Icarus File No. 3: Glass (dir by M. Night Shyamalan)


Oh, Glass.  We all had such hopes for you.

Glass, as you may remember, came out in January and was one of the first big cinematic disappointments of the 2019.  People were certainly excited about it before the film was released.  Glass was a sequel to not only Split but also Unbreakable.  James McAvoy, Samuel L. Jackson, and Bruce Willis would all be returning to the roles that they played in those original films.  Glass was viewed as being the film that would establish whether director M. Night Shyamalan was truly back after the critical and commercial success of Split or if he was going to return to being the kinda hacky director who we all remembered from the mid to late-aughts.

Actually, it can probably be argued that, as a director, M. Night Shyamalan managed to go from being slightly overrated to being wildly underrated.  Even his worse films aren’t exactly terrible.  Even the incredibly silly The Happening had a few effective scenes.  Shyamalan wasn’t a bad director as much as he was a director who, at times, seemed to be way too convinced of his own cleverness.  The Shyamalan twist became both his trademark and his curse.  I can still remember an entire theater audibly groaning during The Village, not because the twist was necessarily bad as much as just because it was so expected.  Was Shyamalan capable of making a film that didn’t end with a gimmicky twist?  Interestingly, for most of its running time, Split seemed like a straight forward story about a psychotic man with multiple personalities.  It was only at the last minute, when Bruce Willis showed up in that bar, the people realized that Split had a Shyamalan twist.

Glass has a few twists of its own, most of them dealing with how Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) became the killer known as The Beast.  It’s all connected to Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), who is also the supervillain named Mr. Glass.  Kevin, Elijah, and David Dunn (Bruce Willis) all end up in a mental asylum together.  Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) insists that the three of them do not have any super powers and instead, they’re all suffering from a shared delusion.  Of course, Dr. Staple has an agenda of her own.  It’s not a particularly interesting agenda but then again, who cares, right?  I mean, the main reason people are going to watch this movie is so they can watch James McAvoy and Bruce Willis square off against each other, right?

Well, those people are out of luck.  The audience may not care about Dr. Staple’s agenda but Shyamalan certainly does and, as a result, McAvoy, Jackson, and Willis often seem to be bystanders in their own film.  When the long-promised confrontations between our three main characters finally do occur, it all leads to a finale that leaves a rather sour aftertaste.  You can’t help but feel that the characters (and their actors) deserved better.  What ultimately happens to David Dunn in Glass feels almost like an extended middle finger to anyone who has ever defended Unbreakable.  One gets the feeling that Shyamalan was so eager to work in one of his trademark surprises that he never stopped to consider whether the film’s storyline was strong enough to support his ambition.

The other problem is that Bruce Willis’s David Dunn and James McAvoy’s The Beast really don’t belong in the same movie together.  Willis gives an understated and rather haunted performance as David but McAvoy is so flamboyantly evil as the Beast that it destroys whatever gritty reality Willis had managed to develop.  Both McAvoy and Willis give good performances but they appear to be performing in different films.  As for Jackson, nobody glowers with the power of Samuel L. Jackson.  But, oddly, he never seems to have much to do.  Glass may be named after his character but Mr. Glass often feels superfluous to the overall plot.

Glass is ultimately a rather forgettable movie.  One gets the feeling that Shyamalan was truly trying to say something profound about heroism and pulp mythology in the final part of the trilogy that began with Unbreakable.  But, ultimately, Glass‘s message is too muddled to have much of an effect.  In the end, Glass leaves Shyamalan’s ambitions unfulfilled.

Previous Icarus Files:

  1. Cloud Atlas
  2. Maximum Overdrive

4 Shots From 4 Films: The Blair Witch Project, The Rage: Carrie 2, The Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, we’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to look at some of the best years that horror has to offer!

4 Shots From 4 1999 Horror Films:

The Blair Witch Project (1999, dir by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez)

The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999, dir by Katt Shea)

The Sixth Sense (1999, dir by M. Night Shyamalan)

Stir of Echoes (1999, dir by David Koepp)

Horror Trailer: Glass


Glass

Yes, I think next year’s film from M. Night Shyamalan is a horror to a certain degree. It’s what one may call a horror-thriller with superhero aspects. It helps that one of the returning characters for the film is The Beast played by James McAvoy from M. Night Shyamalan’s 2016 psychological horror film Split.

With Glass still set for a January 19, 2019 release it’s time we got a new trailer that gives a bit of a look at the basic premise of the film’s story. From this trailer it looks like Mr. Glass will not just team-up with The Beast but do so in order to prove to the rest of the world that superheroes and supervillains do exist and that they’re not just a mental disorder.

There’s definitely some creepy beats in this trailer that hopefully will lend itself for some disturbing sequences in the film. It’s the horror aspect of Split that made it quite popular with audiences. Now time to see whether it’ll combine well with the superhero journey narrative of David Dunn (played by Bruce Willis).

Weekly Trailer Round-Up: Glass, Aquaman, Shazam, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Gridenwald, Patient Zero, I Still See You, Second Act, On The Basis of Sex, The Walking Dead


First, in 2000, there was Unbreakable.  Then, 16 years later, there was Split.  This January, M. Night Shyamalan brings us the third part of his Eastrail 177 trilogy, Glass.  The first trailer for Glass was dropped at SDCC this weekend and it leads off this week’s trailer round-up.

Also dropping at SDCC was the first trailer for Aquaman.  The DC hero that everyone loves to ridicule is finally get a movie of his very own.  The trailer hints at the origins of Arthur Curry, features the expected underwater action, and features enough ironic line readings that it could almost pass for the latest entry in the MCU.

If Glass and Aquaman are not heroic enough for you, there is always Shazam.  Back in the 1940s, Shazam was known as Captain Marvel and his adventures were published by Fawcett.  Claiming that Captain Marvel was clear rip-off of Superman, DC attempted to sue Fawcett out of business and then purchased the character, renaming him Shazam.  Now, Shazam is coming to theaters.  Shazam’s appeal has always been retro so, naturally, the trailer is full of references to Game of Thrones and self-reflexive humor.

Following the 2014 Godzilla reboot and Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the third chapter in Legendary’s Monsterverse.  This one will see Godzilla meeting Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah.  Godzilla: King of the Monsters will be released on May 31st, 2019.

Also released at SDCC was the latest trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Gridenwald.  Fantastic Beasts will be released on November 16th.

In Patient Zero, Matt Smith and Natalie Dormer try to find a cure for a virus that is transforming humanity into zombies.  The film is scheduled to be released through video-on-demand on 14 August 2018, before a limited theatrical release on 14 September 2018.

I Still See You is the latest B-movie to feature Bella Thorne getting stalked.  Will you see I Still See You when it’s released on October 12th?

In the upcoming comedy, Second Act, Jennifer Lopez plays an ambitious woman who is mistaken for a high-level business consultant.  With a plot like that, Second Act sounds like it could be the funniest film of 2004.  Second Act will be released on November 21st, 2018.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has already been the subject of one of the year’s most successful documentaries.  She gets the biopic treatment with On The Basis of Sex.  Felicity Jones plays Ginsburg while Mimi Leder returns from her cinematic exile to handle directing duties.  On The Basis of Sex will be released on December 25th.

Finally, the trailer for the 9th season of The Walking Dead dropped at SDCC and promised a new world with new rules.  Season 9 premieres on October 7th.

 

Horror Film Review: Split (dir by M. Night Shyamalan)


There are a lot of negative things that you can say about 2017.  In the future, when historians look back of the second decade of the 21st century, I imagine that they will point to 2017 as being one of the worst years in American history.  The country is divided.  The world seems like a scary and dangerous place.  The outlook for the future feels bleak.  It’s not so much that people are angry.  Instead, it’s that there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight for all the anger.  It’s difficult to imagine that the differences that currently divide the world are ever going to be resolved.

However, there is one thing that can be said about 2017.  It’s been a very good year for horror cinema.

Sure, there have been a few less-than-perfect films.  Rings left most people disappointed.  Does anyone remember The Bye Bye Man or have we said farewell to the memories of that unfortunate film?  While The Dark Tower was never specifically a horror movie, it’s still not easy to think of any other Stephen King adaptation that has been greeted with such indifference.  The less said about Tom Cruise’s The Mummy, the better.

But even with all that in mind, there have been some truly outstanding horror movies released this year.  Movies like Get Out, It, and The Belko Experiment will be well-remembered long after the more “traditional” films of 2017 have faded from the collective memory.  I would go as far as to argue that David Lynch’s revival of Twin Peaks should itself be considered an 18-hour horror movie.  Maybe it is because the world seems like such a dark place right now.  Maybe, at this point, horror movies are the only movies that accurately reflect the way many people are feeling about the present and the future.  For whatever reason, 2017 has been a great year for horror.

Really, we wouldn’t be surprised.  Way back in January, things got off to a good start with the release of Split.  Split was a film that not many people were expecting to be impressive.  Just consider: the film was coming out in January, which is when the worst films are usually released.  (The theory is that everyone’s too busy with the Oscars to notice that studios are desperately trying to write off all of the losers that they misguidedly greenlit for production the previous year.)  Split was directed by M. Night Shyamalan, a formerly respected director whose last few films had been disappointing.  Finally, the film’s plot just didn’t sound that good: James McAvoy plays a man with multiple personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls (Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, and Jessica Sula) and holds them captive.  Throughout the film, McAvoy cycles through his different personalities and the girls try to find a way to escape before McAvoy turns into the Beast.

And yet somehow, Split works.  It’s a genuinely scary and unsettling film, one that left me feeling paranoid for days after I watched it.  From the minute that the film started, it grabbed hold of me and it did not let go for two hours.  I watched the movie and I wondered what would happen if I ever found myself in the same situation as the kidnapped girls.  Would I be able to survive?  Would I be able to escape?  Or would I just be another victim of the Beast?  It’s a deeply frightening film, one that feels like a waking nightmare at its most intense.

Obviously, a lot of credit has to go to James McAvoy, who is brilliant in a role that would have brought out the worst instincts in a lesser actor.  It’s a showy role and there had to be considerable temptation to go overboard.  And there are a few times when McAvoy embraces the more theatrical possibilities of the role.  However, in his best scenes, McAvoy is surprisingly subtle.  Yes, he does a lot of different voices.  Yes, his body language alters from personality to personality.  But McAvoy is at his best when he just allows his facial expression to subtly suggest that he has turned into someone else.  McAvoy is frightening but, at times, he’s also rather pathetic.  Whenever McAvoy shows up, you never know what he’s going to do.  He keeps you off-balance.

As good as McAvoy is, M. Night Shyamalan also deserves a lot of credit for Split.  For a film about a man with 23 warring personalities, Split is refreshingly direct and straight forward.  There’s none of the cloying cleverness that cheapened some of Shyamalan’s other films.  Instead, Split is simply a good, scary film for a really scary world.

4 Shots From Horror History: I Know What You Did Last Summer, Vampires, The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project


This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 Shots From 4 Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we complete the 90s!

4 Shots From 4 Films

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997, dir by Jim Gillepsie)

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997, dir by Jim Gillepsie)

Vampires (1998, dir by John Carpenter)

Vampires (1998, dir by John Carpenter)

The Sixth Sense (1999, dir by M. Night Shyamalan)

The Sixth Sense (1999, dir by M. Night Shyamalan)

The Blair Witch Project (1999, dir by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez)

The Blair Witch Project (1999, dir by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez)

Here’s The Trailer for Split!


PCAS

I’ve been reading about this new movie called Split.  It’s about a man who has 23 separate personalities and the three girls who he keeps in the basement.

Here’s the good news: the film stars James McAvoy, who seems like the perfect pick for this type of role.  Anya Taylor-Joy, who was so good in The Witch, is also in it.  The film is directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who made a comeback of sorts with The Visit.

Here’s the bad news: This sounds like exactly the type of storyline that will bring out Shyamalan’s worst tendencies.  I’m going to predict right now that the film is going to end with either the three girls turning out to be figments of McAvoy’s imagination (or maybe manifestations of three of his personalities) or McAvoy turning out to be a figment of someone else’s imagination.  Or maybe Anya Taylor-Joy will turn out to be the one with multiple personalities and the whole movie has just been taking place inside of her head.  You know it’s going to happen.

Add to that, the movie is being released in January of 2017. January is traditionally the time that studios dump their worst films.

Oh well, no need to worry!  The world’s going to end in November regardless.

Anyway, here’s the trailer for the film that none of us will ever get the chance to see!

 

 

Here Are the Reliably Boring Razzie Nominations!


Yawn!  The Razzies are always so boring!  Here are this year’s predictable nominations.  Talk about them on twitter and impress your friends.

Worst Picture
Fantastic Four
Fifty Shades of Grey
Jupiter Ascending
Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Pixels

Worst Director
Andy Fickman, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Tom Six, Human Centipede 3
Sam Taylor-Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
Josh Trank, Fantastic Four
Andy and Lana Wachowski, Jupiter Ascending

Worst Actor
Johnny Depp, Mortdecai
Jamie Dornan, Fifty Shades of Grey
Kevin James, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Adam Sandler, The Cobbler and Pixels
Channing Tatum, Jupiter Ascending

Worst Actress
Katherine Heigl, Home Sweet Hell
Dakota Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
Mila Kunis, Jupiter Ascending
Jennifer Lopez, The Boy Next Door
Gwyneth Paltrow, Mortdecai

Worst Supporting Actor
Chevy Chase, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and Vacation
Josh Gad, Pixels and The Wedding Ringer
Kevin James, Pixels
Jason Lee, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip
Eddie Redmayne, Jupiter Ascending

Worst Supporting Actress
Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip and The Wedding Ringer
Rooney Mara, Pan
Michelle Monaghan, Pixels
Julianne Moore, Seventh Son
Amanda Seyfried, Love the Coopers and Pan

Worst Screenplay
Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater and Josh Trank, Fantastic Four
Kelly Marcel, Fifty Shades of Grey
Andy and Lana Wachowski, Jupiter Ascending
Kevin James and Nick Bakay, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling, Pixels

Worst Remake or Sequel
Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip
Fantastic Four
Hot Tub Time Machine 2
Human Centipede 3
Paul Blart Mall Cop 2

Worst Screen Combo
Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell, Fantastic Four
Johnny Depp and his glued-on mustache, Mortdecai
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
Kevin James and either his Segway or glued-on mustache, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Adam Sandler and any pair of shoes, The Cobbler

Razzies Redeemer Award
Elizabeth Banks
M. Night Shyamalan
Will Smith
Sylvester Stallone

Lisa Reviews on Oscar Nominated Horror Film: The Sixth Sense (dir by M. Night Shyamalan)


The_sixth_sense

Before I talk about the 1999 best picture nominee, The Sixth Sense, I have to ask — is it really necessary to give a spoiler warning?  I mean, everyone knows that this film has a big twist at the end and everyone’s aware of what that twist is, right?  I’m going to assume that’s the case because, quite frankly, it’s kind of pointless to talk about this film without talking about the twist.  I mean, the Sixth Sense has been around for 16 years and it’s still a film that people seem to frequently talk about.  (For instance, “Why aren’t any of M. Night Shyamalan’s other films as good as The Sixth Sense?”)  If you’re over the age of 20, you really have no excuse for not knowing the twist ending of The Sixth Sense.

But, fair is fair — THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!  

Anyway!  The Sixth Sense is the story of a 9 year-old named Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment).  Cole lives in Philadelphia with his harried but devoted mother, Lynn (Toni Collette).  Cole is a withdrawn child, haunted by the fact that he’s constantly seeing and hearing people that nobody else can hear.  As Cole explains it to his psychologist, Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), “I see dead people.”

(And you know what?  That line has been quoted and parodied a thousand times since The Sixth Sense was released but that’s because it’s a great movie moment.  Haley Joel Osment was a great child actor and did deserve the Oscar nomination that he received for his performance in this film.)

Malcolm has some issues of his own.  The previous year, one of his former patients (Donnie Wahlberg) broke into his house and shot him, while Malcolm’s terrified wife (Olivia Williams) watched.  Malcolm feels that he was shot because he failed that patient and that he can achieve some sort of redemption by helping Cole.  Of course, as Malcolm devotes more and more time to Cole, he finds it harder and harder to speak to his wife.  In one scene, Malcolm sits down across from her and tells her all about Cole.  She responds by ignoring him and then standing up and walking out of the room.

And when she does that, your natural response is to go, “What a bitch!” and feel sorry for Malcolm.  Except, of course, Cole really does see dead people.  And, as we discover in the film’s twist ending, Malcolm is one of them.  If his wife seemed distant, it was because she didn’t know he was there.  If she seemed emotionally withdrawn, it was because she was deeply mourning him.  Everyone — including Cole — knew that Malcolm was dead.  Everyone but Malcolm.

And you know what?  Film bloggers like me spend a lot of time making snarky comments about M. Night Shyamalan and his twist endings but the ending of The Sixth Sense works beautifully.  It worked when I first saw it and it has worked every time that I’ve seen it since.  Even knowing that Malcolm is dead, it’s still incredibly poignant to watch him realize it.

