M.Night Shyamalan has had way more misses than hits lately, but his latest movie looks to set some records for mid-January when it opens this week. And in case you haven't had enough of Nicole Kidman lately - she stars in four films now in theaters - you'll get yet another chance to catch her on the big screen.
Here are all of the new films seeing release this weekend, Friday, Jan. 18th, 2019:
No director in the past 20 years has had as many highs and lows as M. Night Shyamalan. His "The Sixth Sense" was a world-wide smash, and was the highest-grossing horror film of all-time, until it was surpassed by "It" in 2017. But for every hit, there's been about two or three misses (see "Lady in the Water," "The Happening," or "The Last Airbender," or then again, don't). One such "hit" was the 2000 superhero film, "Unbreakable," followed up in 2017 with another successful Shyamalan effort, "Split." That film featured another one of Shyamalan's signature surprise-endings, when it was revealed that James McAvoy's split-personality super-villain shared the same cinematic universe as Bruce Willis's "Unbreakable" hero, David Dunn, as well as its villain, Samuel L. Jackson's brittle-boned master-mind, Mr. Glass. That sets up the premise of "Glass," the third and final film in Shyamalan's superhero trilogy that smashes all of these characters together in the same film. Sadly, "Glass" is the worst one yet - by far - and is a major disappointment considering all of the momentum and expectations the saga had going for it.
Shyamalan's "Glass" is just way too "on-the-nose," with long bits of expositional dialogue that tries to over-explain the mythos of comic books to a layman audience. What begins as an interesting examination of heroes and villains ends up taking way too long to get going, and when it finally does it goes nowhere, and fast. In a better version of this film, the first hour-and-a-half of "Glass" would have just been a 20-minute first act, and there would be some sort of character growth or development by the end of it all. Shyamalan doesn't seem interested in crafting compelling characters or arcs though, instead only to flimsily portray a story that hits upon cliched comic book tropes. The real surprise ending of "Glass" is that this entire venture seems to have started and ended with a massive train-wreck...the first one literal and the last one figurative.
Sarah Paulson joins the fun as a psychiatrist specializing in people who believe they have super-powers. Anya Taylor-Joy from "Split" is back as are two returning actors from "Unbreakable," the same child actor (Spencer Treat Clark) reprising his role as David Dunn's son, Joseph, and Charlayne Woodard reprising her role as Mr. Glass's mom. All of them feel shoe-horned into the movie and have nothing real to contribute.
The biggest of let-downs is the character or Mr. Glass himself. As a trilogy of films, he never quite got his due, or the necessary depth to make him a memorable screen villain. It'd be nice to report that "Glass" is over-flowing with promise, or that Shyamalan has once again found his groove, but the truth is that "Glass" is more than half-empty: It's bone-dry.
Genre: Mystery, Sci-Fi, Drama. Run Time: 2 hours 9 minutes.
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, Sarah Paulson, Bruce Willis, Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark, Luke Kirby.
Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan ("Split," "The Last Airbender," "The Village," "Signs," "Unbreakable," "The Sixth Sense").
Is there an uglier film than "Destroyer"? A nearly unrecognizable Nicole Kidman (under layers of make-up and wearing false teeth) plays Erin Bell, an LAPD officer who went way too deep undercover with a local gang, and who is now seeking revenge.
Flashing back between now and when she was undercover, the story reveals Erin to be a broken-down monster...a tortured soul who has been stripped of absolutely everything: Her life, her dignity, her well-being. Toby Kebbell plays the gang boss responsible - in her eyes - for her despair. Sebastian Stan plays a fellow undercover cop and love interest, while Tatiana Maslany (from "Orphan Black") shows up in a bit role, as does Bradley Whitford.
Kidman's look is not just jarring, it's a major distraction. Why cast someone like Nicole Kidman if a role requires such ugliness? This isn't a comment on beauty or surface appearances, it's a real question: Why was it important to have this character be so ruined, inside-and-out? The answer, it seems, isn't apparent, other than it's quite clear that director Karyn Kusama was wanting her protagonist to match the shady, dirty underworld in which this movie takes place. But the result is simply a mess, and you'll be focused more on Kidman's face rather than on what her character is doing, or why she's doing it. That's a problem.
Looks aside, the narrative is all over the place, and with no redeeming qualities to be found, and no characters to root for, what's the point? This is a tough watch, and "Destroyer" doesn't make a case for us to care.
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama. Run Time: 2 hours 1 minute.
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Bradley Whitford, Sebastian Stan.
Directed by Karyn Kusama ("The Invitation," "Jennifer's Body," "Aeon Flux").
"The Standoff at Sparrow Creek"
There is promise in first-time filmmaker Henry Dunham's "The Standoff at Sparrow Creek." But he's no David Mamet or Quentin Tarantino, and his film suffers from lack of originality and lack of budget.
The premise, however, is interesting enough: A former cop-turned-militia member (James Badge Dale) learns that there has been a mass-shooting at a police funeral nearby. With a gun missing from the militia's arsenal and other bits of evidence, it is quickly decided that the shooter must be one of his fellow militia members. The group - comprised of several different men from different backgrounds and walks of life - meets up in an abandoned warehouse, and they try to get to the bottom of things.
The story is simple and gets you involved right away: Someone in this room is the killer. Through a series of interrogations and conversations, we learn that each of the militia members have their own motives, but also curious connections to one another that are revealed slowly as the mystery unravels. We are led to believe - at different times - that different people are responsible.
But what begins as an enthralling who-dun-it quickly loses steam when we're given nothing but talk, talk, talk. You get the sense that this might have been a better movie had the filmmaker had more money to do more with. And because Dunham isn't Mamet or Tarantino - who is? - the nonstop dialogue just isn't interesting enough to keep the audience engaged. By the end - what seems like a very long 88 minute run-time - you probably won't even care who the shooter was, or wasn't.
There's a gritty noir feel to "The Standoff at Sparrow Creek," a film that deals in shade and shadows. But in the end, this was fifty shades of meh.
Genre: Crime, Drama. Run Time: 1 hour 28 minutes.
Starring: James Badge Dale, Brian Geraghty, Patrick Fischler.
Written and Directed by Henry Dunham (feature-film debut).
All of these movies open Friday, Jan. 18th, 2019. Check here for show times.
Movies opening next weekend include: "Stan and Ollie," "The Kid Who Would Be King," "Serenity."
Looking for a specific movie or review?