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.

Emphasis on the Silent D: Django



 When two young film buffs indicated to us how much they appreciated the old black & white films of yesteryear, we were suitably impressed with their knowledge and interest.

When they advised us to watch Django Unchained, we felt compelled to agree. This movie, directed by Quentin Tarentino, was not on our original list. We generally do not review movies we suspect will not hold up.

Not to our surprise, Django Unchained is historically inaccurate, but completely in synchronization with the old spaghetti western from which it is borne. On the other hand, it surprised us with its humor. Tarentino won points for closely studying the 1960s Western for its texture and tempo. The presentation is droll.

Riddled with familiar faces made the movie more enjoyable; we had not seen Dennis Christopher or Don Johnson in a few years. We were taken aback that star Leonardo di Caprio took third billing. All in all, the film began to overwhelm our expectations.

This film actually won praise for its satiric lapses. DiCaprio may have had fun with the role, but he seems unlike James Mason in Mandingo, playing his trump card too soon.

We always have a complaint, and ours is that this picture seems to cross Gone With the Wind with Roots—only in terms of length. Why a minor Western fluff needs to press the three-hour envelope is a question only answered by fans of Tarentino? Anachronisms abound, including sunglasses on the cool Django two years before the Civil War (incorrectly dated in the movie).

We shall no doubt see about three more Django sequels, rivaling the length of a TV miniseries. This movie deserves more than a silent ‘D’.