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film review

‘Glass Onion’ Review: A masterclass of a layered whodunnit storytelling

Rian Johnson has done it again, bestowing us with a carefully constructed puzzle that’s nothing short of a masterpiece. After dismantling the dirty secrets of the Thrombey family in Knives Out, the writer-director takes us on a cruise weekend getaway to witness the greatest murder mystery of the year in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

The opening sequence of Glass Onion almost feels like the beginning of The White Lotus, as the film’s diverse group of passengers arrive at the port. They are invited by the tech mogul Miles Bron (Edward Norton) to a murder mystery party on his remote island. Among the invited friends are politician Claire (Kathryn Hahn), model/influencer Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), a gun-loving streamer Duke (Dave Bautista), Mile’s employee Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odon, Jr.), and Cassandra “Andi” Brand (Janelle Monáe), the co-creator of Miles’s tech company. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Knives Out mystery without a surprise invitation for the one and only Southern detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig).

The tension builds and continuously rises as the guests reach Miles’s so-called Glass Onion compound – a place built almost entirely of glass, packed with splendor and notes of condensation. Moreover, Miles’s place pays homage to the bar of the same name where the group used to hang out years ago and where the mogul’s empire initially started. Everything comes back to that bar and how Miles’s Elon Musk-level success affected everyone around him. So, it’s no surprise that shortly after this murder mystery party commences, a real murder transpires and everyone is a suspect, including the host. One can say that the film’s title is the leitmotif of this dark comedy as we peel layer after layer, revealing another element of the puzzle or intriguing character development. As the layers slowly but surely come off, the gratifying climax commences as the film’s denouement leads us perfectly to the end.

While this sequel’s predecessor, Knives Out, focuses on one rich family, Glass Onion centers on an extremely wealthy group of friends to further illustrate how dependency on one’s wealth only grows more toxic when more money is involved. That reflects perfectly in Hudson’s character. Birdie – virtually broke, the opponent of anything “woke”, and a fierce disputant – is a woman at Miles’s mercy. Hudson portrays a spoiled, washed-up star outstandingly with a brilliantly hilarious performance. Moreover, Miles, a character ingeniously portrayed by Norton, is the perfect epitome of wealth and satirically represents how far one goes to get even richer. (Sound familiar? If not, look at Twitter.)

GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY (2022) Kate Hudson as Birdie and Edward Norton as Miles. Cr: John Wilson/NETFLIX

The entire cast ups the ante as each character is meticulously written and becomes an integral element that fits into the film’s puzzle. But the true heroine of the film, and a big contributor to its undeniable success, is Janelle Monáe. The actress, known for her work in Moonlight and Hidden Figures, goes above and beyond, especially in pair with Craig’s detective Blanc. The duo is practically unstoppable when attempting to solve this installment’s mystery. There’s no other actor that could bring Benoit Blanc to life as Craig takes the character up a notch to display the detective’s genius with marvelous flair. In addition, the actor’s performance in the second part further explores Blanc’s incredibly gifted mind.

Just like in the case of Knives Out, the script for Glass Onion is ambitious, stimulating, and a perfect satire of the one-percenters. The director again laughs at rich, out-of-touch people and gives his characters very hard lessons and a head-on encounter with a bleak reality by the end. Plus, Johnson presents some fantastic cameos and simultaneously creates a film that’s highly “meme-able”. In one scene, for example, the director utilizes rack focusing, as we see Duke catching his girlfriend cheating. At the same time, Blanc creeps up a few feet away and stalks Duke. The scene is sidesplitting, especially as it’s later referenced again. This moment, as well as other similarly hilarious ones, are already being used in meme form to keep the film’s comedic genius alive.

All in all, Glass Onion is a clever sequel worthy of its predecessor. A solid, hilarious script paired with interesting, colorful characters creates an ambitious flick – one that you’ll want to watch again and again. Everyone will find something to enjoy and come out of it excited for more of Benoit Blanc’s sharp retort and quick-witted sleuthing.

