[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

[Short Film Sunday] Los Bandoleros (2009)

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Director: Vin Diesel

Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Sung Kang, Tego Calderon, Don Omar, Mirtha Michelle

Screenplay: Vin Diesel, T.J. Mancini

20 mins. Not Rated.

In Los Bandoleros, we see where Dominic Toretto’s life after he escapes police hands. As he ends up in the Dominican Republic, he takes a break from his life of crime to share time with some old friends as well as his love Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, Avatar, Machete Kills) before embarking on a new job: hijacking a gas tanker in the short film leading up to the events of Fast & Furious and directed by star Vin Diesel (Strays).

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I wanted to like this short a lot more than I did. I still enjoyed it more than the Turbo Charged Prelude. I think that Diesel really cares about this character and this material, so I respect that he wants to stop the action and just take a character beat to learn more about his character’s sensibilities and personality before jumping headlong into Fast & Furious. The short just didn’t do it for me. It felt a bit too much like the opposite of the preceding short film, but rather than giving too much info, it gives too little. It’s an exercise in what is needed in a franchise.

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I would have enjoyed a much-shortened version of this slice of life in the actual film as opposed to this short. Diesel has the capabilities to do something as a director, but it isn’t here.

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

Horrible Bosses (2011)

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Director: Seth Gordon

Cast: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, Jamie Foxx

Screenplay: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein

98 mins. Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material.

 

I usually find one great comedy every year. 2011’s Horrible Bosses was a great comedy. My review for Horrible Bosses here.

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Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman, TV’s Arrested Development, This is Where I Leave You) has been working his butt off for a promotion, but his boss Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey, TV’s House of Cards, American Beauty) seems not to notice or care. Dale Arbus (Charlie Day, TV’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Lego Movie) is trying to be the best fiancé he can be, but his boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston, TV’s Friends, Cake) wants to ruin it be forcing Dale into a sexual relationship through blackmail. Then there’s Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis, We’re the Millers, Drinking Buddies), who is all set up to take over his boss’s position when he retires. Unfortunately, Kurt’s boss Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland, The Italian Job, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1) dies, and his son Bobby (Colin Farrell, Total Recall, Winter’s Tale) takes over instead. Now, these three have no choice but to get the help from Mothafucka Jones (Jamie Foxx, Django Unchained, Annie) to kill their horrible bosses in this dark comedy gem.

I love this movie. Most films don’t try the black comedy anymore and even fewer actually succeed as perfectly as Horrible Bosses did. I also found the story to have plenty of twists and turns to it, enough so to keep me enthused even without the laughs, but then add in the genius of Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis as the everymen along with the strong performances of Spacey, Aniston, and Farrell as the “horrible bosses” and you have a great time at the movies. Director Seth Gordon (Identity Thief, Freakonomics) handles this crew nicely and gives each equal laughs and equal screentime to boot.

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All in all, you see a movie like Horrible Bosses for laughs, and it has plenty. It isn’t a perfect film, but it is about as close to genius comedy as one can get.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror: Day 14 – Leprechaun (1993)

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Director: Mark Jones

Cast: Warwick Davis, Jennifer Aniston, Ken Olandt, Mark Holton, Robert Gorman

Screenplay: Mark Jones

92 mins. Rated R for horror violence and language.

 

It’s tough to place a film like Leprechaun. In one way, it’s far too childish to be scary. On another, there’s too much gore and horror for it to be a kid’s movie. So what exactly is it?

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Well, Leprechaun is a bit of an enigma. It’s the story of an evil little leprechaun (Warwick Davis, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Jack the Giant Slayer) who has his gold taken away from him and is willing to stop at nothing until he gets every piece of it back. The leprechaun is eventually trapped in a crate for several years until Tory Reding (Jennifer Aniston, TV’s Friends, We’re the Millers) and her father move in. Once he is free, he goes on a murderous rampage to get his gold back.

This film is stupid. Really stupid. It suffers from genre confusion. The original idea was for a scary kid’s movie which eventually evolved, thanks to studio heads, into a comedic yet more adult horror film, though it still doesn’t fit into either category. I find it tough to blame writer/director Mark Jones (Scorned, Rumpelstiltskin) as I’m sure he had little measure of success once his film was tampered with, but even so, the acting is horrid. Jennifer Aniston has never been an actress of particular depth, and I’ve never been truly impressed by her worth, and her first starring role is no exception. She is given a band of merry men who turn in wretched work and the entire film falls to Warwick Davis’ portrayal of the evil leprechaun. Now, Davis does fine work with this ultimately not scary role, but he just isn’t scary at all.

That’s what boggle me about this movie and, in fact, the entire series. Not one of them is scary. So why do we classify them as horror. Likely due to the gore factor, and the films do have that.

But, if there is a silver lining to this movie, and I think there is, it is that it is kind of fun to watch. This is usually my go-to for St. Paddy’s Day movies alongside The Boondock Saints and The Departed. It has a relatively odd premise played out to its lengths.

