Glass Onion

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Mystery;
Box Office $13.3 million;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for strong language, some violence, sexual material and drug content.
Stars Daniel Craig, Janelle Monáe, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Noah Segan.

Writer-director Rian Johnson’s second Benoit Blanc mystery, Glass Onion, may be an even more satisfying viewing experience than the first, 2019’s Knives Out.

While the film’s structure still relies on misdirecting the audience and flashbacks to add context, the fundamental mystery itself is better crafted and not so dependent on questionable character interactions.

The story this time around involves a tech billionaire (Edward Norton) who invites a close circle of friends to a retreat on a secluded island, where he has planned an elaborate murder mystery game for them to solve. Somehow an invitation makes its way to celebrity detective Blanc (Daniel Craig), despite him having never met any of the participants.

Blanc’s presence turns out to be fortuitous when one of the guests actually ends up dead, prompting the detective to peel back the layers of the other guests’ friendships to reveal how any number of them have a motivation for murder, while some aren’t even who they claim to be.

This isn’t the type of mystery that the audience can play along with since several details are deliberately hidden from viewers thanks to a non-linear presentation. Scenes presented from one perspective in the set-up are revisited later from a different character’s point of view, changing the context of how viewers are supposed to interpret the plot.

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The film’s biggest downside might be how it anchors the story in the midst of the pandemic, when such a setting seemingly has no bearing on the proceedings aside from how it sets up a ballsy plot point that pays off in the resolution. Including such specific touchstones of the era such as masks only to have the characters ditch them early on for a wealthy soiree with no consequences might be a subtle commentary on privilege, but could end up dating the film in unfortunate ways.

Otherwise, the film’s only limitation is the same as with any mystery story — how many repeat viewings would be warranted once the secrets are revealed. That’s when films such as this have to rely on its performances, quirky characters and humor, and on those fronts Glass Onion conducts itself rather well.

The film is completely unrelated to Knives Out, aside from being another case for Blanc to solve in the great tradition of fictional detectives. The earlier film isn’t even referenced, aside from Netflix slapping the subtitle “A Knives Out Mystery” on the poster (it does not appear onscreen). Wanting to make sure the marketing helps the audience understands this is a follow-up to the earlier hit film is one thing, but perhaps “A Benoit Blanc Mystery” would have made more sense.

The French Dispatch

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Disney/Searchlight;
Comedy;
Box Office $16.05 million;
$19.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for graphic nudity, some sexual references and language.
Stars Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Christoph Waltz, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston.

Writer-director Wes Anderson’s penchant for quirky storytelling is on full display in The French Dispatch, an ode to journalism and the eclectic practitioners of the profession.

The film is an anthology structured like the format of a magazine, in this case a journal for the fictional French town of Ennui. The magazine, called The French Dispatch, is the local arm of a newspaper in Kansas. The vignettes shown in the film represent the final issue of the magazine, which is shut down upon the sudden death of its editor (Bill Murray), whose life story is presented through his obituary.

The tribute issue begins with a roving reporter (Owen Wilson) giving a brief recap of the history of Ennui, where little has changed culturally in 200 years.

The main story concerns an artist (Benicio del Toro) sentenced to prison for murder, whose paintings are inspired by a guard (Léa Seydoux) with whom he has fallen in love. His work catches the eye of a corrupt art dealer (Adrien Brody), while the tale is recounted by an indulgent lecturer for the gallery that ended up with the prisoner’s work.

Next up is the story of a student protest whose leader (Timothée Chalamet) inspires the writer of the piece (Frances McDormand) to break her objective coverage of the situation and help him write his manifesto while they enjoy a love affair.

The final segment involves a food journalist (Jeffrey Wright) whose examination of a new type of cuisine specially designed for police officers is interrupted when the town’s criminal syndicates kidnap the son of the police commissioner.

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The sketches are infused with Anderson’s usual eccentricities, such as varying aspect ratios, an intermixing of color and black-and-white, charming personalities, sharp wit, spitfire dialogue, rapid editing, and the precise framing of each scene with imagery evocative of a snapshot.

The set designs and visual style make the film seem like somewhat of a spiritual cousin to The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Blu-ray doesn’t include any bonus materials, but since it’s a Wes Anderson movie there’ll probably be a Criterion Collection release in a few years offering a smattering of supplements.

‘Motherless Brooklyn’ Comes Home in January

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the drama Motherless Brooklyn through digital retailers Jan. 14, and on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Jan. 28.

Inspired by Jonathan Lethem’s novel by the same name, Motherless Brooklyn is directed by, written by and produced by Edward Norton, who also stars as Lionel Essrog, a lonely private detective living with Tourette Syndrome who ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend, Frank Minna (Bruce Willis).

Norton aimed to transpose Lethem’s contemporary characters into a different period and plot and gave it a distinctive atmosphere by moving the story to 1950s New York City.

The cast also includes Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, Michael Kenneth Williams, Leslie Mann, Ethan Suplee, Dallas Roberts, Josh Pais, Robert Ray Wisdom, Fisher Stevens, Alec Baldwin and Willem Dafoe.

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Motherless Brooklyn earned $9.3 million at the domestic box office.

The film is nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Score for its music composed by Daniel Pemberton. The film also features an original song written and performed by Thom Yorke.

