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Entries in M Night Shyamalan (4)

Tuesday
Jun042013

Further thoughts on M. Night Shyamalan's apocalypse

Picking up where we left off: having tracked the steady descent in quality through the filmography of M. Night Shyamalan, it felt like it would be a good idea to revisit the man now that the weekend is over, and we've all had a chance to see his latest, After Earth. Though, based on its shockingly anemic box-office take, I'm guessing that most of you did not take that chance.

Good for you, because I did see the film, and wow, was it ever the wrong decision. Happily it does, as reported, reverse the plunging downward trend of his career: it's better across the board than The Last Airbender. But it still very clearly isn't a good movie and in one particularly respect it sharpens what might be the most disappointing element of Shyamalan's fall.

Looking all the way back to 1999's The Sixth Sense, one of the things that still impresses the most is the excellent central performance the director pulled out of 10-year-old Haley Joel Osment. Three years later, Signs had solid, if not quite as great work from Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin. But After Earth is now the second film in a row where Shyamalan is working with a child actor in the lead role, and it's the second time in a row where that child's performance is abysmal: Jaden Smith's turn as the sci-fi hero of this new film is stilted and painfully one-note, with a one-size-fits-all expression of dull surprise, sometimes paired with a watery grin to connote "excitement".

Topped off with the unimpressive visuals and the film's slack narrative development - the way that the ending comes feels less like a conclusion and more like the camera got bored and decided to wander away from the story - and it's hard to see what Shyamalan brings to the table that anybody who knew how to yell "action" couldn't have supplied. Is it time to declare Shyamalan's career over?

Thursday
May302013

The Decline and Fall of M. Night Shyamalan

Hi, Tim here. This weekend sees the release of After Earth, the latest of 2013’s surprisingly well-stocked slate of post-apocalyptic sci-fi thrillers, starring Will and Jaden Smith. These are all things that are proudly trumpeted by the ad campaign. What is conspicuously not trumpeted, proudly or otherwise, is the identity of the film’s director M. Night Shyamalan, who for the first time since his gigantic 1999 breakthrough The Sixth Sense is not mentioned by name in the ad campaign for his latest feature.

This is, undoubtedly, because Shyamalan been steadily pissing away audience goodwill almost since the moment he started earning it, with each new film he’s made being widely regarded as worse than the one preceding it (a steady downward trend on Metacritic, down with just a single blip up on Rotten Tomatoes). With After Earth appearing to flatten or slightly reverse this trend, it’s as good a time as any to explore the exact shape of Shyamalan’s fall in such a relatively short time, trying to figure out exactly how the man anointed as “The Next Spielberg” at a tender age ended up becoming one of modern cinephilia’s greatest punchlines.

THE SIXTH SENSE (1999): Wunderkind

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Dec192012

Yes, No, Maybe So: "After Earth"

Michael C here. The staggering failure of M. Night Shyamalan’s post-Signs career does not need another chronicling here. Suffice it to say that to approach a new film of his with high expectations would require insane, borderline Little Orphan Annie levels of optimism.

Not that you would know from the trailer that After Earth is the latest M. Night Shyamalan opus since his name appears in the preview exactly zero times. Clearly the studio got word of the peals of laughter the Devil trailer received with its “From the Mind of M. Night Shyamalan” title card.

No this trailer is all about top world box office star Will Smith and his transparent mission to anoint son Jaden heir to his box office throne. Also there seems to be some stuff about crash landing on a strange and dangerous planet in the distant future that turns out to be…wait for it…Earth! Twist!

Breakdown and trailer after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Feb182012

The Razzies Are Coming, The Razzies Are Coming

Hey everybody. Michael C here. Can you feel the suspense? Not the Oscars, that’s going to be The Artist. No, I mean that we are only one week away from The Razzie nominations, where we can get a little retribution for the cinematic crimes of 2011.

Without M. Night Shyamalan, the Stanley Kubrick* of the Razzies, in the race it’s a little more challenging to predict the nominees for worst film than usual, but I'll give it a shot anyway. Full Disclosure: I haven't seen most of these and unless someone backs an armored car full of gold bars into my driveway it’s gonna stay that way. I am judging strictly off their public and critical reception

*True Fact: At their first ceremony The Razzies nominated Kubrick for worst director for The Shining.

