Film Review: Fletch Gets Artsy

Confess, Fletch is a comedy mystery film directed by Greg Mottola, who also co-wrote the script with Zev Borow. Jon Hamm takes on the lead role of Irwin M. Fletcher, freelance reporter. The script was based on the novel by Gregory McDonald. Fletch was first brought to the big screen by Chevy Chase in the 1980’s. The cast includes the talents of Roy Wood Jr., Lorenza Izzo, Marcia Gay Harden, and John Slattery. A newer actress named Ayden Mayeri has a pretty entertaining role as a young Boston detective named Griz.

Fletch is sent by his girlfriend in Italy to get her art collection as a ransom for her apparently kidnapped father. Fletch finds a dead woman in his rented apartment and himself as a number one murder suspect. Fletch is a former investigative reporter and dusts off some of his old skills to figure out how he has gotten into this mess and what to do about it.

I sort of like characters who have a somewhat unflappable demeanor in the midst of stressful situations. I am not sure how closely this film follows the novel, but it was reasonable enjoyable. Hamm does a competent job in the lead role that was popularized by a somewhat iconic comedic actor. Fletch remains charmingly aloof and irreverent in spite of some dire circumstances. The banter between him and the two detectives, played by Roy Wood Jr. and Mayeri, is pretty amusing. Although Hamm does get show his comedic abilities quite effectively, his version of Fletch still seems a little less outlandish than Chase’s performance and that actually works out well here. Confess, Fletch is one of the few cinematic reboots these days that turns out to not be a disastrous decision.

Film Review: Another Getaway, Another Murder Mystery

Murder Mystery 2 is a mystery comedy film reuniting Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston as Nick and Audrey Spitz, the power couple of private eyes. James Vanderbilt is the scriptwriter while Jeremy Garelick serves as director. John Kani, Adeel Akhtar, and Dany Boon return from the previous installment. Newer cast members include Mark Strong, Melanie Laurent, Jodie Turner-Smith, and Jillian Bell.

Nick and Audrey Spitz are working as full-time private detectives with somewhat mixed results. An old friend is having a rather lavish wedding on his private island and invites them to attend. A bodyguard is murdered, and the groom is kidnapped. There is quite an eclectic group of suspects, and the Spitz couple have a friend to rescue with their usual mix of clumsy luck and occasional moments of impressive deduction.

The plot needs some work, but the leads are actually pretty entertaining. Nick and Audrey end up being rather likeable for the audience. Mark Strong’s casting is rather interesting, but it works well in this somewhat madcap romp. It’s another film where the success of the jokes is a little spotty. I did like the moments where Nick seemed like he could actually hold his own in a fight at times. Jennifer Aniston doesn’t really show a lot of range here, but she was still fun to watch. Aniston and Sandler do seem to work well together. The movie overall isn’t all that great, but it’s still not a total disaster. It’s a reasonably enjoyable diversion that requires a massive yet somehow still manageable amount of suspension of disbelief. I would just say check it out, get a few chuckles for the day, and move on.

Film Review: The Galaxy Still Needs Guarding

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 is the latest offering from Marvel Studios. The film is written and directed by James Gunn. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementiaff, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel return as the ragtag, eclectic team of self-styled protectors. New additions to the cast include Will Poulter, Chukwudi Iwuji, Nathan Fillion, and Elizabeth Dibicki.

Poulter plays this absurdly powerful, yet immature being named Adam Warlock who attacks the Guardians. He is warded off, but not before Rocket the Raccoon is critically injured. Pratt’s Peter Quill is mourning the loss of Gamora, who has returned as a younger version of herself and does not remember their previous relationship. The need to save Rocket, who is voiced by Bradley Cooper, does bring him back to sobriety and galvanizes Quill, aka Star-Lord, to his more familiar, reckless antics to save his friend. During this crisis, Rocket’s past is revealed. He was a simple raccoon who was experimented on by Iwuji’s mad scientist character known as the High Evolutionary. The audience gets an extended look at Rocket’s past before he became a founding member of the Guardians. The flashbacks are kind of interesting if one doesn’t mind a lot of talking animals.

