2022 Movie Reviews: Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery / Babylon / The Whale / Mindcage

Rich people, famous people, Martin Lawrence and a whale.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

A major step down from the much simpler and funnier original, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is a moderately entertaining movie that’s an easy enough watch. After a groan-tastic twenty minutes of meeting a parade of uninteresting caricatures based on different types of people you meet online and stale jokes that were totally written three months into the pandemic (and even dumb back then), we finally get to follow the only character I care about in this franchise – Benoit Blanc, in what has to be Daniel Craig‘s best character to date, yes even better than 007. He’s great in this but it’s frustrating that Rian Johnson hasn’t found the right application for this character yet. Maybe there’s a movie where Blanc goes back home to solve his uncle’s murder and everyone in the family is played by Daniel Craig. Like The Klumps with a murder mystery attached. Anyway, the mystery at the center of Glass Onion is the best part, it’s well written, unpredictable and the movie is on a roll whenever Blanc is delivering a monologue solving the fucking thing. Other moments that rely on comedy and character interaction fall a little flat – Kate Hudson is a bit much, Dave Bautista is completely underutilized, Leslie Odom, Jr. straight up does nothing and Janelle Monae is just ok. She’s plays her role well but considering the Oscar buzz swirling around her for this performance, I really don’t get it. It’s a two-dimensional murder mystery character, a far cry from her work in Moonlight or Hidden Figures. Overall, Glass Onion drags a bit at a unnecessary 139 minute runtime, especially during the contextualizing flashback sequences which stop the movie’s momentum dead in its tracks. Hopefully third time’s a charm in creating a movie for the great Benoit Blanc, a seriously great character deserving way more support. Grade: B- (Netflix)

Babylon

In the first ten or so minutes of Damien Chazelle‘s body fluid-soaked Hollywood-is-a-giant-Circus epic, an elephant projectile diarrheas on a truck driver and a young actress pisses all over the face and mouth of a Harvey Weinstein-type before having a massive overdose and dying all over the guy. A ten-piece jazz band howls in a mansion’s living room while rich people of all ages have wild group sex with each other and do Looney Tunes portions of cocaine, like Margot Robbie, an aspiring young actress who loves drugs and acting, in that order, and Diego Calva, an assistant, dealing mostly with elephants, who wants to be a big Hollywood player. Babylon is a movie about dreams, no matter how gross or soaked in blood, feces, urine and/or semen they are. However, dreams aren’t real and neither is Chazelle‘s gorgeous looking but exceptionally hollow three hour and eight minute endurance test. It shocks and legitimately entertains its first hour, shocks but annoys its second hour and finally just bores the shit out of you in its final hour, which pumps the brakes on the spectacle and focuses in on the emotional states of the characters. The problem is that the characters aren’t grounded or relatable, so when Chazelle tries to turn this lunacy into an actual movie and not just a geek show attraction of kooky celebs, it falls flat on its face despite the effort of some genuinely good performances – namely Robbie and Jovan Adepo as the band leader who never gets developed as much as the other characters. Brad Pitt and Jean Smart are also in it, neither very good, both playing pretty flat characters. It’s not entirely clear what Chazelle was going for, I guess to show that the movies are awesome but to make them you have to work with straight up sociopaths every day. Judging by his dumb ending montage that spans the history of film, most notably incorporating scenes from Avatar: The Way of the Water, I guess he thinks it’s worth it. Babylon isn’t though. Grade: C- (In Theaters)

The Whale

All the lukewarm to scathing reviews of The Whale made me go in really unsure of how it was going to be. Was it going to be this overly sappy pity piece or some condescending and fat-phobic cruel joke on the main character? Was it actually going to be good? It’s actually pretty good. Despite some wonky staging/directorial choices and some awkward dialogue here and there, this is Darren Aronofsky‘s best film since The Wrestler. It has a great deal of empathy for the main character, but also recognizes his faults. It neither demonizes or martyrs Charlie, a 700-pound online community college professor, dying of a myriad of weight related issues, played with breathtaking intensity and sensitivity by Brendan Fraser. He refuses to go to a hospital and he refuses to help himself, because he’s unable to process the trauma of his past. This makes things difficult for his best friend and part time nurse, Liz, a wonderfully nuanced Hong Chau. Stranger ThingsSadie Sink, Samantha Morton and Ty Simpkins (the little boy from Insidious, yes it’s been THAT long) round out the strong cast as Charlie’s angry daughter, Charlie’s alcoholic ex-wife and a door-to-door evangelist, respectively. The Whale is more about depression and self-harm more than its about obesity. An angry binge-eating scene plays like the ass-to-ass montage from Requiem for a Dream, replicating the gut-punch intensity and deep hopelessness of that scene but replacing the dildo for two extra large pizzas and family-sized jar of grape jelly. It may seem ridiculous but it’s pretty honest. As someone who has binge ate to emotionally punish themselves before, a lot of this rings uncomfortably true. It’s a bit on-the-nose sometimes with characters saying exactly what they’re feeling, but much like its intensely human protagonist, The Whale wears it’s emotions proudly on its sleeve. It’s also the best performance of Fraser‘s career. Grade: B (In Theaters)

