The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style entertainment. Director-star Kenneth Branagh lets the story unfold with attention to detail while filling the screen with eye-catching images, from the spectacular mountain settings to the opulent costumes. And while the story is too familiar to stir up too much suspense, it's played with a strong sense of emotional resonance. And the moral question is provocative.
The Orient Express sets off from 1934 Istanbul with a colourful collection of passengers. A last-minute addition is noted detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh), who has just solved a thorny mystery in Jerusalem and is now heading to London. Even though he shouldn't be working, he begins to weigh up the odd collection of passengers around him, including a gangster (Johnny Depp), countess (Judi Dench), widow (Michelle Pfeiffer), governess (Daisy Ridley), maid (Olivia Colman), salesman (Wille Dafoe), assistant (Josh Gad), butler (Derek Jacobi) and doctor (Leslie Odom Jr.). Then in the middle of the night, one of them is violently murdered. And when the train becomes lodged in a snowdrift, Poirot has the time to dig further into each person's clearly suspicious back-story.
Continue reading: Murder On The Orient Express Review
Just as people began to write off veteran director Ridley Scott after a series of merely OK movies, the 77-year-old casually releases his most entertaining film in years. This sci-fi adventure is lithe, humorous, thrilling and genuinely moving. In other words, it's one of Scott's best films, mixing eye-catching visuals with a story that resonates with both emotion and deeper meaning. And it's also a lot of fun.
In the very near future, the first manned mission to Mars is caught off guard by a sudden storm. With their ship in danger, Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) orders the crew to evacuate, but in the chaos botanist Watney (Matt Damon) is knocked away and presumed dead. As Lewis and her team (Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan and Aksel Hennie) begin the long trek back to Earth, Watney wakes up alone on Mars and understands that he will need to survive until the next mission arrives in four years' time. But his habitat is only designed to last for 30 days, so he has a lot of work to do. Eventually, he thinks of a way to get a message back home to Nasa, letting them know he's alive. Now the experts (including Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean and Kristen Wiig) must figure out a way to rescue him before he runs out of food and water.
The story plays out on three fronts: with Watney using his expertise to survive, Lewis and her crew on their long journey back home, and the Nasa officials mounting a rescue mission. All three plot-strands are riveting, using convincing science to explore the conundrum while cranking up the emotional urgency of the situation. Intriguingly, the script never gives Watney a family back on Earth to sentimentalise things; the film simply doesn't need that. And Damon more than holds the audience's sympathy. He's funny, smart, tenacious and thoroughly identifiable, the kind of person we wish we would be in the same situation.
Continue reading: The Martian Review
Until the special effects take over in the final act, this is an unusually gritty, grounded superhero thriller, with characters who are so believable that the wacky science almost seems to make sense. This is Marvel's very first franchise, and the filmmakers are unable to resist the pressure to indulge in an overblown finale, and the digital mayhem they give into is oddly unexciting. So as an origin story, this film is more involving than most, but the superhero action itself feels rather limp.
It opens as an exploration of the school friendship between the misunderstood genius Reed (Miles Teller) and junkyard bully Ben (Jamie Bell), whose teleportation science experiment gets them in trouble. But Dr Storm (Reg R. Cathey) sees that their work solves a problem he has encountered in his own experiments, so he brings Reed to New York to join his well-funded, high-tech team. Working with Victor (Toby Kebbell) and Storm's children Sue and Johnny (Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan), Reed builds a full-size teleporter that succeeds in crossing over to another dimension. And Ben joins the crew for an illicit first voyage that goes spectacularly wrong, leaving Victor on the other side, while Reed, Ben, Sue and Johnny emerge with superpowers caused by altered DNA. The big boss (Tim Blake Nelson) immediately starts training them for military action, but Reed remains determined to make things right.
A strong cast helps all of this play out with remarkable introspection, letting each character develop an organic back-story that brings them together as an uneasy team. The inter-relationships are complex and engaging, veering from rivalry to camaraderie. Teller anchors the film with a layered performance as a smart, troubled guy who struggles to maintain friendships as he focusses on his work. Mara and Johnson add some feisty attitude, but it's Bell and Kebbell who provide the spark of personality that makes this crew so engaging. Then both of them become animated characters (Bell as The Thing and Kebbell as Dr Doom) without even a hint of the actors visible underneath. And the movie never quite recovers its momentum.
