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.

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Movie Review – The Intruder

Movie Review - The IntruderThe Intruder was a decent film. The story has been done before and was really predictable, but the performance that Dennis Quaid gave made it enjoyable to watch.

He really brought his character to life. That was fun. Basically, this was Cold Creek Manor all over again with Quaid as the bad guy, instead of the new homeowner. He just switched roles. I found his performance in this one a lot better than Cold Creek Manor. I think being a bad guy suits him.

I’m considering this movie as a great way to spend an evening in, curled up on the couch, watching it on the television. I don’t feel that it had enough presence to compensate for ticket prices.

Grade: C+

About The Peetimes: 2 Peetimes were submitted. They are equally good choices to use, easy to sum up, and I avoided any of the action/suspense moments.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Intruder. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for violence, terror, some sexuality, language and thematic elements
Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery

Movie Rewatch Review of X-Files – I Want To Believe

You’d think they do believe by now…

The X-Files now has nine television seasons, two movies, and two short-term TV revivals under their belt. This no-spoiler rewatch is for the second feature film,  I Want To Believe, taking place years (both in-universe and out) after the final run of original TV episodes, and before both revivals were even a concept.

(Is this making sense to you? If it’s gibberish, you might not want to bother entering the X-Files universe at this time.[pullquote] X-Files is the most complicated long-running popular entertainment franchise ever made.[/pullquote])

Like the first movie, Fight The Future, most of this takes place in way too much snow. (Just before the credits, you get a small warm payoff this time, so stick around through it.)

A few thoughts on I Want To Believe:

  • No humor. Bummer.
  • It’s mostly a stand alone feature. At least, the plot is. You still need to know the history between Mulder and Scully to appreciate who they are, their motivations, and what they want from each other.
  • It starts out pretty slow, and continues along at a dirge-like pace. The few action scenes we do get are pretty frenzied. Not sure what the director was thinking. Weirdly paced.
  • The plot was sad, depressing, dark, and distinctly unfun.
  • The characters were more pessimistic than usual. The whole reason this great show ran so long was on the strength of the Mulder-Scully dynamic and characterization. I realize they are older and more serious now, but that didn’t make for enjoyable viewing. It was like the director told them to tone down their natural chemistry.
  • Some parts were hard to see – either blurry, dimly lit, or both. Many things ran by too quickly to comprehend. Pay attention to the unusual dog mid-way through, or you’ll miss out on a big clue (and he’s super hard to see properly, even when I knew what to look for).
  • Mulder still has his den of posters (including the iconic titular one), tacked up dodgy newspaper clippings, and pencils stuck in the ceiling tiles (okay, that part was cute).
  • We do find out what happened with the relationship between Mulder and Scully after the series comes to that abrupt end. So that’s sort of satisfying.
  • It had a psychic/serial killer plot, not an alien cover-up one. There was no whiff of the “Mythology/Conspiracy Arc”, unlike in Fight The Future.
  • It was ultimately more about Scully and her religious themes, than Mulder and  his unexplained phenomena.
  • The movie was super creepy at the end. When I say it’s a “Monster of the Week” plot, here the monster is real, and unfortunately all too human. I don’t know how to say more without revealing a big spoiler about WHICH monster this movie references. It’s obvious by the climax. Brrrr. Feel free to put spoilers in the comments.
  • I liked this part the best: we’ve had about a baker’s dozen episodes before, dealing with the use of possible psychics to solve paranormal cases. The BEST part of I Want To Believe is when Scully actually references these guys by name: Luther Boggs (Beyond the Sea), Clyde Bruckman (Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose), and Gerry Schnauz (Unruhe). Those were stellar episodes that fall within the best episodes of any television show EVER done.  Want to watch something great ? Skip this movie and stream those episodes. Bring a hanky.

Here’s a short text exchange between RunPee founders Dan and Jill about I Want to Believe:

Jill: I just did a rewatch of the second X-Files movie. Remember that one?

Dan: I remember that it sucked.

Jill: Sure. That’s totally fine.  It was like a very long, very mediocre X-Files episode. I haven’t seen the second TV revival yet, but I hope they pick up with the William story and put that storyline to bed! Metaphorically (and literally works too).  😉

Dan: I don’t even know if I’ll see the second  revival, after watching the first one. It only had the one good episode with the Were-Monster.

Jill: Agreed. I really liked that one. The rest were meh, at best. It’s too bad.

Dan: Whatever.  I give up.

Jill: But I have some insights from I Want To Believe. I’ve decided that Mulder and Scully can’t quit each other, even though they are not good together. Mulder is a man who will do his thing, and place finding the truth above his relationship, every time. Always. He is a brilliant obsessive-compulsive. And she wants a real life, with the children and a picket fence…Mulder will never give her those things. But she just can’t quit him.

Dan: I can see that about their relationship.

Jill: My mother has already forgotten the entire plot of this movie, believe it or not. It’s weird; we just saw it last week.

Dan: It’s not a good movie, so I’m not surprised.

As you can see, I’m still a fan, even after being disappointed by most of the show’s follow-up. I’m doing a partial TV re-watch right now, introducing my mother to some of the series’ highlights (and having to try to explain most of it). I’m not even sure I remember where most of the dead end subplots ended up going…look up the “Chris Carter Effect” to understand this trope. This phenomenon went on to derail other great, dense shows like Lost and the reimagined Battlestar Galactica).

Ugh! In SPITE of that, it’s still one of the best television shows ever put to the small screen. If you get a chance, and have a lot of binging time available, start at the beginning and worth through the whole thing. Most of it is astoundingly gripping. Mulder and Scully are so much fun to watch that you never notice only two actors carry most of a decade of work between them.

Movie Grade for I Want to Believe: C

———————–

A little happiness to end this post: 
Here’s a quick vid about the Were-Monster, the most enjoyable revival episode. Yahoo Entertainment says this: ““Were-Monster” single-handedly justifies the show’s return after its decade-long hiatus.”

Really, the ep is a pure joy, with a lot of in-jokes for X-Files long-suffering fans: