[Early Review] Split (2016)

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Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Betty Buckley

Screenplay: M. Night Shyamalan

117 mins. Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language.

 

Good, I needed to wash disappointment of The Bye Bye Man away…

In Split, the newest horror film from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, The Visit), three girls are kidnapped leaving a birthday party and awaken in a strange and unknown room. Their kidnapper is Dennis (James McAvoy, X-Men: First Class, Victor Frankenstein), a creepy and unstable man with an interest in watching girls dance naked. But it gets worse, because Dennis is also Patricia, a woman who strives for perfection and has a dark plan for the girls. Patricia is also Barry, who loves fashion and shows his sketches to his doctor, Karen Fletcher (TV’s Eight is Enough, The Happening). Dennis, Patricia, and Barry are just three of the twenty-three identities within one man, Kevin. As Dennis and Patricia put a plan into action to have the girls killed for a higher purpose, one of them, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch, Barry) uses her wits in an attempt to free herself and the others before a 24th personality, known only as The Beast, is unleashed upon them.

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I didn’t see The Visit. The last film from Shyamalan that I partook in was The Last Airbender, so as I recall, the breakup was pretty rough. Well, I’m glad to say that, with Split, M. Night is back and at his most loony. Split is a fun, taut thriller that plays like something out of the annals of Tales from the Crypt. It begins with an interesting idea, slightly unhinged, with excellent and engrossing characters, and a twist that works so well and only adds to the fun of the film rather than take away like The Village did.

McAvoy is at the top of his game here as he is given the ultimate acting showcase, switching between identities at will without dropping a note. And each identity is given so much character and charisma that it’s easy to see who is in charge of Kevin at any given moment. That’s the real win with his performance. I look at films like Transformers (wait, hear me out) and it often becomes difficult to ascertain which character is which when all the robots are fighting because they all look so similar, but in Split, it is perfectly clear at all times, even when Kevin is having a disagreement with himself.

Supporting players Anya Taylor-Joy and Betty Buckley are also notably great. Taylor-Joy is really quickly rising up the fame ladder, appearing in 3 films of merit last year and The Witch the year before. She is impressively smart and skilled as Casey. Buckley has been a mainstay of film and television for some time stemming back to her first role in Brian DePalma’s Carrie. The level of gravitas only seeks to make the film more believable especially when it hits the height of its lunacy.

The film is not without its detractors. My fiancé, for example, who has a background in the medical field, found that the suspension of disbelief was too much for the central plot to work. I disagreed with her, but I do understand how someone more aware of Dissociative Identity Disorder might not buy in. For me personally, with my background and understanding of Shyamalan’s inspirations, it worked very well.

I didn’t enjoy having the 23 identities always tossed around when we really only get to meet 6 or 7 of them. I was disappointed that we didn’t get to at least glimpse the others at some point as it was an expectation I had due the constant reference to so many personalities. But I think 23 personalities sells better than 6 or 7.

I also wasn’t too keen on the ending, and I don’t mean the twist, which I enjoyed, but the ending itself. I felt like Casey’s flashbacks didn’t go far to add much to the plot, and I feel like it was really supposed to mean something, but it didn’t. The reason why the twist worked so well is because if you don’t get it, and trust me, not everyone will, but if you don’t get it, it doesn’t take anything away from the film. For attentive viewers, the payoff is worth it.

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Split was so much fun, and I really enjoyed that all the characters, including but not limited to the ones on McAvoy’s head, were so vivid and real and helped to ground the unreal story and keep the momentum. My frustrations didn’t ruin the experience for me at all, and in fact, I rather enjoyed the film and can’t wait to see it again.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Split? What did you think? Let me know/Comment below!

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

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Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Titus Welliver, Bingbing Li, T.J. Miller

Screenplay: Ehren Kruger

165 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo.

 

It has been seven years since Transformers came out. I can’t believe I’m sitting here writing a review of the fourth film in this series, Transformers: Age of Extinction. This film is a bit of a departure in that it takes place five years after The Battle of Chicago, as it is referred to (which took place in Dark of the Moon) and features an entirely new cast of characters. Literally, nobody returns to this franchise for the fourth film except some of the voice actors for the Transformers.

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This installment introduces us to Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights, Ted 2), a novice inventor, and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz, TV’s Bates Motel, The Last Airbender). Cade is a picker who scavenges for parts to use in his various inventions. He and his assistant Lucas (T.J. Miller, Cloverfield, Big Hero 6) come across a truck in an old abandoned theater and take it home to discover it is Optimus Prime in hiding. A government official named Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer, TV’s Cheers, The Expendables 3) has hired a human hitman (Titus Welliver, The Town, Promised Land) and a bounty hunter Decepticon named Lockdown to hunt down and destroy the remaining Transformers. Meanwhile, a big-time business named Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci, The Hunger Games, Muppets Most Wanted) is developing new technology incorporating Autobot tech and using it to build his own Transformers.

The plot is at least a new direction for this series. I was getting tired of the limited character development of Shia LaBeouf. This film isn’t great, but it certainly epitomizes the Michael Bay promise: likable trash. I had a lot of fun watching this movie. It just felt newer, and it had a lot more in terms of acting prowess (from Wahlberg, Tucci, Grammer, and Miller). The plot runs on for damn near forever, but I’ve come to expect that from this series and I didn’t feel as restless as I had from the last few movies.

