"Glass" Review: A Disappointing End to An Entertaining Trilogy

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Almost two decades in the making, Glass (the final piece to the Unbreakable trilogy) written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan is creatively shocking. It could be easy to lose focus in the storyline when making a trilogy over such a long period of time, however Shyamalan certainly connects these films seamlessly. Unbreakable, Split and Glass are three stories that correlate within a semi-realistic world that Shyamalan has created, which is unique and noteworthy in itself. However, while the plot of this final installment is interesting, it’s also where the film falters. With all of the wonderful elements put into the making of this film, it certainly isn’t perfect; Shyamalan’s strengths and weaknesses are displayed in various ways throughout Glass.

The film picks up with David Dunn (Bruce Willis) on the hunt for Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy). Dunn can see into people’s lives by brushing up against them and is seemingly unbreakable, while Crumb’s split personalities hold the key to The Beast, an animal like persona out for blood. Samuel L. Jackson’s Mr. Glass is the final piece to the trio; he’s the evil genius whose bones are so brittle that they shatter to pieces when hit. They all wind up being tossed into Dr. Ellie Staple’s (Sarah Paulson) psych hospital to be analyzed as humans who believe they are superheroes.

The casting of this film couldn’t be more perfect and I would be remissed not to talk about the performance of James McAvoy (Kevin Wendell Crumb), the villain with 24 split personalities (good and bad) in one body. His performance is truly amazing to say the least, as he is able to stay in each character authentically, yet split into a new character instantly; I have never seen a performance like this one and his talent should be noted. Alongside James McAvoy, Sarah Paulson is notable. She grabs your attention almost hypnotically throughout the film. Sarah Paulson is well known for her roles in the hit series American Horror Story and her skills as a horror film actress do not go unnoticed in this film. Her character is eerie and engaging at the same time; she is an interesting addition to Shyamalan’s universe. Finally, Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson- they certainly make this film and are the reason why the trilogy is as great as it is. Bruce Willis has aged but is the same action hero we all know and love. Samuel L. Jackson is a badass not to be messed with and his character Mr. Glass is exactly the same. All together the acting is great; the cast is strong- especially with previously supporting characters making a come back as well. 

Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis (known for: It Follows, Split and Under the Silver Lake) uses the different characters to display camera angles from their perspective. Gioulakis is brilliant when it comes to filming the multiple personalities of Kevin Wendell Crumb, he uses the camera to note the change of personality and emphasizes the new personality with camera framing. Gioulakis is the cinematographer for ⅔ of the Unbreakable trilogy so it is understandable why the cinematography is strong in Glass!

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Glass is entertaining but it is also disappointing. One positive thing about the plot is the seamless connection between all three films within the trilogy, which is certainly well done. However, the storyline is limiting and doesn’t allow space for much excitement in its climax. There is not much variation in scenery which becomes boring. At times there are nods towards other possible plotlines but the film decides to follow the most anticlimactic path. To say the least, the film is enjoyable because of the other strong elements but the storyline does not live up to the potential it could have. It is unfortunate that the trilogy is finalized with a film that doesn’t entirely satisfy the Unbreakable series, especially since it started off strong.
Glass is not the best film, but it is not the worst. With some praiseworthy elements of in it, I highly doubt it will win any awards or turn too many heads. With that being said, I do recommend seeing the film in theaters because the visuals are incredibly well done and the actors are extremely entertaining to watch. You should especially see this film in theaters if you are a fan of the trilogy, it does answer questions but since it is an M. Night Shyamalan film, it sparks more questions as well. As a fan of the trilogy, overall the film is entertaining and it isn’t all bad, but I am definitely disappointed with the anticlimactic storyline and wish Shyamalan put more effort into the climax of the iconic trilogy.

Rating: B-

Comment

Julia Moroles

Julia Moroles graduated from Augsburg College (MN) with a Bachelors degree (BA) in Film Production and Studio Art Production with a minor in Religion. After graduating, Julia lived in El Salvador where she taught film editing, art, and photography in Spanish. While she resided in El Salvador, she studied Monseñor Romero and the liberation theology movement of Central America.

When Julia returned from El Salvador, she completed an internship at a Think Tank in St. Paul Minnesota, called Minnesota 2020. During her 9-month multimedia specialist position, she created two short documentaries focusing on different public policy issues. Her short documentary Colossal Costs closely analyzed higher education loan debt, and was screened in festivals from coast to coast. The second film was a documentary about the urban agriculture movement in Minnesota.

In addition to her studies, Julia has been a photo activist for the Black Lives Matter movement, urban agriculture nonprofit organizations in Minnesota, as well as numerous human rights campaigns (internationally).

In August 2016 Julia began a Masters program (MFA) in Film and Electronic Media for the School of Communication at American University. During her attendance at AU she created various documentaries that focused on social justice issues, female empowerment, and community engagement. Her documentary about American University's Eagle Endowment was honored at the house of the President of American University in 2017. On two occasions, Julia served as sound mixer while filming a documentary for the talented filmmaker Larry Kirkman. Larry is working with the Center of Environmental filmmaking to research the necessity of Science in politics. Julia worked on a 16 person team (8 crews) that covered the March for Science in 2017 and 2018; she also assisted in filming congressional house parties with Larry Kirkman while working on the documentary. Finally, she was a part of a team that filmed interviews with the Defenders of Wildlife in preparation for the 2018 March for Science. Julia's team covered the media tent for both years of the March for Science and conducted interviews with the scientists and speakers for the rally.

From June 2017-December 2017 Julia completed a Fellowship for the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute. She worked alongside Mahtab Kowsari to create educational videos that taught students at a graduate level for the Religious Freedom Center. She worked in the fast paced media environment creating the educational videos, promotional videos, filming and producing the educational lectures and she even created an educational social media campaign.

On top of completing a fellowship and assisting with the Center of Environmental Filmmaking, Julia acted as a Teaching Assistant to classes such as Editing, Web Development, Digital Image Editing, and Direction and Video Production.

Julia is currently creating a documentary focusing on the urban agriculture movement across the United States. She has interviewed people on the East and West Coast and hopes to influence more people to be a part of the movement.

"The Upside" Review: Solid Performances, Formulaic Story

The Upside is one of those films that tackle how two vastly different people’s lives can intertwine to help one another see the brighter side of life. The film is based off a true story and a remake of the 2011 French film The Intouchables. While the performances are solid, this version ultimately lands a bit flat.

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Philip (Bryan Cranston) is a quadriplegic in need of a live in assistant. Dell (Kevin Hart) is an ex-con in search of employment. After Dell stumbles upon the job interview, Philip hires him as the worst candidate for the job in hopes that he might just kill him with his lack of experience. As the two get to know one another, they are called out on their excuses that they make for the cards that life has dealt them.

This film is certainly Hart’s film. When he’s in scenes, they come to life, and when he’s not the film’s energy is sucked out. As a comedian at the top of his game, this film is Hart’s vehicle that will help him crossover in being taken seriously as a dramatic actor. The interactions between Hart and Cranston are authentic and at times hilarious. Due to their blunt honesty with one another, we’re able to analyze life truths that resonate. Nicole Kidman turns in a subtly wonderful performance as Philip’s executive in charge of his affairs. 

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The issue with the film is that it’s full of beautiful but formulaic moments. These moments are loosely strung together with choppy start-stop pacing. Furthermore, it fails to pull you in and genuinely care for its main characters. You may appreciate Dell and Phillip’s relationship, but you don’t really feel the connection to them that is necessary for the film to soar. 

If you’re looking for a feel good film to take grandma to see this weekend, this is it. However, this is a film that I’d suggest you wait to catch when it’s streaming. You’ll forget about it moments after leaving the theater.

Rating: C

Comment

Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.

"Replicas" Review: Best Sleep I've Had In The Theater in A While!

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When a film opens cold (not screened to critics ahead of time) that’s never a good sign. It signifies that there was a point during the production of Replicas in which someone said, “this isn’t going to do well.” By that point, it was too late to go back or abandon ship, and the production pushed forward and was distributed to theaters. 

Will Foster (Keanu Reeves) is a scientist on the cusp of transferring human consciousness by mapping the brain of the recently dead and inserting it into a synthetic brain. If the science of what I just said doesn’t make sense, don’t worry, there’s more! After a recently failed attempted transfer, Will and his family decide to take off for the weekend. On the rainy streets of Puerto Rico they get in an accident in which Will is the sole survivor.

Will quickly calls Ed (Thomas Middleditch), his assistant of sorts, to come to the scene so that they can get his family’s consciousness in hopes of cloning them. From there we get a series of moral debates, more scientific jargon that doesn’t make sense, and a scene in which Will grieves more over picking a name out of a bowl than when his family initially died.

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This film is not even half baked, it hasn’t even been in the oven. Our connection to the characters in this film is as weak as Will’s to his family. We barely see them interact before the accident, and therefore his push to replicate feels as lifeless as Reeves acting in this film. Middleditch is the bright spot of the film as he offers up the moral questions to the premise that just didn’t transfer well to the big screen. However, his character continues to be complicit in the “nefarious” behavior as even he notes.

The best part of this movie was the minute of sleep that I got during the third act. I woke up refreshed, ready to take on the rest of the snoozer, and push through. I wouldn’t even watch this when it comes out on Netflix if I were you.

Rating: F

Comment

Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.

"The Upside" Review

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Based on a true story, The Upside is a film that is both unexpectedly hilarious yet humbling. Bryan Cranston plays a wealthy quadriplegic named Phillip and Kevin Hart is his caretaker, Dell. Both Cranston and Hart are an unstoppable duo on screen. The duo are no strangers to comedy which makes their interactions more genuine and comical. Their endearing relationship gives you hope for humanity. Alongside the serious moments, the comedy is well written and delivered with perfection. 

The acting is great; the relationship between Dell and Phillip in the film seems genuine and playful. The actors are able to portray the writing in a beautiful way that exposes a different aspect of the relationship Dell and Phillip have (they are still friends to this day). In a way, both of the characters are outcasts of society; Phillip as a quadriplegic doesn’t often receive the respect he should, even in small interactions; Dell has a similar experience being formerly incarcerated and now looking for a job. Their relationship builds off of their differences and in result of their friendship growing, they come to find that they are very similar. This development alone is one of my favorite aspects of the film and it is the first reason to go and see The Upside. Cranston and Hart lead the film with great acting but one cannot overlook the talented performances of Nicole Kidman and Golshifteh Farahani as supporting actors as well. 

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The second reason to go see the film is for the writing, the comedy is innovative and edgy, especially with the quips that Dell and Phillip throw at each other. I found that some of the humor is so awkward and cringe-worthy, you can’t help but laugh. The comedy delivered through the acting carries the film as Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart truly have a positive chemistry which makes it even better. Together the duo forces the audience to experience every emotion they’re experiencing, and they don’t hold anything back. Both of the characters go through significant change with each other and it is a beautiful process to see.

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Alongside the writing and acting, the camera work is lovely and even whimsical. The director of photography, Stuart Dryburgh captures the film in a significant way; at times the cinematography reminded me of a painting, especially when the visuals are paired with dramatic moments. The director uses a technique with the cinematographer to expose bits and pieces of Phillip’s past through imaginative visual representations in a way that’s well executed. Joined with the drama and comedy within the film, the cinematography allows space when it is needed, the breathtaking shots are peaceful and meditative; it is almost as if the audience is supposed to feel the peace the characters do. These small decisions of the director and cinematographer makes the film stunning in a unique way.

Overall The Upside is great, it forces the audience to think differently about how to treat the outcasts of society and how much we take for granted on a day to day basis. If you wish to see a film that is action packed with explosions, this is not the film for you. However, if you wish to view the world differently and open your mind to new perspectives, this is a wonderful film to watch. I highly recommend this film if you are familiar with the actors, they certainly hold true to their acting reputations. See The Upside in theaters while you still can, the lovely visuals are made to be seen on a big screen.

