Movie Preview? Aniston and Adam Sandler are back for “Murder Mystery 2”

An Indian wedding, a kidnapped maharajah and Mark Strong as “a real detective” feature in this March 31 action comedy that is the third teaming of Sand Man and “Jenn.”

Could be fun. Probably not, but let’s see what we see.

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Netflixable? Lily Collins plays a rich NYC DA thrown for a loop by Daddy’s “Inheritance”

Lily Collins plays a wealthy, powerful family’s daughter who learns about their skeleton in the attic — actually hidden in a bunker in the woods of the family estate — in “Inheritance,” a lumbering thriller from the director of the Margot Robbie bomb titled “Terminal.”

Putting the ballerina-dainty Collins in any movie where physical throw-weight matters is always problematic. Here, she’s a Manhattan district attorney facing down corrupt billionaires and their high-priced lawyers in court by day, a manic daughter trying to keep the upper hand on a bigger, more motivated hermit her father enslaved in an underground lair decades before.

Put aside any issues with the film’s pacing, the public servant’s reluctance to do what seems like the obvious “right” and “legal” thing, and it’s just hard to buy Collins in many situations this movie puts her in. She’s easy to underestimate, to perceive as a lightweight, figuratively and literally.

It all comes to pieces for Lauren Monroe when her stern, high-expectations banker/father (Patrick Warburton) dies in the middle of her biggest case.

Daddy shafting her in the will, favoring her embattled Congressman younger brother (Chace Crawford), assorted charities and her mother (Connie Nielsen), doesn’t help.

But Daddy left Lauren a flash drive and a key. He won’t tell her, on his video message from the grave, his “secret.” But the key, and the location of the lock it fits will. It’s the source of “a secret you must carry to your grave.”

That’s where the bearded, soiled and miserable hostage who eventually tells her his name is “Morgan” is kept. Played by a barely-recognizable (FLAWless accent, mate!) Simon Pegg, this reluctant hermit locked away where even sunlight can’t find him has a tale to tell. And he takes his sweet time telling it.

Lauren, even with pressures closing in around her (court, media attention, her in-the-dark husband played by Marque Richardson and their little girl), can’t let herself panic or even feel any urgency about getting to the bottom of this crime and scandal-above-all-scandals.

Morgan? He’s desperate but apparently patient, a man who has held on, clinging to a memorized recipe for key lime pie, making petty demands when he realizes she’s not going to let him go on sight.

“My survival would be my revenge” on her father, he tells her.

Director Vaughn Stein takes forever to get this movie on its feet, and the slower he goes, the more Collins stands out as inadequate as his lead. We need to have lots of doubts about her actions and motivations, sense an inner resolve and toughness, see her doing the instant calculus of what she’s confronted with.

A faster-paced film might have given us at least the illusion of those, papered over with the urgency of “This will all blow up in my face any second now” that we never, ever feel in a movie about a situation that should throw our heroine into a rash, blind panic.

Rating: TV-MA, violence, profanity

Cast: Lily Collins, Simon Pegg, Connie Nielsen, Michael Beach, Chace Crawford, Marque Richardson and Patrick Warburton

Credits: Directed by Vaughn Stein, scripted by Matthew Kennedy. A Vertical release on Netflix.

Running time: 1:51

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Movie Preview: Mr. King’s next big screen adaptation, “The Boogeyman”

The horror writer and his son are having quite the big bounce in Hollywood paydays, and this June 2 release adds to that and yet barely scratches the surface in the back catalog of Stephen King writing that could be filmed, streamed or podcast.

The run of hits has been dazzling, with even assorted streaming adaptations drawing big names and attention.

Those of us who lived through earlier waves of Steven King adaptations are entitled to wonder if and when this one will crest and ebb.

With horror held in such high regards these days it’s not likely he’ll be perceived as box office poison. But he’s had his in and out years.

This looks fairly conventional.

