The political subplot in Knives Out that tells the real plot

Knives Out - MartaYou may go into Knives Out thinking it’s a murder mystery, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but that’s not what the movie is really about.

Let’s start by acknowledging that Rian Johnson, the writer and director, did a masterful job. Everything about this movie is top notch. In my book it’s a perfect A+++…

There are numerous flashbacks in the story but it’s never confusing. Everything fits together seamlessly and comes together in an unexpected ending.

The humor is outstanding and it feels real, not manufactured or forced, as it is in most movies that try to be funny.

The who-done-it aspect of the mystery is creative and not at all formulaic.

That’s all I can say without giving anything away. If you haven’t seen the movie yet then I hope I’ve convinced you it’s worth your time and money. Now go away because… SPOILERS AHEAD. I hope you come back later and read the rest, because there’s much more to this movie than meets the eye.

[ Spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned. ]

If you’re still reading I assume you’ve seen the movie. When did you notice that the movie wasn’t just a whodunit mystery but was also making a profound political statement contrasting immigrants/immigration against white entitlement? For me it was around the time the first family member, I think it was Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), said to Marta, “I wanted you to be at the funeral but I was out voted.” (A very typically American way of saying: the reason you weren’t invited wasn’t that we forgot about you. We actually discussed it and no one wanted to include you.)

Right away we see the schism between the way Harlan (the father played by Christopher Plummer) has treated Marta and the way all his children treat her: dismissive. Marta is Harlan’s real confidant. The only one who really listens to him for who he is, not what he can do for her.

Oh but wait,” you say. Marta was employed by Harlan to be his caregiver. He paid her for what she gave him. Yes and no. We know from detective Blanc’s (Daniel Craig’s) questioning that Harlan paid her a flat fee and that initially she worked 15 hours a week but that her working hours grew over time, but not her pay. Sure, she was there for the income, not out of pure generosity. But she gave everything she had: an increasing demand on her time, her expert care, and her friendship.

In Harlan’s heart Marta, the child of an illegal immigrant (a Dreamer), became his daughter, while his genetic/legal family treated him like the money grubbing, entitled, untalented, self deluding, sycophants they are.

Question: what does Harlan represent?

I believe Rian Johnson, the writer/director, uses the character of Harlan to represent something along the lines of the American Spirit. He’s old; he’s successful; he’s wise in a way that he realizes he’s made mistakes and wants to try and fix them. He says to Marta that he was perhaps too generous to his children and didn’t encourage them enough to make it on their own.

Even Linda, the self made woman, is portrayed as successful only because her father gave her the business loan to get her where she is today. At the same time Linda looks down on her brother Walt, the publisher, for only managing what her father gave him, but never creating anything on his own.

Walt, I think, represents the portion of corporate America that wants to bleed the common people dry. Those corporations that don’t do anything creative or constructive themselves, but have a position of influence and wealth they can use to harvest the resources of America for their own gain. Just as Walt wants to harvest his father’s books into movies for greater profit while himself contributing nothing.

There’s a crucial scene in the movie where Marta is at the memorial service and has a flashback to the birthday party on the night of Harlan’s death. The scene starts in the middle of a family argument about immigration politics, apparently immediately after Joni, the daughter-in-law, said something negative about Trump, to which Richard, the son-in-law, responds, “I don’t like him either, but maybe he’s what we need.”

Joni is the ditzy family hanger-on that thinks she’s enlightened — the rest of the family tolerates her at best.  She’s the lone voice supporting the rights of immigrants during the family argument. However, when push comes to shove, she’s just as duplicitous and scheming as the rest. She has been taking advantage of Harlan’s generosity by double-dipping for her daughter’s college tuition.

There’s no point even discussing the young grandson Jacob who is a nazi wannabe. (Grammatically, the noun “nazi” should be capitalized but I’m not going to dignify it with a capital “N”.) I only wish instead of Richard saying that young Jacob was in the bathroom “masterbating to dead deer,” he had verbitized the noun master race to become, “Masterracing to pictures of dead deer.”

And then there’s Ransom. Oh, they did a number tightly weaving this character into both the mystery plot and the political subplot. Ransom is so undeserving that even his undeserving family thinks he’s worthless. Ransom cares for nothing other than maintaining his lazy entitled status, even if it means murdering the source that granted his status in the first place.

