Movie Review: Split

split-desertnews.jpg

Kevin (James McAvoy) and Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) have a chat in M. Night Shyamalan’s Split. (Source: Desert News)

M. Night Shyamalan’s career has been in the gutter for a long time. Ever since The Sixth Sense blew people’s minds back in 1999, everybody got pumped to see another film from him. The reason being is to be engaged in what Shyamalan has written up his sleeve as well as to figuring out about the twist. His next film, Unbreakable, changed the way how superhero movies are portrayed; it was told in a more realistic way. Even though I liked both Signs and The Village, they didn’t quite hold up its majesty of his predecessors.

After Lady in the Water and The Happening, Shyamalan has taken a turn for the worse. Everyone started to hate him, especially with what he did with The Last Airbender (which I avoided like the plague) and After Earth (one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had). Then, he has made his comeback with The Visit! While the tone can be quite inconsistent at times, Shyamalan still provided just the right amount of thrills and laughs. Split is one of those rare January movies that is actually pretty damn good.

Kevin (James McAvoy) is a man with dissociative identity disorder. He goes out of his way to kidnap three girls—Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula)—to a faraway bunker. They begin to discover some of his 23 different identities including 9-year-old Hedwig, a proper English woman named Patricia, an obsessive-compulsive janitor named Dennis, among others. They try everything they can to escape. Meanwhile, he makes frequent visits with his psychiatrist Dr. Fletcher (a wonderful Betty Buckley), stating that a 24th personality, known as “The Beast”, is about to emerge.

At 1 hour and 57 minutes, Split is Shyamalan’s longest-running film. The audience gets the sense of claustrophobia when they see the girls trapped in the bunker and fighting to escape. And Mike Gioulakis’ cinematography has that feeling of It Follows (the last film he shot). At one moment, you begin to laugh at some of Kevin’s shenanigans—notably in one scene, as Hedwig, he is dancing to Kanye West in front of Casey—and you begin to feel uneasy of what is about to happen. With his subtle camerawork of his earlier films, Shyamalan uses more of the “show don’t tell” approach. As the movie progresses, the audience learns more about him and his disorder, and how he takes control of his body. Dr. Fletcher begins to learn more about his disorder. “An individual with multiple personalities can change their body chemistry with their thoughts,” she says. McAvoy’s terrifyingly brilliant performance is more than enough to carry through.

After her breakthrough role in The Witch, Anya Taylor-Joy gives another wonderful performance. The audience begins to know about where she is coming from through a series of disturbing flashbacks.

Split is a movie for the mind and for the soul. It serves as a reminder that M. Night Shyamalan can make something truly exceptional through smart writing, excellent camerawork, and an eerie atmosphere. Fans of Shyamalan’s earlier work are in for a treat!

3.5/4

Advertisements

Movie Review: Patriots Day

patriots-day-imdb.jpg

Sgt. Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), FBI Agent DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) and Com. Ben Davis (John Goodman) trying to find the Tsarnaevs in Patriots Day, Peter Berg’s account on the Boston Marathon bombings. (Source: IMDb)

I remember April 15, 2013, like it was yesterday. It was a beautiful day in Boston. The annual Boston Marathon and the Red Sox home-opener were about to take place. With kids having an entire week off from school, everybody had no idea what would happen until the afternoon. Two brothers—Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev—planted two bombs near the finish line. At nearly 3:00 p.m., the bombs went off leaving three dead and hundreds of other people injured.

Three years later, Marky Mark and Peter Berg reunite after Deepwater Horizon to make another flawed yet exceptional tribute to those who had to make the ultimate sacrifice with Patriots Day.

Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) is a police officer living in Boston with his beautiful wife Carol (Michelle Monaghan). He is offered to work as a crossing guard at the finish line of the Marathon, despite dealing with a knee injury. After the bombs detonate, he—along with FBI agent Rick DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) and Police Commissioner Ben Davis (John Goodman)—begins to investigate who is responsible for the bombing. And later, finding out about Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff, the brother of Nat).

Seeing the bombings on the big screen is like seeing the actual event up close and personal. Resembling the likes of Paul Greengrass, director Peter Berg provides handheld camerawork (which might be overused as of late) to give Patriots Day enough realism. In one particular sequence, the Tsarnaevs carjack Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang) and make plans to go to New York City. Then, they encounter Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons) in a tense stand-off on the dark streets of Watertown (outside of Boston).

Mark Wahlberg, who represents the wonderful city, leads a wonderful cast to give another exceptional performance as the Everyman. Even though it takes a while for the movie to pick up its pace and some of the dialogue may seem a little forced, Patriots Day makes up for it as a hard-hitting and emotionally powerful homage to the heroes and victims of that tragic day and the city that coined the term “Boston Strong”.

3/4

Top 15 Best Movies of 2016

With a handful of bad movies 2016 had to offer, this year had some of the best movies I’ve seen in recent memory. From the bizarre to the unique to the poignant to the surprising to the most fun I’ve had in the movie theater, those are the terms that define 2016 when it comes to film. Without wasting any time, let’s get started with my top fifteen movies of 2016. There were so many phenomenal films.

Honorable Mentions: The BFG, The Conjuring 2, Deadpool, Doctor Strange, Everybody Wants Some!!, Finding Dory, Florence Foster Jenkins, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Jungle Book, The Lobster, Midnight Special, Remember, Sully, The Witch

#15-moviefone.jpg

(Source: IndieWire)

15. The Nice Guys – Shane Black goes back into his roots of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and Lethal Weapon to write and direct a buddy-comedy that taking place in the 1970s with ‘80s-style action and irony. I cannot picture a better dynamic duo than Jackson Healy and Holland March, played to perfection by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. They work off each other so brilliantly as two detectives investigating the murder of a famous porn star. Who needs toilet humor when you got references to The Waltons or having Gosling do a famous Abbott-and-Costello-esque silent scream when he discovers a dead body? With a good mystery, thrilling action set pieces, a witty script, and a gifted cast, it’s a shame The Nice Guys didn’t earn the money it deserved. I would love to see a sequel featuring these two detectives.

#14-asc.jpg

(Source: American Society of Cinematographers)

14. Swiss Army Man – When it premiered at this past year’s Sundance Film Festival, a lot of people walked out within the first ten minutes. One of the biggest challenges while seeing Swiss Army Man is get used to the toilet humor. Because there is a whole lot of it! Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheibert – otherwise known as The Daniels – go into a deeper territory with the toilet humor. The corpse’s farts are symbolic for having a connection with one another. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe star as the oddest pair of characters in years. Not only that, their performances are some of the most ambitious in recent memory. Thanks to its refreshing use of practical effects, the stunts resemble those of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton. The chemistry is one of the reasons why the movie works. It’s funny. It’s heartfelt. It’s an original piece of work! I have been waiting to a movie like Swiss Army Man for years!

#13-theverge.jpg

(Source: The Verge)

13. Don’t Breathe – Whether you call it a horror film or a straight-up thriller, you cannot lie that Don’t Breathe is a genuinely chilling piece of entertainment. Fresh from directing the 2013 remake of Evil Dead, Fede Alvarez uses a variety of film techniques to build up tension. From the long, quiet tracking shots to perhaps the best example of night-vision filmmaking, this movie pins you to your seat. Jane Levy is a revelation as one of the three protagonists who breaks into people’s house around Detroit to earn enough money for California. Known for starring in Avatar, it’s refreshing to see Stephen Lang to play a horror movie villain. His Blind Man may not see anything, but can hear that something is up to no good. The city of Detroit also serves as an important role not only in this film, but the horror genre in general. It Follows serves as another great example. Don’t Breathe is nothing compared to your typical home-invasion flick.

#12-indiewire.jpg

(Source: IndieWire)

12. Captain America: Civil War – It’s official! The Marvel Cinematic Universe has finished one of the best trilogies in history! Spider-Man might have been brought in at the last minute, but he deserved to be in this movie! With Winter Soldier, Anthony and Joe Russo bring politics into the MCU. The titular “Civil War” showcases what is funny and thrilling. Funny, exciting, and just as devastating as The Winter Soldier, I had a blast with Captain America: Civil War. Seeing characters like Spider-Man and Black Panther makes me look forward to their solo films.

