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

Movies

A Romance Masquerading as Horror

Spoiler-Free Movie Review:

Rebecca (2020)

Rating: 4 out of 10 stars

Intro

I had high expectations for this movie. The trailer was intriguing and even looked spooky. Unfortunately, the movie did not satisfy. I haven’t read the book it is based on, so I cannot compare the two, but I have heard that the book is much better.

Background

This version of Rebecca was released in 2020 and is based on a novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier. It fits into the genre of romantic thriller. The movie stars Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristen Scott Thomas, Ann Dowd, Keeley Hawes, and Sam Riley.

Summary

An unnamed newlywed woman is brought to Manderley, her husband Maxim de Winter’s English estate. There she desires to live happily, but cannot help contending with the memory of Rebecca, Maxim’s first wife. She feels threatened by Mrs. Danver’s, a servant in the house who was intensely loyal to Rebecca. As she spends more time at Manderley, the details of Rebecca’s life start to fall into place and mysteries begin to unravel.

Pros

  • Narrative voice at the beginning compelling
  • Acting by Kristen Scott Thomas was excellent
  • Several memorable quotes
  • Not very predictable
  • General setting attractive, especially Manderley

Cons

  • Most of the acting fell flat
  • Suspense was lacking
  • The protagonist was unnamed, which felt unnecessary
  • Maxim de Winter’s signature mustard yellow suit looks terrible
  • The trailer suggested undertones of horror that were never realized in the film
  • The movie dragged and then wound up too quickly

Review

Narrative Voice

The story begins with narration by the unnamed protagonist:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. I dreamt that where our drive once lay, a dark and tortured jungle grew. Nature had come into her own and yet the house still stood. Manderley. Secretive and silent as it had always been. Risen from the dead. Like all dreamers, I was allowed to pass through my memory. Spanning the years like a bridge. Back to that summer in Monte Carlo when I knew nothing and had no prospects.”

This imaginative language drew me into the story. I only wish that the story had merited such a beginning.

Acting

The acting by Kristen Scott Thomas (Mrs. Danvers) was excellent. Watching her subtle expression when she welcomed the protagonist into the house gave an immediate indicator of how well her character was going to be portrayed. Her loyalty to Rebecca seemed intense and sincere, as did her hatred of the new Mrs. de Winters.

Armie Hammer (Maxim de Winter) came off differently. It was like he was trying to play the wrong role. His intimacy was too intimate, and his subsequent coldness was too cold. It was as if he were trying to act out two separate roles, and that made the romance hard to enjoy.

Lily James (Mrs. de Winter) made for a timid protagonist that it was easy to feel sorry for but hard to really root for.

Suspense

There’s not much to say about suspense. There wasn’t any. For there to be suspense, you have to care what’s going to happen to the characters, and I really didn’t.

Sure, it wasn’t very predictable, but that cannot in itself create suspense. There has to be emotional investment in the movie for suspense to exist.

Quotes

There were a couple good quotes from Maxim, and one notable one from Mrs. Danvers.

I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.”

Maxim de Winter

Not the most romantic line, but pretty unique. I doubt I would appreciate being called a little fool, but whatever. If that’s her thing.

All marriages have their secrets.”

Maxim de Winter

Again, not the most romantic thing one could say. I mean, it’s probably true. Most married people likely keep secrets from each other, but most people are not blunt enough to come out and say it. Trust and communication are not Maxim’s strong points, even though that’s what relationships need to be stable and healthy.

I wonder what’s she’s thinking about you.”

Mrs. Danvers

This line, delivered with finesse by Mrs. Danvers to the new Mrs. de Winter, is chilling. The “she” in the quote is the late Mrs. Rebecca de Winter. It’s one of those lines that make it seem like the movie is pretending to be a horror film. The trailer itself gives off horror vibes, and you get the feeling from the trailer that this is some ghost story, but it really is not. Nonetheless, this quote fits with the creepiness of Mrs. Danvers extremely well.

