Unsheathing the Comedy And Drama, Knives Out’s Tale Is Sharp!

Knives Out Poster

Mystery movies can certainly be fun, but the refined art of mapping out a crime can be a challenge in this world with ever shrinking attention spans.  However, there are still writers and directors out there ready to give it a try in hopes of bringing thought out plots back into the popular trend.  Tonight’s review holds such a promise and even more so it holds another redeeming trial for a director whose involvement in Star Wars was not the best received.  With lots of advertising, I’m sure you have seen the trailers so let’s get going as I review:

 

Film: Knives Out (2019)

 

Director:

Rian Johnson

Writer:

Rian Johnson

Stars:

Daniel CraigChris EvansAna de Armas

 

 

LIKES:

  • Acting
  • The Cinematography
  • The Plot Is A Good Mystery
  • Better Twists Than Anticipated
  • Involvement With Most Of The Cast
  • The Comedy

 

DISLIKES:

  • Some rather worthless characters
  • The Run Time
  • The Pace
  • Perhaps A Little More Murder

 

The VERDICT:

With an assembled cast such as this, you can best bet the acting will be at least moderate, and for me it was a fantastic display of work.  All parties assembled really play the dysfunctional role well, portraying the motive filled shouts and complaints to an art that did not annoy or go overboard.  Too many names to place, I’ll say that Craig was entertaining in his role of Colonel Saunders (a running joke) meeting James Bond as the detective, primarily in his interactions with Marta.  Ana de Armas was the star for me not only because of her character, but more so in the way she played the levels of emotion perfectly and interacted with the squad the most to balance this art.  Past the acting, the movie really picks up in terms of the visual presentation, feeling much like a detective movie from the 50s-80s, but modernizing it to the present day.  It should captivate many mystery lovers, but more so generic fans who can point out a lot of devices and nods to famous detective sagas.  However, the movie’s main selling point is the presentation of the story that let’s face it has been told time and time again in a Hallmark like fashion.  Johnson, for me, accomplished the role of bringing out a good mystery, not only in the classic hunt for clues and mapping out suspects, but adding some nice twists to the mix.  If you are paying attention to time and some info, you’ll start getting an idea, but this film’s twists (no matter how convoluted) do manage to spruce up the dusty manor of detective works.  An even better angle for me, is the character utilization, while not perfect, every character has a purpose in some form or angle, with few sitting off to the sides as just mere bodies to fill a convenient hole or bridge.  If not for the sake of the plot, then the character was used for comedy and that may be my favorite part of this movie.  Knives Out manages to be very humorous in the regards of the comedy aspect, with well written dialogue, delivery of those lines, and timing wrapping up nicely to leave many laughing during my showing.  That I feel will be a pull for many audience members, though don’t expect usual slapstick, banter, and ridiculous, logic defying stunts to be pulled here, or you’ll be disappointed.

 

For such an artistic film though, there are still a few things I would have liked tightened up.  Though all characters were utilized in some form, I can’t lie at least three could have had more involvement than what they did.  Hinting at being a part of the plot, these characters were left to the passing comments or joke props until that one moment a clue contributed.  That family engagement they sold in the trailers, needed some more development for me to keep everyone entangled in the mess as opposed to on the side.  In addition, the plot could have used a little more murder and threats to help spice up the drama/mystery, as I am partial to the deadly games of hunting in my movies, than anything else.  For a movie selling that murder, I had kind of expected something else, but it’s a mere trinket.  I can say the thing I had the hardest time with was the run time and the pace.  Knowing it’s a Johnson movie, I expect it to be long, and for the most part the movie ran at a good enough pace that it did not feel super long, but other times did show the dragging I dreaded.  I can say that there were parts that could have been cut out to shorten the length, or at least rewritten to include the character interaction I mentioned above.

 

So in conclusion, what are the thoughts on this controversial movie/tale.  To be honest, I do think it is a reimagining of Clue, and took a step into the modern world to help reach out to the new audiences.  It’s got the presentation of a mystery, with twists to help bring our well-acted characters together and entertain us with their drama. Comedy is also pulled out of the sheath and I think these two elements are the biggest selling factors to brave the nearly 2.5 hour run time Johnson has put forth.  As such, I feel this movie is worth a shot at hitting the theaters for those looking for a drama/mystery/comedy, while others will most likely enjoy from the comfort of their homes.

 

My scores for Knives Out are:

 

Comedy/Crime/Drama:   9.0

Movie Overall:  8.0

A Royale Mystery/Thriller With Big Characters

Bad Times at the El Royale Poster

 

Dark movies offer the potential for a fantastic story, filled with twists, turns, and elements that you didn’t see coming.  My second review of the week is one such movie, with a trailer that teases one into taking a dive down another distorted rabbit hole to find a land of wonder and shock that will have you talking for days. With a cavalcade of stars and the hints of secrets, this drama looks to be the next big discussion to come.  Does it deliver?  Hi, Robbie K here with another review, this time on:

 

Movie: Bad Times At The El Royale (2018)

 

Director:

Drew Goddard

Writer:

Drew Goddard

Stars:

Jeff BridgesCynthia ErivoDakota Johnson

 

 

LIKES:

 

Acting:  Central Pillar on this one, Bad Times At The El Royale relies heavily on the cast to bring the characters to life. Diving into the gritty roles is tough, but they nail their execution of complicate characters with plenty to hide.  Their chemistry is solid, their conveying of emotions on point, and in regards to becoming one with the characters, I think they succeeded in this endeavor.  One will find their involvement in these characters super.

 

The Details:  A movie that is character centric like this one requires a lot of detail to get you invested in their lives.  Mission Accomplished, because the El Royale is super focused on the background information and doing its best to describe the situations leading up to their pilgrimage to the infamous hotel.  You want those dram infused plots and over the top issues, look no further my friends, because it has it all densely packed into bite sized pieces to easily digest.

 

The Tension:  Not suspenseful, but somehow still tense, El Royale is like those exciting moments in a soap opera where a lot of things happen in a short amount of time.  As a result, the tension gradually increases until the final act where it finally snaps and things really start to amp up, a great use of this technique, which when combined with the next like helps keep you into the film.

 

The Mystery:  The trailers promised dirty, little secrets and that mystery of what is hiding in the closets of everyone also keeps you into the film.  Each person has that slight little layer and it is the act of piecing this together that adds a little fun to this rather dense film.

 

The Twists/Turns:  An even more impressive move, making some movies to really surprise me.  While I didn’t necessarily jump, this movie came close to startling me a few times with the twists that it decided to take.  In addition to adding a little spice to the movie, these twists helped push the story to new dynamics, further strengthening the character dynamics and keeping you on your toes.  So get ready for a little bit of gasping at the decisions they make.

 

The Music:  Yeah, I’m a sucker for a good soundtrack and El Royale’s juke box and guests contain some fun lyrics that represent the times and mood. Funk, Jazz, Soul, and a little Rock and Roll are there to tease your ears with a delightful melody that is cleverly infused into the mix.  Not the high point I know, but what a great soundtrack nonetheless.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Imbalance of Characters: It’s seven detailed characters and you want them all on screen.  El Royale has done this quite well with most, but there are at least two of the cast that were rather lackluster in their full involvement compared to others.  The director and story team seemed to have one group to base most of the story around, and while interesting, was a little disappointing to not get more into the characters than what we got. I guess that’s where book formulations come in huh?

 

The Underwhelming Secret: While the individual secrets are engaging and interesting, the big secret of the hotel wasn’t quite as impressive. Perhaps it is the presentation, or maybe it is just how it gets semi lost in the characters themselves, but the big secret is only marginal in terms of surprise.  I think a little more scene development or at least get some dialogue that stands out a little more in this already heavy dialogue movie.

 

More Suspense than Tension: Again, the tension was welcomed, but a little substitution of suspense to speed up the pace would have been my preference. A little more chasing and close calls in the pursuit of truth could have added some of the spice I think the movie needed to bring the full, mind blowing revelations to life.

 

The Pace:  By far the movie’s big limitation for me is the length meeting the pace.  You have to be ready to invest in characters, and almost like reading a book, be ready to focus more on the details and theatrics instead of the special effects and action that Hollywood loves.  While I appreciate this, the movie dragged a little too much for me and sometimes got too in depth to keep me awake.  In addition, there are times it crawled for me and the ending of shoving in those last bits of detail wasn’t the best the ordering for me to be super impressed. As such, I would have liked to have more excitement or thirty minutes cut from the overall time to find that happy medium.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            The secret to this movie is, that the El Royale has a fantastic set of players to move around it’s weird, classic halls.  With a character centric plot filled with tension, mystery and twists, the El Royale is a very close book in movie form I’ve seen. Yet, for those looking for a little more excitement and pizazz this movie is going to be tough to watch late at night because it slow and missing a little bit of flare I think it needed. So if you can handle 2.5 hours of heavy dialogue and drama, you’ve got the movie of the weekend for you, but if you need a little more Hollywood magic… you need to sit this one out. 

 

 

My scores are:

 

Mystery/Thriller:  7.5

Movie Overall: 6.5-7.0

Freed At Last, Freed At Last

Freed.jpg

 

The international best seller that changed the world is a topic of much debate.  Tasteless porn vs. incredible love story, this series has two extreme groups fighting for superiority on what is the truth to the Grey series.  However, since many people don’t read these days, Hollywood has brought a visual representation to us to help stem the tide and get more people discussing the content of E.L James work.  And so, yours truly, alongside some very kind friends, heads into the trenches to give you another review on what is what in the movies.  Let’s get going!

 

LIKES:

 

The Romance:  The romance, as the fans will call it, has finally improved to the levels many wanted it to be from the start.  Fifty Shades Freed finally has our actor’s chemistry mixing well to portray a more realistic love story than what I’ve seen.  Rather than bland, uninterested looks, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan finally have some heat into their acting actually seeming to love each other than just tolerate.  The drama that fans want is packed into their on-screen time, a nice balance of overdramatic anger, passion, and desire in their little game of domination cat and mouse.  While still unbelievable at times, the magic finally raised to a new level for the final installment.

 

The JokesSuch a dark delicacy as this requires some more adult humor, and Fifty Shades Freed’s writing is able to bring this humor to full blast.  Clever alliterations, metaphors, and puns are well integrated into the goopy, lovey dovy, romantic bologna this movie is famous for.  These comedic devices are well-timed and well-delivered to maximize the punch that comes with it and had my friends and I chuckling.  Had there been a few more of these moments, the movie’s writing might have gotten even more points for creativeness and magic.

 

Semi-Tasteful: Despite the sultry atmosphere contained in these films, the censorship is still decent enough to add some class to the movie.  Rather than diving into the pornographic details that some of the fan-base loves, the movie keeps the camera work on the upper areas, straying away from the lower anatomy.  Even the love making scenes have been tempered a bit to not dive into XXX levels, but it barely skims by this.  Still, the small bit of class gets my nod of respect.

 

The Ending:  My friends and I agreed that the nice little nod to the series as the end was a good way to cap of the series.  Simplistic and predictable yes, but for those super fans, it is the emotional finesse you may have come to expect in the series.  And for the beginning credit, and only clip, it’s the ending that had many in my showing ahhing in delight.

 

The Music:  My final nod is at the director of music, who once again picks a slamming song track to represent the emotion of the scene.  A combination of genres, the selections are worthy of another soundtrack worth purchasing, assuming you are into those kinds of things.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Sex:  Let’s get this out of the way.  No surprise, I’m not the biggest fan of watching two actors make strong, awkward, and often strange sex fantasies come to life.  And Fifty Shades Freed was more than happy to throw a lot of these vivid images at me.  While a bit classy, these scenes didn’t fit into the story as much for me, nor did I really appreciate how fast and rapid they were crammed in.  The positive side is that these montages are at most 3.5 minutes long, but I’ll never look at ice cream the same way again…. Ewwwww.

 

Secondary Characters:  I don’t remember the books quite well, but I’m fairly certain the secondary cast goes farther than their cinematic doppelgangers.  Yes, I know the story is mainly about the star-cross lusters, I mean lovers, but this supporting group of families and friends should be you know… more supportive.  So why were much of the supporting band reduced to mere minutes of screen time with little to add to this tale?  A few clips of beautiful people, a tempting dramatic flair that goes nowhere, a shallow proposal that is cute but lacking, and some shotty presentation of key story elements are all they contribute.  After such integration in the first film, I had hoped for these components to strengthen as well, but they failed on this aspect for me outside of the fact that so many of them were pretty to look at.

 

Boring Tension:  Let’s face it, the story is not the best part of these series, but I had hoped that the antagonist would have had more bite to his coiffed hair.  Fifty Shares Freed did little to amplify the deadliness of Hyde, outside of making him look and sound even more insane.  The promise of a man with more brains and strategy was lost to low grade soap opera antics that just served as an example of poor planning.  I’ve seen better villains in a cheesy soap opera, and this anticlimactic climax was so disappointing to see fail.  While many may not be looking for super excitement, this reviewer would have liked to see more bite than bark.  Oh well, at least more room for love, right?

