*MOVIE RECAP: DA 5 BLOODS

Da 5 Bloods is Spike Lee’s most impressive film since the highly acclaimed BlacKkKlansman (2018), and probably his most ambitious film in terms of content. The story follows 5 Black American Vietnam war vets who return to present-day Vietnam for the first time since the war. The ensemble cast is solid — Otis (Clarke Peters), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Paul (Delroy Lindo).

Delroy Lindo’s character is at the center of the story. He is the most unlikeable character here — he is a MAGA hat-wearing — Trump supporter who stands against everything progressive social causes stand for today. My impression is that Paul’s character is, in a way, a direct critique of Black Americans and minorities who support or have supported Trump.

Here we have a character who lived through the civil rights movement and now, as an older person, has turned his back on the movement’s ideals. It seems that a combination of PTSD, personal tragedy, and a poor mental state have contributed to Paul’s cognitive decline. Delroy Lindo’s performance is outstanding, an early favorite for award season.

Da 5 Bloods are returning to Vietnam for the first time since the war. They are on a quest to find and recover the remains of their squad leader Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Bossman), who was killed during combat, and the surviving Bloods plan to bring him back home. Stormin’ Norman was not only their squad leader but also their spiritual leader, and in a sense, he commanded a father figure type of influence on the Bloods. They even refer to him as “our Malcolm and our Martin.”

They are also attempting to retrieve Gold bars buried somewhere in the jungle. The gold bars belonged to the US government but were lost in the jungle after the cargo plane carrying them went down. Da 5 Bloods buried the gold intending to return at a later time and retrieve it.

There is this reparations aspect to Stormin’ Normans’ plans with what to do with the gold. He wanted to give all the gold to the Black people of the United States. The people who had been historically mistreated and forced to send young Black men to fight this unjust and unpopular war for the United States.

While in the middle of the Vietnamese Jungle-warzone, we observed Da 5 Bloods reaction to the MLK assassination news —That was an important scene that added more context to the characters.

There are layers and layers of messages sprinkled throughout this film…. like the French characters representing, in a way, the dark history of France in Vietnam and how the French had fought and lost a war there before the American war. The French character Hedy (Melanie Thierry) came from an affluential French family who made a fortune building landmines in Vietnam, directly benefiting from the Vietnamese people’s suffering.

There are landmines still scattered throughout the jungle — Hedy now runs an NGO whose mission is to locate and get rid of all the landmines left all over Vietnam — in a way, it feels like she is attempting to undo her family’s past and the sins of her country.

The Vietnamese characters are portrayed respectfully, and their views of the American war are expressed in a more direct and personal manner, not often seen in Hollywood productions.

There are excellent technical aspects that I found impressive, like the decision to have the main characters, who are actually older men in their 60s, play younger versions of themselves in flashbacks without de-aging them or CGI; it was a courageous and remarkable decision. The action sequences and the war shots were all well-executed—there are hints of Apocalypse Now in some key scenes.

This film provides a unique view of the African American experience during the Vietnam war within the context of the civil rights era; A period in history that remains very much relevant today. Da 5 Bloods is, without a doubt, an essential film to watch.

Four out of Five Popcorn bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

DA 5 BLOODS (2020). Streaming on Netflix

*MOVIE RECAP: AQUAMAN

I avoided this movie when it came out in theaters back in 2018. Mostly ‘cause, around those days, I was not feeling any of the DC Extended Universe movies (DCEU). However, I have recently decided to give them another chance and watch them all back to back; Starting with Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), which, for the most part, I really liked both of them, with a few minor exceptions here and there.

Aquaman was a massive worldwide box office hit, and now I kind of wish that I had seen it in theaters when it first came out — CGI spectacles like this type of movie are meant to be experienced on the big screen. Still, this is an entertaining movie, and it is an origin story at its core. I really liked the whole love story angle between Aquaman’s parents, which was a pretty compelling storyline. It was also pretty cool seeing Temuera Morrison (Tom Curry/Aquaman’s father), aka Jango Fett, in another big blockbuster flick.

