Review of “Knives Out”

Successful murder mystery author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead, with his throat slit, in the third-floor study of his elegant home the morning after a celebration of his 85th birthday with his entire family. On hand were his daughter Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis), her husband Richard (Don Johnson), their son Ransom (Chris Evans), Harlan’s son Walt (Michael Shannon), his wife Donna (Riki Lindhome) and son Jacob (Jaeden Martell), Harlan’s late son’s wife Joni (Toni Collette) and her daughter Meg (Katherine Langford), Harlan’s mother Wanetta (K Callan), Harlan’s housekeeper Fran (Edi Patterson) and his nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana DeArmas). Police believe Harlan’s death is a suicide, but no note is found. A detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is hired by a secretive client to investigate the death of Harlan Thrombey. Blanc knows something is odd about the case as there are plenty of motives amongst the family to kill Harlan, but everyone appears to be accounted for at the time of death. The case takes on a new urgency when Harlan’s will is read leaving everything to Marta. In order to regain their inheritance, the family pushes the police and Blanc to prove Marta is the killer.

I love a good murder mystery. I listen to several true crime podcasts, watch documentaries about serial killers and how they were caught, and enjoy TV shows and movies with twisty, complicated conspiracies to commit unspeakable crimes (watch “Dark” and “Black Spot” on Netflix to get an idea of what I enjoy). One might question my sanity with my viewing history on a couple of streaming services, but I enjoy unraveling the puzzle of the crime. Was it someone familiar with the victim? Was it a stranger in a “wrong place, wrong time” scenario? Was the motive money, anger or love? What would drive someone to violate the most sacred law and take the life of another? In “Knives Out” the motive is clearly money, but the question of “Who dunnit?” requires a brilliant mind and the help of a woman who vomits when she lies.

Rian Johnson, director, producer and writer of “Knives Out,” manages to make it impossible to figure out who the killer is until the final scene. Information is carefully withheld, or hidden in plain sight, that can identify the culprit. It is a masterfully crafted mystery with plenty of loathsome characters, all believably capable of killing Harlan. Johnson also injects political and personal commentary about toxic online culture using the character of Jacob Thrombey, played by Jaeden Martell, as an alt-right internet troll, and Don Johnson’s Richard Drysdale talking about immigrants “waiting their turn” to enter the country legally (Ana DeArmas’ Marta is the daughter of immigrants).

While the cast is huge and loaded with A-List stars, Johnson is smart to focus on three characters: Blanc, Marta and Ransom. This trio is the eye of the storm and Johnson studies them like a plane sent into a hurricane. Each is given a moment to shine, each actor is brilliant in their role and none disappoints when they are in the spotlight.

Chris Evans takes his All-American image from the Marvel Universe and uses Thor’s hammer to destroy it. Evans’ Ransom is a terrible person. A trust fund playboy, Ransom has never made anything of himself. He looks down on common people and believes he’s superior because he was born into a rich family. Despite his odious nature, Evans still give Ransom a touch of decency. After the will is read giving Marta all the fortune, Ransom helps Marta escape the clamoring Thrombey heirs. He wants to help her as he sees being written out of the will as a second chance to make something of himself. His offer to help Marta feels sincere, despite the strings attached, and we are willing to give Ransom the benefit of the doubt. Evans charm and sincerity makes us feel sorry for Ransom and willing to give him a chance.

Ana DeArmas’ Marta is the moral center of the film. She is incapable of lying as it makes her vomit. She is a walking self lie detector. DeArmas makes you feel sympathy for Marta. She’s put into an impossible situation, facing down a ruthless family willing to do anything to reclaim their fortune. She’s been otherwise ignored and seen as just “one of the help” by everyone else, but Marta had a close, familial relationship with Harlan. She didn’t want anything from him other than to take care of him, and he took her into his confidence, knowing he could trust her. Harlan’s death has a profound effect on Marta and DeArmas conveys that pain throughout the film.

Daniel Craig is the main reasons to see “Knives Out.” His Benoit Blanc, referred to as on of the last “Gentleman Detectives,” steals nearly every scene he’s in. He can do as little as strike a note on a piano and the scene changes in tone and tension. Craig lays on a thick Southern accent, slightly different from his drawl as Joe Bang in “Logan Lucky,” that makes every word he says sing like a choir. Some might think the accent is too much, but I loved it. Its sound and phrasing draw in the ear like a homing signal. You can’t ignore anything Blanc says as he might throw in some bit of homegrown wisdom or a unique turn of phrase that adds more color to an already vibrant pallet. He speaks of the mystery being like a donut, and there being a hole in the center of that donut where the solution lies. Then he discovers there’s another donut within the hole of the donut. A donut within a donut. Craig delivers the lines with such excitement and passion you might think he’s about to burst into tears.

The entire cast of “Knives Out” is wonderful, delivering performances of terrible people in beautiful ways. While Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Katherine Langford and Christopher Plummer get the most screen time, the rest of the ensemble fills their roles well without a weakness in the lot. Rian Johnson gives a masterclass in juggling characters and talent with a cast that any director would kill to work with.

“Knives Out” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements including brief violence, some strong language, sexual references, and drug material. There is a brief fight between two male members of the family. Harlan’s death is shown in a very quick flash. A character is shown near death with a spider crawling on its face. Marta is shown throwing up on a couple of occasions, including in one character’s face. Sexual references are limited to the family asking Marta if she was having sex with Harlan and mentions of a character masturbating. A joint is briefly shown being smoked and there is a reference to using a vape pen. Foul language is scattered and mild.

While “Knives Out” is all about the murder, it also is very funny. Director Rian Johnson clearly intended for the story to have humorous elements, including the actions of the family to be viewed as comical. Still, Johnson knows how to balance the humorous with the mysterious as discovering the identity of the killer is always at the forefront, even when the audience thinks they know who’s responsible. As with all good murder mysteries, you don’t know until you really, really know. And you won’t know until Rian Johnson is ready to tell you.

“Knives Out” gets five very sharp, pointy, dangerous stars.

There’s only one wide release this week, so I may watch and review something available at my local arthouse theater.

Playmobil: The Movie—

Dark Waters—

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

Writer Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is an investigative journalist for Esquire magazine. He’s married to Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) and they have a beautiful baby boy named Gavin. The Vogels go to his sister Lorraine’s (Tammy Blanchard) wedding where his estranged father Jerry (Chris Cooper) is giving away the bride. Jerry abandoned the family right after Lloyd’s mother discovered she had terminal cancer. Lloyd holds a great deal of resentment towards Jerry and when Jerry drunkenly tries talking to him, Lloyd punches him and is punched by another person in the wedding. Lloyd’s editor at Esquire, Ellen (Christine Lahti), assigns him to write a brief article on children’s show host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) for the magazine’s edition focusing on heroes. Lloyd is offended at being given a puff piece, but Ellen shoos him away to write the story. Lloyd calls to set up an interview and later that night, Fred Rogers calls and chats with Lloyd. Lloyd then goes to Pittsburgh, where Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is recorded, to meet with him. Their interview doesn’t go as Lloyd expects and is cut short with Rogers needed on set. Lloyd tells Andrea, Rogers is too good to be true. He tells Ellen he needs more time and interviews with Rogers as he’s more complicated than he appears. Through all this, Jerry is trying to talk with Lloyd, parking outside his apartment for two days and showing up with pizza. Lloyd is obsessed with breaking through and getting to the REAL Fred Rogers.

This will be a short review. “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is an amazing and unique film. It seems very straightforward in the trailers and looks light a heartwarming story of an unusual friendship, and it is. However, the movie is far from straightforward in the way it tells the story, how it frames the events and what the movie is really about. There are few films that can be both simple and complex, and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” manages to pull off that trick.

Tom Hanks is everything you’d want and expect him to be as Mr. Rogers. He has that infinite kindness in his eyes. He’s unremarkable while also being remarkable. Rogers loved children and loved to teach them about the world the way it is, with all the pain and heartbreak, but in the most gentle way. Hanks embodies Mr. Rogers fully, exuding a warmth and kindness that would be looked upon with suspicion should anyone else behave the same way. Matthew Rhys’ Lloyd Vogel casts a doubtful eye on Hanks’ Rogers. That just makes Rogers treat him with more love and understanding, which infuriates Vogel.

