Tag Archives: horror movie

Split (2016) Movie Review

Split (2016) Movie Review

Split (2016) Movie Review. Photo courtesy of Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions

Mr. Shyamalan, I beg you, please stop writing your own movies.

I lost faith with M. Night Shyamalan films after the incredibly disappointing “twist” at the end of The Village.   I loved The Sixth Sense and Signs and appreciated Unbreakable but after The Village we had to take a break. It was a shame to end our blossoming filmmaker/film fan relationship because I do think he is a good director. His films are visually interesting with immersive, moody atmospheres. His stories are the seeds of great ideas that could be better developed in the hands of a real screenwriter.

But Split looked interesting, and I love James McAvoy. However I was nervous going into an M. Night Shyamalan movie.   Was he going to take me along for a ride and then leave me hanging once again?

I got into the movie for the most part, despite cringing at some lame dialogue in the beginning. James McAvoy plays Kevin, a man who suffers from dissociative-identity disorder and kidnaps three teenage girls in a parking lot. Each of his 23 personalities teases to a more sinister motive that the final 24th personality has planned for the three victims. As the girls meet various James McAvoys, we explore the hierarchy of the personalities in his therapy sessions, conducted by a compassionate therapist played by Betty Buckley (Pretty Little Liars).

McAvoy plays each of his characters with ease (thankfully we don’t see all 23), admirably withstanding the pressure of holding up the whole movie. At times the film borders on too much character over content and risks being a one-man James McAvoy-show. The distinctive personalities are humorous at times, breaking the tension and leaving the audience feeling a bit awkward, unsure of the intention. The tone of this thriller continues to be uneven throughout as we cut back and forth between the imprisoned girls and Kevin’s therapy sessions. The film would have been more terrifying if we were imprisoned with the girls and his personalities the whole time, instead of letting the audience breathe. The purpose that the sessions serve is so minute and ultimately pointless that we’re left feeling cheated for the time we’ve invested in the character.

Unlike the strong female lead in 10 Cloverfield Lane, that had a similar survivalist premise, these three female victims fall flat in comparison. Instead of developing the relationship between the characters organically, he cuts back and forth to a distracting backstory behind the outsider girl, Casey who is played with a bit of depth by Anya Taylor-Joy (who was also excellent in last year’s The Witch). Her exposition feels so contrived to support the big “twist” at the end that it takes away from any growth her character has shown. The other two girls are forgettable and one feels frustrated wondering why three girls couldn’t take down one man. Shyamalan tries to cover his bases here by having one girl exclaim how they “need to stop acting like victims!” But one line does not make a character and soon enough the character development takes a backseat as the personalities roll in. It’s a shame how Shyamalan has lost faith in his audience and seems convinced that explaining every detail makes for an interesting story.

By the time the end reared its sweaty, vein-pulsing head, I was holding my own head in my hands. That old Shyamalan-feeling was washing over me A word of warning: leave immediately when the film ends.   Escape the ridiculous Marvel-like teaser – a painfully forced scene with a character from one of his older films. A throw back to one of your better films, does not improve the current movie. Stop trying to twist M., just stop!

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardsono, Jessica Sula
Released: 2017

Are you an M. Night Shyamalan fan?  What did you think of my Split movie review?

Phantasm Pasta Birthday Dinner

Phantasm Birthday Dinner: duck terrine bruschetta, homemade spinach linguine with sausage broccoli basil sauce

Phantasm Birthday Dinner: duck terrine bruschetta, homemade spinach linguine with sausage broccoli basil sauce

For my boyfriend’s birthday, I wanted to make him something special.  He often jokes that I haven’t made him homemade pasta since our third date.  He is half Italian, so I was totally trying to impress him, and I guess it worked!  In any case, I decided to bring out the pasta maker for his birthday.  My go-to recipe is Martha Stewart’s spinach pasta, which I turn into linguine.  The dough is very easy to make, the pasta is a bit time consuming but it’s SO worth it.  The difference between box pasta and fresh pasta is like night and day.  Make sure you have a lot of baking sheets, wire racks and wax paper handy – you need plenty of space to lay out and dry the sheets of pasta in between each stage.  Be careful not to over boil fresh pasta, it only needs a few minutes before the noodles starts to float to surface.

Martha Stewart's Fresh Spinach Pasta Dough

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Prep Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Cook Time: 60 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: 1 pound fresh pasta dough

Martha Stewart's Fresh Spinach Pasta Dough

Ingredients

  • 1 block of frozen spinach, defrosted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2.5 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • coarse salt

Instructions

  1. Squeeze out excess liquid from spinach using a clean kitchen towel or paper towels. Puree with hand blender or food processor.
  2. Add eggs and yolk to puree in food processor and process until combined. Or us a mixer on the lowest setting. Add flour and 1 heaping teaspoon salt, and process until dough just comes together, about 20 seconds (10 seconds in the mixer).
  3. Transfer dough to a well-floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 10 minutes, adding up to 2 tablespoons flour if dough is too sticky, or a tablespoon water if dough is too dry. Place on a piece of parchment, and cover with an inverted bowl, or wrap tightly in plastic; let rest for 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Cut dough into 8 pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time (keep the remaining pieces covered with the inverted bowl), flatten dough into an oblong shape slightly thinner than the pasta machine's widest setting (number 1). Dust dough very lightly with flour, and feed through machine. Fold lengthwise into thirds and rotate 90 degrees. Repeat twice on same setting to smooth dough and increase its elasticity.
  5. Turn the dial to next narrower setting. Pass dough through twice, gently supporting it with your palm. Continue to press dough, passing it through ever-finer settings, two passes on each setting, until sheet is almost translucent and very thin but still intact (number 5 of 8 on a KitchenAid pasta roller). The dough will stretch to about 16 inches long. If dough bubbles or tears, pass it through again, and dust with flour if the dough is sticking.
  6. Place dough on a drying rack until slightly tacky, 10 to 15 minutes, and then use a pasta machine or cutting attachment to cut into strands. Drape over rack until strands are semi-dry and won't stick together, about 20 minutes.
  7. Bring 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil.
  8. Shake pasta loose and gently place in boiling water using tongs. Cook approximately 1.5-2 minutes or until pasta floats to surface.
  9. Remove from water and drain immediately. Toss pasta with some olive oil.
http://iseehungrypeople.net/2016/05/02/phantasm-pasta-birthday-dinner/

My boyfriend is a big horror fan, but had never seen Phantasm, a must-see horror cult classic.  So I added the film to the menu.  When Phantasm was released in 1979, the film was ahead of it’s time in terms of how bizarre and surreal the premise was.  Two orphaned brothers live in a small town in Oregon that is plagued by mysterious deaths.  The local ice cream vendor Reggie, teams up with the brothers to pursue their suspicions that the local mortician, nicknamed the Tall Man is the one responsible for the unexplained deaths, including the deaths of their parents.  Throughout their investigation they are pursued by shrunken dwarf-like minions, discover a gateway to another planet and try to take down the Tall Man without getting killed by flying Sentinel Spheres.  These flying, metallic spheres contain the shrunken brains of the Tall Man’s victims that allow them to be controlled with his mind, and kill whomever is in their path with any number of drills, blades and lasers.

The film was a labour of love for the director, Don Coscarelli who also wrote, shot and edited the film.  The budget was estimated at $300,000 and was filmed over weekends for a year, with the script changing frequently or being re-written on set.  The process was as indie as you can get with even Coscarelli’s mother helping out with costumes, special effects and makeup.  Despite the film’s many flaws, Phantasm became a cult film because of the way it dealt with the themes of death and mourning, themes that were unexplored in horror at the time, and for the use of iconic imagery from Angus Scrimm’s haunting portrayal of the Tall Man to his uniquely deadly Sentinel Spheres.

For appetizers I drizzled some olive oil over a toasted French baguette and topped it with duck terrine and a tomato, lemon, basil & olive oil mixture. I served the spinach linguine with a tomato based sauce that included broccoli, sausage and basil.  I paired our dinner with a Hillier Creek Estates 2012 Gamay Noir – a bottle I had been saving for a special occasion.  This slightly sweet Gamay paired well with the bruschetta, and the ripe acidity cut through the richness of the pasta sauce with hints of black pepper and blackberry tying the whole meal together.

We had a fun, relaxing evening and my boyfriend loved his special birthday dinner.  One can never go wrong with homemade pasta, the Tall Man, flying hooded dwarves and deadly drilling spheres!

 

Basking in Turkey: “Baskin” & a Turkish Meal

Turkey was one of my favourite trips.  Not only was the trip the first one with my boyfriend, but it was filled with such variety: busy cities, historical ruins, relaxing days on the sea, and adventure.  I loved learning about Turkey’s many different cultures and religions, meeting so many nice people and of course, eating Turkish food!  When I look through this gallery, I still cannot get over the variety of food I ate on this trip – I don’t think I had the same meal twice!

We were so inspired by the food we had in Turkey that we made our own Turkish breakfast.

View from Hotel Bella, Selcuk, Turkey

Breakfast view from Hotel Bella, Selcuk, Turkey

While Turkey is beautiful, the country has a dark side too.  The country’s past is filled with many bloody conquests, wars and sieges as the land was overturned by various cultures and religions.  The powerful Ottoman empire ruled Turkey for the longest period from the 14th right up to (in various forms) the 20th century and it was during World War I that the Ottoman government committed ethnic cleansing against their Greek, Assyrian and Armenian citizens.  It wasn’t until 1922 after the Turkish War of Independence that monarchy was finally abolished, and the modern Republic of Turkey was established in 1923.  Since the formation of the modern State of Turkey, the Kurds have accused the Turkish government of suppressing their identity and mistreatment.  This has resulted in many revolts, uprisings and an ongoing Kurdish-Turkish conflict that is present to this day.  Political protests are common in Taksim Square in Istanbul, and along with Kurdish rights, groups have also protested for women’s rights, LGBT rights, freedom of the press, freedom from torture and other human rights violations.

Police brutality has been the subject of many recent protests, and is explored in the Turkish horror film Baskin, which I reviewed after seeing the movie at the Toronto Film Festival.

"Baskin" Property of Film Colony, Mo Film, XYZ Films

“Baskin” Property of Film Colony, Mo Film, XYZ Films

While the state of Turkish politics makes me really sad, I want to remember all the amazing experiences I had while visiting this fascinating country, and keep trying to make more delicious Turkish food at home.  More to come!