Sunday
Jan202019

BROKE, BROKE AND AWAY // A FILM REVIEW OF "GLASS"

BY MATEO MORENO

To say that M. Night Shyamalan’s career has had its ups and downs is really putting it mildly. Since exploding into the mainstream with The Sixth Sense in 1999 (which received almost universe love), M. Night has released one project after another, each one dividing audiences into a pure frenzy. Talk of “he’s lost it” and “he’s back to form” has been said throughout his entire career. But one thing that can be said is that he’s been consistently original. You may not like what comes out of his brain (cough, cough… The Happening… cough, cough), but it is purely his own vision being transported onto the screen. His follow up to The Sixth Sense was Unbreakable in 2000 and that film is still my favorite property of his. It told the story of David Dunn, an ordinary man who slowly finds himself to be “unbreakable.” It was a superhero story in a very non-superhero world. Samuel L. Jackson played his nemesis, Elijah Price, a man whose bones were so brittle that he was nicknamed “Mr. Glass.” Slow and powerful, and I’ve often thought of it ever since.

 

In 2016, M. Night “returned to form” once again with the unassuming Split, featuring James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man who has 23 personalities inside of him and the most dangerous one is threatening to overtake them all. It was a fun, original, and very well told film. The surprise was that in the final moments of the film, we were reintroduced to David Dunn, and realized that the two films took place in the same universe. Now, the long-awaited follow-up to Unbreakable has arrived, now less of a sequel and more of the final piece of a trilogy. GLASS is the third part of the puzzle, bringing together David Dunn, Mr. Glass, and all of James McAvoy’s personalities. It also brings back Anya Taylor-Joy from Split and a grown-up Spencer Treat Clark from Unbreakable. M. Night’s three main characters are sent to an asylum and treated by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) a woman who specializes in the very specific delusion of grandeur where people believe they are actually superheroes

 

What follows is a lot of great build up and promise that fizzles so fast that it’s actually enraging. The mood and slow building dread of his earlier films fill the first half of GLASS expertly. Sarah Paulson is stoic and sharp, Anya Taylor-Joy and Spencer Treat Clark are great supporting players, and James McAvoy is utterly brilliant (and he stays that way up until the end). However, for a movie named after Mr. Glass, Samuel L. Jackson’s presence is largely under utilized here, as he’s catatonic for most of the film and when he springs, rather wheels, into action, it’s pretty unremarkable. Most disappointing is the treatment M. Night gives David Dunn and the sleepwalk performance Bruce Willis performs it with. David Dunn is a fascinating character who’s reduces to getting thrown around and has the weakest of all storylines. The final act, which is teased to be a giant superhero showdown, is all smoke and mirrors and actually takes places somewhere else entirely, somewhere far less exciting. And the writer/director either doesn’t trust the audience to know the beats of a superhero story or doesn’t actually understand them himself, because suddenly near the end of the film, every character starts to explain out loud how this action is part of an origin story or this action is how the hero triumphs, etc, etc. GLASS had me engaged for the first half and completely nosedived into ridiculousness in the second. But I do admire the world, and the risks that M. Night took here. I just wish he knew how to land it.

 

MATEO'S GRADE: C+

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY M. Night Shyamalan STARRING James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Spencer Treat Clark. Now playing in select cinemas.
Friday
Jan112019

THE ODD COUPLE OF THE UPPER EAST SIDE // A FILM REVIEW OF "THE UPSIDE"

BY MATEO MORENO

THE UPSIDE, the new remake of the 2011 French mega hit Les Intouchables, has been on the shelf since 2017. Not because of any content the movie had but because it was collateral damage in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. It eventually found a January release date (never a great sign if you’re not an action film), and we can finally get to see Kevin Hart go toe to toe against Bryan Cranston in a dramedy that’s “sort of” based on a true story (at least the original was). This American remake hits basically the same beats as the original film, but changes up the story a bit.

The story itself is about an ex-convict named Dell Scott (played by Hart) who needs to find a job, or at least look like he’s trying to find one, so that he can bring the proof back to his parole officer. He shows up to the mansion of Phillip Lacasse (played by Bryan Cranston) who is a billionaire quadriplegic who needs a caretaker. Yvonee Pendelton (Nicole Kidman) is giving the interview and she’s not impressed. But Phillip sees something that he likes, something that’s different, and hired Dell. At first, Dell isn’t interested in the job, until he hears the salary and he jumps at the opportunity immediately. Now begins an odd couple dramedy where the young black ex con teaches the billionaire white man how to live with his heart, and the billionaire white man teaches the black ex con how to live with his head. Stop me if you’re starting to cringe.

 

Why Director Neil Burger decided to remake this film, and why Hart and Cranston (and even Kidman) decided to jump on board is a mystery. The film plays, much like the 2011 French film did, like a movie that was made in the 1980’s and feels way outdated in the gender and racial politics of today. But yet, it wasn’t. The film is new, but no idea is. Stereotypes abound the film and even though Hart and Cranston both give solid performances, the film is a flopping, offensive mess. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not so offensive that you’ll want to walk out of the theatre. But it's just offensive enough that you'll be upset that you're not seeing something that's more clever. Or actually funny. Unless you like catheter humor or enjoy how Dell can’t say the word “penis.” Monty Python watch out. This is comedy gold.

 

MATEO'S GRADE: D

BASED ON THE FILM "LES INTOUCHABLES" WRITTEN BY  Éric Toledano, Oliver Nakache SCREENPLAY BY Jon Hartmere DIRECTED BY Neil Berger STARRING Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, Nicole Kidman. Now playing in cinemas.
Sunday
Jan062019

TOGETHER WE FALL // A FILM REVIEW OF "ESCAPE ROOM"

BY MATEO MORENO

 

Turning games into films have not had the best track record. Remember the big screen versions of BATTLESHIP? How about RAMPAGE? PRINCE OF PERSIA? Okay those are bad examples, but to be fair, there aren’t really many good examples. But the idea of turning the concept of an escape room into a low budget horror movie seems like an idea someone should have had years ago. So, it is puzzling that it’s just now happening. Director Adam Robitel, who was the man behind last year's Insidious: The Last Key, strikes his vision here with ESCAPE ROOM, the feature debut of the game we all love or hate. And for the most part, it’s a lot of fun, as long as you don’t think too hard about it.

 

A mysterious box shows up on the figurative doorsteps of six strangers: a withdrawn young student Zoey (Taylor Russell), a full of himself finance man Jason (Jay Ellis), an army vet Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), underachieving Ben (Logan Miller), everyday guy Mike (Tyler Labine) and a super fan of Escape Rooms Danny (Nik Dodani). Inside the box is a private invitation to try out the latest game room, which they all accept, for various reasons. Once they arrive in the waiting room, they realize they have actually begun the Escape Room, but quickly find out that this is unlike any other room out there. This one has real fire, real danger, and each room seemed aimed at one of their own personal fears or tragic things from their past. Each room offers separate but equal dangers and they must all work together to get through them. But being a horror movie, not all of them do and the thrill is to see how many of them can, indeed, escape.

 

There’s a lot to like in this small little horror gem, including some solid dark comedy and some really creative and fun to watch rooms. And the cast are all game, and rarely are the characterizations overtly annoying (the super fan is a bit much though). The final act of the film dives a bit too grand in my option; I honestly feel playing it a bit smaller would have done the film more justice. But it’s a fun ride with some really exciting and bizarre setups. And it’ll make you think twice about going back to a game room yourself. Because this is not a good advertisement for a night out with your friends

 

MATEO'S GRADE: B

WRITTEN BY Bragi F. Schut, Maria Melnik DIRECTED BY Adam Robitel STARRING Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Tyler Labine, Deborah Ann Woll, Nik Dodani. Now playing in select cinemas.