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Murder on the Orient Express: An average mystery with a star-studded cast

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Kenneth Branagh’s “Murder on the Orient Express” paints a suitable picture of a classic murder mystery. It stars Branagh as the famed detective Hercule Poirot and he has one of the most talented ensemble casts you’ll see all year. Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Leslie Odom Jr., Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Willem Dafoe play a group of passengers on the Orient Express, a train in which Poirot finds himself on in search of a short vacation from solving mysteries. Branagh’s direction of Orient Express creates a sinister atmosphere after the train finds itself caught in an avalanche and ends up stuck in the mountains, leaving the passengers and Poirot all trapped together with a dead man, who was killed the in the middle of night. Poirot then must investigate every person as everyone becomes a suspect. While the movie focuses intently on the mystery…

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Image courtesy of Warner Brothers

Review in: Just Disappointment League

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Justice League was a critical point film. After the release of Wonder Woman, Warner Brothers’ DC films found the perfect turning point to relieve themselves of some of their prior filmography gaffs. The lukewarm Man of Steel, followed by the universally panned Batman V Superman, and the identity-confused Suicide Squad all combined to give DC superhero movies the earned reputation of being inferior Marvel film clones. With the release of Wonder Woman, I honestly felt they finally began how to understand the tired formula they were ripping off. It was decently paced, I liked the character development, and the only real improvements I could offer were to lose the abused slow-mo, ditch the awful CG effects, and to improve the story and dialog writing to not require so much damned exposition. I think you can figure out the reason for including a mini-review in this review if you weren’t already…

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Thor: Ragnarok thunders its way to the top

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This November, Thor: Ragnarok thundered its way into theaters, featuring the titular God of Thunder. This version iterates with a more colorful and more funny Thor than we’ve seen in past films. Humorously styling himself as “the strongest avenger,” he struggles with the oncoming threat of the goddess of death: Hela. Played by Cate Blanchett, Hela proves to be too much for the God of Thunder after she is released from her inter-dimensional prison. This is realized when she effortlessly destroys Thor’s hammer Mjolnir in an early melee in the film. The humor and colorful set pieces were designed to homage the Thor comics of the 1980’s. This design largely worked well with the plotline of the movie, but the soundtrack felt out of place in some of the key moments of the movie. Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant song worked for the trailer, but not the climactic battle in Asgaard. The…

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New Jigsaw film fails to live up to franchise success

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Back in October, Lionsgate released the latest installment in the Saw franchise.  Saw fans were elated for the return of their favorite gory film franchise on the big screen.  It stars relatively unknown actors Matt Passmore and Callum Keith Rennie as the main characters Logan and Detective Halloran.  Tobin Bell also cameos in a few scenes in his iconic roll as John Kramer aka. Jigsaw. The film starts out in its usually predictable beginning with a bunch of people stuck in traps meant to cause horrible pain and mutilation.  This case being a metal collar attached to a chain leading to a bunch of whirling buzzsaws on a wall.  Next, a taped recording of John Kramer telling them the usual “you must give a sacrifice of blood in order to survive” and proceeds to start the trap.  The prisoners soon realize that they need to cut themselves on the saws in order to prevent their demises.  Most of them succeed…

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Susanne Bier’s “In a Better World” calls attention to international violence

On Monday, October 23, the Department of Theater and Film Studies kicked off their annual event: the International Film Series. It is an event that showcases internationally recognized films that have otherwise made their mark in the film industry. The starter of the series this year was the truth telling movie named In a Better World directed by Susanne Bier. Susanne Bier is a Danish director who is changing the way the world looks at movies. Her main focus in all of her movies, no matter what the theme, is to demonstrate using family structures that are endangered by outside forces. The first of her films that were recognized by critics and made its way to America, was Broken Hearts (2002). Soon after that, another film of hers that made its way to America and then to the New York Film Festival was Brothers (2004), which was then remade by…

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The Foreigner: Action packed chaos

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Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan go head to head in the action-packed, twisted movie, The Foreigner. Jackie Chan plays Ngoc Quan, an immigrant and British citizen from China who seeks out revenge after his teenage daughter is killed in an explosion. The movie begins with Quan picking up his daughter (played by Katie Leung) from school. Their lives seem normal and her biggest problem is getting the perfect dress for the school dance. Quan drops her off and watches her walk into the store. A couple of seconds later someone blows up the shop, injuring and killing dozens of people. Amongst the deceased is his daughter. Before moving to England, Quan’s wife and other two daughters were kidnapped and murdered by Thai pirates. She was the only family member he had left. The story comes off as a little cliché, but it takes a slightly different direction than expected. Quan…

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Satan’s Little Helper: The method actor of madness

I find it a relieving feeling that I can continue to be surprised by my movie stack. I often buy by the title or covers alone, but I don’t remember where I managed to find this movie. Whether you believe me in saying that or not – and considering the season, I understand why – this film blindsided me with how much I enjoyed it in actuality and not in mockery or at its expense. Satan’s Little Helper is a genuinely enjoyable film and one I find hard discussing in detail like I normally do. The reason I find it hard to discuss this movie, other than it’s religiously polarizing title, is my usual style involves dissecting a movie down to core elements and going into detail why they work and don’t work. A boon for when the subject of discussion is a horrible film that has more cracks in…

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Half Past Dead: Rocking out at The Rock

Watching bad movies is a fun hobby but difficult to describe to others outright. I’ve never had success with mentioning that I liked bad movies in conversation unless whoever I was speaking to knew about MST3K; usually getting a curious look or an eye roll as a response. Thankfully, after graduating high school and learning that not everyone had the personality of a self-obsessed brick wall, I started to learn how to properly discuss my odd hobby. Nuance was the key, and coincidentally is something Half Past Dead doesn’t understand. Half Past Dead stars Steven Seagal in the role of a reputable car booster who gets caught up in a bad bust with his friend and is sent to Alcatraz 2.0. That’s right, The Rock has opened its doors again and is offering many means for incarceration, and for finality. Alcatraz houses some of the most dangerous criminals in this…

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Kingsman: The Golden Circle dazzles

Nothing is too weird for Kingsman: The Golden Circle. The film constantly one-ups itself in how over-the-top it can go in trying to recreate the success of its predecessor, Kingsman: The Secret Service. Without going into detail, there are several scenes involving robotic dogs and pop singer Sir Elton John. How much more crazy can it get than that? Director Matthew Vaughn returns to deliver another hard-hitter in the spy genre. Taron Egerton reprises his role as Gary Unwin, better known as Eggsy, and delivers another solid performance in developing a main character that grabs the audience. From fighting opponents with robotic arms to trying to impress the King and Queen of Sweden, there’s nothing Egerton doesn’t excel at in capturing the essence of the suave spy protagonist. Colin Firth and Mark Strong also return as Harry “Galahad” Hart and “Merlin,” and also add captivation to their roles. Much of the…

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