Continue reading: Fantastic Four Review
The thing that makes this Disney live-action remake so wonderful is the same thing that might put off some audience members: it's a pure fairy tale. This time, the studio has resisted the snarky, post-modern spin that threatened to turn previous live-action remakes (Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent) into pointless Lord of the Rings-style action epics. Instead, this is a genuinely beautiful, surgingly romantic, exquisitely made fantasy.
With only a few minor tweaks, this is the classic story of Ella (Lily James), whose widowed father (Ben Chaplin) marries Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett). She arrives with her two spoiled daughters Drizella and Anastasia (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger), and when she is also widowed, Ella ends up running the household just to keep things from falling apart. But Lady Tremaine and her daughters taunt her with the nickname "Cinderella" and treat her like a slave, refusing to let her attend the ball thrown by the Crown Prince (Richard Madden). He had met Ella before, and is hoping to see her at the ball, but she only gets a chance to go when her fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) turns up with some magic to make that happen. And after dancing with the Prince all night, her sudden disappearance sends him on a desperate quest involving a single glass slipper.
To spice things up, screenwriter Chris Weitz has included a conspiratorial sideplot in which the increasingly wicked stepmother plots with a royal advisor (Stellan Skarsgard) to thwart the Prince's wishes. But otherwise, the film hews closely to both Charles Perrault's 1697 folktale and Disney's 1950 animated classic. This includes lavish sets and costumes that continually take the breath away, giving the characters the same silhouettes as their cartoon counterparts. And within this extravagant design work, the actors are able to create surprisingly textured characters. James' Ella isn't a simple farm girl in need of a man. Madden's Prince is looking for real love. And Blanchett's riveting Lady Tremaine is eerily sympathetic even in her darkest moments.
Continue reading: Cinderella Review
This is a terrific small film about artificial intelligence wrapped within a much bigger, less involving action blockbuster. When he's grappling with issues of existence and consciousness, filmmaker Neill Blomkamp has a lot of fascinating things to say. But he also seems unable to resist tipping everything into contrived chaos, adding an unconvincing villain and lots of violent gun battles. It's an awkward mix that might please action movie fans more than those who like to engage their brains.
It's set after 2016, when the Johannesburg police deployed a team of Scout robots to bring order to the gang-ruled streets. This has been a bonanza for the tech company Tetravaal, run by hard-nosed CEO Michelle (Sigourney Weaver), who chose the Scout model, designed by the nerdy Deon (Dev Patel), over a more military-style behemoth called Moose, designed by trigger-happy Vincent (Hugh Jackman). Meanwhile, a low-life trio of offbeat, high-energy thugs (Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser and Jose Pablo Cantillo) decide to crack into the Scout's control system, so they kidnap Deon, inadvertently getting their hands on his newest prototype, the first truly sentient robot. When he's switched on, Chappie (Copley) has a sensitive soul and learns rather too quickly from his captors.
With films like District 9 and Elysium, Blomkamp showed an ability to seamlessly integrate technology with a rough and real story, and the effects work here is remarkable mainly because we never see how they're done. The robots look utterly natural mixing with humans, and Copley's performance is so astonishing that Chappie quickly becomes a hugely sympathetic character, uncannily taking on the traits of the people around him. It also helps that the film's script continually puts Chappie into situations that force us to feel his emotions and, most importantly, his powerful sense of self-preservation. Yes, he wants to live!
Continue reading: Chappie Review
Rose Byrne will reprise her role as CIA Agent Moira MacTaggert in 'X-Men: Apocalypse'.
Rose Byrne will be rejoining the X-Men cast in the 2016 instalment of the Marvel franchise, X-Men: Apocalypse. The 35-year-old Australian actor played CIA Agent Moira MacTaggert in the 2011 film X-Men: First Class as a potential love interest of James McAvoy's Professor Charles Xaviar. Apocalypse writer, Simon Kinberg, in a recent interview has refused to divulge how Byrne's character will return but promises there's a "rich relationship" with Prof. X to "mine" into.
Rose Byrne will reprise her role as Moira MacTaggert in X-Men: Apocalypse.
Read More: X-Men: Apocalypse Casts Three New Faces.
Continue reading: Rose Byrne Reprising Her Role As Moira MacTaggert In 'X-Men: Apocalypse'
Continuing to be the most original and resonant of the Marvel superhero franchises, the X-men return in the capable hands of director Bryan Singer, who again stirs plenty of meaty subtext beneath the thrilling action. He also has one of the best casts imaginable, including Oscar winners, cinema royalty, rising stars and matinee idols.
