Monday, 13 November 2017

'Murder On The Orient Express' Is A Classic Reborn. - (2017) Review

Half Price: A perfect movie to take your parents to.

For the second time in nearly 50 years, the Agatha Christie novel ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ has been adapted to film. The story follows the incomparable detective Hercule Poirot, and his impossibly huge moustache. Hercule finds himself aboard The Orient Express, a magnificent train packed to the brim with passengers from all over the world, travelling peacefully, until, in the dead of night, one of them meets an untimely end. Unfortunately for the killer, Hercule Poirot is probably the world’s greatest detective. (Sorry Batman).

He's used to being sad.
What follows is a simple whodunit, as the detective makes his rounds interrogating the various passengers. The film is directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also plays the lead detective. He’s not the only notable cast member as the movie is filled with eye popping actors. Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer. ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ has a rather impressive ensemble, though it leaves something to be desired.

No one does a bad job per se, but no one was particularly impressive either. In fact, each of these actors have had better performances this year alone in different projects. The most engaging of the lot is Branagh himself as the eccentric but brilliant detective, whose obsessive compulsive disorder makes ordinary life unbearable, but solving crimes simple. The actors give you enough of their characters to play your own personal game of clue as the story unfolds, but they tend not to stick with you after the credits roll.

A veritable who's who of "Who's who?"
The best part of the film comes through its impressive direction. Branagh uses a handful of interesting and engaging shots that utilise the claustrophobic train setting to his advantage. You feel like an uninvited voyeur creeping through the corridors, catching a glimpse of various interrogations through a curtain or a window. If only this style wasn’t broken by a series of mostly unnecessary and incredibly dull exterior shots of the train running on its track. In case you weren't sure if that's what trains do I suppose. 

At the end of the day, ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ was a fine film. It’s incredibly well designed, and meticulously detailed in its production. There’s a sense that the intention was to make a film that you’d only see nowadays during the classic movie hour on cable television. I’d say that goal was met, and is best seen on a quiet afternoon, while one enjoys a good old fashioned murder mystery.

Rating: Half Price

Monday, 6 November 2017

'Thor Ragnarok' Ragna-rocks! (Had to do it.) - (2017) Review

Big Screen Watch: An absolute pleasure to watch, great from start to finish!
After being mostly absent from the silver screen for the last two years, ‘Thor Ragnarok’ sees the return of the God of Thunder. Quite unlike we’ve seen him before. The movie opens up with the Norse God covered in chains, and describing a plot to protect his homeworld of Asgard. It should be simple work, but for the Goddess of Death, Hela. What follows is a galactic trek not dissimilar to one taken by the 'Guardians of the Galaxy', as Thor assembles his team, cutely named “The Revengers”

The most noteworthy member of that team is the Incredible Hulk. Yes that’s right, the movie may have Thor’s name on it, but there are more than a couple superheroes in this film. Thankfully, for everything that’s packed into ‘Thor Ragnarok’, the final product is a well-balanced ride. 

One that's fun, unlike in the case of a seesaw. 
Whereas most action adventure movies have a concrete story and pepper in a comic relief scene or two, this movie does the opposite. It’s a laugh fest from start to finish with a few scenes put in to establish a narrative. That’s not to say ‘Thor Ragnarok’ is hurting for substance. In fact, for all it’s non stop humour, I was particularly impressed with how invested I was in the story, even if the movie at times treats it as an afterthought.

As for the humour, 9 out of 10 times I would be upset. Upset that I was laughing so hard I couldn’t catch the next joke in the dialogue. ‘Thor Ragnarok’ never takes itself too seriously and begs you not to either. It’s perfectly comfortable embracing the more ridiculous elements of the franchise for what they are.

Hemsworth is probably glad he can dash a smile or six.
While that's the movie's greatest strength, it's also somewhat of a bummer. I left 'Thor Ragnarok' feeling delighted, and no doubt wanting to see it again, but part of me wished it wasn't the irreverent buddy comedy it is. In a franchise with 'Guardians of the Galaxy', 'Ant-Man', and now 'Spider-Man Homecoming', the MCU could do well with the overtly serious fantasy epic that the Thor films could have been. That's a film that was never quite realized, and thanks to 'Thor Ragnarok', it's likely to never be. The closest 'Thor Ragnarok' comes to giving you that film is to use that Shakespearean melodrama as a set up for a punchline. It's as if 'Thor Ragnarok' was written by Tony Stark himself.

