Murder on the Orient Express (2017) – Movie Review [Exploring the Past]

TL;DR – A perfectly pleasant presentation of Poirot’s perceived peculiarities as he pertains the proceeds of a pernicious passing.     

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I paid for the Disney+ streaming service that viewed this film

The Orient Express on a mountainside.

Murder on the Orient Express Review

Every year, you intend to see one or two films, but they manage to slip out of your hands like the one fish they need to eat in Alone. In 2017, one of those films was Murder on the Orient Express, a modern adaptation of the classic book and film. Indeed, if nothing else, the cast list alone merits giving this one a watch. Today, given that I am about to watch the sequel, it felt like a better now than never prospect, so let’s dive in.  

So to set the scene, it is 1934, and we start in Jerusalem at The Wailing Wall, where hotel staff are making eggs for a painfully precise Poirot (Kenneth Branagh). A Rabbi, a Priest, and an Iman are accused of stealing a relic, and the city is about to explode into a riot. Well, one arrested police chief later, and a boat ride to Istanbul, Hercule Poirot and an assortment of colourful characters board the famous/infamous Orient Express, three days of peace and no crime, bar for a bit of murder discovered after an avalanche derails the train. A train full of people, one of them a killer, and the threat that more may die before the snow is cleared.

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The Northman – Movie Review

TL;DR – The Northman is unrelenting, uncomfortable, unyielding, and uncompromising

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film

Bjork as a witch in a wheat headdress

The Northman Review

When I heard that Robert Eggers was making a new film, I was interested because his last work, The Lighthouse, well, it was ‘a lot’, but it was also fascinating from start to finish. Then I heard it would be a Norse epic tale of revenge and carnage. Well, I was intrigued. But when I heard that early reviews were calling it ‘impenetrably Norse’, I had to check it out because that is my jam.

So to set the scene, in 985AD, on the Atlantic coast, young Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak) looks out into the sea and sees that his father, King Aurvandill War-Raven (Ethan Hawke), has returned from his raids. With his Mother, Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman), he greets his father and discovers that he was wounded in the last battle. After Aurvandill’s brother Fjölnir (Claes Bang) arrives, Gudrún counsels her husband that Amleth needs to start the process of becoming a man. Aurvandill takes Amleth to the Heimir (Willem Dafoe), the fool and seer, to have a vision. But as they leave the temple, Aurvandill is ambushed and murdered, and as Amleth runs, he sees that the murderer is his uncle Fjölnir. Many years later, in the Lands of the Rus, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) is a berserker taking out villages when he is reminded of his duty to avenge his father’s murder.

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Spider-Man: No Way Home – Movie Review

TL;DR – In every way, this film stuck the landing, but I can’t help but feel that part of the ending didn’t sit well with me.    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene and a post-credit scene that you do not have to stay for

Disclosure – I paid to watch this film

Spider-Man: No Way Home. Image Credit: Sony Pictures.

Spider-Man: No Way Home Review

It has been a while since I have seen a film with so much hype building before release like I think not even Avengers Endgame had this much pressure behind it. As I walked into this film, there was a fear that they would never be able to stick the landing because there was such wide expectations as to what this film was meant to be. However, now that I have seen and had some time to ruminate on it, I think they were able to stick the landing, which is almost remarkable.

So to set the scene, in the closing moments of Spider-Man: Far From Home, internet conspiracy nut J. Jonah Jameson (J. K. Simmons) revealed doctored footage alleging Spider-Man was a murderer, but also showing to the world that Spider-Man was actually Peter Parker (Tom Holland). The adverse reaction is immediate and vicious as public opinion shifts against Peter even though he did nothing wrong. The response is so bad that even his friends MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon) can’t get into college because they are caught in the blowback. Not wanting his mistake to hurt his friends, Peter makes a trip to 177A Bleecker Street to meet Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Strange promises to cast a spell, so everyone forgets that Peter is Spider-Man, but things go badly wrong. Okay, so this is a difficult film to talk about because you can not really discuss it without getting into spoilers at a frighteningly quick pace. So with that in mind, we will give some general impressions and then dive into full spoilers.

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Movie Review – The Lighthouse

TL;DR – One of the weirdest films I have ever watched and I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing, maybe both?

Score – I honestly don’t know out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

The Lighthouse. Image Credit: Universal.

