‘It Chapter Two’ Review

Director: Andy Muschietti

Writer: Gary Dauberman

Cast: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Bill Skarsgard, Jaden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Teach Grant, Andy Bean, Sophia Lillis and Finn Wolfhard

Synopsis: Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.

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

 

It’s – no pun intended – finally here! The much anticipated ending to the horror hit based on the classic and acclaimed novel by Stephen King, It. While the 2017 split some fans of the original TV movie with Tim Curry playing the famed Pennywise, the dancing clown, director Andy Muschietti (Mama) had some more room to play with. For one, this was not a TV movie, and it was rated-R, so blood, gore and foul language was on the table. Plus, if you stop anyone on the street and ask them about Pennywise or It, they would most likely know what you’re talking about.

I, for one, really enjoyed and liked Chapter One. The young cast was amazing and Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise was frightening on every single level he had to be. So needless to the say, I was looking forward to Chapter Two, especially with its adult cast being pretty damn impressive, and the promise it was going to up the ante. So, does It Chapter Two live up to the hype? Or does it sink deep into the sewers?

It Chapter Two starts out pretty rough with a scene that is in the book, but still doesn’t make it easy to watch play out. It also shows us that Pennywise is still truly alive ready to rein terror again in Derry. Pennywise’s return sparks Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), who never left Derry, to call the Losers Club to return to Derry to defeat Pennywise for good, just like the promised at the end of the last film. Each of the Losers have gone on and made a good to great life for themselves. Bill (James McAvoy) is a well-known writer, whose last book is getting made into a movie, Richie (Bill Hader) is a famous stand-up comic, Ben (Jay Ryan) has become some successful businessman, and is now skinny, Eddie (James Ransone) is a risk analyst, Stanley (Andy Bean) is happily married and Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is a wealthy, but also still can’t escape an abusive man in her life.

When they finally get together, they catch up on their lives and the memories of their time in Derry start to come back, and then they all admit when they got the call from Mike, they felt fear. That fear is because they remember the man that gave them that fear, Pennywise. What starts is a series of horrifying events that target the Losers Club, and what leads to an epic final fight against Pennywise.

Of course, the big thing everyone is talking about is the runtime of It Chapter Two. The film runs at a lengthy two-hours and forty-nine minutes, and thankfully, for the most part you don’t really feel it too much, at least I didn’t. The beginning of the film is a little slow to start, but once the Losers get together, the movie moves to its epic finale, which admittedly, drags on just a bit, and is a bit too CG. Regardless of how you feel about the length, you have to give it to director Andy Muschietti and returning screenwriter Gary Dauberman (the Annabelle movies, The Nun) for stuffing the movie with more mythology on Pennywise, content and some ambitious moves. Unfortunately, the scope of It Chapter Two is just a bit too big and does lead to some unevenness throughout.

Given those problems, it’s made up through the cast. The adult cast are all great, and they really do feel like the adult versions of their younger counterparts. McAvoy’s Bill is still haunted by Georgie’s death, Chastain’s Beverly has a more nuanced and quieter performance, Mustafa’s Mike is a bit cagey since he’s never left Derry, Ryan’s Ben still pines over Beverly, and then you have the highlights of the cast in Hader and Ransone. Hader’s Richie is getting more of the love online, and it’s deserved, but for me Ransone deserves the same amount of praise, maybe even a little more.

Obviously, with Hader being attached, the humor/comedy was bound to be high, and that’s exactly what it was. Hader’s Richie is pretty much always on, which may or may not get a little tiring every now and then, but Ransone also gets his time to shine on the humor. After seeing the film, I honestly want to see Hader and Ransone reunite somewhere down the road. That said, Hader’s Richie has a subplot here that is nicely done and not heavy-handed.

Undoubtedly, the thing everyone probably wants to know is if It Chapter Two is scary. For the most part, I think so. It’s more or less of the same scares we got in It, with some jump scares and some well-time moments with Pennywise or other ghoulish beings. There also a pitch-perfect homage to another classic horror film that had me grinning from ear-to-ear while watching. That said, the movie is also pretty emotional. No seriously, I was at one point at the verge of tears, which is something I was not ready for watching a horror movie.

All in all, It Chapter Two is a worthy enough sequel, and while the sequel does get a bit too ambitious for its own good, the adult cast really holds the film together. The scares are upped, and Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise is certified to be a new horror staple. I can’t really say that It Chapter Two is better than It, but if you were a fan of the first film, you should enjoy or like Chapter Two.

Also, keep an eye out for some great Easter Eggs and cameos!

It Chapter Two

4 out of 5

‘Glass’ Review

Director:  M. Night Shyamalan

Writer: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Spencer Treat Clark and Charlayne Woodard

Synopsis: Security guard David Dunn uses his supernatural abilities to track Kevin Wendell Crumb, a disturbed man who has twenty-four personalities.

 

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

 

The name M. Night Shyamalan for a while was a laughing stock. After breaking into the scene with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs, the director’s fanbase started to turn on him after films like The Village – which I didn’t personally mind – Lady in the Water, and, of course, the coup de grace to his career was the combination of The Happening and The Last Airbender. I’m not even going to mention After Earth – because do you remember After Earth? Does anyone?

Anyway, Shyamalan slowly came back with the still underrated The Visit, but then really returned to form with Split, which is true Shyamalan fashion, had the twist ending that no one saw coming – the whole movie was connected to Unbreakable. The long awaited sequel that everyone wanted was finally real, and when Split turned out to be a hit, Shyamalan went on to finish the trilogy he had wanted to create since Unbreakable’s release. Glass is a sequel nineteen years in the making, but was the wait worth it? Does Glass live up to the expectations Split left us with? Let’s dig in shall we?

Glass follows David Dunn (Bruce Willis), the only survivor of a deadly train crash fifteen years prior, which left him with super-strength and led him down the path of becoming the vigilante named The Overseer, all with the help of his son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark). After seeing the devastation left by Kevin Wendell Crumb aka The Horde (James McAvoy), David manages to track Kevin and faces off with The Beast until the two are taken in by the police and the mysterious Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). Dr. Staple sends them to a psychiatric facility with the goal being to convince them that their super-human abilities are all in their heads.

However, unbeknownst to David at first, Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) has been a patient of the facility since the end of Unbreakable, and when he learns of his new neighbors, a plan starts to go into motion.

Much like Unbreakable, Shyamalan keeps Glass as grounded as possible, well, as grounded as you can get with super-powered individuals. Buildings aren’t falling over, there are no over-the-top action scenes, although the brawls between David and The Beast look hard-hitting, and the characters feel real. In fact, Paulson’s Ellie Staple drives the point that David, Kevin and Elijah are just normal people and are “sick.” For the most part, it actually sounds somewhat believable, but it just falls a tad flat and too smart for its own good.

When it comes to the cast, James McAvoy steals the movie, continuing his amazing performances from Split. He actually gets to play around with the characters a little more this time around, and having Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson to play off of this time around adds a lot more to his performance. Willis thankfully doesn’t phone it in as the returning David Dunn, but it somehow feels like he’s underused. Then there’s Jackson’s Elijah. Despite the name of the movie being Glass, Jackson is heavily underused until the third act of the movie, and even then, it’s still mostly McAvoy’s show. It is a bit of shame to see that happen, especially considering how the movie ends.

The supporting cast have only a few moments to shine, with Spencer Treat Clark’s Joseph and Anya Taylor-Joy’s Casey getting the better of it. In fact, I’ll say that Taylor-Joy’s Casey has one of the better, if not the best scene in the movie, where she comes face-to-face with Kevin again. The two have great chemistry together, and it actually has a pay-off toward the end of the movie, which I really appreciated. It was also nice to see Charlayne Woodard return as Mrs. Price, but she doesn’t really have anything to do, other than a couple brief scenes with Jackson’s Elijah. Finally, Sarah Paulson’s Ellie Staple gets to shine along the main cast, and her presence does throw a wrench in everything.

Going back to the ending though, this is a spoiler-free review so I won’t spoil anything, but Shyamalan couldn’t help himself to put not just one twist in here. The problem with one of the twists is that, despite the concept of surprise twists, it literally comes from out of nowhere with no real context and no real lead-in. Shyamalan just throws it in to connect to his other twist, that has divided audiences already, and if you haven’t watched it, will divide you too.

It also doesn’t help that Glass is a bit sluggish throughout its runtime. The second act in particular is pretty slow paced, that when everything breaks down in the much promoted encounter between David and The Beast in front of the facility, we’re pumped to see what will happen. Unfortunately, for me, I honestly don’t know how to feel about the whole third act. It’s a bit too messy for me, and with all the hype and the exceeded expectations that Split led into Glass, it’s a shame that Shyamalan went down this road.

