“Suzume” stars Nanoka Hara, Hokuto Matsumura, Eri Fukatsu, Shota Sometani, Sairi Ito, Kotone Hanase, Kana Hanazawa, and Matsumoto Hakuo II. Released in Japan on November 11, 2022, the film has a high school girl attempting to prevent a threatening disaster.
The film was written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, who also directed films such as "The Place Promised in Our Early Days", "The Garden of Words", "Your Name", and "Weathering with You". When you're in the world of anime, you'll inevitably have to balance your everyday life with saving the world from disaster. Of course, that's nothing compared to being reincarnated in another world after being killed by something. Either way, living an anime life is not as perfect as it sounds. This was proven further in the latest animated feature from acclaimed filmmaker Makoto Shinkai, which sees a girl on a high-stakes quest after encountering a magic door. While Shinkai has delivered plenty of magnificent movies that rival Studio Ghibli since 2004, he only gained popularity from his 2016 fantasy classic, "Your Name", or as I would like to call it, "If Freaky Friday Was an Anime". So now Shinkai's back with a new project that combines fantasy and coming-of-age drama, which would likely impress fans of the genre from other anime shows and movies. With that said, let's open this door and see if this movie is another worthy gem in Shinkai's filmography and the animation world.
The story centers on Suzume Iwato (Hara), a high school girl living with her aunt Tamaki Iwato (Fukatsu) in Kyushu. On her way to school, Suzume encounters a university student named Sota Munakata (Matsumura), who's searching for doors in abandoned areas. After finding a door leading to a starlit field, she later discovers that it also unleashes a supernatural "worm" that can cause earthquakes, and Sota attempts to lock the doors to keep it in. As a result, Suzume joins forces with Sota to find the keystone Daijin (Ann Yamane) and close all the doors to prevent an even greater apocalypse.
My first introduction to Makoto Shinkai's filmography was through my first experience with "Your Name" a few years ago. Like many people, I adored "Your Name" for its compelling and refreshing take on the "body-swapping" formula and gorgeous animation. I would even say that it might rival Hayao Miyazaki's works regarding storytelling in animation. This led me to watch "Weathering With You" weeks before getting stuck indoors for a year. In case you haven't read my review, I thought that movie was a great follow-up to "Your Name" despite its similar teen romance elements. So I was pretty excited to see Shinkai attempting to go three for three with his latest fantasy adventure featuring a teen and a talking, three-legged chair. Unsurprisingly, the film met my expectations of matching Shinkai's exquisite art style and thoughtful narrative from his previous films. However, it also came very close to becoming another anime masterpiece from the filmmaker.
The movie's plot consists of the usual world-saving scenario we've seen before, with Suzume attempting to keep a massive worm from destroying Japan. However, it also showcases a coming-of-age tale about loss. It depicts Suzume learning about her past, with one part of her childhood involving her mother's death. As she progresses to lock the doors in specific abandoned areas, she gets closer to the truth about what happened in her youth. Like Shinkai's previous movies, "Suzume" packs a lot of interest and tension in its plot and characters, but it also maintains its focus on providing the human soul into the mix. As a result, the film is a thoughtful and thrilling depiction of self-discovery amid its supernatural chaos and post-apocalyptic commentary.
Unfortunately, I would also point out that the film's original narrative is far from refreshing. I have seen some complaints about it having a similar structure to the filmmaker's previous films, including "Weathering With You", which kept it from being on par with his recent works. After watching "Suzume", I can see where they're getting at. It's been a while since I watched "Your Name" and "Weathering With You", but I remembered some aspects from the latter that got me discovering this film's similar beats. One example is the main character going into a fantasy realm to rescue someone chosen to prevent a natural disaster at the cost of their life. It does make the film predictable sometimes, but it also continues to display Shinkai's sublime ability to provide emotion in the storytelling and visuals. However, there are also times when the film struggles to maintain its emotional core for its themes, except the ending. If Shinkai plans on making more movies, he should probably come up with something different in the narrative instead of copying and pasting specific elements from his previous films. Otherwise, it'll continue to grow repetitive for his fans.
