REVIEW: THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)

Starring

Taron Egerton (Legend)
Anya Taylor-Joy (Glass)
Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones)
Donna Kimball (The Happytime Murders)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Eddie Izzard (Hannibal)
Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club)
Caitriona Balfe (Crush)
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Harris Dickinson (The Darkest Minds)
Shazad Latif (Star Trek: Discovery)
Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle)
Alicia Vikander (Tomb Raider)
Hannah John-Kamen (Ant-Man and The Wasp)
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones)
Mark Strong (Shazam)
Theo James (Divergent)
Louise Gold (Muppets Most Wanted)
Jason Isaacs (Fury)
Simon Pegg (The Boys)
Awkwafina (Ocean’s 8)
Bendedict Wong (Doctor Strange)
Harvey Fierstein (The Simpsons)
Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Ralph Ineson (Ready Player One)
Alice Dinnean (The Happytime Murders)
Keegan-Michael Key (Tomorrowland)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars_
Sigourney Weaver (Alien)
Bill Hader (Power Rangers)

Donna Kimball in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)The Dark Crystal is a tremendous filmmaking achievement that’s only a pretty good movie. A technical marvel, undoubtedly; definitive proof that film is a collaborative medium, and a formative experience for the devoted cult that saw it when they were young and have now passed it onto their children. But also a B-, B if you’re feeling generous. Like many other big-budget genre blockbusters flying in Star Wars’ contrails during the early 1980s—David Lynch’s Dune comes to mind—it puts a fully realized, authentically unearthly realm on the screen, and then fails to give that place much in the way of a narrative.The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)Another world, another time, in the age of Westeros: Netflix funds a return trip to Thra, winding the clock back to before the emergence of the heroic Jen and Kira, to an era when the elfin Gelfling and the monstrous Skeksis lived in tenuous (and, it turns out, entirely bogus) harmony. And a moment when the grand ambitions of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Brian and Wendy Froud, David Odell, and countless others are realized in The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance.Victor Yerrid in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)That original film is first and foremost a visual experience, and the imagery still takes precedence here: Age Of Resistance recreates Thra through further acts of practical-effects wizardry, a fantasia of forest glens, desert cliffs, underground caves, and castles both majestic and austere. The premiere episode leans into this (while also giving a good indication of the series’ pace) when it breaks from character introductions in order to send the camera corkscrewing through a glamour shot of the royal library favored by Gelfling princess Brea (Anya Taylor-Joy and Alice Dinnean—with a handful of exceptions, the principal performances are a collaboration between the puppeteers on screen and actors in the recording booth). With the elbow room of a potentially ongoing series, the writers—led by Will Matthews and Jeffrey Addiss (the duo who developed the series) and seasoned genre TV vet Javier Grillo-Marxuach—get deliberate with their opening chapters, luxuriating in palace intrigue amongst the Skeksis and the establishment of the seven fractious clans of Gelfling.The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)It’s dense going, until the outlines of the heroes’ journey snaps into focus, showing the intersecting quests of the curious noble Brea, disgraced guard Rian (Taron Egerton and Neil Sterenberg), and the compassionate subterranean-dwelling Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel and Beccy Henderson). It is not coincidental that Age Of Resistance hits its hot streak once these elements are in place—and after Deet acquires a sidekick: Hup (Victor Yerrid), one of The Dark Crystal’s diminutive and gibbering creatures known as Podlings. Hup has outsize chivalric aspirations, carries a spoon he calls a sword, and generally rules.Anya Taylor-Joy in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)Age Of Resistance improves on its big-screen source material by giving viewers protagonists who are worth a damn; even Egerton—whose most interesting star turns to date have been primarily interesting because they’re bolstered by the Elton John-Bernie Taupin songbook—is an improvement over The Dark Crystal’s ineffectual, underwritten Baggins stand-in, Jen. But there’s a taller hurdle to clear in the Gelfling’s humanoid appearances, which even four decades of technological advances can’t pull from the depths of the uncanny valley. (It comes down to the eyes: Deet, with saucer-sized pupils suited to underground living, looks far enough from human for this to ever be a problem.) The effectiveness of the Age Of Resistance