Happy Death Day 2U

The horror sequel – a genre defined by cold hard cash, masked slashers, and not a lot else. Oh sure, sometimes the second trip is twice as nice (think the perfection of the formula in Bride of Frankenstein or continually redefining your genre like Dawn of the Dead), and since the 90s we’ve gotten some more self-aware fare that enjoys playing with conventions. But for the most part, you sit down for a sequel, you can expect a pretty solid retread of the first movie, right? Take that concept to its logical extreme, and you get Happy Death Day 2U, the sequel to 2017′s Happy Death Day. You know, the movie about the girl named Tree (Jessica Rothe) who has a masked killer after her, and keeps waking up Groundhog Day-style every time she dies? She [SPOILER] finally breaks her time loop by becoming a better person and figuring out who her killer is and then time moves forward and everything is groovy, right? But in the sequel, through a series of sciency mishaps, she gets slapped right back into that same time loop and keeps waking up on the exact same day as in the original. That’s BALLSY AS HELL for a sequel, and a real gamble to take. Does it pay off? Well…

Honestly, YES. My expectations were high, because I really loved the first one. I thought it was interesting, inventive, and I genuinely cared about Tree and the rest of the characters. This sequel takes all of that good stuff and instead of Groundhog Day gives us Back to the Future – there’s a science Maguffin that’s the root of the problem and Tree and friends have to spend the whole movie figuring out how to fix the time loop with a twist – instead of being in the exact same day she was in before, Tree is stuck in a version of that day in a parallel dimension in the multiverse. And in this version, she’s no longer with Carter (Israel Broussard), but her mom (Missy Yager) is alive. Not only does she have to choose which dimension she wants to live in, but she still has to deal with the same bullshit she figured out in the original (like a rogue serial killer, a different masked killer, and lots and lots of deaths to reset the day that are slowly wrecking her body). It’s a clever twist on the original that keeps you in the same general world of the first one’s story but with enough changes so that you don’t quite know what to expect. I think it’s pretty great storytelling.

Some thoughts:

  • I know college is weird but honestly, who practices tuba in the hallway at 9 am? And why is the masked killer not after THAT guy?
  • Love the touches that really make this science lab feel authentic, like repeated notes on the whiteboard to “stop stealing my food,” a broke down couch from the Nixon administration, and a half-finished game of Settlers of Catan on the shitty coffee table. I can almost smell the burnt coffee through the screen.
  • Love the “OK – recap” montage that takes place so Tree can catch Ryan (Phi Vu) and the audience about the events of the first movie. It’s quick and efficient and actually works within the umbrella of the story.
  • I did have to laugh at Ryan’s quote, “That’s not possible. That’s not what [sciency Maguffin] was designed to do.” Like, you claim to be doing your thesis on quantum mechanics and you just said that sentence like it doesn’t describe 90% of all scientific discoveries????
  • Crazy Unhinged Tree when she realizes she’s stuck in another time loop is one of my favorite performances of the year. 
  • Speaking of, Jessica Rothe does most of the heavy lifting here as in the first one, and she’s just such a great comedic and dramatic actress. You can see her development as a character from the first film, but now she’s stuck in this horrendous Sophie’s Choice situation and she plays the hell out of it. There aren’t that many horror movies that are this rooted in one character and really digs into their interior emotions. One of the things I love about Blumhouse is that it allows this type of storytelling to take place in these sort of unique genre mashups under the horror umbrella.
  • I appreciate that the dilemma Tree faces isn’t as simple as Mom vs. Boyfriend. She has to confront whether she wants to center her life around the past or the future, and the love story is only one small part of that. It’s enough of a distinction to allow Tree to be more than just a lovesick girl – instead she has to grapple with who she wants to be as a result of who she’s been. 
  • Even though the montage of Tree’s attempts to figure out the science necessary to fix the Maguffin is super entertaining, I still really hate that Paramore song. 
  • They lean hard into the Back to the Future vibes this time around and it’s delightful. There are music cues that borrow from the BttF soundtrack, there are visual cues featuring a clock tower, and obviously there’s the requisite race against time. 
  • I have to applaud the ingenuity of that last kill. Magnets, man. Truly inspired.
  • Not sure why the ending was so abrupt and rushed, but at least it didn’t force some horrible waste of a scene after the main resolution, so I guess that’s better?
  • Also, make sure to stick around for a solid post-credits scene that seems to be setting up a threequel? Even if it doesn’t yield another movie, the scene is a fun way to end, for sure.

