Movie Review: Knives Out

On Saturday we had a free evening, so we rented Knives Out. I’ve always been a fan of classic mysteries, and this one appeared to be in the vein of a good Agatha Christie. The plot revolves around the untimely death of Harlan Thrombey, a rich novelist, and the investigation into his dysfunctional family. When Detective Benoit Blanc is mysteriously hired to ferret out the truth, the ride begins.

I’ll keep this review brief, and spoiler free, as any mystery should be.

The all-star cast was amazing, and Daniel Craig as detective Blanc created a feeling that we were in a classic Hercule Poirot setting. He played the part of the eccentric, but brilliant investigator wonderfully, giving homage to the greats. The family was played by wonderful actors such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, and Don Johnson, all who brought life to characters that you both wanted to hate, yet pity.

The film is set in modern day, so it’s not a classic period piece, but that doesn’t distract much from the main setting, an old mansion. This setting is the typical one for a mystery like this, and they play with the space beautifully. When the plot requires a visit to the more modern world it can be a bit jarring, but soon enough you’re back to where you should be, the Thrombey mansion.

There’s not much to say without giving up clues, so I’ll simply say that this was well worth the rental. I appreciated the attention to details to keep the movie true to it’s roots as much as possible, yet give everything a new twist. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday evening.

Movie Review: Spider-Man Far From Home

We finally got around to watching the latest Marvel movie Sunday night, Spider-Man Far From Home. With the conclusion of Avengers, this movie slipped under my radar to see in theaters, but last week my wife reminded me that we still hadn’t seen it. As luck would have it, it was available for rental now.

Let’s get this out of the way… SPOILERS BELOW

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Movie Review: Brittany Runs a Marathon

Last week my wife suggested a date night where we actually do something normal couples do, namely go to dinner and a movie. She had her heart set on the movie Brittany Runs a Marathon, and I was curious to see how a movie like this portrays the general trajectory of someone who wants to undertake running. Unfortunately, the release of this film seems to be somewhat limited, so we had to first find a theater that was showing the movie. We found it at the White Bear Lake theater and found a nice place to get dinner along the way.

Dinner turned out to be a bit of an adventure, but that’s a different story. We grabbed some popcorn and our seats in time for the previews to wrap up. The basic outline of Brittany Runs a Marathon is the story of a woman who isn’t having a lot of success in life.  Very early in the film she’s confronted with a doctor who wants her to lose some weight and start eating better. She has a neighbor in her building that is a runner, and one day,  she decides to go for a run. Her goal is to run one block, and I have to say, they captured her initial foray into running (from a sedentary life) pretty darn well. She was a complete wreck after just a few minutes.

I won’t spoil the plot of the rest of the film, but I wanted to touch on the reality of the film. It’s loosely based on a person that the director knew, and so it did a decent job of adhering to a typical runner’s journey. She has to learn how to run, and experience all the little trials and setbacks that come with that journey. She makes friends along the way, and learns that running is more than just one foot in front of the other, but a lifestyle. Many of the running elements of the movie are well portrayed, but I did have a nitpick in one scene. At one point it shows that she’s running an 8:30/min mile, but the effort being displayed on screen is very much less than this. It’s a small nitpick, but as my wife pointed out, it’s probably due to the person the story is based on in real life.

Despite being a movie about running a marathon, it really ends up being a movie about self-discovery, acceptance, and growth. You don’t need to be a runner to enjoy the message of the movie, and that’s really what makes this film special. For those of us in the running world, the life surrounding our running often plays a vital role in why we run. That’s certainly the case in Brittany Runs a Marathon, and it’s why the film works so well. She’s a flawed person, who finds stability in challenging herself. It’s a message that all of us, runner or not, can relate to.

Quick Review: Avengers: Endgame

When the first Ironman movie came out my children were elementary school age. I was still a hands-on software developer, and my first marriage wasn’t quite over yet. It’s been 11 years since this film launched, and just like real life, a LOT has happened. In this past decade we’ve been introduced to dozens of new characters, and the small little plotline that started as an after-credits scene has exploded into a cinematic phenomena that redefined how to film comic book movies. The entire MCU experience has changed the very notion of a big blockbuster, as fans flocked to movie after movie with high expectations of seeing big battles, great humor, and a complex intertwined plot that spans the childhood of a generation.

It all came to fruition in Avengers: Endgame. Instead of putting up big spoiler warnings, or trying to write a vague review, I’m going to seek to answer one simple question.

Was it worth it?

Reflecting back on how the entire Infinity Stone saga moved through all of the various properties I’m struck by how smart it was for Marvel to invest in an entire universe instead of trying to retcon one thing after another. Marvel took a big picture approach to the entire story arc and it showed in the execution. Comic books have long been the king of the crossover event. Going back into my childhood I remember big events in the DC Universe like Crisis on Infinite Earths that would span multiple titles, and would culminate into a huge world changing finale. As a comic reader I would find myself buying titles I never would have thought to pick up, just because they were part of the overall story arc. It introduced me to lots of different characters that I might never have read, and gave me a broader perspective on the world that the writers were trying to create.

In a nutshell, that’s what these final movies in the Infinity Stone saga are. A perfect representation of this old comic book paradigm, brought to the big screen. Each of these movies in the saga can stand on their own, and the writers and actors did an amazing job bringing an unbelievable world to life. However, our desire to see what happens next helps draw us to one after the other. We want to see our favorite heroes, but we also want to find out what happens next with these weird stones. It brings us into the world in a way that no other movie property has done in the past.

However, these big crossover events don’t work unless the payoff works. In the case of Avengers: Endgame, the entire saga comes to a wonderfully satisfying conclusion. It’s the perfect movie to wrap up something as huge as the story that’s been built up over 11 years. I walked out of the theater with a smile on my face, mostly from the satisfaction of a masterfully told story. The visuals are amazing, of course. The action is epic, and the humor is spot on. All of those movie elements are executed perfectly but what impressed me the most was the story.

The payoff was totally worth it. For me, that’s the best thing I can say about this movie.

Quick Review: Spider-man Into the Spiderverse

A lot of people I know, including my kids, have told me that this is a great film. So tonight I took the plunge and rented it. I’m happy to say that I was really, really impressed, and agree that this might be one of the best Spider-man films out there. I’ll try and keep this review spoiler free, so let’s break down what I liked, and didn’t like.

Starting with the likes, I have to first say that the animation style was amazing. The blending of realistic animation, with what amounted to abstract art, was phenomenal. The world of Miles Morales came to life in a way that was real, but yet bent into the absurd when needed. Yet, that bending never felt out of place. Even when things were happening that couldn’t happen in real life, it felt natural. Visually, this was a great film.

The story was also unique and engaging. There were tropes and easy-to-spot plots, but it flowed naturally. I never felt like I was being spoon-fed a generic storyline. A couple of twists didn’t become apparent to me until they were close to being sprung, which helped keep the suspense moving. Without giving anything away, it also showed that the writers had fun with the basic plot they were given. They got to express themselves in a lot of varied ways, and it all ended up working really well.

Add to this, some top notch vocal talent, and it was a an easy sell for me to enjoy this flick. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t poke a couple of holes in some areas that could have been improved.

Of all the relationships in the film, I felt like the one between Miles and his dad needed more work. I know I was supposed to care about it more, but I felt like there might have been something left on the cutting room floor that could have made it deeper. There could have also been more growth and discovery as their relationship evolved, and it would have helped drive home the point of their love at the end.

My only other big complaint was with Wilson Fisk, one of the bad guys in the film. It’s a small complaint, but I wish that they had gone with a more realistic interpretation of the character’s shape and size. I understand wanting to stay true to the comic book version, but of all the weird characters in the film, his stuck out as being truly absurd and over the top.

Despite these couple of small nitpicks, I couldn’t find much else to complain about. This film was a really fun way to spend an evening, and I’m incredibly happy I took the time to watch it. If you’re a fan of fun, superhero stories, do yourself the favor and rent this when you want to have a nice relaxing evening. It’s well worth the price of admission.