The way their early interactions are written is filled with uncomfortable silences as Rogers doesn’t answer Vogel’s questions and begins trying to break through Vogel’s angry shell. Rogers might be thought of as passive-aggressive in these scenes, but he’s really looking for Vogel’s soft spot. That part of his personality, his soul, that is hurting and needs soothing compassion. Just before their first meeting, Rogers’ business partner Bill Isler, played by Enrico Colantoni, tells Vogel that Rogers loves guys like him, and that bit of dialog comes back later during a pivotal scene. Vogel is a hardened man. His writing looks for the dirt, the darkness in his subjects. It’s getting harder for him to find stories because anyone that’s read his work doesn’t want to talk to him. He assumes the worst about people and manages to find the worst in everyone…except Fred Rogers. He keeps looking, but it isn’t there. He has plenty of darkness that he’s ignored for years. Now, with his father returning, that darkness and anger is beginning to take over.

The film uses miniatures that look like the Neighborhood of Make Believe to do the interstitials between scenes, like when Lloyd is traveling from New York to Pittsburgh and other scene transitions. It’s an unusual choice when stock footage of planes taking off or highway traffic could have been used. But it becomes comforting to watch a small model of a jetliner move down a runway and takeoff nearly straight up, like a child was guiding the movements.

I believe the director, Marielle Heller, might have been showing us how the mundane reality of air travel, commuting and other things we find tedious is like child’s play in the grand scheme. We often complain about traffic jams, security lines at airports, long waits at the grocery checkout, when it’s all meaningless. We ignore the suffering of millions around the world, turn our eyes away from the homeless person on the corner, shrug our shoulders at hate crimes on the nightly news as if to say, “What are you gonna do?” Mr. Rogers Neighborhood of Make Believe touched on difficult subjects with old puppets and simple songs for toddlers. He talked about looking for people that helped in times of trouble as a sign of hope. The childlike quality of parts of this film are an attempt to open our minds and give the world, with all its hate, war, crime and suffering, a look with fresh, childlike eyes.

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is rated PG for some strong thematic material, a brief fight, and some mild language. The fight consists of a shove and a couple of punches. Family abandonment is the focus of much of the film. Language is very mild and infrequent.

I don’t know if “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” will get Tom Hanks another Oscar nod, but the film deserves to win any and every award for which it’s nominated. The final scene of Hanks playing a piano in the dark should get him at least consideration. It is such a sweet film with unexpected moments of humor and joy, it might get run over by other more “serious” movies about big, important ideas. That’s fine, I suppose. But if you want to watch a film that works over your tear ducts and gives them a strong punch every now and again, then “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is definitely the film for you.

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” gets five tear-stained stars.

The holiday delivers a couple of very different releases for your post-Thanksgiving weekend. I’ll be seeing at least one of the following:

Knives Out—

 
 

Queen & Slim—

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Link to Review of “Ford v. Ferrari”

Find my review of “Ford v. Ferrari” at WIMZ.com. Here’s the link: https://wimz.com/blogs/stan-movie-man/1723/review-of-ford-v-ferrari/

There are tough choices to be made as a trio of interesting films are opening in a cineplex near you. I’ll see and review at least one of the follow:

21 Bridges–

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood–

Frozen II–

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “Doctor Sleep”

Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) has been dealing with ghosts and memories of his homicidal father at the Overlook Hotel all his life. As a child he was visited by the ghost of Overlook Hotel chef Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly), who taught Danny how to construct boxes in his mind to trap the ghosts so they couldn’t try to possess him anymore. Now an adult, Danny is a homeless alcoholic in need of a new start. Riding a bus to a small town, Danny meets Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis). Billy recognizes Danny as a fellow alcoholic, gives him a job in the city park, becomes his AA sponsor and is a reference to get him an apartment. Danny soon begins work as an orderly in a hospice and is tagged with the nickname Doctor Sleep as he comforts a patient on the edge of death. In Danny’s apartment there’s a wall painted with chalkboard paint by a previous tenant. One morning, Danny sees a message he didn’t write saying “morning.” The message is from a teenage girl named Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran). Abra has “the shine” like Danny, only she’s much more powerful. Her ability attracts the attention of a cult of called the True Knot, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). The True Knot feed off the shine, they call it steam, given off by those with the gift as they die. The True Knot travel the country, abducting young people with the gift, torturing them to purify the steam, and absorb it to prolong their lives. They also save some of the steam in metal cannisters to feed on later. It’s getting more difficult to find powerful possessors of steam and the True Knot is beginning to age and die. Abra is so powerful, Rose believes she could feed her cult for a very long time. Abra gets in touch with Danny, in person, and he intends to protect her from the True Knot, even if that means returning to the cursed Overlook Hotel.

Is it an absolute necessity to have seen or be familiar with “The Shining” to enjoy “Doctor Sleep?” No, however it would help as this follow up makes references to, and contains characters from, the 1980 film that might cause some confusion to the uninitiated. Does “Doctor Sleep” stand on its own? Yes, it does. Director Mike Flanagan had the unenviable task of taking elements of Stanley Kubrick’s classic, that changed things from Stephen King’s novel, and merge them into a new film made almost 40 years later and based on another of King’s books. He also had to make King happy in the process, something Kubrick didn’t do. “Doctor Sleep” may be the best example of artistic juggling with running chainsaws in history.

The reverence for “The Shining” on display in “Doctor Sleep” might be called slavish by some. However, it’s necessary to give proper credit to a film that wasn’t popular or successful when it was released but has gained a following and respect over the years. I watched “The Shining” the night before seeing “Doctor Sleep” and was surprised by how much I liked it. Sure, Jack Nicholson comes off as very smarmy right off the bat, and Shelly Duvall, who didn’t get along with Kubrick, performed the role of Wendy like she was in a high school production of “Oklahoma,” but the tone of the film, the performance of Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance, and the explosive and violent final act make “The Shining” a one-of-a-kind horror/thriller. “Doctor Sleep” takes the base built by the original film and builds an exciting and tense haunted house upon it.

Rebecca Ferguson is a terrific villain as Rose the Hat. Her beauty and lilting accent lull the innocent into her trap. She and her cult of shine vampires are a roving band of death and greed, finding those that shine and sucking them dry in the most vulgar and painful way. Ferguson’s charisma lights up the screen so that, despite her being the leader of the bad guys, you miss her when she’s not featured. You want to see her twirl her metaphorical mustache as she plots, schemes and carries out her diabolical plans.

Ewan McGregor’s Danny Torrance is a pitiful sight when we meet the adult version. He’s a drunk, getting in bar fights, going home with women he doesn’t know just so he has a place to sleep as he’s homeless, stealing from those women, all to quiet his shine and try to forget what happened when he was a child. When he meets Billy right after he gets off the bus, he admits he’s trying to run away from himself. McGregor is all pain in these first few scenes. You can see it oozing from every pore. As Danny begins to turn things around, there’s a glow in McGregor’s performance as the character’s goodness (pardon the expression) shines through. McGregor isn’t flashy in his performance until later scenes at the dilapidated but still haunted Overlook. Danny is the anchor for the audience. He’s the focal point of our sympathy and we want Danny to be alright. McGregor makes it easy for us to root for Danny.

Kyliegh Curran is great as Abra Stone. Abra is tough and willing to get her hands dirty to fight Rose and the True Knot. Curran delivers a balanced performance, showing Abra as a typical teenager with fears and insecurities, and a brave and mature young woman facing a challenge no one can imagine. Curran gives Abra a calm and steady presence atypical for a teenager. We see Abra has been using her abilities since she was very young and has apparently honed them to a point that attracts Rose’s attention. When the two meet in their minds, the battle is fierce and Abra is more than a match for the older Rose. It’s a battle I would have liked to see more of, but the film makers chose to keep their interactions limited. Curran is an actress I am looking for to seeing more of as her career grows.

