Top 5 Whodunnits in Film

After months of positive buzz, Rian Johnson’s mystery Knives Out is finally being released.  It features an all-star cast with Daniel Craig playing the detective, and Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, and Jamie Lee Curtis among the suspects.  In case this new release whets your appetite for a good mystery, here’s my list of top five whodunnits.

1. Murder on the Orient Express (1974) 

This list would not be complete without a good Agatha Christie adaptation.  I wanted to to include one of the versions of Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None but I’ve

Poirot explains it all.

never seen any of them.  I can highly recommend the novel, however.  Back to The Orient Express:  Detective Hercule Poirot is one of Albert Finney’s best roles.  And this is one of Christie’s greatest puzzles.  When a murder is committed aboard a train, a famous detective has until the train reaches its destination to solve the impossible mystery.  It’s such an irresistible story; it’s been adapted countless times, including as an American TV movie, starring Alfred Molina.  Most recently, Kenneth Branagh directed a 2017 adaptation, starring himself as Poirot.  It’s a quality production with some great performances, and it spawned an upcoming sequel I’m looking forward to.  If you’ve managed to never have this mystery spoiled for you, please seek it out at once.

2. Gosford Park 

Stephen Fry on the case.

In Robert Altman’s 2001 film, a murder occurs after a dinner party at a wealthy British estate.  Like most of Altman’s films, there is a huge ensemble cast.  The investigation is shown from both the guests’ and the servants’ perspectives.  The delightful comedian Stephen Fry plays the detective.  Julian Fellowes wrote the script.  He later created the TV show Downton Abbey, which was inspired by the film, and at one point was meant to be a sequel to it.  The movie received seven Oscar nominations.

3. Brick

Rian Johnson’s own debut film is a neo-noir, set in a high school.  After receiving a frantic phone call begging for help from his ex-girlfriend, and then finding her dead body soon afterwards, a teenage loner vows to solve her murder.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the detective this time, in one of my favorite performances of his.  This film has a twisty plot and hip dialogue full of invented slang.  The podcast Filmspotting named their annual Golden Brick award for Best Film by a new voice after this movie.

4. Clue

Was it Col. Mustard in the library with the lead pipe?

Yes, Clue is based on the board game.  I watched this movie endlessly throughout my childhood on Showtime.  Six strangers are invited to a mansion for dinner.  When the host is killed, they have to work together to solve the murder.  Tim Curry is brilliant as the butler.  There’s a lot of fun humor in this one.  How can you resist a comic mystery, with a cast that includes Christopher Lloyd, Madeline Kahn, Susan Sarandon, Michael McKean, and Martin Mull?  One of my favorite things about this movie is that it has three endings.  When the movie was released theatrically, what part of the country you lived in/watched it in determined which ending you saw.

5. The Thin Man

If you’ve never seen The Thin Man series, you’re in for a treat.  William Powell and Myrna Loy trade barbs and imbibe alcohol as retired detective Nick Charles and his wife Norah.  They are accompanied by their faithful pooch Asta.  These comic mysteries are a joy.  The chemistry between Powell and Loy is amazing.  They made several other pictures together.  The Thin Man movies always end with an old school round-up of the suspects, where they build up the suspense before finally revealing who the killer is.

Don’t miss the most suspenseful part of a movie.  Always use the RunPee app when you go to the theater.  We have the latest PeeTimes for movies like Ford v Ferrari, Midway, Charlie’s Angels, Knives Out, and more.  You can also keep up with the latest movie news and reviews by following us on Twitter @RunPee and liking our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/RunPee/).

 

Movie Review – Motherless Brooklyn

 

Movie Review - Motherless BrooklynIt seems clear a lot of critics like this movie. I’ll go along with this to an extent — it’s clearly a labor of love for Edward Norton, who not only managed every aspect of the film and starred in it, but did some excellent research on the mental illness of Tourette’s Syndrome.

One of my early jobs involved working with the mentally ill, including those with Tourette’s, and Norton hit all the right notes. His character was whip-smart in spite of his disability. Lionel was aware of his affliction and apologized for his inappropriate outbursts. That his crew called him “Freakshow” was just a sign of the times in the 1950s, where it was acceptable to be casually cruel. It also served to underline the love between Frank (Bruce Willis’s character) and Lionel. Frank called the orphan under his wing “Brooklyn” — a much more affectionate term.

The Good Stuff

The historical period setting looked great too, although I’m not a fan of washed out bland palettes blended with noir. This was by no means a pretty film — and not intended to be — but two and a half hours of gritty, dreary grayness grated on my nerves.

