Double Feature: Murder on the Orient Express (2017) & My Teacher, My Obsession (2018)

DOUBLEFEATURE (74)

My Teacher, My Obsessions (2018)

My Teacher My Obsession

Director: Damian Romay

Cast: Rusty Joiner, Lucy Loken, Laura Bilgeri, Jana Lee Hamblin, Alexandria DeBerry

Riley struggles to meet friends after transferring to a new high school where her father is an English teacher. When she meets Kyla, a fellow loner, they become close friends until Riley learns that Kyla is obsessed with her father. – IMDB

I had zero expectations when I started up this one. Frankly, this whole subgenre has me quite sad that there aren’t better films and My Teacher, My Obsession is no exception. It had a lot of bad dialogue and that really does make it hard to digest the whole thing better. Not to mention the execution is not too good either. Its hard to understand what movies, especially thrillers try to achieve in starting the film from a scene from the finale and then going back in time to meet up with there and then make the big reveal. There is no reveal when its already obvious from the start who is doing the obsessing and how it will get worse and worse. Not only that but the teacher in question is a rather well-built good-looking gentleman who happens to be the father of one of the girl characters that gets befriended by the girl who is attracted to the teacher and the daughter.

There’s just a lot of hard to understand decisions here. However, I am not one to only talk negatives so to wrap this up on a positive note, the cinematography was actually pretty good here and some of the scenes with Kyla, the girl obsessed was also done pretty well plus she did pretty good with the material she had to work with.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Murder on Orient Express

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr., Tom Bateman, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Sergei Polunin, Lucy Boynton, Marwan Kenzari, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench

When a murder occurs on the train on which he’s travelling, celebrated detective Hercule Poirot is recruited to solve the case. – IMDB

Murder on the Orient Express is a great choice among (the few that I’ve read) the Agatha Christie books to adapt. Kenneth Branagh is a director and actor that I have alwayd rather appreciated. He can usually put together very competent pieces cinema and while we can all complain about all the adaptations being done nowadays, this one is really good. It has a stellar cast with some biggers stars like Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad. Then Hercule Poirot is played by Kenneth Branagh who does capture the role so well.

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries (probably much like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes) has so much depth and big twists that make them almost perfect for adaptations. However, it has those moments of whether these stories are as thrilling for those who have read it and how it executes it for both connoisseurs and those who are new to this character. It was one of the few concerns I had before I started up this film to be honest. However, the characters each played together so well and the experienced cast brought of them to life in turn so did the mystery. It had great visual style and lovely cinematography. There’s a lot to love here. It set the tone right from the opening act right to the end. I honestly can’t wait for the next movie, Death on the Nile.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen Murder on the Orient Express & My Teacher, My Obsession?

Ultimate 90’s Blogathon Wrap-up: Wild Wild West (1999) by Drew’s Movie Reviews

We have arrived, ladies and gents! We are at the final day of the Ultimate 90’s Blogathon and both my fantastically awesome co-host Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews and I will be sharing our final wrap-up posts on each other’s sites. First to share is Drew with his review of 1999’s Wild Wild West. Will Smith, Kenneth Brannagh, humor and wild west…

Take it away, Drew!

Synopsis
Army Captain James West (Will Smith) is tasked by President Grant (Kevin Kline) to work together with US Marshal Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) to find the ex-Confederate scientist Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) before he can take over the United States government.

Review
Wild Wild West was a go-to movie for my friend and I back when we were growing up.  Between the two of us, we could (and still can!) quote the movie in its entirety.  Having watched this many times over the years, I acknowledge that the nostalgia factor might affect my enjoyment of the film, as I have found several flaws since watching it as a young lad. However, that doesn’t mean it still can’t be enjoyed on its own merits.

Right out the gate, this movie is goofy. Not funny, although it is that too, but goofy.  Artemis Gordon’s inventions feel a little too perfect for the situations they get Gordon and Jim West out of. Arliss Loveless’ beard rivals Crane’s beard from The Hunger Games for most intricate movie beard, acting as the proverbial “I’m the bad guy” sign.  Loveless’ invention to bring the “US government to its knees” is a giant, steam-punk tarantula.  Everything about this movie screams “Saturday morning cartoon.” Nevertheless, it has a sense of fun that many film miss, which is why it still works for even as I’ve grown older.  Wild Wild West never takes itself seriously, making it fun for both the actors and the audience.

The humor can be seen as a little juvenile, like the scene below, but that kind of humor is what I like.  Will Smith and John Kline are enjoyable to watch together.  This film came out relatively early in Smith’s film career. It is fun to see how he has brought the same energy and personality to his characters throughout all of his movies, whether they were in the 90s, when he started film acting, or today.  I’ll admit I haven’t seen many of Kline’s films to compare Artemis Gordon to his other roles but his comedy here is more subtle than Smith’s which works because having two boisterous comedians would be too much.

Besides the two leads, the other two big supporting actors, Salma Hayek and Kenneth Branagh are clearly having a good time too.  The often scantily clad Hayek is obviously there for the eye candy and to give West and Gordon someone to compete for, but it doesn’t appear to bother her and she gives a memorable performance.  Branagh gets fully into the maniacal villain role.  It’s cartoonish and over the top but he steals his every scene he’s in.

I thought Wild Wild West was GOOD 🙂 It isn’t afraid to be silly and have fun with itself, which might turn off other viewers but I really enjoyed that.  Everyone, from Will Smith and Kevin Kline to Salma Hayek and Kennith Branagh, feel like they are enjoying themselves.  I grew up watching this film regularly and although its imperfections have become more apparent over the years, it still is every bit the fun, adventurous romp I remember it to be.

