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Josh Reviews The Irishman

Martin Scorsese’s Netflix film The Irishman is a thrilling delight, demonstrating that Mr. Scorsese continues to work at the absolute top of his game.  You may think that Mr. Scorsese had said everything that needed to be said about crime and gangsters in his earlier films such as Goodfellas and Casino, but The Irishman gripped me from the first frame to the last.  The film is three and a half hours in length, which one might think is indulgent.  Perhaps it is!  But I enjoyed every minute of those three and a half hours and would gladly have watched a few hours more.

The Irishman is based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses, by Charles Brandt, which tells the story of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, who was a hitman for the Bufalino crime family.  (Although Mr. Scorsese’s film adaptation has only been referred to as The Irishman in its promotional materials, I was intrigued to see the actual film also included the subtitle I Heard You Paint Houses at the beginning.)  The facts of Mr. Sheeran’s claims in Mr. Brandt’s book have been disputed.  The film presents Frank’s version of the story.  Is this the truth?  I don’t know.  But it’s a hell of a story!

One of the best aspects of The Irishman is the way it finally brings Robert De Niro and Al Pacino together.  The two were both in The Godfather Part II, but they never shared a scene.  Michael Mann’s Heat teased a De Niro and Pacino team-up, though the two men only actually had one scene together.  (It’s probably the best scene in the movie.)  I never saw 2008’s Righteous Kill, and from what I’ve read and heard, that’s probably for the best.  Here in The Irishman, we get a true De Niro-Pacino team-up.  The two men are together for a huge chunk of the middle of the movie, and their pairing is every bit as exciting as I’d hoped.  Both men are terrific.  Mr. De Niro’s Frank Sheeran is an eager-to-please yes-man who, at the same time, is capable to enormous casual brutality.  Mr. Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa is a charismatic fast-talker who is tough and nails and unwilling to compromise.  The film takes its time in painting the origins of the fast friendship between the two men, as well as the eventual breaking of that friendship.

The key third player in the film is Joe Pesci.  Mr. Pesci hasn’t been in a new film in years, but, wow, he was every bit as great as DeNiro and Pacino… maybe even better!  Mr. Pesci plays Russell Bufalino, the powerful head of a mafia crime family who takes a shine for De Niro’s Frank.  … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Jack Ryan Season Two

In the second season of Amazon’s Jack Ryan, Jack finds himself in the middle of turmoil in Venezuela.  After his friend Senator Moreno is murdered while part of a delegation in Venezuela, Jack tirelessly tries to weed through the complicated local politics to find the people responsible for Moreno’s death… a trail that Jack soon comes to believe will lead straight to Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Reyes.

I loved the first season of Jack Ryan.  While this second season was also enjoyable to watch, it didn’t work for me nearly as well as the first season.

Tom Clancy wrote so many Jack Ryan novels, and even the ones that were adapted for the screen had a lot of liberties taken with them.  This means that there is a wealth of as-yet unseen-on-screen material for the Jack Ryan show-runners to pull from.  So I was surprised that this season borrowed so heavily from Clear and Present Danger, most notably the van attack in episode one that starts this whole story in motion, as well as the story-line of a group of U.S. black-ops soldiers operating in the jungle behind enemy lines who are eventually betrayed by their supervisor in the U.S. government.  That van attack in particular is probably the most memorable element of the Clear and Present Danger film.  So why re-do it for the show?  It gave this season a feeling of been-there, done-that familiarity to me right off the bat.

I also didn’t love the angry this-time-it’s-personal attitude that Jack had throughout this season.  (This was visually embodied by his scruffy beard, just in case we needed this spelled out for us.)  I didn’t feel the show really earned the grief and anger that they told us Jack was carrying (we don’t really know Jack’s Senator friend who gets killed in the first episode, so his death doesn’t have the weight the writers wanted it to have), and I found it a little boring as a narrative short-cut to pathos.  This angry-and-detached Jack wasn’t as interesting to me as the smart-and-passionate Jack from season one.

As it was in season one, the show continues to be carried by the terrific work of John Krasinski and Wendell Pierce as Jack Ryan and James Greer.  I love these two and their versions of these characters.  I was glad that this second season gave them a number of great moments together and allowed their often-abrasive relationship to deepen.  Mr. Krasinski’s every-man quality continues to serve his interpretation of the character well.  Jack does all sorts of super-human stuff, but Mr. Kransinski is able to keep even the wildest twists grounded and believable (well, mostly), and his inherent likability keeps us rooting for … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Walking out of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015, I was thrilled.  It felt like a joyous return to the fun spirit of the original Star Wars films, something the dour, talky Prequels felt like they’d forgotten.  But after a little time thinking about it, the film’s flaws (it’s derivative nature, and its myriad story and plot problems) started to become apparent.  I found watching Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to be a remarkably similar experience.  The film is a fun thrill ride.  It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.  The tone is spot-on, and wow, the film is visually stunning.  The Rise of Skywalker was hugely enjoyable to watch on a big screen with a packed crowd.  But it lacks the depth and thematic weight of the best Star Wars.  In contrast to The Last Jedi (a film that, while flawed, is one that I’ll fiercely defend), this isn’t a film with much of anything to say.  And it contains many of the same third-act nonsensical plot problems that The Force Awakens has.

OK, let’s dig in!  Before we begin, though, two programming notes.  First, my Star Wars t-shirt design is available at Woot for only TWO MORE DAYS!  It’ll be up for sale through Tuesday night only.  Please support this site by clicking through and making a purchase!  It’s a great gift for any Star Wars super-fan in your life.  Second, the other way to support this site is to take advantage of my being an Amazon affiliate.  This means that if you click through to Amazon from any of the links on this site, I’ll get a tiny percentage of the price of any purchase you make on Amazon for the next 24 hours.  You can use the Amazon banner ad at the top of the home page, or any specific Amazon link within one of my blog.  You don’t have to purchase the specific item I linked to!  Just use one of my links to get to Amazon, and then purchase whatever you normally would.  If all the readers of this site would just click through to Amazon through one of my links, whenever you do your shopping, it’d be a huge help towards keeping the lights on here.

OK, back to The Rise of Skywalker!  There are spoilers ahead, so I recommend stopping here if you haven’t yet seen the film, and coming back to read this after you do.

The Rise of Skywalker exhibits the same tendency seen in The Force Awakens to give us the-same-but-bigger rather than anything new.  In The Force Awakens, we got another Death Star but now this one was … [continued]

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My Star Wars T-Shirt is Available at WOOT!

December 19th, 2019

I’m excited to share that my “The Last Word” t-shirt design is now on sale at WOOT!!

Click here to order!

It’s available for ONE WEEK ONLY, so act fast, buy lots, and have my love forevermore!!

The design pokes fun at the latest bizarre change made to the Han-shoots-Greedo scene in the original Star Wars. It used to be that Han shot Greedo, the end. In the 1997 Special Edition, they changed it so Greedo shot first and somehow missed Han at point-blank range. Later home video releases further tweaked this so they both seemed to shoot at the same time. Now in the version streaming on Disney+, there’s a new shot of Greedo saying what sounds like “Maclunkey!” before he shoots. My theory: he’s letting us know about his Scottish ancestry, hence my Star Wars-Highlander mash-up.

[continued]

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Josh Bids Farewell to Silicon Valley

I came to Silicon Valley late, first watching the show in 2017, around the time of its fourth season.  I loved it immediately, and I quickly caught up with those first four seasons.  I’m sad to see the show end, but I was pleased that this final seven-episode sixth season saw the show still in top comedic form, and I’m happy that the show-runners were allowed to end the series way they wanted.

After six top-notch seasons, I can certainly understand why the show-runners felt it was time to wrap things up.  I thought the show was still going strong in season five, but I could start to see the narrative wheel-spinning as the writers had to continually find ways to prevent the Pied Piper team from ever truly succeeding… but they also couldn’t ever be allowed to completely fail, because either outcome would mean the end of the show.  I don’t think this is a premise that could have continued for ten more seasons.  Six seasons feels right to me.

And so, with season six being the final season, the Pied Piper gang were allowed to both succeed and fail spectacularly.  The season begins with Pied Piper about as successful as we’ve ever seen them.  The company has grown to a huge size, with swanky offices, and Richard is called to testify before Congress about internet privacy.  It’s crazy to think the show has come so far that it’s plausible that Richard Hendricks could be called to testify before Congress!!  The idea of social-misfit Richard testifying before Congress is a beautifully genius idea, and the actual staging of that sequence didn’t disappoint.

In this final season, the show remained as funny as it ever was.  The escalating madness of Gilfoyle’s using a Gilfoyle A.I. (“Son of Anton”) to respond to Dinesh (which then winds up interacting with the Dinesh A.I. that Dinesh created) in the season premiere was as funny a story as the show has ever done.  And I howled with laughter during Richard’s episode-two confrontation with billionaire investor Maximo, during which birds continually keep ominously killing themselves by flying into Maximo’s huge window-wall.

I felt the show erred in making Richard a little too unlikable in seasons four and five, so I was pleased that pendulum thankfully swung back a little here in the final season.  This later-season Richard is still more conniving than I’d like to see, but I was glad they allowed Richard (Thomas Middleditch) to be endearingly funny again, whether that was tearing out the microphone from his table during the Congressional hearing in the season premiere or vomiting onto the plate-glass window of his office in episode three.

Long-suffering Jared (Zach … [continued]

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“Mind the Eggs” — Josh Reviews HBO’s Watchmen Series

December 16th, 2019
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Damon Lindelof’s magnificent nine-episode Watchmen series has exceeded even my highest expectations.  I was blown away by the series premiere, and the eight episodes that followed surpassed even that strong start.  I don’t know what exactly I expected, but Watchmen is far different and far better than I’d hoped.  It’s dazzlingly dark and dense and shocking and heartbreaking.  The series is consistently surprising and original, with each episode filled with memorable imagery and moments.  It is large in scale and contains many wonderful elements of the fantastic and super-heroic.  But this is an adult drama firmly rooted in compelling characters and their stories.  And, like the very best sci-fi/fantasy stories, the series is very much about today’s world, and it has a heck of a lot to say about who we are as a society here in the United States at the end of 2019.  I don’t know what’s next for this show (Mr. Lindelof has questioned, in interviews, whether there will be another season and, if there is, whether he’d be involved), but I will treasure these nine episodes, and I am sure I will rewatch them many more times in the years to come.

There are several key, brilliant decisions that lie at the core of the show’s greatness.  The first is the decision not to do a straight adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal 1985-86 comic book series (the way Zack Snyder’s flawed but underrated film adaptation did).  Rather, the show is set in the world of Watchmen but takes place in 2019, decades after the events of that original story.  This allows the show to be new and original and inventive, rather than just a recreation that would surely suffer in comparison to the near-perfect original source material.  The second key decision, which followed from the first, was to populate the show with mostly new, original characters.  Because it’s set decades after the events of the comic, it makes sense that most of the characters on the show are new ones we’ve never met before.  Here too, this allows the show to be original and inventive.  And it means that when characters from the comic do appear, it’s a pleasurable surprise.  The third and final key creative decision was the choice to, like the original Watchmen, be strongly ABOUT something.  But rather than retreading the comic’s focus (on a deconstruction of super hero comic book tropes and on Cold War fears of mutually assured annihilation), this 2019 Watchmen focuses on racism and the dangers of white supremacy.

There is so much to unpack and discuss.  These nine episodes are rich in plot and character and meaning.  I’m sure I’ll be thinking and … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths!

I have not previously watched even a single second of any of the CW’s many DC Universe (“Arrowverse”) shows.  But after reading for months about their Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover mini-series, I just couldn’t stay away.  The CW’s Crisis is a five-episode crossover between their DC shows Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and Batwoman, based of course on the twelve-issue mini-series from 1985-1986, written by Marc Wolfman and pencilled by George Pérez.  The first three episodes of the CW’s Crisis crossover aired this past week, with parts four and five coming in January.  I had a lot of fun watching this!

The coolest aspect of this crossover — and what made it a must-watch for me — was that this Crisis crossover was more expansive than just an assembling of characters from the CW’s shows.  I read an interview with the show’s creators in which they spoke of wanting their Crisis on Infinite Earths to be more than just Crisis on the CW shows.  I was super excited to read that actors from a variety of other film and TV versions of the DC heroes would be involved in this crossover.  Watching this mini-series, I was impressed right from the get-go with how broadly they’d embraced that concept…

… Because only a few moments into the first episode, I almost fell off my couch when I saw Robert Wuhl, reprising his role as Alexander Knox from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film!  Holy shit!  What a fun and surprising moment!

The original Crisis on Infinite Earths comic book series was all about the concept of the “multiverse” — the idea that there are an infinite number of alternate realities, different versions of Earth and the DC characters.  In Crisis, the villainous Anti-Monitor set out to destroy the DC Multiverse.  From what I’ve read, these CW series had long-since leaned into the idea of a multiverse.  (Supergirl, for instance, takes place on an alternate universe than the setting of Arrow and Flash… and previous crossover episodes had already allowed these characters to cross universes and meet.)  Watching this crossover, it was fun to finally get a taste of the many great actors portraying DC characters from all of these CW series.  But the main draw, for me, was all of the fantastic connections to OTHER versions of these DC characters, and the opportunity to see so many actors from other TV series and films, stretching back years, who came back to reprise their characters for this crossover.

Let’s start with Kevin Conroy, who was the amazing voice of Bruce Wayne/Batman from Batman: The Animated Series and many subsequent DC animated shows and films.  Here in this crossover, … [continued]

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Josh Reviews A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

December 11th, 2019
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Late in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, journalist Lloyd Vogel (played by The Americans Matthew Rhys) shows his wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) the article he’d written about Fred Rogers.  It’s not really about Mister Rogers, she comments.  Neither is this film, despite the marketing.

But that’s OK.  I still found A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood to be a wonderfully moving piece of work.  In fact, I think the story the film tells is more interesting than what I’d been expecting (basically a live-action version of last year’s spectacular Fred Rogers documentary by Morgan Neville, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?).

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was directed by Marielle Heller and written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, based (loosely) on Tom Junod’s 1998 Esquire article “Can You Say … Hero?”  (It’s a beautiful article, and after being moved by this film, I found the article and read it and was moved all over again.  Give it a read, why don’t you?  It’s worth your time.)

Tom Hanks stars in the film as Fred Rogers.  This is the kind of casting that sounds perfect on paper.  Of course, who else but Tom Hanks could portray Mister Rogers?  But I was a bit concerned, going in.  Tom Hanks is a marvelous actor, but he’s also very known to me as Tom Hanks.  Just as known to me as Mister Rogers.  Would I be able to forget both Tom Hanks and the real Mister Rogers in order to accept Tom-Hanks-as-Mister-Rogers?  I needn’t have been worried.  Once again, Tom Hanks has dazzled me with the depth and gentleness of his work.  It’s a marvelous performance.  (In a seemingly counterintuitive way, it’s helped, not hindered, by the decision not to make too much effort to actually make Mr. Hanks look like the real Mister Rogers.)

Just as good, if not better, is the wonderful, heartbreaking work done by Matthew Rhys.  After watching The Americans, I’ve become a fan-for-life of Mr. Rhys, and I’ve enjoyed watching him pop up in small roles in recent films such as The Post and Mowgli.  But he takes his work to the next level here, as he charts Lloyd’s slow journey from broken, burdened, and cynical back into life and light.  (Is it a coincidence that Tom Hanks also starred in The Post?  He and Mr. Rhys didn’t share any scenes in that film, but I wonder if they made a connection then.)

At the root of Lloyd’s problems is his bitter estrangement with his father, Jerry, played by Chris Cooper (Lone Star, American Beauty, Adaptation, The Town).  The always-reliable Mr. Cooper brings extraordinary depth and complexity to Jerry.

Susan … [continued]

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The Best Superhero Show You’re Not Watching: Josh Reviews Legion Season Three

December 9th, 2019
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There are very few people I know who watched Legion, Noah Hawley’s magnificent, mind-bending three-season series based on the somewhat obscure X-Men character David Haller, who was created by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz in the eighties.  I keep saying to people: you’re missing out on one of the best, most delightfully bizarre and original super-hero TV shows ever made!!  The show’s eight-episode third and final season brought the series to a satisfying conclusion.  I’m still not certain I understood half of what was going on, but I hugely enjoyed the journey.  (Click here for my review of Legion season one, and here for my review of season two.)

