Story: In the winter of 1934, world famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) must find out who murdered Samuel Ratchett, a vile and crooked American gangster turned art dealer played by Johnny Depp, aboard the Orient Express. A slew of colorful and diverse characters are his suspects: the ultra-religious Pilar Estravados (Penélope Cruz), a racist Austrian scientist (played by Willem Dafoe), the bossy Princess Dragomiroff (Judi Dench) and her meek German maid (played by Olivia Colman), Rachett’s suspicious secretary (played by Josh Gad), Ratchett’s elderly servant (played by Derek Jacobi), Dr. Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom Jr.), a ditsy and overly flirty widow (played by Michelle Pfeiffer), a warm governess (played by Daisy Ridley), the mysterious Countess Helena Andrenyi (Lucy Boynton) and the short tempered and violent Count Rudolph Andrenyi (played by Sergei Polunin), and the charismatic and open Biniamino Marquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo). With lies and revelations behind every corner, the case won’t be an easy one for Poirot mentally or emotionally. Continue reading →
Story: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is out to find his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and stop the coming of Ragnarok, the total destruction of Asgard by his long lost sister Hela the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett). Thor seeks help from some old and new friends, including his mischievous step-brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, who has been ruling Asgard under the guise of their father for two years (okay, he’s more an enemy than friend). Thor will lose much along the way, but he must ban together the team of unlikely heroes if he hopes to save his home and people. Oh, and Jeff Goldblum also stars in this movie as Jeff Goldblum with strange hair and eccentric clothes.
Thoughts: The Thor series shoots for comedy rather than Shakespearean drama this time out. Director Taika Waititi (probably best known for being a director and writer for the TV series Flight of the Conchords), the three screenwriters, and the entire cast excel at giving the audience plenty to find funny with many genuine laugh out loud moments, so much so that it undercuts the drama. Too bad since the more serious bits of Ragnarok are actually some of the best. The overabundance of comedy also made the moments of surprise comedy predictable and left the film with what felt like very small stakes. That’s quite an achievement when the movie a. Is the last film in a trilogy and b. Is called Thor: Ragnarok. Throw in a two-time Oscar winning actress who has a barely developed villain character with hardly anything interesting to do and a nice but pointless cameo by Benedict Cumberbatch and you have a fun but fairly shallow film that’s worth seeing but maybe could’ve packed a stronger emotional punch.