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

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Film Review: MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL (MIB: INTERNATIONAL) (USA 2019) ***

Men in Black: International Poster
Trailer

The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.

Director:

F. Gary Gray

The fourth of the franchise and a spinoff rather than a sequel, loosely based on the Malibu/Marvel comics of the same name by Lowell Cunningham, the series sees the cool black guy persona replaced by a cool black young female (Will Smith replaced by Tessa Thompson), teaming up with a handsome white guy played by Chris Hemsworth.  The tactic works.  Thompson and Hemsworth pair very well together.

The film begins with a family scene as if to ensure that all sci-fi films now have a more personal and family touch.  The recent two super hero action films followed suit as in DARK PHONIX with the super hero first scene in a car as a little girl with her family and in the family picnic scene in AVENGERS ENDGAME.  Molly is a little girl who witnesses men in black in action from her bedroom window while helping an alien at the same time escape.  It takes Molly a lifetime before she finds the MIB organization.  Infiltrating into the headquarters, she convinces the head, Agent O (Emma Thompson reprising her role) into recruiting her.  She teams up with Agent H (Hemsworth) to save the world from the scum of the universe, MIB-style.

The film clearly aims at style.  When asked the reasons to wanting to join the MIB organization, Molly responds among other reasons that she looks good in black, the comment also echoed by Agent O.  The fights are also stylized, the most impressive of all being the one where Molly battles Riza (Rebecca Ferguson), an intergalactic arms dealer who also has three arms. Gray’s (STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON. THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS) film trudges along  too slowly for an action flick, which also seems derive too much off the KINGSMAN and other sci-fi movies.

The plot adds in a thinking element.  The MIB organization has a mole.  Though it is not difficult to guess who the mole is, the plot (this one) often runs too complicated and is too fast to follow.  

The film is shot in exotic locations like London, Marrakesh, New York City and Italy, as the titles proudly announce.  The coolness of the locations is reflected in several very cool scenes the best of which is the dance floor scene with the alien Twins (performed by Laurent and Larry Bourgeois, well renowned dancers from France aka Les Twins) a shape-shifting alien un-killable duo who appear a number of times in the story doing their moves.  All the MIB agents can do is look and stare.

Has the MEN IN BLACK franchise run out of steam?  Quite a few people think so from the well below 50% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes at the current wiring of this review.  But not for want of trying.  Despite the film containing the new MIB U.K. branch, more hilarious and imaginative alien creatures, politically correct updates and exotic location settings, MIB: INTERNATIONAL has regrettably only achieved minimal results.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOdWVqhDOj8

Film Review: ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE (USA 2019) ****

Always Be My Maybe Poster
Trailer

A pair of childhood friends end up falling for each other when they grow up.

Director:

Nahnatchka Khan

Reviewers had to sign a waiver not to disclose any key plot points or surprises of this rom com before given a screening link.  After watching the film, one can see the reason.  The first surprise the waiver  cautioned reviewers not to reveal is the identity of a guest celebrity which turns out to be the film’s funniest moment leading to the most laughs of the entire film within the following 15 minutes.

ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE is a romantic comedy.  Romantic comedies is the least liked of my film genres as these films are typically cliche ridden, predictable, unfunny and comes off even worse if the chemistry of the couple is off skelter.  What happened to the successful and very entertaining Rock Hudson and Doris Day romantic comedies that were so much fun and so entertaining?  This is despite the fact that Hudson was gay and Day was the over prude gal who always said no when it comes to sex.  Fortunately ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE, the new Netflix original comedy works.  And very well too.  It is much funnier that the last Asian romantic comedy CRAZY RICH ASIANS.

The plot is simple enough – the simpler, the less restrictions to tell the story and hence the more opportunity for laughs.  Childhood friends end up having an awkward sex moment when they grow up as teens leads to a misunderstanding and separation.  They meet up later in life as adults, each with a boyfriend and girlfriend which obviously do not suit them.  After all, the two are meant for each other as the rest of the film will prove.  In the 16 years since, they have grown up in vastly different circumstances: Sasha (Ali Wong), is a celebrity chef while Marcus (Randall Park) is still living in his childhood bedroom and working for his father’s air conditioning service, his life largely frozen since his mother’s premature death.  Sasha and Marcus reconnect when Sasha returns to San Francisco to open a restaurant and romantic chemistry from their teenager years remains, but Marcus’s fears and Sasha’s fame and demanding career challenge their relationship.

