Friday, July 12, 2019

Murder Mystery (2019)

Movie Name/Year: Murder Mystery (2019)
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Length: 97 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Vinson Films, Endgame Entertainment, Happy Madison Productions, Tower Hill Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Kyle Newacheck
Writer: James Vanderbilt
Actors: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Luke Evans, Terence Stamp, Gemma Arterton, David Walliams, Dany Boon, John Kani, Adeel Akhtar, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Luis Gerardo Méndez, Shioli Kutsuna, Erik Griffin, Sufe Bradshaw, Jackie Sandler, Andrea Dolente

Blurb from IMDb: 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.

Selina’s Point of View:
I don’t like to go into a film with expectations of any kind. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter. I want to go in to every movie with an open mind and no clue if I’ll like it. That wasn’t in the cards for this one.

I went into Murder Mystery expecting a bad night. Happy Madison Productions is responsible for a few decent films, but the majority are pretty rough, especially lately. I tried as hard as could to watch it with a clean slate, but after The Week Of (2018), I just couldn’t. I’ve seen that production company take a great idea and turn it into crap too many times.

This time, I was pleasantly surprised.

Murder Mystery was awesome.

All the issues I had with The Week Of were corrected for this film. You still see a huge amount of that boyish Adam Sandler humor, but it’s evolved enough that the movie still works. I found myself relating to the main character even when Sandler was being ridiculous – which is all I ever wanted from his stuff. It’s why his earlier films worked and a lot of his newer stuff doesn’t. There was a balance between the ridiculous and the relatable.

The best way to describe this movie is to say it’s like dropping your basic married American couple into the middle of an Inspector Clouseau story.

I really do believe that I’m going to be watching this film again and I am so glad that it turned out as good as it was. I want to see more like this from Adam Sandler.

For the first time in a long time, I look forward to the next one.

Cat’s Point of View:
I seem to have some sort of compulsion to want to give Adam Sandler (Hotel Transylvania, Pixels, The Week Of) movies the benefit of the doubt. Odds are that some of them might actually turn out worth the time spent watching them, right? He’s prolific enough that playing the long game with those statistics feels like it might pay off.

How’s that working for me? Well…so-so I guess.

While Murder Mystery may have set new Netflix records for its first few days post-release, I can’t say that it’s even close to being a favorite for any of its genres of comedy or mystery.

That being said, it was fine. There were aspects of the film that I really enjoyed. Frankly, Jennifer Aniston (Marley & Me, Horrible Bosses, Storks) saved the movie for me. I could really relate to her character on multiple levels. I loved her unabashed fan-girling over the mystery scenario and how her mystery-geek knowledge works into the narrative in both funny and harrowing moments.

Sandler’s character drove me crazy – and not in a good way. I was just cringing almost every time he did something. I could viscerally relate to Aniston’s character’s embarrassment at her husband’s behavior. November of 2019 will mark the auspicious occasion of my 20th wedding anniversary. I have a deep level of understanding of where she’s coming from.

I do wish there was a bit more of Terence Stamp’s (The Adjustment Bureau, Bitter Harvest, Crooked House) presence in the movie, but alas the plot. His character was rather well cast. Honestly, I couldn’t fault any of the casting choices. I am even slightly giddy about the little real-world relationship Easter Eggs among the cast members. You can find that info out on IMDb, though. It’s not my point here. 

Taking a step back to look at the bigger picture, I do realize that I generally enjoyed this movie, even if it didn’t have much to do with Sandler’s involvement. I am not sure that I’d watch it again, but I’m intrigued enough by the ending to be willing to anticipate a sequel.  

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 45%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 40%
Metascore – 38/100
Metacritic User Score – 5.6/10
IMDB Score – 6.0/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Unicorn Store (2019)

Movie Name/Year: Unicorn Store (2019)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
Length: 92 Minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production/Distribution: Netflix, The District, Rhea Films, Rip Cord Productions, 51 Entertainment, Hurwitz Creative
Director: Brie Larson
Writer: Samantha McIntyre
Actors: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Joan Cusack, Bradley Whitford, Mamoudou Athie, Hamish Linklater, Martha MacIsaac, Karan Soni

Blurb from IMDb: A woman named Kit receives a mysterious invitation that would fulfill her childhood dreams.

Cat’s Point of View:
It’s likely not often that the lead from a high-profile blockbuster such as Captain Marvel (2019) shares the spotlight of said box office smash with their own directorial debut. Unicorn Store followed closely on the heels of the Marvel powerhouse with its April Netflix release date. I’m guessing that the streaming giant was counting on that tie-in to draw in the viewers. It seems like a sure bet to me – but it was a gamble, nonetheless.

The question here is – did it pay off? I’m not so sure.