All in all, Glass had some great potential, and despite its saving grace performance by James McAvoy, Shyamalan’s surprise connected universe movie is a mess. Is Glass a bad movie? No, I don’t think so. Is it a frustrating movie? I would say yes, yes it is. Needless to say, the choice is ultimately yours on how you view the ending, and whether it fits into everything that was built up to it.

Glass

3 out of 5

Favorite Directors, Actors, Actress, Supporting Roles & Villains

The end of the year doesn’t just mean putting out your best/favorite movies of year. It can be a time to reflect the individuals like directors, actors, actress, supporting roles, villains and everything in between. So, that said, I’m here to do just that. We all have our favorites, and these are mine. This is of course my opinion. I tried to shorten the list as much as I could, but like every year, it was a bit too hard so I left the lists as such.

 

Also, villains are probably considered Supporting Actors/Actress in other lists, but again, to not only make the lists shorter, I want the villains to have their own category, because everyone loves a good villain, right?

 

Finally, everything and everyone will be in alphabetical order. This is also part one of two different lists. Enjoy.

 

 

Directors

Chris McKay – The LEGO Batman Movie

Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk

Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049

Edgar Wright – Baby Driver

Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water

J.A. Bayona – A Monster Calls

James Mangold – Logan

Jordan Peele – Get Out

Patty Jenkins – Wonder Woman

Matt Reeves – War for the Planet of the Apes

Taika Waititi – Thor: Ragnarok

 

Honorable Mentions

Andy Muschietti – It

David F. Sandberg – Annabelle: Creation

Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird

James Franco – The Disaster Artist

Kathryn Bigelow – Detroit

M. Night Shyamalan – Split

Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Steven Soderbergh – Logan Lucky

 

 

Just Missed the List

Ben Wheatley – Free Fire

Craig Gillespie – I, Tonya

Darren Aronofsky – Mother!

James Gunn – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina – Coco

Nacho Vigalondo – Colossal

Michael Showalter – The Big Sick

Ridley Scott – All the Money in the World

 

 

Actors

Andy Serkis as Caesar – War for the Planet of the Apes

Chris Hemsworth as Thor – Thor: Ragnarok

Chris Pine as Steve Trevor – Wonder Woman

Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington – Get Out

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill – Darkest Hour

Hugh Jackman as Logan – Logan

Lewis MacDougall as Conor – A Monster Calls

Michael Fassbender as David and Walter – Alien: Covenant

Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc – The Founder

Sam Rockwell as Dixon – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man – Spider-Man: Homecoming

 

Honorable Mentions

James Franco as Tommy – The Disaster Artist

Richard Jenkins as Giles – The Shape of Water

RJ Cyler as Billy/Blue Ranger – Power Rangers

Ryan Gosling as K – Blade Runner 2049

Ryan Reynolds as Michael & Samuel L. Jackson as Darius – The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly – I, Tonya

Sharlto Copley as Vernon – Free Fire

Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs – Battle of the Sexes

Will Arnett as Batman/Bruce Wayne – The LEGO Batman Movie

Will Poulter as Krauss – Detroit

 

Just Missed the List

Ansel Elgort as Baby – Baby Driver

Armie Hammer as Ord – Free Fire

Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall & Josh Gad as Sam Friedman – Marshall

Chris Evans as Frank Adler – Gifted

Dave Franco as Greg – The Disaster Artist

Jackie Chan as Quan Ngoc Minh – The Foreigner

James McAvoy as David Percival – Atomic Blonde

Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert – Wind River

Jason Sudeikis as Oscar – Colossal

Javier Bardem as Him – Mother!

Joel Edgerton as Paul – It Comes At Night

Kumail Nanjiani as Kumail – The Big Sick

Mark Rylance as Mr. Dawson – Dunkirk

 

 

Actress

Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke – Split

Aubrey Plaza as Ingrid Thorburn – Ingrid Goes West

Dafne Keen as Laura – Logan

Frances McDormand as Mildred – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Gal Gadot as Diana – Wonder Woman

Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom – Molly’s Game

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding – I, Tonya

Mckenna Grace as Mary Adler – Gifted

Noomi Rapace as The Settman Siblings – What Happened to Monday

Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito – The Shape of Water

Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson – Lady Bird

 

Honorable Mentions

Anne Hathaway as Gloria – Colossal

Emma Stone as Billie Jean King – Battle of the Sexes

Rebecca Hall as Elizabeth Marston – Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Sophia Lillis as Beverly – It

Talitha Bateman as Janice & Lulu Wilson as Linda – Annabelle: Creation

 

Just Missed the List

Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton – Atomic Blonde

Jennifer Lawrence as Mother – Mother!

