Movies

Knives Out Will Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat

Spoiler-Free Movie Review:

Knives Out (2019)

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

I don’t watch mystery movies too often, but I really enjoyed this one. I watched it once with my uncle and once with my roommate.

Background

Knives Out was directed by Rian Johnson. Many people are not happy with what he did to Star Wars, but I can honestly say that he was in his element when he directed this movie.

The movie stars Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Christopher Plummer.

Knives Out is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Summary

Detective Benoit Blanc investigates an apparent suicide, believing it to be a murder. Investigation into family matters reveals most family members had sufficient motives for murder, but this wacky mystery is much more complex than it seems.

Pros

  • Creative title
  • Phenomenal acting and cast
  • Complex and entertaining characters
  • Interesting setting
  • Subtle aspects of the film rewarding those paying attention
  • Plausible yet unexpected ending

Cons

  • Marta’s vomiting is overused

Review

Title

The title was well-chosen, part of one of the most impactful quotes in the whole movie by Benoit Blanc – “You’re a pack a vultures, knives out and beaks bloody.” In context it is blunt, but cuts to the heart of the problem with the whole Thrombey family.

The title could also be a reference to the stunning display of Harlan Thrombey’s knives, which was certainly the most iconic object in the movie.

Acting

The acting was phenomenal, especially by Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc and Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera. Some people found Craig’s southern drawl annoying, but it didn’t bother me.

Characters

Again, Benoit Blanc and Marta Cabrera were the best characters, though I appreciated Harlan Thrombey as well.

Benoit is an eccentric detective, not just another cookie-cutter Sherlock. He has elaborate metaphors involving donuts, and even seems incompetent at times. Yet he is super sharp too.

I feel a noose tightening. The family is truly desperate. Desperate motives, with the mystery of who hired me, the impossibility of the crime, and yet a donut. One central piece, and if it reveals itself, the fog would lift, the arc would resolve, the Slinky become unkinked.

Benoit Blanc

Marta Cabrera is a kind-hearted nurse who cared for the deceased Harlan Thrombey during his old age. She has complicated relationships with all the members of the Thrombey family. She is basically the protagonist of the movie.

Setting

The house most of the action is set in, becomes, as a character pointed out, just like a Clue board. It has all these quirky aspects that made it stand out. These details are what made the family home the family home. And as a former English major and a (hopefully!) future librarian, I appreciated the sheer number of books in the house. At the same time, I don’t think I could handle the clutter. That being said, this house just had so much character.

Details

There are some details that added to this masterpiece of a story. When each family member told the story, the flashbacks had slight differences even in places where they intersected, which is especially notable in the scene with the birthday cake.

Different members of the family say that Marta’s family is from different countries. Cuba, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil…none of them cared enough to know for sure her story.

According to Fandom, the accuracy of the clocks was carefully considered when setting the scenes. Each one was carefully at the time it should have been for the scene.

The timing of Benoit hitting a piano key during the investigation was the way one of the investigators was prompted to ask a certain question. I thought that was pretty creative.

Ending

The ending was well-executed and I would say most people would not see it coming. Obviously I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that I certainly was not disappointed.

Conclusion

I would recommend this movie even for people who don’t usually watch mysteries. It’s not your typical whodunit. The rating of PG-13 is entirely reasonable.

Also, I heard a sequel is coming out, so it’s the perfect time to watch Knives Out!

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate movies, check out my rating system.

Links

Shows

Sherlock Season 4 Does Not Measure Up

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Sherlock Season 4

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Intro

Having enjoyed the first three seasons of Sherlock, I expected the last season to impress, but I ended up being disappointed. It was actually still somewhat enjoyable, but nowhere as phenomenal as the earlier seasons.

Warning! Even though there are no spoilers for Season 4 in this article, there are minor spoilers from previous seasons.

Background

Sherlock Season 4 aired in 2017 and was produced by BBC and Hartswood films. It is based off of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books, but instead of being placed in Victorian England, the show is set in modern-day London.

The show stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs, Mark Gatiss, Louise Brealey, Andrew Scott, and Amanda Abbington.

In addition to being nominated for various awards, Sherlock won in three categories in the Primetime Emmy Awards.

Pros

  • Phenomenal acting
  • Immersive setting highly relevant to a modern-day audience
  • Benefit of the familiar character of Sherlock with a new spin
  • Strong character development
  • A fascinating villain at the end of the season
  • Intelligent, occasionally comical, script
  • Catchy theme song and music

Cons

  • A lackluster first villain of the season
  • Sherlock’s ability to predict the future stretches believability
  • Unnecessarily confusing, especially in the last episode
  • Yet more predictable in the first episode

Observations

  • You could probably stop watching at Season 3 if you wanted a better ending for the series

Review

Acting

The acting, especially by Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, was incredible. They each played their parts well.

All of the fantastic and obnoxious qualities of Sherlock were brought out and emphasized. The way that the actors for Sherlock, Watson and Mary interact shows great chemistry and skill.

Setting

Sherlock Holmes - Wikiwand
Sherlock and Watson’s flat

The setting in Season 4 is the same as Seasons 1-3, unsurprisingly: modern-day London. The presence of modern conveniences such as security cameras and phones remains a way for this new Sherlock to test his intellect. John Watson records their adventures through a blog, another modern touch. This transition from the Victorian London of the books to modern-day London is seamless.

Characters

Sherlock is a highly intelligent man who lacks empathy. He is nevertheless shown on several occasions to have at least some degree of care depending on who the person is. He is always blunt, but occasionally shows remorse for his words when they have caused damage.

Watson is of higher-than-average intelligence, but he cannot compete with Sherlock. Watson, however, has a deep sense of empathy and values human life while wanting to negate human suffering. He has a high tolerance for Sherlock, but even he loses his temper sometimes at Sherlock’s careless comments ill-timed deductions, and drug habit.

This season introduces more tension between Watson and Sherlock when Sherlock makes a critical error.

The first villain is creepy at least, but he lacks the style and creativeness of villains such as Moriarty. The second villain is fascinating and more intelligent than Sherlock and Mycroft. She once cut open her skin because she wanted to see how her muscles worked. Unfortunately, I cannot provide a picture of either of them without spoiling the series.

Script

The script of Season 4 is actually pretty good. There are several quotable moments. For example, an unexpected reflection on suicide by Sherlock.

“Taking your own life. Interesting expression– taking it from who? Once it’s over, it’s not you who’ll miss it. Your own death is something that happens to everybody else. Your life is not your own. Keep your hands off it.”

There is also a decent amount of humor in the fourth season.

Watson: “I need a second opinion.”

Sherlock: “Oh, please, John. Since when have you ever managed TWO opinions. You’d fall over.”

There is even some genuine sincerity on the part of Sherlock:

Mycroft: “Dr. Watson? Could you please leave?”

Sherlock: “John stays.”

Mycroft: “This is about family.”

Sherlock: “THAT’S why he stays!”

Music

The theme music is catchy as always, and the music throughout the episodes is fitting and develops the mood.

Believability

Sherlock’s skills were always unbelievably amazing, but now he adds telling the future to his repertoire of skills. He predicts the exact location and time of events without a strong explanation as to how he managed to do so. Making Sherlock near-omniscient was not a good choice.

Predictability

The level of predictability for the first episode is higher than the rest of the episodes. Sherlock’s mistake is unsurprising, as well as the results.

Confusion

All the confusion in the series stems from one villain. Somehow the creators made her whole storyline extremely convoluted. I found myself wondering, what the heck just happened? The villain was impressive, but the events surrounding her created too much confusion.

Conclusion

Even though I found this season somewhat enjoyable, I think that you may be better off stopping at Season 3. That’s what my siblings ended up doing and I don’t blame them.

I recommend this season for audiences ages 13+.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

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Related Articles

Shows

Show Review: Sherlock Season 3 (Spoiler-Free)

Sherlock' and Its Woman - The Atlantic

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Intro

Season 1 and 2 were phenomenal, so watching Season 3 was a no-brainer.

As this is a spoiler-free review, I will limit how much I reveal of the plot.

This review contains no spoilers for Season 3, but it does contain spoilers for Season 1 and 2.

Background

Sherlock Season 3 aired in 2014 and was produced by BBC and Hartswood films. It is based off of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books, but instead of being placed in Victorian England, the show is set in modern-day London.

The show stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs, Mark Gatiss, Louise Brealey, Andrew Scott, and Amanda Abbington.

In addition to being nominated for various awards, Sherlock won in three categories in the Primetime Emmy Awards.

Summary

Last season, the villain Moriarty and Sherlock went head to head, which ended with Sherlock’s apparent suicide to save his friends. The final episode of Season 2 offered a glimpse of Sherlock alive–and fans had to wait until Season 3 for an explanation.

Season 3 basically establishes a plausible way Sherlock could have survived and inserts him back into Watson’s life. That doesn’t go as Sherlock planned, and he discovers there is someone new in Watson’s life–the witty Mary Morstan.

Pros

  • Phenomenal acting
  • Immersive setting highly relevant to a modern-day audience
  • Strong character development
  • Benefit of a familiar character with a new spin
  • Benefit of a new and intriguing characters
  • Realistic emotional reactions to Sherlock showing up again
  • Dynamic of Sherlock, Watson, and Mary
  • Villain who is easy to hate
  • Intelligent, occasionally comical, script
  • Engaging plot
  • Catchy theme song and music
  • Development of the concept of a mind palace
  • Satisfying answer to how Sherlock survived

Cons

  • Nothing that I could think of.

Review

Acting

The acting, especially by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, was incredible. They both played their parts well.

All of the fantastic and obnoxious qualities of Sherlock were brought out and emphasized. 

This season brings the talents of Amanda Abbington to the screen as Mary Morstan. The way that the actors for Sherlock, Watson and Mary interact shows great chemistry and skill.

Character Development

This season, we see Sherlock become increasingly more human as he spends more time with Watson and Mary. He shows actual affection for Watson in particular, but also Mary as he gets to know her. So much for “high-functioning sociopath.”

He is still his usual thoughtless self, however, which is shown in the way he springs the news of his survival to Watson like a joke. Like, haha, you grieved me and then moved on for two years, but I was alive the whole time! Hilarious, right?

I could have slapped him. That is a mark of a good story though–caring enough about the characters to be disappointed in them when they do wrong. Watson’s reaction was entirely realistic and understandable.

Watson develops as a person through his relationship with Mary. Unlike with his previous relationships, this one does not pull him away from Sherlock. Mary instead takes an active part in their lives and adds to their duo.

New Characters

Mary Watson (BBC series) | Heroes and Villains Wiki | Fandom

Mary Morstan is an incredible character with a lot of depth to her. She is the one person who can see through Sherlock’s lies.

Rather than being a hindrance to the team of Sherlock and Watson, she is an asset with a skill set of her own. Sherlock and Watson both appreciate her skills.

Charles Augustus Magnussen | Villains Wiki | Fandom

Magnussen is a new villain in Season 3. Even though Moriarty has his own issues with licking things, Magnussen is worse because he licked a person. Nonetheless, he is very intelligent. He is called “the Napoleon of blackmail.”

Script

The script is frequently witty and well-written. One of my favorite quotes in this season is said by Sherlock after Watson says he has moved on with his life:

What life? I’ve been away.”

Sherlock

This emphasizes Sherlock’s thoughtlessness while adding to the humor of the episode.

When it is suggested that Sherlock does not understand human nature, he replies:

Nature? No….

Human? No.”

Sherlock

Another quote I enjoy is by Mrs. Hudson. She is complaining about the small role that she has in Watson’s stories.

I’m your landlady, not a plot device.”

Mrs. Hudson

Sherlock Season 3 is chock-full of quotable material, demonstrating how witty and worthwhile the show is.

Music

The theme song of Sherlock is catchy enough to get stuck in my head. The show also uses music at critical moments to increase humor. One instance of that is when Watson tackles Sherlock, the musical sequence playing in the background is energetic and funny.

Conclusion

If you liked Season 1 and 2, Season 3 will not disappoint. If anything, the addition of Mary makes the story even more interesting and humorous.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links

Movies

Movie Review: Murder Mystery (Spoiler-Free)

Murder Mystery (film).png

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Intro

My roommate convinced me to watch this one by showing me this trailer. As far as movie trailers go, it’s a pretty good one – providing a glimpse of the character of the movie without giving away any major plot points. Check it out!

