Murder on the Orient Express

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Directed by: Kenneth BranaghMurder On The Orient Express

Written by:  Agatha Christie (novel), Michael Green (screenplay)

Produced by: Kenneth Branagh, Winston Azzopardi

Starring:  Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Kenneth Branagh, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp.

‘My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world’.

So simple and yet so effective, the line introducing the mastermind detective, takes the audience on a journey back in time. When travelling was still rough and dangerous, and the Orient Express became a showcase of luxury and comfort.

Regarded as one of Agatha Christie’s greatest achievements, the famous tale has been told many times before so you could say spoiler time has elapsed.Murder On The Orient Express

The most renowned adaptation may have been Sidney Lumet’s Oscar-winning film in 1974, but there was also a TV series in the early 2000’s starring Alfred Molina.

The novel, readily available since first published  in 1934, is one of my all-time favourites. So, not only did I know what I was getting myself into but how it ended. Literally. And there is a high chance you are in the same position I was. But you know what? Don’t let that stop you.

The film’s cast includes two Oscar winners: Judi Dench and Penélope Cruz; and four Oscar nominees: Kenneth Branagh, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer and Johnny Depp. I could not turn down the opportunity to see such an incredible cast coming together and I was not disappointed as they delivered such intricate characters effortlessly.Murder On The Orient Express

When you have a great story and a great team of actors, there is only one thing that may make or break a project: the director. But not many people can handle directing, producing and acting like Kenneth Branagh.

The audience can feel how, just like at the Orient Express, every detail has been accounted for. There is no room for error and the result is a visually-appealing adaption that is a joy to the senses.

This is Kenneth Branagh’s second movie to be shot on 65mm film. The first was Hamlet (1996). After 21 years, Branagh decided to use this film format once again because, according to his own words, he felt inspired by some independent movies he had been watching. Mostly, films by Michael Haneke.

I love train journeys and I did some research about the Orient Express as I was writing this review. Apparently, there was one actual murder on The Orient Express. Maria Farcasanu was robbed and murdered by Karl Strasser, who pushed her out of the moving train, one year after Agatha Christie’s book was published.

The original Orient Express route (from October 4, 1883) was from Paris to Giurgiu (Romania) but shortened as the years went by. The real Orient Express disappeared from European timetables in 2009, a ‘victim of high-speed trains and cut-rate airlines’.

Loving Vincent

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: PG-13Loving Vincent

Directors: Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman

Producers: Claudia Bluemhuber, Sean Bobbitt

Written By: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman and Jacek Dehnel

Starring: Douglas Booth, Josh Burdett, Holly Earl, Chris O’Dowd.

Loving Vincent is the world’s first oil painted feature film. It fascinated me from the moment I watched the trailer months ago.

Armand, the postman’s son, a man with little to no aspirations, arrives at the last hometown of the painter to deliver his last letter. The audience dives into the story through his eyes, the eyes of a stranger, providing a fresh perspective as the character’s curiosity, and our own, unravels an unexpected mystery.

Visually stunning, the creators of this piece of art in animated form set out to achieve the impossible, to tell the story of the last days of Vincent Van Gogh’s life through sixty-five thousand paintings.Loving Vincent

The art form of film is different from painting. Painting is one particular moment in time, frozen. Film is fluid, seeming to move through space and time. So, prior to and during the live action shoot the painting design team spent a year re-imagining Vincent’s painting into the medium of film.

Loving Vincent was first shot as a live action film with actors then hand-painted over frame-by-frame in oils. The final effect is an interaction of the performance of the actors playing Vincent’s famous portraits, as well as the painting animators, bringing these characters into the medium of paint.

In an experience like no other, Loving Vincent takes the audience on a journey through his life and death, allowing us to step right into his artwork where we wonder about the meaning behind the scenes unveiling before our eyes.Loving Vincent

Armand sets off in search of the truth and finds that sometimes, a man’s fame is not made of what he set out to achieve during his lifetime but of the legacy that he leaves behind.

Dorota Kobiela had planned to combine her passion for painting and film, for her sixth animated short, and to paint the entire film herself. However, once she expanded Loving Vincent into a feature film the task of writing and directing was such that she had to content herself with directing the [124] painters. Although, Dorota managed to set some time aside to paint a few shots herself.

After falling in love with Polish painter and director, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman also fell in love with her film project, Loving Vincent.  He has been working with her ever since.

Going In Style

GoMovieReviews Rating:

** Spoiler Alert

Director: Zack BraffGoing In Style

Producers: Marc Bienstock

Written By: Theodore Melfi

Based on the 1979 story by: Edward Cannon

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin

Going in Style is a happy-ending remake of an earlier 1979 film of the same name with an Oscar winner cast where three lifelong friends Willie, Joe and Al decide to rob the bank that has taken over their pensions.

