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Film Review: Murder on the Orient Express

“My Name Is Hercule Poirot And I am Probably The Greatest Detective In The World…”

Helmed by the steady of hand of theatre and screen aficionado, Kenneth Branagh, the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express comes eighty three years after the source material was first published and forty three years after the first cinematic venture of such a story, one directed by Sidney Lumet and featured an extensively impressive cast which included the likes of Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and the post-Bond presence of Sean Connery. Returning to the big screen once again with a similarly majestic group of actors, Branagh’s take on arguably Christie’s most iconic story is one which cranks up the absurdity in a manner which takes on board Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of Noah, whilst being a film which too enjoys basking in the nostalgia factor of its’ early twentieth century setting, and whilst there is undeniable charm and enjoyment at the heart of Branagh’s project, the real lack of freshness and a wavering narrative hook results in the latest Murder on the Orient Express being just good enough to warrant another punt at the famous source material.

Whilst it seems everyone and their dog is aware of the story at the heart of Christie’s novel, Branagh’s movie utilises Blade Runner 2049 and Logan screenwriter Michael Green’s script to introduce a few minor character differences and narrative swings, of which some directly link back to the Sidney Lumet version of the story and some which are wholly original, with my personal favourite being a karate loving Count Andrenyi who is introduced with a simply baffling scene of him roundhousing a fellow passenger before boarding the titular medium of travel. With the added use of CGI to enhance the titular locomotive’s unplanned halt on the snow-filled tracks and some effectively crafted flashback scenes which both improve on the Lumet version and make things simple for even the most wavering audience mind, Branagh’s first attempt at a big-screen Christie tale passes the time rather harmfully, with the director’s portrayal of Belgium’s most famous export being a charming and suave interpretation, and with an concluding act which sets out a possible future franchise, Murder on the Orient Express is best served with a bourbon biscuit and a nice cup of Earl Grey. Put the kettle on love.

Overall Score: 6/10

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Film Review: Dunkirk

“There’s No Hiding From This Son, We Have A Job To Do…”

The release of a new Christopher Nolan movie is always the time for utmost rejoice, a filmmaker who fundamentally adores the classic ways and means of cinema, and more impressively, a director who, like a modern incarnation of Steven Spielberg, is a guaranteed win for both box office and critical success, something of which each and every one of his films have achieved since his early work all the way back in 2000 with Memento. After the brilliance of Interstellar, a film which although may have been slightly divisive with critics, undoubtedly remains up there with the best work Nolan has offered up so far in terms of spectacle, the London-born filmmaker returns this week with Dunkirk, a live-action blockbuster focusing on the infamous titular evacuation which took place during the early stages of the Second World War and a movie which holds extra levels of kudos for being filmed in the heart of my very own hometown in sunny, sunny Dorset. Whilst you can expect nothing less than a movie with many different levels of wonder from a director such as Nolan, Dunkirk still manages to exceed the already vertigo-esque levels of anticipation which preceded it, and to put the experience of watching Dunkirk into words is a staggering undertaking in itself but what Nolan has ultimately accomplished can only be regarded as a masterpiece of spectacle, sound and sumptuous levels of tension, resulting in the best film to be released so far this year.

Avoiding completely the notion of a stereotypical, singular, character-driven wartime epic in the vein of Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan and Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, Nolan’s determined decision to focus on the triage of land, sea and air narrative threads means that although we are in the company of many different characters throughout each of them, their really isn’t time to discover backstory for any of the respective characters before the real power of the movie starts to come to fruition. From the first opening shot, screeching bullets and the tick-tock of Hans Zimmer’s unbelievably stunning soundtrack grip you in a contortion of spellbinding unrelenting tension, with the face of Fionn Whitehead’s youth-inflicted Tommy at the heart and centre of peril for most, if not all, of the time you share his particular journey of death and destruction, all caused by the unseen entity of the enemy soldier. Whilst Zimmer is renowned for being the brains behind classic musical soundtracks of the past, Dunkirk is undeniably up there with his best work to date, using Nolan’s own personal fob-watch at the heart of the metronome-esque piece of music which fuels the rising anxiety which encompasses the main thrust of the narrative, and by utilising his work hand in hand with the simply stupendous sound design, Dunkirk is the type of movie which is crying out to only be watched on the biggest screen possible in order to truly experience the craft at the heart of it.

With the film’s cinematography being left in the hands of Hoyte van Hoytema, whose previous works includes Her, Spectre and Nolan’s own science fiction epic, Interstellar, it comes as no surprise that Dunkirk is absolutely beautiful to behold, and although the particular screening in which I was in was the normalised digital approach to projection, if you are lucky enough to get the chance to witness Dunkirk in IMAX 35mm or 70mm, take it, with scenes of tantalising air to air battles and sweeping camera shots of soldier infested beaches showcasing an artist at the top of his respective game. Whilst pretenders such as the likes of Michael Bay believe the best use of IMAX cameras is to showcase how endless amounts of pointless explosions look within the format, thank god for the likes of Christopher Nolan, a filmmaker who is grounded completely in the epic grittiness of practicality and more importantly, a director who believes wholeheartedly in the importance of film. Dunkirk isn’t simply just a movie, it is a masterstroke of spectacle and a work of artistic tendency, and a film which not only results in the best blockbuster of the year and perhaps, even the past decade, but is the finest of examples of why cinema is so darn integral and important to those who truly love to witness a filmmaker at the peak of his powers. Nolan is just that, and in spades.

