Vids I Dig 461: Filmento: Why ‘It Chapter Two’ Failed Where ‘It’ Worked

From Filmento’s YouTube description: 2019’s IT Chapter 2 is the highly anticipated continuation to 2017’s success story IT, and it completely drops the ball, joining The Curse of La Llorona in the losers club of the worst horror movies of 2019. This “movie” has a bunch of problems, but the most noticeable of them all is that for a horror film… it’s not scary, there are no competent scares whatsoever. So, let’s compare Chapter 2 to Chapter 1 and see how to fail at constructing good scares. If you want clowns, stick to Joker.

Film Review: It Chapter Two (2019)

Release Date: August 26th, 2019 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Written by: Gary Dauberman
Based on: It by Stephen King
Music by: Benjamin Wallfisch
Cast: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård, Sophia Lillis, Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Olef, Stephen King (cameo)

KatzSmith Productions, Lin Pictures, Vertigo Entertainment, Double Dream, Rideback, Mehra Entertainment, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros., 170 Minutes

Review:

“For 27 years, I dreamt of you. I craved you… I’ve missed you!” – Pennywise

The adult half of the story to It was never as interesting or as engaging as the child half, so I probably shouldn’t have expected this film to be as good as its predecessor. However, it falls short in other aspects despite just being less interesting.

To start, it’s just too damn long and way too drawn out. The first two acts are slow as hell and I actually found it baffling that this wasn’t something that was fixed in editing.

The worst of it all, was the middle act of the film where all the characters had to go off on their own journeys to deal with their personal demons. I felt like each of these segments was too long and frankly, they could’ve somehow been edited together into one overlapping sequence, as opposed to multiple ones that just felt like their own separate chapters in the story. They felt more like side quests in a video game while taking a break from the main story. That works in a game but it definitely doesn’t work in a motion picture with limited time to tell its story.

Another major negative was the horror itself. I found many parts of the first film to be pretty damn disturbing. In this film, everything came off like this was the diet version of the previous installment. Pennywise wasn’t nearly as terrifying and most of the murders and violence were basic bitch shit. Pennywise pretty much just goes clown piranha and bites people in half. There’s no real creativity to any of it.

Additionally, the final monster was just a giant Pennywise with crab-like limbs. While I’ve knocked how the monster looked in the 1990 TV miniseries, it was at least more imaginative than just making a CGI crab monster with a clown head.

That’s really part of the problem here too. You see, almost every evil entity in the film has to be clown themed. The original novel and TV miniseries deviated from this, as the monster takes many forms. It isn’t specifically a fucked up clown. Pennywise (or It) is a shape-shifting alien from another dimension. He’s also thousands (if not millions) of years old. The MFer predates clowns and really just uses that form to lure in modern children… not adults.

Moving past all the faults working against this film, it is well acted and the cast did a pretty superb job, all things considered. It’s also well shot and visually consistent with its predecessor.

Still, the negatives severely impact the movie as a whole and I just don’t think that I’ll ever want to sit through this again, which is sad, as I really dug the first picture and typically enjoy film adaptations of Stephen King’s work.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor and other recent Stephen King adaptations for the big screen.

Film Review: X-Men: First Class (2011)

Release Date: May 25th, 2011 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Sheldon Turner, Bryan Singer
Based on: X-Men by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Oliver Plat, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Jason Flemyng, Lucas Till, Edi Gathegi, Caleb Landry Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Michael Ironside, Ray Wise, James Remar, Hugh Jackman (cameo)

Marvel Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Ingenious Film Partners, Twentieth Century Fox, 131 Minutes

Review:

“I can’t stop thinking about the others out there, all those minds that I touched. I could feel them, their isolation, their hopes, their ambitions. I tell you we can start something incredible, Erik. We can help them.” – Professor Charles Xavier

While I haven’t seen this picture since it was in the theater, it left a great impression on me and gave me hope for the future of the X-Men franchise in film. Granted, we’d get two pretty good movies and two mostly poopy ones, but the weak whimpering farts of the second half of the prequel series of films didn’t take away my satisfaction with this one and its followup, Days of Future Past.

It was nice to revisit this, all these years later, as it holds up fairly well, even if I’m not as optimistic about the franchise now.

To start, this was much better than the last of the first run of films, X-Men: The Last Stand. That movie left such a bad taste in my mouth that anything better would have made me happy. Luckily, this was a lot better but I think that my original impression was a bit over-inflated due to the precedent set before it.

That’s not to say that this isn’t solid, it is. This is, in fact, a damn good superhero film and one of the best in the schizophrenic X-Men series.

What really sets this one on a pedestal is that the story was pretty good and the acting, at least from the core actors, was convincing and impressive. I didn’t know much about Michael Fassbender, before this, and I wasn’t yet sold on James McAvoy, but this picture cemented both men as two of my favorites over the last decade.

On the flip side of that, you also had some really weak performances from January Jones, who felt out of place and awkward, as well as the younger actors in the cast. A few of them would become better actors over time but they all mostly felt green, here.

I did like the inclusion of Kevin Bacon and Oliver Platt in this, as well as character actors Michael Ironside, James Remar and Ray Wise. While the character actors had small roles, they added an extra level of legitimacy and coolness to the picture.

I loved that this took place in the ’60s, tied to the Cuban Missile Crisis and also went back into Nazi Germany to establish the relationship between Magneto and Sebastian Shaw. The general look and aesthetic of the film were really good and it actually fits with the previous X-Men films, despite those being set over thirty years later. One thing Fox did well, while they managed the X-Men movie franchise, was that they kept everything sort of visually consistent.

My only real gripe about the film is that there isn’t enough emphasis on the actual “first class” of students, which this film is named after. They all felt generic and disposable, cast to play archetypes and nothing more. Sure, some of them are major comic book characters but they didn’t feel that way in this movie.

Overall, this was a good, fresh, soft reboot of the series. It eventually ties to the older films and the series becomes an even bigger continuity clusterfuck but at least this generation of the franchise started out on the right foot.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Fox X-Men films.

Vids I Dig 126: Filmento: ‘Dark Phoenix’: How to Fail at ‘Civil War’

From Filmento’s YouTube description: In a year of movie flops, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, based on public opinion, might be the biggest failure flop of them all. But strangely, it actually does a lot of good, especially with a certain storytelling element that directly connects it to Captain America: Civil War: utilize conflict. The problem is that everything this movie does right, the ending act takes a dump on and completely ruins. Today in Anatomy of a Failure, let’s see how this movie handles conflict and what it does at the end to self-destruct and this way go from Civil War to a literal train wreck.

Film Review: Dark Phoenix (2019)

Also known as: X-Men: Dark Phoenix (alternative title)
Release Date: June 4th, 2019 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Simon Kinberg
Written by: Simon Kinberg
Based on: X-Men by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont, John Byrne
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Jessica Chastain, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alexandra Shipp, Evan Peters, Halston Sage

Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, 114 Minutes

Review:

“You’re always sorry, Charles. And there’s always a speech. But nobody cares!” – Magneto

Well, I guess there’s a new rule. That rule is that if an X-Men film tries to tell a Phoenix story, it’s going to be the worst movie in the series.

I honestly didn’t think that the regular X-Men films of the rebooted/prequel era could get worse than Apocalypse but this one takes the cake.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy parts of it, I did. However, for the most part, this movie is a fucking mess and ignores previous continuity more than any other X-film from either era and this comes after they tried to course-correct five years ago with Days of Future Past.

The big narrative problem for me is that it was established that the Phoenix Force in the film universe was dormant in Jean Grey all along. When Days of Future Past corrected the wonky timelines of the film, that shouldn’t have been a reboot of every aspect of the film series. Otherwise, that’s just some J. J. Abrams Kelvin Timeline bullshit.

In this film, Jean Grey gets infected with the Phoenix Force during a space mission. It’s more in line with how it happened in the comics but it doesn’t make sense with what was already established. Also, in just the previous movie, she sort of taps into the Phoenix Force when she’s battling Apocalypse. So it was in her but then it wasn’t? Fuck, these movies are a goddamned clusterfuck of epically biblical proportions!

