And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: Knives Out

I caught this one at Middleburg, and sadly it was my biggest disappointment of the festival. As whodunits go, the jig is up pretty early on. But it has so much going for it, with a killer cast — Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette and Ana de Armas — and a fun setup, that I kept hoping.  It is of course difficult to review since it depends on the element of surprise, and director Rian Johnson (Star Wars:The Last Jedi) even filmed a “don’t tell anyone the secret” spot to go before the movie. So here’s what I can tell you:

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download 2019

Another super tiring weekend in the bucolic Virginia hamlet of Middleburg watching more films than I should! I predicted early on that this festival would outgrow itself and I think it has come to that point. Too many people know about it and the growing pains have become chronic overcrowding at venues without room for expansion. I’m already searching for another festival for next year. (All suggestions are appreciated.) I saw fewer films this year, too, just nine — Marriage Story, The Capote Tapes, The Aeronauts, Frankie, Waves, The Report, The Two Popes, Atlantics, and Knives Out. I only gave one of them four stars and several were surprising disappointments. For too many it was great cast and great performances in an otherwise just okay movie. Here’s my list with trailers and my preliminary impressions. Full reviews of select films will come later, so check back.

Quickie Reviews: The Hitman’s Bodyguard; Logan Lucky; Patti Cake$

The Hitman’s Bodyguard falls into the bucket of mindless summer entertainment that offers a decent-enough cinematic escape for anyone willing to accept the movie for what it is and not over-analyze its foibles. Ryan Reynolds channels his Deadpool sarcasm to play Michael Bryce, a down-on-his-luck “protection agent” (i.e. bodyguard) who is called upon to safely transport his nemesis, notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel “Snakes on a Plane” L. Jackson) to the Hague so he can testify against brutal East European dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). It’s a familiar formula: The clock is ticking. If the witness doesn’t get to the Hague before a 24-hour deadline, the evil dictator will surely walk free. Cue the overlong gun battles, myriad car and motorcycle chases, and outlandish boat escapes as Dukhovich’s cronies take aim at Bryce and Kincaid.

Spectre

Spectre is classic Bond. It’s got all the stuff you’ve come to expect from a 007 movie: the babes, the bad guys, the gadgets, the cool cars, the exotic locales, the fist fights, the gun fights and things that go boom, and of course, the martinis – shaken, not stirred. There’s a certain comfort in the familiarity, but also a bit of boredom in what’s come to be a ‘standard’ two-and-a-half-hour running time.

Skyfall

I’m not a huge Bond aficionado. I can probably count on one hand the number of 007 movies that I’ve actually seen in their entirety. But I can say this: Skyfall is thoroughly entertaining and Daniel Craig wears the suit extremely well. And when he’s not wearing the suit… well, even better! Okay, I’m being a tad shallow. Truth is, Skyfall is an action-packed, adrenaline-fueled adventure that embodies everything that our hero, the quintessential British spy James Bond, has to offer: suavity, dry wit, intellect, passion and virtual immortality. I mean, how many bullets can one guy take??

The Adventures of Tintin

Isn’t Tintin supposed to be a dog? C’mon, I can’t be the only one who thought The Adventures of Tintin might be some new animated twist on the tales of a certain German Shepherd named Rin. My bad. The movie is actually based on a popular European series of comics created in 1929 by a Belgian artist known as Herge’. Tintin is not a german shepherd. He’s actually a curious young reporter-detective-adventurer who, along with his dog Snowy (a fox terrier), gets caught up in the wild and wacky world of criminals, villains, artifacts and treasure. He’s part “Brenda Starr”, part “Indiana Jones”.

From a purely visual standpoint, The Adventures of Tintin is rather stunning with its use of motion-capture technology. But the story itself falls a bit flat, even at the direction of the almighty Steven Spielberg.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Three of the most popular books of 2008-2010 were Stieg Larssen’s Millennium Trilogy. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book and there is already one great movie of it in the original Swedish. (Here is my review of that one.) But now we have the David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network) prettied-up American version. I could just about recycle my first review for the new one, but there are a few differences. It is in English. Daniel Craig is hotter than Michael Nyqvist. And Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth is a great deal less insular and a lot more one-dimensional than Noomi Rapace’s.

Cowboys & Aliens

If you like westerns and you like sci-fi then trust me, you’ll like Cowboys & Aliens. It really is that simple. This movie is a strange hybrid that somehow works, mostly due to its stars (Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford) and its director, Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf) who knows how to make a crowd-pleaser. The best way to describe it is True Grit meets Independence Day. Chew on that for a while.