D: John Musker & Ron Clements
Disney (Osnat Shurer)
W: Jared Bush
Mus: Mark Mancina; Lin-Manuel Miranda
Voices of: Auli'i Cravalho (Moana), Dwayne Johnson (Maui), Rachel House (Tala), Temeura Morrison (Tui), Jermaine Clement (Tamatoa), Nicole Scherzinger (Sina), Alan Tudyk (Heihei)
Moana is a collection of Polynesian folk stories given the Disney treatment, and was very well received by audiences, as well as critics who praised not only its representation of Polynesian people, but also utilising a well-sourced cast.
The plot is basically Aladdin with a female lead, but it does manage to stay fresh and original, helped with songs penned by Lin-Manuel Miranda whose Broadway musical Hamilton was hugely popular at the time of Moana's release.
Moana is a Polynesian princess who is chosen by the ocean to return a precious pearl to the goddess it belongs to, but first she needs the help of a shapeshifting Demigod named Maui to show her the way.
It really is your standard Disney adventure, dressed up as something more to please a social media crowd who felt there haven't been enough movies like this in the past where female characters from ethnic backgrounds are given the spotlight (although 1998's Mulan is one which immediately comes to mind).
Nevertheless, Moana is a very good animated film which will certainly appeal to a wide family audience.
MOLLY'S GAME (15)
D: Aaron Sorkin
STX Films/Huayi Brothers (Mark Gordon, Amy Pascal & Matt Jackson)
W: Aaron Sorkin [based on the book "Molly's Game: From Hollywood's Elite To Wall Street's Billionaire Boys Club, My High Stakes Adventure In The World Of Underground Poker" by Molly Bloom]
DP: Charlotte Bruus Christensen
Ed: Alan Baumgarten, Elliot Graham & Josh Schaeffer
Mus: Daniel Pemberton
Jessica Chastain (Molly Bloom), Idris Elba (Charlie Jaffey), Kevin Costner (Larry Bloom), Michael Cera (Player X), Brian D'Arcy James (Brad), Chris O'Dowd (Douglas Downey), Bill Camp (Harlan Eustace), Samantha Isler (Teenage Molly)
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has a track record of writing intelligent and interesting screenplays based on unsympathetic characters, his past credits including Steve Jobs, Charlie Wilson's War and The Social Network (for which he won an Oscar). For Molly's Game, Sorkin stepped up behind the camera to take up the directorial lens and it's a very impressive debut.
The subject of focus this time around is Molly Bloom, a former Olympic-class skier who becomes involved in underground poker tournaments for the rich and famous, which she ran for several years until she became indebted to the Russian mafia and was subsequently arrested as part of an FBI RICO case.
The film does a good job blending backstory with the court case, as Molly's story unfolds as the film progresses.
This is a role Jessica Chastain was meant for and she really sinks her teeth into it. On one hand, it's quite difficult to feel sympathy for a woman who played with fire and got burned, but subsequently Molly is portrayed as a woman of strong principles, even with the odds stacked against her.
Idris Elba also delivers a fine performance as Molly's lawyer, initially hesitant to take her case due to his clean cut image. Kevin Costner also provides fine support as Molly's father, and though the scenes which feature him do turn a little too melodramatic, they provide a clever insight into understanding Molly's career choices.
Aaron Sorkin proves his directorial mettle is just as good as his penmanship. Let's look forward to more of the same with his next project.
MOM & DAD (18)
D: Brian Taylor
Momentum/Armory/XYZ/Fyzz (Christopher Lemole & Tim Zajaros)
US/UK 2017 (released 2018)
W: Brian Taylor
DP: Daniel Pearl
Ed: Rose Corr & Fernando Villena
Mus: Mr. Bill
Nicolas Cage (Brent Ryan), Selma Blair (Kendall Ryan), Anne Winters (Carly Ryan), Zackary Arthur (Josh Ryan), Robert T. Cunningham (Damon), Lance Henriksen (Mel Ryan)
Mom & Dad is a horror black comedy which spent a few months on the festival circuit before getting a widespread release in early 2018.
The plot sends up the zombie sub-genre, becoming increasingly zany as the story progresses.
Focusing on the Ryan family as an unexplained phenomenon causes parents to attack their own children, teenage daughter Carly and her younger brother Josh escape the murderous intentions of their mom & dad as their methods to kill become increasingly twisted and surreal.
For me, this film was a little too offbeat and utterly ridiculous, despite giving a perfect opportunity for a Nicolas Cage freakout (who doesn't enjoy those?). The comedy element also fluctuated a little too much between outlandishly bizarre and unpleasantly tasteless, which would have been fine if it decided from the outset what type of laughs it wanted to go for. There's also no excuse for such a lazily-written ending. It did provide one or two laughs, but there was also an awful lot of eye-rolling.
MOMMIE DEAREST (15)
D: Frank Perry
Paramount (Frank Yablans)
W: Frank Yablans, Frank Perry & Robert Getchell [based on the memoir by Christina Crawford]
DP: Paul Lehman
Ed: Peter E. Berger
Mus: Henry Mancini
Faye Dunaway (Joan Crawford), Diana Scarwid (Christina Crawford - adult), Mara Hobel (Christina Crawford - child), Steve Forrest (Gregg Savitt), Rutanya Alda (Carol Ann), Howard da Silva (Louis B. Mayer)
Voted the worst film of the whole 1980's by Razzie voters, it can't be said that this movie is 'so bad, it's good', but it has become a cult hit as an unintentional comedy, which is quite understandable as Mommie Dearest is quite frankly, hilarious.
Based on a memoir by Joan Crawford's adopted daughter, Christina, this biographical film shows a warts-and-all relationship between her and the neurotic movie star from the late 1930's up until Joan's death in the 1970's.
The story really isn't flattering to Joan Crawford, portraying her as a perfectionist with outbursts of histrionics and poor treatment of her adopted children, and it certainly isn't helped by Faye Dunaway's wildly shrieking overacting.
Like The Room and Troll 2, it's a film which isn't fairly reflected by a rating out of 10. Yes, it's terrible, and as a serious biographical drama it was intended to be, it's difficult to give it more than zero, but for a trashy soap opera, it really does make hilarious viewing.
MONEY MONSTER (15)
D: Jodie Foster
Tristar/Smoke House/IM Global/The Allegiance Theater (Lara Alameddine, George Clooney, Daniel Dubiecki & Grant Heslov)
W: Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf & Jamie Linden
DP: Matthew Libatique
Ed: Matt Chesse
Mus: Dominic Lewis
George Clooney (Lee Gates), Julia Roberts (Patty Fenn), Jack O'Connell (Kyle Budwell), Dominic West (Walt Camby), Catriona Balfe (Diane Lester), Giancarlo Esposito (Capt. Marcus Powell)
A good idea isn't quite executed to its full potential in this real-time thriller set in the world of finance.
George Clooney does his usual Cary Grant act as Lee Gates, the host of daily financial television show Money Monster, where he advises his audience on matters of commerce and stock trading. The episode is interrupted by gunman, Kyle Budwell, who holds the host hostage over financial advice which left him bankrupt and desperate for answers.
The theme is similar to 2002's Phone Booth, and while it does have some originality, the characters are all very one-note and director Jodie Foster makes some very strange direction choices (such as breaking the 180-degree rule in some scenes) and the film does leave one or two loose ends.
Personally, my overruling thought was that it made an incredibly boring television show far more interesting. Perhaps the principal idea could have been utilised in a better way, especially with the dawn of so many Reality TV programmes taking over stations.
MONSTER A GO-GO (15)
A MONSTER CALLS (12)
D: J.A. Bayona
Focus Features/River Road/Participant Media (Belén Atienza, Mitch Horwits & Jonathan King)
W: Patrick Ness [based on his novel]
DP: Oscar Faura
Ed: Bernat Vilaplana
Mus: Fernando Velazquez
Lewis MacDougall (Conor O'Malley), Felicity Jones (Elizabeth Clayton), Sigourney Weaver (Grandma Clayton), Toby Kebbell (Mr. O'Malley), Liam Neeson (voice of The Monster)
A Monster Calls is an incredibly sweet fantasy drama which probably falls between two stools of being a little too unsuitable for young children and being the product of a marketing campaign that won't appeal to adults.
The fantasy element in this story draws similarities with Pan's Labyrinth, in which they take place in a child's imagination.
The child of this film is Conor O'Malley, a bullied schoolboy whose mother has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and they are living in his grandmother's house who Conor views as a stern, unlikeable woman. Shortly after midnight, Conor is visited by a tree monster who says he will share three stories with him and in return wants to hear the secrets of Conor's worst nightmare.
The stories which the monster tells are shown with brilliant animation, and offer a moral which help Conor deal with the domestic and social issues that he struggles with and help him better come to terms with the impending loss of his mother.
Though the film may have been poorly marketed, it still offers a lot to enjoy: a good script, striking visuals, great performances (especially from Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones) and a strong coming-of-age message. The film yielded a modest box office return but has gone on to amass a small cult following. Personally, I recommend it heavily.
The title says it all really. It's a low budget spin on werewolf movies with Alice Cooper in the lead role. It isn't very good, but it isn't really trying to be. It doesn't quite fit into the 'so bad, it's good' genre of films either.
Cooper plays a rock star (so he's basically playing himself) who travels with his friends to his rural hometown to shoot a music video. Their visit coincides with devil dog attacks on the small town populace and it is discovered that Cooper's family have a hereditary legacy of a 'lycanthrope curse'.
There have been better episodes of the cartoon series Scooby Doo (which probably had better acting in too).
The enjoyment factor depends heavily on whether or not you like Alice Cooper. I do, but his presence isn't quite enough to carry the film. There is however, a great Alice Cooper-penned song which the film starts and ends with and that was enough for me to justify watching this.
MONSTER HOUSE (PG)
MONSTER TRUCKS (PG)
D: Chris Wedge
Paramount/Nickelodeon/Disruption (Mary Parent & Denis L. Stewart)
W: Derek Connolly
DP: Don Burgess
Ed: Conrad Buff
Mus: Dave Sardy
Lucas Till (Tripp Coley), Jane Levy (Meredith), Amy Ryan (Cindy Coley), Rob Lowe (Reece Tenneson), Danny Glover (Mr. Weathers), Barry Pepper (Rick), Holt McCallany (Burke)
A poor man's Transformers, but considering how poor I rate Michael Bay's sci-fi franchise this isn't a glowing indictment.
Lucas Till plays a high school senior with a side job on the junkyard, where he discovers a creature living in his truck that feeds on gasoline.
What could have been a family friendly adventure with a throwback to similar themed movies of the 1980's soon becomes a sermon about the evils of fracking, but aimed at kids.
Surprisingly, the film was in post-production for nearly 2 years, but that doesn't explain why the visual effects look so shoddy.
A doubtlessly enjoyable (especially for under-10's) but rather pointless prequel to Pixar's very successful 2001 smash Monsters, Inc.
The story of this is pretty much what it says on the tin, monster pals Sulley & Mike meet at university and put their initial rivalry aside to participate in a teamwork ethic which sees the winners initiated into the university's top 'scare program'.
Not that kiddies would mind, but there seemed to be mixed messages in this film. For the most part it seemed as thought the moral of the story was that teamwork is greater than individual achievement and if you work and study hard enough, you'll achieve your goals. Then the film pulls a sucker punch with a 'cheats never prosper' message and the only way you get to where you're going is to start on the bottom rung.
Perhaps we shouldn't read too much into the morals of the story because it is, after all, a children's movie. Nevertheless, the whole film seemed rather pointless due to the fact that the whole 'scream collecting' from sleeping children was debunked in the first movie.
Great animation from Pixar once again, but it simply doesn't scale the heights of their finest and best works.
A man working alone on a lunar surface mining station makes a shocking discovery about himself.
A surprisingly good science fiction movie. From the cover I was expecting a hybrid of Solaris & 2001: A Space Odyssey. While having a few references to the forementioned movies, it still manages to be original and entertaining. Despite only having one main character it manages to be gripping throughout, all the credit has to go to Sam Rockwell, possibly the best actor who has never been nominated for an Academy Award. He's done a great job in all the movies he's starred in, surely his time will come soon.
