glen returns in – again – the way only way this franchise can bring back a character, but his performance is a little odd from what we’ve seen before. I’m not saying the Resident Evil films are built on Oscar-worthy performances, but some character personality continuity would be nice. There’s also an out-of-the-blue/out-of-nowhere subtext that was never once hinted, but knowing it now, it still makes no real sense.

Thankfully, the film avoids the overabundance of slow-motion during its fight scenes, but instead switches them for quick cuts and tight camera work that you can’t even tell what’s going on half the time. The only time that’s not too much of an issue is when Alice fights Dr. Isaacs, which is good considering they are the two focal points of the franchise. Also, The Final Chapter is filled with action which should make fans of the franchise happy. Although, I could have gone with one less action scene for some character development, to be honest.

All in all, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is more-or-less of the same name from the past with only a few minor improvements. The film sadly doesn’t let you know the other characters keeping its focus on Milla Jovovich’s Alice and Iain Glen’s Dr. Isaacs. While the film does go through its ridiculous stages, a franchise staple, the film does feel like a proper sendoff to the series. Although, I wish they brought back popular characters to make the film feel more important.

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Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

2.5 out of 5

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‘Split’ Review

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Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Writer: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, and Betty Buckley

Synopsis: After three girls are kidnapped by a man with 24 distinct personalities they must find some of the different personalities that can help them while running away and staying alive from the others.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

M. Night Shyamalan may be back ladies and gentleman. Shyamalan had lost many of his fans after his films progressively got worse and worse, but returned to form in a small dose with The Visit last year. Now, with Split, it looks like Shyamalan is back to form and making compelling films again. While the film isn’t a straight out horror film, Split is a lot more than the trailers have you believe. Not only that, the much talked about twist ending is something I never would have imagined. I will say though, please do yourself the favor and don’t seek the twist ending. Seeing it for yourself is well worth it and totally deserved after you sit back and think about it, or read Shyamalan’s quotes.

The film centers on James McAvoy’s Kevin, who suffers with Dissociative Identity Disorder, which gives him twenty-three different identities. One of his identities, Dennis, kidnaps three young women in Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) because they are needed for a special ceremony for a new twenty-fourth identity emerging within Kevin known only as The Beast. What follows is the girls trying to escape, and avoid becoming “gifts” for The Beast.

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Like I mentioned, there is a lot more in Split than the trailers have you believe. The film is told with three different stories. One is the girls trying to escape and trying to convince one of the identities in Hedwig, who believes he’s child, to help them escape. The other is the relationship between Kevin and his psychiatrist in Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), who starts to notice that maybe one of the identities is taking over more than she likes, and finally, Taylor-Joy’s Casey’s story, which is told through flashbacks. All of them, of course, intertwine near the end in a surprising way that I won’t even hint at, but it leads to the overall theme of the film, once you step back and look at it. That is why Split works, and why I think Shyamalan is back to form.

Split works on the thriller level as well, that’s all thanks to the James McAvoy’s stunning turn as Kevin. Some already have taken to say the film is trying mental illness as an easy way to make a “villain,” but Shyamalan treats the situation with respect. He never truly makes out to be the villain, although he essentially is – he did kidnap three girls after all. However, we rarely “see” Kevin, we mostly see his other identities, and even then we only spend time with Hedwig, Dennis, Barry – a fashion designer – and Patricia, the “mother” of the group. Regardless, McAvoy is amazing filling all the roles and I honestly couldn’t imagine seeing Joaquin Phoenix – originally set to play Kevin – doing the role now. McAvoy’s little subtleties to each identity make the performance that much better as well.

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When it comes to the rest of the cast, Anya Taylor-Joy and Betty Buckley are the only real characters to be rounded out. Once Casey’s story is fleshed out, we understand why he acts the way she does. Buckley’s Dr. Fletcher is our guide to Kevin’s disorder and makes us understand Kevin on a more deeper level. Haley Lu Richardson’s Claire and Jessica Sula’s Marcia don’t have a ton of screen time, but do show some smarts as they try to find a way out of the situation rather than just play “victim.”

While Split does work on a lot of levels, it also has some downfalls. The film drags a bit near the middle of the film, and the lack of character development toward two of the three girls we see kidnap does hurt the film a bit. Finally, the end of the film could border on being a bit too on-the-nose and telling the audience what exactly is going on, so it lessens the message just a bit.

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All in all, Split is Shyamalan’s best films in years, which of course, isn’t saying much considering his resume, but still. It’s a return to form in both storytelling and visuals that is showcased by James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy. Finally, that twist will have your head twirling and wondering, what’s next?

Split

4 out of 5

‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’ Review

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Director: D.J. Caruso

Writer: F. Scott Frazier

Cast: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Kris Wu, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Michael Bisping, Hermione Corfield, Tony Gonzalez, Al Sapienza, Toni Colette and Samuel L. Jackson

Synopsis: Xander Cage if left for dead after an incident, though he secretly returns to action for a new, tough assignment with his handler Augustus Gibbons.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

After sitting out the sequel of xXx, Vin Diesel returns to the series he helped create with the appropriately titled Return of Xander Cage. It also has Diesel’s fingerprints all over it, as it now involves Xander Cage having to work with a group of people like him to bring down a dangerous weapon and people that cause mayhem on Earth. Sound familiar? That’s not necessarily a bash at the film, but knowing that you’ll see some of the comparison. Also, if you’re looking forward to a smart action film, no, just no. This, like the other xXx films are dumb fun action films that is filled with cheesy and ridiculous moments.

After a crashed satellite seemingly kills Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), NSA agent Jane Marke (Toni Collette) finds Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is alive and well, and decides to bring him in after she finds out that the satellite was brought down by a device called Pandora’s Box. Cage then finds out that Pandora’s Box is being held by a mysterious figure named Xiang (Donnie Yen) and his own dangerous group – Serena (Deepika Padukone), Talon (Tony Jaa) and Hawk (Michael Bisping). Cage knowing that they can’t stop him the “traditional” way gets his own team in sniper Adee Wolff (Ruby Rose), stunt man Tennyson Torch (Rory McCann) and “fun guy” Nicks (Kris Wu) to bring them down.

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While there are some descent actions scenes, thanks to the always reliable Donnie Yen, the film fails to make us really connect any sort of connection to the characters. While most of the names may be familiar to some all of them have mostly one quality that you can remember. Although, all of them are better characters than Diesel’s Xander Cage. Xander still feels like he’s stuck in the first film, and comes off just a bit smug and thinks he’s better than anyone else. We probably shouldn’t suspect different, but you would think that he would change a bit since then. Also, if you looking for an elaborate reason to why he’s still alive, won’t happen.

The film of course tries to add the big extreme scene like the avalanche scene from the first film. Here the film has the heavily promoted riding on the ocean scene that has a more ridiculous scene that if you roll your eyes or laugh, it will be okay. That being said, the film is cheesy and fun in a good way. While it feels like Diesel, who is a producer on the film, is trying to recreate the Fast & Furious formula, it could help if fans go out to see it.

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All in all, xXx: Return of Xander Cage does have some problems with its tone, and while the cast works together nicely, a majority of them are not developed enough. Is the film fun and enjoyable? Yes, for the most part it is. But Return of Xander Cage hits the mark for enjoyable dumb fun action films, but misses when it comes to almost everything else.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage

3.5 out of 5

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Mini-Review – Underworld: Blood Wars, Sleepless, Patriots Day, Live By Night & The Bye Bye Man

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. This is a longer one than usual, due to me falling behind. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Underworld: Blood Wars

Director: Anna Foerster

Writer: Cory Goodman

Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, James Faulkner, Peter Andersson, Clementine Nicholson, Bradley James, Daisy Head and Charles Dance.

Synopsis: Vampire death dealer, Selene fights to end the eternal war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her.

 

The Underworld series started off as an interesting franchise that had some cool mythology and made Kate Beckinsale a big name to those not familiar with her. The sequel came along and was just okay which lead to a prequel for the third film. Then the fourth film came out and things took a turn for the worse. The series had lost its footing and became lost in its attempt to make itself relevant. This now leads us to Underworld: Blood Wars, which is more of the same, but thankfully better than Underworld: Awakening, which isn’t saying much really.

Blood Wars starts off by giving us a bit of a refresher on the series so far – leaving some things out – but also shows that Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is now a fugitive from the remaining vampires and new Lycan leader, Marius (Tobias Menzies), who wants the location of Selene’s daughter. The problem is that even Selene doesn’t know where her daughter is, and with the help of David (Theo James), his father Thomas (Charles Dance), and a vampire council member Semira (Lara Pulver), Selene is brought back into the fold to help deal with Marius.

Like I mentioned, Blood Wars is more of the same from the previous films – stylized action set-pieces, new mythology and characters being introduced and Kate Beckinsale in tight leather kicking-ass. Other than that, the film doesn’t really do anything that feels substantial. Things are brought up that would be considered twists or could have landed bigger if written better or anything the film did actually mattered.

The film is too rushed for its own good. Everything lands too quickly, and the final act of the film just happens. One particular part in the final act does mean something since it’s connected to the beginning of the film, but other than that the final act is structurally not sound.

When it comes to the cast, they all do the best they can with what they are given. Kate Beckinsale is the only real saving grace of the cast since she’s played the part so many times now. Theo James is just as bland as he was in the last film, while Tobias Menzies’ Marius is supposed to be this great Lycan leader, but doesn’t really do anything that frightening – also his cheap two dollar CGI wolf character doesn’t do him any favors. Lara Pulver as Semira could have been a great character if she had more screen time as could have Clementine Nicholson’s Lena, who is part of a new vampire clan, Finally, Charles Dance’s Thomas should have had more time, because you know, its Charles freaking Dance.

All in all, Underworld: Blood Wars is a passable sequel, and a better one than Awakening, but again, that’s not saying much. Things feel like they just happen, and the structure of the film is just off that you can never really feel any sort of enjoyment. One thing that really bothered me is the ending. I obviously don’t want to spoil it, but considering how it ends, it just felt like the whole film was for nothing.

Underworld: Blood Wars

2.5 out of 5

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Sleepless

Director: Baran bo Odar

Writer: Andrea Berloff

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Scoot McNairy, Gabrielle Union, Octavius J. Johnson, T.I., Dermot Mulroney, and David Harbour

Synopsis: A cope with a connection to the criminal underworld scours a nightclub in search of his kidnapped son.

 

A remake of the French film Nuit Blanche, Sleepless takes place mostly in one location and is surprising a little better than I thought it would be, even though I had watched the original film years before.

Sleepless follows Las Vegas officer Vincent Downs (Jaime Foxx), who along with his partner Sean (T.I.) steal a bag of cocaine at the beginning of the film. Little do they know, the cocaine belongs to a crooked casino boss Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney) who is going to sell the drugs to the dangerous Rob Novak (Scott McNairy), the son of a local mob boss. In order to get the drugs back, they kidnap Vincent’s son Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson) and demand he return their product. Of course, things don’t go over smoothly as Internal Affairs agents Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) and Doug Dennison (David Harbour) become involved.

Like I mentioned, the film is a little better than I thought it was going to be, but Sleepless does run into some issues throughout. The film doesn’t do Jamie Foxx any favors besides making him look like an action hero. Foxx’s usual charisma is put on the backburner so he can be almost stoic at times, which is a bit of a shame. Although, the result does lead to impressive fight scenes, including a kitchen scene and a highly impressive hotel room fight.

