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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Cindy Prascik's Review of Murder Mystery

Having zero interest in sleeping through the latest Men in Black installment, this weekend I enjoyed another double-shot of Rocketman at the cinema while turning to Netflix for something new. On the docket, the suspenseful comedy Murder Mystery.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.

Americans on a belated honeymoon accept an invitation from a mysterious stranger, only to find themselves at the center of a murder mystery.

Of late, Netflix originals have done a fine job of competing with the big studios. It comes as something of a surprise, then, that Murder Mystery feels more like an old-school network Movie of the Week.

Murder Mystery moves quickly through a by-the-numbers, "Clue"-like plot. It's amusing enough, and a stable of reasonably-famous faces keeps it from feeling *too* low-rent, despite the fact there's very little mystery in the murder. None of the leads plays against type: Jennifer Aniston is the girl-next-door, Adam Sandler her over-earnest husband, and Luke Evans the dashing and mysterious stranger. Netflix won't be hanging its hat on this one come awards season, but it's decent fun nonetheless.

Murder Mystery clocks in at 97 minutes and is rated PG13 for "violence/bloody images, crude sexual content, and language."

Murder Mystery is unmemorable, but if you're looking to shut off your brain with a bit of entertainment that doesn't challenge, it's just the ticket. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Murder Mystery gets five.

Fangirl points: Luke Evans! Gemma Arterton!

Until next time...


The Men in Black have expanded to cover the globe but so have the villains of the universe. To keep everyone safe, decorated Agent H and determined rookie M join forces -- an unlikely pairing that just might work. When aliens that can take the form of any human arrive on Earth, H and M embark on a globe-trotting adventure to save the agency -- and ultimately the world -- from their mischievous plans.

Director: F. Gary Gray

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rebecca Ferguson, Rafe Spall, Laurent and Larry Bourgeois, Liam Neeson, along with Emma Thompson

Release Date: June 14, 2019

Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action, some language and suggestive material.

Runtime: 1h 54min


Men in Black: International is a half hearted reboot that does boast a pair of a game stars that almost makes the film memorable.  F. Gary Gray captures some of the feel from the original but its never maintained for a consistent amount of time.  As such, the film is better in parts than it is as a whole.  The scripting doesn’t help much with it playing to the most basic and predictable story beats.  So ultimately it’s up Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson to make the whole thing watchable, luckily their chemistry makes the whole thing an enjoyable romp even if it’s ultimately forgettable.  The Men In Black series has always had trouble nailing the original’s feel in the sequels.  The third entry in the film came close and is an underrated entry in the series, International will probably fall just short of that entry.  It did take on the gargantuan task of replacing the Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones dynamic and it does reasonably well even if the story is generic and ultimately mundane.


Sunday, June 9, 2019

Cindy Prascik's Review of The Secret Life of Pets 2

Yesterday I preceded my day-long Rocketman festival with an early screening of the Secret Life of Pets 2.

This review will include some very specific spoilers that--as a pet mom and animal lover--I feel obligated to mention. However, I will put them at the end after the rating, with a warning, for anyone who wants to read to that point for a general overview.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 revisits our old friends from the first installment, sending them in mostly different directions, adding new friends and adversaries, and giving us a movie that feels a little disjointed.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 features three separate plotlines, two of which converge at film's end, and one that mostly stands on its own. It's not really a problem, but it does make the whole seem a bit jumbled. That aside, pieces of the movie are laugh-out-loud funny. If the dogs are broadly drawn, the cats are spot on. These writers, they're cat people! The art and animation are sharp and colorful, and a cheerful score is peppered with familiar tunes sure to appeal to young and old alike. Kevin Hart's voice work as the unhinged bunny Snowball is again the movie's highlight, and this time he's playing off a familiar costar, Tiffany Haddish, a new addition as Snowball's puppy pal, Daisy. This is a fun outing that doesn't overstay its welcome, making the movie’s shortcomings easy enough to forgive.

An aside: This was my first experience with a sensory-friendly movie screening, and I want to give props to my local theater, Marquee Cinemas, for offering this option. The film itself is unaltered, but the volume is lowered, the lights don't quite go all the way down, and there are subtitles on the screen. This screening also skipped the trailers. It was a good experience that seemed to go over well with its target audience, and it did my cold heart good to see kids who mightn't otherwise get to experience the cinema enjoy a movie.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 runs a quick 86 minutes and is rated PG for "some action and rude humor."

The Secret Life of Pets 2 is nothing special, but it's a fun enough summer outing to get folks by until Toy Story 4 hits screens in a couple weeks.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, the Secret Life of Pets 2 gets five.

Hereafter there be spoilers!

Fangirl Demerits (a first!):

I have never been a person who blames people's behavior on entertainment; on the contrary, I greatly value personal accountability. However, when it comes to anything targeting children, I do think we need to be careful what we put out there, and this movie does a few things that bothered me.

Near the beginning of the movie, there's a scene of a baby pulling on a dog's ears and tail. In the real world, this is how children get bitten and innocent animals get put down. Pets are not toys. This cannot be stressed enough, and it's no joke.

In one scene the little dog Gidget is using the dishwasher as a sauna. A silly enough gag, but how long until somebody's child puts a small dog in the dishwasher, much like kids were flushing fish down the toilet to “set them free” after seeing Finding Nemo? The movie loses nothing without that scene, so just don't do it.

Finally, in one plotline, the apartment-dwelling Max and Duke visit a relative on a farm, and are told, "Dogs sleep outside." Decent people don't make dogs sleep outside, and decent pet owners don't bring their dogs to places where they aren't welcome indoors. I docked this movie a full Weasley point for that one.

Until next time...

PS: Where's my Cats trailer??

PPS: Go see Rocketman, will ya?


This is the story of one of the X-Men’s most beloved characters, Jean Grey, as she evolves into the iconic DARK PHOENIX. During a life-threatening rescue mission in space, Jean is hit by a cosmic force that transforms her into one of the most powerful mutants of all. Wrestling with this increasingly unstable power as well as her own personal demons, Jean spirals out of control, tearing the X-Men family apart and threatening to destroy the very fabric of our planet. The film is the most intense and emotional X-Men movie ever made. It is the culmination of 20 years of X-Men movies, as the family of mutants that we’ve come to know and love must face their most devastating enemy yet -- one of their own.

Director: Simon Kinberg

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Jessica Chastain

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action including some gunplay, disturbing images, and brief strong language

Release Date: June 7, 2019

Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Runtime: 1h 54 min


It’s typically not the biggest compliment for a film when you start comparing it to past entries in the franchise only to confirm that it’s not as bad as some of the series low spots.  In this case, Dark Phoenix isn’t the collective disaster that X-Men The Last Stand was and it’s far more palatable than X-Men Apocalypse.  That doesn’t necessarily make a good film though, it’s serviceable at best.  The first two acts of the film rush through exposition and tries to get the audience to care about Jean Grey whom we’ve spent barely anytime with as a character in the previous films.  Sophie Turner just isn’t terribly engaging as the titular character, her acting ranger here seem to consist of staring blankly into space angrily.  The real shame is that the film is stacked with excellent actors and actresses across the board.  Jennifer Lawrence is barely given much to do and her character’s storyline doesn’t land the way it should.  It’s a consistent issue with the film, its first two acts feel like an emotionless slog peppered with some respectable action sequences.  Jessica Chastain’s character and performance exemplify this since she’s a walking talking emotionless villain who’s not so much a character but a plot device to move the story forward. She’s utterly wasted throughout the film, much like Michael Fassbender whose role feels more like an extended cameo.  James McAvoy fares slightly better but it not enough to turn the tide, the films final battle is solid but strangely Simon Kinberg decided it was a good idea to uses certain beats from The Last Stand.  Since the final act was entirely reshot, it’s hard not to see a problematic production turn into a messy uninspired film.

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