Knives Out, The Social Network, The Art of Self-Defense, & Ad Astra

Knives Out – Watching some of the criticism toward Rian Johnson for The Last Jedi has been disappointing, as I find him to be an exceptional writer and director. Knives Out is another terrific film from Johnson. A whodunnit may seem unnecessary or even unoriginal, but Johnson’s ability to play with genre, narrative, and scope make it a terrific outing. He also updates the whodunnit for 2019 in an incredibly clever way. The biggest complaint I can see potentially coming for the film is that it is not particularly artistic or beautiful, that it focuses more on just having a good time. It is really hard to make that complaint when a whodunnit is made this well and the experience is this much fun. Whether or not it is a film that lacks artistic quality, it is one of the best moviegoing experiences that you can have this year. I cannot recommend it enough. A

The Social Network – Skimming through many best of the decade lists, The Social Network kept coming up as one of the top movies of the past ten years. I decided to see it, with admittedly low expectations. It completely blew me away. The movie came out in 2010, before its massive growth in the 2010s and Russian Interference. The film managed to forecast what social media can do to us, and what it can do to the connections around us through the lens of Mark Zuckerberg. It is an absolute classic, and while it may not win my best of the decade, it is a worthy pick. A

The Art of Self Defense – The off-kilter film starring Jesse Eisenberg is interesting enough. Not everything lands, but the film has plenty of interesting things to say about toxic masculinity through the lens of karate. It works well for its limited scope and does an excellent job of using Jesse Eisenberg to deliver the off-kilter humor. The “twist” (although I would not really call it a twist) is pretty obvious and the plot becomes fairly predictable. I did not mind as much, as some of the humor is enjoyable, but this movie is not for everyone. I enjoyed it but recognize it had plenty of room to be better. B-

Ad Astra – Ad Astra is a movie about daddy issues. While it manages to juggle plenty of other themes, from creation, god, and the meaning of life, the daddy issues lie at the core of the film. Brad Pitt stars as Roy McBride, an astronaut, and son of another famous astronaut H. Clifford McBride. Roy must go to Neptune to find his dad and stop power surges that have been causing brutal destruction to the earth and other planets back home. The themes and the cinematography are excellent, and it features some of the best space shots in any movie. It manages to capture the loneliness of space that I loved as well. My biggest complaint is the narration and its stillness. The narration seems pretty detached and not needed, it does not add much. All it seems to do is just emphasize what we are seeing on screen. Regardless, this is a very good film and will be touted by some as the best film of the year, and it deserves some of that praise. B+

I am seeing Star Wars tomorrow so I hope to have a review up on the Michigan Review shortly!

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