By Lynn Venhaus This is one of the most violent movies I have ever seen. That said, it is a mostly satisfying thriller of kick-it-up-a-notch action, interesting plot developments and a nimble cast that elevates the good vs evil throwdown.
An ordinary husband and father with a desk job, Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) is in a rut. Every day is monotonous and nondescript until intruders break into his suburban home, and while his son Blake (Gage Munroe) acts, he thinks twice before using a golf club he grabbed to defend himself. While everyone thinks he’s a chump, the incident sparks a long-simmering rage and he becomes a vigilante of sorts.
However, this isn’t as far-fetched as you think because he has a dark secret. When he gets in the way of a brutal drug lord (Aleksey Serebryakov), things really heat up.
From Charles Bronson’s “Death Wish” in 1974 that ushered in mild-mannered dads exacting their own street vengeance to Liam Neeson’s dangerous dad in the “Taken” trilogy (2008-2014) and all the copycats in between, these movies have an appeal as strictly black-and-white action, no gray areas or nuance, in seeking retribution. You get exactly what you expect.
With a sharp script by Derek Kolstad, co-creator of the John Wicks trilogy, the pleasures of seeing a regular Joe reveal his long-dormant lethal skills in clever ways are central to the secret identity plot.
Carrying the film with genuine authority is Bob Odenkirk, who not only stars but is a producer. The Chicago native attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale and after years as a comedy writer and performer, is now best known as glib attorney Jimmy McGill from “Breaking Bad,” which was spun off into the hit series “Better Call Saul.” The Emmy nominated actor’s keen sense of timing is a plus as an action hero, although he’s not a stranger to drama either, having appeared in “The Post” and “Little Women.”
Director Ilya Naishuller, an indie rock musician and lover of hard-core video games, kicks the film into high gear with non-stop mayhem after Hutch turns his frustration and anger into vengeance that sets into motion a battle royale with Russian drug lord Yulian Kuznetsov, played by Aleksey Serebryakov as a ruthless hothead with some clownish behaviors.
But first establishing the drudgery of Hutch’s daily life and his family dynamic is key to understanding the transformation and the shocking previous life.
Hutch works on the finances of his father-in-law’s manufacturing business. He’s the butt of his more macho brother-in-law Charlie’s jokes. His teenage son thinks he’s a wimp, unlike his younger daughter Abby (Paisley Cadorath) who adores him. His wife Becca (Connie Nielsen) is a successful realtor and distant. He keeps taking life’s indignities on the chin as a “nice guy.”
So, in the aftermath, when they are in further harm’s way, his sudden protective reflexes are a surprise.
Somehow, his dad David (Christopher Lloyd), a retired FBI agent living in a nursing home, and his brother Harry (RZA), do not raise an eyebrow when he must do what he has to do. After all, they have secrets too, and it is fun watching the tables turn. Lloyd and RZA are terrific in support.
The barrage of gunfire and fights gets tedious because of its take-no prisoners formula, but that’s what the action genre delivers, and the mind games are an interesting twist.
Hutch won’t be considered a “nobody” for much longer, and they did leave it open to a sequel. Odenkirk, as a new action star in the Jason Statham lane, is one of the more startling notes of the spring movie season. But I would never bet against him, would you?
“Nobody” is an action-thriller directed by Ilya Naishuller that stars Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, Aleksey Serebryakov, Christopher Lloyd, RZA, Gage Munroe and Paisley Cadorath. It is rated R for strong violence and bloody images, language throughout and brief drug use. Lynn’s Grade: B-. In theaters March 26.
By Lynn Venhaus The sights and sounds of nights gone by are such a welcome sentimental journey on the exciting new online Muny Mondays.
But the variety show is not all a “Remember When” montage,
and that is what sets it apart. With a fresh batch of pixie dust, the Muny’s
second episode of its smash hit Summer Variety Hour Live more than met
expectations after such a sensational series launch July 20.
If you were curious as to how they could top the inaugural
show, now that we know the formula, one look at the lineup beforehand answered
that quickly. Tony nominee Taylor Louderman singing live under the Culver
Pavilion! Tony nominee and fan favorite Rob McClure, versatile veteran of six
Muny shows, singing “Suddenly Seymour” with his wife Maggie Lakis, who has been
in two Muny musicals, from their home in Philadelphia. McClure’s Muny debut was
“Little Shop of Horrors” in 2011, so that was fitting. The cast of 2017’s
spectacular “The Little Mermaid,” lead by Commodore Primous III as Sebastian,
reuniting to sing a buoyant “Under the Sea.” I mean, the deck was stacked.
