The newest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit novel, Murder on the Orient Express, wishes it was a film from an older, simpler time, when a central mystery as lacking as the one it presents would have likely been enough to satisfy its viewers. But in 2017, with there being a large catalog of murder-mystery films that offer grander puzzles of suspense with far superior payoffs, this lavishly produced remake loses steam long before it arrives at its underwhelming destination. The film isn’t without any merit, as its graceful cinematography highlights gorgeous period-appropriate set and costume design, and the ensemble cast of both old and new A-listers (including Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Penélope Cruz, and Willem Dafoe) do formidable work, even with the lackluster material they’ve been handed. Ultimately, though, director Kenneth Branagh’s attempt at remaking this nearly century-old story is absent of any fresh additions or twists, leaving its savvier viewers with an unsatisfying mystery to solve.
Branagh also serves as the story’s mustached lead and famed hero detective, Hercule Poirot. In the winter of 1934, Poirot boards the Orient Express from Istanbul on his way home to help solve yet another case, hoping that the short train ride itself will provide some sort of relaxation. But, of course, it’s never that simple. Poirot becomes sidetracked when a particularly shady passenger aboard the train, Samuel Ratchett (Johnny Depp), asks to buy his protection after receiving an increasingly alarming amount of threatening letters. Poirot refuses, and the following morning, awakens to find that Ratchett has been brutally murdered in his sleep only a few cabins down, with 12 erratic stab wounds and minimal evidence hampering his insight on who done it. Along with this, an avalanche has resulted in the train’s derailing, stranding its anxious passengers while they wait upon a rescue crew.
I’m writing this entry in the dead of November, and the bitter cold is really starting to set in. I find myself reminiscing over an album that came out last summer from hands down one of my all-time favorite indie rock bands. Quiet Ferocity by The Jungle Giants is 41 minutes straight of upbeat techno music that will make me want to get up and dance on even the dreariest of autumn days. I have much love and respect for this four-piece band from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
They proclaim in their Spotify bio that Quiet Ferocity “combines the signature melodic arrangements of their first album with the percussion-laden production of their second and catapults them into a sonic stratosphere that is entirely their own sound.” After spending a solid amount of time over the past week with this album, I honestly couldn’t agree more with this statement. With this latest release, I believe that The Jungle Giants have really hit their stride as a band and have found themselves in their music.
Greetings comic fanatics! For this week, I wanted to bring you a review of a new English translation of Peppy in the Wild West, a 1934 story from the infamous pen of Hergé.
For those unfamiliar, Georges Remi, better known as Hergé, was an extremely influential Belgian cartoonist best known for his long running series, The Adventures of Tintin. While The Adventures of Tintin was a childhood favorite of mine, I have not had the opportunity to read much of Hergé’s other work, so I was very excited to learn of this new translation (the first in English since 1969).
Peppy in the Wild West is a standard adventure story that seems intended primarily for children. The plot follows an anthropomorphic bear, Peppy, who packs up his hat-selling business and leaves his home with his wife Virginny and steed Bluebell, seeking the greener economic pastures of America. Upon arriving in the States, they face an angry tribe of Native Americans, a ruthless bulldog outlaw, and the harsh frontier elements with exciting and often hilarious results. While Peppy in the Wild Westdoes benefit from Hergé’s considerable skill, the plot is ultimately not very interesting, and this certainly should not be counted among his best works. I would still highly recommend this story to die-hard Hergé fans, though, for several reasons.
Monday got you feeling down? Well, 1: It’s Tuesday, and 2: Jake and I have arrived with our weekly supply of new music for you to listen to and (hopefully) enjoy!
While album releases have more or less been halted as of late — except for that gargantuan, new Taylor Swift record that released this past Friday — there have been a number of stellar singles hitting the charts. With this week’s playlist, we’ve highlighted some of these new singles.
Hit play on the Jukebox below, and savor the excellent brand new sounds from Whitney, Carly Rae Jepsen, The Wombats, and Rita Ora.
This week on “Christian’s Cinematic Syntax,” a new addition to my film journal has emerged through my reflection upon cinematic theory. I have always been interested in theories of cinema and the many aspects that have shaped its history. Consequently, I want to highlight a theory as a way to inform and apply it, within the parameters it created. I want to allow my readers to learn about a piece of cinema history, and appreciate a famed director, Michelangelo Antonioni, through the lens of an auteur theorist. Without further delay, let us explore the nature of the auteur theory.
“That is why I would like to call this new age of cinema the age of camera-stylo (camera-pen).” — Alexandre Astruc
Background on the theory: The auteur theory is a French film theory in which the director is considered the author (auteur) of their film. Since the theory states that the main authorship of a film is given solely to the director, we see that the theory developed cinema, calling it a reflection of an artist’s vision. The auteur theory differs from others, such as the formalist theory, because of the importance it places on a single creator. The originators of this theory are André Bazin and Roger Leenhardt, who, in the 1940s, founded a film magazine called Cahiers du Cinema, which was vocal about the director’s importance in cinema.
On October 29th, Born Ruffians released a new single titled “Love Too Soon,” and I cannot be more excited to hear new music still coming from this Toronto-based indie rock band. I believe that this band has flown under the radar for a while since their formation about a decade ago, and I would love to see them eventually receive the attention they deserve. I have much love for this band from our neighbors to the North.
Their bio on Spotify sums them up pretty well when it says they “deliver a playful variety of indie rock that weaves shifting guitar patterns though spare, hooky melodies and sweet but snarky vocals.” You can get a really good sense of the diversity of their sound by listening to some of their more popular songs, such as “Hummingbird” or “Needle” off of their earlier albums.
Looking at the ever-expanding list of main players within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s clear that my least favorite has always been Thor. At least, that’s what I thought before I saw the third and latest installment in the character’s solo film series, Thor: Ragnarok. Having skipped his previous two outings, I wasn’t particularly excited by Ragnarok’s announcement, especially with its release date stranded in between this summer’s awesome Spider-Man:Homecoming and next year’s potential-filled Black Panther.
However, given the spectacularly colorful and surprisingly humorous advertising, the film had gained my attention. Still, it was only upon learning that the film was being helmed by esteemed indie director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) that I was definitely in. While Ragnarok is far from being the best that the MCU has ever delivered, it provides enough entertaining sequences and funny one-liners that it ultimately overcomes its underwhelming and somewhat boring plot.
While I had hoped that Ragnarok would’ve simply been a super big-budget version of a Waititi film, it’s more just a standard Marvel affair that’s merely afforded a helpful boost by the director’s unique charm. This will probably please the bulk of the superhero moviegoing audience, as Waititi’s quirky comedic style isn’t necessarily the mainstream norm, but it was also a sort of disappointing realization on my part. Still, Thor is in good hands here, and the character’s inclination on being the self-centered airhead within the ranks of the Avengers works. There’s a number of great supporting characters surrounding the hero as well, but I also found the film lacking a substantial driving force.