Saturday, January 18, 2020

A Hard Day's Night

Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran
Released: June 28, 2019

Yesterday is a movie with an interesting premise that asks the question, what if the entire population lived in a world where the Beatles never existed? And only one young man remembers them and their timeless songs. This is what happens when a global blackout occurs (not sure why it would erase the memory of certain pop culture phenomenas (the Beatles aren't the only thing that are forgotten by the human race)). The blackout is equated to something they were expecting for Y2K....I guess it just happened 18 years later! It only lasts for 12 seconds. Our main character, Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a struggling musician, is hit by a bus while riding his bike during that time and I guess that explains why the memory loss of certain things didn't affect him. A lot of things in this movie don't make sense, but you're just supposed to go with it.

His first clue that something is amiss is when he's in his hospital bed and says, "Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm 64?" to Ellie (Lily James), who is his friend and manager (and also a school teacher). She laughs at the comment and asks, "Why 64?" But then when he plays "Yesterday" for his friends with a new guitar, they are all amazed by the song and tell him how great it is and they have never heard of it. He thinks they are playing a joke on him (like anyone would; you would have to live under the biggest rock in a hole forty feet beneath the earth to never heard of the Beatles!) They think he is referring to an obscure pop group!

When the "joke" keeps going on into the evening, he gets on his computer and Googles "The Beatles", but the site only comes up with a page for the insect beetle. When he types in "John Paul George Ringo" he gets a hit for Pope John Paul.  He checks his albums and all of his Beatles records are gone. He also checks to see if some of his other favorite groups still exist and finds out that Oasis has also disappeared from everyone's memory. Now I understand why he is "saving" the Beatles catalogue, but it would be a shame if "Wonderwall", "Champagne Supernova", and "Don't Look Back in Anger" were lost to the world. C'mon, those are some quintessential '90s songs! We also find out that Coca-Cola and cigarettes don't exist any longer (the latter might actually be a good thing!)

I have a question: do/did the members of the Beatles exist/existed in this world, but they just never formed the Beatles, or is this a world where John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison were never born into? This question will be answered later on.

Jack takes it upon himself to try to remember all the Beatles songs(or at least the popular ones; but still, that's quite a lot!) and tries to remember the lyrics and the music. I think this would be super difficult! Even with an artist I'm familiar with and like, I don't know if I could remember all the lyrics to their songs. Perhaps just the super popular ones, but even then I wouldn't be sure. I can sing the lyrics to any song I know when it's playing, but when I just have to remember it on my own? Nope, can't do it. At least not the entire song.

I love the scene where his parents want to hear one of his "new" songs and he starts playing "Let It Be" (probably one of the best Beatles songs there is!) and he keeps getting interrupted by their neighbor or someone's phone. He keeps starting over after he gets interrupted and everyone keeps getting restless because he keeps repeating the same line. All the poor guy is trying to do is play the entire song without any interruptions, but he never gets to because he gets so fed up after the fourth of fifth interruption and tells them that they're the first people on Earth to hear this song and that it's like watching da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa right in front of them. They're all just staring at him, probably thinking he's super full of himself and he never gets to play it for them because they are interrupted once again when the neighbor's wife stops over.

Jack begins playing the songs at small festivals, but nobody seems to really care. He thinks the problem is him and he doesn't have the je ne sais quoi that the Beatles did, but then a guy from a recording company takes notice of him and Jack and Lily record a demo and the thing takes flight, at least at a local level. Jack is about to confess to Lily where the songs really came from, but he gets distracted when Ed Sheeran (played by Ed Sheeran) wants him to come to Moscow with him and be his opening act. I did laugh when he refers to himself as "the ginger geezer". And when Jack's dad tells him, "You look like Ed Sheeran!" But please tell me his ring tone isn't one of his own songs in real life because that's so...tacky. Also, I like about 90% of his music, but I really do not care for "Shape of You", which is the song he has as his ringtone in this movie.

Everyone loves Jack's opening act and we see a tall man in the back and right away I can tell he has heard the songs Jack is singing before because he has a look of recognition on his face. So this got very interesting; Jack is not the only person in the world who remembers the Beatles. Of course he sings "Back in the USSR" and Ed Sheeran tells him he really likes the song and he thought it was cool that he called it USSR even though it probably stopped being called that before he was born. Doing some Google research, I found out the song was released in 1968 and stopped being called that in 1991. You think a lot more of his younger fans (hell, any aged fan!) would be confused by the title of this song, but they seemed to be loving it.

