By Shane Kellum Campus Press Movie Critic
(ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN MARCH 2017 EDITION)
Whether it’s a run-of-the-mill action flick, a not-so-scary movie, or a sequel that no one really wants to see, making a decision at the box office window can seem hopeless; so, for the convenience of the average movie-goer, I’ve scoped out a couple of major motion pictures to create a guide of what’s worth seeing this month.
Imagine sitting in a room and having a conversation with 23 different versions of yourself: all with their own hopes, beliefs, likes, dislikes, motives, and attitudes. This is the everyday life of the antagonist of M. Night Shyamalan’s latest hit, Split. The film’s star, James McAvoy, puts on an astonishing performance as a man named Kevin who suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID), a split personality disorder. This causes the Kevin’s psychiatrist, played by Betty Buckley, to fight for the credibility of his affliction throughout the movie.
This cinematic thriller begins by following the story of a young girl named Casey Cooke. Casey, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, is a troubled young girl who’s lived a hard life without many friends; but when two of her classmates and she are abducted one day, only to wake up in a strange room with no windows, she’s forced to use the lessons she’s learned to try to escape. The three girls are first introduced to Dennis, a compulsively clean, socially awkward man; then to Patricia, a very feminine character with meticulous tendencies; and finally, to Hedwig, an innocent, nine-year-old boy whom is at the whim of the first two personalities.
Cinematic Thriller Features “The Beast”
These three seem to come to light more than Kevin’s other twenty identities, and are preparing to introduce the girls to “the beast,” a large, powerful creature that Dennis and Patricia believe is Kevin’s 24th personality. Keeping track of all of Kevin’s identities is a bit tricky, but McAvoy brings each one to life so convincingly: evincing different facial expressions, movements, and manners of speech that are distinct to each character. Truly an award worthy performance, McAvoy conquers quite a difficult role. Shyamalan, likewise, deserves praise this time around. He uses the camera wisely to draw the viewer in and keeps the audience enticed with his subtle motifs and a multiplicity of clues hiding in plain sight. For a film that you can’t turn away from, Split is a must-see this month.
LA LA LAND
For the movie-lover who enjoys something a little more upbeat, La La Land is a lighthearted, jazz musical that’s fun to watch. Though few theatres picked this one up at first, now one month after its original release, cinemas are scrambling to add it to their lineup due to the unanimous critical acclaim. (Note: this review was written before the Academy Awards were presented on Feb. 26.) Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, La La Land examines the lives of Mia and Sebastian: an aspiring actress and a jazz musician paying his dues. Played by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, the two fall for each other as they chase their dreams in the City of Angeles; but as they both near closer to their goals, they find themselves growing farther apart.
Shades of the 1920’s in Modern Day LA
Though the film is based in modern-day Los Angeles, a 1920’s style theme is portrayed throughout the movie, with constant allusions to 20th Century Hollywood. The cinematography is absolutely enthralling, making use of vibrant colors and beautiful contrasts to bring forth a charming display of well choreographed dance numbers, ranging from mobs of people on a crowded freeway to the two protagonists in their own company, and jazz pieces that Miles Davis wouldn’t shake a stick at. As Mia and Sebastian get familiar with one another, the camera allows the viewer to get familiar with the city; from the bustling downtown area to the heights of the Griffith Observatory, one gets the feeling of sight-seeing throughout southern California. This picture will make you laugh, cry, tap your feet, and maybe even sing along. The emotional and professional journeys that Stone and Gosling help illustrate are relatable on so many levels that the audience can’t help but to empathize with these characters. A visually captivating work of art, La La Land is sure to be the talk of the town this award season.
I’m not a big fan of the genre of horror; I find jump scares to be clichéd, found footage to be an overused medium, and the progression of the average plotline to be very predictable. I usually spend the duration of these films screaming “DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE!”, only to watch in frustration as the unsuspecting teenagers saunter into some psychopath’s not-so humble abode. That being said, Rings was impressively well done. For those who aren’t familiar with the franchise, the story is about a video tape that kills the viewer seven days after watching it unless that person shows the tape to someone else. In the latest continuation of this tragic tale, the tape is transferred onto a thumb drive and spread throughout an underground college community by one of the school’s professors. Here, it is introduced the film’s main characters: Holt and Julia. As Holt’s seven days come to an end, Julia watches the video to save him, only to find that tape has changed.
Mystery of the Girl on the Tape The couple then goes on an adventure to find out the mystery of the girl on the tape and what significance Julia holds in her never-ending saga. On their exploits, they come into contact with a blind man named Burke, played by the always-impressive Vincent D’Onofrio, who seems to have a strange connection to the events that transpire. Rings employs a few consistent themes that function as well-used foreshadowing. The number seven, for instance, can be seen throughout the picture. The music used allows the audience to get absorbed in the story, especially as it nears its climax. This was one horror movie where I can honestly say that I did not know what was going to happen next; fan of the series or not, Rings is a solid horror flick.