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    Seven Days of Shyamalan: Day 2 (Unbreakable)

    Hello and welcome to Day 2 of Seven Days of Shyamalan. In case you've missed them, be sure to head back and read the prologue, as well as Day 1, which covers Wide Awake and The Sixth Sense, respectively. As you probably already know, the whole point of this weeklong series is to recap and critique the selected filmography of one of the strangest downturns in the history of the medium.

    Today we'll be doing that with 2000's Unbreakable.

    Starring Bruce Willis as David Dunn, Unbreakable gives us a look at the origin of an unlikely hero and his journey to come to terms with his gifts (a theme carried over from The Sixth Sense). Working a dead-end security job and dealing with a shaky marriage, David seems like your average, run-of-the-mill schmuck, but that all changes on a train ride back to Philadelphia from New York. The conductor loses control, and all 131 passengers on said train die.

    Except for David. Not only is he alive, he's completely unhurt. He doesn't have a scratch on him and he can't explain why.

    Elsewhere in Philadelphia we find Elijah, played by Samuel L. Jackson, a man with Type 1 osteogenesis imperfecta, making his bones extremely fragile. He owns an art gallery dedicated to comic books, and believes that comics are the last remnants of passing myths down from generation to generation via pictures (citing hieroglyphics and the like). Not only that - he also believes that a hero of extraordinary abilities must exist somewhere - he only needs to find him.

    You can probably guess where this is going.

    Elijah contacts David after hearing about his miraculous survival and begins asking him questions about his past, looking for past injuries or holes in his theory that David is somehow superhuman. Thinking Elijah insane, David politely removes himself from the conversation. Something that Elijah says sticks, however, when he asks David about the last time he was sick. David can't remember. Not even his estranged wife can remember.

    You can probably guess where this is going.

    Ever persistent, Elijah continues to look into David's life, discovering that he has an acute sense of intuition when it comes to violence (it starts as hunches during his security job, but later develops into brief psychic flashes, where he's able to see the misdeeds of others when he makes physical contact). David also comes to realize that he has a vast reservoir of strength that he had no idea about, enabling him to lift over 350 pounds. He insists that he's just a normal man, but Elijah says (and thinks) otherwise.

    Stop me if I've said this before, but you can probably guess where this is going.

    It all finally clicks for David when he has a sudden flashback from his early days of dating his wife, Audrey. He'd been a talented college football player with a seemingly bright future in the sport, but Audrey hated the idea of him getting hurt. One night during a drive, they crash on the side of the road. David is flung from the vehicle, but sees that Audrey is stuck inside. A fire is starting to build, so acting quickly, he's able to rip the door off of the car and pull her to safety. After flagging a passerby down, he's asked if he's hurt. He doesn't answer during the flashback, but we're shown earlier in the movie that he claims he was critically injured, ending his football career, but ensuring that his relationship would continue with Audrey.

    Thus, David decides to try out being a hero. Extending his hands out into a crowd, he sees their wrongdoings via his psychic flashes, with each impact yielding a more violent result. Eventually, he comes into contact with a janitor holding a family hostage in their home. He decides to follow him, and is able to free the two children before moving towards the parents. Despite falling into a pool tarp (David has a severe weakness to water - if any gets in his lungs, he can easily drown, and is shown to be a poor swimmer), he manages to get back out with some assistance from the aforementioned children. Strangling the home intruder, he finds the parents dead, but goes home having made a difference.

    The emotional journey of our protagonist ends here, but much like The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan decides to throw in a "Gotcha!" pertaining to our supporting lead. Thanking Elijah for his help in realizing who he is, David has another psychic flash. It turns out Elijah had been orchestrating all kinds of disasters (a plane crash, a building burning down, and the train accident that David walked away from) in order to expedite his search for a hero.

    Horrified, David stumbles back, and we get an "Evil, motherfucker! Do you speak it?!" speech from Sam Jackson. He finally realizes that his role in the world is to be David's opposite - his archenemy. He notes that he should have known all along after being teased as a child for his brittle bones and being given the nickname, Mr. Glass.