Ed Sheeran challenges Jack to a "song writing competition" just for fun, just to see who can write the better "new" song in just a matter of minutes. The Ed Sheeran song is pretty good; it's very Ed Sheeran-y. And of course he should have won considering Jack cheated when he passes off "The Long and Winding Road" as his own and something he wrote in under fifteen minutes just that evening. It's pretty funny because Ed Sheeran is starting to question his status as a song writer and if he really is that good and he goes off, defeated. He tells Jack that he's Mozart and he (Ed) is Salieri. I had never heard of Salieri before and looked him up. He was a well established composer until Mozart came along and took over and (obviously) became the much more recognized name. So I guess there's a reason why I'm not familiar with the name Salieri. Maybe Jack should have picked one of the lesser known, lesser regarded songs to not make poor Ed Sheeran feel so bad! I was very amused by this scene and you can tell Ed Sheeran had a lot of fun with it.

Jack is brought to L.A. by Ed's manager, Debra (Kate McKinnon), who wants him to write more songs and make them both super rich. Her plan is to have Jack make "an astonishing era-defining double album that changes popular music forever". (He definitely has enough material to make a double album!) At his going-away party, Ellie confesses that she has always been in love with him (you knew it was coming!) and now things are complicated between them because he's about to leave for Los Angeles where his life is about to change drastically. His (well, The Beatles') five most popular songs are released online and they're getting colossal hits and everyone is raving about them. We don't know which songs were picked (I guess they didn't want to start a debate about which are the five greatest Beatles songs of all time because I'm sure it's different for everyone) but "Let It Be" was definitely one of them (I think most people would agree about that anyway) because you see a news clip of Jack's dad saying that he and his wife were the first ones to ever hear "Let it Be". (Even though it was only the first line four times!) If I had to choose my five favorite Beatles song, they would be "Let it Be", "Hey Jude", "All You Need is Love", "Oh La Di, Oh La Da" (why wasn't that song called "Life Goes On"? The TV show with Corky got it right!), and "Here Comes the Sun." Ask me tomorrow and my list might change, but I feel pretty good about those. "Imagine" would also be in this conversation, but I don't know if it counts as a Beatles song since it was just John Lennon. In fact, I actually prefer "Imagine" to all of those songs, except maybe "Let It Be".

While working on the album in Los Angeles, he feels he needs to go to Liverpool to find more inspiration because certain things aren't clicking for him. While there we see a woman following him and she appears to be another person who is aware of the Beatles. (Of course someone from Liverpool would have to remember them!) Lily comes to Liverpool and they almost sleep together, but Lily tells him she doesn't want a one night stand because that's what it would be since he's going back to L.A. the next day.

Back there, he meets with the head of the label (who's played by Lamorne Morris aka Winston Bishop from New Girl, a show I'm currently watching on Netflix). They're in a huge room with other people who work at the company who are all applauding Jack on his major talent and success. The next step is to put everything together "into one single, irresistible album." The album title suggestions from Jack are rejected - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band because it's too many words and too confusing; The White Album because it has diversity issues (even though Jack is of Indian descent); and Abbey Road because "it doesn't have a lot going for it". (Probably because it's just a picture of the street!) He wants Jack's album to speak for itself and wants to call it One Man Only, to tell the world that Jack didn't have any help in the process of creating this album. I had a little chuckle when he says, "No 'featuring Cardi B.' No 'featuring Bieber." Ugh, the Beatles in the same sentence with those two? Just, no. No, no, no. Can we please live in a world where those two never existed? I seriously doubt we would miss ever miss anything. I also had a chuckle when the back of the album is revealed with a silhouette of Jack's head and it says "All songs, music and lyrics by Jack Malik. Only" and everyone is gasping and oohing and ahhing and clapping.

There's a very cringe-worthy scene where Jack is recording "Hey Jude" and Ed Sheeran is there and he thinks it would be better if the words were "Hey Dude" instead. (Heh, remember that show on Nickelodeon? That's what I think of when I hear "Hey Dude"). Debra also thinks this is a brilliant idea and tells him it's so much better and Jack is like, "Is it? Is it really?" No, it's totally awful!

At a press conference, the Russian man and the woman from Liverpool are there in the audience and one of them holds up a yellow submarine (which hasn't become a thing yet in this parallel universe) and the other one asks him who is his favorite - John, Paul, George, or Ringo? They want to talk to him privately and I'm thinking, Ooh! This is going to be interesting. They're either going to extort him for money or make him feel guilty and tell him to confess his big secret and reveal who is really behind all of these amazing songs that everyone loves. But, no. They thank him for giving the world the music of the Beatles. Then they all start dancing around in a circle singing "Yellow Submarine." The way they shot these two prior to this scene really made it seem like they were being ominous about the whole thing. The fact that they're thanking Jack and being super nice to him made me feel disappointed. I want some damn drama in my movies!

This next part may be considered spoiler-y; so take that as a warning!

One of them tells Jack they "did some digging" and hands him an address of someone he may want to talk to. Remember when I was wondering if the Beatles themselves as individual people existed in this world? Well, we get the answer to that question when Jack goes to the address given to him - a small house near the beach - and an elderly man wearing denim with long hair and round glasses answers the door and introduces himself as "John". At first I was like, That can't be John Lennon! He died nearly 40 years ago! And then I realized, if he was never in the Beatles, then he never got famous, thus never got assassinated. So in this world, he most likely would still be alive. He is played by Robert Carlyle aka Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin from the TV series Once Upon a Time. I know they style him the way they do so the audience knows it's John Lennon, but I did find it amusing that if he were still alive today, he'd be wearing the same glasses and have the same haircut. This version of John Lennon seems totally chill that a random stranger showed up on his doorstep and doesn't really question why he seems so in awe of him. John tells Jack that he is happy and gives him some advice including, "Tell the girl you love that you love her" and "Tell the truth to everywhere when you can." As you may have guessed, Jack will heed this advice. When he asks how old John is and hears his answer, he replies with, "Fantastic! You made it to 78!"and gives the befuddled man a hug.

At his first big concert at Wembley Stadium, Jack confesses his love to Ellie and tells the truth about the Beatles. Ellie is somewhere under the stage and there's a camera on her that puts her face on full display on a jumbo tron. Luckily she is beautiful and fresh-faced, but ooh, if that were me, I would be so pissed! I don't want a close up of my face on some big ass screen where everyone can stare at it! Just one of my many worst nightmares! Jack offers the Beatles songs for free and releases all of them online which makes Debra furious.

So I predicted this movie would end with everything going back to normal; that the world would once again remember the Beatles, but being that John Lennon is alive in this world, I guess it would be cruel to take him away and the world (except for three people) still goes on without remembering a group called the Beatles ever existed, but at least they have their music to enjoy (for free!) thanks to Jack. We also find out that "Harry Potter" has also been erased from everyone's memory. I hope Jack remembers enough to write all seven books! I feel like trying to write one book from memory would be difficult enough, let alone seven.

So I guess in this universe, the movie Across the Universe doesn't exist either! I need to watch that and review it soon. I saw it when it first came out and liked it, but just never took the time to revisit it. I do have the soundtrack and shhh, don't tell anyone, but I actually like the movie's rendition of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" better than the Beatles'!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Murder Mystery

Knives Out
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Christopher Plummer, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Katherine Langford
Released: November 27, 2019
Viewed in theaters: December 19, 2019

Since this movie has only been out for a month and I'm sure there are plenty of people who have yet to see it, I will review this movie without spoilers first, then I will have a separate portion for spoilers. Believe me, this is the kind of movie you want to see without being spoiled as it is a murder mystery and half the fun is trying to determine "whodunnit". I highly recommend that you watch it. I was thoroughly entertained throughout the film and you could tell the actors were having a lot of fun too.

You probably already know the basic plot: the patriarch of a wealthy family has been found dead the night of his 85th birthday when all of his family were there celebrating with him, so any of them could be suspects. It is up to the detective to figure out what happened.

Christopher Plummer plays Harlan Thrombey, the mystery writer who is found dead with his throat slashed. Daniel Craig plays Benoit Blanc, the detective hired by somebody in the family (we don't find out until the end) to figure out how he died. When he first spoke, it took me a few seconds for my brain to register he was talking in a Southern accent since I'm so acclimated to hearing him with a British accent that I just assumed he was speaking with one, but no, it's quite a thick Southern accent! I loved the moment when he is referred to as "CSI: KFC". Since Harlan's family was at his home the night before for his party and spent the night at his massive home, they are all considered suspects: The players include:

-Harlan's daughter, Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her husband, Richard (Don Johnson). She is a successful real estate agent mogul and her husband helps her run her company. Their son goes by Ransom (Chris Evans), who left the party early.

-Harlan's son, Walt (Michael Shannon) his wife, Donna, and his teen son, Jacob. Walt is the CEO of his father's publishing company. His wife is mostly in the background and doesn't really have any lines and you kind of forget about her with all the other loud, colorful characters. Because of her invisibility, I did assume she might be the murderer...but I won't tell you if she is or isn't!

-Harlan's daughter-in-law, Joni (Toni Collette) and her daughter, Meg (Katherine Langford (she was the main character in 13 Reasons Why)). Joni was married to a son of Harlan's who died. She still stays in touch with her husband's side of the family, but more for the money than anything else.

-Harlan's mother. Yes! The mother of an eighty-five year old man was still alive. That seemed pretty absurd to me. Nobody knows how old she is. I never even considered her as the murderer...or was she? Dun, dun, dun! Again, I won't tell you if she is or isn'!

-Harlan's nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas) who has a good relationship with him. There is a running joke that nobody in the Thrombey family knows where she's from because we hear she's from different South American countries like Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil.

-Harlan's housekeeper, Fran.

When Blanc interviews each person, you hear them tell their version of the story, but then a flashback of the party is shown and you see what really happened. Most of them have tweaked their stories just a tad. We see quite a few people could have a reason to murder Harlan. We see Harlan tell Walt that he no longer wants him as CEO of his company, we see Harlan tell Joni that he knows she's been taking the money that's supposed to be for her daughter's school and he will no longer be giving her any more, and we see him tell Richard that he's aware that he's cheating on Linda and unless Richard tells her about it, he will.

So I just assumed we would get plenty of clues (and red herrings!) and by the end there would be enough information to determine who the murderer was. Imagine my surprise when it is revealed what happed in the middle of the movie. I knew there had to be a catch: either we weren't getting the true story or either there was more to the story than we were told. There's a very amusing speech from Blanc when he does figure out what actually happens and calls it "a donut hole within a donut hole". Not exactly sure where he was going with that, but it gave me a chuckle.

Okay, starting here I will begin my spoiler warning, so if you haven't seen the movie, you should stop reading right now! I repeat, spoilers start now. If you haven't seen this movie and do not want to be spoiled, then stop reading now! You have been warned! And you should really see this movie without being spoiled! Major spoilers ahoy!

So before I get to the spoiler of who murdered Harlan, there's another scene that might be considered slightly spoiler-y. (Hence the reason I have it after my spoiler warning!) The entire family plus Marta has gathered at the house to hear the will reading of their late father/grandfather. They're all excitedly speculating amongst themselves who will get what and how much each of them will get what. To their shock and anger, Harlan has left his fortune and publishing company to Marta. (I would be pretty upset too if I were them!) There's a funny moment when Linda snarls at Marta to get out of their house, then she turns to the lawyer (played by Frank Oz) and asks him, "This is still our home, right?" and he proceeds to tell them that the mansion now belongs to Marta. He left everything to his nurse.

While all this is going on, Ransom has a s**t-eating grin on his face. During the interrogations the previous day, everyone said he left the party early, storming out of his grandfather's office, after having a heated conversation with Harlan. Because he was gone during the time of Harlan's death, he was ruled out as a suspect and wasn't interviewed. We learn that Harlan had told him he was cut out of the will, but what the others didn't know is that he knew Marta was getting everything, so he was enjoying their looks of disbelief as the will was being read.

Ransom helps Marta get away and she ends up confessing everything to him because she feels she can trust him. (I mean, if you can't trust Captain America, then who can you trust, right?) In the flashback, we learn that Marta was the reason Hanson died; accidentally, of course. The two medications for him got knocked off the table and she accidentally administrated him a much larger dose of morphine than was intended when she meant to give him regular medication. She only meant to give a little dose of morphine. The camera lingers when we see Marta injecting Harlan with the needles so I figured this was the real reason of his death (even though we see him with his throat slashed!) Naturally, Marta is freaking out as she is (unsuccessfully) trying to search for the antidote in her bag. She tells him that she needs to give it to him within the next ten minutes or he will die, When she can't find him, she goes to call 9-1-1, but he stops her, telling her the ambulance won't make it in time since they are in the middle of nowhere. He knows Marta will be blamed for his death and since he knows her mother is an illegal immigrant, he doesn't want anything to happen to her. Being the mystery writer he is, he comes up with an intricate plan (within a matter of minutes, mind you) where she should make a big deal of leaving and stating the time, then sneak back into the house (coming through a secret window) and put on his robe and come down for a snack so people will think he's still alive at the time. Since I've only seen this movie once, the details are a little fuzzy for me. I feel like you can probably catch a lot of little details with re-watches. He the proceeds to slit his own throat (at first, his death is considered a suicide...which I guess is technically true). Being that he left all of his possessions to Marta and was willing to take his own life, he obviously thought a lot of her.

We find out that Ransom learned about a slayer clause which means if the person who the inheritance of the deceased is intended to go to is found guilty of that person's death, then they will not receive anything (seems like a good idea to have that in place!) His plan is to make sure Marta doesn't get anything. He actually had switched the labels of the two medications and had taken the antidote from Marta's bag. So, when Marta gave Harlan what she thought was the wrong medication, it was actually the right stuff (because she was so used to the weight of the bottle of something like that, it just came second nature to her, but when she read the label, she freaked out). Ironically, Harlan was never in any danger of dying and slit his throat for nothing. That may have been the real twist to this whole thing!

I love the ending shot where see Marta on the upper deck of the house looking down below at the Thrombey family while sipping from Harlan's mug which reads, "My coffee, my house, my rules." It was a nice callback to when we first see that mug in one of the very first shots of the movie and it was   gave me a good laugh.