Film Review: GLASS (USA 2018)

Glass Poster
Trailer

Security guard David Dunn uses his supernatural abilities to track Kevin Wendell Crumb, a disturbed man who has twenty-four personalities.

Writers:

M. Night ShyamalanM. Night Shyamalan (characters)

GLASS is a superhero thriller written, produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The film is a sequel to Shyamalan’s previous films UNBREAKABLE (2000) and SPLIT(2016), cumulatively forming the Eastrail 177 Trilogy.  All the main stars are present – Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Treat Clark, and Charlayne Woodard who reprise their Unbreakable roles, while James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy return as their Split characters.

The premise is the fight between good and evil, the good being the super hero David Dunn (Willis) and the bad the McAvoy split characters.

The film opens two years after the events of SPLIT.   David Dunn (Willis) works with his now adult son Joseph (Clark) in using his superhuman abilities to protect people from criminals under a new alias known as “The Overseer”.   This part is incredibly silly and unbelievable.  David learns from Joseph that Kevin Wendell Crumb (McAvoy), who suffers from dissociative identity disorder, has a group of cheerleaders held up in a warehouse.  David goes to free them after discovering the fact out of pure coincidence but encounters one of Kevin’s personalities known as “The Beast,” and the ensuing fight spills out into the streets.  The Philadelphia police department are called leading to the eventual capture of both David and Kevin.  Why David is brought in is never really explained as he has done no harm. The two are sent to a mental institution where Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), David’s sworn enemy, in another wild coincidence, is being held.

Shyamalan introduces a new character into the story.  Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) is the head doctor of the mental institution and works with patients who claim to have special powers. In order to have them suppress those thoughts, she tries to persuade them that there is no such thing as superhuman powers and that they actually have a mental illness. Meanwhile, Elijah (Jackson) is secretly working with Kevin to unleash “The Beast” and expose the world to the existence of superheroes. With the help of “The Beast,” Elijah escapes but he is soon pursued by David, who again battles Kevin on the institution’s grounds.  The Dr. Staple character is the silliest of all the characters – coming off as a  pompous dumb bitch know-it-all who will obviously be roved wrong, cliche-wise at the end of the story.

At this point, the film appears to have gone through full circle with nothing at all accomplished.

GLASS is a trilogy of two UNBREAKABLE, SPLIT and this one.  A word of warning that one must be familiar with the other two films or end up completely lost in following the plot or characters in GLASS.  Director Shyamalan makes no attempt to update his audience to the current proceedings of GLASS.  

One point of observation.  This is the rare film where the actor Samuel L. Jackson’s character does not utter the ‘mf’ word.

Shyamalan make a guest cameo at a store in the film.  He sees David Dunn and mentions that he recognizes the man from the stadium where Dunn used to work security, stating that he used to do shady things when younger.  Those familiar with UNBREAKABLE will recall that Shyamalan gave himself a cameo in UNBREAKABLE selling drugs at the stadium.

There are many reasons that the word ‘split’ would apply to GLASS.  One is the main character from SPLIT portrayed by Jame McAvoy who is also one of the lead characters in GLASS.  Second, the film splits between the thriller and super action hero genres though unfortunately not blending well.  The fight scenes are minimal and the thrills and suspense are also unimpressive.  As GLASS contains two main characters, one from SPLIT and the other, the Bruce Willis superhero from UNBREAKABLE, there was debate regarding the film’s distribution.  Distribution is now split.  Universal now distributes the film in North American while Buena Vista (UNBREAKABLE was from Touchtone Pictures) internationally.  Willis’ performance is stoic while McAvoy’s is downright crazy as he switches from one personality to another instantly.  Director Shyamalan films often splits between the excellent (SIGNS, THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKABLE, SPLIT, THE VISIT) and the duds (LADY IN THE WATER, THE LAST AIRBENDER, AFTER EARTH).  Unfortunately, GLASS belongs to the latter category.  Audiences will undoubtedly be split on whether liking or hating GLASS.  But GLASS is long, boring, too dead serious on its subjects despite the general silliness overall.

At the promo screening, a fair portion of the audience stayed to the end of the closing credits as in SPLI there a was a surprise appearance of Bruce Willis at the ed of that film signalling the sequel GLASS.  No such luck in GLASS.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7ztHi9ejp4

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Film Review: DEATH WISH (USA 2018)

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Death Wish Poster
Trailer

A family man becomes a vigilante killing machine when his family is violently attacked by robbers.

