There’s also the small matter of December’s output to get through, so we’ll also give you the lowdown on Murder on the Orient Express, Justice League, Paddington 2, and The Disaster Artist.
Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot has seen numerous adaptations on screen (large and small) and stage, and with many different, and often distinguished, actors playing the role, from the great Peter Ustinov to Albert Finney, Alfred Molina, José Ferrer and Ian Holm, though I think it’s safe to say that, for most UK audiences at least, the archetypal Poirot is David Suchet.
Of his tales, no doubt the best known is Murder on the Orient Express which has itself seen numerous adaptations. And, if I had a point, I’ve now lost it entirely and, ironically, would appreciate the help of the great detective himself to find it. It was probably something along the lines of not needing another adaptation of the story as there have already been plenty, but as there have been so many then another is unlikely to cause problems. Something like that, anyway. That seems reasonable.
To wit, there has been another adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, this time directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh (though, to be honest, the real star is his truly magnificent triple-layered moustache – some of the finest facial hair ever seen on screen). After an opening in Jerusalem which serves (successfully and humorously so) to set up both the fastidiousness of the character and his sleuthing abilities, events conspire to see Poirot’s holiday plans scuppered and for him to be aboard the Orient Express from Istanbul to Paris.
After getting to know each of the characters a little, Poirot awakes one night to find out that somebody’s done a murder, and it’s up to him to find out who amongst the passengers is responsible. I will say absolutely nothing further about the plot because if, like me, you’ve somehow managed to get this far and know absolutely nothing about the story and the identity of the murderer then you’re clearly going to get the most enjoyment from this with that continuing to be the case.
I can talk about a couple of other things, though, and I’ll begin with the cast, which is quite impressive, from the superb Judi Dench and Olivia Colman, to Johnny Depp (as Johnny B. Dead), Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley (who I spent the entire film thinking was Keira Knightley because my brain seemingly decided to take that evening off), Willem Dafoe, Josh Gad and Penélope Cruz. All of them do a pretty solid job, but it’s fair to say that this is the Kenneth Branagh show. Indeed, he has been criticised for hogging the limelight in this adaptation, and relegating his star-studded cast to the background, but I care not a jot, for he is wonderful, as is his ‘tache, and I was thoroughly entertained by it. Him. I mean him.
Pretty much everyone else is engaging and entertaining when given their opportunity, though, so it’s all good. The staging is necessarily constrained by the action being largely confined within the few carriages of a steam train, and I’d have liked to have seen more of the shots where Branagh tried to do something a bit more inventive with the camera, like the top down view of the cabins when the murder is discovered.
Jerusalem aside, most of the action takes place on the train, but it does look nice, with the splendour and luxury of the train coming across, and we do get the occasional exterior shot of the train passing through mountains to break things up, but visually it’s unspectacular. This film is one of only a handful shot on 65mm film since the mid-90s, but unlike this year’s other 65mm film, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, the large format lends little distinctiveness to the finished product, which leaves me wondering why bother?
It’s not perfect, but I was hooked by the mystery and Poirot’s investigation of same, and found it thoroughly entertaining. It’s great Sunday afternoon fare, and I very much recommend it especially if, like me, you’re unfamiliar with the details of the plot.
This, of course, being the film that the DC films have been racing towards since Man of Steel, and having got there, there’s not all that much there there. But that’s rather getting ahead of myself.
With Henry Cavill’s Superman still dead, crime seems to be on the uptick until Ben Affleck’s Batman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman start knocking heads together, and approach the other previously identified meta-humans to join together, just in case some alien arsehole appears and tries to conquer Earth.
Of those metahumans, Barry Allen’s speedster The Flash, played by Ezra Miller, is eager to join up and help, like a cute little over-eager puppy dog. Less enamoured with the teamwork deal is Jason Momoa’s Arthur “Aquaman” Curry, lord of the fish or something, and Ray Fisher’s Victor “Cyborg” Stone, who is a cyborg. With the robot arms and that, more or less accidentally created by his father in the lab from weird, unknown alien technology, that I hope no alien arsehole tries to use to take over the world.
