Trailer: Kenneth Branagh’s Murder On The Orient Express

Here is a classic murder-mystery property, made many, many times in one form or another, from Agatha Christie’s classic novel of the same name. Kenneth Branagh, who has been making special effects heavy Disney pictures for some time now (Thor, Cinderella), merges this talent with his tastes for classical British properties, to offer a glossy blockbuster version of the The Murder On The Orient Express with a cast that seems far more eccentric than obvious. There is the given casting of Judy Dench, and Branagh himself, sporting spectacular facial hair, as super-detective Hercule Poirot. There is also new Disney favourites Daisy Ridley and Josh Gad, certainly not a Disney favorite, Johnny Depp (who release bomb after bomb lately), as well as the magnificent Derek Jacobi (always welcome in affairs such as these) as well as a sweet celebrity grab-bag of Michelle Pfieffer, Willem Dafoe, and Penelope Cruz.

This all looks like good ‘murder party’ fun, stilted-grandiose line deliveries and all, and will be getting an ultra-wide release November 10th from 20th Century Fox.

Dark Shadows Character Posters

The trailer was released earlier this week and seemed to be received fairly positively. Including by this correspondent. While very Burton-esque including all of the usual suspects within a Burton film, I must say that the title of the film doesn’t seem to be very apropos for what we’ve seen out of the marketing department thus far. What I’ve seen has been very flashy with splashes of lightning-like color all over the place. Here is the most recent example – 9 new character poster. Feel free to click any of the images to get a slightly larger perspective.

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Arterton Takes Lead in Frears’ Next Film

Gemma ArtertonBritish helmer Stephen Frears plays in the sandbox I love. Though I’m well in the camp of High Fidelity hate (and the hate has nothing to do with the art of the film but rather Nick Hornby’s story), I’ve enjoyed Frears’ recent projects which have all featured strong female protagonists. From Judi Dench as a theatre owner who scandalized London with her all-nude revues in Mrs Henderson Presents to Chéri, an adaptation of a novel by Colette featuring Michelle Pfeiffer as an aging courtesan. What I love best of Frears’ work is that he chooses projects which feature strong women who aren’t always in the right. His women are fierce but they’re human, making mistakes and dealing with the consequences.

For his next project, Frears has chosen to continue the trend of strong females by adapting Posy Simmonds’ comic strip “Tamara Drewe.” Based on Thomas Hardy’s “Far from the Madding Crowd”, the strip features Tamara, a flirt of a woman “who returns to her small country village and stirs up dark passions among the locals.” The film will star the gorgeous Gemma Arterton (of St. Trinian’s (our review) infamy) as Tamara along with Dominic Cooper, Roger Allam, Luke Evans, Bill Camp and Tamsin Greig in supporting roles.

I look forward to seeing Frears in action again and though I notice that Arterton has appeared in a few films since the Trinian’s debacle, I look forward to seeing her in something more memorable.

Pfeiffer Returns to Period Drama in Frears’ Chéri Trailer

Cheri Movie StillI know that this is not the first time in the past few years that we’ve seen a period film but the reunion of Michelle Pfeiffer and Stephen Frears is definitely making it feel like it’s been decades since I’ve seen a good period drama.

Based on one of Colette’s novels (sadly one I have yet to read though I’m almost positive I have a copy on my shelf) Chéri stars Pfeiffer as Lonval, an older woman who takes a courtesans son under her wing and teaches him “the ways of love”.

Alright, let’s cut to the chase. It’s a period drama set in 1920’s Paris and that alone would be enough to get me interested but mix in Frears, Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend (who admittedly looks a little bland in the trailer) and the fabulous Kathy Bates and I’m already practicing sitting correctly while mentally searching through my closet for appropriate screening attire. If that’s not enough, the addition of gorgeous visuals, glamorous locales and to die for costumes and I’m about ready to burst with excitement.

Chéri premiered at Berlin earlier this year and is scheduled for a limited North American release on June 19th. Thanks to the fabulous folks at Film Experience Blog for the heads up on the trailer.

Trailer is tucked under the seat!

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A Martin Scorsese Marathon

Basically, you make another movie, and another, and hopefully you feel good about every picture you make. And you say, ‘My name is on that. I did that. It’s OK’. But don’t get me wrong, I still get excited by it all. That, I hope, will never disappear.” – Martin Scorsese

For the better part of the last three decades, I have been a fan of Martin Scorsese. My admiration first took bloom in the summer of 1985, and happened to coincide with what I consider to be the discovery of my young adult life; set off the main drag of the town I grew up in, I found a small video store. Now, this in itself was no great revelation; in the years before Blockbuster came barreling into my area, forcing all the smaller video chains out of business, there were at least half a dozen such stores within a 3-mile radius. But the moment I walked into this particular video palace, I knew it was special. Where most were lining their shelves with numerous copies of the ‘hot new releases’, this one had titles like Midnight Cowboy, 2001: A Space Odyssey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Straw Dogs, A Clockwork Orange, films that the others simply didn’t offer. For me, this store was a treasure trove, and I returned there often, sometimes 3-4 times a week, uncovering classic after classic, films that, to this day, I consider some of the finest ever made.

And it was here that I first found Mean Streets.

Tough and unflinching, Mean Streets was like a punch to the head for a 15-year-old from the suburbs; a marriage of images and rock music, violence and pain the likes of which I had never seen before, offering a glimpse into a lifestyle that I found all too real, and a little bit frightening. I must have rented it at least six times that summer, and as a result, Mean Streets fast became my favorite movie. More than this, it was my jumping-off point into the career of Martin Scorsese. After Mean Streets, I moved on to Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, two more shots to the head. Through these three films, I realized just how deep, just how down-and-dirty, and just how moving the cinema could be. They marked a turning point in my development as a film fan. Movies were no longer limited to the land of make believe; they would also be a window overlooking the real world.

Now, almost 24 years after I first walked into that video store, I’ve decided to take my admiration to the next, perhaps the ultimate, level. Over the course of the last several weeks, I sat down with everything that home video has to offer of Martin Scorsese’s work behind the camera, 26 films in all, and what I uncovered on this love-fest of mine proved to be just as enlightening as that first viewing of Mean Streets all those years ago.

As I sat watching one Scorsese movie after the other, I found myself asking, “What exactly is it that constitutes a Martin Scorsese film”? It was a question I had to pose, because I quickly realized that most of my initial beliefs, the pre-conceptions I had built up about the man and his career, only told part of the story.

For one, there was my presumption that the recurring trait in every Scorsese film was a down-to-earth quality, where the genuine, the realistic, would be favored above all else. Well, this is certainly true in some of Scorsese’s finest films, especially those where actual events served as a foundation (Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, The Aviator). However, it was wrong of me to discount the role that fantasy played in Scorsese’s work. The opening scene of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore looks as if it was lifted right out of Gone With the Wind, and the musical numbers of New York, New York were obvious nods to the Hollywood big-budget spectaculars of the 40’s and 50’s. There is the dreamy romance of The Age of Innocence, and the hilarious bad luck of Paul Hackett in After Hours; in short, films that have little or no basis in reality whatsoever, proving that the fantastic plays just as important a role in the great director’s work as reality does.
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