Split (2017)

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Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula

Plot: Three girls are kidnapped by a man who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The girls must escape before the 24th personality manifests.

Rating: 5/10

Overall: So, before I start, I think I need to disclose two things. One, I like M. Night Shyamalan despite most people’s mixed opinions of him. I can’t say he’s “amazing” by any means, but I don’t hate his films. Second, I’m pursuing a master’s degree in psychology, so my review is a little biased.

I gave this film a 50/50 review because while I think it had a solid foundation, the “fantasy” aspect of it really irked me. I wouldn’t say the ending was exactly a “twist” as everyone is calling it, but it definitely leaves it open-ended (you know, in case they want to do a sequel – which I really hope they don’t!). I like the character development of the main character, Kevin (*SPOILER* I refer to him as the host since the actual character doesn’t really emerge throughout the film) – but I think the scenes that show his “development” is out of order. The snippets from his past and his therapy sessions in present all foreshadow what’s going to happen and why, but the way it’s all sequenced didn’t really pull me through. The film’s climax is revolved around this “beast” and as I’m sure a majority of other reviews are addressing the issue of the physical aspect being falsely portrayed. From a psychology standpoint, this truly irked me. I’m not a fan for science fictional aspects – especially in film – and the fact that it’s in the mental health spectrum irks me even more. I not only think it falsely portrays people with dissociative identity disorder, but mental illness as a whole. I think it reinforces the fear and negative stigma associated with those suffering from a mental illness. So, with all of that being said, I think if you’re just an “ordinary” moviegoer, you will enjoy this film. If you have any background in psychology or are an advocate of mental illness, I highly recommend NOT seeing it.

One last comment: people are raving that this film is M. Night’s “comeback” film – some even paralleling it to the success of The Sixth Sense….it’s not (in my opinion). Not even close. I think it was a great effort, but it fell very short in execution.

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John Wick: Chapter Two

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Starring Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Common, Claudia Gerini

Plot: John Wick comes out of retirement and returns to the “criminal underworld to repay a debt,” but after a bounty has been put on his life, he’s in the fight for his life.

Rating: 6/10

Overall: I was actually really disappointed with this. While the character of John Wick is played most flawlessly by Keanu Reeves, and the action is without a doubt offers epic fight scenes, I just felt the plot lacked cohesiveness and character development. We don’t know who the main antagonist is or the history between the two. We don’t know the story between the antagonist and his “sidekick” (played by Ruby Rose). We don’t really understand the relationship between the brother and sister. Or the sister and John. There’s just so much lacking in this film. I gave it a 6 for the action and humor, but overall, I don’t think I will see the third film (oh, yeah, I hate this trend of leaving all films open-ended in case they want to “reboot” the series, which is exactly how this film ends).

 

*SPOILER* I don’t really think this is a spoiler, but thought I’d disclaim it in case someone else thought it constituted as one… Laurence Fishburne is in this film and all I could think was, “Look, it’s Morpheus and Neo – a Matrix reunion!”

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)

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Starring: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa, Max Martini, Alexia Barlier, David Costabile, Peyman Moaadi, Matt Letscher, Toby Stephens

Plot: Following the civil war that broke out in Libya in 2011, Benghazi became one of the most violent places in the world. The U.S. pulled all of its American outposts there, except under the CIA, a group of contractors by the name “Global Response Staff (GRS),” remained stationed in Tripoli and Benghazi. Benghazi falls under attack and the forces unite in the fight of their lives all while trying to figure out the root of all the chaos.

Rating: 6/10

Overall: While I know this is based on a true story and is remarked as an “anti-Hillary” film, it was sometimes difficult to follow – which perhaps that’s what the film was trying to convey: that even the soldiers weren’t even sure what they were fighting for (besides their survival). I didn’t see it as an anti-Hillary film, despite the one line in the film (*SPOILER*) where a woman is on the phone asking for air support, and later in the film the same woman is telling a fellow soldier, “I called for air support and nobody came.” While the action was good (as all Michael Bay films never fail to impress on that level), I just felt like there was a lot missing to bring the film together. The beginning had a lot of text, which is great since I didn’t really know the backstory to it. However, that’s not something I particularly enjoy doing at the beginning of the film. I think if they started it with some background…like the beginning of the civil war and Americans being deployed there as well as some communications or “behind the scenes” stuff between the CIA contractors and the U.S. commanders/politicians (whatever they’re called) back in the actual U.S. For example, like the woman who calls, to show the other person on the other end of the line – showing their reaction to her request and the action they take (or choose not to take) after the call ends (and even if that reaction isn’t documented in real-life, it would still be a great way to envision how that person would’ve reacted).

Also, just a side note that has no importance to the actual film – I think this is by far one of John Krasinski’s best films. Not only is he extremely good looking in it, but it’s nice to see him out of a romantic or comedic role and into a more serious role.

Room (2015)

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Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Tom McCamus

Plot: A 17-year-old woman is abducted and held captive in a shed for 7 years. In that time, she raises a young boy who has only known and seen the inside of that room.

Rating: 10/10

Overall: This was difficult to watch because there were times throughout the film where I wanted to hate a certain character because I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, that’s selfish,” or “Wow, that’s immature.” But then I remember the circumstances and think, “Well, if I was in that situation, I’d probably feel the same way,” or, “Well, I suppose at 5-years-old, you can’t really expect anything less.” It’s a really fascinating (and of course, unfortunate) event. I think all the emotions are well-captured and the events that happen afterwards are also very realistic. I feel that was the most incredible part of this film – you feel what the characters feel. I can definitely see why she won both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for this role.

Jem and the Holograms (2015)

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Starring: Aubrey Peeples, Stephanie Scott, Aurora Perrineau, Hayley Kiyoko, Molly Ringwald, Barnaby Carpenter, Juliette Lewis, Ryan Guzman

Plot: After a candid video goes viral, Jerrica “Jem” Benton and her three sisters are thrown into the world of fame, but are also on the journey to both self-discovery and a “treasure hunt” for things her father left behind.

Rating: 9/10

Overall: Okay, the acting is mediocre, but I think I really liked this film for the music. That might be my inner 90s speaking out, but I seriously loved this film. I can’t believe that it failed so terribly! Honestly, I was reading what the critics were saying about it…and then it hit me that this film was based off of a pre-existing animated TV series that I knew nothing about! I guess fans and critics who loved the animated series hated the film because it didn’t follow any of the plot. The director even said that he still receives hate mail and death threats because of the film’s faceplant into failure. HOWEVER, I LOVED it! I don’t care what anybody says. If you can get past the acting, the music and the father’s escapade he leaves behind makes up for it (in my opinion, obviously). I suppose if you like the animated series and aren’t a pop fan, you probably won’t like this film and agree with all the critics. BUT if you’re like me and a sucker for pop music, I think you’ll truly enjoy this film.

Don’t Breathe (2016)

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Starring: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Emma Bercovici

Plot: Three young adults decide to burglarize a blind Army veteran supposedly sitting on $3 million. However, once inside the house, they quickly regret their decision and find themselves in for a rough surprise.

Rating: 1/10

Overall: Okay, this film can not be considered “horror.” I suppose on the grounds of violence and stupid characters, then yes, I guess it fits the genre there. Overall, I don’t think this film lived up to its hype. I think the plot was poorly developed in that there were so many loopholes and “events” that I felt didn’t belong. The characters are just AWFUL. You have the idiotic hothead who is most likely to die first because he’s the cock a-hole that screams, “I DARE YOU,” to a gun wielding opponent. Then you have the guy you want to root for but the damn “love triangle” backdrop is excruciatingly annoying you instead hope he just dies. And then you have the “damsel in distress.” Can we get any more cliche? She’s the epitome of the “chick that dies in the first five minutes of the film,” where you just find yourself screaming at her the entire film because of the dramatic long pauses and the desire to go back for people who are probably just going to die anyway or risk a higher chance of not only them dying but the main character themselves. Don’t even get me started on the blind guy…there are no words to describe how f***ed up they made him. So basically, you feel bad for the guy throughout the first half of the film – like, hey, he’s blind…then there’s a plot twist that completely changes that dynamic. As a writer, I think that’s a great way to unravel your plot. It’s not a twist that works well and that’s where the loopholes began to unfold. I just hated this film. I was so excited to see it and walking out of the theater, I only had two thoughts: (1) What a waste of money! and (2) I really hope they don’t make a sequel (because yes, Hollywood is so damn cocky, they make every film end with a setup for a sequel).

American Ultra (2015)

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Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman, Tony Hale

Plot: A stoner – who is in fact a government agent – is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. But he’s too well-trained and too high for them to handle (IMDB.com).

Rating: 3/10

Overall: This was surprisingly more disappointing than I thought it was going to be, though now looking back, it has Kristen Stewart in it which is my reason for a film to be destined to fail…but another shocker is that she wasn’t the worst part of the film. I think the plot started out underdeveloped and missing a lot of gaps that weren’t really addressed until the end of the film. I think a little background would’ve been helpful in understanding this program or whatever that Mike (Eisenberg) was a part of, how his longtime girlfriend Phoebe (Stewart) was involved in the first place and the downspiraling of their relationship as they began discovering the truth behind his “skills”…there were just so many gaps in the film! One of the things I value most in a good film is character development. While I enjoyed the dynamic of Mike and Phoebe’s relationship, I felt there needed to be more development between Yates (Grace) and Lasseter (Britton), and eventually Krueger (Pullman); between Petey (Hale) and Lasseter; between Yates and Mike; between Yates and Phoebe, etc. I gave the film a 3 for effort and for the awesome action sequences.