Review: Murder On The Orient Express (2017)


Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery receives a star-studded if dreary update, directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also takes on the lead role of Hercule Poirot. The detective, on his way to London to solve another case, finds himself embroiled in an unexpected murder – one that takes place on the very train he’s travelling on. Each and every passenger is a suspect, most of whom are played by A-list talent dressed up but without the dialogue, including Judi Dench, Penélope Cruz and Josh Gad. Continue reading “Review: Murder On The Orient Express (2017)”

Review: The Lone Ranger (2013)

The Lone Ranger

Conceived for a radio show in the early 1930s, the characters of John Reid – soon to become the Lone Ranger – and his trusted sidekick Tonto soon transitioned to television, where they became American cultural staples. Since the series ended in the late 1950s, there’s been various attempts to bring the tenacious crime-fighting duo to the big screen, none more bizarre and erratic, yet somewhat thrilling than The Lone Ranger. Continue reading “Review: The Lone Ranger (2013)”

Review: Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the fourth instalment in the multi-billion pound action-adventure franchise, and possibly the easiest to understand. This time, we follow Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he lands himself in a bit of a bind after being lured onto Blackbeard’s (Ian McShane) ship by enigmatic siren – and old flame – Angelica (Penélope Cruz), and is forced to seek out the Fountain of Youth.

While it’s certainly exciting to see Jack on another adventure, the frenzy soon fades, leaving in its midst Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio’s exhausted, clumsy and bland story – one that’s fuelled only by cliched action sequences. To add to this, On Stranger Tides completely fails to acknowledge anything that happened in the first trilogy. Yes, this film may be the standalone instalment producers were seeking, but it loses most of its credibility in the process.

Rob Marshall, who takes over directorial duties from Gore Verbinski, doesn’t inpart any visible influence on the film. His background in musicals and stage shows, where he basks in vivid colours and exciting set pieces, seems to have disappeared. On Stranger Tides is tinged with a dull, lifeless light, made worse only by Marshall’s pedestrian direction. It’s a shame, because the sequences involving the mermaids – which were genuinely exciting and engaging – were lit so dimly that you had to squint to be able to distinguish similarly clothed characters. Not an enjoyable experience in the slightest.

Nearly every performance within the film – both from new and recurring cast members – is muted and stoic. While Depp is still charming and enthralling as Captain Jack Sparrow, the plot and trite dialogue doesn’t leave him much room to breathe. Other actors, namely Cruz, Geoffrey Rush – who returns as Barbossa – and McShane, deliver adequate performances as their respective characters, but none are particularly noteworthy or seem to have the energy to prove their worth.

It goes to show that no matter how ridiculous Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End were – nor how annoying Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom’s characters had become – it’s a shame to see a franchise that started off so fresh transform into a sheer money-making wreckIf only Knightley’s Elizabeth Swan had shown up to re-utter one of the franchises best lines – “You like pain? Try wearing a corset” – On Stranger Tides may have saved itself. Just.

Trailer: Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Director: Rob Marshall

Starring – Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane and Geoffrey Rush

Review: Rango (2011)

Rango is a new computed animation film from the quintessential avant-guarde director Gore Verbinski.

The film centres on Rango, a chameleon and aspiring swashbuckling thespian, who finds himself in a Western town plagued by bandits and is forced to literally play the role in order to protect it.

John Logan’s script, while it deals with big issues, such as the lack of water in certain countries, works best as an intellectual character piece, and its through the compelling voice talent and extraordinary emotion capture that the film truly shows its grandeur.

The pacing is a delight, full of humour and fortitude, sometimes quiet and retrained, while others noisy and outlandish. It’s a film that, to its merit, dares to be in-your-face and to tell a very personal, sometimes restricted story.

The real accomplishment, though, is the visual style, which makes even the best animated 3D look feeble in comparison. Meticulous attention has clearly been paid to mise-en-scene, emotion detailing, and the inspired framing of individual shots. It’s truly fascinating to behold the surprises the filmmakers dispel throughout the film.

The voice cast, top-lined by an on-form Johnny Depp, each deliver inspired and witty performances. Isla Fisher, in particular, must be commended for her beguiling Western accent, much better than the Scottish accent attempted in last year’s disappointing Burke & Hare.

While the action can be violent, and the dialogue more intense than other animation films, Rango excels as an innovative, intelligent and witty piece of filmmaking. It may not be to everyone’s taste, or welcome a wide demographic, but it’s a feat to embrace, not discount.

The sheer imagination and heart is further accentuated by Hans Zimmer’s soaring score which, by reworking Ennio Morricone’s past scores, instills an exciting, sometimes comic aura that perfectly matches the tone of the film.

Rango is a quirky, delightfully unique and inspired piece of animation.