Film Review – MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017)

The Jam Report | REVIEW – 'Murder on the Orient Express'MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017, USA/Malta) ***
Crime, Drama, Mystery
dist. 20th Century Fox; pr co. Twentieth Century Fox / Genre Films / Kinberg Genre / The Mark Gordon Company / Scott Free Productions / Latina Pictures / The Estate of Agatha Christie; d. Kenneth Branagh; w. Michael Green (based on the novel by Agatha Christie); exec pr. Matthew Jenkins, Dillon Kivo, James Prichard, Aditya Sood, Hilary Strong; pr. Kenneth Branagh, Mark Gordon, Judy Hofflund, Simon Kinberg, Michael Schaefer, Ridley Scott; ass pr. William Moseley; ph. Haris Zambarloukos (Colour. 70 mm (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema. ARRIRAW (6.5K) (source format) (some scenes), Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision, Panavision Super 70 (source format). 2.39:1); m. Patrick Doyle; ed. Mick Audsley; pd. Jim Clay; ad. Dominic Masters; set d. Rebecca Alleway, Caroline Smith; cos. Alexandra Byrne; m/up. Chiara Ugolini, Luca Saccuman; sd. James Mather (Dolby Atmos | DTS 70 mm (70 mm prints)); sfx. David Watkins; vfx. Helen Judd, Veronique Messier Lauzon, Josiane Fradette, Jacinthe Côté, Mary Meng, Tim Pounds-Cornish, Peter Hume, Patrick Ledda, George Murphy, Sylvain Theroux, Vincent Poitras, Mathieu Raynault; st. James O’Donnell; rel. 3 November 2017 (UK), 10 November 2017 (USA); cert: 12; r/t. 114m.

cast: Kenneth Branagh (Hercule Poirot), Penélope Cruz (Pilar Estravados), Willem Dafoe (Gerhard Hardman), Judi Dench (Princess Dragomiroff), Johnny Depp (Edward Ratchett), Josh Gad (Hector MacQueen), Leslie Odom Jr. (Dr. Arbuthnot), Michelle Pfeiffer (Caroline Hubbard), Daisy Ridley (Miss Mary Debenham), Tom Bateman (Bouc), Derek Jacobi (Edward Henry Masterman), Lucy Boynton (Countess Elena Andrenyi), Olivia Colman (Hildegarde Schmidt), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Biniamino Marquez), Gerard Horan (Aynesworth), Sergei Polunin (Count Rudolph Andrenyi), Phil Dunster (Colonel John Armstrong), Miranda Raison (Sonia Armstrong), Hayat Kamille (Susanne), Marwan Kenzari (Pierre Michel).

Branagh directs and leads an all-star cast in this mystery based on the best-selling novel by Agatha Christie. Everyone’s a suspect when a murder is committed on a lavish train ride, and a brilliant detective must race against time to solve the puzzle before the killer strikes again. This is the second big screen adaptation of Christie’s celebrated, but heavily manufactured mystery. Branagh dons a bewilderingly large moustache but manages to capture the essence of the Belgian detective. However, in the director’s seat, he falls short of adding the required slow burn tension and instead focuses on the visuals, which are heavily digitised giving the scenery the look of a painting. He also embellishes the story with a couple of action sequences that do not serve the plot and merely seem designed to change the pace and fill the Hollywood quota. That said the basic story is adhered to and even though a tendency toward melodrama often creeps in, there is enough here to hold the interest, if not to match Sidney Lumet’s 1974 adaptation. Also previously filmed for TV in 2001, 2010 and 2015.

Film Review (re-watch): STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII – THE LAST JEDI (2017)

Here's your full-length 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' trailer | EngadgetSTAR WARS: EPISODE VIII – THE LAST JEDI (2017, USA) ***½
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; pr co. Walt Disney Pictures / Lucasfilm / Ram Bergman Productions; d. Rian Johnson; w. Rian Johnson; exec pr. J.J. Abrams, Tom Karnowski, Jason D. McGatlin; pr. Ram Bergman, Kathleen Kennedy; ass pr. Jamie Christopher, Nour Dardari, Leopold Hughes, Nikos Karamigios; ph. Steve Yedlin (Colour. 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema (also 3-D version). Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision. 2.39:1); m. John Williams; ed. Bob Ducsay; pd. Rick Heinrichs; ad. Todd Cherniawsky, Chris Lowe; set d. Richard Roberts; cos. Michael Kaplan; m/up. Peter King (makeup), Kristyan Mallett (prosthetics); sd. Bonnie Wild (DTS (DTS: X) | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Dolby Atmos | Dolby Digital | 12-Track Digital Sound (IMAX 12 track) | IMAX 6-Track); sfx. Chris Corbould, Branko Repalust; vfx. Hybride Technologies / Important Looking Pirates (ILPvfx) / Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) / Jellyfish Pictures / Mark Roberts Motion Control / Rodeo FX; rel. 9 December 2017 (USA), 12 December 2017 (UK); cert: 12; r/t. 152m.

cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker / Dobbu Scay), Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Andy Serkis (Snoke), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Laura Dern (Vice Admiral Holdo), Benicio Del Toro (DJ), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), Billie Lourd (Lieutenant Connix), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Amanda Lawrence (Commander D’Acy), Tim Rose (Admiral Ackbar), Adrian Edmondson (Captain Peavey).

Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past. An entertaining and action-packed addition to the saga, which revisits many of the themes explored earlier in the series and as such may seem overly familiar. It also suggests a new direction as the series moves toward its final instalment, which may upset die-hard fans. The basic chase plot is stretched a little thinly with some lazy plot progressions, but despite its over-length the film does not stand still for long and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Hamill and Fisher feature more heavily and there are some new twists along the way, but its mid-trilogy position inevitably leaves certain issues unresolved. The visual effects and location work are exemplary, and Johnson’s direction is energetic. The script and dialogue lack the wit of THE FORCE AWAKENS, substituting even more dynamic action instead. Also shot in 3-D.