The best way to describe the ebb and flow of the carefully
curated selection of acts is to compare it to a multi-course gourmet dinner especially
crafted to include favorite dishes, comfort food, bold choices and unique taste
treats, every bite bursting with flavor.
When the “Wow” factors were unveiled — those unforgettable
Muny moments that you will always recall with awe, so grateful to have
experienced it in person – they blew me away. It isn’t hard to pick five, ten
or 20 out of your head if you are a regular. (We probably share some of the
same ones – we’ll have to compare notes).
And this supersonic flash came from two performers I saw in
ensembles but did not know their names: Nkeki Obi-Melekwe and Chloe O. Davis. I
will never forget them now.
Nkeki soared singing “If You Knew My Story” from
“Bright Star” during her time, a selection to reinforce color-blind
casting. Nkeki, a Michigan graduate, appeared in the Muny’s 2017 “All Shook Up”
and went on to play Tina Turner in “Tina the Musical” in London’s West End in
April 2019, then move to Broadway in October.
If you are unfamiliar with “Bright Star,” the
musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, it came out the same year
“Hamilton” did and lost the Tony Award for Best Musical to the
landmark show in 2016.
Chloe O. Davis, a dancer who grew up in St. Louis and was
in “All Shook Up” and “The Wiz” in recent years, was featured in “My
Tribute to Black Broadway and Black Choreography: I Thrive Now Because You
Dared Then,” a dance she conceived and choreographed.
As she used Forest Park as her stage, she gave us a history
lesson that stirred “all the feels.” She created the styles of famous black
choreographers, using audio and visual clips in addition to her dance moves –
East St. Louis’ international icon Katherine Dunham, George Faison, Debbie
Allen, Hope Clarke, Gregory Hines, Donald Byrd, Bill T. Jones and Camille A.
Brown among them.
Moving. Powerful. Elegant. Truly a shining moment.
A delightful song-and-dance interlude was courtesy of three
dynamos Maya Bowles, Trevor Michael Schmidt and Gabi Stapula, whose high-spirited
“There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” from “Sweet Charity” captured our
anxiety and their eagerness to get back to the business of entertaining. These
chorus gypsies reminded us how ensemble cohesiveness is so important to any big
Gabi also works with the Muny Teens, and their fun-loving mashup of “Bring On the Monsters” from “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” and “Drive It Like You Stole It” from “Sing Street” again showcased how talented some local students are – and their sunny dispositions. I’m a big fan of the 2016 movie “Sing Street,” which is writer-director John Carney’s third film about the transforming power of music (“Once” and “Begin Again”), and its stage adaptation was set to open on Broadway in April after rave reviews off-Broadway.
The power ‘hour’ also featured behind-the-scenes stories about what’s happening at The Muny, including being able to pull off the stunning fireworks at the Centennial Gala, and the amusing game show throwback Munywood Squares. With interesting fun facts, hosted by Gordon Greenberg and featuring nine Muny performers in the Zoom grid, including E. Faye Butler, J. Harrison Ghee, Ann Harada, Raymond J. Lee, Vicki Lewis, Steve Rosen, Jeffrey Schecter, John Scherer and Christopher Sieber. This week’s good sport contestants were photographer Phillip Hamer and Muny company manager Sue Greenberg. Fun remembering the raccoon who waddled on to the stage in “The Addams Family” in 2014!
On an intermittent rainy night, star Taylor Louderman was accompanied by four socially distanced musicians, to sing live the power ballad “Astonishing” from “Little Women.” Always nice to include a female empowerment song, this one from Louisa May Alcott’s timeless and timely heroine, Jo March. From Bourbon, Mo., 60 miles southwest of St. Louis, Taylor went from Muny Teen to Tony nominee as Regina George in “Mean Girls.” She made her Broadway debut in 2012’s “Bring It On!,” has been in seven Muny shows and won the St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for last summer’s “Kinky Boots.” (And this year, finished her bachelor’s degree that she had started at Michigan in 2009 and was married five weeks ago to Brooks Toth).
