2019 TIFF Movie Review: UNCUT GEMS (USA 2019) ***

Uncut Gems Poster
Set in the diamond district of New York City, Howard Ratner, a jewelry store owner and dealer to the rich and famous, must find a way to pay his debts when his merchandise is taken from one of his top sellers and girlfriend.
UNCUT GEMS is a crime drama with Adam Sandler in serious dramatic mode displaying a totally frantic and unstable character.  Howard (Sandler) is a determined jewel dealer determined to prove himself a champion in his day-to-day life,. 
 He idolizes his client list of famous athletes procured for him by his middleman, Demany (LaKeith Stanfield).  Ever scheming with things always going awry, Howard intends to sell a mined chunk of rock full of embedded gems at auction — after it’s shipped to him from Ethiopia inside a fish carcass.   Josh and Benny Safdie’s film is often as annoying as the protagonist who has very few redeeming qualities.  
The main plot gets distracted.  Howard’s mistress subplot could very well be cut out from the film with little effect.  So can a few other things like his Jewish family gathering and a few other subplots all of which leads to the film’s over 2 hour running time. 
Initially annoying and deserving of good beating-up which Howard gets a couple of times, the audience eventually grows to love this dirtbag by the last reel – which shows how good an actor Adam Sandler can be.

Film Review: MURDER MYSTERY (USA 2019) ***

Murder Mystery Poster
Trailer

A New York cop and his wife go on a European vacation to reinvigorate the spark in their marriage, but end up getting framed and on the run for the death of an elderly billionaire.

Director:

Kyle Newacheck

Writer:

James Vanderbilt (screenplay)

Adam Sandler’s second comedy with Netflix cannot be as bad as the dismal THE RIDICULOUS 6 which at present still holds a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  MURDER MYSTERY is actually quite funny, given a little more class with Jennifer Anniston as Sandler’s co-star, not to mention the luxury yacht and European setting.

Sandler typically plays the poor man’s fool, in this case a New York City police officer.

Nick Spitz (Sandler) finally takes his wife, Audrey (Aniston) on a long-promised European trip.  En flight, a chance meeting with a mysterious man, Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans) gets them invited to an intimate family gathering on the super yacht of an elderly billionaire, Malcolm Quince (a cameo from Terence Stamp). When the wealthy man is murdered, they become the prime suspects of French Inspector Laurent Delacroix (Dany Boon).  At one hilarious point, the Spitzes are questioned by the millionaire Quince what they are doing on his ship.

The script which is quite well composed by James Vanderbilt, who seems to understand these things, puts together several genres, the most important of which is the murder mystery genre.  At one point, Nick even puts forth the classic 3 basic motives for murder.  As they try to uncover the identity of the killer, they put together the three motives of money, revenge and love.  The murder mystery portion is played straight unlike other comedies of this sort, most notably Neil Simon’s MURDER BY DEATH or his THE CHEAP DETECTIVE.  The humour in the film arrives primarily from the  couple’s bickering and their foolhardiness in their attempts to escape the killer.  The funniest jokes are also inconsequential to the plot but they are funny.  Two notable ones (not to be revealed here) involve angry flossing (this has to be seen to be believed) and the line’Ask Siri”.

The film also contains an impressive list of international stars.  Little Britain’s David Walliams plays Tobias Quince, Malcolm’s gay son.  One wishes there is more of Waliams.  French popular Dany Boon plays his inspector quite seriously though he bumbles the investigation as much as Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau.  New Mexican star and heart-throb Luis Gerardo Mendez plays race car driver Juan Carlos.

Sandler and Anistan make a good movie couple, in love but still bickering over small things.  “Will you stop questioning all I do?” asks Nick at one point. “But everything you do is questionable.” is Audrey’s response.  What is also touching in the movie is the fact that each of them, being in the marriage for a while is able to tolerate and forgive each other.  Even when Nick has lied to Audrey that he was a detective.  The story illustrates how a solid relationship in a marriage can survive – a point subtly made in the film. 

