Murder Mystery Movie Review

Like the whodunnit paperbacks that Jennifer Aniston’s character reads to distract herself, Murder Mystery is a flimsy experience that you’ll quickly forget. It’s not bad while it lasts, but I wouldn’t count on retaining it. Adam Sandler and Aniston team up again after 2011’s middling Just Go with It and that title aptly describes this. Don’t expect much other than a few amusing moments from the cast and it’s probably best viewed in transit somewhere as a minor distraction.

Sandler is New York cop Nick, who yearns to be a detective but can’t pass the exam. Aniston is his hairdresser wife Audrey. They’ve been married 15 years and she’s bitter that Nick hasn’t made good on his long standing promise of a European vacation (Amazon gift card is more his speed). He finally acquiesces and on the ride over, Audrey befriends the dashing Charles (Luke Evans) who invite the couple to join his family on their luxury yacht.

Charles is nephew to Malcolm Quince (Terence Stamp), a mega billionaire who owns the vessel. He stole Charles’s young fiancée and their nuptials are imminent. Others on the boat are financially dependent on Malcolm, including his son (David Walliams), a Hollywood actress (Gemma Arterton), a Formula One driver (Luis Gerardo Mendez), and a hip hop influenced maharajah (Adeel Akhtar). When Malcolm is killed, Nick and Audrey find themselves aboard a plot akin to her throwaway books.

The body count rises as the head couple become the lead suspects. Nick must utilize his detective skills, which are most certainly not considerable. Murder Mystery is often as generic as its name. Sandler is in goofy nice guy mode while Aniston plays exasperated for an hour and a half. They do share a comfortable chemistry that helps as this moves along. Some of the supporting players momentarily rise above the material, including Arterton (her reaction to accusations of being the culprit is genuinely funny).

It’s not exactly high praise to say that this isn’t bad like some of Sandler’s other Netflix excursions. Mildly diverting is more apt. For a watch involving a flight or long train ride somewhere, Murder Mystery could fit the bill for Sandler and Aniston admirers if you decide to just go with it.

**1/2 (out of four)

Office Christmas Party Movie Review

A good portion of the populace can probably relate to that work holiday gathering we’d rather forget. Maybe one or several drinks too many. Perhaps a comment to a coworker that doesn’t seem wise later in the light of day. There’s a lot of funny directions you can go with the concept of Office Christmas Party, but the film mostly misuses them as it hurls in too many directions. The end result is one we’ll forget quickly after we’ve experienced it.

Director Will Speck and Josh Gordon give us their third major feature. It’s not as good as their first (Blades of Glory) nor as bad as their last (The Switch). The latter featured Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston and so does this. Bateman is chief tech officer of Chicago corporation Zenotech, a family business run by Aniston. She’s the unfriendly task master and bottom line efficiency expert that her employees are afraid of. Her brother (T.J. Miller) is the free spirit who runs the day-to-day operations. He’s not great at his job, but his minions adore him.

Tough financial times cause the possibility of the Windy City branch closing. Bateman and Miller decide to throw an all-out Yuletide bash in a last-ditch attempt to woo a big money client (Courtney B. Vance, last seen gloriously chewing scenery as Johnnie Cochran in “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson”). Here, instead of memorably defending America’s most notorious running back, he gets sprayed in the face with a snow machine filled with cocaine.

There’s plenty of R rated comedy as the employees let loose and there’s a lot of them and their subplots to keep up with. We have the single mom (Vanessa Bayer) looking for companionship (it’s one of the more humorous ones). There’s Bateman’s assistant (Olivia Munn) and their romantic tension (it’s one of the more boring ones). And supremely talented comedic actors like Kate McKinnon (who has her moments) and Rob Corddry are in the mix as well. Jillian Bell, who made a hilarious villain in 22 Jump Street, plays a drug dealer here and her inclusion is mostly wasted. The main plot involves the love/hate relationship between siblings Miller and Aniston and it doesn’t provide much (other than a chance to see the former “Friends” star berate a little girl in an airport).

With this cast, there are bound to be some decently humorous bits here and there, but Office Christmas Party might have been more successful with a little more focus among the ribaldry.

** (out of four)

 

2016 Oscars Reaction

Well… then! Who expected that ending at the Oscars?? One that involved Bonnie and Clyde, Leonardo DiCaprio, wrong envelopes, and a mild Best Picture upset! Yes, the jokes about that already infamous finale to the 89th Annual Academy Awards deserves the endless tweets about M. Night Shyamalan coming up with it and Steve Harvey being off the hook for his Miss Universe gaffe.

All in all, it was a fairly unpredictable night even up until that wild conclusion. My predictions went 14 for 21. Expect for Picture, I did get all the high-profiles race right: Damien Chazelle (La La Land) for Director, Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) for Actor, Emma Stone (La La) for Actress, Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) for Supporting Actor, Viola Davis (Fences) for Supporting Actress, Moonlight for Adapted Screenplay, and Manchester for Original Screenplay. Animated Feature Zootopia and Foreign Language Film The Salesman were also rightly called. Down the line categories that I got right: Original Score and Song (La La and “City of Stars” from that film), Production Design and Cinematography (La La), and Visual Effects (The Jungle Book).

I whiffed on Documentary – O.J.: Made in America was the front runner and won over my upset pick I Am Not Your Negro. Others: Sound Editing (Arrival instead of Hacksaw Ridge), Sound Mixing (Hacksaw instead of La La), Makeup and Hairstyling (Suicide Squad over Star Trek Beyond), Costume Design (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them over Jackie), and Editing (Hacksaw over La La).

And, of course, Best Picture, where La La Land won for about two minutes before the Academy’s producers pointed out a mistake and that Moonlight actually won.

