Archives for posts with tag: M. Night Shyamalan

Grade B+

Fresh off his indie hit, “The Visit,” writer/director/producer M. Night Shyamalan creates another mega indie hit, “Split.”  James McAvoy plays a seriously troubled man with about 24 different personalities.  Each personality vies for its time “out in the light,” but the more malevolent personalities have taken over, resulting in the kidnapping of three young ladies.

The police have no idea where the girls are, and it will be up to the girls to find a way out of their prison.  Time is quickly running out, because a new personality is coming out of McAvoy, an entity that supposedly has the power to alter McAvoy’s body into one that is monstrous.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Split” is the bonus scene after the end credits, revealing a tie-in with another Shyamalan movie that hints of what his next movie will be.

Shyamalan’s mojo is definitely back, helped by the superb acting of McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays one of the kidnapped girls.  I can’t wait to see Shyamalan’s next movie.

— M

After directing/writing movies in the past ten years that left the audience wondering what happened to Shyamalan’s talent for filmmaking, he is back in good form with “The Visit,” which he wrote/directed.  Working with a low budget and virtually unknown actors, Night has crafted a good horror/suspense movie starring Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould as siblings who visit their grandparents for the first time and quickly realize their grandparents are very, very odd.

Each grandparent, separately, explains the strange behavior of the other grandparent; and for the first two or three days the children accept it without too much of a problem.  But as more days pass, the grandparents exhibit more terrifying behavior which will force the children to fight for their lives on the last night of their visit.

“The Visit” is shown from the point of view of the cameras the children bring to document their first meeting with their grandparents.  I usually find this style annoying as it tends to have jittery camerawork plus it usually contains the shenanigan of the character still holding on to the camera and shooting footage even though his life is in imminent danger (the explanation typically given is “this is important, I need to keep shooting” is b.s.).  Thankfully, “The Visit” had limited, jittery camerawork, but it still had the shenanigan I just mentioned.   Despite these two drawbacks, I was impressed with Shyamalan’s work.  “The Visit” had the cheap scares as well as genuine ones that will dry your mouth and have you holding your breath as you wait for what happens next.  This is a movie I will happily watch again with someone who hasn’t seen it yet.

And now, kiddies, it’s time for my most memorable, movie moments of “The Visit.”  #3 goes to the night footage of the camera set in the living room, and we see the grandmother walking around erratically, slamming doors and then disappearing from view, only to show up later to do something shocking (that got me to uncontrollably curse out…and my little nieces were in the same room with me watching this movie).  #2 goes to the scene when the grandfather shoves a diaper full of his feces into the face of Oxenbould.  #1 is the scene that reveals why the grandparents are the way they are.  This reveal is ruined because of the shenanigan of the children staying in the house (it was daytime when the revelation occurred, and it was nighttime when the final confrontations happened — so in all that time the kids never had a chance to get out of the house?).  You watch and tell me if I’m being too harsh or if I made the right call.

— M

Screenwriter and director M. Night Shyamalan continues his downward slide into mediocrity with “The Happening,” a movie about some type of poison that is released in the air and makes any human that breathes it become suicidal.  At this point, some critics would make a joke that connects watching this movie with wanting to commit suicide.  No, no, this movie isn’t that bad.  Mediocre, yes, but not bad.  Of course, this being a Hollywood movie that costs about $50 million, I’d expect more.  I got more, all right, but it was more disappointment.

Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel play a married couple who evacuate their home in a big city when reports of possible terrorist-released poison gas are reported all throughout the East Coast.  Their escape comes to a halt when the train they are on suddenly stops in a small town because the conductors have lost all contact with the rest of the world.  The passengers soon make a run for middle America when it’s reported on the news that only the East Coast have been attacked.  Wahlberg, Deschanel, and the daughter of Wahlberg’s best friend join a large group of survivors who are not only trying to avoid the poisoned air, they are also trying to solve the mystery of who is responsible for releasing the poison into the air.

Unfortunately for the viewer, the answer to the mystery is revealed very early in the movie.  Earlier Shyamalan movies are known for their surprise, twist endings.  No such thing in “The Happening.”  Okay, so is that, in and of itself, the reason why this movie is mediocre?  No, but there are other reasons.

Reason 1: Wahlberg and Deschanel are horribly miscast in this movie, not just as leads, but as a married couple.   They simply have no chemistry together.  It’s like mixing whiskey with orange juice.  Huh, what?  There you go.  Wahlberg, of course, is best suited for the tough guy, action role.  But here, the screenplay wimps him out to the point where he is laughable.  The scene when his small group of survivors are freaking out and asking Wahlberg what they should do, and Wahlberg screams out something like “Will someone just give me a Goddamned minute!” brought out laughter from the audience when I first watched it years ago in the movie theaters.   There are many more moments like these.  Moments that make me wonder if Shyamalan was making a hybrid comedy/suspense/thriller/drama.

My wondering is over: this is just — reason 2 — unfocused screenwriting.   There’s a lot of unevenness to “The Happening.”  The first 10 minutes are intense and horrifying, with zero humor.  What happens after that is a mish-mosh of comedy, edge of your seat suspense, and uninspired acting.

Reason 3: Shyamalan.  Hey, as an experienced writer/director, he should know better.  The script needed a hell of a lot more polishing, he should’ve been on the ball with the casting of the leads, and his direction should have been tighter.

(Sigh) Despite all this, I still enjoyed this movie, the first time, and this time also.  Why?  Because the opening sequence really hooks you in!  It’s that good.  And there are a few scenes after the first act that show Shyamalan’s talents as a master of suspense.

One such scene is my most memorable, movie moment of “The Happening”: the part where people are in a Jeep Wrangler (I think that’s the vehicle) driving slowly through Princeton, looking for friends and relatives who may still be alive; but all they see on the streets are dead people.  The air around them is poisoned, and there is a tear in the fabric roof of the vehicle!

Coming in second place for my most memorable moment of this movie is the scene when Wahlberg, Deschanel, and the little girl are taking shelter in a weird woman’s house.  All of a sudden the weird woman tells Wahlberg that she suspects he will murder her in her sleep.  She walks away, and the camera zooms in on Wahlberg’s face as he replies, “Whaaaat?  Noooooooo!”  Ha-ha!  It’s the most hilarious part in the movie.  Shyamalan completely destroyed the mood/atmosphere/tone/intensity of the movie once again.  But hey, at least I got a laugh out of it, and so did the majority of the audience in the movie theater.

Oh, when the movie ended, and I was in the men’s room relieving myself, one person who watched “The Happening” asked his friend “Who wrote this story, Al Gore?”  Hee-hee, watch the movie and you’ll find out what he meant.

— M

“Devil” comes from a story by M. Night Shyamalan.  That’s either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you view his craft/talent.  Whatever the case, the director and screenwriter are other people, so we’re not seeing a true, M. Night movie.

“Devil” starts us off with a narrator talking about a story his mom used to tell him when he was a boy.  A story about the devil.  No, not the TSA.  The actual devil that you read about in the bible.  The story goes like this: the devil makes his appearance when someone commits suicide, then the devil comes for the souls of those who are damned; but before he kills the damned, he tortures them.

So, after we see a suicide, 5 people enter an elevator, and bad things start to happen.  The 5 are a young, white guy; a creepy salesman; an old lady; a pretty, young woman; and a security guard for the building played by Bokeem Woodbine.   One of them is the devil.  Supposedly.  This is where it gets fun.  Guessing who it is; and it is tough to do.

But let me talk about Woodbine for a bit.  He does look like the devil.  He has evil-looking eyes, his teeth look sharpened (has anyone else noticed that?), and he gets sweaty easily like he’s been working out in the fields.  Oh, he’s the most familiar face in this movie, too.  I know, that seems like a hint that this is a crappy movie.  Well, it is…normally.  But surprisingly, it doesn’t apply in this case.  Now, if I told you Alfonso Ribeiro is the most familiar face in a movie, you should run from that movie.

Back to the devil and the damned in the elevator.   They are not alone in their sufferings.  Security guards — and eventually cops — are watching through the security camera.  Damn, I wonder if security guards saw me put my hand up my date’s skirt while we were in the elevator in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan?  Anyway…those trapped in the elevator can hear the security guards, but the guard can’t hear the ones in the elevator.  One by one, the elevator people are killed as cops and firefighters rush to free them and prevent the killer from taking more lives.

Despite what you see in the trailers, this is not a horror movie.  It’s more of a suspense/thriller, with a few shocking bits thrown intermittently throughout the movie.   People may be thrown off when they expect one genre, and get another.  Their minds can’t adjust, and they give the movie a bad review because of it.  Sure, the studios deserve a slap for giving us a bait and switch, but as for the movie itself…”Devil” is a solid suspense/thriller.  The acting is very good, the pacing is tight, and the direction is good.  Typical of M. Night’s stories, it has some type of surprise or twist ending, albeit a light one.  It definitely pales compared to the “ooohhh, s@#t!” moment of “The Sixth Sense,” so don’t expect much of a twist.

And so, we come to my most memorable, movie moment.  And that is the final shot that has the narrator saying that if the devil exists, then so does God.  It’s some comfort to know that there are checks and balances in the Universe.  But from what I remember reading in the bible, God has his temper, too.   So it’s best to watch out for both sides.

M

 

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