I’m extremely interested to know if Chris Evans was cast to play Ransom in this movie specifically because for the past 10 years he has played the role of Captain America. What a perfectly ironic twist from what Evans has represented.

The casting of Daniel Craig as detective Blanc is spot on, but I question the character’s background. Personally, I think it would have played better had Daniel Craig used his native British accent which I think would have suited him better as the independent observer in the movie.

Either way, Knives Out did a masterful job contrasting the Dreamer with White Entitlement and showing us that immigrants represent the true Spirit of America better than those who are at best dismissive of immigrants and at worst blame them for self inflicted problems.

If you would like to read a very thoughtful review from someone who experienced Knives Out much more poingently than any American caucasian, like myself, ever could then I highly recommend this piece by Monica Castillo in the New York Times: Why I Left ‘Knives Out’ With Emotional Whiplash.

Disney announces release dates for upcoming MCU Phase 4 movies and Disney+ shows

Marvel StudiosOkay, deep breath. Thanos is snapped away along with his minions, and Ironman (luv u 3000) is hanging out with his daughter in the Soul Stone.

That’s the past. It’s time to create new stories, heroes, villains and get the MCU Phase 4 underway.

Here’s the movie/TV lineup Disney has announced:

2020

black-widow-may-2020May 1st, 2020 – Black Widow

What we know so far: the story takes place between the events of Civil War and Infinity War.

Stars: of course, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow, and also introducing Florence Pugh (Angela in Malevolent, Saraya Knight in Fighting with My Family) as Yelena Belova, David Harbour (Jim Hopper in Stranger Things, Dexter Tolliver in Suicide Squad) as Alexei Shostakov / Red Guardian, Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff…and oh yeah, this guy named Robert Downey Jr. may have a cameo as Tony Stark.

eternalsNovember 6, 2020 – The Eternals

What we know so far: It introduces the Eternals, a race of immortal beings who lived on Earth and shaped its history and civilizations.

Stars: Angelina Jolie as Thena, Richard Madden (Robb Stark in GOT) as Ikaris, Salma Hayek as Ajak, Gemma Chan (Astrid Young Teo in Crazy Rich Asians) as Sersi, Kit Harington (Jon Snow in GOT) as Dane Whitman, Kumail Nanjiani (Stu inStuber, in Silicon Valley) as Kingo, Lauren Ridloff (Connie in The Walking Dead) as Makkari, Barry Keoghan (George in Dunkirk) as Druig, Brian Tyree Henry (Jefferson Davis in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) as  Phastos, Lia McHugh (Jessica Nolan in American Woman) as Sprite, and Dong-seok Ma (Sang-hwa in Train to Busan) as Gilgamesh.

falcon-and-winter-soldier-show-disney-plusNovember 12, 2020: The Falcon and Winter Soldier on Disney+

What we know: Kari Skogland (The Handmaid’s Tale) will direct all six episodes of the series.

Stars: Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan will officially reprise their roles as Sam Wilson (Falcon) and Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier) in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Daniel Bruhl and Emily VanCamp will both be joining the cast — reprising the roles they played in Captain America: Civil War.

2021

Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsFebruary 12, 2021 – Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

What we know: an introduction of the Marvel Comics character Shang-Chi the Kung-Fu Master. In the comics Shang Chi’s main power was really just a skill: the ability to rapidly master forms of combat. Although in later years, he did gain the power to replicate himself, which could come in handy. It’s unknown if the MCU will duplicate that power from the comics.

Stars: Simu Liu as Shang-Chi and Tony Chiu-Wai Leung as The Mandarin.

wandavisionSpring 2021: WandaVision on Disney+

What we know: There will be six episodes that follow after the events of Avengers: Endgame. It’s unknown how they will explain Vision’s return after he was killed/unstoned by Thanos at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. We do know that the events of WandaVision will cross over into the events of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which premiers around the same time.

Stars: Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany will reprise their roles of Maximoff and Vision. They will be joined by Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis from the Thor movies and Randall Park as Agent Jimmy Woo from Ant-Man. In addition Kathryn Hahn (Afternoon Design, Bad Moms) will also be joining as a “nosey neighbor.” Teyonah Parris is cast to play the role of Monica Rambeau — the young girl introduced in Captain Marvel.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessMay 7, 2021 – Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

What we know: the plot is unknown but it will involve a crossover with the Disney+ show WandaVision.

Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange/Doctor Strange, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer (Strange’s girlfriend from the first Dr. Strange movie), Benedict Wong as Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo, and a To-be-confirmed actor as Nightmare.

Who is Nightmare, you ask? In Marvel Comics, Nightmare is a Class 3 demon —equal to Dormammu, Shuma Gorath, and Cthulhu — who rules the Nightmare World, located within the Dream Dimension. Nightmare feeds off humanity’s collective psychic dream energy, and terrorizes humans and superheroes alike.

Loki on Disney+Spring 2021: Loki on Disney+

What we know so far: Tom Hiddleston will reprise his role as Loki, even though Thanos killed him in the first scene of Avengers: Endgame. But remember, later in the movie the Avengers go on their time travel adventures —  and Loki ends up holding the Tesseract and disappearing with it.

Hiddleston said: In the years since Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which came out this Spring… Two questions I’ve been asked are ‘is Loki really dead?’ and ‘what’s Loki doing with that cube?’ It’s always the cube somehow. And this series will answer both of those questions.

Spider-Man-3July 16, 2021 – Spider-Man 3

What we know: not much. The good news is that Spider-Man is returning to the MCU at all. The bad news is this is likely his last solo movie in the MCU. The plot is unknown, but will likely pick up on the ending of Far From Home, where Spider-Man was revealed to the public to be Peter Parker. And since Sony and Disney aren’t playing very well with each other, this movie might reveal why Spider-Man won’t be continuing as an Avenger. Unless Disney buys Sony and makes this whole mess go away.

MCU What IfSummer 2021: WHAT IF…?

What we know: this is the first animated adventure in the MCU. The first season will have 23 episodes that explore what would have happened in previous MCU stories had things gone differently.

Stars: Jeffrey Wright (West World as Bernard, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as Beetee ) stars as the Watcher, who narrates the series.

Thor Love and ThunderNovember 5, 2021 – Thor: Love and Thunder

What we know: Director Taika Waititi, who did Thor: Ragnarok, is back. So is Natalie Portman as Jane, only this time she’s going to level up and gain the powers of Thor herself. (50/50 odds that she cries at some point.)

Stars: Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tessa Thompson as Brunnhilde/Valkyrie, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster/Mighty Thor, Taika Waititi (the director) as Korg.

hawkeyeFall 2021: Hawkeye on Disney+

What we know: The show will act as a passing of the baton as Clint Barton ( Jeremy Renner) passes the title of “Hawkeye” to a new character: Kate Bishop. Kate is rumored to be played by Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Enders Game, Bumble Bee), but that is not yet confirmed.

Note: Disney+ series for Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, and Moon Knight are also in the works, and will debut after Hawkeye.

2022

October 7 – untitled movie

I’m going out on a limb to speculate that there will be more than one MCU movie released in 2022.

2023

February 17 – untitled movie
May 5 – untitled movie
July 28 – untitled movie
November 3 – untitled movie

Marvel Phase 4 Predictions – Some MCU Sure-Fire Guesses

Frozen Adventures You May Have Missed

Disney has finally given in to the demands of countless children, and made a sequel to their hit film Frozen.  I already have my tickets and will be seeing it opening weekend with my girlfriend, the world’s biggest Olaf fan.  (No, seriously.  I can’t sleep at night anymore because of all the stuffed snowmen staring at me.)  In-between the two films, Anna, Elsa, and Olaf had a few adventures you may not know about.

So, in case you’re a completist like me, here’s three Frozen adventures you might want to see.

Frozen Fever

This seven minute short debuted in theaters in front of Disney’s live-action Cinderella in 2015.  Elsa tries to give Anna a surprise birthday party.  However, Elsa has caught a cold, and with every sneeze she produces a bunch of “Snowgies” — adorable snowball-like creatures — who begin dismantling the decorations.  The cartoon features a catchy new song: “Making Today a Perfect Day.”

Frozen Fever can be found here:

  • Available for purchase on most major streaming sites like Amazon and iTunes.
  • Available as an extra on the Cinderella Blu-ray and DVD.
  • Available as part of the Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection on DVD/Blu-ray combo pack or streaming.  (There’s also a funny Tangled short in that collection.)

