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Archive for the ‘Judi Dench’ Category

murderOne of my big complaints when it comes to humans and movies that are based on books is that invariably most humans I know will say, “It isn’t as good as the book.”   I have many problems with this statement not the least of which is that it is impossible to turn a 400+ page book, or whatever sized book, into an enjoyable 2 hour movie.  The biggest example of this for me is I remember when the Lord of The Rings Trilogy was released I had people telling how much was left out.  But when they decided to turn The Hobbit into three movies, I heard bitching that there was barely enough material for two movies let alone three.  So my suggestion to you all who have read or enjoying reading books and then worry whether or not the movie will be just as good I say STOP.  Just enjoy the movie for what it is and keep it separate from whatever book it is based off of because chances are if you are still reading books you are going to it more than the movie.

Now I know what you are asking, “What does any of this have to do with your review of Murder on the Orient Express?”  Well my dear readers, all two of you, I mention this because I know that this movie is based on a book by the famous author Agatha Christie.  It is also a book I have never read so this was a blank slate for me.  What amazes me about this story is that it is entertaining but the ending left me with an almost overwhelming feeling of sadness.  Justice was served but it left me with an empty feeling and I just don’t know how to feel about that because I wasn’t expecting it.  But it doesn’t make it a bad, quite the contrary I did enjoy the film and hope that director/lead actor Kenneth Branagh does another of these films because I would definitely go to see another one.

World famous detective Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh (Peter’s Friends) has found himself aboard the passenger train The Orient Express travelling from Istanbul to Paris with an eclectic group of fellow passengers.  The train runs in to issues in the mountains when an avalanche blocks the tracks and strands the train and its passengers for a few days until it can be cleared.  The morning after the avalanche one of the passengers is found murdered and Poirot is hired by the manager of the train to solve the murder before the train makes its next stop.

murder2The strength of the movie is the cast as almost all of them do an excellent job of portraying their characters.  I believe the best of the good group was Branagh as Poirot. For being a Brit he was able to pull off French quite well.  He also was quite entertaining bringing emotion to the character both with the humor in the beginning and the sadness /anger at the end of the film.  While Branagh set the pace of all the cast I felt the next closest was Josh Gad (Pixels) as Hector MacQueen who was the assistant to the murdered passenger and the first suspect.  I felt uncomfortable as he felt uncomfortable during his interrogation.  I also want to make special note to actress Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens,) who is Mrs. Mary Debenham.  While her performance is fine but not spectacular there is something about her that I find oddly attractive.  I mean she is a lovely woman and she can definitely act but there is just something about her that just stokes the fire.  If I were to rank her in forms of sweets I like and Olivia Munn is my Easter Peeps, Daisy would be a DQ Reese’s peanut butter cup blizzard.  If there is one actor whose performance I can’t quite figure out if it was excellent or horrible it would surprisingly be Johnny Depp (Mortdecai.)  He plays an obviously crooked art dealer name Edward Ratchett.  Depp plays Ratchett in such a way that I actually hate him and I can’t tell if it’s an awesome performance played perfectly or he hated being in this film and it showed.  The reason I have for this is that at the beginning of the film he played his character just as sleazy and as horrible as any human could be which didn’t make sense to me not knowing the story.  But as the movie went along and followed the story it turns out that Ratchett is a horrible human so it made the performance brilliant…I think.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Depp is amazing and I believe his Jack Sparrow performance in Pirates of the Caribbean is tied for the best character performance in movie that I have seen (tied with Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in Tombstone.)  The last performance I would like to mention is that of one of my crushes in the 80’s and early 90’s Michelle Pfeiffer (Hairspray.) While her performance as Caroline Hubbard was uninspiring it always makes me happy to see her.  I still have fond memories of her in Batman Returns in that Catwoman uniform and she is downright Goddess like in the movie Wolf. murder3

I know I wasted a bunch of paper earlier talking about not knowing the story of the book.  I decided to do the online Cliffnotes version i.e. Wikipedia and looked up the story of the book and it appears that the basic story of both match.  Which I must admit is interesting idea (If you haven’t figured it out I am purposely being vague as to not spoil the ending if you, like me, had not seen the 1974 film or read the book.)  I will say that the beginning seemed to be a little slow and it did appear somewhat obvious who was going to be murdered as we were introduced to the characters. That being said the mystery kept me interested and the ending was surprising and as I have already mentioned somewhat unhappy in the final result.

