[Early Review] Murder Mystery (2019)

Director: Kyle Newacheck

Cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Gemma Arterton, Luke Evans, John Kani, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Terence Stamp

Screenplay: James Vanderbilt

97 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence/bloody images, crude sexual content, and language.

 

I haven’t been big on Adam Sandler (The Waterboy, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation) since Funny People. I was such a huge advocate for Funny People, I told everyone I talked to about it and how great and introspective it was. I still think it’s Judd Apatow’s best movie. The point is, Adam Sandler, to me, has been making movies only to hang out with his friends and make a lot of money. He hasn’t been interested in being good since Funny People. Well, I caught an early screening for his newest film, Murder Mystery, and I can report that it’s probably the best movie he’s made since then. It just still isn’t very good.

Nick (Sandler) and Audrey Spitz (Jennifer Aniston, Dumplin’, TV’s Friends) have been married for fifteen years, but they still haven’t gone on the honeymoon that Nick promised Audrey. Since then, Nick’s been struggling to become a detective, but he keeps failing the exam, so now he’s lying to Audrey about passing. He also lied about taking her to Europe on the honeymoon they never had, and on the plane, Audrey meets Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans, Dracula Untold, Ma), a rich and suave gentleman who invites them onto his uncle’s yacht for the weekend. The yacht is full of interesting characters that are all seemingly out of the murder mystery stories that Audrey likes to read, and when Charles’s uncle, the rich and successful Malcolm Quince (Terence Stamp, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Viking Destiny), is murdered aboard the yacht, Nick and Audrey find that their fake background in detective work will have to help them solve this murder and find the killer before they become just another couple victims.

The screenplay, by James Vanderbilt (Independence Day: Resurgence, Truth), gets a lot of homage and story from Clue, and it’s not a horrible screenplay, but there are elements of logic that come into play and seemingly make the characters less likable and, at times, extremely dumb. The police on the tail of Nick and Audrey throughout the film are really clueless. The Spitz’s are not world-class detectives nor are they world-class villains, and yet they are able to elude police for a large chunk of the film with ease. There’s also the sense that Nick and Audrey are not concerned at all with the fact that they have become the prime suspect in the murder of Malcolm Quince. They have a huge cliché romantic comedy argument in the middle of the film outside near the flashing lights of the police. I don’t think I would behave with that level of disregard over being in a foreign country and being the prime suspect in a murder investigation.

Both Sandler and Aniston have some pretty funny moments in the movie when they aren’t arguing and nitpicking at each other. They are a frustrating duo because both performers are capable of comedy gold and they have terrific chemistry, but they have moments throughout the film where they become unbearably annoying. There are some moments I would consider to be really funny dialogue and physical comedy, but it is packed with some leads that don’t want us to like them.

The rest of the cast is rather fun in the sense that they are all essentially archetypes. They are cliché dime-store murder novel characters, but that’s kind of the idea. We are presented with two people who are interested in mystery and detectives, and they find themselves in a mystery that they may be able to solve, so in that way, I didn’t mind that they were clichés. As I said earlier, this movie borrows a lot from Clue, which had the very same kind of conceit.

Murder Mystery is funny enough for a movie on Netflix. I wouldn’t tell people to go out, spend money, and hit it up at the theater, but my screening was filled with people enjoying the movie. I enjoyed it myself for the most part, but my mind kept getting caught up on the inconsistencies, the plot holes, the annoyances of some of the characters. I really want Sandler to care about comedy again, and he just doesn’t show it here. It’s his best movie in years, but it still isn’t the Adam Sandler we remember.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra MacDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson

Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos

129 mins. Rated PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images.

 

It’s a tale as old as time but now Disney has turned it into a twice-told tale, but is it any good the second time around?