illusion can vary depending on the number of Gelfling on screen and the varying degrees to which their faces are articulated—large group scenes and Gelfling-to-Gelfling conversations occasionally have a ring of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson to them.Nathalie Emmanuel in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)Thank heavens, then, for the Skeksis. A monument to the Frouds’ gnarly aesthetics and Henson’s lack of qualms about frightening the youngest members of his audience, the villains loom large over The Dark Crystal. In Age Of Resistance, they occupy a role akin to that of the Lannisters in Game Of Thrones: deeply out-of-touch aristocrats who believe power is their birthright, and whose extravagances and squabbles account for the series’ most amusing set-pieces. (In a playful casting choice, Cersei Lannister herself, Lena Headey, voices a Gelfling leader on the show.) They chance upon a fountain of youth when Thra’s all-powerful Crystal Of Truth sucks the life out of a Gelfling, leaving behind only her essence—which is discovered to have a rejuvenating effect. This corruption of the planet’s most precious resource coincides with the experiments the Skeksis Emperor (Jason Isaacs and Dave Chapman) conducts on a glowing, purple hole in the ground—a “darkening” that is both key to the series’ political subtexts and a regally hued thread in Age Of Resistance tapestry of mythological nonsense.Hannah John-Kamen and Taron Egerton in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)Here, as in later in The Dark Crystal’s chronology, the ugliness of the Skeksis’ deeds manifests physically: the craggy sculpting of the puppets’ faces, their combination of avian and reptilian features, as if situated on the evolutionary scale from velociraptor to plain old raptor. They’re treated to new textures and terrors in Age Of Resistance. Sequences depicting their indulgences in the seven deadly sins don’t stray too far from their cinematic predecessors, but the staging and satirical edge remain sharp. A spa treatment brusquely interrupted by the similarly lumpy crone Aughra (Donna Kimball and Kevin Clash) is one of the first season’s comedic highlights.Victor Yerrid, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Taron Egerton in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)The Skeksis’ role in Age Of Resistance is more encore than elaboration, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not like there’s been all that much change in the ruling class skewered by the Skeksis’ chomping, preening, condescending grotesquery. They’re perfect adversaries and an essential energy, which director Louis Letterier amps up in extreme close-ups and off-kilter camera angles. They’re creepy and campy, and the production lines up a murderers’ row of hams to handle their shrieks and whimpers: Simon Pegg, making a meal of the Chamberlain’s scheming murmurs; Mark Hamill, twisting his strangled Joker vocalizations into those of a mad Scientist; Harvey Fierstein, a choice so deliciously on the nose, it’s practically a part of the puppet’s face. Imperious turns from Isaacs and Benedict Wong make sure that the characters’ true, evil nature is never too far from mind.The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)The Skeksis play the hits, but they bring some newly goopy accessories and freshly terrifying rituals, too. Bubbling, oozing pustules dot the face of The Collector (Awkwafina and Helena Smee), and the second episodes culminates in a royal-chamber sequence primed to send a new generation ducking behind the couch. A fantastical ingenuity prevails throughout Age Of Resistance: With an eye toward portraying Thra as a fully natural world, Matthews, Addiss, Grillo-Marxuach and team devised Skeksis carriages that roll across the landscape on giant pillbug wheels and a secret message etched into the geological equivalent of an Edison cylinder. Frames burst with creatures familiar and unfamiliar—each of them charmingly, refreshingly tactile.Jason Isaacs in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)And this time around it’s in service of a satisfyingly told tale with resonant themes of truth and rebellion. Age Of Resistance is the best type of YA fantasy fiction, engrossing and escapist and full of hidden depths, ideal for viewers weaned on Harry Potter and The Legend Of Zelda but not quite ready for George R.R. Martin. There is a complexity at play, particularly in the arc of Seladon (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Helena Smee), Brea’s sister whose loyalties and worldview are tested as word of the Skeksis’ treachery spreads. There are mystical MacGuffins and blind storytelling alleys littered about, but they’re far outweighed by the intrepid thrust of the Gelfling uprising and every thought of “How did they pull that off?” For decades, bands of true believers have sung the song of Thra; now, thanks to Age Of Resistance, that melody carries with the strength, distance, and richness the Dark Crystal concept has always deserved.

