Knives In and Out of Fashion

DATELINE: Old-Fashioned Murder Comedy

Massachusetts mansion.

The comedy murder mystery of the year, of perhaps the decade, is a Charlie Chan rip-off that is as trendy as it is traditional. Knives Out  raises the question of why would anyone have a display of hundreds of knives in his parlor.

We think the set designer deserved an Oscar, or a strait-jacket.

An all-star cast of suspects seem to have as much fun making, perhaps more than those of us watching it. Director Rian Johnson moves his cast to the real star of the movie: a gothic house most suitable for his plot outside of Boston.

The lunacy of the house furnishings is like a Victorian nightmare, hardly something anyone would design, even an Agatha Christie murder mystery writer (Christopher Plummer) who hates movie versions of his books.

The family gathers for his 85thbirthday—including his mother who must be 100 at least. And, the family members and staff are equally troublesome.

The cast even gathers for the reading of the will, which entails just about everyone—except the murder victim.

The best line delivered by Chris Evans is about cornpone Daniel Craig, playng super sleuth Benoit Blanc as “CSI- KFC,”   in shades of Sherlock with Hercole thrown in. But, we keep seeing James Bond slumming.

Director Johnson is utterly cruel with his camera. We have never seen these old stars looking so old. Every crevice, crease, and open pore, is ready for your perusal. Even Daniel Craig looks surprisingly aged in the wood.

The red herrings fly by at an alarming rate, so quickly it’s hard to keep track of the lies and false statements. We suppose Plummer’s nurse may be from Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, or Paraguay, as everyone cites a different locale.

The few scenes around Boston are amusing for those of us who are homebodies—and we snickered when Gary Tanguay, a Boston sports reporter, showed up as a newsguy at another station.

It’s a silly romp and more like what old movies used to be, and those Sherlock/Chan/Poirot stories were more succinct. We suppose there could be a new series for James Bond here if he so chooses.

The Invasion Continues with More Pod People

DATELINE: Sequel 25 Years Later (Again)

Kidman & Craig

Twenty-odd years after the second Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a sequel to a sequel shows up. This one is The Invasion and features Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig (young and James Bondy but strictly a bauble here, highly decorative).

We enjoy the notion that every generation presents its own paranoid outburst: invaders from space take over human bodies by replication. Whether another sequel will appear in twenty-five years is doubtful, or at least we won’t know about it.

As in the 1979 film, Kevin McCarthy of the first, original film made an appearance to tie it to the previous. This time, Veronica Cartwright makes an appearance to claim the man she is married to is not her husband (a common complaint in these films).

We love that connection. Here, however, the paranoia is less threatening. The looks from by-passers is not quite as disturbing and malevolence is not around every corner.

Make no mistake, though: The Invasion is cut from the same outer space spore. Alas, this one seems to have a ‘happy’ ending. Paranoia is dispatched.

The horror builds slowly, methodically, as we already know what’s going on, now set in Washington, D.C., where the federal government is as inept as ever. Indeed, high-ranking officials are clearly pod people.

The film from 2008 also features Jeffrey Wright (of Westworld) as an assistant to Craig in his laboratory. Suspense veteran Josef Sommer also appears as some kind of Washington bigwig.

Kids are not immune in this film, and Kidman’s kid is central to her energy to fight the spores that want to turn us all into automatons without emotion. It seems that it is a good turn to save the human race from its own violent rages. You may turn into a pod person by means of projectile vomit, which is certainly cinematic.

Fortunately for us, no good deed by space monsters goes unpunished.

 

 

 

Everything or Nothing: Bond, James Bond

DATELINE: Movie Mashup of James Bond

A documentary on the franchise and character of James Bond may surprise everyone and no one. From the pen of Ian Fleming to the small screen, the first Bond was Barry Nelson on TV in 1954 with Peter Lorre as the villain.

This entertaining documentary manages to pull together an epic story of productions, lawsuits, rivalries, and vastly differing philosophies of Bondage.

Touch on every key point, the film will rivet the casual Bond fan to the devotee of all those Broccoli-Saltzman films. From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, the styles of Bond have matched the historical epoch of the 20th and 21st century, from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism.

The men who played Bond seemed touched by the experience and delighted by the opportunity. Each one left a mark on the character and the character changed the actor.

Harder to explain is the family sense of the Bond movies that exploited women, violence, and special effects to the size of enormous profits.

In the final analysis, feuds between Broccoli and Saltzman, between rival producer Kevin McClory and the Broccoli family, between Roger Moore and Sean Connery, all seem to be part of a story to savor.

Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton offer their analysis and opinions on James Bond as if to show the spectrum of appeal.

Pierce Brosnan notes that fewer men played Bond than men who walked on the Moon. It makes for a special club.

Enriched by clips and clever dialogue from the films, this movie turns out to be a guilty pleasure.