MURDER MYSTERY is not the best comedy around or not a message movie that will answer questions in life, though it tries to answer the question what a maharaja is.  But for a Netflix film to be watched in the comfort of ones home, it makes an excellent choice for an evening film.  It has a good mystery, is funny and light and is what one needs after a hard day at work.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YEVQDr2f3Q

Film Review: HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION (USA 2018) ***

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Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation Poster
While on a vacation with his family, Count Dracula makes a romantic connection.

According to Cineplex Magazine, writer/director Genndy Tartakovsky finally agreed to do the second sequel when his in-laws invited him and his family on a cruise ship to celebrate New Year’s Eve.  This was when Tartakovsky realized that being confined to one location with ones family’s is fertile ground for the drama and disaster needed for this third outing.

The first two H.T. films were only so-so, so one wonders the reason Tartakovsky was so reluctant to do a third film.  To his credit, this one is the funniest of the lot, likely because Tartakovsky has gained more experience as an animated comedic director.  There are not that many jokes that involve the monsters in the confined space of a cruise ship, likely because the ship is large enough for the monsters to get lost.

Unlike most animated films (DESPICABLE ME, ZOOTOPIA) in which the plot involves something really substantial like saving the world, the lazy story involves the monsters escaping extinction as they are pursued throughout the ages by the Van Helsing family who believe that all monsters are bad and must be eradicated from the face of the earth.  This is introduced at the film’s start, which is actually the film’s most hilarious bit, where the monsters are in disguise trying to pass on as humans on a train when Van Helsing suddenly appears.  A chase on the top of the running train ensues with the monster all getting away with Van Helsing as the only casualty.

Dracula (Adam Sandler) agrees to go on a cruise ship with his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and his troupe of monsters that includes Frankenstein (Kevin James), the werewolf (Steve Buschemi) and the invisible man (David Spade).  He goes on a date and falls in love with the ship’s captain, Erika (Kathryn Hahn) who not only happens to be a woman but Van Helsing’s daughter and has it in her blood to destroy Dracula and his pals.

With Adam Sandler leading the voice cast, one can expect the jokes to be silly.  And the jokes come as silly as they get, which fortunately are quite hilarious.  One complaint is that they happen a bit too fast, so that a lot will be missed if one is not paying full attention.  The lazy plot allows for a lot of improvised jokes with the monsters reacting largely to each other.  The voice cast is impressive, and includes the likes of Kathryn Hahn, David Spade, Wanda Sykes and even Mel Brooks.  It is hard to know who is voicing which character even with Sandler voicing Dracula, as Sandler does his characterization with an East European accent.

Even a child will know that Dracula will survive once again from the clutches of Van Helsing or his daughter.  Director Tartakovsky manages to sneak in a nice message or two within the proceedings.

The idea of an animated feature containing all the known movie monsters is a good one, thus spurning three in the franchise and with more, more likely to come.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5exSS74Lh0

 

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Film Review: THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED) (USA 2017) ****

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The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Poster
Trailer
An estranged family gathers together in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father.

Director:

Noah Baumbach

Writer:

Noah Baumbach

 

The one of two Netflix originals that premiered at Cannes this year (with OKJA), THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES took critics by surprise (despite being booed at the screenings for being a NETFLIX film) with many hailing it as one of their favourite Top 10 at Cannes.

The film is so-called THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES as it revolves around multiple stories among the different members of the Meyerowitz family.  It starts off with Danny driving around the city with his daughter cussing while trying to find parking.  “Garage it,” the daughter says.  The family patriarch is Harold (Oscar Winner Dustin Hoffman sporting a full beard).  He is old, hospitalized at one point and is more interested in his art and coming-up museum showcase opening than in his family.  His new wife is alcoholic recovered, Maureen (Emma Thompson) wanting to seek the family house.  Their sons include Danny (Adam Sadler) who is recently separated and moving ingot he parents house and who has never worked a day in his life.  The successful son, making the money is Matt (Ben Stiller) who the family resents because of jealousy that he is capable to making the most money.  The daughter is Jenny (Elizabeth Marvel) into into making movies.  Everyone comes together in this dysfunctional family with drastic and comedic results.  Bambauch has mastered this genre with his film flowing smoothly.

