Split – Spoiler Free Movie Review

If I asked you to find the most simplified form of 6/12, you’d probably say 1/2. Six multiplied by two equals to twelve, and so 50% is your final fraction as a percentage. Granted, most view this as some sort of mental math, and doesn’t require a calculator nor a calculated approach for that matter to get to a final answer.

The situation becomes a bit murky when asked the most simplified form of, say, 1/6. Not many people would know that that equals to ~ 16.67%, and so you would need a calculator to find that out. The moral of the story? Something simple doesn’t require you to think as much, but a slight change in the wording (or in this case, numbers), and it hits you right back at square one.

Retracing your steps back to where you started isn’t all that bad though; it allows you to do a postmortem on what went wrong or areas you could’ve improved. A postmortem, can go one of two ways; (1) It makes you think about your wrongs and lets you analyze ways to not have them happen again, or (2) In extreme cases, it can make you feel incredibly uncomfortable and even the slightest tinge of the nerve when someone brings that particular topic up can bring about some harrowing memories. One could surmise that thinking about a situation after-the-fact can lead to some split opinions, for lack of a better word.

What makes 2016’s Split so effective is that a lot of the tension in this horror/thriller is genuine. Jump scares are replaced with psychological fears, bland character development/writing is replaced with characters you can feel emotionally invested in, and the ending is vintage M.Night Shyamalan; a twist, which in this film parallels the unfortunate volatility of one suffering from a mental disorder.

James McAvoy, in perhaps his best performance since 2011’s X-Men: First Class, could be considered a jack of all mental trades. An heir to an assassin in 2008’s Wanted, a powerful telepathic in the aforementioned First Class, and now a cerebral manipulator as a result of his OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)-DID (dissociative identity disorder) diagnosis. It’s difficult to portray one character, let alone five. What I would have liked to see more (and hopefully the sequel delivers on this) is more of an origin story on how his illnesses manifested. Anya Taylor-Joy also had an amazing performance, and I personally liked how her unique backstory, coupled with her strong-willed determination, complemented (and combated against) the Scot’s more sadistic tendencies.

In terms of the technical, it was a well-put package overall. The use of both wide and narrow shots were well-executed and knew when to elevate tension and calm it. The cinematography and overall atmosphere were both effective and successfully achieved the target of the film: a stark reminder of the impact one’s psyche can have on a damaged individual. All in all, a definite return to form for a much maligned Shyamalan, especially after the abomination known as The Last Airbender.

The mind, like all organs, is delicate. It should be cherished, not wasted. It should be appreciated, not frowned upon. Thus, the mind’s eye (and therefore, mental health) is not a joke. I strongly advise anyone in this situation to seek whatever help is out there, and to not give up. The pursuit of happiness starts with a reflection of your best self, and taking that leap of faith might just be enough of a turning point you need to go from your current state to your desired state.

SCORE: 85/100

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Get Out – Spoiler Free Review

As recently as January of this year, I was made aware of the fact that our brains contain 90 to 95 percent water. Deep within the confines of the ebbs and flows permeating our mind’s eye lies an ecosystem of thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and norms. We often associate these four traits, on average, as essential to the development of a human being.

Of course, humans are not without their flaws, and so our perception of people cannot be a simple black and white canvas whose portrait or landscape orientation paints an idealistic picture that, as the saying goes, speaks a thousand words. In reality, numerous painters will be needed to complete the convoluted series of photos that reflect the roller coaster known as life’s trials and tribulations.

Get Out, a film by Jordan Peele (Key and Peele), takes the concept of an inter-racial couple and develops this roller coaster in a tale showing the harsh realities of oppressive, subservient behaviour in upper middle-class America. Having seen many satirical horror-comedies since I began doing amateur critiquing of films two years ago (e.g. Scream, Scary Movie), nothing has come close to the near-perfect balance of scary-funny than this. Underneath this see-saw of emotions however is a fulcrum of excellent character development, stunning cinematography, and a plot twist I’m still thinking about five or so hours after watching the film.

