Cinema Dispatch: Top Ten WTF Moments in The Predator

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The Predator and all the images you see in this editorial are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by Shane Black

It’s been a few weeks since The Predator graced the multiplexes in all its confused glory, so I think now’s a pretty good time to really get into what exactly is SO fascinatingly wrong about this movie that I couldn’t fit into a proper review.  The last time I did something like this was all the way back when The Mummy was supposed to be the next big thing which sadly didn’t end up being the case despite making four hundred million worldwide and so The Dark Universe is more or less dead on arrival.  A shame because, despite the film’s ASTOUNDING amount of flaws, it was compelling in a way that very few terrible movies can be and I’d have loved to see a DCCU style nightmare come out of it.  Predators though still has a chance to be the next (albeit smaller) version of this with its incredibly pronounced sequel bait at the end and comparatively lower stakes, so why not give it the proper WTF treatment?  Unlike my last list however, this isn’t ranked in an ascending order of absurdity; rather it’s structured in a way to try and get across the ESCALATING sense of absurdity that builds as the movie goes along, so while one thing may not be as out there or ridiculous as the thing before it, it all adds up into this ludicrous mishmash of ideas that either should have been left on the cutting room floor or given the time it needed to not feel so inexplicably jammed into an already overly tight runtime.  Let’s get started!!

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10) Lock him up and throw away the key! – Why the heck is Quinn being railroaded!?

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So the movie begins with The Predator (at least the first one of them) crash landing on Earth basically within spitting distance a squad of army dudes out on a mission.  Our lead dude is Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) who finds the escape pod The Predator used as well as part of his armor; including his mask and one of his arm bands that both have VERY advanced computer systems in them.  His men die at the hands of The Predator, he manages to escape, and then he mails the pieces of armor to his home in the US.  Now why would he do that?  Well apparently he correctly assumed that he would be arrested by THE HIGHER UPS and sent to a mental institution as a way to keep him quiet about the alien… because reasons.  Now to be clear, this is not just ANY army dude; the mission he was on was to assassinate a drug lord on an ally’s soil (Mexico) and the US Military isn’t about to send someone on that kind of job who doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut and play ball.  How is this guy not an ASSET to The Stargazer Project considering his sterling military record, and for that matter why are they so intent on keeping HIM out of the loop when they IMMEDIATELY bring a civilian scientist on board (Dr. Casey Bracket played by Olivia Munn) to run tests on the darn thing!?  Speaking of which…

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Cinema Dispatch: The Predator

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The Predator and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by Shane Black

I’m getting rather good at avoiding trailers at this point because I never saw a single one for this movie.  All I knew was that it was another Predator movie with an annoyingly similar title to the rest of them (which is still better than the sequel to Halloween being called Halloween) and it was being directed by the guy who wrote Lethal Weapon, directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3, and The Nice Guys, and even got turned into a pile of bloody organs in the first Predator movie!  I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a winning formula to me!  At least until the recent news came out about his deeply irresponsible casting decision in the movie which frankly cast a big cloud over the whole thing for me right before it came out.  Does this manage to be an entertaining film despite the problems that Shane Black managed to bring upon himself in the lead up to the film’s release, or was that the first sign that something was amiss with the latest entry in this franchise?  Let’s find out!!