D: Barry Jenkins
A24/Plan B/Pastel (Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner & Jeremy Kleiner)
W: Barry Jenkins & Tarell Alvin McCraney [based on the unpublished play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" by Tarell Alvin McCraney]
DP: James Laxton
Ed: Nat Sanders & Joi McMillon
Mus: Nicholas Britell
Trevante Rhodes (Adult Chiron / "Black"), Ashton Sanders (Teenage Chiron), Alex Hibbert (Child Chiron / "Little"), Andre Holland (Adult Kevin), Jharell Jerome (Teen Kevin), Jaden Piner (Child Kevin), Naomie Harris (Paula), Mahershala Ali (Juan), Janelle Monae (Teresa)
This review needs to start with the Oscars gaffe being addressed, when the presenters read out the wrong name and the producers of La La Land were named Best Picture, only for the mistake to be corrected during the acceptance speeches and Moonlight to be named as the actual winner.
So, which film is better? La La Land or Moonlight. It's a subjective question, and both films are completely different. The former being a modern twist on musical romance and the latter being a gritty urban drama about sexual and personal identity.
Moonlight is broken into a three act structure, with each act focusing on an age in the life of Chiron, a young black man growing up in Miami, the victim of bullies during his childhood and domestic abuse from his junkie mother.
As a young boy, he spends his days hiding away from those who hurt him and is eventually taken under the wing of a local drug dealer, Juan, who, along with his girlfriend, become a parental figures to the young boy.
The second act shows Chiron as a teenager, where he is still the victim of bullying at school and his sexual identity begins to take shape when he has his first homosexual encounter with a childhood friend. This segment ends with Chiron finally snapping under the pressure and getting his own justice through violence.
The final act follows Chiron as an adult, now a tough drug dealer living in Atlanta and going by the street name "Black", making peace with the ghosts of his past, he becomes reacquainted with his mother, now in rehab, as well as the childhood friend with whom he had his first sexual encounter, which is where the film comes to a rather abrupt and cryptic ending which will leave many audience members thinking "is that it?".
While the end is an acquired taste, there's plenty of symbolism for the ambiguity to be understood, especially with the blue moonlight (a metaphor for homosexuality) and water (a metaphor for change) which run throughout the running time, and though Barry Jenkins does take an artful approach to the subject, he gets the very best out of his cast, especially the trio of actors who play Chiron at different stages of his life, as well as Mahershala Ali, who won a Best Supporting Oscar for his role, and Naomie Harris, who was nominated.
The question still stands: Should La La Land have won Best Picture at the Oscars? Personally, I think it was the better film as a whole, but Moonlight had the better story, as well as being the film that Hollywood were clamouring for the Oscars to have more diversity. It's still all a matter of personal taste.
Wes Anderson's style is not too dissimilar to the Coen Brothers. The humour is quirky and subtle and special attention is paid to idiosyncratic characters and comic timing of the performances. I really enjoyed this movie, but I wouldn't expect it to be everyone's cup of tea. It's a bittersweet tale about the changing face of the 60's & the loss of innocence.
Set on a remote New England island, it tells the story of two young teenagers who run away together, causing the community to give chase.
The two juvenile performances are excellent, the supporting characters offer light comedy, boosted by a refreshingly original script.
D: Darren Aronofsky
Paramount/Protozoa (Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin & Ari Handel)
W: Darren Aronofsky
DP: Matthew Libatique
Ed: Andrew Weisblum
Jennifer Lawrence ('Mother'), Javier Bardem ('Him'), Ed Harris ('man'), Michelle Pfeiffer ('woman'), Domnhall Gleeson ('oldest son'), Brian Gleeson ('younger brother')
Mother (stylised as "mother!") is without a doubt the most polarising movie of late 2017, with the audience members either loving it or absolutely loathing it, and very little going somewhere in-between.
Like Darren Aronofsky's other works (Black Swan, Requiem For A Dream), it's in a genre of its own, paying homage to horror imagery and hugely metaphorical, allowing the viewer free licence to decide what the point of it all is. It's understandable why some people would call his style pretentious, but his filmmaking does have its fans.
The story of Mother unfolds like a David Lynch nightmare, set wholly at a idyllic house in the middle of a picturesque meadow, where the virginal and chaste Jennifer Lawrence lives with her poet husband Javier Bardem. Neither of the characters are named, credited only as 'mother' and 'him' respectively.
