Split

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I enjoy horror movies, I really do. Even better are thrillers, the ones that get your blood racing and keep you guessing endlessly. The problem with the horror and thriller genres is that it has become extremely hard, at least for me, to find quality films that meet or even exceed the standards put in place. Too many times the films become predictable or outlandish, with unsurprising tropes and not enough emphasis on story itself. Director M. Night Shyamalan is famous for his thrillers, so I was immediately intrigued with the trailer for his new film Split. Though some of Shyamalan’s past films have faltered along the way, Split marks a return to form for the director known for this twists and thrills.

Split follows three girls, who are kidnapped by a man (James McAvoy) with severe dissociative identity disorder. The girls must find a way to escape his 23 different personalities before the emergence of an even worse 24th.

Despite my few reservations, Split was a great film. It was a solid thriller and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I appreciated the story and the use of suspense and thrills in the film. I never knew what was going to happen next and even if I did guess, I was always surprised. Probably the highlight of the film for me was James McAvoy. He was outstanding in this film and his performance blew me away. Honestly I hope he receives more acclaim and awards for this film as I believe it to be his best performance. The task of the role is monumental enough, essentially playing 24 roles, but McAvoy accomplishes it flawlessly. One of the best scenes was one that required him to switch back and forth between the different personalities all at once. McAvoy shines here as his performance really made the movie.

I did have a few complaints about the film but not many. Though I appreciated the development of the main heroine Casey (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), I found the other two girls kidnapped alongside her to be pretty useless. My main problem with the film, however, was the ending. Though I will not discuss it, as doing so will spoil the film, I found one final scene to be pretty jarring from what I expected. Though I suppose that was the purpose of the scene, I still believe Shyamalan’s decision to be completely unnecessary so I myself am choosing to ignore that scene. Everything else about the film though was well done.

Split is an interesting film. It’s discussion of dissociative identity disorders was fascinating and I actually liked the different genres that film picked up as its story developed. I would not recommend the film to those too faint of heart but I personally really enjoyed the film. If you are looking for a new thriller to watch, look no further. Split debunks everything you know to be true and will keep surprising you until the very end.

ALL IN ALL: James McAvoy is a tour de force in Split, a film that shines in the thriller/horror genre with great direction and a consistently twisting story.

Split 4 out of 5 ticket stubs

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Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula

Run Time: 1 hour 57 min, PG-13

Year: 2016

 

La La Land

Every year, there’s a select number of films that are predicted to sweep the awards and earn critical acclaim. One of those predicted very early on was La La Land. This film has been at the top of my watch list for a while so I was thrilled when I received the opportunity to finally view the 7 Golden Globe winning (record-breaking) musical La La Land for myself.  I went in with pretty high expectations and I am so pleased to report that they were fully met!

La La Land tells the story of a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) who meet and fall in love in Los Angeles.

I loved La La Land, I really did. It is a truly magical experience and a wonderful film to see. Everything about it was perfect; from the cinematography, to the production design, costumes, choreography, performances, music, La La Land scored high. The music is great and will make you walk out of the theater humming and playing the soundtrack on repeat all the way home. The film really does make you wish your life is a musical!

The performances in particular were strong. Both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone brought depth to their multi-faceted characters, infusing both drama and comedy into their performances. Needless to say, their chemistry was great. Gosling’s performance in particular stood out as he easily delivered some of the best lines in the film, providing a surprising number of laughs and proving again his versatility as an actor. He also learned how to play many of his piano pieces which is impressive enough. The film really showcases some of the surprising musical talents of both actors. Though the character development for Mia and Sebastian could have been stronger, in particular with Mia, the two characters still manage to effectively captivate the audience with their love and personal story.

Visually La La Land is simply gorgeous. A classic musical, there were many homages to the old Hollywood style musicals mixed in with the contemporary LA setting. From the dance numbers (Who can forget that beginning freeway scene?) to the elaborate stage sets, the film was able to achieve an impressive mixture of classical and modern film elements. While I am not aiming to name La La Land as the first ever modern musical of its time, I do think the film is worthy of praise for rejuvenating a genre that has become somewhat rare nowadays.

I cannot praise La La Land enough. While its aspirations may seem lofty at times despite some flaws, the film still has so much emotion and heart that cannot be overlooked. After every musical number, I simply wanted to re-watch the whole scene again. The film is deeply satisfying and the love story,while sweet, is more focused on the journey of two people trying to achieve their dreams in the romantically painted town of Los Angeles, which I really found beautiful. I wholly recommend La La Land, and even try to see it in theaters if you can. La La Land provides a magical movie-going experience.

ALL IN ALL: La La Land is a beautifully done and visually gorgeous film, with excellent performances and music that captivates and warms the heart of audiences alike.

LA LA LAND 4.5/5 Ticket Stubs

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Director: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend

Run time: 128 minutes, PG-13

Year: 2016

image from: http://www.lalaland.movie/gallery/12

Passengers

Two strangers alone on a spaceship. Make that Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence alone on a space ship. Sounds intriguing right? I mean I would want to see that movie. Passengers has all the ingredients for a solid movie. An interesting premise, cool sets and effects, two of the hottest actors in Hollywood. All it really needed was a well crafted story. What a story it lacks though.

On a spacecraft transporting thousands of people to a distant colony planet, two passengers (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) wake up from induced hibernation 90 years too early.

Okay just read that premise. Again does it not sound interesting? That is the movie the trailers were advertising. That is the movie that I went in thinking I would see. Sadly it is not. Here is my main issue with Passengers and what I gather has been many people’s: Passengers is misleading. It really is. However I am going to refrain from giving anything away. The film was marketed in a way that was not fair to its actual material and to the people paying money to see it, and I personally found that frustrating. It also makes it very hard to overlook the true premise, which is a little more difficult to accept.

Not only was the film misleading, but the story itself was pretty lackluster once you get past the revelations not given away in the promos. The film felt sort of like Titanic, Gravity, and a bit of The Martian all rolled up into one. The action was severely anticlimactic and the character development poor. Good chunks of the movie were solely devoted to showing off how hot the main actors are. It only goes to show my theory that if one of the two characters was not as attractive, then none of the events in the film would have happened. It all felt vain at times and I found myself with many questions at the end.

All this is not to say there are no positive aspects of Passengers because there are! Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence’s performances were great, as was their chemistry. They were not given the best material to work with though. Michael Sheen was actually a bright standout in the film as the robot bartender Arthur. His character was charming and his performance was simply refreshing. The costumes and sets had a nice aesthetic to them and while more could have been done with the visual effects, I found them overall satisfying.

To put it simply, Passengers made me frustrated. Not only was I upset with how the story developed but I also felt that there was so much missed opportunity with the film. Again all the key ingredients were there. It just needed a better story. That being said, I enjoyed Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in the film. While I might not recommend seeing Passengers in theaters, I feel like some may still enjoy watching the film.

ALL IN ALL: Even with great chemistry from its two leads, Passengers still comes up short with a misleading and lackluster story.

Also, introducing our new ticket stub rating system (thanks Aimee J)!

PASSENGERS 2.5/5 Ticket Stubs

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I love getting into the swing of blogging again! I just saw the new spin-off/prequel film in the Harry Potter film series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Now I am a big Harry Potter fan. I read all the books and I have seen all of the movies multiple times. Harry Potter has been a huge part of my childhood and for countless other people too. So I can definitely understand any weariness Harry Potter fans may have about this new film series. Let me tell you this though and forgive my pun, Fantastic Beasts is pretty fantastic!

In the year 1926, seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book at Hogwarts, writer Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in New York City with a suitcase that contains dozens of magical creatures. Chaos ensues when some of the creatures escape, causing trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj (muggle or non-magic) worlds.

I enjoyed Fantastic Beasts, I really did. It is a genuinely fun movie to see. Harry Potter fans need not worry as well. Let’s make this clear, Fantastic Beasts is no Harry Potter, but that is the point. It is not trying to. In fact the film needs to be different, which it is. No one is really expecting Fantastic Beasts to be the same, which in my opinion is what makes the film more enjoyable and fun. You see, Fantastic Beasts is based on a book of the same name by J.K. Rowling but that book really did not have much of a story apart from the descriptions of the many magical creatures found in the wizarding world. J.K. Rowling herself wrote the screenplay for the film so I found it really unique to be going into this film blind. The audience really does not have much prior source material to go off on, unlike the Harry Potter films.

