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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War Within — Captain America: Civil War Review

War Within — Captain America: Civil War Review
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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was supposed to compete directly with Captain America: Civil War by releasing on the same day, but Warner Bros. decided — wisely — that more money was to be made without forcing audiences to choose between two huge tentpoles.

But both studios knew their movies would be compared ad nauseum — each containing a similar premise where its lead titans would wage war against each other. DC, owning the most famous and more established comic book properties in Superman and Batman, still had a bit more of an uphill climb gearing up for its cinematic universe while Marvel looked forward to continuing its runoff to a climactic Infinity War one-two punch that begins in 2018 — ten years after Iron Man kicked off Phase One.

And it’s clear, after having seen Civil War, that my preference is Marvel’s movie. Not that I have to choose — one can be a fan of both comic movies and companies just like one can be a fan of Warner Bros., Universal Studios, and 20th Century Fox. I love both Guardians of the Galaxy and The Dark Knight without feeling the need to draw lines from one to the other.

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The Greatest Avenger — Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

The Greatest Avenger — Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review
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Captain America’s first movie had him playing up the role of public servant, popular/populist hero boosting America’s morale during a major World War.

Unfortunately, the movie played itself, churning out montages, a half-baked second half, and an anti-climactic battle with archvillain Red Skull that, altogether, ultimately served the purpose of delivering the Captain to the modern age just in time for the Avengers movie.

The good ol’ Captain deserved more — so much more — and it’s finally here.

The sequel, Winter Soldier, leaves no room for doubting Captain America’s inclusion alongside superheroes Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk in the star-studded and powerful Avengers. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have elevated Steve Rogers’ status far above just being an embodiment of ideals or a symbolic figurehead.

In this, the greatest of Marvel movies, Captain America shines thanks to a relevant plot, intelligent scripting, and adept direction that doesn’t settle for your standard summer blockbuster.

Coming to terms with the modern world, Captain America still holds fast to the ideals and beliefs of yesteryear. As a member of the Greatest Generation, Rogers (Chris Evans) is man enough to admit mistakes were made, but the quest was for freedom — not fear — which becomes an issue when he sees to what lengths America will go to protect itself.

An attempt on S.H.I.E.L.D. honcho Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) life upends everything and causes Rogers, the Black Widow Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and newcomer Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) to join forces to take on a familiar enemy embedded deep within Fury’s organization.

The fight becomes especially personal for Rogers when he goes toe to toe with another super soldier — a metal-armed assassin known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

Fighting for country without knowing who to trust proves difficult, and there’s a lot of twists and turns as secret identities are revealed, affiliations are chosen, and new villains are introduced. Through it all, the plot stays the course with brilliant action choreography, tense sequences that increase the drama, and great character development that brings some of Rogers’ history full-circle.

Captain America: Winter Soldier is a comic book movie done right, and what the film team has done is build up Captain America’s battle prowess by letting him loose. The parkour sequences with shield tossing don’t feel routine, and the plethora of melee combat scenes never feel stale. A movie like this should be taught to all aspiring filmmakers hoping to take comics from page to silver screen — it builds on the essence of popular characters, brings them into a world worth inhabiting, and unleashes them for full effect without dumbing it down.

It’s a movie that makes you want to believe in superheroes, and then you realize it’s not the shield or the serum that counts. It’s the length we’ll go to protect our friends.

That’s the kind of thing you’d find in a comic, and this is the kind of movie that will bring geeks and movie-goers together in harmony.


Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)
IMDB
Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Maximiliano Hernandez, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones, Stan Lee, Callan Mulvey, and Jenny Agutter

Rating: 5 out of 5.