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
I AM THE FIRST ONE TO wear gloves and earmuffs in late autumn and I am the last to stop wearing them in the early part of spring. So, it made sense for me to agree to fly out of the cold winter weather and stay at a resort on a Caribbean Island. My only hesitation was the fact that I would be on the resort’s property for the entire time. I usually am not that comfortable being thrown in with strangers in a confined area for a lengthy duration of time. On an airplane, it does not bother me to sit among unfamiliar passengers or at a catered affair, where I am seated with strangers at a dinner table. However, being at a resort with the same people day in and day out, was rattling me a bit. On the plus side, the weather was in the 80’s when we landed with bright sunshine. The first night there, introductions were being made at the dinner reception; I was somewhat quiet as I was scanning the room, looking at the variety of individuals in attendance. A woman standing next to me started talking about how the heat was already making her body feel better. I agreed with her and for the next 10 minutes she cited off a list of her ailments and what she was doing to try and remedy them. I couldn’t wait to get away; but wound up seeing her every day, where she gave me an update on her health status. THERE WAS A GENTLEMAN WHO I had met that I tried to avoid as well. He was a boastful, arrogant man who did or did not know he was talking down to people. He was at my table, but you would have thought he was holding court for his subjects. It is a challenge, at least for me, to have a discussion with someone who always thinks they know better. We were talking about fitness, and he had to show me the program he uses to track his fitness progress. Looking at it, I noticed everything he was doing was focused on building up muscle in his body. I asked him what he was doing for his heart, that I did not see any cardio work being done. From that comment, I basically got a lecture about how he does his workouts fast to get his heart involved. He even had to make a point to me that he sweats which I knew was not an indicator of the amount work one was giving to their heart. I already knew better than to try and correct him. Now you know why I am not comfortable being grouped with strangers for an extended amount of time; you never know how things will go. You can see for yourself in this dramatic crime mystery. ENJOYING A WELL-DESERVED VACATION ON a cruise boat took an awful turn for detective Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh (All is True, My Week with Marilyn), when a dead body showed up. With Tom Bateman (Cold Pursuit, Snatched) as Bill, Annette Bening (The Report, The Seagull) as Euphemia Bouc, Russell Brand (Army of One, Arthur) as Windlesham and Michael Rouse (1917, Murder on the Orient Express) as Private Laurin; this movie started out slow for me. The cast was good and some of the sets were beautiful; however, I felt the script pushed most of the excitement to the last half. Though I enjoyed seeing the exotic outdoor scenes, some of them did not look real to me. The other factor that affected me was the lack of excitement throughout most of the film. It goes without saying that Agatha Christie’s book was much better. On the bright side, I only had to be with these strangers for a couple of hours before I got to leave and go back home.
2 ½ stars
IF I DO NOT KNOW AT LEAST several guests at a social function, I feel like I am walking into uncharted territory filled with landmines. It is best to keep one’s guard up when attending such affairs, I have found. The reason I feel this way did not suddenly happen after attending one party; it took my going to several parties and experiencing the full force of passive aggressive guests before I came to this conclusion. Please hear me out before you reach a conclusion. When I do not know people at a party, I tend to be more reserved. I will circulate through the guests before I find a spot that I can claim for myself. As the evening progresses I will either strike up a conversation or a guest will come up to me. During our conversation, the person I am talking to will make an offhanded comment about another guest they tell me they know, maybe about something they are wearing or their physical features. I have learned when someone is expressing a negative comment about someone who is a stranger to you, they are trying to lay some type of groundwork to win you over to their “side.” Do not ask me why this happens but some people feel the need to win over total strangers as some kind of support while they are holding a grudge or feud with the individual. Maybe it is something about “strength in numbers;” I just don’t know. IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS THESE encounters at parties are not a big deal to me because more than likely I will never see these individuals again. However, it is a whole different ballgame when situations like this take place at one’s new place of business. Yuck, it is challenging to walk into a work environment where employees have chosen sides and you are the new neutral country in the middle of their war. The more vigilant employees will use every opportunity to tear down the employee they