I can’t recommend this movie enough as a fun time and a great follow-up to the original. If you haven’t seen the first one, definitely check it out and then make this one a double-feature!

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Bumblebee

Well everything’s a mess, so another Transformers movie might as well happen. It’s not like things could get any WORSE, right? I think that’s what most people (god I hope it’s most people) thought when the trailers for Bumblebee first came out, and who could blame them? The last Transformers movie, The First Knight was my actual worst film seen in 2017 (and I saw 113 in theaters, so like. 113th out of 113. That bad). There’s nowhere to go from there but up. You stick to a basic formula, a fan-favorite fish-out-of-water (Mr. Bee), and a lost, street smart teenager who desperately needs a friend (Charlie, played by Hailee Steinfeld). You stick them in that guaranteed crucible of nostalgia, the late 80s, and throw in some shady government commandos searching for our favorite lil Autobot and what do you get? Well…

You get…something not entirely awful, and actually kind of good? I mean, it’s not Citizen Kane or anything but. You know what I always say about low expectations, and in this case, truly, mind-blowingly, lowest-point-of-the-Mariana-Trench-low expectations really paid off!

Some thoughts:

  • I think it was a smart choice to bring the whole Transformers idea back to a time when it made sense, the 80s. You’ve got the Cold War thing going on, everyone’s on edge, 
  • I appreciate that someone is saying what the whole audience is thinking – the best line of the movie is when John Cena yells, “They’re literally called Decepticons!”
  • As Sleepy Gay pointed out, Optimus Prime basically shows up at the end 10 minutes late with Starbucks like “Oh cool the planet’s not destroyed, super good job Bee, way to go.”
  • I don’t know whether to be happy that this female protagonist has a soft butch style and interests and hobbies that are not traditionally considered feminine while also being allowed to express her emotions or to be furious that she is so CLEARLY GAY without any mention or expression of it. Like, yay, not playing into stereotypes! But also no straight girl owns that many muscle tanks. It’s 20biteen – let Hailee Steinfeld be our soft butch queen goddammit.
  • All the best tropes from the 80s (or 80s-esque) misfit-finds-an-unlikely-friend oeuvre are here in full force, but the charm of Steinfeld’s performance and the honest to God sweetness of a plucky yet abashed robot can not be overstated. 
  • I feel like I should add a recurring feature called Did I Cry? with maybe its follow-up cousin Am I Embarrassed That I Cried? And the answers to that are Yes and No, respectively, so those are some genuinely earned tears, people. Dad and daughter stuff just gets me, ok?

Was I entertained? Yes I was! Does this illuminate anything interesting about the Transformers as a whole, or speak to anything we didn’t already know about Bumblebee as a character? Eh. Not really. But if you’re running out of ideas for your multibillion dollar action franchise, there are far worse ways to deliver another installment to your audience than to frame it in one of the most tried and true recipes for delivering a sweet and solid trip to the multiplex.

The Upside

January’s such a weird time for movies. Is it Oscar bait? Is it the studio flushing its old stash down the toilet? Is it somehow trying to be both? The last question might be what some people are asking themselves about The Upside, a shiny #inspirational tale that’s based on a true story of Phillippe Pozzo di Borgo and Abdel Sellou (here renamed Phillip Lacasse and Dell Scott). Phillip (Bryan Cranston) is a quadriplegic man who is still grieving the loss of his wife and his past life to the point where he has essentially lost the will to live. Dell (Kevin Hart) is a parolee looking for a job so he can pay child support and get in his ex’s good enough graces to be allowed to see his son. When these two wacky kids get together, what could possibly happen? Well…

They meet and are like, “huh, that guy was weird,” and then never see each other again for the rest of their lives.

J/k j/k, they grow and learn and become best friends in a heartwarming display of the fundamental connection at the root of the human experience!

