Split (2016): Horror / Thriller

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A man with 23 personalities kidnaps three girls who must find a way out before the 24th is unleashed.

Sixteen years after “Unbreakable” (2000), and only just before the end credits started rolling down, we all found out that this was actually a (first) sequel. M. Night Shyamalan managed to keep us at the edge of our seats and once we said the first ‘WOW’, we realised what the marketing had managed to do. Then the second followed. Not included in the shooting script, and omitted from the test screenings, the last scene was kept under wraps, and is the tie-in between the two films. Kevin Crumb was written originally for “Unbreakable”, only to be seen in this one.

Based on a real-life person who actually had 24 personalities, “Split’s” Kevin Crumb suffers the same problem even though we get to see 9 of them on screen. Interestingly enough, “Unbreakable’s” David Dunn is based on a real-life person as well. Hmmm…

“Split”, as a standalone, is a brilliant psychological horror/thriller, with James McAvoy doing all the heavy lifting and the extremely talented Anya Taylor-Joy giving him all the support he needs. You feel for him as much as you hate him, depending on the personality that takes over. I have praised him and his talent in a previous review so feel free to see what I thought of him then and what I think of him now: https://kgpfilm.reviews/2018/12/26/filth-2013-comedy-crime-drama/

Experts on the Psychology field could argue on how much M. Night Shyamalan knows about the dissociative identity disorder, and the compartmentalization and segregation of the personalities but don’t let that distract you. Remember that it’s a psychological horror/thriller and not a documentary or a docudrama. I’ve watched documentaries propagandising inconceivable political and religious nonsense parroting biased and fallacious “facts”. “Split” is meant to give you the chills and that’s exactly what it does.

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Unbreakable (2000): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

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A comic book gallery owner discovers that the lone survivor of a horrible accident has an amazing ability.

It is only befitting to review this one at this point in time and… you know which one is going to be next! Now that “Glass” (2019) has been heavily promoted as the third part of an otherwise stealthy trilogy, “Unbreakable” has been given a lot more gravitas.

When it was first released in 2000 some people loved it, some people laughed at it, some people were just left scratching their head. I will avoid major spoilers about the ending just in case someone hasn’t watched it yet. As a standalone, there was really no closure. When it comes to ‘Mr. Glass’, justice was served. But what about David Dunn? He finally found his calling, and then what? Was that the end of the hero’s journey? To discover an ability and do nothing with it with it afterwards?

As part of a trilogy, the scope changes. It makes you now want to go back and watch it again, get to know the characters once more, and see how they can potentially be connected to the 24 personalities of Kevin Crumb in “Split” (2018) before you go to the cinema and watch “Glass” (2019). Remember the scene at the football stadium when David Dunn heads for the drug dealer? What if you suspected that the mother and child he brushes past and senses child abuse just before, is believed to be little Kevin with his mom? Hmm…

Anyway, “Unbreakable” is arguably M.Night Shyamalan’s most innovative and resourceful directing, Eduardo Serra’s darkest cinematography, and one of the best James Newton Howard’s score. It marks the fourth collaboration between Bruce Willis and Samuel Jackson who are both irreplaceable. Memorable moments:

  • The hooded rain poncho obscuring Dunn’s face.
  • Long tracking shots and high and low camera angles to create the illusion we are in a graphic novel.
  • Repeatedly seeing Mr. Glass through or around glass to remind us of his connection with it but also his weakness.
  • Respectively, the raincoat David Dunn wears in most scenes to “protect” himself from the rain (water).
  • The graphic novel’s colour patterns; Dunn wears green and Glass purple.
  • Speaking of, the saturated colours over the muted colours at the station.

“Unbreakable” is not a superhero film, yet it follows the hero’s self-discovery path. And even though it is not a graphic novel adaptation, is most definitely made that way to “beam us up” to the narrative storytelling of the world of pictures.

Wildlife (2018): Drama

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The role of a mother in her son’s life changes unexpectedly after the father takes a dangerous job.

