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Review: Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

I may be one of the few people who was not blown away by the original Knives Out. Which is not to say I didn’t like it. I just wasn’t all gaga about it. So imagine my delight when I watched this follow-up and enjoyed the hell out of it! Daniel Craig is back as the one-step-ahead-of-everyone, Deep South detective Benoit Blanc. He’s been invited to an exclusive murder mystery weekend on a Greek island that belongs to uber-wealthy biotech CEO Miles Bron (Edward Norton). All the rest of the guests have a history with Miles: his former business partner Andi (Janelle Monáe), his head scientist Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.), Governor Claire (Kathryn Hahn), men’s-rights influencer Duke (Dave Bautista) with his girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), and former model Birdie (Kate Hudson) with her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick). What seems like a fun COVID-free escape will be anything but!

Review: Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle

A couple of weeks before I saw this film, I read filmmaker Werner Herzog’s first novel “The Twilight World,” which draws on his meeting 25 years ago with Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who, not realizing that WWII was over, kept fighting his guerrilla war on a small Philippine Island for another 29 years. His story has been endlessly caricatured over the years, but the man himself and what he endured, and why and how he kept fighting have not been explored. It is a fascinating book. And now there is a film about him and his life in the jungle. 

Reviews: She Said and Women Talking

I saw these two films just days apart and they seemed to speak to one another. Both take on sexual predation, but from very different viewpoints. She Said is a journalistic thriller based on the true story of the female journalists who exposed Harvey Weinstein’s long history of abuse that led to his much deserved comeuppance and ignited the #MeToo movement. Women Talking is also based on a true story, that of a group of women in an isolated religious community who come together to decide how to deal with a long and horrifying history of rape by the men in their enclave. The women who tell their stories in She Said are fearful of losing their careers, while the ones in Women Talking are afraid they will lose their place in heaven. And so they all have to think long and hard about how to take on the monstrous men who hold power over them.

Review: Decision to Leave

This Korean romantic thriller from Park Chan-wook (Handmaiden, Snowpiercer) begins with the classic set-up. Weary detective Hae-joon (Park Hae-il ) arrives at a crime scene. A man is dead. But was it an accident or could it be murder? The police want to close the case and call it an accident, but it begins to look like his young, beautiful widow Seo-rae (Wei Tang, Lust, Caution) could be a murder suspect after she comes to the station. She has an alibi and Hae-joon wants to believe her. Still something is off. And as the attraction grows between them while he continues his investigation, the question of whether she is a femme fatale seducing him to get away with murder or her feelings for him are real plagues him. It’s a slow twisty story. And though it is probably a bit longer that it needs to be, it’s a satisfying and engrossing murder mystery.

Review: Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon

Ana Lily Amirpour’s Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is one of those little Indies that you hope people will see because it’s weird and quirky and a fun ride. It might not get a lot of coverage in mainstream press for those same reasons, since most of the Indies that get covered this time of year are the ones that might be in contention for the big year-end awards. And though it stars Kate Hudson (Glass Onion, Almost Famous), it’s a pretty low budget, niche genre flick. But if you can, go see it.

Review: Blonde

Blonde from Director Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) takes the well-known, sad story of Marilyn Monroe, from her tragic childhood to her tabloid fodder death, and beats the drum of the her abuse for almost three hours. They would be thoroughly excruciating hours if not for the stellar performance of Ana de Armas (Knives Out, Blade Runner 2049) in the title role. The film isn’t exactly a biopic since it’s based on a 750-page Joyce Carol Oates novel, and it is hard at times to tell where the line between fact and fiction lies. But I suspect those fictions are many of the scenes that felt off. After all, most of Marilyn’s story has been covered over and over to feed the endless fascination with the screen icon. So this “new” information just doesn’t quite fit. 

Review: The Good Boss

Javier Bardem is one of my favorite actors. I would pay to watch him read a phone book. (Do they still make those?) He is definitely one of the most versatile actors around. From his complex villains in No Country for Old Men and Skyfall to his achingly sensitive performances in Biutiful and Before Night Falls, he’s always a joy to watch. In his latest, The Good Boss, a Spanish workplace satire, he plays the seemingly benevolent boss Julio Blanco, owner of an industrial scale factory who is trying to make everything look perfect in order to win a prestigious prize that could help his business. But a series of misfortunes befall him, and he scrambles to get everything back into balance before the committee makes their visit to decide his fate, revealing his true nature along the way.

Review: Happening

Talk about a film arriving at just the right moment! This gripping French drama about a young woman in the early 1960s who gets pregnant and has to go through hell for an abortion will hit you right in the gut. If I’d seen it a month ago, I’d have described it as a cautionary tale. Now it feels more like a glimpse into our dystopian future.

Review: Hit the Road

This wonderful road trip drama traverses the Iranian landscape with a family and their dog. Along for the ride are a mother (Pantea Panahiha) and father (Hasan Majuni) and their two sons, one grown (Amin Simiar) and the other a bouncing off the walls 6-year-old (Rayan Sarlak). The story comes together in small hints as the family deals with their circumstances, attempting to shield the younger son (and the audience) from what is actually happening. It is by turns tense and warm and funny.

Quickie Review: The Northman

This is a quickie because I know I am not the audience for this violent revenge epic.  It’s the latest from writer/director Robert Eggers who garnered high praise for his previous film The Lighthouse. Similar in tone, The Northman depends very heavily on atmosphere and creating an authentic time period rather than character or story. In a nod to Hamlet, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) sees his dear father King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke) killed by his Uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang) and his mother Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) taken by him as his wife. He escapes vowing, “I will avenge you, Father. I will save you, Mother. I will kill you, Fjölnir.” And that’s just what he does for the next 137 minutes.