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Overall, Fifty Shade Freed has improved in regards to the romance that this series has tried to sell.  The heated passion between the main characters took some major steps towards progress in this series, alongside the jokes, the soundtrack, and the nicely packaged ending.  However, the story itself is laughable, with all these plot points and known character diluted into less concentrated beings that are only there for a quick head nod out of the series.  Fifty Shades Freed is a glorified soap opera on the big screen, and therefore not worth the price of admission in my opinion, no matter how passionate, emotional, and hot it may seem.  Save this one for the privacy of your own home and your imagination. 

 

My scores are:

Drama/Romance/Thriller:  5.0

Movie Overall:  4.0

Mum’s the Word: 60s story with 2000s Style

Mummy

 

Monster movies, an epic genre that at one time scared the pants off many before you know… things got out of hand with modern cinema. Legendary creatures like the Wolfman, Dracula, and Frankenstein filled the theater with actors decorated in epic make-up with often beautiful costars to face their “terror.” The stories they told remain timeless, but sadly the graphics are a little outdated for most modern movie-goers… until now.  This evening my buddy and I hit the theaters for a retelling of a classic tale in hopes of sparking a new trend to get us hooked on and make money.  As you can read, my review is on the Mummy tonight starring Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, and Sofia Boutella. Will it be a success, or are we cursed to another mediocre film?  Let’s find out.

 

LIKES:

 

True Monster Movie:  Where most creature films have been turned into gore-tastic bouts of killing, the Mummy returns to the roots of monster movie story telling.  A creature starts to rise to power and it is up to the group to uncover the mystery of how to stop it.  The Mummy focuses on the story telling dynamic, bringing character development, background information, and a dynamic tale that revives the classic genre. Even better is how the movie focuses on the story of this film, instead of building up for an inevitable sequel, something that is rare given the franchise aspect of Hollywood.  The result is a stronger story that is a little more captivating.

 

Comedic relief: Much like the 2000 series, this rendition brings some comedic magic to the desolate desert scenery.  The writing in particular is funny, with well-timed quips that range from simplistic insults and banter to clever puns that are more precious than the treasure under the sand.  Cruise and Wallis work well together with a chemistry that feels like rivals/love interests, and each delivers their humor in their own style that works. However, I laughed the hardest at Jake Johnson whose energetic and erratic style is reminiscent of a giant man child trying to face the curse.  The dynamic style keeps the laughs coming, but doesn’t get overused as we often see.

 

Impressive graphics/action:  While the Mummy certainly takes the story of the 1960’s monster franchise, its graphic presentation is clearly that of the more modern series. Nostalgia runs thick at the various curses our female monster throws including swarming birds, flesh contorting strikes, and yes, face in perilous sand.  The old tricks have never looked better and the technological feats are beautifully integrated into a smooth performance that is somewhat exciting. And speaking of the excitement, the action of the Mummy provides a faster pace than the classics, moving at breakneck speed and loaded with spectacular pyrotechnics.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Out of Place Components: The Mummy does well on the story aspect, but there are parts that felt out of place.  Certain qualities of the film curtail to setting up for the next movie of the franchise (yes, Universal is planning to revive the classics).  These moments are a change of pace (good), but divert a little too much from the path into the cheesy, overdramatic styles that we sometimes see.  I’ll agree that they are impressive displays of technology, but this just proves that not everything has to be covered in movies (hence sequels).

 

Action:  I said the action kept the pace fast and the movie engaging, but the action still has some improvement for me to get the seal of approval from me.  It’s a lot of running, praise to Cruise’s fitness level. Unlike the predecessors in 2000, this Mummy as fewer bouts of gunplay or combat, much of the time the cast dropping their guns to run some more.  They tried to throw some brawls in the mix, but that didn’t work to well for me. I missed the dynamic sequences and thrills they brought, but hey it’s the first film of a long line and there is sure to be more stunts in the future…maybe.

 

Rushed tactics: The heading is tough, but there are some rushed components to this film that needed some fine tuning.  In many proceeding films, it takes time for the bandaged monstrosity to rise to power, requiring gradual offing of characters in suspenseful sequences.  This version was a little short sighted, reduced to a monotonous ploy that lacked little more than repetitive spasms of poor extras.  Many may like the spin on this movie, but this (among other ploys) felt a little underdeveloped and soon became stale to watch.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

The Mummy is certainly not the movie I was expecting, and on many levels this is good.  While not the wild thrill ride from the 2000s, this spin brings the modern technology to the classic story, giving it a unique feel that was refreshing to see.  With comedic relief, decent acting, and impressive visuals, it has a number of qualities beckoning for a trip to theater. Yet, there are some editing limitations that need tightening up to make it flow better and the action component needed some sprucing up to further expand on the thrills.  All in all, a solid start to upcoming monster franchise, but there is work to be done in the future.

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy:  8.0

Movie Overall: 6.5

Darker, Sexier,Deeper Story. Still Requires Some Work

darker

Robbie K here, and I’m back to bring you yet another movie review on the latest movie theater “hits.”  No doubt that many are ready for the mass advertised Fifty Shades Darker, the sequel to the literary work that “graced” the world so long ago.  Despite how badly the first installment did, Hollywood is taking another shot at the series.  Is this thing up to the test?  Or is it just a plain, dirty dream filling, mess.  As always, I’m going to do my best to put bias aside (unlike some reviews) and give you some insight into this flick.  Let’s go

 

LIKES

  • Still Tasteful…mostly
  • Story a little better
  • Surprisingly funny at time
  • Soundtrack Still Kicking

 

Summary:  While I’m not the biggest fan of the Fifty Shades series, this reviewer has to recognize the pressure placed on the directors for this series.  For me, I think they did a nice job keeping the movie tasteful while indulging in some of the…sexier qualities of the film.  Although supposedly darker, the movie keeps most of the steamy scenes in decent detail without crossing into porn threshold, except the last scene…nothing tasteful about that.

But when the actors aren’t trying to sell the sex, the story that tries to give it purpose starts to emerge.  While certainly not the strongest story, Fifty Shades Darker is a little more dynamic, bringing some mystery, some drama, and some love to the table.  Those who wanted a little more details to the cast will get their wish, somewhat, and wetting your appetite for the next film.  Amidst all the dramatic moments though are some well-timed comedic moments, often pointing out the ridiculous concepts housed in this series. Yet the best thing, for me at least, was the soundtrack. Once more the music editors have selected/crafted tracks that fit well into the scenes, including a number of songs that will capture the heat of the scene. Was it as good as the first installment?  I don’t think so, but it still does its job.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Story is still lacking
  • No butts about it
  • Extra Characters Lacking
  • Character Development Simplistic
  • Acting still needs improvement

 

Summary: Okay, I’m not ignorant enough to not recognize that a lot of people are going for the “passionate” moments.  But a reviewer looks at the other qualities, including the story.  Despite being better and having more components to it, Darker’s story is still lacking.  Many of the plots promised in the trailer are simplistic at best, often dropping them for another sex scene or sequence of the couple arguing.  The mysterious girl, the blonde dominatrix, and many other tales involving other characters are diluted attempts to add suspense, adding a little suspense and foreshadowing for the next installment before the potential is dropped.  In fact, the only thing really developed to me was the origins of the strange obsession with domination and sadism.  As mentioned earlier, the character development is stronger in this film, but it too didn’t live up to the potential it could have.

 

While their sex life was reaching a climax, their backstories barely moved from baseline, other than a few flashes of sad origins and some insight explaining their approach to love.  For many this won’t be an issue, because it gives some more time for spicy antics, overdramatic quarrels, and plenty of butt and breast shots for audiences to absorb.  Yes, you get plenty of the eye candy in this film, which helps cover up the work in progress acting.  If I’m not mistaken, both leading roles are awkward, reserved, and have some traumatic history.  However, this does not provide an excuse for sloppy line delivering, creepy staring, and using grunts and sighs as space fillers.  I wasn’t the most thrilled with either leads’ performance in the movie, outside of being able to do it on the screen (they seem to have that down pat).

 

The VERDICT:

 

Overall Fifty Shades Darker delivers what was promised, steamy scenes interlaced with the romantic drama that is enjoyed by so many.  I think it still held some taste, mixing the sex with a story that provides the entertainment most will be looking for.  Can it match to the picture your imagination patient when reading?  No, because Hollywood doesn’t have an unlimited budget and has rules to abide. But it does its best to provide what many craved.  Yet not even sex can make up for the limitations in acting, detailed story, and character development that goes beneath the skin.  I’m sure my review will not stop fans from trekking to the theater, but this reviewer can’t recommend this one for the theater, unless you just want to see the sex on a massive screen.  Yet, it also doesn’t deserve the worst score, because it delivers what I think it promises, though not all the way.  Oh, and make sure to stay for the credits for a teaser that really is a tease.

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Romance:  6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0