Movie Review – Knives Out

Knives Out (2019)
Written & Directed by Rian Johnson

Knives Out appears on the surface to be a modern take on the classic Agatha Christie murder mystery, and on a certain level, it is precisely that. However. writer-director Rian Johnson has cleverly managed to subvert our expectations and tell the story he’s interested by dressing it up in the tropes and formulas in this genre. About a third of the way into the story, the audience is privy to the circumstances of the murder, and it seems as though the rest of the picture will be a cat & mouse game. The murderer will be continually trying to be one step ahead of the law and will likely get caught. But that’s still not the story Johnson is telling.

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Movie Review – The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)
Written & Directed by Noah Baumbach

In the same way, Woody Allen made his career focused on movies about intellectual types in New York, Noah Baumbach has taken that motif and added a genuine examination of family. Allen’s characters were always nebbish & neurotic but always seemed to be swinging singles. Baumbach’s characters are caught up in familial dysfunction. The Meyerowitz Stories delivers its narrative at a fast pace and will remind viewers of one of Baumbach’s contemporaries and sometimes collaborator, Wes Anderson. The picture is a more grounded take on the near fairytale-like world of The Royal Tenenbaums, complete with Ben Stiller as one of the siblings. Though this may sound incredibly derivative, the film has a familiar & seemingly forgotten tone you don’t find in movies these days.

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Movie Review – The Irishman

The Irishman (2019)
Written by Steve Zaillian
Directed by Martin Scorsese

Frank Sheerhan sits in a nursing home, hair gray and receding. He’s telling his story of rising from the ranks of a truck driver in Philadelphia to the close confidante of Jimmy Hoffa to no one. As the film unfolds, we can surmise his daughter Peggy is the imagined audience. She is perceptive in her youth, realizing the violent work her father does, and finding a more positive role model in Hoffa. She refuses not only to hear Frank’s story but will also not speak to him.

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TV Review – Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part 7

Relics (original airdate: October 12th, 1992)
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Alexander Singer

Every once in a while, TNG would remind us of its roots in the original series. In the pilot episode, Dr. McCoy made a brief appearance. Later, Spock would play a pivotal in an arc that involved the Romulans. Those guest spots were fun but didn’t tug at our heartstrings, definitely not in the way this return would. The Enterprise comes across a Dyson sphere thanks to a distress call from the lost USS Jenolan. Trapped onboard in a rigged transporter stasis is Montgomery Scott, the engineer on the old Enterprise. He’s been kept the same age he was at the time of the accident due to his quick thinking with the transporter.

Once on the Enterprise-D, Scotty is overwhelmed with the changes in technology. I was reminded of his scene in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, where he struggled to work a 1980s PC, believing you spoke into the mouse. Anytime Scotty leaves his particular era, he is a fish out of water, befuddled by the way another time’s technology works. Geordi tries to ease Scotty into life in the 24th century, but the old man gets in the way and is ultimately ordered to leave Engineering. Eventually, Scotty shows his older knowledge and creative thinking is useful when he saves the entire Enterprise crew.

This is an episode my wife admitted made her tear up, and she has not ever been a Trekkie or really consumed a lot of Star Trek media. I think that speaks to the quality of Ronald Moore’s writing that he can evoke those feelings in people with only a passing knowledge of Scotty. When it comes to guest spots by original cast members, this is hands down the best one. The technical aspects of the plot entirely justify Scotty’s appearance without feeling heavily contrived. James Doohan is brilliant at bringing his character back to life and imbuing him with depth and pathos. You genuinely feel the grief of being the last one standing, all your friends are gone, and the world just doesn’t feel the same anymore.

Chain of Command Parts 1 & 2 (original airdates: December 14th & December 21st, 1992)
Written by Frank Abatemarco and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Robert Scheerer and Les Landau

This is a case of Part 2 being vastly superior to the first installment. The first episode is essential to understand the second, though. It sets up a scenario where Picard, Crusher, and Worf are pulled off of regular duty on the Enterprise to engage in a top-secret mission for Starfleet. Captain Edward Jellico is put in command of the Enterprise, and the first part deals heavily with Riker’s bristling over Jellico’s regimented and harsh style of leadership. It’s okay but not nearly as good as what waits in the second part.

We eventually learn that the mission involves going into Cardassian territory to gather intelligence on a pending attack. That goes south, and Picard ends up captured by Gul Madred (David Warner), a Cardassian who specializes in interrogations. In a similar fashion to the Room 101 sequence in Orwell’s 1984, Picard is systematically broken down. Madred uses the lights in his office as the focus of this torture, forcing Picard to acknowledge over and over that there are five lights when, in reality, only four exist.

David Warner does a fantastic job as Madred; his career had led him to specialize in playing these insidious villain types. The moments between him and Picard are the best of this whole two-parter, full of genuine tension and peril. It’s one of the few times we see someone really get the best of Picard, and you wouldn’t be faulted for worrying if this will totally shatter the captain. My one complaint is that this arc should have more ripples in episodes that follow, the same way the Locutus arc haunted Picard into the feature films. Deep Space Nine became the show that developed the Cardassian conflict more, so maybe because of that, we don’t get much follow up.

Thanksgiving Movie Marathon

Thanksgiving is not a holiday known for many films. Compare that to Christmas and Halloween, and the deficit is downright shocking. But Thanksgiving is a significant occasion for so many American families. With that in mind, I scoured my mind and the internet for a list of films that are Thanksgiving-related. Some of these are obvious, others not so much. If you are wondering what pictures to watch to ring in the day of consumption, on the eve of the blackest of Fridays here you are.

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TV Review – Watchmen Season One, Episode Six

Watchmen (HBO)
Season One, Episode Six – “This Extraordinary Being”
Written by Damon Lindeloff & Cord Jefferson
Directed by Stephen Williams

Once upon a time, there was a man named Bass Reeves. Reeves was a slave to many prominent men since childhood and eventually became a fugitive, hiding out in the territory of the Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole. When the dust settled from the Civil War, Reeves emerged as an expert in Native relations and was made the first black U.S. marshall west of the Mississippi River. Throughout his 32 years serving in this position, he earned accolades as a skilled marksman and phenomenal detective. At one point, he even had to bring in his own son, who had murdered Bass’s daughter-in-law.

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