Knives Out (2019): 2019’s Pop Culture Murder Mystery Dinner

mv5bmguwzjlimtatnzaxzi00mwnilwe2nzgtzguxmgqxzjhhndrixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynju1nzu3mze40._v1_sy1000_sx675_al_

“Knives Out” is directed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper) and stars… well, pretty much everyone you know. To be completely serious though, “Knives Out” stars Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Exposed), Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger, Gifted), Daniel Craig (Skyfall, Logan Lucky), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Scream Queens), Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, The Shape of Water), Don Johnson (Miami Vice, Nash Bridges), Toni Collette (Hereditary, The Sixth Sense), Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry To Bother You, Get Out), Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why, Love, Simon), Jaeden Martell (It, The Book of Henry), and Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World, The Sound of Music). Holy crap, that’s a lot of names.

“Knives Out” takes place in the middle of Massachusetts and it typically centers around the interactions of a family after the death of a patriarch. Everybody gathers around a large house, everybody’s got a story, everybody’s got a motivation, but it is also up to a detective (Daniel Craig) to settle everyone down and find out the truth regarding what happened.

The murder mystery genre for me is kind of like horror, because I never take too many chances to dive into the genre itself. Granted, horror, at least to me, is a tad more predictable because it seems to have more of a staying power in today’s society, so I personally prefer the murder mystery genre. In fact, my favorite “Family Guy” episode ever, “And Then There Were Fewer,” is a murder mystery, so I do have some respect for the genre. And honestly, when it comes to Rian Johnson, I will admit that I have had a slight bad taste in my mouth because of the way he handled “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” It’s a film that just got significantly worse after I first saw it. In fact, when I watched it a second time, I was kind of turned off by the result. I say that because I wanted the movie to go in a different direction than say “The Empire Strikes Back,” which is a great movie. However, despite the everlasting love and affection I have for 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” one minor flaw with that movie is the way they manage to basically rehash the earliest “Star Wars.” Granted, it’s a fantastic homage which had many repeat viewings for me. But as much as I originally appreciated it for going in a different direction, a lot of the choices they made to go in such a direction were sort of faulty and questionable.

However, having seen that movie, I now know that Johnson might as well be one to subvert expectations. Here’s the thing. Murder mysteries are supposed to keep you guessing. If this movie could keep me on the edge of my seat and questioning everything, then I’d walk out satisfied.

Honestly, I went into this movie with an idea of what is going to be. It turns out, I got something better than what I thought I would get. And that says a lot because the hype behind this movie felt real for me. The production design is some of the best I have seen all year. The acting, not to mention casting in general, is perfect. Everyone from Daniel Craig to Ana De Armas to Toni Collette, everyone served their roles properly and put a smile on my face.

I’ll just say though, I think the two most popular award ceremonies that have to with movies are the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. I have had a history of talking about both ceremonies on here, especially the Academy. But I never usually talk about another popular ceremony, the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Awards. One of the biggest awards they present on the night of the ceremony is one given to the entire ensemble of actors. We still have about a month left before 2019 is over, and a little longer than that until the ceremony takes place, but I’d argue that at this point, “Knives Out” has an extremely solid chance at winning such an award. I think purely based on how Rian Johnson has to handle so many actors at once, many of whom happened to already establish their name in the industry, including a couple who are a bit lesser known, there is a chance “Knives Out” could walk away with the biggest award from that ceremony.

One of the more solid examples that could let that case be true is Daniel Craig, who plays Benoit Blanc in the film. His performance, was part of what set the tone for the entire movie for me. Daniel Craig, while taking his performance seriously, realizes that this movie is sort of supposed to be fun. His introduction scene almost made me think I was watching something from Wes Anderson, because it is charming, quirky, and based on the way it was directed, I was perhaps hypnotized to leave the film, regardless of whether or not I liked it, admiring Craig in all his glory.

Another standout performer to me is one of the leads, Chris Evans. I think most of what I love about this performance has mainly to do with the screenplay and how the character is written. I say that because the movie is full of tense dialogue between characters, which allows serious vibes to kick in, but Evans manages to play a character who is incredibly laid back and sort of a smartass. Do I think other people could have played his character? Personally, yes, I think I could have played it if I tried, because if I were in this situation, this is probably how I would act. I’d try to have fun with the seriousness at hand, while also trying to deal with the current situation.

As for smaller roles, I think there are a number of them that stand out. Jamie Lee Curtis, Jaeden Martell, but the one I want to talk about is the one given by Toni Collette. I think Collette is not only a great performer here, but brought such life to her character that I cannot imagine anyone else bringing at all, or at least without being cringeworthy. Collette’s character sort of reminds me of a crazy aunt who likes to party. Maybe another good example is the mother from ABC’s “The Goldbergs,” minus the toxic affection she has for offspring. In a way, she’s almost like Chris Evans’ character, because as much as everyone else may be moody or depressed, which she kind of is at times, but still, she has a somewhat happy outlook on current happenings. Either that or she may just have some sort of God-given charisma that nobody else can have.

But if you ask me, I think the best performance in the film is given by Ana de Armas, an actress who I personally happened to have liked before this film came out, and someone who may been the main reason why this film was originally put on my radar. For the record, Ana de Armas was one of the supporting roles in my 2nd favorite film of 2017, and one of my favorite sci-fi films of the decade, “Blade Runner 2049.” She has this ability to take a challenging role and own it. Because in that movie she played a holographic woman that was supposed to have a connection to whoever owned them. The complexity of that role involved being someone who is robotic enough to serve their master, while also being human enough to understand emotion, because in that movie she was someone who happened to be in love with the main character. At the same time, it was almost as if she was a product of the main character’s desires.

As for this movie, we get more of a glance at a character where Ana de Armas has a personality where she is more worried about saving herself. In fact, I mentioned earlier that Daniel Craig presented himself as this quirky, out of nowhere detective. If you ask me, I think the biggest quirk in the movie didn’t necessarily come from him, and instead, came from Ana de Armas. Because she plays a character who practically cannot lie. If all other people were like her, she’d make the lie detector test obsolete. I say that because her character cannot tell a lie, otherwise she throws up. This makes every scene where Armas is forced to tell a truth or where she is being questioned all the more intriguing because not only was I, as an audience member, hypnotized to follow the mystery as it was unraveled, but I was also somewhat concerned for the character’s sanity, health, and sense of self.

From a technical standpoint, the cinematography in the film is amazing. The various dutch angles fit a number of the scenes and sort of had an old Hollywood vibe. The music is outstanding. By the way, such music is composed by Rian Johnson’s cousin, Nathan Johnson, who also worked with him in films like “Brick” and “Looper.” I think Rian Johnson could have a chance for being nominated in the Best Director category, I think his vision helped this movie immensely. This honestly feels like a movie that only he could have done. Maybe one or two other people could do this, but this feels like a personal project. And as much as I despise “The Last Jedi,” I could see what Rian Johnson was trying to do with that movie, because he not only directed that film, but he wrote it as well. “Star Wars” to me, must be a more collaborative piece of media to work on at this point, and with “The Force Awakens” pointing in a certain direction, it admittedly feels odd looking back to see one man with perhaps a sole vision take over for a big film that could expand on previous lore and build up to the next one which happens to conclude a trilogy. These are the kinds of films that I would prefer to see Johnson tackle. Could he do another big franchise in the future? Maybe, but I want to see more of his original work. Media that feels like something only he could own.

I honestly don’t even know what problems come to mind with “Knives Out.” The camerawork is some of the best I have seen all year. The characters are all charismatic. The screenplay is nothing short of outstanding. The ending, as well done as it is, is little choppy in buildup. As for other problems, if there are any, they are a bit hard to point out. Overall, this movie kicks ass!

In the end, “Knives Out,” the movie with perhaps the most badass title of all time, packs a brutal punch of bloody goodness. It is easily one of the best movies of the year, and a step in the right direction for Rian Johnson as a filmmaker. I have not checked out his earlier work, but I really want to check out “Looper.” Films like these are the ones I’ll be excited for when it comes to Rian Johnson’s filmography. Films that are original, exhilarating, and keep me on the edge of my seat. If I have to say one more thing, I will suggest that you’d go see this movie with the biggest crowd you can. If you have one of those theaters with reserved seating near you, buy your tickets online and see how many people have already reserved seats. If there many seats reserved already, I implore you, PLEASE buy a ticket to that show because this is a movie where crowd reactions enhance the experience to the tenth degree. I’m going to give “Knives Out” a 9/10.

