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Death on the Nile Review | Succession Meets Knives Out in Branagh’s Latest



Is it just me, or is the major reveal in Death on the Nile ridiculously obvious? We’re talking peak Geno Smith while he was a New York Jet. Not to sound like one of those morons you get in every theater with a mystery who’ll say something to the effect of “I knew it was __ all along!” when the credits roll, but something about the execution of Death on the Nile made it feel underwhelming. Sure, the whole point of mystery movies is to have audience members constantly trying to figure out who committed the crime, but when your first guess ends up being the correct one, it just feels underwhelming. Well-acted and featuring some beautiful cinematography, Death on the Nile is undoubtedly a good time, but the opening hour’s unevenness and perhaps too much family time (who else can relate?) bog it down from being something great.

During the honeymoon of newlyweds Linnet (Gal Gadot) and Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer), one of the passengers is found to be dead. Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is on the case as the mystery is unsolved.

Armie Hammer as Simon Doyle and Gal Gadot as Linnet Ridgeway in 20th Century Studios’ DEATH ON THE NILE, a mystery-thriller directed by Kenneth Branagh based on Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel. Photo by Rob Youngson. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Lead actor (and director) Kenneth Branagh is good as usual. His over-the-top performance as Hercule Poirot is easily the best part of the film, and it’s a shame that he doesn’t give himself more time to slowly solve the case. Poirot is like that family member who watches family events from afar and is able to see affairs that are waiting to happen just from people-watching.

Gal Gadot is fine, though it’s admittedly hard to take her seriously in any role that is not Wonder Woman. A fun drinking game I may suggest, especially if you got a Jackass Forever shot glass, is downing a shot every time Cleopatra is namedropped from either Gadot or Hammer. It’s a nice reminder of the “sexy” and “smart” iteration of Cleopatra that Gadot will star as in the film that surely has no chance of being a failure. Imagine a world where that could go wrong; I’m sure you can’t.

Is Armie Hammer allowed to be brought up?” is the question that many critics will likely face when writing their reviews. To avoid any risk of controversy, all I will say is that it’s funny to see him play another role with a British accent (the other one being The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), and he’s perfectly fine in his role. Nothing so spectacular that you’ll have flashbacks to a time when he was pegged as the next big thing, but good enough to serve his role and not stand out for any negative reasons. Though it should be said that those who don’t want to see Hammer in the film and perhaps had some hope of him being edited out judging by the last trailer will be disappointed. He’s one of the main characters, and Disney (understandably) did what they had to do in light of recent allegations and exempt him (as much as they could) from the final marketing pushes.

The rest of the family ensemble is a mixed bag of memorable characters like Euphemia (Annette Bening) and Sophie (Salome Okonedo), and forgettable ones such as Andrew (Ali Fazal), Linnet’s cousin who clearly has ulterior motives in his relationship with Linnet. The issue is that they all fit the stereotypes of a whodunit, all set up to look guilty as if they were about to walk into a confession booth, but not all are created equal.

Scene from 20th Century Studios’ DEATH ON THE NILE, a mystery-thriller directed by Kenneth Branagh based on Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel. Photo by Rob Youngson. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

When Branagh isn’t delightfully chewing up the scenery, Emma Mackey, who is bound to make your mind ask, “Is that Samara Weaving?” for most of the runtime, stole the show as Jacqueline. If you’ve seen Murder on the Orient Express, you’ll know what to expect of Branagh, thus making Mackey the most memorable part of Death on the Nile. Her “Joker origin story” is as melodramatic as it gets, and it’s quite funny when you realize that the crux of this movie could have all been avoided if Linnet had abided by the “bro code.” The basic, and you’d think universal rule, is that you don’t go after someone that a friend has already pursued, much less got engaged to. Linnet does that immediately after she is introduced to Simon in what has to be one of the biggest slaps in the face for Jacqueline. What Mackey’s character proceeds to do isn’t right, but it’s understandable at the very least.

But, as a whodunit, does Death on the Nile succeed? Well, the time spent with Poirot solving the mystery, interrogating those on the boat are wildly entertaining. Even the melodramatic setup that gives reasonable cause to each of the family members is fun, but should not take up to 70 minutes of the movie (more on that in a second). The mystery of the murderer feels relatively obvious.

Films like the aforementioned Knives Out showed how you can handle a film that gives away the major twist halfway through, granted, Death on the Nile keeps it in until the end, and even the major red herring that was supposed to throw everyone off someone’s scent felt off. Assuming Death on the Nile sticks true to its original ending from the novel, it just fits such a stereotype in these movies that’ll likely be the first or second prediction that comes to mind; even before getting into the “meat and potatoes” of the movie.

Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot in 20th Century Studios’ DEATH ON THE NILE, a mystery-thriller directed by Kenneth Branagh based on Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel. Photo by Rob Youngson. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

The runtime of Death on the Nile is likely somewhere between 120 and 130 minutes; it’s a film that doesn’t necessarily overstay its welcome as Moonfall did with roughly the same runtime earlier this week, but there is a lot of setup for this Succession-like game of family politics. Yes, the setup is necessary, but it didn’t even feel like we were on the boat until at least 40 minutes in, which is strange when it felt like all of the trailers showed scenes on the boat. Plus, we get the idea after the first couple of times Mackay is stalking the newlyweds, no need to continue hammering it home that she is not taking the breakup well.

Death on the Nile is wholly enjoyable, it’s just unable to contain its big secret any more than a dorm hall when you have a crush. With the subtlety of the Little Rascals sneaking into a movie theater, the major twist felt more like a “no duh,” moment rather than the gasp it hoped to achieve. Even still, the cast is (mostly) filled with interesting characters that all have a guilty look on their face, and some of the images are absolutely stunning. Death on the Nile is still worth a watch with family and friends, as you can argue whether or not you truly had it figured out from the start, and perhaps the twist is better than my own experience with it. Sooner or later, murder mysteries need their Spider-Man: No Way Home with Benoit Blanc and Hercule Poirot gracing the screen together.

Death on the Nile will hit theaters on February 11.


Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Sung Kang’s ‘Shaky Shivers’ is a Campy Horror-Comedy With Superb Performances



Brooke Markham and VyVy Nguyen in 'Shaky Shivers' (Cineverse)

If you thought that Sung Kang can only thrill you with amazing car stunts, then you are wrong. The acclaimed star is set to take you on an entertaining ride with his directorial debut titled ‘Shaky Shivers’.

The latest horror-comedy film marks the feature directorial debut of Sung Kang, renowned for his roles in the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise and several other big projects. The movie stars Brooke Markham and VyVy Nguyen, with an ensemble cast including Jimmy Bellinger, Erin Daniels, and Herschel Sparber.

A still from ‘Shaky Shivers’ (Cineverse)

From the very beginning, ‘Shaky Shivers’ grabs hold of your attention with the comedic chemistry between lead actresses Brooke Markham (Lucy) and VyVy Nguyen (Karen). Their hilarious banter and dynamic friendship draw you into their world of magic, mayhem, and monstrous encounters. While a few other characters make appearances, the heart of the film rests on the shoulders of Karen and Lucy, whose relatable and believable friendship makes the story even more bewitching.

One of the best aspects of the film is how Sung Kang skillfully directs the title despite limited cast and limited settings. It still manages to keep audiences engaged and entertained. Kang also pays homage to classic horror films like ‘American Werewolf in London’ and injects fresh energy into the scenes while showcasing his comedic flair.

A still from ‘Shaky Shivers’ (Cineverse)

If you are one of those who enjoy unapologetically goofy and fun movies, ‘Shaky Shivers’ is undoubtedly a fun watch. Embracing its campiness, the film doesn’t try to be anything other than an enjoyable ride filled with supernatural elements. The characters have a helpful book of spells that they use to solve problems, which adds a clever and funny element to the story that will make you laugh..

