“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” has received very good reviews and talk about awards. I enjoyed the first film in the series, but thought it was just a well done who done it. It had an all star cast and was enjoyable. The sequel, “Glass Onion”, has a completely different cast except for the the detective played by Daniel Craig, of James Bond fame, with a southern accent. The plot revolves around a stolen formula and a murder. Of course all of the characters have a motive. The characters are pretty well developed, the writing is decent, with some humor, and the production values are quite good. Like the original, it is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. The film was in theaters for a few weeks and us now streaming on Netflix. I enjoyed it, but I do not see it being nominated for awards. There are a lot of other films that deserve them more.
There have been a few performances that have gone onto win a truly deserved Oscar. William Hurt in “Kiss of the Spiderwoman”, Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry”, Vivien Leigh in “Gone With the Wind” and Daniel Day Lewis in “Lincoln” are four that come to mind. Well I saw another film with a deserving actor today: Brendan Frasier in “The Whale”. I was bowled over by this acting job. Who knew he had these acting chops? The story is about an online college professor who is grossly overweight and a recluse. He is trying to reconnect with his teenage daughter. I had read the raves about Frasier’s performance, but that the movie was so-so. I disagree. I was mesmerized by the characters and the back story, even though it was depressing. Still it is a great story, with incredible acting. Not a lot of action but well worth seeing. And look for Brendan Frasier’s Oscar nomination.
I disliked “White Noise” immensely. Not only did I want my ticket money back, but I wanted the two hours that I had invested. Noah Baumbach, the director and writer, has done some interesting films like “Marriage Story”, but this one is a bomb. Allegedly the story of a crash between a train and tanker truck both carry dangerous chemicals it goes all over the place. The protagonists are the family of a college professor who is the foremost authority on Hitler. (Ugh!) Adam Driver, with a pot belly, plays the professor. His wife is on some sort of experimental pill and Don Cheadle, normally a great actor, plays another academic who speaks in metaphors and narration. There are no sympathetic characters and the plot keeps jumping around. My suggestion is instead of watching this film, read a book, go for a walk or take a nap, anything but watching it. Yuch!
Roald Dahl’s Matilda, the Musical
“Roald Dahl’s Matilda, the Musical” is an adaptation of the Broadway musical, currently streaming on Netflix. Like most of Dahl’s works it is a macabre version of childhood with a whimsical, off beat tone. (Think Willy Wonka.) Matilda is a prodigy and is sent to a school that is run like a prison by a tyrant of a head mistress who is played by Emma Thompson. The child actors are quite good, but Thompson steals the show. She is so over the top that you can’t take your eyes off of her. I enjoyed her performance a lot. An enjoyable piece of fluff. Go for the story and songs, but stay for Emma Thompson!
Director Damien Chazelle’s latest film “Babylon” is an epic tale of the transition from silent films to talkies. It starts out at a party that it is too wild to describe. It goes on and on, introducing the main characters. Most of them are based on real Hollywood actors. Brad Pitt plays a much married matinee idol who has trouble transitioning to sound. Margot Robbie is a young lady who wants to become a star. She does so by playing a bad girl on and off the screen. Jovan Adepo is a black trumpet player who gets into movies but has to fight prejudice. Tying them all together is a Mexican, played by newcomer Diego Calla, who only wants to be a part of the movies. The stories are very interesting, especially Robbie’s. Some of them are funny, while others are tragic. I especially enjoyed the parts where they showed how silent movies were made. The problem I had with this film is it is too long. Chazelle has joined the club of what I refer to as auteurs. He writes, produces and directs, but does not edit. Had someone else cut out or cut down some of the scenes, it would have been a better film. Margot Robbie is a whirlwind as Nellie LaRoy, a Clara Bow type actress who is ruins her life and career. She gives a great performance. Diego Calla, in his first American film, is very good as Manny who ends up being part of each story. He is quite good. The movie its up for a number of awards. Worth seeing, but a bit overdone.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
The character Puss in Boots appeared in a few of the Shrek movies and had his own film in 2011. This computer animated sequel deals with Puss’s mortality: He has used up eight of his nine lives and he wants more. Voiced by Antonio Banderas, Puss is funny, conceited and ironic, The film retains some of the Shrek humor. Added to the mix are very different versions of other fairy tails: Goldilocks and the Three Bears and (Not so) Little Jack Horner. All of them are pursuing the last wish. This is one of those films that appeals to children on one level and adults on another. Enjoyable.
Avatar: The Way of Water
When “Avatar” came out in 2009 it was unique. The special effects were astounding. The people, animals and landscape were amazing to watch. For all of its innovation and record breaking box office, “Avatar” never developed a following like Star Wars or other movies. In “The Way of Water” the special effects are still phenomenal but thirteen years later they are not as surprising. Instead there is a much more developed plot and character development. We learn about Jake and his family and the world they live in. Colonel Quaritch is still the villain, but this time he and his team are turned into Avatars. Jake and family flee to a different part of their world where others live by farming and communing with the sea. Showing how they live and are able to breathe under water is different and interesting. I liked this film better than the original because I felt I got to know the characters and there was a great deal of suspense and action. It was a bit long, over three hours, but not excessively so. This is definitely a film to be seen on the big screen. The special effects need to be seen that way. Definitely one of the year’s best.
Empire of Light
“Empire of Light” is the story of a large motion picture palace in Australia in 1981 and the people who work there. Olivia Colman plays, Hilary a manager. She is a single, serious minded woman who the owner, played by Colin Firth, who uses her. There are various other employees and into their world comes a young, black man played by Micheal Ward. He builds a relationship with Hilary. She has some issues to deal with, besides Colin Firth’s harassment. This film is a charming character study, but a little slow at first. Micheal Ward is quite good as the new employee. Not for everyone, this is a nice period character study. Enjoyable.
“Spoiler Alert” is a love story about two men and their years together. Jim Parsons, of “the Big Bang Theory” plays Michael, an uptight writer for TV Guide. He meets Ben Aldrich’s Kip, a free spirit artistic type. The first half of the film is about how their relationship develops and it is funny and clever. Especially enjoyable is when Michael meets Kip’s parents, played by Sally Field and Bill Irwin. The second half takes a more serious tone. Their relationship has problems and they have to deal with them. Then Kip becomes ill. The film handles these things in a compelling, realistic way. Interspersed in the proceedings are Michael day dreams that take the form of a sitcom. Nicely acted, I came to care about these characters. A well done dramedy, I recommend this film.
Forget the slap at the Academy Awards last year. Will Smith gives a great performance in his latest film “Emancipation” and it worth seeing. It is the story of a defiant slave who escapes through the Louisiana swamps. The film is difficult to watch, like “Schindler’s List”. It shows graphically the cruelty and inhumanity of slavery. Ben Foster is the man who pursues him and is a cold blooded killer. As I said it is hard to watch the way the slaves are treated; how families torn apart. Smith is solemn, tough and vulnerable. Not for the faint of heart, this is Antoine Fuqua’s best film so far. Fuqua usually does psychological action, like “Training Day” and “Shooter” and “The Equalizer”.