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Review: Venom (2018)

Cast:

Tom Hardy                                Eddie Brock/Venom

Michelle Williams                      Anne Weying

Riz Ahmed                                Carlton Drake/Riot

Jenny Slate                               Dr. Dora Skirth

Our home town is currently in the middle of a heat wave with temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius (with humidex). These high temperatures have made us all hide indoors. While hiding away from the heat and humidity we still managed to get a movie in. For this week, the next movie in the stack of unwatched films is “Venom” (2018). This film stars Tom Hardy in the title character and he is supported by Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed and a lot and I mean a lot of CGI special effects. 

“Venom” is another one of those films which centres on the anti-hero and origins of a character. The title character, Venom, originally introduced in Spiderman comics and movies is brought forward in a new spin and a new universe for this film. While still part of Marvel, it has managed to not tie itself down with other variants of the character(s) or previously storylines. In fact, the only other character that you can see from other versions is the standard Stan Lee cameo in the film. All the rest are new versions/aspects of the characters.

So how is this version laid out you ask? I will give a synopsis of the film without trying to give out too many spoilers and leave the climax and some key surprises for you to discover if you choose to watch this film. The film starts out with a spaceship from “Life” corporation breaking up on re-entry. Carried within it’s holds are some canisters with a previously unheard of life form. After the spacecraft crashes, one of the canisters breaks open and the animated slimy slinky moves to look for a host, and subsequently takes over an EMT who is on the scene to provide medical support to the astronauts. While this takes place in the far-east, we don’t really see this character too much through most of the film, except to see it take over other humans and make its way to Los Angeles. I guess, these ET’s are completely familiar with flying and have a detailed knowledge that California is the centre of the known universe. But I have digressed from the plot. Concurrently, we are introduced to the title character played by Tom Hardy. In his human form, if you will, we find that Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is a you-tube news reporter who has several hard hitting video-blogs on topical events. He is engaged to Anne Weying (Williams) and is rebuilding his career from a screw up in New York (Really the only other Spiderman/Venom reference, and I had to look that up to catch it). While in his new life, as a You-Tube news anchor (or something to that effect) he is tasked by his boss to interview the new multi-billionaire entrepreneur Carlton Drake (Ahmet), who is kind of an Elon Musk eccentric type of character. Lots of smart people around him and lots of money to spend. The difference is that this guy (Drake) is kind of crooked and will stop at nothing to get his own way, even if it is a loss of life.

This all comes too light when Brock (Hardy) sees an email sent to his fiancée about Drake’s company and their human experiments. While reading this email, Brock finds out that in order to get Drake’s pharmaceuticals to market he tested on humans with tragic results. As Anne (Williams) is an attorney for Drake’s (Ahmet) company “Life”, this email outlined the suit that was being laid against him for wrongful experimentation and loss of life. Using this knowledge, Brock (Hardy) ambushes Drake during the interview which leads to his termination and his fiancées job as well, and ultimately end with them breaking up as a couple. 

Adrift in the morass of San Fransisco, Brock (Hardy) searches for a new meaning in life when he is confronted by Dr. Skith (Slate) a scientist working for Drake at “Life”. She tells him of these canisters that are filled with these slimy slinky things that she calls a parasite. Thinking that Brock (Hardy) is the only person who may be able break the story. This is even more important to her, as Drake (Ahmet) is now trying to merge these parasites with humans, all homeless people. Unfortunately, she witnesses that all of the test subjects have died horribly and she cannot take it.  

Convincing Brock (Hardy) to help her, Dr. Skith (Slate) sneaks Brock (Hardy) into the lab where he becomes unknowingly becomes merged with the parasite called “Venom”. This parasite melds with Brock (Hardy), and proceeds to take over when required. Specifically, to fight for their preservation. We discover that these entities were seeking to take over the Earth, by means of the Life corporation. However, Venom grows to like the planet and his host Brock (Hardy) and they develop a partnership that almost reminded me of Riggs and Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon. Meanwhile, the long lost parasite has come to San Francisco and finds Drake (Ahmet). Leaving the old host, the parasite (Riot) then merges with Drake (Ahmet) to become a new symbiotic creature. The sole goal of this newly merged entity is to launch the next “Life” Rocket and retrieve the remaining millions of parasites from a comet. Once obtained, the craft is to bring them back to Earth, thus enabling their takeover.  Venom/Brock feel that they are the only ones who can stop this invasion and fight the Drake/Riot creation to an exciting climax. 

Before going into the “entertained” portion of the review, lets take a quick look at the main cast.

Thomas Hardy as Venom/Eddie Brock: For me, Hardy is difficult to pin down. I will either find his roles excellent, or not care for them at all. For example, in the movie Legend where he plays twin brothers. I could not stand the film or him in it. However, in other films like Dunkirk, The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road and even the light film This means war, I found his characters to be really good and I enjoyed all the films mentioned. In Venom, he plays 2 characters again and carries it off with style. His version of Eddie Brock, a burnt-out do-gooder, but still loveable loser was enjoyable to watch, specifically the conversations that he had with himself as Venom we found especially entertaining. His style of physical acting was also put to the test in this film as he had to perform some very active and adventurous scenes, Hardy managed to complete them all with style and in a believable fashion. Even his vocal mannerisms fit the character(s) aptly and he managed to hid his UK origins admirably. The only fault in this role is that we found he lacked chemistry with Weying (Williams), but that might not be his fault, but that of the director/co-star/writer themselves. 

Michelle Williams as Anne Weying: I personally found this character pretty boring and one dimensional. There was no spark with this character, I don’t know if it is the fault of the actress or the role/dialogue created for her. Her only real contribution to the plot was to be the means for Brock (Hardy) to learn of the class action suit against Drake and his company. Other than that, it was pretty useless and could have really been written out. While Williams has been touted as a great actress, she is not one of my personal favourites and I tend not to like many of the movies where she has too much of a lead role. Whether it is just her, or the roles she undertakes, I am not certain. But looking at her filmography, I must say that the movies that I have seen with her in them, I have tended to forget her participation and remember the others far more. 

Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake/Riot: I really liked this character, Ahmed does a great job of portraying a uber rich, narcissistic douche bag. There is nothing in his role that would make me like individual portrayed, thus showing the skill in which he acted him out. His own desires were at the forefront. He would take any means necessary to achieve his goals no matter what the cost either financially or in the terms of people. Nothing matters but his own wants. Once merged with the parasite “Riot” these emotions/desires were amplified just as much as his strength, thus creating a really good character that was actually a joy to watch.

Actually one surprise for me at the end (post credits) was when Brock/Venom (Hardy) visited the jail. The first surprise was to see Wade Williams as a prison guard (Who else but him could be the prison guard (think Prison break) a role that he has mastered over the years. He escorts Brock/Venom to a cell where low and behold, one of my favourite actors, Woody Harrelson as Cletus Kasady is interned. Kasady (Harrelson) provides some excellent dramatic foreshadowing for the sequel (Which I will definitely see if Harrelson is part of the project).  His 30 second screen time was great as usual, and I do look forward to the sequel to see how he takes this role further!

How did we find this film? Were we entertained? Yes, we were. I for one, always enjoy this type of film, my wife on the other hand can take them or leave them. I know she considers it “ok” if she puts down her laptop or tablet and starts watching the film without asking too many questions. In this film, after about 20 minutes she put them down and watched it along with me. The acting was not “Oscar” worthy or stellar. It was the CGI that actually stole the film. We found it to be the key enabler, and it made the film really worth watching. There have been cases in films where the CGI can actually detract the audience from the film or events, but in this case, I would say it was in harmony with the actors, and when present would shine. The dialogue was iffy, and the acting and chemistry were actually inconsistent at times, but this is a comic-book popcorn movie, Oscar performances are not what you are there for. You are there to watch the action and escape for an hour or two. In the case of Venom, it fit the bill. Would I recommend this film? Yes. Especially if you are a Marvel fan and have enjoyed the whole franchise and the comic books. This was a good spin on the character and it was a pleasant diversion. 

Rating: 6.5/10

If you are interested in other films also starring the principal actors, please consider the following recommendations:

Tom Hardy                    Peaky Blinders, Dunkirk, The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road, Band of Brothers

Michelle Williams          All the Money in the World, Shutter Island, Manchester by the Sea

Riz Ahmed                    Rogue One: A Star Wars story, The Night of, Centurion

Till next time!

Review: The Darkest Minds (2018)

Cast:

Amandla Stenberg                    Ruby Daly

Mandy Moore                           Cate

Harris Dickinson                        Liam Stewart

Patrick Gibson                           Clancy Gray

Skylan Brooks                           Chubs

Miya Cech                                Zu

Gwendoline Christie                  Lady Jane

Wade Williams                          The Captain

With Canada starting to flatten the curve and people now being able to socialize a bit, (with proper precautions), we were able to catch up with some friends over the weekend and in the process we consumed far too much wine and scotch. With that in mind, we only managed to watch a film on Sunday night, and the next movie in the stack was “The Darkest Minds”. Even though the film and the book was targeted for a younger audience, and as a person who was closer to his later years than early ones, I found the book fair, and the film pretty much followed in its foot-steps, just OK. Nothing spectacular, but an ok time waster. 

“The Darkest Minds” is based on a novel and series of the same name. In this near future world, a virus (sound familiar) has infected children around the world. This virus will do one of two things, either kill the child outright, or cause them to mutate and possess new superpowers. The powers vary and range from super intelligence, telekinesis, control of electricity, ability to create and spew fire, to the most dangerous – that of controlling the minds and will of people. This causes great fear in the adults of the world, and the government in it’s wisdom decides that all children are to be put in internment camps and be labelled with a colour that will signify their ability, (Green – Intelligence, Blue- telekinesis, Red - Fire, Orange – Mind control and Gold - electricity). The only catch is that if a child is labelled Orange or Red, they are to be executed on the spot as they are deemed too dangerous. In this world and film, the story centres on Ruby Daly (Stenberg). Ruby (Stenberg) is at home and has just celebrated her birthday (about 10 years old) when they watch the news about how children are becoming mutants if they survive the virus. Ruby sees the stress and the burden that she placed on her parents, and in the middle of the night, goes to their room to comfort them. However, once she touched them and tells them not to worry, she effectively wipes herself from their memories. The following morning, Ruby (Stenberg) goes to her mom and finds out that her parents have no recollection of her, she is then put into a garage until the authorities arrive and take her to a camp for all the children who have survived with powers. Once tested, she realizes that she is an Orange and would be ultimately sentenced to death. Manipulating the tester’s mind, she convinces them that she is a harmless “Green” and continues to exist for the next 6 years of confinement and abuse by the guards.

Introduce Cate (Mandy Moore) who is part of a secret organization “The Children’s League”. Cate (Moore) aids Ruby (Stenberg) in escaping. While on the lamb, Ruby manages to touch Cate’s partner, Rob, and finds out his darkest secrets. This scares Ruby, and she manages to escape and hook up with 3 other kids with powers who are also on the lamb. Liam (Dickinson), Chubs (Brooks) and Zu (Cech), who are a blue, green and gold respectively. The four kids are now chased by the Children’s League so that they can fight for their cause and also a number of bounty hunters who want to return them to detention. This is all happening while they search for their Neverland. This area is where the kids are free, they work with a legendary “Slip kid” who has escaped numerous times and have developed a community of their own. Once they find this sacred place, they come across the actual masterminds behind the whole confinement and pursuit, have a wicked superpower battle and manage to escape capture yet again. Thus leaving it open for a sequel, which I don’t believe is scheduled yet. 

Was the film entertaining? Yes and no, the special effects were ok and the chemistry between the characters were not too bad. However, the storyline was predictable as hell (I did not have to read the book beforehand), and at times very clichéd. The Young Adult them of movies of late (Divergent, Hunger Games etc) have set the tone for this genre and it did not surprise me at all with anything new. 

Now for the cast of this film. 

Amandla Stenberg as Ruby Daly: I enjoyed Stenberg’s portrayal of Ruby. She managed to exude the right amount of concern, confusion, fear and anger as required. Her chemistry with her principal love interest, Liam (Dickinson) was ok. I had to look at her IMDB resume to see where I had seen her before and was pleasantly surprised to find out that she played “Rue” in the first Hunger Games. This was the only role that I had seen her in previously and liked her in both. This is another case where I look forward to see where her career takes her and the roles that she selects. While there is no sequel slated at this time, the movie ended with indications that one could be in the future. However, I would be surprised as the movie did not make a lot of money and barely recouped expenses when looking at the worldwide gross. If the books become more popular, there may be a chance that a sequel could be forthcoming, though I doubt it. 

Harris Dickinson as Liam Stewart: Dickinson did a fair job at playing the love interest and hero to Ruby. Always stoic, and ever protective of his crush, he managed to convey what was required at the time/scene. Nothing stellar, but enough to get the idea. I checked his resume, and while he has been around for a number of years, this was the first time he was in something that I had watched. As mentioned previously he did have enough chemistry with Ruby (Stenberg) to ensure that their budding romance was at least remotely believable. 

Skylan Brooks as Chubs and Miya Cech as Zu: While relegated to supporting actors, these two were our favourites in the film. Both of them made my wife and I laugh out loud on several occasions. Chubs (Brooks) had some good one liners and smarmy comments that would make us chuckle or laugh as required. Zu (Cech) on the other hand was purely physical acting as she did not speak. Her childlike innocence always shone through as well as her joy. Both of their characters were fun to watch.  I looked at both of there film/tv resume’s and while I had watched some of their roles before, nothing stood out in my memory. However, having said that, now that I liked them in this film, I am sure I will pay more attention if I come across them in the future. 

I will make some mentions of some of the lesser characters:

Patrick Gibson as Clancy Gray: What can I say about this character? I found him annoying out of the gate and completely predictable on what would happen between Ruby and him. As the President’s son, and the supposed “slip kid”, he was the architect of the whole crisis going on in the States for this film. While he did not really have a lot of screen time, the character’s influence is felt throughout. I guess you could say that he was a good actor if I did not like him, as I did not care for the character himself. He is another case that I had seen him in previous shows/films (The Tudors, Gold), but he did not leave an impression at that time. He may be one of these actors who develops and ends up always playing the villain. I think he is suited to that type of character, and I have no doubt that I will see him in similar roles in the future. 

Mandy Moore as Cate: This was actually a throw away role for Moore, she received higher billing, but only minimal screen time. While she provides the means for Ruby to escape the detention centre, her character really could have been played by anyone, and probably better. It really felt like she phoned this performance in, and was only there for the paycheck. 

Now there are two smaller characters that I would like to mention here. The first is Wade Williams as the Captain. Williams always plays a slimy, good for nothing, crooked P.O.S. But he does it well. When he is on the screen I know that something is afoot and that the “good guys” are going to be beaten, abused, captured or whatever. His roles are predictable as well as his characters (they are always the same) however, I like them. He has the Bully who is really a coward down to a fine science, he knows his niche and stays within it to always provide a good performance. Also, we have Gwendoline Christie as Lady Jane. I had to laugh at the name as I was unsure that it was not a little joke with her Game of Thrones character or if it was in the book. (I can’t remember). Either way, when I saw her actively pursuing the kids as a bounty hunter I had to laugh out loud. Not because it was supposed to happen as that her acting in this role was so horrible. She was more of a caricature than a real person, and her grimaces and hard looks were actually comical. If she would have played it like she did as “Brienne of Tarth” I probably would have enjoyed it more. Her calm, stoic demeanor on GoT was better suited to “Lady Jane” than this one-dimensional farce. 

So in the end, were we entertained? I will say moderately. The movie had some high points and many low ones, but it still kept us tuned in enough to watch it to the end. We enjoyed some of the supporting cast far more (Chubs, Zu) then the leads, but it was ultimately OK. The Darkest Minds is probably the weakest Young Adult film that I have seen of late. Maybe it is the predictability, or that I have just grown tired of this sort of movie, or maybe I am just too old. The Darkest Minds was fair and killed some time and gave us a few laughs, but I would not rush out and watch it again or even get to the sequel. If you are into this type of film, I would recommend Hunger Games (franchise) or Divergent (franchise) over this one. 

Our rating. 4.5/10 (as mentioned before, the supporting characters and special effects gave it the extra points)

Till next time!

Review: The Equalizer 2 (2018)

Cast:

Denzell Washington                  Robert McCall

Pedro Pascal                             Dave York

Ashton Sanders                         Miles Whittaker

Orson Bean                               Sam Rubinstein

Bill Pullman                              Brian Plummer

Melissa Leo                               Susan Plummer 

For this week’s selection, I decided to go the route of sequels, and after perusing my stack of unwatched films I selected “The Equalizer 2” as my next choice. Ok, for those few people who read this blog on a regular basis, it is not selected, it was just the next one in the pile. But I have digressed, The Equalizer 2 is the long awaited sequel to 2014s “The Equalizer”. Apparently called the “Sequalizer” by the cast when filming, this action picture stars Denzel Washington returning to the character of Robert McCall. Of note, according to the extra’s on the disc, this is the first time that Denzel Washington has reprised a character in his career of 50 plus films. Needless to say, we are huge fans of Denzel, loved the first movie, and were really looking forward to watching this one. So, after pouring another glass of wine for me, ice water for my wife, we put in the movie for a night’s entertainment. 

What can I say about EQ2? Well, first, while it is an action film and stars one of the best actors of the generation, and, in my opinion, it is sadly not as good as the original. The original film was dark, action packed and almost visceral in its portrayal of Robert McCall, the retired CIA assassin who was just trying to rebuild his life while grieving for his late wife. In the first film, his moral responsibility to help people is his driving force for action and the tension builds and the action is non-stop. As you can tell, I just loved the first film in the franchise, however in this film, it appears like there are too many threads in the canvass, and you can get lost in unravelling them all. Yes, it has action, a few one liners, and a thin plot, but it does not deliver as much as it’s predecessor did. 

What is the storyline you ask? EQ2 starts off on a train in Turkey and McCall (Washington) is dressed as an Iman. While entering the bar car, looking for some hot water for his tea, he spies his target, along with bodyguards. His target on this mission is a miscreant who kidnapped his own daughter from the mother for the sole purpose to cause her pain, not for love. Of course, McCall is there to rescue the daughter and bring her home. He wreaks his own justice on the group, rescues the girl and returns her home. This is all within 5 minutes of the opening credits. Wow, it did grab me right away as Denzel’s trademark of calm and exacting retribution did not fail to deliver. However, right after that scene, it seemed like the threads started to unravel.

We, the audience are introduced to several story lines where McCall exacts justice for the driver seat of his “Lyft” taxi service;

  • An old man who has lost not only a famous portrait as a result of WW2, but also his sister;
  • A young girl who was abused by a number of well to do, narcissistic ass hats;
  • His old boss who brings him soup to see how he his doing; and
  • A young man who is a budding artist, but may go down the wrong path to drugs and gang violence without his support. 

While some of the threads are intertwined, some just a bit of confusion as to where it falls within the major storyline. Were they part of the plot, or just some extraneous information on how good McCall (Washington) is? Well, I guess it was a bit of both. There are really two main threads to follow here, the first is McCall (Washington) taking the young man Miles Whittaker (Sanders) under his wing, giving him purpose and support. The support or mentorship is not only morally, it is emotionally and intellectually as well. Miles (Sanders) ends up assisting McCall (Washington) in not only undoing a gang’s vandalism in the neighbourhood, but also is employed to paint McCall’s apartment. Throughout the film, we see McCall (Washington) imparting wisdom and morality to his young protégé, and also ultimately saving his life, both literally and figuratively. 

The 2ndand actually the prime thread in this film, is that of his old boss, Susan Plummer (Leo). We first see her having a meal with McCall and talking with him over bowls of soup. One of the 3 reoccurring characters from the first film, her husband Brian (Pullman) and McCall (Washington) being the others. After this meal, Susan (Leo) travels to Europe for her work in the CIA (investigating a murder), whereupon she also gets brutally beaten and also murdered. McCall (Washington) gets involved at the behest of her husband only to discover that his former team mate, York (Pascal) is also part of the event, though he is unsure of how.  

It is at this point we do discover a little of McCall’s past. While it is alluded to before, McCall (Washington) was involved in Black Ops for the government and had lead his team in a number of missions to mete out death on behalf of the government. We also discover that McCall had staged his own death to live a new life after losing his wife and that his former team had basically gone rogue. Not only are they working for the government, they are selling their services to the highest bidder as well, regardless of the consequences. 

Trying not to give out too many surprises or plot lines, as you can surmise, McCall (Washington) confronts his former team, exacts revenge for the death of his friend Susan (Leo) saves his new friend, Whittaker (Sanders) and tries to tie up some other storylines introduced within the film.

What did we think of the film? First my wife and I were entertained, but not as much as the first one. We found this film to be very predictable, I don’t think there was one scene where we did not see where it was going to go and how McCall was going to get there. However, having said that, Denzel Washington is still an amazing actor and his lines, delivery and actions were spot-on as always. Yes, he is getting older, but the movements are believable and don’t leave you scratching your head or calling bullshit. If there is any fault of his character, I would leave the blame with the director and screenplay writer for any portions that were either not explained enough, wrapped up, or even forgotten. An actor with an amazing catalogue of film and tv, Denzel Washington can be counted on to perform any role with skill. These roles can range from a hitman/assassin with conscience, a gunslinger, a soldier, doctor, teacher or lawyer…each and every performance is always first rate. His performance in EQ2 did not fail either, as mentioned previously, any failings in this film, would lie elsewhere in our opinion, and not tied with his performance. 