    We're then treated to some haphazard exposition (via freeze-frames and text) as to what happened to David and Elijah, with the former moving on with his life for the better and the latter currently being held in a psychiatric facility for the criminally insane. The end.

    There's no easy way to say it so I'll just say it: the problem with Unbreakable is that it's just boring. Whether it's the muted color palette or the unbelievably dry and un-compelling performance by Bruce Willis or the constant, "Hey, you're special," "Nah, man, you've got me confused with someone else," "No, but really, you are special," I felt like I was ready for the plot to move forward far before the movie did.

    And unlike The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable's grounded, emotional plot, David and Andrea's shitty marriage, just sort of plays out without any catharsis or point. Andrea enters as a woman who can't connect to her quiet, emotionless husband and she leaves as a woman who, all of a sudden, can accept the fact that she can't connect to her quiet, emotionless husband. One night, she approaches David and just announces that it'd be okay if he wanted to take her to dinner. And from then on out, she just seems to get along with him. We're told that it's because they're re-connecting, but we're never shown why it's different this time around.

    As a fan of comics, I can appreciate Shyamalan borrowing comic book tropes and using them cleverly in film. Elijah, for example, shows up many, many times as a reflection in glass (mirrors, television sets, etc), and wears distinctly purple clothing in contrast to David's green. These are all nice touches, and aside from Unbreakable's pacing issues (which have more to do with the story itself), I didn't have any problems with the direction.

    I suppose what makes watching Unbreakable so difficult is watching it back to back with The Sixth Sense, which has the exact same theme of an unhappy protagonist who finds his way to happiness by accepting his gifts and not running away from them, and just does it so much better. Unbreakable isn't a bad movie - far from it, but it is very disappointing.

    So that's Unbreakable, folks. Come back tomorrow for Signs.


    Seven Days of Shyamalan: Day 1 (The Sixth Sense)

    Hello and welcome to Day 1 of Seven Days of Shyamalan. In case you missed it, be sure to hit up yesterday's entry on Wide Awake which, while an M. Night Shyamalan movie, doesn't share a lot of the same traits as the movies that I'll be focusing on, and thus I decided it'd be best to talk about it as a prologue.

    Today, though, we'll be talking about 1999's The Sixth Sense.

    I should mention right off the bat that I'll be discussing key plot points during this overview, so if you're on of the four people on the planet who haven't seen this movie, come back after watching it, or read on ahead at your own peril. Here there be spoilers.

    The Sixth Sense tells the story of a young boy in Philadelphia (we've seen this before) named Cole, played by Haley Joel Osment, who's experienced quite a bit of loss recently (this, too), what with his father moving out of the house and the implied-to-be-recent death of his grandmother. He doesn't fit in at school and has strange cuts and bruises all over his arm. His mother loves him dearly, but he's too scared of what she might think if he truly opened up to her. Cole truly has no one to confide in.

    That is, until he meets Malcolm, a middle-aged children's psychologist, played by Bruce Willis, who's recently been through some trauma of his own. Months prior to the events of the film, Malcolm and his wife are shocked to find one of Malcolm's former patients, now an adult, sobbing in their bathroom. Violently unstable and claiming that Malcolm "failed" him, he shoots Malcolm several times before turning the gun the other way, killing himself instantly.

    Though physically fine, Malcolm feels like he's lost his edge after this encounter. He questions his skills as a psychologist, and with his relationship with his wife seemingly going down the tube, he latches onto Cole being his second chance. He figures that if he can help this boy (who exhibits similar behavioral patterns to his former patient), he can get his mojo back, so to speak.

    As Malcolm and Cole bond more and the latter begins to open up, we find out why he's afraid to be alone, and why he's afraid of confiding in his mother: he can see and communicate with the dead. Apparently hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of lost souls are walking around every day, not even aware that they're dead. They see only what they want to see, and can get stuck in the same patterns that lead to their (usually untimely) deaths. For whatever reason, they flock to Cole, sometimes confusing him with someone from their lives, sometimes asking him for help and sometimes lashing out at him with violence (thus the strange scratches and bruises).

