MOVIE BUFF-ET: Problematic conclusion derails ‘Murder on the Orient Express’

20th Century Fox

The delight in Agatha Christie’s mystery novel “Murder on the Orient Express” is its varied characters, convulsions, and its famous twist.

Director and star Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green have a bit of difficulty in perfectly capturing all that makes it Christie’s signature work, particularly with the final fourth of the film, but when all is said an done the movie is a somewhat pleasing package.

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Branagh plays the gloriously mustachioed, legendary detective Hercule Poirot, who boards the equally legendary Orient Express for a bit of relaxation between cases. However, there is no rest for the weary as Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp) is found murdered, stabbed 12 times in the night.

An avalanche halts the train’s progression, leaving the detective with nothing better to do than to solve the crime in which nearly everyone seems to be a suspect.

Branagh is the star of the film and takes center stage somewhat to the detriment of the other talented actors that fill out the all-star cast. That supporting cast includes the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Daisy Ridley, and Leslie Odom Jr.

Where Christie’s novel is able to take time to develop each of the suspects, the film doesn’t fair as well. The choice was to focus more on Poirot, which might make the movie more accessible overall, but could leave some scratching their heads at the conclusion.

That said, the film is fun as the story unrolls, and is beautifully shot by cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos.

The film is not everything that I wanted it would be, but what fan of a novel has every thought the movie perfectly captured the source material?

While I had hoped the movie would be a triumph, I’ll have to settle for a worthy effort, held back by a problematic conclusion.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 55 min.
Grade: B-

Let There Be Light

Wildfire Films

“Let There Be Light” is a Christian drama directed by and starring Kevin Sorbo and his wife Sam Sorbo, who also wrote the script along with Dan Gordon.

The Sorbos gained a degree of fame on the 1990s syndicated TV show “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.” Sam Sorbo now has a syndicated radio show.

The film is the story of a noted atheist (Kevin Sorbo) who has a near-death, white-light experience that forces him to reevaluate his beliefs while he is recovering.

In and of itself, the movie isn’t bad, but it plays much like a bargain-basement, Hallmark Channel movie that somehow gained a theatrical release.

Now, I’m an admitted sap for the Hallmark Channel. During its Christmas-movie marathon from Halloween (or before) through Christmas, it’s great background noise to me for just about any indoor activity. But if I had to drop $8 to $10 beyond my cable service to watch them, I would not have seen more than one.

For me, “Let There Be Light” wasn’t strong enough to merit the price of admission. That said the film has already topped its $3 million production budget, garnering $4.1 million at the box office.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 41 min.
Grade: C-

Bad Mom’s Christmas

Hilary Bronwyn Gayle / STX Entertainment

The first “Bad Moms” movie amused me. It’s hard not to like Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell. I’ve not developed the same level of respect for Kathryn Hahn’s work, but as Meat Loaf once crooned, two out of three ain’t bad.

However, this film just isn’t as funny as the original, and it travels over familiar ground of how moms relate to their moms and end up being more like their mothers than they would like.

The movie does have some laughs and a little bit of heart, but as busy as we all get this time of year, there are better movies to see and certainly other things to do besides watch “Bad Moms Christmas.”

For those thinking about taking a child or a teen, the film is filled with profanity, some of it from little kids. The humor is very blue and raw. The movie deserves its “R” rating.

(R) 1 hr. 44 min.
Grade: C-

Classic Corner


Some movies are like comfort food, no matter how many times you’ve enjoyed them, you always want more.

“Casablanca” is one of those films for me, and if it is for you, as well, then you might consider checking it out at one of its big-screen showings at the Malco Razorback on Nov. 12 and Nov. 15.

Humphrey Bogart stars as the no-nonsense night-club owner Rick, who is knocked for a loop when his old flame Ilsa, played to perfection Ingrid Bergman, turns up in his establishment with her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henried), a Czech Resistance leader who has escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II.

There is romance, political intrigue, twists, turns, double-crosses, and heart-wrenching decisions before the climax, which features one of the most selfless acts in film history.

The 1942 film is expertly directed by Michael Curtiz and features strong character turns by the likes of Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Conrad Veidt.

And of course there is that song, “As Time Goes By,” sung by Dooley Wilson as Sam the house pianist.
There might not be a perfect movie in existence, but “Casablanca” is mighty close.