Murder on the Orient Express

GoMovieReviews Rating:

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’.

The Girl With All The Gifts

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MA15+The Girl With All The Gifts

Directed by: Collie McCarthy

Adapted from the novel, ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’, Written by: Mick Carey

Music Composed by: Cristobal Tapia de Veer

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Sennia Nenua, Fisayo Akinade, Anthony Welsh.

After recently starting to watch, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016) and stopping after 15 minutes because I was just so sick of zombies, I surprised myself by taking in, The Girl With All The Gifts.

With Glenn Close starring and my avid love of thrillers, I thought the film looked good.

It made sense to me, fungi infecting the population and turning humans into blood thirsty beasts.  It’s the need for protein that turns the Hungries into killers.

And as, War Of The Worlds has shown us, and frankly this last flu season, it’s the micro-organisms and shown here, the fungi (not a micro-organism, but you get the drift) that will win in the end…

So, the premise of the film was interesting.The Girl With All The Gifts

The film begins with children, about 10 years old, being wheeled into a makeshift classroom, strapped to a wheelchair, wearing matching orange tracksuits.

The soldiers who transfer them from cell to classroom are obviously scared of the kids, yet, Melanie (Sennia Nenua) is a kind and polite, extremely intelligent school girl.

Until she’s hungry and can smell flesh.

After the compound’s attacked by seemingly endless hungries, Melanie’s favourite person and teacher, Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton), along with Dr Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close), Sergeant Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine), and soldiers Kieran Gallagher (Fisayo Akinade) and Dillon (Anthony Welsh) escape, to the outside world, back to London to wait for rescue.

Scottish director, Collie McCarthy (Outcast (2010), Endeavour (TV series, The Girl With All The Gifts2012) has brought a UK flavour to the film which is a nice change from the saturation of the American zombie takeovers, setting the film in London with native accented characters.

And there’s some good acting here – Glenn Close, who can do no wrong, brings a solid performance as the villainous researcher.  And young Sennia as Melanie holds her own as the hybrid fungal/human creature.

But it was difficult to take the hungries seriously when the fungus growing over their faces looked like green fur.

The infected blew the suspension for me – the hungries not always believable, so after the strong opening, the film waned.

There is some blood and guts for the those who like a bit of gore mixed with suspense.   And a few light moments to break the tension.

I appreciated the thought put into the script with some new ideas making the film more than just another zombie movie.

So, not a brilliant film, but worth a watch.

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Annabelle: Creation

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: David F. SandbergAnnabelle: Creation

Produced by: Peter Safran, James Wan

Screenplay: Gary Dauberman

Starring: Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson, Philippa Coulthard, Grace Fulton, Lou Lou Safran, Samara Lee, Tayler Buck, Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto.

Coming out of the cinema whistling, You are my Sunshine, after watching a horror movie may sound sinister, but there was a tongue-in-cheek, wry streak to, Annabelle: Creation.

Set in what looks like the 1930s, Samuel Mullins, a dollmaker (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife, Esther (Miranda Otto) live an idyllic life in the countryside with their daughter Bee (Samara Lee), short for Annabelle.

Then tragedy strikes and Bee is taken from them.

Years later, time has taken its toll on the dollmaker and his wife, but they decide to make their home into an orphanage where several young girls and Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) come to live with them, to bring some happiness back into the household.

It only takes one night for the daemonic Being inhabiting a life-sized doll to make its presence known.  And slowly, the creation of Annabelle, the possessed, is revealed.

Annabelle: Creation

Producers, Peter Safran and James Wan, who brought, The Conjuring series have partnered up once again for, Annabelle: Creation.

Directing is David F. Sandberg (Lights Out (2016)) from a screenplay written by Gary Dauberman who also wrote the first, Annabelle.

Happily, for fans of, The Conjuring, there are threads tying pieces of the films together and the linking of, Creation to the original, Annabelle is seamless.

New to the franchise is the cast with, Anthony LaPaglia as the foreboding husband and, Miranda Otto as the wife.

I can’t decide whether I like Lulu Wilson as Linda who also had a starring role in the recent, Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016).  I liked her better here, with  direction highlighting her, too-good-it’s-creepy personality adding to that wry flavour.

