Four 2023 movies today. One I even saw in the cinema! It was okay but very kiddie. One straight-to-streaming was decent & the other two were meh…
The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)
Directed by Aaron Horvath & Michael Jelenic
Based on Mario by Nintendo
Starring: Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The film features an origin story for the brothers Mario and Luigi, two Italian-American plumbers who are transported to an alternate world and become entangled in a battle between the Mushroom Kingdom, led by Princess Peach, and the Koopas, led by Bowser.
This was cute. It’s aimed very young (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I’m an old fart of the Space Invaders generation & never been into games (except Duke Nukem, Myst & Plants Vs Zombies – what a dork). So I don’t know much about Mario etc & wasn’t going to get the same level of nostalgic enjoyment out of this. I’m sure little kids love it, though, and the characters were fun even though I only knew some of them. I adore Jack Black so he was my favorite thing about this (and I can’t get that Peaches song out of my head). The story is simple but, hey, it’s for kids. Cute & inoffensive entertainment for the family with probably just enough to keep the older Mario fans in the audience happy as well.
Oh! I should add that I loved that adorable little blue flame dude of doom as well. Blue flame dude & Jack Black rule this movie.
My Rating: 6/10
Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre (2023)
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Starring: Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Josh Hartnett, Cary Elwes, Bugzy Malone, Hugh Grant
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The film is about a spy, Orson Fortune (Statham), who must retrieve a stolen high-tech device before an arms dealer (Grant) can sell it to the highest bidder.
A bit confused by the really bad reviews as I thought this was quite fun. Admittedly, it’s not my favorite genre & I do prefer when these types of stories are more lightweight like this. Maybe people were disappointed by a little less in-your-face action than usual but I can live without excessive action scenes. This wasn’t as good as Ritchie’s recent The Gentlemen but I in some ways preferred that this one was more subtle. Shockingly, Hugh Grant was great in both films – this type of role really suits him. And Aubrey Plaza is finally growing on me – Plaza & Grant were the best things about this. Jason Statham was tolerable as well (though could be easily replaced by any action dude). Also liked seeing Cary “As You Wish” Elwes and Josh Hartnett did well as a famous Tom Cruise-y movie star. The story, which I don’t ever give the tiniest shit about in these sort of action movies anyway, was decent enough for this kind of thing. Why all the hate? It’s one of the better straight-to-streaming films I’ve seen in a while.
My Rating: 6.5/10
We Have A Ghost (2023)
Directed by Christopher Landon
Based on “Ernest” by Geoff Manaugh
Starring: David Harbour, Jahi Winston, Anthony Mackie
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) Finding a ghost named Ernest haunting their new home turns Kevin’s family into overnight social media sensations. But when Kevin and Ernest investigate the mystery of Ernest’s past, they become a target of the CIA.
This was slightly better than I was expecting. A likeable family, a simple but enjoyable mystery, and Jennifer Coolidge (who I’d happily watch in anything). A shame it’s longer than it needs to be thanks to an unnecessary government agency plot. But I thought the ending was quite lovely. Felt a little choked up!
My Rating: 6.5/10
I can’t for the life of me find a poster for this movie…
Murder Mystery 2 (2023)
Directed by Jeremy Garelick
Starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Mark Strong, Mélanie Laurent, Jodie Turner-Smith, John Kani
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) Full-time detectives Nick and Audrey are struggling to get their private eye agency off the ground. They find themselves at the center of international abduction when their friend Maharaja, is kidnapped at his own lavish wedding.
This was fine – not the best Adam Sandler comedy but certainly not the worst. Sandler doesn’t have the same magic with Aniston as he does with Drew Barrymore but they still have decent chemistry & Aniston seemed to be having fun with this. Not gonna lie, I’ll completely forget this one in a year (just like I don’t remember the first film). It’s a safe, inoffensive Sandler comedy. Worth watching if you like Sandler (I do) but you’re probably not going to watch this if you’re one of his haters anyway.