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Movie Preview: “Alive,” a Bit of Brit Zombieland

Maybe it’s better than the trailer.

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Documentary Review — “Mixtape Trilogy: Stories of the Power of Music”

“Mixtape” is a word loaded with meaning to generations, a form of musical shorthand with one person curating a collection of songs to express their feelings for someone else, to make a statement about who they are through their musical tastes, or just provide appropriate jams to accompany a road trip.

So titling your documentary “Mixtape Trilogy” builds in certain expectations.

But the film Kathleen Ermitage presents under that label, “Mixtape Trilogy: Stories of the Power of Music” has literally nothing to do with such expectations. It’s a tuneful three musicians/three “fans” film groping around for a theme, with a title that seems an overreach as well.

There’s a somewhat touching opening story of how Indigo Girls fanatic Dylan Yellowlees — who has attended over 350 of their shows over the decades — found comfort, identity and her “tribe” when she caught their first hit, “Closer to Fine” on the radio.

Neither the “Girls” — Amy Ray and Emily Saliers — nor Yellowlees had come out in the late ’80s when they first hit and Yellowlees discovered her favorite band. But a life-bond was made, and they’ve actually gotten to know each other over the years. Remembering how closeted most of gay America was at that time, Yellowlees paints an interesting picture of that first Indigo Girls concert, where “I wasn’t the only lesbian” in the room, for the first time in perhaps her life.

Garnette Cardogan is a Charlottesville essayist and academic, a native of Jamaica and jazz fan who lived in New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina sent him to New York, where he found Indian-American jazz pianist Vijay Iyer, and they bonded over Iyer’s “political” techno-tinged tunes.

And Michael Ford is a Detroit native with a design school background who bills himself as “The Hip Hop Architect,” someone who dissects and deconstructs tunes by the likes of Talib Kweli, and uses that to inspire designs and urban planning and teaches kids to analyze musical messaging and structure via his Hop Hop Architecture Camps.

The three “stories” here don’t really connect. The music is good, but the stories are so different, with each falling on different spots on the “Is there a point to all this?” spectrum that ,the film doesn’t measure up to the tunes.

And damned if I can figure this hip architecture thing that finishes it, other than to guess SOMEbody must be quite good at grant writing to turn a notion that vague and nebulous into a kids’ camp.

Honestly, that goes for the filmmaker as well. Breaking down this “Mixtape” all I can see and hear is three indifferent short films formatted to fit together, but not really making a point.

Rating: unrated

Cast: Amy Ray, Emily Saliers, Dylan Yellowlees, Vijay Iyer, Garnette Cardogan, Michael Ford and Talib Kweli

Credits: Scripted and directed by Kathleen Ermitage. A 1091 release

Running time: 1:34

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Movie Review: Frank Grillo spills blood in Peckinpah-land — “Little Dixie”

“Little Dixie,” a down and dirty B-movie set in Republican Oklahoma and drug cartel Mexico, makes what I’d consider its first false move over 80 minutes in to its 105 minute running time.

That, as aficionados of B-movies know, ain’t bad.

The latest thriller from the Oklahoma filmmaker John Swab, who gave us the gritty “Ida Red,” is a tense and topical homage to Sam Peckinpah built around Swab’s preferred acting avatar, Frank Grillo. And if you’ve read any reviews on this site over the years, you know I’m all about Frank.

They’ve conjured up a formulaic tale with no heroes, with even the characters we might take to less than six degrees separated from bribes, drug smuggling and murders. Swab, who also had the brass to do a truck stop sex trade drama, “Candy Land,” takes formula tropes and wrings something darker if not entirely fresh out of genre. The result goes down like mid-grade whisky — a little rough, a tad predictable, but with a damned satisfying finish.

A conservative, “tough on crime” governor (Eric Dane) gained power thanks to his savvy campaign advisor (Annabeth Gish, bringing a little old intensity) and a strategy that won him not only the state’s deep red Southeast (Little Dixie, but not the “Little Dixie” of the title), but Hispanic voters.