My theater showed two versions of "Suzume", the original Japanese dub and the English dub, to please different anime audiences. As usual, I decided to stick with the English version because reading the subtitles can sometimes be a hassle while everything else is happening simultaneously. The English cast consists of Nichole Sakura (Suzume) from "Superstore", Josh Keaton (Sota), Jennifer Sun Bell (Tamaki), Roger Craig Smith (Minoru Okabe), and even Rosalie Chiang (Chika Amabe) from Pixar's "Turning Red". The movie's got quite a cast, especially the ones from several shows and video games, but how did they do regarding their vocal performances? Honestly, they were pretty good. Nichole Sakura did a suitable job with her performance as Suzume regarding the character's persevering personality, humor, and emotion. Suzume is determined to help save the world from impending doom, but she also has a sense of vulnerability that makes her a caring character. I may not be familiar with "Superstore", but I could see Sakura getting more roles like this later. Josh Keaton was also decent as Sota, a "closer" traveling across Japan to find and lock the magic doors.
One of the most vital aspects of Shinkai's filmography is the animation. Regarding the settings, character designs, and action sequences, Shinkai's style never fails to impress me with its vibrancy, cinematography, and detail. "Suzume" is unsurprisingly no exception, with the filmmaker putting much care and passion into showcasing its majestic world. From the realistically detailed Japan to the stunning and sublime Ever-After, the animation is undeniably enchanting for displaying the set designs' visual splendor. It also works exceptionally well for its action sequences, with some scenes flawlessly combining 2D animation with CGI. Most anime don't translate well with CGI effects, but "Suzume" marks an example of how to use them properly, especially when mixing them with traditional animation.
The movie also marks the third collaboration between Shinkai and Japanese rock band Radwimps, after "Your Name" and "Weathering with You". Those movies provide stellar music from Radwimps to accompany their thrilling and emotional narratives. "Suzume" continues that trend with another soundtrack featuring outstanding music by Radwimps and Kazuma Jinnouchi. Like Shinkai's previous films, the music matches the movie's emotional core, whether it's intense, comedic, or even heartwarming.
Overall, "Suzume" is another vibrant and well-told fantasy adventure that opens the door to Makoto Shinkai's future as a filmmaker. Understandably, its familiar narrative beats prevented the film from being completely fresh, and the depiction of some of its emotional themes was far from memorable. Fortunately, they're not enough to keep the movie from shining as bright as the starry sky in the Ever-After. It's consistently entertaining despite its two-hour runtime and visually gorgeous for its backgrounds and action scenes, which quickly compensate for a couple of storytelling issues. The movie marks another success for Shinkai and animation as a medium thanks to its suitable cast, storytelling, great music, and fantastic animation. Fans of Shinkai's previous works and animation should definitely check "Suzume" out if it's available near them.
"A Man Called Otto" stars Tom Hanks, Mariana Treviño, Rachel Keller, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Cameron Britton, and Mike Birbiglia. Released in limited theaters on December 30, 2022, followed by a wide release on January 13, 2023, the film has a grumpy man forming an unlikely friendship with his new neighbors.
The film was directed by Marc Forster, who also directed films such as "Monster's Ball", "Stranger than Fiction", "World War Z", and "Christopher Robin". It is based on the 2012 novel A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. We all have moments where we feel cranky, either out of depression or people being buttheads to us. It's moments like these that make us want to end our suffering as soon as possible. But if we hold on to our lives just a bit longer, we may regain something worth living for. Last weekend brought us a couple of remakes that lured in different audiences, one of which is an American remake of a 2015 Swedish adaptation of Backman's novel. Given how beloved the 2015 adaptation was regarding its reception and Oscar nominations, it's unsurprising that Hollywood wants to retell it again for American audiences. Besides, Hollywood has done it plenty of times with middling results. Will this film suffer the same fate, or does it have enough surprises in its sentimental plot to keep us from feeling grumpy? Let's find out.
The story centers on a 60-year-old widower named Otto Anderson (Hanks), who recently retired from a steel company. After losing his wife, Sonya (Keller), six months previously, Otto considers killing himself. However, during one of his suicide attempts, Otto is interrupted by his new neighbors: Marisol (Treviño), Tommy (Garcia-Rulfo), and their two daughters, Abbie (Alessandra Perez) and Luna (Christiana Montoya). While getting acquainted with his neighbors, Otto experiences flashbacks to his past, forcing him to rediscover his once-lost happiness.
The movie marks the second time I was introduced to the source material. The first time was in 2015 when I recognized "A Man Called Ove" while watching the 89th Academy Awards. Yes, I still watch the Oscars annually. What else would I be doing during my spare time? I haven't actually watched the 2015 movie from Sweden, but considering it got nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Makeup and Hairstyling, it must've been good enough for me to reconsider in the future. Until then, I might as well use the English adaptation as a starting point.
"A Man Called Otto" may seem like a harmless comedy about Tom Hanks being a grouch for two hours straight on paper. However, it's actually more of a light-hearted drama that covers some serious topics, mainly depression and suicide. While there are moments when the movie does provide some chuckles, it also makes you understand that these issues are no laughing matter. Plus, it isn't afraid to make people cry, especially those who have dealt with or are still dealing with depression today. So make sure you bring tissues for this one because it will be a doozy. Also, if you're planning on taking your kids to this film, be sure to talk to them about its themes before and after exposing them to Tom Hanks committing suicide for two hours.
The story itself is a tried-and-true tale about grief and loss, with Otto reeling from the loss of his wife and hopes to join her in death. However, he gets a wake-up call from life after befriending his new neighbors and recollecting his past. The movie depicts the man's journey to rediscover what it means to live and make peace with the life he's living, even though he's surrounded by idiots. Films like these have come around often to generate tears from audiences without relying on artsy filmmaking. Most of them have succeeded in being feel-good and well-executed heartstring tuggers, while some relied too heavily on their sentimentality that it made specific viewers cringe or barf with their cheesiness. "A Man Called Otto" is a decent example of the former, as it delivered a heartwarming and charismatic portrait of its themes and scenarios.
I wouldn't be quick to call it a perfect adaptation of the Swedish novel, though. Despite having the heart in the right place, the movie has some issues regarding the narrative that kept it from being an authentic tear-jerking experience. It does feel a bit bare-bones when it comes to representing its mature topics and characters. That's not to say it has to be R-rated to make it great, as the teen-rated version of its themes is admirable for the most part. It's that it doesn't have a lot of moments that stick with me after the credits roll, aside from the humor. There's also the pacing and editing, both of which were a tad awkward and rushed in specific sequences, including the finale. Aside from those flaws, director Marc Forster managed to add plenty of heart and charm to its familiar plot while providing happy tears to a respectable degree.
Forster has proven himself to be a confident filmmaker in the drama department, especially when he attempts to add charisma and emotion into the mix, with "A Man Called Otto" being an example of that. But, of course, he's not the only person who knows how to inject those elements into their craft. Yes, even the great Tom Hanks knows how to impress audiences with his talent. This is another film that sees Hanks playing a different character outside of his usual likable personas in years past. The result is what you'd expect from the actor, with Hanks delivering a captivating performance as the imitating yet caring Otto. It shows that Hanks is still as charismatic as ever, even as the grumpiest man in the suburbs. Then, you have the supporting cast, which made a solid effort to keep up with Hanks. Mariana Treviño did a good job with her performance as Marisol regarding her humor and emotion. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo also followed suit with his role as Tommy, and the kid actors as Abby and Luna were unsurprisingly adorable.
Overall, "A Man Called Otto" is a charming and unapologetically sentimental comedy-drama that'll likely warm many people's hearts, even the grumpy ones. It doesn't break any new ground with its themes and presentation, but in a case like this, it doesn't have to. Its goal was to provide a simple and inspiring experience that makes audiences feel grateful about life and the people they spend it with. Regarding its direction, Marc Forster and the crew were barely able to accomplish that objective. Tom Hanks was as lovable as he's always been, and the heartfelt moments were admirable despite some minor issues with the pacing and editing. Because of my experience, I would gladly look at the 2015 adaptation sometime and see how the two compare. If you're a fan of Tom Hanks and feel-good movies, this one's definitely worth checking out, but leave your crabbiness behind while doing so.
"Babylon" stars Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, and Li Jun Li. Released on December 23, 2022, the film chronicles the rise and fall of multiple characters within the film industry.
The film was written and directed by Damien Chazelle, who also directed "Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench", "Whiplash", "La La Land", and "First Man". Usually, the best way to make it big is by taking a career in the movie business. While Hollywood has its merits, it also has plenty of crazy stuff that could either work in your favor or lead to your downfall. That's what I would call the magic of the film industry. This latest movie that entered the Christmas weekend saw Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle representing the glamorous lifestyle that isn't without its downsides. So far, it has earned five Golden Globe nominations and nine Critics' Choice nominations despite its mixed reception, proving that awards ceremonies love films that celebrate the industry. Aside from its nominations, does the movie provide enough entertainment for me to warrant a recommendation? Let's find out.
The movie takes place in Hollywood during the Roaring Twenties and follows several characters in the industry. First, we have Jack Conrad (Pitt), a famous silent film star known for throwing the wildest parties in the world. Next, there's Nellie LaRoy (Robbie), an aspiring actress struggling to maintain her stardom. Finally, we have Manuel Torres (Calva), a Mexican-American immigrant who dreams of being something bigger in the movie business. As Hollywood transitions from silent films to talkies, these characters attempt to keep their dreams and careers alive as they face numerous scenarios that could jeopardize their lives.
With new year's weekend on everyone's minds, I figured that the best way to celebrate the occasion is to watch a movie involving wild parties, drinking, sex, and the insanity of working in Hollywood. Since 2022 is ending, I might as well finish it with a bang instead of a fizzle. But, of course, that's not the only reason I wanted to see the film. The other reason is Damien Chazelle, who's been impressing me with his stellar filmography. However, the only movie from him that significantly impacted me quality-wise is "Whiplash", which got me interested in his direction. "La La Land" and "First Man" were also great, but none of them could match what he accomplished in the nerve-wracking drama.
So then we have "Babylon", another movie that explores a specific turning point in the film industry. However, it's not all happy-go-lucky as we assumed to believe. The film explores the transition from producing silent movies to making ones with sound. Additionally, it represents the harsh yet crazy reality of Hollywood fame and how the characters struggle to adapt to these changes. This easily reflects how the evolution of cinematic technology can improve the movie-going experience. Unfortunately, it also shows that adapting to that technology is more complex than we thought regarding the work environment.
As an admirer of the film industry, I thought Damien Chazelle was a good choice to showcase the wild and graphic lifestyle. His direction almost resembles that of "Whiplash", where almost every scene is filled with tension, ambition, and absurdity. It offers plenty of sequences that'll make you uncomfortable, especially when it involves violence or sex, but you can't help but be inspired by how they're presented. The thing about Chazelle is that he wasn't afraid to show something loud and crazy while maintaining the film's realism. When he does, it's a satisfying sight to behold.
Now the question is whether the movie is as impactful as the changes in the film industry. Many people have a lot of mixed feelings towards "Babylon", with some saying it's an overlong and overwhelming mess. After my experience with the film, I can understand people's concerns with it. However, that doesn't mean that I didn't have a good time watching it. Would I say it's as fantastic as "The Fabelmans" or any other movie involving filmmaking? Not really, but the aspects behind it are admirable enough to deliver a wild party worthy of my curiosity.
Aside from the film industry, the story primarily focuses on Manny's journey to becoming famous in the business and his relationship with Nellie. During the process, Manny faces an uphill battle with white capitalistic greed and the mythologies of Hollywood's Golden Age. More importantly, Manny attempts to find his sense of identity in the industry. While that's happening, Nellie struggles to maintain her image due to the changes in the film industry and her reckless choices. It's an interesting and untamed reflection on the brutal realities of fame and change and how they led to a specific character's downfall. While Chazelle's screenplay was unfocused during a few scenes, it's suitable in displaying how these characters would react to Hollywood's evolution while providing some entertaining scenarios.
Another issue that's highly noticeable in people's eyes is the runtime. "Babylon" is another film with a three-hour runtime that puts a lot of concern in our heads regarding the narrative. Admittedly, it offers a lot of insane and well-crafted moments that'll likely entertain people for a good two hours. However, when expanding them by one hour more, the movie could leave audiences feeling more exhausted than satisfied. Despite its decent pacing and riveting cast, the movie's three-hour length showcases that having too much of a good thing isn't always the way to go regarding its repetition. Besides, I already got the three-hour experience from watching blue-skinned aliens swimming underwater. Do I really need to spend another three hours watching people yell and party their butts off?
Aside from these flaws, I found myself feeling amused at the chaos of working in the film industry, not just in Chazelle's direction but also in the actors and the technical aspects accompanying it. The cast was highly engaging enough to keep the movie from being boring, much like the madness of its scenarios and graphic content. While Brad Pitt serves as top billing in the poster, his character, Jack Conrad, only served as a supporting role in favor of placing full attention on Manny Torres. Despite that, Pitt still proved his worth as a talented actor through his charming and humorous performance. Margot Robbie also did a bona fide job with her performance as the glamorous Nellie LaRoy, which makes me feel disappointed that she's not drawing in a big crowd recently. Her last film, "Amsterdam", bombed at the box office, and now she's suffering the same fate with "Babylon". Considering her wonderful presence, I think Robbie deserves better. Diego Calva, known for starring in "Narcos: Mexico", also delivered a solid performance as Manny, and Jovan Adepo was decent as Sidney Palmer, a jazz trumpet player.
The technical qualities in "Babylon" have done wonders in transporting me to the world of 1920s Hollywood. One of them is Linus Sandgren's cinematography, which beautifully captures the old-fashioned environments and the insanity that lies within them. Then, you have the costume design by Mary Zophres, which is just as dazzling and authentic as the world itself. Finally, there's the musical score by Justin Hurwitz, which was one of the best parts of the movie, in my opinion. It has a swing and jazzy feel that matches the energy, tension, and craziness of the environment and the characters, which is enough to immerse me further in that world. My only mild concern about those aspects was the editing. It looked a bit choppy at specific moments during the first hour, but it got a bit better later on when it found its flow with Chazelle's direction.
Overall, "Babylon" is an absurd and well-crafted depiction of Hollywood's evolution in the late 1920s. However, it's far from a perfect celebration of the ups and downs of the film industry, as its beefy runtime and repetition left me feeling a bit exhausted. There are also times when the script favors shock value over impactful storytelling. Nonetheless, the movie offers exactly what it wants to be: a wild and sometimes hilarious experience that's also an unapologetic treat for film lovers. With its talented cast, Chazelle's direction, and Justin Hurwitz's score, the movie is an interesting way for me to cap off 2022. It's not the best film I've seen from Damien Chazelle, but I do admire his ambition behind it. If you like Chazelle's other works and the movies depicting the film industry, it's worth a watch.
“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” stars Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson, and Dave Bautista. Released in theaters on November 23, 2022, followed by a Netflix release on December 23, 2022, the film has Detective Benoit Blanc solving a murder mystery on a tech billionaire’s private Greek island.
The film was written and directed by Rian Johnson, who also directed “Brick”, “The Brothers Bloom”, “Looper”, and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. It is a sequel to Johnson’s 2019 film “Knives Out”. It’s no mystery that everyone enjoys watching a detective solve a compelling whodunit, with Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot being the best in the business. However, it wasn’t until 2019 that another detective made its way to the list with surprising results. That year saw the release of Rian Johnson’s original mystery film, “Knives Out”, which centers on Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc investigating the death of a patriarch. That movie helped the filmmaker recover from the blow of his controversial take on the “Star Wars” franchise and spawned a new franchise for the genre. It’s also a great movie to watch if you’re a fan of murder mysteries.
The first in the series of planned follow-ups reunites Craig and Johnson for another enticing mystery set in a new location. This time with the assistance of Netflix instead of Lionsgate, the first film’s distributor. The movie already made its exclusive premiere in theaters during Thanksgiving and proved to be a success with audiences. I was hoping to be a part of the audience who watched it before anyone else. Unfortunately, due to things being out of my control, including spending quality time with my family, I didn’t get the chance to do it. So I had to wait until it was on Netflix like everyone else who failed to experience it on the big screen. Now that it has finally arrived, let’s see if this sequel is as riveting and clever as its predecessor.
The story once again follows Detective Benoit Blanc (Craig). Blanc’s latest case leads him to a private island in Greece, where a tech billionaire named Miles Bron (Norton) is hosting a murder mystery party at his mansion, the Glass Onion. The other members attending include head scientist Lionel Toussaint (Odom Jr.), governor Claire Debella (Hahn), fashion designer Birdie Jay (Hudson), men’s rights streamer Duke Cody (Bautista), and Mile’s ex-business partner Cassandra “Andi” Brand (Monáe). When the party becomes a real-life murder mystery, Blanc attempts to solve the case and find the suspect before the killer strikes again.
The first “Knives Out” film was a breath of fresh air for the mystery genre. It featured an ordinary murder mystery that paid off exceptionally well thanks to Rian Johnson’s unique direction and screenplay. More importantly, it pays tribute to the genre that’s been captivating audiences for years due to its entertaining twists and an outstanding cast. So everyone, including me, was eager to see if its follow-up could live up to the same expectations as Johnson’s mystery classic. Most sequels in the murder mystery genre tend to please audiences with the elements that worked in their predecessors. However, they didn’t leave much of an impact as the originals regarding the storytelling. “Glass Onion” appears to be at risk of being one of those examples, but after finally watching it on Netflix, I’m glad it wasn’t the case.
“Glass Onion” offers many of the same elements that made “Knives Out” a surprise hit for the genre. You got the dynamic cast that keeps the film lively and humorous and the mystery aspect that has me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire runtime. Additionally, it takes several inspirations from the genre and occasionally jokes about it, mainly the “vacation mystery” ones like “Death on the Nile”. Those things make it sound like a carbon copy of the original and the other whodunits before it. However, with its new location and Rian Johnson’s direction, “Glass Onion” found a way to make itself fun and refreshing enough to make this vacation a dazzling, clever, and wild treat.
One of the major aspects of “Glass Onion” is undoubtedly Rian Johnson. With his films from the similar genre, “Brick” and “Knives Out”, Johnson has a great understanding of what makes a mystery enticing from beginning to end. Regarding his direction, Johnson effortlessly pays homage to the old-fashioned mysteries of years past while providing his own vision in its presentation and energy. More importantly, he isn’t afraid to get a bit wild on several occasions while keeping the story contained, especially in the finale. His direction aligns with the “Enola Holmes” films, in which murder mysteries don’t have to be dark and serious to be riveting. They can also be fun and vigorous while maintaining the mystery and tension and still be eye-openers for fans and newcomers.
But, of course, the real gem of the movie is his screenplay. The most important thing about murder mysteries is always throw people off with twists and turns. You want to make the audience believe they cracked the case before anyone else, but then you prove them otherwise with a surprise or two. That’s what Rian Johnson did with “Knives Out”, and he pulled off another home run with “Glass Onion”. Filled with solid dialogue and effective twists, the screenplay cleverly represents the mystery tropes in more ways than one. What makes it even better is its commentary on current business magnates. These people strive for success with their multiple lines of enterprise and will do anything to maintain it regardless of the consequences. The film handles this topic wonderfully by comically reflecting the characters’ self-absorbed behavior. It also helps the final reveal become more ingenious than obvious. Only time will tell if it’s enough for the film to take home the award for Best Screenplay.
Another aspect I immensely enjoyed was the all-star cast. “Knives Out” benefited strongly from its highly entertaining actors, who brought their mysterious, charming, and sometimes despicable characters to life. “Glass Onion” brought aboard another set of recognizable actors to attempt to recapture the zany and charm of the original. Of course, you also have the return of Daniel Craig and his irresistible accent, and yes, he’s just as lovable here as he was in “Knives Out”. Unsurprisingly, the supporting cast did a fantastic job with their performances, including Edward Norton as Miles Bron. Miles is the type of character you love to hate due to his half-baked personality and ideas. This is due to Johnson’s screenplay and Norton’s splendid portrayal of the character. Janelle Monáe was also a pleasant surprise as the Brand sisters, Helen and Andi, with the former’s character arc being the most interesting of the bunch. Monáe’s role in “Glass Onion” is another strong case scenario in which a singer can be a good actor with the right project and direction. Kathryn Hahn was also entertaining as Claire, and Dave Bautista was immensely entertaining as Duke Cody.
The production design is one of the aspects that differentiates “Glass Onion” from “Knives Out”, and it admittedly looks great. The main highlight of it is Miles’ mansion, the Glass Onion, which is luxurious to a fault. If I became a billionaire myself, I would definitely buy it as my dream home. Finally, there’s the musical score by Rian’s cousin and frequent collaborator, Nathan Johnson. Like his music in “Knives Out”, Nathan’s score reflects the classy and old-fashioned vibe of the previous murder mystery films. It’s also a banger to listen to if you enjoy his other music from Johnson’s previous movies.
Overall, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is an enticing, hilarious, and refreshing whodunit that’s as layered as an onion but doesn’t stink like one. It offers the same elements that made the original successful and mixes them effectively with its social commentary and convincing twists. As a result, the film is another sequel that matches, if not surpasses, the heights of its predecessor. The cast was highly entertaining, Rian Johnson’s direction and screenplay were top-notch regarding the genre, and the musical score was terrific. It not only showcases Rian Johnson’s remarkable talent as a filmmaker but also shows promise for his potential “Knives Out” franchise, with a third film already in the works. So if you loved the first film and the other whodunit movies before it, this latest murder mystery is worth investigating on Netflix.
"I Wanna Dance with Somebody" stars Naomi Ackie, Stanley Tucci, Ashton Sanders, Tamara Tunie, Nafessa Williams, and Clarke Peters. Released on December 23, 2022, the film chronicles the life and career of Whitney Houston.
The film was directed by Kasi Lemmons, who also directed films such as "Eve's Bayou", "Talk to Me", "Black Nativity", and "Harriet". People scrambled to get their last-minute gifts and organize their holiday plans with their friends and loved ones during the Christmas weekend. While that's happening, some people spent the holiday with one of the most prominent singers in history. The holiday weekend saw the release of another musical biopic centering on an icon that changed the music industry for the better. This time, it's Whitney Houston, whose soulful and improvised vocals made her a household name in the music industry and the film business. She has produced numerous hits that live on forever in memory, like "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" and "I Will Always Love You". Additionally, she starred in films like "The Bodyguard" and "The Preacher's Wife" and even produced some of them, such as 1997's "Cinderella" and the "Princess Diaries" movies. This was all before her tragic death in February 2012 from accidentally drowning in her bathtub at the Beverly Hilton hotel. Her music will always be remembered, but this film shows that her life may also be worth remembering. So was the film able to capture the soul of the iconic artist and provide a musical treat worth seeing during the holiday season? Let's find out.
