Film Review: “Glass”

Starring: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson
Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 129 minutes
Universal Pictures

What are some of the best non-DC/Marvel superhero films? That’s when folks would throw out movies like “The Crow” or “The Rocketeer.” But what about truly original superhero films, ones not based on comics? That’s when you really get down to the nitty gritty of films that hold their own against CGI-filled blockbusters. Before “Unbreakable,” there was “Darkman” and “The Toxic Avenger.” But unlike the latter, “Unbreakable” has spurred some worthy sequels.

It’s been discussed online for nearly two decades that director M. Night Shyamalan had always intended for “Unbreakable” to inevitably be a trilogy. The question remained even after the release of “Split,” a trilogy about what or who? So does “Glass” fulfill what fans were told, a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy? Or does it pull a Disney and create the possibility of more sequels? Luckily Samuel L. Jackson’s character doesn’t reveal himself to be Nick Fury all along.

Much to the surprise of fans, the throwdown between David Dunn (Willis) and Kevin Crumb as the Beast (McAvoy) happens fairly early on as Dunn is tracking down some kidnapped cheerleaders, the latest in a string other kidnappings and vicious murders in Philadelphia. Police are hot on both their trails though and arrest both before they can spar for too long. Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), is at the scene along with authorities because she wants to study the two for their delusions of grandeur, believing that comic book culture is behind their perceived abilities. Also in custody, and sitting down with Dunn and Crumb for some bizarre group therapy, is Mr. Glass (Jackson). Dr. Staple’s hope is to convince the trio that their super strength and super intelligence isn’t what it seems.

While sometimes clunky, everything that feels out of place or misguided eventually comes together in the third act. When everything is said and done, David Dunn (probably because of the salary Bruce Willis commands), seems to be more of a side character in this film. But it’s also not necessarily about the origins of Mr. Glass. We already got that in “Unbreakable.” The movie does have him play a key role, revealing why the film is inevitably named after him. But a good chunk of story outside the trio’s therapy sessions is Mr. Glass and Crumb’s multiple personalities scheming, talking and acting. It’s in these scenes that audiences are treated to every individual inhabiting David’s head. Acting wise, nothing’s quite as impressive or entertaining as McAvoy’s scenery chewing, but other side characters from the previous films provide some emotional weight as they make their way in throughout the film, building towards the climax.

It feels a little long, and is as the longest film in the trilogy, mainly because Shyamalan unfortunately falls back onto some poor storytelling mechanics that we’ve seen before with some of his weaker films. He tends to over explain plot points by showing and telling the audience what’s happening. It can feel a little condescending since the film is built around the idea that you’ve seen the previous two films and that you should be smarter than the average moviegoer. I would usually chalk it up to a talking head at the studio, but this is something Shyamalan has done in films like “The Happening” or “The Village.” Luckily he doesn’t do it ad nauseam.

“Glass” doesn’t subvert superhero tropes or makes any kind of new critiques of the genre, but it manages to manipulate viewer’s emotions and expectations enough to where everything genuinely feels original. The action is filmed in a way where our imagination, instead of computers, fills the void. Even the simplest things that Dunn or Crumb do, feel grand because of the lives they’re saving and taking. Because they’re not throwing each other into buildings like Superman and General Zod, but instead slowly bending steel or taking their time to punch down metal doors, the story feels more grounded in reality. It helps that every character is morally flawed. The good and evil on display blend together to elicit sympathy and disgust.

“Glass” ends up being the weakest of the three films, but it’s still an entertaining finale. Some might be turned off by how it all ends, but I applaud the bowtie. While most directors would have left the door open, just in case the box office receipts warranted a sequel, Shyamalan promptly wrote “Glass” as a final chapter to this superhero story. It feels complete, without the need to tell us anymore or asking us to sit through another chapter, something most superhero movies these days don’t know how to do.

Film Review “The Looking Glass”

Starring: Dorothy Tristan, Grace Tarnow and Jeff Puckett
Directed by: John D. Hancock
Not Rated
Running time: 1 hour 50 mins
First Run Features

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

A young girl loses her mother and is sent to live with her grandmother. A familiar plot in many a Lifetime movie. But in the talented hands of writer/star Dorothy Tristan and director John Hancock, “The Looking Glass” becomes so much more.

Julie (a very talented Tarnow, making her film debut) is un-aware that she and her grandmother, Karen (the still beautiful Tristan) share a love for performing. Karen, like Tristan herself, was once a talented actress and when she overhears Julie singing she helps her prepare to audition for a local musical production. As the two begin to bond, Julie begins to bury the grief she feels. No longer feeling alone in the world, she takes up with a local boy (Griffin Carlson) and learns to once again enjoy her life.

In his four decade career, director Hancock has always excelled in smaller, personal films. From “Bang the Drum Slowly” to the Nick Nolte prison drama “Weeds,” Hancock manages to give the characters meaning, bringing them to the forefront of the story. He achieves that again here. The quiet scenes between Julie and Karen a deeply moving and heartfelt. You almost feel as if you are eavesdropping on a personal conversation. Hancock is helped by a well-written screenplay by star Tristan. The storyline offers many opportunities to travel into “movie of the week” territory but Tristan refuses to take that easy route, instead giving the film real dialogue and situations.

On-screen, the talent abounds. Young Miss Tarnow proves herself an up-and-coming talent to keep an eye on. Matching her is Tristan who, after a successful acting career in the 70s, makes a return to the big screen after a three decade break. She hasn’t missed a beat. As the holiday season ascends upon us, I hope you find the time to take a trip through “The Looking Glass.” You will be entertained by what you find.

DVD Reviews "Alice Through the Looking Glass (1973) & Alice in Wonderland (1986)"

Actors: Brenda Bruce, Freddie Jones, Judy Parfit, Geoffrey Bayldon, Kate Dorning, Ian Wallace, Jonathan Cecil,
Directors: Barry Letts, James MacTaggart
Rated: Unrated
Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: March 12, 2013
Run Time: 66 minutes / 120 minutes

Alice Through the Looking Glass: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Alice in Wonderland: 3 out of 5 stars

When it comes to “Alice in Wonderland”, I am first in line.  BBC is known for their classic productions of “Alice Through the Looking Glass” from 1973 and “Alice in Wonderland” from 1986.  I was never a huge fan of the “Looking Glass”, the production is extremely low and not as friendly as “Wonderland”.  I love the songs in “Alice in Wonderland” it’s not Disney quality but still fun for what it is. Both films definitely show their age but having watched them growing up they have that certain charm that still draws you in.  If you did the same then I would recommend checking out at least “Alice in Wonderland” again for sure.

“Alice Through the Looking Glass” – Official Synopsis: Join Alice on her journey through the mirror in BBC’s fanciful adaptation of Lewis Caroll’s classic novel! In an alternate world, just on the other side of the mirror’s reflection, Alice finds herself in the middle of a life-sized chess game, where she encounters a variety of surreal scenarios and fantastical characters, including Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Humpty Dumpty, the Red Queen and others. To be crowned queen and return home, Alice must traverse all the ranks to the end of this massive chessboard-but will she make it?

“Alice In Wonderland” – Official Synopsis: This classic BBC production of the family favorite tale begins one summer afternoon as Lewis Carroll regales his picnic companions with the tale of young girl named Alice who sees a fully-dressed, talking rabbit run past her. She follows the rabbit down a hole and enters a nonsensical world where it seems the normal rules of logic do not apply. In Wonderland, Alice participates in a winnerless race, alternates between being tiny and giant, hears riddles at a “mad” tea party, plays croquet with live flamencos, and attends a trial where the Knave of Hearts is accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts. Featuring Doctor Who’s Elisabeth Sladen as the Dormouse, and filled with memorable characters and songs, this is a version the whole family is sure to enjoy.

I do not remember “Alice Through the Looking Glass” looking that incredibly cheap.  They even have scenes that don’t match up with the overlay on the characters. The production on “Alice in Wonderland” is decent improvement on “Alice Through the Looking Glass” but that could have also been the 13 years between the two. Both films are presented in full frame with a 4×3 aspect ratio.  The audio tracks included are a standard DVD stereo track, which works for the age of the films.  Wasn’t looking for a DTS Surround track here.  There are no special features includes on these DVD releases, which is a little bit disappointing overall. Nostalgia is going to determine the success of these release since  time has revealed both of their ages.

Book Review “Every Night the Trees Disappear: Werner Herzog and the Making of Heart of Glass”

Author: Alan Greenberg
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Release Date: May 1, 2012

Our Score: 4 out 5 stars

Werner Herzog is easily one of the world’s greatest filmmakers. His films include “Aguirre, the Wrath of God”, “Nosferatu the Vampyre”, “Grizzly Man”, “Rescue Dawn”, “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” and of course “Heart of Glass”. This book is an up-close and rare look into the making of “Heart of Glass”, courtesy of friend and collaborator to Herzog, Alan Greenberg. Herzog is known for his unique approach to filmmaking and it is shown throughout all of his films. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book but it is one of those rare books that you honestly can’t put down. Page after page this book is extremely interesting and informative.

Alan Greenberg and Warner Herzog have known each other for almost 40 years and there is no better person to cover this material. If you have seen “Heart of Glass”, you know it is a very dark and haunting film but easily one of Herzog’s best. In this book you will find out many interesting facts that many have never known. Greenberg revealed that Herzog, in an attempt to control his actors, hypnotized them before shooting their scenes. I wouldn’t give it a second thought when it comes to Herzog’s style.  That is only the tip of the iceberg reveled about the production, I want to say more but I don’t want to spoil it.  Read for yourself.

This book is fully backed by Herzog as he provides both the foreword and the afterword. I have read many “making-of” books and none of them have felt as real as this one does. It feels more like a novel spilling insider secrets that have been hidden for years. I also need to point out that the book also has very personal and crisp color photos lying within the middle of the book, very nice touch to complement the book. I recommend this book highly to all fans of Werner Herzog, but I warn you expect to finish the book in one sitting.