‘Split’ Review


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.


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.


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.


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?


4 out of 5


‘Ghostbusters’ Review


Director: Paul Feig

Writers: Paul Feig and Katie Dippold

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, Cecily Strong, Andy Garcia, Michael Kenneth Williams, Matt Walsh, Annie Potts, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray

Synopsis: Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.


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

*Reviewer Note 2: Stay for the credit sequence and for the post credits.*


Ghostbusters for some reason, although justified for some, received a lot of hate when it was announced. It didn’t help, for those against it, that they decided to gender-swap the leads from male to females. Many thought, for some reason, this lessen the Ghostbusters franchise and automatically went out of their way to make sure they spread their negativity to anyone that would listen or read their comments. Thankfully, some remained optimistic or at least open-minded to the idea of the reboot – because that’s what it is, a reboot – and gave it a chance. With a pretty descent cast and a reliable director in Paul Feig, Ghostbusters to me looked to be in good hands. Then again, I’m not against remakes or reboots like most people, especially if it does something different to elevate itself, but let’s be honest too, some movies could use a reboot/remake. Was Ghostbusters one of them? Probably not, but it’s here and guess what? It’s not that bad.

This Ghostbusters follows physicist Erin Gilbert (Wiig), who finds out her former friend Abby Yates (McCarthy), has put their old paranormal activity book online and when she goes to try and convince her take it down, she is informed of a ghost-sighting. Erin then lets it slip to Abby, so Abby, Erin and Abby’s engineer Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon) go to find the ghost and when they do their finding goes public. However, the event is only the start as they find out ghost appearances are happening more often, when MTA work Patty Tolan (Jones) goes to them and shows them her findings. She eventually joins the team and they form the Ghostbusters, along with the dim-witted assistant Kevin (Hemsworth), they learn someone is actually causing ghosts to appear, and they are more dangerous than they thought.


The team does a great job of making Ghostbusters their own, but they do make a healthy amount of nods to the original, including the cameos by the original cast – not including Rick Moranis, who retired from acting – and some plot points. But, for the most part this new version establishes itself as the new Ghostbusters. The movie doesn’t try to make the characters new versions of the old characters, they all have their own strengths and different personalities that makes their characters their own. It does have some tonal confusion as the film tries to balance comedy, action and horror. Some of the combinations in the scenes work, while others are a bit jarring, but overall the tones do fit for what the film is trying to accomplish.

Of course, some people won’t see that. All they will see is actresses playing the new Ghostbusters, which is sad and, I’m not really that sorry, pathetic. Having the leads be female does nothing to change what Ghostbusters is all about. Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon and Jones have great chemistry together, and are one of the reasons – if not the only reason – this reboot works. McKinnon is definitely one of the highlights of the film as the weird, enthusiastic about her science, and bursting with energy in every scene she’s in Holtzmann. She also has probably one of the coolest scenes in the final act of the film that I, obviously, won’t spoil here, but it was pretty badass.


The other casting highlight is the much talked about Chris Hemsworth as Kevin. Hemsworth already showed he had comedic chops in Vacation, but here, he plays the dim-witted character so well, I won’t be surprised if we see Hemsworth casted in more comedies down the line. Wiig and McCarthy do their usual best, and this also “proves” that McCarthy doesn’t have to use her weight to be funny. Jones is as equally funny, and while many feared that she would be screaming her lines, it does happen, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that she’s funny as hell in the film too.

Neil Casey plays the “villain” in the film, Rowan North. I put villain in quotes because you can arguably saw the ghosts are the bigger threats throughout, until we realize what Rowan’s plan really is. Rowan’s arch in the film is underdeveloped and since we only get a few scenes with him in the film before he does he reveal-evil-plan-to-heroes thing, we get enough time with him. The rest of the supporting cast is played out by Andy Garcia playing the Mayor, Cecily Strong playing his assistant, and Michael Kenneth Williams and Matt Walsh playing government agents. Of course, the original stars make cameos in the film, but I’ll leave you to experience those first-handed.


One of the things I was really impressed with was the CGI. It was one of the things I noticed in the first trailer and had me at least hooked. Thankfully, the CG works and never looks wonky or unfinished in any way, and it does add to scenes. It also helps that whenever the ghosts appear, especially in the great final act Times Square face-off, the film pops with color. This is the other big thing that sets this version apart from the original. Feig makes his version standout when he gets the chance, and when he does, that’s when the film works the most.

All in all, many people won’t give the film a chance because the main characters are female and because it’s a reboot – I stress again, not a remake – of the original film. But screw those people; Ghostbusters is well worth the watch especially when Paul Feig goes out of his way to make this version his own. The cast is great and delivers their comedic lines to perfection. Some jokes do fall flat, but that’s the case with all comedies. I thoroughly enjoyed Ghostbusters, and yes, can’t wait to see what they do with this new potential franchise.



4 out of 5