Grade: A

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is now streaming on Netflix.


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film review

„Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is a gruesome film for the acquired taste

February 22nd, 2022

The slashers’ beauty, among others, is the chaos and confusion the various franchises cause in the audience who often attempts to understand the chapters’ ultimate order and tirelessly find a deeper meaning. But the truth is—while the deeper meaning may be there, it’s not always the case nor should it be. This is why Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a great new entry into the franchise and becomes an interesting continuation filled with campiness and gore.

One may even call it a requel, as per Scream’s new horror expert, Mindy. Or I claim it to be. In David Blue Garcia’s newest film (now streaming on Netflix), Olwen Fouéré portrays Sally—a quite legendary figure and Leatherface’s only survivor from the original Tobe Hopper’s movie.

Marilyn Burns portrayed Sally in Hopper’s production. But, given Burns’ untimely death, would this be the ultimate exception, and the film is, in fact, a requel? I certainly believe so. The film is that and so much more. It strives to deliver as much gore as possible. Fede Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues, the writers of the gruesome script, ensure that we remember the elaborate death scenes.

Courtesy of Netflix

The film follows a group of friends—Ruth (Nell Hudson), Dante (Jacob Latimore), Melody (Sarah Yarkin), and her sister, Lila (Elsie Fisher), as they travel to Harlow, Texas, to execute a new business idea. Their mission is to resurrect a Texas ghost town and invite others to join them and create a new community. It sounds like a dream, especially in the contemporary life where the daily routine is going a little bit too fast.

According to the familiar plot, they have no idea they are about to encounter Leatherface (Bob Burnham), the legendary serial killer who wears a mask made out of human skin. The man seeks vengeance on the young people who, whether they intended or not, contributed to his caretaker’s death (Alice Krige).

But after the surprising arrival of the Learherface’s survivor, who seeks her own vengeance, everything turns into a bloody, absurd, and gruesome spectacle that leads to an expected yet still satisfying finale.

The level of acting is rather shadowed by everything else in the film. The script is known, predictable yet it manages to make us squirm. Sarah Yarkin and Elise Fisher as estranged sisters make a great and entertaining duo, especially in *that* bus scene. Additionally, the creators attempt to include a social commentary on the school shootings in Lila’s character and how greatly they affect the students. The matter is serious and worth discussing but it seems misplaced amongst other elements of the film.

If you’re an average viewer, it may be quite difficult to rate slasher films as such, especially when the creators focus on the visual, gruesome aspects, not the story itself. They’re not putting pressure on the character development. Instead, they focus on the villain and his revenge.

Knowing this and remembering that slashers recently tend to mock its own genre and other films that we can categorize as requels, one must realize that Texas Chainsaw Massacre values gore more than the solid narrative. The director doesn’t limit the amount of blood splattering, presenting possibly the bloodiest rage of Leatherface. It’s a spectacle filled with broken bones and countless moments of Leatherface slicing into his victims’ flesh. After the young people get involved, the rage grows and spirals out of control. You may not be expecting this much violence, so brace yourself for a wild ride.

As previously stated, slasher films revel in the over-the-top story or elements that poke fun at other creations, such as the worn-out but somehow always engaging stereotype of the killer remembering, even seeking, his first victim—the one who got away. A similar notion can be found in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. With a parallel narrative in the new installment, the creators appear to be making fun of recent Halloween sequels. Whatever it is, it’s effective and not at all disrespectful—it even further highlights the campiness of recent slashers.

However, we can only speculate as far as director’s intentions are their form of art and may not ever be known. Nonetheless, the film is a welcomed diversion from everyday life. Instead of chasing deadlines and worrying excessively, it’s sometimes nice to enjoy screaming at a bloody slasher.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre won’t be for everybody and that’s as obvious as the fact that the film’s killer wears someone else’s face in every film. But its amount of gore and elaborate death scenes may satisfy a horror/slasher/Leatherface fan.

Grade: C+

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Mike Flanagan’s ‘Midnight Mass’ and The Show’s Themes of Faith and Rebirth

This article contains spoilers to Midnight Mass.

There is no doubt that Mike Flanagan, the director of Doctor Sleep and The Haunting of Bly Manor, is a master in creating a unique, elevated type of horror. Instead of focusing on the display of blood or jump scares, the director uses real-life terrors to affect the viewer. Through this procedure, his works are one of the scariest productions in the contemporary horror genre. For example, Bly Manor‘s topics of passing without being remembered, grief, and tragic love story made the series personally terrifying.

His most recent television series, a Netflix original series titled Midnight Mass, was something he had long wanted to make. The show, which stars Hamish Linklater in the lead role of Father Paul—the main and only priest of the close-knit community on a Crockett Island, manages to completely perplex the viewer and provoke further discussion on the subjects of faith, its abuse in the hands of a human, and rebirth, both presented metaphorically and literally in the show. The series also addresses the issues of guilt and sobriety.

The subject of faith is central to Midnight Mass. The majority of the scenes occur in a small church on Crockett Island, whether subtle or intense. The show is a slow burn, with the first episodes focusing on the characters’ study. Flanagan devotes his full attention to each character. As a result, the audience gets to know them very well. Amongst them are Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford)—a man who returns to the island after spending years in prison for driving drunk and killing a young woman, Erin Greene (Kate Siegel)—a soon-to-be-mom teacher, and Beverly Keane (Samantha Sloyan)—a particularly annoying and God-fearing woman who is willing to die for the priest if he asks.

As Father Paul mysteriously arrives on the island, strange things begin to happen, such as dead cats appearing on the beach or creatures with shiny eyes hiding in the dark. Nothing is scarier, however, than the resident’s unexplainable de-aging. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish), a doctor on Crockett Island, surely attempts to solve the mystery, especially since her barely walking mother, Mildred (Alex Essoe), can suddenly stand, run, and even attend mass. But, while solving the puzzle is intriguing, the main issue is the residents’ God-fearing and Catholic attitude. They all have a strong faith in God, and while not everyone can afford to go to the measures of one Beverly Keane, the townspeople soak up every word of Father Paul like a sponge. Once could even say that the priest easily manipulates and brainwashes them, yet they still follow him “in the name of God.”

Mike Flanagan does an amazing, mind-bending job of demonstrating how dangerous and toxic faith—and faithful people—can be. It’s so simple for Father Paul to twist the words of the Bible to fit his needs and agenda. After being murdered by an “angel” and reborn, he poisons the residents with his blood “in the name of God.” Father Pruitt, who was previously old and suffering from dementia, is now young and practically indestructible. He’s using Bible verses as an excuse to tell lies and goe even as far as overlooking a murder. The latter is truly terrifying, especially when compared to real life. People of faith who believe that being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is an unforgivable sin don’t yet justify murder, but they are on their way to saying less and doing more.

Midnight Mass brilliantly depicts the aftermath of faith being used to mask the agendas of others. The show’s final three episodes, particularly its heartbreaking finale, truly encapsulate it. When Father Paul realizes what he has done, it’s too late and simply impossible to undo.

The identity of the “angel” responsible is unknown. Although the priest wholeheartedly believes that God sent the bloodthirsty creature to resurrect him and the residents, he is more likely to be an ancient vampire. It’s unclear whether Father Paul truly believes he’s an angel or if he’s just using it to mask his plan, and we can only speculate.

In Midnight Mass, Flanagan takes the theme of rebirth quite literally. After the “angel” drinks his blood, Father Paul is reborn, and the man then makes the decision for his parishioners and takes the choice away from them. They, too, are reborn for a brief time.