I was intrigued by the trailer and the film’s cast. I felt, surely, that a comedy with Samuel L. Jackson (The Other Guys, The Hateful Eight, Glass), Joan Cusack (Mars Needs Moms, Snatched, Instant Family), and Karan Soni (Deadpool, Office Uprising, Always Be My Maybe) as pillars of the supporting ensemble would be worth the watch. Even though the movie didn’t rank on our Top 20 list for April, it seemed certainly worth watching. Seemed is the key word there.

Unicorn Store did live up to the promise of its trailer, at least. There were funny moments and amusing groaners. I would even go so far as to say that there were endearing qualities in the film as well. Jackson was perfect as The Salesman. I mean, seriously – if Samuel L. Jackson promised to give me a unicorn, I might just believe him.

Larson’s character was relatable to some extent. If you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, you would have gotten a couple different responses. Early me would have told you I wanted to be a veterinarian because of my love of animals. Later, I would have explained how my passion for singing and a really special teacher inspired me to be a choir teacher. I was able to pursue my dream until reality and reason became a buzzkill. (It’s hard to build a career around your voice when you are allergic to the world and it’s the first thing to go when all the trees and grass conspire with dust to make you sick as a dog on a regular basis.) Going back to the drawing board of life sucks.

Beyond that, I’m afraid the movie lost me a little. I’m not entirely sure where the disconnect happened, but I can’t deny that it did.

Brie Larson is undeniably a solid bet as an actress. I can only imagine that with time and experience, her directorial talent will grow. Unicorn Store wasn’t too shabby for a debut, really – it just wasn’t hitting the right notes for me. I might just give it another watch-through and see if I might change my mind. Who knows – I might have just been tired and cranky when I watched. I certainly wouldn’t steer anyone away from giving it a chance, though.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 64%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 42%
Metascore – 44/100
Metacritic User Score – 2.6/10
IMDB Score – 5.5/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating2.5/5

Movie Trailer:

Monday, July 8, 2019

Then Came You (2019)

Movie Name/Year: Then Came You (2019)
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Length: 97 minutes
Rating: NR
Production/Distribution: BCDF Pictures, Dutch FilmWorks, Forum Film Poland, Megogo Distribution, Pioneer Films, Shout! Factory, Vision Distribution, Front Row Filmed Entertainment
Director: Peter Hutchings
Writer: Fergal Rock
Actors: Asa Butterfield, Maisie Williams, Nina Dobrev, Ken Jeong, Tyler Hoechlin, David Koechner, Peyton List, Tituss Burgess, Sonya Walger, Margot Bingham, Colin Moss, Briana Vanskus, Ron Simons, Angel Valle Jr., L. Steven Taylor, Francesca Noel, Ann Osmond

Blurb from IMDb: A hypochondriac working as an airport baggage handler is forced to confront his fears when a British teenager with a terminal illness enlists him to help her carry out her eccentric bucket list.

Selina’s Point of View:
I took a risk in my Top 20 for February 2019 by putting Then Came You at a very high #4. (Cat had it at a 16 for her.) I saw it as risky because it looked like it could easily fall for the trap of relying on tropes. It had a great cast, though, and it just spoke to me.

Normally, Cat’s the one that falls for the more emotional films, but there’s an exception to everything.

Having now seen Then Came You, I’m glad I put it as high as I did.

I haven’t gotten so swept up in a film for this blog in a long time. I think the last movie I remember watching for Trust the Dice that left me with tears in the corner of my eyes and a lasting emotion in my heart was We Are Young. We Are Strong. (2014). We watched that one back in 2017.

Now, I’m not saying there weren’t tropes. I mean, it was a movie about a dying girl changing the life of a healthy guy. There are about twelve million of those out there. So, what sets this one apart?

I’ll be honest: it’s the acting.

I will always reiterate my belief that great actors can save almost anything. They can make up for a bad script, a bad director, bad settings, even bad plots. When you pair great actors with a decent script and a fresh-voiced director instead, you can easily get a masterpiece. That’s what happened here.

Maisie Williams (Doctor Who, iBoy, The Book of Love) being the best person for most parts is not a shock to me. She played one of my two favorite characters in Game of Thrones (2011-2019). She’s carrying that experience into all the rest of her projects. We’re just going to be seeing more and more of her, and I’m here for it. She’s a queen and I gladly bend the knee for her.

The wild card for me was Asa Butterfield (Slaughterhouse Rulez, The House of Tomorrow, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas). I’ve seen him in a few things, but felt he was a little generic. That’s not what I got here. There’s a moment in the film where his character has a panic attack. It was so genuine that it was almost difficult to look at. There was nuance to his performance that you could see in a slight twitch, or the way his eyes focused. I need to re-watch some of his other stuff. I feel like maybe I’ve missed something because he’s actually incredible.

I don’t know if I could watch this one again, only because it made me ugly cry. I’d definitely recommend it, though.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 60%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 78%
Metascore – 44/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.3/10
IMDB Score – 7.0/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating5/5

Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: PG-13

Movie Trailer: