Coming Soon Trailers: Murder on the Orient Express.
Two new wide release movies try to dethrone Thor while VOD explodes with nine rental offerings.
While Marvel has a cash train, Kenneth Branagh has a real train. With a murderer on it. And Johnny Depp. So…not a great train, really. But he also has a big mustache, which I guess is OK. A perennial favorite for remakes, Branagh’s is the third adaptation of Agatha Christie’s most famous murder mystery. Against this traditional classic, we also get Daddy’s Home 2. The follow up to the holiday comedy starring Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg is adding John Lithgow and Mel Gibson to the mix. I guess we’re officially over ostracizing Gibson, eh? Meh.
On the home front, we have a ton of new films. Last week, only one brave challenger was willing to go up against the God of Thunder, but this week we get nine new arrivals. Let’s get cracking.
Murder on the Orient Express.
Hercule Poirot, the world’s foremost detective, is on holiday aboard the Orient Express luxury train when murder most foul occurs. The paucity of clues means everyone is a suspect, from the a soft spoken assistant all the way up to a regal dowager. Poirot must solve the case before the train reaches its destination, or before the murderer strikes again.
See It?: Wait for Reviews.
The film looks to have all of the hallmarks of a Branagh movie: it is stately, beautiful, filled with talent, and a tad self-satisfied. As much as I’ve loved many of his films, from Frankenstein to Shakespeare, every project Branagh makes feels like a vanity project. Maybe because he casts himself as the lead every time! As such, some times the grandeur gives way to preening and pomposity, of which I get a hint in the trailer. Let’s see a few reviews before deciding if this train is safe for passengers.
Daddy’s Home 2.
Dusty and Brad have buried the hatchet and adapted to co-raising their children. The next big threat to familial bliss is the Christmas holidays, where both dad’s have their own fathers coming over for a visit.
See It?: Skip It.
As a film, this looks like a predictable iteration for a holiday comedy. Just last week Bad Mom’s did the exact same routine, adding in grandmothers. Now Farrell and Wahlberg are trotting out this pony with grandfathers. Meh.
On a personal level, Mark Wahlberg is dead to me and Mel Gibson is a barrel of rotten fish. Tis the season for not giving money to bad people. Especially when they’re in such a copy-paste comedy.
Video on Demand.
Cute Little Buggers.
Alien pods land in the woods and turn the local rabbit population into cute, fuzzy murder balls. The townspeople react accordingly.
See It?: Nope.
Trying to to do for rabbits what Birdemic did for seagulls and Sharknado did for sharks seems a long shot. This type of “looks like amateurish shit on purpose” film needs to go away. Unfortunately, there’s no way this film spent any money on a budget as evidenced by the CG, acting, and dialogue, so even one person renting it should turn a profit.
A young man without any prospects winds up the unlikely assistant to a reclusive artist. Obsessed with capturing his daughter’s likeness in daguerreotype after the mysterious loss of his wife, the artist keeps the young girl a virtual prisoner. When the assistant and the daughter fall in love, the carefully constructed artifice of their lives begins to crumble.
See It?: Yes.
Lush cinematography blends with subtle performances and a lingering sense of decline and dread to create a wonderfully baroque atmosphere. Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, known for his stylish horror films in Japan, pushes his boundaries by moving the setting to Paris and the language to French. This looks like quite an ambitious project.
A man trying to raise his family after the departure of his wife makes grisly discoveries on his property. The police begin to suspect him of a mental breakdown and murderous ways, but a local “expert” in the paranormal thinks that he may be the focus of a supernatural encounter.
See It?: Nope.
This film needs more polish and less by-the-numbers plot elements. The acting is passible but the dialogue veers into melodrama too often to redeem the film.
Uncle Gloria: One Helluva Ride.
A documentary about a man who disguised himself as a woman to escape legal problems, who then went on to discover aspects of himself he never dreamed possible.
See It?: Skip It.
There have been better films recently about people transitioning. This film doesn’t seem to delve deeply into the past of our protagonist, instead relying on Gloria’s brassy style and temperament to entertain.
A group of friends are out for a wild weekend on a fabulously posh private jet when things go horribly wrong. A stowaway holds them at gunpoint and then tries to tell them that during their flight, the whole world below has gone to hell. The scariest part is that he might be right.
See It?: Yes.
I was pleasantly shocked by this trailer. Despite the “lol” speak in the beginning, this thriller quickly gets interesting. The premise is novel and well handled, and the visuals are quite well done. Any drama that is confined to one location can quickly become stale, but Skybound looks to be smartly made.
A Marine Sergeant returns home from Afghanistan after three deployments bearing scars both physical and psychological. Her family tries to help her settle into daily life, but things quickly become unbearable. Looking for an outlet, the young woman heads out into the woods of Minnesota, where she comes across a lone woman closing down a summer camp for the season. The two come to an agreement where the soldier can stay and wrestle with her demons.
See It?: Yes.
Kate Nowlin is a powerhouse here as the sergeant. When I talked about Thank You For Your Service falling into all of the cliches of the returning warrior genre, I had a film like this in mind as a counterpoint. Director Remy Auberjonois trims all the fat from this drama, leaving only a tight story and an excellent performance from his lead. Check it out.
Never Leave Alive.
A renowned hunter is stranded on an “unchartered” island with only one other survivor. Soon, they are taken in by a pair of trophy hunters who use the island for personal sport…and discover that they are to be the prey in this year’s game.
See It?: God no.
I don’t have much hope for action flicks starring minor WWE stars made on a shoestring budget…for good reason. For christ’s sake, it’s uncharted island, no unchartered, you dolts! Are you implying there’s no rightful document for this island on file with the British crown?! Bad acting, hokey action sequences, and a premise that was already long in the tooth when Ice-T was Surviving the Game all add up to a thoroughly skip-able flick.
Blade of the Immortal.
A warrior cursed with immortality for his misdeeds must hunt down other vicious killers to gain eternal rest. A young woman whose family was brutally slaughtered seeks him out, hoping to gain his skills for revenge.
See It?: Yes, with caveats.
Blade of the Immortal is a gory, pulpy, blood-soaked revenge story based on a well-regarded manga. Director Takashi Miike is known for this style of gonzo bloodletting, and he’s rightfully the biggest name in that field. His surreal samurai film, Izo, is one of my all-time favorites. I’m highly anticipating Blade of the Immortal…but folks not accustomed to Miike’s style could be put off. He blends genres almost haphazardly, plays with the ordering of events, sprinkles in a ton of Japanese pop culture, and garnishes it all with buckets of gore. If that’s your cup of tea, go see the master at work.
Amanda & Jack Go Glamping.
A couple on the edge of divorce head out to the sticks to do some structured camping, only to find that their trailer has been double-booked and the campground is run by a gorgeous new-age stud who all the ladies are fawning over. Can they get away from their getaway?
See It?: Sure.
David Arquette has made some interesting films lately, and while I don’t think he’s anything special when it comes to acting, he does seem to be picking good scripts. This romantic dramedy has enough quirks to stand out in the genre while doing a solid job of including the emotional beats that keep one of these films from becoming just a dumb comedy.