Tag Archives: Johnny Depp

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

“…if we’re judging Murder on the Orient Express upon pure entertainment value alone, it’s only fair to say that this Kenneth Branagh adaptation is something of a success.”

Wayward Wolf.

This 2017 version of the Agatha Christie classic, Murder on the Orient Express (MOTOE from hereon in), seems to have received a rather mixed bag of reviews since its release. Certainly having on board (literally in this case), such a who’s who of acting royalty, demonstrates a certain confidence by Twentieth Century Fox that this weighty cast of A-listers would be sufficiently alluring to transform this well known who dunnit from being merely potential TV fodder into something of a big screen epic.

And if we’re judging MOTOE upon pure entertainment value alone, it’s only fair to say that this Kenneth Branagh adaptation is something of a success.

Branagh himself heads the cast, portraying famous Belgian detective Hercules Poirot. Like many of Agatha Christie’s heroic lead characters, Poirot proves yet again to be something of a jinx; his very presence unsurprisingly coinciding with a murder. In this instance it occurs aboard the luxurious Orient Express train en route from Turkey to Paris.

Only a limited number of passengers are booked to travel on this particular journey, however, all of whom instantly become suspects in the murder of one Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp), found dead in his sleeping quarters having been stabbed repeatedly.

Ratchett’s shady past is then slowly revealed by those that knew him, a past that more than justifies such a potentially retaliatory action; something that he had in fact made known to Poirot himself, that he was rather fearful of.

With Ratchett’s grave fears proven correct, and with all suspects aboard the train unable to flee the scene of the crime, it is once again down to Belgian’s famous bloodhound to sniff out the truth in this particularly gruesome case of murder.

When one thinks of Poirot, one probably thinks of David Suchet’s long running portrayal on the small screen. Whether that is to be considered the pinnacle of all things Poirot-related is of course open to debate, and there are many far better qualified than I to cast their judgement. Regardless of this, Branagh, it should be said, is excellent in his own portrayal, depicting Poirot as a fastidious stickler for both detail and equilibrium in all things; personal traits that will come to be severely tested in the course of time.

In support, Judi Dench plays the sour-faced Princess Dragomiroff, with Olivia Colman (Hildegarde Schmidt) – a lady of few words – her companion and dog carer.

Johnny Depp is decent enough as Ratchett, though his mumbled American drawl gets a little lost amidst the ambient din of a chugging steam train.

Derek Jacobi, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe and Michelle Pfeiffer more or less complete an all-star line-up of egos, something that Director Branagh will have been tasked with containing during the film’s shoot. Though given his admirable thespian credentials, there would arguably have been no-one better suited to that particular task.

Blessed with Haris Zambarloukos’s stunning cinematography, a quality cast, an overall keen eye for the small details, and a healthy dose of humour thrown in to boot, Branagh’s adaptation of MOTOE, whilst not necessarily adding anything particularly new or revolutionary in its vision, is nevertheless one worthy of both its place on the big screen and more importantly, of the Agatha Christie novel itself.

 

 

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FILM REVIEW: Alice Through The Looking Glass

Amidst an absolutely dizzying deluge of special effects there resides James Bobin’s film, Alice Through The Looking Glass (ATTLG).

It’s a curious affair and if ever we were in need of an example of style winning over substance, this is it.

It’s very loosely based upon Lewis Carroll’s novel in so much as many of the characters are the same and one or two of the story lines are touched upon, but essentially this film adaptation, ATTLG, is a simple tale in which Alice, (Mia Wasikowska), attempts to help her old friend, Hatter Tarrant Hightopp (Johnny Depp), who is seemingly not long for this world – such is his grief at the disappearance of his family, all presumed dead at the hands of the wicked Red Queen.

Alice must go back in time to ascertain once and for all exactly what happened to them, and to try, if at all possible, to save them at some point in time prior to that when their fate was apparently sealed!

And so we are whisked hither and thither through time by way of the remarkable Chronosphere – a time travel device and the property of clock-like character, ‘Time,’ himself (Sacha Baron Cohen) – on all sorts of weird and wonderful adventures.

In spite of a decidedly wafer thin plot, there’s actually a fair amount to like about ATTLG.

An all-star cast of comedians and actors who can put in a good comic turn is essentially the film’s saving grace. A plethora of these bizarre characters either help or hinder Alice along her merry way. Particular mention should go to the ever comic facial expressions of Matt lucas’ Tweedle Dum and Dee, and Helena Bonham Carter (Iracebeth – The Red Queen) who is excellent, together with her enormous head!

The pace is frenetic throughout, with barely a pause for breath or a moment to mull over the slightly more outlandish ideas that the film attempts to embrace. In all honesty, this is a wise tactic. No matter how whacky or convoluted some of the concepts touched upon may be, ATTLG unsurprisingly probably doesn’t stand up too well to any sort of in-depth critical analysis or scrutiny.

But that’s OK.

There’s enough here to boggle a young mind or two, to tickle the funny bone of any adult viewers, and the absolute tidal wave of impressive magical effects should whip up energy and enthusiasm in even the most hard-to-please of grumps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: Black Mass

A lot has been made of Johnny Depp’s return to a ‘serious’ role.
In Black Mass, he portrays James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, the violent gangster boss that made South Boston his own in the late 70s and 80s.
It’s true, Depp is decent enough.
Heavy layers of makeup, piercing blue eyes and slicked back thinning hair; he certainly looks the part, adopting an unnerving appearance, well in keeping with the apparently sinister nature of the man.
Whitey was a small time gangster that got a taste for the big time and thanks to fellow ‘Southy’ (South Boston) resident and childhood friend John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) – who had worked his way up to a significant level within the FBI – an arrangement is reached by which Whitey supplies Connolly with all that he needs to take down Boston’s existing Italian mafia. In return, Connolly agrees to turn a blind eye to Whitey’s on-going ‘small time’ antics.
Of course, with the Boston Mafia now shut down and out of the picture, the way is clear for Whitey’s mob to take full advantage and expand their operations throughout Boston and beyond safe in the knowledge that the FBI will not interfere. This is something altogether more problematic for Connolly, particularly when a new head of FBI operations takes up the reins and starts to make waves.
Whitey’s kingdom is suddenly in jeopardy and there’s a very real possibility that everything’s going to start crumbling around him.
Director Scott Cooper seems to have approached this project from the Scorcese school of direction. No bad thing of course, but it’s all a bit Goodfellas-lite. Yes, it tackles key themes like violence, treachery and a growing sense of paranoia but ultimately, it never really brings anything new of note to the table.
More than ever a film such as this needs a real unique angle from which to approach the subject matter, or at the very least a good number of memorable set pieces that burn into the old grey matter.
Despite such negative overtones, Black Mass is in fact perfectly watchable. It’s well paced and engaging, with decent support performances from the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Sarsgaard and Kevin Bacon, to name but a few, but like so many before it, it’s in many ways on a hiding to nothing.
Since the likes of Coppolla, Scorcese and Leone left their indelible mark on the epic gangster / crime caper genre, it’s hard to think of many or indeed any that have truly hit those heady heights and remained long in the memory.
Yes, there are memorable moments; they’re just not memorable enough to help Black Mass to really stand out.
Baddabing.
On a particularly positive note, it’s an absolutely immaculate 1970s/80s retro set / clothing-fest for those of us that happen to be fans of the architectural and design trends of that era…
Probably just me then.