Screenshot (6)

Thanks for reading this review! Just want to announce to everyone reading that during this Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to be showing off my newest trailer for “Top Movies of the 2010s,” a project I plan to release this January, it is going to be the most ambitious countdown series I have done yet, and I cannot wait to share it with you all! If you want to be notified about this trailer, here’s what you can do. Follow Scene Before with an email, or if you want greater access, use a WordPress account! If you are on Facebook, check out MY PAGE and give it a like! I want to know, did you see “Knives Out?” What did you think about it? Or, who happens to be your favorite fictional dysfunctional family? It can be from anything, books, movies, TV, you name it! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Django Unchained (2012): Now You Have My Attention, Tarantino

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Before we begin this post, I want to announce that I officially purchased my opening night tickets for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which is the latest film from director Quentin Tarantino. I’m going to see the movie in 35mm and I will likely have my review up by the end of the opening weekend. But since that movie is not out yet, I am going to be tackling a couple more Tarantino films from the past including one of the latest additions to the director’s library, “Django Unchained.” I sat down last week, watched the film for the first time, and let me just say, any movie that has Robert Carradine (King of the Nerds, Revenge of the Nerds), chances are I will have some interest in checking out. Without further ado, let’s start the review!

mv5bmjiyntq5njq1ov5bml5banbnxkftztcwodg1mdu4oa4040._v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_

“Django Unchained” is directed by Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction) and stars Jamie Foxx (Ray, Collateral), Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, The Green Hornet), Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, Inception), Kerry Washington (Scandal, Save the Last Dance), Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers, Snakes on a Plane), Walton Goggins (Justified, The Shield), Dennis Christopher (Breaking Away, It), James Remar (2 Fast 2 Furious, Sex and the City), Michael Parks (Red State, Planet Terror), and Don Johnson (Miami Vice, Nash Bridges). This film involves a dynamic duo, specifically a freed slave and German bounty hunter. The freed slave’s main purpose throughout the film is trying to reunite with his wife. To do that, they have to travel to a plantation in Mississippi.

I was pretty excited to watch “Django Unchained” for a number of reasons. As of watching “Pulp Fiction” and reviewing it, I instantly had Tarantino fever. “Django Unchained” had a decent cast including Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio. Plus, while he does not play a major role, Robert Carradine, one of the members of the legendary Carradine acting family, is in this movie. While I may not be invested in said family, Carradine is personally one of my idols simply for being host of “King of the Nerds,” one of the only good reality shows to ever exist. I was pretty much set for whatever Tarantino was going to deliver.

I just want to remind everyone that in the name “Django,” the “D” is silent. But as for my thoughts on the film, I almost feel that in a world where praise can make noise, my praise for “Django Unchained” would be pretty freaking audible. That is not to say that it is as good as “Pulp Fiction,” there are a couple issues I have with “Django Unchained,” including one or two that could be used in comparison to “Pulp Fiction.”

When I watched “Pulp Fiction,” I had my eyes glued to the screen for pretty much the entire picture. Part of me wants to say that for “Django Unchained,” but I’d be lying if I didn’t go without saying that the pacing for “Django Unchained” occasionally becomes a hindrance. The thing that kept me looking at the screen for “Pulp Fiction” was the execution of the dialogue between characters, not to mention actions in between. “Django Unchained,” much like “Pulp Fiction,” is a movie that is very cool to look at. It feels exactly how I would want a western-style film to be. But there are one or two points where I am thinking to myself certain scenes can be executed in a slightly different way for the sake of shortening the runtime or some other reason. Who knows? Maybe it’s one of those things that I will learn to appreciate over a second watch, but it’s hard to tell. It’s not like I became angry with the ways certain scenes went down, in fact, there is one scene in particular past the halfway point that goes on for a long time, and the execution there is brilliant. And that’s the thing about Tarantino that I have come to appreciate over the past couple of films I watched. There are a lot of movies out there that I would criticize for having extended scenes that go on forever, with boring dialogue. There are particular long scenes in this that may have dialogue that some directors and writers could probably leave behind. Tarantino however, seems to be the master when it comes to shoehorning in useless scenes. It’s mind-boggling that I as an audience member could be witnessing a moment of the film that is borderline unneeded, but because of what is being said, it feels like a cherry on top of a sundae!

