Movie Review – Split

Director :   M Night Shyamalan
Year Of Release :   206
Principal Cast :  James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Brad William Henke, Sebastian Arcelus, Neal Huff, Kim Director.
Approx Running Time :  117 Minutes
Synopsis:  Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities. They must try to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.

*****

When Hollywood’s history is finally written, there’s a fair bet an entire chapter will be centred around the career of one M Night Shyamalan – one-time wunderkind director of The Sixth Sense, the transformative thriller that returned “twist” endings to the mainstream, eventual B-movie slop helmer of The Last Airbender, and current phoenix with critical the success of The Visit. For the longest time, Shyamalan appeared to have lost “it”, the inexplicable, intangible creative thing that drove his best films, and many feared the once great auteur would never regain the form that made him a fan favourite. Split, not to be confused with either of the other two 2016 films of the same name by Jamie Buckner and Debbie Kampmeir, absolutely returns Shyamalan to the top of the “must watch” heap; Split is terrifying and creepy and all kinds of bizarre, and if nothing else it proves that the director’s knock-out work in his heyday wasn’t a fluke.

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Movie Review – Ghost In The Shell (2017)

Director :  Rupert Sanders.
Year Of Release :   2017
Principal Cast :  Scarlett Johansson, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, Michael Carmen Pitt, Pilou Asbæk, Chin Han, Juliette Binoche, Peter Ferdinando, Kaori Momoi, Lazarus Ratuere.
Approx Running Time :   99 Minutes
Synopsis:  In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.

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One of the aspects I love about hard science fiction is its dissection of the nature of what it means to be human. Either through robotics, cybernetics or some quasi-possible integration between humankind and machine, the subject of identity, or self, is a well travelled pathway for storytellers looking at futurism through a prism of concern. Ghost In The Shell, an anime franchise that’s become synonymous with the genre globally thanks primarily to its narrative encompassing such intellectual heights, has had a Hollywood re-imagining long in gestation, beset with controversy – although we’ll leave the “whitewashing” stuff for another time – and fractious with Western fans. While I’ve only ever seen the original film (which itself was based on a manga comic series), I’m familiar with it enough as an overarching thematic statement in popular culture to hazard a guess that this 2017 version, while spectacularly beautiful and certainly focusing its considerable energies in the right direction, will go down as an “admirable failure” despite director Rupert Sanders’ (Snow White & The Huntsman) best efforts.

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Movie Review – xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Director :  DJ Caruso
Year Of Release :   2017
Principal Cast :  Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Kris Wu, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCain, Toni Collette, Samuel L Jackson.
Approx Running Time :   116 Minutes
Synopsis:

******

 And so Vin Diesel’s search for a non-Furious franchise continues. Shoehorned into position as one of cinemas most indecipherable action stars, beefcake actor Vin Diesel’s famous decision to not appear in 2 Fast 2 Furious and take on the xXx character with director Rob Cohen, was (in hindsight) a misstep. Audiences didn’t exactly embrace Diesel’s heavily tattooed adrenaline junkie persona, at least not critically. Diesel, also heavily invested in his third franchise involving Riddick, has failed to crack the blockbuster realm outside of fast cars and insane physics, although it’s a fair bet that Return of Xander Cage, the third of the xXx films, is as close as he’s come yet. This, of course, disregards his work as the voice of sentient tree Groot in Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy franchise. The original xXx film was by and large indistinguishable action junk, given heft by Rob Cohen’s concussive direction, and the less said about Diesel-free sequel State Of The Union the better. So can Return of Xander Cage deliver Diesel a viable non-Furious franchise to intersperse his career with?

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Movie Review – Colossal

Director :   Nacho Vigalondo
Year Of Release :   2017
Principal Cast :  Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson.
Approx Running Time :   110 Minutes
Synopsis:  Gloria is an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in NY and move back home. When reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, she gradually comes to the realisation that she is somehow connected to this phenomenon.

*******

This review does contain spoilers for Colossal. Do not read on if you wish to remain unspoiled!

Colossal isn’t the film you think it is. If you’ve caught any of the marketing for this flick, you’ll know it’s about Anne Hathaway inexplicably controlling a giant kaiju monster terrorising Seoul, in Korea, via some kind of telepathic link. Colossal is indeed that film, but it’s a whole drawer of something else entirely as well; Jason Sudeikis’ lead role ventures into territory I was actually surprised with, considering the initial tone of Colossal’s whimsy and black humour, and although I felt the juxtaposition of the creature’s antics and the dark nature of the central plot (no, the monster isn’t the central plot of Colossal) didn’t quite mix as well as I’d have liked to make this an enjoyable film in the true sense, there’s enough within Colossal’s wry narrative and winking-at-the-audience aesthetic to make it something of an underground cult classic.

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Trailer Trash! – Transformers: The Last Knight (Final trailer, hopefully)

The incomprehensible garbage train that is Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise has delivered to us an even less coherent trailer than what’s come before. Witness the great Anthony Hopkins slumming it as Captain Exposition! Watch Mark Wahlberg continue to look utterly befuddled by all that transpires! Glare at a sextet of children forced slave-labour style to endure Bay’s sense of “whimsy”! Astound to the use of pyrotechnics used to fill the entire film with ephemeral jetsam reminiscent of the Normandy beach landing! The Last Knight lands into cinemas soon, will make a shit-ton of money, and prompt Bay to un-retire from helming this trash and make more of them.

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Movie Review – Aftermath

Director :   Elliot Lester
Year Of Release :   2017
Principal Cast :  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scoot McNairy, Maggie Grace, Martin Donovan, Hannah Ware, Mariana Klaveno, Kevin Zegers, Larry Sullivan, Teri Clark Linden.
Approx Running Time :   94 Minutes
Synopsis:  Two strangers’ lives become inextricably bound together after a devastating plane crash.

*******

Since his return from governing the state of California, the Austrian Oak’s film resume has resembled a schizophrenic approach to latter-day projects, most obviously represented in the legendary action star’s appearance in the Expendables movies, to say nothing about Escape Plan and The Last Stand. In keeping with his more restrained on-screen persona these days, Arnie has also embarked upon a series of more dramatic projects, stretching himself as an actor rather than a gun-totin’ hulk slaying all before him. Maggie, for example, is an attempt at a more mellow, emotional portrayal for Arnie, while David Ayer’s fumbling Sabotage tried to being humanity to an otherwise unlikeable character. Aftermath is another attempt to bring dramatic width to Arnie’s late stage career, a story based off a real-life tragedy occurring in 2002, and grafted onto Schwarzenegger’s particular brand of screen charisma. While it doesn’t always work, Aftermath’s entrenched sombre human story is soul-destroying on so many levels, and affects the viewer in any number of ways.

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Movie Review – Mine (2016)

Director :   Fabio Guaglione + Fabio Resinaro
Year Of Release :   2016
Principal Cast :  Armie Hammer, Annabelle Wallis, Tom Cullen, Clint Dyer, Geoff Bell, Juliet Aubrey, Ines Pinar Mille, Luka Peros, Daniel Sandoval.
Approx Running Time :   106 Minutes
Synopsis:  After a failed assassination attempt during a mission in North Africa, US soldier Mike Stevens finds himself trapped on a land mine. If he moves, the mine will explode. Exposed to the desert elements, he must survive the dangers of the desert and battle the psychological and physical toll of the treacherous conditions, remaining motionless for two days waiting for help.

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If only Don LaFontaine was alive to voice the trailer for Mine. It’s right up inside his wheelhouse: “In a world where every step could be your last, one man’s foothold on life hangs by a bootlace.” I giggle just thinking about it. One thing I can’t giggle about is Mine, a war film of a different kind hidden beneath a survival story wrapped up around Armie Hammer’s dependable, stoic performance as stranded soldier Mike Stevens, about as bland a nomenclature as you could hope for for this good ol’ ‘Murican boy standing in a desert with one foot on a landmine. Mine occupies similar territory to other Man Alone ventures, including Cast Away, Ryan Reynolds’ Buried, Tom Hardy’s Locke and in some manner, Hitchcock’s Rear Window: the story revolves around the central character’s lack of movement within a specific landscape – here, the sand-blown vistas of some random Middle Eastern country – and the emotional toll both his environment and mental anxiety places upon him.

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