Some thoughts:

  • I’m such a giant Bryan Cranston fan that even in a movie with a concept this cringey, I can’t help but love him and his performance. He always seems to have a well of deep vulnerability, anger, and pain running just below the surface, and his chemistry with Hart is off the charts.
  • Speaking of, this might actually be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen Kevin Hart in. That’s not necessarily a testament to the film so much as a need for him to better edit his own material (I’m lookin at you, Night School) and realize that when it comes to his particular schtick, often less is more. His performance here feels like it’s rooted in something genuinely human and flawed, and it’s the most interesting he’s ever been. 
  • I appreciate that the film doesn’t lean too hard into a story of racial differences being overcome to teach us all something about racism; instead, the real illumination stems from matters of class and socioeconomic status (not that those issues aren’t inextricably tied to race, but you see what I’m saying). I guess the titles Rich People Have Problems Too and Black Men Can Thrive When Given Access to Opportunity and Economic Stability were already taken. 
  • Why is no one caring for Phillip’s mental health? Considering how much money he has to pay a “life auxiliary,” as well as a personal chef, a physical therapist, and Yvonne (Nicole Kidman) who just kind of…runs things? Does anyone know what she actually does? Anyway, it’s mind-boggling to me that all this support staff is there while there is absolutely no accommodations being made for some fucking THERAPY. What do quadriplegics who aren’t billionaires DO? How do they afford round-the-clock care, wheelchair accessible home improvements, personal chefs – how do they even afford to survive? I know the main takeaway from this movie should be about the power of friendship and the meaning of life, but it just throws into stark relief the incredible wealth disparity in this country and the ways in which wealth, more than anything, determines who has the right to live and who does not.
  • I’m not sure how I feel about a movie that’s so clearly glorifying and not dealing with the consequences of ignoring a patient’s advance directives. Like yeah, Yvonne really cares about Peter and all but you can’t blatantly disregard someone’s legally binding wishes regarding their care and I’m pretty sure Yvonne would have been fired AND sued for doing so. 
  • The “I don’t hear disability” line was a particularly funny dig at faux-inclusivity and tolerance. 
  • A couple stray Nicole Kidman observations – she’s like a foot taller than Kevin Hart, which makes for some great staging. Hearing her say “I’m not your boo” is a delight.
  • Why is one of Yvonne’s strikes against Dell NOT the sexual harassment of Maggie in the workplace? 
  • I will say the film does one good thing in that it highlights tiny moments of advocacy that I think are a powerful reminder to the audience how often disabled folks are ignored, overlooked, or simply rendered invisible. When Dell takes Phillip to get hot dogs and the guy behind the counter says “And for him?” Dell replies, “Don’t do that man, talk to him.” It’s a small moment but it’s one that reinforces Phillip’s humanity and gently corrects behavior that it’s all too easy for able-bodied folks to fall back on. 
  • Is this what rich people parties are like? Hiring opera singers to stage your own private concert? God I’m so glad I don’t know any rich people.

This is one of those movies that works in spite of itself, mainly from the strength of the two leads. The strength of Dell and Phillip’s friendship feels real and earned, and in spite of some rather problematic approaches to problem-solving (did you know hang gliding both causes AND cures depression?), I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one.

They Shall Not Grow Old

All throughout the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, everyone claimed that Peter Jackson was a real-life hobbit. Turns out, he’s a wizard. Jackson, commissioned by the Imperial War Museum and the BBC, has combed through over 100 hours of footage and 600 hours of audio interviews with surviving World War I soldiers to create this remarkable documentary. His goal was to cobble together a story of the standard trajectory for an average British soldier from enlistment to armistice during the conflict that changed the world’s perception of the word “war” and to, at the request of the IWM, show this footage in a new and unique way. Did he succeed? Well…

I can think of few history lessons that have ever felt this vital or this visceral. Jackson creates a larger-than-life spectacle that comes alive before your eyes and reaches down into your guts in a way no epic fantasy battle ever could. They Shall Not Grow Old relies ONLY on archival footage and the voices of real WWI veterans who served on the Western Front to tell his story. There are no historians here, no political analysis or wartime strategy deconstructions – there are only the voices of them who served their country and watched their friends and brothers die for it, many of them without knowing why.

