Murder on the Orient Express (Cinema Review)

12A – 114mins – 2017


 

NO BEACH-SIDE HOLIDAY

Kenneth Romeo & Juliet LIVE Branagh has dual duties as both headliner and director of this fourth adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic 1934 mystery novel, featuring “probably the greatest detective in the world” (self-professed), Hercule Poirot, the Dickens-loving gentleman with the distractingly-iconic moustache which successfully upstages a train-full of Hollywood A-listers.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street (Blu-ray Review)

18 – 91mins – 1984


 

SLEEP DISORDER

“Everybody’s got to dream, young lady.”

Inexcusably falling into the ‘genre classic I’ve somehow never seen’ category, I remedied my unintentional aversion to Wes Craven’s Elm Street franchise by picking up the 5-disc Blu-ray boxset recently, which neatly includes all 7 original entries and only skips on the 2010 remake (which, shamefully, is the only one I had previously seen).

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (Cinema Review)

12A – 129mins – 2017 – 3D


 

THE POWER OF THE SEA

After six years on dry land – the longest gap between installments in Disney’s “savvy” saga to date – Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny “Mad Hatter” Depp) has set sail on blockbuster seas for the fifth time in Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (or the mouthful that is Dead Men Tell No Tales, as it is known Stateside), after both script and budgetary issues blighted initial 2015, then 2016, departures from dock.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Cinema Review)

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12A – 133mins – 2016 – 3D


 

TEXTBOOK WIZARDING

Just a handful of years after Daniel Radcliffe folded away his full moon specs, JK Rowling dips her toe back into her ever-popular Wizarding World with this prequel saga kickstarter, purportedly the first of five big screen adventures. With a screenplay penned by herself and with Potter #5-#8 alumni David Yates back in the director’s chair, Potterites had much to be optimistic about.

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Alice Through the Looking Glass (Cinema Review)

PG – 113mins – 2016 – 3D


 

THE MATTER WITH THE HATTER

First announced four years ago, The Muppets resurrector James Bobin inherited the directorial top hat from Tim Burton (who stayed on in the capacity of producer) for this slow-tracked sequel to Disney’s 2010 live action Lewis Carroll remake.

“You’ve been gone too long, Alice.”

In the years following Alice’s (Crimson Peak’s Mia Wasikowska) slaying of the Jabberwocky and return to the sexist reality of 19th Century life, she has followed in her sea-fairing father’s footsteps as Captain of The Wonder. Upon debarking, Captain Kingsleigh is distraught to learn her father is dead and her spurned former fiancé, Hamish (Leo Bill), is now her boss, smarmily demanding she be demoted to clerk – no wonder our free-thinking heroine is desperate to escape once more to the dreamlike surrealism of Underland!

Stylistically in keeping with the colour-crowded, CG-heavy Alice in Wonderland, Looking Glass takes an “un-impossible” turn for the darker when the old gang of flamboyant friends tells Alice that the clown-faced Mad Hatter (Johnny Black Mass Depp) is dying of depression following the dim discovery that his estranged family of ginger hat-makers (headed by patriarch Rhys Ifans) have perished.

Desperate to put the colour back in his ghost-white cheeks, Alice tasks herself with entering the Grand Clock Tower and procuring the Chronosphere (think H.G. Well’s antique contraption mixed with General Grievous’ wheel bike) from Time (Grimsby’s Sacha Baron Cohen) himself, allowing her to journey back on the oceans of time to save the tragic Hightopp brood. But can you ever really change the past, or simply learn from it?

The grandiose time travel concept (Time is a he who has automaton Seconds for minions, who in times of need can club together into larger Minutes and giant Hours) is cleverly constructed, however no matter how poetic the plot or nifty the FX, I still don’t ever believe that the human actors are really anywhere but in front of a green screen – no matter how affected their accents or kooky their clothes.

Alice PosterDiverting from Carroll’s prose, Looking Glass successfully manages to pack more of an emotional wallop than its superficial predecessor thanks to an entangled backstory which reveals the reasons for the White (Anne Hathaway) and Red Queen’s (Helena Bonham Carter) sisterly squabbles – and the awkward medical justification for the latter’s inflated bonce. However, a lot of the surreal side characters feel like little more than frivolous window dressing in this “curiouser and curiouser” continuation which will put a Cheshire Cat-sized grin on the lips of those who loved Burton’s interpretation, but won’t convert any detractors.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars

Black Mass (DVD Review)

15 – 118mins – 2015


 

UNHOLY ALLIANCE

Based upon the 2001 non-fiction chronicle by former newspaper reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, a stellar ensemble cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson and Kevin Bacon all play second fiddle to a balding Johnny Depp in this often grim dramatization of the 1975-1995 criminal career of South Boston’s Irish mob leader, James “Whitey” Bulger.

Not since Public Enemies in 2009 has Depp had the opportunity to shift from wacky wally to wryly wretched, but Black Mass is just that solemn showcase. Portraying the feared and felonious Whitey, head of the Winter Hill Gang – and brother to Massachusetts State Senate President, Billy Bulger (Cumberbatch) – makes for a stark (and welcome) change of direction for the Hollywood heartthrob, who has made quite the name for himself playing camp and colourful extroverts.

Entering into a problematic devil’s deal with childhood pal and FBI agent John Connelly (Joel Edgerton) to act as a “criminal informer”, Whitey believes that by getting the Feds to fight his battles for him and bring down the Italian mob, he will receive free reign to do whatever he likes. But the tragic deaths of his young son (Luke Ryan) and elderly mother (Mary Klug) pushes the infamous crime lord – and his ‘business associates’ – further down a dark path from which there is no immunity.

“It’s not what you do, it’s when and where you do it.”

Ostensibly comparable to last year’s Tom Hardy double-hander Krays biopic Legend (in theme if not in period detail), director Scott Crazy Heart Cooper instead avoids any whiff of grisly black humour here, playing this violent thriller deadly straight. There are attempts to endue Bulger’s wrongdoing with a maudlin rationale, but the steely-eyed and stony-faced gangster is too depraved to evoke compassion.

On the run for eleven years and only arrested in 2011, Black Mass’s persistently sombre and severe tone achieves the desired effect of painting the life of a “strictly criminal” felon as a despairingly lonely one.

CR@B Verdict: 4 stars