Glass Review

At last, M. Night Shyamalan’s dramatic conclusion to his superhero trilogy, Glass, has arrived. And while I was dissatisfied with Split, I had good faith that Glass would turn out significantly better.

Glass brings superhero David Dunn (known as The Overseer and played by Bruce Willis) to a final confrontation with the villains Kevin Crumb (The Beast played by James McAvoy) and Elijah Price (Mr. Glass played by Sam Jackson). All three are locked inside a mental hospital run by psychiatrist Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who specializes in those with delusions of grandeur. Staple is determined to show these men that their powers aren’t all that special, but a nefarious plot by Mr. Glass awaits just below the surface, ready to show the world his true potential.

Glass first comes out of the gate swingin’, continuing this story in an interesting direction that instantly hooked me. We get some strong storytelling elements mixed with some suspenseful scenes that really stood out as remarkable.

Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worst very quickly.

For about an hour Glass just treads water, bringing the plot and characters to a complete standstill. It’s when our leads arrive to the mental hospital, where the film becomes fixated on what I’d argue is the overarching message of Glass, “Are these guys really superheroes, or is it all in their heads?” The thing is, we already know these characters are extraordinary because we’ve already seen Split and Unbreakable, therefore we know exactly how this will play out. But it doesn’t matter anyways, because the resolve to this theme is non-existent. The great “aha” moment is summed up in Bruce Willis kicking down a door. What a waste of valuable screen time.

Ultimately Glass displays some of the most fundamental flaws with Shyamalan’s filmmaking style and camerawork. The movie is plagued with awkward close-ups, scenes that go nowhere, and pretentiously boring camera angles that make Glass visually difficult to watch. Some of the upside-down shots and camera pans are so bizarre and unnecessary that some will call it artistically bold, but I call it bologna.

The acting often came off as wooden and emotionless from majority of the cast, Anya Taylor-Joy and Spencer Treat Clark were particularly unpleasant. James McAvoy and Sam Jackson stood out as the only noteworthy performances, but maybe they were a little too convincing. As you’ll recall from Split, McAvoy’s character was often goofy and hard to take seriously because of his multiple personalities. This often clashes with the tone of the film, which attempts to take the subject matter gravely serious. Dramatic scenes are frequently undercut by McAvoy acting like a nine-year-old and hacking up a lung, completely throwing the tone of the film off. Am I supposed to be laughing? Scared? Emotional? Shyamalan sure doesn’t know.

The climax between The Overseer and the Beast/Mr. Glass, what all this was supposedly building up to, was dead on arrival. There’s no satisfying battle or showdown, and any real action is marred by the terrible camerawork. Everybody kind of just stands around with their hands in their pockets, and again nothing of worth is accomplished.

And then, there’s the twist. A classic Shyamalan twist ending that’s bound to frustrate those who enjoyed the film up until that point. But for those of us who were already disappointed and bored out of our minds, the twist was merely the last straw. A plot move that irreparably damaged any worthwhile story elements the audience could take away.

I don’t really know what Glass was trying to accomplish, and I don’t really know if it succeeded in this or not. What I do know is just how slow, underwhelming, and anticlimactic it all was. Anyone who says this is Shyamalan’s return to form is misleading you. I can’t stress it enough, Shyamalan has talent, and his greatest works (Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense) are no accident. To my disappointment, Glass was one his accidents. A movie that set out to intrigue and excite the audience but ended up having the opposite effect.

The Verdict: D

-Zachary Flint

The Old Man & the Gun Review

Some men rob banks just for the heck of it. Because the thrill of the chase is just too pleasing and satisfying to pass on. At least, that was the mindset of Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), a bank robber and escape artist known for escaping prison more than a dozen times. Tucker was recognized as the guy who commits armed robbery in the kindest and most respectful of ways, all while having a smile on his face.

Depicted here are the later years of Tucker’s life, after he meets a rancher named Jewel (Sissy Spacek) who quickly becomes his love interest. While balancing between his love and criminal lives, he discovers a detective named John Hunt (Casey Affleck) is hot on his trail. And Tucker isn’t far from being caught again.

It’s a quaint little movie, and it peacefully tells its story without the flashiness of other bank heist features. There aren’t any shootouts or elaborate theft plots, just a quiet and well-meaning story told in a compelling and ambient way. In fact, we cleverly never even see Tucker draw a gun on someone, an interesting display of the strong screenwriting.

Robert Redford as Tucker is a genuine actor at the top of his game, and dare I say he overshadows the great performances of Sissy Spacek and Casey Affleck. Every word that leaves his mouth is charming, and it’s hard to believe this sincere old man is a lawbreaker and prison escapee. Yet, even with this knowledge we attach ourselves to and sympathize with Tucker.

At the center of The Old Man & the Gun is a vaguely uplifting tale about aging, and where people derive satisfaction from life. Forrest Tucker continues to steal money to feel alive, perhaps not fully happy living under the normal circumstances of an aging man. John Hunt, the detective tasked with bringing Tucker down, is in the middle of a midlife crisis. A crisis only cured by his desire to discover and capture the elusive criminal. Not a lot is shared in terms of the philosophy of life, but I think the average viewer can take plenty meaning from it.

The Old Man & the Gun is most easily described as a boring movie that keeps you entertained. It sounds paradoxical, but just like the slow-moving individuals the film depicts, The Old Man & the Gun is doing everything other powerful dramas of our time do. Just, at a lot slower pace.

The Verdict: A-

-Zachary Flint

Incarnate Review

Incarnate is a special kind of bad movie. It’s a movie with good, creative intentions but gets lost in a trainwreck of confusion and stupidity.

Incarnate stars Aaron Eckhart’s as Dr. Seth Embers, who has the special ability to enter people’s minds and extract demons. Think Inception meets The Exorcist. It seems that Dr. Embers has finally found a particular demon that he has been tracking for years, and it has taken on the host of a young boy. It is now up to Dr. Embers to save this little boy before it is too late.

I will start with what little good there is about Incarnate. That only being, the first twenty minutes. I genuinely enjoyed the introduction to this film and thought it had a great concept. I thought the visuals were promising and the characters might turn out prertty interesting. However it does not take long for Incarnate to derail into a mess of confusion. At about thirty minutes in I was already asking questions like “who is this guy?” and “what does that mean?”. Unfortunately none of these questions raised are ever answered.

Incarnate also doesn’t mind taking pointless detours at many different points throughout. I don’t think the writers wrote a story with enough going for it because the film is full of filler dialogue and pointless scenes.

Another thing that got on my nerves was Aaron Eckhart. Now don’t get me wrong, I always love Aaron Eckhart’s performances. I think he is a very well rounded actor with a lot of range and talent. However I feel the writing of this film doesn’t allow him to be any good. His dialogue is dull and character is forgettable. Not to mention he is a completely loathsome jerk until the last twenty minutes. The audience has no reason whatsoever to like this character until we are given his tagic back story. But by then we are so annoyed by how much of an asshole he is it doesn’t even matter. For example, he tells a mother that he doesn’t really care about the life of the boy he is trying to save.

The special effects are really bad too. Which came as somewhat of a surprise, because the beginning of the film starts off with some interesting visuals. They kind of reminded me of the horror flick Insidious, which is a film I really liked. However what kills it is really the CGI. The CGI in Incarnate is laughably bad. Like, really really bad. There is one scene where a guy lights on fire and starts burning, and it is freaking hillarious. There is another scene where we see a demon, however the camera only shows us it’s legs and arm because the CGI is complete shit and they know it.

The last fifteen minutes is riddled with confusion, where the filmmakers break their own rules they previously established in the movie. So how can the film make any logical sense if the rules within the realm of Incarnate are constantly disregarded? Well, it doesn’t. It only serves to confuse the audience with only a few moments to go.

And that leaves us with the conclusion. The ending to Incarnate is really what turns it from just being a bad movie to a ‘spit in the face’ piece of garbage. It ends with a big middle finger to the audience because it knows damn well it just wasted your time. Everything that you think the film is leading up to flips 180 degrees and ends on the lowest note possible. What a disappointment.

I do not recommend Incarnate to anyone. There are infinitely better films out to go watch and see. Spending any amount of time or money on Incarnate is, in my opinion, a complete waste. Which is a real shame, because the premise is something I would really like to see. With better people behind the camera this could have been a solid film.

Alas, after experiencing this piece of shit film, I think I need an exorcism of my own.

-Zachary Flint

Hacksaw Ridge Review

The most recent film I had the pleasure of viewing was Hacksaw Ridge, which was directed by Hollywood actor Mel Gibson. A man who was forced to take a long break from directing due to multiple controversies he was involved in. Gibson has finally returned from the shadows with a film that is sure to put him back on top.

Hacksaw Ridge tells the unique story of Desmond T. Doss (played by Andrew Garfield), who won the Congressional Medal of Honor during his service in WWII in the Pacific Theater. In his service, Doss was a pacifist and refused to pick up a gun due to his Christian religious convictions. Instead, Doss wanted to be a medic and save as many lives as he could. At the Battle of Okinawa, Desmond T. Doss ended up saving the lives of over seventy men.