Director:

Eli Roth

Writers:

Joe Carnahan (screenplay by), Brian Garfield (from the novel by) | 1 more credit »

 

DEATH WISH 2018 opening March 2nd is the remake of the famous 1974 Charles Bronson film (directed by Michael Winner) that spurned two sequels.  A vigilante action film, loosely based on the 1972 novel of the same title by Brian Garfield,  the film followed Paul Kersey, a man who becomes a vigilante after his wife is murdered and his daughter sexually assaulted during a home invasion.

In the new Eli Roth version, Paul Kersey is now a doctor, a surgeon who has access to drugs and information that enables him to torture the crooks he is after, only because Roth loves this kind of violence, being the director of the two HOSTEL horror films.  Dr. Kersey (Bruce Willis) becomes vigilante after being beaten up by two thugs right after his wife his killed and daughter out into a coma after a home invasion.  Dr. Kersey hunts down those responsible, brutally torturing and killing them.

DEATH WISH 2018 delivers exactly what is expected – from Willis and director Roth – a  no-nonsense vigilante revenge action thriller with predictably all the ends nicely tied together so that Dr. Kersey cannot be held responsible for all the previous vigilant killings.

The script by Joe Carnahan has updated the film with characters using iPads and cell phones that never existed back in 1974.  Kersey’s daughter, Jordan (the very pretty Camila Morrone) goes upstairs to get her mother’s iPad before getting attacked by the home invaders.  Dr. Kersey calls Knox (Beau Knapp), the main villain of the story on his cell phone to lure him out in the open in a night club.  But the script while being manipulative, carefully devotes time to introduce the main characters (so that the audience can identify wi them) before starting on the action.

At the time of release of the original 1974 DEATH WISH, the film was attacked by many film critics due to its support of vigilantism and advocating unlimited punishment of criminals. But the novel denounced vigilantism, whereas the film embraced the notion, same as this 2018 version.  The 1974 film was a commercial success and resonated with the public in the United States, which was facing increasing crime rates during the 1970s.   But the 2018 version has more obstacles to face with the current events of school shooting, the NRA boycott and anti-gun protests around the United States.  Worst still, the 2018 version is totally pro-gun which will make the film an even harder sell.  It is not surprising that none of those involved in the making of the film, noticeably Bruce Willis have been absent in any publicity prior to the film’s release.  It is also a point to note that Sylvester Stallone wanted to star in this new version as a anti-weapon police officer Kersey, but this never came to fruition.  (Another point for discontent between Willis and Stallone after Stallone criticized Willis for wanting too much money to star in his last EXPENDABLES movie.)

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9r2vsi3ah2w

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1997 Movie Review: THE FIFTH ELEMENT, 1997


THE FIFTH ELEMENT, 1997
Movie Reviews

Directed by Luc Besson
Starring: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Milla Jovovich, Chris Tucker, Luke Perry
Review by Emma Hutchings

SYNOPSIS:

A former government agent grudgingly sets out on a quest to save the world from an ancient evil after the only hope of thwarting destruction falls into the back seat of his cab.

OSCAR NOMINEE for Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing

REVIEW:

The Fifth Element is Luc Besson’s big budget futuristic blockbuster, which, at the time, was the most expensive film ever produced outside of Hollywood. Besson again called on the might of Gary Oldman to play the bad guy, following his fantastic performance in Léon (1994). Besson helped out as producer on Nil by Mouth (Oldman’s hard-hitting directorial debut), which was also released in 1997 and also starred Charlie Creed-Miles (Cornelius’ protégé David in The Fifth Element and Billy in Nil by Mouth).

This film is a visual extravaganza. The rich and vibrant colours ensure that the future is a bright and appealing one, not bleak and dystopian, as in so many futuristic films. Besson said that he wanted to show a vision of the future that wasn’t dark and dangerous. Mark Stetson, the Special Visual Effects Supervisor on the film, who had previously worked on Blade Runner, said “One of the most gratifying aspects of working with Luc on this picture is the fact that it’s not another Blade Runner. The look of this film is very different and fresh.” What comes across most about the visual effects is the amazing attention to detail. The shots of 23rd century New York are some of the highlights. Leeloo’s POV shot when she sees the skyline for the first time is remarkable. The skyscrapers, packed closely together, ascend high into the clouds, with subways zooming up and down their sides and the areas in between packed with flying cars. The quirky, original costumes were designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier, who even checked over the extras individually before scenes to make sure they were looking their best. Two famous French comic book artists, Jean Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières developed the production design. They were responsible for much of the iconography of the film; the vehicles, spacecrafts, buildings, human characters and aliens.

There are references to other films in The Fifth Element. Although described as the Anti-Blade Runner, the cityscape with enormous advertising screens and the flying cars are definite similarities. Brion James (who plays General Munro, Korben’s former commanding officer) played the character of Leon in Blade Runner. The machine that regenerates Leeloo is very similar to the one used to create the robot in Metropolis (1927). The thermal bandages that are strapped to her are reminiscent of the metal bands covering Maria when the Man-Machine is converted into her.

The story boils down to a straightforward good vs. evil narrative. A huge, dark sphere of absolute evil attempts to destroy Earth every 5,000 years and five elements are used together to stop this happening. Earth, wind, fire and water, along with the Supreme Being; an ultimate warrior created to protect life. A simple but effective technique used a number of times throughout the film is cross-cutting. Used to switch between action taking place in different locations at the same time, it is cleverly used here because characters often finish each other’s sentences. For example, when Zorg meets with Aknot (leader of the Mangalores) to exchange crates of weapons for the case of stones, he shuts the lid and then states “This case…is empty.” The scene then cuts to Leeloo laughing and Cornelius asks “What do you mean, empty?” Cut back to Zorg, who tells his lackey “Empty. The opposite of full. This case is supposed to be full! Anyone care to explain?” Cut back to Leeloo, explaining in the divine language that they gave the stones to someone they could trust. Cornelius says “We’re saved” and then a final cut back to Zorg, who says “I’m screwed.” This is an intelligent use of dialogue and editing that is both interesting and efficient.

Korben Dallas is rather a reluctant hero. He was living a lonely, uneventful life before Leeloo crashed through the roof of his cab. At the beginning of the film he says he wants to meet the perfect woman. He hasn’t had very good experiences with women; his wife left him for his lawyer and his mother continuously calls him just to moan at him. He is laconic and very humourous at times. When sent in to negotiate with the Mangalores, he casually strolls in and shoots their leader in the head asking, “Anyone else wanna negotiate?” It is interesting that our hero Korben and the villain of the film, Zorg, never meet or communicate with each other. Usually there would be an epic battle at the end where they would fight until the villain was killed. However, they narrowly miss bumping into each other as Korben gets into an elevator and Zorg leaves the one next to it, ultimately getting himself blown up by the Mangalore’s bomb. There is a connection between hero and villain though; Zorg gets rid of 1 million people from one of his smaller companies, a cab company, and in a later scene Korben gets a message telling him he’s fired. The name ‘Zorg’ is clearly visible at the bottom of the message.

Leeloo is the heroine of the film. Beautiful and very strong, she is often referred to as ‘perfect’. She is a fast learner, able to absorb large quantities of information; she learns 5,000 years worth of Earth’s history from a computer in a very short amount of time. She is kooky and has lots of funny moments in the film, usually when she is trying to understand certain words in the English language (“Big ba-dah boom”, “Auto-wash”, “Mul-ti-pass”). The ‘divine language’ spoken by Leeloo has 400 words and was invented by the director and Milla Jovovich. Jovovich stated that she and Besson wrote letters to each other in the language as practice and by the end of filming they were able to have full conversations.

The number 5 is a recurring motif in this film. Apart from the obvious 5 elements there are also lots of other notable occurrences. Evil returns every 5,000 years, Korben has 5 points left on his licence, the Council asks Zorg to fire 500,000 people, and Korben says to General Munro “Nice to see you in the 5,000 block”. The bomb in Fhloston Paradise has around 5 minutes left when Ruby notices it, Zorg stops it with 5 seconds remaining and the Mangalore’s bomb counts down from 5 seconds. Ruby’s radio show starts at 5, Korben says “If we don’t get these stones open in 5 minutes, we’re all dead.” Ruby says “”Every 5 minutes there’s something, a bomb or something!” and right at the end the scientist says “They’re not ready. They need 5 more minutes.”

Any observant viewers (actually that should be listeners) may notice two occurrences of the infamous ‘Wilhelm Scream’, a distinctive sound effect that has found a following with many sound editors and movie fans. First used in Distant Drums, a 1951 film starring Gary Cooper, it was later adopted by sound designer Ben Burtt who named it after the character of Pvt. Wilhelm in The Charge at Feather River (1953) who screams when he is shot in the leg by an arrow. Burtt included it in many of the films he has worked on including the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films. It grew in familiarity and continues to be heard in new productions released every year. In The Fifth Element it can be heard when Zorg blows up Right Arm at the airport and during Leeloo’s fight with the Mangalores, as two are sent flying out of the Diva’s suite (turn the volume up for this one).