Director Bambauch (THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, MISTRESS AMERICA, FRANCES HA) allow each actor their freedom to do their own thing and inhabit the characters they portray.  Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller in their rare serious roles shine in their performances.  They show both angst and desperation as men that been betrayed by the artistic father (Dustin Hoffman sporting a full white beard.)  Emma Thompson sporting elderly age makeup plays the step-mother reminiscent of a similar motherly role in the British film THE LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMSON. 

The film has a Jewish cast and crew, led by its director Bambauch.  The film has definitely a Jewish impression that leaves a fine imprint and is not overpowering.  It runs a bit long at 2 hours, but the free flowing characteristic of the film allows it to keep going, without it getting monotonous or boring.  One can always count on Bamnauch to add another story to his list.

The film’s best moments are in the script’s sharp dialogue.  The best line comes from Dr. Soni after the children abruptly questions her saying it isn’t fair for on her leaving for vacation in China while leaving their father in an induced coma.  (This current state of affairs is already really funny in itself)  Her reply: “yes, it isn’t!”  The response sums up what each of the siblings have gone through being a member of the Meyerowitz family.

THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES establishes Bambauch once again as the Master of films on dysfunctional families and quirky characters.

The film is available on NETFLIX for on-line streaming to subscribers.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czyMIIm12JY

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Happy Birthday: Adam Sandler

adamsandler.jpgAdam Sandler

Born: September 9, 1966 in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA

Married to: Jackie Sandler (22 June 2003 – present) (2 children)

To be honest with you, when I got into this I never thought about reviews. I never thought about what people would say about me. I was just a young guy who was excited to become a comedian and an actor and I just wanted to get to do what I got to do.

Punch Drunk Love
2002
dir. PT Anderson
starring
Sandler
Emily Watson
Grown Ups Movie PosterGrown Ups
dir. Dennis Dugan
Stars
Adam Sandler
Salma Hayek
Anger ManagementAnger Management
2003
dir. by Peter Segal
starring
Sandler
Nicholson
REIGN OVER MEReign Over Me
2007
dir. James Wang
Starring
Sandler
Don Cheadle
I Now Pronounce you Chuck and Larry
2007
dir. Dennis Dugan
Starring
Adam Sandler
Kevin James
Bedtime StoriesBedtime Stories
2008
dir. Adam Shankman
Starring
Sandler
Keri Russell
You Don't Mess with the ZohanYou Don’t Mess with the Zohan
2008
Directed by Dennis Dugan
Starring
Sandler
John Turturro
FUNNY PEOPLEFUNNY PEOPLE
2009
dir. Judd Apatow
Starring
Adam Sandler
Seth Rogan
Leslie Mann
MOVIE POSTERJACK AND JILL
dir. Dennis Dugan
Stars:
Adam Sandler
Katie Holmes
MOVIE POSTERBLENDED
2014
dir. Frank Coraci
Stars:
Adam Sandler
Drew Barrymore
JUST GO WITH IT
dir. Dennis Dugan
Stars:
Adam Sandler
Jennifer Aniston
movie posterCLICK
2006
dir. Frank Coraci
Starring:
Adam Sandler
Kate Beckinsale
MOVIE POSTERTHAT’S MY BOY
dir. Sean Anders
John Morris
Stars:
Adam Sandler
Andy Samberg
MOVIE POSTERHOTEL TRANSYLVANIA
dir. Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars:
Adam Sandler
Kevin James
movie posterTHE WATERBOY
1998
dir. Frank Coraci
Stars:
Adam Sandler
Kathy Bates
movie posterTHE LONGEST YARD
2005
dir. Peter Segal
Stars:
Adam Sandler
Burt Reynolds
MOVIE POSTERGROWN UPS 2
2013
dir. Dennis Dugan
Stars:
Adam Sandler
Kevin James