Anyway, like the three films before this one, this takes place in a new decade: the ’90s. Somehow though, no one fucking ages in these movies even though First Class was thirty years earlier than this chapter. Cyclops and Quicksilver were in their late teens in the ’70s in Days of Future Past. Here they look like they’re maybe in their early twenties. But whatever, it’s not like the filmmakers cared, as Dazzler is wearing her disco outfit in 1992 and everyone else is dressed like its 2019.

Another thing that irked me somewhat, is that I love Michael Fassbender’s Magneto but it took an hour for him to show up. Also, three movies into the subplot with Quicksilver and Magneto still doesn’t know he’s the kid’s father and it’s actually just dropped in this movie and not mentioned.

It seemed pretty apparent that the regulars didn’t want to do this movie. Other than McAvoy’s Professor X, the rest of the main cast were only in half the movie, got killed off or got beat up and put on the shelf. That being said, Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique was insufferable in this installment and I’m glad she got impaled.

The main characters that did actually appear for the entirety of the film were completely misused, however. Professor X was a careless prick and didn’t act like himself, Beast was super emo and almost became Dark Beast and Magneto switched his allegiances on a dime because he conveniently didn’t have all the information.

The threat in the film other than the Phoenix Force was a bunch of shapeshifting aliens that were obviously written to be the Skrulls but probably got changed late in production because Disney bought Fox and they couldn’t have Skrulls in an X-Men movie just after they introduced them in Captain Marvel.

Everything in this film feels scaled down as well. Every big battle is in a small area. There’s the fight at Jean’s daddy’s house, the confrontation on a small island, the big second act battle in front of a modest sized New York City building and its generic lobby and then the big finale which takes place on a train. They definitely didn’t do anything epic in scale, which seems like a missed opportunity considering that this is a movie that features the Phoenix Force trying to cleanse the Earth with fire.

Sophie Turner is also the focal point of the movie and I’m still not sure if she can act or not. This movie doesn’t help her case, as she was monotone in every scene, barely conveyed emotion and just acted like she was completely disinterested in the whole project.

While it sounds like I’m bashing the film and honestly, I probably am, I did like a few things.

For one, the Hans Zimmer score was damn incredible. It’s rare that I even notice music in movies anymore but I noticed it here and it actually made some scenes better and more emotional when some of the actors couldn’t even do that themselves.

I also liked the opening sequence, even if these teens going into space, untested, at the request of the United States President seemed strange.

Some of the new mutants in Magneto’s camp were also pretty cool additions in the New York and train battles but they were just kind of there and then discarded. The dude with the killer dreads was pretty badass; think Omega Red… but with dreads instead of hand tentacles.

I was really happy to see Dazzler show up too but she’s completely wasted in a cheap cameo. She sort of just hangs out in the background and doesn’t do anything else. Fans that have wanted Dazzler since 2000’s X-Men will probably feel cheated, especially since she was played by Halston Sage, who is dynamite on The Orville.

Additionally, I can’t say enough about how good Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy are in these films. Their bond transcends the screen, it truly does. It just sucks that the material they had to work with here was so fucking lackluster.

On a side note, I really liked Nicholas Hoult too. He’s a solid Beast, even if I wasn’t initially keen on the casting. But like the other two great actors in this, he also had shit to work with in this picture.

To be fair, a lot of this film’s issues might not be the fault of the actual filmmakers. Simon Kinberg can do some solid stuff and he’s mostly handled this franchise well. However, Disney bought Fox just before this movie was slated to come out. It’s pretty well known now that they meddled with it in post-production because they thought it was too similar to Captain Marvel, which they were banking the entire future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on.

In the end, though, we got a really mediocre movie made by people that don’t seem like they care anymore. I guess it’s fitting that this incarnation of the cinematic X-Men franchise is now dead.

So I guess we’ll have to wait a few more years (or longer) to see what Disney does with the X-Men once they are rebooted into the MCU.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: all the other Fox X-Men films and spinoffs.

