Murder on the Orient Express *****

Since 1974 there has been at least five major productions of Murder on the Orient Express, so how do the makers keep the latest incarnation fresh and appealing?

Well they have done a number of things, first and foremost, put a great director in the chair with a great actor in the lead. In this case both are the same person, Kenneth Branagh, who dominates this film with a far richer, multi faceted Poirot than any I have seen on screen, big or small. His Hercule Poirot is an eccentric, sentimental, razor sharp detective. He also gives time to generating an in-depth portrait of why Poirot is the self proclaimed ‘Great Detective’ By doing this, new audiences will have some understanding of Agatha Christies hero.

Orient photo 1The second step is to populate the Orient Express with a full cast of A-list actors. All deliver first class performances, including the younger stars who really impress next to their noble elders.

Third, you create an atmosphere of claustrophobia mystery and fear. This is achieved by making the sets so tight that, for several scenes, the only place to put the camera is in the ceiling.

Finally, you place the train in a totally realistic setting, both historically (by referencing actual events with just the names changed) and visually (with restrained by convincing use of CGI to convince you they are in the mountains).

I think we are guaranteed another outing for the ‘Great Detective’ fairly soon.

I left the cinema feeling very satisfied by a great story well told.

The full 5 out of five stars for Mr Branagh and company.

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Kingsman: The Golden Circle *****

This is the second film of the Kingsman franchise, and on this form, not the last.

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Yes it’s time to release our 14-year-old selves and suspend disbelief for 141 minutes in our busy lives.

The writers’, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughan, have created another rip-roaring, rooting-tooting extravaganza that keeps the viewer riveted to their seats. The fantastic soundtrack matches the action brilliantly, raising your pulse rate over and over again.

A great cast, obviously enjoying their chance to overact like crazy, do a fine job of representing their comic-book characters perfectly.

I would especially highlight the two animal actors, both puppy dogs, who are used to great emotional effect.

I doubt there will be any major prizes for this film but you will be awarded with a very enjoyable piece of entertainment.

The full 5 out of five stars for this piece of glorious hokum.

The Limehouse Golem *****​

The Limehouse Golem has a great deal going for it.

Limehouse Golem

It is based on the novel by Peter Ackroyd and then turned into a tight, witty and gripping script by Jane Goldman.

Bill Nighy takes the male lead. He delivers an excellent, gripping performance of a gentle but tortured soul in a harsh world.

Olivia Cooke as the protagonist also gives a fine portrayal, mixing light and dark, truth and lies with a fine touch.

Do not be misled by the Golem in the title. This is neither a horror story nor fantasy. It is a drama based on the reality of Victorian East London just prior to the reign of Jack the Ripper.

Those who have enjoyed the TV series ‘Ripper Street’ will be well satisfied by this tale. Fans of Mr Nighy will be delighted with his return to top form.

One of the best films this summer, well deserving of 5 out of five stars.

American Made ***

American Made takes us on a ride into the CIA created world of Central American Drugs for Guns trade, that lead into the Iran-Contra Scandal of the 1980s.

American MadeThe leading character (Tom Cruise) is not a hero. Much of his motivation is a mixture of greed and cowardice. As such, this makes a nice change from his normal roles.

It also gives him a chance to give us a semi-comic performance that he handles with some limited grace.

Most of the best humour comes from the actions of the surrounding characters and organisations.

So this was, I found, historically interesting but lacking in tension, conviction and drive.

A medium grade of 3 out of five stars so great for fans and wet Saturdays.

 

The Hitman’s Bodyguard *****

Starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a rip-roaring high adventure set in the UK and Holland.

It is full of gun fights, explosions and enormous body count, all delivered in the familiar overblown style of such stories and punctuated by the inevitable expletives so associated with Jackson.

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It sits happily alongside many other similar films such as London Has Fallen and all the Mission Impossible stories.

What elevates this above the other movies is the performance, humour and chemistry between the two lead actors.

They appear to have had a ball making this film and it comes through the screen to the audience.

A great laughter and destruction festival, not to be taken seriously but enjoyed for what it is.

I left the cinema with a sense of satisfaction and a broad smile on my face.

The full 5 out of five stars for this excellent film.

Atomic Blonde ***

A film for adults during the school holidays is always welcome and this one does not by-and-large disappoint.

A spy thriller set at the end of the cold war makes a rich environment for fast paced violent action, peppered with some bare flesh and ‘adult cuddles’ that will sit well with Bond fans. Atomic Blonde There are also enough twists and turns in the plot to keep Le Carré readers happy.

But that is also where the problem lays.

The first hour and thirty minutes give a really good film worth 4 stars if not five.

However, as we reach the climax, it all gets so confusing.

I lost the plot completely.  Call me Confused of Guildford.

It must have taken me a good couple of hours of replaying the scenes in my head to work out who was as the good, the bad and the ugly.  I think I understand now, but I could still be wrong.

If you do see this film, I suspect you may get the ending far sooner than your humble writer.

For that reason alone I give this film 3 out of five stars.