Agatha Christie is among the most beloved and respected of mystery writers.
This weekend, the newest adaptation of her book, Murder On The Orient Express hit theaters.
When Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp) is found dead, it is up to Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) to figure out who the killer is. Is it Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley), Hector MacQueen (Josh Gad), Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer) any other of the passengers on the train?
I have not read any of the Agatha Christie books, nor have I seen the previous adaptations, so this review is strictly based on this movie. While the cast is clearly the best that Hollywood can offer and Kenneth Branagh is no slouch in the directing department, the movie is a bit slow around the second act. While the ending was a bit surprising, the film is not as exciting as the trailer made it out to be.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
Murder On The Orient Express is presently in theaters.
Michelle Pfeiffer has had quite a career. Acting since the early 1980’s, the roles she has played over the years have varied.
In this post, I want to concentrate on her work in the mid to late 1990’s and more specifically, two tear-jerkers/dramas that attempted to not leave a dry eye in the house.
In To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday, David Lewis (Peter Gallagher) is mourning the death of his wife, Gillian (Michelle Pfeiffer). The problem is that David is so deep in his grief that he does not notice how his life is falling apart and that his daughter teenage Rachel (Claire Danes) needs him.
Three years later in 1999, she starred in yet another tear-jerker/drama. In The Deep Of The Ocean, Beth and Pat Cappadora (Michelle Pfeiffer and Treat Williams) have three young children, a solid marriage and a happy life. Then their pre-school age son, Ben disappears. Finding Ben becomes an obsession that nearly destroys Beth and Pat’s marriage. A decade later, Ben (Ryan Merriman) is found. But he answers to the name of Sam and does not remember or know who Beth and Pat are.
This genre is a questionable one for me. It is questionable, because depending on certain factors, the film can either stir the heart or it can be utterly depressing. The films above have just enough emotion and narrative to keep the audience going without requiring too many tissues.
I recommend them.
The greatest love in the world is a parent’s love for their child.
In the 2001 film, I Am Sam, Sam Dawson (Sean Penn) is a single father with a mental handicap caring for his daughter Lucy (Dakota Fanning). The problem is that Lucy is growing up and is starting to exceed her father’s emotional and mental capabilities.
Concerned that Sam is unable to care for his daughter, Lucy is taken away from him by the authorities. Sam turns to Rita Harrison Williams (Michelle Pfeiffer) to help him re-gain custody of his daughter. Rita, a high-profile attorney who usually represents clients who can pay large sums, is initially hesitant to take the case pro bono. Will Rita take the case and if she does, will Sam regain custody of his daughter?
This movie could have easily gone in the direction of the schmaltzy overworked drama. Thankfully, it does not. For all of the stuff that is said in the media (and the tabloids especially) about Sean Penn, he is an amazing actor. What makes his performance radiate beyond the screen and his character’s limitations is Sam’s love for his daughter. While he does not understand much of the world, he knows that his daughter is his world and he will fight to keep her in his life.
Michelle Pfeiffer puts in another standout performance with this role. Rita may have achieved much in her life, but there is something missing. What I truly appreciated about her character arc is the emotional journey Rita goes on.
But the standout performance goes to Dakota Fanning. At the then young age of 7, not only does she hold her own with her costars who are decades older than she is, but her performance is shows a maturity that went beyond her youth.
I absolutely recommend this film.
Grease is a classic. A light and frothy 1950’s high school romance between a greaser and a good girl, it has not left our cultural consciousness since it premiered in 1971. In 1982, four years after Grease was transferred from the stage to the screen, the good people who run Hollywood decided that Grease needed a sequel. Grease 2 was born.
Two years after the original greasers have graduated, there is new senior class. Michael Carrington (Maxwell Caulfield) is the new kid in school. Stephanie Zinone, leader of the Pink ladies (Michelle Pfeiffer), can only date greasers, according to the rules the social high school hierarchy. Stephanie is becoming unsatisfied with her relationship with Johnny Nogerelli (Adrian Zmed), the leader of the T-Birds.
Stephanie kisses Michael based on a dare. Michael becomes infatuated with her. To get her to see him, he learns to ride a motorcycle, changes into a leather jacket and faces a potential rumble with the T-Birds.
This movie tries very hard to live up the reputation of it’s predecessor. The concept is there, but this movie isn’t. There are references to the original movie, with some of the original actors coming back for cameos or smaller roles. Despite the talent of the then young cast that includes Lorna Luft (Judy Garland’s daughter), the movie is not good.
Were the critics wrong? No.
We all know the story of Moses. He is the infant son of Hebrew slaves living in Egypt. A rumor is spreading that among this new generation of sons born to the Hebrew slaves, one will grow up and free the slaves. Pharaoh sends his soldiers to kill all of the male infants. Yochoved is one of many women who has just brought another son into the world. Willing to do anything to save her son, she puts him in a basket and puts the basket in the Nile. The basket stops at the watery doorstep of the Egyptian princess, who raises the infant as her own. Years later, Moses experiences a crisis of faith and must discover who he is meant to be.
In 1998, The Prince Of Egypt premiered. The actors who lent their voices included Val Kilmer (G-d/Moses), Ralph Fiennes (Rameses) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Tzipporah).
This was a biblical movie done right, for several reasons.
First is that it reflected the rainbow of skin colors that exist in the Middle East, unlike the upcoming Exodus: Gods and Kings or the 1956 The Ten Commandments movie. Second is that there was a spiritual aspect to this movie. It was respectful of the biblical and religious aspect without becoming a spectacle or becoming a romanticized, Hollywoodized story that the 1956 movie is.
Biblical stories are tricky to transfer from the page to the screen. But this was done right.