Their peaceful existence is interrupted by a couple who mistake the house for a B&B, and are invited to stay by 'him', against the wishes of 'mother'. Before long, more and more unwanted visitors arrive and their behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and unwelcome to the point of brutal violence at the culmination of the story.
The puzzling style of the film leaves much open to interpretation, and the general consensus is that it's a dramatic revisualisation of biblical stories, where even the house is portrayed as a living, breathing entity.
It really won't be a film for all audiences and will only be recommended if you like Aronofsky's previous work or the films of David Lynch. A disservice to the film was done by the distribution company's marketing department, who aimed the film at traditional horror fans rather than the arthouse audience it will have much more appeal to.
A biopic of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara before his revolutionist days, based on his own memoirs.
Gael Garcia Bernal delivers a great performance as the famous figure in his younger years, his destiny becoming shaped by the political upheaval in South America as he travels around it with his friend.
A good film, but highly unlikely to be the subject of repeated viewings.
A movie I fondly like to refer to as "Marmite Rouge", based on the fact you'll either love it or hate it. This leaves it rather critic-proof. Those who like pop music or stage musicals will not heed my review, while those who struggled to get through the first five minutes will relish it.
In a nutshell, the story is the same as James Cameron's "Titanic", only set in the Moulin Rouge theatre in Paris as opposed to the fated liner, and all the dialogue is replaced by lyrics from pop songs from Madonna's Like A Virgin to Elton John's Your Song. The true life protagonist of the Moulin Rouge, Toulouse Loutrec, is given a supporting role of watching Ewan McGregor singing through clenched teeth, Nicole Kidman bandying about like a whore while Kylie Minogue plays the embodiment of an intoxicating beverage.
There's no satire involved, which was most certainly a trick missed. It's practically a 2 hour, 6 minute attention-seeking music video, which personally, I just found quite creepy.
A married couple discover their marriage wasn't valid and while the husband wants to marry his wife again, she'd rather have nothing to do with him.
A rare foray into the comedy genre for Alfred Hitchcock, this had me expecting a black comedy but this is most definitely a screwball comedy, two completely different sub-genres. Robert Montgomery was decent but Carole Lombard thoroughly annoyed me, but perhaps this is more to do with the characters than the acting.
Overall, it was okay but the story was very old-fashioned. I'm pretty sure TV's American Dad did a version of the same story (Mr & Mrs Smith indeed) and it was much funnier (although in much poorer taste).
Not really a 'Hitchcock film', worth watching only for curiosity purposes.
The 2005 film starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie was a remake in name only.
MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (U)
D: Frank Capra
Columbia (Frank Capra)
W: Sidney Buchman [based on the unpublished story "The Gentleman From Montana" by Lewis R. Foster]
DP: Joseph Walker
Ed: Gene Havlick & Al Clark
Mus: Dimitri Tiomkin
James Stewart (Jefferson Smith), Jean Arthur (Clarissa Saunders), Claude Rains (Sen. Joseph Paine), Edward Arnold (Jim Taylor), Guy Kibbee (Gov. Hubert Hopper), Thomas Mitchell (Diz Moore), Harry Carey (President Of The Senate)
One of Frank Capra's & James Stewart's finest collaborations is a classic political satire set in Capitol Hill's corridors of power.
Stewart plays Jefferson Smith, an idealistic but naïve young politician who is appointed to the senate following the death of an older senator. He attempts to form an alliance with Joseph Paine, an older politician and presidential hopeful who was his childhood hero and close friend of his father's, but it soon emerges that Smith's plans obstruct corruption amongst his peers who attempt to discredit him and have him removed from office.
Though the mannerisms, dialogue and some of the execution is quite old-fashioned, the main thread of the story is still incredibly relevant and the ending does provide a heartwarming feeling in Capra's best style.
When the film was released, it was met with controversy on both sides of the ocean, ironically for different reasons; In the United States for portraying politicians as corrupt and in Communist countries for showing how democracy works. For me, any film that demonstrates what the word 'filibuster' means has to be worth watching.
MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS (15)
It has to be said that Matthew McConaughey has had an excellent 12 months during 2013-14. Winning the Best Actor Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club to add to his slew of annual awards.
This movie came out earlier in 2013 and all the talk then was of him receiving an Oscar nomination for this, albeit in a supporting role despite playing the title character.
The story is Tom Sawyer-esque, about two teenage boys, Ellis & Neck, who live on the banks of the Mississippi River, they discover a derelict boat which a drifter by the name of Mud is using as a home. Wanted for murder and fleeing a vigilante mob, the boys help Mud to repair the boat so he can continue his getaway. McConaughey does a great job to make you empathise with a character who isn't holier than thou, but credit also has to go to the two young boys who play Ellis & Neck.
A number of stars turn up in relatively small parts, including Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon and Sam Shepard, but McConaughey steals the movie.
The only criticism is the last 15 minutes which seemed unconvincing and a little contrived. Nevertheless a decent independent drama worth watching for the performances alone.
THE MUMMY (12)
D: Alex Kurtzman
Universal/Dark Universe/Perfect World (Alex Kurtzman, Chris Morgan, Sean Daniel & Sarah Bradshaw)
W: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie & Dylan Kussman
DP: Ben Seresin
Ed: Paul Hirsch, Gina Hirsch & Andrew Mondshein
Mus: Brian Tyler
Tom Cruise (Nick Morton), Sofia Boutella (Ahmanet), Russell Crowe (Dr. Henry Jekyll), Annabelle Wallis (Jenny Halsey), Jake Johnson (Chris Vail)
Universal's reboot of The Mummy is the first in their planned series of Dark Universe films, in which they are remaking all of their classic horror movies from the early 1930's, monetary gain being the primary reason.
If The Mummy is anything to go by, things an only get better.. surely. Relocating the bulk of the action from 1930's Northern Africa to present day London, this adventure movie is a complete and utter mess, starring a ridiculously miscast Tom Cruise as a treasure hunter gone rogue from the US army.
Along with a female historian whom he has a romantic tryst with, they uncover an Egyptian tomb and release a great evil into the world when their airplane crashed over Britain.
It soon emerges that their find is part of a plan by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), of Jekyll & Hyde fame, who is in the story for no real reason.
Screenwriter turned director Alex Kurtzman does a really shoddy job bringing this to the screen, failing to elicit any convincing performances from his main stars and even the visual effects fail to live up to the billing. Sofia Boutella manages to pull off a creepy performance as the malevolent Ahmanet, but her work is undone by everyone else being so piss poor, particularly newcomer Annabelle Wallis, who must be a Razzies favourite for Worst Supporting Actress of the year (along with her work in the equally poor King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword).
A sequel which exists only to steal your money through cinema. If I'd watched this on the big screen I'd have demanded my money back. The storyline is practically the same as the first movie, except there's an obnoxious little brat as Brendan Fraser's & Rachel Weisz's son who gives Jar Jar Binks a run for his money as the most annoying cinematic sidekick of all time. It's even more obvious that this movie was rushed into theatres to catch the school holidays by the lazy special effects, particularly at the end. Worth watching purely as an example of Hollywood's greed.
Spielberg directs without the usual spoonful of sentimentality that usually accompanies his movies. It's a very brutal and grim thriller depicting the Israeli Secret Service Agency's mission to assassinate the Palestinian 'Black September' terrorists responsible for the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games, mostly based on truth, but with a huge dose of Hollywood fiction added for dramatic effect.
Kevin MacDonald's documentary, One Day In September deals with the same incident in a far more realistic way.
Being nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, was a very generous acknowledgment.
Practically a retread of their first outing. Kermit, Miss Piggy and co have all gone their separate ways and the Muppet studio is now owned by a oil tycoon who wants the buildings smashed to the ground. Cue Jason Segal, Amy Adams and a load of cameos to put on a Muppet-a-thon and save the day, complete with a load of great new songs from Flight Of The Conchordes' Brett McKenzie.
