Friday, June 28, 2019

Movie Review: “Murder Mystery”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1 hour, 37 mins.

This Netflix movie tells the story of a couple who get mixed up in a billionaire’s tangled family feud and have to prove their innocence.

Detective Nick Spitz (Adam Sandler) and his wife Audrey Spitz (Jennifer Aniston) live a somewhat mundane life. He is a former detective who recently failed his detective’s exam. She is a hairdresser and, with their fifteenth wedding anniversary coming up, wants to go on a trip to Europe that Nick promised her after they first got married.

A trip to Europe is not what Nick has in mind as he’s seen picking out an Amazon gift card as a present for her. However, when Audrey expresses that she’d really like to take that trip, Nick claims a trip to Europe is a surprise and they are quickly on a plane.

Audrey wanders up to the first-class section of the plane where she meets billionaire, Lord Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans) and he invites her and Nick to join them on their yacht in Monaco where his uncle is to wed Cavendish’s ex fiancĂ©. Audrey and Nick agree.

Upon boarding the yacht, they meet a colorful cast of characters. All have gathered on board for Malcom Quince’s (Terence Stamp) nuptials, but also for the reading of his will, in which someone could inherit billions of dollars. Quince announces his entire fortune will go to his bride, Suzi Nakamura. Everyone, except the Spitzs’ are upset about this.

Suddenly, the lights go out and a gunshot is heard. When the lights come back on, a dagger has been plunged into Quince’s chest and he is dead.

The crime scene is closed off.

While Nick and Audrey discuss the case later that night, another gunshot is heard and Quince’s son, Tobey (David Walliams) is found dead. Each of the remaining individuals are questioned by an inspector. Nick and Audrey are pegged as the persons of interest as they stand out the most compared to the other guests. The Spitzs’ are kicked off the yacht and forced to stay in a hotel room.

Nick and Audrey discuss the three motives for murder: love, money and revenge and try to figure out who the killer might be. They question the suspects the following day at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Later, a note is slipped under their door telling them to come to room 802. There, the Colonel’s bodyguard reveals information pertaining to the case.

There is a knock at the door and the bodyguard is shot. Nick and Audrey manage to escape from room 802, but soon realize their faces are all over the news and that everyone thinks they are the killers.

Are they? Or do they need to prove their innocence? If so, who is the killer?

Murder Mystery is a solid murder mystery. It has action, comedy – multiple funny lines and scenarios – and Aniston and Sandler are a good duo. The ending is satisfying with a few surprises and is even a little sweet. I would recommend this movie, two thumbs up.   

Friday, June 21, 2019

Movie Review: “Men in Black International”

By Kaila Mank

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1 hour, 55 mins.

We all know the original story of the first three “Men in Black” movies that starred Will Smith as Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K. The two agents regulated all alien life on Earth, while investigating unregistered aliens with intentions to harm Earth. Barry Sonnenfeld directed all three films (1997, 2002 and 2012, respectively) and all films had the same reaction once they hit the box office, almost immediately a hit.

Now seven years later, the fantasy/sci-fi series continues with “Men in Black International”. Directed by F. Gary Gray, there was a little bit of a different look on the story line.

It goes something like this as described on Common Sensemedia:

“A young Molly watches as her parents who are visited by the Men in Black and neutralized after encountering an alien. She grows up wanting to join MIB and, through great perseverance, finally manages to find their headquarters. She's made a probationary agent, known as Agent M (Tessa Thompson), and was sent to London, where she meets the reckless, charming Agent H (Chris Hemsworth). Their first mission is to meet a friendly alien called Vungus in a nightclub. After an attack by two powerful alien twins, Vungus gives Agent M a mysterious object, asking her not to trust anyone. Returning to headquarters, Agent M deduces that, for the attack to have happened, there must be a mole inside MIB headquarters.”

The two agents find two alien forces that can take the shape of any human and they must embark on a global adventure to save the agency,  ultimately saving the world.

In my opinion the first three movies were better put together and much more organized – making it easy to follow the storyline.

However, “Men in Black International” is nothing short of a good movie. It has a good plot line and the characters play their parts very well. I would recommend seeing this movie, it ties with the first three just enough to keep it interesting.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Movie Review: “Bad Times at the El Royale”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: NC-17
Run time: 141 minutes

The El Royale is a hotel where, just like the title suggests, there isn’t much good that happens there, just a lot of bad. The movie centers around four individuals: Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Ervio), Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson) and Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm).

The movie opens with Felix O’Kelly (Nick Offerman) walking into a hotel room, setting down some bags, then tearing up the floorboards and putting his bags beneath the floor.  Suddenly, there is a knock at the door and he is immediately shot.

Ten years later, circa 1969, Darlene Sweet and Father Daniel Flynn arrive separately at the El Royale. They meet loudmouth Laramie Seymour Sullivan who claims to be a vacuum cleaner salesman and has been waiting for a room for a while; no front desk clerk seems to be around. Emily Summerspring enters also needing a room.

Once Laramie Seymour Sullivan has gotten his room, he begins ripping wire taps from all electrical devices around the room. He later goes snooping around the front desk and discovers an underground tunnel that enables one to see and hear into the different rooms. He sees each of the previous guests doing various activities, some questionable.

We get a flashback to Darlene Sweet in a recording studio where she is being somewhat criticized by a recording manager. Flash forward and there is a knock on her door where Father Danielle Flynn asks if she’d like to get something to eat. Over pie, she and Father Flynn talk. When Father Flynn offers to get her a drink, he slips something in it and just as he’s about to hand it to her, she hits him on the head with a bottle and he falls to the ground.

We later learn that Laramie Seymour Sullivan is not who he says he is; his name is actually Dwight Broadbeck.

Cut to Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) who is walking along the beach. He approaches a girl, Rose Summerspring (Caliee Spaeny) who, in a flashback we see Emily Summerspring saving her sister from an abusive parent. Emily and Rose are currently in the hotel room where Emily tells her sister she will “get her clear.” Broadbeck bursts into their room, knocking Emily to the ground. Emily later shoots Broadbeck and he falls through the mirror, revealing the underground tunnel used to spy on all the rooms.

Later, the front desk clerk, Miles, (Lewis Pullman) helps up Father Flynn and Flynn soon discovers the underground spying tunnel. There are flashbacks which intertwine the recent series of events. After Miles is injured, Emily Summerspring has tied him up.

When Darlene Sweet is trying to escape after discovering her neighboring guest’s actions, she is approached by Father Flynn who confesses who he really is. They make a plan and begin to execute it.  

What will become of the remaining guests? Are their more secrets and lies? Who else might we meet?

This movie is intense, to say the least, but it’s interesting. A stellar cast portray these fascinating characters well. It’s relatively violent in parts and a lot happens. It can be hard to follow at times but does all kind of come together in the end – it might help if you take notes, like I did. I’d recommend this, if you’re a fan of action thrillers.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Book Review: “All my Puny Sorrows”

By Jennifer Dupree, circulation supervisor at the Windham Public Library

How can a book about suicide be heartbreaking and funny at the same time? How can a book with the thinnest of plots be completely compelling? I don’t know, but “All My Puny Sorrows” by Miriam Toews is a beautiful, thoughtful, engaging story of two sisters, one who wants to die, the other who wants her to live.

Yoli is a forty-something-year-old woman who has made something of a mess of her life but who loves her bright, beautiful, talented, suicidal sister, Elfrieda. The bulk of this book is about Elf’s suicide attempt (not her first) and what happens as the family rallies around her hospital bed. Most of the tension in the book arises from the question of if Elf will attempt suicide again and if, as Elf begs her, Yoli will help her end her life.

There are scenes of Yoli and Elf’s childhood growing up in a rural Mennonite community sliced in between hospital conversations between Yoli and Elf. Outside the hospital room, life goes on. Yoli tries to manage her pending divorce (her second), her teenager daughter’s budding romance, her own disastrous romances, and her plucky, sweat-pant-wearing mother.  

This book made me cry, but it also made me laugh. Yoli is smart, funny, honest, self-deprecating. 
This is a story about the deep love between sisters, the pain of loss, the hilarity of everyday life, and mostly, the will to keep going.

Movie Review: “Aladdin”

By Kaila Mank

Rated: PG
Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

The original Disney's “Aladdin” from 1992 directed by Ron Clements has always been an all-time favorite to many. So, when the word was out that the live-action version was coming, there were many doubts. However, if you have seen this latest movie directed by Guy Richie, you can put those doubts to rest. The film was very well put together with everything from the music to the characters matching the original animated version.

We all know the story of the street “rat” Aladdin (played by Mena Massoud), falling in love with the Salton daughter Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). Aladdin doesn't think he's good enough, so he releases the genie (Will Smith) from his lamp to help him become the Prince of Jasmine’s dreams.

This love story gets interrupted by the villain in the story, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) who wants to become Salton (Navid Negahban) and will do anything to get it. I thought this overall movie was amazing. The music matched the original, it was funny and must have been one of the most difficult things to do with live-action and the look-alike characters.

The elaborate character, Jafar, would have been one of the hardest to capture in this live-action film – looking much like the animated character in the original movie. The director and the actors did an amazing job with all of it.

So if you haven't seen it yet, I would highly recommend you see it, and it will put those doubts you may have about animated movies being turned into live-action movies to rest.