Whitney Houston is another artist I don't listen to that much compared to the recent ones. I've only heard a few songs from her and recognized her from "The Bodyguard" through my mother. But I just didn't get fully attached to her work as I did with Michael Jackson. So I was hoping that watching this movie would help me change my mind, similar to the other musical biopics from before. But, of course, it also has to have a compelling story that respects Houston's life and musical career and stands alongside other great biopics like "Ray" and "Straight Outta Compton". Unfortunately, the story it offered didn't reach the same depth and impact as her iconic music. But for hardcore fans of the artist, it's a satisfactory experience with enough admirable moments to keep the music flowing.
If you've watched the previous musical biopics based on artists like Elton John and Freddie Mercury, you'll immediately know what you're getting in this movie. The story mainly consists of Whitney Houston's successful career and the problems that affected it, including her rocky relationships with her father, John (Peters), and her husband, Bobby Brown (Sanders), and her drug addiction. Watching "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" is similar to reading a Wikipedia page about Whitney for two and a half hours. It includes plenty of important moments in her life and career that are worth the intrigue, mainly the songs and her relationships, but lacks a strong cinematic approach to them.
When taking the direction and Anthony McCarten's screenplay into account, the movie felt more like a collection of Whitney's greatest hits stitched together with its Hallmark-like melodrama. McCarten is best known for writing scripts for "The Theory of Everything" and "Darkest Hour", but he's also known for writing "Bohemian Rhapsody", which divided critics and audiences. While his screenplay for "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" respects Houston's career path, it lacks a strong emotional connection that made Houston beloved in the first place regarding its subpar dialogue and formulaic elements. The same should be said for its director Kasi Lemmons. Like McCarten, Lemmons has a good understanding of Whitney's personal problems and musical choices. However, she also lacks a unique and compelling flavor in her direction to keep it from growing more bare-bones as it progresses. It doesn't help that the movie suffers a bit from its runtime, especially in its third act, which went on longer than it should, despite how good it was.
The only elements that kept me tapping my toes with mild delight were the cast and the musical sequences. While the actors involved were far from awards-worthy, they still did a good job with their performances, including Naomi Ackie as Whitney. Ackie is known for appearing in shows like "The End of the F***ing World" and "Master of None". However, you might also recognize her from the final chapter of the divisive Star Wars sequel trilogy, "The Rise of Skywalker", where she played Jannah. With her being front and center as the iconic singer, Ackie had the opportunity to make herself known in the acting business, and she pulled it off reasonably well. Her mannerisms are on par with Houston's personality, and her charm is convincing enough for me to forgive its script and length. Stanley Tucci is also outstanding as Clive Davis, Whitney's record producer and supportive friend. Nafessa Williams and Ashton Sanders were both solid as Robyn Crawford and Bobby Brown, respectively.
Another element I enjoyed was the music, the critical ingredient of the musical biopic cuisine. The songs provided in the film are what made Whitney Houston a cultural icon regarding her soulful voice and passion. So it was crucial for the movie to have the presentation of her songs leave a lasting impact on her fans. While those scenes are far from outstanding, they provide plenty of pizazz and energy to recapture the experience of hearing Houston's beautiful voice. I would even say they're the most enjoyable parts of the film outside of its dramatic scenes regarding the direction and costume designs. The way Whitney moves and sings is enough to make me smile and tap my foot with delight.
Overall, "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" is an interestingly watchable perspective on Whitney Houston that's constantly overshadowed by its bare-bones formula. To its credit, the love and respect for the iconic artist are present in the movie, and even though I don't know Houston personally, I'm happy that Kasi Lemmons and the crew took that to heart. However, when looking at it from a critical point of view, there's nothing else in the film aside from their love that makes me want to dance with it all day long. Naomi Ackie was a good fit as Whitney, which might be enough to put her on the Hollywood map, and the musical sequences are undoubtedly charming. Unfortunately, its cliched formula, screenplay, and middling direction kept it from shining as bright as the artist herself. On the bright side, though, it's not as mediocre as the other biopic clunkers like "The Dirt" and "All Eyez On Me", especially the latter. It's worth watching if you're a fan of Whitney's music or, in general, musical biopics.