Belle (Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, The Circle) is a bookworm and inventor living with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda, Dean) in the small village of Villeneuve. Belle deals daily with the advances of the slimy and arrogant Gaston (Luke Evans, Dracula Untold, The Fate of the Furious) and his sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad, Frozen, A Dog’s Purpose) as well as the looks from the townspeople who find the young woman rather odd. When Maurice is lost in the woods, he comes across a castle inhabited by a terrible Beast (Dan Stevens, TV’s Downton Abbey, Colossal) who trades Maurice for Belle. Then, Belle and the Beast find themselves falling for one another in the best adaptation of an animated Buffalo-Human Romance film ever to grace the silver screen.

But how about the actual film?

Well, in the world of adaptations, I found that this 2017 iteration from director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Mr. Holmes) has some improvements on the original and some elements that didn’t work. Mostly, though, it’s the same film. And in a lot of ways, that lessens it. There are very few liberties taken here, and overall it gives the film a very tame feeling which never really drew me in.

Let’s start with what works. The amount of respect given to the French location of the film is strong. Most of the accents work and even little touches like French subtitles in the end credits give flair. There’s also a sense of theatricality to the film due to Condon’s decision to treat this like a tale you’ve seen before. I highly suggest watching the film with the overture as it harkens back to the classic tale from decades back. I thought the treatment of Disney’s first gay character LeFou was respectful. I thought the tightening up of plot points in the prince’s age and in his ability to read (a major change to the character from the 1991 film) work well here. I also really liked a lot of the personalities and performances from the various living pieces of furniture, most notably Lumiere (Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting, American Pastoral), Cogsworth (Ian McKellan, TV’s Vicious, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility, Bridget Jones’s Baby). I am very thankful, however, that the director decided to cut the character known as Monsieur Toilette, played by Stephen Merchant, who would have been, you guessed it, a toilet.

And of course, the film looks gorgeous. There are a number of images I’d love to have on my wall from this film. Everything here looks astounding with a tremendous attention to detail.

Now, the issues with the film are glaring. I thought “Be Our Guest” was grossly over-animated and looked terrible. I felt like the film’s forcefulness to sticking to the source material made the film feel like it was dragging on forever. The musical numbers felt very autotuned and unrealistic and none of them really enhanced the original pieces. The issues amount to very simply not improving the original. This film is essentially a shot-for-shot remake in a lot of ways, and we’ve seen how that works out a number of times, most notably with Psycho and The Omen. It never seems to work, and it only reminds you how superior the original is.

Overall, I enjoyed Beauty and the Beast much more than I thought I would. Disney continues to create enjoyable experience rehashing old tales. The biggest problem with Beauty and the Beast is that I don’t see why anyone would choose to watch it again if they have the original film to go to. It just feels forgettable for all of its 129 minutes. There’s just a better version already out.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Kyle’s Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2017

 

Okay, folks, I’m a little late on this one, as I’ve already seen a few of 2017’s early films. But don’t worry, I made this list almost a month ago and am just now getting the chance to write it up for you. So, let’s start off with a point.

  • This list is most anticipated, not what I think will be the best by any stretch. These are the films I’m most looking forward to at the beginning of the year, so there will be a lot of bigger blockbustery films because that’s Sundance is just now happening and the other big Oscary films haven’t premiered yet. So with that being said…

 

NOTE: THIS IS NOT A COUNTDOWN BUT A LIST.

 

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Star Wars Episode VIII

  • Whatever the title may be, I’m so excited to pick up with the further adventures of Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, Luke, and Leia in Star Wars Episode VIII. It’s also a bittersweet film for me personally as it is the last time fans will see Carrie Fisher as their general. It means so much for fans to have that connection, one that many have felt since 1977. But there are many things to be excited for in Episode VIII. More revelations about Snoke, seeing Luke back in action, and new characters played by Benicio del Toro and Laura Dern. What’s not to love? Have I even mentioned director Rian Johnson? So excited!

 

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Alien: Covenant

  • I may find myself in the minority here, but I really enjoyed Prometheus. I had issues with some of the plot points, but the film made me yearn for more from this universe, and this year, we get it in full force with Alien: Covenant. I reported years ago about the then-titled Prometheus 2 having no Xenomorphs. I’m glad that director Ridley Scott changed his mind on that are we are getting Alien proper. Add in Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup, James Franco, and a return from Michael Fassbender as android David and you have a recipe for one hell of a film. At least…I hope.

 

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War for the Planet of the Apes

  • I really enjoyed Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but I absolutely loved Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Talk about a film that services fans both big and small. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was one of the best films of 2014 and remains a powerful work of art. Director Matt Reeves returns to helm War for the Planet of the Apes, and after Dawn, Cloverfield, and his remake Let Me In, I’m overjoyed to see what he does with this franchise next. Add in the extremely underrated Woody Harrelson to match the mo-cap performance of Andy Serkis as Caesar. This is an opening night kind of movie.

 

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Kong: Skull Island

  • The fact that Skull Island is actually happening is pretty impressive. The fact that the trailers look amazing is even more so. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts adds some lovely flair to this story of 1970s-set Kong tale with John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, and Tom Hiddleston. I only hope that the focus is on Kong and not set-up for the eventual match between the King of Skull Island and the King of Monsters, Godzilla in a few years. I’m thankful this one is coming out around my birthday so I have an excuse to drag everyone I know to this movie with me.

 

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It

  • As sad as I am to be missing Will Poulter as the titular creature and Cary Fukunaga behind the camera, I’m still very excited to see this new R-rated take on Stephen King’s classic story. It is a fascinating look at fear itself as a beast targeting children. Splitting it into two films scares me only for the concern that we may not get the conclusion we want if the first isn’t successful. Thanks to Stranger Things from last year, I do not believe that to be the case, but hopefully a trailer drops soon to help convince film-goers to spend their money.

 

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The Dark Tower

  • While we are on the subject of Stephen King, the long-gestating adaptation of his behemoth series The Dark Tower is almost upon us. Starring Idris Elba as the gunslinger Roland and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black, there has been a lot of confusing information being thrown around about what the film is actually going to concern itself with. With producer Ron Howard helping shepherd the film, I trust that it will be a hell of an experience, but I hope it will also bring in casual moviegoers with its marketing campaign. I’ll be there opening night, and I hope you join me.

 

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The Mummy

  • Cinematic universes are such a big thing right now that many fail to realize the first universe created was the Universal Monsters universe with films like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and House of Dracula. Universal hopes to ignite a new fire in their monsters with The Mummy, the first in a series of monster movies aimed at bringing these creatures out from the darkness. After the first attempted failure of Dracula Untold, write Alex Kurtzman took directing duties with powerhouse producer and star Tom Cruise set to introduce the female mummy played by Sofia Boutella to the world. Aided by Russell Crowe’s Dr. Henry Jekyll, Cruise’s Nick Morton must save the world from an ancient and malevolent princess recently awakened. Count me in.

 

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Thor: Ragnarok

  • I’m only picking one Marvel film this year and that’s because I really love Thor. I love Chris Hemsworth. I love the Hulk. I love Mark Ruffalo. I love director Taika Waititi. I just love everything I’ve heard coming out of this film. I cannot wait until November to see how this all plays out. Yes, I get it. Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 will be pretty great. Spider-Man: Homecoming has a lot riding on it. But Thor…Thor is my favorite film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I’m just dying to see him suited up, especially after that [SPOILER ALERT] post-credits scene in Doctor Strange.

 

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Blade Runner 2049

  • I’m pretty late to the Blade Runner game, having only recently falling in love with the original film from Ridley Scott (Final Cut for the win!), but with Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners, Arrival, need I say more?) behind the camera and original scribe Hampton Fancher’s screenplay, Blade Runner 2049 looks to be serving up some excitement heading towards its October release. It’ll be exciting to see original star Harrison Ford back in the fold with Ryan Gosling joining him. Another situation here of what’s not to love about this movie? Much in the way of The Force Awakens, there’s just so much to be excited about after being absent from these characters for over 30 years.