Michelle Williams as Gail Harris – All the Money in the World

Seo-hyun Ahn as Mija – Okja

Zoe Kazan as Emily – The Big Sick

Zoe Lister-Jones as Anna – Band Aid

 

 

Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty – All the Money in the World

Daniel Craig as Joe Bang – Logan Lucky

Dwayne Johnson as Hobbs & Jason Statham as Deckard – The Fate of the Furious

Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard – Blade Runner 2049

Jacob Batalon as Ned – Spider-Man: Homecoming

Liam Neeson as The Monster (voice) – A Monster Calls

Michael Rooker as Yondu – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Patrick Stewart as Charles – Logan

Samuel L. Jackson as Preston Packard – Kong: Skull Island

 

Honorable Mentions

Cillian Murphy as Shivering Soldier – Dunkirk

Doug Jones as Amphibian Man – The Shape of Water

Demian Bichir as Miguel Alvarez – Lowriders

Domhnall Gleeson as Monty ‘Schafer’ – American Made

LilRel Howery as Rod Williams – Get Out

Nick Offerman as Dick McDonald & John Carroll Lynch as Mac McDonald – The Founder

Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn Eckhardt – I, Tonya

Ralph Fiennes as Alfred Pennyworth – The LEGO Batman Movie

Shea Whigham as Cole & John C. Reilly as Hank Marlow – Kong: Skull Island

Taika Waititi as Korg & Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk & Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster – Thor: Ragnarok

 

Just Missed the List

Bradley Whitford as Dean Armitage – Get Out

Christopher Meloni as Roger, Ike Barinholtz as Jeffrey & Bashir Saladuddin as Morgan Russell – Snatched

Jack Reynor as Harry – Free Fire

Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben, Finn Wolfhard as Richie & Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie – It

Jon Bernthal as Griff – Baby Driver

Michael Cera as Dick Grayson/Dick – The LEGO Batman Movie

Pedro Pascal as Whiskey – Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Ray Romano as Terry – The Big Sick

Steve Zahn as Bad Apes – War for the Planet of the Apes

Stephen Merchant as Caliban – Logan

 

 

Supporting Actress

Allison Janney as LaVona Golden – I, Tonya

Ana de Armas as Joi – Blade Runner 2049

Felicity Jones as Mum – A Monster Calls

Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson – Lady Bird

Pom Klementieff as Mantis – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Robin Wright as Antiope – Wonder Woman

Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie – Thor: Ragnarok

Tiffany Haddish as Dina – Girls Trip

 

Honorable Mentions

Amiah Miller as Nova – War for the Planet of the Apes

Bella Heathcote as Olive Byrne – Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Holly Hunter as Beth – The Big Sick

Lucy Davis as Etta – Wonder Woman

Michelle Pfeiffer as Woman – Mother!

Riley Keough as Kim – It Comes At Night

 

Just Missed the List

Elle Fanning as Loretta Figgis – Live by Night

Glenn Close as Dr. Caroline Caldwell – The Girl with All the Gifts

Karen Gillan as Nebula – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Linda Cardellini as Joan Smith – The Founder

Salma Hayek as Sonia Kincaid – The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Sigourney Weaver as Grandma – A Monster Calls

 

 

Villain

Allison Williams as Rose Armitage – Get Out

Annabelle – Annabelle: Creation

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise – It

Cate Blanchett as Hela – Thor: Ragnarok

James McAvoy as Dennis/Patricia/Hedwig/Kevin/Barry/Jade/Orwell/The Beast – Split

Jamie Foxx as Bats & Jon Hamm as Buddy – Baby Driver

Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture – Spider-Man: Homecoming

 

Honorable Mentions

Calvin – Life

Common as Cassian – John Wick: Chapter 2

Michael Shannon as Richard Strickland – The Shape of Water

Skull Crawlers – Kong: Skull Island

Sylvia Hoeks as Luv – Blade Runner 2049

Zach Galifinakis as The Joker – The LEGO Batman Movie

 

Just Missed the List

Charlize Theron as Cipher – The Fate of the Furious

Kurt Russell as Ego – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Tony Goldwyn as Barry Norris – The Belko Experiment

Woody Harrelson as The Colonel – War for the Planet of the Apes

 

 

‘Atomic Blonde’ Review

Director: David Leitch

Writer: Kurt Johnstad

Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Sofia Boutella, John Goodman, Toby Jones, James Faulkner, Roland Moller, Bill Skarsgard, and Eddie Marsan

Synopsis: An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.