The rest of the cast do their best with what they are given. Scoot McNairy is one of the best underrated and unknown actors around, and while he plays a villain well, they could have done just a little more with him. Michelle Monaghan plays the straight-laced IA agent who has her moments, and after watching this, I hope we see more roles like this from her, and her chemistry with the always reliable David Harbour is spot on. Dermot Mulroney looked like he enjoy playing a slimy villain, Gabrielle Union only has a handful of scenes, so her casting feels wasted and T.I. also has only a few scenes but all of his scenes feel the same when you look back afterwards.

All in all, Sleepless feels a bit hallow at times, but it does have its moments that make the price of admission worth it.

Sleepless

3.5 out of 5

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Patriots Day

Director: Peter Berg

Writers: Peter Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin Bacon, Alex Wolff, Themo Melikidze, Jimmy O. Yang, Rachel Brosnahan, Christopher O’Shea, James Colby, Michael Beach, Vincent Curatola, Jake Picking, Melissa Benoist, and J.K. Simmons

Synopsis: An account of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorist responsible.

 

Considering Patriots Day is based off a real event, and one that I’m sure most of us remembering watching on TV as the events unfolded, I’m going to play with the “no spoilers” rule here a bit. The film follows the events at the Boston Marathon and what the first responders and FBI did to find and capture the Tsarnaev brothers.

The film has a lot of players on the board, we mostly follow Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), a made up character based on several people, who is at the finish line of the marathon when the first bomb went off. The events bring everyone is like Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach) and FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) to find Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) which involved shutting down all of Boston and lead to a dangerous shootout in Watertown.

Peter Berg really does have a knack for true-story films, Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon were great films, and all star Mark Wahlberg, but the thing that makes these films, along with Patriots Day is how he handles the material. Berg treats the events with tremendous respect and never tries to feed the audience a political agenda or lean the audience a certain way. He lets the story tell itself and lets the characters come to life in their own way, even though most of the characters are based on real people. It’s also a credit to the great cast that they are able to do so.

However, with a big cast like this, the film does have a lot of characters to follow that a lot of them don’t get real time to breathe and don’t get the justice they deserve. J.K. Simmons has a small, but good, role as the Watertown sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese, Rachel Brosnahan and Christopher O’Shea play couple Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes who were close to the first blast sight, Jake Picking plays Officer Sean Collier, who was shot by the brothers, and Jimmy O. Yang plays Dun Meng, who has a dangerous encounter with brothers halfway through the film. Another thing Patriots Day falls into is some pacing issues before the final act of the film, but again, it’s the cast the keep the film together.

Two of the highlights of the film, if that’s what you want to call it considering the nature of the real life events, is the aftermath of the bombing. How Berg moves the camera through the destruction and through the eyes of Tommy is both horrifying and telling on how the first responders probably felt when they helped so many that day. The other is the shootout before Dzhokhar runs and hides in the boat he was later recovered from.

All in all, Patriots Day isn’t an easy film to watch due to the nature of the events and how Berg was able to recreate it. The cast, despite being one person too many, does a tremendous job paying respect to people they were playing and to those affected by the actions that happened that horrible day and what happened afterwards.

Patriots Day

4 out of 5

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Live by Night

Director: Ben Affleck

Writer: Ben Affleck

Cast: Ben Affleck, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Elle Fanning, Zoe Saldana, Robert Glenister, Remo Girone, Chris Cooper and Brendan Gleeson

Synopsis: A group of Boston-bred gangsters set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, facing off against the competition and the Ku Klux Klan.

 

Based off the novel by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes and directs what has become a bit of a passion project for him, so it’s a bit odd to see what became of the film. Affleck has shown he’s a great to solid director with films like Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo, but Live by Night will be – hopefully – the only blemish on his resume.