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The Blu-ray and DVD will include a code redeemable for a digital copy of the film as well as the making-of featurette “Edward Norton’s Methodical Process.” The Blu-ray will also include deleted scenes and a commentary by Norton.

‘The Illusionist,’ ‘Winter Passing’ and ‘Resurrecting the Champ’ Among Star-Studded Films Joining MVD Marquee Collection

The MVD Marquee Collection is adding five films from Yari Film Group to its lineup on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

Due June 25 are Resurrecting the Champ, Winter Passing and The Illusionist.

Resurrecting the Champ, directed by Rod Lurie (The Contender), stars Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett with Alan Alda, Kathryn Morris, Teri Hatcher, David Paymer and Peter Coyote. In the film, sportswriter Erik Kernan (Hartnett) wants nothing more than to discover a story great enough to make headlines. When he meets Champ (Jackson), a former boxing champion living on the streets, he knows he has a shot to save them both. Recording his newfound friend’s tale of triumph and defeat, Kernan gets his story and his fame. But as Champ’s tale falls under more scrutinizing eyes, Kernan learns what truly makes a story great is the quality of the man behind it. Bonus material includes a feature audio commentary from Lurie, a behind-the-scenes featurette, interviews with the cast and crew, and the original theatrical trailer.

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Winter Passing is an offbeat film about homecoming and reconciliation that features Zooey Deschanel, Will Ferrell, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Dallas Roberts, Michael Chernus, Anthony Rapp, Sam Bottoms and Rachel Dratch. When a book editor (Madigan) offers to buy the love letters of Reese Holden’s (Deschanel) parents, she returns home to recover them, only to find her widowed dad (Harris) golfing upstairs, sleeping outside and living with roommates — a pretty grad student (Amelia Warner) and a quirky wannabe musician (Ferrell). Bonus material includes a behind-the-scenes featurette and the original theatrical trailer.

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The Illusionist stars Paul Giamatti and Edward Norton along with Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. In the film, acclaimed illusionist Eisenheim (Norton) has not only captured the imaginations of all of Vienna, but also the interest of the ambitious Crown Prince Leopold (Sewell). But when Leopold’s new fiancée (Biel) rekindles a childhood fascination with Eisenheim, the Prince’s interest evolves into obsession and the city’s chief inspector (Giamatti) finds himself investigating a shocking crime. As the Inspector engages him in a dramatic challenge of wills, Eisenheim prepares for his most impressive illusion yet. Bonus material includes a feature audio commentary from writer/director Neil Burger, “The Making of the Illusionist” featurette, the “Jessica Biel on the Illusionist” featurette and the original theatrical trailer.

Taking 18 years from the start of production to theatrical release, Shortcut to Happiness finally makes its debut on Blu-ray and DVD July 16. Originally titled The Devil and Daniel Webster, the film was to be the directorial debut of Alec Baldwin. With the film plagued by investor problems and rumored creative differences, Baldwin had his director credit removed from the film and replaced with the pseudonym Harry Kirkpatrick. Producer Bob Yari rescued the film from bankruptcy court and finished it without Baldwin’s participation. It received limited theatrical screenings in 2007. Years later, it aired on Showtime and Starz channels. Set in New York’s literary world, Shortcut to Happiness is a contemporary re-telling of the classic short story ”The Devil and Daniel Webster,” starring Baldwin, Dan Aykroyd, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Kim Cattrall, Bobby Cannavale, Amy Poehler and Darrell Hammond. It follows Jabez Stone (Baldwin), a down on his luck writer who sells his soul to the devil (Love-Hewitt) in exchange for fame and fortune. When things don’t turn out as planned, Stone ultimately decides that he wants his old life again and enlists the help of Daniel Webster (Hopkins) in order to win his soul.

Finally, Sept. 17 comes Find Me Guilty from director Sidney Lumet (Serpico, Network, Dog Day Afternoon). Vin Diesel stars with Peter Dinklage, Annabella Sciorra, Alex Rocco, Ron Silver and Linus Roache in this true story. When police arrest 20 members of the Lucchese crime family, the authorities offer Jackie Dee DiNorscio (Diesel) a bargain: a shortened prison term if he’ll testify against his own. But the wisecracking DiNorscio has other ideas. Refusing to cooperate, he decides to defend himself at his own trial and proceeds to turn the courtroom upside-down, culminating in one of the most shocking verdicts in judicial history. Bonus material includes the “A Conversation with Director Sidney Lumet” featurette, the original theatrical trailer and three TV spots.

‘Isle of Dogs’ Due June 26 on Digital, July 17 on Disc

Director Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs will be available for digital ownership (including Movies Anywhere) June 26 and on Blu-ray and DVD July 17 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The film tells the story of Atari Kobayashi, 12-year-old ward to corrupt Mayor Kobayashi. When all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to vast Trash Island, Atari sets off in search of his bodyguard dog Spots. With the assistance of his newfound mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.

The cast voicing the dog and human characters includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson and Frances McDormand.

The film earned $31.4 million at the domestic box office.

Special features on Blu-ray and digital include six featurettes, “Animators,” “Isle of Dogs Cast Interviews,” “Puppets,” “An Ode to Dogs,” “Magasaki City and Trash Island” and “Weather and Elements”; and image gallery; and the theatrical trailer.