First roundup of 2023! Let’s see if I can keep this up all year. I started Januaryby watching Paul Newman being all sexy so not a bad way to start the year. Here’s what I watched in January…
MOVIES WATCHED IN JANUARY (ranked best to worst):
– Cat On A Hot Tin Roof – Decided that gazing at young Paul Newman would be a lovely way to start a new year of movie-watching. Enjoyed this. Who doesn’t like watching a dysfunctional family yelling at each other? Well, those horrible brats & the sister-in-law were annoying as hell but Newman, Elizabeth Taylor & Burl Ives were great. Although it was a little distracting having Ives be so grumpy while sounding just like his Sam the Snowman character from Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer… I kept expecting him to start singing Silver And Gold. Can relate to having to deal with family drama (although thankfully not nearly as dramatic as the cranky f*^kers in this movie) & I think many of us can probably relate to Taylor’s character so desperately wanting to have sex with Paul Newman. Mmm Hmm. – 8/10
– Last Night In Soho – Happy to have finally seen this one & have ranked it pretty high in my list of 2021 films. I don’t think it’s Edgar Wright’s very best (I’d probably only rank Scott Pilgrim below it) but it had a lot to live up to as I don’t think he’s made a bad film. It’s certainly one of the better movies I’ve seen these last few dreadful years despite being really sick of Anya Taylor-Joy. Taylor-Joy & Thomasin McKenzie both did very well in this, it was fun seeing Terence Stamp & Diana Rigg, and I enjoyed the (quite simple) ghost story. But the real stars were the setting, the film’s vibe and, as I’d expect from Wright, great use of songs to perfectly capture the right mood. It’s a film I actually enjoyed watching, which I can’t say of a lot of films lately including two I watched just after this: The Batman (YAWN) and, another Taylor-Joy film, The Menu (overrated & tries too hard). I like that Wright’s films just come across as having been made by someone who loves watching as well as making movies. – 7.5/10
– Crimes Of The Future – Love David Cronenberg’s body horror classics & enjoyed seeing a return to that after being disappointed with most of his recent films. It’s still not as good as his best but it’s one of the better 2022 films I’ve seen (I’ve ranked it 9th in my Cronenberg ranking & 11th for 2022). Viggo Mortensen & Léa Seydoux were very good and I was glad to see Kristen Stewart was in this way less than I was expecting. Honestly, though, I could’ve done with this one being far weirder. Seemed very tame for a Cronenberg body horror. Enjoyed the film, though, and hope Cronenberg continues to make more like this. – 7/10
– King Richard – You can’t get me to watch sports but I’ll happily watch a feelgood sports movie. I know very little about Venus & Serena Williams besides, you know, that they’re really bloody good at tennis. So I liked seeing the story of their family & how they got into tennis although I assumed it got the glossy Hollywood treatment (it did – I shouldn’t have looked into things – I prefer to believe in fairytales). Smith was very good but it’s a shame that what happened at the Oscars will forever be associated with this film celebrating two amazing sisters & athletes. I liked it a lot & its inspiring message and thought the girls (Saniyya Sidney & Demi Singleton) were great. The only thing I found slightly disappointing was that I’d have liked more focus on Venus & Serena than on their dad (despite the name of the film). – 7/10
– Marathon Man – Been meaning to watch this for years. Now I can see why the dental torture is always mentioned as it’s unfortunately the most memorable thing about this. I’ve actually never had a cavity or any dental work, though, so maybe that’s why this movie didn’t have much of an effect on me??
Did appreciate this movie’s look & vibe as I’m always a sucker for gritty ‘70s films. Dustin Hoffman was good as was Laurence Olivier as the badass dental torturer. Roy Scheider was also a very nice surprise as I somehow managed to not even know he was in this. So A+ for the stars and the acting but the story was an absolute mess. Not what I’d expect from a William Goldman story! Maybe it just didn’t translate well to film? To be fair, he’s had a few duds but I can’t help but compare everything to his brilliant The Princess Bride which I adore with all my heart (and Magic, which is also pretty great). I could barely follow the plot in this. Okay, I get a bit dumb when I’m slightly bored but WTF was going on in this? Something about diamonds & Nazis? Something going on with Hoffman’s dad that ended up having nothing to do with anything? Two old farts with road rage? Hoffman sleeping with some woman who was maybe bad or maybe she wasn’t I don’t know. It’s been about a week since I saw this and, yep, I mainly just remember the dental torture. And Hoffman running around a bit (hence the name of the movie, I guess!). Oh, and it was far more bloody & violent than I was expecting for some reason.