do not like, by making little comments to you about them. I used to sit next to someone at a job where every day I would have to listen to them make a snide remark about a fellow employee’s work or hygiene or mannerisms or some other such thing; it was exhausting for me. I had no opinion one way or the other; so, my defense was to simply respond with one-word exclamations, like “oh” or “really.” My philosophy was to let their talking go in one ear and out the other; I would form my own opinions. This is something I was trying to do while listening to all the hotel guests in this dramatic, crime mystery. HIRED TO FIND OUT HOW A millionaire received a fake jewel Detective Hercule Poiret, played by Peter Ustinov (Death on the Nile, Logan’s Run), found himself on a small island where a dead body showed up. With Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey, The Lady in the Van) as Daphne Castle, James Mason (A Star is Born, North by Northwest) as Odell Gardener, Nicholas Clay (Excalibur, Zulu Dawn) as Patrick Redfern and Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones-TV, The Painted Veil) as Arlena Stuart Marshall; this film festival nominee’s story was based on Agatha Christie’s novel. Just knowing that will tell you what you are in store for when watching this movie. The cast was eclectic and fun to watch; I enjoyed all the characters, especially the ones of Maggie Smith and Diana Rigg. With such a large cast there were several story lines to follow, but it was easy to do so. Out of the different movies made from Agatha Christie’s novels, I found this screenplay slightly tamer with several bland scenes. The setting was great, the actors were well versed; I only wished there was more suspense and dramatic flair. Still, I enjoyed trying to figure out who committed the crime.
THE SET OF DOORS was still massive looking under the prominent archway sticking out from the building’s façade. Crossing over the threshold the first open area available was a huge lobby. The floor was well worn; the once polished tile was now tired and dull. The ceiling was made up with an elaborate maze of wooden beams that crisscrossed in such a way to form star shapes. Some of the stars had long chandeliers hanging down that threw off just enough light to barely encompass the lobby. There was a grand staircase that started in the middle of the area then swept up like a curl of blonde hair to the 2nd floor. At the top of the staircase just beyond was a wall of stained glass that looked like it was covered in a dark veil; the light coming from behind was no longer strong enough to shine through completely. Behind the staircase on the main floor was a row of doors, each one numbered. NO MATTER WHICH DOOR one walked through, there were railroad tracks waiting on the other side. The platforms were for the most part clear of debris; but there were splotches of dirtiness looking like broken shadows that died on the floor. The lighting was weak, needing the assistance of any light source coming through the glass ceiling above. Not every track had a train unloading or waiting for passengers. As for the train cars that were present, there was not one that did not look like it had gone through some type of battle. With bruises, scrapes and nicks; the cars were so old they would always squeal their aches and pains when leaving the station. Inside the cars one would be challenged to find a seat that did not have a rip in its fabric or graffiti displayed somewhere on the front or back. A passenger’s comfort was not taken into consideration when the cars were manufactured; the main focus was determining how many seats could be stuffed into each car. Seeing the passenger train in this dramatic, crime mystery made me wish I would have had an opportunity to experience such an elegant ride. WHEN ONE PASSENGER WAS found dead in their cabin it was up to Detective Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh (Dunkirk, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) to find the killer before another passenger wound meet the same fate. Based on Agatha Christie’s novel this movie directed by Kenneth Branagh was a beautiful representation of a time long passed. With Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Silent Witness-TV) as Miss Mary Debenham, Leslie Odom Jr. (Red Tails, Person of Interest-TV) as Dr. Arbuthnot, Penelope Cruz (The Counsellor, Head in the Clouds) as Pilar Estravados and Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall) as Hector MacQueen; the cast was filled with heavy hitting actors. I truly enjoyed the way this movie was filmed because it was beautiful to watch. However with the script being so lifeless I had to wonder why the studio hired such a talented cast only to have them do nothing. There were some actors that I cannot recall if they had more than 4 lines; it was silly especially since Kenneth was in almost every scene and in the viewers’ faces. Drama and intensity were missing from this picture. Considering the circumstances taking place there needed to be tension, thrills and excitement; none of that was present in this film. I felt this remake took the story and put it in a pretty package to entice viewers, only to have them open it up and realize they already had seen a better version sometime before.