AAN: Best Achievement in Visual Effects (Ben Morris, Michael Mulholland, Neal Scanlan, Chris Corbould); Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) (John Williams); Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Matthew Wood, Ren Klyce); Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (Michael Semanick, David Parker, Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce)

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS (USA, 2015) ****½
      Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Production Company: Lucasfilm / Bad Robot; Release Date: 14 December 2015 (USA), 16 December 2015 (UK); Filming Dates: 16 May 2014 – 3 November 2014; Running Time: 135m; Colour: FotoKem; Sound Mix: 12-Track Digital Sound (IMAX 12 track) | Dolby Atmos | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Dolby Digital; Film Format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383), 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema (also 3-D version), DCP (2K DCP) (Normal 3D versions), DCP (4K DCP) (IMAX Laser versions); Film Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision, IMAX (source format) (Escape from Jakku scene), Panavision (anamorphic) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: J. J. Abrams; Writer: J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt (based on characters created by George Lucas); Executive Producer: Tommy Harper, Jason D. McGatlin; Producer: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Kathleen Kennedy; Associate Producer: Michael Arndt; Director of Photography: Daniel Mindel; Music Composer: John Williams; Film Editor: Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey; Casting Director: Nina Gold, April Webster, Alyssa Weisberg; Production Designer: Rick Carter, Darren Gilford; Art Director: Neil Lamont; Set Decorator: Lee Sandales; Costumes: Michael Kaplan; Make-up: Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin; Sound: David Acord, Matthew Wood; Special Effects: Chris Corbould; Visual Effects: Nina Fallon, Meredith Meyer-Nichols, Lillias Ng, Louise Bertrand, Ben Lock, Sophie Dawes, Chrysta Marie Burton, Janet Lewin.
      Cast: Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Max von Sydow (Lor San Tekka), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca Double), Pip Andersen (Lead Stormtrooper), Simon Pegg (Unkar Plutt), Kiran Shah (Teedo), Sasha Frost (Jakku Villager), Pip Torrens (Colonel Kaplan).
      Synopsis: 30 years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat rises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of Heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.
      Comment: The best of the STAR WARS films outside of the original trilogy, fans of which will no doubt readily accept this continuation and overlook some of its flaws – notably in originality in plot and character development. But as the start of a new trilogy, it also succeeds in capturing the uninhibited spirit of those first three films. The result is a lively, action-packed and thoroughly enjoyable addition to the series. It is great to see Ford back as Han Solo and his scenes will give older fans a warm and satisfying smile. The new characters portrayed by Ridley and Boyega are likeable and the script keeps the right tonal balance. Yes, it is a virtual replay of the original STAR WARS, but there is also a freshness here that was lacking in the second trilogy. Also shot in 3-D.

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019)

Image result for Star Wars: The Rise of SkywalkerSTAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (USA, 2019) ***½
      Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Production Company: Lucasfilm / Bad Robot / Walt Disney Pictures; Release Date: 16 December 2019 (USA), 19 December 2019 (UK); Filming Dates: 1 August 2018 – 15 February 2019; Running Time: 142m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: DTS (DTS: X) | Dolby Atmos | Auro 11.1 | Dolby Digital | IMAX 6-Track | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Sonics-DDP | 12-Track Digital Sound; Film Format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 50D 5203, Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219); Film Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision, Panavision (anamorphic) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12 – moderate violence, threat.
      Director: J. J. Abrams; Writer: Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams (based on a story by Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow and Chris Terrio & J.J. Abrams and characters created by George Lucas); Executive Producer: Tommy Gormley, Callum Greene, Jason D. McGatlin; Producer: J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Michelle Rejwan; Associate Producer: Nour Dardari; Director of Photography: Dan Mindel; Music Composer: John Williams; Film Editor: Maryann Brandon, Stefan Grube; Casting Director: Nina Gold, April Webster, Alyssa Weisberg; Production Designer: Rick Carter, Kevin Jenkins; Art Director: Paul Inglis; Set Decorator: Rosemary Brandenburg; Costumes: Michael Kaplan; Make-up: Digital Makeup Group; Sound: David Acord; Special Effects: Dominic Tuohy; Visual Effects: Industrial Light & Magic and others.
      Cast: Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Naomi Ackie (Jannah), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Richard E. Grant (General Pryde), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Keri Russell (Zorii Bliss), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Greg Grunberg (Snap Wexley), Shirley Henderson (Babu Frik), Billie Lourd (Lieutenant Connix), Dominic Monaghan (Beaumont), Harrison Ford (Han Solo (uncredited)).
      Synopsis: The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more as Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron’s journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle commences.
      Comment: A technical triumph of visual effects and energetic action set-pieces this is an engrossing experience for two-thirds of its run time. Unfortunately, it becomes bloated during its final act with a need to tick too many boxes as it plays out its crowd-pleasing finale. It’s a shame as there is so much that is right with this conclusion to a saga that has spanned 42 years. The story propels us from one strange or exotic location to another and from set-piece to set-piece as it guides us through the simple quest that will ultimately lead to final closure on the Sith/Jedi war. As a spectacle, it is hard to resist, yet it somehow fails to connect on an emotional level as character revelations seek to top each other and some of the plot contrivances are overly convenient and obvious. Also, during the many action scenes, you begin to wonder whether any Stormtrooper can shoot straight. That said, the CGI and design work is simply amazing and Williams provides yet another majestic score. The result is an entertaining and largely satisfying final chapter that at the same time leaves you thinking it could still have been better.
      Notes: Also shot in 3-D.