Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021)

Streaming Service: STARZ
Movie Name/Year: Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Thriller, Horror
Length:  1h 28min
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Columbia Pictures, Original Film, Shaken Not Stirred, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony Pictures Releasing International, United International Pictures, Universal Pictures International
Director: Adam Robitel
Writers: Will Honley, Maria Melnik, Daniel Tuch, Oren Uziel, Christine Lavaf, Fritz Böhm, Bragi F. Schut
Actors: Amali Golden, Anton David Jeftha, Avianah Abrahams, Carlito Olivero, Corin Silva, Deborah Ann Woll, Evan Hengst, Holland Roden, Indya Moore, Isabelle Fuhrman, James Frain, Jamie-Lee Money, Jay Erving, Jaymes Butler, Logan Miller, Matt Esof, Scott Coker, Tanya van Graan, Taylor Russell, Thomas Cocquerel, Wayne Harrison
IMDb Blurb: Six people unwillingly find themselves locked in another series of escape rooms, slowly uncovering what they have in common to survive. Joining forces with two of the original survivors, they soon discover they've all played the game before.
Cat’s Point of View:
I had really enjoyed Escape Room (2019) and was quite curious what a sequel with returning characters would look like - so much so that I had Escape Room: Tournament of Champions within the Top 10 in my Top 20 Movies to Look Out For In July (2021) article. 

The concept of an escape room is fun and fascinating. I love puzzles that pull from wit and observation in an immersive setting. The illusion of entrapment gives an aspect of thrills to the scenario. In a real-world situation, as appears in these movies, I don’t think I’d fare so well. The idea is actually pretty terrifying. 

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions took the Escape Room concept to an entirely new level. If you thought that the first movie’s room traps were elaborate, buckle up because they dialed it up for the sequel. 

That was really the only thing that Escape Room: Tournament of Champions had going for it. The sets and puzzles they came up with were both horrifying and well-executed. The story, however, was a bit lacking. Sure, it was sufficiently convoluted as the shadow organization of Minos strung its “contestants” along through its deadly game. It was an enjoyable enough watch, but there wasn’t as much substance to it as the first movie, and thus succumbed to the dreaded sequelitis. 

This actually wasn’t my first viewing of the Escape Room sequel. Given my level of excitement when it was first released, I watched it as a digital rental some time ago. In the interim, I forgot entirely. I spent a good chunk of this fresh viewing feeling a distinct sense of deja vu before I realized it. 

I’ve read that there is another version of Escape Room: Tournament of Champions where the beginning and end are a bit different, featuring additional characters, and giving a little more insight into what was going on. I honestly wish I’d watched that version, instead. The version that I streamed was the theatrical release. 

While Escape Room: Tournament of Champions was slightly underwhelming, it did deliver with the visuals and the deadly traps. It was an entertaining experience, even on a second viewing, but ultimately I’ll probably forget it again. 
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 51%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 75%
Metascore – 48%
Metacritic User Score – 5.1/10
IMDB Score – 5.7/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, April 17, 2023

Murder Mystery 2 (2023)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Murder Mystery 2 (2023)
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Length:  1h 30min
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Echo Films, Endgame Entertainment, Happy Madison Productions, Mythology Entertainment, Netflix, Splashprod, Vinson Films
Director: Jeremy Garelick
Writers: James Vanderbilt
Actors: Adam Sandler, Adeel Akhtar, Annie Mumolo, Carlos Ponce, Dany Boon, Enrique Arce, Jennifer Aniston, Jillian Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, John Kani, Kuhoo Verma, Larry Myo Leong, Mark Strong, Mélanie Laurent, Tony Goldwyn, Zurin Villanueva
IMDb Blurb: Full-time detectives Nick and Audrey are struggling to get their private eye agency off the ground. They find themselves at the center of international abduction when their friend Maharaja, is kidnapped at his own lavish wedding.
Cat’s Point of View:
These days, watching an Adam Sandler (The Week Of, Uncut Gems, Hustle) comedy is a bit like playing roulette. (The dramas have been fire lately, though.) You never know until you watch his movie whether or not it’ll turn out okay. In the case of Murder Mystery 2, I’d say that it was better than I thought it would be. My expectations, however, were not very high. 

I really enjoyed the trailer for Murder Mystery 2 and felt like it hinted at some great moments that would add up to a fun experience. I just hoped it didn’t give all of the best bits away so there were no surprises. The trailer gave a lot away. Thankfully, however, it didn’t spoil the whole thing.

It’s been a little bit since I watched the teasers, thankfully, so I watched the movie fairly fresh. I probably enjoyed the surprise of a few moments a lot better due to my memory lapse than if I had the imagery fresh on my mind from the trailer. 

That being said, Murder Mystery 2 was fun. I laughed and was fairly impressed at the action that they packed into the story. Sandler isn’t the first actor you think about when action is involved, after all. Mark Strong (1917, Cruella, Nocebo), on the other hand, helped lend some ‘action cred’ to a few of those scenes. 

Jennifer Aniston (Cake, Storks, The Morning Show) and Sandler’s characters were very relatable as a married couple and their chemistry was fabulous. I’ve been married over 20 years, and I could identify with some of their banter and frustrations with each other on a nearly visceral level. At the same time, it was funny and a respectful take on couples squabbling that didn’t delve into darkness. 

I also absolutely adored the Bollywood-like segment of the production. I enjoy a good Bollywood film now and again for all of the costumes and dance choreography. It’s fun and interesting to watch. 

Overall, Murder Mystery 2 wasn’t changing the world, but it was a fun ride. I’d definitely recommend anyone that enjoyed the first movie to check out this sequel. 
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 45%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 49%
Metascore – 44%
Metacritic User Score – 5/10
IMDB Score – 5.6/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5

Movie Trailer: