‘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

January Movie Releases

Happy New Year!!

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we have a new year in front of us which means one thing: new movies! Now, January is usually referred to as Hollywood’s “Dump” Month. Meaning they will release movies that they don’t think will perform well or are not confident in. Sometimes that is the case, but sometimes a movie will shine through. January is also filled with expanded releases of movies that came out in December so there is also that to look forward to.

You’ll notice that I will put the companies attached and responsible for releasing the film as well. Just trying something new to expand the page a bit and instead of posters, now you’ll be seeing trailers. I’ll try to update whenever new trailers come out.

 

 

6th

 

Wide Release: Hidden Figures

Based on the book my Margot Lee Shetterly, a team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions. I had the opportunity to watch the film on its limited release late last year, and I have to say it is a fantastic film. Do yourself a favor and go watch this. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge and Glen Powell.

 

Wide Release: A Monster Calls (Fantasy Drama – Focus Features/Participant Media/River Road Entertainment/Apaches Entertainment/La Trini)

Based on a script and book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows a boy as he seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom terminal illness. The film stars Liam Neeson as The Monster, Felicity Jones as the Mother, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother, Toby Kebbell as Dad, and Lewis MacDougall as the boy and Lily-Rose Aslandogdu as Lily.

 

Underworld: Blood Wars (Action – Screen Gems/Lakeshore Entertainment/Sketch Films)

Selene (Kate Beckinsale) returns to once again try and end the war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire fraction that betrayed her. Blood Wars does look like a step-up from the last film, but I don’t know how the film will actually turn out. The film also stars Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, and Charles Dance.

 

 

13th

Wide/Expansion Release: Patriots Day

 

Limited Release: The Comedian

A look at the life of an aging insult comic played by Robert De Niro. The film also stars Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Cloris Leachman, Harvey Keitel, Eddie Falco and Billy Crystal.

 

Wide Release: Live By Night

Based off the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes, directs and stars in this great looking film that is set during the Prohibition and follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a prominent Boston police captain, as he rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld and the trouble he falls into along the way. Besides the film looking great, it has a great cast in Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Sullivan, Anthony Michael Hall, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Chris Messina, and Chris Cooper.

 

Wide Release: Silence 

Based on the book by Shusaku Endo, Martin Scorsese directs this historic drama set in the seventh century when two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor (Liam Neeson) and propagate Catholicism. Based off the trailer the film looks very powerful, and the early word from its limited release has made that statement true. Now tith its wide release, hopefully we’ll get a chance to experience that. Silence also stars Tadanobu Asano, and Ciaran Hinds.

 

The Bye Bye Man (Horror Thriller – STX Entertainment/Intrepid Pictures/Los Angles Media Fund)

An adaptation of the short story “The Bridge to Body Island,” by Robert Damon Schneck, the story centers on three Wisconsin college students in the 1990s, who move into an old house off campus. They unwittingly unleash a supernatural entity known as The Bye Bye Man, who comes to pretty upon them once they discover his name. The friends must try to save each other, all the while keeping The Bye Bye Man’s existence a secret to save others from the same deadly fate. The film looks okay, and a bit cheesy based on the first trailer – at least for me. This is actually the third move for the film as it was set for an October release, then a June release, then a early December release, and now this date.

 

Monster Trucks (Sci-Fi Adventure – Paramount Pictures/Paramount Animation/Nickeldeon Movies)

Another film that was moved three times now, although this one was done to complete post-production, Monster Trucks takes the idea of the popular derby and flips it on its head by making it literal. There are alien monsters that take over trucks and are on the run. Of course humans help them and what follows is some insane looking over-the-top action. Stars Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Rob Lowe, Amy Ryan, Barry Pepper, Samara Weaving, Holt McCallany, Frank Whaley, Thomas Lennon, and Danny Glover.

 

Sleepless (Action Thriller – Open Road Films/FilmNation Entertainment/Vertigo Entertainment/Riverstone Pictures)

A remake of French film Nuit Blanche (which I highly recommend you watch), a cop with a connection to the criminal underworld scours a nightclub in search of his kidnapped son. The film look okay, I was a huge fan of the original film, and this one does look like they’re upping the action, which is fine if the movie turns out good. The film stars Jamie Foxx, Gabrielle Union, Michelle Monaghan, David Harbour, T.I., and Scoot McNairy.

 

20th

Limited Release: The Red Turtle

Produced by the famous Studio Ghibli, the dialogue-less film follows the major life stages of a castaway on a deserted tropical island populated by turtles, crabs and birds.

 

Wide Release: 20th Century Women

 

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (Family Romance Comedy – High Top Releasing/WWE Studios)

Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton), a washed up former child star, is forced to do community service at a local megachurch and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of Jesus in their annual Passion Play, only to discover that the most important role of life is far from Hollywood. The film also stars Neil Flynn, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Liam Matthews, D.B. Sweeney, and WWE Legend Shawn Michaels.

 

The Founder (Biography Drama – The Weinstein Company/FilmNation Entertainment/The Combine)

Michael Keaton stars in this film that tells the story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thought about the story of McDonald’s and since I’ve seen the trailer, it’s peaked my interest and I’m sure to many others as well. Also, the studio has high hopes as they moved the film from its release date last year in August to prime Oscar contention time. The rest of the cast includes Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, B.J. Novak, and John Carroll Lynch.

 

 

Split (Thriller – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/Blinding Edge Pictures)

M. Night Shyamalan is back at it. The film stars James McAvoy as Kevin, a man with at least 23 different personalities, is compelled to abduct three teenage girls. As they are held captive, a final personality – “The Beast” – begins to materialize. The film also stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Sterling K. Brown and Betty Buckley. Honestly, this doesn’t look that bad. McAvoy looks like he’d nailing the role and it actually looks like a cool and effective thriller.

 

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (Action Thriller – Paramount Pictures)

Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye, I Am Number Four), Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), thought to be dead, is bought back by his handler Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to lead a team to stop a massive attack. The film also stars Nina Dobrev, Donnie Yen, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Toni Collette, Rory McCann, and Deepika Padukone.

 

27th

A Dog’s Purpose (Dramedy – Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment/Walden Media/DreamWorks SKG)

Based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron and directed by Lasse Hallstrom (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Dear John, The Hundred-Foot Journey), the film follows a dog (voiced by Bradley Cooper), who looks to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners. The film also stars Britt Robertson, Peggy Lipton, John Ortiz, and Dennis Quaid.

 

Bastards (Comedy – Warner Bros./Alcon Entertainment/The Montecito Picture Company/DMG Entertainment)

Upon learning that their mother has been lying to them for years about their allegedly deceased father, two fraternal twin brothers hit the road in order to find him. The film stars Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, Ving Rhames, Terry Bradshaw, and J.K. Simmons.

 

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Screen Gems/Constantin Film International/Capcom Entertainment)

The last installment of the Milla Jovovich and Paul W.S. Anderson Resident Evil series, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you feel about the series. The Final Chapter picks ups immediately after the events from the last film and follows Alice (Jovovich) returning to Raccoon City where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors. The film will bring back Ali Larter as Claire Redfield, Iain Glen as Dr. Alexander Isaacs and Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker with new cast members Ruby Rose, William Levy, Eoin Macken, and international star Rola.

 

Gold (Drama Thriller – TWC-Dimension/Black Bear Pictures/Living Films/Hwy61)

An unlikely pair venture to the Indonesian jungle in search of gold. The film is giving off a semi-American Hustle vibe and seeing Matthew McConaughey lose himself in the character should be interesting to watch. The film also stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Rachael Taylor, Corey Stoll, Bruce Greenwood, Bill Camp, and Stacy Keach

 

What are you looking forward to?

‘The Edge of Seventeen’ Review

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Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

Writer: Kelly Fremon Craig

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Hayden Szeto, Alexander Calvert, Woody Harrelson, Eric Keenleyside and Kyra Sedgwick

Synopsis: High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

 

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

 

Coming-of-age films are always a fun experience. Some of them touch a nerve and bring back memories, while others could alienate some people because they didn’t have or share some of those experiences. However, most of them all share one thing in common: we’ve all thought like these kids at point or another, and we all love seeing a character transform in front of us in a a very human way.

The Edge of Seventeen follows high school junior Nadine (Steinfeld), who isn’t like her peers. It doesn’t help that she’s in the shadow of her perfect older brother Darian (Jenner) and has a strained relationship with her mother, Mona (Sedgwick). The only good thing in her life is her lifelong best friend Krista (Richardson), who she can also count on. However, after finding out that Krista and Darian slept together, Nadine feels betrayed and cuts Krista out of her life. What follows is Nadine trying to figure out what to do with her life, and that includes dealing with her nerdy and awkward classmate Erwin (Szeto), her from afar crush and local school bad boy Nick (Calvert) and her rapport with her equally sarcastic history teacher Mr. Bruner (Harrelson).

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Like the coming-of-age films before it, the film isn’t really plot-driven but instead follows Nadine through her misadventures after finding out Krista slept with her older brother and the two have started dating. However, the good thing is that everything feels real. Sure, Nadine follows the trope of being a bit more sharp witted than a real teenager but that doesn’t take away the fun of the film and of her mishaps, which are pretty funny to watch.

What also makes Nadine a great character to follow is how Steinfeld plays her. Nadine could have easily been an unbearable and unlikeable character, and I’m sure some will see her that way and she is to some extent, but Steinfeld plays her so well and with a great amount of charm and wit that it actually makes us invest in. And yes, we want to see her grow and even go through her unfortunate situations and encounters. It also nice to see Steinfeld let loose a bit and find a role that lets her showcase her full potential like she did back in True Grit.

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The rest of the supporting cast is also great and play off each other really well. Blake Jenner has had a breakout year starring in this and Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! Haley Lu Richardson as Krista never comes off as distance or mean, we actually feel for her when Krista and Nadine fight. Hayden Szeto as Erwin is one of the biggest highlights of the film, and someone I hope we all get to see in future films. Woody Harrelson is the other cast highlight as his relationship and back-and-forth between Steinfeld and him is what makes the film just fly by. Kyra Sedgwick as Nadine’s mother has her own arc in the film that was nice to watch unfold.

All in all, The Edge of Seventeen isn’t perfect, as it loses some steam for just a bit, before it picks up again. It’s also not the best or a groundbreaking coming-of-age film, but one that you should definitely take the time to watch. The cast overall is fantastic, and its easily one of the best movies of the year.

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The Edge of Seventeen

4.5 out of 5