Eddie Redmayne was great in Fantastic Beasts as Newt Scamander. He is honestly adorable and I could not think of a better actor to fill the role. I personally was not a huge fan of Katherine Waterson’s character Porpentina Goldstein as I found her character to not be very likeable at all especially when compared to the other supporting characters played by Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol. They both actually stole the show for me, especially Fogler. He provided some great comic relief and his character was my favorite by far.

I have to admit seeing the WB logo with the Harry Potter theme playing at the start of the movie got me. It was so nice actually to be back in this familiar world, to recognize the spells and learn more about characters that were previously left untouched. With great effects and an entertaining story, Fantastic Beasts is a film anyone can enjoy, even those who are not so familiar with the Harry Potter wold. The film was actually a bit darker at times than I would have expected, but it still goes to show the pure thrill of this magical world that has been brought back to the big screen.

ALL IN ALL: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an enjoyable film for all that will please Harry Potter fans and delight those not so familiar to the wizarding world.

Director: David Yates

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol

Run time: 133 minutes, PG-13

Year: 2016

image from: http://www.joblo.com/timthumb.php?src=/posters/images/full/fantastic_beasts_and_where_to_find_them_ver4_xxlg.jpg&h=600&q=100

 

Arrival

After a long slump (truly sorry my last review was in June), I have finally seen a film that has motivated me to write again: Arrival. I really enjoyed this film. In fact, I loved it. It exceeded my expectations and left me speechless. I can easily name it as my favorite movie this year (so far). However it may not be for everyone.

After 12 mysterious spacecrafts touch down in different locations across the globe, the military enlists the aid of linguist professor Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to try to translate the alien communications before a global war breaks out.

Arrival was not the movie I expected. From first glance it may seem like a typical alien invasion type film but do not be fooled. I prefer to describe Arrival as a film that simply has aliens in it. Truth be told, while the alien aspect of the film does play a very large and central role to the plot, the film is revealed to be much larger and introspective. This reason alone is why I do not feel the movie may meet everyone’s expectations. Certainly some sci-fi fans who go in solely expecting an alien invasion movie will be somewhat disappointed. Arrival is not a simple popcorn flick. It is an intelligent film that makes one think, so much that even I cannot stop going over the film in my head.

Arrival is full of emotion. Right from the beginning, it grabs your heart and your mind and does not let go until the very end, where truth be told I found myself in tears. It is simply a beautiful film. With strong performances from Amy Adams and a gorgeous score by Jóhann Jóhannsson (whose previous work includes films such as The Theory of Everything), the film takes the viewer away into a parallel world. The story line of the film is also so smart and intricately constructed. Both beautiful and heartbreaking, the plot of Arrival forgoes conventional storytelling and constantly reels in one’s concentration. Seriously the film made me gasp.

I wholeheartedly recommend this film and I also suggest going in as blind as possible. Arrival may not be what it is pictured as, but nevertheless, it is a powerful and moving film that grows into so much more. The overarching themes and decisions the plot presents resonate with the viewer even after the credits roll. Arrival definitely is a sci-fi film, but it is more so a film about life-about endings and beginnings. Arrival is a well done film and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

ALL IN ALL: While not the typical alien movie, Arrival unveils itself as a beautiful and poignant film with themes of life that resonate deep.

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Year: 2016

 

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Confession time: I actually saw this movie over Thanksgiving weekend but I have just been so busy lately that only now am I finding time to write my review. Though its been a while since I have seen it and the movie probably is not on many of your minds anymore, I nevertheless have to stay true to my commitment to review every movie I see in theaters. I also think The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 deserves a review as it is the last film of my one of my favorite book/movie series.

Directed by Francis Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 serves as the final installment of the Hunger Games film series. In Mockingjay- Part 2, the story continues as leader of the rebellion Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) travels with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Gale (Liam Hemsworth), and others to the Capitol in order to win the war against President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and save what holds dear to her.

Let me start off with a small complaint about the splitting of the last book into two movies. While I get why they did it and it is also nice to not have to rush through anything or have too much of the story omitted, I still do not think it was completely necessary especially since I feel like the split affected the audience attendance and reaction. I honestly forgot what happened in Mockingjay going in to the theater simply because it had been so long since I saw the last movie or read the book. My stance is that if they were able to fit all of Catching Fire into one movie, then Mockingjay is easily doable but no worries, it really is not that huge of deal.