Jason Momoa (Arthur/Aquaman) is excellent here; it is like he was tailor-made for this role. The main premise here is that Arthur’s half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who rules the deep ocean world of Atlantis, wants to unite all of the underwater tribes and wage war against the “surface dwellers.” Aquaman finds himself as the reluctant hero, pressured by his mentor Vulko (Willem Dafoe) to find The Trident of Atlan. This Trident is a powerful weapon that only responds to the one and true king (echoes of king Arthur and Excalibur). With this Trident, Aquaman can lay claim to the title of Ocean Master and rule over all of the underwater kingdoms, which would essentially put a stop to his half-brother’s warmongering campaign.

There is massive cheesiness in this movie, especially in the dialogue, which makes the chemistry between some of the characters tough to watch, most notably the chemistry between Amber Heard (Mera) and Jason Momoa; their chemistry is not great.

David Kane/Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) was not well developed, especially if the plan is to turn this character into a formidable villain for future Aquaman movies. I was static to see Dolph Lundgren (King Nereus); it is pretty neat seeing iconic action stars from my childhood showing up in mainstream movies.

There are a bunch of far fetch scenes that seemed unnecessary; for instance, there is a scene with an Octopus playing drums….I didn’t think it was needed or in any way useful.

So far, Wonder Woman (2017) has been the best of all the DC Extended Universe movies. I’m looking forward to HBO releasing the Snyder cut of Justice League, which will be an epic streaming event.

Despite the lazy dialogue and the heavy CGI action sequences, Aquaman is a fun and enjoyable movie worth watching, mainly due to Jason Momoa’s performance. Overall, Aquaman is a welcome addition to this ever-evolving but highly flawed DC Extended Universe.

Two out of Five Popcorn Bags

AQUAMAN (2018)

*TV SERIES RECAP: HUNTERS

Hunters is an over the top TV series that brings an alternate version of history with some real historical facts sprinkled throughout its fictional plot. The show takes on historical facts like the Holocaust, World War II, and Operation Paperclip — it takes all those historical facts, and it reimagines them as a TV series along similar lines as Inglorious Basterds.

The opening scene in the first episode is outstanding, and it gives you a taste of what to expect from this show in terms of over the top violence. The entire first episode feels like a movie — in the sense that the first episode is about 1 hour and 29 minutes long — All the remaining episodes are roughly about an hour.

Set in 1978, New York City, we have young Jonah (Logan Lerman), who works at a comic bookstore and lives in Brooklyn with his Holocaust-survivor grandmother Ruth (Jeannie Berlin). Ruth is murdered inside their home; Jonah witnesses the murder but fails to stop the killer. At her funeral, Jonah begins to suspect that grandma had a separate life from the one she lived at home. Soon, he discovers that grandma was a secret member of an underground Nazi-hunting organization.

We get to see how Nazi war criminals and many Nazi scientists were brought to the United States under US government protection and given high-level jobs after World War II. And now, years after the war ended, these same Nazi war criminals are being recognized by Holocaust survivors in random cities throughout the United States.

Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino) leads a team of Nazi Hunters, hell-bent on tracking down leads and executing justice in violently imaginative ways. Al Pacino seems to be having a blast with this role. I enjoyed his performance.

The Nazi hunters’ team is an interesting one; we have the fantastic husband/wife team of Murray (Saul Rubinek) and Mindy (Carol Kane); their backstory is super compelling. Roxy (Tiffany Boone) is a foxy brown type of character. Lonny (Josh Radnor) is a cool, sophisticated, and fun-loving actor who specializes in disguises. Joe (Louis Ozawa), a combat expert and Vietnam vet who has PTSD. Sister Harriet (Kate Mulvaney) a nun and a former British agent. This nun character is the most mysterious in the group. She seems to be regularly reporting on the progress the Nazi hunters are making to someone on the phone.

We also have Millie (Jerrika Hinton), an FBI agent. She begins to connect the dots between the random killings of German-born US citizens and realizes that all these killings are somehow connected. All of the victims seem to have a mysterious past—she soon discovers that these murder victims were former Nazi war criminals living in the US. In some cases, they were living under new identities given to them by the US government.

The Colonel (Lena Olin) and Biff Simpson (Dylan Baker) are excellent villains. However, the character by the name of Travis (Greg Austin) stands out as one of the most remorseless and terrifying villains of recent memory.

Hunters is a daring show that goes into dark places; It deals with white supremacy rising from the shadows and how these Nazis had a plan to infiltrate US institutions of government and fields of science, politics, religion, technology, and business. There is a long game at play here for these Nazis, in which they will destroy the United States from the inside and give rise to a fourth Reich.

In a nutshell, Hunters is a well-made and entertaining comic book style show about Nazi hunters. If you are a fan of Tarantino movies or even the Kingsman movies, you will probably appreciate what this show attempts to do. I enjoyed it and looking forward to season 2.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

HUNTERS (2020). Streaming on Prime.

*TV SERIES RECAP: THE STRANGER

Imagine someone showing up out of nowhere to reveal a deep dark secret that nobody is supposed to know and exposing something hidden and possibly devastating from your past? That is the unique premise of The Stranger. Based on the 2015 novel of the same name by Harlan Coben and adapted for TV by Danny Brocklehurst(Shameless).

The Stranger is a mysterious woman (Hannah John-Kamen), who pops up out of nowhere, and drops bombshell after bombshell on unsuspecting people. Revealing secrets and throwing people’s lives in complete disarray. The central character is Adam (Richard Armitage), a successful lawyer and family man. He is approached by the mysterious Stranger and is told that his wife Corinne (Dervia Kirwan) lied to him about a lost pregnancy and has kept secrets from him. After confronting his wife about the revelation of her fake pregnancy, Corinne mysteriously vanishes.

The plot moves pretty fast as Adam begins to investigate his wife’s disappearance frantically. Every single character seems to have their own unique storyline, which directly and in some cases indirectly connects all the characters in the series to The Stranger and to whatever truth she has revealed. The cool thing is that there are twists within twists, some are pretty obvious, and you see them coming, and some are entirely unexpected.

Social media and technology are effectively used in the plot. It helps propel the story forward, which not all modern shows have successfully executed when using modern technology in their plotlines.

The ensemble cast is excellent. Detective Johanna (Siobhan Finneran) is brilliant as a down to earth detective. Her character was well written and carried a unique sensibility that only a seasoned actor could’ve achieved. Paul Kaye, our old buddy Thoros of Myr from Game of Thrones, shows up as a corrupt detective Patrick Katz; he became one of my favorite characters from this show. The always fantastic Stephen Rea plays a retired cop who hires Adam to wage a legal battle to stop a redevelopment project from tearing down his neighborhood to build newer and affordable housing. The cast of teenagers was solid; they were all pretty compelling and exciting characters.

The Stranger is an engaging mystery series that keeps you on the edge of your seat; however, as far as a mystery series is concerned, it is not as remarkable as, say, The Dublin Murders, which I loved and could not get enough of. Still, The Stranger is a very well put together, entertaining, and extremely binge-able show.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

The Stranger (2020). Streaming on NETFLIX.

*MOVIE RECAP: MY NAME IS EMILY

Embarrassed to admit that until recently, I had never heard about this movie — And of all the films that I watched during the lockdown, My Name is Emily was one of the most enjoyable movie-watching experiences.

There are so many small independent films out there just waiting to be seen — and I am always on the lookout for under-seen films like this one. Not all independent movies are good — there are plenty of hits and misses out there. However, My Name is Emily is definitely not one of those misses. Interestingly enough, this film was made possible through a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Sadly, the director, Simon Fitzmaurice, passed away shortly after the film was released. He directed this film from a wheelchair in a quadriplegic state, paralyzed by motor-neuron disease. He knew he was dying when he made it, which added a unique sensitivity to it when I watched it.