Disappointing story from Goldman. Fine performances from the big name stars. As expected on the gritty Seventies-ness. Certainly worth a watch but not up there with others that are also considered classics from that same time period. Does have its moments, though, and my 3 star Letterboxd rating seems a little low but 3.5 tends to be what I give to movies that I enjoyed much more than I did this one. I prefer rating out of 10 & this would be 7/10 on that scale, which seems more fair. – 7/10
– The Menu – Found this disappointing. A film that maybe thinks it’s more clever than it is? I did appreciate how tense it got & was enjoying that up until it became too ridiculous at the end & its message got all muddled. What was the point? Yeah, most rich people suck. No duh. I just think there are far better films that have explored that. And can we have a break from Anya Taylor-Joy being in every movie? – 6.5/10
– The Lost City – Better than I was expecting. Is of course silly but I’ve seen far worse romcom adventures. Actually, we could use more movies in this sort of genre again, especially with the adventure part added in… Thought Bullock & Tatum were fine together & had decent chemistry. I may be wrong but think some complained about the age difference? Oh, so the exact same sort of age difference in a million other movies except the man is the older one in all of those and no one comments on them? Forget Tatum anyway – I’ll take the almost-60 Brad Pitt who is looking damn hot in this movie. Oh, and I thought this was much more enjoyable than Uncharted when comparing it to a similar recent film (minus the romance). – 6.5/10
– Shotgun Wedding – This was silly but enjoyable. Happy to have some romcoms like this lately. This was a lot like The Lost City and it’s great that Bullock & Lopez are still doing these types of movies as they’re both so good in these roles. And I’m glad I didn’t look this film up beforehand so got a very nice surprise when the always amazing Jennifer Coolidge showed up as the groom’s mother. Love her! The story of course gets too ridiculous at times but who cares with this type of movie? Lopez & Duhamel worked well together as did Bullock & Tatum in The Lost City. Not sure which one I preferred but if you like one, you’ll like the other. If you like your romcoms to be a little less outrageous & don’t need the action, you may prefer the recent Lopez film Marry Me instead, which was also quite enjoyable & less silly.
I can say that this is my favorite 2023 U.K. movie release that I’ve seen so far this year! But I’ve only seen three… – 6.5/10
– Save The Cinema – Ah, another heartwarming based-on-a-true-story British film. They do love that genre here! I was of course interested in a story about a small Welsh town in the ‘90s trying to save their cinema from being demolished because I’d be trying to save it too (if my town had a cinema – man I wish it did!!). Figured it would be a “love of cinema” film like Cinema Paradiso etc etc (I love movies about loving movies). The movie should be called Save The Theatre, though, as it’s more about the woman who put on live productions there with the town’s children & that’s what she was trying to save. Samantha Morton was good in the lead role & I especially liked Jonathan Pryce as her old mentor & teacher and the one who has a love of cinema and brings that to the theatre as they realise getting enough people to come to movies there will help keep it in business.
There’s a great surprise for movie lovers at the end which I won’t spoil if you’ve not read the full plot synopsis. They chucked in a few quirky characters as they like to do in these sort of British films plus a nice little romance subplot but there wasn’t a lot of character development. Not the most memorable of these sort of movies but a nice story and an easy watch for a lazy weekend afternoon. Oh, and another surprise for the end: You find out that one of the sons of this woman became someone everyone living in the U.K. has heard over & over again… – 6.5/10
– Jackass Forever – These dumbshits do make me laugh… Although there was nothing that felt all that new & original in this one. We’ve seen it all before from these guys but it was fun seeing them doing the same stupid shit again. Too many c*cks, b*lls & b*ttholes for my liking, though! – 6.5/10
– You People – Can’t decide how I feel about this movie. Found some of it funny & enjoyed it while watching it but later felt annoyed at how over-the-top & ridiculous the parents were. Now I wish the couple had just told them all to stick it & eloped.