We the audience get to see a brief glimpse into Doss’s life leading up to the war. We see Doss’s family relationships, him falling in love, and the constant pressures from fellow soldiers and his drill Sargeant (played by Vince Vaughn) while in basic training.

Hacksaw Ridge is a war movie told through a somewhat predictable and standard plot. There were plenty of scenes that I could accurately guess what would happen next in the sequence of events. Despite this, Hacksaw Ridge is truley an amazing film. Every problem and nitpick of the film can easily be forgiven for just how great it is.

I was completely stunned at just how moving and how beautiful this film was. Everything from the camera work, the cinematography, and the acting was spot on and could not have been any better. Hacksaw Ridge is definitely comparable in magnitude and greatness to Mel Gibson’s other masterpiece work, Braveheart. Which I think really says a lot about Gibson’s talent as a director.

The soft spoken Southern boy that Andrew Garfield encapsulates in this film is great. He really becomes the role of Desmond in Hacksaw Ridge. The religious convictions and unconditional love that Desmond felt is made known from the convincing acting job that Garfield does. I had faith from the previews that he would do great acting in this, and I was not wrong.

Just the right amount of humor was placed in just the right spots. The film knows exactly when to make us sad, make us laugh, and make us smile. Especially when it comes to the relationship Desmond builds with his love interest Dorothy (Teresa Schutte). Garfield and Schutte had some great on screen chemistry and really had me invested in their relationship. I was more interested in their relationship after ten minutes on screen than I am with other film couples after the entire movie.

Every scene in this film had a point and a motive. As a viewer I did not have to sit and scratch my head for a single scene. I did not have to ask myself, “Why was this scene here?” or “Why include this?”. Nothing was questionable.

The second half of Hacksaw Ridge feels like a completely different film than the first. It kind of caught me off guard, in a good way. The film goes from being light hearted in the beginning to intense battle sequences full of grisly death towards the end. It is very effective, almost like the audience gets sucked into the battle right along with Desmond.

Hacksaw Ridge is a great return to directing for Mel Gibson. It represents everything that a war movie should and can be. Experiencing Hacksaw Ridge was probably the most moving film I have seen this year, as well as one of the best. I hope Gibson will continue to make quality films just like this in the future.

-Zachary Flint

South Park ‘Oh Jeez’ Review

South Park returns this week with the surprise election results. I guess Trey and Matt had to redo the episode on short notice because the Giant Douche beat the Turd Sandwich. Therefore I don’t believe the episode is as big and climatic as it was going to be originally.

Mr. Garrison is now set to take office January 20th now that he defeated the Turd Sandwich in a close race. It seems that the member berries may have taken Garrison over completely, now that he is in some kind of zombified state. He cannot stop talking about how great the new Star Wars film was.

Randy Marsh decides to confront Mr. Garrison about the election, as he thought they were in agreement that the new Star Wars was not actually that good. When Randy confronts him though, Garrison just projectile vomits purple member berries into his mouth. Randy then becomes a nostalgic zombie, saying things about how he gave the new Star Wars another chance and really liked it. This was all very strange, and funny.

Something even more strange going on in South Park is that Bill Clinton has teamed up with Bill Cosby to help young boys be accepting of girls. They act as therapists talking to the boys one on one, and they even call an assembly at the school and do this hillarious dance. This is by far the funniest and all around best part of the episode. Bill has an especially good monologue at the end of the episode about his wife that really got me laughing.

Gerald has now been hired by Hillary Clinton and the U.S. government to go undercover at the Trolltrace headquaters in Denmark. He is hired as a James Bond type character to set off an EMP grenade on the Trolltrace servers, disabling them from releasing everyones internet history. I won’t spoil anything, but lets just say this doesn’t go exactly as planned.

Cartman has made the ultimate decision to take Heidi (his girlfriend) and himself to the planet Mars. How he plans on doing so has yet to be discussed. I am really hoping this Cartman plot goes somewhere good. Good enough to make up for Cartman not being an asshole the entire season, which is usually the greatest part of the show.

This new episode is not exactly what I was expecting, but I will take what I can get. It was pretty funny at times, like when Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby were on screen. The member berries stuff was pretty good too. The rest felt a little bland to me. I really got my hopes up for something much more. The storylines were each developed a little here and there, and its looking like Gerald has come to the end of the road with his trolling. However the big climatic South Park where everything finally comes full circle will still have to wait. Until then, I hope Trey and Matt can continue to keep the audiences entertained.