#11-imdb.jpg

(Source: IMDb)

11. Zootopia – This movie surprised the hell out of me! With a concept that might sound like your average animated film from Disney, it actually has a great message for kids and adults alike about prejudice. While they are different, Nick the Fox (Jason Bateman) and Judy the Rabbit (Ginnifer Goodwin) begin to overcome their negative feelings toward one another and work together as a team. While poking fun at pop culture, Zootopia is the entire package: funny, thoughtful, suspenseful, gorgeously-animated, and rife with emotion. Thumbs up for this movie referencing The Godfather.

#10-NPR.jpg

(Source: NPR)

10. Loving – After directing the overlooked sci-fi gem Midnight Special, Jeff Nichols goes back to an important time in history. A movie following the 1967 court ruling of Loving v. Virginia would have ended up being your typical sap-fest. What Nichols brings to the table, however, is a subtle and heartwarming tale of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, fighting for their lives in a rough time in history. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga have tender chemistry while keeping their dialogue short and sweet. The scene where a photographer for LIFE magazine (Michael Shannon, in his fifth film with Jeff Nichols) is hired to capture the life of the married couple is one of the best movie moments of the year.

#9-imdb.jpg

(Source: IMDb)

9. Hacksaw Ridge – Mel Gibson returns to the director’s chair after Apocalypto to create a graphic but courageous portrayal of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield, in the performance of his career), who never picked up a gun in his life but nevertheless served in the Battle of Okinawa to save 75 people. It features the horrors of war with the old-fashioned drama featuring beautiful 1940s sets and a sweet love story between Doss and his sweetheart Dorothy (Teresa Palmer, in the performance of her career). Once Doss talks about his religion, we immediately know why he never picked up a gun. Featuring a great cast (Hugo Weaving, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington) and the most realistic war scenes since Saving Private Ryan, Hacksaw Ridge is a marvelous World War II-epic.

#8-dailynews.jpg

(Source: The New York Daily News)

8. Eye in the Sky – Wow! Talk about being pinned to your seat from the get-go! Eye in the Sky is one of those movies that went under everybody’s radar. It brings the morality into the subject of modern warfare. Through Gavin Hood’s sharp direction and Guy Hibbert’s miraculous screenplay, what makes this movie all the more suspenseful is it primarily takes place in a surveillance room in London or Las Vegas, or in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Originally written as a male character, Dame Helen Mirren brings enough sheer confidence and energy into her role of Col. Katherine Powell. With a gifted cast including Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) and Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), this movie is also worth seeing for Alan Rickman’s final performance as Frank Benson, who has been contributed in the war for a number of years. The final moments of the movie showcase how the brilliance of one of the best actors who ever lived. Rest in peace, Alan Rickman. You will be missed.

#7-flickeringmyth.jpg

(Source: Flickering Myth)

7. Hunt for the Wilderpeople – This quirky comedy from New Zealand is one of the funniest films of the year. Julian Dennison and Sam Neill make an odd dynamic duo as they run off together into the “bush” learning how to survive as well as encountering a wild boar or two (which makes for one of the best running gags of the year). Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok; writer of Moana) creates an offbeat comedy about caring for those around you. Juxtaposing the humor with New Zealand’s beauty, I have never laughed so hard yet felt moved by a movie such as Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It features the best Lord of the Rings reference since The Martian.

#6-irishtimes.jpg

(Source: The Irish Times)

6. Sing Street – 2016 had a lot of fantastic movies about chasing your dreams. Sing Street is another movie showcasing the talents of director John Carney. His 2007 feat Once is a masterpiece that defies the traditional musical genre. It follows a pair of musicians in Ireland who form a friendship through their passion of music. He goes across the Atlantic Ocean to film Begin Again, following the same structure of Once, but in New York City. While it was great, it doesn’t quite hold up its beauty as Carney’s predecessor.