Setting

The setting is beautiful, whether it’s Manderley itself, the beach, the restaurants–all of it. The detail taken with the house made and the way the protagonist interacted with the things in the house made it all too clear how out of place the protagonist felt.

Details

The fact that the protagonist was never named bothered me. I know the movie was keeping with the tradition in the novel and earlier adaptation of not naming her, but this doesn’t really constitute an excuse. Why was she never named in the movie? It’s frustrating trying to refer to her and having nothing to call her before she is married and nothing to call her afterwards other than Mrs. de Winters after she is married. Names are so strongly tied into who people are. They, in a sense, make their names mean something by their actions. The fact that she doesn’t have a name makes her seem like a non-person, a non-character or like an extra with too many lines.

There isn’t any reason given during the movie for her not having a name, and her husband never uses it, which is so weird. Even when I am talking to my friends, I address them by name. How much more would this be true if I were in an intimate romantic relationship with someone?

Screenrant has an interesting article about why she was not named and regards it as a creative choice, but I still think it was an unfortunate decision.

Maxim de Winter’s suit near the beginning couldn’t help but call to mind images of the Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George. I don’t like the mustard color. He also wears this outfit repeatedly during their courtship period. He’s a rich dude, so he should be able afford some changes of clothes and at least something more aesthetically pleasing. I checked to see if I was the only one with this opinion, but looking at the reviews on IMDb, it seems I am not alone.

Conclusion

I wouldn’t recommend this movie for anyone, honestly. I would say it’s rating of PG-13 is reasonable due to sexual content, but there is nothing scary about Rebecca.

Rating System

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

Links

Movies

If You Haven’t Watched This Classic Fantasy Movie, You Should

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) - IMDb

Spoiler-Free Movie Review:

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Rating: 9.7 out of 10 stars

Intro

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is an old favorite of mine. I had the privilege of watching it recently with one of my sisters who had never seen it before.

Getting to watch the movie was a bit of an adventure. My dad, who I sometimes call “Tech Support,” tried to get our Xbox One to play the DVD, but the Xbox gave up on life and showed the black screen of death instead. We then tried to find it on Netflix and to see if it was included for free on Amazon Prime, to no avail. Finally, we hooked up the PS3, which we never use, and used it to play the DVD.

Background

One ring | Mythology wiki | Fandom

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was released in 2001. It stars Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), John Rhys-Davies (Gimli), Sean Bean (Boromir), Billy Boyd (Pippin Took) and Dominic Monaghen (Merry Brandybuck).

It was directed by Peter Jackson. The film falls into the genres of Fantasy and Adventure.

Summary

Sauron - Wikipedia

The entire plot of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is based around a ring. Nine rings were once forged and given to various rulers of the dominant kingdoms. Then an evil being named Sauron made a single ring that was more powerful than any of the others.

After a pivotal battle, the ring was lost and claimed by a human, and then was lost again. It was found by Gollum and then stolen by Bilbo, a hobbit, who would pass it on to Frodo.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring follows Frodo’s journey and that of others who seek to undermine Sauron’s power by destroying the ring.

Pros

  • Begins with low storytelling voice that encourages close listening
  • Gorgeous landscapes
  • Ornate architecture fitting the culture of each town
  • Phenomenal musical scores
  • Strong message of hope, courage, and purpose
  • Attractive and fitting costume design
  • Fascinating, insightful dialogue
  • Innovative CGI
  • Realistic orcs with prosthetics and make-up
  • Tolkien’s spoken elfin language is convincingly like a natural language
  • The written language on the ring is foreign and unique
  • Does not veer much from the book
  • Frodo, Boromir, and Aragorn have strong character development
  • Camera angles and movement increases immersion into the story

Cons

  • One scene with Galadriel is over-dramatic and looks fake
  • A lot of characters, but not much character development for most of them

Review

Beginning

The beginning of the movie starts with a low female voice telling the story of how the rings were created and the one ring came into existence. The voice is soft enough that I was tempted to listen closely, on the edge of my seat. It was a storyteller’s voice–one that promised a powerful, gripping, simple yet complex tale.

Setting

Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring | Film Locations

The landscapes of New Zealand where the movie was filmed were beautiful. Every landscape they traversed was stunning, like something out of a travel brochure. All the scenes of travel that made the movie longer were worth it because of the charming, idyllic land.

LOTR, Landscape and Settings, All Works on RowlingTolkienLewis ... | Lord  of the rings, Middle earth, Background images

The makers of the film paid great attention to detail, especially for architecture. This made settings like Rivendell not only attractive but also unique to the culture they represent.

Places of Fancy: Where Is Rivendell in 'The Lord of the Rings'?

Music

Fotrcd-cover.jpg

The music was composed by Howard Shore. In my opinion, the best song out of the lot is “Concerning Hobbits.” The music of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is both iconic and epic.

If you want to learn why the music of The Lord of the Rings has the power to captivate listeners, listen for yourself.

Message

The message is one of hope, courage, and purpose. This movie shows how there can be hope even in the darkest times and that courage can prevail against the powers of darkness. The story follows ordinary people who show tremendous bravery in the face of adversity.

Gandalf affirms that the ring that was found by Bilbo and passed on to Frodo did not fall into their hands by accident. All things happen for a reason, he insists. This gives the heroes a sense of purpose.

Costumes

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring | George Eastman Museum

The costumes are well-made and fit the character. For the hobbits, capes and clothes perfect for work and relaxation–peasant clothes. For Gandalf, an old man who does not care much about appearance, a simple cloak and a hat that has much character. For others, clothes befitting their status and positions are used. The clothes do not look tacky.

Dialogue

Gandalf | The One Wiki to Rule Them All | Fandom

The dialogue of the movie is rich and includes many quotable moments. For instance, when the value of a character’s life is questioned, Gandalf says:

Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them?”

Gandalf

CGI

What do you think of Peter Jackson's depiction of the Balrog in Fellowship  of the Ring? - Quora

The CGI, especially for the Balrog and Gollum, was innovative for its time and has stood the test of time. True, it’s only 19 years old, but there are plenty of films from around that time that would look contrived and poorly done by today’s standards.

Language

The elfin language used in the movie sounds natural and flowing. It is not like the made-up languages in many movies and books that are usually based on English or Latin. It is unique.

The written languages also appear to be authentic and realistic.

Likeness to the Book

Most changes from the book were made to save time, such as removing the whole Tom Bombadil scene that was in in the book. The movie was very faithful to the book.

Character Development

Fellowship of the Ring (group) | The One Wiki to Rule Them All | Fandom

Frodo is a character who seems nondescript but is capable of great bravery when the situation requires it. He feels a responsibility for what happens in the world, even though he wants nothing more than to go back to the Shire.

Boromir is a character who desires the power of the ring but nonetheless is an honorable character. Throughout the course of the story, he makes mistakes and changes as a result.

Aragorn’s initial reluctance to take his rightful place on Gondor’s throne affects who he is as a character. He is noble, and his actions show that he is worthy of being a king even when he doubts himself. His romance with Arwen is also a testament to his worth as a character–she is willing to give up immortality for him.

Most of the other characters are not well-developed, however. The movie suffers slightly from having too many characters.

Camera Tricks

The crew for this movie used various tricks with the camera. For instance, they used fast camera motions to make the battle scenes seem more frenzied. They also made horse riding scenes seem quick through other camera movements. The angle of the camera made it seem like sometimes we were seeing from the character’s point of view, and sometimes we were seeing the action from a perspective outside of any character.

Galadriel Scene

History Reading 06: Graphics. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of… | by  David Mellitt | Medium

This scene looked contrived and overly flashy, looking more like it belonged in a film depiction of a campfire horror story than a Lord of the Rings movie. A minor con, but worth noting.

Conclusion

I must say, the trouble it took to set up was well worth it. The movie is very nearly three hours, clocking in at 178 minutes, but it is a movie in which every second counts and adds to the whole. If you haven’t watched it, you’re missing out!

Rating System

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