Jonah Hill & Lauren London were a likeable couple (although I found it hard to believe she’d agree to go out with him in the first place). The relationship was quite sweet. I couldn’t relate to Hill’s character and style. Is this what people that age are like? He seemed like more of a caricature. Everyone felt that way. Only London‘s character felt a bit more realistic. Julia Louis-Dreyfus did well with what she was given and was funny as always but, again, the character was too ridiculous. Same goes for Eddie Murphy. Nia Long was given absolutely nothing to do. Did find David Duchovny’s cluelessly dumb father quite fun, though, and liked Sam Jay as Hill’s friend.
I think it just wrapped things up too nicely at the end. So after all that bullshit they suddenly all accept everyone for who they are, cocaine habits and all? They should still think about moving far far away from their families & the cocaine friends. – 6/10
– Dog Gone – My first 2023 release I watched! This was safe and wholesome and a bit bland but it had a loveable dog in it so who cares. It’s apparently based on a true story but it looks like they changed the character of the dog’s owner quite a bit, making him younger & not telling the tragic reason why he got a dog. Not sure why but maybe they wanted to keep the story a little more lighthearted? An inoffensive sweet dog movie to pass the time on a weekend afternoon. And Rob Lowe is looking mighty fine at this age. – 6/10
– The Batman – I’m admittedly not a huge fan of superheroes. Don’t read comics but watch the movies. Enjoy them but they’re throwaway entertainment for me. When it comes to Batman, Tim Burton’s is my preference. Usually prefer more lightweight superhero movies to the dark & dreary ones now so knew this one probably wasn’t going to be for me but, bloody hell, I didn’t think it would be so boring.
Robert Pattinson‘s emo Batman put me to sleep (literally), Zoë Kravitz looked lovely but she & Pattinson both had zero presence in this, and Andy Serkis had no character development whatsoever but I guess we’re meant to have an emotional attachment to him since we already know who he is thanks to there being so many Batman stories. That may be the problem, though. As I said I’m not some huge fan & this movie seemed to be for the fans who read the comics & already know all the characters well as this movie didn’t set any of them up at all. The movie seemed to assume you already know all you need to know about everyone but I need a movie to make me care about the characters, even when they’re characters I’ve seen in other films already. I have zero desire to watch a sequel to this version whereas I did want to see what would happen in each of the Nolan films (and I’m not even a big fan of those, either, but they were great in setting up very strong characters). Oh, and the story in this was as dull as the actors. I guess Paul Dano was fine but he gives me a creepy vibe all the time anyway. Actually, Jeffrey Wright was decent too – a slightly more developed character than the rest for some reason.
I guess the best thing I can say about this is that it made me appreciate Nolan’s trilogy more. It also made me think much more highly of Joker. I still like Burton’s Batman the most & the same amount that I already did. It also didn’t affect how much I hate the ZS superhero movies. So I’m giving this an extra half a star as it at least still managed to be far better than any of those films. It’s not a horrible movie, it’s just dreadfully dull. – 6/10
– Stand By Me – I can’t fully put into words how much this movie means to me. I watched it every day after school when I was 13. Finally rewatched it with my daughter as she’s the right age now & am very happy to say that she liked it too. Have never reviewed it as I find it hard to review my all-time favorites but wrote quite a bit about what it means to me on this list I did on my blog: My Top Ten Stand By Me Insults. 🙂 – 10/10
– Footloose – Felt like rewatching this ‘80s favorite. Being the age I am I grew up on this so of course love it, although certainly not to the same degree as the John Hughes teen movies. Reminds me of my small American town (minus the crazy people banning music & dancing). One of the most Eighties movies of them all. Man I miss those days & miss when movies had such great soundtracks. – 8/10
– Circle – Seen this film 3 times now as I keep convincing others to watch it with me. Just love the idea, which very much feels like it could have been a classic Twilight Zone story. And still love that one of the film’s actors & producers commented on my full review of this on my blog (here). Love when that happens. I recommend checking this one out if you like the sound of the story. – 7.5/10
Documentaries, Shorts, Miscellaneous:
– The Imposter – This was certainly an unbelievable story but surprisingly far less shocking than I was expecting based on other documentaries from recent years. I’m not sure what it says about the state of the world that this ten year old doc doesn’t seem quite so outrageous now. Seriously, though – that guy looked nothing like that missing kid. There was definitely something else going on in this wild story. And I can’t believe this guy did the same thing over & over again. Crazy stuff.
Managed to watch three short Oscar nominees:
– The Elephant Whisperers – This was a lovely short documentary about a couple who raise orphaned baby elephants in India. God I want to raise a baby elephant! Absolutely adorable.
– The Martha Mitchell Effect – Intriguing story about the wife of John Mitchell, Nixson’s Attorney General. She helped to bring down Nixson over that whole Watergate thang by being a cool busybody who shared way too much info & was treated like shit for being a woman with an opinion.
– Le Pupille – This was a weird little story. Didn’t really see the point of it & absolutely hate stories where sweet orphans are treated like shit by nuns. But the girls in it were very cute.
BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS IN JANUARY
TV SHOWS WATCHED
– The Last Of Us: S1 E1-3– Have zero knowledge of this game but enjoying the show so far. But I do always love anything apocalyptic & zombielike… Thought episode three was really good in giving us a great backstory to, from what I understand, a lesser character from the game? Am hoping they’ll do that more with the main characters. They’ve fleshed out Pascal’s character somewhat in that strong first episode with his daughter but we know nothing about that woman he was later with & they have yet to really make us care about that Game Of Thrones girl. We’ll see. Will definitely keep watching.
– Chucky: S2 E1 – The first season was a bit of fun throwaway entertainment. Got a bit too ridiculous at the end, though. Don’t think this first episode was a strong start to season 2 but will give another episode or two a try. Guess they have to try to set things up again with all those they didn’t kill off.
– One Of Us Is Lying: S1 – This was… Meh. It’s based on a YA book I’d been thinking about reading. Was annoyed after starting it to realise it was 2 seasons instead of just 1. We need more limited series shows! Am I the only one who likes a limited series?! I don’t have time to devote to TV shows that just get worse season by season as they milk the fuck out of everything these days. I don’t think I care enough about this one to bother with season 2.
Very nearly finished with Fairy Tale by Stephen King so will review it next month. Loving it!
Here’s some more sexy Paul Newman 🥵
BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH
Well, I’ll probably spend the next month watching as many Oscar nominees as possible before the Academy Awards. Not many on services, though, so won’t manage to see many of the biggest nominees. I’ve seen only four of the Best Picture nominees but have a feeling I’ve seen the winner anyway (I think it’s between Everything Everywhere All At Once or The Banshees Of Inisherin). All Quiet On The Western Front could have a small chance & I’ve just watched that over the weekend. Hoping I can find a place to watch all the animated shorts. Any idea where to see those?!
As I said, I really enjoyed the Last Night In Soho soundtrack so I should really finish this post with one of the great ’60s songs capturing the mood of that era. But I HAVE to finish with a song that played during “current day” in the movie as I love this song. Here’s Happy House by Siouxsie and the Banshees:
Starring: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Samuel L. Jackson
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) In the film, David Dunn gets locked in a mental hospital alongside his once-rival Mr. Glass, as well as the multi-personality “The Horde,” and must escape from a psychiatrist who is out to prove the trio do not actually possess super-human abilities.
Well, this was disappointing. But I did expect it to be disappointing. Maybe I should stop watching movies I expect to be disappointing… I’d save a lot of money!
I like M. Night Shyamalanfor the most part. I’ve watched almost all of his movies because I do enjoy his stories and, yes, I like a twist even though he’s known for them so it’s never exactly a big surprise. I can’t say I’ve truly loved any of his films but do think The Sixth Sense is pretty great, especially if you saw it at the time and he wasn’t yet known as “that guy who does twists” (I saw it when it came out and no one yet knew the ending). The Village is also pretty good, although a lot seem to hate it. The rest, however, are unfortunately the very definition of “meh”. But I still weirdly enjoy his movies while watching them. I just never feel the need to ever watch them again…
Okay, I’ve ranked all his movies I’ve seen from my least favorite to my favorite (only the bottom two truly suck):
Lady In The Water
Devil Split The Visit
The Sixth Sense
I guess I have Glass pretty high. To be fair, I didn’t hate it (my hubby did). I can see why it has such mixed reviews, though. For me, it was what I expected so I didn’t hate it. I’ve leaned to go into Shyamalan’s films with very low expectations! I think he should be given some credit for creating a whole new comic book/superpowers trilogy that feels unique & original compared to all the damn superhero movies that I’m getting very sick of. It’s just unfortunate that this trilogy doesn’t go out with the bang I was hoping. It’s more of a whimper. Shyamalan likes to go over the top so often – I wish he’d given this a crazy as fuck ending that we’d all remember in the same way we all remember the ending of The Sixth Sense.
Unbreakable is still the best in the trilogy by far but I did like this one more than Split. I loved seeing Bruce Willis and especially Samuel L. Motherfucking Jackson again and I far preferred seeing these three together than when it was just James McAvoy being a lone psycho killer (I’ve never been big on murder-y crime movies). Speaking of McAvoy, he’s great in both these films. He’s better than Willis & Jackson, who are kind of just phoning it in for this one (but they’re huge stars – that happens sometimes). I still love Jackson – he’s one of those actors who’ll make me watch a movie just because he’s in it.
Well, that’s it. I need to keep these “reviews” short anyway if I’m going to keep up on reviewing cinema releases this year. I just don’t have much to say about this one other than that it’s a shame that a good idea feels like a bit of a waste after how Glass ends. It feels a bit “So what?”. Good idea, actors I like, and a really good performance from McAvoy made it worth watching, at least. I continue to think Shyamalan has good story ideas and I respect that as it’s more than most of us will ever accomplish. But I wish the end products could be as good as his ideas – only The Sixth Sense has managed to accomplish this.
The Secret Of Marrowbone (2018) (Spanish: El secreto de Marrowbone)
Directed & Written by Sergio G. Sánchez
Starring: George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Mia Goth, Matthew Stagg, Kyle Soller, Nicola Harrison, Tom Fisher, Myra Pearse
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) A young man and his three younger siblings, who have kept secret the death of their beloved mother in order to remain together, are plagued by a sinister presence in the sprawling manor in which they live.
I’m super picky (snobby?) when it comes to horror. I think 90% of modern horror films suck. So why do I keep watching them?! I’ve seen a lot of extra bad ones lately, too. Ugh. But I keep watching them because it’s a genre I really like on the rare occasion that there’s a good one nowadays. This is one of those “pretty good” ones. Yay! It’s certainly no masterpiece like The Shining or something but I enjoyed it. And I also somehow didn’t guess the obvious ending (duh).
Horror is probably the most divisive genre, though. Well, horror & comedy. So this one won’t work for everyone like it did for me. I prefer psychological horror and/or supernatural horror & I like when they actually have decent characters instead of poorly written, hateful ones. This film isn’t going to change the world and I can’t say it’s something we haven’t seen before but it’s definitely a well-made psychological horror with decent characters. The story revolves around four siblings who have to keep their mother’s death a secret until the oldest boy turns 21 and can legally take care of them so that they don’t get separated. I really did feel for the oldest boy and the pressure this responsibility had on him. It was sad how it kept him from being able to live his own, normal life (he’s in love with their neighbor, played by Anya Taylor-Joy).