The evening started on a happy note with Justin Timberlake dancing his way into the auditorium to his hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls. Jimmy Kimmel did a decent job hosting for the most part. Some bits worked better than others. I enjoyed the group of tourists unknowingly being brought to the theater and his endless ribbing of Matt Damon. The candy and cookies falling down to the audience felt a little old hat. The In Memorium package was a little tough with the legends lost this year and props to Jennifer Aniston for mentioning the passing of Bill Paxton as news had just broke that morning.

Did the show feel long? Of course. It always does, but for those that stuck around… yowza! That was an Oscar ending that will not soon be forgotten.

Office Christmas Party Box Office Prediction

Comedic holiday hijinks ensue next weekend as Office Christmas Party RSVP’s into theaters. The R rated pic features a cast of familiar faces including Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jillian Bell, Courtney B. Vance, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Matt Walsh and Kate McKinnon. Josh Gordon and Will Speck handle directorial duties and their previous effort was 2010’s The Switch, which featured Bateman and Aniston.

The Paramount release could benefit from both its cast and the fact that drunken and wild work XMas bashes are something many can relate to. Party comes from a story originated by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who wrote The Hangover. It also has no competition in the second weekend of December in its genre.

I’ll predict a decent number of moviegoers attend this Party to the tune of a mid to high teens debut.

Office Christmas Party opening weekend prediction: $18.4 million

For my Miss Sloane prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/12/02/miss-sloane-box-office-prediction/

Storks Box Office Prediction

Warner Bros keeps the onslaught of animated titles being delivered to theaters going with Storks, opening next weekend. The comedic adventure comes from Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland. Mr. Stroller is known for his live-action genre titles like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, and the Neighbors franchise. The pic features the voices of Andy Samberg, Jennifer Aniston, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Kelsey Grammer, and Ty Burrell.

2016 has been a banner year for animated material with mega-hits like Zootopia, Finding Dory, and The Secret Life of Pets and critically acclaimed fare like Kubo and the Two Strings and Sausage Party. With all those titles mentioned, it’s a distinct possibility that an animated feature will really have to stand out now for family audiences to plunk down their dollars. Whether Storks fits that bill is a legit question.

September has been an occasionally fruitful month for the genre. Hotel Transylvania and its sequel are responsible for the month’s two largest openings at $42 and $48 million, respectively. The two Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs flicks both opened above $30 million. Warner Bros should be ecstatic if Storks manages those numbers.

I don’t believe this will quite reach that level and a debut in the mid to high 20s seems more probable.

Storks opening weekend prediction: $27.9 million

For my The Magnificent Seven prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/14/the-magnificent-seven-box-office-prediction/

Mother’s Day Box Office Prediction

Director Garry Marshall is back in holiday themed comedy mode as Mother’s Day hits screens next weekend. This follows 2010’s Valentine’s Day, which took in an amazing $52 million out of the gate. The following year’s New Year’s Eve couldn’t keep up and its toxic reviews helped lead to a muted $13 million debut.

Mother’s Day doesn’t have the cavalcade of stars that the previous entries did, but it does feature Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, and Jason Sudeikis. Open Road Films is hopeful this can attract a female crowd while the males could be tempted by Key and Peele’s Keanu, premiering on the same day.

I’ll predict Mother’s Day does manage to outpace New Year’s Eve by a bit, but it won’t come near the love audiences showed for Valentine’s Day.

Mother’s Day opening weekend prediction: $14.7 million

For my Keanu prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/04/22/keanu-box-office-prediction/

For my Ratchet & Clank prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/04/23/ratchet-clank-box-office-prediction/

Oscar History: 2011

For the Academy Awards, 2011 will forever be known as the year when a French black and white silent film came out of nowhere to win three major categories, including Best Picture. That would be The Artist and it picked up momentum over its rivals, becoming one of the more unlikely recipients of the prize in some time.

During that year, the number of Picture nominees was nine and it beat out The Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, and War Horse. 

As for some others I may have considered, my favorite film of the year was Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. Another personal favorite: David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Furthermore, the expanded list of nominees could have given the Academy a chance to nominate some of the better blockbusters that year: Rise of the Planet of the Apes or Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol for example.

The Artist‘s auteur Michel Hazanavicius would win Director over stellar competitors: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), and Martin Scorsese (Hugo). Again, Mr. Refn and Mr. Fincher would have made my cut.

The Artist love continued in Best Actor where Jean Dujardin took the prize over Demian Bichir (A Better Life), George Clooney (The Descendants), Gary Oldman in his first (??) nomination (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), and Brad Pitt (Moneyball).

I may have found room for Ryan Gosling’s silent but strong work in Drive or perhaps even Steve Carell in Crazy, Stupid, Love – in which he showed off real dramatic acting chops coupled with his comedic abilities for the first time.

Awards darling Meryl Streep took Best Actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher (no relation) in The Iron Lady. Othern nominees: Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn).

The Academy’s penchant for ignoring comedy was shown here as Kristin Wiig should have merited consideration for her megahit Bridesmaids.

Beloved veteran Christopher Plummer won Supporting Actor for Beginners over Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn), Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Nick Nolte (Warrior), and Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close).

Two others I may have made room for: Albert Brooks in Drive and especially the brilliant motion capture work of Andy Serkis in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Octavia Spencer was victorious in Supporting Actress for The Help over her costar Jessica Chastain, as well as Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Melissa McCarthy in the rare nod for comedy in Bridesmaids, and Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs).

Two other comedic performances worthy of consideration: Rose Byrne in Bridesmaids and Jennifer Aniston’s scene stealing work in Horrible Bosses. I also would have found room for Shailene Woodley in The Descendants.

And that’s your Oscar history for 2011, folks! I’ll have 2012 up in the near future.