Despite the sadness of the ending of the movie I was moved by it and that is due to how Branagh shot the final scenes as well as the music put to it by Patrick Doyle, who is used in most if not all of Branagh’s movies.  The ending stuck with me as I walked out of the theater, in and out of the bathroom, and through the traffic on the way home.  As for the rest of the production I thought visually it was quite nice with lovely wide shots of Jerusalem and Istanbul in the beginning of the film which are greatly contrasted with the close quarters of the train and the choices Branagh made in showing the murder scene and other areas of the distressed train.

I do enjoy the film and like I said I hope we do see a follow up with Branagh as Poirot as the ending of the film has him leaving for Egypt for yet another murder.  This film has quite a few well-known actors that I did not talk about but not for nefarious reasons as their performances were fine.  The list includes but not limited to Penelope Cruz (Zoolander 2,) Willem Defoe (Clear and Present Danger,) and Judi Dench (Spectre.) If you like mysteries and are unfamiliar with the story I believe you will enjoy it and if you are familiar with it I hope you do.  With the many bad movies that are out there I do not believe you will be disappointed by this film.  Unless you are my friend Reed who doesn’t like any movie made after 1980 and thinks the 1974 version of this film is better without even seeing this one.  But he is a tool so don’t worry about him.

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SpectreSo I should never get my expectations high for a movie because rarely are they met when they are high. Although, truth be told, some parts of this movie met and exceeded my expectations.  But then again a lot of the movie had me shaking my head with a quizzical look on my face.  So while I liked the movie, and I have it on Blu-Ray, it left me wanting a lot more.

James Bond, played by Daniel Craig (Golden Compass,) is back and after years of trying to find the organization responsible for his beloved Vesper Lynd’s death as well as the old M.  It looks as if he is finally making headway after the old M, played by Judi Dench (Casino Royale,) leaves a death message via video to tell him to find a particular man in the event of her death.  Despite the orders of the new M, played by Ralph Fiennes (Hail, Caesar!,) not to go anywhere he begins the final hunt to find the organization known as Spectre and its leader Ernst Blofeld, played by Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Bastards.)

The first ten minutes of this movie sets up my emotions for the entire film.  The opening scene, which is always that trademark James Bond action sequence, is probably the best Bond opening in the history of Bond movies.  It was ridiculously exciting watching these two guys fight in a flying helicopter.  I can’t remember a scene that was that fun.  Even before that when he shoots a briefcase in a building that ended up having a bomb in it which destroys that building that causes it to fall on the building Bond is in, which collapses the roof and sends him sliding down and ultimately land comfortably on a sofa was hilarious.   So the beginning was starting off brilliantly.  Then as if to ruin everything we get the opening title sequence with three minutes of tentacle porn ( to give credit where credit is due, the phrase comes from Screen Junkies Honest Trailer Spectre, but it’s awesome so I am using it,) with a title song that just gave me derp face.  I was sitting there listening to this song that musically was wonderful and Bond like, but then Sam Smith started to sing and my face went blank (not a fan of his voice at all.)  Then the lyrics sounded as if we are giving a eulogy to Bond…The Writing are on The Wall…really?  Compare this one to the one from Skyfall from Adele and it’s no comparison.  Yet the Academy nominated this song for Best Original Song.  I don’t get it.

But again, this is the whole movie for me.  Time after time I am watching this great action scene and then it’s followed up by borderline boring plot and story development.  The first time we get to meet the bad guy is at a meeting which is painful to watch but then right after it, we get awesome car chase in the streets of Rome ( I think its Rome.)  Another time we get 10 minutes of heading to and meeting the new Bond girl, Madeleine, played uninspiring by Lea Seydoux (The Grand Budapest Hotel,) which is slow, but then we get awesome chase scene where Bond rescues her from the bad guys by chasing their cars while he is in an airplane.  Awesome stuff!  So the entire movie I go from excited school boy to watching something akin to Pride and Prejudice where I have a permanent confused look on my face.

Perhaps the biggest travesty of all is the final scene.  We have 20 plus minutes of great action where Bond saves the girl again.  Bond tracks down the bad guy and shoots down his helicopter and Blofeld is literally on the street, waiting to be taken out by Bond.  New M has sealed off the entire block, Bond can gleefully get revenge for the man responsible for killing his love Vesper and his boss and making his life hell.  All he has to do is pull the trigger and bam, we have come full circle and closure.  What does he do?  Looks at annoying new Bond girl who is judging him for wanting to kill the bad guy and decides to throw his gun down and walk away.  Really? So all those deaths mean nothing now?  Can we get no revenge or satisfaction?  Apparently not.

