Oh Hell Yeah! It’s The Trailer for The Irishman!


Oh hell yeah!

The trailer for Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman has been released!

In The Irishman, Robert De Niro plays Frank Shearan, a hitman who was active in the mob for decades.  Before his death, he claimed that he was not only responsible for the death of Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa, Sr. but also that he played a role in the assassination of John F. Kennedy!

Robert De Niro plays the Irishman.  Al Pacino plays Hoffa.  Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ann Paquin, and Ray Romano all have supporting roles!  (Don’t roll your eyes at that last one.  Romano has actually developed into a fairly interesting character actor.)  Apparently, a huge amount of money was spent on de-aging CGI so that the elderly De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, and Keitel could all play men in their 30s and 40s.  It’s either going to be brilliant or it’s going to be like Captain Marvel, where you were happy to see Samuel L. Jackson looking so young but you couldn’t help but notice that he didn’t seem to be quite as expressive as usual.

Listen, I love conspiracy movies.  I love gangster movies.  I love historical movies.  And I love Scorsese movies!

Bring it on, Netflix!

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….

Here’s The Trailer For The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance!


Stoners rejoice!

Netflix has a Dark Crystal series that will be dropping on August 30th, 2019.  The series will be ten episodes long and will apparently explore the world of the original film.  The theme appears to be one of rebellion.  Then again, rebellion appears to be the theme of everything nowadays.  Even the authority figures say that they’re rebelling against something.  I guess it truly is …. THE AGE OF RESISTANCE!

Anyway, someone will undoubtedly review this show for the site so hopefully, it’ll be good.  Or, at the very least, it’ll be better than the second season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  Seriously, we deserve a Carribbean cruise after making it through that.

Here’s the Dark Crystal trailer!  I hope you’ll trip like I do while watching it.

(Someone out there will get the joke and that’s all that matters.)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S2 E9, Dir: Rob Seidenglanz, Review by Case Wright


sabrina

The finale!!! Don’t forget to check out Lisa’s review here!  This season was without a doubt a televised story that Netflix paid to make.  It had its downs and would roll credits.  By the end of this season, I am excited to speak with the show’s fan.

Last season was a triumph and this season was …. just trying.  Why? I didn’t mind that the characters separated and returned together; that’s a critical part of storytelling. I also don’t totally mind what Lisa pointed out: Sabrina sucks at her job.  She’s amazingly incompetent.  That’s kinda refreshing.  Usually, incompetence is just the purview of fat husbands married to pretty wives on sitcoms.  Sabrina blunders through everything she does and manages to survive because everyone cleans up her messes.  This time with Nick’s life, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  This is the finale so let’s get our flashlights out so we can see anything on our screens and try to figure out: Whaaa Happened?!

There was something different about this episode.  It wasn’t directed like it was done by an overtired cashier at The Last Blockbuster Video (Alaska) who couldn’t turn on the lights.  The direction popped and there was actual humor. Why? Am I watching the right show? Rob Seidenglanz directed this episode.  He is known for a number of dramas: The Following, Parenthood, BUT he also directed Party Down- a no kidding great comedy!

This episode and the season can be summed up in one word: burritos….wait, I’m kinda hungry….I meant failure.  Our heroine and her friends can barely tie their shoes correctly.  They should all get chaperones in case they try something challenging like getting their own mail or cutting up their own meat.

Last episode: Our heroine figured out that she was manipulated…oh wait she didn’t.  She unleashed Lucifer by “killing herself” her double.  In this episode, Lucifer gets released and Sabrina challenges him right off. Wait, no she…has dinner with him.  In fact, we learn that Lucifer is her father, but Hilda never thought to mention it. Ok, did the writers’ room just decide to eat bunch of turkey and nyquil sandwiches this season?!!!!!

Sabrina and the aunties try to kill Lucifer, but they bungle that too.  It’s kinda funny.  Sabrina’s friends also fail to keep the gates of hell closed.  Sabrina does a …. song and dance number?????  Huh??? But, Why? Why? Why?  It’s apparently a scheme to trap Lucifer in a puzzle box of her Adoptive Father’s design and it……fails.  Is someone around to bail out Sabrina? Yep, Nick! He makes Lucifer possess him and does a sleep spell.  Luckily, Ms. Wardwell is around to carry them both off to hell.  The shot is reminiscent of The Beyond, but no one goes blind from the revelation.

The episode ends with Sabrina and her friends planning out season 3 by deciding to try to go into Hell and rescue Nick. Poor, poor Nick.  Maybe you should stop doing…you know…things.  See you next season.  Maybe, Lisa will review it again if you beg her as I will!

