Sorting Out the “Glass” Menagerie


Nick Fury, Professor X, and John McClane walk into a hospital…, or, if you prefer, John Shaft, Mr. Tumnus, and David Addison…

Sometimes I’m too persuadable for my own good.

I saw M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable in theaters way back in 2000, thought it had intriguing concepts and believable use of a comics-fandom backdrop, but I lost patience with its plodding, lugubrious tone (years before The Walking Dead and Marvel’s Netflix shows made snail-speed pretentiousness an acceptable norm) as well as the Dragnet-esque text-only ending that cheated the viewer out of any earned closure. Cutting a story short after the final twist worked well for Rod Serling, but not so much for other writers.

I saw Shyamalan’s Split in 2017 when word-of-mouth suggested we could call it a comeback, but it lost me with its To Be Continued ending that recast the otherwise taut thriller as the second chapter in Shyamalan’s very own superhero universe.

That brings us to the final act of the trilogy, Glass. I’ve skipped several Shyamalan films, but curiosity got the best of me. Was there a remote chance it would tie together the threads of the first two films with some sense of thematic satisfaction and retroactively redeem them, or at least provide a better sense of closure? Dare I hope?

Yep, I dared.

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My 2013 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: the Year’s Least Best

The Rock, Bruce Willis, GI Joe Retaliation

John McClane and the Scorpion King: sequel survivors perpetuating the vicious circle of lame.

Once again January is National List Month, that magical time of year when everyone’s last twelve months of existence must be dehydrated, crammed into enumerated little packets, and lined up on the shelf in subjective order for re-inspection. MCC’s first full calendar year consequently allowed me to submit entries for everything I saw in theaters in 2013. Even if this site didn’t exist, since 2000 I’ve saved lists of every trip I’ve made to the cinema, year by year. The best part of this compulsion is rereading previous years’ lists and seeing names I no longer remember. (Disney’s Teacher’s Pet? Past Me swears my son and I saw it, but we’ve mutually wiped it from memory.)

The final tabulations reveal I saw twenty-five films in theaters in 2013 and one via On Demand while it was still in limited art-house release. This count doesn’t include five 2012 films I attended in 2013 for Oscar-chasing purposes, or any old films I watched on home video. Because lists such as this one must have rules.

Links to past reviews and musings are provided for historical reference. On with the reverse countdown, then:

26. GI Joe: Retaliation. Once again Hollywood forgets the lessons learned from Halloween 3 and Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift — i.e., if you dump too much of the original cast, why even bother with a theatrical release? While Ray Park is good for a few minutes of aerial man’s-man ballet, Bruce Willis and the Rock are called in as scabs from other macho action series to shoulder the rest of this silly, overlong commercial for military weaponry and boys’ toys, in that order.

This way for #25 through #14…

“Die Hard 2”: That OTHER Technically Christmas Movie

John McClane, Bruce Willis, Die Hard 2

Bruce Willis. Guns. Fake snow. Yep, it was that time again.

It’s an old joke among internet guys that, when asked about the best Christmas movies ever, they’ll mention famous favorites with scenes set at Christmas, even if the entire movie isn’t actually about Christmas. Old reliables such as Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and maybe Gremlins make strong showings on such lists, though Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a solid dark-horse candidate and I expect a few tongue-in-cheek votes in the future for Iron Man 3.

Sadly, I never see anyone show any Christmas love for Die Hard 2: Die Harder, which may be one of the two best films of director Renny Harlin’s career and is set entirely on Christmas Eve. Sure, its older brother hogs all the glory as the Greatest Action Film of All Time according to me and occasionally polls, but if you watch too closely and never mind the unfair comparisons to the One That Started It All, you’ll notice it has all the necessary elements of a basic Christmas movie, not to mention a few reminders of Christmas with your own family.

Where’s the Christmas in Die Hard 2? Count the ways:

* Snow! Die Hard had no snow. None. Not a flake. It was set in L.A., which has no snow because it hates Christmas. Die Hard 2 is set in Washington D.C., where snow is everywhere, even though most of it is fake movie snow that would make decent pillow stuffing. Even fake snow has more of a right to be in a Christmas movie than palm trees do.