Grade: A

Comment

Julia Moroles

Julia Moroles graduated from Augsburg College (MN) with a Bachelors degree (BA) in Film Production and Studio Art Production with a minor in Religion. After graduating, Julia lived in El Salvador where she taught film editing, art, and photography in Spanish. While she resided in El Salvador, she studied Monseñor Romero and the liberation theology movement of Central America.

When Julia returned from El Salvador, she completed an internship at a Think Tank in St. Paul Minnesota, called Minnesota 2020. During her 9-month multimedia specialist position, she created two short documentaries focusing on different public policy issues. Her short documentary Colossal Costs closely analyzed higher education loan debt, and was screened in festivals from coast to coast. The second film was a documentary about the urban agriculture movement in Minnesota.

In addition to her studies, Julia has been a photo activist for the Black Lives Matter movement, urban agriculture nonprofit organizations in Minnesota, as well as numerous human rights campaigns (internationally).

In August 2016 Julia began a Masters program (MFA) in Film and Electronic Media for the School of Communication at American University. During her attendance at AU she created various documentaries that focused on social justice issues, female empowerment, and community engagement. Her documentary about American University's Eagle Endowment was honored at the house of the President of American University in 2017. On two occasions, Julia served as sound mixer while filming a documentary for the talented filmmaker Larry Kirkman. Larry is working with the Center of Environmental filmmaking to research the necessity of Science in politics. Julia worked on a 16 person team (8 crews) that covered the March for Science in 2017 and 2018; she also assisted in filming congressional house parties with Larry Kirkman while working on the documentary. Finally, she was a part of a team that filmed interviews with the Defenders of Wildlife in preparation for the 2018 March for Science. Julia's team covered the media tent for both years of the March for Science and conducted interviews with the scientists and speakers for the rally.

From June 2017-December 2017 Julia completed a Fellowship for the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute. She worked alongside Mahtab Kowsari to create educational videos that taught students at a graduate level for the Religious Freedom Center. She worked in the fast paced media environment creating the educational videos, promotional videos, filming and producing the educational lectures and she even created an educational social media campaign.

On top of completing a fellowship and assisting with the Center of Environmental Filmmaking, Julia acted as a Teaching Assistant to classes such as Editing, Web Development, Digital Image Editing, and Direction and Video Production.

Julia is currently creating a documentary focusing on the urban agriculture movement across the United States. She has interviewed people on the East and West Coast and hopes to influence more people to be a part of the movement.

"Ralph Breaks The Internet" Review

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When Wreck-It Ralph was first released in 2012, it quickly became one of my favorite animated Disney films to come out within the last few years. It was innovative, the video game references I grew up with were fun, and it was a perfect starring vehicle to utilize the talents of John C. Reilly. When Disney announced that a second one was coming, it was one of the films I was looking forward to watch this year. After watching the film, even though there are some bumps on the road, I’m happy to report that Ralph Breaks the Internet is a solid sequel.

Set six years after the events of the first film, Ralph (Reilly) and his best friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) find themselves traveling to the world of the Internet after Mr. Litwak (Ed O’Neill) recently installs a WiFi connection in his arcade. When a mishap causes a player to accidentally break the controller to Sugar Rush, Ralph and Vanellope have just days to find the part and raise the money before Mr. Litwak pulls the plug on Sugar Rush for good. Along the way, Ralph and Vanellope come across a game called Slaughter Race, which sparks Vanellope’s interest and causes her to question if she wants more to life.

First off, the animation in this film is still absolutely gorgeous to look at. Returning director Rich Moore and co-director Phil Johnston (who co-wrote the first film) and their animators do a good job in separating the different worlds and characters apart to have each stand on their own. Conceptually, Moore and Johnson’s visualization of the Internet to make it a futuristic and Utopic view, works well. Initially, I was somewhat worried that the product placements in the film, since it takes place on the web, would be overbearing or just be paid advertisements for the various apps or websites featured, but for the most part, the filmmakers don’t shove it down your throat, or have the story be compromised with the apps or websites that agreed to be in this film. 

