Murders and Keira Knightley: this week in movies

THE END OF THE GAME (1975) is a German mystery drama (the German title translates into The Judge and the Hangman) directed by the late Maximilian Schell with an American cast: Donald Sutherland shows up first as a cop’s corpse, which leads terminally ill inspector Martin Ritt to investigate whether powerhouse industrialist Robert Shaw is behind the killing. Ritt, however, has his own agenda: years earlier, Shaw murdered a woman in front of him just to prove he could get away with it (“You know the autopsy said the bruise on her jaw came from striking the parapet.”) and Ritt has been waiting a long time to end the game … John Voight plays Sutherland’s ambitious replacement, who’s also interested in becoming his replacement with lover Jacqueline Bissett. This is well done, and darker than it appears, as everyone has an unsavory agenda; Shaw steals the show in a role that demonstrates how good a bad man he could be.“Sometimes things happen in our minds, sometimes things happen in reality. It is our job, Walter, as policemen, to separate the two.”

I can’t remember if I bought a bare-bones version of M (1931) to save money or because the sheer number of formats on Amazon confused me, but hey, it’s way better than the TCM to VHS to DVD copy already on my shelves. Fritz Lang directed this classic thriller starring Peter Lorré as a child-killer and (it’s implied) pedophile; with police cracking down on the underworld to find Lorré, the crooks decide to take matters into their own hands, partly because the idea they have anything in common with him offends them (“We break the law to survive — this beast has no right to survive!”). Roldohp thingy is part of the cast “If I were you, I wouldn’t make big speeches.”

THE DEATH OF STALIN (2017) throws the upper reaches of the party into confusion leading to a power struggle involving the sadistic Beria (Simon Russell Beale), Steve Buscemi’s seemingly wimpy Khruschev, Jeffrey Tambor’s uncertain Malinkov and Michael Palin’s Molotov. As good as I’d heard, demonstrating Ernst Lubitsch’s point that running a death camp takes no more sadism than a laundromat, as even Beria comes off more as a harried bureaucrat struggling to keep his job and negotiate the political infighting than a totalitarian devil. “Maybe the lamb is the people and the milk is socialism?”

LAGGIES (2014) is an indie film has Keira Knightley as a woman in her late twenties pushing back against the pressure to finally start adulting: her sense of humor remains juvenile, she’s unemployed and she’s less than thrilled about her boyfriend’s plans to finally tie the knot. When she impulsively buys underage Chloe Grace Moritz and her friends some beer, she bonds with them as a way out, holing up at Moritz’s house while her dad’s out of town and pretending she’s still a cool adolescent.

As Odie Henderson says, a male protagonist in this situation would have run wild with a vengeance, like Seth Rogen’s character in Knocked Up. But female characters aren’t supposed to do that, so Knightley just dithers and has angsty conversations with Moritz before the latter’s dad Sam Rockwell enters her love and proving all Knightley needed was the right man. The acting is good, but the movie’s forgettable; Tiny Furniture tackled similar territory better. “Have you ever been drunk at a party where everyone else is sober — or maybe they’re drunk and you’re the sober one?”

Bonus: I have a review of where I think Justice League went wrong up on Atomic Junkshop.

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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