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: THEIR FINEST (UK 2016) ****

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their_finest.jpgDirector: Lone Scherfig
Writers: Gaby Chiappe (screenplay), Lissa Evans (novel)
Stars: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy

Review by Gilbert Seah

 Danish director Lorne Scherfig broke into the international film scene with his first film ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS and has continued to impress both audiences and critics alike with films like THE RIOT CLUB and AN EDUCATION, these two films demonstrating his flexibility in his subjects. His latest is again a grand piece of fine filmmaking, a period piece that celebrates the role of women (seldom seen in the war genre) during the Second World War.

The film based on the novel Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans and written by Gaby Chiappe puts the female into the picture. The main protagonist is Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton star of films like ORPHAN and THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS), a “slop” scriptwriter, charged with bringing a female perspective to war films produced by the British Ministry of Information’s Film Division. Slop is the degrading term given for ‘women’s talk’. Her current project is a feature inspired by stories of British civilians rescuing soldiers after the retreat at Dunkirk. Catrin’s artist husband (Jack Huston) looks down on her job, despite the fact that it is paying the rent. At least lead scenarist Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), who at first pokes fun at the female effort appreciates her contribution.

There is one great dialogue in the film that celebrates the romanticism of movies. “In war, some do not come back home at all. Some come back heroes and some do not come back as heroes. The film that is to be made must make it worth the audience’s time to sit through it.” These are the words that are used to inspire the making of this otherwise propaganda film that would eventually turn the lives of many a British citizen. The film is used to create patriotism to send the men to fight in battle and the women to work in the factories manufacturing ammunition and weapons.

Performances are all impressive all round, led by both Bill Nighy as a pompous past his prime actor who is never afraid of showing off and Gemma Arteton in the title role. Jeremy Irons in a cameo (praising the power of the dramatic arts) deserves mention in one of the film’s funniest segments.
Besides the lovely period detail of the costumes and sets, the look of war-torn Britain is also magnificently created – reminiscent of the best of war films like John Boorman’s HOPE AND GLORY and Guy Hamilton’s BATTLE OF BRITAIN. The film in a film is to be shot in Devon, Devon standing in for Dunkirk where the film in the film is set.

One great and memorable British propaganda films is Alberto Cavalcanti’s 1942 effort WENT THE DAY WELL? (one of my favourite films of all time) where British housewives discover their village invaded by German paratroopers posing as English soldiers. The Brits must have put in quite the effort in their propaganda films. THEIR FINEST is also really funny in may parts, making the drama totally entertaining for both sexes despite the female slant.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=id0HEelDIuk

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