The archival footage of past summer shows is a fond trip down
memory lane, starting with Muny titans Beth Leavel and Ben Davis in 2015’s “Oklahoma!”
Leavel, Tony winner for “The Drowsy Chaperone” and nominee for ‘The Prom,” is a
frequent St. Louis Theater Circle Award nominee, winning for her Mamma Rose in 2018
“Gypsy.” Davis, seen last year as Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls,” has been
nominated multiple times, and once joked during an interview that he is the ‘Susan
Lucci’ of the Circle Awards.
Davis was in the now legendary production of “Spamalot” in
2013 as Sir Galahad. Host Mike Isaacson introduced “Always Look on the Bright
Side of Life,” which holds the distinction of being the most popular song at
funerals, pointing out how weather affected the show. I remember that on opening
night June 17, a steady rain was falling after torrential downpours for days
preceding it. So, there was little opportunity to rehearse outdoors. The
audience for the show opener of the 95th season was so eager to see
this Muny premiere that we came in droves with our umbrellas — and were
It’s a night I’ll never forget. During the curtain call,
actor John O’Hurley, playing King Arthur, stopped the show to introduce Monty
Python founder and show creator Eric Idle! Whoops, cheers and thunderous applause!
Everyone on their feet. I turned to my companion and said: “We are in the
presence of a Python!” Oh, be still my heart. It was pure bliss – he led us in “Always
Look on the Bright Side of Life” after mentioning this was the largest audience
to ever see the musical and he wanted to see if we could get in the Guinness
Book of World Records for our sing-a-long.
Oh, what a night! I had the good fortune to interview John O’Hurley
later that fall when he was touring as Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” and we had a pleasant
conversation about that enchanted evening.
Another splendid memory was shared with the incredible “We’re in the Money” from the extraordinary 2016 production of “42nd Street,” choreographed by Denis Jones, St. Louis Theater Circle Award winner. That curtain call – go see it on YouTube – as the cast cascaded down a staircase will go down as my favorite (next to “A Chorus Line”) in Muny history.
All these elements are what make summer nights special at the Muny, and spotlighting the world-class talent – from the musical theater majors from the best schools in the country to the stars with Broadway credentials — who come together in Forest Park – is one I like to emphasize. Years ago, seasons were headlined by ‘names’ – mostly from TV – and while recognizable, I much prefer having the best talent possible give us their all on that stage. Drama geek that I am, I read all the bios and notice who returns to the Muny, who creates magic on the stage, or is given the part of a lifetime.
And in that spirit, the Summer Variety Hour Live emphasizes how
many parts make each show happen.
And it is a warm, familiar embrace at a time we all need a hug.
On July 20, The Muny 2020 Summer Variety Hour Live! drew more than 30,000 viewers from across the U.S. and around the world. This total sets a new, record-breaking first in The Muny’s live-streaming history.
On July 27, we were connected by the calypso beat of newly crowned EGOT winner Alan Menken, the banjo picking of brilliant Steve Martin, the Britpop synthesizer of ‘80s New Wave, the zaniness of silly comic geniuses, homages to Busby Berkeley and Broadway chestnuts, the triumph of a ‘local’ small-town girl with a dream, sweetness, sincerity, showmances and people who think sitting under those stars in St. Louis is like coming home.
These shows (5 total, 3 left) are exclusive, one-time-only
streams and will not be available after the Thursday night airing. The July 30
re-airing will include audio description and captions. The link is: youtube.com/themunytv
The Muny’s online 2020 season is sponsored by World Wide Technology. Episode 1 was made possible by US Bank and Episode 2 by Edward Jones. They announce the next lineup every Wednesday.
By Lynn Venhaus
We still have a race for Best Picture and Director, as we try to gauge the
momentum going into Sunday. Will it be “Parasite” or “1917,” or will fading
frontrunner “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood regain its luster? After all,
Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood.
The 92nd Academy Awards take place Feb. 9, with
ABC broadcasting red carpet live coverage at 5:30 p.m. and the ceremony
underway at 7 p.m. CST. This year is the second in a row where there is no
host, and it seemed to speed up the proceedings last year. We shall see.
The acting Oscars were apparently sown up weeks ago, as
awards season began. If there is any movement, it may be in Supporting Actress,
where newcomer Florence Pugh is coming on strong.
The shoo-ins this year? You can safely bet on “Parasite” as Best International
Feature, Brad Pitt as Best Supporting Actor in “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,”
his fourth performance nomination (and he’ll likely give the best speech of the
night) and Roger Deakins as cinematographer for “1917.”
Will there be surprises and upsets? Or will it be as the
pundits predict? Only time will tell. Let’s just hope it’s a fun watch and
deserving wins to put the finishing touches on 2019 in film.
And afterwards, we’ll have memes, fashion debates and acceptance
speeches to remember.
Here are my picks for the 24 awards:
1917, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, JoJo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and Parasite
My original frontrunner, “Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood” has faded, and the big momentum is with either “1917” or “Parasite.” I think Oscar voters, with the older voting block, will go with the heart-wrenching World War I epic and be content for “Parasite” to win Best International Feature. While there is always the possibility of an upset, I think the massive endeavor “1917” is deserving.
Sam Mendes, “1917”; Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”; Todd Phillips, “Joker”; Quentin Tarantino “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” and Bong Joon-Ho, “Parasite”
I am in the “Sam Mendes is a genius” camp but Bong Joon-Ho’s work in “Parasite” is worthy too. Both are innovative, visual artists. I’d like a tie, like Critics Choice Association. I’m going with Mendes, as he won Directors Guild of America, the big prognosticator.
Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”; Leonardo DiCaprio “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”; Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”; Joaquin Phoenix “Joker”; Jonathan Pryce “The Two Popes.”
Hands down, Joaquin Phoenix. He gave us pathos as he showed
Joker’s pain behind the façade and made his descent into madness frightening.
Nobody is more fearless working in film today. Adam Driver would be a close
second for his acting showcase in “Marriage Story.”
Not a fan of Renee Zellweger’s “Judy” but she has won all
earlier awards, and I see no reason why she wouldn’t. However, my pick would be
the radiant Saoirse Ronan for “Little Women.” If there is an upset, Scarlett
Johansson – finally nominated – would be a worthy winner for her tour de force
in “Marriage Story.”
Best Supporting Actor
Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”; Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”; Al Pacino “The Irishman”; Joe Pesci “The Irishman”; Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.”
Perhaps the only sure thing Oscar night, Brad Pitt is a
lock as stuntman Cliff Booth. He’s not just deserving but overdue. Besides,
he’s certain to give the best speech of the night, given his track record this
While I think the acting Oscars have already been nailed
down, this might be the upset category. Laura Dern as the shark lawyer in
“Marriage Story,” obsessed with winning at all costs, is my pick, and she was
also terrific in “Little Women,” but Margot Robbie’s ambitious Fox News staffer
could edge her out or first-time nominee Scarlett Johansson could finally get
Oscar love as the mom in “JoJo Rabbit.”
Best Adapted Screenplay
Greta Gerwig, “Little Women”; Andrew McLaren, “The Two Popes”; Todd Phillips,
“Joker”; Taika Waititi, “JoJo Rabbit”; Steve Zaillian “The Irishman.”
My favorite is Taika Waititi for the sharp social satire
“JoJo Rabbit,” but the revered Steve Zaillian’s adaptation of “The Irishman”
could be the film’s only win for its masterful storytelling.
Best Original Screenplay
Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, “1917”; Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”; Rian Johnson, “Knives Out”; Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”; Bong Joon-Ho and Han Jin Wan, “Parasite.”
1917, The Irishman, Joker, The Lighthouse, Once Upon a Time…in
What Roger Deakins did with “1917” is remarkable and propels him to his second win in three years. He had been snubbed for decades for his tremendous work in Coen Brothers’ films, then started working with director Denis Villeneuve a few years back – and finally won in 2018 for “Blade Runner 2049.” What he achieved with making “1917” appear to have been shot in two takes is incredible.
Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, JoJo Rabbit, Joker, Parasite.
How can “1917” be omitted here? I think a bone should be
thrown to crowd-pleasing “Ford v. Ferrari.” This film was a challenging shot,
and the editors captured both the thrill and danger of endurance racing.
Best Production Design
1917, The Irishman, JoJo Rabbit, Once Upon a Time…in
For its meticulous research and replica of 1969 Hollywood, it must be “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” However, the house in “Parasite” and all the trenches and realistic war landscape in “1917” make the case for those films.
Best Music Score
1917, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Star Wars: The
Rise of Skywalker.
Previously, I thought it was a battle between the Newman generations – Randy for
“Marriage Story” and Thomas for ‘1917.” But now I’m in support of Hildur Gudnadottir
winning for “Joker.’ From Iceland, Gudnadottir won the Emmy and Grammy for HBO’s
“Chernobyl” and the Golden Globe and BAFTA for “Joker.” She’d be the first solo
woman to win this Oscar, and I can get behind that.
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away Again,” Toy Story 4; “I’m
Going to Stand with You,” Breakthrough; “Into the Unknown,” Frozen II; “(I’m
Gonna) Love Me Again,” Rocketman; “Stand Up,” Harriet.
After much debate — and enjoying the Panic! At the Disco
version of “Into the Unknown” a lot, I’m now resigned to Elton John winning for
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” his fourth nominated song but his first with
longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin.
Best Costume Design
The Irishman, JoJo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Once Upon a
“Little Women,” of course.
Best Hair and Makeup
1917, Bombshell, Joker, Judy, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.
“Bombshell” for making the actresses look uncannily like the Fox women they portray, and for turning John Lithgow into a convincing Roger Ailes.
Best Sound Mixing
1917, Ad Astra, Ford
v Ferrari, Joker, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.
“1917” is the likely winner but “Ford v Ferrari” would be a justifiable winner.
Best Sound Editing
1917, Ford v Ferrari, Joker, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.
Ditto as to what I said about sound mixing.
Best Visual Effects
1917, The Avengers; Endgame,” “The Irishman,” “The Lion
King” and “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.”
“The Avengers: Endgame” was so smooth and seamless, and the CGI not overdone, that I can’t imagine another movie winning. But there is that ninth little movie in a galaxy far, far away.
Best Animated Feature
The Hidden Link, How to Drain Your Dragon, I Lost My Body,
Klaus, Toy Story 4.
The fitting and grand finale to one of my all-time favorite franchises, Pixar’s
“Toy Story 4” should win, especially since “Frozen II” was snubbed. But Laika’s
“The Missing Link” is adorable and the final chapter of “Dragon” is its most
Best International Feature
Corpus Christi, Honeyland, Les Miserables, Pain and Glory, Parasite.
The safest bet is South Korean’s “Parasite.” What a
genre-bending masterpiece – its mix of comedy, drama, thriller and horror is
one that will linger in your head for days.
Best Documentary Feature
American Factory, The Cave, The Edge of Democracy, For
Without the magnificent “Apollo 11” even nominated, I’ll
give “American Factory” the edge, although “Honeyland,” about ancient
beekeeping traditions in has a lot of love (which I don’t share). Netflix’s “American Factory” is about a
re-opened plant in Ohio now owned by Chinese businessmen, and the culture clash
that develops. It is produced by Michelle and Barack Obama’s company Higher
Best Documentary Short
In the Absence, , Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone if
You’re a Girl, Life Overtakes Me, St. Louis Superman, Walk Run Cha Cha.
As much as we’d love to see “St. Louis Superman” get national attention, it does have a questionable ending – and really, “Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone If You’re a Girl” appears to be headed for the win.
Best Live-Action Short
Brotherhood, Nefta Football Club, The Neighbors’ Window, Saria, A Sister.
This is one of those Oscar pool contest busters –usually the wild card. Although I’ve read “Saria” is gaining traction, I’m going with “The Neighbor’s Window” because, while its less of a gut-punch than the others, it seems the most unconventional. Overall, it’s a really depressing bunch. Best Animated Short
Dcera, Hair Love, Kitbull, Memorable, Sister.
Often whatever Pixar short is before Disney’s blockbuster
is the safe choice, but the studio didn’t put anything before “Toy Story IV” or
“Frozen II.” Pixar’s “Kitbull” is hand-drawn and about the friendship of a
kitten and an abused pitbull. Adorable, right? But “Hair Love,” about a dad’s
effort to braid his daughter’s hair, which was shown before “Angry Birds 2,” is
my choice for the gold.