He’s in hot water over “Keystone” pipeline bribes, so he personally shows up at the gruesome execution of a top underboss of the Prado family cartel. That’ll change the subject.

But “Doc,” a comrade from Governor Jeffs’ “special forces” days, is there, too. Doc (Grillo) is wired into all sorts of things. He’s an underground operator/fixer who arranged cash infusions into Jeffs’ campaign. And that cash, we quickly learn, came from that very same cartel.

And “they’re gonna respond.” A governor who figures he’s got a political issue that will get him to Washington and boasts “This is only the beginning,” has to clue, despite Doc’s blunt and bluff warnings.

The Prados send their scariest brother north to deliver their revenge. Raiding a drug lab won’t help. This guy, Cuco (Beau Knapp) wears his sunglasses indoors and his sunglasses at night. And we all know what that means.

Let the reprisals begin. Doc isn’t implicated, but if there’s a general “cleaning” going on, we can guess he’ll be caught up in it. And the fact that we meet Doc’s daughter (Sofia Bryant) gives us at least one person we can root for in all this.

Because everybody else is dirty, venal, and now shy about spilling blood. Doc, like Cuco, has to mow down a lot of cops to escape that police raid.

There are standard ingredients to thrillers like this that genre filmmakers should seriously consider retiring. The daughter as “hostage” thing has been beaten to death. Naked women making drugs has become the new “strip club” in underworld thrillers, a pointless titillation that has become a self-perpetuating movie myth.

And this must be the fiftieth movie I’ve seen in the past six months to have some dude with “special skills” because he’s “ex-special forces.” It’s a crutch. There isn’t even any novelty to making this character a bad “good” man. He’s a cop killer in bed with drug dealers. I bet even a few of the vets who tried to stage a coup one recent January 6 could claim they are “great dads.”

Enough with this crap. It’s worn out, it’s not exactly a “tribute” and movie heroes who aren’t trained killers but find themselves in over-their-heads and forced into violence are always more interesting characters.

That said, Grillo wears this role like the tailored suit jacket he keeps putting on and taking off. Doc doesn’t flip out when he’s forced into action. He knows what weapons and accessories he’s going to need. He acquires them and uses them without compunction.

“Little Dixie” doesn’t break any new ground. Its violence isn’t Sam Peckinpah fresh, partly because the action cinema’s ability to shock has faded due to numbing over-exposure. Several third act twists didn’t play for me, and I thought the finale tried something out that just didn’t work.

But it’s another solid, richly-textured outing by a filmmaker who covers familiar ground and keeps the Oklahoma in his stories and Frank Grillo center-screen when the chips are down.

Rating: R for strong violence and bloody images, pervasive language, some sexual content and brief nudity.

Cast: Frank Grillo, Annabeth Gish, Eric Dane, Sofia Bryant and Beau Knapp

Credits: Scripted and directed by John Swab. A Paramount+ release.

Running time: 1:45

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Movie Review: “Throuple” grapples with “Petit Mal” in their relationship, as the viewer fights Petit Terne

“Petit Mal” is the ever-so-precious title of a minor Spanish melodrama about three twentysomething women who try a “throuple,” a lesbian menage a trois, on for size.

Director, writer and co-star Ruth Caudeli has crafted an intimate, quiet, self-consciously arty and petit prétentieux/petit terne (dull) film about what happens when that peaceful, work-in-progress relationship is tested by a long separation.

Marti, short for Martina (Silvia Varón), Anto (Ana María Otálora) and Laia (Caudeli) share a house, a pack of five dogs and their lives together in a kind of “unequal” romantic/domestic relationship.

They may lightly tease about which two aren’t allowed to speak Catalan instead of Castilian Spanish in front of the other and who “always burns the vegetables” when they’re cooking paella. But they eat off the same paella pan and seem to love and support one another in an almost conventionally unconventional way.

And when Laia talks about how penguins “mate for life,” we are allowed to guess where the fissures will open, because plainly she is the glue that holds the trio together.

Laia has some undefined job in film production which calls her to LA. Is she supporting them? Marti is editing a documentary about their lives together. And emotional Anto is a musician who sits at the piano at one weepy point and composes a lament, “One of three, and I’m alooooone” (in Spanish with English subtitles).

Laia’s leaving leads to tearful “Miss you” Facetime and creates quite the strain at home, where Marti and Anto apparently never would have gotten together were it not for Laia’s butch dyed-blonde allure. Something has to give. What will it be?

Caudeli doesn’t give us a movie of shouting matches, but of subtle, almost silent longing and loneliness. The women back in Spain take some time to get into sync, and find that one thing they might bond over is mutual suspicions of what that female tomcat Laia is up to it LA.

Even that isn’t debated out loud.

Caudeli leaves out back story altogether and takes a very long time to identify every character by name, which is naturalistic (most intimates don’t feel the need to call those their lover anything other than “Amor.” The writer-director never quite reveals exactly how these three keep home and hearth together, although we see one person stuck doing the dishes, another trusted with most of the cooking.

Instead of “how does this work” logistics, Caudeli lets us figure that out without all the information we need. We just observe.

She does that irritating, self-conscious filmmaker thing of serving up this scanty story in titled “chapters,” including “2: We convulsed.” That’s what “Petit Mal” means, a “tiny seizure.” Here, that’s the shock of separation and what it produces.

Every shot, including the right-on-cue sex scene, is beautifully-composed, with the middle acts filmed in black and white to show the color that’s drained out of the relationship that Laia appears to have masterminded.

It’s not a badly-crafted film, just a shallow gloss on these characters and a relationship that they don’t explain, don’t dissect and analyze, but simply live.

That’s not enough.

Rating: unrated, sex and nudity

Cast: Silvia Varón, Ana María Otálora, and Ruth Caudeli

Credits: Scripted and directed by Ruth Caudeli. A Dark Star release.

Running time: 1:29

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Netflixable? Italian pranksters discover “The Price of Family” is no bargain

One can abide many things from a screen comedy, but “pointlessness” is a real hard sell for me.

That’s a major gripe about the Italian farce “The Price of Family,” titled “Natale a tutti i costi” in the mother tongue.

A movie filled with characters irritating enough to get under your skin, with almost no one likable enough to root for or empathize with, it ruins even that “hate watching” quality by the time the credits roll. In the end, it’s just a dull, mirth-starved muddle that barely gets up on its feet long enough to fall flat.

It’s about bratty, self-absorbed adult kids and their needy, annoying empty-nest parents.

We meet Alessandra (Dharma Mangia Woods) and Emilio (Claudio Colica) on the day they’re leaving home. Both are moving from suburbia to “the city,” out of college and ready to strike out on their own. But at least they’ll come home for holidays, birthdays, funerals and the like, right? Family is everything in Italy, after all.

Nothing doing. A skipped holiday here, a missed funeral there. Next thing you know, Mom (Angela Finocchiaro) is cooking a big dinner, baking a cake — the works — and birthday girl Alessandra is a no show. Put-upon workaholic Emilio doesn’t come, either. They won’t even pick up the phone when Dad (Christian de Sica) wants to know what gives?

The little rompicoglionis.

Mom, competing with the neighbor whose doting daughter never misses a visit, is beside herself. They aren’t planning on coming Christmas, either?

So Anna and Carlo decide to play a little “joke.” That aunt’s funeral they skipped? Maybe the aunt left Anna and Carlo a big inheritance. Maybe they’ll let that slip and see just how shallow and “too busy” their kids really are. Anna’s mom (Fioretta Mari) tries to warn them.

“Revenge can be a little bit like getting too drunk,” she intones (in Italian, or dubbed into English). “When you need to stop, you’re unable to.”