    After some initial disbelief that something like this could be possible, Malcolm realizes that Cole is telling the truth (it turns out his old patient had the same ability, and by listening to his old session tapes, audible ghost-speak could be heard by turning the volume all the way up). With the idea that the only way to keep these ghosts sated is to approach them and help them, Malcolm convinces Cole to try and see what one of them wants, and to see if he can assist them with moving on.

    After solving the murder of a young girl whose mother was poisoning her every day to keep her sick, Cole seems to be on the up-and-up. He gets a leading part in the school play, and for the first time in the film, seems to act like a kid. He and Malcolm say their goodbyes. Our disheveled shrink's done his bit. It's time to get back to that wife of his to let her know that he still loves her and he's not ready to give up on them.

    Well, too late. This is probably the most famous part about The Sixth Sense: Malcolm was a ghost the whole time. His former patient actually killed him when he shot him during the opening of the film, and while we've seen him converse with Cole throughout the movie, he never directly interacts with anyone else. Coming to grips with this reality, Malcolm says some final words to his wife (who can apparently hear him provided she's asleep) and "moves on."

    Meanwhile, Cole decides to finally confide in his mother, and after relaying a message from the aforementioned dead grandmother, she comes to believe him, too. They embrace, a mother and son finally communicating.  The end.

    The Sixth Sense is more than ten years old, and in that time it's received numerous accolades, parodies and as with all successes, disparaging remarks about how it's overrated. I'll go on record by saying that The Sixth Sense is a really good (if perhaps not great) movie. There's plenty of sincere and genuine affection between Cole's mother, played by Toni Colette and her son, and even though Bruce Willis is physically incapable of playing a character as anything but understated, even he manages to get worked up and shed a tear or two. And it never feels forced. The pain these characters exhibit feels real.

    Furthermore, Shyamalan shows some spectacular aptitude for building tension. A few of the ghost-related scares fall flat, but their build-up is almost always expertly crafted. I don't really have any issues with his direction or his storytelling. It's the story itself that I have a few problems with.

    Primarily, I don't feel like the Bruce Willis "Gotcha!" is anything more than a "Gotcha!" It's a clever that Shyamalan was able to pull it off, but after the first viewing, all it gives us are a lot of pointless scenes meant to draw our attention away from the fact that Malcolm's dead. If he was alive and able to reconcile with his wife, it really only would've changed about three minutes of the film. There just wouldn't be a "Gotcha!"

    The fact is this movie is about Cole, and his journey to come to terms with his gifts. Malcolm's side-story isn't really compelling at all once you get past the twist ending. Going forward with Shyamalan's filmography, I have the feeling that he's going to focus more on the "Gotcha!" moments of supernatural twists and less on the human, emotional scenes like the one that takes place between Cole and his mother. Shyamalan put a lot of heart into this movie, and that's what I enjoyed about it. The big reveal is all flash and little substance.

    So that's Day 1 of Seven Days of Shyamalan. Come back tomorrow when I critique Unbreakable!


    Rough Draught: Episode 4

    After an all too long wait, Rough Draught, the beer appreciation show, is back with a brand new episode. This month, Karl and Jon invited our buddy Antonio (who guested on Episode 2) back onto the program to check out three new brews, including:

    Lobster Lovers Beer (Blue Label)

    St. Peter's Old-Style Porter

    And Lagunitas Little Sumpin Wild Ale.

    As always, once you're done listening, take the brand new Crosstawk Listener Survey on, follow us on Twitter (@crosstawk), send in your emails to and last, but certainly not least, rate and review us on iTunes.

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    Thanks for listening, folks! See you next week!


    Seven Days of Shyamalan: Prologue

    Hey there, folks, and welcome to Seven Days of Shyamalan, a look back on the filmography of one of the strangest downturns in the history of film. Today's entry is actually the Prologue, where we'll be looking at a film that, while it predates The Sixth Sense, doesn't really fit the usual tropes associated with the releases that would follow.