Some thoughts:

  • It was just a job. That’s what I can’t get over. They say, “This was during a time when a man didn’t question it, he just did what he was told.” I can’t help but think this was partially because they imagined it would be a gentlemanly war like previous conflicts, when instead it unleashed horrors that these men could never have dreamed of in their wildest nightmares.
  • Some other fun bits of history include all the propaganda posters encouraging men to enlist (conscription didn’t begin until 1916, and before that the enlistment age was 19). And enlist they did – there’s an extended section of soldiers describing how they attempted to enlist at age 15, 16, 17 and the recruiters would lie about the age on their forms; or they’d be told “you better go outside and have another birthday, then come back.” They were just so YOUNG, so many of them, and war seemed like a game to them. The idea of it makes me sick to my stomach.
  • Also remarkable – how many men had no idea what they were fighting for. And when they came back, how many of them couldn’t find jobs. There were shops that would post signs: no veterans need apply. It’s a shameful and disgusting reminder that in almost 100 years we still haven’t come up with a better system to take care of our veterans. 
  • The shift from black and white to color is not so vivid, but just as breathtaking, as Dorothy’s landing in Oz. It brings the Western Front to rich, teeming life in a way that feels like magic. 
  • It’s not only the images that are mind-boggling in the way they spring to life. Jackson worked with a team of professional lip readers to determine what the men were saying in these silent films and dub the voices in. He went so far as to determine which unit the footage depicted and where it was from, like Manchester, Gloucester, Liverpool, Newcastle, etc, then chose voice actors from those specific regions to read the lines. The attention to detail creates such a vivid and moving portrait of these men’s faces, no longer relegated to fuzzy black and white smears, but startlingly alive and present for the first time in recorded history.
  • Another tactic that feels like witchcraft is that, with the wide shots now in much sharper focus, the camera is able to zoom in and use pans to make these static frames feel so much more alive and modern. It’s the kind of re-imagining of what you thought an art form could be that makes you just shake your head with wonder. It’s akin to seeing a still image come to life as a moving picture for the first time.
  • You know what I never ever want to see again? GANGRENE. Also like, so many dental issues, but I’ll take some of those teeth over long, lingering shots of trenchfoot any day.
  • Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I sure wish there had been subtitles. I’m an Anglophile to an intense degree, but I was having a h a r d t i m e understanding a lot of what the veterans were saying over the soundtrack of shells falling and men digging trenches and just general war mayhem. 
  • Very Important: there are not one but TWO dogs in the movie. Both of them are Very Good and are not harmed in any way.
  • My two favorite Peter Jackson quotes: “Well, that was the movie.” and “I’ve got a few bits of World War I artillery…as you do.”

This is a documentary that must be seen to be believed. If you can go see it in theaters, make it a priority. It’s an incredible piece of history that has been archived in such a way as to become completely new, and I’m so grateful to Peter Jackson for allowing these men to have their stories told in a way that highlights, more than ever, the cost and senselessness of war.

Second Act

This feels like the kind of movie that just doesn’t get made anymore, and I mean that as a compliment. Sort of. When is the last time you saw a mid-budget billed-as-a-romantic-comedy-but-actually-a-family-drama film with one major box office star and a strong, but more B- and C-list supporting cast? I’ll tell you when, it was 2007 when Dan in Real Life came out and you thought Steve Carrell was going to say wacky things like “I love lamp” but instead you find yourself ugly sobbing while he sings a cover of a Pete Townshend song. I digress. This is a bait-and-switch movie, one that doesn’t quite give you what you came for but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What does it give you instead? Well…

Second Act is the story of Maya (Jennifer Lopez), a 40-year-old woman in Queens who’s about to get the promotion she’s been dreaming of as manager of the value grocery store where she’s worked for the last 15 years. She’s got a hot boyfriend Trey (Milo Ventimiglia), a wise-cracking best friend and coworker (Leah Remini), and all the street smarts she can handle, but no college degree. So of course Mr. Corporate Man passes her up for the promotion and gives it to a guy with no experience but an MBA from Harvard. Bemoaning the unfair advantage that all the book smart people have, she goes to bed depressed and wakes up the next day with a job interview at a fancy-shmancy beauty product company. Turns out Leah Remini’s son has fabricated an entire fake Facebook, LinkedIn, resume, website – the works – all to give Maya the fancy life she always wanted, and this beauty company bought it. They hire her and put her in charge of a huge project in direct competition with Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens). You can imagine the shenanigans that ensue.