REVIEW: GLASS

Starring

Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers)
James McAvoy (Starter for 10)
Bruce Willis (Die Hard)
Sarah Paulson (Ocean’s 8)
Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch)
Spencer Treat Clark (Much Ado About Nothing)
Charlayne Woodard (Twister)
Luke Kirby (Little Woods)
Leslie Stefanson (The Hunted)

Samuel L. Jackson in Glass (2019)Three weeks have passed since the kidnapping of three young girls orchestrated by Kevin Wendell Crumb, who was dubbed as “the Horde” by the media due to his dissociative identity disorder which produced two dozen identities. One of the girls was Casey Cooke, who survived an attack from the one of Kevin’s personalities, “the Beast”, who allowed her to escape because she was “pure” and had experienced suffering at the hands of a sexually abusive uncle. Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Sarah Paulson, and James McAvoy in Glass (2019)David Dunn (a superhuman vigilante dubbed “the Overseer” by the internet) and his son Joseph track down Kevin to an abandoned factory where he has four cheerleaders hostage, but David is confronted and attacked by the Beast. Their battle is stopped by a group of police officers led by Dr. Ellie Staple, who places both men in Raven Hill Memorial Mental Institution. David’s destined foe and terrorist – Elijah Price / Mr. Glass – is also being held there for bombing the Eastrail 177 train 16 years ago (the train crash of which David was the sole survivor and exposed his superhuman nature).[N 2] David and Kevin are placed in separate rooms, each with unique security measures to prevent them from escaping or posing a threat. David is placed in a specialized room which would blast water to him, which he considers his Achilles’s heel. Kevin is then placed in a room with “hypnotic lights” which will force one personality to change to another once activated.Staple explains that her job is to convince those who believe they are superhuman but in fact they are simply deluded figures; she tells them she has been given three days to convince each of them of this, otherwise they will be sent to trial. Staple gets help from Elijah’s mother, Joseph, and Casey, who all visit at different ocassions, but fail to convince them. As part of her final evaluation, Staple brings the three men to a room together where she tests David and Kevin’s psyches. That night, Elijah escapes his cell to research about Kevin but is discovered by Staple who performs a prefrontal lobotomy on him. However, Elijah had already sabotaged the machine earlier, in anticipation of what will happen if he gets caught. Elijah is returned to his cell but escapes again after killing his caretaker Daryl. He then breaks out Kevin and allies himself with the Beast. Elijah contacts David and announced his plan to reveal the Horde at a new skyscraper in the city of Philadelphia, where he also plans to blow up a chemical company unless David stops the Beast.Convinced, David begins to pursue the Beast outside the institution, but Joseph intervenes. He reveals that Kevin’s father died in the same train crash David survived, which left Kevin alone with his mother to abuse him; hence the creation of his personalities, sworn to protect Kevin. The Beast thanks Elijah for his creation but turns on him and breaks him for Kevin’s protection. He then turns to David and throws him to the water-tank. David regains enough strength to escape the tank. Before the Beast flees to the skyscraper, Casey summons Kevin to the light and he is mortally wounded by one of Staple’s snipers.He dies in Casey’s arms with the Horde giving Kevin the light. One of Staple’s security then kills David by repeatedly shoving his face in a flooded pothole. Staple reveals to David that she is part of a clandestine organization working to conceal the existence of superhumans. Staple goes to a dying Elijah and explains a global theory that masterminds have suppressed and destroyed superhuman heroes and villains for millennia to protect civilization from the tyranny of living “gods” among men. Staple deletes footage from the cameras of the institution to report her mission a success, but discovers Elijah had hacked the computers and live-streamed the footage to a private network. Distraught, Staple enters one of the institution’s hallways and screams over the failed mission. Elijah’s mother, Joseph, and Casey all receive copies of the footage, which they release to the public, revealing the existence of superhumans to the world.This is coming from someone who has been looking forward to this movie for a long time. I thought the acting was fantastic, especially James McAvoy who plays all the personalities fantastically. Bruce Willis doesn’t phone it in and actually does a good job. If you’re expecting a superhero movie, you’re not going to get one. This is most definitely and physcological thriller that happens to have superheroes. This film is filled with incredible memorable moments that you’ll certainly remember walking out of the movie. However, the end will turn a lot of people off, as it goes in directions that are very divisive. If you go in with an open mind, I think you’ll enjoy most of it.