The Front Runner

Suicide as mercy killing?

Adam Sandler's brother and screechy voice sister opus Jack and Jill is the King’s Speech of this year’s race, a vehicle specifically designed to win Razzies. Megastar completely phoning it in? Check. Super-thin premise that quickly dissolves into a series of fat and fart jokes. Check.  Orgy of whorish product placement culminating in Al Pacino rapping about Dunkin’ Donuts while a guy in a giant donut suit dances next to him? Che- Wait. What?

Jack and Jill has got that rare “Are you effing serious?” quality like The Love Guru and Catwoman that tends to win Razzies. Most people I know believed this movie was a joke Trey Parker and Matt Stone cooked up on South Park until the horrifying image of Sandler in drag started squishing donkeys in commercials.

The Spoiler


If Jack and Jill is the King’s Speech of this year’s Razzie race then Sucker Punch is the Social Network, totally up to the minute and cutting edge in its awfulness. Zak Snyder has synthesized comic book, anime, and video game culture into one completely incoherent package of steam punk gobbledygook.

Of all the titles in contention Sucker Punch is one of the few that deserves the designation of "so bad it’s good". Snyder doesn’t fail lazily drinking a coffee surrounded by old SNL buddies like Sandler. Sucker Punch goes down in a madly ambitious wreckage of CGI automatons, zombie Germans and PG-13 masturbation fodder so spectacular you want to stand and applaud.

The Blockbusters


It’s no fun to only pick on the little guys. The Razzies always devotes a few spots to big stars, bloated egos, and cynical cash grabs. Were talking past nominees like Wild Wild West and Alexander. Michael Bay has put up three nominees including winner Transformers 2 (Pearl Harbor was no match for Freddy Got Fingered) This year there is a wealth of big-budget Summertime crap to choose from. Pirates 4, Hangover 2, Transformers 3, Green Lantern, Zookeeper, The Smurfs. Last year Twilight: Eclipse was the big money-maker on the list but I doubt Breaking Dawn has the buzz to repeat. Ditto the even sillier-looking Twilight knockoff Red Riding Hood.

My hunch is that all the action blockbusters cancel each other out and New Year’s Eve takes the spot. Gary Marshall’s schmaltz-fest takes down too many big name stars with it to be ignored.

The Wild Cards

I’m discounting the chances of the otherwise clear favorite Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence simply because it seems to be begging for this prize, and I think the Razzies prefer their choices not to be in on the joke. Ditto Shark Night 3D. Even if Bucky Larson didn’t have an unheard of 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes it will still demand a spot for making people look at Nick Swardson repulsive buck teeth and Prince Valiant haircut for a month last fall.

After Bucky I’m betting on the inclusion of under-the-radar contender Atlas Shrugged Part 1. First, it appears to be truly, atrociously bad. The most boring series of board meetings since Phantom Menace. Second, it has the added bonus of being a bizarro right-wing infomercial whose makers imagine they will change the public discourse via endless scenes of plutocrats sipping wine and talking about steel. Unfortunately this will probably overshadow Sarah Palin’s own unhinged campaign ad, the hilariously titled The Undefeated, although I would not be surprised to see her turn up in the Worst Actress category. The Razzies aren’t sticklers for classification like the Oscars.

Predictions

  • Atlas Shrugged Part 1
  • Bucky Larson
  • Jack and Jill
  • New Year’s Eve
  • Sucker Punch

 Quick closing thought: I think the Razzies need a category for Oscar bait, don’t you? Iron Lady and J. Edgar are way too good to be included here, but someone needs to be held accountable for making me sit through endless scenes of a senile Margaret Thatcher chasing her ghost husband all over the apartment.

 The Iron Leaden J. Oscar

Feel free to tee off on your own worst cinematic experience of 2011 in the comments and to get into all the other categories. Larry the Cable Guy for Worst Actor in Cars 2, am I right? You can follow Michael C. on Twitter at @SeriousFilm or read his blog Serious Film