Knives Out ★★★★½

"Something is afoot with this whole affair, I know it, and you do too!"

There's a special kind of pleasure that comes with curling up with a good mystery and getting lost in theorizing and, especially, in the memorable characters contained therein. I've been a longtime fan of Knives Out's finger-pointing cabin fever hysteria brand of set-up but I wasn't ready for just how well Johnson knows how to play his audience and cleverly sidestep their expectations. With his guiding hand, this film wrings delicious fun out of what could've been the premise for a hit flick in the '50s and that makes this nothing short of a cinematic treat.

Let's talk performances because, let's face it, this cast is, by and large, going to be the main reason why this manages to get butts in seats and oh, boy, are there some good ones in this. First and foremost, this is, blessedly, a dazzling showcase for two actors who deserve more runway to spread their creative wings on, albeit for different reasons: Ana de Armas, an indisputable rising star and Daniel Craig (who's got enough "molasses spilling out of his mouth" to earn Andy Bernard's seal of approval and make James Bond a mere chapter of his career). The rest of this class is a uniform joy to spend time with. I'll never stop rooting for anything Toni Colette does and her funny supporting turn in this, as brief as it is, conveys why.

I would've never guessed that Rian Johnson would follow up his Star Wars outing with a tale that would make Agatha Christie, of all people, proud but I'm thoroughly glad he did. I've yet to see Brick but, for my money, this is Johnson's finest work thus far. It's a timely, original gumshoe-era gem that's magically found its way into theater halls at a time when such features are bonafide rarities. From the outset, he clearly understands what made these stories cherished favorites for entire generations across mediums. By infusing their archetypal DNA with thorny humor and piercing social commentary, he managed to deliver an absorbing yarn that ranks among the year's best.

My Very Own, Very Easy December Scavenger Alterna-Hunt 1/20 16.) A film about family.

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