My Name is Emily is essentially a coming of age story. Emily (Evanna Lynch) is a loner and viewed as an outcast in school. She lives with foster parents after her father, Robert (Michael Smiley), was committed to a mental facility and has given away his parental rights to Emily’s custody. She mourns her dead mother deeply and flirts with the idea of suicide. The flashback scenes with Emily’s mother (Deidre Mullins) are very touching.

Emily recruits her schoolmate Arden (George Webster) to run away with her and head out on the road to breakout Emily’s father from a mental facility. The road trip through the gorgeous Irish landscape is visually stunning. The dialogue and the characters are well written.

Evanna Lynch has come a long way since her Harry Potter days. She has a strong presence on screen and projects a unique and natural sensibility by entirely owning this character.

Death and grieving is a huge part of this movie. I have a profound appreciation for films that attempt to deal with real human emotions like grief. My Name is Emily is a lovely and heartwarming Irish Indie film that deals with some heavy emotional content and manages to reach some high marks. It was a delight to watch.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

MY NAME IS EMILY (2015)

*TV SERIES RECAP: COBRA KAI (Seasons 1 & 2)

First and foremost, I’m a HUGE fan of the Karate Kid movies, especially Karate Kid 1 and Karate Kid 3; those two are my favorite movies from the entire series. Karate Kid 2 was ok; I wasn’t too crazy about it. The Next Karate Kid with Hilary Swank was forgettable at best. The Jackie Chan reboot was garbage; it should have never been made.

The first week that Kobra Kai season 1 dropped on YouTube back in 2018, I immediately subscribed (Free Trial), and I binged through the whole thing in a few days. There are 10 episodes per season, coming in at roughly 30 minutes long…pretty easy to binge through the entire series in a few sittings.

Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), our two main characters from Karate Kid 1, are back; they are now middle age, and neither one has gotten over their high school rivalry.

Jhonny struggles with adult life; He has a hard time keeping a steady job — he is divorced, lives in a dump of an apartment, and his son hates him. Zabka gives an incredible performance, giving Johnny some humanity that the original film kind of flirted with. And in Kobra Kai, we get to explore Johnny’s background much deeper, getting a better look at his home-life growing up. We also see how he views the world around him; He seems stuck in time; He displays sexists and racist views. He is angry, frustrated, hasn’t gotten over losing Ali (Elizabeth Shue), and still sees his high school days as the highlight of his life.

On the other hand, Daniel has built a successful life for himself; he owns a local car dealership while using his background in Karate as a marketing tool. He has a lovely home and a beautiful family.

There is this revisionist aspect to the Johnny Lawrence character that has provoked plenty of debate online — reshaping Johnny as the real victim and painting Daniel LaRusso as the instigator and, in a way, the original bully of the entire series. It was Daniel who threw the first punch at the beach in the original Karate Kid movie, which prompted Johnny to defend himself and whoop Daniel’s ass — which was entirely understandable. It was Daniel who continued to provoke Johnny when he used a water hose at the high school Halloween dance and prompted another beat down.

I can see how there is a case for that argument; Daniel always struck me as a bit of a brat in the movies. Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) always seemed to figure out a way to bring balance into Daniel’s life, and in the absence of Mr. Miyagi, we see Daniel reverting to those bratty ways. The endless discussions on these characters are among the many reasons why these two characters and the Karate Kid movies have such enduring power.

Season 1 is mostly about Johnny and his newfound life-purpose by bringing back Kobra Kai Dojo and having a new crop of students following his teachings, which in a big way are the teachings of John Kreese (Martin Kove). The relationship between sensei Lawrence and his top-apprentice, Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), is central to the plotline.

Season 2 is essentially Dojo vs. Dojo—Kobra Kai vs. Miyagi-Do. Daniel starts his own dojo with 2 students; Robby (Tanner Buchanan) and his daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser). Their main objective is to combat the rise of Kobra kai in the valley.