Some spoilery thoughts:

  • So the biggest thing is that Zoe turns out to be Maya’s long lost daughter. I’ll give you a minute to reflect on how that fits into the movie you thought this was and everything you know about it so far. […] Right. So yeah, we learn that about halfway through the movie and then everything becomes about Maya reconnecting with this long-lost daughter that she gave up for adoption and her reasons for not coming clean about her qualifications are … more… complicated? Are they? I don’t know, I’m not a parent so it’s hard for me to understand the nuances of lying vs. also lying.
  • Oh also, that romantic comedy thing you thought this was? Yeah, Milo Ventimiglia is like, barely in it. He gets maybe 15 min of screen time. In fact, he breaks up with Maya when she gets the job because it’s going to put off them starting their family, which she’s super shifty about because she gave up a daughter for adoption 23 years ago and didn’t tell him even though they’ve been together for 6 years. This is exactly the subplot How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days was missing, amiright?
  • However some classic romcom tropes are in full force, like the embarrisingly public outing of all the lies at a huge televised event (for the new launch of a beauty creme because that’s a thing that happens). Or the “was it all a lie?” “No, I promise you I meant every word” confrontation, only this time between mother and daughter. There’s also some wacky R&D sidekick nerds who have a whole subtle flirtation until suddenly they’re talking about BDSM? I guess that’s what they think the kids are into these days. 
  • I will give this film credit for one huge thing, which happens not nearly enough, in which a female protagonist has a male love interest who is younger than her. Do you know how rare that is? Here are some charts.
  • As for performances, J.Lo is perfectly competent but so much of her story is angsting about being found out or having a long-lost daughter that it takes a lot of the joy out of her Cinderella story. Milo’s barely in it, and Vanessa Hudgens is doing fine but nothing special. The scene stealer is actually Leah Remini who injects every scene she’s in with a ton of energy, warmth, and humor. She and J.Lo have great chemistry and you really believe they’ve been friends for 15 years, so as long as they’re onscreen together, the movie really sparkles. Everything else? Kinda flat.

This turned out to be such a different thing than I expected, but I’m glad I saw it if only because it wasn’t what I expected. For someone who sees as many movies as I do, and who reads about upcoming releases constantly, it’s hard to be truly surprised anymore. I’d be fine with more movies being made like this that dare to do things just a little bit differently. We NEED more middle-of-the-road stuff, things that allow a 49-year-old woman of color to be the romantic lead in her own life-affirming story just because we don’t get to see that every day. The next time you’re hanging out with your mom on a Sunday afternoon and you can’t agree on a movie, try this one and you’ll probably find some middle ground that everyone can feel pretty “eh I’d give it 3.5 stars” about.

If Beale Street Could Talk

Funny story: at the end of the 2017 Academy Awards, I heard Faye Dunaway say La La Land won Best Picture and I immediately put on my coat and left my friend’s apartment, yelling “Moonlight was robbed!” It was only a few minutes later that my friend called me and described the chaos of what we all know happened next. Faye Dunfuckedup and said the wrong movie. It’s a shame that Barry Jenkins’ film has to live with that asterisk next to its name because he is one of the most purposeful, patient, and empathetic directors I’ve ever seen. This is even more evident in his third feature film, If Beale Street Could Talk, which focuses on the love story between Tish and Fonny (KiKi Layne and Stephan James) as they struggle through an unplanned pregnancy and Fonny’s wrongful incarceration for a crime he did not commit. Could this movie be the second to earn Jenkins an Oscar (this time with no mediocre singing white people to get in the way)? Well…

I wish I could say yes, but I don’t think so. I think it will get nominated, but ultimately, the big award will probably go to Green Book or mayyyybe A Star is Born. Honestly, it all feels very up in the air at this point. That doesn’t mean that Beale Street is any less deserving of its accolades, though! The film begins with a quote from its source material’s author, James Baldwin, about how Beale Street is a street in Memphis, yes, but also the legacy of black Americans – that every black American is born on Beale Street, whether they were born in Jackson, Mississippi or Harlem, NYC. That there is a possibility and impossibility at the center of black Americanness, a paradox that is built into the culture from birth. That paradox is at the heart of Tish and Fonny’s love story, as they love each other and create new life out of love while also facing the cruel injustice of a legal system that does not care about men like Fonny or their innocence. 