This season as gif:

OKfail

TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2.8 “The Mandrake” (dir by Kevin Sullivan)


When last we checked in on the adventures of the Greendale’s most boring family of witches, Sabrina had been resurrected as some sort of witch messiah and was planning on revealing the truth of her powers to all of Roz’s church friends when she was suddenly stopped by Harvey.  Harvey cried out, “If you ever loved me, stop!”  That got a look from both Roz and Nick, not to mention Sabrina.

Anyway, it turned out that Harvey found a wall painting of Sabrina in the mines and apparently, the painting indicated that Sabrina was destined to be the herald of Hell and bring about the apocalypse.

“Am I evil!?” Sabrina asked.

The 8th episode of the 2nd season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina attempted to answer this question and, as is typical with this show, the results were mixed.  In order to try to exorcise the evil out of her, Sabrina convinced Ambrose to help her create a duplicate Sabrina, a “mandrake.”  The Mandrake Sabrina would have all of her powers but none of her humanity and the plan was for the real Sabrina to kill the fake Sabrina 24 hours after creating it.  This would not only vanquish whatever evil that Sabrina had inside of her but it would also deprive her of both her powers and her immortality.  In short, Sabrina would become a normal mortal but, at the same time, she also wouldn’t end the world.

Sounds like a good plan, right?

Of course, it didn’t work like that, largely due to the fact that Sabrina is incredibly incompetent.  While Sabrina managed to create the Mandrake, she didn’t do a very good job of keeping track of it.  This led to the Evil Sabrina wandering around Greendale and exploiting all of her friends’s insecurities and weaknesses.  Of course, since Sabrina only has three friends, this means that the Mandrake just tracked down Harvey, Roz, and Theo.  If Harvey, Roz, and Theo were complex characters (as opposed to thinly drawn caricatures), it would be potentially interesting to see how the Mandrake manipulated them and tried to use their weaknesses against them.  But, as I’ve been saying since this season began, there’s not much to say about the members of Sabrina’s supporting cast.  Everyone has one or two traits that are used to define them.  Of course, Roz is going to be insecure about her relationship with Harvey and her eyesight because that’s really the only two things that Roz has going on in her life.  The show’s refusal to dig any deeper into its supporting cast remains one of its most glaring flaws.

On the plus side, the Mandrake’s plan to create duplicates of Harvey, Roz, and Theo did lead to a nice homage to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Kiernan Shipka did a great job playing both Sabrina and her evil twin.  As is usually the case with this series, Kiernan Shipka’s efforts to hold this uneven episode together were nothing less than heroic.

When the episode wasn’t dealing with Sabrina and her Mandrake, it was focusing on Father Blackwood’s attempts to break away from the Church of Night and join the Church of Judas.  It was …. well, not very interesting.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Wardwell sent a reanimated scarecrow to kill Sabrina.  The scarecrow failed, of course but Sabrina has now finally figured out that Wardwell is her enemy.  Considering that Mrs. Wardwell has never been a subtle antagonist, you have to wonder how dumb Sabrina is to have only now figured this out.

Anyway, I actually liked this episode a little bit more than the previous one.  It had all the usual flaws that we’ve come to expect from this series but Kiernan Shipka’s evil turn as the Mandrake elevated the episode.  As usual, Kiernan Shipka remains the show’s greatest strength.  At times, it’s the show’s only strength.

Up next, Case finished up season 2 by reviewing the finale!

The Things You Find On Netflix: Maria (dir by Pedring Lopez)


Once upon a time, Lily (Cristine Reyes) was one of the most feared cartel assassins in the Philippines.  Working with her lover, Kaleb (Ivan Padilla), Lily killed a lot of people and she did so with the an unstoppable ruthlessness.  However, she soon grew tired of the killing.  When she told Kaleb that she wanted out, he told her that there was no way to get out.  Lily decided to prove him wrong by betraying the cartel, faking her own death, and building a new life for herself.

Years later, Lily is now knows as Maria.  She’s a wife and a mother.  While her new husband is enthusiastic about a politician who says that he’s going to do whatever needs to be done to put the cartel out of business, Maria is always careful to remain apolitical.  In fact, she does nothing that might bring attention to herself.

Unfortunately, disappearing is easier said than done.  The cartel learns of her new location and Kaleb and his men are sent to kill her and her family.  They easily manage to kill both her husband and her daughter.  However, Maria escapes.  While Kaleb is forced to deal with the machination of a rival member of the cartel, the brutal Victor (KC Montero), Maria once again enters the criminal underworld.  She now only has one mission and that’s revenge.  She’s going to kill anyone who had anything to do with the death of her family….

Earlier tonight, I watched the Filipino film Maria on Netflix.  It’s pretty much a standard revenge thriller.  The action scenes and the over-the-top violence were clearly inspired by films like The Raid and John Wick.  One could just as easily replaced the cartel with the Russian mafia and Maria’s family with a collection of house pets and then sold that film as being about John Wick’s long-lost sister.  However, Maria didn’t have any of the winking self-awareness that makes both The Raid and the John Wick films so memorable.  Really, the only thing that Maria has to distinguish itself from other action films is that the lead character is female but, at times, that’s enough.  Even though the whole “action girl” character has become a bit of a cliche in the years since Kill Bill and the original Resident Evil, there’s still something undeniably satisfying about watching a woman kick ass.  If nothing else, this makes Maria an appropriate film to watch if you’re having a bad day and you need the catharsis that comes from watching some really bad dudes not get a fair trial.

The film itself is a bit oddly paced.  The first fourth of the film is a bit-heavy on torture scenes with one in particular being drawn out to a painful degree.  Things pick up once Maria starts beating people up and Christine Reyes gives a sympathetic and highly-charged performance in the title role.  Maria is not a particularly challenging film, nor is it one that you’ll necessarily remember two hours after you’ve watched it.  That said, for what it is — i.e., a modest revenge flick, it gets the job done.  Just like Maria!

TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2.7 “The Miracles of Sabrina Spellman” (dir by Antonio Negret)


GOOD GOD, CAN SOMEONE IN GREENDALE TURN ON A FREAKING LIGHT!?

As you may have guessed from the introduction, I am once again reviewing Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  I will be reviewing the seventh and eighth episodes of the 2nd season and then Case will be back with us, covering the big finale.  If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you know that one of my huge issues with this show is that no one in this damn town — even the mortals — seems to know how to flip a light switch.  Visually and thematically, this is one dark show.

It’s also, especially during season 2, been a rather dull show.  Watching it, one gets the feeling that the writers ran out of ideas halfway through season 1.  Yes, everyone worships Satan.  Yes, they’re all witches and warlocks.  That should be interesting but trust this show to make the dark arts seem boring and rather tedious.  “What the Heaven’s happened!?”  Aunt Hilda (Lucy Davis) exclaims at the start of the show when she sees as seriously, perhaps fatally, wounded Sabrina and replacing “Hell” with “Heaven” is supposed to be shocking but, at this point, who cares?

The show’s main strength has always been Kiernan Shipka’s performance Sabrina.  She’s always been able to bring life to even the laziest of dialogue but this episode comes close to defeating even the normally reliable Shipka.  Kiernan Shipka has always kept the show grounded but this episode sent her up into the air.

While the previous episode ended with Sabrina nearly dead, this episode opens with Sabrina coming back to life and becoming not only a healer but also a messianic figure.  Sabrina not only heals Ambrose but she also prevents him from being executed.  And it says a lot of about this show’s flaws that I wouldn’t have minded if Amrbose’s head had been chopped off.  If nothing else, it would have meant no longer having to listen to him whine about every little thing.  Sabrina also gives Roz back her eyesight, so I guess that subplot’s resolved.  Roz is no longer blind and yay, I guess.  Roz is a flat, one-demensional character.  You didn’t care when she went blind and you’re not going to care that she can now see.  By that same token, you’re not going to care when Aunt Zelda is freed from the spell that Blackwood’s put her under because, again, she’s just Zelda and she’s not that interesting.

Anyway, now that Sabrina has returned from the dead and can magically do whatever the script requires her to do at any given moment, she wants to spread her father’s gospel and bring together mortals and humans.  Alone among the students at the Academy, Nick Scratch thinks that’s a good idea and I’d be worried about that if I cared about Nick and Sabrina as a couple….

Really, this was a surprisingly uninvolving episode.  I’m not even going to discuss Harvey and Theo in the mines or Ms. Wardwell creating a servant in her bathtub.  Nor am I going to talk about the rat that a possessed Zelda drops in a meat grinder.  It all plays out very slowly and it mostly plays out in the dark and it doesn’t work because none of these characters feel like they’re worth all the trouble.

As I pointed out earlier, even Kiernan Shipka stuggled during this episode.  Over the course of one episode, Sabrina goes from being a teenager trying to find her place in the world to being some sort of witch messiah and, in the process, she becomes self-righteous and a bit dull.  The episode ends with Sabrina looking at a cave painting, a prophecy that proclaims her to be the herald of Hell.

“I’m evil!” Sabrina says, shocked.

And who knows?  Maybe she is.  But seriously, who cares?

Coming up next, once I’ve found the strength to continue, episode 8!  And then Case will be here to wrap things up with the finale!