Films are made for the same reason that stories are told, to tackle themes that the audience has absolutely no control over in their daily lives. The pension-cut theme in the US and the timing of this release may be purely coincidental but it sent a chill down my spine to discover that to this day, in 2017, it is still an ongoing issue as it was in the late 70s.

If you are happy to watch a funny, entertaining film with great actors, please do so and please stop reading because spoilers are coming your way.

Going In Style

Stephen King, one of my favourite authors once said that ‘fiction is the truth inside the lie’. But as I left this theatre I felt as if I had been spoon-fed a bunch of lies. There, I said it. It’s out in the open now.

I am afraid that the screenwriter’s attempt to change the original ending to something ‘more upbeat’ to keep up with the times provides the audience with an impossible tale that plants a troubling seed in this day and age: that robbing a bank can be done successfully without any consequences whatsoever.Going In Style

My favourite quote by Joe (Michael Caine) in the film sums up the story and, ironically enough, provides a hint of what could have been. These banks practically destroyed this country. They crushed a lot of people’s dreams, and nothing ever happened to them. We three old guys, we hit a bank. We get away with it, we retire in dignity. Worst comes to the worst, we get caught, we get a bed, three meals a day, and better health care than we got now.’

Going in Style is a feel-good film with laughs all the way through that warms the cockles of your heart but could have been so much more than that.

The LEGO Batman Movie

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Director: Chris McKayThe Lego Batman Movie

Producers: Will Allegra, Matthew Ashton

Written By: Seth Grahame-Smith (screenplay), Chris McKenna (screenplay)

Starring: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson

As a writer, I have learnt to provide feedback with a soft-spoken, gentle delivery. But, as a Spanish national, I have been born with blood that boils easily when, what little patience I have, runs out. My face goes red, steam comes out of my ears and my filters disappear in the process.

I had one such a meltdown watching The LEGO Batman Movie.

And I knew what I was getting myself into because the scars left by The Lego Movie were still tender.

The main qualities of this spin off, following its predecessor steps, are obvious: a great trailer that raises your expectations up to the sky, a great animation team and an incredible soundtrack. Period. But, as the movie went on, one wondered… why would the same creative team make the same mistakes twice? Have they stopped caring about their audience?

The Lego Batman Movie
I love animation, I really do, because animation delivers full-on entertainment for all audiences and comedy that is flawlessly delivered. It is the sacred place where adults enjoy themselves as their children scream with excitement. But sadly, the creative team at The Lego Movies missed that memo. The comedy walked the fine line between annoying and funny and even the youngest members of the audience could see the story coming. There was no guessing, no reason to care.

As a nerd and Batman fan, I enjoyed the references to the Batman TV series from the 1960s, the pew-pew noises every time a gun fired and how great songs, such as Motley Crue’s ‘Kickstart My Heart’ or Cutting Crew’s ‘(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight’, blasted in the theatre speakers for my ears delight.

The Lego Batman MovieI would lie if I tell you that I recommend this movie whole-heartedly. But I am not a parent, so if your dream afternoon involves to sit two hours in a dark room full of children and to pay for the pleasure of their squeaking company. Please be my guest and knock yourself out!

As for me, I have made a conscious decision, for my mental health sake and the safety of those around me, to put future Lego movies in the too-hard basket. Until the next movie review, over and out!

Before I Fall

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Ry Russo-YoungBefore I fall

Producers: Marc Bienstock, Brett Boutier, Jessica Held

Written By: Maria Maggenti (screenplay)

Based on the novel by: Lauren Oliver

Starring: ZoeyDeutch, Halston Sage, ElenaKampouris

As a reviewer, this film was a rollercoaster of sorts.

The outline excited me at first, a teen who relives her last day on Earth, as it brought to mind philosophical questions. Although, I must also admit that I struggled as I endured the teenager’s squeaking while the story built up. Luckily for me, my companion, someone who had read Lauren Oliver’s young adult novel (that the film is based on), reassured me to stay in my seat.

So I did. And I was pleasantly surprised.

Structure-wise, the film has a similar motion to Groundhog Day, where Zoey Deutch’s character (Sam) wakes up to the same day over and over until she figures out the only way to escape is to change.Before I Fall

Behind the scenes, every single person involved in this project was set to rehearse and explore their characters in depth, which transcends onto the screen.

Russo-Young did this early in the process, and was thorough in doing so, providing more texture in characters such as Kian Lawley’s (Rob), Sam’s boyfriend, who becomes more than just a highschool cliché.

