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…

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

Five for the Fifth: APRIL 2014 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s one and only blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. April Fools was just four days ago, man it seems like it was ages ago for Unbreakable_Postersome reason. Some of you caught the prank I pulled that day, and surely the interweb was full of fake news. One of them I read was this article listing three fake news stories we wish were real. One of those fake headlines says that M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable 2 Confirmed for 2015.

Per the article, ‘the studio indicated that the sequel will be set well after the events of the original film, and will follow Willis’ character as he learns more about his powers and the responsibility that comes with them.’ Oh man, if only that were true!! I’ve long been awaiting to see Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson reprise their roles, Unbreakable is my favorite M. Night’s film and one I’d wish to see a follow-up on. It’s been 14 years since its release and I still think it’d be worth revisiting the first truly *dark* superhero film.

Did you read any April Fools fake news you wish were real?
….

2. Switching gear to a superhero follow-up that’s been breaking box office record [pardon the pun]. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is poised to be the biggest movie of 2014 so far. According to Box Office Mojo, the Friday take of $37 mil would likely wind up to about $110 -$120 mil final weekend tally. I’m glad it’s doing well as I’ve said in my review it’s my favorite Marvel stand-alone movie yet, though I still have a special fondness for the first film.

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Surely everyone’s going to have a different opinion on this. So, just for the heck of it, how about we rank 10 Marvel Studios movies from 2000, but only those involving character that appear in The Avengers. That means we’re NOT counting the X-Men movies, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, etc. Here they are alphabetically:

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. Hulk
  4. The Incredible Hulk
  5. Iron Man
  6. Iron Man 2
  7. Iron Man 3
  8. Thor
  9. Thor: The Dark World
  10. The Avengers

So how would you rank these 10 Marvel movies?

……
3. Right now I’ll be watching a bunch of indie films at MSPIFF  2014. One of them I sadly have to miss because of a scheduling conflict is Tom Hardy‘s LOCKE.

LockePoster

A successful construction manager’s life is drastically changed by a series of phone calls while he drives.

Now this film that puts one actor in a confined location, more of a one-man-show for the entire film if we’re to judge from the trailer that I posted here. We’re only seeing Hardy as Ivan Locke as he takes a series of phone calls as he’s driving in a car, but boy is it gripping! I really think that the casting is what make or break this types of films, as that actor would have to be charismatic enough to hold our attention whilst seemingly not much is happening. As I’m a big fan of Hardy, naturally I’m intrigued.

My question is two fold: What do you think of Locke? And which actor would you like to watch in a similar confined setting like this one? 


4. Any casting news involving Chiwetel Ejiofor always makes me smile as I’ve been championing him for some time. Last time he was rumored in Star Wars also made a Five for the Fifth subject, if only that were true! Now as a massive Bond fan, of course this casting news piqued my interest!

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Seems that lately, or at least since Sam Mendes was on board, the new plan seems to be only to hire Oscar winners/nominees as Bond villain, ahah. In Skyfall we’ve got Oscar winner Javier Bardem, and now, Ejiofor is reportedly the top choice for Bond 24 which is currently in production. I’m definitely stoked if he were cast, though my initial thought was that fellow Black Brit Idris Elba would also make a great choice, given he’s got that devilish charm about him. I’ve never seen Ejiofor’s sinister side on screen before but I’m sure the massively talented actor is more than up for the task! With Ralph Fiennes and Naomi Harris returning, boy this is going to be one heck of a Bond cast. This might be the case where I’d love the villain more than the hero, ahah.

Thoughts on this casting rumor? Who would YOU like to see cast as Bond villain?

5. What a perfect segue to the last topic as we’ve got a former Bond villain in this one. I just backed this Kickstarter project ENEMY OF MAN, starring Sean Bean, Rupert Grint, James D’Arcy, Jason Flemyng and Charles Dance.

EnemyOfManMovie

Enemy of Man is an ambitious feature length retelling of William Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, Macbeth.

This will be the feature directorial debut of actor Vincent Regan. I really like him in TROY and 300, I thought he gave one of the best performances in 300, as well as the most heart-wrenching. Regan is no stranger to Shakespeare, he’s a veteran of the Royal Shakespeare and National theaters. Sean Bean apparently played Macbeth on London West End and this gave him a chance to revisit the character for a larger audience.

All money raised from this campaign will go towards taking the film into pre-production. You can read the details on the Kickstarter link above as well as a preview to the teaser trailer. Below is Sean Bean talking about his involvement in this project:

This looks pretty promising and the talented British actors involved are quite underrated. I hope they’ll meet their goal and get this film made! As of right now, there is only 15 hours left and they still need about $33K to meet their goal.

Whether or not you choose to back it, what do you think of this project and the cast involved?


Well, that’s it for the APRIL 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks.

Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Empire of the Sun, Unbreakable

Happy Monday all, and to my American friends, Happy President’s Day! Do you get the day off today? Fortunately I do, which is perfect timing as we just got dumped on more snow again this weekend. Yesterday was practically in blizzard condition right before I went to church around 11 am CST, and the snow kept on falling hard and fast until now. Well, I opt not to do a President-related post like I did last year, but if you haven’t already, here’s my top five memorable movie presidents.

Neeson & January Jones in ‘Unknown’

Well, looks like the weekend belongs to Liam Neeson as his Unknown thriller took the top spot with $21.8 mil (per box office mojo). As I pointed out on Friday, even just looking at the posters it seems as if they’re marketing this as Taken 2, and the mojo article confirmed it. I guess I wasn’t paying much attention to the promos, but article said Neeson’s second full-action vehicle was apparently billed as “Taken” meets “The Bourne Identity.” Did any of you get to see it?

Suffice to say, the snow storm pretty much grounded us to stay indoors. Here are my reviews of the two movies I managed to see:

Empire of the Sun (1987)

Even from such a young age, Christian Bale seems destined for acting greatness. This was his second feature film (the first one was the little-known Mio in the Land of Faraway released in the same year starring Christopher Lee), but you could say this is his first major motion picture, an epic war film directed by Steven Spielberg.

13-year-old Bale shone as Jim, a young English boy in Shanghai whose privileged life is turned upside down when Japan invaded the country during World War II. According to IMDb trivia, Bale was picked for the role of Jim out of more than 4,000 who auditioned and I could see why. Though the film boasts strong performances from John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson and Nigel Havers, it’s Bale who carried the film from start to finish. He believably portrayed the physical as well as psychological transformation the boy endured as a result of the war.

The film itself has quite an epic quality to it and looks gorgeous visually. But the center of it all is the story of war through young Jim’s eyes and the toll it took on him and the people around him, both the prisoners and those who hold them captive. One of the most memorable scenes for me was when the aviation-buff young boy sneaked into the Japanese airbase to touch a Japanese Zero fighter plane and as the pilots walked toward him, he stopped and saluted them. It was an emotional scene as for a moment, Jim didn’t see them as the enemy.

This film received six Oscar nominations in 1988, but there should’ve been a seventh one for Bale. I sure hope this year he finally nab the award he’s due more than two decades ago!

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Unbreakable (2000)

This is definitely my favorite and arguably the best of M. Night Shyamalan’s work. I had seen this when it was first released on dvd, but upon second viewing, I enjoy and appreciate it a whole lot more. M. Night came up with an original superhero story with a twist, citing the popularity of the comic book medium with on-screen statistics as the film opens. It’s a tale of two men at the opposite end of the spectrum physically: David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is a football stadium security guard who’s got unbreakable bones, and the other is Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a comic book dealer with a debilitating brittle bone disease.

When Dunn comes out unscathed from a catastrophic train wreck at the beginning of the movie, it’s revealed early to us the viewers that there is something special about Dunn. Throughout the film we’re discovering more and more about him at the same time the lead character learns about himself. The pace is deliberately slow but not tedious, in fact, so few films — especially of the comic book genre — takes the time for character development such as this one that it’s become a lost art. The film boast a restrained and understated performance from both Willis and Jackson (which made me completely forget they had co-stared together in loud and frenetic Die Hard 3!), but each of their composed meeting and conversation packs a punch. The ending is also a rewarding one that is sort of expected but still makes you go ‘whoa!’

This is one of those movies that I admire more for the high concept than the production itself, especially being a superhero movie fan. Of course that is not to say that the movie doesn’t look good, in fact, it boasts a distinctive cinematography and peculiar camera angles that suit the theme nicely. I’m going to borrow the text from a UK college professor Dan North, who sent me his perceptive analysis in the comment section of my news post last year where I talked about a possible Unbreakable sequel: Several shots are taken upside down, partly to show the viewpoint of characters who are themselves upside down, but also to introduce a theme of perspective – his central characters are men who need to adjust their outlook in order to see the codes of predestination working around them. Mr. North’s astute observation on M. Night’s use of ‘patterns and portents’ in his films is spot-on and it definitely is what makes his films unique.

Despite what the critics and moviegoers think of him now, his earlier work and this one specifically makes me think Shyamalan could still make a comeback. Though I can’t dispute Ted’s reasoning why he’s on the hack directors list, I haven’t given up on him just yet. Perhaps he could seek out a collaboration with a visionary filmmaker who can take his original concept to great heights.

Now, back to that Unbreakable sequel, I’m kind of torn about that one. On the one hand, it’d be interesting to see Dunn’s journey now that he’s embraced the nature of who he really is, but on the other, the sequel could potentially be just another superhero film that’d lessen the merit of the original. I don’t know if this movie has a cult-following or not but it seems that everyone I talked to has a positive thing to say about this movie, which is quite a change since this was a critical bomb at the box office.

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Anyway, what movie(s) did you end up seeing this weekend? Or if you have any thoughts about either one of these oldies, I’d love to hear it!