Friday, November 10, 2017

Murder On The Orient Express (2017)

As a rule, sequels are a bad idea. Like someone doing an impression of someone else, they steal a little of the magic from those who do a much better job in real life, and effortlessly, and the truly awful ones make you wish for a handy weapon. And there are few folks even remotely talented enough to justify any attempt to pull one off.

Going back to the dawn of motion pictures, I can count the worthy re-makes on my fingers*, while the god-awful atrocious ones would need an abacus and reams of paper.
And a handy weapon.

This movie is the exception that proves that rule.

The 1974 version was directed by film legend Sidney Lumet, and received six nominations for Academy Awards, winning one for Ingrid Bergman for Best Supporting Actress. (It was only up against Godfather II and Chinatown, nominated for 11 Oscars apiece that year.)

If you never saw the earlier version, you'll like this one.

If you watched the earlier version (as I did, a couple of days ago, for comparison) you'll like this one.

Today's premiere is produced by Ridley Scott, directed by Kenneth Branagh and with himself in the starring role as Hercule Poirot.
The 1974 version had scads of talented name stars with oodles of Oscars and nominations.
The 2017 version has scads of talented name stars with oodles of Oscars and nominations.
There are times when that really matters. This flick is absolutely one of those times.
Daisy Ridley without a light saber in this one bodes well for her future after the Star Wars sequels have all finally played out.

This time out, more time is spent setting up Poirot's backstory, which sacrifices some time in the earlier version given to character and plot development, but Branagh's Poirot is eminently watchable throughout. The plot is therefore a bit more truncated, and spiced up a bit dramatically and physically this time around, but nonetheless making for a satisfying experience, and hitting, eventually, all the plot points necessary. I actually wish they'd simply added the scenes they didn't in order to do this, but it wasn't my $100M to spend, or my flick to edit, so you get out of the theatre maybe fifteen minutes faster.

If you don't know anything about either version, I ain't telling you whodunit here.
The reveal at the end is everything you'd want, and this version adds a touching epilogue to scratch an itch and pay off an earlier dialogue scriptease. (And if that isn't a word, I have dibs on it from here on out.) They even managed to set up the possible sequel, which one might even hope for, provided it's another Scott/Branagh vehicle as well.

It's one of the (sadly few) decent movies to go see this year, doubly so in the current climate of well-earned Hollywood-bashing. And AFAIK, no one in this flick is currently under indictment or accusation by the current (and overdue) Committee On Purging Rapists and Molesters From Hollywood.

So if you need something to do this weekend while you're continuing your boycott of the National Felony League, plunk your money down and see what movies used to be like when people told a good story to earn your ticket price.

My rating: Four stars.
Catch This Ride. It's First Class all the way to the end of the line.

Oscar bait? Hell, yes, it is, especially in this utterly dreadful year of mostly craptastic dungheaps fit mainly for burning.
Come nomination time, I expect you'll see this one again.

*(Off the top of my head, The Three Musketeers with Oliver Reed and Michael York was as good or better than the Gene Kelly version - and the 1990s Disney attempt sucked poop; Ben Hur with Heston surpassed the silent attempt, The Four Feathers with Beau Bridges and Jane Seymour beat the pants off any versions before or since; Beatty's Heaven Can Wait was much better than Waiting For Mr. Jordan; and Spielberg's Always was superior to A Guy Named Joe. Note the talent involved, and see if you can figure out the key to getting over the bad sequel hurdle. That you'd struggle to find six more major examples in the 51,000 or so movies the MPAA has stuck numbers on since only 1934 proves my point about "counting them on my fingers" and the low-percentage odds in attempting a sequel, especially of an already-good movie.)


MMinWA said...

Off the top of my head, IMO, Carpenter's The Thing was a 100x better then the 50s' version. While the original Casino Royale was intentionally made campy, the Bond reboot with Danial Craig was fantastic.

Finally, I hope I'm not stepping on any John Wayne toes here but I think the Coen Brothers remake of True Grit, especially Jeff Bridges as Rooster, was also great.

We have a one screener in Lamesa but I'll keep my eye peeled for your recommendation.

Anonymous said...

Hitchcock's remake of his own The Man Who Knew Too Much is far superior and one of my top 20. I wonder if there are any other instances of a director remaking his own film.

Anonymous said...