 

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

 

I’ve been sitting on this review for a while, as I was lucky enough to see a free advanced screening of the film at the beginning of the month. Loosely based off the graphic novel titled The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart, Atomic Blonde is the first film solo-directed by David Leitch, one of the co-directors of John Wick. So even before the film was released, we knew that the film would at least have great action scenes, right? Well, yes, it does, but Atomic Blonde isn’t without its faults. However, if anything, it once again proves that Charlize Theron – if you didn’t know already – is a total badass.

Atomic Blonde is set within days the Berlin Wall comes down, and follows Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), who is introduced after getting out of a tub of ice water with bruises covering her whole body and a black eye. Lorraine then goes to MI6 to get debriefed by her boss Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman). The film then is told through flashbacks. Lorraine is bought in after the death of fellow agent Gasciogne (Sam Hargave), who Lorraine had a brief relationship with, who was carrying heavy and sensitive information on him when he died. Lorraine’s mission is to go to Berlin, meet her contact David Percival (James McAvoy), find the information and get out of Berlin alive. However, the mission is thrown for a loop when the list actually does go missing, and the only person that knows anything about the list is a defector codenamed Spyglass (Eddie Marsan). Lorraine not only has to get the information, but get out of Berlin alive.

Since the trailers were released, I have been really looking forward to Atomic Blonde. It had a great cast, the style looked cool and more importantly it looked like Charlize Theron was going to kick a lot – a lot – of ass. Thankfully, we get a lot of Charlize Theron kicking ass. The problem with Atomic Blonde is that before we get to the extreme level of ass-kicking, the film trudges along. The film works along the lines of other spy thrillers by being layered and dense with plot and characters that may or may not betray or want to kill Lorraine. However, some of it doesn’t really work too well.

Sofia Boutella’s character Delphine gets introduced, but she doesn’t really do too much in the film other than the promoted sex scene with Theron’s Lorraine. Her character should be more important considering the state of things, but no. Eddie Marsan’s character is introduced early on, but then disappears for the rest of the film until he’s needed again. Although I wish we got a little more of him especially since he’s an important part to everything, but I can see why he’s gone. James McAvoy seemed like he was having fun playing his David Percival. He’s a bit snarky, unpredictable and sometimes straight-out untrustworthy, but he’s still damn fun to watch. It’s also great to see him clash with Theron’s Lorraine, considering their styles are so different.

However, the film belongs to Theron. She’s a force from beginning to end, and never turns it off. Her character is cold and distant, but considering the lifestyle she lives it makes sense. That also makes her a death machine to anyone stupid enough to mess with her, but she also gets hurt like everyone else which is a nice touch. Add that the fact that she did a lot of her own stunts, because you can clearly see her face throughout the fight scenes makes those fight scenes more believable and awesome. Including an amazing ten-minute or so non-stop action scene that feels like its unbroken and probably one of the best action scenes I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

All in all, Atomic Blonde is a worthy action spy thriller worth your time. While the film faces some pacing issues that bring the film down, and loaded a bit too much for its own good, director David Leitch still puts together a great action film with a great lead in Charlize Theron. I wouldn’t personally put Atomic Blonde next to John Wick, but if you’re feeling left out story-wise, the action should hold you over.

Atomic Blonde

4 out of 5

‘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?

‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ Review

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Director: Bryan Singer

Writers: Simon Kinberg

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Olivia Munn, Alexandra Shipp, Ben Hardy, Lucas Till, Josh Helman, and Lana Condor

Synopsis: With the emergence of the world’s first mutant, Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credits scene.*

 

This year has been a great year for comic book/superhero films. All of them different in their own way, and all of them will have their fans and detractors, but the mistake that everyone should avoid making is trying to compare the films in how each handled their subject matter, characters and plot. Is it completely wrong to do so? Probably not. But like I said, all the comic book/superhero films are done in their own way. Saying that, I hate that I’m making the comparison, but for the sake of making a point I guess, X-Men: Apocalypse, like Captain America: Civil War is a culmination of the last two X-Men films (First Class and Days of Future Past). What does that all mean? Well let’s find out.

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The film starts with what could be called the origin of Apocalypse (Isaac), set in the Nile Valley in 3600 BCE. However, something happens that seals him inside a pyramid until, of course, 1983, when he is set free. Seeing what the world has become, he sets out to find his followers, The Horsemen. Meanwhile, Charles Xavier (McAvoy) has opened his school with Hank (Hoult) as one of the professors. He also deals with new students like Jean Grey (Turner), who is afraid of her powers, and new student Scott Summers (Sheridan), who has just discovered his powers at the expense of a bully and bathroom stall. Raven/Mystique (Lawrence) is now seen as a public figure amongst humans and mutants, thanks to the events of Days of Future Past.