And then, of course, there’s the “sinister presence” in their house (their house which of course is in the middle of nowhere – the “neighbor” I mentioned is still miles away from them). I won’t get into that to avoid spoilers but I’ll say there’s probably much less of that spooky presence than hardcore horror fans may be wanting. The focus of this film really is on the drama of the story and the character development. It may be too slow for some but I really enjoyed seeing a modern horror film with strong characters and a good, solid story. I liked it. YES. Finally. I liked a modern horror! (But I liked A Quiet Place even more – that’s a great modern horror!)
The Witch (2015) (stylized as The VVitch, subtitled A New-England Folktale)
Directed & Written by Robert Eggers
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The Witch follows a Puritan family encountering forces of evil in the woods beyond their New England farm.
I’d really been looking forward to this after it got some great reviews, which is rare for a horror movie. I’ve been very disappointed with the horror genre these last 20 years or so. It’s so rare to get a good one anymore. However, there’s been an increase in good horror films the past few years (I especially loved The Babadook & It Follows). I did a list last October of My Top Ten Horror Movies Of The 21st Century and was disappointed I’d not yet seen The Witch as it sounded like another good modern horror that may actually make my list. I’m sad to say that, while I think it’s an okay film, I can’t say I loved it & I certainly don’t need to add it to that Top Ten list.
I can see why it has its fans. There’s a good atmosphere & I did like the genuine oldy worldy feel of witches & satanic goats & all that good devil stuff. When it comes to horror subgenres, I love a good devil movie! The Omen is a favorite. What a classic. And I guess I can again plug one of my favorite top ten lists – My Top Ten Devil & Hell Songs. Clearly, witches and demons make for great movie & music material. Therefore, I suppose it didn’t help that I had such high expectations for this movie…
Anya Taylor-Joy does a good job as Thomasin, a girl whose deeply religious 17th century Puritan family go a bit crazy when mysterious happenings occur. Her mother (Kate Dickie, who was Lysa Arryn in Game Of Thrones) is a nutjob once again engaging in some breastfeeding weirdness. She’s a bit like Carrie’s mother in Carrie but unfortunately not nearly as entertaining as the wonderful Piper Laurie in that. When bad things start happening, such as the disappearance of her newborn, she blames Thomasin for everything. There’s lots of praying & religious hysteria & I really wanted poor Thomasin to be able to get away from all that shit. Luckily, her father does have some sense and tries to protect her a little bit. Except for Thomasin & her father, it was hard to really care about what would happen to anyone.
The Witch is a good old-fashioned atmospheric horror movie that relies on a slow build-up of terror instead of jump scares and/or lots of gore. It’s my type of horror but just didn’t quite work for me. Overall, I was a bit bored but can see why some people really liked it.
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Brad William Henke, Sebastian Arcelus, Neal Huff
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) After three girls are kidnapped by a man with 24 distinct personalities they must find some of the different personalities that can help them while running away and staying alive from the others.
This is one of those movies where I walked out of the cinema not entirely sure how I felt about it. At first, I mainly thought it was just okay. But the more I thought about it, the more I disliked it. Now, writing this a day after seeing it, I think my main feeling for Split is disappointment. I didn’t hate it. I certainly didn’t love it. A return to form for M. Night Shyamalan? Possibly. But it’s mainly a return to his ability to make movies I’m really interested in seeing as I love the setups and I do enjoy them when I’m in the middle of watching them but, thinking about them later on, I realize they’re not actually very good films (other than The Sixth Sense, to which I still remain faithful).