REVIEW: SPLIT

CAST

James McAvoy (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Anya Taylor-Joy (Vampire Academy)
Betty Buckley (The Happening)
Haley Lu Richardson (Ravenswood)
Jessica Sula (The Lovers)
Brad William Henke (Fury)
Sebastian Arcelus (Ted 2)
Neal Huff (Moonrise Kingdom)
Kim Director (Inside Man)
Lyne Renée (Ober)
Bruce Willis (Unbreakable)

Three teenagers, Claire, Marcia, and outsider Casey, are kidnapped and held captive by “Dennis”, one of 23 personalities present in the mind of Kevin Wendell Crumb, a victim of childhood abuse diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder.Over the years, Kevin has been treated by his psychiatrist Dr. Karen Fletcher, and appears stable: within his mind, all of his personalities sit in chairs in a room, waiting for their turn “in the light”, i.e. controlling the body, while “Barry” controls who gets to go in the light. Two personalities, “Dennis” and “Patricia”, are kept out because of Dennis’ voyeuristic tendencies and obsessive–compulsive disorder, and both personalities’ worshiping of “The Beast”, a rumored 24th personality.The three girls realize Kevin’s nature when they meet “Patricia”, who dresses as a woman. Casey seeks to befriend “Hedwig”, a personality that claims to be a nine-year-old boy, who confides that the girls will be sacrificed to “The Beast”. He says that he stole control over the light from “Barry” and was persuaded to help “Dennis” and “Patricia”. When Claire attempts to escape, “Dennis” locks her in a separate cell. “Dennis” masquerades as “Barry” while attending a meeting with Dr. Fletcher, but she realizes that “Dennis” and “Patricia” have supplanted “Barry” as the dominant personality. Marcia tries to escape next but is caught and also placed in a different cell. Casey continues to befriend “Hedwig”, having earlier heard him mention a window in his bedroom.“Dennis” and Dr. Fletcher talk about Kevin’s father, who abandoned Kevin as a child. The personalities began manifesting to help Kevin cope with the abuse he was subjected to by his mother, who suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder. They also talk about how a month previously, two girls had placed “Dennis’s” hands upon their breasts as part of a dare, which Dr. Fletcher theorizes is what drove “Dennis” and “Patricia” to take over. Casey persuades “Hedwig” to take her to his bedroom, but she is distraught to learn that the “window” in the bedroom is only a drawing of a window. Hedwig, realizing Casey tricked him, becomes upset but she reminds him that he was going to show her something cool. Hedwig reveals a walkie-talkie, but Casey is subdued by “Patricia” as she unsuccessfully attempts to radio for help.Casey experiences flashbacks of being molested as a young child by her uncle John, who became her legal guardian after her father’s death. Dr. Fletcher begins to suspect that “Dennis” is responsible for the kidnappings, and decides to make an unscheduled visit to where he lives. During the visit, she discovers Claire is being held captive at Kevin’s house. But before she can do anything, Dr. Fletcher is caught, drugged, and locked up by “Dennis.” He soon leaves the facilities, and on an empty SEPTA train car, turns into “The Beast”, manifesting superhuman speed, strength, and agility.“The Beast” returns home. Knowing that the only way to call to the real Kevin is to speak his full name, Dr. Fletcher writes it on a piece of paper before being killed by “The Beast”. “The Beast” then kills and eats Marcia and Claire, while Casey stumbles upon Fletcher’s corpse and her note. She briefly calls Kevin to “the light” by speaking his name. Horrified by his actions, Kevin orders Casey to kill him with his shotgun before his other personalities begin to take over. As “The Beast” returns, Casey shoots him, but only lightly injures him. “The Beast” voices his plans to rid the world of the “untouched”, those whose hearts are impure because they have never suffered in their lives.“The Beast” begins to bend apart the bars of the cage in which Casey has locked herself, but then notices numerous old, faded scars on her shoulders and lower torso, many of which are evidence of self mutilation from cutting. He then rejoices in the fact that she is “pure”. Concluding that troubled people are exceptional, “The Beast” spares Casey’s life and leaves. Casey is rescued by one of Kevin’s coworkers and learns she was being held underneath the Philadelphia Zoo, where Kevin worked and lived. Casey is asked by a police officer if she is ready to return home with her uncle. She hesitates to answer. In another hideout, “Dennis”, “Patricia”, and “Hedwig” exert collective control over Kevin’s body and admire the power of “The Beast” and their plans to change the world. In a diner, patrons listen to the media coverage of Kevin’s crimes, for which he has been nicknamed “The Horde”. One of the patrons notes the similarity between Kevin and a terrorist who uses a wheelchair and was arrested 15 years prior. The man sitting next to her, David Dunn, reminds the patron that the terrorist’s name was “Mr. Glass”.M night shyamalan is a very hit and miss director but luckily split is an absolute hit for many reasons! Fantastic original story that’s genuinely creepy and tense and very well paced out keeping you guessing with chilling reveals as the story unfolds.