And that’s why I’d love to have a time machine.  I would love to be able to hop into my time machine and go back to 1999 and see what it was like for the very first audience that watched this film.  How did they react when they discovered — for the very first time — that Bruce Willis was a ghost?  I’d love to find out.

But, even without that time machine, The Sixth Sense holds up surprisingly well.  Haley Joel Osment and Bruce Willis tend to get so much attention for their excellent performances that I’m instead going to praise Toni Collette, who does great work as Cole’s loving but overwhelmed mother.  She didn’t get a great catch phrase nor was she a part of a huge twist but the heart of the film is to be found in her performance.

The Sixth Sense was nominated for best picture of 1999.  It lost to one of the worst films to ever win an Oscar, American Beauty.

 

Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “After Earth”


After-Earth-poster

 

Given that the always-on-the-ball Lisa Marie Bowman already beat me to the punch with this one on these virtual “pages,” I won’t waste too much of your time, dear reader, on my post-mortem analysis of the decidedly dull, wannabe-mystical-and-“empowering” mess that is Will Smith’s latest vanity project, After Earth, and instead merely remark upon some — -well, remarkable facts.

The first being that precisely two scribes here at TTSL actually saw this thing, and my best guess is that we both saw it in empty theaters because, according to box office receipts from the past weekend, nobody else went. So Sony/Columbia owes us a debt of thanks. And maybe some free passes to some future release of theirs.

Secondly, I’d like to state for the record that this film actually isn’t the abysmal and abject failure so many have quickly taken to labeling it as being so much as it’s just thoroughly predictable and almost relentlessly dull. 1,000 years after the evacuation of the planet due to largely unspecified but apparently quite serious environmental devastation,  emotionally distant military bad-ass-with-focus-group-tested -name Cypher Raige (Smith) and his son, Kitai (Smith’s kid Jaden) crash-land on the supposedly uninhabitable rock and must find a way to — yawn — survive while also learning to — yawn again — finally form the deep bonds of trust that all parents and their offspring are, y’know, supposed  to have.

There’s a bog-standard “warrior monk” mentality that runs through this picture that confuses stoicism for honor and nonchalance for dignity, and while Smith seems to be ill at ease with the material, he’s really got no one to blame but himself given that the film’s plot was apparently hatched in his own mind and the whole thing’s a family affair, with the former “Fresh Prince” not only starring in it, supposedly having a hand in scripting it, and casting his son to appear alongside him, but with his wife,  Jada Pinkett Smith, grabbing a producer’s credit, as well. And while it might be tempting to lay a pretty fair share of the blame for this overwrought snoozer on M. Night Shyamalan’s doorstep, as well — especially given his thoroughly uninspiring track record over the past decade or so —  the fact is that he’s pretty much acting as a director/co-writer-for-hire here, his fifteen minutes as Hollywood’s “next big thing” having apparently — finally! — run their course.

And weird as it sounds considering my disdain for pretty much anything he’s ever had his name attached to in the past, Shyamalan actually acquits himself reasonably well here. His direction doesn’t especially stand out in any respect, mind you, but you know what they say about how tough it is to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. All in all, I got the distinct impression that he was at least trying to inject some life into some pretty goddamn listless proceedings.

His efforts certainly aren’t enough, though. LMB’s right that the film’s environmental message feels both heavy-handed and tacked on — shit, at least Birdemic was so hilariously inept at doing more or less the same thing that you couldn’t help but love it —but its New Agey emotional subtext is even more clumsy and ham-handed than its ecological one,  and to me that’s where the film’s most egregious sermonizing is to be found.

Parents should love their kids and be nice to them? Wow, ya don’t say.

Anyway, there’s probably not much point belaboring the obvious any further here — I’ve never been a big fan of piling on, and as I said, I don’t find  this flick so much actively bad as it is just dull, preachy, and without purpose apart from demonstrating to the world what an awesome, caring, understanding bunch the Smith/Pinkett clan is (after all, they’d never treat their kids like this in real life, right?). So there ya go —  and there it goes, since all indications are that After Earth will probably “enjoy” a well-deserved short-lived run on our nation’s movie screens before slowly dying on the home video and cable TV vine. Hang onto your cash and catch it on TNT or TBS some Saturday afternoon a year from now.