Posts Tagged ‘Don Johnson’

A Reason to Kill For

Knives Out

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer, Michael Shannon, LaKeith Stanford, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Riki Lindhome, Edi Patterson, Frank Oz, Noah Segan, M. Emmet Walsh, Marlene Forte

Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson takes a delicious stab at the murder mystery genre in his quirky new film Knives Out featuring an all-star ensemble cast headed by Oscar winner Christopher Plummer (Beginners).

With an original screenplay by Rian Johnson, Knives Out centres on the mysterious death of crime writer Harlan Thrombey on the night of his 85th birthday at his sprawling estate in Massachusetts.

Thrombey expertly played with a sly viciousness by Plummer has his multi-generational family gather for his birthday which includes his daughter Linda Drysdale played by Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, A Fish Called Wanda), his son-in-law Richard Drysdale played by Don Johnson (Django Unchained) and his son Walt Thrombey played with evil intent by Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals, Revolutionary Road) and daughter-in-law Donna Thrombey played by Riki Lindhome.

Then there is the widow of the dead son, Joni Thrombey played by Toni Colette (Muriel’s Wedding, Madame) who is hanging onto the family for financial security.

Harlan Thrombey’s grandchildren is headed by the spoilt playboy apparent heir, aptly named Ransom Drysdale played by Chris Evans (Snowpiercer), followed by the sneaky granddaughter Meg Thrombey played by Australian actress Katherine Langford (Love Simon) and the nerdy youngest grandson Jacob Thrombey played by Jaeden Martell (St Vincent).

The two characters which really steal the show are the Southern detective Benoit Blanc played against type by Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Logan Lucky, Snatch) and more significantly Harlan Thrombey’s devious yet devoted South American nurse Marta Cabrera played by rising Cuban star Ana de Armas (Blade Runner, Overdrive).

Knives Out is a classically original murder mystery expertly written and directed by Johnson who is clearly influenced by Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock whereby every character has a reason to kill for.

As the plot unravels like an Egyptian cobra revealing several motives for killing the patriarch of this eccentric family is to claim from the his vast fortune and inherit the sprawling country estate.  

If audiences love a superb murder mystery filled with a fantastic ensemble cast and originally written to dazzle and surprise the viewer, then be sure to catch the quirky and murderous Knives Out. It’s vastly entertaining.

Knives Out gets a film rating 8 out of 10 and is strictly for lovers of a classic murder mystery in the vein of the Oscar winning Robert Altman film Gosford Park, while making subtle hints at the themes of patronage, inheritance and immigration.

Fifty Shades of Gorgeous

Book Club

Director: Bill Holderman

Cast: Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, Richard Dreyfuss, Alicia Silverstone

Screenwriter Bill Holderman who assisted Michael Arndt in the cinematic adaptation of Bill Bryson’s novel A Walk in the Woods, shows his adept hand at directing in the star studded Book Club featuring some legendary Hollywood stars including Oscar winners Jane Fonda (Coming Home, Klute) and Diane Keaton (Annie Hall) along with Candice Bergen (Gandhi, Rules Don’t Apply) and Oscar winner Mary Steenburgen (Melvin and Howard).

The four female leads play lifelong friends who form a Book Club based on their mutual love for Erica Jong’s scandalous seminal feminist novel Fear of Flying published in 1973 which controversially delved into female sexuality. Over forty years later, the four friends played by these wonderful and still radiant stars, reunite and discuss the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

In an ironic twist of casting, Don Johnson, father of Dakota Johnson who stars in the Fifty Shades Trilogy is featured as Jane Fonda’s character Vivian’s love interest Arthur, as he attempts to repeatedly woo the wealthy Californian hotelier.

Certainly, Book Cub is aimed at a particular demographic and age group, but what is so refreshing to see is that all these actresses appearing together onscreen in another female driven narrative comedy which is an older, yet quite different version of the all-female cast of the recent Oceans 8 film.

Set mainly in California and Arizona, Book Club is surprisingly enjoyable (even if you are not a wealthy American woman over the age of 70) but it is important that these films continue to be made as it allows older actresses to dazzle viewers onscreen.

