Trailer: The King’s Man


I love the Kingsman series. It looks like we have a third installment to the series, with a prequel showcasing the origins of the secret agent organization. Ralph Fiennes, Tom Hollander, Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who also worked with director Matthew Vaughn in Kick-Ass), Gemma Arterton, Daniel Bruhl, Djimon Hounsou, Charles Dance, Matthew Goode, and Stanley Tucci are all on board.

The King’s Man is due out February of 2020.

Film Review: Murder Mystery (dir by Kyle Newacheck)


There are actually two Adam Sandlers.

First, there’s the Adam Sandler that everyone knows.  This Adam Sandler is the comedian who has won multiple Razzie awards and who has produced and starred in some of the most critically derided comedies of all time.  This is the Adam Sandler who often seems to make movies specifically so he can either take a vacation or give some work to the less successful members of his entourage.  This is the Adam Sandler whose movies were cited as a tool of patriarchal oppression in the “cool girl” speech during Gone Girl.

And then there’s another Adam Sandler.  This Adam Sandler is a sad-eyed character actor who is probably one of modern cinema’s best portrayers of existential malaise.  This is the Adam Sandler who starred in movies like Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, Funny People, Spanglish, The Cobbler, Men, Women, and Children, and The Meyerowitz Stories.  Some of those films were very good and some of them, admittedly, were very bad but what they all had in common was that they featured Adam Sandler giving a surprisingly good dramatic performance.  In fact, if someone only saw Adam Sandler’s dramatic work (and not his work in films like Jack and Jill or Grown-Ups, to cite just two examples), they would be justified in assuming that Sandler was one of the most acclaimed actors around.  (One reason why we get so much more annoyed with Sandler’s bad comedies — as opposed to all the other equally bad comedies out there — is because we actually have evidence that Sandler’s capable of doing so much better.)

Unfortunately, almost all of Sandler’s dramatic films were box office disappointments.  Punch-Drunk Love is now widely viewed as being a classic but, when it was first released, it failed to even recoup its production budget at the box office.  Audiences consistently indicated they preferred silly Adam Sandler to dramatic Adam Sandler and so, Sandler continued to make silly theatrical films until even those started to bring in less money than they had before.

As of now, Sandler does most of his work for Netflix and the results have been mixed.  His performance in The Meyerowitz Stories was rightfully acclaimed while his comedies have been considerably less celebrated.  And then you have the just-released Murder Mystery, which seems to straddle the line between the two Sandlers.

On the one hand, Murder Mystery is just as silly and implausible as a typical Adam Sandler comedy.  Sandler plays a New York police officer named Nick Spitz.  Nick has failed his detective’s exam three times but that still hasn’t stopped him from telling his wife, Audrey (Jennifer Aniston), that he’s been promoted.  Nick’s living a lie and he deals with his guilt by taking Audrey on a long-promised trip to Europe.  On the flight over, Audrey meets the charming and wealthy Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans) who invites Audrey and Nick to a party on his family’s yacht.  The yacht is owned by billionaire Malcolm Quince (Terrence Stamp) and, when Malcolm’s murdered during the party, it’s up to fake Detective Nick to figure out who is responsible!

Was it the glamorous actress, Grace (Gemma Arterton)?  Or the handsome race car driver, Juan Carlos (Luis Gerardo Mendez)?  Or how about the genocidal warlord, Colonel Ulenga (John Kani)?  Of course, the local Interpol detective (Dany Boon) thinks that it was Nick and Audrey and he even threatens to reveal that Nick’s been lying about his job!  Can Nick and Audrey solve the murder and rekindle the romance of their stalled marriage?

As I said, it’s all pretty silly.  Most of the film’s humor comes from just how out-of-place Nck and Audrey are in the world of high society.  Audrey is excited because the murder mystery is just like the plot of one of the paperback novels that she likes to read.  Nick spends most of the movie trying to keep his wife from discovering the truth about his job.  While everyone else is scheming and plotting and trying to kill one another, Nick and Audrey are literally searching Wikipedia for information on all the suspects.  It’s dumb and occasionally amusing and it’s also rather innocent.  If your grandmother ever wants to watch a comedy with you, Murder Mystery would probably be the one to go with.  There’s nothing to offend grandma but, at the same time, the shots of Monaco and Italy are nice to look at and the film is occasionally amusing enough to hold your attention.

Interestingly, even though the film’s a silly comedy, Sandler gives one of his more grounded performances.  There’s no silly voices or sudden yelling or any of the typical Sandler shtick.  Instead, he’s rather subdued and it works for the film.  He and Jennifer Aniston (another performer who often seems to settle for material that’s beneath what she’s capable of) make for a likable and believable couple and they both play off each other well.