For some time now it seems that Predators have been stepping up their game and coming to Earth with a bit more frequency which is not just a good way to set ourselves up for some prequels, but to raise the stakes a bit as this latest invasion by a Predator seems to be a bit more than just some dude trying to add one more human spine to his collection.  He crash lands in a jungle down in Mexico where military badass Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is on assignment to assassinate someone for something, but said crash landing makes things a bit more complicated.  A bunch of… dudes (are they military?  A private corporation?) who are part of PROJECT STARGAZER which is led by the mysterious Traeger (Sterling K Brown) capture the alien, capture most of its armor, and even captures McKenna, but not before McKenna… finds someone to mail part of The Predator’s armor back home.  Apparenlty he wants to keep it for “evidence” which I’m SURE will come in handy when he’s carted off to a mental institution so that PROJECT STARGAZER can keep a lid on the existence of aliens.  Not so much of a lid that they won’t enlist a civilian scientist Dr. Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) to take a look at the captured creature, but enough so that the highly trained military officer who’s already involved with secret government plots like assassinations can be forcibly kept quiet before he starts blabbing to everyone.  Sounds like a foolproof plan to me!  Oh wait, the Predator escaped and is now looking for his armor, namely his helmet, that McKenna sent back home and is currently being played with by his son Rory (Jacob Temblay) who is on the autism spectrum and apparently has no problem understanding this alien technology.  So it’s a race against time as McKenna and a group of mentally ill soldiers he meets (Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, and Augusto Aguilera) team up with Dr. Bracket to… I guess stop the Predator, while Traeger and PROJECT STARGAZER regroup to put an end to this threat and the people who know about it once and for all! Can McKenna save his son from the murderous alien as well as the VERY dangerous technology he’s been messing around with?  What are PROJECT STARGAZERS’s true plans, and what are The Predator’s plans as well?  Does anyone else get the feeling that the editor had their spine forcibly removed by a giant monster alien when they were only halfway done putting this thing together?

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“I get my OWN spin-off or else this guy’s gut turns into a pin cushion!”

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Cinema Dispatch: The Darkest Minds

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The Darkest Minds and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Can we just take a moment and remind ourselves that YA adaptations (and even movies aimed at a YA audience) are NOT the worst thing to happen to the world of cinema?  That would be Eli Roth, but in any case, I think we’re well past the days of Twilight Hate (at least we SHOULD be and anyone still carrying that torch would be kind of sad) and we even got some bug critical success stories like The Hunger Games; none of which I’ve ever seen but I hear are supposed to be good!  In the last few years though, things haven’t really looked great for the genre as they still make money, but none of them have had much critical success or frankly leave much of an impact despite earning so much money.  Even GOOD ones like A Wrinkle in Time still languished with critics and didn’t really find the audience it needed to.  Now we have this movie which stepping up to the plate to take its swing at the box office.  Does this manage to be another high point for a genre that should get a bit more respect, or is this the kind of poorly made tripe that (along with misogyny if we’re being frank) made these films such an easy target in the first place?  Let’s find out!!

Ruby Daly (Lidya Jewett) is your typical elementary school student in a run of the mill suburb living her normal life when tragedy strikes as the world basically turns into an even MORE proactive version of Children of Men.  Not only are people not having babies anymore, but children start to drop like flies from some mysterious disease, and worse yet the ones who survive get super powers.  Now sure there’s a certain amount of… let’s say VOLATILITY in kids having the ability to move things with their mind and conduct electricity (as well as have super smarts and fire bending powers because… reasons), but things go a BIT further than some updated Health and PE classes to straight up generational genocide as ANY child exhibiting any sort of powers (I couldn’t quite tell if it was ALL children or just some of them) are brought to military run internment camps for classification, separation, and manual labor.  Ruby ends up getting sent to one of them as she apparently has the ability to read minds I think which makes her the MOST DANGEROUS AND SPECIAL ONE EVER, but she manages to somehow keep it under wraps by mind wiping the doctor (you’d think they’d check for that) and getting classified as a lower tiered super person.  Years go by and Ruby goes from a young girl to a teenager (Amandla Stenberg) but things come to a head as she seemingly gets discovered as one of the SUPER SPECIAL AWESOME kids and subsequently whisked away from the camp by a mysterious freedom fighter of sorts (Mandy Moore) who then wants her to join her group known as the Children’s League which seems like a good idea considering she’s got nowhere else to go and they’re for the liberation of children from government persecution… but then she gets a weird vibe from the dude she’s with (Mark O’Brien) and she manages to run away from them to find a van full of super powered teens (Harris Dickinson, Skylan Brooks, and Miya Cech) who agree to take her in as they travel to some sort of children haven known as East River where they can… I guess live free?  Of course it won’t be an easy trip as there are children hunting bounty hunters (Gwendoline Christie) roaming the streets as well as the military who aren’t about to let one of their kids go; especially if they’re one of the SUPER SPECIAL AWESOME kids!  Will Ruby find a new home with her fellow super powered misfits?  Just what does the Children League want from her, and are they truly fighting to save these persecuted children?  Okay, seriously Fox?  Did you just dust off an old X-Men script to make this movie?

