The Hand That Feeds — Knives Out Review

The Hand That Feeds — Knives Out Review

Family and business mix in Knives Out, a whodunnit sleuther from director and writer Rian Johnson that spins the genre on its head by starting out with the murderer revealed.

The real story and mystery reveals itself as a parable about good vs. evil, treating your guests hospitably, and the current state of our nation.

Ana Armas stars as Marta Cabrera, a nurse with a quirk — she can’t lie without vomiting. Her tell makes her the perfect canary for Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), a private detective hired to solve the murder of Cabrera’s charge, mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer).

Harlan was found with his throat slashed after his 85th party. Ruled a suicide, Blanc is hired by an unknown who suspects foul play. Blanc meets the family members at Harlan’s memorial for a second round of questioning.

Each of the family members are interrogated, and each one has a damaging secret to hide from the authorities who are looking for a motive. Vignettes show Harlan giving each of his entitled and untrustworthy family members marching orders in a bid to correct their behavior.

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Schadenfreude — The Disaster Artist Review

Schadenfreude — The Disaster Artist Review

I first heard about The Room while I was in South Korea. Labeled as one of the worst movies ever filmed, it had somehow attracted a huge following that included sold-out midnight viewings.

To this day, I have not been able to get myself through one complete viewing of the original film. It’s an assault on the senses and a failure by every standard metric I hold regarding filmmaking.

It’s bad. Real bad.

The acting is subpar, the dialogue needs heavy editing, and the threadbare plot just sort of… happens.

Tommy Wiseau, the director, writer, producer, and star of the film plays Johnny, a man who eventually finds out his fiancee is cheating on him with his best friend Mark.

Supporting characters weave in and out of the movie, adding to the conflict and drama with the subtlety of a runaway Mac truck backing its trailer through a warehouse. There’s Denny, Johnny’s teenage friend, who is in debt to a violent drug dealer, and Peter the psychologist who learns about the secret affair from both Tommy and Mark. Lisa, the fiancee, tells Johnny she’s pregnant, admits the pregnancy was a lie to cover up her affair with Mark, and then moves in with Mark.

Betrayed, Tommy decides to take his own life.

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We Got Fun and Games — Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Review

We Got Fun and Games — Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Review

When Spencer “the nerd” (Alex Wolff), Fridge “the jock” (Ser’Darius Blain), Bethany “the princess” (Madison Iseman), and Martha “the smart one” (Morgan Turner) are sent to the school’s basement for detention, they end up opening a portal into the world of Jumanji.

Inhabiting archetypal video-game avatars in direct contrast to the real-world selves, our four teens with attitude have to rid the world of a curse while maneuvering through social and personal conflicts.

It’s a mix of Freaky Friday and the Breakfast Club, but the action/adventure twist makes Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle a fun film. It also helps that the movie doesn’t eschew character building and development.

Spencer, familiar with video game mechanics, takes the lead as the muscle-bound explorer Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) while Fridge takes a sidekick role, entering the game as the zoologist Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), a diminutive researcher whose special ability allows him to hold weapons. Bethany, whose cell-phone addiction has kept her distracted throughout high school, takes the role of the portly Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black), the group’s cartographer, and Martha takes on a more active position in the group’s dynamic as the group’s physical bruiser Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan).

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Off-Key — Pitch Perfect 3 Review

Off-Key — Pitch Perfect 3 Review

The first Pitch Perfect was lightning in a bottle — it was a sleeper hit that worked the trending a capella genre for full effect and spawned a radio hit with Anna Kendrick singing the cover for Cups, aka When I’m Gone.

Pitch Perfect 3 brings the group back together for one last go, this time as an overseas touring group for the USO. Hoping to relive their glory days, the Barden Bellas — who have seen their lives diminish since they’ve last been together — compete on an uneven playing field against music groups and DJs vying for a spot as DJ Khaled’s opening act.

New developments include Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) father Fergus (John Lithgow) entering the picture as he hopes to build a relationship with his estranged daughter. Beca (Anna Kendrick), whose music career still hasn’t taken off, gets an opportunity to show off her producing chops when she sits in for an impromptu session at Khaled’s mixing board. 

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Heavy Metal — Thor: Ragnarok Review

Heavy Metal — Thor: Ragnarok Review

Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth) tries to stop the end of the world in Thor: Ragnarok, a conflicted mess of a film that showcases some of the best that Marvel Studios has to offer along with some of their cringiest.

If you’ve seen the trailers, you have the main gist of it all — Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death, has come to take her place on the throne of Asgard after Odin’s death releases her from the prison his life-force created.

As Odin’s firstborn, she is the strongest of his children, and she makes her mark within moments by destroying Mjolnir and sending Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) into retreat. As the brothers attempt to teleport back to their homeworld with the help of the Bifröst Bridge, Hela follows them and send them off course.

Hela appears in Asgard, where her claim to the throne hits deaf ears — that’s what happens when an entire era’s history is wiped away or covered up. Viewed as an invading force, Asgard’s army tries to hold her at bay but fails miserably against Odin’s strongest child.

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Family Matters — The LEGO Batman Movie Review

Family Matters — The LEGO Batman Movie Review
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Batman’s foes have an existential crisis in his latest outing, The LEGO Batman Movie.

Kicking off with an amazing 10-minute song-and-punch introduction, the LEGO Batman Movie not only features a bevy of villains, known and obscure — Crazy Quilt and Killer Moth! — the movie also treads into interesting meta territory.

After Batman saves another day in Gotham City, he drops a bombshell on the Joker — the Dark Knight doesn’t think the Clown Prince of Crime is his greatest foe.

Teary-eyed, the devastated supervillain escapes and begins work on a new plan to get Batman’s attention.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne finds himself torn against a potential love interest and a new commissioner who sees Batman as a problem. Between bouts of love and anger at Commissioner Barbara Gordon’s new plans for the city, Bruce agrees to adopt the orphan Dick Grayson.

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In Dreams — La La Land Review

In Dreams — La La Land Review
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Rating: 5 out of 5.

About 10 minutes into La La Land, I started to worry. 

Despite a charming opening scene filled with singing and dancing Los Angeles commuters stuck in traffic, I was still waiting for it to become my favorite movie of last year. After winning a ton of Golden Globes, it’s being touted as a frontrunner to win more than just an armful of Academy Awards, and critics — and all my friends — love it.

A few scenes in, I was starting to feel like I was going to be disappointed — that the hype was just too much. Or maybe it’s the whole musical thing — it’s no secret I’m not the biggest fan of the genre. 

And then, Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian came home to find his sister had snuck into his apartment. They discussed, they argued — he’s a jazz musician who hasn’t settled into his new home, and he’s got a pile of unpaid bills. He’s got a chip on his shoulder, and he’s obsessed. He hasn’t gotten over being screwed by a former partner who took their jazz bar and turned it into a samba and tapas restaurant. 

Samba and tapas. 

I was longer just watching La La Land — Sebastian was a mirror or an alternate dimension of myself. 

Not that I’ve ever wanted to own a jazz bar, per se, but I have dreams. Had dreams. Dreams that seemed pure and selfless but were essentially a bit selfish as well.

I want to create real music for people who need to hear it.

Right. 

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Puppy Love — The Secret Life of Pets Review

Puppy Love — The Secret Life of Pets Review
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It wasn’t my idea to rent The Secret Life of Pets. 

My wife, on a whim, brought it home from a Redbox — she had a coupon for a free movie — and since we don’t watch too many movies together anymore because of our busy schedules, I made it a priority to sit down and be in front of the television while it played. 

The trailers for the movie seemed uninspired, filled with tired jokes and boring sight gags. The premise — going behind the veil to see what our pets really do when we’re away — only a hair or two from Toy Story. I planned on doing other things while the movie played. 

But let me tell you, I was in for a treat — The Secret Life of Pets isn’t half-bad or slightly bad. It’s actually pretty good — especially if you’re owned by a pet or two. 

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Meet One Stone — Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Review

Meet One Stone — Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Review
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Aged actor most popular for playing superhero wearing an animal costume tries to resurrect career — or at least stay relevant — by going to Broadway.

No, it’s not a semi-autobiographical movie based on Michael Keaton’s life, even if his performance is incredibly sincere and authentic. Rather, Birdman — or the movie in which a famed real-life superhero actor plays an actor who once played Birdman — is a mid-life crisis or the symbol of one in a meta-tastic film that’s like nothing you’ve probably seen.

Riggan Thompson (Keaton) is about to premiere a new Broadway play based on Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” As director, writer, and starring actor, Thompson has poured his life savings into the project as well as the last hopeful remnants of his legacy, and he’s starting to fall apart at the seams. When he’s not arguing with his inner Birdman, a super-alpha version of himself that waits for weak moments to tempt him back to the dark side of a Hollywood-miserable life, Riggan walks a mean tightrope as he juggles his out-of-rehab daughter, a cast of actors that includes his just-announced pregnant girlfriend, and the expectations of all his fans and critics.

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Anti-Superhero Movie — Deadpool Review

Anti-Superhero Movie — Deadpool Review
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I had some snarky title ideas in case Deadpool was terrible.

Dead Weight. Hur hur. Dead On Arrival. Dead In the Water. Brain Dead.

None of those apply, fortunately. Though a bit rough on the edges, Deadpool still has a lot of bite and a whole lot of bark.

If you’ve seen the commercials as many times I have, you basically have the gist of the entire movie. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) finds out he has cancer and signs up for an experimental treatment that will not only heal him — it will give him superpowers.

That might sound like something too good to be true, and it is — while the treatment does involve a bit of torture to force Wilson’s mutant genes to activate, it leaves him looking hideous. To make matters even worse, the shady basement clinic plans to enslave Wilson and sell him to the highest bidder in need of a superpowered soldier.

Wilson escapes and exacts revenge with the help of two X-Men, his blind roommate, and his bartender best friend. Wanting to be cured of his grotesque visage, Deadpool hunts the mad scientist responsible.

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