Oh no! Some alien arsehole is trying to take over the world! Steppenwolf, named after the “Born to be Wild” crooners, is a daft looking CG monstrosity who tried this kind of stunt before, only to have his digibutt kicked by a combined force of humans, Amazons and Aquafarians or whatever they’re called. In the process he lost his three cubes of alien tech that he was using to devestate planets, which I presume were given a name at some point, but I neither remember nor care enough to look up. One of these McGuffins gave Cyborg his not fully understood powers.
Steppenwolf seeks to reclaim these from their guardians, the Amazons, the Aquapeeps, and the Victor’s dad, with his army of flying undead insectoid whateverthefucks across a number of CG setpieces, with our heroes trying to stop him, realising they’re not quite up to the task, and necromancering Superman to help them.
There’s a lot of things I’d want to rant about in this film, but we have a stuffed docket to get through today. Perhaps we’ll revisit this down the line, as a lot of the oddness of the film comes from the tonal shifts between this and Batman vs Superman. The bullet points:
Joss Whedon’s lighter touch (clearly he was told to Avenger-ise this film when he replaced Snyder after his unfortunate family tragedy) wouldn’t be unwelcome were it consistent throughout the film, but this cut ‘n’ shut is showing its welding somewhat.
There is no point killing any character off if they’re only staying dead for, what, an hour and a half of running time.
Once Superman recovers his old self, all tension immediately drains from the film, because he’s close enough to unbeatable that there’s never any doubt Steppenwolf was going to be kerb stomped. Admittedly unlikely, but there was at least a chance any of the “lesser” heroes could be killed. Not, apparently, that that’s much of a barrier any more.
While far from perfect, Batman vs Superman at least thought to ask what happens when, essentially, God shows up. This might have been parlayed here into asking what happens when God dies, but instead it’s just a CG lightshow.
Steppenwolf is terrible. Poor Cieran Hinds. Some motivation would be nice, other than “I like ruining planets”. Also, he looks silly.
There’s the odd character moment that I liked, but not enough of them.
I’m entirely on board with the minimal origin story approach for Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman.
The action is fine, but overall not that remarkable, which given the production cost of the film is almost morally indenfensible.
Who wrote this film? Everyone wrote this film! And it shows.
The quips and such are also fine, but seem to come from a different film – perhaps the Avengers.
And so on, and so forth. I should perhaps add that coming out of this, I though it to be an entertaining enough film and was fine with it, even if it ranked close to the bottom of this year’s comic book crop. But it’s a film that the more you consider it, the more it falls apart.
The solution – stop thinking about it. This will be easily achieved, as I’m already forgetting most of what happened in it.
Look, this is much more negative than I’d anticipated being when leaving the screening, and I’m still not going to say it’s an outright bad film. It’s just one that’s very haphazard, which is pretty much the capusle summation of the DCU films right now.
Overall, meh. Can’t really recommend. I see Logan‘s out on DVD. Just sayin’.
Though not quite so cherished as classics like Bagpuss or the Cosgrove Hall animations, the adventures of a delightful, mishap-prone, marmalade-devouring, duffel coat-wearing bear from darkest Peru are something I remember from my childhood with great fondness. As well as the charming stop-motion animations by Ivor Wood, with their cardboard cut-out backdrops, and Michael Bond’s original books, I remember Paddington as just being a part of the fabric of my childhood; from the instantly recognisable stuffed toys to his role as mascot for a medical charity.
All of which is to say, really, that when I saw the trailer for Paul King’s 2014 live action/CG-animated Paddington film, I was, at best, apprehensive. While the lovable ursine had a propensity for getting himself into trouble, the trailer suggested a considerably more slapstick take than I remember the animation from my childhood having, more appropriate to Mr Bean than to Paddington. But I need not have feared – it wasn’t hugely consequential, but it was a perfectly enjoyable family film that is sure to have introduced a new generation to the well-mannered, well-intentioned and utterly hapless bear, and his stern stare.
The film was a critical and commercial success, so this year’s sequel, Paddington 2, was both expected and, actually, welcome. Certainly, my grumpy old man heart was more than willing to open itself up to more of the furry little fella’s shenanigans.
After an opening scene showing the perilous events which caused the young cub to come into the care of his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) and Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon), we find Paddington firmly ensconced within the Brown family in London, and we are treated to a day in his life, as his presence and care for others enriches the lives of his friends and neighbours. He visits his friend Mr Gruber’s (a ludicrously-accented Jim Broadbent) antiques shop to find an appropriate gift for Aunt Lucy’s birthday and, finding the gift he wants – a classic pop-up book of London – a bit out of his price-range, starts a series of odd jobs, which, naturally, sees him get into his usual scrapes.
Somewhere in the middle of this he crosses paths with one Phoenix Buchanan (a wonderfully hammy Hugh Grant), a washed-up stage actor who also wants the book, but because he knows that it contains clues to the location of a lost treasure trove. This Phoenix though, is a bad ‘un, a rum fella and no mistake; just when our hero has accrued enough money to buy the book, he witnesses a disguised Buchanan stealing it and, after failing to catch him, finds himself accused then convicted of the crime, and sent to prison.
In prison his earnestness, innocence and huge heart quickly earn him friends, even with Brendan Gleeson’s fearsome cook Nuckles (no K – spelling isn’t Nuckles’ strong suit), who he wins as a friend when he exposes the hard man to the simple delights of “Ma-Ma-Laid”. While on the outside the Brown family attempt to ascertain the identity of the mysterious thief (and life in Paddington’s street gets generally worse and more mean-spirited due to his absence), inside the prison Paddington is persuaded to take part in an escape attempt.
You can probably guess what the final destination is, it’s how they get there that contains the joy, so I’ll say no more about the story. What’s important to know is that it is very entertaining and very funny. Paddington 2 gets off to a fairly slow start, but soon draws you in; it’s not cloying, mawkish or overtly sentimental (save for the final scene, during which my eyes were absolutely NOT a little moist, d’you hear?), and it’s completely devoid of cynicism. A genuinely lovely family film. I think I can now even forgive Ben Whishaw (who voices Paddington) for the atrocities he committed in the name of Tom Tykwer’s Perfume.
The Room is one of the most widely known dreadfully inept films that folks have taken to enjoying ironically, and the downright odd character of director Tommy Wiseau has intrigued many. Including, it seems, James Franco, who directs, produced and stars as Wiseau in this look at the creative process behind the film.
It’s an enjoyable film even for those who have not seen The Room, although we perhaps have some reservations about celebrating a revisionist view of Wiseau and his film – perhaps bad dogs are best left alone.
We round this year off with a look back at our favourite and not so favourite films of the past twelve months, or thereabouts.
In no particular order, we extol the virtues of Neruda, Blade Runner 2049, The Handmaiden, Logan, Thor: Ragnarok, Death of Stalin, Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Anthem of the Heart, The Big Sick, Okja, Moonlight, Ma Vie De Courgette, Logan, Trainspotting 2, Manchester by the Sea, and The Founder.
Incurring our wrath are: A Cure for Wellness, A Dog’s Purpose, The Circle, Passengers, A Ghost Story, Prevenge, and The LEGO Ninjago Movie.
Thanks to everyone who has got in touch with us on this, or said kind words about the show – it’s all very much appreciated.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues discussed today, please hit us up on Twitter (@fudsonfilm), on Facebook (facebook.com/fudsonfilm), or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to receive our podcast on a regular basis, please add our feed to your podcasting software of choice, or subscribe on iTunes. If you could see your way clear to leaving a review on iTunes, we’d be eternally grateful, but we won’t blame you if you don’t. We’ll be back with you on the 1st with a look at the works of Isao Takahata, but until then, take care of yourself, and each other.