The parents set up the trick with a bit of ghosting and a little conspicuous consumption — designer clothes for her, a (rented) Ferrari for him. Lo and behold, the prodigal children return, all attentive and affectionate and what not.

Sure, Emilio still gives his mom his laundry. And yes, Alessandra’s kind of adrift, having taken a job as a dentist’s receptionist and live-in lover, with vacation plans for every holiday.

But hey, nothing’s more important than family, right?

Writer-director Giovanni Bognetti (“I, Babysitter”) takes a shot at making this inconsequential comedy come off. First, things blow up on the callow kids. Then the parents are trapped in their web of lies and things blow up on them.

The leads are pretty bland, and the only supporting player to register is Alesssandro Betti, who plays Emilio’s abusive boss who is one of those who hears “money” and changes his tune. A little.

Nobody in this is likable, nothing about this is all that interesting and in the end, that whole “pointlessness” business kind of makes you wonder where where your 90 minutes went.

Rating: TV-MA, profanity

Cast: Christian de Sica, Angela Finocchiaro, Dharma Mangia Woods,
Claudio Colica, Alessandro Betti and Fioretta Mari.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Giovanni Bognetti. A Sony film on Netflix.

Running time: 1:30

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Classic Film Review: A Master Shows his Hand in an early silent serial, Fritz Lang’s “The Spiders” (1919)

Silent cinema isn’t for everyone, because not everyone is curious about the building blocks of modern cinema, how filmmakers from the era before “Babylon,” before the talkies, invented the language and techniques of storytelling with a camera.

But if you’re curious how an oft-filmed tale looked in its original, silent incarnation, if you want to know about erased female film pioneers, if you’ve immersed yourself in the canon of John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock or Chaplin, you might find yourself drawn to their earliest work, before microphones were added to film sets.

The Austrian Fritz Lang made the landmark early sci-fi thriller “Metropolis” and the murderer-hunted-down classic “M” before migrating to Hollywood and making his mark there with many films, “The Big Heat,” “Rancho Notorious” and “The Blue Gardenia” among them.

His influence on the genre defined as “film noir” by French critics could have just as well been labeled “Dunkel Film,” since a German-speaking Austrian filmmaker had such a big role in defining it.

Lang’s themes of crime and punishment, conspiracy and guilt became something like his calling cards over his long career. But when did that get its start? His “Doctor Mabuse” movies? “M?” His early silents?

The one-eyed World War I veteran was just three films into his directing career — he got into movies via scenario writing — when he brought “The Spiders” movies to audiences in 1919 and 1920. They were adventure serials, two one hour films, with two more planned and never made. A treasure-hunting tale built around an American adventurer, Kay Hoog (Carl de Vogt), they pitted him against a nefarious, secretive Chinese-founded crime organization named for its calling card — spiders.

Lang’s lifelong obsession with evil conspiracies and criminal masterminds, the persistent threat of organized criminal malevolence, is all over this lively, action-packed thriller.

Silent cinema in America was wholly primitive pre-“Birth of a Nation,” and still almost unwatchable pre-1920. A few Chaplin comedies are the exception, but by and large, the acting was overdone, presentational mime, the worst habits of the Victorian stage preserved on film well into the Edwardian era.

But the acting is startlingly natural in “The Spiders,” the fights and shootouts chaotic and perilous and the variety of settings, “researched” and envisioned by a German university’s ethnography department, an opening credit tells us, quite striking for a film from just-defeated post-war Germany.

Fay Hoog finds a literal message in a bottle, a location of an Inca treasure scrawled by a doomed adventurer we see toss the bottle into the sea just as he’s murdered in Peru. Fay puts on his tux and tells the others swells at his San Francisco club that he’s dropping whatever he’s doing to go and find it.

Oddly, he will do this alone. No “expedition” for him.

But “The Spiders,” a well-heeled organization of the entitled rich and their Chinese underworld partners, are determined to steal the directions to this treasure and get there before Fay. Their best agent, Lio Sha (Ressel Orla) organizes an expedition with Dr. Telphas (Georg John). Because unlike the pistol-packing Fay, she has an idea of how hard this will be.