As much as I might grumble to myself about missed opportunities of the last decade, I do appreciate 'Thor Ragnarok' daring to be different. Not just for the 'Thor Franchise' itself, but the film takes an unconventional approach to how films of this ilk typically play out. There's an A story, a B story, and then there are the multiple character arcs that need playing out. Many times the B story became the A story, and one character would seemingly be the main priority over everything else. That sounds like a confusing mess, but somehow, it works. 

Take it from kitten. Confusing mess is fun mess. 
What I absolutely, unequivocally loved in 'Thor Ragnarok', was the gorgeous set design. Of course, the line between a practical and digital environment blurred into obscurity ages ago, but the fact is, everything in 'Thor Ragnarok' has a distinct vision behind it. It's as if the characters stepped into an 80s arcade game designed by Jack Kirby. Funnily enough, for a movie that's embracing how ridiculous it is, its environments go a long way to making this world feel real. 

'Thor Ragnarok' also does right by its characters. In fact, the only thing that I would say the movie does wrong is that it spends too little time with each of them. They feel fully developed, and there's a balance here that rivals even a more complex ensemble like 'The Avengers'. It's only that the characters are so rich that I wanted to spend even more time with them after the credits rolled. Then again for a Marvel movie, that's not always out of the question.

After 10 years, people still walk out early. 
For what felt like the longest time, the character of ‘Thor’ was never truly defined. His best moments came from interactions with others, but a strong sense of who Thor was never truly came across. ‘Thor Ragnarok’ may have the Hulk, but it’s certainly Thor’s show, as Chris Hemsworth gets to show off his perfect comic timing, and delivers his best turn as Thor yet.

Rating: Big Screen Watch

Sunday, 5 November 2017

The Saw Franchise Tortures The Audience in 'Jigsaw' - (2017) Review

Read A Book: Nothing is worse than a stupid movie acting like it's smarter than you.
Years ago it was a Halloween tradition for a Saw movie in the cinema. Back in 2004, the series tried to change the slasher game. It put you in the minds of the victims and gave you a moral quandary or two along the way. You didn’t revel in the violence like a night at Crytal Lake. Over the years, the series moved so far away from that original germ of an idea, it became a whole different animal. Jigsaw’s rules became idiotic but were presented as profound.

Now, after all this time, Jigsaw returns in ‘Jigsaw’. The new film talks a lot about the legacy of the Jigsaw killer, the impact he left on the world after all this time. The symbolism between fans of the Saw films and fans of Jigsaw itself worked 10 years ago, but these days it feels like a fantasy land. Perhaps that’s the point since the movie is entirely populated with moments that defy what we know as reality.

Throw out everything. Physics, sociology, it's all irrelevant.
Everything from character interactions, physics, and even the movies brain dead psychology feel ingenuine. Typically in an idiotic horror movie, you can still enjoy yourself and ignore the more distracting fallacies. Not so here. Here if you’re distracted by the tv movie acting, you can’t exactly ignore it to focus on the nonsensical story. If a movie is the greater sum of its parts, ‘Jigsaw’ is a busted monster made up of garbage.

‘Jigsaw’ doesn’t even deliver on the basic necessities of the modern ‘Saw’ film. The kills are lame. Any moment of suspense feels like the movie tripped into it accidentally. It never even lasts long as you’re able to tell how something will end up 5 seconds after the situation presents itself. You know which character will do what, and why, and when, and how. ‘Jigsaw’ underestimates the intelligence of the audience, and thinks it’s serving up high-grade shock value. The only thing shocking in ‘Jigsaw’ is Tobin Bells landing strip soul patch.

It's even more unsettling on the big screen.
Blood and gore is mostly missing in this movie. It feels like someone wanted to make a PG-13 Saw movie, but couldn’t write dialogue without curse words, and just gave up. It feels sanitized, and not the fun gore fest you’d expect. I cringed once or twice at the sight of blood and winced here and there, but like a modern horror film uses a cheap jump scare, the kills and maiming in ‘Jigsaw’ feel underserved.

There’s a moment in ‘Jigsaw’ when the killer himself utters the words “The game is simple. The best ones are”. How true that remains for this series that started with chained up victims and a saw blade, and ended up with death machines to ostentatious for a Bond villain. The only good thing about ‘Jigsaw’ is it comes in at under 90 minutes. Another reason this should’ve gone straight to video. Not even Netflix, not even blu-ray, not even DVD. Video. VHS video. ‘Jigsaw’ is such a waste of time it belongs on a dead format.

Rating: Read A Book.