Favorite Scene

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Barry Sonnenfeld – Director
Jim Thomas – Story
John Thomas – Story
SS Wilson – Screenplay
Brent Maddock – Screenplay
Jefferey Price – Screenplay
Peter S Seaman – Screenplay
Elmer Bernstein – Composer

Will Smith – James West
Kevin Kline – Artemis Gordon / President Ulysses S Grant
Kenneth Branagh – Dr. Arliss Loveless
Salma Hayek – Rita Escobar
M. Emmet Walsh – Coleman
Ted Levine – General “Bloodbath” McGrath
Frederique van der Wal – Amazonia
Musetta Vander – Munitia
Sofia Eng – Miss Lippenrieder
Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon – Belle
Bai Ling – Miss East

Remember to head over to Drew’s later today to see my wrap-up post!
Hint: Its also a triple feature (just like my kick-off)!

Cinderella (2015)

Cinderella is the best girls night out movie and that’s exactly what we planned weeks in advance.  We all rushed out of work and met up at the theatres on Tuesday night. Its felt like its been a while since I’ve been to the theatres and I’m wondering if I’m actually on track with my one monthly theatre visit goal.  I can’t remember and it doesn’t matter. If you missed my anticipated list for 2015, this is one of them 🙂

Lets check out Cinderella!

Cinderella (2015)

cinderella 2015

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger, Stellan Skarsgard, Helena Bonham Carter

When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger.- IMDB

Does Cinderella still have its magic after so many years? How about after turning it (like many other fairy tales) into a live action? I went into this movie pretty much with those two questions lingering in my mind.  I’ve skipped out on a lot of live reimaginings of fairy tales and all that sort of stuff but Cinderella is possibly one of the most popular and has a ton of movies inspired by them.  Even the not so at par ones tend to make me fall in love one way or another. So how does this 2015 version fair?

This live version Cinderella is almost an exact imagining of the Disney animated version that I love a lot.  It has the fairy godmother, the glass slippers, a gorgeous blue gown, mice, pumpkins, evil stepmother and two untalented and not very appealing stepsisters and of course, the Prince.  The only thing that;s different might be that Cinderella starts out as Ella and that we see her parents and living out her mother’s wishes to “have courage and be kind.” Even though you probably know exactly what is going to happen next, the magical appeal of Cinderella is still as apparent as ever, infecting me with lots of laughter and love and all those awesome feelings.

Cinderella 2015

This Cinderella may not have the songs in the animated version, but the soundtrack and sweeping score was absolutely beautiful. I’d buy it in a heartbeat and listen to it all the time.  It added to the magic.  While we are on the magic, the CGI was gorgeous, enforcing the whole enchanting experience.  That was a huge part in making this as wonderful as it was.  Just the whole fairy godmother sequence, transforming and preparing Cinderella for the Royal Ball was maybe THE best part ever! I’m sure a ton of you caught this but Cinderella keeps singing Lavender Blue Dilly Dilly and that is also a song from a 1940s Disney film.  I’ve never actually heard the whole song but it was kind of nice to see it here.

Cinderella 2015

Live action also means we can talk about the acting.  We already are well familiar with Cinderella’s characters.  First of all, no Disney princess story is memorable without the right villain.  In this one, the evil stepmother, Lady Tremaine, played by Cate Blanchett was stunning and so mean.  Those expressions and tones for her dialogue was so convincing. At the same time, this one also added a little extra for her character as to why she’s the way she is.  As small as it is, I like this version of the evil stepmother.  Nothing made me laugh more than how the stepsisters are actually just extremely spoilt and untalented. The idea of bringing back the singing off tune and saying stupid things really works for Drizella and Anastasia because thats the character we know, simply shallow and undesirable.  Oh, and their outfits don’t make you laugh and cringe at the same time.  I loved it!

Cinderella 2015

My last point to talk about are the couple: Ella and the Prince.  That is the essence of the story.  Before the movie, one of my girl friends was telling me how she didn’t find Richard Madden handsome.  In fact, sometimes the Prince isn’t that handsome, the person himself maybe, but its the character the he embodies that we fall in love with.  I’m not going to discuss whether I find Richard Madden handsome but I guess I’m simple as well but that man has a lovely accent in his voice and the way he captured the Prince stole my heart from the first time him and Ella met.  Suffice to say, I bought his Prince very much.  To be honest, I’ve never watched either Richard Madden or Lily James before this.  No, I haven’t seen Game of Thrones and no, I haven’t gotten to Season 5 of Downton Abbey (before you ask). Lily James as Ella kind of bothered me when I was watching the trailer.  I wasn’t completely sold on it but as the movie went along, she grew on me.  It may be because she’s so simple and pure-hearted yet courageous and strong.

cinderella 2015

And these glass slippers! OMG! 🙂

Regardless of the reasons, Cinderella is a simple love story and this version remembers to keep the elements of the original animated version except giving us a live version full of wonderful performances from cast.  It introduces lots of sharp colors, breathtaking location/set, beautiful CGI and an enchanting score to enforce the magic.  Sure, its not exactly as memorable as the animated Disney Classic but there’s still a lot to love about this. I’d gladly watch this again and get the Blu-ray when it comes out.  My suggestion, if fairy tales are your cup of tea, head out to the theatres to see it because its worth your time and money just to capture the true beauty of it.

Fun fact (paraphrased from the Cineplex magazine, March/April 2015): More than 250 metres of fabric was used in the making of the blue gown worn by Lily James.  Three time Oscar winning costume designer Sandy Powell also used more than 10,000 Swarovski crystals and three miles of stitching to complete the dress.  Impressed? Multiply those numbers by nine.  Nine copies of the ball gown were created for the shoot.

Have you seen Cinderella? Are you planning to? Just out of the blue, which Disney princess do you like best?