MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS: Agatha Christie is considered one of the greatest mystery writers of all time and Detective Hercule Poirot is her most famous creation. Now the arrogant yet brilliant detective returns to the big screen with his most famous novel.
Poirot (Kenneth Branagh, who also directs the movie) is enjoying a holiday on the Orient Express when gangster Edward Ratchett (Johnny Deep) is found dead in his cabin. Everyone’s a suspect. Who did the dirty deed? Could it be the widow Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer)? Or Could it be Ratchett’s assistant (Josh Gad)? Or did the butler (Derek Jacobi) do it? Poirot is the only man who can solve this case.
The film was made into a successful movie with an all star cast from Albert Finney (as Poirot) to Ingrid Bergman (who won her second Oscar for this performance). Like the previous film, this one has an all-star cast including Daisy Ridley (Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Penelope Cruz and Dame Judi Dench. The story is famous for its plot twist ending.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI: And now we get to the People’s Choice award winner at the Toronto International Film Festival.
With his previous works In Burges and Seven Psychopaths, writer/director Martin McDonagh has introduced the world to his dark sense of humour. But even he admits he has trouble writing female characters, often serving as support for the male characters. In this film, he seems to challenge himself by having a female character be the lead of his latest film. Judging by the praise he’s been getting, he seems to have finally fixed his problem.
Mildred (Frances McDormand) is mad as hell and she’s not going to take this anymore. Her daughter’s been murdered seven months ago, and the police have failed to find the culprit. Fed up with the inaction, she posts three billboards demanding to know why there’s no arrests? This offends Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and his dimwitted deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell). She also makes herself a pariah in town. But this foul-mouthed spitfire doesn’t give a shit; she just wants to find out who killed her daughter. The shit hits the fan for this small town.
After seeing the red band trailer, I’m excited to see this movie. I think Mildred’s going to be a fan favourite for many. Many will wish they had her balls as she kicks dirt bag kids in the balls and insult cops right to their faces. Could this mean a second-best actress Oscar for McDormand? We’ll soon find out. Plus, I always enjoy seeing Woody Harrelson on screen.
THE BREADWINNER: This animated film is sure to be regarded as one of the criminally overlooked films of the year.
Parvana (Saara Chaudry) is a headstrong little girl growing up in Afghanistan when it was still ruled by the Taliban. Her progressive father was a former teacher who now spends his days selling the family’s stuff to get by. Then one day, Parava’s father is imprisoned, leaving her family with no means of support. The only male in the family is still wearing diapers. So, the Parvana remade to look like a boy to provide for her family. She uses this opportunity to try and find her father.
At the same time, Parvana tells a legend of a little boy who faced mystical giants to get back his village’s crops. This tale parallels Parvana’s struggle.
I’ve seen this film at the Edmonton International Film Festival and loved it. It captures the fear many locals felt under Taliban rule and the little ways they rebelled against it. The film does an excellent job of portraying the bond of family, especially with the father and Parvana. You can feel the passion they share when they tell each other stories.
WONDER: R.J. Palacio has taken the world by storm with his novel Wonder. The tale of the little boy with the deformed face now comes the big screen.
The film centres around Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), who still suffers from facial differences despite several plastic surgeries. After years being homeschooled, this boy begins public school for the first time in his life.
The film also stars Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as Auggie’s parents and Daveed Diggs as fun teacher Mr. Browne.
COCO: After a year of mediocre animated form, moviegoers are hoping Pixar’s latest film will turn this around. I’m hoping this will bring the studio back up to the standards expected of the people who gave us Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. After a series of sequels and mediocre films, we thought the studio got its groove back with Inside Out. But then they went back to mediocre sequels. Hopefully, Coco will be this years’ Inside Out.
In a small town in Mexico, young Miguel (Anthony Gonzales) has a passion for music and quite a skill with the guitar. He has clearly inherited from his ancestor Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), a music icon in his hometown. But after de la Cruz vanished, Miguel’s family has considered music a curse and banished it from their home. While they prefer their boy to make shoes for a living, the urge to create music is too strong in Miguel.
Then on the Day of the Dead, Miguel tries out his ancestor’s legendary guitar. With the pluck of a string, the boy finds himself transported into the world of the dead, a place of bright colours and walking skeletons. With the help of loved ones long past and a mysterious drifter named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), Miguel must get back to the living world by dawn or he’ll be stuck there for eternity.
Many have pointed similarities between Coco and The Book of Life, what with them both being fantasies taking place in the afterlife during the Day of the Dead. That’s pretty much where the similarities end. The later centred around a love triangle and a bet between an angel and a demon. The former is a kid’s journey of self discovery.
The first to stand out is the visuals. No matter how weak the story, Pixar always guarantees glorious animation. The visuals of the afterlife are dazzling with their neon colours. Plus, they make the images of living skeletons look visually appealing. Too bad I can’t say the same for the hairless dog Dante. That dog’s ugly. Bonus points for the film to have an all-Latino cast including Edward James Olmos, Cheech Marin and Gabriel Iglesias).
No matter how this film goes, it will win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
DARKEST HOUR: You cannot recognize Gary Oldman in his performance as Winston Churchill. With that make up, all you can see is the legendary British Prime Minister.
Darkest Hour centres on Churchill during WW2. This film seems to emphasize his fears and insecurities as he was forced to make tough decisions while keeping up morale. Could Oldman be nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars? We shall see.
THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS: We find out how Charles Dickens wrote a Christmas Carol.
This film seems to follow the typical formula. An artist is down on his luck until he gets an epiphany. Everyone except his loved ones doubt him until he proves them wrong. While often entertaining, this can come off as formulaic. Plus, portraying a writer’s life presents a challenge for the visual medium of film. How do you make someone writing on paper interesting to the audience?
With Charles Dickens, writer Susan Coyne and director Bharat Nalluri are fortunate to portray a writer with a unique writing style. He has been known to act out his characters in private, trying to emulate their voices he can put to paper. The film seems to be portraying that, with Dickens (played by Dan Stevens) interact with his characters, especially Ebeneezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer). That should be fun to watch.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME: From Luca Guadagnino, the director who bored the shit out of me with I Am Love and pleasantly surprised me with A Bigger Splash, comes an unusual romance that’s taking film festivals by storm.
Set in 1983’s Italy, 17-year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet) spends his days in his family’s villa either transcribing or flirting with his friend Marzia (Esther Garrell). Then along comes Oliver (Armie Hammer), an American scholar serving as a summer intern for Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg). Elio finds himself falling for the much older Oliver.
It should me noted this film was written by James Ivory, one half of Merchant Ivory Pictures. Along with Indian Producer Ismail Merchant, Ivory has taken the world by storm with acclaimed costume period dramas like A Room with a View, Howards End and The Remains of the Day. It will be interesting to see him handle the 80s.
There is the moral question of finding romance involving an adult and an underage kid. Judging by the appraisal, this film seems to handle this elephant in the room with care and consideration.
 The only exception is their good luck charm John Ratzenberger