Tag Archive: Murder on the Orient Express

When we created last year’s preview of 2017 movies we were pretty sure we were going to have some great movies this year, but we were surprised by what ended up being the best.  All year we tried to keep up with what Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre content we thought was worth examining. We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best Movies of 2017.

As always, we’re after the best genre content of 2017–with our top categories from the Best in Movies.  There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.  What do all of this year’s selections have in common?  In addition to those elements that define each genre, each has a good story.  Special effects without a good story is not good entertainment, and we saw plenty of films this year that missed that crucial element.

Come back later this week for our TV and print media picks, and our annual Hall of Fame inductees.  Wait no further, here are our picks for 2017:

Best Sci-Fi Fix, Best Sci-fi Movie, Best Costume DesignValerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  The Valerian and Laureline comic books turned 50 and brought a big-screen adaptation to theaters.  Director Luc Besson handled the material as a labor of love, and that could be marveled at in every scene, and each nook and cranny of the gigantic visual spectacle he created.  More new wonders, more futuristic ideas that had never been seen on film before, bold otherworldly costumes, and incredible special effects made this film a masterpiece science fiction fans will stumble upon in the future and wonder how it was so overlooked by audiences this summer.  Epic space battles, aliens, and loads of sci-fi technology, while all the other science fiction of the year kept to their familiar territories.  A gripping story about a team just doing their job, but that job is saving an entire race of a doomed planet.  Besson was going for something like Avatar, but he far surpassed it.  Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was everything a sci-fi fan could want.

Best Fantasy Fix, Best Fantasy Movie, Best Comedy MovieThor: Ragnarok.  As much as Thor: Ragnarok was a natural progression for Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, it was amazing how much the film busted genres, becoming more of a Flash Gordon space fantasy like the Guardians of the Galaxy movies than the rest of the Avengers series.   Just like watching classic Flash Gordon and Conan movies, we saw superheroes on a legendary hero’s journey rise and encounter obstacles and make sacrifices, across a landscape of fabulous worlds and colorful characters, and scenes that looked like they were ripped out of your favorite Jack Kirby comic pages.  Another film about family, it incorporated that always fun plot device of having good guy and bad guy join forces, as Tom Hiddleston’s Loki redeemed himself with his brother and their people, if only temporarily.  We met one of the fiercest warriors in Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and they all faced off against a trio of well-developed villains.  A great superhero story, too, this was the ultimate fantasy fix.

Best Superhero Fix, Best Superhero Movie, Best Easter EggsThe LEGO Batman Movie.  Even as a spoof of superhero movies and the DC Universe, The LEGO Batman Movie created a genuine story full of heart that any fan of comic books could love.  Will Arnett became our second favorite Batman actor this year behind Michael Keaton, and his Batman reminded us why we can’t wait for the DC Universe to get fun and exciting again.  Hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny with a smart script, full of derring-do and super-powered heroics, and better than this year’s and the last decade of live-action DC at the movies, the animated The LEGO Batman Movie proved more good DC movies are out there just waiting to be made.  Honorable mention: Spider-man: Homecoming.

Best Retro Fix Classic Genre Films Return to Theaters.  With all the new releases in 2017 we were lucky enough to witness the 90th anniversary of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, while Disney’s The Jungle Book, The Dirty Dozen, and the original Casino Royale turned 50.  Along with Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind turned 40.  E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Blade Runner, Tron, and The Dark Crystal turned 35.  Predator, The Princess Bride, and Robocop turned 30.  Many of these made it back into theaters this year, giving us the best Retro Fix we could hope for all year long.  But E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (we even interviewed the best Star Trek director of them all here this year), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Princess Bride, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, on the big screen over only a few weeks?  We can only hope for more in 2018!

Check out the rest of the year’s Best Film and the rest of our picks for the year’s best movies, after the cut…

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Many have asked:  Why make another Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express?  You could just as easily ask: Why adapt another Shakespeare play?  Or Why make another Sherlock Holmes series?  When your story is great, and becomes as classic as Agatha Christie’s famous, timeless 1934 novel, it’s sort of the point of cinema, isn’t it?  From an actor standpoint, being in one of the film versions of Murder on the Orient Express, and portraying such iconic roles, is something like being cast as King Lear.  And who better than Kenneth Branagh to inject his own vision of the story into a new snapshot of acting greats for a new era of audience members?  Of Branagh’s twenty directorial pursuits, you must go back to the early era of Dead Again and Peter’s Friends to find Branagh not serving as puppetmaster of someone else’s well-known world, whether it’s Shakespeare in Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet (and the list goes on), or adaptations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Marvel Comics’ Thor, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Branagh is the king of directing adaptations and remakes.  Add Murder on the Orient Express to that list, a faithful adaptation of the book, stylishly filmed with lavish, sweeping sets and landscapes courtesy of cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos, Branagh’s choice cameraman on four of his past films.

The year’s casting award goes to Lucy Bevan for bring filmgoers back to the age of the all-star cast, where you’d look to 1970s disaster movies (Airport ’76, Towering Inferno, Earthquake) or the odd comedy (think It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World) for a pantheon of stars like that found in Orient Express.  Branagh as Hercule Poirot sports that classic era moustache with confidence (Christie herself called Poirot’s moustache “magnificent” and “immense”) and he adds his own quirks and humor to Christie’s legendary greatest detective, providing a new twist on the Holmes/Monk/House, M.D. frustrated genius detective archetype.  So many of the cast members appear every bit like Golden Age film stars here, including Branagh, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Penélope Cruz, Derek Jacobi, and Leslie Odom, Jr., with a particularly engaging performance by Tom Bateman as Poirot’s friend Bouc, in what will no doubt be seen as a great breakout role for the actor.