However, now, with respect to the villain in this film, Dave York (Pascal), I can’t really say the same about his performance. While trying to play a government agent or mercenary/assassin for hire, I found him lacking. Even the scene where McCall enters York’s home, ingratiates himself with his family and actually leaves with them, Pascal did not deliver the emotions and actions that would be expected. Yes, he is a professional assassin etc, but I believe his verbal delivery and eyes should have been more expressive here to show the conflict. Additionally, we felt that his performance was very robotic and was lacking. If his portrayal was amped a bit, it probably would have made a better movie overall.  Maybe if his other team member’s personalities and relationships with York and McCall were expanded it would have given them more teeth, than really being nothing more than paper tigers, and ultimately targets to McCall’s weapons.   

Ashton Sanders as Miles Whittaker: I really liked his character, as the young man who falls under McCall’s (Washington) wing, he portrayed the requisite emotions for the tasks at hand. His troubled youth persona was believable, as you could see his turmoil with every decision or action. Does he go with the gangs, or does he work for a living doing what he loves, his artwork. He respects McCall, but also as the move progresses, you can see a bit of fear as well. He does not know what McCall is capable of, while at the same time, he is trying to understand the why. Why is he being protected and mentored? All of these emotions are portrayed well and the chemistry between the two is excellent. There are two stand-out scenes for them. The first, when McCall (Washington) extracts him from the gang’s lair and lectures him on what he could be, and the second, in McCall’s house during the storm. Each scene exhibits the emotion required and ensures that not only do you, the audience, feel for McCall, but you also want Whittaker (Sanders) to succeed as well. A very good performance.

Melissa Leo as Susan Plummer: His old boss and friend, Plummer (Leo) is integral to the plot as to why and how McCall is brought in to wreak his own kind of vengeance. However, in this instance, if you did not know her from the first film, you could be lost as to their relationship. It is mentioned, but not the importance of their bond. This could have been enhanced a bit more in the film, maybe even a flashback sequence from the first film? I believe that just by adding this small scene, it could have made her death more poignant to McCall and the audience. 

Bill Pullman as Brian Plummer: As the last re-occurring character in EQ2, his role was the most wasted. I like Bill Pullman and his films, but here he was just another character that could have been written off. Actually in one aspect he actually is, after McCall takes him to a hotel room and explains that they (the bad guys) are trying to clean up loose ends, we never see or hear from him again. This is one of the threads that got lost in the film and had us scratching our head. His character was not really required, he could have passed the info in a phone call, text etc, and not even been included in the film. By having him there, and then forgetting about him, it actually made his non-relevance stand out more. 

Orson Bean as Sam Rubinstein: Here is another character that really did not need to be there, except to demonstrate that McCall is a fixer and has more heart. The only reason that this story line could have been inserted is to demonstrate that McCall not only fixes unwarranted acts of violence/aggression, he can also fix someone’s spirit. So in that light, then maybe I buy it a bit, however, what should have and could have happened is at least a scene where he does a bit of research to find out Rubinstein’s long lost sister. Just having her show up at the end, was almost kind of a cheat, yes we know that McCall is behind it, but the “how” was not revealed. C’mon, McCall is not the amazing Kreskin or the “Mentalist”, he still has to research and find out things. 

Overall, we enjoyed the film and we were entertained, but not as much as the original. Denzel was great as always, but his supporting cast was kind of uneven in their performances. We also found that there were some holes in the plot, and the reasons “why” something was done was either lost or forgotten completely. Besides the predictability of the film, the action sequences and cinematography were done very well and added to the film’s enjoyment. If you are a fan of Washington, then there is no doubt that you will enjoy the film, though, if you are a fan of films and cinema, I am sure that you will see some of the same errors or gaps that I did. But all in all, not a bad film. One final piece of advice, make sure you watch the original first, or you will get lost in this one! 

Our Rating: 6/10

If you are interested in watching any films/shows with the main cast, consider the following recommendations:

Denzel Washington                   Glory, Pelican Brief, Courage under Fire, The Book of Eli, 2 Guns, The Equalizer, Flight (pretty much any of his films!)