Finally, Magneto has moved on with this life and has a family, but with Apocalypse now awakened and finding his new Horsemen, Magneto gets dragged back into the world he thought he left behind. What follows is this new group of X-Men trying to stop Apocalypse from building a “better” world.

Like I, begrudgingly, mentioned earlier, one of the things X-Men: Apocalypse shares with Captain America: Civil War is that it is a culmination of the films before it. A good chunk of the film is built up from the events of First Class and Days of Future Past, so Apocalypse does feel like a true sequel to both films and a film you will appreciate more if you’ve seen both films, and know you’re previous X-Men movies history. There are some nice callbacks to the previous films and several subtle nods that fans can appreciate sprinkled throughout.

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The film itself is held together by the cast. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to prove that they are worthy successors to Patrick Stewart’s beloved Professor X and Ian McKellan’s Magneto. Fassbender has the better arc of the two at the beginning of the film, but gets a bit lost in the shuffle by the third act. Nicholas Hoult’s Hank/Beast is more of a background character this time around and Jennifer Lawrence does the best she can with what she’s given, but does take more a leader role by the end of the film that makes sense and isn’t shoehorned in. Evan Peters’ Quicksilver has, once again, a standout sequence and his own arc, that gives him more to do this time around, but it doesn’t go anywhere – at least in this movie, maybe?

The new cast holds their own against the veteran cast, and gives us a great hope for future X-Men films with this cast – at least for me. Tye Sheridan gives off a good vibe as Cyclops, while Sophie Turner gets some of the meatier material as Jean Grey. However, one of the big highlights is Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Nightcrawler, which we are introduced to in a mutant fight club along with pre-Horseman Angel (Hardy). Lana Condor has a brief appearance as Jubliee, but doesn’t go anywhere really.

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As for the rest of the Horsemen, Alexandra Shipp’s Storm is the first one introduced and the most interesting out of the three since she has her own story before she becomes a Horseman. Olivia Munn’s Psylocke is just a bit disappointing, only in that she doesn’t have too much going on before hand and it feels like she joins just for the hell of it. One of the good things is that he’s actually in the movie, and she’s one of the few that actually wears her comic book outfit.

When it comes to Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse, Isaac owns it. Obviously, when images of him came out, Ivan Ooze was getting thrown around – which I hated – but seeing the costume in action and Isaac actually playing the character is great. One of the different between Apocalypse and other villains we’ve seen in the films is that Apocalypse doesn’t see himself as a mutant. He comes from a different time and sees himself as a God. That’s why he doesn’t care about anything or anyone that stands in his way, which is what makes him, arguably, the dangerous person the X-Men have dealt with to this point. And since the film is called Apocalypse, he does cause a lot of destruction.

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X-Men: Apocalypse does have some flaws. Some emotional beats could, and at one point should, have been stretched out. Like I previously stated, some characters aren’t completely developed, which is one of the missteps that every ensemble film does, so you really can’t hold that against the film. Even some return characters like Lucas Till’s Alex Summers/Havok, Rose Byrne’s Moira Mactaggert and Josh Helman’s William Stryker which have their moments but are put on the backburner to develop the newer characters. Not a knock on the film, and something that is completely understandable, but still a bummer.

I wouldn’t consider this a spoiler, but if you haven’t seen the last trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse, then maybe avoid this part. Wolverine does make an appearance in the film, and while it was awesome to watch him literally claw-up Stryker’s men. It did feel a little forced. I had no problem seeing Jackman in this especially knowing that this is one of his last performances as the character, but the scene felt like a way to lead into potentially Wolverine 3, and make us the audience know that Wolverine is a lot more dangerous, potentially, in this new timeline that was created thanks to Days of Future Past. It also adds a little more depth to the end-credits scene. Also, the scene pushes the boundary of PG-13 rating that could get fans excited for Wolverine 3, if they go the rumored R-rating.

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All in all, X-Men: Apocalypse is another good edition to the X-Men franchise. It’s fun, has great humor, and entertaining. Is it the best one? Well, that’s up to you, but the cast is once again solid. There are some real highlights and standout sequences, but the film does have some missteps that don’t hurt it, but are noticeable. If you’re an X-Men fan, you’ll get a kick out of the callbacks and nods.

X-Men: Apocalypse

4 out of 5