 

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God Particle

  • Lastly, we get to the strangest entry in this list. God Particle is apparently the third installment of the Cloverfield series, and after only last year discovering that there is a Cloverfield series, its safe to say that something interesting is happening here. Now, the film was pushed back to October for reasons, and the IMDb page has updated with the title Untitled Cloverfield Anthology Movie (2017), I can only wonder when news will come of this tale featuring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Bruhl, Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, and David Oyelowo. One thing I can say: J.J. Abrams is insane.

 

SO there you have it. What film are you most excited for in 2017? Let me know/Drop a comment below.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

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Director: Travis Knight

Cast: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey

Screenplay: Marc Haimes, Chris Butler

Runtime: NA. Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril.

 

Well, I just got out of an advance screening for the upcoming Laika film Kubo and the Two Strings. Now Kubo has been hotly anticipated as a unique and original film for the stop-motion crew at Laika and the trailers have only furthered the excitement. So how does it stack up and should you see it on August 19th?

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Kubo (Art Parkinson, TV’s Game of Thrones, Dracula Untold) is a young boy who lives on an island with his mother. Their lives are secluded and peaceful, until the vengeful Moon King (Ralph Fiennes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Hail Caesar!), who stole Kubo’s eye as a baby, finds him once again. Kubo’s mother sends him away to find three pieces of mystical armor to defeat the Moon King and his daughters, The Sisters (both played by Rooney Mara, The Social Network, Pan). Along Kubo’s journey, he comes across companions like Monkey (Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey, Interstellar, Free State of Jones) who aid him in the perilous and difficult path that lies before him. But can he defeat the Moon King, the evil force who killed his father?

Kubo and the Two Strings is the fourth film from Laika, and it may just be the best work yet. This is a gorgeously animated and stunningly told story steeped in classic Japanese folklore. Each of the environments actually breathe on their own, and function as a beautifully laid out tapestry of incredible visuals.

Kubo’s story directly takes from the Hero’s Journey, and he is given an interesting and action-packed set of tests to stop him from gaining the armor in time. Thankfully, it is the chemistry between Kubo, Monkey, and Beetle that make this movie a must-see. There is heart and soul, enough to compete with the lovely imagery.

The voice work is solid from Parkinson, and he is aided nicely by Theron and McConaughey. In fact, there isn’t a whole lot to turn one away from the film.

Now, Kubo can be seen as an animated film more so than a family or kid’s movie. There are some frightening images and sequences, but I’m not trying to tell you that younger children should avoid it.

My faults with the film? Really only one. There are a few story beats near the end of the film that I didn’t see the point in. But that didn’t take the enjoyment out of the experience.

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You need to see Kubo and the Two Strings. It is breathtaking in its sights, but also wonderful in its sounds. Make sure to stay through the entire end credits. These animators put in hard work, and you get a chance to see how much. There’s also an amazing rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Regina Spektor. When Kubo hits your theater, take the whole family on an adventure that is original and spectacular, aided by a striking attack on the senses. Seriously, you should be standing in line for it right now.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Russell Crowe Makes Me Feel Better about The Mummy

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For those of you living under a rock, Universal Studios actually made a name for themselves back in the 30s, 40s, & 50s for their horror movie monsters. So much so that creature features like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon all exist under the title Universal Monsters. Universal was most well known for these pictures that have now become classics in film. Recently decades have proven to be less successful in terms of Universal’s monster films. Their recent slate has felt like action films badly disguising themselves as horror films.

Films like The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, The Wolf Man and Dracula Untold have not given fans much to get excited for. But now, Alex Kurtzman is bringing a new vision of the Universal Monsters to light with a Cinematic Universe of creatures, similar to the MCU. It is important to note that the Universal Monsters were quite possibly the first cinematic universe with films like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and House of Dracula where multiple monsters came together to tell stories. The first installment (though some have counted Dracula Untold as the first, this is still uncertain), The Mummy, is lensing right now. It stars Tom Cruise and the project just recently added Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll (an interesting character to add to a story that never featured him), so it would seem like they are putting the wheels in motion to get this franchise up and going.