    That film is 1998's Wide Awake, written and directed by none other than M. Night Shyamalan.

    I should note that he actually directed one film before this, titled Praying With Anger, but it wasn't a major release, and it's pretty much impossible to find on DVD. It's really a shame, too, because in addition to being the movie's writer and director, M. Night also starred in the story of an American man with Indian ancestory going back to his family's homeland and discovering his spirituality. You can tell by watching this short segment that the source material likely meant a lot to Shyamalan, and I hope to track it down one day.

    Having said that, let's get to Wide Awake.

    The movie tells the tale of Joshua Beal, a fifth-grader in a Philadelphia suburb who's recently lost his grandfather. Finding himself grief-stricken, and hoping to find out what actually happens when someone dies, he embarks on a year-long "mission" to find God and ask him if his grandfather is being taken care of.

    The "mission" itself ultimately ends up ranging from speaking to the priest at his all-boys Catholic school to learning about and practicing a plethora of other religions from around the world to simply praying for any sort of sign that God actually exists. Frequently disheartened with his lack of results, there's a surprising amount of agnosticism to be found, usually in Joshua's best friend, David, who eloquently says, "Is there a God? I drink chocolate milk through my nose. What do you I know?"

    Mostly due to the light, orchestral score, you can never really escape that "90s Kid Movie" feel, which is a shame, because there are some genuinely touching and heartfelt moments to be found, especially between Joshua and his grandfather in various flashbacks scattered throughout the film. Needless to say, this is not a movie you'd ever suspect M. Night Shyamalan to be behind.

    And yet, he wrote it and directed it. It's hard to deny that this was probably his vision. I suppose there is a little bit of Joshua's precosiousness and soft nature that was brought into The Sixth Sense's Cole, but that's a tenuous link at best. I suppose the best compliment I can give this movie is that it handles a child's crisis of faith subtlely enough to not be heavy-handed. Wide Awake is a thoroughly light-hearted movie, from David's antics in driving the nuns at school insane to Joshua's doughy classmate Frank, who constantly thinks "today" is "tomorrow."

    So is Wide Awake a good movie? It's a very competent children's movie that explores some mature themes, but it hardly ever elevates itself to being genuinely great. Joshua's actor, Joseph Cross, is adorable and charming in his own way, and there are a few funny casting choices (Joshua's father is played by Dennis Leary, and two of his teachers are played by Rosie O'Donnel and Camyrn Manheim), but it's hardly a classic, and you're not missing anything by skipping over it. I can't even really recommend it to die-hards, since it doesn't have anything close to the same tone to Shyaman's later works.

    Oddly enough, Wide Awake was actually filmed in 1995, even though it wasn't released until 1998, and after watching the movie, I can understand why it was shelved. The fact that it only took in a little over a quarter of a million dollars (on a six-million dollar budget, no less) proves the fact that this movie has no audience. The crisis of faith moments are too heady for children, but still too simple for adults.

    So that's Wide Awake. Come back tomorrow for Day 1, where I'll be going to town on 1999's The Sixth Sense.


    Discover Music Project: Episode 3

    DMP returns to give you a spotlight on one of the all-time great independent rock bands: Pavement!

    Guest-starring Rough Draught's Jon Rind, our two Jonathans go to town on one of the most under-the-radar bands in the history of alternative. And for your convenience, here's the set list with runtimes:

    Silence Kit (Crooked Rain) - 3:01
    Gold Soundz (Crooked Rain) - 2:40
    Range Life (Crooked Rain) - 4:55
    Grounded (Wowee Zowee) - 4:16
    Father to a Sister of a Thought (Wowee Zowee) - 3:30
    Kennel District (Wowee Zowee) - 3:00
    Pueblo (Wowee Zowee) - 3:25
    Spit on a Stranger (Terror Twilight) - 3:04
    Stereo (Brighten The Corners) - 3:08
    Summer Babe [Winter Version] (Slanted and Enchanted) - 3:17
    Here (Slanted and Enchanted) - 3:58

    Total - 38:12

    Encore: Hopscotch Willie (Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks) - 6:56

    As always, be sure to send all of your questions and concerns to, take our brand new listener survey on and follow us on Twitter (@crosstawk).