Some thoughts:

  • This is the most beautifully lit film I’ve seen in theaters in the past year at least. 1970s New York looks like it is actual heaven, all soft gold light and rich, lush colors. Tish and Fonny look like angels as they walk down the street, the camera never hurrying them, the warm glow of their neighborhood supporting and lifting up their love. Probably half the film’s frames look like they could be Renaissance paintings. This light is something ELSE, y’all.
  • Surprising and wonderful bit parts that made me go “omg whaaaat!”: Diego Luna as an adorable waiter at Tish and Fonny’s favorite restaurant; Dave Franco as a Jewish landlord who is the only person willing to rent a place to a young black couple; Pedro Pascal as a relative in Puerto Rico of the woman who falsely accused Fonny. 
  • The COSTUMES. Oh my god, the costumes. Bright blues and yellows, primary colors, prints, and textures so lush it feels like you could reach out and touch them. That’s the best word I can come up with to describe this entire movie, actually – lush.
  • Brian Tyree Henry, who is now in everything, is perfection as always as an old friend of Fonny’s who describes to him the horrors of being in prison and the gut-wrenching fear he feels all the time, even now that he’s out. His monologue felt like it sucked all the air out of my chest and then in a split second he has to close down all that emotional vulnerability because Tish walks in the room. It’s just devastating.
  • I never thought a white dude smelling perfume could be so creepy. Not even the film Perfume, which is about a literal serial murderer, makes perfume this creepy.
  • A friend of mine mentioned how lovingly Barry Jenkins places his black male lead actors in front of the camera, particularly during love scenes, and I have to agree. Tish calls Fonny the most beautiful person she’s ever seen and Jenkins treats him as such – there are so many long, uninterrupted shots of Fonny’s face and body that we are being asked to treat with love and desire. It’s all too rare for black male bodies to be granted this love and care without devolving to objectification, but it never feels like that here, and that fact alone is worth the price of admission.
  • The score is primarily made of up soft piano and aching violin, a mix that feels so melancholy but so hopeful at the same time. It’s pitch perfect for Tish and Fonny’s story. The circumstances the world thrusts upon them are so cruel and so unfair, but their connection remains vital and strong throughout – the impossibility and possibility all wrapped up in each other. 

This film is slow, purposeful, and gorgeously realized. I can’t think of a worthier follow-up to Moonlight and I can’t wait to see what Jenkins creates for us next. 

Glass

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Post-The Village, this was probably the healthiest attitude to adopt towards one M. Night Shyamalan. But then came 2017′s Split, and with it a post-credits scene that made audiences freak out – this story takes place in the same universe as 2000′s Unbreakable, which leads us here. The final entry in Shyamalan’s trilogy about people who believe they can do extraordinary things brings together Unbreakable’s David Dunn (Bruce Willis), the single survivor of a massive train derailment who has superstrength and a knack for sensing bad guys; Elijah Price (Samuel L. Motherfucking Jackson, or SLMJ), a man born with bones so fragile they shatter like glass at the slightest impact but whose mind is on a whole other level; and Split’s Kevin Crumb aka The Beast aka Hedwig aka Patricia….you get the idea. He’s a man who has dissociative identity disorder and exhibits 24 distinct personalities, one of whom happens to be a superhuman amalgamation of animal characteristics called The Beast who punishes the impure and those who “have not suffered.” He’s super fun at parties. Put them together and what have you got? Well…

I’m not sure why the critical response to this one is so tepid because I thought it was a fantastic conclusion of a trilogy that asks us to consider the stories we tell ourselves and the untapped power of those stories. Plotwise, the main story relies on Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) attempting to cure these three men of their delusions of grandeur. At times she enlists the help of David’s son, Elijah’s mother, and Kevin Crumb’s kidnapping victim who survived (Anya Taylor Joy) to assist in her work. I’m sure you can guess that uh, things don’t go as she planned.

