Jennifer Anniston And Adam Sandler – There’s A Murder And A Mystery But No One Is Laughing

The recently released Netflix film Murder Mystery, which stars Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler, has all the makings of a summer blockbuster with its stylized settings, beautiful production value, a cast of outstanding actors and an okay script. However, the mediocre dialogue mixed with some misplaced juvenile camp and gratuitous scenes, as well as an absence of plot twists will disappoint viewers who have awaited a reuniting between the two stars.

Murder Mystery is the story of a blue-collar couple, Nick (Sandler) and Audrey (Aniston) Spitz, a beat cop, and a hair stylist, who are on their long overdue honeymoon. After a chance encounter on their flight to Europe, they are invited by a lord/viscount (Luke Evans) to join him and his family on a yacht cruise. Once there, they encounter a multi-billionaire uncle (Terrence Stamp), a maharaji (Adeel Akhtar) a movie star (Gemma Arterton), a Formula One driver (Luis Gerardo Méndez), a Colonel (John Kani) and a few others.

The scene is set, and what starts out to be the common snide jeering and derisive comments often found at family gatherings, turns into a “murder mystery” when the lights go out and the old uncle, who was about to sign his fortune over to his young bride (Shioli Kutsuna), is murdered.

The Spitzes, the only Americans and the ones without motive, become the suspects. The couple goes on the lam, until they can figure out who actually killed the old uncle. There are domino bookcases, a walk on a ledge and a street and car chase, all which lack edge-of-your-seat tension.

Creators, James Vanderbilt and Kyle Newacheck might have taken a cue from the film Date Night, which was also about a married couple, who find themselves in the middle of criminal intrigue. The film would have bombed were it not for Tina Fey’s and Steve Carrell’s quirky chemistry, physical comedy, dry humor and of course Mark Wahlberg’s shirtless portrayal of Holbrooke.

While the actors of Murder Mystery do their best to deliver the lackluster scenes, and even though Sandler sports a moustache a la William Powell and Dashiell Hammett, Vanderbilt’s and Newacheck’s creation just doesn’t have the originality, pizazz, not even a McGuffin like some of the memorable comedic mystery classics that came before it: Foul Play (Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase), Charade (Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn), and any Dashiell Hammett movie with the Nick and Nora Charles characters (William Powell and Myrna Loy).


Daniel Radcliffe as Abigail Fairfax in The Lost City (2022) Is Not Harry Potter

Daniel Radcliffe as Abigail Fairfax in The Lost City

Many have asked, “Is Daniel Radcliffe a good actor?”  The answer to that is a definitive: Yes. Daniel Radcliffe is an amazing actor and has grown way past his Hogwarts and Harry Potter days.

Of particular note, is Radcliffe’s portrayal of Abigail Fairfax in the movie, The Lost City, which is currently available on Paramount. He surprisingly plays a very convincing, dry-witted villain.

There are many actors who have difficulty progressing and transforming when they started out as child stars. Radcliffe first appeared as Harry Potter at the age of 11. However, he is 32, and he has grown up and for now has left that character behind.

He was recently asked to do a Return to Hogwarts, but it seems Radcliffe is not interested in going back at this time. While many actors, would run for the paycheck, it seems Radcliffe is more interested in going forward, as he has in The Lost City, which also stars Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum and Brad Pitt.

If you haven’t seen Radcliffe in the TV show The Miracle Workers, then this is also a must watch. His portrayal of Ezekiel Brown is another role where Radcliffe makes you forget all about Harry Potter.

The Batman – A Review

The Batman – A Review

Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman and Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne in The Batman

The Batman is visually captivating. Each cinematic frame looks like a well-inked comic book depiction. The voiceover monologue often hits the core, a Grim Reaper saving lives instead of ending them – a shadowy being emerging in the darkness. The Batman endures and breathes despite his grief – an existential existence. He chooses to live for what he believes is his responsibility to save others.

