Category: movie reviews

Movie Review: Murder Mystery

A bit ago, Netflix released a new movie starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. I’d heard from somewhere or other that it was pretty good. Finding ourselves in a bit of a lull, Denisa and I decided to try it out.

“Pretty good” was being quite generous, in retrospect. I’m still not sure where I picked up the assessment, as when I’m looking at reviews in hindsight, “pretty meh” would seem to be more accurate. (45% on Rotten Tomatoes, 6 on IMDB, 38 on Metacritic.) But the movie wasn’t completely without merit. It was diverting enough, and was all in all more interesting than doing nothing, and not painful to watch.

How’s that for a recommendation for you?

The things I disliked about the movie were mainly its efforts at humor, and Adam Sandler. He plays a doofus, and the character didn’t go over well with me at all. It just kept feeling to me like Adam Sandler playing the role of someone who’s a doofus. And the humor . . . was pretty much non-existent. There were some mildly amusing things, but other than that, most of the humor seemed to want to rest on Adam Sandler being a doofus. I have liked many Adam Sandler movies in the past, so it’s not as if I’m predisposed to dislike him. But here . . . no.

Jennifer Aniston seemed a bit lost opposite him. Like she was trying to feed off the energy of his performance, with the result of being like a vampire trying to feed off the energy of a three week old corpse. “Chemistry” wouldn’t accurately describe the connection between Aniston and Sandler. “2nd Grade Science Experiment” is closer to it.

So what did I actually like about the film? For one thing, it was to murder mysteries what Scream was to horror movies. Aniston’s character is a big nut for the genre, and so when she finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery in Europe, she’s very excited. (Oh. That’s the premise. Did you care?) She goes about commenting about who it could be and who it couldn’t, and that was somewhat diverting.

The scenery was beautiful, and no expense had been spared on the main action sequence of the movie.

I don’t know. For a movie that’s Netflix’s “Biggest Movie Premier Ever” (which is one of the main things that caught my interest in the first place), it left a lot to be desired. If this is the best Netflix can mange for movies, maybe it’s time to stick to television series.

So . . . if you’ve heard “good things” about this movie, do yourself a favor and avoid it anyway. Unless you have nothing better to do for around two hours. I mean, if you’re stuck on a plane and it’s either watch this or listen to the man next to you snore for the next while, go get some headphones and enjoy.

3/10.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movie Reviews: Bohemian Rhapsody vs. A Star is Born

I’m still catching up on all the best picture nominees from last year. (Four down, four to go.) I watched the two music-based ones almost back to back, and they offered an interesting contrast in approaches. One fictional, one based on an actual group, and they both shared a lot of similarities. The plots to both are quite similar, from a macro scale, and you have to wonder why that is. Is it because A Star is Born bases itself off already existing “unknown person becomes famous” examples in history, which is what Bohemian Rhapsody illustrates, or is it because it’s an example of a trope which Bohemian Rhapsody shoehorns history into?

I tend to think it’s more the latter, though it’s also some of the former. In other words, I think there are some side effects to becoming famous that most people who become famous have to face, sooner or later. So it makes sense that both the fictional and non-fictional account would show those examples. But I think audiences also want a story, and so it becomes necessary to force events to fit the story in the historical account of Queen, something A Star is Born doesn’t have to deal with. It can just make its story be whatever it wants.

With Queen, it’s not that easy, and the film plays quite loosely with history to get the arc it wants for the band and its members. For example, Queen never split up in real life. Freddie Mercury’s solo stint came after several other band members had already done solo projects of their own. They’d just come off tour before Live Aid, so they didn’t need to rehearse to get back into singing condition. The band also didn’t learn of Mercury’s AIDS diagnosis until years later. Mercury himself, it is believed, didn’t find out until a few years after the Live Aid concert as well.