Legion is unlike any superhero TV show I’ve ever seen.  The show has very complicated storylines, but at the same time, I often felt like the show wasn’t really focused on the plot-lines.  Similarly, while Legion is packed with fascinating characters, I often felt like the show wasn’t really focused on the characters.  Noah Hawley and his team’s goals seemed to me to be more about the experience they were creating for the viewer, watching the show.  Legion is stuffed to overflowing with incredibly bizarre and memorable imagery; sequences and moments that were completely unexpected and out there.  The show doesn’t follow any sort of standard narrative path.  There are none of the expected super-hero/super-villain punch-em-ups one might expect from a show like this.  Legion is a much weirder, much more unexpected experiment in telling a story about super-heroes and super-villains that avoids all of the cliches and expected paths of the genre.  All of this sounds like it could have/should have been a mess.  But in the capable hands of Mr. Hawley and his team, I have found Legion to be a riveting experience, one that continually delighted me with its surprising twists and turns, and one I have been thinking about for quite a while after finishing watching it.

Legion’s main character is a relatively minor X-Men villain/supporting character, David Haller.  David first appeared in New Mutants #25 back in 1985.  He was revealed to be the son of Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller; he was a mutant with extraordinary psychic powers (rivaling those of his father), but who was also beset by a multiple personality disorder.  Although a sympathetic character, David was generally presented in the comics as a villain.  I was at first surprised that this minor villainous character would be chosen as the main character of an X-Men TV show, but I assumed it was just a way to tell stories in the X-Men world on TV without connecting in any way to the X-Men movies.  It seemed clear to me that … [continued]

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I was very sad to read that D.C. Fontana has passed away.  Ms. Fontana was one of the key creative voices on Star Trek the Original Series, and also in the early days of The Next Generation (she co-wrote “Encounter at Farpoint”).  She wrote 10 of the 79 Original Series episodes, and she was hugely important in shaping so much of what we know of as Star Trek, especially the character of Spock.  She also was a key player in running Star Trek: The Animated Series, and she wrote “Yesteryear,” which is generally agreed to be, by far, the best episode of that series.  You can read more about D.C. Fontana here, and also here are David Gerrold’s beautiful remembrances of her.

We have our first trailer for Bond 25: No Time to Die:

That’s a spectacular trailer.  A great trailer doesn’t mean a great film, but I really hope it can redeem Spectre.  I am excited to see the stories and characters that have been running through these Daniel Craig Bond films continuing here.  I’m very happy to see Christoph Waltz back as Blofeld.  I hope he has a major role in the film, and this isn’t just a cameo.  (I really really want Blofeld to be the dangerous threat to Bond that he failed to be in Spectre.)  I’m pleased to see Léa Seydoux back as Dr. Madeleine Swann, in what appears to be a significant role.  Her romance with Bond was unconvincing for me in Spectre, but I am glad this new film isn’t forgetting about her and that it looks like she’ll have a significant role here.  (I’d assumed she’d be dead by the time the opening song began.  I’m very pleased the film isn’t taking that predictable and lame route.)  I’d love for this film to develop the Bond-Madeleine story in a more satisfying way that Spectre did.  I’m pleased to see Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Ben Whishaw all back (as M, Monneypenny, and Q), and I was also happy to catch what I think was a glimpse of Rory Kinnear’s Bill Tanner.  I am THRILLED to see Jeffrey Wright back as Felix Leiter (for the first time since 2008’s Quantum of Solace a decade ago) and I’m also supper-excited for Captain Marvel’s Lashana Lynch as a new double-oh agent.  (Is she Bond’s replacement as 007??)  Ana de Armas was amazing in Blade Runner 2040 and in Knives Out, so I’m excited to see what she can do as a Bond woman.  This is all great stuff so far in this trailer.  I hope the film is good!!

Here’s a new trailer for Black Widow’s long-awaited solo film:

That looks … [continued]

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Late to the Party: Josh Reviews Veep Seasons 3 and 4!

Last year I finally found the time to start watching Veep, Armando Iannucci’s raunchy Washington satire, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer.  I loved the first two seasons, and I was eager to continue with the show!

