Old

Let’s start by mentioning that there’s a character in this movie named “Mid-Sized Sedan.” He’s a rapper with dreamy eyes whose most frequent line is: “Damn.” Note, he doesn’t even say it with an exclamation mark. I laughed out loud more than once at his delivery. He doesn’t get upset, even when his naked girlfriend goes for a swim, washes up dead and then decomposes to dust and bones in a few hours.

Most of what you need to know about this movie is presented in the trailer. To reveal more would spoil the actually clever ideas and the patented surprise ending. There’s nothing like knowing there’s going to be a major plot twist at the end of two hours to ruin the hundred minutes leading up to that point.

 

Maybe the problem with M. Night Shyamalan’s films, ever since his very successful The Sixth Sense, is that he tackles writer, director and producer roles simultaneously, in this case a screenplay based on a graphic novel called Sandcastle. Perhaps the jump from graphic novel to horror film was too large. The dialogue in this film is atrocious. The characters are ridiculous, perhaps intentionally. They all suffer from secret disorders, either medical or psychological. But they’ve all been enticed to visit an exclusive tropical vacation destination that has a “secret” beach at the end of a one-way bus ride. Oh, look, the driver is M. Night Shyamalan! Appearing in your own movie is just grotesque, unless done subtly, a la Alfred Hitchcock, or if you’re Clint Eastwood. More on that later.

 

Signs, Unbreakable, Split, and The Sixth Sense are M. Night’s best efforts. Of those, only Split broke out of the 1999-2000 stride that he hit with his suspenseful, signature twisted ending formula, and that was largely due to the acting by James McAvoy. Every other film can be considered just another attempt to recreate the success of the first.

 

There were numerous tight shots in Old, so much so that characters fell out of frame. Deliberate? Unknown, but another overused technique was the over-the-shoulder shot from behind an aging character in order to surprise us with a radical change in appearance. That’s just clumsy. Walk out from behind a rock, pop up from a crashing wave, don’t just stand facing away from the camera.

 

From the trailer you’re already aware that the cast of characters on a beautiful, magical beach is aging at a rapid rate. As a result, any cut or scrape heals almost instantly. Why then is Mid-Size Sedan getting nose bleeds that won’t stop? This is never explained. And have you noticed that the Hollywood nose bleed has become the hallmark of something far more serious going wrong, as if your nose is the barometer of unseen maladies?

 

I’ll chalk this disaster up to the negative effects of a one-year pandemic lockdown for M. Night. But I think he’s suffering from something far worse – his own notion that he’s amazing. Don’t box office receipts eventually take care of that? Maybe one decent film every four attempts can keep you bankrolled in Hollywood, especially if it’s your money and you’re the Producer.

 

One casting note: most stars are relatively unknown, but if you’re a fan of Clint Eastwood’s daughter Francesca, she has a small role. Her roles will likely remain small.

 

We are eventually left with two aged survivors, one a six-year-old who looks fifty, talking about how surprised his Aunt will be when she sees him. Even more surprising is that his intellect and education level aged with him without benefit of schooling. So, give us a magic beach and solve the mounting college debt problem. But start this movie with an awkward conversation between aged child and Aunt, then flash back. If M. Night put the plot twist at the beginning of his film it might be a welcome change. Welcome to Fantasy Island!

 

 

Old (2021) runs 1 hour, 48 minutes and is rated PG-13.

The Green Knight

Are you a fan of the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table? This period piece immerses you in the fog and frightful existence of Middle Ages England. While Arthur and Guinevere are referred to in the credits simply as King and Queen, the unmistakable Round Table sets the stage for their mostly silent oversight of the damp and dark court where some of the action takes place. 

This is Camelot as you’ve never imagined it. Enter the Green Knight, a green-skinned, green-haired Groot type who rides a green horse right up to the Round Table and challenges any taker to a deadly game on Christmas Day. One caveat: any injury delivered to the Green Knight in hand-to-hand combat will be returned in kind exactly one year later. Most Knights take one step back at this point and leave it to a newbie, the king’s nephew. Without delving too far into legend, Morgana, Arthur’s half-sister is mostly off screen as some sort of evil enchantress, acting on behalf of her son as he begins his quest to become the knight, Sir Gawain.

 

The pace of the film is slow, the costuming reminiscent of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but utterly lacking humor. The Chaucerian feel of the journey, or perhaps more rooted in poetry like Homer’s Odyssey, leaves you wanting to shower by the end of the film. They were very dirty times, and Director/Writer David Lowery brought them to life nicely, with ghosts, giants, thieves and witches lurking in the woods and hills along Gawain’s (Dev Patel) quest. As with other Knights, honor is tested along with valor, and the quest eventually is complete, but at what cost?

 

This is Patel’s first film since The Personal History of David Copperfield. His performance is solid, but more serious in this outing. Alicia Vikander, known for Ex Machina, is Gawain’s girlfriend and temptress, a dual role that has her playing both Essel and The Lady. Sean Harris, known for his roles as a recurring antagonist in the Mission Impossible franchise is an aging Arthur, somewhat lost in the fog, and struggling to remain larger than life. His soft-spoken honor shines through and provides a vector for the story line.

 

This movie has an art house feel, but leaves you with lingering thoughts back to the characters and the quest. It also makes you want to learn more.

 

 

The Green Night (2021) runs 2 hours, 10 minutes and is rated R.

 

No Time to Die

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