Film Review: Glass (2019)

Also known as: Mister Glass (Israel), Cristal (Spain)
Release Date: January 7th, 2019 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Music by: West Dylan Thordson, scores from Unbreakable by James Newton Howard
Cast: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Tom Bower, M. Night Shyamalan (cameo)

Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Buena Vista International, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney, 129 Minutes

Review:

“This was an origin story the whole time.” – Elijah Price

This is the third and final film in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable trilogy, assuming that’s what we can call the three pictures that started with Unbreakable, continued with Split and ended with this.

My anticipation for this movie was pretty high, as I love the two films before this one. That being said, this is my least favorite of the three movies but this is still really damn good and someone had to be the odd man out. But still, this non-traditional superhero film series is actually a lot better than most of the more traditional superhero film franchises that oversaturate the market today.

This film series feels plausible and grounded in reality, as it isn’t overly fantastical and littered with special effects and epic battles featuring the mass destruction of just about everything on screen. These three films feel much more like a great indie superhero comic come to life, as opposed to something that adapted Marvel or DC stories. It’s smaller, more personal and well, more human.

And I’m not saying all this to knock big budget, over the top, superhero movies. I love a lot of those films. But this trilogy by Shyamalan is very different and very refreshing.

Additionally, all the performances in this movie are spectacular. James McAvoy switches from personality to personality in rapid succession even more than he did in Split. Samuel Jackson just kills it as Mr. Glass and he feels so comfortable and at home with the role. Bruce Willis is pretty much just stoic and intense but it works. Sarah Paulson does a convincing job as the psychiatrist that’s trying to analyze the three men. But the real scene stealer for me is Anya Taylor-Joy, who I always seem to talk highly of in every film I’ve reviewed that features her. She has immense talent and it is on full display here.

In typical Shyamalan fashion, this film has a twist. In fact, it has a layered twist that comes with its own surprise even after it’s revealed. But I won’t give anything away.

The film also looks beautiful. It’s amazingly shot with enchanting cinematography, lighting and shot framing.

There isn’t anything bad to say about the movie. It’s not perfect but for fans of this series, this is a very satisfying conclusion.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the films that precede it: Unbreakable and Split.

Film Review: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Release Date: May 9th, 2016 (London premiere)
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Simon Kinberg, Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
Based on: X-Men by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Music by: John Ottman
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Lucas Till, Alexandra Shipp, Hugh Jackman (cameo), Caleb Landry Jones (archive footage)

Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Kinberg Genre, The Donners’ Company, 20th Century Fox, 144 Minutes

Review:

“[sends the world’s nuclear weapons into space] Always the same, and now all this. No more stones. No more spears. No more slings. No more swords. No more weapons! No more systems! No more! No more superpowers… So much faith in their tools, in their machines. You can fire your arrows from the Tower of Babel, but you can never strike god!” – Apocalypse

At this point, the X-Men films don’t give a crap about continuity and I don’t care that Days of Future Past was used to try and fix that. Fox still dismisses a lot of what’s happened and just does what works well for each movie as a standalone picture. Because you can’t have Angel appear as a late teen in a 2006 movie and then have him in his twenties in 1983, regardless of whatever Doctor Who timey wimey shenanigans you try to pull. But truthfully, I don’t care at this point. I sort of just see each film as its own reality where each movie just shares some similarities. Sorry, I’ve got to make it make sense for my brain or I have to just dismiss the absurdity of it.

That being said, I don’t hate this chapter in the X-Men movie franchise. In fact, I liked it quite a bit in spite of its flaws, continuity hiccups and the underwhelming way that they presented Apocalypse.

What made this film work for me was the evolution of Magneto, who is the best character in these films and who seems to be handled with great care. I don’t care so much about all the teens and the constant influx of new characters every time I blink my eyes. It’s the core characters that matter in these movies. That being said, I think McAvoy’s Charles Xavier is damn good too.

When I first saw this film in theaters, my initial reaction was worse than it is now. Having time to digest and reflect on Apocalypse, it really isn’t as bad of a movie as I thought it was at first glance. It is the weakest of the newer generation of pictures but it is certainly better than 2000’s X-Men and 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Don’t even get me started on X-Men Origins: Wolverine, as I find it less enjoyable than a piranha enema.

