Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Get Out Review

From the mind of Jordan Peele, half of the comedy sketch duo of Key and Peele, comes a horror movie with a touch of comedy and a lot of social commentary. When the first trailer for this movie came out, I was dumbfounded. And not in a good way. I thought it looked like one of the worst horror movies made in a long time. In fact, I confidently put it in the bad section of my 2017 preview at the beginning of the year. As it turns out, it was thrown into Sundance at the end of January and it left there with a perfect 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. That floored me. But OK. The Sundance crowd loved it. That sometimes means nothing. I mean, they gave "The Birth of a Nation" a round of applause... BEFORE the screening happened. They sometimes get clingy for political reasons and not movie reasons. We'll get to that more in a bit. But then it hit normal theaters and through a whole weekend it STAYED at 100 percent. With over 130 reviews. Say what? Yeah, as it turns out, that first trailer was simply a horribly put together trailer for a pretty good horror movie. They literally throw together every part of the movie into the trailer in a choppy, nonsensical way. Fail. But that happens. That's why you should never skip a movie based solely on the trailers because it might be good.

Before we dive into this movie, let's discuss this Rotten Tomatoes score. For a while it stayed at that 100 percent mark, which is insane for any movie. Armond White from the National Review finally gave the movie its first negative review, but that means the movie currently stands at a 99 percent with 144 reviews counted as of the publishing of this review. That would qualify it as one of the best reviewed horror movies EVER. Is it that good? No, it's not. But I'm not going to say I was disappointed going into the movie because I didn't have the expectation that it would be that good. I just figured that there was something a bit off with the critics this time around. As a comparison, two of the best modern horror movies in my opinion are "The Witch" and "The Babadook." "The Witch" has a 91 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes while "The Babadook" has a 98 percent score. It's a crime against humanity that "Get Out" has a better score. A better comparison for "Get Out" in my humble opinion is "Don't Breathe," which has a 87 percent, and "Lights Out," which has a 76 percent. That's the type of horror movie you're getting here with "Get Out." And I liked both of those movies, so that's not a bad thing. I'm just saying you should go in with the right expectations.

Why is it that "Get Out" is all the way up at 99 percent? Well, I can't speak for others, but my personal opinion is that it's because of the premise. "Get Out" is about an interracial couple where a white girl is taking her black boyfriend to meet her parents for the first time. "They're not racist," the girl promises when the boyfriend asks if she's told her parents that he's black. Well it turns out that they kind of are. But not outright blatantly racist. They don't think they're racist, but they naturally treat him a bit differently than they would've if he was white. In a private conversation after the initial meeting, he essentially tells her, "I told you so." And she feels awful, but he does his best to not make it a huge deal. Racism does exist in our day, but they type of racism that exists is not necessarily the type of racism that existed in the 1800's or even the 1950's. It's the type of racism that exists in this movie, which is why this movie provides an excellent social commentary and because of that I think that many critics are afraid to give this movie a bad review when they normally would with this type of movie. They don't want to be called racist because in our day a bad review of this movie would get them that title with how this movie goes about discussing racism.

I definitely have to give props to this movie for doing this in such an honest, straightforward way. It becomes a relevant movie. Black people have watched this movie and felt like it was telling the story of their life in certain scenes. Thus if you are not black, you can watch this movie and get a taste of what they are going through on a daily basis. I have a huge appreciation for what this movie accomplishes. But I'm not going to automatically label this as the best horror movie ever because it got the politics right. It needs to hold up to horror standards for me to label it as the best horror movie ever. I judge the movie, not the politics. And as a movie, this doesn't hold up to the standard of a horror classic. But this does a good enough job for me to praise it as a good horror movie, much like I did "Lights Out" and "Don't Breathe." Both of those movies I was able to point out plenty of flaws with the movie, but I had a good enough time with them to give them high recommendations. And I will also say this is a super impressive directorial debut for Jordan Peele. It's one thing to go from comedy to drama in the acting realm. It's another thing to go from comedic actor to horror director. That tells me that Mr. Peele has a great career ahead of him in various genres and film roles.

There's a lot of things that this movie does right and a few things that it does less right. Sadly I'm not going to dive super deep into this because it's the type of movie that requires a spoiler review to do so. I did that earlier this year with M. Night Shyamalan's "Split," which I didn't use in my comparisons because I consider "Split" more of a psychological thriller than a horror. What's the difference between the two genres? That's a good question. I'm not the best at defining it in words. It's one of those things where I know it when I see it even if I can't explain it in words. But "Get Out" is definitely horror. And it's the type of horror where the less you know going in, the better your experience is going to be. If I dive deep into my feelings, that's going to take something away from your experience. And I don't think it's quite good enough or trippy enough to warrant a spoiler review. So I'm going to dance around a bit for the rest of this review, giving general statements that do my opinion justice without giving things away. One thing I will say right off the bat is that this does creepy really well. There's a ton of setup before we dive into the meat of the problem, and that setup is dang good. We get subtle hints that something is up that slowly decrease the comfort level and bring us closer and closer to the end of our seat before crap hits the fan in the final act of the movie.

Given that the premise of this movie is that white girl takes black boyfriend to her family that she claims is not racist, it's safe to say that you have a pretty good idea of what will actually happen when he gets there. You know that there's something up with this family and that our main character is in big danger. When you have a horror movie where you know exactly where it's going to go, that makes it a slightly less enjoyable experience. This movie takes place over the course of a few different days at this home and after the first night, I knew the exact direction that the movie was going to take. I knew which characters were bad and I knew which characters were victims. While I didn't know the specifics of what was going to happen, I knew the general direction of the movie and when things were revealed, there was no shock value. It was like, "Yeah that made total sense." Or "I saw that coming from a mile away." As I said, the setup of the movie is great. And the direction from Jordan Peele is fantastic. He manages to take a fairly basic horror idea that is kind of by the numbers and predictable and turn it into a well made film that keeps your attention from the first scene to the last scene. And you walk out of the theater satisfied and entertained.

One final thing to touch on. The best horror movies, and thrillers for that matter, are ones that the villain has good motivations. Why is the ghost haunting the place? Why is the witch performing sorcery? Why is the serial killer murdering people? Why is the creepy dude stalking someone? Why is the old man trapping people in his house? "Just for the heck of it" is not a good enough answer. "Split" has great motivations. "Pyscho" has phenomenal motivations. "Don't Breathe" has good motivations. "The Witch" has good motivations. "The Babadook" has good motivations. "Lights Out" doesn't have good motivations, but is effective in what it set out to do. "Get Out" is also effective in what it sets out to do. It's successfully creepy with a great setup and great acting all around, especially from Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams. Jordan Peele proves he knows how to direct horror and I want to see more from him in this genre. We also have great social commentary and well placed comedy that doesn't ruin the creepy mood. We also have a very satisfying finale. But the movie is fairly predictable and the motivations aren't there. Because of that, I'm shocked that more critics haven't been daring enough to pick this apart. That said, I'm still giving "Get Out" an 8/10.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The 89th Academy Awards: Predictions

Oscar weekend is a weekend that I look forward to every year. I look at the predictions year round and do my best to see all of the movies that get Oscar buzz. Yes, I usually end up getting angry at many of the specific nominations and wins, but it's totally worth all the time and effort. There's a ton of politics and campaigning that goes into everything. The movies that get a lot of the nominations and wins don't always reflect what was actually the best of the year. Oscar voters are usually biased to specific types of movies and often forget that movies are actually released between January and October. So yes, the process has a ton of flaws to it. That's not even mentioning the controversy the last few years that the Oscars are racist, which they seem to have purposely overcompensated for this year to prove they aren't racist. All this said, why do I love the Oscars so much? Well, despite all the flaws, a lot of the movies that get Oscar buzz (not necessarily nominations or wins) are usually great movies that I think people should see. And it's fun to do this yearly post where I give you all my predictions along with my personal picks. So without further ado, let's dive in!

Best Picture:

Nominations:

- "Arrival" - Paramount
- "Fences" - Paramount
- "Hacksaw Ridge" - Lionsgate
- "Hell or High Water" - CBS Films
- "Hidden Figures" - 20th Century Fox
- "La La Land" - Summit
- "Lion" - The Weinstein Company
- "Manchester by the Sea" - Roadside Attractions/Amazon Studios
- "Moonlight" - A24

Will Win:

- "La La Land" - Summit

Should Win:

- "La La Land" - Summit

This is the sixth year where I've written something about the Oscars on this blog. Not coincidentally, this is also the sixth year of me doing this blog. So yes, I've done something on the Oscars every year that this blog has existed. This is the fourth straight year I've done predictions. In this six year time period, not once has my favorite movie of the year won best picture. Several times my favorite movie of the year got in second place, but it's never won. Barring some major upset (which I will take full credit for if it happens given my history), that all looks to change this year. I saw "La La Land" back in November and have been madly in love with it ever since. Outside it being a phenomenal movie, there are many reasons to believe it will win. First, it has been winning everything leading up to the Oscars. It tied the record for most Oscar nominations with 14. And it's a movie about Hollywood that also gives tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood. The Oscars love movies that pay tribute to movies.

Directing:

Nominations:

- Denis Villeneuve - "Arrival"
- Mel Gibson - "Hacksaw Ridge"
- Damien Chazelle - "La La Land"
- Kenneth Lonergan - "Manchester by the Sea"
- Barry Jenkins - "Moonlight"

Will Win:

- Damien Chazelle - "La La Land"

Should Win:

- Barry Jenkins - "Moonlight"

This might surprise you with my personal choice. Yes, I love "La La Land," but instead of picking it to win in every category that it's been nominated just because it's called "La La Land," I try to take this category by category. Yes, Damien Chazelle is going to win. No question there. And I'm going to be happy because it will be a deserving win. And I also did a phone interview with him for my internship in November, so that'll be cool to brag about. But there's something about "Moonlight" and it's three different casts portraying the same cast of characters at different ages that is super impressive, especially they all seem like the same people. It feels like the did exactly what "Boyhood" did, but they didn't. And in my mind, it takes some incredible directing to pull that off, so that's why I'd give Barry Jenkins the win.


Actor in a Leading Role:

Nominations:

- Casey Affleck - "Manchester by the Sea"
- Andrew Garfield - "Hacksaw Ridge"
- Ryan Gosling - "La La Land"
- Viggo Mortensen - "Captain Fantastic"
- Denzel Washington - "Fences"

Will Win:

- Denzel Washington - "Fences"

Should Win:

- Casey Affleck - "Manchester by the Sea"

This is the category that's the most up in the air as far as who is going to win. And it's either Casey or Denzel. Casey is the official favorite, but there's a big support for Denzel and it's Denzel that I'm leaning slightly towards. Casey himself is not the most model citizen, so that might push some for Denzel. Denzel also directed the film he's in, so that might give some weight to him, especially since he didn't get nominated for director. And he's black, so the Academy might pick him to win just to prove they aren't racist. As far as my personal pick, both are fantastic. I'd pick Casey because while Denzel did a lot of fast talking and yelling, Casey became a depressed character who's gone through a whole bunch of crap, so I think he pulled off the better performance. But just slightly.

Actress in a Leading Role:

Nominations:

- Isabelle Huppert - "Elle"
- Ruth Negga - "Loving"
- Natalie Portman - "Jackie"
- Emma Stone - "La La Land"
- Meryl Streep - "Florence Foster Jenkins"

Will Win:

- Emma Stone - "La La Land"

Should Win:

- Natalie Portman - "Jackie"

No doubt here that Emma is getting the win. And I will be happy for her. Not only is she one of my favorite actresses, but she pulled off a fantastic performance as an average aspiring dreamer that a lot of people can relate to. And her and Ryan Gosling put a whole ton of work into their performances as they did all of their singing and dancing. But Natalie Portman became Jackie Kennedy. She got her accent, her voice, her movements and her mannerisms down perfectly. I wasn't a huge fan of the movie "Jackie" as a whole, but I do think Natalie Portman pulled of legendary performance on the level of Daniel Day-Lewis in "Lincoln." Go watch YouTube videos of Jackie Kennedy and go watch the movie "Jackie" and you'll know what I mean.

Actor in a Supporting Role:

Nominations:

- Mahershala Ali - "Moonlight"
- Jeff Bridges - "Hell or High Water"
- Lucas Hedges - "Manchester by the Sea"
- Dev Patel - "Lion"
- Michael Shannon - "Nocturnal Animals"

Will Win:

- Mahershala Ali - "Moonlight"

Should Win:

- Jeff Bridges - "Hell or High Water"

This is a weird category, if I'm being honest. How do we define supporting? Because Jeff Bridges and Dev Patel are both leads in their movie, but they're in the supporting category. The supporting actress category that we'll get to has the same problem. Mahershala Ali is winning this. I'd be shocked if Dev Patel pulled the upset. But how do I pick? Mahershala does a great job, but he's only in the first third of the movie. Yet that shouldn't count against him because this is supposed to be the supporting category, which is the justification behind why he is going to win. But Jeff Bridges played a bigger role in the movie and gave the much better performance, in my opinion. But should I pick against him because he shouldn't be in this category? Yeah, it's a big mess. So I'm ignoring it all and just picking the better performance, which is why I'm sticking to Jeff Bridges.

Actress in a Supporting Role:

Nominations:

- Viola Davis - "Fences"
- Naomi Harris - "Moonlight"
- Nicole Kidman - "Lion"
- Octavia Spencer - "Hidden Figures"
- Michelle Williams - "Manchester by the Sea"

Will Win:

- Viola Davis - "Fences"

Should Win:

- Viola Davis - "Fences"

This is the easiest and most obvious picks of the night. Viola is practically the guaranteed winner and it's well deserved because she gave one of my favorite performances by any actress or actor in any role during a 2016 movie. But she shouldn't be winning the gold statue for supporting actress. She should be winning lead actress. "Fences" was her movie and she was in almost every scene. So what the heck is she doing here in supporting? Yes, that means Emma gets the win. But if we're being fair, Viola should win best actress and thus pave the way for Michelle Williams to win best supporting actress. Because Michelle is the second best performance out of this bunch and I think she would win if Viola were in the right category.

Original Screenplay:

Nominations:

- "Hell or High Water" - Taylor Sheridan
- "La La Land" - Damien Chazelle
- "The Lobster" - Efthimis Filippou & Yorgos Lanthimos
- "Manchester by the Sea" - Kenneth Lonergan
- "20th Century Women" - Mike Mills

Will Win:

- "Manchester by the Sea" - Kenneth Lonergan

Should Win:

- "The Lobster" - Efthimis Filippou & Yorgos Lanthimos

I won't be surprised if "La La Land" takes this, but "Manchester" is the current favorite and it seems like this is the one category where the Academy will let someone else win. If "Manchester" doesn't win this category, it might come up blank unless Casey can pull of the win over Denzel. I hope "Manchester" gets something, though, because it was my second favorite movie of the year. However, in terms of my picking my favorite original screenplay, it must be noted that we're judging screenplay here and not movie. "The Lobster" may not have made my top 10 of the year, but that was one of the most original and creative ideas that I've seen from a film in a long time, so I'd give it the win if it were up to me.

Adapted Screenplay:

Nominations:

- "Arrival" - Eric Heisserer
- "Fences" - August Wilson
- "Hidden Figures" - Allison Schroeder
- "Lion" - Luke Davies
- "Moonlight" - Barry Jenkins & Tarell McCraney

Will Win:

- "Moonlight" - Barry Jenkins & Tarell McCraney

Should Win:

- "Lion" - Luke Davies

This category always slightly confuses me, too. Is it the best adaptation of something or is it the best screenplay that happens to be adapted. I'm going to go with the latter. I wouldn't be able to judge if it were the other way around. With no "La La Land" in this category, "Moonlight" is the obvious winner because if "La La Land" is going to sweep the night, the Academy is going to want to give "Moonlight" something because it has a lot of well-deserved support. For me, I had a tough time picking between "Lion" and "Moonlight" as far as who I want to win. Remember we're thinking screenplay here, not movie. But I give the edge to "Lion" because this is an absolutely beautiful, inspiring story. If you haven't seen "Lion" yet, go fix that.

Animated Feature Film:

Nominations:

- "Kubo and the Two Strings" - Laika
- "Moana" - Walt Disney Pictures
- "My Life as a Zucchini" - GKIDS
- "The Red Turtle" - Sony Pictures Classics
- "Zootopia" - Walt Disney Pictures

Will Win:

- "Zootopia" - Walt Disney Pictures

Should Win:

- "Kubo and the Two Strings" - Laika

"Zootopia" should win this category, but it's not a runaway favorite. "Kubo" could play spoiler here. And I hope it does. I really appreciate the Academy for always giving love to stop-motion animation when no one else seems to do so. I really want a stop-motion movie to get a win, though, because that's something that hasn't happened. "Kubo" was my favorite animated movie of the year, so I also hope it wins for that reason, but "Zootopia" is an extremely close second place for me, so I'm happy either way. I haven't seen "My Life as a Zucchini" or "The Red Turtle," but I really want to see both. They just haven't had a wide enough release, so when the opportunity presents itself, I will see both.

Production Design:

Nominations:

- "Arrival" - Patrice Vermette & Paul Hotte
- "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" - Stuart Craig & Anna Pinnock
- "Hail, Caesar!" - Jess Gonchor & Nancy Haigh
- "La La Land" - David Wasco & Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
- "Passengers" - Guy Hendrix Dyas & Gene Serdena

Will Win:

- "La La Land" - David Wasco & Sandy Reynolds-Wasco

Should Win:

- "Hail, Caesar!" - Jess Gonchor & Nancy Haigh

Get ready for a lot of "La La Land" predictions in these smaller categories. In terms of production design, it came down to "Fantastic Beasts" and "Hail, Caesar!" for my personal pick. I loved the world they built for "Fantastic Beasts," but I ended up going with "Hail, Caesar!" because I was really impressed with how they created a 1950's Hollywood studio with a ton of different movie sets. The movie itself didn't go anywhere and was thus disappointing because it was just a week in the life of a fictional movie studio from back in the day, but there were a lot of great individual moments and a lot of wonderful fictional movie sets, so I'd say it would be a deserved win.

Cinematography:

Nominations:

- "Arrival" - Bradford Young
- "La La Land" - Linus Sandgren
- "Lion" - Greg Fraser
- "Moonlight" - James Laxton
- "Silence" - Rodrigo Preito

Will Win:

- "La La Land" - Linus Sandgren

Should Win:

- "Arrival" - Bradford Young

This is where I would give "Arrival" a win. It got a well-deserved eight nominations, but it looks like it may end up coming up blank in a very competitive year, which will be sad. The cinematography and the score made "Arrival" as amazing as it was and when I look at all of these nominations, Bradford Young's work in "Arrival" is easily the best with "Lion" being a fairly distant second. But "La La Land" will get the win.

Costume Design:

Nominations:

- "Allied" - Joanna Johnston
- "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" - Colleen Atwood
- "Florence Foster Jenkins" - Consolata Boyle
- "Jackie" - Madeline Fontaine
- "La La Land" - Mary Zophres

Will Win:

- "Jackie" - Madeline Fontaine

Should Win:

- "Jackie" - Madeline Fontaine

One of the few categories where I'm going to pick "La La Land" to lose. But before you laugh at the idea of "La La Land" being included here, pay close attention to the musical numbers and you might see why it deserves to be here. But come on. When you're portraying a historical event or telling the story of a famous character from history and you do a perfect job of making everyone in your movie look like the historical characters with the costume designs, you deserve an Oscar and I hope that "Jackie" actually gets the Oscar that I think it will. "Fantastic Beasts" and "Allied" are tempting choices here, though.

Film Editing:

Nominations:

- "Arrival" - Joe Walker
- "Hacksaw Ridge" - John Gilbert
- "Hell or High Water" - Jake Roberts
- "La La Land" - Tom Cross
- "Moonlight" - Nat Sanders & Joi McMillon

Will Win:

- "La La Land" - Tom Cross

Should Win:

- "Hacksaw Ridge" - John Gilbert

Editing usually goes to the best picture winner. Which is why I think "La La Land" is getting the win. I'm not the prefect judge in editing, but having done a bit of it myself I have all the respect in the world for editors because it's a difficult process to even edit together one short scene. When I watch "Hacksaw Ridge," I can only imagine how difficult it was to put those war scenes together in the second half of that movie, which is why I would give it the win.

Makeup and Hairstyling:

Nominations:

- "A Man Called Ove" - Eva von Bahr & Love Larson
- "Star Trek Beyond" - Joel Harlow & Richard Alonzo
- "Suicide Squad" - Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini & Christopher Allen Nelson

Will Win:

- "Star Trek Beyond" - Joel Harlow & Richard Alonzo

Should Win:

- "Star Trek Beyond" - Joel Harlow & Richard Alonzo

After one cruddy year when it comes to critical reviews, this is where DC gets the last laugh because out of all the superhero movies from 2016, "Suicide Squad" is one of two movies to actually pick up an Oscar nomination. The other being "Doctor Strange" for visual effects. But I find it strange because I thought our makeup and hairstyling would have better options to pick from because there were a lot of deserving candidates. I haven't seen "A Man Called Ove," so in judging between "Suicide Squad" and "Star Trek Beyond," I guess that means I'm judging between Harley Quinn/Joker and the one lady character. In that battle, I go Star Trek. And I think that's where the Academy is going, too.


Sound Mixing:

Nominations:

- "Arrival" - Bernard Gariepy Strobl & Claude La Haye
- "Hacksaw Ridge" - Kevin O'Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie & Peter Grace
- "La La Land" - Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee & Steven Morrow
- "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" - David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio & Stuart Wilson
- "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" - Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush & Mac Ruth

Will Win:

- "La La Land" - Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee & Steven Morrow

Should Win:

- "Hacksaw Ridge" - Kevin O'Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie & Peter Grace

What's the difference between sound mixing and sound editing? That always confuses me. So I looked up and the easy answer is that sound editing comes first. Sound editors puts all the initial sounds together and then the sound mixers shape the sounds, adjusting volume and whatnot. Thus I can't say I'm the best judge here, but based on heresay, "Hacksaw Ridge" is predicted to win one of the awards with "La La Land" winning the other. But I honestly think "La La Land" will take both. If I'm wrong, then I'll at least I'll get one right. If I'm wrong and "Hacksaw Ridge" takes home both, then I'll be happy. This seems like something our war movie should win. I imagine it was difficult to recreate the sounds of war.

Sound Editing:

Nominations:

- "Arrival" - Sylvain Bellemare
- "Deepwater Horizon" - Wylie Stateman & Renee Tondelli
- "Hacksaw Ridge" - Robert Mackenzie & Andy Wright
- "La La Land" - Ai-Ling Lee & Mildred Iatrou
- "Sully" - Alan Robert Murray & Bub Asman

Will Win:

- "La La Land" - Ai-Ling Lee & Mildred Iatrou

Should Win:

- "Hacksaw Ridge" - Robert Mackenzie & Andy Wright

Copy and paste my previous comment. I want the war movie to win these. I think our musical is taking it, though. If it splits, I won't be surprised. Adding to the confusion of these two categories, apparently "Rogue One" and "13 Hours" were good enough to get sound mixing nominations, but not sound editing nominations. Vice versa for "Deepwater Horizon" and "Sully." I'll let the experts here explain why.

Visual Effects:

Nominations:

- "Deepwater Horizon" - Craig Hammack, Jason H. Snell, Jason Billington & Burt Dalton
- "Doctor Strange" - Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli & Paul Corbould
- "The Jungle Book" - Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones & Dan Lemmon
- "Kubo and the Two Strings" - Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean & Brad Schiff
- "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" - John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal T. Hickel & Neil Corbould

Will Win:

- "The Jungle Book" - Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones & Dan Lemmon

Should Win:

- "The Jungle Book" - Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones & Dan Lemmon

I'm really happy that our stop-motion movie got into the visual effects category. That was a pleasant surprise. And I would love to see "Doctor Strange" win here or even "Rogue One" or "Deepwater Horizon." If it weren't for "The Jungle Book," that is. I mean, "The Jungle Book" made practically their whole movie on a computer and made it look like they had actual sets and actual animals. I don't know how that will hold up 20 years from now and I don't think we should make this a habit, but as of now that is dang impressive and the easy pick to win.

Original Score:

Nominations:

- "Jackie" - Mica Levi
- "La La Land" - Justin Hurwitz
- "Lion" - Dustin O'Halloran & Volker Bertelmann
- "Moonlight" - Nicholas Britell
- "Passengers" - Thomas Newman

Will Win:

- "La La Land" - Justin Hurwitz

Should Win:

- "La La Land" - Justin Hurwitz

"La La Land" is a musical. It should be no surprise to see it win the music categories. Just remember, though, this is talking about the score here and not the musical numbers. And this whole score was all Jazz music, which fits into the theme of Gosling's character not wanting Jazz music to die. I also took six years of band class in grade school, so when we have a score that's all Jazz, I absolutely love it. The other scores are good, but nothing comes close, so I'll plan on giving this win a round of applause. The score for "Lion" comes in a distant second, if you are curious as to what I would give if "La La Land" wasn't here.

Original Song:

Nominations:

- "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" - Emma Stone ("La La Land")
- "Can't Stop the Feeling!" - Justin Timberlake ("Trolls")
- "City of Stars" - Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone ("La La Land")
- "The Empty Chair" - Sting & J. Ralph ("Jim: The James Foley Story")
- "How Far I'll Go" - Auli'i Cravalho ("Moana")

Will Win:

- "City of Stars" - Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone ("La La Land")

Should Win:

- "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" - Emma Stone ("La La Land")

"City of Stars" is getting all the buzz and should win. No complaints here because I love the song. But if you make me pick, "Audition" is the song that hits me emotionally. Emma singing this in the movie is one of four scenes in the movie that had my jaw on the floor while I was watching. Second time around, this scene destroyed me emotionally because it hit me in all the right places. I really hope the Oscar voters don't end up splitting the vote and giving the surprise win to "Moana," That would be a disaster. "How Far I'll Go" was trying way too hard to be the next "Let it Go," yet failed miserably.

Documentary Feature:

Nominations:

- "Fire at Sea" - Gianfranco Rosi & Donatella Palermo
- "I am Not Your Negro" - Roaul Peck, Remi Grellety & Hebert Peck
- "Life, Animated" - Roger Ross Williams & Julie Goldman
- "O.J.: Made in America" - Ezra Edelman & Caroline Waterlow
- "13th" - Avu DuVernay, Spencer Averick & Howard Barish

Will Win:

- "13th" - Avu DuVernay, Spencer Averick & Howard Barish

Should Win:

n/a

I'm still working on this category. "Life, Animated" is on Amazon Prime and "13th" is on Netflix. I did see "Life, Animated" and loved it and I'm partway through "13th." I want to see the rest when they are made available. "O.J.: Made in America" is available, but is like eight hours long. Speaking of which, I'm happy that an ESPN 30 for 30 got an Oscar nomination. That's cool. But is it too much of a TV special for the Oscars to give it the win? I'm not sure, but based on what I started with "13th," I have a feeling that it's the perfect type of documentary for the Oscars.

Foreign Language Film:

Nominations:

- "Land of Mine" - Denmark
- "A Man Called Ove" - Sweden
- "The Salesman" - Iran
- "Tanna" - Australia
- "Toni Erdmann" - Germany

Will Win:

- "The Salesman" - Iran

Should Win:

n/a

I haven't seen any of these, but I really want to. They just never made it to a theater near me, so I'm waiting for an opportunity to see them. I've heard a lot of great things about "The Salesman," though and when I look at all the premises, it also seems like the perfect Oscar movie.

Live Action Short Film:

Nominations:

- "Ennemis Interieurs" - Selim Azzazi
- "La Femme et le TGV" - Timo von Gunten & Giancun Caduff
- "Silent Nights" - Aske Bang & Kim Magnusson
- "Sing (Mindenki)" - Kristof Deak & Anna Udvardy
- "Timecode" - Juanjo Gimenez Pana

Will Win:

- "Ennemis Interieurs" - Selim Azzazi

Should Win:

n/a

These last three categories are short films and I think they're categories that get way too overlooked by the masses. I love short films and the Oscar nominated short films are usually all fantastic. They usually show up on YouTube or Netflix at some point, but none of these live action shorts have done so. I almost took the 30 minute drive to see them in theaters, but I didn't. So when they are made available online for me, I plan on watching them. Looking at the premise for each, "Ennemis Interieurs" seems like our winner.

Animated Short Film:

Nominations:

- "Blind Vaysha" - Theodore Ushev
- "Borrowed Time" - Andrew Coats & Lou Hamou-Lhadj
- "Pear Cider and Cigarettes" - Robert Valley & Cara Speller
- "Pearl" - Patrick Osborne
- "Piper" - Alan Barillaro & Marc Sondheimer

Will Win:

- "Piper" - Alan Barillaro & Marc Sondheimer

Should Win:

- "Pearl" - Patrick Osborne

Unlike our live action shorts, these animated shorts have shown up online. All of them except for "Pear Cider and Cigarettes." The other four are on YouTube and are all great. As far as predictions, "Piper" is the safe pick because was our Pixar short this year that played before "Finding Dory." It's absolutely adorable. But there's something special about "Pearl." If you have a fancy phone, you can download the Google Spotlight Stories app and essentially watch this in VR. If not, you can go to the YouTube channel and watch it in 360. Either way, it's a pretty awesome experience as you're sitting in a car watching the story unfold before you and you choose where to look. I really love it.

Documentary Short Film:

Nominations:

- "Extremis" - Dan Krauss
- "4.1 Miles" - Daphne Matziaraki
- "Joe's Violin" - Kahane Cooperman & Raphaela Neihausen
- "Watani: My Homeland" - Marcel Mettelsiefen & Stephen Ellis
- "The White Helmets" - Orlando von Einsiedel & Joanna Natasegara

Will Win:

- "The White Helmets" - Orlando von Einsiedel & Joanna Natasegara

Should Win:

- "The White Helmets" - Orlando von Einsiedel & Joanna Natasegara

Last but not least, we have our documentary shorts. "Extrimis" and "The White Helmets" are on Netflix. "4.1 Miles" and "Joe's Violin" are on YouTube. I have seen all four of these. I haven't seen "Watani: My Homeland," but really want to and will when it becomes available. Out of the other four, I really liked "The White Helmets" most, but all are great. "The White Helmets" tells the story of an organization called The White Helmets that spend their time rescuing people caught in the Syria bombings that happen constantly. Phenomenal documentary that I also seems like the perfect choice for the Oscars. "Extremis." which is about the struggle of what to do when a loved one is on life support, is the one being predicted to win by most, but these short films are always unpredictable at the Oscars, so I don't feel obligated to go with the masses here.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Great Wall Review

If I'm being honest, nothing about this movie seemed even remotely interesting. Matt Damon playing a European character leading a Chinese army to battle against a bunch of lizard monsters in the early days of the Great Wall of China? Say what? OK, that's not a completely accurate description, but that's what it looked like. Trailers convinced me that it was going to be a complete piece of trash that would end up as this year's "God's of Egypt," a movie I never actually reviewed on this blog because I never cared to see it in theaters, but I caught it before I did my end of year lists and it was laughably bad. So much so that I think it can be enjoyed if your purpose is to sit down with a bunch of friends and make fun of it "Mystery Science Theater 3000" style, which is why I didn't have it quite as high on my worst movies of 2016 list as others did, but it still deservedly made it. Going into "The Great Wall," those were my expectations. I was hoping to get a few good laughs out of it, but that was it. Turns out I didn't end up hating it as much as I thought it would. The movie was definitely a mixed bag, for sure. But when you are expecting complete trash, mixed bag can be a welcome surprise.

First let's get some controversy out of the way. Like so many movies these days, "The Great Wall" enters theaters with a fair share of controversy. Because that's what we do in 2017. We are actively searching for ways to be offended and we grasp onto every little thing that looks like controversy. While "Gods of Egypt" was a movie that deserved it's controversy since the movie made no effort whatsoever to cast even one non-American in an Egyptian movie that had nothing to do with America, "The Great Wall" falls into the category with "Split" and "A Dog's Purpose." Recent movies that didn't deserve their controversy, thus being the third movie in a month to make Americans look really stupid for throwing a fit at nothing. If you want to dive into the controversies of "Split" and "A Dog's Purpose," you can search out those movies in the archives on the right. As far as "The Great Wall" goes, it's not white-washed because 95 percent of the cast is Chinese. Matt Damon plays a European character who travels to China looking to do some trade and gets caught up in this situation. And it's not a white savior because Matt Damon doesn't save the day. In fact, he spends most of the movie either in prison or working alongside a competent Chinese army. So stop your complaining.

Onto the movie. Quite simply, this movie can be divided into three sections. Each section of the movie I had a completely different reaction to. Section one is when Matt Damon and company are travelling to China and suddenly get attacked by this giant lizard monster. I refer to them as lizard monsters because they are a fictional creature that this movie made up that don't really completely resemble one specific creature, modern or ancient. The movie gave them some sort of Chinese name, but I like my designation of lizard monster. They have eyes on the side of their heads, they are super fast and strong, they normally travel in giant packs of like a thousand each, they are led by one giant Queen lizard monster and for some reason they are angry at the Chinese people and this may or may not have been the Chinese people's motivation for building the wall. They wanted to keep these monsters out and after building the wall, they trained for years and years as to how to defeat them. Well, when Matt Damon's company gets attacked by one and kill it, that apparently expedited these lizard monsters' attack. They were coming anyways, but this caused them to come a bit earlier than the Chinese people were expecting, so right off the bat we experience this giant battle between the Chinese and the lizard monsters.

This is the part of the movie that shocked the heck out of me. You see, a ridiculous premise isn't inherently bad. If you know you have a ridiculous premise and you own it and go all in, then that can be super entertaining. It's for that reason that I enjoyed "xXx: Return of Xander Cage" last month and it's for that reason that I really love "Sharknado." I haven't seen all the sequels that they do every year, but that movie is hilariously awesome. The people who made it had that exact intention. They purposely made a really bad movie and they completely ran with it. It's when a movie like "Gods of Egypt" is trying to be super awesome and serious, but ends up being a complete joke that we get into the realm of unintentionally bad as opposed to intentionally bad. The people who made "The Great Wall" knew that they had something completely ridiculous on their hands and they ran with it. And they totally went the "Pacific Rim" route of throwing you into the action from the first scene instead of spending a bunch of time setting things up, which if you are making an intentionally bad movie, that's probably the way to go. "Pacific Rim" just might be the best bad movie ever because they had giant monsters fighting giant robots for pretty much the entire movie without wasting any time.

Thus I found myself being extremely entertained. It helped that I saw it in 3D IMAX for $5 at my local Megaplex here in Utah that does $5 Tuesdays. I wouldn't recommend paying the full price of a 3D IMAX ticket, but if you have a theater near you that has a similar deal, the visual effects in this movie are stunning, the cinematography is excellent, and the sound design and score are fantastic. This makes for the perfect IMAX experience. And the 3D is used super effectively. There were scenes where arrows or spears were flying past the camera that felt like they almost hit me and there were scenes that gave me a bit of vertigo when we were standing on top of the wall looking down. The 3D helped you get a good scope of how giant this wall is that a 2D showing wouldn't quite do justice. Add that to an epic Helm's Deep style of battle where a giant army of these lizard monsters were attacking the Chinese people at the wall with a high level of ferocity that made it terrifying at times. But yet the Chinese people had this elaborate plan of attack that was perfect. During this scene, Matt Damon and his partner were completely tied up, but watched in awe and terror at this army of lizard monsters attacking with the Chinese people defending. I shared those same emotions as him.

After going through this epic first act of the movie, I was excited about this. I was totally ready to give one of my "the critics are wrong" sort of reviews like I did with "xXx: Return of Xander Cage." Unfortunately, though, after that first act, this movie completely slams on the breaks. The lizard monster army has retreated and now it's time to prepare for their final attack while trying to establish some human drama and character progression in order to give that final battle more weight. I appreciate the idea of this, but I was not invested in any of it. If you've read or watched any reviews of this movie, everyone is saying this same thing and I honestly do my best to make these reviews personal without trying to repeat what everyone else is saying, but in this case there is no other way to put it. I loved the character of Commander Lin, played by Tian Jing. Matt Damon's character was also fine, but no one else in this movie meant anything to me and after our initial first battle, I think we went about 45 minutes to an hour of doing absolutely nothing. In fact, I think I may have dozed off and fell asleep a few times. I try not to do that in the theater because I have reviews to write, but sometimes you just can't help it when a movie gets so freaking boring. After being unexpectedly entertained with that first act, I was then immediately unexpectedly put to sleep.

Sadly the movie never recovers. After a second act that put me to sleep, I immediately woke up for the third act once stuff started to happen and I was ready to be equally as entertained as I was in the fist act. In this instance I won't dive into very much detail, but I really wasn't that entertained with the finale. It had it's moments, but the way they decided to wrap things up in the final battle felt poorly planned out as if they had this really fun idea that they had no idea how to properly end, so they just winged it and threw something super cliche and predictable together. Thus I came out of the movie surprised that I didn't hate it as much as I thought I would, but overall disappointed because that first act made me so excited and happy that I felt shortchanged when they dropped the ball in act two and couldn't quite recover in act three. Thus as far as a recommendation goes, if you can find this in a local IMAX screen for pretty cheap and you have nothing else to see, it's worth a few dollars. If you can't, don't pay for a full ticket price. Wait for it to come to Netflix or Redbox so you can watch the extremely entertaining first act then fast forward to the mildly entertaining finale. You'd probably spend just the right amount of time with this. My overall grade for "The Great Wall" is a 6/10.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Cure for Wellness Review

As I mentioned when I wrote my review for "The LEGO Batman Movie," Hollywood has learned in the last few years that they actually are allowed to release highly anticipated blockbusters and still have them make a ton of money. This is a pretty good secret given that each summer seems to get more and more crowded, which last summer proved that this can be a bad thing as so many blockbuster hopefuls can all self-destruct if there's too many of them. Thus is why we've had movies like "The LEGO Movie," "Deadpool," "Fifty Shades of Grey," "The LEGO Batman Movie" and "John Wick: Chapter 2" in current and recent Februarys. Then again, sometimes February is still February. This weekend was one of those weeks. After a great weekend last weekend with "The LEGO Batman Movie" and "John Wick: Chapter 2," this weekend I had to choose between "Fist Fight," "The Great Wall" and this. "The Cure for Wellness." All three looked terrible. Being that I try to review as many movies as I can, good or bad, I thought that I would dive into a couple of these. I figured starting out with our "Shutter Island" wannabe would be a good place to start.

I say "Shutter Island" wannabe because both movies are about a person or persons coming to investigate a mysterious place isolated from the rest of the world where crazy things are supposedly happening. Both movies are mystery thrillers and both movies were even released in February. Both movies included respectable casts and both movies were directed by good directors (Scorsese and Verbinski). That's where the comparisons end. As I said, wannabe. "A Cure for Wellness" only hits the wannabe level because it completely fails on being a good thriller like "Shutter Island" is. The initial premise is also where the comparisons end as far as plot. Dane DeHaan stars as a businessman who doesn't actually go to this mansion in the Alps to investigate. He's there because one of his fellow businessmen has disappeared to this place and they need him in order to successfully complete a merger of some sorts or else the company is going to crash. Or something like that. The specifics are less important. Point is Dane DeHaan is there to bring one his people back and it's when he gets there that he realizes crazy things are happening and he starts investigating what the frack is going on.

I will admit that this movie is not a complete waste of time. We have a setup that's interesting enough. Despite a "been there, done that" feel, this does a successful job at being mysterious. As in we have fantastic visuals and a phenomenal score. I mean, if you're going to have a mystery movie, you need good mysterious music. That music was done by Benjamin Wallfisch, who also did the music for "Hidden Figures" and "Lights Out." He's one who brought his A-game to this project. The cinematographer was Bojan Bazelli and our production designer was Eve Stewart. Those two along with others from the visual team and art department were all ready to go as well. If you ever take a film class, one thing you will always hear is to look for the good in a movie because with every film there's a lot of people that dedicate a whole lot of time in order to try to make a movie work and I do think it's important to do our best to recognize those efforts. This is a movie where we had a crew of talented people ready to go who did their absolute best to do their personal part to make this movie work. I just feel really bad for them because, despite their best efforts, the script of this movie is an absolute inexcusable piece of trash. There's nothing any of them could've done to save this movie.

Step number one if you're going to make a mystery movie is to actually make the movie mysterious. Yes, we had the music in place, but there was absolutely no question in my mind that this place we were going to was bad. One of the many things that makes "Shutter Island" so good is that, despite them going to a crazy place, the movie keeps you guessing. You're not actually sure if the place is corrupt or not. The second you think you have things figured, the movie sends a new interesting twist that makes you second guess what's actually going on. In last year's "10 Cloverfield Lane," we have a girl trapped in a basement with John Goodman. When John Goodman tells her what's going on, you never know if he's telling the truth or if he's full of himself. I went back and forth the whole movie on that, which made for an excellent experience. I didn't have that experience with "A Cure for Wellness." The basic premise of this place is that people go there feeling like they are not well and the place has the perfect cure for them. When Dane DeHaan walks in and the owner of the place tells him what the goal is, not once did I have the question in my mind if he was being truthful or not. Of course he was lying and it was only a matter of time before people started to figure things out.

That in and of itself was disappointing. I like a good mystery and I love it when a movie can confuse me when it comes to the loyalty of its characters. I find the whodunit murder mystery style of movies really fun. It's a big game of Clue. "A Cure for Wellness" wasn't a big game of Clue. It was a game of when are the characters in this movie going to figure out what I figured out in the first 10 minutes of the movie? I'm even ignoring the fact that the trailers gave it a away. You can look at the title of this movie and watch the first 10 minutes of it and you'll have the general outline all figured out. The game of waiting for your dumb characters to figure out the obvious secret isn't that fun of a game. Especially when it takes forever to get to that point. Sure, Dane DeHaan figures out something fishy is going on, but the movie literally takes 2 hours and 15 minutes to final give you the big reveal. Then we have 10-15 minutes of a nonsense conclusion before credits official. Yes, this movie clocks in at 146 minutes, yet it's the type of movie that should've been 90-110 minutes long. At the very least, given the content of the movie, this should've been 30 minutes shorter. That's a problem. I don't know what Gore Verbiniski was thinking, but he got way too carried away with this story.

In terms of that story, there are so many different plot points that the movie sets up. You can have a complex thriller if you want, but you better have dang good writing and everything better make sense. Simple thriller with a simple story is best. Give us some good twists and turns. I welcome that. But don't send us aimlessly in a hundred different directions with a ton of side plots and elements that make zero sense. This movie was 146 minutes long because Mr. Verbinski couldn't decide how exactly to stretch this idea he had into a feature length movie, so he included all of his ideas. That's what it seems like, anyways. There is so much filler in this movie as well as nearly 10 different fake endings. When each fake ending got to me, I was torn because I was thinking to myself that if the movie ended at each point, there would be so many things that made no sense, yet I wanted it to end just to put me out of my misery. Then when we kept going, I was relieved that we now had the opportunity to have more questions answered, but disappointed because the movie kept going and refused to end. We probably had our first fake ending nearly an hour before the movie actually ended. There was zero focus with this and it seemed like there wasn't much thought put into it.

The meat of why this movie is so bad comes in the form of spoilers. As I said, there are a lot of questions that are asked that I wanted answered, but then when the movie starts answering them, I got more and more disturbed. I mean, I knew the general outline of what was going to happen. This organization was a bad organization that was doing the opposite of what they claimed. That's can be told from the title. Then there's this thing where they try to do some clever foreshadowing, but they don't do that very well as they end up essentially spoiling the basic ending on the drive up to the mansion. With that alone I was like, "Oh dear. You're really going to go that direction, aren't you? That's dumb." But then when we got the specific details as to why this was happening, it was just flat out disgusting and wrong. I really want to spoil this movie so I can give it a proper thrashing, but I won't. Thus I can't do this review complete justice, but just know that on my drive home alone, I described this plot out loud and it made me want to puke and go take a nice, long shower afterwards. Why in the heck would you come up with a premise like this and how did a story like this get approved and funded? Who looked at this and said, "That looks like a great idea!" I don't get it.

I wish I could tell you why. But I'm not going to. I'm going to either leave it to your imagination or leave it up to you to go read the plot synopsis if I've made you super curious. But just warning you, it's disturbing. As I said, I think Gore Verbinski is a good director. Not only did he give us the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" and it's alright sequel before screwing things up with the the third chapter, but he also gave us the original American remake of "The Ring," which a lot of people love, the animated western "Rango" and "The Lone Ranger," which I think is a very underrated movie. The man knows how to write and direct, but something got screwed up here because this is a disaster. As I said, a lot of the crew brought their A-game. Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs and Mia Goth even do a fantastic acting job as they try to make this work, but this story is so bad that none of that good work is able to save this disaster of a movie and the way this is set up as a mystery and a thriller makes for no mystery and no thrills. Just an overlong, disgusting slog that makes you feel like you've been swimming in the sewer for two and half hours when you walk out of the theater. Don't see "A Cure for Wellness" this weekend. Or, like, ever. My grade for the movie is a 4/10.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2 Review

October 2014 saw the release of a movie called "John Wick." Leading up to its release it seemed like yet another one of those throwaway action movies buried in the midst of a busy October, a month not typically known for it's phenomenal new movies. September, October and January are the three worst months of the year for the box office when it comes to new releases. On top of that, the movie starred Keanu Reeves, who hadn't had a hit at the box office in quite some time. In fact, leading up to the movie he was one of those actors who everyone loved to make fun of because, outside "The Matrix," he really hadn't done much that was super interesting in his career. To top it off, we had the directorial debuts of Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, both of whom had worked as stunt coordinators prior to the movie. It seemed like a recipe for a forgettable action movie that I wasn't even planning on seeing. Until the reviews came out. I was shocked to see how positive the reviews were and thus I had to see for myself. And yes, the movie was in fact super awesome! Such a pleasant surprise! Thanks to good legs at the box office and a cult following after coming to DVD, we now have a sequel to enjoy that is quite honestly just as enjoyable as the first one.

Action sequels don't always work out. In fact, these past six months or so was supposed to be a great period of time for action sequels as we had the original cast and crew return for another Bourne movie in late July, a sequel to the extremely underrated and overlooked "Jack Reacher" in October and a sequel to "John Wick" here in February. Well, "Jason Bourne" wasn't nearly as good as it could've been and "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" was flat out atrocious. That made me slightly nervous for "John Wick: Chapter 2." Was it going to be three strikes we're out or third times the charm? Luckily it was the latter, which is all the more impressive given the common trend for action sequels. If you never saw "John Wick," first off you should go fix that. As long as you are a fan of action movies, that is. If you hate action movies, well, I don't know why you're reading this review, but I appreciate it anyways. "John Wick" was a very self-aware movie that simply had the goal of being an awesome action movie and succeeded in a big way. It set up this world where John Wick was a well-known ex-hitman that did his job very well. Yet all he wanted to do was retire and live a quiet life. However, when some moron decided to kill his dog, John Wick was forced out of retirement and sought for revenge.

"John Wick: Chapter 2" has a similar set-up, but no murdered dogs thankfully. Instead we have a dude coming to John Wick asking him to kill someone for him. But again, all John Wick wants to do is retire and live a quiet life with himself and his new dog. But apparently when you're an ex-hitman, you don't get the luxury of living a quiet life, so when John Wick turns this dude down, the dude finds a way to force John Wick to do the job anyways. So yes, we have a slightly less personal setup than the first movie where John Wick is out avenging the death of his dog, but at the same time the sequel expands the lore that the first movie setup as you realize how big this organization that John Wick was once a part of. And apparently he was a big deal because, like in the first one, everyone fears John Wick. Usually in action movies like this, the big baddie is super confident that he can destroy the protagonist. The "John Wick" franchise doesn't follow that. Yes, there are the small handful of morons who don't realize what mess they've gotten themselves into when they mess with John Wick. Everyone else is like, "Yeah, you're screwed. You don't mess with John Wick." They paint the picture of John Wick being a super scary dude who is impossible to stop if you make him angry.

In turn, what makes the movie work is that when you see John Wick in action, you totally understand why all these villains fear him so much. Keanu Reeves as John Wick has this daunting persona to him. He screams unstoppable hitman. Yet he also has a lot of depth and emotion to him that makes him so freaking likable. Keanu Reeves literally pulls off the perfection action hero. Without that perfect performance, these movies don't work. With that performance, these movies become perhaps some of the best action movies made. In fact, Keanu Reeves does such a good job that he has become John Wick in my eyes, much like Matt Damon instantly became Jason Bourne when I first saw the original Bourne trilogy. Matt Damon will forever carry the mantel of Jason Bourne wherever he goes and in whatever movie he stars on. And that's a good thing in this case. Keanu Reeves has been elevated to that level. He IS John Wick. Whatever he does with his future, it will be hard to see him as anything else. Even when I go re-watch "The Matrix" movies, I might look at them and say, "Hey look! It's John Wick in this movie!" Yes, he fights like an experienced veteran playing a first-person shooter video game on the easiest level, but in this case that's part of the fun of these movies.

Watching John Wick walk into a room and totally annihilate everyone there is super entertaining. It's like watching the church scene from "Kingsman: The Secret Service," but for the whole movie. The best part of these action sequences are the actual stunt work. Given that our director in this, Chad Stahelski who co-directed the first "John Wick" (but not David Leitch -- although he's currently signed onto "Deadpool 2"), was a stunt coordinator before jumping onto direct these two movies, you can definitely tell that he knows what he's doing when it comes to the action sequences. A lot of action movies these days cheat the system when it comes to directing the action. The movies will be loaded with a ton of super fast cuts as well as a lot of shaky camera work that try to hide the fact that they were too lazy to do actual stunt work. Not the Jason Bourne style of shaky cam that's super effective. The shaky cam that hides the impact of the action so that, along with the super fast cuts, allows the actors to not do any stunt work. This is both lazy and annoying. The best action sequences are the action movies that take time to make the action look good and natural with real stunt work, longer shots and carefully done choreography instead of this lazy half-attempted nonsense.

That's why these action sequences are so fun. All the takes in the movie are much longer than your cheap action nonsense with clear, crisp editing that flows naturally instead of giving you a headache. The camera work isn't lazy. It's careful and meticulous. All this allows Keanu Reeves to shine in this role of John Wick. You can look up videos of Keanu Reeves training for the first movie and it's jaw-dropping to see what he went through to make the first movie a success. Even if you don't watch behind the scenes videos, you can just tell from the way each action scene is put together that Keanu Reeves put a lot of time and effort into bringing this to life and making these scenes look real and believable. There were no shortcuts taken to make this movie. They did everything the right way and it is so refreshing watching the final result. But it's not just that. You can tell that this whole movie was meticulously planned out. Every scene is a masterwork of choreography and placement with the characters and the set pieces. All the said set pieces are beautifully put together with fantastic lighting that draws you in and makes you appreciate every scene and every shot. Plus we have an amazing score that is the icing on the cake. The glue that holds everything in this movie together.

As far as the story and the characters go, I don't want to reveal too much about what happens. There are so many amazing moments in this movie that had me in awe. So many awesome action sequences and so many fantastic set pieces that are best left to the surprise of the viewer. Rather than me tell you which battles I liked most or which moments had me in awe, I'd rather let you experience them yourself. As far as the story goes, there is a part one to the story that I very briefly touched on in the beginning of the review. That basic setup is definitely not all that this movie consists of. There is a part two to this movie where the focus of John Wick completely shifts and a part three that briefly raps up this chapter in our saga. Intermixed are a few side arcs here and there that do a great job of building a great overall narrative that expands this universe that the first movie set up. We also have several new additions to this cast that are highlighted by Riccardo Scamarcio, Common, Ruby Rose, Claudia Gerini and Laurence Fishburne. I won't say what these characters did, but I'll tell you that I loved all of them. Especially Ruby Rose and Common. It was pure joy for me every time they showed up. And we have a few returning characters that were fun to see again.

Overall, if you were a fan of "John Wick," then you absolutely need to make seeing "John Wick: Chapter 2" a top priority if you haven't already. Sure, there's no duplicating the feeling of going into a movie like "John Wick" expecting nothing and getting shell-shocked by how fantastic it is. This time around there's been an insane amount of excitement, yet to me this is a case where I went in super excited and I left feeling completely satisfied, which didn't happen nearly as often as I wanted it to with some of my big anticipated movies from 2016, which is a good initial sign for 2017. So far "Split," "The LEGO Batman Movie" and now "John Wick: Chapter 2" are three movies from 2017 that I was really looking forward to that all gave me exactly what I was hoping for and even more. "John Wick: Chapter 2" does a great job of repeating what we all loved from the first movie without being repetitive or redundant while expanding on the universe that the first movie set up. I loved "John Wick" and I love "John Wick: Chapter 2." I'm happy to report that I have no idea which movie I love more. And I'm excited for "John Wick: Chapter 3." If the third movie ends up as good as the first two, this honestly could turn into one of the best action trilogies ever. I'm awarding "John Wick: Chapter 2" a 9/10.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The LEGO Batman Movie Review

In 2014, "The LEGO Movie" took February by storm, opening to $69.1 million on its way to $257.8 million domestically. While it wasn't the biggest opening weekend in February at the time, it was the movie that essentially showed Hollywood that big blockbusters can be released and do well in February as the only other movie that had opened higher at that point was Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" in 2004, which was considered more of an anomaly when it comes to February openers. Since "The LEGO Movie," Hollywood has been more confident with the month as movies such as "The SpongeBob Movie," "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "Deadpool" have all done great, "Deadpool" being one of the highest grossing movies of last year. "The LEGO Movie" was also the beginning of yet another heavyweight animation studio as Warner Animation Group has now joined the party with the many other animation studios already in existence. Warner Animation Group is especially hoping this LEGO franchise will work out well for them as in addition to "The LEGO Movie 2" in 2019, we have two spin-offs this year with "The LEGO Batman Movie" in theaters now and "The LEGO Ninjago Movie" coming in September. And man are they off to a fantastic start.

I personally loved "The LEGO Movie." Not only was it fun and hilarious, but it was an extremely smart movie that had a crazy twist ending that made the second viewing of the movie a completely different experience. It's not often a movie can pull that off, especially a major animated movie. I know many people who said they weren't excited for the movie, but ended up being caught off guard by it actually being a great movie. I was a little different in that I was actually super excited for the movie, but I was still caught off guard by how great it was and I'm still way bitter that it didn't get a best animated feature nomination at the Oscars. Being that Batman was one of the funniest parts of the movie, I was immediately on board with the idea of a LEGO Batman spin-off. Given the type of humor that "The LEGO Movie" provided, I was excited for an animated LEGO Batman movie that was going to spend the movie poking fun at the history of the franchise. I was curious to see what they were going to pull off in terms of story and creativity, but I was still excited. No, "The LEGO Batman Movie" isn't as good as "The LEGO Movie," but I don't know if any movie in this LEGO franchise will be. That said, I was genuinely shocked by how amazing "The LEGO Batman Movie" was.

"The LEGO Batman Movie" successfully hits the sweet spot as a movie that should be equally as entertaining and appropriate for both kids and adults. That said, quite frankly I believe that the people that are going to enjoy this movie the most are the DC comic book nerds who love Batman. I wouldn't quite put myself on the level of "comic book nerd," but the DC comics, TV shows and movies are the ones that have made more of an influence on my love of the superhero genre. I grew up watching the Batman and Superman movies and TV shows and I especially love the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy. There's many people in this world that know more about Batman than I do, but nevertheless I love Batman. This movie literally spends time referencing and poking fun at literally every generation of Batman from his very early beginnings to his recent run with the Batfleck in DC's current movie universe. The Batman jokes hit hard and they hit often. And they don't slow down. The more you know about Batman, the more you are going to pick up on all of the Easter eggs in this movie. It had me smiling like a little schoolboy the whole time. You can essentially call this a Batman parody movie. The parody movie genre is mostly a dead genre right, but this movie brings it to life.

In addition to being super clever with all the Batman references, this movie is absolutely hilarious. The opening credits sequence is absolute gold that literally gave me that gut-busting laughter from the very second the movie started. And it didn't stop there with the opening credits. The opening sequence in this movie is also laugh-out-loud hilarious. In fact, most of the movie had me caught up in uncontrollable laughter. Have you ever watched one of those movies that was so funny and made you laugh so hard that you became exhausted and out of breath? Yeah, this is one of those movies. I almost wanted it to stop being so funny for a second or two, so I could catch my breath. But for the most part it didn't let me. Until it did. In which case, we completely flipped the switch and went for the exact opposite emotion. Sadness. I expected to laugh. I may have not expected to laugh so hard, but I did expect to laugh. I didn't expect to almost cry at this movie. This movie throws all the best feel-goods at you at all the right places. And it does so in a perfectly smooth way without being jarring in a way that some movies are when they transition from funny to feel-good.

If you think about the history of Batman, it makes total sense that they would go this direction. Batman has always been a very complex character, which is one of the reasons he is one of the best characters. He doesn't have superpowers, but rather trained in a way and built a suit that matches any superhero. His tragic backstory with the death of his parents also gives him a backstory that is unparalleled with any almost any other superhero. He is lonely and he is depressed, but he often masks all of them with not only his Batman suit, but also his Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy facade. That is exactly what "The LEGO Batman Movie" plays off of. This LEGO iteration is the same hilarious, wise-cracking Batman that we saw in "The LEGO Movie." In this version of Gotham, he is the hero that the city needs and deserves. Everyone loves Batman. Everyone relies on Batman. Batman always saves the day. Batman is super confident and cocky and knows that nobody can match him, not even the Joker's many attempts to destroy the city. Batman always wins. But deep down he is lonely. He misses his parents. He is depressed. He needs help from others and he needs family, but he refuses to accept that help because of his pride when certain people came into his life to help him.

I was honestly floored by how emotional this movie got in addition to how hilarious this movie was. Thus it definitely hits the sweet spot. Lifetime fans of Batman should love this movie with all the Batman references. Young kids who love Batman or other superheros will have a blast with this movie even if they don't get all the references and parents who take those kids should have a good time as well, even if they don't know every detail about Batman's history. This movie literally has something for everyone. You want laughs, you got it. You want an emotional story, you got it. You want a good superhero movie, you got it. You want a movie with an intelligent story and a good villain, you got it. I've heard some critics give it a harsh review because it didn't pull off the mind-blowing magic of "The LEGO Movie." That's a bit harsh. I don't know if any movie in this LEGO franchise is going to pull this off. But as a simple spin-off Batman movie made from LEGOs, this works as a fun, hilarious family-friendly Batman movie that will have the kids laughing and the comic book nerds screaming in joy with all the clever references. If Warner Bros. wants to to do more DC movies in this LEGO universe, I am totally game. Bring them on! I'm giving "The LEGO Batman Movie" a 9/10.

Split Review (SPOILERS)

If I were a professional movie critic, I would've had the assignment to see the movie "Split" on either opening weekend or the week leading up to opening weekend and get an immediate review out. If that time ever arrives where I'm in that position, I'm sure I'll rise to the occasion, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. Given that I'm not a professional movie critic and am just doing this for fun right now on my blog, which I've had for five years now, I have the opportunity to set my own rules. Given that "Split" is a psychological thriller, which is my favorite genre of movie, I definitely made the effort to see it as soon as possible. In fact, I saw it on opening day on January 20. Yes, I do try to get my reviews out as soon as I can after seeing a movie, but in this instance I made the decision to wait. I did this for a few different reasons. Yes, the first reason is that I had a ton of other blog posts to get to in January. But that didn't stop me from getting reviews out for other movies such as "xXx: Return of Xander Cage." The main reason, which I'll dive into deeply here in a bit, is I needed time to ponder this movie and then I needed to re-watch it and ponder some more. Because it's now been three weeks since I saw it, I'm going to reward your patience with a spoiler review.

Yes, spoiler review means I'm going to dive deep into the ending of the movie. And this is not a movie you want spoiled for you if you haven't seen it already. M. Night Shyamalan is good at his twist endings when he's on the top of his game and it's always the best cinematic experience when you go in without any idea of how things are going to turn out. So I give you one last warning. If you haven't seen "Split," close this review right now and go see it. Then return to this review and see what I had to say. And make sure you've seen Shyamalan's other movies, too, because there's another one of his that I have to spoil for this review, but I won't reveal which one it is at this point.  If you are still here at this point of the review, I'm going to assume that you already saw "Split" or you simply don't care about spoilers and thus I will talk openly about the movie. So here we go. First, we briefly need to address this man named M. Night Shyamalan. He roared onto the scene in 1999 with "The Sixth Sense," following that up with two more major successes in "Ubreakable" and "Signs." Suddenly he was being proclaimed as the next Steven Spielberg. Fast forward 10 years and all of a sudden he went from the next Steven Spielberg to Hollywood's biggest punchline. Ouch. What happened?

Well, I'm not sure exactly what went on in his head following those first three movies or what his mindset was as a director, but after "Signs" came "The Village," which was followed by "Lady in the Water," "The Happening," "The Last Airbender" and "After Earth" in that order. Yikes. Especially with those last two. "The Last Airbender" was a complete and utter disgrace to one of the most popular animated TV shows ever and is quite frankly one of the worst movies ever made, which fans of the show "Avatar: The Last Airbender" will never forget. It's the "Avatar" version of "Dragonball: Evolution." And "After Earth" was so bad and so poorly directed that it made Will Smith look dull and may have ruined his son's acting career as Jaden still hasn't been cast in another movie. At this point of Shyamalan's career, he was a hated man. When you have hit rock bottom so hard, it might be easy to give up and throw in the towel. Spending 10 long years trying to create enjoyable content only to have it constantly beat to the ground I imagine is frustrating. It caused George Lucas, a once beloved director, to sell "Star Wars" and give up on directing movies. It takes guts for Shyamalan to press forward. But he did just that and thankfully the Shyamalan we used to love has returned.

Shyamalan's return began in 2015 with "The Visit," which was a very smart, intense thriller that successfully took advantage of the dying sub-genre of found footage, which for the most part has turned into a cheap gimmick. "The Visit" wasn't phenomenal or mind-blowing, but it was a good sign that Shyamalan might be back. However, one good movie after a long string of duds doesn't guarantee that you're back. In theory, "The Visit" could've been a fluke. But following up "The Visit" with "Split," which is a great movie, I think is a good sign that Shyamalan is back, which makes me happy. I never cheer for someone to fail, especially when they like making movies in my favorite genre. As I said, some people early on called Shyamalan the next Steven Spielberg. I think a better comparison is that he had or has the potential of becoming the next Alfred Hitchcock, because while Spielberg does all sorts of different genres, both Shyamalan and Hitchcock love the thriller genre. Obviously Shyamalan has to come up with at least a decade or two of solid thrillers before we actually call him the next Hitchcock, especially after he gave us a decade of duds, but that's why I use the word "potential." I also bring up Hitchcock for a very important reason as "Split" compares favorable to "Psycho."

I've actually considered writing an in-depth review of "Psycho" on this blog as it's not only my favorite Hitchcock movie, but it's my current all-time favorite movie. I say "current" all-time favorite because I have not seen every movie ever made and thus I hesitate to declare a "favorite movie" and have no plans on making a blog post of my all-time favorite movies. But out of all the movies I've seen so far in my life, there's never been a movie that I've enjoyed more than "Psycho." As I said, psychological thrillers are my favorite genre of movies. I love thrillers and I love diving into the psychology of why people do the things that they do. And there's never been a more fascinating look at the mind of a fictional human being than that of Norman Bates in Psycho. I'm not here to review "Psycho." Perhaps I'll find an excuse sometime soon to do so. But I bring it up because both Norman Bates in "Psycho" and Kevin Wendell Crumb in "Split" suffer from the same psychological disorder of Dissociative Identity Disorder, also called Multiple Personality Disorder or simply DID. From here on out, I will use the latter acronym of DID, because it's easier to simply type those three letters.

I still remember the first time I watched "Psycho." It was back in 2011 or 2012, I think, so not too long ago. Since then, I have watched just about every Hitchcock movie as "Pyscho" got me addicted to Hitchcock. I won't spoil the ending, but the shock value that hit me when the big secret of the movie was revealed left me beyond stunned. Heading into the movie I had no idea what was going to happen. The only thing I really knew about the movie was the famous score as well as the fact that there was a famous shower scene. But that's it. I'm so glad I was able to have that experience of going in completely blind because that ending still stands as my favorite moment watching a movie and every time I have watched it since, it just gets more and more fascinating as I am able to dive deeper and deeper into this character of Norman Bates as I pick up on more things about him. After seeing "Split" twice now and taking a week or so to think over it after both viewings, I'm happy to reveal to you that I've had a similar experience with the movie "Split" that I've had with "Psycho," which is why I'm glad that I've waited three weeks to give you my review instead of throwing out a quick review the second I first saw the movie. I wouldn't have been able to do the movie justice that way.

Jumping straight to the ending of "Split," I actually had a different experience than when I first watch "Psycho." My friend sitting next to me had a "Psycho" type of experience as he was completely shocked and blown away. My reaction was more of a "Crap, I didn't do my homework and now I've missed something." I immediately knew that the final scene in "Split" connects it to another one of Shyamalan's early movies, but I'm embarrassed to admit that I have not seen all of Shyamalan's early films. I won't admit all of his movies that I haven't seen, but "Unbreakable" was on that list. My friend quickly informed me that it was "Unbreakable" that "Split" has connected to, which in turn has shocked the "Unbreakable" fan base. So I repented of that great sin of not seeing "Unbreakable" and suddenly everything made sense. Then after watching "Ubreakable," I went to see "Split" a second time and everything made even more sense. I was able to pick up on all the little details that I missed the first time around. Once you know the two universes are the same, watching "Split" a second time is a much different experience. If you are like me and you have seen "Split," but not "Unbreakable," do what I did and go watch that. Then come back and finish this review because I also need to spoil that movie in order to explain why the end of "Split" works.

When push comes to shove, the best way to describe the movie "Split" is that it's the origin story of an insanely awesome super villain. The idea of what makes a good villain has been on my mind a lot lately, mostly because Marvel keeps dropping the ball when it comes to their villains. In my opinion there has to be more to a villain than being scary looking, powerful, or having an ominous voice. The biggest thing that makes or breaks a villain, in my opinion, is motivation. Why are they doing what they are doing? Are they trying to take over the world just for the sake of taking over the world? Are they attacking our hero simply because the hero needs someone to fight? Or do they have a good reason for what they are doing? Do their motivations make sense? Are they actions that a real human being might take if put into that situation? One of the reasons why I love the TV show "Criminal Minds" is that they dive into the psychology behind why serial killers do what they do and many of their cases are based on or are inspired by actual serial killers, which is fascinating. And if we can blur the line between villain and anti-hero, that's even better. If we end up cheering for or feeling bad for our villain, that's even better. We may not agree with their decisions, but if we know why they made them, then that enhances the experience with the show or the movie.