Sure, on the one hand you can dismiss those “tweaks” as nothing more than a reshuffling of events, but I think it’s would be a mistake to do so. When we watch a movie that’s “based on a true story,” the knee jerk reaction is to believe most of what we see. That tends to lead us down what I’ll call a Facebookerized version of reality, where the reality we see is different than the actual truth of a person’s life. When we begin to compare our reality with all these portrayed realities, we set ourselves up for disappointment. We’re never going to match up.

The thing is, life doesn’t do story arcs. Not the way we’d like it to. There’s never a “happily ever after” or a fade to black. Storylines aren’t tied up. Closure doesn’t really happen the way we’d like it to. Don’t get me wrong: there are definitely beginning and endings to everything. But they’re rarely in the scripted way we see depicted on screen.

Did I like both films? Yes and no. I loved the soundtrack to Bohemian Rhapsody (duh), and really enjoyed many of the songs in A Star is Born. I can see why the movies garnered Oscar nominations and wins. But with Star, I felt like it was too forced overall for me to really love. The story was shoved into a trope, and you pretty much knew what the arc was going to be as soon as it started. In Rhapsody, I felt it was a bit too propagandy for my tastes. The best thing I can compare it to are the two Cole Porter biopics. The first (Night and Day, starring Cary Grant) presents a Facebookerized version of the man. Squeaky clean and all American. The second, (De-Lovely, starring Kevin Kline) delves into Porter’s real history, depicting his bisexuality, troubled relationships, and dark times of his life that were glossed over by most when he was actually alive.

Same person. Same “history.” Two entirely different realities.

Rhapsody wants us to believe it’s much closer to the De-Lovely side of things, but I walked away feeling like much of it had been Night and Dayed, if that makes sense, with a thin veneer of De-Lovely to make it feel properly edgy.

That said, I enjoyed both movies and gave them both 8/10, so that seems like my review is much harsher than they deserved. I think it’s just that I saw them so close together that it made me think more on what they said about history than about the films themselves. The ending of Rhapsody is fantastic. The beginning of Star is superb. Enough to bring up the rest of their respective films, especially when coupled with the soundtracks and acting.

I just wish the stories kept up with the rest.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movies Worth Rewatching: Clue

Last night I had to scramble to come up with something to watch with the family. We’d been watching The Amazing Race, but that’s over now, so it was pretty open as to what we wanted to shift to next. I’d shown them Charade and To Catch a Thief, and they had enjoyed both of those quite a bit. This time I decided to give Clue a try. It’s always been a favorite of mine, but I’ve learned to never be very confident when recommending a favorite to my kids. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it falls flat.

Clue soared, and watching it fresh through my kids’ eyes, I could see why.

It’s the sort of movie that if it were to come out today, I think I’d give it an eye roll when I first heard the description. Based on a board game, and it’s not even a straight mystery, but a comedy-mystery, instead? Sounds like another money grab. But this is probably the best board game movie adaptation you could possibly come up with. Christopher Lloyd, Madeline Kahn, and Tim Curry lead a fantastic cast. It’s got great banter, laughs throughout, and some light scares thrown in for good measure. (I was stunned to see it only has a 36/100 on Metacritic and a 59% on Rottentomatoes. This is a movie that’s much better than critics initially thought.)

DC was laughing the entire time. She couldn’t stop. Tomas might have been a bit skeptical at first, but he was definitely won over by the end. It’s just a fun movie, plain and simple. Yes, there are some adult themes in the film, but they pretty much sailed over DC’s head just like they did mine when I was watching it as a kid.

The amazing thing to me watching it now is that the movie really shouldn’t have worked. I don’t blame the critics for getting it wrong the first go around. It was the first adaptation of a board game. How lame does that sound? Sure, it had some good actors in it, but it would be easy to be skeptical of it. And again, they decided to take this mystery board game and turn it into a comedy. But they did it so well. It’s not just the character names from the game (Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, etc.). They have practically everything there. The premise (Who killed Mr. Boddy, where, and with what?), the secret passageways (leading to the correct places, no less), the look of each room. The parquet floor in the hall. The weapons. They were almost slavishly faithful to the game in so many regards. And yet they also recognized how contrived the game’s setup is. Once that’s acknowledged, you almost can’t help but make it into a comedy.

Of course, it wasn’t all rosy. MC (who’s just 6) was too scared, despite my repeated reassurances that the movie was funny. She ended up heading off to watch PBS Kids a third of the way through. (I probably should have done that in the first place, but these days I try to do things together as a family whenever we can. It means MC and DC end up watching things I never would have let Tomas watch at their age, but . . . what are you going to do?)

Other than that, though, it was a great experience. Everyone loved the movie, and it appears to have made the jump between generations with no problem at all. It’s on Amazon Prime streaming even as we speak. Give it a shot with your fam. (And if you haven’t already seen it somehow, you really deserve to treat yourself.) 9/10

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movie Review: Christopher Robin

I’m a big Winnie-the-Pooh fan (specifically a big Eeyore fan), so I’m a bit surprised it took me as long as it did to finally watch the live action “sequel” to the films and books: Christopher Robin. But it’s been on my list for a while, and I got around to it last week with the fam. My feelings on the movie are . . . mixed. Parts were fantastic, and parts were bad.

First, the good. It was so much fun to see the characters interacting with each other. Yes, they looked different than they did in the cartoon versions and the book illustrations. More like a hybrid of both. But the voices were great for Tigger and Pooh (because they used the same voice actor as the cartoons, Jim Cummings), and that made a good impact. When the core characters were just allowed to be themselves and do their thing, it was a lot of fun. There were some great callbacks to the stories and films, and as a fan, I appreciated those.

My kids liked the movie as well. It was entertaining throughout (with a few exceptions I’ll get to in a moment.) All told, I gave the film a 6/10. I liked it, but the flaws just kept holding it down in my estimation. What were they?

For one thing, the first half of the movie is flat out depressing. Christopher Robin leaves the Hundred Acre Woods and grows up to have his life consumed by work. It was a big enough down that MC actually began to cry in the middle of the sequence. A film that takes Winnie-the-Pooh as a conceit and then makes something that makes 6 year olds cry is taking its dramatical aspirations a bit too seriously, I’d say.

Beyond that, however, I really disliked how they oversimplified “work” in the movie. The older Christopher Robin has a job where things have taken a downturn. He’s got real commitments to keep, but the film portrays that all as a bad thing. That he’s too obsessed with work to have time for his family. In other words, it falls into the tried and true trope of “overworked dad needs to remember life is fun and that he shouldn’t work so hard.”

Except when times at a job really are tough? And people are in risk of losing their jobs? If I were at a company like that and my boss suddenly starts playing with stuffed animals again, I’d have some real complaints.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for work/life balance. But in this movie, it’s vastly oversimplified, and then the solution to it is also very reductive. It’s made out to be this insurmountable problem, and then it’s surmounted with a bit of brainstorming in the last five minutes. (I don’t think I’m spoiling anything when I reveal the film does not have Christopher Robin’s entire family tossed in the poor house at the end.)

The film just felt like it was struggling too hard to be a Serious Family Movie. There were great sprinkles of light-heartedness, but all the depressing stuff kept rearing its head to bring it all sinking back to earth again.

If you’re a fan of the original, it’s worth watching. Just don’t get your expectations up too high, and don’t go into it assuming it’ll be a fun time for the whole family . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Spoileriffic Avengers Endgame Review

In case you didn’t see the title, this review about the Avengers Endgame will contain spoilers. The comments are also open season on spoilers. If you don’t want spoilers, don’t read this review.

Why am I posting spoilers in the review? A couple of reasons. First, I’ve reviewed enough of these Marvel movies that my opinion about them really hasn’t altered much. I like them. They’re the same recipe, for the most part, repeated, and for now that’s fine with me. (See my review of Captain Marvel as the latest example.) So I don’t know of a way to write an interesting response to this current movie without actually getting into the weeds about the movie itself.

Also, it made like over $1.2 billion in the first weekend, leading me to assume that many many of my friends have already seen the movie. So . . . why not really talk about it, instead of dancing around spoilers?

Anyway. I’ve written enough between my warning about SPOILERS and my actual review now that I feel like I can get into the movie. Ready?

I had a blast at the film. Seeing a big movie opening night with a slew of fans is totally the best way to watch a spectacle movie like this. Everyone’s into it. There are cheers. Applause. Gasps. Sobs. It all adds up to a better experience, as I’ve said before. The first movie felt like only half a movie, because it was. It ended on a huge down note. And yes, so did this one, but there was no getting around it, in my book. Characters had to die and stay dead. There needed to be some lasting impact on the Marvelverse.

I was talking to a friend before the movie, and he expressed how little tension he ever felt in a Marvel movie, since none of the characters ever really dies. They might “die,” but then they come back from that certain defeat, stronger than ever. Having Tony die made total sense. Captain America’s “death” . . . I have some qualms about, mainly because it conflicts with the internal consistency of the film’s rules, but as soon as I start to want to talk about that, I remember I just watched a movie that has a talking raccoon and a talking tree in leading roles. So . . . perhaps the film can get away with a bit of fudging the facts.

Really, I just would have suggested Marvel kill off some characters and have them stay dead earlier in the series. I’m not sure that Guardians of the Galaxy was the right vehicle for it, but Groot could have stayed dead in that one. If you don’t leave characters dead, then people keep thinking you’re faking. Even when Tony was actually dying, I kept wondering if he’d just make a sly wink and then get better all of a sudden, and no one wants that to be happening in the middle of an audience’s mind when they’re going for real drama.

It’s a long movie, but it didn’t feel long to me. I loved how they went back to the other Marvel movies to revisit them from new angles. That was a lot of fun. (Though why Tony had to have Antman suggest this to him is a bit beyond me, since Tony was able to solve it after about three hours of deep thought. You’d think he might have tried that a little earlier?)

As with all Marvel movies, it mixed humor and action well, giving us a variety of different types of actions, from guns to karate to magic users and more. (No one-note punchy powers ala DC.) True, they struggled with the power level at times. Captain Marvel shows up and completely blasts through Thanos’s entire ship in about three seconds. Straight through massive metal walls and foes alike. The whole thing blows up. Then she’s entrusted with a metal glove, and Spiderman’s skeptical she’s going to be able to cross a battlefield with it. No worries! Every female Marvel movie has gathered together to help her out. (That felt way to heavy handed . . . until I talked to my daughter after the movie, and she said how it was her favorite part. That’s when I remembered we’re not all hardened movie critics. and Marvel movies aren’t fine cinema. It’s okay to lean a bit heavier on the keyboard when you’re writing some of the scenes, I think.)

In any case, I got more than enough entertainment for my $6. (My condolences, all you people who have to pay ridiculous sums to see movie premiers. I love my town’s local cinema.) I’m very interested to see where Marvel goes next, though I’m skeptical it’ll be anywhere significantly different than where they’ve been before.

I ended up giving the movie a 10/10, despite all the flaws I just listed. I gave it a 10 out of respect to the 22 film arc as a whole. To everything Marvel has done for superheroes, and to the place this movie now holds in the grand scheme of things. I gave a 10 to the amount of enjoyment I’ve derived from all of it over the years. A 10 because it’s a super hero movie, for crying out loud, and it’s one of the best super hero movies I’ve seen, capturing not the gritty rawness of some of the “better” super hero movies (like Dark Knight), but rather the awesomesauce I loved reading and hearing about when I was reading comics growing up.

So . . . that’s what I thought. What did you think?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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