Mindcage

Mind-numbingly moronic and poorly made Silence of the Lambs meets Se7en rip-off about a grizzled old detective (Martin Lawrence in a dramatic role) and a young, idealistic detective (Melissa Roxburgh) trying to catch a mysterious killer. The mysterious killer it turns out is a copycat of a famous serial murderer Lawrence’s detective helped catch – Arnond LeFeuvre AKA The Artist, (John Malkovich), a dull Hannibal Lecter variation who likes turning women’s dead bodies into art. It’s clear the majority of the cast are having serious problems pronouncing “Arnond LeFeuvre”, which is why most of the time they just refer to him as “The Artist.” Seriously, there should be a drinking game where you have to drink every time they say “The Artist”. I stopped counting after twenty. Even the prison warden calls him “The Artist” which is bonkers to me. Anyway, “The Artist” won’t speak to Detective Big Momma’s House so Detective Not Clarice Starling has to visit him in prison and listen to him ramble on about art and maybe give them clues to help them catch the copycat killer. At one point he makes her like a gigantic clay head bust of herself. Eventually the detectives solve the mystery of the copycat, and I have to say, it’s legitimately shocking. The way they wrap this up is such a huge narrative swing, I almost applauded. I almost stood up from my couch in pure elation and joy, but I was thoroughly paralyzed with shock. The final ten minutes of this movie are an absolute masterpiece of stupidity. The only way it could be dumber is if Martin Lawrence‘s Shenehneh Jenkins character from Martin was the killer. I mean, this one of the absolute worst movies I’ve seen in recent years, it’s certainly the least well made. The technical choices surrounding this are super sus, with edits that would more feel at home in an Everything is Terrible compilation. The acting is horrendous across the board with Martin Lawrence just nodding his head and collecting a paycheck. He’s not even trying and it’s clear even if he had, the results would be similar. He does pronounce “compass” as “comp-ASS” though, and for that we should be eternally grateful. Grade: F ($6.99 rental on Amazon)

ALSO STREAMING OR IN THEATERS

FILM

Avatar: The Way of WaterIn Theaters

TÀR$19.99 purchase on Amazon

The Fabelmans$19.99 rental on Amazon

The Banshees of InisherinHBOMax

Aftersun $19.99 rental on Amazon

Top Gun: MaverickParamount+

Parallel MothersStarz

Violent Night In Theaters

Triangle of Sadness$5.99 rental on Amazon

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On$5.99 rental on Amazon

After YangShowtime

Emily the CriminalNetflix

Empire of LightIn Theaters

The MenuIn Theaters

Black Panther: Wakanda ForeverIn Theaters

Decision to LeaveMUBI & $9.99 rental on Amazon

Bones and AllIn Theaters & $19.99 rental on Amazon

Weird: The Al Yankovic StoryRoku

SmileParamount+

HellraiserHulu

TV

The White Lotus (Season 2)HBOMax

Industry (Season 2) – HBOMax

This Is Going to HurtAMC+

Interview with the Vampire (Season 1)AMC+

Chucky (Season 2)Syfy

Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of CuriositiesNetflix

28 Days HauntedNetflix

The Midnight ClubNetflix

Reservation Dogs (Season 2)Hulu

The Resort Peacock

Harley Quinn (Season 3)HBOMax

The Rehearsal (Season 1)HBOMax

Only Murders in the Building (Season 2)Hulu

Better Call Saul (Season 6, Part 2)AMC+

I Just Killed My DadNetflix

Black BirdAMC+

Stranger Things (Season 4, Part 2)Netflix

YellowjacketsShowtime

Barry (Season 3)HBOMax

Under the Banner of HeavenHulu

OTHER ARTICLES

50 Best Horror Films of the 21st Century

Franchise with Me: Wild Things w/ Michael Palladino

Freddy’s Nightmares Episode Reviews w/ Audrey Farnsworth

Best New Year’s Eve Movies w/ Genevieve Rice

Franchise with Me: The Kissing Booth Trilogy w/ Ben V.

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