FlixChatter Review: GLASS (2018)

GuestPost_Vince

Written & Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson

I collected comic books as a kid during the late 70s through the 80s. As an introverted 8 year old, comics (from DC to Marvel, to Batman, X-Men, and eventually to graphic novels) provided a sense of wonder and mystery. Even in the post Star Wars 70s and 80s, the comic book medium elicited a kind of excitement that spurred the imagination. With all of the super powers and amazing impossibilities drawn in that wonderful half-tone of ink, words and colors, within those pages was an undeniable humanism to the drama of these characters.

As I grew older, I came to realize that the fantastic isn’t much without the human element. Comics had come to embrace a superhero based in the real-world with real-world problems (divorce, domestic issues, addiction, flawed motives, graphic violence, sex, questionable ethics and morality). M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (2000) is a testament to this realization. Its subtle approach to the fantastic (and very human) superhero reflected the evolution of comics into the millennium.

Shyamalan used simple everyday conversation and situations for dramatic effect, all without the bombast of today’s super-hero CGI excesses that is proving fatiguing (at least to this particular moviegoer) to some of today’s audience. I admit, I still look forward to Avengers: Endgame (I need closure after watching all those other movies), Dark Phoenix (my favorite of all the humanistic superhero sagas of all time), and seeing Spider-Man:Into the Spiderverse proved that there were still creative bounds to achieve. Unbreakable went against the grain back then and still stands today as a great example of an alternate way to portray super-heroes on screen.

Which brings us to 2019’s GLASS: Unbreakable’s official follow-up and semi-continuation of 2016’s very fine SPLIT. Here we pick up where SPLIT left off and 19 years after the events of Unbreakable. David Dunn (Bruce Willis with an understated performance) is now in the private security business along with his son Joseph. Joseph knows of his abilities and assists his father in tracking down criminals. Infamously known as the vigilante “The Overseer”, David’s alter-ego tracks down Kevin Wendell Crumb aka The Horde (James McAvoy in another fine performance) who is still terrorizing the city. Meanwhile, Elijah Price, aka Mr. Glass (played by the venerable Samuel Jackson) has spent the last couple of decades in a mental institution under the current care of Dr. Elle Staple (Sarah Paulson).

Shyamalan matches the feel of Unbreakable. There’s nothing flashy here. The actors move the scenes along with a mid-tempo pace that is a welcome change to today’s CGI heavy and music video editing styles we’ve expected in the genre. In the early scenes, it establishes itself “as not of that ilk” so to speak. Things starts out promising – Willis speaks very little, as we would expect David Dunn to be. Dialogue is succinct, albeit comic book like. It’s not Shakespeare – just simple language, avoiding pretense though self-consciously. The film reveals its plot slowly at first and quite entertainingly especially when Dunn finally confronts Crumb/The Horde for the first time. Then as the trailers would have it, Dunn, Crumb and Elijah Price are fated together under Dr. Staple’s care and control. Her sole purpose, to convince the three men they are not superheroes or super-villains, but merely suffering from delusions of grandeur.

And this is where GLASS starts to unravel. This preposterous scenario is handled leisurely and predictably, following the normal template of the Asylum horror flick, with orderlies snuffed out in orderly fashion (pardon the pun). 2 other major scenes detailing our characters escape (because we know they will somehow) made me scratch my head in a “Huh?” moment and not in a good way. Of course Glass wouldn’t be complete without that Shyamalan signature twist ending that was either too preposterous or too predictable. To say anymore would give it away. However, it ultimately left me feeling hollow and unsatisfied. But then again, that could very well be the point: that in this day and age of Marvel and DC motion pictures, we’ve come to expect the expected and in such spectacular fashion, particle explosions and all. Shyamalan has always leaned toward dialogue and images to make a point and it has served him well in his best films. GLASS may belong to the exception of the lot.

Shyamalan’s Hitchcockian cameo in the film seems to make a statement in itself. His line about hanging out with ‘shady types’ in his youth but now changed for the better, could be construed as a veiled letting go of the legacy of his earlier works (mostly the duds that followed The Village back in 2004), and perhaps even Unbreakable itself.

