Reviews & More: All in Knots

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (in theaters)

I didn’t even need my inner 15-year-old boy to enjoy this latest Marvel blockbuster; the mature adult me was mesmerized by it. As expected, the special effects (especially one that occurs up and down a San Francisco high-rise) are astonishing. The script is both fascinating and also funny (thank you, the amazing Awkwafina). The hand-to-hand—and feet-to feet—scenes of combat are magnificently choreographed. Sure, the fight scenes go on too long and keep seeming to end when suddenly still yet one more disgusting monster appears, needing to be disposed of, but that’s minor. The whole thing concerns an ancient Chinese legend of power and corruption and its looming danger to the current world. A fine Asian cast includes two legends of Chinese cinema—Tony Leung (“In the Mood for Love”) and Michelle Yeoh (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”). Kudos to director Destin Daniel Cretton (“Short Term Twelve”) and seven credited writers, not to mention hundreds of technical artists, for putting together a fun, exciting family film.

“This Way Up” (Hulu)

I adore dry British humor. I adore off-the-cuff-seeming dialogue that elicits sudden guffaws. I adore two brainy, neurotic women bantering back and forth and not afraid to get into some pretty intimate discussions of body parts and functions. Which is why I absolutely adored the two seasons of this BAFTA Award-winning series, and my only disappointment is that it ceased production  as of March 2019 when the current pandemic shut down all production. I really need them to bring it back, so I can see more comic acting with serious undertones by the wonderful Irish actresses Aisling Bea and Sharon Horgan, not to mention Tobias Menzies and Aasif Mandvi. One sister (Bea) is recently out of a rehab center and cannot stop talking and free-associating (hilariously), and the other (Horgan) is the older, supposedly more stable one. If you loved “Fleabag,” this is your kind of show. It certainly is mine.

“The Lost Leonardo”

(in theaters)

How does $450,000,000 (yes, that’s millions) sound as payment for a painting that may or may not be an actual work of art by Leonardo da Vinci? Like the stuff of fantasy? Greed? Insanity? Welcome to the extremely selective world of fine art, especially paintings by old masters. This marvelous documentary details one example of how a surprise “find” can turn into bidding wars, ruined reputations, critical disputes and petty grievances. (The current owner, a Saudi prince, was to show the work at the Louvre but insisted it be in the same room and on the same level as the Mona Lisa. The Louvre declined.) It offers an intriguing web of uncertainty, a mystery with no satisfying solution. A lot of talking heads are involved, all willing to discuss their points of view and the roles they played along the way; it’s all quite interesting and educational. Highly recommended.

“Guilt” on Masterpiece (available on PBS Passport)

Here’s a confession. I watched the first episode of season one of this two-season drama from the reliable Masterpiece Theater folks and I was so anxious by the end—so upset with the two middle-aged Scottish brothers who, with a small act of deception, get themselves into deeper and deeper water—that I couldn’t watch the rest of the four-part first season. Mind you, I am not alone—my son and his wife said the same thing. I, as well as my friends and family, have all been thoroughly worn down by the world of the pandemic, political nonsense, cruel and senseless deaths in foreign lands and at home, drought, climate change, restrictive voting and abortion laws, the uneven distribution of wealth and services not just in the U. S., but all over the world, the rise of Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and their backlash… and I could go on, but why? I mean, who needs to get their stomach all churned up in tense knots?  So, don’t look here for an actual review of this seemingly well-done, well-acted and well-scripted Scottish production. Ask someone who has stuck it out. Oh, and let me know what happens, OK?