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)

Oscar Watch – Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese

The eyes of many Oscar prognosticators will be on The Irishman later this year. The Netflix release comes from Martin Scorsese and the Mafia saga reunites many of his favorite players like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel. Yet the filmmaker could find himself in contention in another race with another saga featuring a legendary performer.

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese debuts on the same streaming service tomorrow. The concert documentary follows Dylan’s unique 1975 tour and has caught the attention of critics. It stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

This is far from the first time Scorsese has turned his attention to the rock and roll world in this genre. It began over four decades ago with The Last Waltz, his feature about The Band. He’s since made pics centered on The Rolling Stones, George Harrison, and Dylan previously (2005’s No Direction Home).

Concert docs are a rare inclusion for Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars, but perhaps the Academy could decide it’s time to honor Scorsese’s contributions to the genre. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Top Ten Beyoncé Songs of All Time

For the past two decades with Destiny’s Child and as a massive solo star, Beyoncé has remained a relevant force in the music industry. Today she’s released Homecoming on Netflix. This concert documentary chronicles her already iconic pair of shows at Coachella last year.

I’m a fan and today’s attention centered on Queen Bey got me thinking… what’s my all-time favorite tracks from her solo career? The choices span from six albums and they’re all represented here.

So here we are with my personal top 10 fiercest songs from Beyoncé…

10. “Sorry” from Lemonade (2016)

9. “Freakum Dress” from BDay (2006)

8. “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” from I AmSasha Fierce (2008)

7. “Hold Up” from Lemonade (2016)

6. “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay-Z from Beyoncé (2013)

5. “Me, Myself, and I” from Dangerously in Love (2003)

4. “Flawless” from Beyoncé (2013)

3. “Irreplaceable” from BDay (2006)

2. “Love on Top” from 4 (2011)

1. “Crazy in Love” featuring Jay-Z from Dangerously in Love (2003)

The DGA Goes Roma

The Directors Guild of America bestowed their honors yesterday and it was yet again a big night for the Mexican drama Roma. The acclaimed Netflix effort won Outstanding Directing for a Feature Film for its maker Alfonso Cuaron. It’s his second DGA prize after winning for Gravity in 2013.

This particular award has rightly been seen as a harbinger for what will occur at the Oscars. In this decade, the DGA victor has gone onto win the Academy directing race seven out of eight times. The lone exception was in 2012 when Ben Affleck took the Guild trophy for Argo and surprisingly wasn’t even nominated for the Oscar.

Simply put, the DGA solidifies Cuaron’s position as the strong front-runner for Best Director and increases the chances for Roma emerging as the winner for Best Picture. Any other name called last night could’ve boosted their standing as a threat to Cuaron, but it didn’t happen. His Oscar night is looking good in three weeks.

Oscar Watch: Velvet Buzzsaw

Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival just before its Friday debut on Netflix is Dan Gilroy’s latest picture Velvet Buzzsaw. The horror satire reunites the writer and filmmaker with his Nightcrawler lead Jake Gyllenhaal in a film said to mercilessly mock the world of art critics and collectors. Several movie critics seem quite impressed. Others are more mixed. The current Rotten Tomatoes score is 82%. Costars include Toni Collette, Gilroy’s spouse and frequent collaborator Rene Russo, and John Malkovich (who must have office space at Netflix with this, Bird Box, and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile).

Reviews suggest Buzzsaw could be quite polarizing. It may have a tough time breaking through with Oscar voters nearly a year from now. That said, both of the director’s previous works nabbed one nomination. 2014’s Nightcrawler was recognized for its Original Screenplay. In my view, it should’ve received more nods than that (especially Gyllenhaal). 2017’s Roman J. Israel, Esq. saw Denzel Washington garner a lead actor spot.

If Velvet has enough strong boosters, another screenplay nomination isn’t totally out of the question. Yet there’s a long road ahead to see whether that’s a possible outcome. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile

An eagerly anticipated premiere at the Sundance Film Festival occurred yesterday with the screening of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile. Set for release on Netflix this year, the true life crime thriller casts Zac Efron as notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. Joe Berlinger, who’s known primarily for documentaries (his sole fictional work is the maligned horror sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2) directs. The filmmaker also made an extensive documentary about Bundy that’s up on the aforementioned streaming service this weekend. Costars in Vile include Lily Collins, Kaya Scodelario, Jeffrey Donovan, Jim Parsons, and John Malkovich.

Early reviews are mixed and its Rotten Tomatoes score is presently at 67%. Yet critics seem to agree on one thing and that’s the terrific work of Efron in the lead. Some suggest it could be a career changing performance. I know that the concept of Efron nabbing an Oscar seems far-fetched. Yet if Netflix can put together a solid campaign and depending on how competition plays out in 2019, you never know. The company did prove in 2018 that they’re now a factor with the Academy (see multiple nominations for Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs).

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Kindergarten Teacher

The Kindergarten Teacher premiered way back in January at the Sundance Film Festival and Maggie Gyllenhaal received raves for her role. Netflix snatched it up and it premiered on the streaming service October 12th. Sara Colangelo directs with a supporting cast including Parker Sevak, Anna Baryshnikov, and Gael Garcia Bernal. Any awards focus, however, will solely be on its star.

With a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 89%, the film is garnering greater exposure now with its release. Could Gyllenhaal be a nominee in the Best Actress race? Despite heralded performances in Secretary and Sherrybaby, she has yet to be nominated in the lead category. Gyllenhaal did receive a Supporting Actress nod in 2009 for Crazy Heart. Coupled with her acclaimed work in HBO’s “The Deuce”, it’s been a good year for the actress. Yet I still suspect she’ll be on the outside looking in considering competition.

That said, Gyllenhaal is likely to appear in the bottom portions of my top 15 projections in my weekly Oscar predictions on Thursday. It would mark her first appearance thus far.

Bottom line: despite high marks, it would be a surprise to see Gyllenhaal score her first nomination in Best Actress. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…