Log in

T.A. Moreland

T.A. Moreland

Murder on the Orient Express; take this thrilling train ride

English crime writer, Agatha Christie’s 1934 classic whodunit, Murder on the Orient Express, first filmed in 1974, returns to the big screen for the second time. In the 2017 film version of Murder on the Orient Express, Kenneth Branagh directs and leads an all-star cast including Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom, Jr, and Josh Gad. Murder on the Orient Express is the story of 13, first class passengers traveling on a luxury train to London when one of the passengers is found dead in his cabin, the victim of multiple stab wounds.

Hercule Poirot (Branagh), the internationally known, fictional, detective happens to be on board and is coaxed into solving the brutal crime. The film takes viewers though Poirot’s painstakingly, thorough examination of the suspects and their possible motives.

Murder on the Orient Express is a fascinating, far-fetched, yet definitely entertaining film. And it’s a See It!

It has a Titanic feel to it. Wealthy passengers travel opulently to their destination. Like Titanic, the mode of transportation is damaged. In Titanic, it’s an iceberg; in Murder, it’s a snowy avalanche which derails the train.

While I was familiar with the story title, I was unaware of how the crime would be solved, which added additional intrigue to the mystery. And, the outcome is a truly a surprise.

Again, this is a star studded cast which enriches the production. Murder on the Orient Express gets an “A” for cast diversity. Among the 13 passengers, there is a black man, Leslie Odom, Jr., who starred in the Broadway musical, Hamilton, and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is a Hispanic man. Further, there are many characters of color in background and small roles. Often movies set in time periods such as the '30s have all-white casts, as if people of color only came into the being in the '60s and '70s.

Additionally, the cinematography is creative and exceptional. With scenes shot from a multitude of angles and ranges.

Murder on the Orient Express is rated, PG-13, and is 116 minutes. And it’s a See It!

The Mountain Between Us is a bit bumpy but you should see it. [MOVIE REVIEW]

They don’t know each other but they are both desperate to reach their destinations. Dr. Ben Bass (Idris Elba) has a 10-year-old patient waiting for surgery. And photojournalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) has to get to her wedding. After the cancellation of their flight due to stormy weather, they hire a charter plane. The plane crashes midflight, the pilot dies, but they, along with pilot’s dog, survive the incident with injuries. They battle to survive the subzero weather in the Colorado mountains, trying to hang on until they are found.

The Mountain Between Us is often tedious, but ultimately, an entertaining film and gets a See It! rating.

The plot’s not new or unique; there are a number of films before The Mountain Between Us, which were popular with filmgoers including Cast Away and Alive. This movie like others of its type shares the survivors’ painstaking efforts to stay alive.

Also, like Hollywood films in general, it makes sure that dogs are unharmed. While Ben and Alex ration the food from the crash and what they are able to scavenge, while showing the effects of not having enough to eat, the dog somehow always seems well fed and full of energy.

The writers do their best to help viewers get to know Ben and Alex but with only modest success. Great writers develop individuals so rich and full that moviegoers could pass tests on the personalities of the characters in the film. However, Ben and Alex remain enigmas.

While not giving too much away, the story does develop in a way that ultimately works.

This is an interracial pairing, yet race is never an issue or even discussed in the film.

The Mountain Between Us gets an “A” for diversity. Obviously, there is a person of color in a leading role; however, there are others in supporting roles.

It’s rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality, peril, injury images, and brief strong language. The Mountain Between Us is 103 minutes in length and is a film you should see.

 

American Made is Made Just Right [MOVIE REVIEW]

Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), an unassuming TWA pilot, is married with kids when the CIA comes a knocking. He’s got the right stuff to fly arms to support Ronald Reagan’s attempt to thwart a growing communist threat in Central America. Seal also gains the attention of what will become the Medellin drug cartel. They figure that while the pilot flies guns surreptitiously from the U.S. to Central America and back, he could add some cocaine to his cargo. Seal eventually agrees. However, as the Bible warns, you can’t serve two masters. Ultimately, Seal’s double-dealing comes crashing down around him.

American Made is a convoluted but never boring film. And it works because Tom Cruise single-handedly makes it work. Barry Seals is actually a sleazy guy but Tom Cruise makes him an appealing character that viewers root for. On the other hand, Tom Cruise’s wife, Lucy, played by Sarah Wright, is supposed to be a small town girl who worked at the KFC when they met, the 5’9” blond, comes across just like what she actually is: a former model.

The movie shows just how government agencies are often at odds with each other. Here the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Agency are in constant conflict.

American Made gets an “A” for cast diversity. The film has a large number of Hispanic actors, as it should, with other performers of color included as well.

American Made is rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity including Tom Cruise mooning his family. It’s 115 minutes in length and Cruise makes American Made a See It!

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is Roundly Entertaining. [MOVIE REVIEW]

In 2014, Kingsman: The Secret Service introduced filmgoers to the international intelligence agency operating at the highest levels of diplomatic, scholarly, and gentlemanly behavior with the ultimate goal of keeping the world safe.

In the 2017 version, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the heroes from the first film (Taron Egerton as Eggsy; Colin Firth is Harry Hart; Michael Strong plays Merlin) face a new challenge with a drug kingpin (Julianne Moore) set on not only manufacturing and selling her products, she wants them as socially acceptable as alcohol. She gets the Kingsman’s attention by destroying their headquarters and targeting their leadership. To bring the villain down, the Kingsman team up with a previously unknown to them American operation called the Statesman, an old, well respected whisky making organization with Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, and Halle Berry playing operatives. They have their own agenda but agree with the Kingsman that the dealer must be dealt with quickly and severely.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle thoroughly entertains and it’s a See It!

It follows some of the tried and true techniques for action films, like beginning with an intense, theatrical battle. Despite a vicious fight with multiple, likely bone crushing blows landing to his body and face, Eggsy goes unmarked and his perfectly fitting suit, untarnished.

Also, there’s plenty of split-second lifesaving events and, technology, like vicious mechanical dogs.

The film also raises such questions as: would ground up human beings look like ground beef? Would America have a dishonest man as president?

As to the cast, the performances are fittingly appropriate. None of the roles require any great acting range.

When the Kingsman travels to Kentucky to meet the Statesman, the background music is Take Me Home Country Roads which is actually about West Virginia. But I guess to the British - Kentucky, West Virginia – what’s the difference?

Kingsman: The Golden Circle, cast diversity wise, gets a “B+”. This is a movie set in the cloak and dagger world of the United Kingdom and U.S. which is primarily a white male environment. However, Halle Berry has a major supporting role as the character, Ginger, in the Statesman’s organization. And there are other people of color in smaller roles.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material. And my common complaint about films: too long. At 2 hours and 21 minutes, its 21 minutes too long.

However, Kingsman: The Golden Circle gets our highest rating, See It!, because it’s powerfully entertaining!

Subscribe to this RSS feed