Some thoughts:

  • Let’s talk performances. Bruce Willis doesn’t have a lot to do, unfortunately, and he’s playing the strong stalwart type anyway, so he doesn’t get very much dialogue or inner turmoil. His best acting comes from the physicality of playing a man who moves in the world in a way that normal humans do not. SLMJ is a born scene-stealer, and charismatic as hell, even when playing catatonic. You’re just waiting for the twinkle in his eye, the twitch of his lips to reveal the inner workings of Elijah’s terrifying mind. But the real workhorse is McAvoy all the way. 24 distinct personalities is a tall order for anyone, but the seamless transition between them, the intense physicality of embodying each separate personality – I just don’t know how this kind of performance doesn’t earn an Oscar, regardless of the Academy’s disdain for genre work. He’s a masterclass, a tour de force, and even running around as a human/animal Beast God Hybrid doesn’t seem so ridiculous when he’s doing it.
  • Honorable mention goes to Sarah Paulson who has never done anything wrong in her life, ever, and whose hair and makeup look fucking amazing the entire time even when shit really hits the fan.
  • I have never heard the phrase “PB&J sandwiches” sound so terrifying in my life. Nice callback later to the guard’s abandoned PBJ as well. Shyamalan is a man who knows the devil is in the details.
  • I can’t believe they got not only the leads, but also the kid who played Bruce Willis’s son (Spencer Treat Clark) and SLMJ’s mom (Charlayne Woodard) to reprise their roles 19 years later! Spencer Treat Clark especially has to do some heavy emotional lifting and his scenes are just a joy to watch. 
  • Especially affecting are some brief sequences of unused footage from Unbreakable that serve as some of David’s memories or flashbacks. No creepy CGI here, just good old fashioned 19 years younger Bruce Willis, and it’s effective as hell. Side note: Bruce Willis can still get it, even 19 years later. 
  • There are definitely some problems with everything that’s happening here from a logistical standpoint. Sarah Paulson has 3 days to treat these people who “think they’re superheroes.” Yeah, I don’t know where you got your medical degree ma’am, but 3 days isn’t enough time to treat anything – that’s not how psychiatry works. 
  • The subtitle of this movie could be Glass: HIPAA Violations. None of this is best practices. You can’t just go showing other patients’ someone’s MRI. No one has signed any informed consent forms. You can’t just leave patient files in unlocked cabinets. You especially cannot let a patient’s victim have a one-on-one confrontation with them in order to “cure” the patient – does anyone have ANY medical training in this movie?
  • Probably not, since there’s only 1 orderly in this whole goddamn wing apparently and this facility has the worst security guards to ever be hired. “Oh this nurse with particularly well-muscled calves and white crocs with no socks on is wheeling one of our most notorious patients out of the wing in a wheelchair and he has a blanket on up to the neck. Well, no further questions!”
  • I think it’s easy to forget based on Shyamalan’s past missteps that he’s actually an incredibly visually interesting director. I found myself marveling at the unnerving, visceral way he shoots The Beast, or the circular tracking shots of Hedwig as he skates around and around some would-be victims of The Beast. These little touches bring the larger-than-life quality of the characters closer to the audience and allows us to feel as if we’re part of the action. And his use of color palette to distinguish between David (green), Elijah (purple), and The Beast (mustard yellow) creates the same gut-level effect as the oversaturated colors of the comic books he’s honoring. It all leads to an interesting film to watch, which I don’t think he gets enough credit for. 
  • Also, I’m sure you’re wondering – yes there are some twists (two, three if you’re feeling generous) and I felt they were well-executed, plausible, and helpful to the story. I’d say the first is the biggest and most effective, and I actually wrote “OH SHIT GOOD TWIST” in my notes.
  • It amuses me to no end that Elijah’s mom has an iMac computer circa 2003. 

Even if you haven’t seen the other films in the trilogy, Glass is worthy of your time as it forces us to reflect on the myths that shape our society and the myths we make our own selves out of. Strong performances from magnetic leads create enough tension to sustain what could be a simple Celebrity Death Match fight into a larger rumination on who gets to become something more than they think they could be, and who might be trying to stop them.