Unlike the previous Batmans, this version delves into the psychological makeup of the characters, and the villain, which drove the narrative of the other movies, is more of a subplot. It’s the personal journeys that propel the story. Both Bruce Wayne/The Batman (Robert Pattinson) and Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) have unsettling childhoods. Kyle serving as a mirror image, which will lead Wayne to the truth about his past.

The universe of this story inhabits both the outskirts and the inskirts of the current culture, and accurately captures the current zeitgeist.

Many will find it relatable and cathartic…however, a little lengthy. The film is three hours long.

The Business of Art and Entertainment

Many are called, but few have the passion, the motivation coupled with the unparalleled vision to be an independent artist.

Being an independent artist has often been called a labor of love. But whether your dream is filmmaking, music, visual art, or a TikTok phenomenon, it’s more than that. It’s the dream river, wider than a life, living on air that is provided by your art and without it, you simply cannot breathe, and you certainly can’t imagine doing anything else.

Whatever the calling, it comes from the heart, but it also requires business savvy, and The Business can chew you up with no regard for how much of your heart and soul was put into your work.

The entertainment industry, and movie making in particular, is one of the most cutthroat businesses. There’s a lot at stake. Filmmaking requires a lot of key elements. It’s no secret that studios spend hundreds of millions of dollars on one film. Rarely do independent movies like the 2004 American science fiction film written, directed, and produced by Shane Carruth, a former mathematician and engineer, have a streamlined budget of only $7,000. Eventually, Carruth’s film made $841,926 at the box office

Normally, even for small Indie films, the average budget is around $15,000 to $30,000. It’s all about money in the entertainment world. However, even if you have a large budget, there is no guarantee that your film will get into a festival.

So, what does it take to be a successful independent filmmaker and win the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance that has over 14,000 plus shorts and feature entries submitted each year?

It can be a long game. No filmmaker comes out of nowhere. According to several articles about Nikyatu Jusu, the 2022 winner, she has been in the business for 15 years and has a host of accolades and awards for her short films under her belt. Nanny, her film that earned her this year’s distinction, is a 98-minute horror film that included special effects and “creature features,” which made it visually powerful. Nanny was a project that Jusu had been thinking about for nine years. Blumhouse and Prime video acquired the distribution rights for the film for $7 million.

However, you don’t have to win at Sundance to be picked up by a major distributor. Directed by Fabio Frey, My Dead Dad, was honored with the Jury Award for Best Feature Film at the Jacksonville Film Festival and Best Feature Award for Drama at the Santa Clarita International Film Festival (SCIFF). Subsequently, it was picked up for distribution by HBO Max.

What Jusu and Frey have in common is they have a vision, passion, and a long history of dedication in the business, as well as building connections and a community.

They follow their drive not their fears.

At the core they know that filmmaking cannot be done alone, which helps reduce any foundering. Their successes are in part due to having a group of kindred spirits surround them and choosing to team up with people who believe in them, support them, and have the fever for, and just as much fervor for, motion picture making as they do.

Brendan Fraser As Gunther On The Affair Is Breakout Role

While there are all kinds of rumors flying around about Brendan Fraser being cast in Showtime’s, The Affair, the truth is the character he plays, prison guard, John Gunther is a break out role; and it confirms that he is a versatile and skillful actor.  Gunther, as he’s known on the show, is nothing like the iconic heroes that Fraser has always portrayed. He is a creepy, unlikeable bully.

The low, guttural, uneducated sounding voice that Fraser uses for the character is disturbing, and an unexpected departure from the lilting charm and deliberate humor of characters like George of the Jungle and Dudley Do-Right.

Fraser may be uncomfortable playing such a monster, but it’s actually refreshing to see him take on such a despicable character. This is not a low point in his career. This is Brendan Fraser maturing as an actor. He has played those loveable goofballs so well for so long.

However, by the interview that he did on AOL, it would seem that he’s having trouble adjusting to the changes in his life and in the entertainment world. While pain and adversity in any form can be debilitating, it’s actually a chance for growth. Fraser should embrace the journey he is on, as it has made him a better actor. Whether he’s heartbroken over his divorce or because he’s not the blockbuster sensation he once was, he should remember that making good art isn’t primarily about being the leading man. And, it doesn’t always have to be on the big screen.

Show business and technology are evolving. If Fraser doesn’t progress with it, he will get left behind. Lots of film stars are now appearing in series on cable channels. Anthony Hopkins is on Westworld (HBO), and Luke Wilson in Roadies (Showtime), and Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman are in an upcoming miniseries called Big Little Lies (HBO).

As for playing John Gunther, some of the best actors have performed in supporting roles, and it has eventually led them to the top. If Fraser plays his cards right, and chooses future parts wisely, his appearance on The Affair could be his road back to a more fulfilling career.


Isabella Rossellini and Patrice Cassanova – A Gathering at Hunter College

Not the usual fanfare or blasting of paparazzi flashes, no red carpets or ball gowns that you’d expect at an event with celebrities like actress, filmmaker and currently academic Isabella Rossellini, and renowned fashion photographer, Patrice Casanova. It was just family, friends, artists, and other academic junkies, getting together on a Thursday, and discussing their favorite subjects: animal behavior, Heritage chickens and photography.

The reason for the gathering: a reception for the closing of the photo exhibition, Fowl Play: Isabella Rossellini’s Heritage Breed Chickens, a collaboration between the two artists, which ended, September 10th. They were being shown at the Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Gallery at Hunter College in New York City during the summer.

In this show, Rossellini and Casanova shed a whole new light on the splendor and grace of these feathered friends.

The show grew out of Rossellini’s commitment as a conservation activist. In 2012, she purchased a parcel of land in the Brookhaven Hamlet in New York, with a plan to lease the farmland. Concerned with sustainability and animal welfare, Rossellini believes, “There is a role for a small farm like mine to help genetic diversity – and not only of vegetables.” The interest led Rossellini to agree to raise a flock of Heritage breed chickens for some friends.

Rossellini and Casanova began the project together, when the birds were just fledglings, newly delivered to Rossellini in tiny cardboard boxes. After the first set of pictures were snapped, Casanova returned every two weeks to photograph the fowl.

Although many only know Rossellini as actress, model and daughter of two film icons, she is an anomaly in the movie industry. At 64, she continues to be offered roles for TV and film, and also finds time, in between projects, to pursue a master’s degree. Presently a graduate student in Hunter College’s Animal Behavior and Conservation program, she gave a three part presentation at the closing event for Fowl Play.

Dressed in a tunic, reminiscent of the multicolored plumage of the Welsummer chicken, she gave a lecture and showed two films, one she created, titled: Wolf Becomes Dog,  and the second, a screening of the 1952 short film, The Chicken’s, which was directed by her father, Roberto Rossellini and starred her mother, Ingrid Bergman. The films shared a similar playful tone, and in both cases, family and friends performed the various roles.

“I’m studying what I always wanted to study as a little girl,” said Rossellini. “They didn’t have these courses in Italy, when I was growing up. I’m lucky I found this program.”

At the age of 15, her father bought her a book about animal behavior titled, King Solomon’s Ring, by Konrad Lorenz. The book awakened the scientist in her.

As part of her conservancy, Rossellini has rented a few acres of her farm to cultivate crops. “They are mostly of heirloom varieties, for chefs who want flavorful ingredients that are not available in grocery stores,” said Rossellini. “You can only buy one breed of carrots or one breed of spinach in the markets.”

Referring to both the vegetables and chickens, she said, “It’s very important to raise endangered breeds that fell out of fashion. I chose Heritage chickens, because they live longer, and you might have diseases that kill all the broiler chickens, which are the ones you eat.  Then, you have others that are resistant to a virus and you don’t have to start again.”