Pedro Pascal                             Narcos, Game of Thrones

Bill Pullman                              Independence Day, The Equalizer, Sleepless in Seattle

Melissa Leo                               The Equalizer, The Big Short, London has Fallen

Review: Split (2016)

Cast:

James McAvoy              Dennis/Jade/Patricia/Hedwig/The Beast/Kevin Crumb/Orwell/Barry

Anya Taylor-Joy             Casey Cooke

Betty Buckley                Dr. Karen Fletcher

Haley Lu Richardson      Claire Benoit

Jessica Sula                   Marcia

We were quite busy this weekend, so we did not get a chance to watch our weekend film till Sunday Night. In this edition of “Were we Entertained”, we take a look at the 2016 movie “Split”. This film, written & directed by M. Night Shymalan is a welcome return to quality film-making after several of his duds. I have enjoyed Shymalan’s films a great deal in the past, i.e. The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs were all great films in my opinion. But he also made some serious dud’s i.e. The Village, The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth, all films with great potential but lacked the requisite spark to entertain you and make you think about the film. “Split” was a return to great film-making. 

Not expecting a lot from this film when I picked it up, (Due to the previous movies mentioned), I had heard that this was actually a sort of sequel to “Unbreakable”, and a must watch if you were going to pursue the third film “Glass”, but I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was this film well directed, written and acted, it kept us glued to the screen. I will try and give a synopsis with out giving out too many of the plot points or surprises away. 

The film commences at birthday party for a rather spoiled teenager at a restaurant/mall. The party is over, and she (with 2 friends) and her father are lugging a vast number of gifts and leftovers back to the car. As these kids are pretty much selfish and don’t really help the father, he is left to load the trunk with her spoils, while they proceed to wait in the car. However, the father becomes incapacitated, and a stranger (McAvoy) enters the car. Once inside he sprays the girls with a mist which knocks them all out. 

They wake to find themselves in a cell and discover that they are being held prisoner by the same stranger (McAvoy). This stranger appears to have multiple personalities and memories and each personality displays various character traits, clothes and mannerisms to delineate them. All personalities threaten them with the arrival of the “Beast” who will kill them all horribly before moving on. However, it becomes clear that really only 3 personalities are controlling the stranger at this time. Naturally, these girls are all trying to escape before the dreaded “Beast” personality awakens and kills them all. Concurrently, the stranger is also seeing a psychiatrist who is trying to help him with his 24 separate personalities. The psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Buckley), is well versed in her patient’s personalities and soon sees through the deception of the two strongest personalities. She rightfully deduces that the missing girls might be with her patient and they could be in serious danger and subsequently goes to her patient’s home to see. This leads to the climax of the film, where many other personalities are revealed and the girls, the doctor, and the personalities fates collide.

Ok, now to the meat of this blog, the movie and characters themselves. 

For a film that I was unsure of at first, specifically due to the fact that Shymalan movies had really dropped in quality, I was very pleasantly surprised. “Split” was a new take on multiple personality disorder. It was expertly presented, with a central character that was both complex and entertaining in the same breath. James McAvoy was the principal star in the film. He played no less than 8 separate characters/personalities throughout the film in a convincing, sometimes chilling fashion. Crumb was the original personality or host if you will, and McAvoy easily transitioned to 7 others in some cases in the blink of an eye. He effectively played a little boy, a stern OCD type, a flamboyant designer, an academic, a proper English lady and the fearsome beast. All acted in a convincing and stellar fashion. This film truly was a vehicle for McAvoy to show his talent in both physical and character acting. As Dennis, the personality with OCD. He was a stern, chilling, almost psychopathic character with no humour, but some very distinct twists. This was quickly followed by Patricia, an almost stereotyped English lady, who with Dennis, controlled Crumb the most. As mentioned previously, there were other characters that McAvoy played within the “Crumb” universe if you will, but my favourite was Hedwig, the little boy. In this character, McAvoy was able to give humour and also a bit of innocence that was lacking in the other characters. Barry was the flamboyant designer who was usually the personality available when meeting with Dr. Fletcher (Buckley) while only glimpses of Jade, Orwell and the host, Crumb were only present for short intervals. The last character present, the “Beast” actually seemed to physically alter McAvoy as he took on this fearsome persona whose ultimate goal were to kill and eat…and apparently not necessarily always in that order. As you can see, I felt that McAvoy’s performance was second to none, he was amazing, altering his voice, persona, appearance and character to fit each personality. If you were not a fan of McAvoy before, after watching this film, you will be!

Haley Lu Richardson as Claire Benoit: As one of the three girls that were captured by Crumb/Dennis (McAvoy), Claire (Richardson) was portrayed as the stereotypical teenager who apparently seemed to lack for nothing. The event was her birthday party that started it all off, and it seems that she invited her whole art class, even people that she did not really care for i.e. Casey (Taylor-Joy). Once she awakens in her cell, it is clear that there is a delineation between the 3 girls as Claire (Richardson) and Marcia (Sula) stay together on the same cot, while Casey is left on her own. Her main contribution seems to scream and shout ideas on how to escape. While she does effectively escape from their cell (not the compound), she is caught again and is placed in another room to await the Beast. I have not seen in her in any other show that she has been in, so I can’t really comment on her resume of work, but she was not bad, but not great either in this role. Easily forgotten in the grand scheme of the story. 

Jessica Sula as Marcia: The second girl of the trio is also new to me, she has been in a number of shows, but nothing that I had watched in the past. In this film, she is the typical follower. She agrees to everything and will follow whatever Claire says, and later, Casey. She too is separated from the others to await her demise. Marcia (Sula) does not really garner any emotion from the audience and actually after awhile I found the whining kind of annoying. Luckily she is not really a central character, but just one of the hapless trio who were captured. I hope that as she gets older and has more experience, that her roles and acting will progress. 

Betty Buckley as Dr. Karen Fletcher: Fletcher (Buckley) is the psychiatrist that is treating Crumb (McAvoy) et all. Usually dealing with the Barry character, she appears to have had some exposure with many of the personalities within Crumb. Trying to increase her own stature within the psychiatric community, she uses her patient as a case study in several forums. However, it is she, who is first realizing that some of the more “evil” personalities are at the forefront and are trying to control Crumb at all costs. Knowledgeable in dealing with cases such as this, she does manage to provide Casey (Taylor-Joy) with key information in the film’s 3rdact which will prove to be pivotal. Fletcher’s role is extremely important throughout this film as it manages to find the missing pieces for the audience and helps (them/you) put the missing pieces together. A solid actress of many years, Buckley has been around for decades, heck, I even remember watching her as a kid in “Eight is Enough” in the mid 70’s. So she has had plenty of time to perfect her acting skills. As Dr. Fletcher, her performance was solid and the chemistry between her and Crumb (McAvoy) was believable. Her character was a great contribution to the film and story line itself and without her, there would have been several plot holes that would have been hard to fill.

Anya Taylor-Joyas Casey Cooke: The other principle character in this thriller and third girl who was abducted at the party. Casey (Taylor-Joy) is a troubled teen who came from a dysfunctional background. Her flashbacks tell a tale of abuse by a perverted and sick uncle and the unexpected loss of her father at a young age. She is a bit of a loner, only invited to the party as she was a class mate, and not really a friend of the hostess (Claire). However, in her case, it was the prime example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once awakened in the cell, it is Casey (Taylor-Joy) who starts putting all the pieces together, and actually comes up with several ways to confuse and even manipulate their captor(s). Casey (Taylor-Joy) comes across as a very intelligent young lady and manages to wear the mantle of heroine very well. She easily sees through the changes and character traits of Crumb’s (McAvoy) many personalities and has an excellent rapport with some of them, specifically Hedwig and Dennis. Her final confrontation with the “Beast” is thrilling and manages to close several story lines. Not wanting to give away the climax, it is safe to say that their encounter is full of tension and action. As you can see, Taylor-Joy and McAvoy make the film and it is their chemistry between them (regardless of the personality) that makes the film so enjoyable. As with the other girls, I have not watched anything that she has been in, but I will look for her in upcoming films. I think she has some great talent, and I can only imagine what the future may bring for this young actress.

Overall we really enjoyed this film. It had suspense, comedy, horror and thrills all in one. The cinematography was excellent and the 2 key players (McAvoy and Taylor-Joy) were phenomenal in their roles. It literally kept us glued to the screen for the duration of the film. If this is what Shymalan is returning to, then I for one applaud it. Overall, the film was thoroughly entertaining and I look forward to watch the last film in the trilogy, Glass. If you are looking for some quality acting and a story that will keep you glued to the screen, then I recommend “Split” to be one of your next viewing choices, I am sure you won’t be disappointed!

Rating: 7.5/10

 Till the next time!

If you are interested in films from the main actor, consider the following recommendations:

James McAvoy              Atomic Blonde, X-Men (Franchise), The Last King of Scotland, Band of Brothers

Anya Taylor-Joy             Peaky Blinders