I must have missed something here… The directing was great. The photography stupendous. The score fantastic. The set decoration traveled me back to the ’60s. Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal clash on a “Revolutionary Road” (2008) level. So…

I’ll be honest with you. I missed the point. I just don’t know why I watched it. And I didn’t feel a thing in the end. Maybe the plethora of symbolisms passed me by? If the third act was different maybe? If you do get to watch it, please throw a comment regarding why this story is worth telling.

Paul Dano and, his other half, Zoe Kazan work brilliantly together. Watch “Ruby Sparks” (2012) and you’ll see what I mean. I haven’t read the book so I can’t tell with certainty why I don’t get it but the former’s directorial debut shows the potential of a great director who has already proven to be an amazing actor.

Minority Report (2002): Action / Crime / Mystery

“The World of Apu”

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on the film “Minority Report” which focuses on the relationship between visual effects and storytelling.

http://theworldofapu.com/minority-report-visual-effects-and-storytelling/

Constantine (2005): Action / Fantasy / Horror

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Occult detective John Constantine teams up with a policewoman when her sister allegedly committed suicide, and all hell brakes loose.

Now, that’s how you adapt a graphic novel! Before Warner Bros and DC started getting those shockingly dreadful reviews, there was “Constantine”. Hardly a superhero, definitely an antihero, John Constantine exists in the DC Universe and kicks demonic and angelic ass in his own blunt, cynic, and supernatural way.

Behind the camera, Francis Lawrence and his team, write, edit, and direct an action/fantasy (although not horror really) with a lot of humour, amazing photography, and great visual effects that help the story advance. If there were any gimmicks, flaws, or holes you wouldn’t bother finding them and, even if you did, you would turn the blind eye as it is that enjoyable.

In front of the lens, Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Djimon Hounsou, Shia LaBeouf, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Tilda Swinton, and Peter Stormare stand together and clash against each other throwing countless punchlines and keeping you entertained for two solid hours. Well, if you are too religious maybe not that entertained.

Anyway, I give my permission to Warner Bros to hire Francis Lawrence and his crew back to rebuild DCCU.

The Village (2004): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

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A late 19th-century, isolated Amish-like community lives by strict rules in a valley surrounded by forest, inhabited by creatures that don’t let them enter it.

Box office-wise it didn’t disappoint. M. Night Shyamalan’s reputation was not what it used to be after “Signs” (2002) but he was still the golden goose of Hollywood and people were still fascinated by his third act’s twists. It was the reviews that didn’t do it any favours.

I’ve blamed marketing before, and I strongly believe that this is one of them cases too. Getting the crowd intrigued and messing up with their expectations are two different things, separated by an indistinct, fine line. In the end, it can go either way which is why marketing’s job is so crucial.

The photography is haunting, the score is Oscar-worthy, and the chemistry between Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard electrifying. I will say nothing about the plot as… it is up to you to figure that out.

Watch it as you would watch “The Twilight Zone” (1959) having no expectation whatsoever, knowing though that nothing is what it seems.

Sorry to Bother You (2018): Comedy / Fantasy / Sci-Fi

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In a parallel universe, in Oakland, a telemarketer goes from having nothing to having everything to losing it all over again when in reality he had it all, lost it, and then tries to gain it again.

Is it perplexed? So is the film… Before I write any review, I make sure not to read other reviews or critiques so I know for a fact that I am stating my point of view and my point of view alone. “Sorry to Bother You” is “Comedy”, is “Fantasy”, but it is not “Sci-Fi”. It looks like a fresh take on Charlie Kaufman’s way of thinking, topped up with Boots Riley’s unique approach. Before watching it, the range of comments I had heard spanned from “genius” to “moronic” and from “amazing” to “horrendous”. So, chances are that you will either love it or loathe it. Here’s what I think…

Cassius Green represents the number of times you have asked yourself “Why does no one see how wrong the world is”? At first, he sees it. Then he becomes part of it. And then he wakes up, gets out, and does something about it. Lakeith Stanfield is brilliant as Cassius who lives in a surrealistically psychedelic world, like ours, just more artistically – Kaufman-esque – portrayed. Well, in our world, Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America, a laughable joke from “The Simpsons” (1989), so not that much more…

Steve Lift (Armie Hammer) represents the system that feeds off greed. And our ambition to do something more with our lives, and become something better, and change that system, can fool even ourselves and become that very same greed that feeds it.

“Sorry to Bother You” parodies our world not because it wants to undermine it. Boots Riley comprehends the “If you want to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh or they’ll kill you” (George Bernard Shaw) mentality, and through a respectful, meaningful, and didactic parable, makes you laugh but also “see” how much work needs to be done so our world can be a tad more understood.

Last but not least, Detroit, who is none other than the one and only, breathtaking, and always dazzling woman and actress Tessa Thompson represents love. In a subtle and artistic form, she has always been the one to prevent us from going astray and make us become the people that we always hoped we would be.

Stargate (1994): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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The discovery of a mysterious device in Egypt will teleport a linguist and a Colonel with a military mission galaxies away to a world where Ra rules over an ancient civilization.

Who built the pyramids? How were the pyramids built? When were the pyramids built? Blending history with fiction, Rolland Emmerich manages to build up an engaging premise surrounding the aforementioned questions which, to this day, people post online or publish books and articles.

“Stargate” has everything. Brilliant directing and photography, strong storyline, relatable characters, impressive visual and sound effects, great performances, excellent music score, and right editing pace. A solid sci-fi flick with no kitsch and no cliche, offering an entertaining take on Egyptian Mythology that will especially satisfy the thought-provoking conspiracy lovers believing that once the aliens paid us a visit. And not only.

That said, between them and those who think that “Stargate” contains “Americans liberating the world” right-wing hidden messages, “religion is oppressive” beliefs, and “power to the people” left-wing ideologies… I’ll side with the “Aliens built the pyramids mirroring Orion” dudes…

In the Mouth of Madness (1994): Drama / Horror / Mystery

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A cynical insurance investigator is hired by a publishing company to find a disappeared, renounced horror writer while global psychosis starts plaguing his readers worldwide.

I was a kid when I first watched it in the cinema. And then a young adult when I watched it in VHS. And here I am now, an adult, watching it in Blu-ray and feeling like a kid all over again. “In the Mouth of Madness” is one of John Carpenter’s best works, one of Sam Neil’s best performances, Michael De Luca’s best script, and, without a doubt, one of the best psychological horrors you will ever watch in your time. Fantasy and reality, sanity and insanity, pronoia and paranoia… all blend in to “bring to life” and pay tribute to H.P.Lovecraft’s horror fiction. Probably the best film that has captured the essence of the abstruse and horrifying Cthulhu Mythos. I say nothing more. Turn the lights off and get sucked into madness!

H.P.Lovecraft died in poverty and only posthumously he and his works were recognised. “In the Mouth of Madness”, a homage to Lovecraft, was not a commercial success, yet today, it is a critically acclaimed horror; a classic. I am so perplexed by what makes people tick most of the times. I guess, like almost everything else in life, we only learn the hard way and only when it’s too late – if that! Because it’s so hard to see what’s in front of our eyes the whole time and appreciate it while it’s there. Same with people…

You know what? I’m gonna write the sequel and send it to New Line Cinema. F@!% it!

Asher (2018): Drama

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An aging contract killer finds himself between a hard place and a rock during his final assignment, making him reassess his life’s goals.

I guess the marketing is to blame here. The trailer promised an action film when in reality “Asher” is a drama. Ron Perlman gives an esoteric performance as Asher who revaluates his life, shows remorse, and hopes it is not too late to turn his life around. All that while falling in love with the personification of innocence (the always amazing Famke Janssen) and while everyone is trying to take him out.

Pour some wine, put your feet on the table, and give it a go. Don’t expect a Michael Bay production where everything blows up and you might be surprised.