Double Feature

February 2020 - We're barely into 2020 and, already, I have failed. Failed to see most of the movies that will be up for Oscars later this month. But, I did see Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, which I reviewed over the summer. And, here are two more films which may get a nod in a category or two.

First is Rian Johnson's Knives Out. This PG-13 whodunnit scored a few nominations at the Golden Globes, including one for star Daniel Craig. The cast also includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, and Christopher Plummer.

Craig plays a private detective named Blanc. Benoit Blanc. He's a Southern-accented private eye who's hired to investigate the death of a wealthy family patriarch in New England.

The movie opens as said patriarch, mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Plummer), is found dead just hours after the family gathered to celebrate his 85th birthday. Fast forward one week, and local police are at the Thrombey mansion to question the family. There to assist is Blanc, whose exploits were profiled in a society magazine. He's been hired to consult on the case, but he doesn't know who hired him by sending him an envelope filled with cash.

The suspects include Harlan's daughter, Linda (Curtis), who used some seed money from her father to build a successful real estate business; Linda's husband (Johnson); their son, Ransom (Evans); Harlan's son, Walt; Harlan's daughter-in-law, Joni (Collette). Even Marta, Harlan's beloved immigrant nurse, falls under suspicion. Through flashbacks and questioning, motives and prejudices are exposed, and we see why just about everyone may have had it in for Harlan.

Overall review: Liked it. An enjoyable film that the cast clearly enjoyed making. There's not much to complain about here, but despite the film's 2:10 run time, the ending still managed to feel a bit rushed.

The Golden Globes passed over Florence Pugh, who plays "Amy" in Greta Gerwig's critically acclaimed adaptation of Little Women. Pugh earned praise for her performance there and in last summer's horror hit, the R-rated Midsommar.

In Midsommar, Jack Reynor (A Royal Night Out) and Pugh play Christian and Dani, a pair of American college students. The couple is among a group of friends who venture to northern Sweden to experience a midsummer celebration. It's traditional in the commune where one of those friends, Pelle, grew up.

Pelle is very excited to introduce his friends from America. Likewise, they are very excited to share in the free-flowing psychedelic drugs and to learn about the commune's quaint traditions. Except it turns out that those traditions aren't so quaint. They're brutal and horrifying in support of the commune's quest for survival.

Overall review: Liked it. The pastoral setting belies the horror that awaits. And, even though you know what's coming, you can't look away. The movie also scores on an emotional level as it examines how far someone might go just to feel like they belong.