Monday 21 January 2019

Glass (Movie Review)

Few directors have recorded as many hits and misses in the past two decades as M. Night Shyamalan. And of all his successes, Unbreakable remains my favorite one, a unique take on the superhero origin story which came at a time when such movies were not considered mainstream or commercially viable. He'd won over critics and moviegoers alike with its surprise followup, Split, a psychological thriller released 17 years later. The movie was so successful that many considered it a return to form, so of course, we all anticipated the arrival of the final film in the trilogy, Glass.

The film opens with the Unbreakable David Dunn (Bruce Willis), who has since taken to fighting small-time criminals as The Overseer with the aid of his son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark). Having learnt about the actions of The Horde (James McAvoy) at the end of Split, David takes systematic walks through the city streets in the hope of coming in contact with anyone that might lead to finding him. The two superhumans eventually meet, but their showdown is cut short when both are captured by the authorities.

They are subsequently taken to a mental institution, where they meet Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychologist that believes people like them are merely suffering from severe cases of delusion. It is her intention to treat both men, along with long-time psych ward resident, Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a comic book collector whose rare bone disorder had earned him the nickname, Mr. Glass. But unbeknownst to her, Elijah has been harboring plans of his own, and it involves her two newest patients.

I tried to go into Glass with an open mind, I really did. But nothing in this world could have saved the film from its head-scratching and very much convoluted finale. In his attempt to blindside audiences with one of his signature plot twists, Mr. Shyamalan has managed to undo much of the groundwork that had been laid by the two previous movies, and their associated brilliance. None of which is helped by the fact that none of it adds up, at least not within the context of the current film.

This is not to say it was anything as bad as Superman uttering the name, Martha, in the middle of a fight. Far from it. But the bait and switch nature of the twist makes it a poor choice, however you choose to look at it. Still, for all of its shortcomings, Glass remains a refreshingly different take on the superhero genre. The movie had its moments, and fans of Unbreakable would appreciate its adherence to that film's style and vision. It's just a shame that it couldn't have ended on a better note.

Sunday 6 January 2019

Lionheart (Movie Review)

Remember that one time I took a trip down the rabbit hole by reviewing a certain much-talked-about Nollywood movie? Well, I figured it was about time I paid Nollywood another visit by tearing apart critiquing another one of its productions. And what better candidate than Lionheart, a movie that made the news when it became the first Nigerian film to be acquired by the online streaming service, Netflix. So of course, I wanted to know what might have prompted the acquisition, plus I was curious to see just how far our productions have come in the past two years.

Lionheart marks the directorial debut of veteran Nollywood actress, Genevieve Nnaji. She also co-writes and stars as the lead, Adaeze, daughter of the CEO of the titular company. Headed by Ernest Obiagu (Pete Edochie), Lionheart Transport is one of the largest transportation companies in Nigeria. But its prospects for the future are put in danger when its CEO suffers a near-fatal heart attack, forcing him to step down. Rather than appoint his more-than-capable daughter as acting CEO, he instead appoints his somewhat-eccentric brother, Chief Godswill (Nkem Owoh).

As if things were not bad enough, Adaeze also learns that her father had left the company with some very substantial debts in his bid to try and secure a very lucrative government contract. She has just 30 days to repay the loans or risk losing everything her father had worked for. Now, she and her uncle must set aside their differences and work together to raise the money, even while the entire company is under threat of acquisition by the CEO of a rival company, Igwe Pascal (Kanayo O. Kanayo).

If Lionheart is representative of the current state of our Nollywood productions, then I have to admit they've been some marked improvements since 2016. At least it was nice to see a Nigerian film that seemed to get the basics right. The production values were definitely there. The editors made sure the story flowed in a fairly logical way. The cinematographers made sure we saw what we needed to see at all times. The sound mixers ensured we could hear what was being said, not what some guy in the sound department felt were the trendiest Nigerian songs, playing several decibels too loud.

For a first time director, Genevieve Nnaji did a somewhat decent job behind the camera, which only goes to show how shoddy a job our other directors have been doing. She was also more than adequate in front of the camera, with her years of acting experience on full display. The acting was generally okay across the board, with Pete Edochie being the obvious standout, although there were more than a few supporting actors that sounded like their lines were being read by a digital assistant.

All that said, my main criticism stems from the way the film had been marketed to audiences. I'd taken one look at the movie's poster and I'd expected it to be a soaring drama. A soaring drama it was not, and what I'd gotten instead was closer to what you'd call a comedy, except it didn't have that many jokes and the few it had were not that funny. Maybe it is just the way that all Nigerian movies are made, forever hanging somewhere between being over dramatic and trying not to take itself too seriously.

Having watched the movie, I confess that I am none the wiser as to why Netflix had decided to add it to their streaming service. Perhaps it was nothing more than a business decision, an attempt to tap into our head-scratchingly lucrative home video market. The film did have a distinctly home video-like quality to it, albeit one with high production values. It was definitely better than some of their more recent acquisitions, including the internet meme generator, Bird Box. But then again, what isn't?