Ben Affleck plays Joe Coughlin, a former World War I soldier and son of a police officer (Brendan Gleeson), who returns home and starts to see himself as an outlaw and runs heists throughout Boston. He eventually falls in love with Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), who happens to be the mistress of Irish mob boss Albert White (Robert Glenister). This puts him on the sights on White’s rival, Italian mob boss Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone) who wants Joe to work for him. Joe eventually does and Maso sends him down to Tampa to run his bootlegging operation. Once there, and reunited with his old partner Dion Bartolo (Chris Messina) and they make a nice empire for themselves. That all changes when Joe starts falling in love with Graciela (Zoe Saldana), and struggles to keep his moral code in place.

Live by Night is unfortunately a bit of a mess, which is odd considering Affleck was passionate about getting the film made, and took so long to make. That’s not to say there is some great stuff within the mess, but it is the scattered material that keeps the film from being great. Not only that, the film has a bit too much going on that by the end, it feels like the film is forcing itself to tie-up the loose ends that were introduced beforehand. It’s a bit of a shame too, considering Affleck has shown he can handle himself with great material.

The cast itself is great, but it’s a shame that some characters don’t have time to expand and get developed more. Chris Messina, who is always great with the right material, playing Joe’s right-hand man Dion Bartolo could have used more time onscreen as could Elle Fanning’s character Loretta, the daughter of Tampa sheriff Figgis played by Chris Cooper. Especially considering Fanning is involved in a big subplot. Zoe Saldana also pops in but doesn’t really do much after her initial introduction, and reminding Joe that he doesn’t need to be cruel to do the life he’s involved in. Brendan Gleeson’s glorified cameo suffers just a bit due to him using his natural Scottish accent that makes it a little hard to understand. Sienna Miller’s character could have been an interesting character, but her arc gets cut too soon.

Affleck does okay as the Joe, and even though we follow him throughout the film his moments of doubt and morality being tested are usually rushed to the point that it just feels like Affleck is trying to get to the next scene, which is odd considering the film is over two hours. When it comes to working with his production designer and cinematographer, he works well. Every scenic shot is beautiful to look at, and the sets look amazing.

All in all, Live by Night has some issues that could have been avoided, but sadly they aren’t which hurts the film in the long run. The cast is great, but none of their characters are developed fully or pushed to the wayside to tell Ben Affleck’s Joe story. While the action scenes are top-notch, Live by Night is just a tad underwhelming in the long run, but in no way should change your view on Affleck’s directing ability.

Live by Night

3.5 out of 5

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The Bye Bye Man

Director: Stacy Title

Writer: Jonathan Penner

Cast: Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Jenna Kanell, Michael Trucco, Cleo King, Leigh Whannel, Doug Jones, Carrie-Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway

Synopsis: Three friends stumble upon the horrific origins of the Bye Bye Man, a mysterious figure they discover is the root cause of the evil behind man’s most unspeakable acts.

 

It’s a bit of a shame that after the great year horror had last year – finally – a film like this comes along and washes all that away. Apparently based off a story called “The Bridge to Body Island” by Robert Damon Schneck, The Bye Bye Man has an interesting concept that falls apart once the film gets going. That’s only the beginning of this film’s issues.

The film follows three college friends in Elliot (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and their friend John (Lucien Laviscount) who buy and move into an old house off campus. Everyone seems okay at first until Elliot finds an old coin on his nightstand left by the previous owner. He then discovers writing underneath the drawer that says “Don’t Think it, Don’t Say it” and under that are craved words “The Bye Bye Man.” At first he laughs it off, but when the three start experiencing strange things in and out of the house, they soon learn The Bye Bye Man (played by the awesome character actor Doug Jones) is indeed real, and after them.

One of the problems with The Bye Bye Man – one of many – is we don’t get a sense of the characters, and hardly care for them. Elliot is the closet one to actually having a backstory, while Sasha is just the girlfriend who, at the beginning, tries to convince Elliot that what is happening is real, but after Elliot goes along with it, she becomes a bit annoying, and John somewhat disappears for a bit and we really don’t miss him. Jenna Kanell pops in as Sasha’s friend Kim, who is a psychic of sorts and, based off the trailers, is the one that gets killed by the train, which is the highlight of her character.

However, the saving graces of the film – cast wise – is the small roles by Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway and Leigh Whannell. Faye Dunaway appears near the end of the film and adds to some backstory of The Bye Bye Man, Carrie-Anne Moss plays a local detective that could have been played by really anyone else, but Moss adds some gravitas to the role. Leigh Whannell plays Larry Redmond a writer that “discovers” The Bye Bye Man and is involved in the best scenes in the film: flashbacks. Finally, Doug Jones does this best he can with what he’s given as the titular character.

All in all, the concept of the film sounds good at first, but once we start seeing what he does and really think about it afterwards, The Bye Bye Man fails to execute on its promise. The characters are bland and are never developed and a muddled story doesn’t help. The Bye Bye Man is almost passable film while watching, but nothing you’ll remember.

The Bye Bye Man

2 out of 5

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Let me know what you think.

‘A Monster Calls’ Review

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Director: J.A Bayona

Writer: Patrick Ness

Cast: Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, and Liam Neeson

Synopsis: A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mum’s terminal illness.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the book by Patrick Ness, who also wrote the film, that was based off the idea started by Siobhan Dowd, A Monster Calls is a visually, beautifully story done so well that hits you on every emotional level that you won’t leave the theater with a dry eyes. The story is a simple one, but what director J.A Bayona was able to do with his behind the camera team is nothing short of amazing and heartbreaking to watch.

The film revolves around a 12-year-old boy named Conor O’Malley, played by newcomer Lewis MacDougall, as he deals with seeing his mother, played by Felicity Jones, go through the final stages of chemotherapy for her cancer. When things take a turn for the worse, Conor loses himself in his drawings, but one night the giant tree in the cemetery near his home comes to life and visits him. Simply called The Monster, voiced by Liam Neeson, he comes to Conor and demands he listens to his three stories, and when the time is over, Conor will tell The Monster a fourth, which will be Conor’s truth.

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Conor not seeing the meaning of this, of course, comes to terms and hears The Monster’s stories that come to life in beautiful animation that looks like watercolors. The moments in-between involve Conor dealing with his Grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) that wants him to move in with her, and Conor’s father, played by Toby Kebbell, coming to visit from America. However, Conor is left with The Monster to deal with the grief of his mother.

From the moment I watched the first trailer for A Monster Calls, I knew this film was going to be special, and while watching I knew I was right about the film. While the visuals of The Monster and his stories are amazing – seriously – The Monster is an amazing effect and almost looks real in some shots. Combine that with Liam Neeson’s voice that conveys both terrifying monster, but compassion in some scenes as well. It’s a fine line that Neeson walks, and he does it so well.

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However, the film is put on the shoulders of newcomer Lewis MacDougall, who handles it with ease. Technically his second film – he starred in Pan – it’s still hard to think that MacDougall is a newcomer. He handles himself with so much poise and maturity around seasoned actors like Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver and Toby Kebbell. Conor, and really MacDougall, is the driving force of the film, and without him, and what he goes through, I don’t think A Monster Calls would have worked.

When it comes to the rest of the (human) cast, Felicity Jones as the mother is heartbreaking to watch, and while she doesn’t say too much, Jones says more than enough with her body language. Toby Kebbell has a small role as Conor’s father, but Kebbell brings a certain reality and humanity to the situation, while James Melville plays Harry, a bully at school. Finally, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother takes some time to really delve into what her really makes her tick, but is worth the journey as well.

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All in all, A Monster Calls is a film that keeps you invested from beginning to end, and never let’s go. The film is carried by its young star Lewis MacDougall and Liam Neeson as The Monster. Also, any film that can hook me in and have me on the verge of, or have me in, tears is going in my book. Seriously, bring tissues. Lots of them.

A Monster Calls

5 out of 5

New Podcast: Year in Review, Thor: Ragnarok Synopsis, Woody Harrelson Eyed for Young Solo Film & More

The first podcast of 2017 is here!