Their cat and mouse chase begins on the long train ride south, continues as Fay makes escapes by horse and even hot air balloon, which Fay parachutes out of, with many assorted complications on their way to their meeting with destiny and the Last of the Incas.

Over the course of the two films — titled “The Golden Sea” and “The Diamond Ship” — the quest will change, from Inca gold to a Buddha-shaped diamond. But the rivals will remain the same. Bodies will turn up with spider dolls on their chest. And Fay will take sailing barquentines, motorcars and biplanes in his efforts to save this or that damsel, find treasure and take down The Spiders, or as they and these films about them were called in German, “Die Spinnen.”

Silent films were much easier to export than talking movies, so a film like this would have played far and wide, anywhere a projector could be had and the audience could be relied on to ignore recent history and its enemy combatant (German) origins.

That played a hand in this “lost” film’s recovery. If you become as famous as Fritz Lang, film historians are going to look for that earliest work. And if its only available in pieces from prints or negatives scattered all over the world, they’ll make the effort.

That explains the different shades of monochrome in this 1970s restoration. Lang was still living when that process started, and reminded the restorers that sequences were tinted into something resembling color here and there, and helped with the continuity, which is still choppy and not the easiest “simple” story to follow.

The acting impresses, as do the stunts, no matter how they faked them. An early scene, showing assorted spiders passing the word, via phone calls, features five talking figured matted (part of the film frame left unexposed) into the same shot, an impressive effect for the day.

Looking back on it from 100 years later, simple things like how train travel looked in the day, and a couple of still-used-for-commerce tall sailing ships are employed as sets might be the most impressive images. Whatever Hollywood and modern cinema do to recreate such vessels, the real thing is a striking image — towering masts of wood and vast arrays of rope rigging, sails and crew who knew how to work them.

Seen today, “The Spiders” can seem a pretty primitive affair. Racial attitudes and racial depictions flirt with being cringeworthy, and the narrative — with those German university ethnographers not pointing out that “Incas” as an organizing culture were 350 years dead by the time this movie was made — leaves something to be desired.

Lang’s ongoing obsession with crime is hinted at, but the guilt and punishment that became signature subjects and subtexts of his films would come later, after the suspicious death of his first wife in 1921. When you’re cheating on her and she dies with your military service pistol, either by suicide or perhaps even murdered by the filmmaker who would become famous, lifelong “guilt” is a given.

It’s still fascinating to any film buff to see the sort of ambitious work Lang was attempting in his 20s, just as his career was beginning, just as the image language of the cinema was being codified for all time.

Rating: unrated, violence

Cast: Carl de Vogt, Ressel Orla, Lil Dagover, Georg John and Bruno Lettinger

Credits: Scripted and directed by Fritz Lang, a Declar-Bioscop AG film on Kino Lorber, Tubi, Amazon etc.

Running time: two films, shown together, 2:10

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Are you watching “Poker Face?”

A couple of things keep from reviewing more TV series, short or long form.

They’re a big investment in time if you want to do a show justice. Watching three, four or five episodes are kind of a must, and for someone who takes notes, jots down snippets of dialogue to illustrate punchy writing, or its opposite (dull hackwork), that’s a whole day.

And the reviews, once you’ve written them, have no shelf life. Viewers/consumers tend to flock to a show when it’s new, with a few obsessing about “Ozark,” “Bosch” or “The Walking Dead” or that Taika Waititi gay pirates thing, doing blogs, podcasts and the like as the series continues, while the rest of the culture has moved on.

With every streaming service coming up with marquee shows — “Handmaid’s Tale,” “Only Murders in the Building,” “Ted Lasso” — subscribing to them all just to keep up isn’t cost effective. Getting every single streamer/cable operation to provide critics with previews of their next big thing is exhausting, because most aren’t as efficient as most film studios, Netflix, Paramount and Apple TV+, at telling you what they have coming up and setting you up with site access to review it.