I think I feel quite similar about Split as I do The Visit (which I reviewed HERE), although they’re very different. I don’t think either is a horrible film and they’re indeed much better than some of M. Night’s huge stinkers in recent years but both are still extremely flawed, especially in their final acts. Split is probably the “better” film in that it’s played straight with some acting that’s of a higher standard than you expect in the horror genre while The Visit is so over-the-top silly that I’m still convinced it’s a horror comedy despite not being labelled as such. But I think Split has made me like The Visit a fraction more in that the latter was a more enjoyable film to sit through despite its silliness. Let’s face it – M. Night’s ideas are silly. Perhaps he should do them in a more comedic fashion as he did in The Visit?? Split takes itself too seriously. The characters are unlikable whereas those in The Visit are so goofily f*%ked-up that you can’t help but kind of like them. Does that make sense?? I’m rambling. Here are all the Shyamalan films I’ve seen ranked from worst to best according to how much I liked them (including one he only wrote):
Lady In The Water
The Sixth Sense
Shut up and talk about the movie, right? You know how hard it is to discuss this dude’s films in a spoiler-free fashion! One thing I’ll say for his movies is this: The majority of them have pretty big name stars and some quality acting despite the horror genre and the often outrageous storylines. I think this has helped to give Shyamalan’s films a bit more credibility than is actually deserved?
As I said, I stand by my opinion that The Sixth Sense is a good piece of filmmaking although people are sometimes negative about it now since the ending is so well known. But everyone involved acted their asses off for that “horror” film (don’t forget that Collette & Osment were up for Acting Oscars as well as Shyamalan for Director & Screenplay and the whole thing for Best Picture!). I don’t think Split’s acting is Oscar calibre but it’s still very good for its kind of film. McAvoy is of course the standout having to play various personalities but I also thought his psychiatrist, Betty Buckley, was very good as was young Anya Taylor-Joy (this is her first film I’ve seen). Oh! And I loved finding out that Betty Buckley was the nice gym teacher in the original Carrie – I didn’t know that until I looked her up just now:
So, bravo to the actors who once again help to elevate an M. Night Shyamalan film. Without them, I think this would be very much in danger of being a bargain bin straight-to-video horror (okay – it’s not straight to “video” anymore, I suppose. Showing my age!). Thanks to the success of The Sixth Sense, I think Shyamalan has been able to continue making films that are just good enough to keep him in the game. I want to like his movies more. I like his ideas but rarely like his execution. I want one of his movies to fully reach its potential (funny, as I do believe this is a line quite often uttered by McAvoy’s character). I also want to stick to my 2017 blog resolution of not writing long, rambling reviews! Let’s wrap this up.
Split isn’t horrible and has some very good performances but is as ultimately disappointing overall as I’ve now come to expect from M. Night Shyamalan’s films. I can see why it has a fairly high IMDB user rating so far as this will either be due to a) loyal fans who’ve watched all his films as he has a surprise in store for them ORb) full-on “horror” fans as this is the most straightforward horror film that Shyamalan has made. It’s more straightforward horror than I like, personally, so perhaps that’s partly why I was disappointed. I prefer bizarre & supernatural, which is why I’ve put up with a lot of the silly shit he’s come up with. So, in some ways, I do agree that this film is a better film than a lot of his work but I personally didn’t like it that much.
Also, two things quite bothered me. The main thing was that I didn’t like some of the treatment of the kidnapped teenage girls. Shyamalan mostly makes “PG-13 horror”. That’s its rating in the U.S. but I wouldn’t let a 13-year-old watch this (it’s rated 15 in the UK). Obviously I want to avoid spoilers but there are sexual themes that I don’t think are necessarily handled that well considering the film’s low rating & young-looking actresses. There’s also an implication that two of the girls “deserve” what terrible fate may await them because, I dunno… They’re popular? They don’t come across as really mean girls or anything.
The other thing is more minor but it just annoyed me. There’s an extra bit tacked onto the VERY end of the movie, as the credits have started to roll with the final scene still going, and it feels extremely out of place. This bit should’ve been a mid or end credits scene. This extra bit is for loyal fans and some of you will love it. Half those in my cinema walked out the second the credits started rolling despite the scene clearly still continuing (why the hell do people do that?!) so those type of people clearly don’t care about this small extra bit anyway. Hey, Mr. Shyamalan! Stick something like that halfway through the credits next time to reward those who stick around! (FYI – I rolled my eyes a bit at this tacked-on scene but also admit I kind of like Shyamalan’s obvious future plan…. Why do I never give up on his films?!)