Review: SPLIT

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By Laurie Coker

Rating: C-

Night Shyamalan wowed us all with The Sixth Sense, amused us with Signs, and some will say impressed viewers with Unbreakable, but since then, he has failed to offer anything in the way of shock and awe in storytelling. His latest film, Split, starring James McAvoy, does little to improve his reputation. Were it not for McAvoy, Shyamalan’s film would lack any merit at all. Shyamalan, who wrote, directed and as typical, has a cameo appearance in Split, never manages to deliver horror or suspense. Read more »

Review: 20TH CENTURY WOMEN

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By Mark Saldana

Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)

As Mike Mills’s life experiences inspired his second film Beginners, such is the case with 20th Century Women, a movie which nearly serves as a spiritual predecessor to the director’s sophomore feature.  Mills’s films certainly reflect a fascinating, not-so-traditional life that I’m sure caused him more confusion and frustration as a child and teen, but one that has enriched him as an artist because of it.  Mills has a wonderful sensibility for developing true-to-life characters, creating genuine, and not contrived drama, and flavoring everything with a natural sense of humor, especially in his often entertaining dialogue.  Mills is unquestionably one of the more gifted writer/directors working in film today and 20th Century Women is further evidence of this. Read more »

Review: XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE

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By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)

As I left the theater following this screening, I had come to the conclusion that this film is ridiculous, dumb, over-the-top, and features some of the worst writing I had seen in a while.  At the same time, I also realized that I had an absolute blast of a time watching it, either despite this or because of it.  Such is one of the dilemmas of a film critic.  What does a critic rate a film that obviously has these negative aspects to it, but was entertained nevertheless?  In this case, I figure that the filmmakers behind this silly action flick had no intention of making a movie of substance and artistic integrity, but had junk food entertainment in mind.  And while too much junk food entertainment is not healthy for the mind or soul, it really is fun and delicious to partake of it every so often. Read more »

Review: SPLIT

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By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

After a bit of a dry spell of uncompelling work, M. Night Shyamalan made a bit of a comeback with his horror-thriller The Visit in 2015, a film that kept the production simple and the story elemental, intriguing, and ultimately frightening.  Shymalan is back with another great thriller called Split.  This film sticks with a similar formula of a simple production and definitely focuses on character development, delivering thrills and chills, and features a truly extraordinary, multifaceted performance by lead actor James McAvoy.  Both The Visit and Split were produced by Jason Blum, the founder and CEO of Blumhouse Productions, a company best known for their successful horror films.  These collaborations between Shyamalan and Blum have indicated that these two filmmakers were meant to work together and if enough audiences can get on board with their latest release, I have a feeling these two will make another one sooner or later. Read more »

Review: PATRIOTS DAY

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By Laurie Coker

Rating: B+

The Boston Marathon bombing is one of those events that embed themselves in the collective memory, like the shuttle explosions (the first in 1986), the Oklahoma City (1994) bombing and the twin towers going down (2001). We remember the good too, but the bad seems to burn far more deeply. Patriots Day, a film based on that fateful day when two brothers ignited explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013, chronicles real and composite characters impacted by the tragedy. Director Peter Berg, in another “based-on-a-true-story” collaboration with Mark Wahlberg, creates an intense, close-up perspective of the events as they unfolded. Read more »