Knives Out!

It is Thursday, September 19, 2019, as I write this. I had been working on my blog for Saturday, September 21 — what you who are reading this will call “today” — when I realized that it just wasn’t working. I started with the intent of presenting some suggestions concerning how to make good writing even better. Soon, however, I found myself discussing Miles Davis, Henry Kissinger, and Kurt Godel. That was all well and good, but I was meandering down multiple roads and decided to save that piece of work for another time. 

Instead, I’m going to talk about a new movie titled Knives Out. An ad for it popped up while I was looking at knives online and I was quickly diverted. It is scheduled for wide-release in the United States on November 27, which by amazing coincidence is Thanksgiving Day this year. Knives Out is pertinent here because it is a mystery, dark comedy film about a fabulously successful crime novelist who invites his very dysfunctional family back home to help him celebrate his eighty-fifth birthday. The novelist is named Harlan (you’re laughing already) Thrombey who physically bears an uncanny resemblance to a popular thriller author who is not the one you are laughing about. Thrombey is murdered during the gathering and a police detective is called in to sort out who in his family did what.

Knives Out will almost immediately you in the mind of an Agatha Christie novel, and from what I have seen in the film’s trailers (which you can find links to here) it winks at its heritage — and thriller and mystery novels in general — several times. The camera lens glides over rows and rows of books (“Did I see one by Harlan Coben?!”). Thrombey, it is clear,  is a fan of A Game of Thrones, as demonstrated by a particular piece of decor in his home. I also don’t think that it is coincidental that one of the primary members of the cast happens to be associated with one of the most enduring characters in action film history, which in turn is based on a gold standard series of spy novels.  

Oh. I mentioned the cast. Daniel Craig has a lead role. You will forget fairly quickly that he plays whats-his-name in the movies. Jamie Lee Curtis is here. Let’s talk for a minute about Jamie Lee Curtis. No one realizes how good an actress she is. Curtis played a lead role in a horror movie franchise that would have sunk the career of a lesser actress. Think about that. She’s still around because she is really, really good at what she does. Don Johnson. Yes, Don freakin’ Johnson, who in his seventies is still the coolest guy in the room, even when he’s not in the room. There are others. Check out the link to the website, above and you’ll see several million dollars worth of talent on the screen. There are supposed to be all sorts of theatrical easter eggs throughout the movie as well. I even learned that the viewers will actually be able to figure out whodunnit if they can identify five clues that are presented during the course of LIGHTS OUT and put them together correctly. 

The primary reason I am psyched on KNIVES OUT, however, isn’t the cast, the scenery or the dialogue (which sounds exquisite from what I heard in the trailer). It’s not how wonderfully it’s staged and filmed, even though I jumped each of the three times that I saw the same two-second clip. The clip? It involves a cheek and…something else. No. What I love about KNIVES OUT is that it is about an author. Yes, he gets murdered, but he has lots of cool stuff in his house, seems to be a bit of a jerk, and is worth killing. He is interesting, in other words. Authors are interesting. They have to be to think up stories that are worth reading. It might not seem that way to everyone, but everyone doesn’t get to hide behind a palm tree the way that I did several years ago in a hotel lobby with a famous author, a really interesting author, who was trying to avoid a clinging, stalking fan. KNIVES OUT doesn’t look like it is quite up to that experience — what possibly could be? — but it is close. Check the website and trailers, and make your plans to see it in a couple of months at a multiplex near you. It will be showing in the theater with the line of grownups waiting to enter. 

Are there any movies that you are looking forward to or any films about authors that you love? Let us know. And thanks for stopping by. You’re the best.


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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

29 thoughts on “Knives Out!

  1. Haven’t been to a ‘real’ theater in a very, very long time, but when we were doing Netflix Movie Nights at our house, even my husband enjoyed Stranger Than Fiction.

    • First! Thanks, Terry. I haven’t been to a real theater for almost two decades, but I might go back for this! Just once!

  2. Thanks for the intro to the film. I’ll put it on my list.

    My interest peaked when you mentioned the famous author and hiding in the palm trees. I believe you’ve told that story before. I wonder whether she/he will step out from behind the trees this morning.

    Thanks for an interesting post.

    • Good morning, Steve! Yes, I have mentioned that story before. It’s definitely one of the best of many high point experiences from attending several Bouchercons.

      Hope you enjoy the movie when it’s released. Thanks as always for stopping by.

  3. Brings to mind the Neil Simon send-up Murder by Death, with an all-star cast that includes the eccentric millionaire “Lionel Twain” played by, of all people, Truman Capote!

  4. Yes, it does, James! Thanks for the reminder about “Lionel Twain.” Great name. I think that KNIVES OUT is going to be just a bit darker, which should be a good thing. I can’t wait to see it.

  5. Well, Joe, I’d love to see Knives Out. But not on Tuesday. I’m waiting for the return of Ziva.

    She’s a real hero of mine–she could not only perform the murder, she could find out who did it bring him or her to justice.

    Thanks for the heads up on Knives Out.

    • Jim, you’ll have plenty of space, since KNIVES OUT won’t be shown until Thanksgiving.

      Ziva back on NCIS! I have never seen the show, but I LOVE the deer- in-the-headlights look that Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) gives her when she walks in during the trailer. Enjoy!

      • Thanks for the heads-up on this upcoming movie, Joe. Can’t wait to see it, if only for the chance to see Jamie Lee Curtis and Don Johnson again! I’m wondering if the lead character might bear a resemblance to Ken Follett? If so, that would be a great homage!

  6. Plus Chris Evans, another actor better than most think, and Frank Oz who played Yoda he did. The send up of the classic Christie-style murder mystery is always enjoyable. I read lots of self-published authors, and there’s a small industry of people writing in the Golden Age style. Most quite enjoyable.

    I have only one movie-going buddy, and she’s not a big movie goer so I may see one or two theater movies a year with her. We always have a December movie date involving guys in leather and lots of action in a standalone movie. This December has nothing fitting that description so hard to tell what we’ll see.

    • Actually, Marilynn, I’ve heard of websites where you can find lots of movies like that! Hope you find what you’re looking for in time for in time for Christmas! Thanks.

      • Yeah, that’s how I know there’s no guys in leather movies. The new Wonder Woman movie was moved to 2020, too. A pity my friend’s not a fan of animation. There’s a new Shaun the Sheep movie.

  7. Ha! Loved the trailer. Gotta see this one. Is Daniel Craig channeling Kevin Spacey’s accent from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil? 🙂 And yeah, I will watch anything with Jamie Lee in it.

    One of my favorite author movies is Ghost Writer. Yeah, he was ghosting a memoir not a novel but still good.

  8. Joe, you are right about Jamie Lee. I don’t think of the scary movies she’s done, I remember one of the best scenes ever filmed. Jamie Lee dancing for Arnold in Truth or Lies. No one else but Jamie Lee could have pulled that off as well. I still Google that scene on YouTube once in a while to remember how great it was.

    Don ‘freakin’ Johnson starred in a terrific movie and a Harlan Ellison story, A Boy and his Dog. How could I possibly miss seeing him again?

    I’ll be in the audience for Knives Out.

  9. CORRECTION: The title of the movie is True Lies. I’m getting old and sometimes the connection between brain and fingers short-circuits.

    • It’s all good, b. I knew what you meant. Re: Don Johnson, he’s been in all sorts of things, including a forthcoming role in HBO’s WATCHMEN. I’d call it a comeback but he never really went away,

  10. Sigh. I’ll admit it. I’m gonna go seen the Downton Abbey movie. Never watched the PBS rendition but completely binged the British version on Amazon Prime. Also may go see The Shawshank Redemption theatrically for its 25th anniversary (like I’ve never seen it before [sarcasm]).

    Knives Out sounds entertaining, but how often have we all been fooled by trailers?

  11. Catfriend, that’s a valid point re: the trailers, but KNIVES OUT apparently got close to a 100% favorable rating from test and advance audiences. We’ll see!

    Speaking of anniversaries…EASY RIDER hit the fifty-year mark. Yikes! I remember whole passages of that movie as if I saw it yesterday.

    I may be the only person in the world who hasn’t seen a second of DOWNTON ABBEY. Folks sure are psyched for the movie, however. Hope you enjoy!

  12. A movie about a writer, with such a great cast? It’s a must-see!

    The movie that comes immediately to mind that has a writer as a character is Misery, based on the Stephen King novel. Who can ever forget Kathy Bates’s character??

    BTW, I love your posts Joe 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Linda. You are easy to please.

      Also, thanks for the reminder about MISERY. I had forgotten about that, notwithstanding the fact that I have read the source material annually since the year it was published. Great casting, with underappreciated James Caan and timeless, ageless Kathy Bates (who was terrific in THE OFFICE, too!).

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