While categorized as a horror-comedy, ‘Shaky Shivers’ leans more towards comedy than horror. However, don’t worry, as the supernatural beings like werewolves, zombies, and witches make their presence known throughout. The practical effects and impressive monster makeup, reminiscent of old-school horror flicks from the 70s and 80s, immerse you in a world of creatures and enchantment.

A still from ‘Shaky Shivers’ (Cineverse)

The plot of ‘Shaky Shivers’ escalates in an exciting and compelling manner, filled with unpredictable twists and goofy surprises.  While it may not leave you terrified, the perfect blend of supernatural ambiance and comedic moments guarantees plenty of laughter and enjoyment.

In conclusion, ‘Shaky Shivers’ is a must-watch horror-comedy that delivers on laughs, friendship, and supernatural encounters. With its engaging storyline, talented cast, and Sung Kang’s impressive directorial debut, the film is a delightful addition to the genre. So grab a large tub of popcorn and take your family for this fun-filled ride.

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Sex Education Season 4 is a Spectacular (and Overstuffed) Conclusion to One of Netflix’s Extraordinary Series



Official posted of 'Sex Education' Season 4 (Netflix)

When the first season of Sex Education came out on Netflix in 2019, it felt pretty daring and exciting for everyone. While there were many shows about teenagers and sex, ‘Sex Education’ stood out because it talked about these topics openly and covered them in a pretty detailed manner. Without any guesses, the show became really popular and is now considered a classic on Netflix. For 3 long seasons, viewers have seen students of Moordale, and everyone around them, dealing with a lot of complications, but now, it’s time to say goodbye to some of our character as the Netflix series has returned for its fourth and final edition.

At the end of Season 3, Moordale Secondary School closed down. This means that Otis, Eric, Aimee, Jackson, Vivienne, Cal, and Ruby have to go to a new school, Cavendish Sixth Form College. Some of them fit in well, while others struggle. And while Otis tries to focus on his therapy work, he finds out that there are other young people who are experts on relationships and sex in town.

Gillian Anderson as Jean Milburn in ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 (Netflix)

One of the strengths of Sex Education is its diverse and inclusive representation. The show shines a light on various sexual orientations, gender identities, and cultural backgrounds, providing a platform for underrepresented voices. Season 4 continues to explore these themes, introducing new characters who add depth and complexity to the narrative. On ghe other hand, the only problem with Season 4 is that there are too many things going on at once. There are so many sub-plots that might distract you at times and make you feel that this story might have looked good if there was another season in pipeline.

Even then, the writing remains sharp and witty, creating relatable and genuine teenage characters who grapple with their own insecurities and desires.

Ncuti Gatwa as Eric Effiong in Sex Education Season 4 (Netflix)

The performances in ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 are consistently strong. Asa Butterfield brings vulnerability and charm to his role as Otis, portraying the character’s growth and maturity. Ncuti Gatwa shines as Eric, capturing both his strength and vulnerability as he navigates new relationships and personal challenges. Emma Mackey delivers a nuanced performance as Maeve, showcasing her character’s intelligence and emotional depth. Mimi Keene is stupendous as well and bring another layer to her character which was so nice to see. Meanwhile, Gillian Anderson does what she is best at: deliver another extraordinary performance.

Emma Mackey as Maeve in Sex Education Season 4. (Netflix)

On the other hand, Aimee Lou Wood continues to mesmerise us with her charm and simplicity. Directors should definitely look at her and give her a leading role soon because she deserves it. Another actor that is surely a star in the making is Anthony Lexa, who portrays Abbi in Season 4. Her performance adds an additional charm to the series and gives a hope to Trans actors that they can too achieve their dreams.

A still from ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 (Netflix)

The final edition tackles difficult topics with sensitivity and care, highlighting the importance of consent, communication, and understanding in relationships. The show’s ability to tackle these issues head-on without becoming preachy is a testament to its thoughtful storytelling.