Review

Quite often a film will come across your desk that has elements of oddness to it, sometimes that oddness is a sprinkling of seasoning over the finished production, sometimes that oddness is a core component of the meal. However, I have never seen a film that had its oddness so baked into the film that it permeated every aspect of the filmmaking from start to finish. Well, that changes today with The Lighthouse.

So to set the scene, Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) has arrived by small boat onto a desolate island in the middle of the Atlantic. He is to be an assistant wickie or lighthouse keeper under Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). They have to work four hard long weeks isolated on the small island, but then they get to go home with decent pay. The work is hard and the close quarters start to come to bare on the two men, made worse when the winds turn and the waves crash and the island becomes isolated from everything and everyone. Now because of the nature of this film it hard to really discus it on any level without spoiling the film a little bit, so be cautious of that as you read on.

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Movie Review – Aquaman

TL;DR – Bombastic, silly, overly long, but still by far some of the best fun DC has made so far.    

 Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene

Aquaman. Image Credit: Warner Bothers.

Review

To say that the DC Expanded Universe has had a rough launch up to this point would be a bit of an understatement. Indeed, of all the past films, only Wonder Woman (see review) felt like a coherent film in any great sense. So, more than ever, the first film after Justice League had to hit the ground running, even more so after background conversations that the expanded universe was losing a lot of its big-name talent. Now while Aquaman is not a perfect film, it is a film with a lot of style, and more than most of the films that have come before it was just fun.

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Movie Review – The Great Wall (Cháng Chéng, 长城)

TL;DR – The action sequences are some of the best I have seen in a very long time, truly epic in scope, the only problem is you have to sit through a lot of rubbish in between it

Score – 3 out of 5 stars

The Great Wall (Cháng Chéng, 长城). Image Credit: Legendary.

Review

The Great Wall is interesting just from its very existence, it is the most expensive movie ever made in China, and it is a real indicator of the continued rise of Chinese cinema and the continued push of Chinese soft power diplomacy. Like Kung Fu Yoga, this leads to some interesting features, but it also leads to some issues. The Great Wall ends up being a film that is dependent on its action sequences because there is not a lot else going for it.

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Analysis – John Wick is a Masterclass in Visual Storytelling and Worldbuilding

TL;DR – John Wick is a masterpiece of balancing storytelling and worldbuilding without resorting to multiple exposition dumps or clunky dialogue exchanges.

John Wick. Image Credit: Lionsgate.

When you are making or adapting some form of narrative medium, whether it is a book, video game, TV show, online video series, or a movie, two of the most important narrative facets are storytelling and worldbuilding, however, they can often find themselves in conflict with each other. I think we have all played that video game that is crammed full of lore, around every corner is another audio log sitting there for you to digest and thus the story gets lost in at that worldbuilding. Conversely, people fall in love with the worlds you can create, as much as people love Harry Potter, they are also enraptured with the whole Wizarding World, #HufflepuffForLife, so if you focus just on your story and don’t build the world around you, you’re going to have a shallow narrative and a missed opportunity. So how do you rectify this issue, well you could do what Snowpiercer and others have done in the past and gone with an opening newscast, or narration, or like the grandmaster of it all Star Wars, and have it all in your opening crawl. Or you could go with the Game of Thrones route and hide your exposition in sex scenes hoping that nudity will keep people engaged, and indeed you may even coin a phrase with ‘sexposition’ in the process. Or you could follow John Wick’s lead by crafting a strong narrative while also building a fascinating world. Now as we will be dissecting John Wick for this analysis, and since we will be focusing on the story, there is no way we could do that and not have any spoilers, so if you have not seen it yet, firstly go watch John Wick, but also you may not want to proceed any further, or do, I’m not your boss.

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Movie Review – John Wick

TL;DR – A really good action flick and an example of world building done right.

Score – 5 out of 5 stars

John Wick. Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Review

John Wick has been out on DVD/Digital Download for some time and with a sequel now on the cards, I thought I would have a look back at one of the better action films in recent times.

The basic plot of John Wick is that the titular character John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a man who was once in deep in the Russian mob, and through an impossible act he freed himself and settled down with his new love, only for her to pass away. The last thing his wife did was buy John a puppy so he could move on from his grief. The son of the Russian Mob boss Iosef (Alfie Allen) mistakes him for an easy mark, this is an error, a grave error.

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