    Come back on Friday for a new episode of Rough Draught!

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    Box Office Poison: Episode 4

    The crews' back with more movies and movie things! Once again, Evan Burchfield couldn't take time away from school, but we're still a five man team thanks to Rough Draugh's Jon Rind, who stepped in to guest star. This month there are a bunch of movies to talk about, from The Social Network to Biodome to Henry V to a Lifetime Original Movie (yep - that's right!).

    Our Movie of the Month this episode is 2007's I'm Not There. Telling stories in and around the mythology of Bob Dylan, there were a lot of different opinions, and I definitely think you'll enjoy the conversation. Next month we'll be tackling The Third man.

    As always, send all of your thoughts and concerns to, follow us on Twitter (@crosstawk) and head over to iTunes to rate/review us.

    See you next week when Rough Draught returns!

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    Check it Out: Fourmile Canyon Revival Write-Up

    This past weekend, the Fourmile Canyon Revival benefit concert was held to raise funds to help those affected by the September wildfire that burned down over 6000 square acres in Fourmile County. Our own Jonny Metts happened to be there, and wrote a dynamite recap over at With a line-up that included several members of Phish, Leftover Salmon, String Cheese Incident and more, you'd do well to head on over and give it a look-see.


    Take the Crosstawk Listener Poll, Get a New Series Before Anyone Else

    Hey there, folks!

    All of us here at Crosstawk are extremely proud of our content, but we'd like to know what you think! Taking the time to fill out this little questionnaire will only benefit you, as it'll make us much more in tune with what interests you and which areas of the website you like the most. And as it says above, anyone who participates will get exclusive access to a new Crosstawk series before the general audience. Just make sure you include your name and email address in the form so that you can send you the episode.

    Thank you for your time,

    The Crosstawk Team



    Discover Music Project: Episode 2

    This week on Discover Music Project, Jonny and Mike return to turn the tables on the coversation. The first DMP was all about Jonny's favorite band, Phish, but it's time for Mike to educate Mr. Metts all about the finer points of Florida's own Less Than Jake. With tons of different tracks to listen to, you're in for a great crash course in the band's discography. Here's the set list:


    1. Look What Happened (The Last Time)
    2. The Science of Selling Yourself Short
    3. Nervous in the Alley
    4. My Very Own Flag
    5. Never Going Back to New Jersey
    6. P.S. Shock the World
    7. Devil in my DNA
    8. The Brightest Bulb has Burned Out / Screws Fall Out
    9. City of Gainesville
    10. The State of Florida
    11. Gainesville Rock City
    12. Rehasher - "Lift!"


    If you've got any suggestions for future episodes of Discover Music Project, send 'em on over to While you're at it, make sure you're subscribed to the Crosstawk feed at iTunes, and once you are, go on ahead and rate/review us. You can also follow us on Twitter (@crosstawk) to get the latest news in what's going on with our various shows.

    Having said all of that, see you on Friday for Box Office Poison!

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    Crosstawk Presents: A Look at DJ Hero 2

    Hey folks, and welcome to the first episode of Crosstawk Presents. CP's basically going to be a catch-all for projects that don't really fit into one of our dedicated series. Think of them as a collection of one-offs.

    This recording was actually done while I was in San Francisco last month attending an Activision event for DJ Hero 2. I was actually there for, and though my detailed impressions can be found there, we didn't end up using this audio. So I figured I might as well release it for you guys!

    It's a bit on the short side, but seeing as how Crosstawk was going to be taking the week off anyway, I thought you might enjoy it. If you'd like to read the aforementioned impressions, they can be found here:

    As always, be sure to rate and review us on iTunes, follow us on Twitter (@crosstawk) and send in all of your emails to! With all of that said, see you next week when Box Office Poison returns!

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