This movie also committed a foul with its bad guys.  I didn’t get enough of Blofeld and I wanted more of him.  I get that if you go back to the old Bonds, you rarely see him.  But in the Danial Craig Bonds we get to see the bad guy a lot so I was hoping to see him more.  Blofeld’s henchman Hinx, played competently by former WWE wrestler Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy,) was killed off ¾ of the way in the movie.  It was a great fight between him and Bond, but I was hoping to see him make it to the final fight and it didn’t happen.  The last comment about the bad guys is that I do not know if there has ever been a more obvious bad guy in the history of bad guys then the character C, played by Andrew Scott (Pride.)  After his first scene, I felt like he was going to be one of those annoying politician types that get in the way.  But after the second scene he was in I realized that he was totally a part of the world wide evil organization.  It was obvious and yet we had this big reveal at the end of the movie that I assumed stunned no one.  It’s just odd to have that obvious of a bad guy who I think wasn’t supposed to be that obvious of a bad guy, if that makes sense.

As much as I am hating on this movie, I did like it.  The action was really fun and the story, as slow as it was, seemed to follow a logical conclusion, except for the whole revenge killing of course.  I loved the supporting cast of Q, played by Ben Whishaw (The International,) and Moneypenny, played by Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.)  Don’t mean to interrupt the love with more hate but I did not like seeing and old looking Monica Bellucci in the film.  I know she was supposed to play the grieving widow but…yeesh.

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Anyway, I like it enough to own the movie.  I am interested in seeing if Daniel Craig does indeed follow through with his promise of not doing anymore Bond films.  If that’s the case I will be mildly interested in seeing where they take it.  As much as I didn’t like the direction they took the film when Casino Royale came out, it has grown on me and I am more of a fan of the Daniel Craig Bond then I was in 2006.  But Clive Owen still would have been a better Bond.

To see my movie review compatriots review of Spectre click on the link here.

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casino royaleI was completely wrong Daniel Craig was the right guy for this kind of Bond movie. I had no idea that the producers and directors were going to Americanize James Bond. Craig is the perfect thug for this kind of crap that destroys the coolness that was James Bond and leaves us with a movie that is like Rambo with a British Accent.

British agent James Bond, played by Daniel Craig (Munich,) is a newly promoted 007 that is trying to follow where a small time suicide bomber is going to attack. Once he foils an attack on the Miami airport, the Ministry discovers that the financier of the bomb maker lost $100 million on a stock gamble when the attack was stopped. In order to re-coup his losses and to pay off the people he owes, Le Chiffre, played by Mads Mikkelson (King Arthur,) decides to hold a high stakes Texas hold-em tournament at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. The Ministry sends Bond to win the tournament to force Le Chiffre to go into protective hiding with the Ministry in exchange for information about the world’s terrorists.

If you are a fan of any of the old James Bond movies, Sean Connery thru Pierce Brosnan, then I don’t see how you can like the Daniel Craig version. Part of the allure of the James Bond films is that he is so very British. He gets into fights and when he is done he straightens his tie and then he looks as good as new. Daniel Craig looks like Rocky Balboa and the end of every fight scene. Bond is this cool guy that can kick your ass and still look neat. If I want to see a bloody hero get his ass kicked but still find a way to win, then I will look for an American action movie staring Sly Stallone or Arnold. Another thing great about Bond movies is that most of the bad guys in them have aspirations of global domination. In this movie, Le Chiffre is a banker for terrorists and then gambles their money on the stock market. Wow, what a tough guy. Now Mikkelson did do a good job on the character but, really who cares about this guy. Bond shouldn’t have to handle this guy, just call in a Special Forces unit to capture him in his sleep. End of story. But you don’t use Bond to capture a banking weasel.

I also don’t understand why people think that Craig could be the “best Bond ever.” Every time he had to chase someone, he looked like the T-1000 from the Terminator 2 movie. I mean it looks like he copied Robert Patrick’s movement from the Terminator movie. Speaking of movement, when did Bond become an Ape from The Planet of the Apes? That whole opening scene with Bond and the bad guy running through the construction site was ridiculous. Craig also has one expression all the time and it always looks like he is pissed. Is that a James Bond trait? No.

I guess my point is that when Pierce Brosnan did his first Bond movie, Goldeneye, the producers turned Bond into a 90’s Bond. Respecting woman’s rights and the such. Why do the producers feel that they need to reinvent Bond again? Not only re-invent, but to take away some of the best characteristics of the James Bond character? I like the fact that he is nearly indestructible, and that almost naked women are running around him all the time. Plus I like to see my Bond smile. If I want to see someone angry in an action movie, I can watch a Terminator movie.

I say avoid this movie. It isn’t worth any of the hype. Oh by the way, Clive Owen would still make a better Bond.

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