Movie reviews: 'Glass' twist-o-rama proves more is not more
Film critic and Pop Life host Richard Crouse reviews three new movies in theatres now: 'Glass,' 'Stan & Ollie,' and 'Replicas.'
GLASS: 2 STARS
I'll start this review with a spoiler to a movie that came out almost three years ago. This will be the last spoiler you'll see here. Here we go, the twist at the end of M. Night "Let's Twist Again" Shyamalan's "Split" revealed that his story of serial killer with twenty-three established personalities also had a twenty-fourth, a superhuman character known as The Beast. What's more - because why settle for one twist when you can have two? - The Beast lives in the same universe as the 2000 film "Unbreakable."
Shyamalan's new film "Glass" acts as a sequel for both films, bringing together James McAvoy as "Split's" Kevin Wendell Crumb and "Unbreakable" stars Bruce Willis as the heroic David Dunn and Samuel L. Jackson's mass murderer Elijah Price, a.k.a. Mr. Glass.
Here's the spoiler-free synopsis: Dunn, the invulnerable security guard with the extrasensory ability to sense the crimes people have done by touching them, is hot on the heels of Crumb's collection known as The Horde, looking to end his killing spree.
"When I find the Horde," Dunn says, "I'll take a mental health day."
Following a confrontation between Crumb and Dunn, psychiatrist Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) captures them, placing them in Ravenhill Memorial Pyschiatric Research Hospital, the same institution as Price.
"It's a place for people who think they are comic book characters," says Hedwig, one of Crumb's personalities. Convinced they all suffer from delusions of grandeur, her treatment involves convincing them that they are human, not superanything.
That's all you get from me. Cue the plot twists.
I like a twist as much as the next person. I still remember having my head knocked back by movies like "The Crying Game" and Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense" but can we now call a moratorium on multiple twists? Shyamalan has made a career out of subverting people's expectations but there are more twists in the last twenty minutes of "Glass" than you can shake a Syd Field book at. In this case more is not more.
Leading up to the twist-o-rama is an examination of what would happen if we learned that superheroes are real. To accomplish this Shyamalan has Paulson's good doctor spend a good portion of the running time trying to convince the superheroes that there is nothing special about them. It's less than dramatic. Worse, the film's ideas on the existence of extraordinary beings (AGAIN, NO SPOILERS HERE) have been beaten to death in everything from the "X-Men" films to "Watchmen" and "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."
Despite a bit of fun from McAvoy's ever shifting characters and Willis's Gandalf / action hero robe "Glass" is a slog. Talky and meta, it's being billed as a "film that took 19 years to make," but doesn't feel worth the wait.
Read another take: The underwhelming rollercoaster of 'Glass'
STAN & OLLIE: 3 ½ STARS
For twenty-three years, between 1927 and 1950, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy worked non-stop. According to The Sons of the Desert, their official international fraternal organization, they appeared in 106 films together, including feature films, featurettes, short subjects and cameo appearances. This year we can add one more to the list, sort of. It's not a recently uncovered long lost reel of film or a documentary. This time around the comedic duo get into "another nice mess" in "Stan & Ollie," a new biopic starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly that lovingly looks back on the double act's 1953 farewell tour.
The action begins with the pair's best days behind them. Their heyday a memory, the ageing duo reteam after a betrayal that blew apart their friendship. "We're getting to know one another again," says Stan. "It's complicated." Booked on a variety hall tour of post-war Britain the pair trot out some of their best known routines to small audiences. "We're getting older," says Ollie, "but we're not dead yet."
A slow start gives way to bigger and bigger crowds as audiences rediscover the pair's wit and charm. Behind the scenes, however, tensions arise. Stan felt betrayed when Ollie didn't back him up in a power play with producer Hal Roach years before, effectively ending their professional relationship.
"The only reason we were in this situation," scolds Stan, "is because you didn't have the guts to ask Hal Roach for the money we deserved." In a stinging rebuke Ollie says, "You love Laurel and Hardy but you didn't love me."
Those frictions, a hectic schedule and Hardy's failing health complicate things but with the help of their strong-willed wives, Lucille (Shirley Henderson) and Ida (Nina Arianda), the comedy legends rekindle their love of performing and one another.
Never before has Laurel and Hardy's signature "Dance of the Cuckoos" been more poignant. The story is a show biz tale but at its heart it's the story of two very different men, thrown together on a film set, who formed an unbreakable bond.
The film begins with a long tracking shot as the men walk from their dressing room to the set. It tells us everything we need to know about Stan and Ollie in one five-minute tour de force shot. Stan is the funny one, considered in his approach with a head for business. Ollie is impulsive, going broke and many times married. They are an odd couple with unmistakable chemistry. It's a lovely way to familiarize the audience with these almost-forgotten characters and showcase the easy chemistry between the leads, Coogan and Reilly.
By the time the end credits roll it's that chemistry and the just-as-entertaining double act of Henderson and Arianda that elevates this story of friendship and loyalty.
REPLICAS: 1 ½ STARS
Near the end of "Replicas," a new sci film starring Keanu Reeves, a clone assesses the state of her being. "I am dead." She's referring to her former self, the template for her current physical state, but she could just as easily have been talking about her film, a movie about creating life that arrives DOA in theatres.
Reeves plays William Foster, a scientist with a genius IQ and family man with a wife (Alice Eve) and three kids (Emily Alyn Lind, Emjay Anthony and Aria Lyric Leabu). By day he works for BioNyne, a Puerto Rico-based biotech firm, toiling to place the sentient minds of dead soldiers into synthetic bodies. If successful the procedure could change the world but so far the results have been uneven. An early test subject spent his final seconds engulfed in existential angst, repeatedly yelling, ‘Who am I?" as it examined its new metal body. "You can't keep bringing back people from the dead while you figure this out," scolds wife Mona.
On a rare break from the lab William loads the family into the car for a weekend getaway. Driving in terrible weather he veers off the road, tumbling into a lake. He survives but the family perish. Stricken with grief he has a Eureka moment. The dedicated father and even more dedicated scientist decides to get his family back the only way he knows how - cloning and neural transmission. Enlisting lab partner and clone master Ed (Thomas Middleditch) he sets out to grow a new family in pods in his garage. "What if something horrible goes wrong?" asks Ed. "Something already has," comes William's reply.
Layer in some corporate greed and scientific mumbo jumbo and you have a film with all the emotional depth of one of the robots William makes at BioNyne. The creation of life has always fascinated storytellers and audiences alike but "Replicas" is so scattershot - Cloning! Artificial Intelligence! Robots! - it likely should have been titled "Replican't" for its inability to interestingly explore any of its unfocused ideas. With no interest in the ethical or theological ramifications of the work the movie simply becomes a thriller and not a good one at that.
Reeves looks like he's putting in some effort - he has more dialogue here than in his last three movies combined - but is in full blown "Sad Keanu" meme mode. Downtrodden and desperate, he veers from monosyllabic to bug-eyed, delivering lines with a gravitas that borders on camp.
Once upon a time "Replicas" would have gone straight to DVD, decorating delete bins and quickly forgotten. On the big screen it makes no impression, neural or otherwise.
Richard Crouse shares a toast with celebrity guests and pundits on the talk show Pop Life on CTV NewsChannel and CTV. Catch up on all the entertainment news, reviews and interviews at the Pop Life website.
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