Not only was the addition of Crowe exciting, but the actor recently spoke to Collider about the tone of the story, remarking that it will “seriously scare the shit out of you.”

That’s what I like to hear, I think so often that Universal believes that the monsters put asses in the seats, but it has always been the tone first, and that tone hasn’t been right in some time. Now it seems, with Kurtzman at the wheel, that we will finally be seeing what we want from this franchise.

What do you think? Are you excited for The Mummy and the Universal Monsters cinematic universe? What’s your favorite creature feature? Let me know!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

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Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom

Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro

144 mins. Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.

 

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the work that Peter Jackson (The Lovely Bones, King Kong) and his creative team has accomplished. Six films, two trilogies, and hours upon hours of extended editions have comprised the Middle-Earth Saga.

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, TV’s Sherlock, Hot Fuzz) and the company of dwarves have just let the diabolical Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game, Penguins of Madagascar) loose on Lake Town. It’s up to Bard (Luke Evans, Dracula Untold, Fast & Furious 6) to stop the evil dragon and reclaim their lives. Tempers soon flair up as the treasures of Erebor are up for grabs and Thorin (Richard Armitage, Captain America: The First Avenger, Into the Storm), consumed by greed, has decided not to honor the agreement made with Bard and his people. Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellan, X-Men, The Prisoner) continues his battle against the dreaded Necromancer.

The finale to The Hobbit trilogy is a far different film from its predecessors, and with a very simple plot, revolves entirely around the Battle of the Five Armies, one of the biggest battles in Middle-Earth history. It is very similar to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, where the entire film revolves around the climactic ending as opposed to standing on its own. It is definitely my sixth favorite Middle-Earth film.

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Ian McKellan is a torn Gandalf here, caught between his allegiance to the Company of Dwarves and his commitment to reason and peace. McKellan continues to impress.

Evangeline Lilly (TV’s Lost, Real Steel) is great as Tauriel here, the elf who has developed feelings for the poisoned dwarf Kili. Her relationship with Legolas (Orlando Bloom, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Three Musketeers) and his father Thranuil (Lee Pace, TV’s Halt and Catch Fire, Guardians of the Galaxy) are further delved into in this film and helps to increase her internal and external conflicts as the story progresses.

As far as the Company of Dwarves, we get more great but wholly underutilized work from Ken Stott (Shallow Grave, One Day) as Balin, the dwarf who will one day claim Moria, and James Nesbitt (Coriolanus, Match Point) as Bofur, the dwarf who, above all else, just wants his home back.

I also loved the continual references to future events and foreshadowing from The Lord of the Rings, like the cameo appearances from Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, How to Train Your Dragon 2), Ian Holm (Ratatouille, Lord of War), Christopher Lee (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Dark Shadows), and Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas). My only major issue was that I wanted more. Tolkien fans will know that Balin ends up in Moria with Oin, we know that Gloin has a son named Gimli, we know Saruman’s fate, but I wanted to see more in this film.

Director Jackson continues to prove he can handle action and large-scale battle sequences, the action here is incredible. His cinematography mixed with the amazingly well-put-together sequences, and Howard Shore’s deep and thunderous score.

It took me a while to really enjoy Billy Boyd’s final song, “The Last Goodbye,” but once I did, I really felt it tied together not just this film, but the trilogy and in fact the entire saga.

If you get the chance to watch Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance capture for Smaug and the Necromancer, do it. He is incredible to watch even without the CGI placed over it.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies isn’t Jackson’s best work, but it certainly is a perfectly fine finale to an epic series. I feel like the theatrical cut of the film is missing some key details, and I hope that the extended cut has the ability to expand this on the film and show us some more connective tissues.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, click here.

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, click here.

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, click here.

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