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Posts Tagged ‘Michelle Pfeiffer’

Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot

“MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” My rating: C  

114 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

The year’s strongest cast wrestles inertia to a standstill in “Murder on the Orient Express,” the latest addition to the pantheon of unnecessary remakes.

We already have Sidney Lumet’s perfectly delightful 1974 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s great  railway mystery. But as with Shakespeare, Dame Agatha’s yarns are worthy of retelling for each new generation.  Problem is, this retelling is stillborn.

It’s always difficult to know exactly why a movie goes wrong, but in this case it may very well lie with the decision to have Kenneth Branagh both direct and star as eccentric Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

The character dominates virtually every scene, which means the acting weight alone was exhausting. To then also ride herd on a huge cast of heavy hitting thespians was too much to ask of anyone.

As it now stands, Branagh disappoints in both capacities. His features masked by absurd facial hair as obviously fake as the computer-generated backgrounds, he makes a mess of Poirot, who goes from crowd-teasing cutup to moody depressive without much in between. Lines that should evoke a laugh barely generate a tentative smile.

As for the directing end of things…well, what can you say when you have this much talent on hand and still end up with a dull yarn weighted down by blah characterizations?

Set aboard a snowbound luxury train on the Istanbul-Paris run, Michael Green’s screenplay clings to the basics of Christie’s tale (the “who” in the “whodunnit” makes for a one of the better revelations in all detective fiction) while dabbling with some of the particulars, largely in an effort to make the project more attractive to today’s mass audience.

Thus the screenplay finds time for one karate fight, a chase down a railroad trestle and a shooting — none of which are to be found in the novel or the earlier film.

While a few of the characters have undergone some tweaking (a physician aboard the train is now a Negro played by Leslie Odom Jr., providing the opportunity to dabble in some racial issues), most cling to Christie’s parameters. (more…)

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Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem

“MOTHER!” My rating: C 

121 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Darren Aronofsky is a master filmmaker whose grasp of movie technology and cinema’s esthetic possibilities has few equals.

But  you’ve got to wonder about his choice of subject matter.

There are moments of pure genius on display in “mother!”,  along with a sustained depiction of madness to equal anything ever seen on the screen.

But they are in the service of an eschatological puzzle that will leave most audience members scratching their heads.  The movie is clever to a fault, but at the risk of emotionally alienating all but the most die-hard theological geeks.

You know we’re in the world of heavy-duty (if not pretentious) metaphor when all the characters are denied names and identified in the credits as Mother, Him, Man, Woman, Younger Brother, etc.

Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in a remote, formerly splendid country home with her husband, the considerably older Him (Javier Bardem). Him is a novelist with a bad case of writer’s block; he can’t make the ideas flow and it’s making him pathetic and cranky.

Mother, meanwhile, busies herself with restoring the old mansion, a job she has taken on singlehandedly.

Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris

Their isolated lives are interrupted by Man (Ed Harris), who claims to be a physician doing research nearby. He’s been misinformed that Mother and Him are running a b&b.  When Him learns that Man is a big fan of his writing, he invites the visitor to move into a guest room.

Mother isn’t thrilled, and is even more upset when Man’s wife, Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), shows up as well.  They are the guests from hell:  smoking, drinking, acting like they own the joint and making out like horny teens. This part of “mother!”, at least, is wickedly funny.

Woman is a nosy meddler who wants to know the nature of her hosts’ sex lives and presses Mother for an explanation of their childless state.

Mother pleads with her husband to evict the interlopers, but his ego is desperate for their fawning praise. Moreover, Man appears to be dying of lung cancer. What kind of person would toss him out?

The first half of the film climaxes with a murder.

In its wake Him finds inspiration, writes a new novel and impregnates Mother.

All seems copacetic until the night thousands of Him’s fans descend upon the house and begin a riot, holding orgiastic ceremonies, stripping the house for souvenirs and, eventually, turning their attention to the infant  Mother delivers in the midst of these cabalistic reveries. (Shades of “Rosemary’s Baby”!) (more…)

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