Julia Louis-Dreyfus continues to be perfection as the petty, narcissistic, power-hungry Selina.  This is a spectacular performance, and Ms. Louis-Dreyfus deserves all of the accolades she has received for her work on this show!  The entire ensemble is spectacular.  I love the group of borderline incompetents Selina has gathered around herself: Tony Hale as Gary, Anna Chlumsky as Amy, Reid Scott as Dan, Matt Walsh as Mike, and Sufe Bradshaw as Sue.  Season two added Kevin Dunn as Ben and Gary Cole as Kent, and at this point I could not imagine the show without those two weirdos.  Speaking of weirdos, of course, there is Timothy Simons as Jonah Ryan, the loudmouthed doofus constantly flitting in and out of Selina & co.’s orbit.  There’s also Sarah Sutherland as Selina’s much put-upon daughter, Catherine.  What a powerhouse ensemble!!

Season three adds Sam Richardson to the group as the pleasantly dim Richard Splett.  Richard enters the show by filling in for Gary on Selina’s book tour (where he proves to be a huge annoyance for her), and he continues to stick around in a variety of roles.  Mr. Richardson is so funny as this character!!  I also really enjoyed Diedrich Bader as Bill Ericsson, a campaign manager Selina considers hiring instead of Amy or Dan.  Another great addition was Christopher Meloni as Selina’s new personal trainer, Ray.  (Selina quickly starts sleeping with Ray, to the chagrin of most of her staff, particularly Gary.)

Season three charts Selina’s campaign for the job she has always longed for: the presidency.  The show mines a lot of fun out of the rituals of a modern-day campaign, from Selina’s book-tour through Iowa to the announcement of her campaign to the media furor when Selina tries out a different haircut.  I was also pleased that Danny Chung (Randall Park) and George Maddox (Isiah Whitlock) continued to appear, as Selina’s main opponents in pursuit of the presidency.

That Jonah could hold down a job in the White House seemed somewhat absurd to me, so I enjoyed that season three began with him out of work, trying to get back into a position of importance by starting a political gossip blog (“Ryantology”).  It’s a fantastic commentary on the media landscape that Jonah’s profane, the-truth-is-irrelevant style would allow him to succeed in this type of role!!

Other great moments in season three: Watching Amy and Dan fiercely compete over who gets to be Selina’s campaign manager; seeing Gary thrown into … [continued]

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When wealthy author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plumer) is found dead in his home, many of his family members and others in his orbit all seem to have a possible motive.  Enter: detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), who has been hired to get to the bottom of the whole bloody affair.

Knives Out, written and directed by Rian Johnson, is a ferociously entertaining film, an agreeably funny and twisty whodunnit.

Mr. Johnson’s film is a clever modern version of an Inspector Poirot or Agatha Christie mystery, with a brilliant detective investigating a large cast of characters, each of whom might be a suspect in the crime.  The film is very much of the current day, with conversations about immigration and references to Netflix.  At the same time, it’s a murder mystery in the classic mold, one that can hold its own proudly with the classic stories of this genre.  The film is very funny, but it’s not a spoof.  There is real death, and significant stakes for the characters involved.  And yet, Mr. Johnson effectively maintains a fun, jaunty tone for the film’s entire run-time.  It’s an impressive accomplishment.

The cast is magnificent.  I don’t know what’s going on with Daniel Craig’s accent, but his surprising and unexpected choices continually delighted me throughout the film.  His detective Blanc seems in many ways to be just as loony as the characters he’s investigating; but he proves again and again his skill and attention to detail.  I love how Mr. Craig was able to make this detective character just as interesting as all of the other suspects.  Ana de Armas was dazzling in Blade Runner 2049, and she proves that was no fluke here with her empathetic work here as Harlan’s young nurse, Marta, who suddenly finds herself in an escalatingly crazy situation.

Jamie Lee Curtis is devastatingly sharp and acerbic as Harlan’s oldest daughter, Linda.  It’s a delight to see the great Ms. Curtis back on screen playing such a strong and memorable character.  I don’t think I’ve seen anything Don Johnson has done in almost 20 years, and yet here I am loving his work in HBO’s new Watchmen series, and he was terrific in this film as Linda’s husband Richard.  Chris Evans plays an anti-Steve Rogers character in Ransom, Linda and Richard’s spoiled son.  It’s fascinating to see Mr. Evans use his thousand-watt smile for such a smarmy, selfish character, rather than a noble one.  Michael Shannon’s usual intensity brings interesting colors to the role of Harlan’s youngest — and somewhat desperate — son Walt.  Toni Collette is hilarious as Joni, the ditsy widow of Harlan’s dead son Neil, who runs a fake-sounding lifestyle business that rather resembles … [continued]