A Timely Review: Murder on the Orient Express

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Some Other Works: Cinderella (2015), Thor (2011), Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014), Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
Screenwriter: Michael Green
Some Other Works: BladeRunner 2049 (2017), American Gods (TV series 2017-), Logan (2017), Alien: Covenant (2017)
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Defoe, Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr, Judi Dench, and even fucking more than that geez.
Synopsis: A lavish train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful mystery. From the novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells of thirteen stranded strangers & one man’s race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.

This was the first film directed by Kenneth Branagh in a long time that I thoroughly enjoyed. Usually, I find a certain gravitas to be lacking in his more expensive films, but his mix of humor and melodrama is well suited to tell this story.

First of all, Kenneth Branagh isn’t David Suchet, and that’s okay everyone. Like seriously, it’ll be alright. You fucking nerds.

Not Kenneth Branagh

Branagh excels at telling character driven, monologue heavy, stories suited or adapted from, in most cases, the stage. I was very surprised to find that this film had a lot of negative reviews. Most of them saying something like “why did he remake this? The other poirots are dope. Everyone knows the story hur dur.”

Let me say this, if you already know the ending to Agatha Christie’s tale, just chill the fuck out. A lot of people know it. If you loved this story in another form, that’s cool. This isn’t it though. That’s fucking okay. Nobody has taken it from you. It’s still wherever you left it last, kiddo. I really love a quote Kenneth Branagh makes in regards to some of the small changes he made in the adaptation.

“In a world where you know people are responsive to murder mysteries, you have to start differently, and do different things with the plot. And as soon as that happens, people start wondering what else could be different,” he says. Then he adds, laughing, “And I think a lot of people fib about saying they know what’s going on anyway.”

The truth.

Branagh directs as thought the audience were at a play. The impressive cast adds to this element, which may cause some to assume they’ll be getting a lot of juicy arguments and interconnected dialogue. This isn’t the case. The audience stays close to Poirot the entire film, and he spends plenty of time investigating. So, the supporting cast has fewer lines, but they all get an opportunity to tell their story. I think some may see this as a con, but for the purpose of the story, the casting of people who seem to only look very interesting is intentional.

Murder on the Orient Express is a character drama. Some have found it uncompelling, I can’t agree. The moral guidelines Poirot stands by at the beginning of the film become quandaries by the end. The parallels are there, and well done if not slightly ham-fisted by movie standards. I’d argue, not by stage ones. The movie really just… works.

The reveal to the mystery is slow, and revelatory. It takes the time to set up an emotional climax. This is where the all-star cast really shines. The reveal scene has a build up where all of the suspects sit on one side of long table, as he stands on the other side, prepared to give out his judgement. It’s a gorgeous shot, meant to mimic the last supper.

It’s here I’d like to remind fellow film goers that in films which have a mystery, it’s not always about how good the twist gets you, but rather how well it’s drawn out when you already know the answer. This film isn’t a one shot “twist”. It’s a true mystery, and we have Agatha Christie to thank for that.

 

It isn’t a brilliant film by any means, but I’d argue it’s a respectable one.

 

Betty Windsor is a film snob and co-host of  shows Geek Versus Week. She does not normally say FUCK this much in a film review. 

The Woman Behind The American Gods Finale

The first season of American Gods wrapped up yesterday with a bang of a season finale. As a fan of both the book and Bryan Fuller I have been incredibly pleased with this season, but that’s a review for another time. What I’d really like to talk about is Floria Sigismoni.

Sign me up as a sacrifice to Queen Bilqis

In January, I decided to take a past time I had of watching and studying music videos, and do something useful with it. I began keeping track of the best music videos I had seen each month form them into a list. When I got to May I was struck a particular music video. It has to be in the top 3 I had seen this year. Perfume Genius “Die 4 U“.

It’s eerie yet intimate nature had me entranced. I had to know who directed it, and that’s when I discovered Floria Sigismoni. She is a renowned director in the music video world. When it comes to a video, she maintains a certain critical eye in the misunderstood art form. She has directed for The White StripesDavid Bowie, Marilyn MansonBjörkThe CureFiona AppleSigur RósMuseInterpolLeonard CohenThe Dead Weather just to name a few.

She’s a music video icon, and a perfect fit for the season finale. Her eye is incredible.

From Perfume Genius “Die 4 You”.
David Bowie “The Stars Are Out Tonight”
The White Stripes “Blue Orchid”
Yes she is responsible for this iconic image!

I wanted to geek out a bit mildly because I didn’t realize I was such a fan of hers until I eyed her long list of accomplishments. Choosing a director for a series season finale (especially if it’s the first season) is really important and Floria Sigsmondi fits in perfectly with the show’s aesthetic.

Neil Gaiman even took to tumblr to give his thanks:  “A huge thank you to three women who aren’t (in my opinion) getting enough American Gods love and credit: Maria Melnik, who wrote Episode 7, “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney”, Bekah Brunstetter who co-wrote Episode 8 “Come to Jesus”, and Floria Sigismondi who directed it”

Betty Windsor is a film snob and co-host of  shows Geek Versus Week and the Graveyard Shift. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (Spoiler Free) | Geek Versus Week #131

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Vol-2-podcast

Peter Quill and his fellow Guardians are hired by a powerful alien race, the Sovereign, to protect their precious batteries from invaders. When it is discovered that Rocket has stolen the items they were sent to guard, the Sovereign dispatch their armada to search for vengeance. As the Guardians try to escape, the mystery of Peter’s parentage is revealed.

Also in this episode, Game of Thrones, American Gods, Defenders, and your reactions to our Netflix v Hulu poll.

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