The film is written by Ali WongRandall Park and Michael Golamcoand.  As it is written by the two stars, the written characters turn out convincing illustrating the great chemistry for a romantic comedy.   Wong is a stand up comedienne,  Park is famous for the TV series ‘Fresh off the Boat’.  Their comedic experience pays off as evident in the film.  The younger actors who play the 12 and 15 year old versions of Marcus and Sasha are also excellent and funny.

The film is directed by Khan who demonstrates a few fresh impressive innovations in her film.  One can be seen in the applauding of the audience during Park’s band performance.  That scene fades out into another with the couple together on a date.  The applause can still be heard in the background serving as approval to the new relationship of the couple.

When everything looks fine when the film has 30 minutes to go, predictability dictates that there will be a major argument between the couple.  This does not mean the film cannot still surprise with a new twist and turn, as the film does.

If you are unconvinced by this review to watch ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE, click on the trailer link below.  The trailer has sufficient bright laugh-out loud parts to get you to watch the movie which is currently playing on Netflix.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHBcWHY9lN4

Film Review: WATERGATE PART 1 (USA 2019) ****

Watergate Poster
Patient compendium drawing from 3400 hours of audio tapes, archival footage, declassified documents, et al, weaves a rich texture of understanding, particularly effective in flashbacks from…See full summary »

Director:

Charles Ferguson

Just in time for the upcoming 2020 American elections comes a doc about the dirtiest  election tactics ever committed, which resulted in the resignation of the then President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon.

WATERGATE is directed by Academy Award Winner Charles Ferguson who won the Best Documentary Feature in 2011 for INSIDE JOB, an account of the American financial crisis.

WATERGATE parts 1 and 2 tell the full story of how President Richard Nixon and his White House staff committed the crime and were brought to justice.  New interviews with journalists, senior Nixon administration officials, members of congress, and prosecutors – combined with archival footage and newly sourced information from the Nixon White House tapes – brings a fresh perspective to a well known story.  What is truly amazing are the number of interviewees on film who had participated in Watergate.

WATERGATE parts 1 and 2 together make 260 minutes of documentary.  Part 1 runs 2 hours and 10 minutes.  The doc better be good for people to stay for the second part, not to mention having to sit through 4 hours of WATERGATE information.  Fortunately, the doc is an excellent one, an absorbing one that not only will have audiences glued to their seats but wanting more.  The film is not only about Watergate alone, but more about ex-U.S. President Richard M. Nixon’s dirty and illegal political activities.   If one mouths President Trump as the bad President, one should realize that Trump is an angel compared to Nixon.  Trump is more bark than bite.  Nixon keeps it quiet with the adage running true that still waters run deep.  Nixon is truly the evil one.

Part 1 starts off with Nixon pre-Watergate.  He is setting up devices to ensure he wins the next election.  At present, his main hindrance according to the film is the losing Vietnam War.  It is at the 30 minutes mark, that the doc announces the Watergate burglary.  The film goes systematically into the cover up, the payoffs, the breakdown in the cover-up – all these under the consent and knowledge of President Nixon.  This is what the film clearly indicates, regardless of whatever else.   Part 1 ends like a court room drama, but one that is growing more intense with Nixon not yet but almost revealed as the main conspirator.  Part 1 ends with the word INTERMISSION.  It sets up the stage for Part 2.  The good thing about the length is that director Ferguson gets a chance not to leave out any essential facts about Watergate, even allowing him to insert pre-Watergate issues as he does in Part 1.

One fo the film’s most exciting segments is the story of gay anti-war activist David Mixner who met his gay lover only to find everything a set up.  He never saw his lover again and was threatened for his sexuality at the time in 196 when homosexuality was a crime.