Lego Frozen Northern Lights

Frozen gets the Lego treatment in this four-episode TV miniseries.  Elsa and Anna journey to find the Northern Lights, which are invisible from their home of Arendelle.

  • This appears to be available for free on YouTube, with each of the four episodes running about 6 minutes.

Olaf’s Frozen Adventure

This twenty-one minute cartoon debuted in theaters in front of Pixar’s Coco.

Unfortunately, many audience members didn’t come prepared to see Olaf, and didn’t like waiting nearly half an hour for their Coco feature to start.

The cartoon was eventually moved to play after the feature, and then removed completely and made available on streaming sites.

During the first Christmas since the gates reopened, Olaf tries to help Elsa and Anna start some new holiday traditions, by finding out how the residents of Arendelle celebrate.

  • This is available on Blu-ray, DVD, or from major streaming sites like Amazon and iTunes.  It comes with six classic Disney winter/holiday-themed shorts.

Don’t hold it in.  Let it go.  With the RunPee app, you don’t have to wait for the credits to go to the bathroom.  We’ll tell you the best times to go so you won’t miss the best parts of the movie.  And we always have Peetimes for the latest movies like Playing With Fire, Arctic Dogs, and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.  You can also keep up with the latest movie news and reviews by following us on Twitter @RunPee and liking us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/RunPee/).

Movie Review – Frozen 2

Is Joker a standalone or part of the DC Extended Universe?

JokerThe Joker (played by Joaquin Phoenix), is a standalone origin story, set in 1981 Gotham City, which tells the story of how the character Arthur Fleck , a failed stand-up comedian, turns to a life of crime and chaos.

The Joker is the first in a series of movies and comics DC is launching under the DC Black heading. DC Black stories are a bold new approach to let storytellers experiment with characters without being beholden to the continuity of the larger DCEU (DC Extended Universe). The idea is to create a series of standalone movies — one-offs, so to speak — that don’t relate to any other DC movies.

Basically, DC has given up trying to compete with the success of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and are going back to what they do best: tell dark stories about dark characters in dark places.

Ironically, the MCU is also experimenting with this form of storytelling, outside the bounds of continuity with the main MCU story-line, in their “What If…?” series, where they transpose different characters into different roles: such as “What if Black Panther was Starlord?” …or explore how things could have been different if a character had made a different decision. Like what if Steve Rodgers hadn’t become Captain America?

Disney Plus is working on this concept, but Marvel is still leaps and bounds above anything the DC has offered lately. We’ll see if this idea helps level the playing field.

Movie Review – Joker

Newbie Movie Review – Suicide Squad (2016)

Every Star Wars Movie, Ranked

I just did an entire rewatch of all ten movies so far, to prepare for Rise of Skywalker, the final edition in the main Star Wars chronology. And then I ranked em, according to my personal opinion, which I’m positive will be different than yours. This is just fine. There’s some Star Wars now for everyone, even my mother, who loves Jar Jar Binks. (Yes, really.)

Suffice to warn you, there are spoilers ahead through to Solo: A Star Wars Story. Enjoy, and feel free to argue each movie’s merits with me in the comment section below.

Every Star Wars Movie, Ranked from Best to Worst:

    1. The Empire Strikes Back easily wins the top placement in the Star Wars franchise. It’s got everything: adventure, humor, romance, exciting space action that still holds up after all this time, and outrageous reveals. I never get tired of watching this film. I couldn’t count how many times I’ve seen it.
    2. A New Hope runs very closely to the number one spot — clipping its heels, as it were. It started off the whole mythology with a masterful, iconic adventure story. It’s an almost perfect movie.
    3. The Force Awakens – I wanted to cry with happiness when TFA premiered. It was Star Wars to me, finally! After decades of slogging through disappointment from the messy prequels and wiggy Special Editions, the

      joyous universe I first fell for was back. The new characters were fantastic, the humor worked, and everything was oh-so-pretty. I’m an absolute fan. While some say — correctly — that this is a rehash of A New Hope, I see that as a plus. The fun was baked in, and it felt like coming home.

    4. The Last Jedi – I finally saw the extended version of The Last Jedi and I loved it. In fact, now I get to rank it higher than Solo. This is a divisive choice, but TLJ is undeniably pretty, absorbing, and provides a satisfying send-off for Luke. While the “casino” scenes and Poe Dameron mutiny subplots are lacking, the Rey/Luke and Rey/Kylo scenes are, for a better word, outstanding. I can only hope that the final film in the Skywalker series is worth the wait. Also, the extended cut should have been the theatrical version and I think a lot of people would have been much happier with the finished product.
      star wars last jedi
      More than one way to skin a dreadnaught.

      4. Solo – So sue me: I loved it. A sweet young Han, a sort-of young Chewie (he’s only 190 years old), an adorably charming Lando, and a spotless Millennium Falcon; what’s not to love? It’s a small stakes story that doesn’t bother with a Death Star/Starkiller Base/planet killing weapon (I think this is a first), and while Bad Things Happen, there’s an undeniable sense of joy and fun. Plus, it features the best villain this side of Vader himself. Watch it again, and “Let go, Luke.”

    5. Rogue One – Unlike some of the previous movies, Rogue One was not fun, joyous, or happy. I mean (SPOILERS….), everyone dies. Honestly, “I had a bad feeling about this” going in (of course no one makes it — we never see them in the Original Trilogy). The sad part is that I kind of didn’t care. Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, and Rogue One’s ragtag crew…we didn’t get to really know them. This story, however, works almost seamlessly in the Star Wars universe, providing clues that the rebels weren’t as squeaky clean as we’d imagined. And the sarcastic, sociopathic K-2SO is the funniest droid we’re likely to see. I also liked the force-sensitive “Space Husbands” (Baze and Chirrut). The Vader fight scene at the end, the desperate pass-off of the data tape, the lead-in to A New Hope: worth the price of admission, right there.  The Death Star sequences were extremely compelling too, making that weapon truly frightening in a way the other movies didn’t manage.’
    6.  Return of the Jedi – I wish I could place this film higher. The opening rescue of Han from Jabba’s palace is pure gold. After that, it goes downhill fast. Han becomes an anti-version of himself; Leia is pensive and moody; Luke is inscrutable (and not in a intriguing way). It doesn’t really work, and the Ewoks still piss me off. The jokes are stale, the action sequences are middling…but it’s still better than the prequels. Damning with faint praise? I’d say this is the last of the good Star Wars movies.
    7. Phantom Menace – Many people probably rank this one dead last, saying it “ruined” Star Wars. I myself was hugely disappointed with this when it came out. Over the years, though, it’s taken on a nicer sheen. I love Qui-Gon; young Obi-Wan was perfect, and there are some amazing set pieces. The Pod Race scene is great, Naboo is beautiful, the Padme/Queen storyline was compelling, and the Duel of the Fates climax with Darth Maul is the best lightsaber fight in the entire saga. As for the hated Jar Jar, the terrible Midiclorians, and that poor Anakin kid with the terrible Yippee lines: I learned to ignore them, and just watch the moments that had the right feel for the SW Universe. It’s a really pretty movie, and Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon is the best Jedi we see throughout the series.
    8. Revenge of the Sith – I honestly don’t remember much about this entire film. Maybe that’s a good thing. I never put it on re-watch. It played like a war documentary…and only felt like Star Wars in the last half hour. But it was a great last half hour, with the long-awaited payoff on the lava planet (Okay, good except for the wretched”Nooooooooo,” after “Where’s Padme?”). And the dying from sorrow bit? It doesn’t work that way. I think a lot of people felt RotS made the prequels better. I really don’t think they’re fixable. But then, I grew up with the Classic movies, so I’m just an old fart you can safely ignore. 🙂
    9. Attack of the Clones – This one is mostly dreck. I like the arena fight scene — great set-piece — and the stuff on Camino (the water planet). Coruscant is neat, and the early scenes of fighting on the flying cars — pretty darn cool. But the entire romance was bad. Simply, plainly bad. Bad like sand! I don’t get why Padme is interested in this whiny child. Who is Dooku, again? What is the plot about? There are clones, there are trade negotiations, and a whole lot of nothing.

I know everyone’s list will be different. Ultimately, any Star Wars is better than most sci-fi out there.

Everyone who said “I have a bad feeling about this” in Star Wars

Undercover Boss – A Star Wars Parody on SNL

TROOPS – A Star Wars Parody Does COPS