However, the rebirth can also be interpreted symbolically, as in Riley’s character. The Flynns’ oldest son, brilliantly portrayed by Zach Gilford, begins his life anew after returning to the island. Riley, who is still haunted by his past actions, keeps seeing a young woman he murdered while driving drunk. His rebirth is slow and subtle. The man spends the most time with Erin now that he is sober. In the final scene with Siegel’s character on the boat, we see him truly reborn. He lets go of the guilt, and he allows himself to be forgiven. The intensity of the moment, filled with emotions, grows even stronger as he burns to ashes.

Midnight Mass has many other wonderful aspects. Among them are a stellar cast, stunning direction, and an emotional soundtrack composed by The Newton Brothers. Furthermore, the series tells a unique story and brilliantly explores it. In today’s world, the topic of faith and its abuse for selfish purposes has become personal. Midnight Mass becomes one of the scariest series this year due to this aspect, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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“The Prom” is Packed with Zazz, Sequins and Spectacular Designs

This review may contain spoilers to The Prom.

Edited by Toni Stanger.

When I was in high school, I didn’t take my girlfriend to the prom. Instead, I made a deal with my then best friend. I will take him to mine; he will take me to his. It wasn’t actually forbidden for me to bring my girlfriend, but it was surely frowned upon. Even when one of my friends didn’t have a partner and wanted to dance  with her female friend, my teacher didn’t think it was suitable. 

In The Prom, Emma Nolan (Jo Ellen Pellman) is way braver than I was. As a young woman from a very conservative Indiana high school, the teenager fights the PTA board, led by Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington, American Son), to let her take her girlfriend, Alyssa (Ariana DeBose, Hamilton), to the prom. The PTA board remains determined, however, even with the support of school principal Mr. Hawkins (Keegan Michael Key, Keanu), and the dance is completely canceled. 

Suddenly, Dee Dee Allen (Meryl StreepMamma Mia!) steps in – once a great Broadway star, today a spoiled, selfish actress who lives on unemployment checks. Together with Barry Glickman (James CordenSuperintelligence), the co-star of the canceled yet very expensive new Broadway show, as well as Angie Dickinson (Nicole Kidman, The Goldfinch), and Tent Oliver (Andrew Rannells, A Simple Favor) – two actors also looking for their big break – the group jumps on a bus to Indiana. Under the guise of helping Emma, the actors aim to show themselves as kind, helpful, selfless people – but everything changes when their plan is discovered, and, in the end, the actors find themselves determined to give Emma the best inclusive prom.

The Prom, created by Ryan Murphy (Ratched, The Boys in The Band), a veteran of everything campy, is packed with zazz, sequins, self-love, and everything that shines – including a five-star cast. The new Netflix original is based on the Broadway musical by Matthew Sklar and a book by Bob Martin with the same title. The production is utterly sweet and uplifting. The audience receives an interesting encounter between precocious actors and a young woman who just wants to be accepted for who she is. If you’re afraid you’ll only see LGBTQ+ characters being mistreated by self-absorbed characters who believe they’re the world’s moon and stars, don’t be. Murphy balances it exceptionally and, in the second act, displays the possibility of change and making amends. 

THE PROM (L to R) JAMES CORDEN as BARRY GLICKMAN, NICOLE KIDMAN as ANGIE DICKINSON, MERYL STREEP as DEE DEE ALLEN, KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY as MR. HAWKINS in THE PROM. Cr. MELINDA SUE GORDON/NETFLIX © 2020

Everything about the set design is spectacular. The creators use every surface they can possibly use and create an atmosphere of the prom that we, as an audience, can really feel. It may bring a little bit of nostalgia for older audiences and a breath of fresh air for youngsters. Lou Eyrich, the costume designer who has worked with Murphy plenty of times (most recently on Ratched), has outdone herself in creating the characters’ costumes. Each person, be it Dee Dee, Angie, or Barry, screams sequins and glitter. Simultaneously, despite the use of the same materials such as said glitter, each outfit reflects the personality of the character. Dee Dee’s attributes are shawls; meanwhile, Angie loves a soft, flat hat, typically with a visor. One of my favorite outfits is Emma’s modern baby-blue suit in the final scene. In pair with Alyssa’s shiny prom dress, the sapphic duo becomes a powerhouse and charms the audience in front of the TVs and the rest of the cast. 