Aside from the technical details, I really enjoyed how the antagonists were a psychologist (hypnotherapist)-neurosurgeon tandem. Not since Shutter Island have I seen a lead character fitting in the mould of what the film genre’s portraying; a psycho-analytical look at the world of brain specialists/doctors and how manipulative they can be to get what they desire in dangerous places. The messed up stuff this family does to an extraordinary intellectual, with the goal of rendering him to a fragment of what he once was (an ordinary every-man in their pseudo-cult) is disturbing and gruesome, yet highlights the subtle oppression and racial undertones the film pushes forward to its audience.

In terms of performances, my standout would have to go to Catherine Keener, or hypnotherapist/psychologist Missy Armitage. You might also know her as Trish Piedmont, the woman Steve Carell’s gets to “know” in The 40 Year-Old Virgin. Oddly enough, I found her performance to be in the same vain as Kathy Bates’ role (super-fan Annie Wilkes) in Rob Reiner’s 1990 Stephen King adaptation of Misery. Both are manipulative and hell-bent on their sinister plans to come to fruition (Annie forcing James Caan’s Paul Sheldon to write her stories and Missy deploying similar tactics to be a part of her cult). Also, the fact that I watched Logan a day ago enabled me to appreciate the power of mind control and the influence it has on others.

So in conclusion, is this a movie that needs to be watched at some point in time? Absolutely. Is it a movie whose thematic content stands against the test of time? Absolutely. Is this going to be the start of a newfound appreciation for psychological thrillers? Perhaps. But one thing is for certain: Get Out is an experience that manages to successfully escape the grip of horror tropes like jump scares, and replaces it with thought-provoking socio-political commentary that challenges the viewer to think about what they have just watched. Just don’t think too deep, or else you might be trapped in an eternal never-ending void, forever.

SCORE: 95/100.

Doctor Strange – Spoiler-Free Review

So I’m kinda late to the party for this one, but I finally got the chance to see Doctor Strange. Directed by Scott Derrickson – who I had some apprehensions about considering he directed some notable duds (see: The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Day the Earth Stood Still) – it was actually a welcome surprise. Due in large part to the actors’ performances, as well as some stunning special effects, I’ll be going over some of the highlights of the film sans spoilers.

Before getting into the overarching story, I’d like to talk about a couple performances. Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness) does an amazing job of playing the titular character and the greatest name to ever give a villain in Dormammu. A neurosurgeon who is seen as the number one at a well known hospital, he then had an epiphany where his once famous hands were now unable to move due to a car accident. Overall, I found his cocky, know-it-all attitude hard to take at first, but once I realized what his true intentions were as a person, it did come full circle. His love interest (and I say that loosely) is portrayed by Rachel McAdams (Spotlight, The Notebook), and immediately, I noticed there was a Meredith Grey-Derek Shepherd relationship intertwining into this superhero flick. Tilda Swinton (I Am Love, We Need to Talk About Kevin) also had a great performance as the Ancient One, the master of the mystic arts. Finally, kudos to the homeboy Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Hannibal) for his stellar performance as the main villian, Kaecilius. Having been a fan of his since his portrayal of Le Chiffre, it was definitely a welcome return to form after starring in some movie duds (in my opinion at least) over the past couple years. SCORE: 8/10

The plot, in my view, mixed the aforementioned Grey’s Anatomy relationship/OTP with the whole Dumbledore’s Army vs. Voldemort’s Army trope seen in Harry Potter. As a fan of both, it was great to see how that would translate that to the MCU, but the addition of time and portal manipulation à la The Flash made this boring trope seem engaging and thoroughly interesting. The standout scene, in my opinion occurs in the second act. Again, without spoiling, Tilda Swinton’s character takes a surprising turn, and definitely warps the plot in more ways than one. SCORE: 8.5/10

All in all, i would recommend watching Doctor Strange, irrespective if you have background knowledge through the comics or if you’re a total newbie. The plot alone will glue you in, the special effects will make you stay in your seats, and the performances will make you remember this movie days after.

SCORE: 16.5/20 (82.5%)

Kelvin P

Manchester United vs. Leicester City (August 7, 2016) – FA Community Shield Review

The 2016-17 Premier League has begun with the annual FA Community Shield, in a battle pitting the winner of England’s top division against the winner of England’s most prestigious domestic cup competition. Following in the same vain as many of Europe’s top leagues (e.g. France’s Trophée des Champions, Italy’s Supercoppa Italia), here’s my review of today’s game between Manchester United and Leicester City.

FORMATION AND PLAYERS:

Leicester City (2015-16 Premier League winner): 4-4-2 (Schmeichel, Fuchs, Huth, Morgan, Simpson, Albrighton, King, Drinkwater, Mahrez, Vardy, Okazaki)

Manchester United (2015-16 FA Cup winner): 4-5-1 (De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw, Lingard, Carrick, Rooney, Fellaini, Martial, Ibrahimovic)

1st HALF:

Goal(s): Jesse Lingard does his best Saul Niguez impression with a blinder of a goal. Wes Morgan should’ve done a lot better and the replays showing Kasper Schmeichel’s frustration leaves a lot to be desired for a team who last year was seen as one of the best defensively.

Controversial calls/Cards: An offside call in the 22nd minute saw Jesse Lingard (I’ll probably refer to him as the guy who scored the FA Cup winner last year against Palace) offside, but I personally didn’t agree with the official on that call. A yellow card was also shown in the 39th minute on Danny Simpson for a foul on Shrek (I mean, Wayne Rooney).

Overall thoughts: Though there were times where it was a game of please dispose the ball, there were some really good moments on the defensive end from the likes of Fuchs and Bailly. Luke Shaw looks in tip top shape post Hector Moreno horror tackle, and uh, fair play to the cheeky nutmeg from Vardy on Bailly.

2nd HALF:

Goal(s): Jamie Vardy scores yet another one of his dazzling goals after a terrible giveaway from tempura-head Fellaini. On the other end, we saw an incredible cross from Antonio Valencia for Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s header, making it 2-1 at the half and the final score for this match.

Controversial calls/Cards: We saw a yellow card on Andy King after a strong tackle on Jesse Lingard, which was a tackle that I felt he didn’t need to do. Vardy got a yellow for a similar challenge on Mata, but if there’s one talking point, it’d be towards the end of the match where Ahmed Musa and the rest of the Foxes had strong reason to believe that there should’ve been a penalty. The ref only gave a corner, and effectively sealed the match for United.

Overall thoughts: Great pace and energy brought on from Leicester, a sentiment echoed by BTSport pundit Steve McManaman of Liverpool fame. Nemaplys Mendy (the answer to N’Golo Kanté) was solid and he looks to be a shrewd signing from Steve Walsh, who departed for Everton. Another newcomer in Ahmed Musa had a great chance to get a goal from a header, but skied it; overall, he was great on the pitch and definitely injected some pace in the squad. Finally, how about that challenge from Bailly on Gray (#BeastMode).

Until next time folks,
Kelvin P

A Hologram for the King (2016)- Movie Review

Tom Hanks: the revolutionary behind words and phrases such as “Wilson!!”, “I’m the captain now”, and “You got a friend in me.” It’s all a testament to the man’s brilliant acting chops, and the fact that he can make something seemingly complex on the surface seem relatively easy. History has a tendency to repeat itself, and with the film “A Hologram for the King,” I think the aforementioned notion will rear its proverbial ugly head once more.

It’s the same old adage: A down on his luck businessman (Alan Clay, played by Tom Hanks) is brought into a project to appease a crowd of people, in the hopes of reinvigorating his career. The project in question is a virtual system for a future metropolis in Saudi Arabia, and the crowds of people are Arabian royalty and their associates. The down on his luck businessman is suffering from depression, and the initial stress we see his character in is quite extraordinary. He has nothing else (family, house, and to an extent, his debilitating health) aside from this demanding job, and is looking to have this post (the job, not this piece lol) build him back up.

In terms of things I liked, the cinematography was a true shining point in this film. I’ve never seen scenery so vivid and representative of a situation since The Revenant (my bias for cinematography is Roger Deakins), so kudos to cinematographer Frank Griebe for his efforts. Also, the theme of appearance versus reality (my generation’s version of this being “Yo this guy got SNAKED”) was done quite well and showed the harsh realities of someone adjusting to a new country with a heavy burden on his shoulders.

