Tag Archives: Willem Dafoe

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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Cinema Dispatch: The Great Wall

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The Great Wall and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Picture and China Film Group

Directed by Zhang Yimou

Hey, Disney can’t be the ONLY company making all that money all over the world, right?  Sure, they have Star Wars and Marvel on their side, but there’s certainly room for even more movies that go for a global audience.  Hell, we’ve already got a few we can name off already like xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, Warcraft, or even the last loathsome Transformers movie which inexplicable set the third act in China.  Still, this particular movie is something different as it’s a US/China co-production that is legitimately one of those instead of a Hollywood film that had some of it done in China.  This is an acclaimed Chinese director with stars from his own country AND the US with financial backing from Universal and a script from Hollywood writers.  Hell, the fact that this movie ACTUALLY has Chinese subtitles yet is STILL getting a wide release in the US is noteworthy in and of itself!  Did all that effort ultimately pay off, or is this a lousy way to kick off this new era in filmmaking?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with William and Pero (Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal) running their ass off across the Gobi desert in hopes of outrunning the bandits chasing them and also finding out the secret to BLACK POWDER (i.e. gunpowder) from the Chinese once they find someone to ask about it.  Unfortunately for them, they wind up at The Great Wall where a secret army of warriors assigned to guard the wall (how can they be secret if they’re base of operations can be seen from space?) and they aren’t too friendly to tourists.  Fortunately for them (or maybe not so fortunately), they arrived on the EXACT DATE that an army of monsters that comes around every sixty years (I’m pretty sure they’re supposed to be aliens) are set to attack and try to break the wall down so as to siege the country behind it.  Because of this, General Shao and the chief strategist Wang (Zhang Hanyu and Andy Lau) who run this secret military called The Nameless Order don’t have the time to lock them in a dungeon and so they get a chance to prove their worth by slicing up a few monsters as well.  This gives them a brief stay of execution and even the respect of some of the members there including Commander Lin Mae (Jing Tian) and an ill prepared lower solider named Peng Yong (Lu Han).  Of course, these newcomers ALSO get the attention of Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe) who’s… a prisoner I think?  He came to China 25 years ago for BLACK POWDER as well, and I guess The Nameless Order just won’t let the dude leave; a fate that both William and Pero fear awaits them if they stick around too long.  So it looks like they have a dilemma on their hands!  Take what Black Powder the order has and leave them to fight on their own, or do what they can to help and hope they can finagle a way out once the dust has settled.  Will they make the right choice in the end?  What does the order have planned to fight this monstrous threat?  How much were they hoping Matt Damon would bring in?  A hundred million?  Two hundred million?

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Wait, HOW much did that last Bourne movie make!?

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