My Two Cents: M. Knight Shyamalan’s SPLIT

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Split

Directed and written by: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley

2017 Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions

When you go to see an M. Night Shyamalan film, it’s like a roll of the dice. His first few films were a safe bet. Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and to an extent, Signs, are all good films. Lady in the Water and The Happening, not so great. His second to last release, The Visit, was decent enough that I was looking forward to seeing M. Knight’s latest; Split. The trailers looked good and the concept plays well as a horror/thriller.

Split is the story of Barry, a man whom has twenty-three separate personalities. The majority of harmless, but a few of the personas have malicious intentions. The movie begins with three young women being abducted, and the story unfolds from there. We soon learn the background stories of Barry’s many personalities, and one of the captives, Casey Cooke. There is really not much more I can speak of without ruining plot twists. However, I will say that Split contains one of Shyamalan’s signature twist endings which features a familiar face, and perhaps sets up a possible sequel for at least one of M. Night’s films.

All in all, Split is enjoyable and has enough suspense and story to keep the viewer interested. James McAvoy portrays Barry. He does an amazing job playing essentially a half dozen characters. Anya Taylor-Joy, who shined in last years The Witch, shines again as the captive with a past just as dark as her captor. The pacing is great and the story translates well on the screen. I do, however, have a couple of things that bother me about the film. We only get to see one third of the personalities that inhabit Barry’s brain. I think it would have been interesting to see a glimpse of each of the twenty-three psyches. I do understand that the director needs time for character development, but just a peek would have been nice. I also thought the film lacked violence. Not because I am a savage, but because it would have lent nicely to the mystique of one of Barry’s personas (for sake of spoiling, I cannot say which). A little more violence would also have intensified the already satisfying suspense.

To recap, the high points are the performances of James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy. They dominate the screen, and their characters have compelling stories. The Shyamalanian twist at the end is also worth the watch. This is even more true if you are a fan of his movies, as it ties two of his stories together. Split is not The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable (both amazing films), but it is a million miles better than the happening. In a time (January and February) when crappy films are released and usually die, Split stands out and will hopefully succeed.

T.

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The Daily Tonality – 01/27/17

The Daily Tonality – Your Song of the Day – January 27, 2017

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The StoogesDown on the Street (from the album Fun House, 1970 Elektra) If I could create my own religion, and have a handful of gods to worship, Iggy Pop would be one. This opening song on Fun House, Down on the Street is a continuous storm of one dirty riff accompanied by swirling guitar solos, and of course Iggy’s trademark snarl and swagger. He speaks about falling in love while “floating” around the streets. This song does anything but float. It digs right in, and if your not nodding to the beat half way through, you probably have no soul.

Fun Fact – Iggy Pop has a cockatoo named Biggy Pop, and it has it’s own Instagram account. @biggypop

T.

List-o-rama: My Five Favorite Guitar Players

My Five Favorite Guitar Players

picture-014At some point in a young man, or lady’s life, they want to become a rock star. Which kid does not want an electric guitar? A lot of people give up when they realize it is mostly just a pipe dream. There are those who stick with it and actually learn how to play the guitar. I got the bug when I was fourteen, and picked up my first six string; an awfully indistinct Squire Stratocaster. I stuck with it for the most part, and twenty five some years later I still play and enjoy it. Every aspiring musician needs a hero. A player to aspire to. For me, I have many guitar inspirations. For the sake of not getting too carried away, I will keep the list of guitar players to a minimum. This list is not based on technical skill. Skill is good, but there are so many other factors that go into these decisions; look, feel, sound, and cool factor all go a long way. Here is my list, in no particular order.

139816178_iommi_467853cTony Iommi (Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell)  This is the man that created heavy music as far as I’m concerned. Armed with his signature Gibson SG, Iommi’s guttural guitar sound changed popular music. His down tuned (one and a half steps) came out of necessity as he lost the tips of his fingers in a work accident. The looser strings were easier for him to bend. One of the first songs I learned was the Black Sabbath Classic Iron Man, and I still enjoy playing many of their other songs. As Sabbath winds down their extraordinary career, Iommi still goes out on stage every night and kills it. Not to mention this legend has been battling Lymphoma, and is currently in remission. So many bands and guitar players owe Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath for having the success they have.

6186089295_1bfcc46b85_bPepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity, Down) I love the dirty southern sludge guitar sound, and Pepper Keenan knows how to create some swampy stoner rock riffs. When I first hear Down‘s NOLA many moons ago, I fell in love with the sound. Soon after that, I discovered Keenan played a Gibson Firebird and I was sold. His playing fits in with modern metal, but he would also fit right in with classic southern rock bands like Lynard Skynard. He runs a lot of the same effects pedals that I use or used to use on my board. Pepper also owns a bar in New Orleans called Le Bon Temps Roule. This is one pretty cool guy, not to mention a hell of a guitar player.

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Buzz Osborne (Melvins, Fantômas, Crystal Fairy) King Buzzo! Perhaps the man responsible for the “Seattle sound” that came roaring into popular culture in the early nineties, this man, along with Melvins drummer Dale Crover, has been the one constant in sludge music for nearly three decades. Buzz is unique from top to bottom; his look, his playing style, right to his political and social views. Perhaps what I admire the most is the respect he receives from his peers, as he is always collaborating with other artists such as Mike Patton, Tool, and Jello Biafra. Just to add to his mystique, my friend Earl and I went to see a Melvins show a few years back. As we were coming into the club, King Buzzo was walking in. Earl got excited and grabbed Osborne by the arm (in a non threatening way). Buzz responded with one of the most amazing death stares I have ever witnessed.

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Matt Pike (Sleep, High On Fire) To put it mildly, Matt Pike is a beast. If this was an alternate universe, he’d be slaying dragons. He writes the heaviest riffs, and has the voice to match as the guitarist/singer for one of my favourite bands, High On Fire. I should mention that he is also guitar player for doom metal giants Sleep. He is all that, and does it never wearing a shirt while performing live. I have had the pleasure of seeing both High On Fire and Sleep perform in person, and they are among two of the best shows I can recall. If you are interested in getting your feet wet in the doom/stoner metal genre, listen to Sleep’s Dopesmoker. I feel it is a genre defining record, and Matt Pike is at the helm.

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Joshua Homme (Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures) There was a time about fifteen years ago where I kind of lost interest in playing guitar. I just wasn’t feeling it. Then I heard Queens of the Stone Age debut, self-titled album. I was suddenly interested again. I can safely say that QOTSA is my favourite band of all-time. Perhaps Joshua Homme is the biggest influence on my playing. Some people say he is arrogant, a little bit of a prick, but those people also haven’t made albums with guys like Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones, or Iggy Pop. Homme’s sound is always evolving, and his song writing just gets better. In a sea of endless alt-rock and pop garbage, QOTSA and Homme’s other projects prove that rock ‘n roll still has a pulse. For a kid who played polka music on the guitar for his first two years of lessons, he does pretty good for himself. Oh, and he is also the drummer for Eagles of Death Metal. I’ve said enough.

T.

 

 

The Daily Tonality – 01/24/17

The Daily Tonality – Your song of the day – January 24, 2017

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Electric Wizard Devil’s Bride (from the album Electric Wizard, 1995 Rise above Records) If you like your music full of heavy, grinding guitar riffs, Electric Wizard is is the perfect remedy for what ails you. These British purveyors of doom have been recording brilliant sludge for twenty years. Their lyrics speak of witchcraft, horror movies, and marijuana, which seems to be a common theme among bands of this genre. The song Devil’s Bride is no different as the band speaks of the woman whom Satan has chosen to bear his child. Bloody lovely. Electric Wizard came along when the doom, stoner rock scene was just beginning to pick up main stream awareness, but they have also managed to stay somewhat underground. This is one band that I have not had a chance to see live, but I would jump at the opportunity.

The video is accompanied by scenes from the 1967 film The Devil Rides Out.

The Daily Tonality – 01/23/17

The Daily Tonality – Your Song of the Day – January 23, 2017

 

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Yolandi and Ninja

Die Antwoord Banana Brain (from the album Mount Ninji and da Nice Time Kid, 2016 Zef Records)  If you know Die Antwoord, you have an idea of what they are about. If you are not familiar, they are a rave/rap electronic duo from South Africa. Members Yolandi Visser, Ninja, along with DJ God, incorporate the South African counterculture of Zef into their music and imagery. Usually this style of music is not my first choice, but there is something about this group that draws me in. Honestly, I enjoy the insanity that Die Antwoord represent. Although their latest album Mount Ninji and da Nice Time Kid is not their best record to date, Banana Brain, as well as a few other tracks are wonderful. This band may not be your cup of tea, but I promise you they are unique, and worth a watch.

