The classic Agatha Christie-style whodunnit murder mystery story is a genre that I have, admittedly, had limited exposure to in contemporary Hollywood productions, let alone one that is set in our present-day Trump-governed America. It was a genre I had always associated with the Cluedo board game growing up as well as the infamous Simpsons two-part episode ‘Who Shot Mr. Burns’. When I had heard that Rian Johnson’s latest cinematic outing, Knives Out would present a more playfully comedic, theatrical take on the whodunnit genre, I was initially rather apprehensive. This was mainly due to Johnson’s previous film Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) having been met with possibly the most controversial and divisive critical reception of any film that I had heard of. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that Knives Out was a thoroughly entertaining and well-crafted production with a wonderfully talented cast, masterful use of staging, intricately detailed and theatrical set-pieces interwoven with a devilishly tongue-in-cheek brand of comedy and deft use of classic murder-mystery tropes.
“All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That’s how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day.”
To say that the Joker, the arch-nemesis of Batman and one of the most notorious comic-book villains of the modern age has had a storied legacy within the realm of Hollywood cinema would be trivializing the character’s notable impact on the medium. The fact that he has 7 cinematic incarnations with each one wildly differing from the last stands as a testament to the Clown-Prince of Crime’s pervasiveness and longevity in Hollywood film. As befitting a character with a knack for dramatic and grandiose entrances, it only seems appropriate that the Joker makes an explosive solo return to the 2019 cinematic scene in a sea of anticipation and contention in equal measure.
When it comes to stylized, energetic and gloriously ultraviolent contemporary action flicks that aren’t bound to a comic-book mega-franchise, the Chad Stahleski-directed John Wick trilogy are without a doubt, the films that set the standard for the mid/late 2010s and continue to live up to their hype with each instalment. As with its predecessors, John Wick 3 Parabellum delivers another brutal orchestra of elegantly choreographed and over-the-top bloodshed with Keanu Reeves starring as its merciless conductor, using any and every means in the vicinity to put down his enemies, whether it be a gun, a book or even a horse. It gives me great satisfaction knowing that Reeves who was long criticized and disregarded for his ‘wooden’ performances in past performances could spring to life in these films through his energetic movement and innate determination in conducting his own stunts.
Guillermo del Toro is one of those directors who’s signature aesthetic style of his productions is something I have a tremendous personal adoration for. His more commercial productions including the Hellboy films and Pacific Rim were simple, yet fun and well-executed for what they were. But while they may have attracted me to his visual style initially, what had garnered a much more profound fascination in me for del Toro’s work were his more ‘artistic’ productions that delve into certain historical backdrops and deftly intertwine and manifest certain conflicts and anxieties of said historical period with his own oddball blend of atmospheric dark fantasy and gothic horror.