The basic plot is a pretty simple, well-used one, but it works. The performances are quite solid, especially from the main cast, but they have been doing this a while. The humor is still mostly effective here. Not everything in the movie makes sense, but it is a comic book film, and this series can’t resist a gag, even if it distracts a little from the story. I wasn’t exactly welling up, but there were a few moments that were kind of moving in a somewhat surprising way. Bautista’s sometimes buffoonish Drax got a pretty unexpectedly sweet moment where the audience was reminded of what he had lost in his past before he became a Guardian.

This is being billed as the last film to feature the Guardians, and if so, it concludes on a mostly high note. It gets a little overstuffed with silly action sequences at times. I did rather like Iwuji’s performance as the High Evolutionary who actually was pretty convincing as his character went from seemingly contemplative compassion to murderous rage. The final confrontation between Rocket and the High Evolutionary did not disappoint.

Overall, the movie felt like it dragged on a bit too long at times, but it was mostly a pretty fun experience. The enjoyment of the chemistry between the cast does outweigh most of the criticisms I had of the film, and I think the more passionate fans of the series would have little reason to be disappointed.

Film Review: Father Gabriele May Need Some Extra Holy Water For This One

The Pope’s Exorcist is a supernatural horror film directed by Julius Avery. Michael Petroni and Evan Spiliotopoulos. Russell Crowe stars in the lead role as Father Gabriele Amorth, who apparently served as the Pope’s head exorcist for many years. He wrote a couple of books, and this film is based on one of his recorded cases. I suspect it is very loosely based on one of these cases. Anyway, the cast includes Daniel Zovatto, Alex Essoe, Franco Nero, and Ralph Ineson.

A young widow brings her children to a Spanish abbey, which was bequeathed to her late husband. She plans to have it restored and sold. There is a demonic presence who has other ideas and takes possession of the young boy was with his father when he was killed in a car accident. Father Gabriele is sent at the request of a young local priest whose attempt at an exorcism did not go so well. Gabriele is facing his own challenges in the Church when he was being questioned about a supposed unauthorized exorcism. He is soon convinced that he is dealing with a very powerful demon, and the two priests will have their work cut out for them.

This falls short of being a remarkable film, but I sort of liked it because Father Gabriele is a bit more assured than many other protagonists in this sort of film. Gabriele also displays flashes of humor throughout the film. He is a man who carries some guilt over some past mistakes, as we all do. The younger priest has some skeletons of his own as well. Anyway, Crowe is a very competent actor and does well in spite of a somewhat inconsistent script. The special effects were pretty good. There was not much unique about the demon portrayed here. Some of the usual tropes showed up such as alarming bodily contortions and loads of profanity coming from the mouths of children. I did like there was a bit of a mystery to unravel as to the history of the abbey and of course, the identity of the demon. The story did affirm the power of faith in Jesus Christ, which was nice. Some of the gore seemed to be a bit unnecessary, but I am not one that is squeamish. Really, the whole thing was rather mediocre, but Russell Crow and a somewhat uniquely pleasant and humorous exorcist helps this stand out a little. As far as possession films go, The Pope’s Exorcist is one of the better ones.

Film Review: There’s Only John Wick, The Killer

John Wick: Chapter 4 is an action film with Keanu Reeves reprising his role of John Wick, one of the most prolific retired assassins in cinematic lore. The script, such as it is, is written by Shay Hatten and Michael Finch. Chad Stahelski is in the director’s chair. Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Bill Skarsgard, Donnie Yen, and the recently deceased Lance Reddick are included in the cast. This film and continues and probably concludes John Wick’s efforts to break free from the secret, deadly organization known as the High Table.

The High Table is still gunning for John Wick after his wife’s murder. Wick decides that he can only be free from this group if he puts down a leader known as Marquis de Gramont, played by Bill Skarsgard. He also has to dodge a hefty bounty on his head. Old friends, like Donnie Yen’s Caine, are also dispatched to take Wick off the board. Another anonymous tracker joins in the chase alongside an obedient, yet vicious canine. This whole thing is just insane with the number of bullets flying and bodies dropping.

In spite of occasional drifts into incoherence, I found myself enjoying the impossible spectacle. John Wick is a somewhat interesting character even though he says very little. My favorite supporting character is the blind, yet still deadly Caine. Caine is pretty reluctant to be pitted against his old friend, Wick, but ends up unleashing his lethal talents, nonetheless. It was also good to see Clancy Brown as someone called the Harbinger. The whole movie is completely absurd and makes little sense, but the performances help keep it strangely engaging. The over complicated fight scenes were hilarious and captivating. I found myself imagining the challenge of rehearsing all of those antics. The caliber of actors involved in this installment of the franchise was interesting.

The movie is a little long, and I did get a little worn out with the length of some of the action sequences. I understand that the producers wanted to make this an epic addition to the franchise, but films of this genre have a tendency to risk the wavering of an audience’s attention the closer the run time gets to the three-hour mark.

In spite of the relentless violence and absurd plot, one can still have a good time with this in the right frame of mind and is part of a particular fanbase.

Film Review: Brahms Finds A New Friend To Possess

Brahms: The Boy II is a horror film written by Stacey Menear and directed by William Brent Bell. Katie Holmes, Owain Yeoman, Christopher Convery, and Ralph Ineson are included in the cast. It is a sequel to a film called The Boy, in case that was not obvious to anyone.’

A young family has a quite nice life England that is abruptly shattered by a violent home invasion. The young boy, Jude, is stricken with selective mutism and now communicates by pen and paper. The concerned father convinces his family to try a respite in the countryside. Of course, there is a spooky, abandoned mansion nearby. That should have been the first clue for this family. Jude finds an antique, porcelain doll buried in the ground. The mother cleans it off and straightens the tie and finds that it seems to be harmless, welcome company for her traumatized son. She certainly gets that wrong. The doll is known as Brahms and houses an ancient evil behind its blank stare. The trouble brought on by a couple of house breakers is pretty small potatoes compared to the chaos Brahms can bring down on this family.

Demonic dolls are not really a new trick for this genre, and there is no real genius behind the conception of Brahms. I have a soft spot in my heart for spooky English mansions, so I can’t bring myself to totally trash this film. Unfortunately, there is not enough to really encourage anyone to put much of an effort to see this thing either. The visual effects were well done, but that’s hardly a surprise these days. I was reading that Katie Holmes was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for worst actress. I am not sure that is really fair, since I fault the writing more than the performances. Nobody really stood out as a brilliant actor; however, I think they tried. I am not exactly sure that I can buy into the selective mutism being the result of the trauma at the beginning of the film. I understand this genre requires an incredible amount of suspension of disbelief, but I just couldn’t muster up the interest.

Film Review: Enola Holmes Has A New Game Afoot

Enola Holmes 2 is a mystery film based on the series of novels written by Nancy Springer. Jack Thorne is the screenwriter with Harry Bradbeer in the director’s seat. Millie Bobby Brown returns to the titular role. Henry Cavill serves up his version of the master detective, Sherlock Holmes, Enola’s older brother. Louis Partridge, Helena Bonham Carter, Hannah Dodd, and Susie Wokoma are also included in the cast. Sharon Duncan-Brewster and David Thewlis also add their talents.

Enola has decided to start her own detective agency, however it is Victorian London, so not many potential clients have much faith in the abilities of a young girl. When a younger girl shows up right when Enola is being forced to shut down her efforts, the business gets a shot in the arm. Bessie Chapman is wanting to find her sister who has gone missing. Sherlock Holmes has been engaged to hunt a blackmailer of government officials and has an uncharacteristic roadblock in his efforts. Enola’s case brings her in the path of her brother. The Holmes siblings discover that their cases are connected. A secret enemy lurks in the shadows, and a corrupt police superintendent has his own reasons to stop them. Enola finds new enemies out to stop her, but some old friends are also in her corner as well as her formidable brother.

This was a fairly charming cinematic effort, but it is not too memorable. Brown does appear to be a great casting choice. She slips back into the role effortlessly. I still found it hard to stay all that engaged at times. The plot touches on a real historical strike of a match company. Dodd’s character, Sarah Chapman, was apparently a real person who led one of the early strikes against a company in 1888. That was kind of interesting to realize.

This movie ends up not being terrible, but it falls pretty short of being terrific.

Film Review: Adonis Creed Isn’t Quite Done Yet

Creed III is a continuation of the Rocky franchise and stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed. The script is written by Zach Baylin and Keenan Coogler with Ryan Coogler getting some credit for the story. Jordan also serves as director. Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris are included in the cast. Jonathan Majors plays the old childhood friend who has a score to settle with retired boxer, Adonis Creed.

Creed is retired from the ring and runs a boxing academy and is living the life as wealthy husband and father. Mila Davis-Kent joins the cast as the young daughter of Adonis and Bianca. She’s appropriately cute and charming and does well. Bianca has some difficulty with her hearing, and it seems that the daughter has inherited the problem as well. In spite of the parenting challenges, Adonis seems to have done well for himself and is trying to leave a troubled childhood in the past. Except the past shows back up in the form of “Diamond Dame” Anderson, a childhood friend of Adonis’. I guess they were actually foster brothers. Anderson has just been released from prison and wants to resume a boxing career that was curtailed by his legal troubles. Adonis seems willing to help out an old friend, however Anderson isn’t exactly truthful about the reasons to his reaching out. The reunion goes a bit awry, which leads to Creed and Anderson settling their past in the ring.

First of all, Jordan remains quite compelling in this role, as expected. I am not too familiar with Jonathan Majors, but he turned out to be an excellent casting choice as the embittered Damian Anderson. It was great to see Wood Harris and Phylicia Rashad as well. Tessa Thompson remains as gorgeous and talented as ever. There were some interesting flashbacks to Creed’s childhood as well. The absence of Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa ended up not being too noticeable due to the strong performances of the main cast. The script was not free of some irritating plot holes, which

Book Review: Death Frozen Solid

Iceberg is an early adventure novel by Clive Cussler and features Major Dirk Pitt of the National Underwater and Marine Agency. Cussler has been quite an acclaimed author in the adventure genre for decades. This novel was first published in 1975.

A luxury yacht frozen in in ice is found in the North Atlantic. Dirk Pitt is able to board and found that the crew was burned alive while at their posts. Pitt finds himself at odds with dangerous Russian crime bosses and few other nefarious characters. He loses a friend in the process and takes a nasty beating a time or two. Nothing that Major Pitt can’t handle.

I think I need to accept the likelihood that I am not going to be a Clive Cussler fan. The story had some promising elements such as a ship trapped in ice and full of corpses. How could that go wrong? It’s not that Cussler is a bad writer here. I just found Pitt to be a pretty standard action hero without much nuance or eccentricities to make him all that riveting. Of course, this is only the third entry into a very long series. I don’t begrudge Cussler his overall success and popularity, but I have some doubts that this novel was major contributing factor to all of that. The novel is merely an adequate diversion.

Next up, Tim Major has made another visit to 221 B Baker Street and presents a new Sherlock Holmes novel entitled The Defaced Men.

Film Review: Dangerous Blondes For An Old Gumshoe

Marlowe is an old-fashioned thriller directed by Neil Jordan and written by William Monahan. It is based on the novel, The Black-Eyed Blonde, by John Banville. Liam Neeson is in the lead as Raymond Chandler’s best known literary creation, private eye Philip Marlowe. Diane Kruger, Alan Cumming, Jessica Lange, and Colm Meaney are also included in the cast.

Marlowe receives an enticing visitor in the form of a gorgeous blonde who wants to hire him to find a former lover. What seems to be a pretty straight forward assignment gets more complicated as Marlowe encounters shady Hollywood types and crime bosses. His client’s mother wants to hire Marlowe for her own devious reasons. Marlowe risks his life for what could be his most dangerous client.

I love Philip Marlowe. I love this genre of film. I usually enjoy Liam Neeson films. The problem is that I did not enjoy this movie all that much. I found it slow at times. None of the characters were very interesting. Alan Cumming’s role was somewhat engaging. I am not sure that I could buy into Neeson as Philip Marlowe. He seemed to be phoning in this performance somehow. The costume design and setting were eye-catching enough. This is another film that manages to not be utterly terrible, however I was underwhelmed by this latest iteration. Some elements of the film sort of worked sometimes, but it wasn’t enough for me to regret the occasional moments where I zoned out.