Murder Mystery is a likable, lightweight comedy.  It’s not necessarily something that you’re going to remember much about after you watch it, of course.  It’s not that type of film.  Instead, it’s a perfect Netflix film.  It’s entertaining but you can do other stuff while you’re watching it without having to worry about accidentally missing a brilliant moment of cinematic history.

As for Adam Sandler, he’s following this up with Uncut Gems, a crime drama from the Safdie Brothers.  The Safdie Brothers worked wonders with Robert Pattinson in 2017’s Good Time.  So, who knows?  This time next year, Adam Sandler could be the new Superman….

Horror Film Review: The Girl With All The Gifts (dir by Colm McCarthy)


It says a lot about the state of things that movies about the end of the world have recently become not just popular but also extremely plausible.  It seems like every time I look at a list of upcoming films, I see predictions of fear, desperation, and apocalypse.  Almost every end of the world scenario now seems to come with zombies.  Perhaps people are taking that famous line from Dawn of the Dead to heart.  When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk with Earth.

The British film The Girl With All The Gifts is one of the latest examples of the apocalyptic genre.  It has everything that we’ve come to expect from films like this: flesh-craving zombies, blighted urban landscapes, soldiers trying to maintain order as the world collapses into chaos, sinister scientists, children faced with rebuilding the world, and that one lone idealist who doesn’t want to give up on the present.  It’s a familiar story but The Girl With All The Gifts tells it well.

In this case, the end of the world has been brought about by a fungal infection.  Those afflicted not only lose the ability to think but are also transformed into flesh-eating maniacs.  Interestingly enough, the term zombie is never used in the film.  Instead, the infected are called “the hungries.”  I assume that’s because the infected aren’t actually the living dead.  In fact, even after transforming them, the infection still eventually kills them.

(If you really want to freak yourself out while watching The Girl With All The Gifts, consider that the fungal infection is actual thing, though it only affects carpenter ants.  For now…)

In an isolated army base, a group of children are kept in cells and guarded over by soldiers, like the gruff Sgt. Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine).  They are experimented on by scientists, like Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close).  And they are taught by a kind-hearted teacher named Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton).  One of the most intelligent of the children is Melanie (Sennia Nanua), who often asks Helen to tell the class a story.

The children are often bound and required to wear masks.  The adults are under strict orders not to touch or even get too close to the children.  Why?  Because the children are hungry too.  Born after the end of the world, the children are unique in that they crave flesh but they also retain the ability to think and speak.  The soldiers view them as freaks and potential enemies.  Dr. Caldwell views them as test subjects.  Only Helen views them as children.

You can probably already guess where this is going.  When the hungries overrun the army base, only a small group of people manage to escape — Helen, Dr. Caldwell, Sgt. Parks, another solider, and Melanie.  They eventually make it to London, which is now overgrown with vegetation.  Some of the film’s most haunting and tense moments come as the group attempts to maneuver through a crowd of docile, unsimulated hungries.  They know that making the wrong move or the least little sound will result in the hungries waking up and attacking.

It’s in London that a lot is revealed about both the nature of the disease and why Melanie is, as the title states, the girl with all the gifts.

For the most part, it’s all very well done.  The film has such a strong opening and powerful ending that it’s easy to forgive the fact that the middle of the film occasionally drags.  Director Colm McCarthy creates some haunting images of the post-apocalyptic world and, even if he does borrow a bit heavily from 28 Days Later, at least he’s borrowing from the best.  He makes good use of his cast, too.  Glenn Close is as perfectly sinister as Gemma Arterton is perfectly idealistic.  Sennia Nanua is both sympathetic and a little bit frightening as the girl who might eat you as quickly as she might save you.

The Girl With All The Gifts is a good movie but it left me feeling incredibly depressed.  Post-apocalyptic ruin no longer seems as safely far-fetched as it once did.

The Girl With All The Gifts Gives A Glimpse of A Hungry, Dystopian Future


TheGirlWithAllTheGifts

Several years ago, a video games was released for the PS4 that took on the zombie survival horror genre and put a new twist on it. The game was called The Last of Us. It was a game set in a post-apocalyptic Earth where an unknown fungal infection had decimated the world’s population by turning those it infected into mutated creatures with a taste for living flesh.

There’s been talk of turning the game into a live-action film, but things never progressed beyond the concept and pre-development stage. The game’s narrative does lend itself well into being a live-action film.

Now let’s move up a few more years. The year 2014 to be exact and we see comic book writer and novelist M.R. Carey release a novel titled The Girl with All The Gifts. It’s a novel which shares the detail of a fungal infection creating zombie-like creatures (called “hungries” in the book and film) from those who become infected. Outside of that important detail the novel and the game only share the post-apocalyptic setting.

The novel was so well-received by critics and readers alike that plans to adapt the book into a live-action film was made soon after it’s release. While the live-action plans for The Last of Us languishes in development hell, it looks like we’ll finally be able to see something similar with the soon-to-be released film The Girl with All The Gifts.

The film stars newcomer Sennia Nanua as the titular girl with all the gifts with veteran actors such as Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton and Paddy Considine backing her up. As the so-called zombie fatigue (maybe for some general audiences but definitely not to most horror fans) begin to set in, it’s stories like The Last of Us and The Girl with All The Gifts that continues to breathe in new life into a sub-genre of horror storytelling to keep it going strong.

The Girl with All The Gifts is set to hit the theaters on September 23, 2016.

James Bond Review: Quantum of Solace (dir. by Marc Foster)


So, here we are at the end of all things.

About 22 days ago, The Shattered Lens started a project to cover all of the Bond Films in order leading up to the release of the 23rd film, Skyfall. Spearheaded by Lisa Marie and Arleigh, It’s been a fun ride seeing everyone’s thoughts on James Bond over the movies and it’s cool to know that after 50 years, they still (well, most of them) hold their own. Today, we cover the second Daniel Craig film, Quantum of Solace.

Quantum of Solace reunites the same writing team from Casino Royale – Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis (Academy Award Winner for 2006’s Crash), and brings on Monster’s Ball director Marc Foster for filming duties. As far as I can tell, it seems to be the first 007 film to start not far from the previous film ended. Literally, there could be a 20 minute difference between the end events of Casino Royale and the opening sequence here. The movie veers away from the classic gun barrel sequence and gets the audience right into the action with Bond avoiding villains in his Aston Martin DBS. The chase leads into a quarry, where he manages to get rid of his opponents. It’s only when he arrives in an unknown location within Siena, Italy that we find he’s had Mr. White in the trunk of his car the entire time. Mr. White was the individual that Bond wounded and introduced himself at the end of Casino Royale.

We basically find James Bond dealing with the loss of Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), and though she never makes any kind of appearance in the film, her presence (or lack thereof) is certainly felt. While Quantum of Solace has some remarkable scenes, for me it suffered from at least one major problem early on. Near the beginning of the film, after the credits, there is a chase between Bond and a villian, as always. At the same time, we’re given shots of a bullfight that’s occurring. While I understand that we’re supposed to see the similarities between both actions, I felt as if I was being pulled away from the story at hand. Foster does this a number of times, including one in the middle of an opera scene. That seemed really strange to me, though others may appreciate it.

Bond is told by M (Dame Judi Dench), after securing Mr. White that she has a lead on Vesper’s boyfriend, but also believes that he’s not quite dead. She asks Bond to leave it alone, but being someone who sees things through, he takes a copy of his photograph. It’s revealed that Mr. White is part of a larger group called Quantum, similar to SPECTRE in some respects. Although Bond loses Mr. White, he gets a clue that leads him to Haiti.

The Haiti sequences were done prior to the earthquake that happened there, and it makes Quantum of Solace one of the last films to show how that area looked before the devastation. 007 is able to find his suspect, but in the course of fighting, he kills him. This becomes something of a thread in Quantum of Solace. Just about anyone that Bond encounters is either killed by him or because of him and at some point, restraint needs to be made. At some point, it goes so far that it becomes something of a “Bond Goes Rogue” tale in the vein of License to Kill. There’s a slight reference to The Spy Who Loved Me with a rooftop fall that’s interesting, as well as a great one for the movie Goldfinger. The Craig Bond stories seem to want to make sure they remind us of all the films before it, though it’s hardly the first 007 story to do so.

The Bond Girls in Quantum of Solace are Olga Kurlyenko and Gemma Arterton. Kurlyenko’s Camille has a mission of her own, as she’s trying to avenge the death of her mother. Arterton’s character, Miss Fields (who’s first name I believe may be Strawberry, but don’t quote me on that) is send in by MI6 to bring Bond back in for debriefing (as he’s been avoiding M’s requests). The actual villain of the movie is played by Mathieu Amalric (Munich), who is more of a hands-off baddie with tons of henchmen at his side.

The problem I had with Quantum of Solace is that it seemed like the Vesper angle was a side note. Yes, we know Quantum is out there, and we learn there’s a plot to control the water of a small area, but outside of all that, it didn’t seem like much of a revenge story. This is unless, of course, it wasn’t meant to be. I’m not a big fan of Quantum of Solace overall. It’s not as bad as Die Another Day (which a number of people consider to be one of the worst) by a longshot, but after what we were given in Casino Royale, it almost seems like it builds on things in the wrong direction.

This weekend, Skyfall is out, and by the time the weekend is up, we’ll have a review for it. We leave you the theme song to Quantum of Solace, “Another Way to Die” by Jack White and Alicia Keys. The Instrumental version of this song is actually really good, though the actual song itself was just a little off.