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Posts Tagged ‘Don Johnson’

Daniel Craig…Southern fried private eye

“KNIVES OUT” My rating: B (Opens wide on Nov. 27)

130 minutes | MPAA rating:

The genteel drawing-room murder mystery gets roughed up but emerges more or less intact in “Knives Out,” the latest from “it” director Rian Johnson (“Looper,” “The Last Jedi”).

What you’ve got here is a dead man, a house full of suspects (played by some very big names),  a Southern-gentleman detective who seems to have been dipped in molasses — and a gleefully satiric sense of humor.

Plus a lot of snarky attitude when it comes to privileged white folks.

The film begins with the housekeeper for famed mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) discovering her employer’s corpse.  His throat has been cut.

Apparently the crime (if it is a crime…it might be a very bizarre suicide) took place shortly after Harlan’s 85th birthday party, an event attended by a pack of relations crammed into the old man’s semi-spooky turn-of-the-last-century mansion (described by one cop as “practically a Clue board”). Apparently the evening (which we see in flashbacks) was marked by some discord — old Harlan was no pushover and he loved rubbing his family’s noses in their inadequacies.

The local officer in charge of the investigation (LaKeith Stanfield) has his hands full with the various children, in-laws and others, all of whom seem to have some motive for killing their Sugar Daddy and a bad attitude when it comes to dealing with authority. So he’s mildly relieved when a famous private eye, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), mysteriously shows up.

Benoit, who talks with a slow drawl so thick it drips sorghum, has been hired by an anonymous client to look into the case. He won’t stop until he gets answers. Think Matlock on Thorazine with a cannabis chaser.

Murder mysteries in this  vein (“Murder on the Orient Express,” “Gosford Park”) rely on a large cast of eccentrics to keep us engaged and guessing. “Knives Out” has a colorfully hateful bunch.

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Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn

“DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE” My rating: B+

159 minutes | MPAA rating: R

With its loquacious cops and crooks and pages of dialogue devoted to the amusingly mundane (Quarter Pounders with cheese, egg salad sandwiches), “Dragged Across Concrete” will remind many of a Quentin Tarantino film, especially “Pulp Fiction.”

But it also bears comparison to Michael Mann’s “Heat,” for this curiously affecting crime epic (nearly three hours) is less about black and white than shades of gray.

Add to the mix Mel Gibson chewing on his best role in ages, and the latest from writer/director S. Craig Zahler (“Bone Tomahawk”) shapes up as an unexpected treat that digs into the viewer’s head and hangs around long after the lights come up.

At the center of this sprawling tale are a couple of police detectives — Ridgeman and Lurasetti (Gibson and Vince Vaughn) — who’ve drawn long unpaid suspensions for brutalizing a suspect.  Desperate for money, Ridgeman talks his reluctant partner into tailing a suave  criminal (Thomas Kretschmann); the hope is that he will lead the pair to some sort of drug deal or robbery that they can interrupt, making off with the cash and contraband.

Ultimately the two cops find themselves wading through the aftermath of a bloody bank heist. Few are left standing.

But around this dramatic core Zahler has introduced a big cast of characters — lawmen, criminals and common citizens caught in the crossfire — and given each enough backstory that we begin to identify with them on a much deeper level.

Gibson’s Ridgeman, for instance, is a tough street cop bitter that his refusal to schmooze has left his career in the dust. Now he’s coping with an ailing wife (Laurie Holden) and a teenage daughter terrified of the only neighborhood they can afford to live in. On the job Ridgeman may seem like semi-racist thug; at home we see a different side of the man.

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Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen

“BOOK CLUB”  My rating: C+

104 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

The advertising for “Book Club” tells us exactly what to expect. This vehicle for four fine actresses of a certain age (Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen) is basically “The Golden Girls” with Viagra. Don’t wait for surprises…there aren’t any.

The good news is that despite the self-congratulatory, nudge-nudge/wink-wink humor employed by director Bill Holderman and co-writer Erin Simms,  “Book Club’s” cast — not just the female leads but the male supporting actors as well — are solid enough that even a curmudgeonly viewer can take comfort in basking in the glow of so much collective talent.

The premise finds four women, pals since college days, who meet regularly to discuss a new book. They are:

The recently widowed Diane (Keaton), who is contending with the smothering attentions of her two grown daughters (Alicia Silverstone, Katie Aselton). They want to move Mom from L.A. out to their home in Arizona.

The vivacious Vivian (Fonda), a wealthy businesswoman and hotel owner who has never married and in fact refuses to sleep with men. Literally…she’ll bonk their brains out, but she won’t sleep with them, as that implies an intimacy she’s always avoided.

Sharon (Bergen) is a long-divorced federal judge more than a little peeved that her geeky ex-husband (Ed Begley Jr.) is now engaged to a braindead twentysomething blonde. She hasn’t had a date in 18 years.

Finally there’s Carol (Steenburgen), a successful restauranteur whose once-passionate marriage to Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) has hit the doldrums. Recently retired, he’s now more interested in servicing his old motorcycle than his wife. (more…)

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