Paul McGuire Grimes, creator of Paul’s Trip to the Movies, reviews some of the latest movies out in theaters – and one you can stream on Netflix.
KNIVES OUT (in theaters)
Christopher Plummer heads the cast as patriarch Harlan Thrombey who is described one of the best-selling mystery writers of all time. He’s massively rich living in a gorgeous palatial estate. His large family gathers to celebrate his 85th birthday, but the next morning Harlan is found dead in his study. Daniel Craig’s Detective Benoit Blanc is suspicious and believes this was a murder. But who did it? Someone in his family, his caregiver, or what was it suicide?
-Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas
-Written and directed by Rian Johnson who also made Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. He has written one hell of a script that is wickedly funny and timely with its political and social commentary.
-It comes with a traditional arc as first we get the dead body, then the set up that led into that fatal moment and then all of the ins and outs of what makes everyone a suspect. He expertly re-shows certain scenes and key moments from different angles and character perspectives just to throw us for a loop.
-We rarely get these classic “whodunit” murder mysteries anymore. Perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, Clue, Murder By Death, Murder She Wrote, etc…
-A good murder mystery is full of nefarious characters and Rian Johnson nails that by giving his gifted ensemble of juicy characters to have fun with. Toni Collette is divine as Joni, Harlan’s daughter-in-law who’s a free-spirit lifestyle guru. Daniel Craig leaves James Bond to the side and adapts an odd accent as the eccentric detective. He’s far funnier than we’ve seen him before. Jamie Lee Curtis and Ana de Armas are noteworthy as well.
-Rian Johnson studied the best of the best and will keep you guessing into the very end. I was crafting a variety of narratives in my head but knew not to trust anyone or any clue along the way. Anything remotely plausible was not going to be the twist in the end. I certainly was surprised by the reveal as just when you think Johnson is going in one direction, he zigs and zags somewhere else.
-There are plenty of references along the way for fans of this genre to revel in. LaKeith Stanfield who plays one of the cops says, “the guy practically lived in a Clue board.”
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Knives Out is entertaining from start to finish and provides some good conversation for the drive home.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
HONEY BOY (in theaters)
Shia LeBeouf wrote Honey Boy as a reflection on his life. The film navigates between two timelines in Shia’s life. The first as a 12-year old kid (who’s named Otis in the movie) who is living out of a hotel with his abusive father James (played by LeBeouf) as he’s filming a movie and then alternates to him as an adult actor entering rehab who’s now played by Lucas Hedges.
-Second of two films this year for Shia LeBeouf following The Peanut Butter Falcon which won rave reviews from audiences and critics. Honey Boy marks the first time as a screenwriter.
-It’s easy to see that Shia was doomed from the start given the dysfunctional relationship he had with his parents. We learn that drugs and alcohol had a big impact on his father James, and while James be may sober, it doesn’t make the home life any easier. It’s also a reminder that the throngs of addiction can be passed down generation to generation
-This film is a story of forgiveness, gently told by director Alma Ha’rel who is making her feature film debut as a director. Ha’rel and LeBeouf found a way to humanize his father instead of treating him like a villain or monster to place all the blame on. LeBeouf is a force to watch on screen trying to step into his father’s shoes. I understood why James made the choices he did even if I never agreed with him.
-Lucas Hedges is always captivating as the adult Otis. We see him wrestle with the notion of being in rehab resisting the help he’s given, not wanting to participate in the treatment exercises. He’s full of this inner turmoil trying to understand the relationship he had with his father. It’s another vulnerable and deeply authentic performance from Hedges like we saw in Boy Erased and Manchester by the Sea.
-Noah Jupe is equally vibrant as young Otis who is forced to stand up to his father’s abusive ways while maintaining some sort of level-headedness throughout all while being the kid that he is.
-Honey Boy can be a hard watch seeing a father mentally and physically abuse his child. Triumph for Shia LeBeouf who lets it all hang out. I never saw this as excuse for his behavior later in life, but a cathartic release for him to rebuild the relationship he has with his father.
-I felt for Shia and see him in a new light both as a person, an actor, and screenwriter. Reminded me of Beautiful Boy with how deeply personal the film felt.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? I sat in my car afterwards in silence feeling that kick in the gut with sadness and anger. It is one of the best films I’ve seen in 2019.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
MARRIAGE STORY (Netflix Streaming)
Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson star as Charlie and Nicole, who at first seem like a couple madly in love, but the reality is that their marriage is falling apart. Charlie’s a theater director and Nicole’s an actress, but their careers and lifestyles are not as compatible as they once were. Stuck in the middle of their divorce is their 8-year old son.
-Starring: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Julie Hagerty
-Written and director by Noah Baumbach. The story is partially inspired by Baumbach’s divorce from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh. I forgot that going into the film, but the script felt so raw that it must have come from a deeply personal place for Baumbach.
-Baumbach never takes sides with his characters. Neither Charlie nor Nicole is the villain here. Yes, there may be cheating on one side but there are no drugs, violence, or alcohol addiction to easily paint one parent as a better fit for the other. They’re in that weird space where they don’t hate each other, but they don’t love each other anymore.
-Baumbach has his characters wrestle that notion of deciding when to come alive for yourself and when you’re just feeding your spouse and their needs over your own. As Nicole leaves for Los Angeles and Charlie stays in New York, he feels the needs to play the games and rules to retain custody and keep their son in New York. It’s a heavy film, but he adds some humor and levity along the way giving us the reprise we need with their story. Julie Hagerty and Merritt Weaver pop have some funny family interactions as they try navigating Nicole’s reasons for divorce.
-Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are so raw and vulnerable both going to some deep places as they fight for their characters and for what’s best for their son. Their spewing verbal attacks can be painful and hard to watch, but that’s what makes this film feel so authentic. You need two gifted actors who trust each other enough to take it to that realistic level that is found in some marriages.
-Marriage Story is not something you watch for entertainment but a character study on a deeply personal subject.
-Netflix original film and is getting major Oscar buzz for Noah Baumbach, Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, and Laura Dern.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Baumbach’s a terrific writer and director and he’s backed by a strong ensemble and a beautiful score by Randy Newman.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS.