Reviews written by registered user
Matt_Layden

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652 reviews in total 
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Split (2016/IX)
2 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
A Return To Form For Shyamalan, Great Performance from McAvoy., 21 January 2017
7/10

I get the feeling that Shyamalan wrote and directed this film, got it down to the 2 hour running time and screened it. Then the studio asked him; "Shyamalan, don't your movies always have twists? Why doesn't this film have a twist? I think this film needs a twist. Put a twist in". Then Shyamalan decides to tack some cheap ending onto an otherwise suspenseful film with a career performance from McAvoy. Now people might be upset that I said this film has a twist because saying that is in fact a spoiler. This spoils nothing. The so-called twist, if you even want to call it that, has nothing to do with the film and makes me question why the hell such a scene exists in this film to being with. Now...in saying all that. I honestly don't know if I hated it or loved it. I'm split. (Bad dad joke)

McAvoy plays Dennis / Patricia / Hedwig / Kevin Wendell Crumb / Barry / Orwell / Jade...etc. He kidnaps three young girls and brings them to his lair. The girls are desperate to escape and try everything they can, but soon realize that their kidnapper is not all there. Each of his personalities have completely different conversations with them and himself. Can they escape before "he" arrives, a yet to be discovered 24th personality?

We can all agree that when the name M. Night Shyamalan is attached to a project, the groans, the eye rolling and the utter disinterest immediately hits you. Whatever goodwill he did with his first three films seems to have been completely destroyed with The Happening, Last Airbender and After Earth. A low budget horror flick came out recently, from Shyamalan, and people were surprised at how not terrible it was. The Visit was a found footage film and Shyamalan managed to use it to pretty good results. Now he Split, a suspense thriller that boarders body horror and I think it's another hit.

The film relies, heavily, on James McCoy's performance and I'm glad to say it's really strong. He's able to snake his way in and out of the vastly different personalities on a whim and each one is as believable as the last. He gives 100% in his performance here, being terrifying, funny and sad at any moment. Anya Taylor-Joy is the 'lead' girl out of the three, we are given snippets of a backstory through some flashbacks. She's damaged and fits the victim role perfectly. The problem is that we've seen it all before, trouble girl is trapped and has to muster the strength to fight back.

Split was really fun and tense. I'd love to see Shyamalan stick to this genre and stay away from big budgets. The run time might work against the film, it runs two hours and can easily lose some material, but as a whole this film worked for me.

I Haven't Seen The Original and I'm Still Disappointed., 17 January 2017
4/10

An American remake of an Oscar winning film from Argentina with a decent cast misfires and bores the audience to death with a misguided effort. I've never seen the original film, but I know it has to be better than this wreck.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the watch on terror is at an all-time high. Two counter terrorist agents, played by Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofor are called to a crime scene because it is suspiciously close to a mosque they are keeping tabs on. The crime scene involves a dead body in a dumpster and coincidentally the dead person is the daughter of Roberts. Ejiofor becomes obsessed with tracking down her killer. Plastic face Kidman also stars.

The film is split between two timelines. 2002, when the body is discovered and more than a decade later when Ejiofor is still on the case, off the books. He's no longer part of the unit, but he seems to be the only one who cares about finding the guy who once got away. Ejiofor sells the obsession of the case, but fails to connect with Kidman when the film forces a love story between them. Kidman doesn't do much to help him in this situation, she delivers a wooden performance in an underwritten role.

The film tries to be clever and pull a fast one on the viewer, but anyone who has seen a film before can connect the dots well before the film ever reveals anything. Poor writing aside, the director, Billy Ray doesn't seem to be able to thread a suspenseful case with this story. One scene in particular takes place at a baseball game and a chase ensues. How is this not even the little bit suspenseful? Poor camera work and editing come into play as well, they seem amateurish.

At no point, did I care about either timeline, nor the character decisions. I can see an interesting story here and I can only assume it was told masterfully in the original film, here it is uninspired. A real shame, since American remakes haven't fared to well.

The Forest (2016/I)
Do Not Fear This Forest., 15 January 2017
4/10

Back in the 90's, when the internet was still new to people, there was a 'fun' craze that people would send others via email. You'd open the attachment and be told to have your volume up high while starring at a serene picture. Then out of nowhere a spooky face when pop up on the screen with a loud scream. It would freak people out, a classic jump scare. This is all The Forest is, cheap jump scares.

I'm surprised at how well this horror film was received with the critics because I found it to be lacking. The premise is good enough for a spooky horror film, but The Forest never bothers to use the setting it thrusts itself in to genuine scary effect. It's sad actually, that the film fails on these levels because I can only thing, 'what could have been'.

Sara discovers that her twin sister Jess has disappeared in Japan. She was last seen heading into Aokigahara, known as the Suicide Forest. Believing her to still be alive, Sara heads to Japan and into the woods with a guide to find her.

Natalie Dormer, of Game of Thrones fame, headlines this horror flick and plays double duty as the twins. The role doesn't ask much of her, just to be scared when needed and yell her sisters name a bunch of times. Taylor Kinney ventures into the forest with her. He's a journalist that hopes to cover the story. Are things what they seem with him? Who knows, the film doesn't really bother to answer these questions.

The horror elements don't really come into effect until late in the film, by then I felt bored by the tepidness of everything. The film takes place in a spooky forest for crying out loud, but it never takes advantage of this. It's the perfect atmosphere that a better director could creatively use to his/her advantage. This is why The Forest is such a disappointment, even by horror standards. It's just not scary.

Were told not to believe what we see in the forest, I can't believe I watched this.

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
One Of The Best Films Of The Year!!!!, 11 January 2017
8/10

The most original film of the year and one of the more original films of the last decade. Swiss Army Man turned a lot of people away with the weird juvenile humour consisting of farts, but I feel like those people who turned it off or left the theatre missed out on something special. Behind all the gas, the film deals with depression, humanity and what it feels like to be alive. Poignant themes in a film that isn't a afraid to make you laugh in the weirdest way possible.

Hank, played by Paul Dano, is marooned on an island and is literally about to hang himself when he sees a dead body wash ashore. He thinks nothing of it, until the body spasms and lets out numerous farts. The dead body, whom is later called Manny, played by Daniel Radcliffe, comes alive, more or less. He's able to have conversations, perform miraculous tasks and gives Hank the courage to look inside himself and answer some deep questions.

This is my favourite Daniel Radcliffe performance, is that odd to say? He plays a corpse who farts, so he doesn't have to move around a lot and he is basically stone faced the whole film, yet he brings an innocent charm to the role. He questions what it means to be alive, what feeling of love hate and depression are. Hank tries his best to answer these questions, but he might not even know the answers himself. The two bond over a few "Weekend At Bernie's" style comedy bits, which have more meaning later on when more characters are introduced, specifically Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

The title Swiss Army Man is appropriate as Radcliffe is used for various tasks. Fresh water pours out of his mouth, karate-chop action figure style arm swing, projectile mouth firing mechanism, sparking flint by snapping his fingers, among other things. Hank uses Manny's unique "powers" to help him traverse the terrain. You have to ask yourself, can you suspend enough of your imagination to enjoy the oddity of this? I don't think the film is ever really concerned with if any of these events are really happening or not. Instead it wants you to focus on the friendship these two have and despite one of them being dead, it's one of the best relationships depicted on screen this year.

I know there are people out there who dislike the film, but count me in the camp of people who really responded to it. Who knew that film about a farting dead corpse would be one of the best of the year and one of the most honesty portrays of friendship. Swiss Army Man is a win and a watch for anyone wanting something unique in their movie going experience.

Green Room (2015)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
What's your 'desert-island' band?, 3 January 2017
8/10

Saulnier's Blue Ruin was a shotgun blast to the chest of intense thrills from an unknown director. I had no idea what to expect from Blue Ruin, but when it was over my wife simply turned to me and said, "That was intense". So I was excited to see his next film get some big name recognition on board. The late Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shaukat and Picard himself, Patrick Stewart showcase their talents in this nail bitter of a follow-up.

A down on their luck punk rock band take a gig at a neo-nazi club. Reluctant at first, but in desperate need for cash, they accept and play a decent gig. Just as they are about to leave, they see a dead body in the green room and bad decision are made after that. Now it's skinheads versus the punk rockers for survival.

Green Room is not for the faint of heart, I'm a horror lover and I found myself cringing every so often at the shock and awe that Saulnier throws at the screen. He's not afraid to get things going fast and when he does, he turns Green Room up to eleven. I found myself asking, how are they going to get out of this? Multiple times even. Each time an attempt was made to leave, something terrible happens and Saulnier is not one for cheap gore tricks. He is restrained and holds back until you least expect it. Then the terror unleashes on the screen and it's too late to look away. Blue Ruin was about suspense, this is about terror.

Locked up in one location, Green Room is a no holds barred 'us versus them' flick that surprises the viewer at a few turns. Most of the cast serve their purpose of being terrified for their lives and having to fight when needed. It's Stewart, known for his roles as courageous and commanding men (Picard, Professor X) that turns in a subtle and low-key performance. The man is the leader of skinheads and has the opportunity to unleash terror, but he holds back and almost has adds a fatherly figure to it. He mentors these young men so full of hate and he has to immediately take control of an out of control situation. Something about the calmness he has makes it even more terrifying. Men like this exist in the world.

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Fear War., 3 January 2017
8/10

It's been over a decade since Mel Gibson has been in the director's chair. People have been anticipating his return for awhile now and this year he brings Hacksaw Ridge, a bloody tale about freedom and persecution.

Doss enlists into the army in the hopes of becoming a medic. During his training he is asked to pick a rifle and shoot a target, he refuses. His faith and trust in God deters him from ever holding a gun to kill a man. This does not make him popular with the men who must fight by his side. So why does he want to enlist in the war? He wants to save people and save people he does. Doss' heroics lead him to saving about 75 wounded men during the battle of Hacksaw Ridge, an astonishing and miraculous feat.

i walked away from the film with one thing on my mind. Thank God I never had to experience anything like that. Watching these characters go into battle, made me terrified for myself in that situation. Blindly firing across a barren wasteland, bodies scattered about the ground. Running directly into that gunfire....horrifying. No thank you. I don't have one tenth the courage those men had. Hacksaw Ridge is almost on the same savage and surreal level of the opening beach sequence from Saving Private Ryan. Some of the carnage is hard to watch as limbs are blown off, guts are falling out, people are set on fire. One particular sequence does seem to lean on the more ridiculous side, when an American soldier grabs the torso of a dead Japanese solider and uses it as a shield, as he runs through the battlefield. Some arguments are made that Gibson tends to favour the bloody violence and revel in it. I can see 'some' aspects of this (the aforementioned torso bit) but speak to people that were actually in war and they will tell you that it's pretty darn close to what happened. We don't have many people left who fought in these wars, so please, talk to those people. I wish I had spoken to my grandparents more often about their lives and their history.

Andrew Garfield is Doss, our lead here. He plays there role with a little bit of a Forrest Gump edge. He's innocent, plays dumb a little bit, but always seems to get the job done. He gets the girl, the respect of his allies and superiors and more. Yes, the road there was not an easy one and this is indeed a true story, but I felt the parallels there. He does a decent enough job, but nothing to really cheer about. I was more engaged with Vince Vaughn oddly enough. He does very well here in a non-comedic role. Hopefully he ventures in more dramatic roles in the near future. I feel people underestimate his dramatic roles and once he hit a streak with his comedy films he never seemed interested in going elsewhere. I hope this changes his mind.

The film can be broken down into three parts. Doss' life pre-war, Doss' life training for war and of course the actual war itself. The pre-war segment might be a tad slow for some, but everything Gibson shows us is perfectly arranged for the story and the character arcs. The film is really preachy as well, maybe a little too preachy. I understand that religion is the backbone to the story and the reason why we have a tale as astonishing as this, but with Gibson behind the camera, I felt like he upped it a tad. The juxtaposition of the peace belief by Doss with the violence of the war is a tough one to wrestle with.

Hacksaw Ridge is a great film from Gibson and I hope to see it get some recognition come awards season.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Do Not Love The Coopers., 3 January 2017
4/10

I went and saw the film, The Family Stone, in theatres when it first came out. It received mixed reviews, but for the most part, I really liked it. It dealt with a dysfunctional family getting together for the holidays. What made it work, in my mind at least, was that the characters felt honest, the chemistry between the cast felt real and despite the many dramatic moments, it had some heart. Love The Coopers is a poor imitation of these things. I bring up The Family Stone as a apt comparison, not only because Diane Keaton is the matriarch, but because both films try to convey the same message. The Family Stone's shortcomings happens in the final act with the girlfriend "switcheroo" whereas Love The Coopers shortcomings is the entire film.

The film follows one family and their stories on Christmas Day. Keaton and her husband, John Goodman, are having one more family get together before they ultimately decide to leave each other after 40 years of marriage...depressing. Ed Helms is the son, separated from his wife, unemployed and feeling less of a man and even lesser of a father...depressing. Then we have Alan Arkin, the grandfather, who eats at the same diner everyday just to have a conversation with the pretty waitress, Amanda Seyfried, and to convince her she has value in this world....depressing. The beautiful Olivia Wilde plays the daughter. She is on her way home and is wasting time at the airport so she can spend less time with her family. She meets a good looking young soldier and convinces him to come home with her so she doesn't have to be a disappointment to her mother...depressing. On top of that...yes, there is more...we have Diane Keaton's sister, who has a strained relationship and shoplifts some jewelry for a present, only to get caught and have a thoughtful one on one conversation with a police officer...you guessed it....depressing. Did I forget to mention that the sister is played by Marissa Tomei?

Yes, Marissa Tomei, so there lies a big problem for me. The casting of this film is all over the place. It seems they wanted to cast the recognizable face and name and not the role. In this film, we have constant 'flashes of memories' of the characters when they were younger. So we flash to the sisters when they were kids. They are maybe, 3 to 5 years apart. Then we come to the present and discover that the sister is Diane Keaton and Marissa Tomei. They have a 20 year age difference between each other. On top of that Alan Arkin plays their father....he is 12 years older than Keaton. I was so confused as to how Arkin and Tomei fit into the picture for 75% of the film. I thought he was Goodman's brother and Tomei was Keaton's daughter.

While the cast does a decent job in the roles, none of the material is strong enough to hold any weight. None of the stories are engaging and it tries so hard to be emotional. I didn't really care about Goodman and Keaton's failing marriage because it never feels like the characters are really trying, or love each other, or anything at all really. The strained relationship between Keaton and almost everyone feels fake. None of these stories really work for me with the weakest one being Helms. He literally has nothing to do in this film, it's a little sad actually.

Even for a 'depressing' Christmas film, Coopers fails. For it to be depressing, I feel like we need to have some sort of attachment to the characters, I had none. Steve Martin narrates the film to give it a "Christmas story" feel, it also falls a little flat. I just couldn't find myself caring about anything here.

Decent intro to the mystic arts., 3 January 2017
7/10

Going on to about a dozen films or so in the Marvel Universe, there comes a point when you have to present something new to the audience. Everyone was on board with the individual films, which led to the team up of the Avengers. People were blown away with how well they pulled that off. Shift to the second phase of films and we get some decent and generic sequels. Knowing early on that they had to spice things up a bit, Marvel took a chance on some third party characters, hoping that they were unique enough to be considered "refreshing". So we are introduced to Guardians and Ant-Man. This seemed to hold the fans attention for a bit longer. Now were closing in on another set of films and I'm sure Marvel was asking themselves, what can we show them now? Their answer is Doctor Strange. A wonderful kaleidoscope of imagery to grab your attention, despite the same tepid story Marvel has been chugging out for years now. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, the movies are all good in my book, but I feel that the spectacle will not be the only offering people want in the next phase of films.

Strange is a genius surgeon, the best in his field. The only thing that matches his talents is his arrogance...hmmm, sounds like another goatee wearing hero on the marvel universe. Anyway, one night while driving, he ends up in a terrible accident, which destroys his hands. Determined not to live a life of mediocrity, believing he is better than that, Strange dedicates his life to bettering himself. The search takes him to some far corners of the earth and opens his eyes to a new healing power, the power of magic. Quickly learning his new formed powers, Strange must battle some guy who has some evil plan....this is where the story gets a little generic and forgettable. So forgettable, that I forget the villains name, I only remember that he was played by Mads Mikkelsen.

That has been one universal issue that everyone agrees on when it comes to Marvel films. The lack of a compelling villain. Save for Loki, the Marvel films have continuously dropped the ball in this department. They seemed to try and steer back into the right direction with this year's Civil War, but Strange seems to throw them back down a peg as Mikkelsen is not given enough screen time to shine. Before I look anything up, if I recall correctly. He was a former student of the Ancient One, who has suffered some personal loss. This turns him evil and he teams up with a giant cloud monster to bring the destruction of earth. Hmm, some pretty hollow motivation if you ask me. So I'll copy and paste some info from the Marvel wiki to clear some of that motivation up.

Kaecilius was a sorcerer and a former member of the Masters of the Mystic Arts who became disillusioned with the Ancient One when he felt his mentor was not allowing other dimensions to come to Earth, which he believed could reunite him with his deceased wife and son. He formed the Zealots with the intention of defeating the Ancient One and bringing the inter-dimensional being known as Dormammu to Earth.

So with this new information in my mind, I still stand by the fact that these films tend to drop the ball on the villains. So where does the film excel? Well, for starters the aforementioned Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton. I'll admit, at first I was not a fan of her. Her alien like features and dramatic turns seemed to turn me off of her acting in previous films, but I have since developed a new found appreciation for her. I guess if she sticks to genre flicks or quirky comedies, I like her. She is the highlight in Doctor Strange for me. Cumberbatch does well enough for himself, he plays the arrogant jerk to perfection, but he will have more time to develop that role. For now, this film belongs to Swinton. Rounding out the rest of the supporting cast is Chiwetel Ejiofor, with an irritating character arc and Rachel McAdams, relegated to being the girlfriend sidekick.

I mentioned earlier the kaleidoscope imagery...I literally meant that. The background images of this film were obviously inspired by the images one would find looking through the glass of the toy. Strange takes the Inception leveled effects and kicks it up a notch and to great effect. These visuals are what makes the film stand out from the other entries. Strange's first venture into other dimensions is trippy enough to warrant a viewing.

Doctor Strange is another generic entry into the Marvel franchise, but those generic entries are still pretty damn entertaining. The film fumbles with the villain and some forced comedic bits that don't land, but is strong enough entertaining you that you might not mind. It cleverly sidesteps the usual "city destruction" climax and turns it on its head. Doctor Strange is a welcomed addition to the series.

Moana (2016/I)
36 out of 56 people found the following review useful:
You're Welcome., 3 January 2017
8/10

2016 has been a particularly strong year for animated films. With the likes of Zootopia, Finding Dory and Kubo & The Two Strings all vying for best animated picture of the year, it seems Moana deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as well. It's no fluke that out of the four movies I just mentioned, 3 of them belong under the house of the mouse.

Legend has it that demigod Maui stole a sacred stone, the heart of the goddess Te Fiti. The lava demon confronted him and both the heart and Maui were lost forever. Now, the world is slowly dying and someone must find the heart and force Maui to put it back. But who is this chosen one? It might be Moana, a Polynesian girl who is suppose to be taking over as chief of her tribe, but longs to sail beyond the reef. Featuring new comer Auli'i Carvalho as Moana and the most electrifying man in sports entertainment, Dwayne 'The Rock" Johnson, as the demigod Maui.

It's not surprising that I found myself tapping my feet to the songs in this film because Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton, shares his talent with this film. I can easily see any one of the songs in this piece going up for and winning Best Original Song, giving the man the O in the prestigious PEGOT award circle. He currently has a Pulitzer, Emmy, Tony and Grammy, among more. The songs here remind me of the old-school Disney songs, easy to listen to, fun to play on repeat and important to the story. At first, I felt it was a little too on the nose with some of the lyrics, but eventually he won me over and I've been listening to the soundtrack ever since.

The film itself might lack some of the intricacies of plot heavy films like Zootopia, but this journey story is entertaining and heartfelt. The vibrant colours of the green islands and the blue sea help propel the film above and beyond what some others films have to offer. The animation takes a nice little turn for the creative when the characters find themselves under the sea in a side villains lair. We are treated with some bioluminescent sequences with another catchy tune not far behind.

Johnson is stellar as Maui, he seems completely comfortable in a voice acting role and surprisingly has the chops to sing a tune. Newcomer Auli'i Carvalho holds her own against a star like Johnson and she really gives a strong voice to a driven female character. I applaud that Disney didn't feel the need to shoehorn in a love story either. This is a tale about self discovery, not some young woman needing to find a man. Disney nods and respects their past while looking to the future with Moana. Princesses no longer need to be the 'love' goal of a man.

Moana is a visually beautiful film with great songs and a strong female lead character. There are some visually gags for the kids and a great time for adults. Moana is a great film.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
"You're Invited", 3 January 2017
6/10

What would you do when your friends invite you over to their house and things start to get really weird, almost uncomfortably unsafe weird. You get the hell out right? Despite the one characters constant questioning of events that take place here, he doesn't seem interested in leaving the party. If he does, we don't have a film anymore. So putting aside logic and accepting that only one person decides to leave this party, is The Invitation thrilling enough to warrant a recommended watch?

Will takes his new girlfriend to his ex-wife's house for a dinner party. All their friends are there, friends they haven't seen in awhile. Things between Will and his ex-wife is a little strained due to an emotional loss in their past, but everyone decides to look past it in order to have a good time. Throughout the night, Will suspects that his ex-wife and her new husband have other motives for bringing everyone together.

Are there other motives? Or is Will just crazy? The film lets the questionable actions of the hosts walk a fine line to make you lean either way. The hosts invite another guest that their friends do not know. This is someone they met in a grief group known as The Invitation. This guy seems a little off, but is pleasant enough on the outside to not really question anything. It's not until he gives a speech about his wife do people really feel uncomfortable and question if they should stay. The Invitation does a decent job of keeping an awkward level of suspense within the house, even if you are questioning character actions.

A key element to this film is the opening sequence when Will and his new girlfriend hit a coyote with their car on their way to the party. The coyote is injured and it's up to Will to put the creature out of its misery. That act is the core theme to the entire film. The film asks us these questions throughout.

The film's third act kicks things into high gear and the subtly of the suspense in thrown out the window for a more in your face approach. The entire film builds to this confrontation and it works for the most part. I can't help by feel that the one and only memorable things about this film though is the final shot. Which is a great shot that almost feels Hitchcockian. This single location thriller is effective enough for fans of the genre to enjoy and people looking for a good thriller won't mind it either.


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