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Since this is a Disney release, luckily, they don’t overdo the synergy of their various franchises that are featured in this. You can believe the hype you’ve been hearing about Vanellope meeting the Disney Princesses. In an amazing act of genius they got all of the actresses to come back and the banter includes a fun joke at another animation company that Disney owns. The film really begins to hit its groove when Ralph and Vanellope need to find the funds to get the new piece, and some of the skewing of the material is absolutely spot-on and extremely funny at times.

When we view sequels, we tend to see the same song and dance, rinse and repeat again. I appreciate that the screenplay that Johnston and Pamela Ribon concocted in trying to tell something different. If the first film was about how someone who is perceived as bad can become good, this one is about how you grow up and realize that you and your friend sometimes don’t share the same dreams and aspirations as one another and you both come to that crossroad, which is something that I can relate to from time to time. With how they handle it, it’s a nice message and this film wears its heart on its sleeves. Even though we see the Internet these days use for hate and vitriol, this highlights how sometimes the Internet can bring people together for good. Voice wise, the chemistry between Reilly and Silverman is still strong as ever, and they bring some new dimensions to their respective roles that can be quite effective at times. All the other voice actors were good in this and don’t feel out of place, including an uncredited Bill Hader as J.P. Spamley, a figure that Ralph and Vanellope meet along the way, and Gal Gadot as Shank, a racer in Slaughter Race. The cameos in this are fun as well.

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Ralph does take a bit to actually get going. Since it’s introducing so many things that at times, it tends to be a little clunky, which is especially evident in the first act. For the 112-minute runtime that this has, Ralph in hindsight, could have been trimmed down in some places as the pacing hits a snag. There are some story threads that the filmmakers introduce that they don’t follow through on, and some of the characters from the first are barely in this, like Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) and Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch).

Overall, I enjoyed what Ralph Breaks the Internet brought to the table and what it was trying to accomplish. Reilly and Silverman give it their all, and the filmmakers were smart in having the sequel focus more on them and their growth. With the beating heart that this sequel shows, if they continue making films in this series, I’ll surely be there every single time. If you’re looking for something to watch with your family during this holiday season, you can’t go wrong with this. When you do, I would suggest staying until the end of the credits for something special that will surely bring a smile to your face. On that note, I would recommend watching this in the theater!

Rating: B

"Creed II" Review: A Sequel 30 Years in The Making

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With eight films under its belt, the Rocky franchise has seen its share of recycled story with a new twist. Creed II knows its legacy and the pressure to get it right had to have been high on writers Juel Taylor and Sylvester Stallone. Director Steven Caple Jr. gives us a film that doesn’t live up to the power of Ryan Coogler’s Creed, but still goes the distance.

The film opens with Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) rising to the height of boxing. Simultaneously, in the Ukraine, Viktor Drago (Florain Munteanu), lives a hard life as a blue collar worker while training with his father, Ivan (Dolph Lundgren). The inevitable fight is brokered by promoter Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby), who tells  Adonis his father understood he needed a legacy story that would “stick to the ribs”. Thus, the central concept of Creed II

The film understands the dramatic weight it carries and plays off of the hype, although at times feeling undercooked. Yet, much like a fighter, it discerns that it has to shake up the story to keep its audience entertained and engaged. It does that in the form of building character backstory. We learn just what we need to about life for Ivan after the infamous showdown and the affect it had on his son. We see Adonis and Bianca’s relationship bloom as their family grows. With key placements like Phylicia Rashad’s Mary Anne Creed and Brigitte Nielsen’s Ludmilla Drago giving just the right touch of nostalgia and added spectacle, the film manages to make it out of the ring in one piece.

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The original Rocky was a little engine that could film. It was a character drama Trojan Horsed inside of a boxing film. It’s the man vs. man, man vs. self storytelling that Creed II hones in on and creates a decent installment in the franchise. After all, seeing Adonis fight Viktor isn’t really what we are going to the movie for. Instead it’s to answer the deep rooted question of what would you do if you could avenge your father’s death in the ring? Will you get back up when you get knocked down? It’s in this space that the the franchise lives and Creed II delivers. It doesn’t quite pack the same punch as Creed, but certainly a solid entry and sure to please fans that never knew this purported sequel to Rocky IV was the film we’ve been waiting over thirty years for. 

Rating: B

Comment

Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.