And speaking of dazzling, Jane Fonda at 80 years old looks absolutely gorgeous and truly holds her own in this sparkling film as does Diane Keaton as she creates perfect onscreen chemistry in the scenes with her macho pilot Mitchell played by Andy Garcia (The Godfather Part III, Kill the Messenger).

As the Book Club ladies, over bottles of Chardonnay, reassess their love lives in the light of literary stimulation courtesy of Fifty Shades of Grey, Book Club remains a charming, whimsical film about finding or reigniting love in the evening of one’s life.

All the leading ladies look more like Fifty Shades of Gorgeous and certainly Book Club is highly recommended as a 21st century re-examination of female sexuality framed by a contemporary social movement which is increasingly dominating pop culture – the MeToo Movement, making this film all the more relevant.

Book Club receives a film rating of 7 out of 10 and audiences should see it to witness the fabulous Jane Fonda shine onscreen again like she did in Paolo Sorrentino’s superb 2015 film Youth.

 

Slave to the Rhythm

Django Unchained

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Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Don Johnson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Bruce Dern, Kerry Washington, Robert Carradine, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, James Russo

Django Unchained can be compared to a three act Southern Opera and whilst Tarantino’s distinctive style comes through, his real intention is to invert the Cowboy myth so associated with the American Wild West, channeling spaghetti Western Sergio Leone films and tackling a very prickly subject of slavery prior to the American Civil War without much sensitivity.

Django

Django Unchained, loosely based on the 1966 Sergio Corbucci Western Django, starts off in Texas in 1858, two years before the outbreak of the American Civil War and features the eloquent and unorthodox Dr King Schultz played with superb panache by Christoph Waltz, who won a Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for 2009’s Inglourious Basterds who frees Django from a chain gang as he needs him to identify three brothers which have a mortal bounty on their heads. Jamie Foxx (Collateral, Ray) is wonderfully cast as Django and throughout the two and a half hour film really displays his range as an actor complimenting the always competent Waltz as the German speaking bounty hunter.

Together Schultz and Django go in search of Django’s entrapped and estranged wife, oddly named Broomhilda, as she was bought as a slave by German immigrants. Broomhilda is now the possession of sadistic cotton plantation owner Calvin Candie, played with flourish by Leonardo di Caprio whose Mississippi plantation aptly named Candieland provides the final act in an utterly bizarre and bloody showdown between Django, Schultz and Candie.

For sheer originality, Tarantino’s films are always enjoyable and never dull, but like Inglourious Basterds and his most famous film Pulp Fiction, along with profanity there is a serious dose of vicious bloodshed. Django Unchained lacks some of the brilliance of the first two films, but the startling sound effects, outlandish scenes and revisionist plot is enough to make Django Unchained Oscar worthy especially the two central performances by Waltz and Foxx. Two criticisms’ of the film is the overuse of racist profanity which the plot revolves around especially being set in the Slave trade of the Deep South and also the film’s considerable length.

Django Unchained has some startling scenes but one got the sense that because of Tarantino’s previous successes, Harvey Weinstein has given Tarantino free reign. Free reign on the subject of the America’s Deep South from Texas to Mississippi and their sanctioning of slavery as a form of economically binding both master and slaves into a hideous socio-geograhic relationship of brutal proportions demonstrated in the cotton and tobacco plantations below the Mason-Dixon line.

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Django Unchained has a fantastic musical score and soundtrack along with brilliant sound effects and sound editing especially noticeable in the showdown at Candieland. Tarantino’s old favourite Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) is wonderfully cast as Calvin Candie’s butler Stephen and look out for Don Johnson as Big Daddy and of course the versatile Kerry Washington (The Last King of Scotland) who undergoes all sorts of torture as enslaved Broomhilda, Django’s estranged wife. Watch out for a brief appearance by Jonah Hill (Moneyball) as part of inadequate group of Ku Klux Klan members.

Warning this film is not for sensitive viewers and Django Unchained could be Tarantino’s most controversial film to date especially as he recasts the mythical American cowboy as a sharp shooting freed slave from Texas. Yet Quentin Tarantino won the 2013 Golden Globe  and BAFTA Awards for Best Original Screenplay for Django Unchained so his talent is definitely acknowledged in both America and Britain.

Film Directors & Festivals
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