Carney goes back to his native Ireland to create Sing Street. This movie, which takes place in 1985, following a boy’s dream of making a band to impress a girl, is guaranteed to put a smile across anyone’s face. Featuring wonderful characters you wished you hung around with every day, gorgeous cinematography, and toe-tapping music numbers, it throws every mainstream musical out of the water. I bought the soundtrack after seeing Sing Street in theaters. And it kicks ass!

#5-atlantic.jpg

(Source: The Atlantic)

5. Hell or High Water – Another movie where morality comes into play quite brilliantly. Ben Foster and Chris Pine have never been better playing two criminals who come off more as the heroes of the story rather than the villains. They plan a series of bank heists to save their family ranch in Texas. Jeff Bridges plays the Texas Ranger on the verge of retirement whose last assignment to go out after them. You can really feel the Texas heat, kudos to David Mackenzie’s direction and Giles Nuttgens’ cinematography. The tension of the bank robberies pins you to your seat. Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay is perhaps the best of the year, featuring a lot of razor-sharp wit, especially when Bridges’ Marcus pokes fun of his deputy’s Indian heritage. If you have to pause Hell or High Water at any time during its 102-minute running time (on the DVD/Blu-Ray, the running time says it’s 122 minutes long, which is entirely false), you are looking at a work of art.

#4-filmdispenser.jpg

(Source: Film Dispenser)

4. Arrival – Denis Villeneuve strikes back to bring back the lost art of science-fiction. A form where it makes you think and wanting to see it again and again. While Arrival can be compared to Closer Encounters of the Third Kind and Signs, this movie is more than just your typical alien-invasion flick. It asks questions such as: Who and what are these beings? Why are they here? Do they pose as a threat to humanity or not? That’s the part of this film’s brilliance; is that it transports the audience into a world of mystery and the need to communicate. I hope Amy Adams earns an Oscar nomination for her performance as Louise, a linguistics professor who won’t stop at anything to find answers from these beings. Arrival is what Interstellar should have been.

#3-theverge.jpg

(Source: The Verge)

3. Moonlight – I have never seen anything so devastatingly powerful all year. Moonlight is writer/director Barry Jenkins’ second film which talks about neglect and self-discovery. Separated into three acts, we follow Chiron as a kid, as a teenager, and as an adult trying to find his purpose in life in Miami during the “War on Drugs” era. Every character is portrayed naturally to the point where the audience connects with them. Seeing this movie twice, the rough portrayal of Miami moved me to tears more on the second viewing. I cannot think of a better ending than in Moonlight.

#2-indiewire.jpg

(Source: IndieWire)

2. Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan has created an affectionate, raw, and funny film centering on one man’s grief. Premiering at countless film festivals, Manchester by the Sea earned unanimous praise. Casey Affleck’s Lee Chandler is a stubborn and selfish person who goes through a lot after the death of his brother (Kyle Chandler, in flashbacks) and tries to make it up for it by connecting with his nephew like he did years ago. While it is a depressing film, it also has a deadpan sense of humor. I’ve seen it twice in theaters, and I loved it more the second time. Manchester by the Sea feels as authentic as the culture. It makes me so proud to be from a part of New England.

#1-playlist.jpg

(Source: The Playlist)

1. La La Land This was extremely difficult for me to determine which film as the best of 2016. Both this film and Manchester by the Sea are fantastic on their own right, but La La Land reminds us why movies like this don’t exist anymore. Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, writer of 10 Cloverfield Lane) has created another masterpiece! Seeing this film yesterday at a packed movie theater is the best cinematic experience of my entire life.

From the opening musical number taken place during a traffic jam in Los Angeles, I was immediately hooked. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are electrifying as the star-crossed lovers who are trying to make ends meet by achieving something really special. They provide enough wit, charisma, and rhythm in this miraculous world of vibrancy, expectations, love, and disappointment. Every single shot is truly a work of art, especially the spectacular dancing sequence at the Griffith Observatory makes you feel like you are watching a dream coming to life. From the originality, its toe-tapping, beautifully-choreographed music numbers, and use of tracking shots, La La Land pays tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood and features the best portrayal of Los Angeles I’ve ever seen. I absolutely loved it!

I hope you enjoyed my picks for the best films of 2016. I’m beyond curious to see what your favorite films of the year are. Here’s to a good 2017!