Zachary Flint

Ouija: Origin of Evil Review

I had initially planned on skipping Ouija: Origin of Evil. The previews for the film made it look nothing more than a cheap horror sequel that exists for a quick cash return only. Not to mention the predecessor film Ouija was horrible, only scoring a measly 7% on Rotten Tomatoes. But never have I been so wrong about a film.

Ouija: Origin of Evil stars Elizabeth Reaser as Alice Zander, a widowed mother who conducts staged séances out of her home to bring in extra money. Strange things start happening when Alice begins implementing a Ouija board to make her séances look more real, off the recommendation of her daughter Lina (Annalise Basso). It seems that Alice’s other daughter Doris (Lulu Wilson) can actually contact the deceased using the board, but at what cost?

The acting is phenomenal throughout Ouija, from everyone involved. I think special props should go out to Lulu Wilson, as she gives a very captivating and creepy performance. Henry Thomas as Father Tom also gives a remarkable performance. Some of the most tense scenes in the film involve Father Tom, and the tone with which he speaks makes it all the more suspenseful.

The setting of the film, which takes place in the late 1960’s, is dealt with and executed very well. Everything from the clothing, household trends, and appliances beautifully replicate a 60’s enviroment. I love when a film can make the viewer feel like they’ve actually been transported back into that time period, and Oujia defintely delivers.

The camera work is noteworthy in Ouija as well. There are a variety of clever angles and shots used to keep the viewer entertained. One particular shot I liked was of the Oujia board when it’s first introduced to our protagoinists’ home. The camera zooms in on the dimly lit table the board is sitting on, then moves to an overhead shot of the board quietly sitting. It’s very effective, and very powerful.

The film has a variety of scare tactics, most of them very clever. My favorite is that not every scare happening on screen is accompanied with an obnoxiously loud noise. Allowing for me to be afraid of what is happening on screen and not getting annoyed by jump scares.

I think the one of the weakest points of Ouija is the ending. It ends in the same manner as countless other horror movies of it’s type, which is a real shame. I don’t want to give too much away, but the direction the film had been going in previously feels different than how it should have ended. Overall I was pretty disappointed with the last ten minutes or so. The only saving grace of the ending for Oujia was the very last scare. I think this one single scare sums up how effective the film was at scaring the audience.

I recommend Oujia: Origin of Evil to any horror fan. Period. It represents in detail exactly how horror flicks should be scaring viewers. By showing things on screen that are actually scary, and not by relying on the jump scare. As a forever skeptical moviegoer, I can honestly say I was wrong about how bad this movie was going to be. I’m glad I had the opportunity to watch Oujia: Origin of Evil and hope others do too.

Zachary Flint

Halloweentown Review

Whenever I’m asked the question of, “what is my favorite guilty pleasure movie?”, the answer has always been Halloweentown. Sure there are movies I love that most people think are bad, like Looney Tunes: Back in Action and UHF. However with Halloweentown I accept just how bad it is, yet I love just about all of it.

This Disney Channel original movie stars Kimberly J. Brown as Marnie Piper, a thirteen year old girl who is obsessed with the Halloween season. Every year Marnie’s eccentric Grandma Aggie (Debbie Reynolds) visits  for Halloween, dropping hints of a magical world. So when Marnie decides to follow her Grandma home, Marnie discovers that Aggie lives in the secret world of Halloweentown.

Halloweentown is a place where all Universal studios type monsters live in harmony together. However, things may not be as they seem, and it is up to Aggie, Marnie, and Marnie’s younger siblings Sophie (Emily Roeske) and Dylan (Joey Zimmerman) to figure out what is going on.

Among all the cheesy Disney channel tropes,cringe worthy dialogue, and eye roll-able jokes, there is a very charming film here. A film that young kids can understand, and adults can find cute and enjoyable.

Halloweentown overall gives off a very comforting tone and mood. It’s a relaxing film for the audience to experience without having to think too deeply. I often times don’t like it when a film opts to play it safe, but this is the exception for me.

The town of Halloweentown is one of my favorite parts of the entire movie. The makeup design on all the monsters that the audience gets to see inhabiting the town are pretty goofy and funny. The festive set pieces of the town square are great as well, I can tell that a lot of effort was put into the design of them.

Halloweentown has made me smile every time I watch it, ever since I was a kid. That’s something that I really admire in a movie, the ability to keep me coming back years later and enjoying it just the same. Perhaps it’s just my own nostalgia for it getting in the way, but a little nostalgia for movies is never a bad thing.

I sit down with my family every year and  watch Halloweentown. It is a fun, visually creative, and all around enjoyable family movie that is perfect for the Halloween season.  I recommend anyone who likes family fun holiday movies to go ahead and check it out.

Zachary Flint