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Movie Nights in November & December with KNIVES OUT, JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL, STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER and more

Author's Note: I'm generally not a big fan of rating things, but for the purpose of the article I came up with a scale of my own. Here it goes:
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ - Loved it and I'm happy to defend it!
★ ★ ★ ★ - Great, I'd be glad to rewatch soon.
★ ★ ★ - Good movie with something extra that caught my attention.
★ ★ - OK, I enjoyed it.
★ - I'm sure someone must have enjoyed it.

KNIVES OUT
Author's Score: ★ ★ ★ ★
IMDb Score: 8.1/10
Tomatometer: 97%
I love a good mystery, so I can already say this one's my favorite on the list. I don't often feel like rewatching a movie right after finishing it but I wouldn't mind doing that in this case. It's a new take on the whodunit format and I found myself surprised by its twists and turns at least a few times. I definitely didn't expect to see the death scene so early in the story but it actually made the investigation feel much more interesting from my perspective. I found myself rooting for the main protagonist, hoping that the accidental aspect of the crime will somehow help her at the end. This one was so much more than a terrible, brutal, unforgivable murder. It's a painful fate, a true sentence for a kind, honest person to live with the knowledge of being a cause of someone else's death. That's what made Marta such a good choice for the movie's central character. When given a choice to protect herself she decides to stay true to herself and makes a genuine impression on our main private detective. Speaking of, Daniel Craig did such a great job as Benoit Blanc. His entrance feels quiet and balanced. He's smart but his decision to seemingly put so much trust in Marta can be considered a significant mistake by the viewer for most of the movie. I'm glad to see his talents at full display later on. He sees and says exactly what he needs to at the specific moment and I can't help but love how he eventually tells the family exactly what he thinks of them. This scene alone is a great reason to see the movie again. As for the rest of the cast, the whole family, all the actors give great performances, letting us get to know their characters from different perspectives. We can imagine the relationships between most of them and the deceased Harlan Thrombey, although I wish we could have seen a bit more from Linda's and Hugh's perspective. The fact that Hugh was willing to go this far in his plan makes me wonder about the comparisons made between him and his grandfather. Harlan himself is one of the film's most interesting characters, despite being dead from its beginning. His complete trust and faith in Marta is both beautiful and ultimately tragic if you think about it. There was a moment when I considered that he might have actually faked his death to test his family, especially knowing his love for crime novels, but the truth was much deeper than that. I found myself very glad with the movie's conclusion and I'd be more than happy to see Benoit Blanc solving another mystery in the future.

FROZEN 2
Author's Score: ★ ★ ★
IMDb Score: 7.2/10
Tomatometer: 77%
I really did enjoy this one. Each of the main characters has their own journey to take during the movie and they all have their moment to shine throughout the story. It's much harder than it might seem, to find one's place in the world. As much as you'd want the family to stay together it makes all the sense in the world to have both sisters discover their own homes and still remain deeply connected in their lives. People we love don't always live in the next room but it doesn't make these bonds any less powerful. It's a story about growing up, finding your voice and your truth and not being afraid of who you are. The topics covered in this movie feel much deeper than they appear on the surface and that's exactly what I like about the best of animated films. It's a true art to create something that can be enjoyed by many generations and all the viewers might see something else in it. If you pay close attention to the story you'll notice that it's not a very long or complicated one. Things discovered by Anna and Elsa may be simple to guess from the start, but it's the character journeys that make this one a memorable experience. That and the music of course. One of the stars in my score has to be for the songs. Beautifully written and sung by the cast. I do love the lyrics that speak to one's heart and mind and there's definitely at least a few memorable songs in Frozen II. "Lost in the Woods" might be one of the strangest music videos I've seen in a while, but it's also a great song and important moment for Kristoff's character. Then there's the darkest moment of the movie and I have to say I never expected to hear a song like "The Next Right Thing" in a film like this. This one might just be the story's most inspiring message, how to find strength among darkness and descent into depression and it's hard not to feel moved by Anna's experience in this moment. Of course there are also songs that make you want to sing along and become a part of the story - like "Into the Unknown" or "Show Yourself". I'm sure I'll find myself returning to the movie and its music in the near future. Definitely glad to have seen it.

LAST CHRISTMAS
Author's Score: ★ ★
IMDb Score: 6.6/10
Tomatometer: 47%
This one took me by surprise. Some of it good, some not exactly. It's by no means a bad movie, just probably one that I enjoyed the least from this list. There's a few important stories that take place throughout the film. Our main character, Katarina (or Kate), is certainly lost and feels broken in a way. She doesn't feel like herself and hasn't been able to fully process her recent sickness or rather its final consequences. We meet her at a rather low point in her life but we get to see her take control over it, truly find herself again. It's a beautiful story about growing up, developing, becoming the best version of yourself and reconnecting with the loved ones lost along the way. The relationship between Kate and her mother is one of the highlights of the movie for me. Emma Thompson truly surprised me with her performance, even though I know what a talented actress she is. Family moments overall work really well in the movie. Immigrant aspect feels very true for our times and it grounded the story in the reality for its part. And then there's Henry Golding's Tom Webster. He is such a likeable character and it makes it so much harder when you realize the truth about him. I'm not quite sure at which point I figured it out but I clearly remember it didn't make the impact of Katarina's realization any less powerful. Kate and Tom's final moments don't feel like a romantic comedy at all, it's much more heartbreaking and complicated than that. In the end the one thing that I truly missed in the movie was the fact that it ultimately didn't achieve the one goal that I hoped it would - fill the audience with the Christmas spirit. There's something remarkable about this holiday, at least there always was for me, but sadly all that I was left with once the movie ended was just the feeling of sadness. A great movie generally makes me want to think about it, rewatch, understand the story and its purpose. This one had its moments, but I did leave the cinema already planning to see the next movie, hoping for a better conclusion, so I'm probably not going to revisit it anytime soon.

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER
Author's Score: ★ ★ ★
IMDb Score: 6.9/10
Tomatometer: 54%
I know that there's quite a lot of controversy surrounding this movie (and honestly any Star Wars movie it would seem) but personally I really enjoyed it. I might not fully agree with some of the specific story choices but it was still a very memorable experience and a beautiful way to say goodbye to Skywalker saga. I wish we could have seen a few more (brief) returns but I appreciate seeing our main characters (Rey, Finn, Poe and even Ben) all getting their moments to shine. Also, I'm always rooting for a happy ending and this felt like the best one we could have at this point, so I'm glad to see it for sure. Rey's struggle to find her place in the world, the balance between good and evil in her life (and blood) comes to an end and I really enjoyed to see this character grow and develop. Her complicated relationship with Kylo Ren, along with his mother's sacrifice, lead him to finally make a right choice and it was great to see these two side by side, fighting together in the end. Kylo Ren might not have been one of my favorite characters in this story but I loved that short part when Rey admits that she wanted to take Ben's hand. Ben Solo really did fight bravely and honourably at last. Most memorable moment of the movie for me will probably be Jedi voices heard by Rey that ultimately help her find the power to rise and save the day. Beautiful tribute to many characters and such an important moment for our heroine. Then there's also Finn and Poe. I always enjoy the interactions between these two, and finally seeing them together with Rey, Chewbacca, C-3PO and BB-8 was certainly a highlight of the film for me. Their dynamics alone made the story flow so much better. And Poe's "Does she do that to us?" line was the funniest part of the movie for me. As for the most heartbreaking one, Leia and Han (even as a memory) finally being able to get through to their son was such a powerful scene. But the moment that hit me the most has to be Chewbacca's reaction to Leia's death. Truly painful and beautifully done. Finally, the single best thing about Star Wars movie for me might just be the music. The soundtrack of this final chapter of the saga was wonderful and special. It's the sort of music that stays with you, triggers an emotional reaction, elevates the story and actors' performances. Absolutely fantastic work by John Williams.

JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL
Author's Score: ★ ★ ★
IMDb Score: 7/10
Tomatometer: 71%
This one has to be one of the best concepts for a sequel that I've seen in a while. A new mystery, same avatars, but not quite the same characters. The addition of Spencer's grandfather Eddie and his estranged friend Milo definitely changed the dynamics between the group and provided a different perspective to a familiar adventure. A part of me wishes that the twist would not be revealed during the trailer but I still enjoyed the switch and everyone's reactions to the new situation, and especially new lists of strengths and weaknesses. This movie is filled with comedic moments, so it's definitely worth seeing for its entertainment value. My absolute favorite has to be Fridge's reaction to the pie. Priceless. The action scenes are well done, I especially enjoyed the power of geometry and discovering new attributes overall. Awkwafina, Danny DeVito and Danny Glover are all great additions to the cast. I was both surprised and happy with the way Alex chose to return to the game, knowing just how much time he has spent trying to get out of it. Also, Kevin Hart and Jack Black are absolutely hilarious in this one. There's a few more thoughtful and moving moments as well, but the comedy is probably the biggest highlight of the movie for me. I had fun watching this one, might revisit it at one point in the future. At the very least some of my favorite scenes.
Movie Nights in November & December with KNIVES OUT, JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL, STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER and more Reviewed by Justyna on January 06, 2020 Rating: 5

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