Split (2017) Review

     Director M. Night Shyamalan has gotten a bit of a bum rap in the past decade or so. After hitting  such heights with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable the man couldn’t pull a good movie out of his ass even if he ate The Godfather frame by frame. 

     But after the pleasant surprise that was The Visit, I was hopeful that he could keep the train going and I’m happy to say that he seems to be on the right track. 

     After being abducted along with her two friends, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) comes to the realization that her abductor(s) is a man (James McAvoy) who suffers from multiple personality disorder. 23 to be exact; some helpful, like Hedwig, some not so much, like Ms. Patricia. While Casey does have to come to terms with her past, she has to figure out which personality is a friend, while another may emerge and cause chaos. 

     Shaymalan has always excelled as both a writer and director when his films deal with ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Split almost plays like a chamber piece, one location, but not quite. The film is more intimate, nearly uncomfortably so. 

     Taking a cue from Hitchcock, there are some very uncomfortable themes at play, but Shaymalan doesn’t exploit it. I do wish this was explored just a bit more, but to do so would overshadow the story, and even the performances. 

     James McAvoy, its safe to say now, is the most underrated actor of his generation. The role(s) as presented are daunting for any actor to play, and McAvoy manages to pull it off. His performance, if it faltered, would have made the film come to a screeching halt. There were parts where I felt terror in his acting. Believe me, its a lot more difficult than can be credited. 

     Also the role of Dr. Fletcher, played by Betty Buckley, is the absolute perfect supporting performance to McAvoy. What should have a been an exposition role, Buckley managed to sell the concept of the story. There is such a quiet passion in the role, such dedication to her character that it makes the suspension of disbelief, well, believable. 

     Shaymalan is back in form here, proving that he needs to make more films on an intimate, human scale. Extravagance was never his strong suit, his characters were. While this may not be his best film, but it sure as hell beats everything he’s done in the past decade. And if you’re a fan of his early work, you owe it to yourself to see this one. Trust me on this.

Moana Review 

     It still astonishes me that Disney can still make a movie like Moana. Let’s not kid ourselves here, Disney can still phone it in and they’ll make a shit ton of money. A shit ton. But with the advancement of technology, which makes for an abundance of lazy animated films, the filmmakers here took such care of the story, and the technical elements, that the company just keeps setting its own bar higher than before. 

     Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) has just been made the chief of her tribe, but harsh times have fallen upon the tribe; fish, coconuts, you name it have become scarce. So its up to Moana to find the person responsible for upsetting the gods. Yep, she has to find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) in order to set things right. 

     It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a Disney princess movie where so many elements just fell perfectly into place. The humor, the animation, everything. Moana is a technical marvel to behold. The fact that while CGI animation is pretty much the standard nowadays, but the filmmakers also use traditional hand drawn animation as well (in particular Maui’s tattoos) just floored me. On that level, the movie needs to be studied in film courses. 

     I am fully aware that pretty pictures do not a good movie make; Moana herself as a character is such a revelation. It wasn’t until the end that it dawned on me that she has no love interest at all. Let that sink in…

     A Disney princess without a love interest. 

     All she gives a shit about is saving her home and her people. That’s all. This is so different from any other Disney princess movie. To break away from an almost hundred year formula just makes me question existence itself. Believe me folks, this is not the norm. 

     God knows when was the last time I had a shit eating grin throughout an entire Disney movie. The lush colors, the strong characters (HeiHei is my spirit animal), just the exuberant joy that seeps through every frame, every song, is something that is sorely lacking in not just family fare, but films in general.