There’s a fine line between comedy and horror.  You don’t want the audience laughing at the movie, you want the audience to laugh with the movie and at some points of the film, particularly with Linda on scene, it was a close call.Annabelle: Creation

But as the film progressed and the ramping of tension increased with Sandberg once again making use of light and darkness and classic devices such as super-freaky scarecrows and sheets over the, ‘not there’, I was happy for a bit of comic relief from young Linda.

But I have to admit I wanted the film to be scarier.

I felt there was a lighter touch here, compared to say, the recent, The Conjuring 2 (2016) (which I gave 4.5/5) as there wasn’t enough reason for the daemonic Being inhabiting the doll to attack some and not others.

Strengthening the backstory would have added so much more.

Sure, keep the mystery but showing more would have added to the fear – it can’t be just because one person is more physically weak than the others, right?

Not the super-scare factor I was hoping for, but there were a few jumps and tense moments with effective use of the soundtrack; and linking to the original, Annabelle and, The Conjuring series will satisfy fans.

The Wall

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Directed and Produced by: Doug LimanThe Wall

Written by: Dwain Worrell

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena.

A taunt psychological thriller set in 2007 when President George Bush declared the War in Iraq over.

Rebuilding the country, contractors are brought in to build pipelines across the desert.

After been radioed for assistance, two soldiers, Sergeant Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) an Army Ranger who serves as a spotter to Sergeant Matthews (John Cena), lie amongst the rocks, camouflaged, waiting for movement.  All they see on the dusty ground is the bodies of dead contractors, all head shots, and one marine holding a radio in his dead hand.

All is quiet, yet they wait, watching, trying to figure out the story behind the dead and if there’s still a threat.

As the story unfolds, so do the men as they’re stripped, piece-by-piece by the faceless, hidden sniper who pins Sergeant Isaac behind a crumbling wall, to then speak into his earpiece, to burrow like a worm into his mind.

Although, The Wall is about soldiers, this isn’t a movie about war, this is suspense created through stretches of quiet: a patient relentless waiting of a killer who plays with his intended kill like a cat with a mouse.

The soundtrack is the wind whistling through the bricks and the distant clap of metal sheeting and the crackle of voice; of men fighting and hiding behind words.

Director, Doug Liman (Mr & Mrs Smith, The Bourne Identity) has taken a solid script from first-time screenwriter Dwain Worrell and made a low budget film into a simple yet very effective suspense thriller.

Dwain Worrell researched the daily life of soldiers extensively, including PTSD.  Creating a story of strangers murdering each other.  About legendary Iraqi snipers creating a paranoia that comes to life.

The Wall

Adam Taylor wrote an article in, The Washington Post, in January 2015: “There were similar legends of Iraqi insurgent snipers.  Probably the most famous was that of ‘Juba’, a sniper with the Sunni insurgent group Islamic Army in Iraq, whose exploits were touted in several videos released between 2005 and 2007.  Some attributed scores, even hundreds, of kills to the sniper, and accounts from the time suggest he got deep under U. S. troop’s skins.”

The idea of psychological torture reminded me of the original, Saw film (2004), similar in that the characters are trapped and tormented through the words of a faceless enemy.  And dang it, after the film finished and I was walking out of the cinema, I overheard another critic saying they had the same feel as the, Saw Franchise, because that feeling of being trapped is there.  Yet, The Wall is more about the suspense then the gore.  Giving a glimpse into those suffering from PTSD: the tense waiting for the bad to happen, the waiting being the torture.

A seemingly simple film: two characters, one wall set over the course of one day.  Yet, The Wall was a thoroughly absorbing story handled by the sure hand of smart director.

If you like your suspense, this is a well-paced journey with a well-thought ending.  Much better than expected.

Dunkirk

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Written and Directed by: Christopher NolanDunkirk

Music by: Hans Zimmer

Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytema

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy.

I’m still trying to figure out the feeling, that swell in the chest I felt while watching Dunkirk.  Whether it was pride or love of humanity or patriotism, Dunkirk was an emotive intersection of timelines during Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of troops from, Dunkirk, France, during World War II.

