Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! Today is the 52nd installment of the feature. If Covid-19 hadn’t interrupted it the one-year anniversary would have been on 9/3 instead of the end of the month. It doesn’t feel like over a year has gone by since starting Movies, Movies, Movies! Maybe because I enjoy promoting good cinema?
Knives Out (2019)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, and many others
Director: Rian Johnson
Genres: murder mystery
Synopsis: World-renowned author played by Plummer is found dead in his posh mansion, which leads to a whodunit murder mystery. Craig’s character is a detective who has been hired as a consultant by an anonymous client. deArmas plays the deceased’s personal nurse who is both a suspect and a sidekick to the detective. Most of the big names play the deceased’s dysfunctional family members who all had reasons to knock the old man off. Chris Evans shows his delicious shadowy side.
Impressions: Lots of witty, cutthroat repartee; has a convoluted plot that is nonetheless fairly easy to follow. The house is stuffed with interesting decor & architecture — and beastly humans. Solid acting performances are given by all.
Etc.: imdb trivia:
Several artworks and window designs in the mansion feature the motif “memento mori,” depicting scenes of everyday life populated by skeletons or skulls. The motif, which roughly translates to “remember you are mortal,” was popular in the Victorian times and used to remind individuals that death comes for all people, whether rich or poor.
Awards: 45 wins and 95 nominations
The Devil All the Time (2020) (Netflix)
Starring: Donald Ray Pollock, Bill Skarsgård, Tom Holland, Michael Banks Repeta, Haley Bennett, Kristin Griffith, Sebastian Stan, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Harry Melling, Pokey LaFarge, Eliza Scanlen, Robert Pattinson, David Atkinson, Mia Wasikowska, and many others
Director: Antonio Campos
Genres: drama, crime
Synopsis: Tells the story of one man who starts out in the film as an infant and grows to adulthood. Between infancy and adulthood events shape him into the human being that he becomes (as with us all.) It starts out in the small Ohio community of Knockemstiff but ends up going to another small community where church is a mandate not an option. One side plots includes a county sheriff that walks a line between serving the community and serving his best interests; another, a traveling pair of criminals who leave carnage in their wake. Before the end, all of these stories will intersect.
Impressions: good soundtrack. Great acting by all involved. The story really pulls you in, as you are given an opportunity to look into the soul of each character. The plot moves methodically as it is given a liberal 138 minutes to unfold. (Thank you to all who made it possible to take your time in telling the story.) I read the book a few years ago and had my doubts they could do it right on the big screen, but I was quite impressed in how they pieced it together in a way that kept the essence of it intact.
Etc.: based on a novel by Donald Ray Pollack and narrated by him. Pollack actually grew up in Knockemstiff, Ohio; disturbing scenes of graphic violence, inferred animal and human cruelty, and other strange and disturbing events; reading several reviews, I see they are mixed, where the viewer either loved it or hated it. You see what camp I’m in.
Awards: too soon
Kingdom (2014-2017) (available on Netflix) S1-3
Starring: Frank Grillo, Kiele Sanchez, Matt Lauria, Jonathan Tucker, Nick Jonas, Joanna Going, Juliette Jackson, Paul Walter Hauser, Joe Stevenson, Mac Brandt, Natalie Martinez, Levi Bowling, Juan Archuleta, Bryan Callen, Mike Beltran, Christie Phillips, Kirk Acevedo, Lina Esco, and many more
Creator: Byron Balasco
Genres: family drama, Mixed Martial Arts themed
Synopsis: Grillo is the patriarch, Alvey “King” Kulina, formerly an international fighting champion who now runs a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) gym called Navy St. in Venice Beach, CA. Alvey has two fighter sons, the emotionally intense Jay, played by Tucker, and the quiet Nate, played by Jonas. Alvey’s girlfriend is also the business manager of the gym, Lisa, played by Sanchez. Lisa’s ex-boyfriend, Ryan, played by Lauria, who is also a MMA fighter, is just getting out of prison in the first season.
Impressions: The gym is inhabited by a wide cast of characters that you grow to care about over the 40 episodes. Despite the ongoing drama that saturates every episode, you never lose sight of the focus of the series and that is the training, discipline, and passion for MMA. The cast is outstanding! Lots of beautiful bodies, both male and female, on the show.
Etc.: Was on a cable channel originally but Netflix picked it up a month or so ago. Its popularity is surging, and there is growing body of fans who want a Season 4 (and beyond!) made. The crew is ready, willing, and able to go, folks.
Awards: Couldn’t find info on it.
Starring: Zain Al Rafeea, Yordanos Shiferaw, Boluwatife Treasure Bankole, Kawsar Al Haddad, Fadi Yousef, Cedra Izzam, Alaa Chouchnieh, Elias Khoury, and many others
Director: Nadine Labaki
Synopsis: The movie takes place in Lebanon and starts with a young boy, Zain, standing in a courtroom in front of a judge, charged with a serious crime and facing 5 years in prison (there is no separate prison for children in Lebanon.) The story unfolds with flashbacks leading up to how the young boy ended up there. It’s difficult to put into words all that transpires, but the boy is one of many children by an devastatingly poverty-stricken couple that are forced to do things no parent should have to do to survive. The bright, sensitive, and streetwise Zain rebels and runs away to another city and finds a kindhearted soul to take him in, at least for awhile.
Impressions: The skill with which this movie was put together isn’t to be taken lightly. This feels more like a documentary than anything. The images will haunt you. The knowledge that this is not just fiction is something that cannot be ignored. The US (and other countries) have media that act more as censors who shield us from the harsh realities of how people live in other parts of the world. We have so much, and they have so little, with no hope in sight. The children in this movie will stay with you long after it’s over.
Etc.: filmed in 6 locations in Lebanon; Arabic and Amharic languages with English subtitles
Awards: 35 wins and 49 nominations
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, Chin Han, Danusia Samal, Lasarus Ratuere, Yutaka Izumihara, Tawanda Manyimo, Peter Ferdinando, and many others.
Director: Rupert Sanders
Genres: sci-fi, anime turned live action
Synopsis: Scarlett plays Major, who is a human brain that is implanted in a cybernetic android superweapon. She is a prototype that is assigned to a team that is hunting a dastardly villain who has a major grudge against the mega-corporation that designed Major.
Impressions: I love the concept of one’s soul being the ghost in the machine/shell and like how the ethics of using human consciousness in synthetic shells is explored. The music is well-meshed with the action. The fx is so good! Johansson as Major, Asbaek as Batou, and Michael Pitt as Kuze and all the rest are such beautifully stylized characters! Kitano, Binoche, and Ferdinando provide great supporting roles.
Etc.: The movie was filmed in Wellington, New Zealand, but the setting is a “highly digitized Hong Kong”, per imdb. There is a wealth of interesting trivia on imdb if you’re interested.
Awards: 3 wins and 6 nominations