I thought overall that Mockingjay – Part 2 was a very well done film and I enjoyed it. It was not my favorite of the series (for me it is still Catching Fire), but Mockingjay – Part 2 provided a satisfying ending. One of the reasons I disliked Mockingjay Part- 1 was that it felt like rising action most of the time. The great thing about Mockingjay Part- 2 though is that it starts right off into the storyline and action (a reason why Part 1 is necessary to watch). The length of the film felt like nothing as the pacing was fast and well-managed.

The great supporting cast though was not featured much at all which was very disappointing. I would have loved more screen time for characters like Johanna, Beetee, Effie, etc. Meanwhile the main cast gave some great performances, in particular Josh Hutcherson. He was fantastic and his performance is severely underrated! In the books and in the past films as well, the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale was more emphasized, but not in Mockingjay Part- 2, which I appreciated. The action and the war against the Capitol was the main focus of the movie and rightfully so.

I would say that if you are a fan of the Hunger Games series, watch Mockingjay – Part 2 because you will not be disappointed. It is an enjoyable film and very well done, a conclusion the series deserves.

ALL IN ALL: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is a satisfying final installment of the Hunger Games series with the right focus and direction needed to conclude a great film series.

Spectre

Yes! I have been waiting to review this movie for such a long time! For those who do not know, I am a bit of James Bond fan so the anticipation leading up to the release of Spectre was unbearable for me.  I made the mistake of looking at some early reviews and the responses seemed very mixed. Some people really liked it and others flat-out hated it..which of course had me worried. So I did my best to go into the theater with an open mind and you know what? It worked! I enjoyed Spectre, but there are some flaws which I understand from those negative reviews. I just have a lot of thoughts about this movie overall so let’s begin.

The 24th James Bond film and the 4th of Daniel Craig’s Bond, Spectre has Bond on the trail to uncover a sinister organization after a mysterious message surfaces from his past. While M fights to keep the 007 program alive, Bond begins to learn the shocking truth behind SPECTRE.

I am going to start this review in chronological order of the film. First, the opening sequence was fantastic in my opinion. Probably one of the strongest points of the film as it started it all off with a bang. Great action sequence and stunt work, so kudos there. After the opening sequence in a Bond film always comes the title sequence (the animated into where they play the new Bond song for the film). When I first heard the Sam Smith song, “Writing’s On the Wall” in the intro, I did not like the song at all. It did not really fit the film, especially coming after that action sequence. Also, the animation intro for Spectre was not the best, way too many tentacles and octopus motifs for my liking. However when I went home and listened to the song again, I actually ended up really liking it. The Sam Smith song is great on its own, but just does not fit into the film that much and almost slows it down as a result. That is why I personally like Adele’s “Skyfall” better because it perfectly captured the essence of what Skyfall was all about.

The plot of the film was fine for me. Again when I compare the two, I think Skyfall had a better and more developed plot with more character and emotion given to Bond. However, Spectre seemed very confident and solid in following the classic 007 formula. Some parts felt very undeveloped though, especially the SPECTRE story line, which should have been the main focus of the film. The film could have gone more into the organization and villain Ernst Stavro Blofield (Christoph Waltz) instead of quickly presenting the two and their role in Bond’s story. Speaking of Waltz, his performance was not too strong in the film for me, mainly because I feel like I always see him in that same villain role.

Now for the Bond girls. Naomi Harris’s Eve Moneypenny was reduced to such a smaller role in Spectre which disappointed me since she is such a great character! Monica Bellucci, who is the oldest Bond girl in history and also totally gorgeous, was in the movie for like ten minutes. No joke. Bigger roles for these wonderful ladies please! In the end Madeleine Swann, played by Léa Seydoux, turned out to be the most pivotal female in the film. Truth be told, I was not a fan of Swann at all. The way her and Bond’s relationship progressed in the film frustrated me because it took an unnecessary turn. In terms of Bond girl ranking, Swann was perfectly forgettable in my opinion so I was surprised to see how big a character she became, especially in Bond’s life.

Daniel Craig did an excellent job as always. I was unsure of how I felt for him returning to do another Bond film since Skyfall seemed like such a strong and perfect film to end his Bond career. However, Spectre also gave a satisfying ending and provided an overarching story line that actually tied up Craig’s films. I think if Daniel Craig wants to step away from James Bond, since it obviously seems like he does, Spectre is the ideal film to end at.

This review is getting long, but probably not as long as the film itself, which came to 148 minutes in the end. Do not worry though, the running time actually did not feel too long while watching Spectre. The pacing of the film is excellent, with just the right amounts of action sequences and story to keep it going smoothly. I am not saying Spectre is the best Bond film or anything (I did like Skyfall better), but I enjoyed it and believe that to be the most important part of a 007 film.

ALL IN ALL: While not as strong as its predecessors in its story and essence, Spectre is still an enjoyable and classic James Bond film.

image from: http://www.joblo.com/timthumb.php?src=/posters/images/full/spectre-poster.jpg&w=654&zc=1&q=90

 

 

Ant-Man

Nowadays I feel like there are so many superhero movies coming out that I honestly cannot keep track of them all. They tend to sort of mesh together in my head in categories like Marvel or DC. You see movie studios are smart though. They know people will go to see big superhero blockbusters so that’s why they put more and more into production. I did go to see Ant-Man, and though I was not particularly psyched to see it or anything, I actually really enjoyed it.

In Ant-Man, con-man Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), armed with a super-suit with the ability to shrink in size but increase in strength, must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglass), plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

Ant-Man was a quintessential superhero movie, with action, drama, and comedy all in one. Paul Rudd was great in the film, bringing some needed lightheartedness while still playing the role of a father/hero out to save the world perfectly. Sure Ant-Man might not be the best movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it was fun and enjoyable.

I will say though, the best part of the movie hands-down was Michael Peña as Luis, Scott Lang’s ex-con buddy. He was hilarious and brought the most laughs to the movie! The scenes with his crazy long, off-topic stories were definitely among the most funny and memorable parts of the film. That’s one of the things I really liked about Ant-Man, it was funny and light a lot of the time. The action scenes and visual effects were well done too, especially since you have a guy shrinking down to insect size most of the time. Ant-Man has the ability to draw in a wide audience and please them too.

ALL IN ALL: Ant-Man is probably one of the more humorous Marvel movies and is able to also blend in great action and story into one entertaining film.

pic: http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMjM2NTQ5Mzc2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTcxMDI2NTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_.jpg

 

 

Interstellar double review

And we’re back! Fall movies are abound and the big one right now is Interstellar, directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. Interstellar tells the story of a team of space travelers who travel through a wormhole in search of new habitable planet. The movie has received mainly positive reviews but still many viewers and critics alike are split. In a segment new to Ticket Stub Love, we have brought in two viewers of the film to do a review and talk about their very different opinions!

Amanda A

“You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could’ve, would’ve happened… or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move on.” –Tupac

Tupac must have anticipated that Interstellar was going to come out because he perfectly describes the attitude that everybody watching this movie should have. We’re talking about a plot that centers on a mission to find a habitable planet in another galaxy. Of course you are going to have to suspend your belief and just accept that not everything is going to make sense!

I actually really liked this movie right after I finished watching it. It reminded me of Inception (long plot with many flashbacks), but it has a much more satisfying ending. Then I came home and tried to think about the plausibility of some of the events in the movie. Then I gave up and decided to accept Interstellar for what it is: a movie with a great plot, great acting, and fascinating premise.

The premise is worth pointing out. In the movie, the earth can’t produce any more food, so massive dust storms appear. At one point, Matthew McConaughey’s character says, “This world’s a treasure, but it’s been telling us to leave for a while now.” Interstellar is basically saying that if we are more environmentally-friendly, then we will be able to stay on Earth, and Matthew McConaughey won’t be sent far away. What better argument is there for appreciating our planet?

 

Asha A

Unfortunately Asha A was not able to do a full review and I also wanted to do this post before Interstellar faded out of the limelight so I’m just going to summarize her thoughts. Right when she came home from viewing the the film, her first words were “Wow, that has to be one of the worst movies I have ever seen.” Pretty extreme right? Here is her explanation though. The main problem was the time, which truth be told, 169 minutes is a bit too long for a movie that does not fulfill it. Character development was lacking along with a logical plot that could actually be understood. Some of the scenes with Matthew McConaughey thinking philosophically were simply too ridiculous and reminded her of his Lincoln car commercials, and the visual effects in Gravity were much better according to her.

A very big thank you to our two reviewers Amanda A and Asha A! Well folks, it’s up to you to decide who’s side you’re on and what you think about Interstellar.

Interstellar: PG-13, 169 min

image: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/sites/default/files/custom/Blog_Images/interstellar3.jpg