If we look into the recent comic book realm, we've seen a lot of examples of good and bad villains. Since I knocked down Marvel for failing on this, let me give them credit where credit is due with what they have done right. Loki is the easy answer here. Loki felt betrayed by his father and brother. He felt they treated him badly and he couldn't let that go. We didn't always agree with the actions Loki took, but we understood his motivations. On top of that, he had the look, the voice, and the brains that were all the icing on the cake. But it's Loki's motivations behind what he did that has made him such a believable villain. Zemo in "Captain America: Civil War" is also a villain that I think Marvel did a good job with. Sure, his plan included a lot of conveniences and he wasn't super ominous, but the fact that he was mad at the Avengers for them unintentionally killing all of his family and friends while "saving the world" was a dang good motivation that made me feel for him. Whereas Ultron was a villain that randomly decided the Avengers needed to die for no apparent reason, Zemo had dang good reason to go after the Avengers. As much hate as Suicide Squad got, Deadshot, Harley Quinn and Diablo were well-written villains. The fact that it was argued as to whether or not they were anti-heroes is a good sign. And Apocalypse in "X-Men: Apocalypse" was an example of a villain done wrong because we never really knew what his motivations were and his plan was dumb.

One final example and this is going to tie in perfectly to what I'm about to dive into with my thoughts on Kevin in "Split." Norman Bates in "Psycho." Again, I won't spoil "Psycho," but due to a certain backstory, Norman Bates, who always had psychological issues to begin with, developed DID after a certain traumatic event in his life. Norman himself is a nice guy who you really come to like in the first part of the movie, despite some major character flaws. But when certain things happen, a trigger goes off in his mind where his other personality takes over and does things that Norman is not even aware of. He's obviously a villain that you want stopped, but at the same time you really feel for him as a character, especially given all that he's been through. When we're talking about best movie villain ever, it's Norman Bates hands down. So to formulate Kevin in "Split" after Norman Bates in "Psycho" is brilliant. Now for the record, since I've made a lot of "Psycho" comparisons, let me make it absolutely clear that this is not as good as "Psycho." Not even close. But there are a lot of fascinating parallels in both movies that make "Split" one of the better modern-day Hitchcockian thrillers made.

"Split" is essentially "Psycho" on steroids. Instead of two personalities like Norman Bates, Kevin has 23 personalities in addition to his own. The simplicity of just two personalities is one of the many things that makes "Psycho" perfect, but the 23 personalities is a lot of fun to watch and James McAvoy as Kevin and his 23 personalities is one of the best acting performances that I may have ever seen. While we don't get a ton of backstory on Kevin's childhood, we are given enough to have a solid understanding as to why everything is happening. As a young child, he lived with a crazy mother (more "Psycho" parallels) who terrified him. We don't know everything that she did to him, and perhaps that's a good thing, but we do know that there's one point where he's hiding under his bed and she's yelling to him. "Kevin Wendell Crumb!" Whatever she did, it was traumatic enough for him to develop multiple personalities that are there to protect Kevin. Then throughout his life we know that other things happen to him, like him being sexually abused by some high school girls, that made things a whole heck of a lot worse. Thus he's gone through so much traumatic experiences in his life that as an adult, Kevin's personalities have completely taken over and they have some crazy things in store.

That's the basic setup that we learn throughout the movie. Our main three personalities that take over are Dennis, Patricia and Hedwig, who in turn feel ostracized from the rest of the 20. When personalities like Barry, Orwell and Jade take over, they are trying to emphasize that the other three are not representative of what they all stand for. And in the brief moment where Kevin himself takes over and realizes that it's now three or four years into the future from when he last remembered, he feels devastated and tells our main girl to take his shotgun and kill him so that the personalities that are taking over don't continue to do awful things. This is an extremely tragic situation where Kevin and 20 other of his personalities are victims to Dennis, Patricia and Hedwig, who in turn have solid motivations for why they are doing what they are doing. Even though you want them stopped, you really feel for Dennis, Patricia and Hedwig, especially Hedwig since he's only a young 9-year-old boy. Because of everything that's happened, they have chosen to bring out "The Beast," which is basically an inhuman, 24th personality that is invincible. He can't be shot. He can't be killed. He is huge. He is fast. He can climb on walls. You don't agree with the decision these three have made to bring out The Beast, but all things considered, you understand why they have done this.

With this movie being the origin story of a super villain, it hits all the correct notes as to what makes a perfect villain. The Beast is terrifying. He is ominous. He has a crazy, intimidating voice. And his motivations are perfect. He has decided to hunt down the people who he calls the impure. In his mind, those people are the people that have essentially lived perfect, spoiled lives. He claims the broken are stronger and better because what they have gone through. Being that he is someone who is very broken and his been abused in most likely many different ways, you can understand why he decides to go after the people who remind him of the perpetrators or people that have not experienced this level of pain in their lives. It's not just a bad guy hunting the good guys for the heck of it. It's a man who has been hurt and abused his whole life and is taking out on people who remind him of the people who have done this to him. And he's brought out by three personalities that feel ostracized and hated by the others. Yet being that this is all one person who has gone through a traumatic life, you really feel bad for Kevin and the other 20 personalities that have no desire to hurt people. He's the perfect villain and it's the perfect super villain backstory.

The big question that was going through my mind as well as the mind of many others is the actual believability of this story. I'm not an expert on DID, but I immediately question as to whether or not a person with 23 personalities can actually exist. Maybe it can. And that wasn't a big problem, just a simple question. The bigger question comes with the end game of The Beast. Whereas I could possibly buy into a person with a really bad case of DID, I didn't buy the idea of a superhuman 24th personality that was literally unstoppable. Not the first time around, anyways. But this is where the "Unbreakable" connection is very important here. Bruce Willis in "Ubreakable" is a person who literally can't be hurt. He survives a train crash where everyone dies and slowly learns that he has felt no pain in his life. "Unbreakable" is the origin story of Bruce Willis becoming a superhero. It's an origin story that's not meant to be perfectly realistic and believable, but rather a superhero story that is very grounded and human. So the fact that Bruce Willis shows up in the end of "Split" suddenly causes everything to make sense. In the world of "Unbreakable," characters like these make sense. Having a villain that's the exact opposite of Bruce Willis is acceptable.

That in turn brings up an interesting point. In "Unbreakable," Samuel L. Jackson plays a character called Mr. Glass who literally and physically gets broken easily. Bruce Willis can't get hurt. Samuel L. Jackson's bones are super fragile and spends most of his life in a hospital recovering, where he becomes obsessed with comic books. He concludes that the perfect arch-nemesis to a hero in a comic book is one that is the exact opposite of the hero. Since Bruce Willis can never be hurt, but Samuel L. Jackson spends half of his life in a hospital or wheelchair, Samuel L. Jackson concludes that he is Bruce Willis' perfect arch-nemesis, then reveals what he has done. To which Bruce Willis then calls the cops and gets him thrown in prison. Not much of an arch-nemesis if you ask me. But as it turns out, Samuel L. Jackson was right in terms of what makes the best arch-nemesis, but was wrong in saying he was the one. The perfect arch-nemesis is James McAvoy's character of The Beast. Both are essentially invincible and can't be hurt. But Bruce Willis has lived a life of where he hasn't had pain whereas James McAvoy has lived a life full of pain and his personality of The Beast is hunting down the type of person that Bruce Willis is. Which will make the showdown fantastic!

Through all of this, I have failed to mention that there is an actual story line going on here in the movie of three girls who get kidnapped by Kevin, or rather his personality of Dennis, and get held below what ends up being a zoo. With this being a spoiler review, I wanted to focus mainly on the character of Kevin and why the psychology being it all works so beautifully and why the personality of The Beast is actually fascinating once you know what universe this movie is in, but I suppose I should touch on the story itself. It is super intense and thrilling, even the second time around. Two of the girls get kidnapped because they represent the type of college girl that sexually abused Dennis. They are really annoying and whiny, but they're supposed to be that way. Anya Taylor-Joy from "The Witch" stars as the third girl who Dennis thinks is the same as the other two, but turns out she has been sexually abused by her uncle, who is also her legal guardian, so she gets saved by The Beast in the end because of it. I was confused by the flashbacks to Anya's childhood the first time around, but once you realize how they connect, they fit in perfectly to the story and are actually interesting. And disturbing. So Anya survives. The other two girls get eaten by The Beast, which is gross.

The only other part I missed so far is the old lady as the psychologist, who is instrumental in setting up the psychology aspect of the movie as she's the one who essentially is explaining things to everyone. Sadly she gets killed at the end, but she's also instrumental into helping Anya survive. Then Anya gets to go back to her uncle, so did she really get saved? It's an "out of the frying pan, into the fire" sort of situation. But yeah, if you couldn't tell by me having one of my longest reviews ever, I found this movie absolutely fascinating. I love psychology and because of that, I loved the psychology behind this character of Kevin. I thought The Beast thing was a bit of a weird end game, until I realized it connects to the movie and universe of "Unbreakable" and then it makes perfect. In a day and age of everyone wanting their own cinematic universes following the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, M. Night Shyamalan has now set up his own cinematic universe without cluing in anyone until the ending of "Split," which is genius. "Split" is a fascinatingly intense thriller that is a bit of a slow burn. I was nervous that the slow burn element would make it less interesting the second time around, but it ended up the exact opposite. "Split" is amazing and I'm giving it a 10/10.