Long known as an environmental philanthropist, Rossellini doesn’t just promote and donate; her actions speak as loud as her words. Dedicated to not only making the world a better place, but also helping the people who live in it, Rossellini also raises service dogs for the blind and disabled.  Nothing goes to waste on the farm either; Rossellini created a coop for people who have bought a portion of the products on the farm. “Weekly we distribute a share of the honey, a share of the eggs and a share of the vegetables.”

The combination of her creative and academic sides inspired Rossellini’s return to the classroom. In 2008, she wrote, directed and starred in a series of video shorts for the Sundance Channel, titled Green Porno.  The production, which stemmed from her work with Robert Redford and the Sundance Channel, is a compilation of eight short films dramatizing the sex life and mating habits of home and garden creatures, including bees, flies, praying mantis and others.

The series quickly found a following and received critical acclaim, including a Webby Award.  The Internet platform was soon adapted into book form, and then the stage. Rossellini toured the one woman show from the Brooklyn Academy of Music to theaters throughout Europe and Australia.

For many years, Rossellini postponed her academic passion in deference to doing what was expected, but in the spring of 2013, at the age of 62, she took her first course at Hunter College in animal welfare, and began the journey of her lifelong aspiration. It’s refreshing and inspiring to see an actress of such prominence taking time out for herself, and following the dream that has been held in her heart since childhood.

The photographs by Patrice Casanova

The silver gelatin prints of the fowl are taken portrait style, and Patrice Casanova has captured the essence of each subject’s personality. From a fledgling’s grey, downy innocence and vulnerability against a soft pink background, to the full grown bird in all its regalia.

Shot at different times of day to catch the changing light, the images have a playful feeling. The setup and angles are reminiscent of Casanova’s fashion days. Taken at eye level, he seemingly has a knack to bring out the model in any subject, even Heritage breed chickens.

Sometimes, the head is tilted, or the bird gives a profile or lunges forward wings spread. At other moments, as with the Welsummer, known for its lighthearted friendly personality, and as the world famed Kellogg’s Cornflake mascot, the chicken stares directly into the camera. Still, the Crested Polish Watch, has a huge bouffant of feathers, and looks like its sporting a hat, similar to the ones worn by the British royals or women at the Kentucky Derby.

The soft focus of these images gives them a painterly appearance. The colors in the birds’ coats are multilayered and seem to be brushstrokes painstakingly painted with several layers of color. There is an anthropomorphic aspect to Casanova’s photographs, and it reminds us that humans are not the only intelligent life forms on earth.

You can also find this article at: The Huffington Post

The photo at the top of this post of Isabella Rossellini, Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab and Patrice Cassanova was taken by Ilana Krugole.


Image of the Crested Polish Watch

Image of a fledgling

Almost Normal – My Insignificant Story about 9/11

This story is dedicated to everyone, because we’re all on a journey; but especially to those whose lives are harder than the rest.

 Normal. What does that even mean, after all the tragedy that has occurred in the world?

My story about 9/11 seems insignificant compared to the first responders, who risked their lives that day to save 25,000 people, or to those who were in the Two Towers and walked down the thousands of stairs.

They are heroes and courageous people. I am just lucky to be alive, and have a story to tell. My story feels insignificant compared to the families, friends and co-workers, who lost people they loved and admired.

We all have stories to tell about what happened 15 years ago, whether you were in the buildings, or at home watching the events unfold on your television. All Americans have a narrative for 9/11.

I remember that there is no other way to describe that day other than perfect. Just like a movie, the sky was an autumn blue. I’m sure somewhere, there were children in a park or a playground. People were reading books and laughing. Somewhere someone was singing.

I didn’t want to go to work.  I wanted to stay home, sleep, read, sing, dance or write. I kept wishing my boss would call and tell me that I didn’t have to come in. My boss didn’t call, so I dragged myself out the door. I got on the L-Train at the Morgan stop, as I did every morning, with a magazine or book in hand.

When I arrived to Lower Manhattan, just beneath The Towers, there were hundreds of people on the sidewalks and in the streets, as I came up from the subway. Many had their cell phones pressed to their ears, and their faces tilted skyward. I asked a few people what happened, and most answered, “I don’t know,” or “There’s a fire.”

Then a man yelled, as if asking a question to the person on the other end of his cell phone, “Oh my God, a plane flew into the building….what?” His head dropped down, and he started pacing back and forth. The tones of people’s voices around me became more frantic, as they spoke to people standing next to them, or those on the other ends of their cell phones.

I tried to call my boss, but he didn’t pick up. I was doing contract work at Nomura Securities, located in a building adjacent to the World Trade Center.

While I was standing there, dialing my phone, paper began to flutter down like pinwheels from the sky. Then, I saw piles of clothes falling from the windows, and wondered, why people would be throwing those things out. As they got closer to the ground, I realized they weren’t what I thought. The paper was money, and the Brooks Brother’s baby pinks and blues had people in them.

Some of the people around me started walking towards the buildings. Others just stood motionless.  I fell to my knees and sat down on the sidewalk, dazed, my face hot, and tears overfilling my eyes.

I was a contributor for The Downtown Express at the time, and thought, “I should go get the story.” I got up and started walking towards The Towers, but it was as if someone placed a hand on my shoulder and held me back and whispered, “You’re not that kind of reporter.”

It was true. I covered mostly arts, but I thought I could cover breaking news. While I was, debating with myself, I heard a loud whining sound, and I looked up to see a plane fly into the South Tower. The ground shook, and glass and steel exploded from the building. Someone yelled, “Hit the deck.” I heard screaming, and watched people running down the street. There were others walking towards the buildings. I imagined they were worried about people they knew who might be inside. I called to them, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” but they didn’t hear me, or ignored me.

Not too long after that, both towers were a pile of dust, and New Yorkers were walking around as if they didn’t know where they were going. There were people covered in ash.

This wasn’t the first time that I’d been in a place when tragedy struck. Twenty years earlier, I was at the Hyatt Hotel in Kansas City on July 17, 1981, when the skywalks fell and 113 people died. Also, a year earlier on August 26th, 2000, a friend of mine committed suicide.

I’m not a stranger to senseless death, but this event, was the beginning of my unravelling. My life was about to get really messy. I’m just lucky to be alive.

I grew up in the Midwest, and my values, morals and ethics are based in that upbringing: Always do the right thing. Always be the nice girl. Don’t sleep around. Don’t lie. Be faithful. Live and let live. Work hard.

After 9/11 though, I wasn’t sure if anything mattered anymore. I walked home just like other New Yorkers that day. I kept looking back. Most of us did, with the disbelief that the smoldering steel gray cloud in the sky was all that was left of the Towers.

I arrived home to three dogs and a cat. My boyfriend of 12 years, an artist, was in Los Angeles.

When he returned about a week later, I was a shell of the person he had known. My soul and spirit were missing. Really not understanding or knowing what to say, mostly he kept muttering things like, “I want my girlfriend back,” as if I would miraculously become normal again. He didn’t realize that I couldn’t unsee or just forget the images of 9/11.

He began spending more time out of town, and because of that, I became more withdrawn, and soon we broke up.

No one around me seemed to understand either. Family and friends thought I should just be over it. That’s when I realized some people have simple lives and others have complex, and those who have never experienced anything traumatic, just don’t sympathize.

I tried therapy, and anti-depressants, and EFT (tapping your fingers). None of it worked for me. All the retelling of the story didn’t desensitize it. It just made me relive it. Anti-depressants and other prescriptions, didn’t stop the sadness or the emotional pain, or help with sleep; and tapping fingers may work for some, but it didn’t for me.

