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 Matrix Resurrections

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 3/8/22;
Warner;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $37.69 million;
$19.99 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD DVD;
Rated ‘R’ for violence and some language.
Stars Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, Jada Pinkett Smith, Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

The fourth “Matrix” movie has a lot of fun with the idea of serving as a meta-commentary on the original trilogy. When it actually has to zero in on being a “Matrix” movie, it kind of hits a wall, but at least it opens the door for more movies.

At the end of the third movie in 2003, Neo and Trinity (Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Annie Moss) seemingly sacrificed themselves to bring peace between the remnants of humanity and the machines that sought to enslave them. Resurrections opens with the idea that the original story might have been a video game created by Thomas Anderson  Reeves). Then word comes down that his gaming studios’ parent company, Warner Bros., wants a fourth “Matrix,” and will do one with or without the original creative team. This is pretty much what happened in real life when the studio starting planning for a reboot of the franchise before director Lana Wachowski and Reeves signed on. So Resurrections is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek title referencing both the return of the characters thought killed off, and the long-dormant franchise itself.

Anderson is getting therapy to deal with thoughts of his life just being a computer simulation like his games, before events similar to the opening of the “Matrix” start to unfold to once more lead him back to reality (while using flashbacks to clips from the original trilogy to hammer home the point that it’s all connected).

This leads to some lengthy exposition and a healthy dose of philosophical ruminations about the nature of consciousness and free will, since it wouldn’t be a “Matrix” movie without it. Then the second half of the film is essentially an extended sci-fi action scene to hit the reset button on the premise so that Neo and Trinity can lead a new crop of characters in the fight against the machines. However, the lack of popular legacy characters such as Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus is likely to leave a lot of fans cold.

Matrix Resurrections is entertaining in parts and has some intriguing ideas, but if there are future sequels they will have a lot of heavy lifting to do to prove there’s still life left in the franchise beyond running in circles.

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The Blu-ray includes several behind-the-scenes featurettes, including a nine-minute video of various cast members awkwardly recapping the story of the original trilogy. In act many of the featurettes are somewhat introspective about examining the film within the context of the franchise.

The primary behind-the-scenes featurette is the 31-minute “Resurrecting the Matrix,” which delves into revisiting the franchise after 18 years and crafting the new installment to expand the mythology (described at one point as not another box in a series of boxes, but a box that encases the previous ones).

The eight-minute “Neo & Trinity: Return to the Matrix” gives Reeves and Moss a chance to reflect on their characters’ journeys and their own personal friendship. The eight-and-a-half-minute “Allies & Adversaries: The Matrix Remixed” features supporting cast members reflecting on the expansion of the franchise, while the six-minute “Matrix for Life” features more reflections on the franchise from the cast and filmmakers. The five-minute “I Still Know Kung-Fu” explores the making of some of the action scenes.

Rounding out the bonus materials are “The Matrix Reactions,” a series of nine videos totaling nearly 49 minutes in which members of the cast and production team discuss individual scenes.

Overall, the extras, with almost two hours of combined footage, present a pretty thorough examination of the making of the film.

Originally published as a streaming review Dec. 27, 2021.

‘Tenet’ Repeats at No. 1 on ‘Watched at Home’ Chart; ‘Parallel’ Sole New Entry

With few new releases, the weekly “Watched at Home” chart remains largely unchanged from the prior week.

Warner Bros.’ Tenet is again No. 1 on the chart for the week ended Jan. 9, while Universal Pictures’ Honest Thief and The War With Grandpa switched places their sophomore week to place at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.

The “Watched at Home” chart tracks transactional video activity (both digital and on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, but not premium VOD or disc rental) compiled from studio and retailer data and presented by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

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Paramount’s Love and Monsters is the week’s biggest gainer, moving up to No. 4 from No. 9 the previous week due to its Jan. 5 release on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray Disc and DVD. The film also was the week’s top disc seller (see related story).

Love and Monsters is a post-apocalyptic action film about a man (Dylan O’Brien) traveling through a world populated by monsters in order to reconnect with his girlfriend (Jessica Henwick). The monsters were created when chemical fallout from the destruction of an asteroid headed for Earth caused all cold-blood creatures to mutate into ferocious monsters. Love and Monsters was released theatrically and on VOD in October 2020.

Rounding out the top five is season three of perennial favorite “Yellowstone,” from Paramount.

Warner Bros. “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy re-entered the chart at No. 16. The set made its 4K Ultra HD debut in December 2020.

The sole new entry on the “Watched at Home” chart was Lionsgate’s Parallel, bowing at No. 20. A Vertical Entertainment release, Parallel revolves around a group of friends who stumble upon a mirror that serves as a portal to a “multiverse,” only to discover that importing knowledge from the other side in order to better their lives brings increasingly dangerous consequences. The film’s cast includes Alyssa Diaz, Kathleen Quinlan Martin Wallstrom, David Harewood and Georgia King.

  1. Tenet (Warner)
  2. Honest Thief (Universal)
  3. The War with Grandpa (Universal)
  4. Love and Monsters (Paramount)
  5. Yellowstone: S3 (Paramount)
  6. Yellowstone: S1 (Paramount)
  7. Yellowstone: S2 (Paramount)
  8. The Office: The Complete Series (Universal)
  9. Unhinged  (Lionsgate)
  10. Harry Potter: Complete 8-Film Collection (Warner)
  11. RuPaul’s Drag Race S:13 (VH1)
  12. The Craft: Legacy (Sony)
  13. The Informer (Vertical)
  14. Buddy Games (Paramount)
  15. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Warner)
  16. The New Mutants (20th Century)
  17. Hunter Hunter (IFC Films)
  18. The Phenomenon (1091)
  19. The Upside (STX, 2019)
  20. Parallel (Lionsgate)

 

Source: DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group
Includes U.S. digital sales, digital rentals, and DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD sales for the week ended Jan. 9.