Overall Score: 10/10

Film Review: Cinderella

The Little Glass Slipper

“Not another remake of a Disney classic in order to tear the little money we have away from us”, I hear you all scream! And to be fair, before watching Kenneth Branagh’s “re-imagining” of the well-known fairy tale, I had that exact view, even after being pleasantly surprised of it having a cast that includes Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Stellan Skarsgård and the always brilliant Helena Bonham Carter. My pretty pessimistic view of Cinderella was soon put to bed however, with the film succeeding in being everything that I wanted it to be, whilst simultaneously reminding me of my childhood where Disney films played a constant, and important, part of my early cinematic years. 

As everyone knows the story behind Cinderella there is really not much point in giving a plot synopsis, but I will say how happy I was at seeing how much the film stuck to the original telling from the 1950’s animated classic, something of which has seen to sway away from “re-tellings” recently such as within Into the Woods, which although wasn’t terrible, didn’t really do it for me in attempting to do something a slightly bit different. Sometimes sticking to your roots isn’t such a bad thing, and I think that is one of the reasons the new Cinderella is so strong. Yes, everyone knows the story, but I would rather the film stuck to the story everyone knew instead of heading in a completely different direction, particularly when it is such a beloved fairy tale such as this. Bonus points for that then.

Even more bonus points for the casting too, with Lily James doing a rather grand job in such an iconic role, supported by the ever-smiling Richard Madden as the spouse-searching Prince Kit, and the ever-evil Cate Blanchett who once again shines as an actress, chewing up the scenery as the evil stepmother, Lady Tremaine. For the short time she is on screen, Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother (of course) also shows why she is the go-to kooky character actress too, shoving down the scenery instead of chewing it, only adding more evidence to my opinion that she should just move to a world ran by Tim Burton and Disney. To be honest, I would probably move there too. 

In conclusion, Cinderella beat all my previous expectations of it hands-down, proving that if done correctly, a story as strong as Ella and her glass slipper, can never be broken. Not only is the casting spot on, but the pretty much perfect runtime maintains its’ sense of sheer wonder throughout, ending on a note that can only make you leave the cinema smiling. If there ever was a blueprint for future live-action Disney remakes, then Cinderella has surely secured itself as just that. Cinderella, you can go to the ball.

Overall Score: 8/10

 

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – Quicky Review!

Jack Ryan 1Tom Clancy has had his faced and name slapped across everything in a substantial amount of years. With his recent death, the possibility of more Clancy movies and games creeping out is inevitably going to increase. Having never read one of his books, I cannot comment of his ability as an author. However, his involvement with other forms of the media is were I can play about. Actively avoiding his collection of games because they were simply the same game, wrapped in a different package and sent to the studio to change the threat from the Taliban to Russia. Call of Duty has that market cornered and there is only so much of the same crap we can endure.

Jack Ryan is solely based on the character created by Clancy. Fortunately it doesn’t involve his stories revolving around Jack Ryan and it does allow for a great possibility to move away from the abusive draining of a dead man’s creations. However, Jack Ryan was also played by Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck in several other movies simply aimed at bleeding a rock. When this will end is a mystery that only Da vinci could solve. It would be refreshing to see them come up with something that isn’t solely used for money rather than a good story. The question here is is Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit worth it?

Answer – No.

I’m going to keep this short. The story is genuinely pants. Lets crash another countries economy because they didn’t want to do one thing. Mother Russia is the best, America bad. No America is the land of the free and Russia are just grumpy and we need to send a secret agent to hack into their mainframe. I’m no computer genius but if you wanted to find something out, you can do that. It’s as loose as an extra large condom on a small calibre man and feels ignorantly patriotic that it is painful to watch. It’s a plot that takes itself

From story to acting, I have to attack the most prominent piece for me. Keira Knightley. First of all, what jackass cast her to play an American even though she cannot do an American accent without looking like a horse. Alongside the fact that the rest of her acting could be considered poor, at best, it really puts a lot of pressure onto the others to bring the level back up. However, stuck with Jack Ryan 3Kevin Costner, the acting isn’t going to be great. Yet Chris Pine should have filled his role of testosterone filled secret agent pretty easily but his voice squeaks in comparison to Kenneth Branagh’s thick Russian accent. None of it fits. Much like a school play, people have been cast simply because they asked for it and were available. The extent of their talent has disappeared as Christmas draws closer and they are excited to get home rather than put all of their effort into a play that means very little to children who have no concept of what the story is trying to portray. Each character has little or no background whatsoever and are thrust onto screen while Kenneth Branagh (also the director) shoots at their feet to make them dance. It’s a hash of people with no character, poorly directed positioning, script and casting and should not have passed go.

Finally, the only thing that should be good in this movie but is incredibly mediocre and excessively over-produced is the action. The action is big, there’s a lot of noise (all be it deafening) but all common sense just vaporises. We do everything in extensive action scenes through the streets of cities will no interference from traffic. I went to Paris last year, it was fucking difficult to drive around. I’ve also seen New York traffic and the aspect of reality and common sense piles on me with every poor punch.

The movie had my hopes high. A cast of actors that are typically deemed good, only to find out they are astonish bad. A script written by a room of monkeys that still have the deadline for that Shakespeare piece and an attitude to it that is so pretentious and up it’s own ass makes it a poor watch. I haven’t even delved into the cinematography because it wound me up so much. A constant blur covers the screen, with nothing clear or crisp, I don’t feel I’m in a modern movie that’s been recorded on a million dollar camera but rather an Iphone. So my overall score rounds in at 6/10. The only redeeming factors are that it’s an action movie and keeps you remotely interested and it’s only 105 minutes long which is enough to pass the time you need to waste before you go to the dentist for that check-up they keep insisting on.

Jack Ryan 4