Since I’d been through a similar experience, I knew that facing it head on and the passage of time, were the only ways that I would heal. You don’t forget, but you do learn to move forward.

After 9/11, I was vulnerable, fragile and damaged. Of course, there’s more to this story, and I’m not sure if the events that followed were because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or I made bad decisions, or maybe a combination of both.

Anger and anguish need an outlet. They don’t just go away. Feeling very much as if I was on my own during this part of my journey, I was in a state of desperation to not have any more loss in my life, so I attached myself to a man who, in many ways, was more desperate than me. I ended up making him a better person, and in doing so, found out that I was stronger than I thought. There is more to this story, more tragedy and more pain, and if I had to do this last piece over, I wouldn’t. I would find another way to help me move forward, because, after him, I am truly lucky to be alive, and here to tell my story.

Fifteen years later, I am…almost normal again.

I did learn some skills that do help you move forward, and they are as follows:

1)      Most people around you won’t understand. Gravitate towards those who do. Stay away from those who want to keep you down and prefer you damaged when you start healing.

2)     Some people may avoid you. Don’t take it personal. We are all on our own journeys.

3)     Cut yourself a lot of slack, and heal at your own pace. When you’ve been through a lot, it’s going to take time.

4)     Remember, the deeper the pain you have the greater your capacity for wisdom and happiness. Every action does have an opposite and equal reaction.

5)     Distraction, not destruction of the self or others. But if you overdrink occasionally, it’s okay. However, if you get a habit, get help. Bad habits just intensify your problems.

6)     Have faith in yourself. You will make it to the other side.

7)     Have patience with others. If they don’t understand, it’s because they’ve never experienced anything like it.  Be happy for them.

8)    Consider yourself lucky that you are alive to tell your story.

You can also find this article at:



Make Fun Not War – The Other Side of War

According to the urban dictionary, a War Dog is a political and/or military person who is immorally eager to encourage a people or nation to go to war. This is not Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, as Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz in the movie by Todd Philips, director of “The Hangover” series.

The movie “War Dogs” is based on a true story told in a 2011 Rolling Stone article. It’s a comedy drama about two 20-something, childhood friends, who own a small time, government contract filling, arms selling business. Their bravado gets the best of them over a possible $30 million dollar deal, and they make the mistake of trying to play at the same level as the major munitions providers – the big boys.

This film makes military gunrunning look like a giddy rush, where you’re up all night smoking marijuana, partying at nightclubs, and traveling the world. After a night out, Efraim and David hop a plane to the Middle East to drive guns held up by trade embargos in Jordan, to Baghdad, while being chased by mercenaries.

Right when, those rebels are about to creep up on their tail in Fallujah, the U.S. military swoops in like a superhero and saves them. They are flown back to the U.S. via military escort like dignitaries, after getting paid in cash. After all, they are the “best smugglers in all of Jordan,” and just “drove through the triangle of death” to deliver weapons.

Between the laughs provided by the great writing of this perfect summer blockbuster, the film is laden with deeper meaning.

Don’t run off to start a new career path just yet.  As everyone knows, war is not funny, and the U.S. military is not likely to show up in the middle of the desert, if you’re being run down by rebel insurgents.

Also, war is serious business. David, narrates the story, and at the outset says, “War is an economy. Anyone who tells you otherwise is in on it or stupid.” He goes on to say how much everything costs, including at the time of the Iraq/Afghan war, outfitting a soldier is $17,500.

Bradley Cooper and Ana de Armas help bring the story together, Cooper as a shady arms dealer on the U.S. terrorist watch list and Armas as David’s wife.

David and Efraim, while they seem unlikely, are a realistic duo. The introspective, nice person often gets taken in by the boisterous, reckless character, and they balance each other out, until the State Department steps in to investigate, and then they don’t.

You can also find this post on The Huffington Post website.