The performances in The Prom wary from dizzying to just okay. Streep’s Dee Dee is stunning. As the actress who needs to re-learn how to be humble, she’s mostly paired with Key’s Hawkins. The school principal has been a long-time fan of Dee Dee’s work, but suddenly the man clashes with the reality of her “tarnished brand.” After always idolising her, Hawkins realizes she’s truly a spoilt brat. The newcomer, Pellman, is absolutely spectacular. My personal favorite song is her performance of Zazz. In a singing duet with Nicole Kidman’s Angie, both actresses are unstoppable, dancing on the stairs and emanating the titular zazz. 

THE PROM (L to R) NICOLE KIDMAN as ANGIE DICKINSON,JO ELLEN PELLMAN as EMMA in THE PROM. Cr. MELINDA SUE GORDON/NETFLIX © 2020

Each song, written by Chad Beguelin, has a contemporary feel that perfectly fits Emma’s situation. One of my other favorites, besides Zazz, is Love Thy Neighbor by Rannells in the mall scene, and Unruly Heart sang by Pellman’s character in a highly emotional scene that’s also a standout song/performance. Emma ultimately decides to come forward and address the discrimination she faced in her high school. While the teenager sings the song, the audience can see all the people from the LGBTQ+ community watching the video, and discover how the words and the voice affect them. Further into the plot, we see some of them again during an inclusive prom organized by the film characters for Emma. 

In the opposite corner, there is Mrs. Greene, the leader of the PTA board and the loudest opponent of Emma’s “life choices.” Kerry Washington gives a great performance as a conservative yet caring mother. The actress touches the viewers’ hearts when her on-screen daughter, Alyssa, excellently portrayed by DeBose, comes out to her. We obtain a very relevant and profoundly personal moment that is deeply authentic. Instead of hate or exaggerated optimism, we observe one parent’s very coherent reaction in which there is a promise of further serious talks yet evident acceptance.

The person who doesn’t feel right here is Corden. Although he really tries and repeatedly shows it, the actor and talk show host feels off when amongst other cast members. Barry’s character, a gay man who never got a chance to go to the prom, is exaggerated in the negative sense of the word. The idea is touching; however, Corden misplaces his attention, and, in effect, the audience misses out on a great character that was first introduced in the Broadway musical.

The Prom is a heartwarming picture with catchy songs that will make you smile. At the same time, it’s a brutal reminder of the world we live in. While we may move forward in regards to LGBTQ+ rights, there are still places in the world and in the United States of America where teenagers from the community face homophobia and bullying because of who they are. It’s a quite sobering reflection that is needed. 

THE PROM (L to R) JO ELLEN PELLMAN as EMMA, ARIANA DEBOSE as ALYSSA GREENE in THE PROM. Cr. MELINDA SUE GORDON/NETFLIX © 2020

The musical also reminds us how crucial and life-changing coming out can be. A similar theme could be seen in Hulu’s recent Happiest Season, the new holiday rom-com directed by Clea DuVall. The film caused a very torn discourse in social media revolving around coming-out stories, and there is a possibility that it may happen with The Prom. However, it’s worth remembering that although times are slowly changing, modern adolescents have to see these stories as well. Young people deserve to see coming-out stories that are contemporary and suitable for today’s wide, complicated world. And that’s what The Prom does. 

The Prom is something we really need right now, especially as this turbulent year is nearing its end. The spectacular cast does their best as singers, dancers, and actors. Even with a few hiccups, it provides a great time for the family. Its uplifting, entertaining narrative, combined with the moving message, will make your heart warm. Catchy songs will be stuck in your head, but it’s Emma’s storyline that will let you rethink the world that we live in and make you realize that we, as a society, still have a long way to go in terms of tolerance. 

The Prom will be available to stream on December 11th on Netflix.