What else can I add? Motherless Brooklyn was well-acted by everyone (although Alec Baldwin leaned a bit heavy on his SNL Trump act), well-written, and about a topic that absolutely bears both scrutiny and a relevance for our time.

It sounds like a great film, right?

Except. Except, yes, I was bored silly. I’m starting to find drama films less appealing than horror, and for me that’s saying a lot. I have a degree in Conservation Biology and am a staunch Humanist, so I feel deeply about the routine abuse of our peoples and planet by those in power. But I don’t want to wallow in a movie about it. I want my entertainment choices to lift me up, not drown me in despair.

If you want to feel sad about humanity’s mistreatment of marginalized people, this film will be right up your alley.

A fun time at the theater, it most certainly is not.

Grade: B-

About The Peetimes: I’ve got 3 Peetimes pretty well spaced out. The 1st and 2nd are really good, and the 3rd is your last chance to go before the final hour.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Motherless Brooklyn. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for language throughout including some sexual references, brief drug use, and violence
Genres: Crime, Drama, Noir

Movie Review – Black and Blue

Movie Review - Black and BlueThis movie pokes at your value system quite a bit. Most of us are all too familiar with stories about dirty cops. This story is no different, but how it plays out onscreen is rather appealing because of Tyrese Gibson, Naomie Harris, Mike Colter, and of course, the city of Katrina recovering in New Orleans.

It’s definitely another movie where cops look bad. I’m sure this rookie story happens more often than we realize. (A young adult trying to make the best of their “next” life by becoming a public servant.) The problem is this rookie decides this life has the perception of being bad, and she has a good heart…oxymoron for sure. The director did a good job of showing the grim life the rookie lived through and the one she’s trying to fit into.

Hence, the title referring to the rookie being Black in the a new world of Blue.

Alicia West was faced with conflicting choices between her race and her career. She wanted her cake and to eat it too. Unfortunately, in the life she came from, she found herself truly on the outside looking in. There’s a street saying that goes, once you go black, you’ll never go back. But in this story, once you go blue, da’ hood is through with you.

This movie reminded me of one thing my momma use to always tell me growing up. Don’t burn your bridges, because one day you might need to cross back over. And that’s exactly what Alicia West faced.

After you watch Black and Blue, hopefully, you will be reminded that no matter who you are or what you do; always do the right thing, for the right reasons.

Grade: C+

About The Peetimes: It wasn’t difficult selecting Peetimes. The storyline is obvious. Plus, there were scenes that dragged a little and contained uneventful dialogue. I would recommend the 1st Peetime. The 2nd and 3rd Peetime are very close together, and there is nothing after those two scenes that can be missed as the climax of the movie builds. The 2nd Peetime is longer, but contains a little more meat than the 3rd, which is short, but very easy to summarize. You decide.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Black and Blue. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for violence and language
Genres: Action, Crime, Drama

Movie Review – Joker

 

Movie Review - JokerI have a feeling a lot of people will really like this Joker movie. Personally, I don’t understand how this film can even come close to the MCU and their best films. It’s not funny at all, like EVER, and doesn’t involve any of the Justice League members. I have to admit that we’ve had a lot of Jokers over the years that don’t give us much fun. I don’t even think I like any of the Jokers we’ve seen, except maybe Mark Hamill as the Joker in the animated Batman TV series.

Sometimes going back to the well works. I mean, look at Tom Holland against all the Spider-Men we’ve had in the last decade. We finally got a great one! Holland’s beloved, with good reason, after the other Spideys that had both great and awful qualities in the end. Which is a whole other conversation.

Another comparison: by Thor: Ragarok, Marvel finally figured how to handle The Mighty Thor (with great comedic timing). Right? This improved the entire MCU and gave Chris Hemsworth a new lease on super life.

So, what is the deal with the DC comics not being able to make consistently enjoyable films? The studio is all over the place, and fans aren’t sure what to expect. How does a delightful outing like Shazam fit in with the gritty Batman trilogy? And do all these Jokers fit within one continuity? I think we have to accept they don’t.

I’m looking forward to seeing James Gunn’s work on Suicide Squad 2 and hopefully, he’ll make it as amusing as Guardians of the Galaxy. But don’t expect Joker to be amusing at all. This film feels more like Logan , the X-Men standalone, (to which we gave an A+) than anything else. Or at least maybe that’s what this film tried to be. Joker is depressing, and deep, but filmed well, with a lot of care to the details.

Do you want a superhero/super-villains film? If you’re a huge Joker fan, I don’t think this is your film.  It just has nothing “super” in it. Really. It’s a dramatic movie, very traumatic, and more than a bit weird.

I initially gave Joker a C+, but today I upgraded it to a B-, for being a good drama that spins an unusual take on the iconic Joker role.

K, thx. Can we stop rebooting Jokers for a while now?

Grade: B-

About The Peetimes: There is a lot of plot and character development here, making it hard to get Peetimes as the events unfold. I recommend the 2nd Peetime for a nice long break. Try to use it proactively in this 2 hour movie.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Joker. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images
Genres: Crime, Drama, Thriller, DC

Guardians of the Galaxy Ex-Director James Gunn to Direct Suicide Squad 2

Best Superhero Movies That Were Never Made

Movie Review – Hustlers

Movie Review - HustlersI’m giving this movie an A for sure. I loved it. Watching these women do their thing was so much fun that I forgot I was working. All of the sudden a little thought popped into my head like, “Hey, aren’t you supposed to be watching for Peetimes?”

So yeah, what they were doing was wrong and illegal, but who am I to judge? I lead a very boring and mundane life on the right side of the law. These women were doing exactly what the little devil on my shoulder whispers in my ear. I of course don’t listen to him, but during Hustlers, I was able to live vicariously through these devilishly, devious women. It was a good time!

Let’s talk about J Lo really quick. Wow! She’s got a body on her that I am so envious of. She could work that pole like a pro. Nicely done, lady.

Everyone has been talking about Cardi B branching out into movies. Well, I gotta say for her first gig, she did great. She doesn’t have a very big part but her character was larger than life. I can see her building a reputation on the silver screen.

Hustlers will make the top of my list for chick flicks. Grab your girlfriends and make a night out of it. A great time will be had by all. Thinking about it, you could bring your boyfriends too; I’m sure they’d see a thing or two that would please them. Wink wink.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: Hustlers moves pretty quickly, luckily there are a lot of music montage scenes to choose Peetimes from. These 2 should work pretty well for you.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Hustlers. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for pervasive sexual material, drug content, language and nudity
Genres: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Movie Review – The Kitchen

Movie Review - The KitchenAndrea Berloff did a fantastic job writing and directing the Kitchen. There are no wasted scenes in this tightly edited film. Everything follows from one step to the next. The characters are very well defined, and evolve during the movie for obvious reasons.

The three actors — Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss — headlining this movie were fantastic. Each totally sold their characters as fearful timid women to begin with, that became powerful confident women later…and in McCarthy’s case oscillated back and forth a few times, all with good reason.

The plot isn’t as predictable as the trailers might suggest. There’s a few enjoyable twists and turns I didn’t expect.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: This movie is very well edited. There were lots of Peetime options early in the movie to select from, but were all very short. I  recommend the 2nd Peetime. It’s near the middle of the movie and doesn’t have much dialog. The 3rd Peetime is for Emergencies only. There’s a big plot development, but it’s the only describable scene in the last 3rd of the movie to pick from.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Kitchen. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for violence, language throughout and some sexual content
Genres: Action, Crime, Drama

Where is “Hell’s Kitchen” and how did it get the name?

The Essential Tarantino – What to watch before Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Movie Review – The Art of Self-Defense

Movie Review – Shaft

Movie Review - ShaftI loved Shaft, as did the entire audience based on the many, many times there was crazy laughter in the theater. I had a great time watching Sam do his thing.

I have not seen the first one, but I can guarantee that I’ll be streaming it this weekend. If it’s half as funny as this one I’ll be happy.

I enjoyed watching Jessie Usher as JJ. These two guys worked so well off of each other, the chemistry was fantastic. The characters were so different from each other, but melded in a way that makes the movie magic happen.

I can’t count the amount of times that I laughed at Jackson, whether it be his lines or just his facial expressions.

It’s got a lot of violence and graphic scenes, but it wasn’t over the top. What was most prevalent was how Jackson can use the ever so popular F-word. I’ve got a whole new arsenal of colorful retorts, now thanks to Shaft.

If this kind of movie appeals to you, I wholeheartedly recommend it. It was fun and a great time was had by all.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: I’m going to recommend the 2nd Peetime, there is a lot of dialog in it, but was easily summed up. The 1st Peetime was also easy to sum up but there is a really funny moment during the scene.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Shaft. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for pervasive language, violence, sexual content, some drug material and brief nudity
Genres: Action, Comedy, Crime, Remake

Movie Review – John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Not as good as the first two)

Movie Review - John Wick: Chapter 3 - ParabellumI loved the first two John Wick movies, especially the first, which really brought new life to the action genre. But I found myself getting bored by the monotonous action in John Wick Parabellum.

I think the movie might have been better if it had been a little shorter. Many of the fight seems felt redundant.

Beyond that, the gravitas expressed by Keanu Reeves in the first movie just isn’t available in this story.

What was Good in John Wick Parabellum

The director (Chad Stahelski) works hard to break some new ground in each of his movies, and I think he accomplished that with the dog scenes in this version of John Wick. I’ve seen attack dogs in movies before, but nothing like this. Kudos to the dogs and their trainers. They earned the treats and then some.

John Wick: Prince of Puppies

Besides that, there were a few times I spotted errors in the choreography of the fight scenes. For instance, men would stand still after being punched by John Wick, while he turned his attention to another foe, before turning to shoot the first guy. It didn’t feel as tight and polished as the first two Wick movies.

The Unsung Heroes of Action Flicks

That said, going to see this movie in the theater is a good way to support the men and women who work hard to perfect their craft at making action movies like this. It’s hard and dangerous work, and they don’t get the glamour showered on the big name stars. They’re the blue collar workers of Hollywood and deserve a pat on the back — and some coin in their pocket — for their work, as the unsung heroes of John Wick, and all action films.

Grade: C+

About The Peetimes: I found 3 good Peetimes. None of them involves any good John Wick action. I recommend the 2nd Peetime. It’s the longest, and right in the middle of the movie.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for pervasive strong violence, and some language
Genres: Action, Crime, Thriller

The Matrix After 20 Years – A Retrospective: A Different Kind of Hero, a New Kind of Science Fiction

Movie Review – John Wick 1

Movie Review – Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase

Movie Review - Nancy Drew and the Hidden StaircaseWho would have thought that Nancy Drew would still be rocking it after 89 years?

This new and improved version of Nancy Drew is perfect for the target audience of today’s prepubescent girl. The movie addresses bullying, body image hating, peer pressure, and the need to fit in as the new kid in school. So it’s a job well done for the writers, and director Katt Shea. Young girls will flock to this movie.

The acting was well done, and I can’t say enough about the performance given by Sophia Lillis as Nancy Drew. She provided most of the comedic relief with her perfect delivery of some hysterically funny lines. The ‘new Drew’ is spunky, funny, rebellious — but in a cute way — and smart, and doesn’t understand the meaning of ‘no’ or ‘you can’t do that’. She’s a great role model!

And it was so nice to see Linda Lavin — of Alice and Barney Miller fame — is still cranking out product at 82 years young.

I whole-heartedly recommend Nancy Drew for kids of all ages, but most especially, prepubescent girls.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: This was a short movie, needing only 1 Peetime. I chose 1 at about half way through the movie: it gives you plenty of time to get back to your seat before the drama picks up again.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for peril, suggestive material, thematic elements and language
Genres: Crime, Drama, Family

Movie Review – Replicas

Movie Review - ReplicasThere are two movies coming out this week about dogs. One is A Dog’s Way Home. The other is Replicas, which has no dogs in it, but it is a dog.

Question: why does the saying, “This movie is a dog,” imply that a movie is bad, yet we also know this one: “A dog is a man’s best friend.” Someone ‘splain English to me, please. 🙂

I can’t criticize the actors because they had nothing useful to work with. [pullquote]Three minutes into the movie, and the dialog was already clumsy and heavy handed. The only good reason to watch this movie is for a film student to see how not to write dialog.[/pullquote]

It was strange that the CG for the computer displays — the 3D images seen when characters have the HUD on –were pretty snazzy, but then the robot CG was 15 years out of date. It was so jerky it looked like stop motion.

The only good thing I can say about Replicas is that the credits are 11 minutes long, making this only a 95 minute movie.

BTW, Keanu Reeves, if you’re reading this, my apologies.  I love your work. There’s nothing anyone could have done to save this miserable script. But I have to ask, “Did you lose a bet? Why on earth did you take this role?”

Grade: F

About The Peetimes: I have 2 Peetimes here. Both are fine, however, there is a crucial scene following the 2nd Peetime. The credits for this movie are 11 minutes long with no extras, so the movie is really only about 95 minutes.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Replicas. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for thematic material, violence, disturbing images, some nudity and sexual references
Genres: Crime, Mystery, Sci-Fi

Quiz – Keanu Reeves And His Many Characters

Movie Review – John Wick 1