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

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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.

FILM RATING

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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Adventure

Arthur the King is an Epic Masterpiece

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Arthur the King movie poster (Lionsgate Films)

Here follows the review of Arthur the King, a story of deep connection between people and dogs. Not all heroes wear capes, some have wagging tails and would cross a river (and jungle) for you.

Plot

Desperate for one last chance to win, Michael Light convinces a sponsor to back him and a team of athletes for the Adventure Racing World Championship in the Dominican Republic. As the team gets pushed to the outer limits of endurance, a dog named Arthur comes along for the ride, redefining what victory, loyalty and friendship truly means.

Arthur Foundation

Mikael Lindnord raced through a jungle in Ecuador and after feeding a few meatballs to a stray dog made a friend for life. The dog followed Mikael and his team through the rough terrain. Mikael named the dog Arthur and took him back home with him.

Arthur and Mikael Lindnord (Photo taken by Krister Goransson)

The Arthur Foundation collaborates with various organizations in different countries that work towards animal welfare.

Click on the following links to reach out to Mikael Lindnord.

Movie Review (no spoilers)

The movie is based on the memoir, Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home by Mikael Lindnord, who was the athlete who participated in the Adventure Racing World Championship in Ecuador. It is important to note in the movie they refer to him as Michael Light. Even though the original race took place in Ecuador, the movie changed the location to the Dominican Republic. The original race took place in 2014, while in the movie the race takes place in 2018.

Mark Wahlberg portrays the part of the Mikael and delivers an excellent performance alongside Simu Liu, Nathalie Emmanuel and Ali Suliman. Ukai, a stray dog, was a real champion portraying the role of Arthur. The film takes us through picturesque locations in the Dominican Republic. The suspense was felt at every turn and corner and you are kept glued to the screen with a gripping storyline. The story balances the journey of Mikael and Arthur and eventually joins their path like a jigsaw puzzle.

Mark Wahlberg as Mikael Light (Lionsgate Films)

A fictional backstory is provided of Mikael’s competitive journey as well as the journey that Arthur took to get to Mikael. The movie successfully tells a deep story of connection between dogs and people. If you want to know more about the real story, you can check your local bookstore or Amazon for a copy of Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home

This movie is a 5 out of 5 for me. The connection between Mikael and Arthur is brought to life in this epic masterpiece. Arthur found a home in the heart of Mikael and thanks to Mark Wahlberg and Ukai, this film adaptation of ‘Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home’ became a memorable movie.

The trailer doesn’t spoil any of the important scenes of the movie. Arthur the King has a runtime of 1 hour and 30 minutes. There is no post-credits scene so no need to wait till the end.

Arthur the King Official Trailer (Lionsgate Films)

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Entertainment

A Must-See Satanic Panic Horror – Late Night With the Devil

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Written and directed by Cameron Cairnes & Colin Cairnes, Late Night With the Devil follows a late night TV host Jack Delroy, fighting the plummeting viewership of his show by welcoming in people from the occult in order to change that, but of course, everything doesn’t go as smooth as planned.

David Dastmalchian as Jack Delroy Late Night With the Devil (2023)

David Dastmalchian has appeared in a lot of films however always in smaller roles including The Dark Knight, Prisoners and more recently The Suicide Squad. This film allows Dastmalchian to take on the lead role of Jack Delroy, the host of the late night show at the centre of this film, and he genuinely does a great job. There’s a real range of emotions which his character goes through during the course of this film and he depicts them so well.

If you’re a fan of the horror genre, you’re going to really appreciate the use of practical effects in this. There’s plenty of stretchy and gooey gore for all of the horror fanatics that will have you shouting at the screen. 

From left to right: Laura Gordon, Ingrid Torelli, David Dastmalchian, Ian Bliss

If you want to hear my full thoughts, check out my review over on YouTube and let me know your opinions in the comments.

Late Night With the Devil will be released in cinemas from 22nd March and on Shudder on 19th April.

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Reviews

‘I Love You, Guys’ Review | A Poignant Exploration of Celebrity Vulnerability and Human Resilience

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We are living in an era where celebrities are worshipped like deities and sometimes, people forget that he or she is also a normal human being. If we feel happy or sad at certain moments, they do as well and even though a lot of people always surround them, they get vulnerable too. Although a lot of filmmakers forget to show that aspect of their lives, Billie Melissa Rogan takes the bold approach of showing the truth. Her directorial debut, ‘I Love You, Guys,’ is a poignant story about a celebrity fighting her inner self to maintain her celebrity image. The result is a stunning piece of art that resonates long after the end credits roll in.

The short film opens with a profound close-up of the young singing sensation named Sky (Becky Bush). She has made a name for herself by making and singing really exceptional songs. As a result, she is adored by her fans. Even though it feels like Sky has everything she wants, viewers see her submerged in a bathtub as she tries to battle her anxiety. Just then, Sky gets a phone that she’d be performing state-side. Now, that’s where we get to know about her vulnerable state for the first time. Although she says that she is really happy with the above-mentioned news, her face tells a different story. Despite her impending stardom, Sky has not started to feel the massive weight of mounting pressure, a sentiment audiences get to see in her conversations with bandmate Ryan (Pedro Leandro) and girlfriend Taylor (Celi Crossland).

Becky Bush in a still from ‘I Love You, Guys’ (Jumpcut Studios)

As the story moves forward, we get to know that ‘I Love You, Guys’ is about the fragile nature of the human spirit as much as it is about celebrity culture. It not only navigates themes of depression, it also highlights the turbulent emotional journey of Sky. One of the best aspects of the film is how Rogan masterfully brings Cory Varney’s screenplay to life. She managed to capture every minor detail of Sky’s emotions with utmost precision. Despite the fact that it is her first-ever film as a director, we get a sense that we are watching a flick helmed by a seasoned filmmaker.

Another aspect that makes this film such a compelling watch is its cinematography. Jenni Suitiala has done a phenomenal in showing expressions through vibrant colors and Rogan has made full use of the settings to give viewers a visually striking film. Whether it is heated arguments or silent moments of despair, each frame feels authentic and draws audiences into Sky’s personal life.

Apart from Rogan’s direction, Varney’s script is this film’s biggest strength. The writer has undoubtedly done a stunning job of showing the humanity of these characters. There’s a reason why Sky’s struggles feel very personal and it is because we have endured such moments in life. Moments where we doubt ourselves even when we know we are more than capable of doing a particular thing. Not every smiling person is happy. Sometimes he or she is smiling just so that no one finds out about the tough times they are going through.

A still from ‘I Love You, Guys’ (Jumpcut Studios)

Acting-wise, Becky Bush has given a performance that is surely going to open several doors for her. She delivers a magnificent performance by infusing Sky with a beautiful balance of vulnerability and strength. The way she manages to convey an innumerable amount of emotions is spectacular. I believe this is one of the most apt depictions of mental turmoil. Meanwhile, Pedro Leandro and Celi Crossland are just as spectacular. Every interaction between the characters feels genuine and nuanced.

All in all, ‘I Love You, Guys’ is a testament to how resilient a human spirit can be. In just 15 minutes, Rogan, Varney, and Bush take viewers on a journey that’s thought-provoking and talks about a subject that no one talks about. The writing, direction, and performances achieve a lot more than just viewers’ attention. The film offers a compelling examination of the human cost of pursuing fame and success. A poignant story that touches on themes of ambition, relationships, and self-discovery.

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