As for the characters in “Django Unchained,” all of them are well written. In fact, there are some cases where I refuse to call them characters and instead call them “A+ dialogue generators.” I really felt for Jamie Foxx’s character of Django at certain points, and there are times where I managed to find him pretty kick-ass. And such kick-assery is established from the very first scene, which is carried through the entire film with ease. And as far as his chemistry with Christoph Waltz goes, it is taken to the point where I cannot even imagine anybody else playing either of their characters.

By the way, I love this scene.

Amerigo Vessepi: What’s your name?

Django: Django.

Amerigo Vessepi: Can you spell it?

Django: D-J-A-N-G-O. The D is silent.

Amerigo Vessepi: I know.

I dunno, there’s something about that which just randomly screams, “Hey! I kick ass and take names!” And not only do I have to give credit for Jamie Foxx for the way he delivered that line, but I think top credit has to go to Quentin Tarantino, because I imagine he wanted this line specifically in the way which it happens to be presented here. Granted, it is also an Easter egg because this movie was inspired by the 1966 movie “Django,” starring the guy opposite this movie’s “Django” in the conversation above. Specifically, Franco Nero.

Although, even though I said I cannot imagine somebody playing someone else’s character, there’s one exception, but the reasoning for it is kinda crazy. When I read the cast on the Blu-ray case for this movie, I almost thought KERRY Washington said DENZEL Washington, so I cannot currently get him out of my head!

Speaking of things I cannot get out of my head, part of me really wants to see this movie turned into a video game. Why? Because this movie at times is unnecessarily violent, but it is all the better for it. There’s one shootout towards the end in particular that was a giant bloodbath. Said shootout contains a number of satisfying kills, and I would probably would need to rewatch this film, or maybe that scene in particular, but it could end up being in my top 20 favorite action scenes. And it does not take away from any emotion that I had towards the characters, because Django would get himself into a less than satisfying situation that made me admire the other side for how they executed their actions (stylistically), but I was still able to latch onto Django as a character.

I also gotta give credit to the costume and makeup department, especially with the transformation of Samuel L. Jackson. Because in this movie, he does not completely look like Samuel L. Jackson and instead looks more like the stereotype for a retired badass NBA basketball player. Per usual, Jackson is charismatic, plays a well written character, and at this point I’m pretty much repeating myself, I do not see anybody else playing his character. It’s amazing what a little grey hair can do to make a role more convincing.

In the end, “Django Unchained” is a fun ride, and kinda bonkers. Depending on the next movie I watch from Tarantino, he could become my favorite screenwriter of all time, and while this was not as good as “Pulp Fiction,” this manages to have the same Tarantino flair that movie had which I appreciate. This is not to say that “Django Unchained” is a ripoff, but it is just another reason why I happen to admire Tarantino’s directorial choices. He’s edgy, creative, and badass. “Django Unchained” solidifies itself as one of the best films of its year and when it comes to other violent films out there, this makes every other film look like it was made for children. “Django Unchained” kicks ass! I’m going to give “Django Unchained” a 9/10!

Thanks for reading this review! For those of you who want to know my next installment in the Tarantino review series, it is going to be his latest film, specifically 2015’s “The Hateful Eight.” I wanted to see this movie in theaters, but I never got around to it because of competition. Let’s face it, I ended up seeing “The Force Awakens” four times in a matter of two months. Nevertheless, I am very excited, I enjoy a good mystery every once in a while, so hopefully this will be good! As for new releases, I’m still trying my best to get myself to go see “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” I’m wondering if it is gonna be this year’s “Deadpool 2.” It’s a movie that I want to see, one that I am trying extra hard to get myself to see, but for one reason or another, I almost failed to get around to it. We’ll see what happens! Be sure to follow Scene Before with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you ever watch “Django Unchained?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite unnecessarily violent film or scene from a film? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!