 

Fun Fact – Both Yolandi Visser and Ninja appear in the 2015 Neil Blomkamp film CHAPPiE as jacked-up, ultra-violent versions of themselves.

T.

List-O-rama: Top Five Favorite John Carpenter Films

Five Favorite John Carpenter Films

n-john-carpenter-433-1Mr. John Carpenter is the man. What else can I say about a writer/director who has manufactured so many brilliant stories, and memorable characters. His full-length film debut, Dark Star, was in released in 1974. Since then, he has treated movie-goers to thrills, chills, comedy, horror, science fiction, and just pure cinematic beauty. And despite what Hollywood has become over the last couple decades, Carpenter keeps it real and does it his way. Also, yesterday was his sixty-ninth birthday. Let’s celebrate with a top five list of my personal favorite J.C. films. You may or may not agree with these choices, so feel free to comment. From five to one…

5. Escape From New York (1981 MGM) – Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, and Earnest Borgnine? This is top five on that merit alone. Basically, the President of the United States crash lands in Manhattan. Sounds simple, but Manhattan in the future is now a large maximum security prison, and the inmates have the commander in chief. A one-eyes bank robber named Snake Plissken is sent in to retrieve the captives and the downed airplane’s cargo. I get a Mad Max, Man With No Name feel whenever I watch this movie. Amazing Soundtrack, a bad ass anti-hero main character, and Donald Pleasence as the President. I think I have proven my point.

4. They Live (1988 Universal) – Humans are being kept under sedation by a race of alien creatures through subliminal messages that appear on billboards, television etc. Nada (played by the late, great Roddy Piper), a down on his luck blue-collar guy finds a pair of sunglasses and soon uncovers the brainwashing and manipulation. I love this film because it does star “Hot Rod” Piper, but I also appreciate the Twilight Zone vibe it gives off. They Live is an alien movie, but it also a social comment on how society is told what to do through advertising, and we don’t even know it. Also contains one of the longest fist fight scenes in the history of film. You cannot argue with that.

3. The Fog (1980 Embassy) – The plot sounds crazy; one hundred years ago, a ship of lepers bound for the shores of Antonio Bay, California are deliberately guided to crash into the rocks along the coast, and thus left for dead. Now as Antonio Bay prepares to celebrate it’s centennial year, a ghostly fog washes across the seaside town. What is inside this fog now seeks revenge for the wrong doings of the town’ ancestors. A spooky ghost story with some creepy atmosphere and strong female performances make this one of Carpenter’s more underrated films. Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, and Adrienne Barbeau star, even though the real star of the film is the ambiance and mood.

2. The Thing (1982 Universal) – Claustrophobia and paranoia make for brilliant film. John Carpenter’s The Thing is chock full of both these elements. An American research station in remote Antarctica is confronted with a being not of this earth. Soon, it is all out panic and mistrust as the alien begins to take on the forms of the research team. Trust is lost and all hell breaks loose. Carpenter favorite Kurt Russell is R.J. MacReady, and Keith David is great as Childs, the two men who take it upon themselves to flush out and destroy The Thing. This is not only a great Carpenter film, but one of my favorite science fiction/horrors. If you have not seen this film, go watch now.

1. Halloween (1978 Universal) No big surprise here. The film about babysitters being stalked by a man wearing an expressionless mask, made on a shoe string budget, snowballed into a massive hit. A simple story about a boy, Michael Myers, gone wrong, locked away in an institution, only to return home fifteen years later to murder his estranged sister. It sounds like anyone could make this movie. Unfortunately, not just anybody is John Carpenter. On a low budget, Carpenter squeezed out all he could and the result is a true classic. To the point acting, an iconic soundtrack, and the quintessential slasher is the perfect storm. Sure, the Halloween franchise has pretty much spun out of control, but that has nothing to do with Carpenter. If you are a fan of bare-bones horror, I’m sure this film is right up there on your list as well.