Horror, Reviews

Split

Copyright © 2016 by Universal Pictures

Story
Three teenagers, Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) are kidnapped by one of Kevin Wendell Crumb’s (James McAvoy) 23 personalities and they are locked in a cell beneath the ground with the sole purpose of being offered as human sacrifices to a surfacing 24th persona known as ‘The Beast’. Sensing that Kevin’s more perverse nature is currently in control, his psychologist, Dr Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley) conducts her own investigation to locate the missing girls.

Review
M. Night Shyamalan’s competency lies in dispensing suspense and terror to hair-raising effect. By condensing the story on the girls trying to flee from their captor, he avoids the mistakes made in calamities like ‘Lady In The Water’ and ‘The Happening’. (Certain) character motivation and rationality are the movie’s finest qualities and casting McAvoy is like watching a filmic one-man show with 23 roles.

There is a kicker though. We are reminded that there are 23 characteristics, but ‘The Sixth Sense’ director only chooses to show us about eight of them for no particular reason. McAvoy’s acting artistry is in top form as he dazzles after being in cruise control for the last two years. He is prudish in a pleated midi skirt and illuminates as a precocious nine-year-old boy.

The depth McAvoy brings to the various individuals intensifies Kevin’s struggle with himself and it would have become unintentionally comical if someone lesser assumed the part. What disheartens me most about this thriller-cum-horror is that it is neither exciting nor scary despite the unique premise and outstanding central performances (Taylor-Joy and Buckley supplying commendable support).

Perhaps it is the ambiguity of what Kevin’s dominant ‘others’ have in store for the girls that is haphazardly written undermines the robust buildup in the first and second acts. Taylor-Joy effortlessly projects fear, confusion, and desperation all in just a look. Unfortunately, all I see is a regression from Shyamalan’s 2015 sleeper ‘The Visit’.

Rating
Entirety: B
Acting: A
Plot: B+

Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behaviour, violence and some language

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Musical, Reviews

La La Land

la_la_land_film

Copyright © 2016 by Summit Entertainment

Story
Pursuing a shot in Los Angeles, Mia Dolan (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress works as a barista on the Warner Bros. lot while auditioning for minor roles in television shows. She chances on Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling), a jazz musician making ends meet by playing Christmas carols & 1980s remixes and they both fall in love. When they both ascent to fame, their relationship is tested and it thrusts them into a melancholic decision.

Review
After beguiling in the festival circuit, where it set a new record for the biggest haul in the Golden Globes and a record-tying 14 nominations in the Oscars, ‘La La Land’ is a deserving heir to ‘Whiplash’, Damien Chazelle’s knockout which awarded J. K. Simmons his first Academy win. The flub in last week’s oldest awards ceremony does not ebb its allure one bit and the film’s magic stems from its atmospheric adoration to classic Hollywood.

As a valentine to movie musicals of yesteryear, the opening dance number set in a traffic jam and a joke reworked from ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’, ‘La La Land’ is a colourful throwback to nostalgia that is impossible to resist. It is a pastiche of references from flighty career opportunities (‘A Star Is Born’) to the faux Paris dance finale (‘An American In Paris’) and bittersweet reunion (‘Casablanca’).

Even if the musical seems more eager to amalgamate a vanished Tinseltown era than finding its own original voice, Chazelle’s intentions shines clearly; applying happiness and fantasy to his themes, he has created gorgeous and dreamy vignettes dressed in an air of romanticism, set against the backdrop of a contemporary life in Los Angeles.

The cinematography by Linus Sandgren is nothing short of heavenly, encompassing a reservoir of riches in L.A. that ensnares the glimmering skies of Griffith Observatory, the aesthetic divinity of Watts Towers and the iconic Colorado Street Bridge. Pepping in every scene is the red-hot connection between Gosling and Stone whose vigor will indubitably whisk you away from the humdrums of reality for two hours in believing these two crazy idealists.

Rating
Entirety: A
Acting: A
Plot: A-

Rated PG-13 for some language

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Drama, Reviews

Hidden Figures

hidden_figures

Copyright © 2016 by 20th Century Fox

Story
In 1961, at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia staffs Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), a mathematician who is reassigned into an all-white team in the Space Task Group commanded by Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) to assess the calculations of the scientists scurrying to match Sputnik and launch John Glenn (Glen Powell) into space. Exceptional at her work, she is indispensable to NASA but is troubled by the mistreatment from the rest of the men. Her colleagues, Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) face similar barricades to their careers but their determination pay off as they become key figures in contributing to the space race.

Review
Celebrating a life’s work and presenting it as entertainment would normally have the protagonist face with insurmountable adversities that finishes on an inspiring high. Such examples of optimism inculcated about the minority include ‘Ali’, ‘Invictus’, ‘42’, ‘Hotel Rwanda’ and ‘Selma’. These great men of colour encouraged equality through their intellect, compassion and resolution.

But let’s make room for a few more to join the coveted list. The ladies at NASA are stepping out from their crummy basement and essaying for their own progression in a workplace systematically run by white men. ‘Hidden Figures’ is a frank, pleasing tale of triumph that radiates with current relevance fronted by a fiery Henson and an imposing debut from Monáe.

The quiet dignity Henson adorns Johnson is infectious that you cannot help but be enamored by her struggle. It sets the audience up to the film’s big, purgative moment, one that is no stranger even till this day. Monáe’s Jackson is brassy. Queenly yet delicate, she is the most forthright and ambitious of the lot, flaunting her mind and independence with attitude.

There is a universal fascination of overcoming obstacles and inequity for mankind’s greater victory. ‘Hidden Figures’ brings these previously unjustly invisible women to global recognition while avoiding broad-stroke beats of a civil rights drama and focusing on the women’s private lives. The script has been accused of fudging the facts and intentionally saccharine-coated but it is visibly off trajectory if this crowd-pleaser never saw the light of day.

Rating
Entirety: A-
Acting: A
Plot: A-

Rated PG for thematic elements and some language

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