Knives Out (2019) Review

Knives Out (2019)

Directed & Written by Rian Johnson

Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer, Frank Oz

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Described as a modern take on the whodunit, the film follows a family gathering gone awry, after the family patriarch’s death leads a master detective to investigate.

My Opinion:

I’m waaaaay behind on reviewing the 2019 releases that I’ve seen so I’ll try to catch up on reviewing them over the next few days. So here’s a quickie for Knives Out, which was a thoroughly enjoyable film. I don’t have a lot to say about it, though. It’s a really fun take on an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery but it’s exactly what I expected. I remember taking a special trip into London to see Rian Johnson’s Brick when it came out so knew he was capable of an intriguing story in this genre.

I loved the “star power” in this. What a cast! Being an old fucker myself, I appreciated the fact that so many older actors were used. Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette & Frank Oz were all great. For the younger crowd, they got to lust over Chris Evans in sweaters. He was good as well, although his role was smaller than I expected. Daniel Craig was good as the detective too but he had a weird accent that got a little annoying. The two best performances, however, were from Christopher Plummer & from Ana de Armas as the breakout star of the film. Damn – I thought she was just a pretty face after Blade Runner 2049 but she’s fantastic in this film.

The strong characters are what really make this movie, and that’s the main thing I care about, but the story was damn good as well. Who doesn’t like a murder mystery? I personally don’t like intense murder mystery dramas, though. I’m not a gritty “true crime” thriller fan (in fact, it’s probably my least favorite genre – I started watching Zodiac recently and have yet to bother finishing it). Knives Out isn’t like that. It has a lighthearted approach & a sense of humor & brilliant characters. In fact, as I write this I’m starting to like it even more. I don’t think it quite lives up to the massive amount of hype (it’s currently in the IMDb Top 250, which is ridiculous) but I really appreciated seeing an original story for a change as I’m so sick of sequels, remakes. reboots & superheroes. Hey Hollywood – Can we please have more movies like this one?

My Rating: 7.5/10

A Beautiful Mind (2001) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from John of 501 Must See Movies Project . He also reviewed Amadeus HERE and Platoon HERE. Thanks for the reviews, John! ūüôā Now let’s hear his thoughts on A Beautiful Mind, IMDB rank 198 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been.”

A Beautiful Mind explores the life of John Nash (Crowe), Nobel Prize winning mathematician.  Beginning with his graduate studies at Princeton, Nash discovers a new concept of governing dynamics, the Nash Equilibrium.  Following Princeton, Nash works at a research lab at MIT doing work for the Pentagon and teaching on the side.  He meets Alicia (Connelly), one of his students, and the two fall in love.  He is also approached by William Parcher (Harris) to do classified work in decoding a Soviet attack on America.

However, not everything is as it appears.

Based on the book of the same name by Sylvia¬†Nasar,¬†A Beautiful Mind¬†is a film that balances a number of movie genres. ¬†It’s got drama,mystery, romance, a little bit of comedy. ¬†The various elements of the film make it insightful, suspenseful, and entertaining on a number of levels.

From a visual perspective, a lot goes on in¬†A Beautiful Mind. ¬†Some of the film’s early scenes, specifically at Princeton, have an older look to them. ¬†I like when a director can add little elements like that. ¬†It helps in contrasting the different time periods throughout the film. ¬†They also do good with showing Nash’s perspective as he sees the various connections and patterns in the math.

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Though some of the character’s¬†mannerisms¬†were annoying to me, Russell Crowe does a great job of bringing John Nash to life. ¬†I’m probably nitpicking more¬†than anything else. ¬†He does well with portraying the paranoid genius who was given “two helping of brain but only a half a helping of heart.” ¬†The real life John Nash visited the set, and Crowe notices some of his tendencies, hand movements, and things of the sort, and incorporated them into his performance.

A Beautiful Mind¬†was filmed almost entirely chronologically, and I think that helped Crowe’s performance as he became Nash and progressed naturally through the various stages of life portrayed in the film.

Jennifer Connelly, wow, what a performance is all I can say. ¬†Even though she doesn’t command every scene she’s in, she gives a strong performance and more than holds her own. ¬†From the beginning of their love story through the pain and anguish later on, her portrayal of Alicia Nash is believable and genuine. ¬†As I’ve looked at some of the other people considered for her role and Crowe’s, I know Ron Howard made the right call with those two.

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Paul¬†Bettany¬†is an interesting character to say the least. ¬†Having¬†portrayed Geoffrey Chaucer in¬†A Knight’s Tale,¬†an entertaining role,¬†Bettany¬†demonstrated his ability to be a sort of classical funnyman in¬†A Beautiful Mind. ¬†Though a lot of his performance has the comedic undertone, he has nuggets of truth and deep insight throughout the film. ¬†Ed Harris also gives a decent performance. ¬†He excels in the serious no-nonsense roles like¬†Parcher. ¬†I don’t know if I would call him a typecast character, but his most memorable performances are ones like this one.

This is a film I’d recommend seeing twice before forming an opinion about it. ¬†I saw this one twice in the theaters: the first time I hated it, the second time I loved it. ¬†Knowing the major plot twist gives perspective and a different understanding to the first half of the film. ¬†¬†Akiva¬†Goldsman, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer created the world through Nash’s perspective, so the audience experiences the major twist at the same time Nash does. ¬†I remember being very confused the first time I saw it, hence not liking it.

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“I need to believe, that something extraordinary is possible.”

It’s been probably about a decade since I’ve watched¬†A Beautiful Mind.¬† Having a chance to re-visit it for me was enjoyable and a reminder of how great¬†A Beautiful Mind¬†is. ¬†Russell Crowe brings John Nash’s story to life, has great on-screen chemistry with Ed Harris, Paul¬†Bettany, and most importantly Jennifer Connelly. ¬†Ron Howard has created a great film, one certainly deserving of the Best Picture Oscar. ¬†See this one twice if you haven’t seen it yet.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Twelve Monkeys (1995) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Eric of The IPC. He’s already done a bonkers review of Se7en (which you can read HERE) and now he’s back to give us another review in typical Eric-style. ūüėČ Thanks so much for joining in on this IMDB thing, Eric! Now let’s see what he has to say about Twelve Monkeys, IMDB rank 180 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list HERE. See the full list & links to all the films that have been reviewed HERE.

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Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)

In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet.

12 MONKEYS – 1995

We’ve all seen 12 MONKEYS, right? RIGHT??? RIGHT???!!!??? Well, since we’ve all seen it at least 30 times, I recently constructed a highly safe, comfortable, humane movie theater and screened it for twelve monkeys who hadn’t seen it. Using my high tech and professional recording devices, let’s see what they had to say.

Subject 1: Babboo Jones

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That was pretty good, Meester. That was made by Terry Gilliam?? The Monty Python guy?? Not bad, I need to see some more of his shit. Can I get my fucking bananas now???

Subject 2: Peepers “Stinky Butt” Brown

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They “live underground like worms?????” YIKES!! Also – LOL!!! “You are the most bootiful woman I have ever seen” HAHAHAHAHA!!! Even I can spell better than that I’m a shit eating monkey!!!!

Subject 3: Johnny “Stinkfinger” Harris

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Remember when Brad Pitt was cool?? Remember when he’d do character stuff like this?? Now he’s all ‘I’m fuckin’ Brad Pitt!! Look at my woman’s hair!!!” and shit. What a dope. OOOPS, sorry, just farted.

Subject 4: Daniel Isaacs (no relation)

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Time Travel, eh? Interesting. I like how it’s new for them and it’s not always correct. Hey – was that Arthur Dent?? The original one. From the TV show.

Subject 5: Raul Buena Vista De La Munoz

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What the fuck is that smell coming from the break room??? It smells like broccoli and SHIT. Excuse me for a minute.

Subject 6: Caitlynn “Like A Whisper” Simpson-Bonilla

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I like how we had to look at Bruce Willis’ butt. Not once but TWICE! MEEEEEEOOOOOW PUSSYCAT!!!

Subject 7: (name redacted)

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DID HE JUST EAT A FUCKING SPIDER??!?!!!??????!!!!

Subject 8: Lisa “The Angel” Scheueczk

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I really liked how it ended with the ki – DID I JUST HEAR A GUNSHOT?????!?!

(audible screams from outside screening room)

I have blood on my hands…. I HAVE BLOOD ON MY HANDS!!!!!!

Subject 9: Phillip “The Distance” Fudge (that’s really his last name)

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“The boy is hiding in a barn” CLASSIC!!

Subject 10: Jeffrey “Bleeding Gums” Johnson

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This is a total Sci-Fi classic – all the way! Great acting and story telling! I’m VERY hungry. VERY.

Subject 11: Jimmy “The Schnozz” Durante

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Where’s the fucking food??? HA CHA CHA CHA CHA CHA.

NOTE: At this point the subjects were becoming unruly due to lack of feeding. The Alpha soon took charge.

Subject 12: BRIAN @ HARD TICKET TO HOME VIDEO

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EAT SHIT ISAACS!!! HERE COMES A KNUCKLE BALL!!!! (flings a handful of fresh poop)

And with that, the session ended and I was left with quite a mess to clean up.

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**Terry Gilliam has called 12 Monkeys “part of a dystopian satire trilogy or Orwellian triptych” begun with Brazil and ending with The Zero Theorem. Without meaning to, I guess Eric & I have recently reviewed this “trilogy”. You can read his review of Brazil HERE and my review of The Zero Theorem HERE.

Beginners (2010) Review

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Beginners (2010)

Directed by Mike Mills

Starring:
Ewan McGregor
Christopher Plummer
Mélanie Laurent
Goran ViŇ°njińá
Mary Page Keller

Plot:

This film follows Oliver (Ewan McGregor) as he struggles to maintain a long-term relationship after growing up with two parents whose marriage was loving but distant. Oliver is 38 – his mother Georgia (Mary Page Keller) died five years ago and after her death his father Hal (Christopher Plummer) came out as an openly gay man. He admitted to Oliver that he’d always been gay through his whole marriage to Oliver’s mother. Soon after Hal comes out, he’s diagnosed with cancer. This film takes place in Oliver’s present day life (2003), soon after the death of his father and just as he starts a new relationship with French actress Anna (M√©lanie Laurent). Through flashbacks we’re shown the previous five years of Hal & Oliver’s relationship and we see how Oliver dealt with his father’s now openly gay lifestyle and young new boyfriend (played by Goran ViŇ°njińá) & his father’s declining health.

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My Opinion:

This is a lovely film. Christopher Plummer won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this role & I’m happy to say that it was well deserved. It was great to see Hal enjoying the freedom to finally be himself. Even after being diagnosed with cancer he doesn’t let it stop him using the chance to now fully embrace life & accept being (and be accepted for) the person he’s always been. Goran ViŇ°njińá is fine as Hal’s boyfriend but the real focus of the movie is the relationship between Hal & his son Oliver. They grow much closer in the last five years of Hal’s life as Hal can now be fully honest with his son. Their relationship is equally heartwarming & heartbreaking as we know from the start of the movie that Hal has already passed away.

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In present day, Oliver is talked into going to a party with his friends. It takes a bit of convincing & it’s obvious that Oliver is very sad & “lost” after his father’s passing. At the party he meets free spirit Anna, a French actress who also has trouble maintaining steady relationships as her job keeps her from staying in any one place for very long. They start a relationship which is great at first but turns more sad & distant as things become more serious. Through some further flashbacks we’re shown Oliver as a young boy (12ish?) and his mother Georgia. We can see that she’s another kooky free spirit, as is Anna, but she’s also very clearly sad & lonely after being in a marriage with someone who can never truly love her in the way a husband should. I’d have liked to have seen a bit more of the flashbacks with Oliver’s mother – I thought these flashbacks were very good & helped in a way to even better explain why Oliver now has such trouble with his relationships. The only time we see his parents together are in these flashbacks and we’re only ever shown his father giving his mother a brief kiss on his way to work, much in the sort of way you’d kiss a friend. There aren’t many of these flashbacks with Georgia but they’re simple & very effective.

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Although, yes, this movie is very sad it does have some humor in it. It’s a very “quirky” drama. Some of this quirkiness was good but some of it didn’t quite work for me – it felt too “forced”. One of Oliver’s best friends is his dad’s dog, adopted by Oliver after his dad’s death. He’s a cute Jack Russell and he talks. Don’t worry – not in a Bruce Willis, Look Who’s Talking voice! And his mouth doesn’t move or anything – he’s just subtitled. It’s not that often and not too terribly annoying but I did find it a little distracting. Oliver also has a couple of friends (the ones who drag him to the party) who are charming but perhaps also a little too quirky. They all go on little graffiti sprees and spray paint random deep & meaningful sayings that are a little too abstract and not actually all that deep & meaningful. And of course Anna is quirky and Oliver & Hal’s boyfriend are both a little bit quirky. I know I’m using the word quirky a lot but my point is that the movie tries a little too hard to be quirky. It’s not over the top, though – it didn’t bother me too much. I just preferred the more straight forward stuff in this.

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All this quirkiness felt sort of necessary, though, as it could have been a far too depressing movie without it. Oliver & Anna’s relationship starts out great – I loved them together and really bought into their relationship. But as it gets more serious and Anna gets more & more sad & withdrawn it gets a little too depressing. Anna’s reasons for remaining so distant from people aren’t explored as in-depth as Oliver’s so it’s harder to relate to her at the end. She’s an absolutely beautiful French actress and, aside from a little bit about a suicidal father who’s too dependent on her emotionally, it’s hard to see why she’d be so unhappy. Gorgeous. Having sex with Ewan McGregor. Totally can’t relate to that! ūüėČ Seriously, I think she’s stunning. Look at those eyes:

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Summary:

Beginners is a lovely drama about relationships and how love, which should be simple, can be so complex. The quirkiness is a little bit forced but not in a way that ruins what’s a charming film. The female characters of Anna & Georgia are a little underdeveloped but I guess that’s to be expected as this is more about the father & son. The relationship between Ewan McGregor’s Oliver & M√©lanie Laurent’s Anna is sweet & I enjoyed watching it develop but the focus of the movie and what really makes it worthwhile is the relationship between Oliver & his father, Christopher Plummer’s Hal. It’s an equalling heartwarming & heartbreaking film. There’s a shot of Hal smiling at Oliver after a nurse has put some mousse in Hal’s hair & this really summed up the feeling of the movie and how bittersweet life can be.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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