Best of all, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) returns to the fold after two less-than-thrilling solo adventures. He's at the centre of everything here, as Professor X and Magneto (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen) ask Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) to send Wolverine's consciousness back 50 years to 1973. His mission is to prevent Dr Trask (Peter Dinklage) from inventing mutant-hunting robots, because they will go out of control and cause a present-day dystopia in which mutants and anyone who sympathises with them are killed. But Wolverine's biggest task will be to get the then-feuding Professor X and Magneto (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) to work together to keep renegade mutant Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) from making everything worse.
Thankfully, Simon Kinberg's script doesn't worry too much about the whole time-travel thing, shrugging off dubious logic by keeping the focus on the characters. And there are a lot of people to keep an eye on, which makes the film sometimes feel a bit crowded and leaves some characters barely on-screen at all (blink and you'll miss Anna Paquin's Rogue). The best newbie is Evan Peters' Quicksilver, who gets the film's most entertaining sequence as he races around tweaking an action sequence frame by frame. Other set-pieces are grippingly darker, and some don't quite make sense (why does Magneto feel the need to levitate an entire stadium?).
Continue reading: X-men: Days Of Future Past Review
As he did with District 9, South African filmmaker Blomkamp grounds this sci-fi thriller in present-day society, telling a story that resonates with a strong political kick. He also again uses effects in a off-handed way that never steals focus from the actors. On the other hand,he fails to build much of an emotional impact, even though the script continually tries to ramp up the personal drama. But the actors are all very watchable, and the film's urgent vibe keeps us gripped.
It's set in 2154 Los Angeles, a sprawling shantytown where people struggle to survive without adequate resources or health care. In orbit above the earth, Elysium is an idyllic refuge for the very wealthy. Protected by the fierce Secretary Rhodes (Foster), Elysium's only threat is illegal immigration from the surface. And that's what factory worker Max (Damon) wants to attempt after severe radiation poisoning. Even having a nurse (Braga) for a friend doesn't help him get proper care: he needs the high tech medicine on Elysium to survive. He turns to black-marketeer Spider (Moura) for help, and Spider fits Max with a devise that gives him physical strength plus technology to steal vital information from an Elysium contractor (Fichtner). So Rhodes unleashes sleeper agent Kruger (Copley) to stop Max.
Yes, the plot is somewhat convoluted, but the chaos makes it feel much more realistic than the more simplistic thrillers we usually see. It also helps that the digital effects feel so seamlessly integrated into the shaky-cam mayhem of the favelas, while even the more grandly photographed Elysium leaves the effects in the background. This allows Blomkamp to keep the focus on the characters, even if the splintering plot never draws us in emotionally. Braga's plotline is clearly designed to tug at the heart-strings, but her tentative romance with Max never goes anywhere. Max's friendship with Julio (Luna) is much more interesting.
Continue reading: Elysium Review
Patrick Stewart and Halle Berry are among the cast and crew of 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' to chat about their on-set experience and their characters at a presentation at Comic-Con in San Diego. Among the others are Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Ellen Page, Jennifer Lawrence, screenwriter Simon Kinberg , producer Lauren Shuler Donner and 'The Wolverine' producer Hutch Parker.
The cast and crew of upcoming X-Men film 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' congregated for a presentation at Comic-Con in San Diego. Director Bryan Singer, writer Simon Kinberg and producer Lauren Shuler Donner were there alongside a vast ensemble cast including Evan Peters (Quicksilver), Peter Dinklage (Bolivar Trask), Nicholas Hoult (Beast), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), James McAvoy (Charles Xavier) and Hugh Jackman (Wolverine).
The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...
Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...
This closing chapter of the First Class trilogy falls into the same trap as The...
Both the filmmakers and the characters on-screen are so pleased with themselves that this might...
Just as people began to write off veteran director Ridley Scott after a series of...
Until the special effects take over in the final act, this is an unusually gritty,...
The thing that makes this Disney live-action remake so wonderful is the same thing that...
This is a terrific small film about artificial intelligence wrapped within a much bigger, less...
Continuing to be the most original and resonant of the Marvel superhero franchises, the X-men...
As he did with District 9, South African filmmaker Blomkamp grounds this sci-fi thriller in...