Anyway, I am so glad she convinced me. It was totally worth it. Read on to find out why.

Background

Murder Mystery was released on Netflix in June 2019 and fits neatly into three genres: action, comedy, and crime.

The movie stars Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Luke Evans, and Terence Stamp, among others.

According to Variety.com, 30.9 million households watched at least 70% of the movie within 3 days–a new record for a Netflix film.

Murder Mystery also won a People’s Choice Award for “Favorite Comedic Movie.”

Summary

Will Netflix Make Murder Mystery 2? The Case For A Sequel - CINEMABLEND
Nick and Audrey Spitz

Nick Spitz, a police officer in New York, has been married to a hairdresser named Audrey for 15 years. However, they have not yet gone on their honeymoon. They had plans to go to Europe, but the plans kept getting put off.

Nick Spitz has failed his detective exam multiple times, but he lies to his wife by telling her he is a detective and has had a recent raise. To keep up this façade, he acts like an actual detective.

When they are on the plane on the way to Europe, the couple meets Charles Cavendish, a billionaire who invites them to join his family on a yacht. After some hesitation, Nick and Audrey agree.

Everything is going well until Malcolm Quince, the uncle of Cavendish, is murdered before he could sign his will, which stated that his fiancé Suzi would receive his entire fortune.

The primary suspects? The Americans–Nick and Audrey Spitz. In order to avoid some serious jailtime, the couple must solve the mystery and prove their innocence.

Pros

  • Humorous script
  • Drama
  • Hilariously complicated mystery with many layers
  • Surprises throughout
  • Unexpected ending
  • Chemistry of the couple
  • Amusing character types

Cons

  • Many sex jokes
  • Uncreative title

Review

Humorous Script

Why Grace Ballard from Murder Mystery looks so familiar
Grace Ballard

This movie is filled with lines that are creative or just plain funny. The banter between the couple is especially convincing. My favorite quote is this:

All women are actresses, dear. I’m just clever enough to get paid for it.”

Grace Ballard to Nick Spitz

Drama

Murder Mystery: 11 unbelievable reasons why Jennifer Aniston and Adam  Sandler's Netflix comedy is the worst film of the year
Colonel Ulenga

There is so much drama in this movie that it is completely ridiculous. Luckily, that’s the point.

Colonel Ulenga, for instance, tampers with the body by removing the knife, only to be told he shouldn’t have touched it. As a result, he promptly puts it back, oblivious to the cries of horror by everyone else present.

(This is no spoiler – it was included in the trailer.)

Mystery

The mystery is hilariously overcomplicated. Every time you feel like it’s solved, the movie throws more surprises in your face. It’s the sort of crime no one could predict the solution to. You just have to prepare yourself to be surprised and hang on for the ride.

Characters

The Cast & Characters In Netflix Murder Mystery Movie
Suzi Nakamura

When the couple joins the family on the yacht, they do not realize the sheer amount of ill will directed at Malcom Quince. This no doubt worsens when Quince asserts:

You are all leeches.”

Malcom Quince

Each character has a complicated history with Malcolm Quince. Furthermore, the characters have intense personalities and veiled motives that make this mystery fun to follow.

Nick and Audrey have great chemistry–they truly act like a couple who have been married for fifteen years. Watching them interact is entertaining, comedic, and refreshing.

Sex Jokes

I don’t mind the occasional joke or two of this kind if it is consistent with the character who says it, but I did feel that these were a little excessive.

Uncreative Title

Far more important to me is the lack of a compelling title. I told my dad that he should watch Murder Mystery. It took him longer than expected to find the trailer because “murder mystery” is too common a term.

It isn’t clever. It’s pretty much stating what the movie is about, like those bland essay titles I used to do before I knew it was better to have an impactful title.

Conclusion

I rated this movie a 7 out of 10 because I enjoyed it and would be willing to watch it again in a few years. I recommend it for an audience of teens and adults, which is consistent with its official rating.

Rating System

If you’re interested in how I rate movies, check out my rating system.