But if there’s one character I’d love to point out that stood out from the rest, it has to be Sarita Choudhary’s performance as Dr. Zahra (the love interest of Alan Clay). Seeing a female function in a male-dominated country such as Saudi Arabia was truly an eye-opening experience for me and was a successful use of the culture shock trope. She injects new life into this downtrodden soul and thus is the source of Clay’s renaissance in his career. In the words of my millennial generation, it’s what they would call relationship goals.

If there’s one gripe I have about this film, it’s that there’s a lot to digest at first, and it doesn’t chomp at the bit until the very last act. So if you see or identify as being impatient, this might not be the best film for you.

All in all, it was a magnificent film that opened my eyes and made me appreciate the power of one person to change another’s life for the better, as cliché as that sounds. If you like Tom Hanks, or if you want to spice up your life with an inspirational film, then give this a try.

SCORE: 85/100

France vs. Portugal: UEFA Euro 2016 Final Review

I’m just going to get this off my chest right now: As a French national team supporter, I’m gutted that they didn’t win this match. This was, on paper, meant to be a one-way dance, with France dominating everything from possession to the number of moths that inhabited the pitch at Parc des Princes in Paris. I’m also a Chelsea FC supporter, so the colour blue basically runs in my blood.

FIRST HALF:

Much of what I saw in the first half of this game was France dominating Portugal’s defence, with some impressive trickery like nutmegs and Cruyff turns running amok. There were also lots of opportunities for France to hit the back of the net (Griezmann’s missed header the first that came to mind), but didn’t convert. It was a lot of possession-based football, which, unless your name is Louis van Gaal, is something that would bore anybody and their dog. Portugal did have some chances, but, like their opposition, found themselves unable to materialize and make the most of their opportunities. Oh, and Ronaldo got injured and had a moth on his face for the majority of the time he was down.

SECOND HALF:

This was, in my opinion, the part of the match where the goalkeepers were the MVPs. Rui Patricio (Portugal) and Hugo Lloris (France) produced world-class saves that guys like Gigi Buffon and David de Gea would be proud of. But, like the first half, there really wasn’t much action.

EXTRA TIME:

I’ll never forget this part of the match, for I was sitting among a sea of Portuguese fans in a sports bar when Eder, of all people, scored the decisive goal. Being one of few French supporters, the moment was a hard pill to swallow. Many years on, we’ll look back at this moment and realize that Eder is to the 2016 Euros what Mario Gotze was to the 2014 World Cup; clutch, decisive, and perhaps, a bit lucky.

If there’s one person I feel super bad for, it’s Antoine Griezmann. I think he’s one of the best strikers for club and country, but having lost the Champions League final AND the finals of the Euros to Ronaldo is about as good as seeing a teacher you hate both in school and chatting with your mom in a supermarket.

By all accounts, this was a boring game (dare I say, one of the worst finals at a major tournament), but fair play to Portugal for winning this tournament. Even if Ronaldo didn’t do anything…

Until next time folks,
Kelvin P

Captain America: Civil War Movie Review

So fun fact: I’m a business student in university. The nature of my discipline involves being in teams to do projects, assignments, and things of the sort. Most times, these teams are incredible, but some teams I’ve been a part of were abysmal, to put it nicely. However, I take each bad team I’ve been a part of and analyze what made it that way to begin with. The conclusion is that bad teams stem from having conflicting viewpoints on a subject or situation. This, my friends, is much of the plot that surrounds Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, one of 2016’s best movies.

FIRST ACT:

Much of the first act is dedicated towards two time periods: 1991 and 2016 (the year after Ultron’s demise at the hands of the Avengers). In 1991, we see Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who has been held captive at one of HYDRA’s bases in Siberia. He is granted a surprise release and is tasked with stopping a car full of super-soldier serum. In the present day, Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scar Jo), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) are in Lagos to find a Brock Rumlow and prevent him from stealing a precious bio-hazardous weapon. Unfortunately, the encounter ends in Brock committing suicide and Scarlet Witch killing innocent lives via her telekinesis.

What intrigued me was the duel between the Avengers and Brock. Being an avid fan of action films, I felt that scene took me back to Daniel Craig’s first James Bond film, Casino Royale, in 2006, during the chase in Madagascar. At the time, I couldn’t believe the superfluous action and heart-pounding parkour that encapsulated that scene. These same sentiments were echoed in this chase, and I got to credit Marvel and the Russo brothers for including that in the final cut of this film.

Senator Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) then shows up with the Sokovia Accords, detailing the presence of the UN in regulating the actions of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. This is where the whole dysfunctional team concept I alluded to previously comes into play. We see the viewpoint of Tony Stark/Iron-Man (RDJ), who believes that after his involvement in Ultron’s demise, feels that regulation is something that the team should take into consideration. Another viewpoint is that of Captain America’s, who doesn’t give a damn about the government’s pleas.

At a conference in Vienna to make these rules official, a bombing occurs. Inside the building was Romanoff, T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and his father, King T’Chaka. T’Chaka unfortunately succumbs to his death and puts T’Challa on a pursuit to hunt down the killer. He suspects Bucky is the killer, and another chase reminiscent of Batman and Joker’s chase in The Dark Knight ensues. The timely intervention of Captain America and Falcon ensured that nobody was hurt; however, the quartet are arrested, become unlikely companions, and eventually turn into renegades that challenge Iron Man in the Third Act of this film.

In this scene, I feel the spoils should go to the severely underrated performance of William Hurt. Despite limited screen time, his acting was by no mean forced and I was thoroughly impressed with his line delivery. Maybe a career as a rapper can be something in the works for you, Mr. Hurt 🙂

SECOND ACT:

In this act, we are introduced to Helmut Zemo (runner-up to T’Chaka for best name ever), a person hell-bent on taking down the Avengers. In order for him to get to the Avengers, he found a Hydra soldier that kept records on words that triggered Bucky’s brainwashing. However, another timely intervention from Chris Evans sees the pair leave unharmed. After regaining his senses, Bucky tells the story of how he was framed by Zemo for the bombing, and that the true conspirator behind the attack was none other than Zemo himself.

I really admired the direction of the Russos in humanizing Bucky. We were so accustomed to his cold and calculated motives as a soldier, but we don’t realize that underneath lies a person capable of love and companionship. I was really happy with how the whole relationship between him and Cap started to get better, and I could really tell that it’s really genuine.

THIRD ACT:

The battle we’ve been waiting to see. Civil war finally ensues. Here are the teams: Captain America’s (Cap, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Bucky, Ant-Man, and Hawkeye) and Iron Man’s (Stark, Black Widow, Black Panther, War Machine, Vision, and Spidey). They meet in Leipzig, and they duke it out. Team Iron Man wins and the renegades are captured.

Upon stumbling on evidence suggesting the involvement of Zemo in the bombing, Stark goes and finds the Bucky-Rogers partnership in Siberia. He notices that others like Bucky were killed by Zemo.

I mentioned that this movie has its fair share of moments occurring in 1991. The pinnacle moment was the mysterious death of Starks’ parents. The orchestrator behind that: Bucky Barnes. Not only did this provoke Stark, but it was also revealed that Cap knew about this secret. An enraged Stark blasts off Barnes’ robotic arm and leaves with Cap.

So TL;DR: Zemo’s happy that he distorted the Avengers. Stark has at least some closure for his parents’ murder. And T’Challa is at peace knowing that he knows his father’s killer and has brought him in to the police alive after previously wanting to commit suicide.

MY TAKEAWAYS:

Marvel always does a great job with their suspension of disbelief, and I don’t see that stopping for as long as their in business. FYI, really good suspension of disbelief basically means that the movie people successfully engages you into the film world and makes you believe that what you’re seeing is real.

Biggest surprise goes to Chadwick Boseman for his portrayal of T’Challa. He seemed so fitting for the role and to be honest, I don’t think there’ll be another person that can make this character his own. Unless your name is Idris Elba…

Most underrated performer goes to William Hurt, for reasons I have already described.

Best reboot of a character obviously goes to Spidey. Tom Holland reminds me of a mix of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, and I’m looking to Spidey films with him in the future. Also, easter egg alert, but when Stark went into his house, he was wearing a pizza t-shirt. #SpiderMan2

Final score (out of 100): 95.

Until next time folks,
Kelvin P