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.

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

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

 

Prisoners – Movie Review

Suspense: it’s everywhere. In movies, it’s the feeling when a serial killer in a horror flick is close to killing someone. In sports, it’s having your team beat the opposition on a last-ditch effort. For undergraduate students, it’s walking into a room for a job interview. For singers, it’s performing live before a crowd of people at a big venue. The point in each of these isolated cases is that there’s a blur in terms of what you think happens and what actually happens.

Prisoners falls exactly into this category. In most films today, the premise is that it’s predictable and that you do not have to watch the entire thing to know what it is about. That is not the case with this film. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (who also made movies such as Les Incendies and Sicario), and starring Wolverine, Donnie Darko, and Amanda Waller (to name a few) this is a fine example of waiting until the very last shot to truly grasp what the hell is going on. Honourable mentions goes to Roger Deakins for making the jaw-dropping cinematography and for Melissa Leo’s portrayal as Holly Jones.

At first glance, the movie is your standard, run-of-the-mill missing persons case. There’s an investigator whose aim is to find whoever abducted these people. And there’s also the family’s grief and despair. But what makes this film so great is how layered it is. Characterized as a crime/mystery/drama triumvirate, Villeneuve takes the best tropes from each of these genres and blends them seamlessly into a film that really makes you think. When you watch it for the first time, you keep thinking to yourself “Oh this must be the person,” or “Aha! This is it… After this scene is finished, the movie’s done!”

I’ll dedicate the next paragraph to the plot twist, so if you hate spoilers, then look away. You’ve been warned…

 

Alex Jones and Bob Taylor are the two people we suspect are the abductors of the two families’ little girls. Alex drove the RV, the last time we physically saw the two girls, and Taylor had articles of clothing that looked to be fitting for the age of the two families’ daughters. We find out that while both abetted in the crime, the true suspect and mastermind behind the madness was in fact Holly Jones, the “aunt” of Alex Jones. Turns out, they aren’t related; Holly abducted Alex as a child, and reasons for why he has a bit of a mental problem is because of trauma he faced when her late husband kept pet snakes in the house. Taylor, another victim of Holly’s, killed himself in the police station after revealing he abducted the two girls.When asked the logic behind the abductions, Mrs. Jones stated that this was the ingenious idea she and her husband cooked up as part of their “war against God” after their son’s death.

The situation gets even worse when Jones imprisons Keller in a pit hidden beneath a 1950s style car, the same pit that she put both girls in. The very last shot that we see is Loki going back to the crime scene, and hearing faint sounds of Dover in the pit through the whistle his daughter had. This ultimately refines the prisoners theme that occurs throughout the film: everyone involved in the movie has personal demons that come head-on, making them all subtly “imprisoned.” Keller is a prisoner within his own family as well as a literal one when abducted by Holly. Detective Loki’s inability to get anywhere positive with the case before turning up at Holly’s house signifies his imprisonment within the scope of his own work. The emotional toil that both families feel make them feel like they are in prison because they cannot enjoy the ideal family life that a typical family would have.

If you are fascinated with the idea of a constant on-your-edge-of-your-seat performance, and also like unique twists on clichéd tropes, then I implore you to give Prisoners a watch.

Rating: 9/10

Until next time folks,
Kelvin Pau

 

Spoiler-Free Movie Review: Spotlight

Movies have quite a history. From 1895 – 1927, we witnessed silent films, and stars like John Barrymore, Bela Lugosi, and Charlie Chaplin giving us some of the era’s best performances sans sound. The talkies era, beginning with Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer in ’27, was seen as a fad by most, but has developed into the standard method for productions on the silver screen.

I’ve only really been into movies and analyzing them for a year or so, but within that year, I’ve watched lots of films and picked up on quite a lot. Examples: Adam Sandler is shit and way past his prime, Roger Deakins is one of the best cinematographers of all time, and Spotlight.

Spotlight is without a doubt one of the best movies I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Starring an ensemble cast (Batman, Howard Stark, Allie Hamilton, Sabretooth, and a slew of others), this movie is based on true events about the Spotlight team, the oldest active newspaper investigative unit in Boston, breaking the news about a group of Roman Catholic priests sexually abusing children. Now on first glance, one would think “Why would anyone be interested in a newspaper company? Specifically, why should I care about a company that still follows the print format when today’s world is all about reading news online?” Let me clarify some things here: The article was published in early 2002. 9/11 attacks happened the year prior. The originals who reported this got The Boston Globe a fucking Pulitzer Prize in 2003. Oh, and if music’s your thing, the guy who scored the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Howard Shore) wrote the score for this one. You’re welcome

I’ll be straight up here: I do not watch trailers for most movies. While some exceptions to the rule apply here (e.g. X-Men Apocalypse and Suicide Squad, which I may end up regretting), I just do not like the idea of seeing something that will perfectly foreshadow what the entire film is about in two minutes. Also, whenever I watch films for a second time, I do not focus on the plot, the acting, or the characters; rather, I focus on the cinematography. This gives me a chance to understand what the director’s stance is on the suspension of disbelief. In layman’s terms, suspension of disbelief is when you are convinced that the film world (Diegesis) the director portrays is real.

Spotlight is a unique film that only comes once-in-a-while. I say that because the story is not the main selling point; rather, it’s the journalist. To me, I saw this film as a hero’s tale in that The Globe was the first to broadcast this news story to the masses. The transformation from raw data to finished article for the Spotlight team was very well written and edited, due in no small part to the genius of Tom director/screenwriter McCarthy. The atmosphere felt realistic and tense, creating that sense that you were a part of the team. All the actors/actresses didn’t force their performances, which is a huge relief from most of the movies I saw this year (Norm of the North being one that comes to mind). That being said, it does require a couple of viewings, so if you are a fan of one-viewing movies, this might not be for you. But for those who have the patience, this is an exhilarating experience on a touchy subject, and is definitely in my top five movies of the 2015-2016 year.

Rating: 8.5/10

Until next time folks,
Kelvin P