RyYoung-Ross, the director, spoke about the changes made in the film, in particular the re-setting of the location from Connecticut in the novel to the Pacific Northwest in the film.

In her own words: ‘Setting the story in the Northwest gave a sense of awe to all the locations: big mountains, big trees, and a dark and foreboding landscape where people are small and dwarfed by the natural landscape, which reinforce aspects of the story for me. It suited the material well.’

As a viewer I cannot agree more with the above, there was something about the dramatic setting that really captured Sam’s struggle between life and death.Before I Fall

Ry Russo-Younghas received accolades from the New York State Council on the Arts, the TriBeCa Film Institute, the LEF Foundation, the Sundance Institute and Creative Capital. She majored in film at Oberlin College and grew up in New York City. Her work has been praised by The Wall Street Journal, Variety, Vanity Fair and The New York Times, among others.

As a post-release review, I would lie if I said I haven’t read what others had to say about this film before I set to write my own thoughts about it. And to tell you the truth, I was genuinely surprised to find mostly reflections on the bullying themes as well as other teen related behaviours that are portrayed in the film.

And there is nothing wrong about that. But, in my humble opinion, this film was much more than that. It is a tale about the search for identity and authenticity, of empathy and acceptance, and ultimately of the courage it takes to do the right thing by yourself as well as others.

Sam’s post-mortem journey is a powerful story that leaves you pondering about your own existence. It is a book that, I have been told, was in the Australian school curriculum a few years ago and I hope still is for the sake of the coming generations.

Jasper Jones

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Rachel PerkinsJasper Jones

Producers: Craig Deeker, David Jowsey, Anita Sheehan

Written By: Shaun Grant, Craig Silvey (story)

Based on: the novel ‘Jasper Jones’ by Craig Silvey (2009)

Starring: Angourie Rice, Hugo Weaving, Toni Collette, Dan Wyllie, Levi Miller, Aaron L. McGrath

The purpose of a good film is to resonate with its audience and to change our perspective: Jasper Jones did just that for me and stuck around long after I left the theatre behind.

The story of Charlie’s coming of age is about the choices we make based on what we think we know and how sometimes misinformation gets confused with facts.Jasper Jones

We tell ourselves our life story everyday, shaping our sense of identity, our purpose. To the point that only a catalyst event can set things straight.

The night Jasper Jones finds Laura’s body, he knows that would be the end of him. As a mixed race outcast, the town he calls home would find him guilty in the blink of an eye.

And so he reaches out to young Charlie, asking for help in the middle of the night. It is a move made out of desperation, as he fears for his life.

As the plot advances, we submerge into a time and place where gossip is the common currency and nothing is what it seems behind closed doors. Where Jasper, Charlie and Eliza embark on a courageous adventure to solve a mystery, while most of their community chooses to look away.Jasper Jones

As director Rachel Perkins stated: ‘Stories, in the words of our writer Craig Silvey, exist to promote empathy, to test preconceptions and to transform opinions. The audience will ultimately be the judge if we have succeeded in that quest.’

Jasper Jones is a best-selling Australian novel by Craig Silvey. 
The novel has received broad critical acclaim and commercial success including being shortlisted for the prestigious IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2011 and shortlisted for the Australian Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2010.

Toni Erdmann

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Maren Ade

Toni Erdmann
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Producers: Maren Ade, Janine Jackowski

Written By: Maren Ade

Starring: Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek, Michael Wittenborn

Family is one of the few things we do not choose in life.

We can change jobs, we can move to another country. But family is the one thing we cannot get rid off. No matter how hard we try.

The talented Maren Ade masterfully delivers an emotional story while criticising the corporate world in Europe and the ruthless German approach to ‘assist’ countries much less favoured economically, such as Romania.

But I am not into politics myself. As a European, I’ve had enough of that.

Toni Erdmann
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Watching Toni Erdmann took me back to a few months ago when my father came to stay with us. To me, he was relentless, embarrassing and short-sighted.

I could see myself in Ines. I could feel her struggle as she deals with her father.

The constant façade that she builds to prove that she can do better.

Her father’s transformation, an invasion of privacy at first, slowly becomes a fierce fight to recover his daughter by taking over a new persona. Toni and Ines’ story is a plea for coming clean, to reconnect with our family despite our differences.

Toni Erdmann
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Toni Erdmann is much more than a film made for entertainment sake.

I laughed, I cried and it made me think. And that is as much as you can ask for.

Maren Ade is a resourceful writer, director and producer. She founded the production company Komplizen Film with producer Janine Jackowski.

In 2015, Komplizen Film was honoured with the Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in German Film by the DEFA Foundation.