Part 1 certainly incites the audience’s anger for numerous reasons.  The first is how conniving Nixon can be.  President Carter granted Nixon a full pardon, which he clearly did not deserve.  The rest is scary how the American or any government for that matter has the power to do whatever it takes to stay in power or to fool the people.  On the brighter side of things, there are the good and honest people, like the journalists, who fight for the truth to be known.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2Lje3lzDkQ

Film Review: TOY STORY 4 (USA 2019) ***1/2

Toy Story 4 Poster
Trailer

When a new toy called “Forky” joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy.

Director:

Josh Cooley

Writers:

John Lasseter (original story by), Andrew Stanton (original story by) |8 more credits »

As in all Disney film, reviewers were cautioned not to reveal any spoilers like key plot points or plot twists.  Disney has nothing to worry about here as there aren’t that many in TOY STORY 4 though the story gets a bit darker that the other films in the franchise.  Eve the film’s poster is a tad darker.  The appearance of multiple “Chucky” looking dolls, the ventriloquist dummies create a scarier animated feature though no less entertaining.

Number 4 already and the TOY STORY franchise is still going strong.  John Lasseter still works in TOY STORY 4 (he directed the fist two) here serving as executive producer and one of the writers.

TOY STORY 4 starts where number 3 left off.  Andy has given his toys including Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) to Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw).  When Bonnie attends kindergarten orientation, she creates a new toy from a plastic fork which she names Forky.  This is when the trouble begins.  Forky (Tony Hale) suffers from an existential crisis about being a toy, which the others try to help him understand how to be one. As Bonnie and her family go on a road trip, Forky escapes and Woody goes to save him, becoming separated from the group near a small town.  As Buzz and the others try to help find Woody, Woody finds Bo Peep (Annie Potts) among other toys in the town’s antique shop, and she gives him a new outlook on what being a toy is really about.

The story cleverly avoids any pitfalls like a boring and unnecessary romance.  The bond between Woody and Bo Beep is played  delivering the message and in offering a different outlook on their arguments, but expect no kisses from the couple.

TOY STORY 4 bungles at the start, with the setting upon the story running in a slow moving rather boring part.  It picks up after the first third and confidentially accomplishes what all the other 3 TOY STORIES do best – all the toys rallying together to work for their owner child human masters, serving their purpose as a toy, which even in animation terms is a thankless and  tiring job.  The film slides in a few messages as well, such as the importance of loyalty. 

The film contains an impressive list of voice characterizations including the old school Carol Burnett, Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner with Keanu Reeves stealing the show with his “I Canada” as Canadian motorcycle stunt man Duke Caboom.                 

The introduction of the ventriloquist dummies that obey the huge villainous doll Gabby Gabby’s (Christina Hendricks) every bidding is the film’s prize. No wonder they are called dummies.  Gabby Gabby looks like Chucky with very sad eyes. 

The film’s look, at caravan/trailer park and the the dodgy amusement parked does not paint a wealthy and healthy look of America, but a glum one, full or conmen and suckers.  Still the film has a happy ending with a message for all.  Who can complain?

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmiIUN-7qhE

Film Review: ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE (USA 2019) ****

Always Be My Maybe Poster
Trailer

A pair of childhood friends end up falling for each other when they grow up.

Director:

Nahnatchka Khan

Reviewers had to sign a waiver not to disclose any key plot points or surprises of this rom com before given a screening link.  After watching the film, one can see the reason.  The first surprise the waiver  cautioned reviewers not to reveal is the identity of a guest celebrity which turns out to be the film’s funniest moment leading to the most laughs of the entire film within the following 15 minutes.

ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE is a romantic comedy.  Romantic comedies is the least liked of my film genres as these films are typically cliche ridden, predictable, unfunny and comes off even worse if the chemistry of the couple is off skelter.  What happened to the successful and very entertaining Rock Hudson and Doris Day romantic comedies that were so much fun and so entertaining?  This is despite the fact that Hudson was gay and Day was the over prude gal who always said no when it comes to sex.  Fortunately ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE, the new Netflix original comedy works.  And very well too.  It is much funnier that the last Asian romantic comedy CRAZY RICH ASIANS.

The plot is simple enough – the simpler, the less restrictions to tell the story and hence the more opportunity for laughs.  Childhood friends end up having an awkward sex moment when they grow up as teens leads to a misunderstanding and separation.  They meet up later in life as adults, each with a boyfriend and girlfriend which obviously do not suit them.  After all, the two are meant for each other as the rest of the film will prove.  In the 16 years since, they have grown up in vastly different circumstances: Sasha (Ali Wong), is a celebrity chef while Marcus (Randall Park) is still living in his childhood bedroom and working for his father’s air conditioning service, his life largely frozen since his mother’s premature death.  Sasha and Marcus reconnect when Sasha returns to San Francisco to open a restaurant and romantic chemistry from their teenager years remains, but Marcus’s fears and Sasha’s fame and demanding career challenge their relationship.

The film is written by Ali WongRandall Park and Michael Golamcoand.  As it is written by the two stars, the written characters turn out convincing illustrating the great chemistry for a romantic comedy.   Wong is a stand up comedienne,  Park is famous for the TV series ‘Fresh off the Boat’.  Their comedic experience pays off as evident in the film.  The younger actors who play the 12 and 15 year old versions of Marcus and Sasha are also excellent and funny.

The film is directed by Khan who demonstrates a few fresh impressive innovations in her film.  One can be seen in the applauding of the audience during Park’s band performance.  That scene fades out into another with the couple together on a date.  The applause can still be heard in the background serving as approval to the new relationship of the couple.

When everything looks fine when the film has 30 minutes to go, predictability dictates that there will be a major argument between the couple.  This does not mean the film cannot still surprise with a new twist and turn, as the film does.

If you are unconvinced by this review to watch ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE, click on the trailer link below.  The trailer has sufficient bright laugh-out loud parts to get you to watch the movie which is currently playing on Netflix.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHBcWHY9lN4

Film Review: FRAMING JOHN DELOREAN (USA 2019)

Framing John DeLorean Poster
Trailer

Who was the real John DeLorean? To some, he was a renegade visionary who revolutionized the automobile industry. To others, he was the ultimate con man.

FRAMING JOHN DELOREAN is a documentary directed by Don Argott and Sheena M Joyce, written by Dan Greeney and Alexandrea Orton (good combination of both sexes) fused with narrative scenes.  This portrait of John Z. DeLorean covers the enigmatic automaker’s rise to stardom and his shocking fall from grace.  Interviews with colleagues, employees, lawyers, friends and family who knew him best are interspersed with dramatized vignettes, including a performance by Alec Baldwin – as they all endeavour in their own ways to uncover the real DeLorean.

The doc examines how far one can go to achieve ones dream.

The doc is interesting in the way it infuses re-enactments with Baldwin as DeLorean to archive footage of the real DeLorean.  Baldwin is made up to look like DeLorean.  So what is missing in continuity in footage to propel the narrative is provided by the reenactments.  Whether the tactic works, or whether the reenactments are distracting is subjective.

At the beginning of the documentary on John DeLorean, the voiceover proudly informs that there has never been a film made about the famous car maker John Delorean.  In the words of President Trump: “Fake News”.  There has been a recently made one, I cannot recall the title of that movie, but certain incidents in this doc, I already know about from that film, like the drug exchange meeting presided by John DeLorean in a hotel room.

The voiceover also goes to describe DeLorean as a winner, a loser, a champion or perhaps  the greatest con-man in the history of man.  The draw of this doc and also the draw of the man as a personality is not from the good he has done (though he has a few up his sleeve) but his outrageousness and uncanny rise to fame that eventually led to his downfall.  

DeLorean took on the car companies like Pontiac and General Motors to design his sports car, to chase his dream hopefully to become a legend forever.  The doc highlights both the achievements and failures of the man.

One of DeLorean’s main achievements was the opening of his successful car assembly plant in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  The doc is quick to point this out.  At a time when the Catholics were fighting the protestants and the Irish economy was in ruins, DeLoeran got the two fighting groups to work together in the same factory with his common goal.  The cars were made and shipped to the United States,

Unfortunately not much of the background of DeLorean is provided of his childhood, upbringing or the influences.  The missing information would have provided clues to DeLorean’s character.

FRAMING JOHN DELOREAN emphasizes and glorifies the events surrounding the man.  Though this makes the doc more watchable, it lacks a fuller picture.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIa1gn9wVNo