The film focuses on three different Fronts from:

1. The mole: Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) the soldier who’s been on the ground for a week;

2. To the steadfast Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) for a day;

3. To Farrier (Tom Hardy) the pilot of a Spitfire in the air for an hour.

All of these men are fighting the same war and all of these men are either trying to escape or save the men surrounded by the Sickle Cut (war strategy) the German forces have maneuvered on French soil; the Allied forces stranded on the beach where they desperately wait for ships to take them back to Britain, just across the channel:

Commander Bolton: You can practically see it from here. 
Captain Winnant: What? 
Commander Bolton: Home.

With leaflets falling from the sky depicting the hopelessness of their effort to escape – an arrow pointing: ‘You are here’, surrounded by the enemy and literally being pushed into the sea only to be picked off by fighter pilots dropping bombs, the soldiers watch battleships sink, one after the other to then watch the tide bring in the dead.Dunkirk

But as the classification (PG) shows, this film isn’t about blood and guts, Dunkirk is about celebrating the small victories and how all those victories eventually add up.

Hence that swell in the chest because there’s this overriding feeling of people doing the best they can and somehow the everyday civilian can make all the difference: Sometimes doing right, wins.

Take that notion and add the suspense of the desperation to escape, full credit going to Hans Zimmer and his soundtrack creating tension with music like a ticking time-bomb.  Director and writer, Christopher Nolan uses little dialogue, instead it’s about the words unspoken, just a nod here and the audience knowing the music is building.

There’s a simplicity to each scene combining the different threads of storyline in real time like a formula pulled together by sound: the low thud of bombs, the droning of jets, the running of boots on sand and bullets popping through the hull of a ship like copper coins hitting tin.  There’s much to be said about the soundtrack, but watching the film on IMAX with that big square screen?  Can I say it didn’t really need it?  But what am I saying, go see that expanse of beach and ocean on IMAX – why not?Dunkirk

The effort to film the movie on 65mm film (transferred to 70mm for projection) brings the story to life all the more, leaving little room for error.  Dunkirk is such a solid film, with such beautifully orchestrated performances (was also a win to see Harry Styles finally get a haircut!) to see the views from air to the beach to under the water on such a large screen just added more to an already impressive project.

Lastly, I just want to say I usually struggle with war films.  The reality of the violence of war makes my blood boil. I love the fact that there’s no unnecessary violence here.  We all know what happens when a bomb goes off.  We don’t need to see or imagine our ancestors or grandparents getting blown apart.

Nolan has used his talent to bring the true story of Dunkirk to the screen without over dramatising, allowing us to admire the courage and valour of the civilians of Britain who saved more than 330, 000 soldiers’ lives.

The Beguiled

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Written for the Screen and Directed by: Sofia CoppolaThe Beguiled

Based on the Novel by: Thomas Cullinan

and the Screenplay by: Albert Maltz and Grimes Grice

Produced by: Youree Henley, Sofia Coppola

Music by: Phoenix based on Moteverdi’s ‘Magnificat’

Director of Photography: Philippe Le Sourd, AFC

Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke and Emma Howard.

The Beguiled is set in 1864, three years into the American Civil War.  Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman), Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), Alicia (Elle Fanning) and four younger girls remain cloistered like nuns behind imposing wrought iron fencing that encloses the Southern girls’ boarding house, where Miss Martha and Edwina used to teach.

Three years is a long time for women to be hidden away, following a daily routine of sewing, lessons and the half-hearted attempt to control the Southern jungle threatening to overgrow the old plantation house and all those in it, like the wild vines, mosquitoes and mist represent the wild nature of the women, barely held in check by their day-to-day routine.

When Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell), a Union soldier, is found injured amongst the old cyprus and oak trees, he’s brought back to the well-ordered school-house where he’s nursed back to health.  The presence of a man in the house after so many years changes the atmosphere, creating tension.

