Once Upon a Time in “Belfast”…

Belfast at the movies!

Wait’ll they find out tonight’s feature presentation is In the Name of the Father.

…there was a tiny child named Kenneth Branagh, but everyone called him Buddy. He was a smarter version of Ralphie from A Christmas Story and even had the same preoccupation with the toys and films of his age, plus he even got to unwrap his fair share of Christmas gifts. He didn’t need Ralphie’s narrator powers because he was perfectly happy talking aloud to anyone who’d listen. He never got in trouble for talking too much, even when he kept pointing out little differences between Catholicism and Protestantism like an ’80s standup comic who’s never heard other comics’ routines and feels like he’s blazing new trails in the field of Just Asking Questions.

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“Murder on the Orient Express”: The Train in Vain Strains Plainly to Maintain

Hercule Poirot!

“Stay back or I’ll poke your eye out! With finesse!”

From Shakespeare adaptations to Hitchock homages to Frankenstein, once upon a time director Sir Kenneth Branagh’s primary focus was leading regal thespian ensembles in bringing back classics for a new generation. Over time he’s somehow transformed into a major-studio go-to for big-budget fare like Disney’s Cinderella do-over, the first Thor movie, and the unnecessary Jack Ryan prequel. His latest highly polished effort, a revival of Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express, tries to bridge the gap between the two halves of his career — recruiting well-known faces to help him reacquaint an unfamiliar audience with one of the standards of the nearly dead mystery-movie genre. If nothing else, he’s also overseen a talented hair/makeup crew who bring us the Best Movie Mustache of the Year.

Full disclosure: I’ve never read any Christie novels or seen any adaptations of her work. The only thing I knew going into Branagh’s version is that the twist ending was spoiled for me decades ago by some long-forgotten humorist who thought it would be funny to joke about spoilers by citing Rosebud, Luke Skywalker’s father, and Orient Express‘ solution all in the same careless punchline, on the flawed assumption that everyone who mattered already knew how it ended. I wish I could remember the writer in question so I could tell him to his face that he was wrong and he sucks.

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