Uncut Gems

Uncut Gems

It is my great pleasure today to write a review of the worst movie I have ever seen. This will be a special challenge because the actors, the directing, and even the premise are all good. Here’s the problem. For the first half hour, we watch Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) as he runs through streets, buildings, and underground tunnels. Yes, the photography is good and no, we learn little about who he is or what he is doing.

At long last, a box containing rare opals embedded in a rock arrives. From this point forward, that small rock is the trigger for all the action that unfolds. As the movie goes on, impatience becomes the ruling emotion for the audience. What unfolds is a constant battle among various men who want the jewels as they chase each other through underground passages while screaming obscenities.

It’s not an exaggeration to report that the F-word and the S-word are shouted in nearly every sentence that comes forth from every man and woman. I have no problem with those words, using them in my own impatient moments, but in this movie, they drown out all conversation and obliterate the possibility of our learning what the movie is supposed to be about. When I asked audience members afterward how many times those words were shouted, they replied between 200 and 400 times in two and a half hours. It’s the constant screaming of these words that prevents us from understanding who the characters are in relation to each other. All yelled at high pitch, those words obliterate the plot.

Then there’s the problem of a hideous string of racial insults that flow through the swearing. We know already that all the men in the plot are selfish, cruel, and criminal. What we don’t understand is why there is no counter force at all. Is there one man with a decent motivation? No. One man who isn’t a criminal? No. They are so alike in language and behavior that we can never figure out which men have what intentions.

The material destruction of people and buildings occurs throughout the noise. Who are the good guys? There aren’t any. Are all these men and two women fighting, killing, and screaming over that one rock? Yes. If you go because of the host of positive reviews, ask yourself if you can find one speck of decency in the entire movie.

Who to blame? Writers Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie? Directors Benny and Josh Safdie? Actors Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel and a host of others who create the crowd of villains who yell throughout the movie to create what can only be called a nightmare? Soak up the jewelry store where a lot of this unfolds and you will understand what’s coming in the final scenes.

Over two hours of unrelieved swearing and brutality await you and rumor has it that Adam Sandler will be an Oscar nominee for this role. Ouch.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Uncut Gems
Word Count : 502
Running Time : 2:15
Rating : R
Date : 12 January 2020

Knives Out

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Knives Out

See Knives Out when you’re in that blissful movie mood of wanting to sit in the dark waiting to be transported to a different time and place. Actors, writers, and director Rian Johnson all moved together on this one to create a place we have never been before and it is magical. Let the mood roll over you slowly.

Mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) has been found dead in his home of a head wound at 85. As police stand on the scene, Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) investigates Thrombey’s dysfunctional family and devoted staff. All had gathered for the old man’s birthday. We quickly begin to see that nothing here is ordinary.

In an atmosphere of other worldliness, every room in the house is full of odd, unexplained furnishings and possessions of the dead man. His family is rather ordinary but his surroundings are eccentric. As we are pulled into this strange story, the inventive filming drops us quickly into wondering where we are being taken by this family.

We fasten quickly on the girl we met in the first scene who was hired to take care of Mr. Thrombey while he lived alone in his old mansion. Young Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) is his young nurse and in the first scene we watch her set the stage for everything that follows. Detective Blanc absorbs the atmosphere and the family quietly as police do their ordinary investigative job.

Who killed Harlan Thrombey? As we are introduced to each family member, we realize they are individual nutcases, more politely, eccentrics, and we watch detective Blanc as he quietly absorbs the family one by one in his search for the killer. Every one of the dead man’s adult children wants the inheritance.

Because we in the audience know from the beginning how the old man died, we never have to wonder about that. Instead we concentrate entirely on the behavior and personalities of the family as detective Blanc tries to unravel the mystery. Watching the clues build is such fun that I’ll give no details here. All that is building at the same time in the mind of detective Blanc as he watches the behavior of the family and nurse Marta.

The whole is beautifully filmed. A car chase, the mansion’s interior, the strange family – none of it is ordinary and we feel we are in some unknowable world that is riveting our attention. That’s it. The movie feels as if it’s made in another time in another world and we are in that world while the detective tries to unravel the complex reality of what surrounds him.

Look forward to fine performances and to a final scene that is a sharp, sophisticated thrust by the reality of what we have been watching. All the experts who made this movie knew exactly how to design something that would stun us. Fun, curiosity, suspense, talent? It’s all right there in this non-violent murder mystery.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Knives Out
Word Count : 500
Running Time : 2:11
Rating : PG-13
Date : November 2019