Tag Archives: james mcavoy

‘Split’ has Great Performances but Weak Execution

Split_(2017_film)An ending can often make or break a film; a strong case can be made this film’s ending breaks it.


“Split” is the latest film from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan and follows a man with a multiple personality disorder (James McAvoy) who kidnaps three teenage girls (Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula).


A lot of people have given up on M. Night Shyamalan as a filmmaker, writing him off as a two-hit wonder from 2000. However after his 2015 film “The Visit,” some people maintained hope that Shyamalan maybe had some magic left in him. And while “Split” isn’t a masterpiece, it offers a fantastic central performance from James McAvoy and some decent thrills and chills, although it can’t stick the landing in the climax.


Through most of the time I was watching this I kept getting a “10 Cloverfield Lane” vibe, and not just because both films focus on hostages trapped in a basement by a captive who treats them decently enough but has unclear motives. There is a sense of claustrophobia and tension around the whole film, not knowing character’s backstories and what is driving them creates a mystery within itself.


James McAvoy is the best part of the film and frankly why it works at all. He technically turns in six or seven different performances, with his Kevin having the personality of an eight-year-old child one second and a middle-age fashion designer the next. McAvoy does wardrobe changes to coincide with his personalities but what is brilliant about his performance are the subtle differences of his personalities. One may twitch, another has a gentler stare, and it really is great work that much like John Goodman in “Cloverfield Lane” would probably get award talk if it came out in the fall instead of the first quarter of the year.


Anya Taylor-Joy, praised for her work in “The Witch” and the only good thing about “Morgan,” does a fine job as the “leader” of the captive girls and harbors some secrets of her own. Like McAvoy she has to convey a range of emotions and wear emotional masks, and she continues to show why her stock is on the rise.


Characters and performances aside, however, the film has problems. It is a slow-burn narrative however that doesn’t excuse its 117 minute runtime for feeling like it is well over two hours long. By the time the film was approaching its climax I thought to myself, “ok, this ending has to be pretty amazing to be worth all this build up.” And it wasn’t.


Despite being Shyamalan there isn’t a real twist ending and anything that could have been considered surprising is either foreshadowed or flat-out explained halfway through the film. There are also flashback sequences that end up having near nothing to do with the actual plot itself, and a surprise at the very end of the film will be a joy for those who pick up on the reference but disaffecting for those who don’t.


“Split” has a decent setup and features a fantastic performance from James McAvoy and for some that may be enough. However those who want a truly thrilling hostage film with a classic Shyamalan twist and reveal may be left disappointed.


Critics Rating: 6/10

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

‘Days of Future Past’ Best X-Men Yet

X-Men_Days_of_Future_Past_posterThere was a time when the X-Men franchise was the best in the business. The first film, released in 2000, really was the first big-budget comic book-based film. The sequel, which brilliantly titled “X-Men 2”, was considered better than the first. Then writer/director Bryan Singer left and “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” were released, both being met with mixed reviews, and even some hate from fans. Hope seemed lost. Then a very successful prequel, “X-Men: First Class” came out, and that brings us to today.

In “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, the X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants. Bryan Singer returns to the director’s chair, and Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen return as Professor X and Magneto, respectively, among other stars of the original trilogy. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender portray the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto, and Hugh Jackman once again plays Wolverine.

I’ve never been the biggest X-Men fan. I love superhero movies (“Spider-Man 2” and “Iron Man” are among my favorite all-time films), but for whatever reason I have never fallen in love with the X-Men. So I am surprised that I loved “Days of Future Past” as much as I did.

Hugh Jackman is great in most every film he does, so it is no surprise that he once again kills it as Wolverine. He carries the film for the first half, as he is tasked with convincing a depressed Professor X (McAvoy) to help him save the future. He has his sarcastic moments along with his badass ones, but he also has a few scenes of pure emotion, which is rare for such a normally stoic character.

My personal favorite character of the film is Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters. Some people, myself included, were worried when they saw the character design (a punk teen), especially compared to the one that will be featured in the Avengers sequel (yeah, there will be a different Quicksilver in a different movie played by a different actor, it’s confusing). But Singer handles him well, inserting just enough humor into the character so he doesn’t come off as corny, and Peters in fact adds an extra sense of fun to the film.

For the most part, the special effects are top notch, and the action sequences are very well shot. Whether it is mutants fighting robots or mutants fighting mutants, the action is clear and crisp, and doesn’t fall victim to the PG-13 rating. There was one instance, however, where I was actually in shock that the sequence made the final cut. The CGI looked so obviously fake that I actually chuckled; luckily that is just one 10 second segment of the film.

There isn’t much that “Days of Future Past” does wrong. As with most summer blockbusters, it may drag a little towards the middle and of course the time-travel aspect has some holes when you really think about it, but these are minor flaws that do not hold the movie down too much.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” benefits from the return of the old cast and especially the presence of Singer in the director’s chair. Even someone who does not know much about the X-Men (like me) will be entertained, and the movie explains any and all necessary plot points from previous films. “Days of Future Past” is immensely entertaining and at times emotional and thought-provoking, and it is some of the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year.

Critics Rating: 8/10