James McAvoy is terrific once again as Crumb but that is a singular positive in what feels like run of the mill performances from Willis and Jackson. In retrospect, McAvoy’s character is the most interesting and believable in the movie. It was enough to carry SPLIT. But GLASS’s fragility, shatters before us. But still I can’t help giving Shyamalan the benefit of the doubt; as if he’s done with the specter of Unbreakable’s success… That instead of that films legacy being a boon, it’s too much of a curse to live up to. That said, I’ll still look forward to what he does next…

Vince_review


So what do you think of M. Night’s GLASS? Let us know what you think!

Trailer Spotlight: Ocean’s 8

It’s the last week before Christmas and the present comes early! I’ve been excited for this all-female Oceans flick for some time. Normally I’d say we don’t need another reboot/sequel/spinoff what-have-you… but y’know what, this year (well, any year really), an extra dose of girl power is extra awesome. 2017 is the year of Wonder Woman, and 2018 will be the year of Wonder Women. I mean this is as close as we’re probably gonna get to an all-female Avengers flick!

This is the one to watch just for the cast. Bullock + Blanchett + Bonham Carter … just those three alone is enough to shell out full price cinema ticket (if I had to pay that is). My hubby and I watched this right after dinner and he’s as pumped as I am to see this [is it any wonder I love my man?]

So Sandra Bullock is playing Danny Ocean’s sister Debbie, I wonder if this all-female Oceans flick idea happened when she and George Clooney were filming Gravity four years ago. In any case, buh-bye Clooney, Pitt, Damon & co. and hell-o ladies!! Fresh out of prison, Debbie Ocean plans a big heist at the Met Gala in NYC. What a team she’s put together: Lou (Cate Blanchett), Nine Ball (Rihanna), Amita (Mindy Kaling), Constance (Awkwafina), Rose (Helena Bonham Carter), Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), and Tammy (Sarah Paulson). Too bad Elizabeth Banks dropped out of the cast, though I don’t mind Jennifer Lawrence isn’t in this (apparently she was offered a part).

Per IMDb, the eight main cast has won four Oscars, two Emmys, eight Grammys, six Golden Globes, five BAFTAs, and 10 SAGs combined. Woo wee! #girlpower

I totally forgot about Richard Armitage in this, he didn’t have a single line in the trailer so I have no idea who he’s playing. I barely noticed James Corden either until I saw it a second time. No matter though, forget the boys, it’s all about the ladies whoopin’ it up!

Not sure how involved Steven Soderbergh is on this spinoff, but given his track record with bad ass female in his movies I’d imagine he’d approve. This time we’ve got Gary Ross (Hunger Games, Seabiscuit) in the director’s chair and he wrote the script with Olivia Milch (one of Variety’s 10 screenwriters to watch in 2016).

I’m always up for a heist flick and this seriously it looks like a riot! The worst thing about this is the wait… June 8 can’t come soon enough. Well now I now what I’ll be anticipating come Summer movie season!


What say you? Thoughts on Oceans 8’s first trailer?

FlixChatter Review: 12 Years A Slave (2013)

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In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.

I saw this film two months ago and it was an early screening at 11 in the morning. I made the mistake of going back to work after this, as I was so shaken by it I could barely concentrate on even the simplest tasks. It’s the kind of film that’s perhaps seen alone or at least not with a big group of friends, because it would leave you so speechless afterwards that one would not be good company for a lively conversation.

The title says it all, it’s an incredible story of a formerly-free black man ended up sold to slavery and having to endure it for twelve agonizing years. Based on an autobiography written in 1853, the fact that Solomon survived this ordeal doesn’t exactly make this retelling any less harrowing, director Steve McQueen makes sure of that. The way the story is told is pretty straight-forward, we see Solomon with his family in Saratoga Springs, New York. An educated man and trained violinist, he lives a good life with his wife and two kids, until one fateful day when two men claiming to be from a touring circus duped and drugged him. That following morning, Solomon finds himself chained to the floor, no doubt it’s the start of the darkest decade of his life.

This is the first film of British filmmaker Steve McQueen that I saw. As I wasn’t familiar with McQueen’s previous works, the main draw for me is Chiwetel Ejiofor and he absolutely delivered. It’s as if I wasn’t watching an actor simply playing a role, Ejiofor became Solomon and everything from his mannerism to his soulful gaze lends authenticity to the character. What happened to Solomon is tragic and he’s a victim to be sure, but there’s a defiant strength in him that’s so compelling. “I don’t want to survive. I want to live.” He says, at one of the pivotal moment in his journey, and as life deals him one nasty blow after another, he clings to that glimmer of hope that one day he’d live again.