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And there is that line of bad movies. Some of the Leprechaun films (I’m looking at you Leprechaun 4: In Space) are so horrid that it is tough to sit through them. On the other hand, some are just goofy enough to be fun. On that line, Leprechaun does end up on the so-bad-it’s-good side more so than the take-me-out-to-the-pasture-and-shoot-me side. So for that, I give the film its rating.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

My friends, X-Men: Days of Future Past is still pretty fresh in theaters and doing very well. I happened to see it last week and wow. Just wow. It got me thinking…a lot. About comic books. About time travel. About Jennifer Lawrence…

Anywho, I thought now would be a great time to revisit some X-Men films. Where better to start than an origin story?

 

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

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Director: Gavin Hood

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Dominic Monaghan, Ryan Reynolds

Screenplay: David Benioff, Skip Woods

107 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.

After the initial X-Men trilogy came to a close, producers and execs at 20th Century Fox were really scratching their heads. How do they continue a franchise about a team when not all the players want to play? Simple enough. Focus on just one. Who better than Wolverine, right? WRONG. Wolverine is a terrible character to focus two hours on. Simply put, he is just too powerful a character. First of all, unable to die. Okay, so how do we fear for him? It is the same reason why it is so difficult to make a solid Superman film. Too strong. Secondly, we already know his backstory. We learn everything we need to know about Wolverine from X2: X-Men United. We learn about Weapon X, about Stryker, about the whole kit-and-caboodle. SO why? Why follow around Logan for an entire film. It would be easier if we knew or cared about the supporting players, but this whole film is a cadre of mutants who we in the audience a) don’t know, or b) don’t care about. What’s to love here?

I think I’m getting ahead here. The plot. Okay, so X-Men Origins: Wolverine is all about Wolverine (Hugh Jackman returns for his fourth appearance as the clawing mutant). Wolverine before he was Wolverine. It examines his relationship with his brother Victor Creed, also known as Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber, TV’s Ray Donovan, Salt). Now you may be asking yourself “Wait! The guy from the first X-Men is Logan’s brother?” And don’t worry, because it is barely brought up and bares little to no bringing up in the actual story. We get to see Logan get his claws. We get to see Logan kill a helicopter. Easily, the plot of this film is a bunch of set pieces stitched together and designed to get us to X-Men in the most meandering way possible. And it indeed meanders.

Hugh Jackman is the reason for this film. He currently holds a record for most times an actor has portrayed a superhero on the big screen. X-Men: Days of Future Past marks the seventh time he has donned the claws, and I hear that X-Men: Apocalypse as well as a third Wolverine-centric film are on the way. He is Wolverine, so much so that leaving the role is tantamount to killing the unkillable character. Jackman surrounds himself with solid actors that have nothing to do here. Schreiber here is a terrible casting choice, more so than just because he bares no resemblance to the Sabretooth we already know. Danny Huston (21 Grams, Hitchcock) is again a very capable performer, and under a more solid script could do Stryker well, but he just becomes a half-assed villain reduced to little motivation and lots of cheese. Dominic Monaghan (TV’s Lost, The Lord of the Rings trilogy)  joins as Chris Bradley, but he gets two scenes and then is tossed aside in favor of shoving more worthless characters in. And then we get to Ryan Reynolds. Hold up, Reynolds gets his own paragraph…

Okay, are you ready? Let’s begin.

Ryan Reynolds has always loved the character of Deadpool, and really, he is a likable character. The Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool is known for his quips and one-liners, as well as the characteristic of regularly breaking the 4th wall and talking to the reader. So when Reynolds heard that Deadpool would appear in the new X-Men film, he called and asked for the part. What does he get in return? Wade Wilson/Deadpool amounts to little more than a few cameo pop-ins as a character who, get this, are you ready: When he becomes Deadpool, he doesn’t even get to talk! The Merc with a Mouth has his mouth sewn shut! What the Fu-

 

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Sorry. Yeah, sorry about that. It is angersome though, that is for sure.

Let’s talk about some of the other points in this film, because something has to be good.

The cinematography looks like someone hired director Gavin Hood to shoot a cheap music video featuring Hugh Jackman and terrible music. Once you get past the opening credits, which are beautiful, the film just starts to drag. The problem about opening credits, is that when I saw them, I saw the film I wanted to see. Forrest Gump with claws. There is something depressing about being unable to die, yet this was not thought of until the second Wolverine adventure some four years later.

Gavin Hood’s direction is boring and clumsy. It feels like he would have shown up to the theater in the middle of the film to yell out at the audience, “See, this is where he gets the claws! Hey look, it is Stryker, remember him?!?” To be fair, Hood did want to examine Logan’s PTSD at one point, something unheard of in a summer comic book blockbuster until last year’s incredible Iron Man 3.

The CG. My God, the CG. Those claws look bad. Check out the bathroom scene if you get the chance and you’ll see what I mean.

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In closing, screenwriter Benioff of Game of Thrones fame sought out to make an R-Rated Wolverine film that really examined the character’s life. This wasn’t that film, thanks to the studio. This film only wishes to confuse the timeline, and in fact it did, so there’s that for you. I’ll just say this, if you’re a completest as I am, watch the film once and burn the copy after. If you can avoid seeing it, do so. Not having seen this movie will not ruin the movie-going experience of seeing any other X-Men film, trust me.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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