While the final season of ‘Sex Education’ does have some pacing and narrative issues, the strength of the performances, the thoughtful exploration of important issues, and the show’s commitment to inclusivity make it a satisfying and engaging watch. It’s bittersweet to say goodbye to these beloved characters, but the legacy of Sex Education will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on the television landscape.

Sex Education Season 4. (L to R) Mimi Keene as Ruby, Asa Butterfield as Otis in Sex Education Season 4 (Netflix)

In conclusion, ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 continues to deliver a standout and boundary-pushing narrative that explores sexuality, identity, and personal growth with humor and sensitivity. Despite some minor flaws, the show remains a shining example of inclusive storytelling and offers a heartfelt farewell to its beloved characters.

Some goodbyes are hard and this is certainly one of them.

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Flora and Son is a Heartfelt Exploration of Family and Music



Eve Hewson and Oren Kinlan in a still from 'Flora and Son' (Apple TV+)

Flora and Son, directed by John Carney, tells the compelling story of Flora, a single mother struggling to navigate the challenges of parenthood and find her own identity. Starring Eve Hewson as Flora, the film dives into the complexities of motherhood, relationships, and the power of music in bringing people together. There have been a lot of musicals in recent times that take a very complex route in telling a story, but Flora and Son is a bit different than all of them. The story is really simple and that’s what makes the film such a treat to watch.

The movie opens with Flora enjoying a night out at a club in Dublin, only to end up in a disappointing hook-up. Flora’s life is far from perfect, as she grapples with her troubled teenage son Max (Orén Kinlan) and a less-than-supportive ex-husband, Ian (Jack Reynor). Flora’s interactions with Max are often tense, filled with sarcastic banter and strained attempts to connect with him. As a single mother, Flora faces numerous hardships and setbacks, leading her to doubt her own potential. Her attempts to do right by her son are often met with indifference or resistance. However, a pivotal moment occurs when Flora acquires a guitar for Max, unaware that it will have a profound impact on her own journey. Flora’s decision to learn to play the guitar leads her to Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a songwriter and teacher based in California. Despite the distance between them, their connection is palpable, and through music, they bridge the gap. Jeff encourages Flora to embrace her creativity and express herself authentically, unlocking a passion she didn’t know she possessed.

Eve Hewson in a still from ‘Flora and Son’ (Apple TV+)

The performances in Flora and Son are exceptional, particularly Eve Hewson’s portrayal of Flora. She effortlessly portrays a range of emotions, from humor and charm to vulnerability and raw emotion. Hewson’s nuanced performance brings depth and authenticity to the character, making her relatable and captivating. It will be a travesty if she is not spotted by a big filmmaker and gives her a chance to lead another extraordinary movie. On the other hand, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is soulful and gives a performance that is really enchanting. The chemistry between Hewson and Gordon-Levitt, even through virtual interactions, adds an extra layer of depth to their characters’ connection.

Carney’s direction creates an intimate yet heartfelt atmosphere in the film.  The use of music as a driving force in the narrative is a testament to Carney’s storytelling prowess, showcasing the transformative power of melodies and lyrics. One of the film’s strengths is its refusal to tie everything up neatly in a predictable manner. Instead, Flora and Son choose a more realistic approach, leaving some loose ends and logistics unresolved. This choice allows the characters to continue their journey of self-discovery, leaving viewers with a sense of hope and possibility.

Eve Hewson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a still from ‘Flora and Son’ (Apple TV+)

In conclusion, Flora and Son is a touching exploration of a single mother’s journey to find her voice, both as a musician and as a parent. With exceptional performances and a thoughtful narrative, the film resonates with authenticity and emotional depth. Carney’s direction and the film’s emphasis on the transformative power of music make Flora and Son a standout family drama. The simplicity and innocence is what makes it such a heart-warming watch. This film will make your heart sing.

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