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McQueen doesn’t spare us the goriest and most vicious details of Solomon’s, as well as his fellow slaves. It’s truly an emotionally—and at times physically—draining experience watching this film as we’re subjected to several unflinching & sadistic violence that seems to go on forever. Though I appreciate the fact that McQueen doesn’t sugarcoat the story to make it more palatable, at times the extensive whipping scenes feels like it overpower the story. The whipping scene is bound to be one people talk about most, but there is also one incredibly disturbing scene involving Solomon half way through the film. It’s particularly harrowing not only because of the act itself, but the reaction of his fellow slaves around him. McQueen kept this scene on screen for a long time, too long for comfort, and that’s exactly the point. Yet it’s not just the brutal violence that really tug your heartstrings, I was practically sobbing watching the scene where Solomon was trying to write but simply couldn’t make the ink solid enough to use. It made me think how I’ve taken for granted the seemingly-simple things I have in my life.

The film intermittently shifts its focus from Solomon to the slave owners, particularly Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), whose brutality is matched only by his own wife (Sarah Paulson). In many ways, Mrs. Epps is actually scarier than her husband. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, they say, and boy it’s never more true here seeing a woman so madly-driven by jealousy that she couldn’t even recognize the intense suffering of fellow human beings. The subject of that sheer jealousy is Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) as she’s the subject of Epps’ sexual urges. Her scenes are the toughest to watch, even the scene containing only dialog between her and Solomon is utterly heart-wrenching.

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This film has one of the best ensemble cast of the year and the actors delivered solid performances pretty much across the board. Paul Giammatti and Paul Dano played against type portraying some evil characters, though Dano overacted in his brief scene that it made me cringe. Benedict Cumberbatch gave Solomon a fleeting hope as a compassionate slave owner, but in the end he didn’t really make any real difference. There’s much buzz about the Kenyan newcomer Nyong’o with her devastating performance and she deserves them, but I think Paulson deserves equal kudos for portraying such a wicked persona convincingly. Speaking of which, it’s hard not to think of Epps as a devil-incarnate, yet there’s something in Fassbender’s eyes that somehow make us believe he’s not a soulless creature. Alfre Woodard has a bit part here as well, though I wish her character were explored just a bit more. Lastly, Brad Pitt, who also produced the film, showed up towards the end and it was clear even from the promos that he’s made to be the hero in the film. Well, I’m glad to see his character appears in the film though I didn’t think anything of it about his performance. The heart of the film is no doubt Ejiofor, portraying a man who’s down but not defeated, he somehow remains hopeful despite seemingly-impossible odds. I sure hope this role opens even more doors for him in leading man roles as he’s certainly got the talent and charisma.

As powerful as this film is though, it’s not exactly flawless nor would I call it a masterpiece in the same vein as say, Schindler’s List. As my friend Terrence pointed out in his review, I too feel that the treatment of time passing is way too subtle. I didn’t even notice so much about Solomon aging, which should’ve been more obvious in a matter of 12 years under such duress. John Ridley’s screenplay felt a bit too poetic at times which lessened the sense of realism. I also wish there were more continuation with certain scenes and characters, i.e. the flashback scene where Solomon was approached by a slave whilst he shopping with his family, as there’s no follow-up to that encounter later in the film. I also wasn’t too impressed by Hans Zimmer‘s score. For the life of me I simply can’t remember what it sounds like now, perhaps it was a bit too similar to his previous works.

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Final Thoughts: Even with the flaws, I still think this is a brilliant film that merits the praises it’s been receiving. McQueen’s meticulous direction with his no-holds-barred approach proves that he’s one of the most talented filmmakers working today, quite a feat considering this is only his third film. This film shows the absolute horror of what the worst of us are capable of, enhanced as well as contrasted by Sean Bobbitt‘s breathtaking cinematography. This is one of those essential films that ought to be seen. Even if it may take you days to recover from, it’s such a worthwhile cinematic experience.

four and a half stars out of five
4 out of 5 reels


What did you think of 12 Years A Slave? I’d love to hear what you think!