Canons explode in the distance and the heat continues but the insects don’t seem to be noticed as much when there’s a man in the house.  A charming man who’s able to relate to all the women, each of them special from the strong Miss Martha to the quiet yet beautiful Edwina, the bored and precocious Alicia, to the innocence of the younger girls.  Corporal McBurney charms them all.  The Irishman believing himself to be truly lucky to have such attention, not knowing the danger of a lonely woman’s heart.

And like good milk left out in the heat turns sour, the women’s hold on normal life slowly twists into something dark and cold.


The Beguiled

Director Sofia Coppola knows how to show the danger of love turned bad.  She’s adapted the original film, staring Clint Eastwood as a man trapped by the women he conned into loving him, and turned the story to the point-of-view of the women.

The cast is so important in this story as the film is all about the behaviour and interaction between the women when a man enters their isolated world.  And Coppola has returned with an imposing cast with Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning who worked with Sofia previously.  You can see the actors are comfortable here and insight into the character is given by each solid performance.  Nicole Kidman was made for her character, Miss Martha.

Did I like the film?

The Beguiled is a quiet film, kept simple with minimal dressing.  Needing a quiet audience, it took me a while to get absorbed into the story.

The southern climate and setting of the beautiful old plantation house were the highlight for me. All recorded on film (with the older aspect ratio of 1:66/I) to show rays of sunshine through mist and the romance of candle light glowing in this isolated house like a glass eye.  The setting enveloping the audience only to turn a blind eye to the happenings behind closed doors.

The backdrop needed to be simple to show the complicated nuances between the characters because the film is all about the subtle and not-so-subtle behaviour of women around a man – the instinct hard to deny and always simmering under the politeness of society.

But where is society during war?  What society is there for bored, isolated, Christian, red-blooded women?

Sofia Coppola says she made the film with, Misery (1990), based on the novel written by Stephen King, in mind and there is that element of the horror of being trapped because of love and obsession.

But, The Beguiled is more subtle, showing how a woman can turn when in competition for a man’s attention, that shift demonstrated well here with skilled performances from a cast well-handled by a careful director.

It Comes At Night

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Trey Edward ShultsIt Comes At Night

Screenplay: Trey Edward Shults

Cinematography: Drew Daniels

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr and Riley Keogh.

A post-apocalyptic, psychological survival film that digs at those paranoid fears of sickness and who’s going to die next.

It Comes At Night is a quiet film.

It’s all about the suspense, the weight given to silence, misunderstanding and fear.  In the end of days, you can only trust family.

When a stranger (feature film debut for Christopher Abbott) breaks into the isolated home of Paul (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenage son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr), the story of sickness that’s infested the population slowly unfolds.

Don’t expect a flashy, blood-soaked horror, this film’s about the suspense and fear of who to trust and if that trust is the best way to survive.It Comes At Night

Clever devises are used by cinematographer, Drew Daniels who also worked with director Trey Edward Shults previously in the film, Krisha (2014).

The careful pacing and detail shown to the audience is testament to Shults not only writing the story but directing, taking complete control over the unfolding of a mystery so the film’s not about the plague but about the fear of contracting the sickness.

That’s what I liked about the film.  The desperation was held at bay by people you can relate to.  Not losing it.  Just trying to keep it together only to fall apart at a misunderstanding or a bad dream, and the undeniable knowledge of what desperation can breed.

Instead of sickness and madness, it’s the fear that becomes contagious shown by the wearing of gas masks and the feeling of isolation by depicting a stencilled jagged branch against an overcast sky.It Comes At Night

And the story felt authentic.  The audience shown just enough to believe the reality of being isolated during an event unknown, but known enough to be feared.  Like we’re trapped in the forest with the family.  Wondering at the barking of a dog at persons unseen and a locked red door mysteriously opened.

Each character had their part to play and solid performances were given by the entire cast.  The tension between Travis and Kim, the young mother and wife of the invading stranger and only viable female for the teenager, shown brilliantly through a twitch of an eyebrow and the nervous clenching of a jaw all used to show what cannot be said.  Each subtle gesture used to tell the story.

It Comes at Night isn’t a thriller, Shults uses the psychology of fear instead of blood and guts for this unique horror, and I couldn’t help being absorbed by the suspense.