“Doctor Sleep” is rated R for disturbing and violent content, some bloody images, language, nudity and drug use. There is a barroom fight that is very bloody. A body is shown with a knife in its chest. A character kills himself with a rifle shot to the head. We see various people shot. The True Knot people die in a weird way. A car crash shows the driver being thrown through the windshield. A little boy is sliced with a knife numerous times before he dies. A woman’s leg is cut with a knife three times. Drug use is limited to seeing a woman snort cocaine, but the True Knot’s ingesting the steam/shine could be seen as drug use. We see numerous ghosts with various injuries, including the naked bathtub hag from “The Shining.” Foul language is scattered.

Danny Lloyd, who played Danny Torrance in “The Shining,” has a brief cameo in the film. Some shots from the original movie were repurposed for “Doctor Sleep,” including the opening helicopter shot over the lake and past the small island. Some music is reused including “Midnight with the Stars and You,” heard in the party scene in the Gold Ballroom. There are numerous touches from “The Shining” that are sprinkled into “Doctor Sleep,” but they don’t take over the film, just add a hint of flavor. There is much to love about “Doctor Sleep” that has nothing to do with “The Shining.” It stands on its own as a very entertaining and tense film. It builds on “The Shining” without tearing it down. It’s a rare feat to both honor and advance a film so separated by time and those involved in making it.

“Doctor Sleep” gets five stars.

This week, I’ll be reviewing “Ford v. Ferrari” for WIMZ.com.

Other new films are:

Charlie’s Angels—

The Good Liar—

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Reviews of “Terminator: Dark Fate” and “Parasite”

Daniella Ramos (Natalia Reyes), her friends call her Dani, works at a car assembly plant in Mexico City. She struggles to keep her job, support her YouTube-singing-sensation-in-training brother Diego (Diego Boneta) and make sure her father gets to his doctor’s appointment on time. She doesn’t know her importance to a post-apocalyptic future will make her the target of two time travelers. Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is an augmented human soldier sent to protect her from a Rev-9 terminator (Gabriel Luna), sent to kill her. Grace’s augmentations only allow for short burst combat. If she can’t kill the terminator quickly, she will likely die. The Rev-9 has a liquid metal exterior and a metallic internal skeleton that can separate, allowing for a two-pronged attack. When the Rev-9 is about to kill Dani and Grace, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) shows up with high-caliber guns and a rocket launcher, giving Grace and Dani a chance to escape. While hiding out in a hotel, Sarah explains how she and her son John changed the future, saving billions of lives, and Grace explains how an A.I. called Legion, designed for global warfare, tried to wipe out humanity and unleased terminators to finish the job. Dani asks Sarah how she knew to be on that part of the highway at that time to save them. Sarah tells her how she receives text messages with coordinates, date and time. She shows up and kills what ever arrives. Grace traces the messages to Laredo, Texas, where they find a T-800 model that calls itself Carl (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Carl has learned to mimic humanity, developing his version of a conscience, and agrees to help protect Dani and try to kill the Rev-9.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” is the sixth film in the “Terminator” franchise. Arnold Schwarzenegger has appeared in all six in either a primary role or via digital manipulation. Linda Hamilton has appeared in three. All the other surrounding characters have been different or played by different actors. From James Cameron to “Deadpool” director Tim Miller, there have been some impressive people behind the camera, producing and writing all these films. And yet, they can only think to rewrite the same story over and over again. While this film has put much of the old band back together, “Terminator: Dark Fate” shows how his franchise is just a rehashing of a one-hit wonder.

The thing that bothers me the most about the film is the utter lack of logic. I know you must throw common sense out the window when you’re talking about a film whose central tenets are time-travel and sentient killer robots, but there are a few things that should be central to your storytelling. For instance, they only send one evil Terminator to kill the target. Why not send two or 10 or 100? You have the technology, why not make sure the job gets done? Same goes for the good guys that learned sending a human back in time to fight a Terminator isn’t the best idea after getting lucky the first time. And the evil A.I. should understand that if the timeline doesn’t change the instant your cybernetic killer disappears, it failed, and send another. Also, I know the time-travel gimmick requires the characters to show up naked, but shouldn’t they at least have a plan to acquire the weapons they need to defeat their enemies? Guns, grenades and other standard weapons only slow Terminators down, so find what you need to kill them quickly. Of course, this means the movie will only be about 30 minutes long, but you could do other things, in the dystopian future for example, to lengthen the film. I know I’m wasting characters with these thoughts, but this is the kind of thing that takes me out of a film like this.

Otherwise, “Terminator: Dark Fate” is a decent action/sci-fi film. It’s nice to see Hamilton and Schwarzenegger together again. Arnold is in fine form playing against type as Carl discusses the fine art of interior design with Dani. Sarah and Grace dislike each other on sight and that makes for some entertaining threats of bodily harm. While her transformation from scared waif to badass warrior occurs a bit too quickly, Natalia Reyes gives Dani a nice grounding in reality. She’s a hard-working young woman, dedicated to her family and thrown into an impossible situation. Reyes gives the role some much needed authenticity. Having Mackenzie Davis’ Grace saddled with a clear weakness is a departure for the series. Of course, it shows up at the worst time but doesn’t it always. Gabriel Luna’s Rev-9 is more advanced and more dangerous than the other Terminators as he’s a better mimic of human emotion. Playing a Terminator may be a great job on your resume, but it probably isn’t one for the actor’s highlight reel as it doesn’t call for a great deal of emotional range. Luna is very good in a role that doesn’t ask much of his talent.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” is rated R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity. There are a great many deaths in the film from shootings to stabbings to car crashes. There is blood and some gore, but it isn’t over the top. Most of the fights occur between the two time travelers, with Luna’s Rev-9 having his liquid metal exterior peeled off in various violent ways. The nudity is when both visitors from the future arrive naked. We see mostly backsides and no frontal. Foul language is scattered.

There are several big action scenes and fights. A couple of military planes are destroyed, multiple cars crashed, a turbine at a hydroelectric dam is blown up and more. The fights between Rev-9 and Grace are mostly CGI and merely time fillers. We know both are going to be there at the end as that is how every version of the “Terminator” franchise has gone. Racking up worldwide ticket sales approaching $2 billion (unadjusted for inflation) means these films will keep coming. However, with an opening domestic weekend gross of an estimated $29 million (one of the lowest of the franchise) and a production budget north of $185 million, perhaps “Terminator” fatigue is setting in. Producer James Cameron is working on his 50 sequels to “Avatar” so he may not have had the time to fully devote to this project. Whatever the reason, perhaps this is a sign to let this franchise meet its dark fate.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” gets two stars out of five.

A family of grifters lives in their small, semi-underground apartment in a South Korean city. The oldest son, Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), hears of a job teaching English to the teenage daughter of a wealthy family. He gets his sister Kim Ki-jeong (Park So-dam) to create documents on a computer to make it look like he’s in college and qualified to teach. Ki-woo is hired by Mrs. Park (Cho Yeo-jeong) under the name Kevin to teach her daughter Da-hye (Jung Ji-so). Mrs. Park brags about the artistic ability of her young son Da-song (Jung Hyun-joon) and Kevin says he knows of a brilliant teacher named Jessica who is actually his sister Ki-jeong. Mrs. Park is impressed by Jessica’s stoic and disciplined teaching style and hires her immediately. Soon, the Kim’s get both Mr. Park’s (Lee Sun-kyun) chauffer and their housekeeper, Gook Moon-gwang (Lee Jung-eun) fired, replacing them with Mr. and Mrs. Kim, both with fake names. The Park’s go on a camping trip celebrating Da-song’s birthday, and the Kim’s stay in the Park’s huge modern home, eating their food and drinking their alcohol. They party is interrupted by the arrival of the former housekeeper who says she needs to pick up something she left in the basement. That’s when everything changes.

