Posts Tagged ‘Josh Gad’

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.

 

 

 

Vanity and Virtue

Beauty and the Beast

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Dan Stevens, Emma Watson, Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Hattie Morahan, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathan Mack

When Disney does a live action version of a classic animated film, audiences know they are going to do it brilliantly. Beauty and the Beast is absolutely superb and extremely enjoyable viewing.

If audiences are going to pay for one cinema ticket this year, buy a ticket for Beauty and the Beast.

Originally based on the French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740, Beauty and the Beast is an extraordinary visual feast.

The first aspect Disney got right was the crucial casting of Beauty and the Beast. With a mostly British cast, Belle is played by Emma Watson (The Bling Ring) and the Beast played by Dan Stevens who rose to fame in Julian Fellowes BBC hit series Downton Abbey. For the real villain of the piece, Welsh actor Luke Evans (Dracula Untold) is cast as the arrogant Gaston and Josh Gad stars as his sidekick Lefou.

Oscar winner Kevin Kline (A Fish called Wanda) plays Belle’s hapless father Maurice who during a journey to the market is side tracked by vicious wolves and lands up as an unwitting guest of the Beast in his cavernous castle with only talking furniture for company.

The flamboyant candelabra Lumiere is played by Ewan McGregor (Our Kind of Traitor) and the mantel piece clock Cogsworth is wonderfully played by Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters, Mr Holmes) while the teapot Mrs Potts is voiced by Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Howard’s End). Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Concussion) plays Plumette and Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada) voices the maestro Cadenza.

What really makes Beauty and the Beast so lovely is the music, the music and the music. From the director of Dreamgirls and Gods and Monsters Bill Condon delivers a fantastic film retaining the story’s authentic fairy tale which deftly combines romance with action and music. Beauty and the Beast has gorgeous costumes designed by Oscar winner Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina) accompanying the film’s exceptional production design by Sarah Greenwood.

Both the headstrong Belle and the grumpy Beast form an unlikely romance overcoming vanity and retaining virtue while they have to compete against the duplicitous Gaston and break the immortal spell cast on the Beast and his lively accompaniments.

Highly recommended viewing for all age groups, Beauty and the Beast gets a film rating of 9 out of 10.

Although running at over two hours this Disney fantasy musical is worth watching and audiences should stay seated to watch the spectacular end credits.

 

Two Pals in Palo Alto

The Internship

internship_ver2

Director: Shawn Levy

Cast: Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Szohr, Max Minghella, Rose Byrne, Will Ferrell, Josh Gad, Aasif Mandvi

It’s very difficult to make the internet appealing, funny or sexy onscreen. Director David Fincher achieved this in The Social Network with the brilliantly adapted screenplay by Aaron Sorkin of the Benz Mezrich novel The Accidental Billionaires about the rise of Facebook.

In a much lesser way The Internship once again teams up The Wedding Crashers comic duo Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as two middle aged wristwatch salesmen Bill McMahon and Nick Campbell who find their sales talents are no longer required in the 21st century digital age, forcing them to apply for an unlikely internship at Google Headquarters in Palo Alo, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley.

What follows is a humorous tale of two friends who have to compete in a so called mental Hunger Games scenario rife with geeky sci-fi comicbook references from X-Men to Harry Potter as part of a summer internship with a group of graduates half their age at the search engine’s playground themed headquarters. Whilst the Internship does not have the plot substance to sustain a two hour film, it nevertheless remains a clever comedy taking a poignant look at how the 40+ age group is coping with the sudden onslaught of the digital age especially all that Google has to offer.

Thankfully director Shawn Levy does takes some of the action of The Internship away from Google headquarters otherwise the entire film would be a product endorsement for the search engine giant, offering viewers some wonderful shots of San Francisco particularly the Golden Gate Bridge. There is also a very funny (The Hangover inspired scene) where Bill & Nick take their young team mates on a night out on the town landing in a pole dancing club and naturally the narrative is driven by the same onscreen chemistry between Vaughn and Owen which made The Wedding Crashers such a smash hit.

The late director Anthony Minghella’s son Max Minghella (The Social Network) plays the rival team leader Graham Hawtrey, a competitive alpha male who gets his laughs by putting down his fellow teammates, while Nick and Bill show that despite their age difference, collaboration is the best form of winning in a competitive environment. The Internship at times comes across as trite, supercilious, but it is nevertheless funny and is helped by a lovely appearance by Australian actress Rose Byrne, who plays Nick’s love interest Dana.

Cinematically The Internship is in not in the same league as The Social Network, but is a fun look at how 40 somethings have to re-evaluate and reinvent their professional lives in the wake of a 21st century youth inspired digital revolution whether its through Google, Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook. For fans of The Wedding Crashers, then The Internship will certainly appeal, despite it being ageist, sexist and at times mundane, only highlighting that the American dream is still obtainable even if you have to Google it!

Besides uncredited cameos by John Goodman and Will Ferrell, the film also stars Dylan O’Brien, Josh Brener and Jessica Szohr.

 

 

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