Gotta concur with Carpenter and the Coen brothers remakes the latter primarily because of the gal playing Mattie, though Jeff Bridges did a great job with Rooster. Even whatsisname did better than Glen Campbell.
As for Always ... well, it's been a long time since I saw A Guy Named Joe so I'll take your assessment of that one along with the recommendation of the new MOTOE. I usually like Branagh anyway
Boat Guy

Aesop said...

You have to be joking.
John Wayne won his sole Best Actor Oscar for True Grit.
His final scene with Robert Duvall was iconic; the Coen remake was atrocious.
I saw that utterly regretable remake, the same week they released the 30-years-too-late shitastic sequel to Tron.
I like me some Jeff Bridges, but that was one entire year he should have stayed home. He was a clown attempting Hamlet in the remake, and it showed.
O, how it showed.
That awful remake is one of the poster-children for Don't Ever Remake Classic Movies, long and distinguished as that list of stinkers is.
(And if anyone was going to waste $10 or more on the horrible current Bladerunner disasterpiece, stay home now. You're welcome.)

As noted, the two versions of Casino Royale were entirely different pictures, sharing only a title; the latter was not a remake, it was an entire re-boot after Pierce Brosnan rode the series into the ground, after getting some of the worst scripts ever penned.

But when you can pull David Niven out of your hat, you'll usually win the trivia contest of naming every actor to play James Bond in major motion pictures.

As for The Thing, the genre is horror, from which I would recuse myself, considering nearly all - to the last one - of them to suck ass as pure low-budget hell and irredeemable crap for both producers and audiences, so a better remake of two awful movies doesn't really count, with me. We can agree to disagree on that, because I hate the genre on principal, while others obviously think it's fantastic.

I note that when you do them as comedy-adventures, as in the two Brendan Fraser iterations of The Mummy, you get a much more harmonious outcome, both in terms of absolute film quality, and box office.

If you root around amongst the first 10,000 flicks or so given an MPAA number, you'll also find a lot of 1930's era low-budget three-reel crap, churned out purely to keep the studios' doors open. By about 1945 or so, they'd settled down to just making real movies. My list, a couple of years back, was solely 366 of the greatest movies made. Even if we expanded it to 1000, that leaves 50,000 examples of the worst movies ever made. Hollywood should learn to leave the pinnacle alone, and concentrate on redeeming the crap, or making new flicks, to assuage their culpability in churning out mounds of utter dreck, which is at minimum a 50:1 ratio.
When you ponder that most years lately Hollywood churns out 200-400 flicks, remember that ratio.

MotOE is one of the few films able to claw it's way into that pinnacle twice, which is an infinitesimally small club; the fact that it took Kenneth Branagh at the height of his powers as both actor and director, with Ridley Scott producing, to nearly equal Sidney Lumet's earlier level of work, is the takeaway point here.

MMinWA said...

On True Grit, we'll just have to disagree. In real life, can not stand Matt Damon but he was almost stole the movie, he was light years ahead of Glen Campbell's take. There's no doubt that Wayne's take was fabulous, I happen to like Bridges' version better. If I'm not mistaken, as I read the book many years ago, but the Coens returned to a closer accounting and I think that they did a better job with the vernacular too. The cinematography in the remake was certainly better especially the starry night shots. I think the remake was just gritter.

Didn't see either Tron so I can't comment on them but for 40+ years, Bridges has been in the zone. Even I have made some windows I wish I could take back.

Having surreptitiously read my Ian Fleming behind textbooks starting in the 6th grade, I've been a life long Bond fan and IMO, Craig's take is the proper one. The wisecracks and snark from every other actor just does not fit an assassin like Bond. Bronson had a decent run but Moore was, hands down, the worst.

Not a fan at all of horror either and while there were some horror like aspects to The Thing, it was an excellent and tense sci-fi movie.

Anonymous said...

I have to "defend" my like of the True Grit remake ;Dukes Oscar was more of a lifetime achievement, I can think of many other roles he did as well or better (Shootist anyone?)
Boat Guy

Anonymous said...

Best True Grit was cartoonist Mort Drucker's piss-take on the original movie in MAD MAGAZINE.

Papa said...

We saw "...Orient Express" this past weekend.
Loved it!
Agree with your four stars. Four stars out of four? I would give it 5 if five were available.
The filming and scenary was well done.
During the initial train ride, there was a scene of going g towards and over a mountain range, the going down to the train. Made my stomach rise!
A great people and charecter movie.
Branagh does well in Henry V, Dunkirk, Orient, and other roles.

Papa said...

Also check out the series "Wallender".

Papa said...

Papa said...