I also absolutely love the design of the new Transformers in this installment. Hound (voiced by John Goodman) is a new Autobot who plays off like an old army colonel. He is an absolutely fantastic and angry beast who actually transforms to have a cigar in his mouth, too. Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe) is a samurai who has blades that come from his transformation into an Apache helicopter. The faces are so well-defined that this is the first Transformers movie where I know all the Transformers based on looks. These are different characters.

And then there’s Lockdown. This is a complex character who is joining the US government to take on the Autobots and also has plans of his own.

I enjoyed this movie more so than I thought, and perhaps that comes from hearing all these bad reviews coming out of this movie’s initial release. I guess I had my hopes down.

One major flaw came from Galvatron, who is one of the new lead villains, a man-made Decepticon who feels so underdeveloped that it becomes really tough to fear him.

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All in all, this was more fun than expected. Make sure you have a comfortable chair, because you will be here awhile, and non-Transformers fans need not apply.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction? Did it transform into a masterpiece or did you “Roll Out” of the theater? Let me know!

 

For my review of Transformers, click here.

For my review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, click here.

For my review of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, click here.

June 2014 Preview

Just putting this out there again, I have not seen the following films. I have prided myself on being pretty good at guessing a movie’s place on the awesome-meter (shut up, it’s a thing!), so I have compiled a list of the film releases in June of this year for you to make the best possible choice when heading to the theater this month.

 

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The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars premiered last week at the Seattle International Film Festival, and will have its wide release on June 6th. Based on the popular novel by John Green, Fault tells the story of Hazel (Shailene Woodley, TV’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Divergent), a terminally-ill girl who meets Augustus Waters at a support group meeting. Their relationship changes everything for Hazel. Now, this film irked me a little with its bad marketing earlier this year. I trust Shailene Woodley, who has proven herself in the past. I feel like this will be the teen release of the year, so if you read the book, I’m feeling good about this release.

 

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22 Jump Street

I was actually surprised and happy to discover that 21 Jump Street, the 2012 action-comedy based on 1987’s television star vehicle for actor Johnny Depp, was pretty damn funny. It looked to me like the kind of film with all the best moments in the trailer. I admit I was wrong. As far as a sequel goes, under any other directors I would be nervous, but returning director team Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, this year’s hit The Lego Movie) alongside writer-star Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum flexing his funny bone again, I have to say I am excited. Here’s hoping it won’t be another Hangover sequel fiasco.

 

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How to Train Your Dragon 2

This was another film with a quality that shocked me. I initially thought How to Train Your Dragon was going to be likable but not loveable with either two much focus on cuteness or too much focus on goofiness. Again, happily surprised.  I’m going to say go for this sequel, which sees Hiccup and Toothless as they find themselves in the middle of a bigger conflict between humans and dragons. As much as I would’ve liked to see the film take the direction of the book series a little more (the second book was entitled How to Be a Pirate and, understandably so, would’ve caused a pretty sizeable risk for the filmmakers in terms of its overall plot), I like the idea of turning this into a film trilogy and being so adult while still being a family film. Kudos.

 

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Jersey Boys

Clint Eastwood is back! It has been three years since J. Edgar’s release, a film that labeled Eastwood as tamer than hoped, but I have always been impressed with the actor-turned-director’s time behind the camera. There hasn’t been a film of his that I was disappointed in. This is a new risk for Clint as well, a musical. I love seeing musicals from directors not usually tapped for such projects. I am stoked to see his take on the four men who grouped together to become The Four Seasons.

 

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Think Like a Man Too

Wow, another sequel to a 2012 film, and I have to say, the first film didn’t interest me enough to actually sit through it. I will say this, if you truly liked the first film, you may enjoy this installment, but it seems like a gimmick sequel (a film that takes implausible measures to bring the characters into wacky situations) and I don’t think it has the chops to seem less stupid. A Vegas bachelor/bachelorette party? I think it will sink, and I wouldn’t want to be in the theater watching it sink.

 

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Transformers: Age of Extinction

If you had asked me back in early 2007 if I would be here in 2014 discussing a fourth Transformers film, I would have responded with awe at the specifics of your question. After I got over it, however, I would be shocked to say yes. Don’t get me wrong; the first Transformers was a long-shot hit and I personally had fun with the sequels, though I accept their collective non-greatness. Transformers: Age of Extinction picks up a few years after the finale of Dark of the Moon, following Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights, 2 Guns) and his daughter (Nicola Peltz, The Last Airbender, Deck the Halls) who come across Optimus Prime and get involved in a plot involving, shockingly, Dinobots. Never thought we would see them, but I guess it is time. This will be the first Transformers film without the involvement of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf). I’m personally excited about a possible new direction for the series. I was getting a little tired of LaBeouf’s constant freaking out and screaming. Wahlberg has the potential to carry this franchise to success.

 

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Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie

I seriously had to look this movie up. I have no freaking clue what this is. I guess it is based on a sitcom. I’ll make this pretty simple. If you have heard of the show and liked it, you may want to see. Otherwise, stay the hell away because it sounds like a turd. There, I said it. A turd.

 

 

 

There you have it, June 2014 in Preview. Final tally:

Best Bets: 22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Jersey Boys

On the Bubble: The Fault in Our Stars, Transformers: Age of Extinction

Likely Misses: Think Like a Man Too, Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie

 

As before, I gave you the tools. It all depends on you to use them. What do you think? How do you feel about this month’s upcoming releases? What are you most looking forward to? Comment below.

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