The film will be best for those unfamiliar with the story.  A famous detective receives a message requiring him to squeeze onto a full train at the last minute with a little more than a dozen passengers aboard.  When one passenger who fears for his life and requests assistance from the detective winds up dead in a brutal, bloody murder, the whodunit begins.  Once a snowy avalanche blocks the path of the train, the game is afoot as the delay provides enough time for Detective Poirot to begin interviewing the passengers.  The mystery is laid out with several clues, including just enough to allow the viewer to figure out who killed the victim if he/she is paying close attention.  And Branagh stages the investigation like a game of Clue/Cluedo–including overhead angles that at times make the viewer feel like Murder on the Orient Express is indeed a virtual reality version of the board game.  We know the murder weapons and the location, but who is responsible for the death and why?

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So long as you have a compelling story to tell, sometimes having all the right people on the big screen is enough of a reason to sit through a movie.  But Agathie Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is like watching a play by Shakespeare.  You already know the story is excellent, and the challenge is how creatively the latest director will manipulate the strings and how deftly the actors will portray the characters.

The latest adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express has all the right components for a movie-lover’s two hours of bliss.  How will Kenneth Branagh orchestrate his next opus?  Like the magnificent Henry V or Much Ado About Nothing?  We can hope.  How will this room full of master thespians of the British and American schools play off each other?  Aren’t you inkling to find out?

This latest trailer for the film (see the first here if you missed it) expands the reach of the first, giving us a good look at Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, and Branagh directing Branagh as Inspector Poirot.  Other stars include Derek Jacobi, Judi Dench, Leslie Odom, Jr., Willem Dafoe, Penélope Cruz, Josh Gad, and Olivia Colman.  And don’t forget, publicity for the film has indicated that the clues of the crime are everywhere, including in posters and the trailers for the film.

Here is the second trailer for Murder on the Orient Express:

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Everyone is a suspect.  The clues are everywhere.  For mystery lovers, it’s a staple.  It’s Agatha Christie’s most well-known 1934 novel come to life, Murder on the Orient Express, the fourth major production for film or television of the classic whodunit in the English language–the 1974 Academy Award winning Sidney Lumet film being the best known.  For the older generation the story is known, but for a new generation the stage is set for a big screen version of Clue/Cluedo.  As with the 1974 version, the cast of the 2017 version is extraordinary.

So how do you cast a film against the last generation of film greats?  Leading a bevy of thespian knights and dames, Sir Kenneth Branagh both directs and stars as master detective Hercule Poirot, the world’s greatest detective, played previously by Albert Finney (who refused a knighthood in the year 2000).  Sir Derek Jacobi plays the butler Edward Henry Masterman in a role played by Sir John Gielgud in the earlier version.  Dame Judi Dench plays Princess Natalia Dragomiroff, formerly played by Dame Wendy Hiller.  In an update for the new version, American actor Leslie Odom, Jr. (Supernatural, Gotham) takes on the role of Doctor (formerly Colonel) Arbuthnott, played previously by Sir Sean Connery.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens star Daisy Ridley as governess Mary Debenham, formerly played by Dame Vanessa Redgrave.

The list of American actors includes a fascinating mix of genre favorites old and new.  Academy Award nominee Johnny Depp takes on the role played before by Richard Widmark as the debonair businessman Edward Ratchett.  Academy Award nominee Michelle Pfeiffer is widow Harriet Hubbard, a role played in the 1974 film by Lauren Bacall.  Academy Award nominee Willem Dafoe is Professor Gerhard Hardman, played earlier by Colin Blakely.  Academy Award winner Penélope Cruz plays a newly named character, Pilar Estravados, a missionary, in the part played before by Ingrid Bergman.  Rounding out the cast is Josh Gad (Frozen) as Ratchett’s assistant Hector McQueen (played before by Anthony Perkins), and British TV regular Olivia Colman (Broadchurch, The Night Manager) plays the maid Hildegarde Schmidt (previously played by Rachel Roberts).

Take a look at this first trailer for the new Murder on the Orient Express:

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Our annual “All the Movies You’ll Want to See…” series has been one of the most viewed of all of our entries at each year.  So this year we again scoured Hollywood and its publicity machine for as many genre films coming out in 2017 that have been disclosed.  The result is a whopping 58 movies, many you’ll probably want to see in the theater or catch on video (and some you may want to skip).  We bet you’ll find a bunch below you’ve never heard of.  Bookmark this now for your 2017 calendar!

Most coming out in the second half of 2017 don’t even have posters released yet.  We’ve included descriptions and key cast so you can start planning accordingly.

What do we think will be the biggest hits of the year?  How about Star Wars: Episode VIII or Wonder Woman?   Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of 1,000 Planets?  Ghost in the Shell?  Or Beauty and the Beast? 


You’ve heard endlessly about Logan and Justice League, but 2017 will also see numerous other sequels, like Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049, Thor: Ragnarok, and sequels for Underworld, Resident Evil, Planet of the Apes, Pirates of the Caribbean, XXX, John Wick, King Kong, The Fast and the Furious, Cars, The Kingsman, Transformers, Despicable Me.   And The Six Billion Dollar Man is finally on its way.  Look for plenty of Dwayne Johnson, Tom Cruise, Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Zoe Saldana, Hugh Jackman, John Goodman, Michael Peña, Ryan Reynolds, Sofia Boutella, and Elle Fanning in theaters this year.

So wait no further, here are your genre films for 2017:

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