Follow Disney’s lead, kids. They have this figured out.

So I’m not reviewing “Poker Face,” despite its very promising pilot. And great cast. And the fact that Rian Johnson has taken his Netflix movie proof-of-concept handling of mysteries to its logical conclusion, long-form series.

A Natasha Lyonne star vehicle — long may she reign — it’s got elements of TV classics like “Columbo,” “The Fugitive” and “The Immortal” in it, as regular TV critics have pointed out. But its setting, starting in the sordid world of Nevada gambling and wandering off from there, has “The Cooler” and “Hard Eight” wired in.

Lyonne plays Charlie Cale, a high-mileage, high-functioning alcoholic who when we meet her is just another short-skirt cocktail waitress at Frost Casino in somewhere-other-than-Vegas Nevada. She’s “doing all right,” living in a tiny, battered travel trailer, keeping her ’70s Plymouth Barracuda running, with enough money for beer and whatever it is we don’t see her eating.

Charlie wound up in Gambling Country thanks to her “gift.” She’s got an uncanny knack for sensing when somebody is lying. Lying is called “bluffing” in poker, so you get the connection. Not that she can gamble there.

The pilot is about a friend from that casino hotel who sees something illegal and tries to report it and to reach Charlie, but is murdered in the opening scenes. As in “Colombo” and other tales of this type, the show is about how each week’s crime and criminal are unraveled by persistent, annoying Charlie, her gift and her slightly askew, somewhat half-assed sense of moral justice.

Johnson immerses us in each week’s corner of the world Charlie inhabits, makes his case for why crimes in this milieu are the sort that cops — in gambling towns, they’re pretty much all on the take — don’t sweat. These are “little people” whom “nobody’ll miss.” And he does his damnedest to scripturally and cinematically make Charlie’s case using just her tricky way of questioning (“The Closer,” with a near-supernatural bent), her booze-addled “Monk” powers of observation, her survival instincts and her common sense. Her vague goal, made up on the fly, is to crack the case and acquire some sort of rough justice by the open-ended (she’s on the lam) closing credits.

Lyonne, a former teen star who made a comeback with “Orange is the New Black,” is at her scruffy, sassy, blowsy best here. She makes most every time she says “BullSHIT” at a lie she’s willing to call someone on to their face, fresh.

Johnson signed up a SAG directory of co-stars to populate Charlie’s traveling panorama of victims and suspects — Oscar winner Adrien Brody and the steely Benjamin Bratt in the pilot, with Ron PERLMAN, Judith Light, the estimable Tim Blake Nelson, Megan Suri, Chloe Sevigny, Ellen Barkin, Nick Nolte, Simon Helberg (“Big Bang Theory”), Tim Meadows of “SNL,” Lil Rel Howery and the unseen, menacing voice of a Mr. Big casino owner matching wits and learning the parameters of Charlie’s “gift” the hard way throughout the run.

I like Johnson’s problem-solving, the situations he gets his characters into and ways he comes up with for Charlie to escape her latest fix. But I do wonder how long he can keep this up. “Glass Onion” proved that he’s got a limited number of tricks up his sleeve for Benoit Blanc to employ, and even in the pilot to “Poker Face” we see Charlie, and him, flailing a bit, missing the Best Way to Get Out of a Crowded Hotel When You’re Being Chased gambit.

Sending your heroine on the lam in a beater of a 50 year-old conspicuous muscle “car with character,” is cool but not the subtlest/cleverest touch.

But I plan to get back to “Poker Face” when Peacock parks it on their free site down the road. If you’re curious, Peacock will let you set up an account, credit card free, to see that pilot and some of their older content, so even if you don’t subscribe — $29 and change for a whole year right now seems like a bargain — you can at least see what all the fuss is about.

In the case of “Poker Face,” that fuss seems justified.

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