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#MagnetoWasRight

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Jumping the Soapbox: Let’s Look At the Trailers from Comic Con 2018!

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The images in this editorial are the property of their respective owners

For ninety-nine percent of people out there who don’t get to go to Comic Con in person, our experience is basically a giant pile of news being dumped about upcoming movies and television shows, and while the coverage this year was overshadowed by the senseless firing of James Gunn (#RehireJamesGunn), there was still quite a bit of news worth paying attention to; especially some of the trailers that got released, and I’m not just talking about that crappy Titans one!  So let’s go ahead and take a look at some (certainly not all) of the trailers that we saw for the first time this weekend!

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SHAZAM!

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Directed by David F Sandberg; Owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is your typical moody teenager who’s been placed in yet another foster home, but everything changes when the mystical space wizard SHAZAM (Djimon Hounsou) chooses him to inherit his spectacular powers.

I like what I see here, but what I’m seeing isn’t much.  Granted this is the first trailer and we’ll surely see more as we get closer to the release date, but the UNIQUE SELLING POINT of this movie needs to be more than it NOT being like the last few DCCU movies.  It’s brighter, it has genuine humor, and it focuses on the HERO part of being a Superhero.  That’s all great, but it still feels REALLY lacking.  The film looks VERY small in scale which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a lack of spectacle needs to be compensated in other areas and I’m not really seeing much beyond DECENT in this trailer.  I like Zachary Levi in the role and he seems very natural playing a boy in a super hero’s form, but his dialogue is far from sterling, and the cinematography seems kind of flat for the most part.  I’m sure I’ll like this more than the overly ambitious Batman v Superman or the bloated but safe Justice League, but being light and family friendly doesn’t mean it has to be trivial and yet that’s a lot of what I’m getting out of this trailer.  If nothing else though, they’ve got a GREAT director behind it as the guy made two of the better horror films of the last few years (Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation), so hopefully he’ll bring some of that creativity to this film even if this first trailer doesn’t quite get it across.

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“I know we’re taking this, but we stopped the bad guys in the process so let’s just call it a wash, alright?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Deadpool 2

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Deadpool 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by David Leitch

The first Deadpool was really solid for what it was, and I know that sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it only SORT of is!  It was not so much a movie in its own right as it was a proof of concept for a character to show how something this dark, comedic, and off the wall can be done in the super hero genre.  It makes sense considering this character had pretty much been struggling to prove itself for years as a cinematically viable presence what with the awfulness that was Origins Wolverine (there was an even a stinger for him to return in later X-Men films) or even that CG rendered test footage that became the big car action scene in the real film.  I wasn’t THE MOST thrilled with the end result as a movie, but I was glad that Ryan Reynolds found a character perfectly suited for his capabilities as an actor and that a studio was finally ready to back him up on that.  Now that EVERYONE knows who Deadpool is and are ready to see him in action outside of an origin story, is there enough left to work with to make the amazing film he truly deserves, or was he just a gimmick the whole time and lightening won’t be striking twice for this one?  Let’s find out!!

After getting his revenge, resolving his character arc, and making a boat load at the box office, Deadpool AKA Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is living his Merc with a Mouth life full of blood, snappy quips, and awesome days with his lady love Vanessa (Morena Baccarin).  Sadly the good times won’t last forever and Wade is basically left to his own devices which can only spell doom and gloom for those foolish enough to get in his way… unless of course you’re made entirely out of metal.  Oh hey!  His best buddy Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) is made of metal!  Maybe he can get Wade out of his funk and FINALLY get him to join the X-Men!  Thing is, that’s KIND of a monkey’s paw wish as he DOES indeed join the team (as a trainee) but right away screws things up when a young mutant named Russell (Julian Dennsion) gets himself into trouble and Deadpool comes to his aid in a manner that doesn’t QUITE meet the X-Men code… or the law, and winds up going to Mutant Jail which is apparently a thing.  If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s ALSO a half cyborg dude named Cable (Josh Brolin) pulling a Terminator by coming back to the past to save the future and it SEEMS to involve both Wade AND death, so Deadpool certainly has his work cut out for him in order to escape prison, keep the kid from ending up a reprobate like himself, and stopping the Future Cop from whatever the hell it is he plans on doing.  Will Wade learn how to not just be an irreverent jackass, but an irreverent jackass with a HEART?  Just how far will Cable go to complete his mission, and how much collateral damage will Wade have to suffer because of it?  He may not be the best man for the job, but is he at least the FUNNIEST one!?

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“This isn’t really going as I planned.”     “Do you want to take a break?”     “No no no!  I’m good!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Trailer Talk (Bohemian Rhapsody)

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Bohemian Rhapsody is owned by 20th Century Fox and all the images you see in this trailer talk are the property of their respective owners

Directed by Bryan Singer and Dexter Fletcher

OH MAMA MIA!  Has the day finally come for this biopic to see the light of day!?  A Queen biopic has been floating around in Hollywood for a solid decade at the least, and I remember when they were ready to go on one starring Sacha Barron Cohen as Freddie Mercury which is certainly something I would have loved to see but sadly ended up falling through like all the other attempts.  Now that we have the very first teaser trailer for this biopic, does it assuage the anxieties of eager fans as to whether Queen can be done justice on the big screen!?  Let’s find out!!

Initial impressions are… okay I guess.  You really shouldn’t expect TOO much to come out of a teaser trailer and we’ll surely get a few more before the film’s release in November, but I think they at least set the right tone to build up some hype before they start showing the meat of what this biopic will be about.  The music playing over the whole teaser is a mashup of a bunch of queen lyrics over the beat to We Will Rock You which sounds a BIT awkward at points (ESPECIALLY with the chorus to Killer Queen), but it actually works surprisingly well when layered over Bohemian Rhapsody.  We really don’t get any details on the plot other than the making of Bohemian Rhapsody will be a major subplot and that there’ll be a crap load of concert scenes throughout.  The actors look fine I guess with Rami Malek (Mr Robot) as Front Man Freddie CLEARLY getting the spotlight.  If I were to complain about one thing though, I’d say that he doesn’t quite look right as young Freddie with long hair even though he looks absolutely spot on for Mustache Freddie.

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“I can eat this microphone whole, and it’ll be the most beautiful thing you could imagine!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Love, Simon

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Love Simon and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by Greg Berlanti

Does anyone else think we’re at the point where we need to come up with a better way of describing movies like this one other than “Like a John Hughes movie”?  As much as those movies are a touchstone in popular culture, the phrase a bit played out at this point, and on top that movies such as this one, despite being quite faithful to the overall formula and tone that he developed, feels like something that couldn’t have (even if it SHOULD have) been made in his time.  I mean I GUESS we could go with “teenage coming of age story”, but that still doesn’t feel like it fully encapsulates the specific high school angst and post puberty struggles of self-discovery that made us develop the term in the first place.  Anyway, I’m just rambling here as I honestly had no idea of this movie’s existence until it showed up at my local theater, but I am happy that we’re getting an ACTUAL LGBTQIA+ teen comedy as that kind of movie is a lot more in my wheelhouse than the super serious LGBTQIA+ films like Moonlight or even Carol.  Does this manage to succeed in being just as good if not better than its straight peers in the genre, or is its good intentions just not enough to carry this film all the way through its run time?  Let’s find out!!

Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is your typical teenager, in that he’s not quite sure about his place in the world and has secrets that he doesn’t feel like sharing with the rest of the world.  As the audience though, we’re privy to ALL that information and we find out right away that Simon is in fact gay but hasn’t come out yet; not to his friends Leah, Abby, and Nick (Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr), nor to his parents (Josh Duhmael and Jennifer Garner) and little sister (Talitha Bateman).  He has his reasons for doing so and it’s not like there’s a LAW that says you have to do it as soon as you know, so his plan is to just continue pining after hot dudes while hiding any trace that he’s actually doing so!  Simple enough, right!?  Well… not necessarily.  It turns out that there’s ANOTHER closeted gay dude in school who posts an anonymous letter on the school’s blog under the pseudonym Blue and leaves an e-mail address for people to contact him at.  Simon on a whim decides to reach out to him (using a pseudonym as well) which leads to a flurry of back and forth e-mails as Simon starts to develop feelings for this unknown “Blue” person.  However, since this IS a movie about teenagers, there has to be SOME sort of disaster and in this case it’s the nerdy kid Martin (Logan Miller) who finds Simon’s letters and tries to set up an “arrangement” (*cough* Blackmail *cough*) where Simon will help him clean up his act, take better care of himself, and become a much more attractive and emotionally available person which will help him meet awesome women who think he’s awesome and they can have awesome dates together.  At least that’s what I’m sure is going through MARTIN’S head to make this sound so much more innocent, but what it breaks down to is Simon (under threat of being forcibly outed) having to arrange dates between Martin and Abby who the former has a crush on.  Yeah, not the BEST situation to be in all things considered, and worse yet he might end up losing his chances with Blue who might get scared off if Simon is forcibly outed; thinking he might be next if he keeps contacting him.  Can Simon juggle this rough situation with his everyday duties of being the typical American teenager?  Will Martin make good on his threats and just how far will Simon have to go to keep that from happening?  How is it that EVERYONE’S teenage years suck!?  You’d think at least ONE person would luck out at some point!

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“Not only is my life over, it’s also a cliché…”

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Cinema Dispatch: Red Sparrow

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Red Sparrow and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by Francis Lawrence

What, were you expecting a review for Death Wish?  Yeah… no.  Eli Roth isn’t about to get another cent from me after the crap I went through with his LAST film, and seeing him remake an already tonally uneven film with the ham handedness that he makes all his other films is an experience I am VERY much willing to overlook and stuff down the memory hole along with everything else I’d like to forget; like Devilman Crybaby or that guy who’s occupying in the Oval Office right now where an ACTUAL President should be sitting.  So that left me with this Jennifer Lawrence starring spy thriller which… I don’t know.  The trailers didn’t really do enough to get me interested in the story, and I still have nightmares over the LAST time I saw Jennifer Lawrence star with uneasiness into a camera while contending with impending doom.  At the very least though, it won’t be as bad as Death Wish… right?  Let’s find out!!

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“Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to shoot these puppies out of a canon and straight into the sun.”     “I have a choice?”     “Sure you do!  Either follow all of my orders or I’ll burn your house down!”     “I think that’s called an ultimatum.”

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Cinema Dispatch: The Post

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The Post and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Oh good!  Now that it’s officially 2018, the rest of us can FINALLY see the best movies of 2017!  Because THAT doesn’t seem like a backwards approach to releasing critically acclaimed films; ESPECIALLY ONES BY THE MOST FAMOUS DIRECTOR OF ALL TIME!  Sigh… whatever.  My feelings about theatrical release schedules aside, there’s been a lot of buzz about this movie being yet another Awards Darling what with the big name cast, the legendary director, and the timely subject matter given the political climate we are currently and TORTUROUSLY living under.  That said, I’m not always the biggest fan of movies that seem so perfectly designed to soak up Oscars (*cough* The King’s Speech *cough*) and while I didn’t give it the most GLOWING review at the time, I do think that Spotlight is an unreasonably high bar for any film to try and reach which certainly seems to be the goal here given the topic at hand at hand the pedigree behind it.  Then again, how can you go wrong with Spielberg?  If your answer to that question is Hook by the way, you’re just flat out wrong.  HOOK IS AWESOME!!  Anyway, does Spielberg manage to eke out yet and another cinematic masterpiece to add to his collection, or is this simply relying on his name to sell it both at the box office and with critics?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows The Washing Post during the time The Pentagon Papers (a study of the likelihood of victory in Vietnam that indicated that the government knew there was no chance of winning yet still committed forces there anyway) were being released by The New York Times and Nixon’s Justice Department was doing what they could to stop it.  Now The Washington Post wasn’t doing so well as its owner Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) is seen as an ineffective leader for reasons that CLEARLY have very little to do with her actual abilities (I WONDER WHAT ELSE IT COULD BE!?) and was in the middle of trying to find outside investment when this all started to unfold.  The editor in chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) is itching to get his hands on some of the papers that The Times had gotten and were forced to stop publishing due to a federal court injunction (COMPLETELY unprecedented in American history), but even if he WERE to find the it’d be a huge risk for everyone involved; especially Miss Graham who has the most invested in the company.  Eventually though, one of the assistant editors Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) manages to get his hands on not just the parts The Times obtained, but more or less the WHOLE damn report straight from the source itself Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys).  With Ben having EXACTLY what he wants and a staff of likeminded reporters to back him up, it all comes down to Miss Graham to decide whether or not the risk of publishing these documents in her paper outweigh the potential good that having such documents out there will do for journalism and first amendment rights.  Even then though, if they jump the gun and the Nixon Administration wins whatever court battle would certainly lie ahead, that could lead to an even WORSE seizure of unchecked executive power.  Will Kay find a way to get the truth out there without losing everything else in the process?  What can The Justice Department and Nixon do to this newspaper and its staff if these documents are released in spite of the injunction placed on The Times?  The REAL question is, will this movie win MOST of the awards or ALL of the awards?

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“Your Oscars.  Give them to me.”     “You better do what she says.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Murder on the Orient Express

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Murder on the Orient Express and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

I’m hardly what you’d call “well read” as most of my cultural education comes from television and movies followed by people TALKING about television and movies, so while I’m aware that there’s a book out there called Murder on the Orient Express written by someone whose work I should really get around to reading, I don’t actually know what the story is about nor who the killer is which I GUESS would make me the target audience for a slick Hollywood retelling of the story starring some of the most beloved character actors out there… and Johnny Depp.  I’m certainly excited to see this as I do love me a good mystery, and seeing a movie is ALMOST as good as reading a book… right?  Anyway, does Kenneth Branagh manage to successfully bring the Agatha Christie classic to the silver screen once again, or does the brilliance of her work get lost in the midst of his vision for the material?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with the famed detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) solving yet another world class mystery in the heart of Jerusalem and is now ready to take a much deserved vacation to recharge his mystery solving batteries!  As luck would have it, he runs into an old friend named Bouc (Tom Bateman) who gets him a ticket on the one and only Orient Express which Bouc is the director of.  Sadly for Poirot’s plans of leisure, not only does the train get stuck in an avalanche but one of the passengers (Johnny Depp) comes down with a bad case of MURDER!  With only some minor cajoling from Bouc, Poirot begins to investigate The Case of the Stabbed Dude by looking into the pasts of all the other passengers (Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Olivia Colman, Lucy Boynton, Marwan Kenzari, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Sergei Polunin, and Miranda Raison) to see if there’s anything to connect one of them to the guy sleeping in a pool of his own blood.  Will Poirot uncover the criminal mastermind who was unfortunately enough to be sharing a train ride with the world’s greatest detective?  Just who was the man who got viciously murdered, and what could have motivated someone to commit such an act?  Wait… isn’t it a bit TOO convenient that the train JUST SO HAPPENED to get stuck after a murder is committed!?

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LOOK OUT, POIROT!  IT WAS THE TRAIN ALL ALONG!!

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