The End (Glass, 2019)

glass_posterAfter 2000’s Unbreakable, there was a lot of talk that this was almost meant to be part of a trilogy. Shyalaman has been all over the map. He claimed he had no such plans when Unbreakable first came out…but about a year later talked about sequels. And I really loved Unbreakable. I wanted to get those follow ups. I wanted to see what David Dunn would do next.

When Split was revealed as a stealth sequel to Unbreakable, I was thrilled.  And the trailers had me quite excited for Glass.  So, did Shyalaman create a great trilogy?

Well, when David Dunn and his son (who run a security business together, and also work together in stopping crime) interfere with the Horde’s (the nickname for the character from Split) attempt to kill another group of young women, the two are captured by the authorities. They are sent to an institution where they are introduced to Dr. Ellie Staple.  She specializes in people who believe they have powers.

Her goal is to help them realize they are suffering a delusion.

The film makes it very clear that she is wrong, of course…and that is one of the problems of the film.  Staple clearly represents Shyalaman’s critics.  This is a petty bit of behavior that stretches back to at least Lady In the Water, in which Bob Balaban’s critic is presented as a fool who does not understand true genius.  And that gets portrayed here.  Except it is a little worse. Here, Ellie is an insincere critic, and she is arguable a central villain, rather than an oblivious one.

The film has some annoying retcons in its plans of revealing that Glass is an even bigger architect than we realized (to be fair, the retcon does not suggest Glass intended for this, it was just a convenient byproduct of his acts in Unbreakable).

Add to this the fact that the film does lean hard into the notion that the Horde is actually a separate thing from his superpower…it really undermines any defense agains criticisms of the portrayal of the Horde and mental  health.

There are some things I like. McAvoy does a great job in his performance. Jackson gives the kind of solid performance I expect. I also appreciate that both David Dunn and Mrs. Price are played by the same actors who played the roles in Unbreakable (the same for the Comic Shop Owner).

The reveal that all three films represented an origin story is a bit…deflating.  I mean, people complain about the decompressed storytelling of modern comics…but Brian Michael Bendis never took nineteen years to tell one story.

The film seems to unload twist upon twist in the final act and that gets tiring.  Glass is an underwhelming and disappointing ending to the Unbreakable story.

What’s In the Box?! (Bird Box, 2018)

bird_box_posterOne day, the monsters arrived.  People seem to be taken by a force and then kill themselves. If that sounds familiar, you actually remember 2008 M. Night Shyalaman film the Happening.  That film had people committing violent suicides and people trying to flee the city and solve the mystery.  The twist was that it was the trees that did us in.

Oh, sorry…spoilers.

The Happening is (for good reasons) not fondly remembered. It does have a couple very well done freaky moments. But it just becomes laughable.

Here, the problem is that…well…if you see the monsters…you are toast. And so, the only way to survive is to keep your eyes closed. For artist Malorie, this situation is even more troubling as she is pregnant.

Malorie soon joins a group of survivors in a house. Blocking the windows, they find themselves finding inventive ways to survive. But as the months tick by, they find that they must take bigger and bigger risks.

The film is focused on Malorie and her children and her detachment from life. The children are born after the event and simply named Boy and Girl.  The three are trying to take a boat down river to a sanctuary. Using flashbacks, we get to see how the relationships within the house grow and break down…where trust becomes hard to come by.

The “keep your eyes closed” part is the most gimmicky, and yes, does evoke last year’s wonderful a Quiet Place. Unlike a Quiet Place, we do not share in the characters’ experience. With Bird Box, although there are a few brief moments seen through the blindfolds of characters, the camera remains in third person.  Admittedly, forcing us to be blind whenever the characters are would get pretty obnoxious.

One of the really nice tricks is the film never tells us what the monsters are. We know people see them and then also seem to see loved ones… but we only see or hear the effects of their movement, not the creatures themselves.  There are some really interesting artist renderings at one point, but really, who knows if this is really what the creatures look like or merely what the artists saw in their heads.

Bird Box is, thankfully, a much more effectively done take on a general idea like the Happening.  The film has a really good cast and some really effective sequences.

Crime Time (Ocean’s 8, 2018)

Oceans_8_posterWe have not seen an Ocean’s followed by a digit movie in eleven years.  And that has been okay. I really enjoyed the first and third films of the series led by the husband of Amal Clooney and Angelina Jolie’s ex-husband. But I had not really given much thought over the years to another installment.

Set shortly after the apparent death of Danny Ocean, his sister Debbie gets paroled. She promises the parole board she just wants a quiet life. But you do not have much of a movie if she weren’t lying. It turns out that Debbie has been working out a big heist the entire time she was in prison. She joins up with her former partner in crime Lou. Lou is a semi legit nightclub owner with a shady past of working scams with Debbie.

They assemble a team of “the best at what they do” ladies. There is jeweler Amita, hacker Nine Ball, pick pocket Constance, disgraced Fashion designer Rose and fencer Tammy. They set out to steal a very rare necklace that almost never sees the light of day at the yearly Met Gala.

There is not a lot of depth to the characters, they exist more for their skills than anything. But that is to be expected in a heist film in general and a larger ensemble one even more.  Heist films are about the heist, the characters just need to have some unique flavor. And thankfully, they do.  Each character has a distinct personality from the others. This may seem like I am contradicting myself, but being a loose sketch that does not go to deep does not mean characters are not memorable or distinctive from other characters in the story.

When it comes down to it, a heist movie should be fun. You should be trying to work it out, see if you can find the flaws and if the plan actually covered it. If the final reveal is satisfying, you have done good.  And Ocean’s 8 is quite a bit of fun. The choice to make the heist crew all female makes for a bit of a twist on the Ocean Franchise giving all sorts of creative costume and fashion changes (as I imagine guys would all end up in tuxes). The Met Gala setting also allows for fun interferences.

Ocean’s 8 is a fun heist movie. I enjoyed the performances, the set up and the results. When the film was announced, I recall some negative responses of “Who asked for this”? But I honestly find that a dumb question. Most movies were not “asked” for. Nobody was saying “I need a movie about Oscar Schindler…but Speilberg made a powerful film anyways. Was I asking for another Ocean’s heist film? No. But we got one and I had a lot of fun watching it.

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