The film ends after the world is saved by the power of love. Leeloo finishes learning all about Earth on the computer and becomes particularly disturbed by W for War. She watches all of the images flash by of chaos and destruction and she despairs at how people could do such things to each other. She tells Korben, “Everything you create, you use to destroy” and he replies “Yeah, we call it human nature.” Her faith in humanity needs to be restored in order for her to save them, Korben must show her the world has some good and there are beautiful things worth saving, like love. She doesn’t know love, she says “I was built to protect, not to love”. She needs him to tell her that he loves her, this empowers her and she draws on the other four elements and destroys the ancient evil. Earth is rescued from annihilation and the two of them can live happily together (he’ll need to get another job though). I highly recommend this film. It has a great cast of actors all having a good time, the visuals are fantastic and it’s very enjoyable as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

THE FIFTH ELEMENT
 

Movie Review: DIE HARD (1988)

Top Christmas Movie of All-Time

DIE HARD MOVIE POSTER
DIE HARD, 1988
Movie Reviews

Directed by John McTiernan
Starring: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, Paul Gleason
Review by Kabir Shukla

SYNOPSIS:
Visiting his estranged wife for Christmas in her office building in LA, New York City cop John McClane finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. A group of German terrorists have held everyone hostage at gunpoint, leaving only McClane to foil their plan. Equipped with his pistol and bare feet, McClane must figure out a way to stop the terrorists and save his wife’s life before it’s too late.

REVIEW:

This is a must-see for any Bruce Willis or action movie fan. In the role that launched his career, Willis does not disappoint as John McClane. His portrayal of an everyday, struggling cop, with personal and family issues, and an uncanny ability to stay alive, is spot on. He is perfect for this role. And ironically, he was the studio’s 5th choice to play John McClane. The first was Ahhhnold, and the fourth was Richard Gere (yes THAT Richard Gere). So it seems everyone lucked out when Willis got the job.

Making his big screen debut, Alan Rickman fills the role of the sociopathic German villan-mastermind, Hans Gruber, perfectly. Long before he donned the black wig and cloak as Severus Snape, he was Hans Gruber, a true 80’s villain. Having done only TV roles before, Rickman proved early why he was cut out to be a Hollywood actor. Though his role didn’t require an overt dramatic portrayal, he was very convincing in every scene.

Also in the film, who you may recognize, is Reginald VelJohnson as Sergeant Powell. To some, he is better known as Carl Winslow. This movie was made one year before “Family Matters” debuted, so we cannot say that he is reprising his role as a beat patrol cop here, but it seems to be something he does well. He plays the, at first bumbling clueless policeman, who in the end is an integral role in the film’s ultimate conclusion. He also seems to know every ingredient in the Twinkie off the top of his head (he literally lists them without hesitation).

Director John McTiernan was just coming off directing “Predator” a year earlier when he directed Die Hard. So he must have still had some adrenaline in his blood when he brought this action-packed thrill ride to the big screen. McTieman decided to scrap the stock gun and bullet sound effects for the real thing. He used custom-made extra-loud blanks for each gun. In addition, he used the sound of live rounds from each gun recorded at a firing range to dub over the gunshot noises when necessary. You can tell. The guns are louder and the muzzle flashes are brighter. In addition, to add to the grittiness, he chose to go with the big-boy squibs. So when a man gets shot, the blood shooting out lets you know that he’s not getting up.

But enough about the players, lets get to the movie.

Die Hard has the dry wit mixed with action that has kept the franchise going for its 19-year and 4 movie lifespan. Always breaking the tension with a quick one-liner, the timing and delivery is perfect for the subtle, yet noticeable comedic element to the movie. Also noticeable is a 32-year-old Bruce Willis with a full head of real hair, which is something that we need the photo-album to see now.

The plot is pretty straightforward. McClane is visiting his wife at her office Christmas party in LA. In this building are bonds of $600 million. Gruber and his associates take over the building, hold the workers hostage and hatch their plan to steal the money. What they did not expect was McClane to be there. The movie follows McClane as he must fight and shoot his way to stopping Gruber’s plan from succeeding. He befriends Sergeant Powell, a policeman on the ground outside the building who helps him stay sane. The other officers are not so friendly.

The rest goes as expected. McClane shoots, the bad guys shoot back. McClane punches, the bad guys punch back (namely a blond Fabio look-alike). In the end, who will outlast the other? I suppose you have to watch to find out.

The movie flows very well. I have no gripes. We all know that the bad guys don’t shoot very accurately and the good guys never run out of bullets. But one clichÈ that I don’t like in this movie is Paul Gleason’s (R.I.P.) portrayal of the deputy police chief Dwayne Robinson. While Powell knows that McClane is doing his best to help the situation, Robinson insists that Mclane is even worse than Gruber and the other terrorists. His decisions sometimes do not make sense, as his only agenda is to contradict McClane to prove is own point. In reality, I think we know that personal issues would be put aside in a hostage situation as this. Logic would prevail. But in a film, there needs to be an anti-hero on the good guys’ team to increase the dramatic element. Enter deputy police chief Dwayne Robinson.

Now please do not misconstrue this peccadillo as anything more than that. I just feel I have to present the good with the bad. In the case of Die Hard, the good far outweighs the bad, but again, I must present both.

For those of you who love to look for continuity errors, you will be pleased to know that the Die Hard(s) are notorious for them. I won’t give away where and when, because frankly I don’t know all of them, but in many instances McClane goes from dirty to clean to dirty again and from wearing this to not wearing it to wearing it again many times. If you are watching the movie for the X’th time, it may be fun to look for them. You’ll be surprised to see how many things you missed the first time around.

So if you want my overall take, which I assume you do if you have read this far, is that Die Hard is a MUST SEE. If you have a heartbeat and a Y chromosome, you will love this movie. The action is non-stop, Willis is spot on, and the suspense is palpable. This movie really set the tone for future action films. Anyone who claims to be a fan of the genre has seen this movie. Anyone who wants to be must watch it immediately.

Yippee-ki-yay.

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Movie Review: PRECIOUS CARGO

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preciouscargo.jpgPRECIOUS CARGO (USA 2016) **
Directed by Max Adams

Starring: Bruce Willis, Claire Forlani, Mark-Paul Gosselaar

Review by Gilbert Seah

There are a few reasons to go see this action flick, one of them being to learn how an action film can end up so odd. Another is the many references to James Bond, whether intentional or unintentional.

The film begins, actually quite well. In the starting segment, the hero Jack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) is shot twice by blanks. The first time he falls to the ground, the pounding music quietens to silence. When Jack rises to his feet again to face his shooter, the music quickly resumes to the initial pounding before he is shot again, falling to the ground with the music quietening again. This little quirk is the film’s best part – and nothing else can match it.

The James Bond references are also pretty funny and weird which breaks the otherwise monotony of the film. Every Bond film begins with an unassociated plot action piece which is the most spectacular stunts sequence in the Bond film. The same goes in PRECIOUS CARGO. The opening credits with the diamonds and dancing figures also remind one of a Bond film. The hero is also surrounded by rival ladies and there are three in this film. But funniest is the villain’s right hand man (Daniel Bernhardt), one that never dies that has an uncanny resemblance to a solid and fitter Sean Connery in his youthful days. The actor is much sexier than Gosselaar which might be the reason he is never killed off. He also has the best dialogue in the film – especially the monologue telling off his boss’s bitches.

It is all these interesting little quirks that appear out of the blue that lifts the film out of boredom. But these are insufficient to lift the film above the average action flick. The plot (the lines and many incidents are predictable), the boat chase (there is conveniently a spare boat and two jet skis for the villains to chase Jack and crew who escape on one) and James Bond copied action fights are examples of cliched material. The film cannot be taken seriously nor is it funny enough to be classified as a spoof.

Jack and crew are professional crooks. Jack’s ex-girlfriend, Karen (Claire Forlani) runs foul of her crime boss lover Eddie (Bruce Willis) and wants to pull a $30 million dollar diamond heist. This will allow her to pay off Eddie and also allow Jack to retire.

Funny that the heist is so simply executed with no glitches but Jack running foul of Eddie and his gang becomes more of the problem.

Like Bond, Jack is a ladies’ man. Having three ladies after his chops would be something that would annoy the female audience in this day and age. The first is Karen. The other is Jack’s new vet girlfriend (Lydia Hull) and the third is a markswoman member of his crew, Logan (Jenna B. Kelly).

PRECIOUS CARGO originated as the prize winning student short film that Max Adams made. This is the expanded full length feature version.

The film ends with the end credits rolling over behind the scenes bloopers, which like most are inside jokes for the actors and crew and are less funny to the audience. But funniest is the caption of the film being dedicated to Grace. Grace is the dog Jack takes to the vet in a segment of the movie.

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