I WAS NEVER VERY GOOD AT playing mystery games like Clue. Of all the times I played it, I only won the game once. The same holds true for those immersive, staged mystery house events. Though they are exciting and fun, I do not focus on seeking out who is the killer; I am having such a fun time with the experience, along with the visuals and acting, that I get lost into it. In other words, I immerse myself, hence an immersive production. LOL There is something about seeing, what I would consider, average/innocuous events that later turn out to be vital clues to the identity of the murderer. This also applies to mystery books and movies; the way they can pull one into their story and take them on this wild trail of events has always impressed me. As I have been working on this review it has occurred to me, I was a guest at a dinner party where all the guests had to assume the identity of a famous individual. Throughout the meal there were six of us seated around the dining room table; some were talking with an accent and others were conversing with a different sounding voice. I was a well-known television star, so I periodically dropped clues about the type of shirt I was wearing and the landscape of the area I lived in on the TV series. It was not until we were eating dessert before someone correctly guessed my character. WITH MY LOVE OF MYSTERIES, THE one and only time I was in London, England I wanted to see the play The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie. I remember how excited I was to see it, both because it was a murder mystery, and it was being staged in London’s famous West End district. The production checked off all my expectations. And the “piece de resistance” occurred at the end of the show when a cast member came out on stage to ask everyone in the audience to keep secret who was the killer. I thought this was so cool because I felt like I was suddenly part of the production, and my job was not to reveal the murderer. I want you to know I never did reveal the identity of the killer. I find it fascinating that after all these years I am now reviewing a dramatic comedy murder that incorporates The Mousetrap into its story. PLANS WERE IN PLACE TO BRING the play The Mousetrap to the big screen. However, when a cast member was found dead, things had to be placed on hold as an investigation was to take place. The inspector would soon discover it was not easy dealing with theater people. With Adrien Brody (The French Dispatch, American Heist) as Leo Kopernick, David Oyelowo (The Water Man, A United Kingdom) as Mervyn Cocker-Norris, Saoirse Ronan (Mary Queen of Scots, Little Women) as Constable Stalker, Sam Rockwell (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, The Best of Enemies) as Inspector Stoppard and Harris Dickinson (The King’s Man, Beach Rats) as Richard Attenborough; this story based in the 1950s London had all the markings of being a classic “whodunit” type of thriller. The cast filled with well rounded, capable actors were well matched with their characters. I thought the sets and costumes were spot on, giving a perfect retro feel to the story. Sadly, it did not take much detective work to discover the script was a big letdown as was the directing. Things seemed to drag for the first half of the film. Where I normally admire Sam Rockwell’s acting skills, here he seemed to have gotten lost. There was no emotional variance to the scenes which I found boring. Weirdly, I thought Wes Anderson was directing because it certainly was his type of style; but it was not the case. I almost feel like I need to do some detective work to discover who allowed this production to go forward because it really is a mystery to me.
2 ½ stars
THERE ON PAGE 4 OF THE newspaper was my professor’s name. I was excited to see her name right below the title of the news article. She was a cool journalism teacher with a colorful vocabulary. Of course, I had to read what she wrote to see if she practiced what she preached. Her class was my first introduction into journalism; I had not made up my mind if I wanted to be a reporter or a novelist. The college I was attending was known as a “working” school of education. The professors worked in the field they taught. For example, my poetry professor was a famous poet with several published books of poetry. I remember seeing them all lined up on a shelf at a large, national chain bookstore. The journalism teacher was on staff at the newspaper. I still remember how she explained to us how to start writing an article; it was like an upside-down pyramid. The opening line should grab the readers attention, so hit the reader with the facts of the story, starting with the most dramatic one. She also was a stickler for spelling and punctuation, editing our news’ stories with a red inked fountain pen. Periodically, she would surprise us with a scenario she created, and we would have to write up an article as she timed us. It was obvious she loved her work. THE OTHER IMPORTANT THING MY JOURNALISM teacher taught me was the importance of words, that words mattered. She taught us how to remove our feelings from our writing because a journalist’s job was to report the facts. We would have newspapers delivered to the classroom then go through them, dissecting the articles that were city, national or world news. The ones about culture, fashion and sports were rarely needed. Our teacher stressed upon us to choose our adjectives carefully. She would show us by reading an article as written then repeat it with the adjectives changed, to show us how it can change the reader’s perspective. The class truly was a master class in my opinion. And though it was one of my favorite classes my heart yearned more for the fictional verse. I loved creating a picture in people’s minds with my words. Now granted I may not utilize my fictional skills in my reviews, but I still watch what words I choose. Being a reporter is a noble job and I know it has taken a beating the past few years. Some of the blame honestly is justified. Seeing how the newspapers I read carry the same story but based on who owns the newspaper, there may be a different slant to the story. However, a reporter’s job is to report the news and that is why I was happy watching this inventive film. AN AMERICAN NEWSPAPER WITH AN OFFICE in France is determined to report the stories. The reporters would go to any lengths to get the story. With Benicio Del Toro (No Sudden Move, A Perfect Day) as Moses Rosenthaler, Adrien Brody (Manhattan Night, The Pianist) as Julian Cadazio, Tilda Swinton (A Bigger Splash, I Am Love) as J.K.L. Berensen, Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, Midnight in Paris) as Simone and Frances McDormand (Burn After Reading, Nomadland) as Lucinda Krementz; this dramatic comedy romance was a kaleidoscope of visual treats. The scenery and use of color kept me attentive to what was taking place in the scenes. The other aspect that grabbed my attention was the abundance of actors in the story. Though some were utilized more than others, I still enjoyed watching them. It did take me time to get into the movie. A quarter to a third way in things started to click for me. The story is a tribute to journalists, told in a fun and entertaining way. If you are a fan of Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Isle of Dogs) then you will enjoy this film; if you are not, I do not believe you will be as entertained.
There are some things we think we have let go of but they have only settled somewhere in the still pools of our mind. They live submerged, below the surface while consciousness sails above it. A person cannot say their life is unaffected by it taking up residence inside of them because while it lives in the unconscious depths, it asserts its presence onto random decisions that one makes in life. Not only have I seen the results of this arrangement but I have experienced it myself. There was a person I knew who was in an abusive relationship. Once they were able to disentangle themselves from the abuser I noticed several decisions they made came from a weak position. In other words, they never gave enough credit to their true abilities; as if they were not worthy or good enough for something better. I had to point it out and encouraged them to seek out help since their psyche had been beaten down for so long. As for myself there was a period of time where I had to endure emotional trauma. The way it affected me was through migraine headaches. I would get these at the same period of time like clockwork. Now I know other individuals who suffered from re-occurring nightmares, where they could not understand why they were getting them. I shared the information I got from my schooling, where we were taught that the main character of a dream is a representation of ourselves. It really is amazing what the mind can do to a person. PSYCHOLOGIST Peter Bower, played by Adrien Brody (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Pianist), stumbled onto an odd discovery about his patients; they all had something in common. Written and directed by Michael Petroni (The Book Thief, Queen of the Damned), this mystery thriller had the good fortune of having Adrien in the lead role. I thought he brought intensity to the story that was at best average. The reason I say this is due to the idea of it; this picture felt like a light version of a theme that had been done several times before. Included in the cast was Sam Neill (Jurassic Park franchise, Event Horizon) as Duncan Stewart and Robin McLeavy (The Loved Ones, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) as Barbara Henning. The movie as a whole had a good look to it that matched the emotional darkness on display. However, I felt drama was lacking in the scenes; there could have been a heightened level of it given to the characters. This movie kept my interest for the most part, even though it started out slow. I also was surprised with the turn of events in the story. I would have to say this is not a film that one needs to run out and see; instead, it would work just as well waiting to see it in the comfort of your home.
The passage of time quickly vanishes any time one sees the person responsible for them having stored inside of themself fond memories. It does not matter if it is a real or fictional person; the fun feelings do not discriminate. It is like this old friend I have who lives across the country from me. We may not talk or see each other for months and months, but as soon as we do it seems as if we had just been together a day or two before. That bond we formed decades ago continues just as flexible and permanent as it did back then. I experienced a similar reaction when I saw some of my classmates when I attended my high school reunion recently. It is relatively easy for me to attach these types of feelings onto an actress or actor based on their screen roles. There is one actress I am especially fond of because I know every time I go to see one of her movies I will never be disappointed by her performance. Even if the film is not that good, she still shines in it. This explains why some people do not bother reading reviews (except for mine I hope) when their favorite movie star is in the cast, since they are going to see them anyway. It does not matter what genre or time period; the feelings people have for their actors never waivers unless something blatant changes their opinion. For me, once I saw one of the actors in this action adventure film I was reminded of his comical martial arts skills. VITAL for continued growth throughout the region Hua An, played by Jackie Chan (Rush Hour franchise, Shanghai Knights), and his band of trained warriors would stop at nothing to protect the Silk Road. When a new threat appeared, Hua An would need to forge alliances between warring factions if he wanted to keep the road from falling into enemy forces. This award winning drama was filled with massive, spectacular fight scenes. Seeing Jackie back on screen after all this time was fun to see. His style of martial arts always had a comical goofiness to it. Where someone like Bruce Lee was always serious in his fighting, Jackie comes across as if he stumbled in the situation; he incorporates any and all objects around him into the fight. With John Cusack (Maps to the Stars, Love & Mercy) as General Lucius and Adrien Brody (The Pianist, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Tiberius, the three of them could have done so much better if the story was not so over the top filled with melodrama. For such an historical moment, the script did not do anyone justice here. If it was not for my fond memories of this type of action hero movie, I would have been bored. There was blood and violence throughout the film.
They live in my head and do everything I tell them to do. Some of them may have started out as real people like my very 1st friend who lived in the same apartment building where I was born. We were preschool age, but I still remember when we shared a box of colored dog biscuits, thinking they were just extra hard cookies. Over the years that memory was manipulated to fit into a story I was working on for college. I have many fictional characters that reside in my mind, ready to be employed for an article, a story or even just a mental exercise to keep my imagination active. This is the life of a writer or at least of me. Having a dominant right sided brain, my life has always traveled along the perimeter between reality and fantasy. It was a world I was always attracted to because of its ability to be both a crowded and lonely place at the same time. The world inside a writer’s mind can be as present and alive as our daily lives. Liam Neeson (Non-Stop, The Grey) played Michael, an author who traveled to Paris to work on a new book and be with his mistress Anna, played by Olivia Wilde (Rush, In Time). During the same time there were two other stories taking place in this romantic drama. In New York City Julia and Rick, played by Mila Kunis (Black Swan, Ted) and James Franco (This is the End, Palo Alto), were in a bitter custody battle after their son was injured. The third story took place in Rome where Adrien Brody (King Kong, The Pianist) was Scott, a businessman of knockoff designer wear who got involved with a troubled woman who was desperately trying to get her daughter back before being forced into prostitution. The acting was alive and engaging in all three stories, though I found the Mila and James story the strongest. With attractive settings the overall look to this film was pleasing to me; however, it only went so far before the weight of the lumbering script dulled the viewing experience. Written and directed by Paul Haggis (Crash, In the Valley of Elah) I found the stories repetitive. It really felt like the drama went to a certain level and remained there with no variance. I was able to follow all three stories as their scenes switched back and forth between them and figured out relatively early what was going to happen. By the end of the film I did not feel completely satisfied. The concept of peering into a writer’s mind was an excellent idea; in my mind, I would have done a major rewrite of the script.
It was a time where the words “please” and “thank you” were freely given in a sentence. Kind gestures were evident everywhere we went throughout the building. With passports in hand, a group of us went out of the country for a convention being held in a regal old hotel. Wide and majestic with its granite facade and elongated windows, the hotel had several flags waving above the doorway as if they were greeting every hotel guest. Inside the floor was fitted with a combination of huddled polished gold edged tiles that looked like reflective pools surrounded by the plush, deep red carpeting that swallowed up noises from everyone’s shoes. The lobby had an ample crystal chandelier that cast just enough light to make the room glow as if the sun was setting behind the woven tapestry that hung across the far western wall. For the duration of the convention no matter how loud or rowdy the guests became, the hotel staff never once judged or showed a disapproving face. It was when the Grand Budapest Hotel first appeared on the movie screen in this comedic drama that I recalled my memory of that trip. The difference between the two hotels was that mine sat in the heart of a large city and it did not have a murder occur within its walls. From writer and director Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom), this visually stimulating film grabbed me from the very beginning. No need to worry if visuals are not your cup of tea because the story had a creative zaniness that was elevated by the fine acting from the cast. Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, Skyfall) was outstanding as the famous hotel concierge Gustave H. Adrien Brody (The Pianist, Cadillac Records) as Dmitri, Willem Dafoe (Out of the Furnance, The Walker) as Jopling and relative newcomer Tony Revolori (The Perfect Game) as Zero Moustafa were only part of the wonderful cast that Wes assembled for this fun film. The story was a story within a story that was easy to follow. When a wealthy guest of the hotel was found murdered, the authorities believed Gustave H was to blame. What took place after were a series of screwball chases and plot twists that hearkened back to the madcap comedy movies made in the 1930s and 40s. Each scene had its own unique individualized detailing where I felt I was looking through a series of paintings. If you are not a fan of Wes Anderson, I think the cast could still win you over. As far as I was concerned I was willing to book a room at the hotel in this film festival winner.
3 2/3 stars
I thought I had seen everything one could at a movie theater. From the first time where we were being told “don’t go into the water,” to a father in the audience tossing his infant baby in the air during the movie; there was very little left to surprise me. Walking into the showing of this so called comedy, I was stunned to see the theater totally empty. This did not bode well as I was the only one who sat and watched what was to become an abysmal film. Matt Bush (Piranha 3DD, Halloween II) played valedictorian Matt Bush who schemed to get the whole student body stoned before a drug test was to be administered. He wanted to invalidate the results, since he had just gotten stoned for the very first time and did not want to jeopardize his school ranking and face expulsion. I found the story dopey, void of anything humorous. A bigger shock to me than being the only one in the theater was seeing Adrien Brody (The Pianist, Midnight in Paris) and Michael Chiklis ( The Shield-TV, Fantastic Four franchise) in this crappy film. Either they are being blackmailed for some career ruining dastardly deed or their managers wanted to get out with an early retirement. I think a petition should be started to revoke Adrien’s Oscar, shame on him. Not that I am promoting drinking or drugs, but maybe that was the target audience the producers were going after. I nominate this stink bomb of a movie for worst movie of the year at the Razzie awards.
1 1/4 stars