“Parasite” is directed by Bong Joon-ho, the director of “Snowpiercer,” “The Host” and the Netflix film “Okja” among others. He’s a film maker that’s highly respected for his style and the ability to quickly and believably shift the tone of his films from common, everyday life to the absurd. “Parasite” is no different in this regard. While the family that’s the focus of the movie is shifty and looking to make a quick buck, they are nonetheless a regular family. It’s when a secret is exposed, and plans begin to unravel that the film takes a dark turn. “Parasite” might be the best film I’ve seen in a very long time.

You will be unable to determine the path of “Parasite” by watching the trailer. It looks like a slow-burn horror film, but it isn’t. It’s a domestic comedy focusing on class differences and the vapid nature of those wrapped up on their wealth, until it isn’t. Then it becomes a tense thriller, until it isn’t. “Parasite” is a film that must be seen to be believed, and even then, you might not believe it.

The entire cast is amazing. Choi So-dam plays the English teacher and is also the semi-leader of the family. Many of the grifts and cons the family attempt are his ideas and he prepares the family for their roles. Park So-dam plays the sister and she may be the most dangerous member of the family. She is cold, calculating, and has a level of anger just below the surface. While her brother is the brains of the operation, she is smarter and more conniving. The focus of the film is on these two characters and how their actions drive the story forward until it is all upended by a revelation two-thirds of the way through the movie.

There isn’t much I can tell you about “Parasite” as I don’t want to spoil it for you. There are twists and turns that must be enjoyed from ignorance. It is best to see the film with as little knowledge as possible so it can spring on you like a wild animal and change what you believe you know. It’s the kind of film that sticks with you and makes you think about it long after you leave the theater. I cannot recommend the experience highly enough.

“Parasite” is rated R for language, some violence and sexual content. The violence is minimal but is jarring as it is unexpected. There is some blood. There is a scene of a couple engaging in foreplay on a couch. There is no nudity, but there is some graphic feeling up and language. Foul language is scattered.

“Parasite” won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival earlier in 2019. It has also won various awards for acting, writing and directing at other film festivals. However, the best reward it can get is at the box office where, worldwide, “Parasite” has earned over $106 million as of this writing. You should hunt it down in your community, ask management of a theater to show it if it isn’t in your town, or add it to a wish list on a streaming service. The film is in Korean, so you will have to read subtitles, but don’t let that get in the way of a rare and unique moviegoing experience.

While this review is short, it is not an indication of my feelings for “Parasite” as it is one of the best films I’ve seen all year and possibly ever. Move Heaven and Earth to see it. You won’t regret it.

“Parasite” gets five stars.

Four new films open this week and I’ll see at least one of the following:

Doctor Sleep—

Last Christmas—

Midway—

Playing with Fire—

Listen to “Comedy Tragedy Marriage,” a podcast I do with my wife about life, love and entertainment. You can find it anywhere you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “The Lighthouse”

Thomas Wake and Ephraim Winslow (Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson) are two men stationed at a remote lighthouse on a stormy, rocky island. Wake has a bum leg, so he can’t serve on ships anymore. Winslow is a young man looking for his purpose in life. Wake makes clear that, during their four-week assignment, he will take care of the light and orders Winslow to take care of all other tasks. These tasks include feeding coal into the boiler that blows the foghorn, refilling the oil that powers the light, and general household maintenance. The pair don’t get along and Winslow is hoping to get through the assignment and get paid. As their assignment is nearing an end, Winslow kills a seagull that has been tormenting him. Wake had earlier warned Winslow to not kill a seabird as they are the souls of dead seamen. The wind shifts and a storm begins, delaying the pair leaving the island.

I’ll admit. That plot synopsis for “The Lighthouse” doesn’t sound very interesting. I have intentionally left out some parts of the story as to not give away too much as the movie is best experienced with as little advance information as possible. To be honest, telling you more about the film wouldn’t help much as the feelings and emotions of the film can only be experienced by viewing. I don’t know exactly how I feel about the film from the same director of “The Witch,” but I’ll see if I can reach a conclusion by the end of this review.

The performances of Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson are amazing. There’s no hint of fear or resistance as the pair strips away all semblance of modernity and totally inhabit the time and lives of these two men. Defoe delivers a speech midway through the film that is an amazing bit of manic acting. Defoe’s Wake is berating Pattinson’s Winslow for being ungrateful and not liking Wake’s cooking. The speech is a curse, delivered unblinking and with the intensity of a laser. Defoe’s performance turns on a dime, switching from parental, to cruel, to insane, to friendly, to intimate. It is a wonder of acting.

Pattinson is an equal while being opposite of Defoe. Winslow just wants to get through his time and get paid, but Wake pushes him to talk, to drink alcohol (despite that being against regulations) and treats him more like a slave than an equal. Pattinson delivers a controlled performance, making his decent into madness all the more affecting. Winslow is the character you feel the most empathy with through most of the film. There comes a point where that begins to change as both Winslow and Wake are suffering from the stress of being stuck together on a small island, constantly bombarded with storms, with no escape. It wouldn’t surprise me if both are nominated for Oscars.

The film is a visually fascinating. The two most obvious things are the aspect ratio and that it’s in black and white. According to the film’s IMDb page, director Robert Eggers wanted the film to look similar to the earliest movies, including shooting it with old cameras and in the aspect ratio of the first films. The image is almost square. The regions of black on each side of the screen gives the film a feeling of claustrophobia and adds to the isolation of the characters.

Shooting “The Lighthouse” in black and white cements the film in the period. While it wouldn’t have been impossible to use color film, black and white provides authenticity and creates a starkness to the image amplifying the other worldliness of this story. Using color stock might have blunted the griminess and dread of this location. Watching a stormy sea of blue water would limit how depressing and angry the roiling ocean looked. The walls of their quarters stained a brownish yellow from pipe and cigarette smoke and oil lamps would give just a hint of happiness in an otherwise joyless existence. Black and white is almost a character in “The Lighthouse.”

“The Lighthouse” is rated R for sexual content, nudity, violence, disturbing images, and some language. There is a disturbing scene of Winslow killing a seagull (it was a rubber stand in but still troubling). There are a couple of scenes of Wake and Winslow fighting. We see a character’s head in a lobster trap as well as a character having his intestines picked at by seagulls. We see a woman’s breasts a couple of times, as well as both Wake and Winslow naked. There are a couple of scenes where a character masturbates but we don’t see his penis. There is a brief sex scene. There are a couple of farts heard. Foul language is scattered.

A card at the end of the credits says some of the dialog was taken from the writings of Herman Melville and quotes from the diaries of real lighthouse keepers from the period. Much like Eggers’ “The Witch” that took quotes from journals, diaries and court records from the time when the film was set, “The Lighthouse” is filled with words and phrases that are unknown to modern audiences. All this makes the film that much more authentic, tense and weird. Eggers’ films are just weird. The weird of “The Witch” didn’t work as well for me as it plodded and didn’t provide any scares. “The Lighthouse” masterfully creates a huge amount of tension as the build-up to the explosion of violence and madness the audience knows is coming builds like a pressure cooker. We’re never sure when it’s going to blow, and we even have moments of hope, but the inevitable destruction of these two characters is just a matter of time. This film will be polarizing as some won’t understand the point of the picture size, black and white, the language of the script and more. But if you’re looking for something Martin Scorsese would approve of; you should see this film.

“The Lighthouse” gets five stars.

A whopping five new films open this week and I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Terminator: Dark Fate—

Motherless Brooklyn—

Arctic Dogs—

Harriet—

Parasite—

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and sent emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “Zombieland: Double Tap”

Here’s the link to my “Zombieland: Double Tap” review at WIMZ.com: https://wimz.com/blogs/stan-movie-man/1723/review-of-zombieland-double-tap/

Three new movies open this week. I’ll see and review at least one of the follow:

Black and Blue–

Countdown–

The Current War: Director’s Cut–

Listen to “Comedy Tragedy Marriage” where a married couple take turns picking movies and TV shows and discuss why they loved it, liked it or hated it. It’s about love, life and movies and it’s available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.