Archive for the ‘Kenneth Branagh’ Category

A Tangle of Strangers

Murder on the Orient Express

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Lucy Boynton, Olivia Colman, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Leslie Odom Jr. Tom Bateman

Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn) both stars as the infamous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot  and directs another remake of the classic Agatha Christie novel Murder on the Orient Express featuring a stunning cast including Oscar nominees Michelle Pfeiffer (Dangerous Liaisons, The Fabulous Baker Boys), Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street) and Oscar winners Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love).

Sporting a profoundly massive mustache, Branagh takes Hercule Poirot to new extremes in this 21st century remake which is glossy and possesses sumptuous production design but like all extremely long train journeys is boring in the middle, despite the spectacular scenery.

Murder on the Orient Express is set in 1934 and starts off promisingly with a fantastic opening, attention grabbing scene at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and then moves on to the Orient Express, a luxury train service which travels from the chaotic train station in Istanbul right across Europe to Paris.

As the gangster Edward Ratchett is found murdered in his compartment, stabbed multiple times everybody becomes a suspect on the Orient Express and soon Poirot has to interview all the cast as the train is stuck in an icy tunnel somewhere over Yugoslavia. A tangle of strangers confined to a luxury train which has gone off the rails.

Everybody is not what they seems, which is natural considering this is an Agatha Christie novel and while the cast does an admirable job, it is really Michelle Pfeiffer who wows audiences with her demure yet slightly vicious portrayal of globetrotting husband seeker Caroline Hubbard who stands out among a fairly impressive ensemble cast. Pfeiffer really acts.

Dame Judi Dench’s turn as Princess Dragomiroff is hardly noticeable, while the best scenes in the film are between Pfeiffer and Branagh.

It is refreshing to see Michelle Pfeiffer making such a glorious big screen come back as she truly is a brilliant actress, not to mention singer – for she also sang the film’s original song at the end.

Without revealing who the killer is, needless to say Kenneth Branagh will be returning with another big screen adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel, Death on the Nile. Should be fascinating if only he would curb that mustache.

Audiences that enjoyed the original seventies film adaptations of the Agatha Christie novels, will enjoy this ambitious if slightly flawed remake. Think Evil Under the Sun.

Recommended viewing but whether the film will dazzle at the box-office in an increasingly cluttered 21st century CGI film line-up remains to be seen. Murder on the Orient Express gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

 

 

 

When the Glass Slipper Fits…

Cinderella

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Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgaard, Derek Jacobi, Holliday Grainger, Ben Chaplin, Hayley Atwell

Shakespearean actor and director Kenneth Branagh (Thor, King Henry V) vividly recreates the famous tale of Cinderella in a live action film which despite its sumptuous production design does not match up to other recent onscreen fairy tales most notably the brilliant Snow White and the Huntsman and the equally impressive Maleficent.

Downton Abbey’s Lily James takes on the title role of Cinderella and although she is gorgeous to watch onscreen, the famous narrative arc of her tale is not given any particular depth or subliminal meaning. But then again this is a Disney film and the age restriction is parental guidance, with the target audience being young little girls. Judging by the packed cinema on a Saturday afternoon that target market was spot on.

Branagh’s Cinderella is lush, gorgeous and beautiful to watch with a spectacular production design by Dante Ferreti and fabulous costumes by Sandy Powell, Oscar winner for her costumes in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.

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Oscar winner for Blue Jasmine and The Aviator Cate Blanchett is wonderful as the wicked stepmother and so is Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech, The Wings of a Dove) as Cinderella’s quirky fairy godmother who on the evening of the ball given by the crown prince of their kingdom, Cinderella’s dress, transportation and footmen are sorted for her great entrance at the Ball.

The Ballroom scene is simply amazing and is undoubtedly the high point of the film, but in a similar vein to the gorgeous reproduction of Anna Karenina, the script and acting for Cinderella suffers under the weight of its own expectation.

One almost gets the feeling that the actors were slightly bored going through this famous fairy tale with the exception of the brief scenes by Blanchett and the cameo by Helena Bonham Carter, Cinderella fails to lift audiences beyond its very light and fluffy message – which is for all young girls to find prince charming and live happily ever after.

Prince Charming in this case is played by British actor and Game of Thrones star Richard Madden, bulging codpiece and all, and his penetrating blue eyes do the acting. Director Branagh strictly keeps this traditional Cinderella aimed at the young children’s market obviously upon the instruction of parent company Disney.

Nevertheless, the costumes and the production design are superb and should garner some awards in those categories. Whilst Cinderella lacks the edgier darkness of Snow White and the Huntman and Maleficent, it is still fun to watch especially all those character actors making an appearance from Hayley Atwell, Stellan Skarsgaard and Derek Jacobi.

Disney’s Cinderella is recommended viewing for those that loved Mirror Mirror and for all parents who need to take their daughters to see some serious glamour on the big screen. In this case the fabulous glass slipper fits too comfortably and Cinderella and her prince charming do live happily ever after.

 

Live Without Regrets

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin, Costner

Royal Shakespeare actor turned director Kenneth Branagh teams up with the darling of the reboot franchises, American actor Chris Pine last seen in JJ. Abrams’s Star Trek: Into Darkness to direct and star in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a prequel to such films as Patriot Games (1992), Clear and Present Danger (1994) and The Sum of all Fears (2002). Grounding the action back in London where Ryan is studying at the London School of Economics and witnesses 9/11 on British TV, he is soon thrust into mortal combat in Afghanistan in 2003.

After suffering a spinal injury from his tour in Afghanistan, Ryan is back in the States at the Walter Reed Medical Centre where he meets Dr Cathy Muller, played by Keira Knightley, initially an odd casting choice but as the film progresses it is really the chemistry between Knightley and Branagh that sizzle on screen particularly in the witty dialogue in the Moscow restaurant scene discussing living without regrets, which eclipses any plausibility of her character pairing with Pine’s energetic American spy Ryan. Knightley for once has shed her period drama image after such turns in the beautiful yet flawed Anna Karenina and the brilliant Atonement who elevates Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit into a better movie even though her mid-Atlantic accent remains indistinguishable.

Branagh last seen in My Week With Marilyn and who also directed Thor, casts himself as cruel Russian oligarch Viktor Cheverin who has dodgy accounts hiding a range of funds waiting to destabilize the US economy from his swish uber-cool Moscow skyscraper activating a couple of sleeper Russian agents in the American Mid-West.

sorry_wrong_number_ver2The onscreen tension between Branagh, Pine and Knightley is hinted at earlier through clips of the 1948 thriller Sorry Wrong Number starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster which is about a woman who overhears a murder plot on the phone only to realize she is the intended victim.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is packed with some great action sequences both in Moscow and New York while the storyline is fairly formulaic and in no league to the 007 or Bourne Identity franchises, it is still an enjoyable slightly suave thriller, but entertaining nevertheless. Branagh is better at directing with more grandiose films like the original Thor film and naturally his earlier films with Emma Thompson were still the best including Dead Again and King Henry V.

Kevin Costner helps the film as veteran CIA agent Harper who plays mentor to the young spy. Chris Pine makes the best of his version of Ryan with his startling blue eyes, but lacks the grit and maturity that Harrison Ford brought to the character in the nineties films Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Shadow Recruit is recommended viewing for a watchable spy thriller which does not dazzle, but just manages to engage the audience’s attention especially with the combined acting calibre of Branagh and Knightley.

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