[#2020oscardeathrace] Knives Out (2019)

Director: Rian Johnson

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

Screenplay: Rian Johnson

131 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including brief violence, some strong language, sexual references, and drug material.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Original Screenplay [PENDING]

 

When it was announced that writer/director Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) would be making a murder mystery before returning to helm a trilogy of Star Wars films (I’m still convinced this will happen, but maybe it’s just my wanting), I was shocked but rather interested. After all, the subgenre of Agatha Christie-inspired murder mysteries had kind of dried in recent years outside of adaptations of her work like Murder on the Orient Express. Rian Johnson, who had dealt in the mystery genre several years earlier with Brick, seemed like the perfect choice to restart this once beloved subgenre, and I was all for it.

Famous crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer, Beginners, The Last Full Measure) is dead. The death has been ruled a suicide, but someone unknown has hired the last great sleuth, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, Casino Royale, Logan Lucky) to investigate. It would seem that Harlan had no true friends within his family, and each of them has a motive strong enough to be a suspect, but just who did it? As lies are created and truths are uncovered, the family is turns on one another, and it’s up to Blanc to find the donut hole, the missing piece of the story.

Where to begin with this film? First off, we have to address Johnson’s tone for the film. It’s fun, sarcastic, stylish, and engaging. He sets most of the action in one location, Harlan’s mansion, a gorgeously-designed set that I just wanted to spend more time in. There are homages all throughout the mansion designed to invoke that classic mystery theme. Plus, it’s just a damn creepy house. Beyond that, the house and the characters residing in it feel real within the universe Johnson has constructed. The house feels lived-in. The characters feel like they have long lists of experiences to pull from. Everything fits, like puzzle pieces expertly placed to give a  clearer image and a staggering conclusion.

Daniel Craig leads the cast as Blanc with a truly molasses-mouth scene-chewing take on his character that is set to become iconic in years to come. His mannerisms, speech patterns, and physicality make Benoit Blanc a treat to be with, and that’s much like the mansion. I wanted to spend time with these characters. Not in the way that they are friendly, but in the way that they are fun to watch.

Each of the members of Thrombey’s extended family is like a slightly-damaged, partially-fractured chess piece arranged on a board, and Johnson is playing against himself. I was primarily taken with Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, The Informer) as Marta, Harlan’s nurse, who feels alienated within the family even though they all claim that she’s a part of it. Then there is Harlan’s daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis, True Lies, Halloween) and her husband Richard (Vault, TV’s Miami Vice), who play very well on their own but have a dynamite chemistry when put together.

In fact, the cast is pitch-perfect, and there’s no real time to talk about all of them, but I have to give a shout to Chris Evans (The Avengers, The Read Sea Diving Resort) as Ransom, Harlan’s grandson, the loud-mouthed privileged youth who obviously has no friends within the family. Evans plays against-type when compared to his decade as Captain America with Ransom, and it’s a welcome return to the smarmy roles he was once more well-known for.

If there’s a flaw in the film, and I do believe there is one for me, it’s that certain reveals in the film happen far earlier than I would have liked, and I think the mystery would have been stronger if we were kept wondering for longer. That, and I personally was able to see where it was going a little earlier than I would’ve liked. Perhaps I was just good at guessing, as I’ve spoken to others who did not see the end coming. My suggestion would be not to try and unravel the mystery, but instead, enjoy the journey, because it’s a damn good one.

Knives Out is an elegantly-constructed Whodunnit with incredible performances, great production design, and a director at the helm who really understands story and tone. This was enjoyable as hell and I cannot wait to see it again. Rian Johnson’s Knives Out comes highly recommended.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, click here.

Knives Out Slices Into Theaters November 2019

Deadline is reporting that Knives Out, the new original film from director Rian Johnson (The Last Jedi), is slated for release on November 27, 2019. Lionsgate has popped the film right into Thanksgiving season in a nice, awards-friendly place.

The film was also written by Johnson and the cast is incredible, featuring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, and Don Johnson among others.

Craig’s joining the principal cast was made possible by the Bond 25 switcheroo when Danny Boyle left the project and Cary Fukunaga stepped in.

For me, this news is incredible. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Johnson’s Looper, I admire the original story and the captivating structure. I also love The Last Jedi, and you can hate on it all you want, but he made a damn good Star Wars film. That’s what excites me here. Johnson gets to play in the sandbox with some very talented performers. I know very little about Knives Out but I really don’t feel like I need to.

So what do you think? Are you interested in a new mystery movie from Rian Johnson? What’s your favorite Rian Johnson film? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[Early Review] All the Money in the World (2017)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris

Screenplay: David Scarpa

132 mins. Rated R for language, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content.

 

I remember seeing the first trailer for All the Money in the World. It was laid out to surprise audiences with the shocking reveal that, under all the makeup, Kevin Spacey was poised for a tremendous turn as the deeply-flawed billionaire J. Paul Getty. I could already see the cogs turning in an attempt to snag a Best Supporting Actor trophy at the Academy Awards. Now, just a few short months later, the irony is not lost on me. But is the recast of Christopher Plummer (Beginners, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom) worth it? And secondly, were the re-shoots seamless enough?

All the Money in the World sees John Paul Getty III kidnapped in Italy. His mother, Gail (Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine, The Greatest Showman), doesn’t have the ransom to free him. Her ex-husband’s father, J. Paul Getty, however, has more money than anyone ever has. Sadly, his greed keeps him from allowing any of it to be wasted in retrieving his kidnapped grandson. Instead, he asks Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg, The Departed, Daddy’s Home 2) to assist in saving the young man from his captors.

So by now we all know the story of the actor swap in All the Money in the World. This writer doesn’t have enough to go on with the Spacey performance, but what I can say is that Christopher Plummer is electric onscreen. Every scene with him oozes his greedy and selfish persona. The moments he shares with Williams are the best in the film. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between.

The rest of the film feels like something that’s been done before. Something that was better before. I anticipated story beats long before they happened, and I didn’t even know much about this true life tale before seeing the film. Director Ridley Scott (The Martian, Alien: Covenant) creates a lovely aesthetic for the film, but overall there is just no tension until near the very end.

All the Money in the World isn’t a bad film, and I agree that in order for the film to be successful, the re-shoots were both necessary and ended up being the best parts of the film. Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer are at the top of their game here. They alone are worth the price of admission, but sadly the rest of the film fails to match them, and it becomes all the more forgettable in the process.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen All the Money in the World? What did you think? Was the recast the right choice? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

For my review of Ridley Scott’s The Martian, click here.

 

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Replacing Spacey to Cost Millions

So, I’ve been fairly quiet on the whole explosion of sexual harassment allegations coming out of Hollywood over the past couple weeks. And I’m not here to talk about it today. This is a an area for movie news, and, at least for the time being, I’m not going to comment on it, other to say that, as a film fan, this is devastating and heartbreaking but the victims deserve to be heard.

Kevin Spacey is out of All the Money in the World, which is just insane. He is being replaced by actor Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty. What’s most shocking is that Kevin Spacey’s epic physical transformation and performance have been the highlight of all the marketing and a large portion of the Oscar push for the film. Christopher Plummer is an interesting choice, and he too is a fantastic actor, but are they going to apply make-up to him, or will they just let him perform? It’s clear that, even in the scenes of the film without Spacey, his look will still be all over the film, as in the bust of the infamous industrialist. This whole thing seems incredibly costly, and it indeed will be, according to an article from Variety.

Variety reports that the reshoots will add $10 million and will take 8-10 days to complete, and producers still expect to release the film on December 22.

This is perhaps the most insane fallout of these allegations that I’ve seen yet, and I think that Ridley Scott and the studio are making the most-fiscally responsible choice as keeping Spacey in the film will likely lose the studio more than the price tag of simply replacing him, and I myself was already planning on seeing All the Money in the World, but now I’m more interested to see how the finished film plays out.

So what do you think? Will you be seeing All the Money in the World in December? What are your thoughts on the inclusion of Christopher Plummer? Let me know/drop a comment below (but please, let’s keep this thing civil)!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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