Split (2016) Review

**SPOILER-FREE (and meaningless rambling) REVIEW**

Split (2016)

Directed & Written by M. Night Shyamalan

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.

My Opinion:

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 Happening
Devil
Split
The Visit
Signs
Unbreakable
The Village
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.

Summary:

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 OR b) 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?!)

My Rating: 6/10

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Starter For 10 (2006) Review

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Starter For 10 (2006)

Directed by Tom Vaughan

Produced by Tom Hanks, Pippa Harris & Sam Mendes

Written by David Nicholls

Starring:
James McAvoy
Alice Eve
Benedict Cumberbatch
Rebecca Hall
Dominic Cooper
Catherine Tate
James Corden

Running time: 92 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Starter for 10 is a 2006 British comedy-drama film directed by Tom Vaughan from a screenplay by David Nicholls, adapted from his own novel Starter for Ten. The film stars James McAvoy as a university student who wins a place on a University Challenge quiz team.

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My Opinion:

I decided to watch this the other day after reading a review from the lovely Emma on MovieRob’s blog (HERE). I’d known about it but hadn’t known that it was set in my beloved 1980s until I read her review so that was all I needed to convince me to watch it.

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Starter For Ten is a book by David Nicholls. I’ve not read it (but Emma has & says it’s of course better than the movie). I did read One Day by David Nicholls and, although it’s very flawed, I still liked the book & the movie (despite the fact that Anne Hathaway was in it – staring at Jim Sturgess & his big brown eyes helped a little). Plus, as I said, Starter For 10 is set in the EIGHTIES! Woohoo! Well, unfortunately, the movie is a bit bland. And as for the 1980s, this is one of those movies where it doesn’t actually look or feel all that much like that decade even though they throw in as much music as possible from that era. Don’t get me wrong – I love 80’s music. At one point I looked at the hubby & said “are they actually playing my playlist?” as it’s filled with things like New Order, The Smiths, Tears For Fears and LOADS of songs from The Cure. It’s nice hearing a bunch of my favorite songs but, at the same time, it also feels very lazy on the part of the filmmakers. It’s like “See? Our movie is set in the eighties because we’re playing The Cure! Ignore Alice Eve with her big boobs & her very un-eighties clothes & blonde highlights – just listen to Motörhead!”

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I will say this movie is only really worth a watch if you’re a fan of any of its stars or if you enjoy similar British films. There are some very big names in Starter For 10 so it was fun seeing them just before most of them made it really big in blockbusters like the X-Men, Star Trek & Iron Man series of films. The storyline was extremely predictable to the point of almost being annoying (I’m talking especially about the romance!) but, when the group finally appear on the game show they’ve been preparing for, the film does get a little more fun. The movie is very “British” and I couldn’t help but compare it to Nick Hornby’s books & movies. I have to say I far prefer Hornby & would recommend his stuff over this (especially the book High Fidelity). Overall, Starter For 10 just didn’t really work for me. It’s not a bad movie but the predictable plot and one-dimensional characters just left me feeling “Meh. So what?”. Watch it if you like the actors but first check out some Nick Hornby. And The Cure’s greatest hits!

My Rating: 5.5/10

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X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014) Review

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X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014)

Directed by Bryan Singer

Starring:
Hugh Jackman
James McAvoy
Michael Fassbender
Jennifer Lawrence
Halle Berry
Anna Paquin
Ellen Page
Peter Dinklage
Ian McKellen
Patrick Stewart

Running time: 131 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The story, inspired by the 1981 Uncanny X-Men storyline “Days of Future Past” by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, focuses on two time periods and Wolverine being sent to 1973 to save the future of mutantkind.

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My Opinion:

Review number 3 from my 4-Movie-Marathon from last week! I still say Edge Of Tomorrow was by far the best, A Million Ways To Die In The West was last (but still fun). I really thought Days Of Future Past would be my favorite but, unfortunately, it was a not-very-close second…

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I’ll say it for the millionth time (hey – you never know when I might get a new reader here!), I enjoy comic book movies but have no knowledge of the comic books themselves (well, I read Watchmen but that’s it). When the X-Men movies came along, I LOVED them. I thought the characters were great & they just felt very different to a lot of other comic book movies that had come before them. Plus… Patrick Stewart & Ian McKellen! Those two are fucking legends. Love them love them love them!!! They’re still my two favorite characters as well so, don’t get me wrong – it was wonderful seeing them together in this. And I think James McAvoy & especially Michael Fassbender are perfect as the younger versions of these two greats. So no complaints when it came to the scenes involving either generation of these two characters – those were my favorite bits. (And god Michael Fassbender is sexy).

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Wolverine was… Fine. Maybe I’m just a bit Wolverined-out (and I’ve not even seen The Wolverine yet – the only one I’ve missed out on). Hugh Jackman is still great but he just wasn’t my favorite character in this one. (And was he always so veiny?!). I liked Quicksilver and a couple scenes with him were probably the highlights of the movie. I don’t really have any complaints about Jennifer Lawrence in this and I liked Peter Dinklage (hey! I’ve finally made a start on Game Of Thrones, people! DON’T TELL ME ANYTHING! I’ve only seen 4 episodes!). So… All these things I’ve mentioned were good. Or at least okay. But………..

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I thought the story was a bit of a mess. Sorry! Sorry! I’m sorry! Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful! (Lol – you may all be too young to get that reference). Like I said in my Edge Of Tomorrow review, that film had the more complex plot yet it managed to pull it off nicely whereas Days Of Future Past just felt totally convoluted. I didn’t really think the future scenes worked at all & it kind of threw me out of the film whenever they’d go back to those scenes. But without them, there’d have been no Stewart & McKellen, so… that would have sucked, I guess. I just wish those scenes had worked better.

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Plus there were these new characters thrown in there that I didn’t know and they weren’t introduced at all so they meant nothing to me as I don’t read the comic books. We got zero character development on the new “future” characters yet we’re meant to care about their fate (well, Storm was there but who actually likes Storm??). Also, I often get a little annoyed at “time travel” in movies that aren’t actually ABOUT time travel. Or aren’t sci-fi. Well let’s just stick time travel in any ‘ol movie then! So, the overall plot here is what didn’t really work for me. I still love these characters. I still love the X-Men universe. This movie certainly isn’t the worst of the X-Men films (I’d personally place it as the fourth best) but it was a weaker entry than I was hoping it would be.

My Rating: 7/10

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Trance (2013) Review

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After an art heist gone wrong & a gash on the head resulting in his memory loss, art auctioneer James McAvoy finds himself in a hairy situation with a group of criminals. Rosario Dawson is the hypnotherapist hired to unlock the mystery of a missing painting buried deep in McAvoy’s mind – to lay things bare & help him out of a close shave with the criminals.

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Okay – I’ll try to take this review seriously now…

I like most of Danny Boyle’s films but wouldn’t call myself a huge fan. 28 Days Later is by far my favorite and I also really like Shallow Grave, Sunshine & Trainspotting. I haven’t watched 127 Hours or Slumdog Millionaire (they don’t really appeal to me) but, obviously, Slumdog won lots of Oscars. So… Maybe I went to Trance with expectations that were too high as he’s an Oscar winning director with some films I’ve really enjoyed. What I’m taking ages to say is this: Trance was a huge disappointment.

The movie starts with an art auction & James McAvoy’s art auctioneer telling us in voiceover what you do in the event of an attempted robbery – you get the most valuable painting to a safe place & it’s his job to do this. I thought this movie started out GREAT. The art heist right at the beginning was very exciting and I liked the music and everything was all “slick and cool” and I was like “Yep, this is a Danny Boyle film”. If only the rest of the movie had lived up to the beginning…

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During the heist, McAvoy’s character is getting the main painting (Goya’s “Witches In The Air”, worth £25 million in the film if I remember correctly) to its safe place when he’s confronted by one of the thieves (Vincent Cassel) and, after a brief struggle, gets knocked unconscious and develops amnesia. The painting disappears and only McAvoy’s character knows the truth of what’s happened to it. Unfortunately, he now can’t remember. This is where, as said earlier, Rosario Dawson comes in as the hypnotherapist who tries to help McAvoy to recover the painting.

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Sounds like a great plot, doesn’t it? It is! But then it twists and turns and twists and turns some more and you get the whole “Who’s really the good/bad guy/girl? Who’s on whose side? Who’s being double-crossed? Who is lying? Who is telling the truth? What parts of this movie are real and which bits are just part of a hypnosis-induced trance???”. All of which are fine as long as the many twists & turns are handled well (and, more importantly, you CARE enough to follow all the twists & turns). This is where Trance failed for me. I just didn’t care.

The movie becomes a complicated mess. And I didn’t care enough about any of the characters to try to follow along. It’s like Inception done poorly (no trouble following that one – it was good enough to hold my interest). And the criminals were a bit like if those in Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels had been completely uninteresting & humorless. Yeah – good description I think: Trance is like an inferior cross between Inception & Lock Stock.

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As for the actors in this, everyone was “fine”. Vincent Cassel was the only one I really felt was the right fit for the role. James McAvoy was okay but just not QUITE right. I don’t know who may have been better in the role, though – I think the decision to cast him wasn’t a bad one. Rosario Dawson also didn’t feel quite right. She did well enough. Meh. I just don’t care! I don’t think anything is the fault of the actors anyway – I think it’s the script that’s to be blamed.

Before I trash this too much (I’m feeling kind of bad – I really do love 28 Days Later!), here’s the good points:

The Art. I wish I had any sort of knowledge about art. I liked seeing the artwork in this. Obviously Goya’s “Witches In The Air” is the one the whole plot revolves around but there’s a good (trance) scene later on showing some other famous missing paintings. And the overall look of the movie is good (of course – it’s a professionally made Danny Boyle film). The only thing I hated was Rosario Dawson’s ORANGE apartment (at least I think it was her place? Saw this four days ago & already forgetting it – the sign of a not-very-good movie). Seriously, I hate the color orange! What does that say about me? Love green! Someone analyze me. Never mind – I’m sure I can just Google that. 😉

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The Music. Danny Boyle is known for good music in his films. I think the music in both 28 Days Later & Sunshine is especially fantastic. And, of course, Trainspotting! Once again, Boyle worked with Rick Smith of Underworld for Trance. The music in Trance isn’t quite as good or as memorable as in the other Boyle films I mentioned but it’s still pretty good. And there’s an UNKLE song in it! Yay!

Summary: Starts out great but then turns into a complicated mess. Slick, cool and stylish as to be expected from a Danny Boyle movie but it would be nice if that could go along with a good script and characters I care about in any sort of way. So… Meh. I hate saying that about a Danny Boyle movie but, unfortunately, that’s what it is. Other than that one part…

Holy full-frontal female nudity!!!!

Boom! WTF? That suddenly came out of nowhere! I’m not a prude (seriously – look at a couple of my posts over the last couple of weeks). But Bloody hell… Was that really necessary?! And then they gave a really pathetic “reason” for having that in there. Ha! Excuses excuses. So the movie starts with a gash on the head and then… Well. Yeah. Not going there. You want to see it now, though. Don’t you. 😉

My Rating: 6/10

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UNKLE – Hold My Hand