John McClane’s Christmas list goes on…

“GI Joe: Retaliation”: a Big-Budget, Old-Fashioned Military Cartoon

Cobra White House, G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Once again our old friend the White House is humiliated, this time in G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

Even though I thought Stephen Sommers’ G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra was a handful of loopy action scenes stitched together into summer action filler that bore no resemblance to the Joe I knew from childhood, I decided to give its sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation a chance anyway, in case it had any worth as a “popcorn flick”. In the end, I found myself left with a lot of unpopped kernels.

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Is There Ever a Good Day for “A Good Day to Die Hard”?

Bruce Willis, John McClane, A Good  Day to Die HardAs much as I contemplated bowing out in a previous entry, I just couldn’t quit John McClane. Besides, I had a relative desperate to get away from home for a while, which is one of the commonest rationalizations for doing something you know won’t end well.

Fortunately for impatient viewers, the “plot” portion of A Good Day to Die Hard occupies only the first ten minutes. Legendary neo-cowboy John McClane travels to Russia, where his son, a mere toddler without lines in the original Die Hard, stands trial for murder alongside another political prisoner named Komarov (Sebastian Koch, whom I last saw as the playwright under surveillance in the Oscar-winning The Lives of Others). Little does Dad know that Jack (Jai Courtney, suppressing his Australian accent just fine) is a CIA agent with a plan. Little does Jack know that he’s not the only one gunning for Komarov and the MacGuffin he holds. Little do Komarov’s pursuers know that he’s not as helpless as they think. And everyone but everyone knows sooner or later there’ll be explosions, bullets, and death-defying feats that would kill the average super-hero.

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How Hard Can it Be to Quit a Movie Series?

Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, A Good Day to Die HardTo Die Hard or not to Die Hard: that is the question now before me.

Anyone who knows me well is aware that — even at my advanced, increasingly prudish age — the original Die Hard remains my unqualified favorite movie of all time. None of them understand why because I’ve never outlined the many reasons. Suffice it to say it’s my incontrovertible opinion. I’ve seen all four movies even though they varied in worth. For the record, the correct ranking is 1, 2, 4, 3. I can understand arguments for and against Renny Harlin’s Die Harder, but I question the wisdom of anyone who ranks Die Hard with a Vengeance anywhere but dead last. For some reason I assumed that Len Wiseman’s ludicrous but giddy Live Free or Die Hard would be the series endcap, and John McClane could ride off into the sunset with Gary Cooper. When the fifth one was announced, I had no idea what to think.

As I’m contemplating the post-Oscar movie release schedule, A Good Day to Die Hard is the only non-Oscar film in theaters that’s not an automatic “no”. That doesn’t mean it’s an enthusiastic “yes”, though. As of this moment its Tomatometer rating rests at a paltry 13%. Its director’s oeuvre has never once tempted me into a theater. The main villain, which can make or break a Die Hard flick, is buried in the trailers as if the filmmakers are ashamed of him. Bruce Willis is now 57, younger than Schwarzenegger and Stallone but not exactly in his prime. I’m not optimistic, but I’m torn. Is now the right time to walk away from John McClane?

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“Looper”: Five-Film Sci-Fi Mash-Up is Terrifying, Tear-Jerking, Terrific

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, "Looper"The short, spoiler-free version of my impression of Looper: the film is a knotty but ingenious cat-and-mouse thriller that moves from urban squalor to rural tranquility with an enviable dexterity while contemplating the effects of poor choices on our lives (our own as well as others’), the things we’ll sacrifice to stay true to our selfish nature, and what we’re willing to sacrifice if we think harder about what’s most important in the grand scheme. Other reviews have already noted the effectiveness of the makeup, the subtlety of the near-future visual designs, and the fun of watching Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing different versions of the same character. Consider those thoughts seconded here, since I can’t think of a good reason to retype them in my own redundant words.

However, I wouldn’t go so far as to grade it A+++++. I recognized more than a few moving parts from other films, albeit parts that are shuffled together skillfully, retooled for improved functionality, and kept as far removed from the trailers as possible.

Before proceeding, I brake here for COURTESY SPOILER ALERT for those who plan to see it but have been too busy or who avoid theaters. Now is your moment to escape for the sake of your future moviegoing experience, and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

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