Yes, it's a kids film... But I think it's brilliant that muppets are back again for a new generation. Some things never grow old.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (12)
D: Kenneth Branagh
20th Century Fox/Scott Free (Ridley Scott, Mark Gordon, Simon Kinberg, Kenneth Branagh, Judy Hofflund & Michael Schaefer)
W: Michael Green [based on the novel by Agatha Christie]
DP: Haris Zambarloukos
Ed: Mick Audsley
Mus: Patrick Doyle
PD: Jim Clay
Cos: Alexandra Byrne
Kenneth Branagh (Hercule Poirot), Penelope Cruz (Pilar Estravados), Willem Dafoe (Gerhard Hartman), Judi Dench (Princess Dragomiroff), Johnny Depp (Edward Ratchett), Josh Gad (Hector MacQueen), Derek Jacobi (Edward Henry Masterman), Leslie Odom, Jr. (Dr. Arbuthnot), Michelle Pfeiffer (Caroline Hubbard), Daisy Ridley (Mary Debenham)
A new adaptation of Agatha Christie's classic mystery stars a modern ensemble cast for the new generation of moviegoers.
The mystery, intrigue and suspense won't really be there for those who have either read the novel or seen any previous version, since this remake doesn't allow itself any creative licence with the original prose.
Kenneth Branagh directs himself in the lead as super sleuth Hercule Poirot, who finds himself above the luxury train amongst a group of strangers who later become suspects when gangster turned art dealer, Edward Ratchett, is murdered in his sleep, stabbed a dozen times with a number of clues which pinpoint who was responsible for the crime.
With the train unable to continue its journey due to a snowstorm, Poirot investigates the murder and discovers that everyone is suspect.
The majority of the cast are excellent, with Michelle Pfeiffer possibly the main standout in what could easily be her comeback role.
Kenneth Branagh isn't quite as convincing as the Belgian detective, but maybe this is due to David Suchet owning the role in a long-running British TV series.
The period design and costumes make for a convincing 1940's setting, but the CGI visual effects could have been done a lot better.
For those unfamiliar with the story, this will be a good version to watch, but for many the 1974 version with Albert Finney will be the definitive adaptation.
MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE (15)
MY COUSIN RACHEL (15)
D: Roger Michell
Fox Searchlight/Free Range (Kevin Loader)
W: Roger Michell [based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier]
DP: Mike Eley
Ed: Kristina Hetherington
Mus: Rael Jones
Rachel Weisz (Rachel Ashley), Sam Claflin (Philip), Iain Glen (Nick Kendall), Holliday Granger (Louise Kendall)
It's rather unfortunate that Anglo-American production is much less than the sum of all its parts. Based on a classic novel, boasting a magnificent lead performance from Rachel Weisz, handsomely photographed and meticulous attention paid to the period, My Cousin Rachel turns out to be a rather dull film.
The story concerns Philip, an orphan, who receives the news that his adoptive cousin has died, and he suspects that the death is the work of his late cousin's wife Rachel, an older, seductive woman of whom Philip develops his own infatuation.
Perhaps in the hands of a different director, a darker vision would have suited the material. As is, it's worth watching for Rachel Weisz's performance, but very little else.
MY LIFE AS A COURGETTE (aka MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI) (PG)
D: Claude Barras
Gebeka/Praesens/Blue Spirit (Armelle Glorennec, Eric Jacquot & Marc Bonny)
W: Celine Sciamma, Claude Barras, Germano Zullo & Morgan Navarro [based on the book "Autobiographie d'une Courgette" by Gilles Paris]
Mus: Sophie Hunger
Gaspard Schlatter / Erick Abbate (Courgette), Sixtine Murat / Ness Krell (Camille), Paulin Jaccound / Romy Beckman (Simon), Michel Vuillermoz / Nick Offerman (Raymond), Paul Ribera / Barry Mitchell (Ahmed)
Despite being an animated film which generally appeal more to younger audiences, My Life As A Courgette tackles many mature themes which might not be suitable for anybody below teenage years.
Based on a novel by Gilles Paris, this French film tells the story of Courgette, a nine-year-old boy who becomes the newest resident of an orphanage following the accidental death of his abusive, alcoholic mother.
At his new home, he is initially bullied by another boy, before becoming friends and developing a childhood crush on a troubled girl who also moves in.
At a mere 65 minutes, the film provides perfect entertainment for its duration, with stop-motion animation in a style of its very own.
A deserved nominee for Best Animated Film at the 2016 Oscars.