The power of mentorship is a crucial component here. We get to see how passing down knowledge positively or negatively can have a life-changing effect on young pupils. We see how the outcasts and the nerds become bullies by being taught Kobra Kai’s “Strike first, strike hard, no mercy” philosophy.

The cast of young misfits is excellent. Eli/Hawk (Jacob Bertrand) and his rivalry with his former bestie Demetri (Gianni Decenzo) is an engaging sub-plot. Miguel’s mom Carmen (Vanessa Rubio), adds a compelling dynamic to the storyline, and I think season 3 should explore her background a bit further. I sense Carmen or even Tory (Peyton List) has a connection to Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) or Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan), the two villains from Karate Kid 3. Tory shows up out of nowhere, and all of a sudden, she becomes the clear-cut young villainous bully the show was needing.

Kobra Kai is nostalgic TV at its finest. It pulls away from the 80s effectively, but it still embraces 80s culture beautifully. Exceptionally well produced and well written. It is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying binge-watching experiences of recent memory.

Five out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿

Cobra Kai (Season 1-2). Streaming on NETFLIX

*MOVIE RECAP: TOGO

First of all, I am surprised Disney did not release this movie out in theaters back in December of 2019 or early 2020 and opted instead for a direct to streaming release. I think Togo would have provided excellent competition against CALL OF THE WILD (FOX), which came out in theaters in early 2020, and it was not well received and performed somewhat poorly at the box office.

Some of these direct-to-streaming movies don’t usually get much attention, mostly because people are quick to assume that the quality of those films is not as good as theatrical releases.

However, I enjoyed TOGO more than I expected; I thought it was a fun movie.

I always thought BALTO was the hero of the world-famous “Serum Run” of Nome, Alaska, in 1925. I thought Balto completed the run covering over 600 miles of treacherous, snow-covered terrain while transporting antitoxins desperately needed to combat a diphtheria outbreak.

Man, was I wrong… Balto wasn’t the hero I was led to believe. It was TOGO all along.

The 1995 BALTO movie completely misrepresented the real story of the Serum Run and wrongly established Balto as the lead sled dog throughout the entire run, which was actually a relay run. Balto only completed the final 55-mile leg of the relay. A remarkable achievement, indeed, but erroneously glorified by Hollywood. In reality, TOGO was the lead dog who accomplished the majority of the incredible feat—covering 264 miles.

This TOGO movie would have looked gorgeous on the big screen, considering all the magnificent visuals, the terrain, the snow, the mountains, the ice lakes — they are all perfect and tailor-made for a theatrical experience.

The accuracy of the real Serum Run story is impressive. Minor details of the real story are highlighted and covered pretty accurately, with just a few exceptions here and there, so kudos to director Ericson Core and screenwriter Tom Flynn. The relationship between Togo and his trainer, Leonhard Seppala (Willem Dafoe), is emotionally moving. Dafoe’s acting keeps things interesting, especially while delivering monologues in multiple solo scenes.

TOGO is not so much a retelling of the famous Serum Run of 1925 but an attempt to revisit a legendary real-life story. This is a hero’s journey that continues to amaze and inspire.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

Streaming on DISNEY+

*TV SERIES RECAP: CARNIVAL ROW (Season 1)

I have been on a continuous roll for the past four months, catching up with movies and TV series in my seemingly never-ending “To Watch List.” Which seems never to stop growing.

Carnival Row was a captivating delight to binge-watch. Episodes are roughly about an hour-long with only 8 episodes, so it was easy for me to power through the first season in a couple of sittings.

It is essentially a period drama within a fantasy world — set in a fictional city called The Burge, within a fictional timeline (7th century in their world). The Burge closely resembles 19th-century Victorian-era London.

We have Faeries or Fae creatures — They are mystical creatures whose homeland has been ravaged by war, forcing them to flee as refugees to the Burge. We also have Faun creatures, half-human, half-goat beings. Faun and Faeries live as refugees within the Carnival Row district of the Burge, which is commonly known as the “Row.”