The plot in this is a bit rushed and shaky. Apocalypse, one of the most powerful forces in the entirety of the Marvel Universe just shows up, learns all about human history by touching a TV and starts taking over the Earth and brainwashing other mutants to be his “Four Horsemen”. It was interesting that Oscar Issac played Apocalypse because it wouldn’t have really mattered who played him, as he was just a dry, one note tyrant. Frankly, he should have been the X-Men‘s version of Thanos, at least in their movie universe.

The sequence with Wolverine is, by far, the high point of the movie. Hugh Jackman only shows up for about ten minutes but it is some of the best Wolverine action ever put to celluloid. Granted, Hollywood is allergic to celluloid now.

This is an epic film but it doesn’t feel as grandiose as its predecessor. It isn’t as good as its predecessor either and I think that is why I was disappointed with it initially. But the main players in the cast add more to their stories in a good way and ultimately, this enriched the modern X-Men movie universe.

I can’t say that I’m excited about the upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix movie but I’ll still see it because these films still have more positives than negatives. But really, it’s just time for the X-Men movies to get a much needed reboot and join the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The current crop of X-Men movies since James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender took over the lead roles. Also, the last two Wolverine pictures.

Film Review: Deadpool 2 (2018)

Also known as: DP2 (promotional abbreviation), Daisy, Love Machine (both fake working titles)
Release Date: May 10th, 2018 (US limited)
Directed by: David Leitch
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds
Based on: the character of Deadpool created by Fabian Nicieza, Rob Liefeld
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Jack Kesy, Leslie Uggams, Karan Soni, Terry Crews, Lewis Tan, Bill Skarsgård, Rob Delaney, Brad Pitt (cameo), James McAvoy (cameo), Evan Peters (cameo), Tye Sheridan (cameo), Nicholas Hoult (cameo), Hugh Jackman (archive footage), Alan Tudyk

Marvel Entertainment, Kinberg Genre, The Donners’ Company, 20th Century Fox, 119 Minutes

Review:

“I was born into war, bred into it. People think they understand pain, but they have no concept of it. What’s the most pain you’ve ever felt? Maybe the kind that leaves you more machine than man. ” – Cable

*There be spoilers here!

After what felt like too long of a wait but was actually only 27 months, Deadpool 2 has arrived. I guess if I were to sum up the experience in one word, that word would be “consistent”.

The film is very consistent to the first movie but it had a few things that were better and a few things that weren’t, which makes it break even, as to whether or not it was better or worse.

The positives were the addition of new cast members and the genesis of what is going to become the X-Force team.

Josh Brolin’s Cable is everything you would want a Josh Brolin Cable to be. I think the casting of Brolin was perfect and one hell of a great move and lucky break for this pocket of the X-Men film franchise.

Zazie Beetz’s Domino was really fun to watch and while I love the old school X-Force comics, which Domino was a big part of, this version of the character eclipses the comic book version. Plus, most of the Domino stories I remember were actually just Copycat posing as Domino because I stopped reading X-Force about a year after Rob Liefeld left and the X-Cutioner’s Song crossover ended.

The negatives or really just the one big one for me was that the plot seemed all over the place and kind of aimless at times. Lots of things happened that seemed way too convenient despite the film actually making note of that once or twice, especially with Deadpool’s “lazy writing” jab at his own film. Joke aside, poking fun at it doesn’t necessarily excuse the parts where it happens.

It’s just that the first film felt more refined and more fluid. This one propelled forward at a good pace but it seemed like it was all over the place. There also wasn’t a clearly defined villain, which isn’t a necessary component but I felt like Deadpool and Cable’s first meeting and eventual team-up should have come with a real threat other than just trying to save a kid from his anger. I was kind of hoping that Stryfe would at least appear, even if only to setup the X-Force film.

Juggernaut shows up and his bits are great but he’s really just there to setup a cool fight with Colossus. Also, you get Black Tom Cassidy but he was totally wasted and just sort of a prison thug that ends up getting killed in the lamest way possible. We didn’t get to see the BFF pairing of Black Tom and Juggernaut like we got to see in the earliest Deadpool solo stories and in the original X-Force run. I really hoped we were going to get to see Cassidy and Juggernaut form their villain tag team that was a thorn in Deadpool’s side back in the early ’90s.

My favorite part of the film was the mid-credits sequence, actually. This is packed full of some really cool stuff and more great moments of Ryan Reynolds poking fun at himself.

Deadpool 2 was good but it was a wee bit of a disappointment. With the mythos getting richer with new characters people have wanted to see for years, this should have taken the franchise to the next level. They had a solid foundation, new tools to work with and a world to branch out into. I’m hoping that X-Force, whenever that arrives, takes things to that next level.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Obviously the first Deadpool film and Logan for being the only other R rated X-Men related film. I’d also pair this up with Legion, which is TV’s more mature take on the X-Men universe, although it’s nowhere near as hilarious as Deadpool.

Film Review: Atomic Blonde (2017)

Release Date: March 12th, 2017 (SXSW)
Directed by: David Leitch
Written by: Kurt Johnstad
Based on: The Coldest City by Antony Johnston, Sam Hart
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones, Bill Skarsgård

Denver and Delilah Productions, Closed on Mondays Entertainment, 87Eleven, Focus Features, 115 Minutes

Review:

Let me preface this review by stating that this has been one of the best summers for movies in a long time and honestly, I wasn’t expecting much apart from one or two films. But the thing that has really set this year apart is the smaller films, not the massive blockbusters. This film, along with the magnificent Baby Driver are two motion pictures that I will continue to enjoy for years to come. Both will eventually make it into my permanent library.

So based off of the preceding paragraph, it is safe to assume that I really liked Atomic Blonde. While I thought that I would like it and was excited for it, the film was just a great marriage of several things I love: fantastic action, energy, style and a fantastic soundtrack. Plus, I’ve always had a soft spot for Cold War period pieces, especially those set in the 1980s.

One really cool aspect of the film, is that it takes place in Berlin – starting a week before the fall of the Berlin Wall and leading up to it actually coming down. The film shows life on both sides of the wall and the cultural differences and shifts between all the people in this 1989 Berlin bubble. There is even a casual reference to David Hasselhoff arriving in Berlin. Do I need to remind anyone of his famous Berlin Wall performance, as that concrete beast came crumbling down?

Atomic Blonde is a spy espionage thriller but starring a woman, which just doesn’t happen enough with the genre. It isn’t a groundbreaking concept or anything but after decades of James Bond movies and their male dominated clones, a stylized and high octane version of the concept starring Charlize Theron was music to my soul.

Theron does not disappoint but has she ever? She is perfect as the agent sent to Berlin to battle brutish KGB agents while engaging in a playful cat and mouse game with the always fantastic James McAvoy. In fact, the chemistry between Theron and McAvoy is uncanny and I wish that they actually had more screen time together.

Theron also has fantastic chemistry with Sofia Boutella and I’m glad to see Boutella getting meatier roles because she was exceptional in this. Also, you get to see both women naked in this. Sorry, but that’s a high point for anyone crushing on Theron for years and anyone that is currently crushing on Boutella, as she works here way up to bigger things. Both actresses are stellar in this, boobage or not.

The film employs an 80s new wave soundtrack, for the most part. The music style is fitting, as this takes place in 1989. It is the selection of songs that is most impressive, however. From David Bowie’s “Cat People” to Depeche Mode’s “Behind the Wheel” to the incredibly effective use of George Michael’s “Father Figure”, the music is just on point. Even Marilyn Manson’s cover of Ministry’s “Stigmata” works its magic with the visual smorgasbord it’s synced to.

The choice not to use any music during the climactic final brawl was a good one. Despite the stylized nature of the film, it grounds this scene back into reality and showcases the grittiness of the situation. The fights are brutal, especially the last round of fisticuffs. It is an impressive sequence that not only showcases Theron’s athleticism and toughness but it proves how hard she is willing to work to create movie magic. I already respect her but her dedication to these scenes, in particular, brings that respect to a new level.

The director, David Leitch, has a background in stunts and it shows. He’s been the stunt coordinator or stunt actor in the Bourne movies, TRON: Legacy300V for Vendetta, the Matrix series, Fight Club, Blade and several others. He is also the director of the upcoming Deadpool sequel and proves, with this film, that he will be able to handle those duties. I’m actually really enthused about what else Leitch can give us behind the camera.

Atomic Blonde is fantastic. There really isn’t anything to complain about or to dislike. It was explosive and even the slower parts kept your attention, as it doesn’t waste any time on things not integral to the plot. I hope that this becomes a series as checking in with this character every few years could be a lot of fun.

Rating: 8.25/10

Film Review: Split (2016)

Release Date: September 26th, 2016 (Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Music by: West Dylan Thordson
Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Brad William Henke, M. Night Shyamalan (cameo), Bruce Willis (uncredited)

Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Universal Pictures, 117 Minutes

Review:

It has been a really long time since I have wanted to see an M. Night Shyamalan movie. When I first caught the trailer for Split, I was very intrigued. Then I saw Shyamalan’s name attached and thought, “Well, this might bring you back to greatness, buddy. Don’t screw it up.” After having seen this, I can say that he certainly didn’t screw it up.

James McAvoy has never put in anything other than great performances. In this film, we get to see McAvoy at his greatest, up to this point in his career. He’s still young and has a lot of years left but McAvoy gave us an Oscar caliber performance. Why he wasn’t nominated for anything is kind of baffling. Maybe it’s because this got a wide release in January of 2017 and he’ll be considered next year. But by that point, he won’t be fresh in the Academy’s minds and they snub lots of great performers every year.

Alongside McAvoy, is Anya Taylor-Joy, a young woman who is becoming quite a good actress. This is the best that I have seen her but now that she is joining the X-Men franchise in next year’s New Mutants, I think she has definitely made her mark and will have a busy career going forward. She certainly deserves it after her performance in Split.

Betty Buckley was superb as the therapist while Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula did a good job as the other girls held captive by McAvoy’s multiple personalities.

Brad William Henke stood out as the creeper uncle. I always love Henke’s work but he always gets the hulking creeper roles. I’d like to see him get bigger roles, the guy deserves it.

The film also gives us the obligatory M. Night Shyamalan cameo, as well as a Bruce Willis cameo. The Willis part ties into another great Shyamalan picture and ties these two movies together, as Shyamalan has plans to make a film that is a sequel to Split and that other movie.

Now I don’t want to talk too much about the plot, this isn’t a film that should be spoiled in any way. But I do want to explain why this works so well, as Shyamalan has struggled with narrative in the last decade and a half.

So, the only real spoiler is that Split has no big twist ending. Well, not really. I’ll explain.

It is a good solid story, it has a lot of revelations but none of those typical Shyamalan attempts at dumping the film on its head while screaming, “A-ha! I shocked you! It’s a twist!”

You see, I feel like Shyamalan painted himself into a corner with his famous twist endings. It got to the point where a twist was expected and people spent the whole movie bracing themselves and also, trying to figure it out. Eventually, the twists became really mundane and weren’t all that shocking.

In some films, like The Village, it felt like Shyamalan couldn’t decide what to do. Should the beasts be real or imaginary? What he gave us was a bizarre and awful twist in that regard and then another twist that completely destroyed the film. The twists became messes that ruined otherwise effective pictures.

In Split, the big twist is that there is no twist. And maybe that is Shyamalan’s greatest use of the twist, whether that was his intention or not.

After a slew of films that just didn’t cut the mustard, Shyamalan proved to me and the rest of the film-going masses, that he’s still got it. He may have been lost for too long but he found himself once again. I hope he’s learned from those many mistakes because I want Shyamalan on his A-game. He’s extremely talented on his best days and he’s a director that has shown that he is much better than some of the schlock he’s put out. Split is proof enough that The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable weren’t flukes.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the films that sandwich it: Unbreakable and Glass.