‘Knives Out’ is a Subversive Whodunnit With a Satirical Bite

After fabulously leaving the Star Wars fandom in flames with The Last Jedi (a blockbuster so complex and thematically rich, it actually inspired me to start writing about movies!), modern genre film icon Rian Johnson is back for another standalone film— and possibly even his last one for quite a while, as he begins develops his own Star Wars trilogy. In his newest outing, Johnson trades a sci-fi fantasy epic for a classic Hollywood mystery with a killer ensemble cast, a luxurious Kentucky mansion, and cozy, expensive-looking sweaters. The brilliance of Knives Out, however, is that Johnson is somehow able to deliver a hilarious, crowd-pleasing whodunnit film, while simultaneously keeping his radical trademark subversive storytelling intact. I suspect it will be quite challenging for any soul to walk out of this film unamused because on both a casual and intellectual level, Knives Out is an absolute knockout. 

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‘Doctor Sleep’ is a Thoughtful Re-Contextualization of ‘The Shining’

How do you create a follow up to one of the most influential and beloved horror films of all time? Director Mike Flanagan has an answer: you don’t simply retread The Shining, you craft a response to to it. Straight off the success of his acclaimed Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House, Flanagan sinks his teeth into his most daring project yet, whilst still retaining the emotional authenticity that has made his work a standout amongst his mainstream horror peers. The result is Doctor Sleep, a messier beast compared to the unnerving precision of Kubrick’s masterpiece, but one that is distinctly bold, sentimental, and of its own identity.

Doctor Sleep‘s biggest strength is that it is not interested in trying to recapture the glory of its 1980’s predecessor; it instead tries to make sense of it. The film follows an older Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) struggling to cope with the evil he experienced at the Overlook Hotel, as well as battling severe depression and alcoholism. His hopes of recovery and peace are soon interrupted by Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a young girl who shares Danny’s powerful shine. Bonded together, they are then hunted by the True Knot, a cult that feeds off of the souls of children, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). The plot is heavier on building the lore and rules of the universe as opposed to than the minimalist sensibility to The Shining. Sometimes that feels quite overbearing and midichlorians-esque, but it has its benefits.

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‘The Lighthouse’ is a Salty Ol’ Sea Shanty of Sexual Desire

If The Witch was Robert Eggers’ cinematic interpretation of a ‘New-England Folktale’, The Lighthouse is an archaic, 19th century, sailors’ sea shanty brought to the screen. Yes, that’s right — the new atmospheric, slow burn, character-driven, A24 released horror film is here with a substantial October opening and a potential low CinemaScore. What it does have, however, is a strong two-man show, a square 1.19:1 aspect ratio, and a deep love for the visual motifs of the German Expressionist movement; Through that, Eggers successfully harkens back to a horror era gone by whilst still offering enough originality, drama, examinations of masculinity, sexual frustration, and plenty of bodily fluids along the way. That’s a pretty stormy sea to navigate! Avast, me hearties.

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In case you were wondering what the hell The Lighthouse is actually about, the plot details and trailer for the film are vague for a reason. The film opens with two lighthouse keepers, the ever-iconic Willem Dafoe, and the newly accepted indie darling Robert Pattinson, as they arrive at a remote New England island. Soon, they are stranded by the onslaught of a storm where their sanities are tested and all concept of time gets lost in the ether. Terrorized by shreiking mermaids and angry seagulls, the relationship between the two lighthouse keepers shifts with nearly every scene in hellish isolation and the deep repression that comes with it.

If you are familiar with Eggers’ debut, The Witch, you’d understand Eggers is committed to his period aesthetics. He has his actors speak in ye olde tongue, and every mannerism, voice inflection, accent, and piece of slang is accounted for — but on top of that, The Lighthouse decides to be a lot less straightforward and more minimalist than The Witch. The result is a film that can be a bit hard to swallow (not unlike Dafoe’s lobster) but relishes in being a bizarre, Lovecraftian, atmospheric and performance-driven showcase that’s fascinating to see unfold.

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VIDEO: Much Ado’s Best of 2019 (So Far)

We’re at the halfway point of the year! Recently, Much Ado wrote about our favorite picks of the year so far, and so this month’s video is an edit to commemorate that. We wanted to include actual pull quotes to give this video a little bit more of a Much Ado stamp as opposed to your typical supercut.

From the film twitter darlings to the more niche indie and foreign films listed here, we hope you give these movies a shot and read all we have to say about them.

Follow us on @muchadocinema on twitter for more content like this!

‘The Lion King’ Sucks the Life Out of the Proverbial Circle

As soon as we left our screening, my friend turned to me in the car and said, “I feel like we both just went on a Disneyland dark ride, where it’s pretty but it’s all really fast and doesn’t really tell the story of the movie that well. It ended and I’m just like, ‘how did we get here?'”

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To me, that accurately describes the experience of watching The Lion King (2019), the hyperrealistic remains of the golden age Disney animation. A remake that evokes the feeling of an unknown stranger breaking into your home to move the furniture just a little bit; enough to gaslight you into thinking everything is cozy and familiar and then you trip over a misplaced carpet. Everything about the movie is exactly the same save for minorly altered scenes, and the story is told infinitely worse— a collection of numbingly boring and non-emotive Kingdom Hearts cutscenes stitched together to make up a two-hour piece of content. Modern Disney remakes have always struggled with justifying their motive to reimagine these beloved classics, and even though I have criticized many of these blockbusters for their lack of new perspective or artistic flair in the past, not a single one tries as little as The Lion King (2019) does.

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‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ is a Summer Vacation Worth Taking

To be totally candid here, it’s difficult to separate my thoughts on Far From Home as a film and my thoughts on it as a die-hard Spider-Man fan. Since the MCU is progressively becoming less stand-alone, I feel it is necessary to give my thoughts on previous entries. Homecoming remains my favorite Spider-Man film, and I am lukewarm at best towards Avengers: Endgame, and if you’re not a fan of either, if you dislike the MCU’s interpretation of Spider-Man, then Far From Home will do very little to change your mind. What we’re dealing with here, is a new, modernized re-interpretation of Peter Parker/Spider-Man instead of a definitive version of the character; the sooner you accept that, the better. You will also read me clarifying “live-action” when I make any bold claims because Into the Spider-Verse still remains the best Spider-Man film and possibly the best comic book film ever.

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I argue this mainly because Far From Home follows Peter Parker in a far different mindset than one would normally expect from him. This is a young, sixteen-year-old Peter that has gone through an enormous amount of trauma from the last two Avengers movies, and in the aftermath, has developed an exhaustion with superheroism; a Spider-Man that has a lot to learn about maturity, responsibility and a lot of emotional baggage to sort through. Jaded with the weight of Iron Man’s passing, Peter (Tom Holland) decides he wants to take a break; to go on his summer field trip in Europe with his classmates and pursue a romance with MJ (Zendaya). Along the way, he runs into Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and a mysterious… Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), and the balance between being Spider-Man and being Peter Parker becomes an even more complicated weight to burden.

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‘Toy Story 4’ Finds Closure in Unexpected Places

Pixar’s sequelitis phase comes to an end with Toy Story 4, possibly the most worrisome sequel of all. Not only do you have the pressure of following up Toy Story 3, the most respected bookend to a nearly-perfect animated trilogy, but it is the newest sequel in a chain of “generally enjoyed but lacking long term impact” sequels from a studio that is lauded for its originality. It also marks the feature-length debut of director Josh Cooley. Greenlighting this film was like opening Pandora’s box, for once you create another addition to this story, the reputation and concept of creative integrity of the brand hangs in the film’s response. It’s a scary, extremely tall order to fill. Luckily, while Toy Story 4 will never quite shake off the label of “the sequel we never asked for,” it still manages to charm, delight, but most importantly, find a way to take its concept to infinity and beyond. And in this summer movie slump, I’ll gladly accept it as a knockout.

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Toy Story 4 kicks off with a cold open: the formerly off-screen separation of Woody (Tom Hanks) and Bo-Peep (Annie Potts) right before moving onto where we left off at the last film—Bonnie and the toys playing throughout the years until her student orientation at kindergarten. Woody, feeling not as relevant with his new owner as he did with Andy, decides to keep a watch on Bonnie on her first day. She creates Forky, a spork with googly eyes and a young mind haunted with existential terror, and Woody is determined to keep him safe through Bonnie’s summer road-trip. When a stop is made in a small town with a carnival and an old antique store, some old friends and flames come back to offer a new perspective of the past, of toy responsibilities, and when to move on. The Toy Story franchise has never been a stranger to themes of identity, but this is a deeper and even bigger step in interrogating what greater purpose toys (and/or, we) have in life.

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