There are many fantasy elements sprinkled throughout the series, most notably witchcraft and dark magic; still, this is not a high magical show or even a high fantasy show like, say, Penny Dreadful. But, there is a multi-genre feel to it.

One of the main characters in the series is a Fae called Vignette (Cara Delevigne); she arrives at the Burge fleeing her homeland. She has a complicated history with the other main character of the series, Philo (Orlando Bloom), a police inspector in the Burge, who has a soft spot for Faes.

Philo is tasked with investigating a string of gruesome murders…. Murders that humans are placing blame on the immigrant community that lives within the “Row.” Immigration, Racism, and xenophobia are central themes here.

There is a bit of slow pace and plenty of exposition in the first two episodes; however, by the third episode, things pick up. The third episode is essentially a flashback episode where we learn a little bit about the Fae myths. You get to see the Fairy temple where Philo and Vignette first met, and you get a better understanding of where the story is heading.

Orlando Bloom has found an excellent TV role here. I have been a fan of his work for a long time…. I am always recommending Kingdom of Heaven (2005); I think it is a highly underrated film and one of the best films made within the last 20 years, but make sure you watch the Director’s cut, it is one of Ridley Scott’s finest achievements as a filmmaker, and Bloom delivers one exceptional performance.

The whole show is obviously well put together; I can tell that the production value was pretty high. The sets and customs are excellent. I enjoyed the dialogue, and the casting is perfect. Jared Harris (Absalom) is always great in everything he is in, and he is great here also. I have been a fan of Simon McBurney (Runyon) for many years now, and I am static to see that he will be a series regular.

The character of Imogen (Tamzin Merchant) had the most compelling character arc in the entire first season. She starts as this upper-class snob, and over the course of the story, she evolves into a more progressive-minded person. Tamzin Merchant has a solid and charismatic screen presence—looking forward to seeing more of her character next season.

There is one pretty fantastic Faery sex scene that stands out from all the rest. The depiction of life at the Row was remarkable. It was grim and dark…. The crime syndicates running things, the street markets, the brothels, and the prostitution…. it showed all the undignified aspects of their everyday immigrant life.

Like I said before, Immigration is at the core of it all here. The show tackles Immigration, racism, and xenophobia in an unapologetic straightforward manner. They are using a fantasy format to expose a significant and relevant issue. The Burge is a place where regular humans hold all the power, and the mystical creatures are viewed as lesser beings, and this show forces you to look at racism through a fantasy lens. It reminds me of late 19th century to early 20th century New York City. And the peak of European Immigration and all the xenophobic and anti-immigrant climate of the era.

Carnival Row is a phenomenal show that surpassed my expectations; it was a fun and entertaining binging experience. And I am pleased to hear that it is getting a second season.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

Carnival Row (Season 1). Streaming on Prime

*MOVIE RECAP: KNIVES OUT

I finally got around to watch KNIVES OUT, which I completely missed when it was out in theaters last year, and it took me a while to make time to stream it.

Everyone has compared it to an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, with some sprinkles of CLUE (1985), and referring to it as a whodunit. But I don’t really think of it as an actual whodunit in the traditional sense — it does, however, feel like one of those murder mystery throwbacks from the 70s.

At the center of the story, we have a renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombley (Christopher Plummer), who, the morning after his 85th birthday, is found dead in his mansion. Harlan’s dysfunctional family gathers around the family estate prepping for the funeral and waiting for the reading of the will. While at the same time, world-famous detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously summoned to join the police investigation regarding Harlan’s death — and everyone seems to be a suspect.

This is not a politically subtle film — We have a bunch of New England WASPs engaging with some relevant cultural and sociopolitical issues of our times. Most notably, the manner in how they interact with Marta (Ana De Armas), Harlan’s young nurse/caretaker. The family pays lip service to Marta at every chance they get, telling her that they will take good care of her and say how much they love her and appreciate her. But none of them seems to remember which country she is from, as they keep naming different countries when referencing her birthplace. Once the family learns that Marta is a beneficiary in Harlan’s will, their true colors come out.

This is an essential film for these politically charged times we are living through. Particularly, in our age of the anti-hero; Here we have a story where the good triumphs and the bad get what they deserve, where examples of white entitlement are presented in the form of a multi-generational family that has benefited directly from their social status. Their xenophobic worldview is coming into direct collision with Marta, an immigrant character who, in a way, represents a new version of the United States and the culture shift this country is currently undergoing.

The Thrombleys appear to be fixated on maintaining their status quo at all costs. They have never really earned or achieved anything on their own without Harlan’s financial assistance of some kind. We get to see how the family’s projection of success is a mirage — Harlan’s wealth had shackled his family and prevented them from achieving success. Removing them from his will was Harlan’s way of freeing them so they could forge their path and achieve success on their own.

In a way, this feels very much like a rare film when compared to most mainstream movies made nowadays. Especially since this is an original story and not an adaptation, it tackles entitlement culture, immigration, and the meaning of what being an American truly means. And it does so in a direct yet satirical and playful manner, which I found admirable. Kudos to Rian Johnson for writing and directing such a complex film. I almost forgave him for how he treated Luke Skywalker.

The final shot of the movie is just perfect; it captures the whole theme of the film beautifully; There, we have Marta, this immigrant girl, standing on the mansion’s balcony looking down at the entire family, as they all look up in disbelief…

KNIVES OUT was a refreshing and entertaining movie-watching experience — The right balance of comedy, drama, and lots of tension. It is well written, character-driven, with all-around top-notch performances from the all-star ensemble cast—an exceptional film.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

KNIVES OUT (2019)

*MOVIE RECAP: ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD

One of the strange benefits of this lockdown is that I finally have time to catch up with a bunch of movies that I missed in theaters and didn’t have time to watch once they became available to stream.

It’s really nice not having to do anything but work on my screenwriting and catch up on movies and TV shows.

Having said that, All The Money In The World has been on my “To Watch List” for over two years….. I can’t believe it took me this long to watch it.

I am a huge fan and admirer of Ridley Scott as a filmmaker — He has made some of the most fascinating and brilliant films of the last 45 years. And I always get excited whenever I see his name involved in a project.

About a month away from this movie’s release date, Ridley Scott announced that he would recast Kevin Spacey’s role and reshoot all of his scenes entirely with Christopher Plummer as his replacement. It was a bold but necessary move by Scott.

Christopher Plummer is formidable in all his scenes, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. You have to pay close attention to notice any signs of adjustments to the original Spacey scenes.

Plummer plays the infamous J. Paul Getty, founder of the Getty Oil Company. From around the 1950s through his eventual death in 1976, Getty was considered to be the wealthiest man in the world.

This film is set in 1973 and centered around the kidnapping of Getty’s teenage grandson in Italy and the initial $17 million ransom demanded by the kidnappers.

Getty refuses to pay the kidnappers, insisting that if he paid for the ransom, then his other 14 grandkids could also be kidnapped and held for ransom. The kid’s mother, Gail (Michelle Williams), who at the time of the kidnapping is already divorced from John Paul Getty Jr. (Andrew Buchan). Gail is trying to raise the ransom money on her own — and the only thing J. Paul Getty can offer as help is to appoint his personal fixer Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), to negotiate with the kidnappers.

Based on the 1995 book by John PearsonPainfully Rich: the Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty. And even though the film is based on actual events, many liberties are being taken here, especially on a shootout scene between the mobsters involved in the kidnapping and the Italian police, which never took place.

There are a couple of scenes that further exemplify how blatantly cheap J. Paul Getty was, but one particular scene stands out, which showed how he had a payphone installed in his mansion for visitors to make phone calls, while his butler is ready to provide loose change in case someone needs coins to make a call.

All the Money in the World is an entertaining film, with outstanding performances by Plummer and Williams, whose combative relationship is at the very center of this story. I am curious whether there will be a director’s cut available at some point — I would love to watch it.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

All the Money in the World (2017).