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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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“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”: the All-Spoiler Entry

Rogue One!

Teaser image from the upcoming Saturday Night Live sketch “Rogue One: a Zack Snyder Film”.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the #1 movie in America! The previous entry was the requisite MCC review-not-review, but light on key developments and movements for the benefit of those fans hoping to see the movie with as few surprises spoiled as possible. The internet doesn’t seem to be trying as hard to ruin Rogue One as it did with The Force Awakens, but a few hyper, well-intentioned fans jumped the gun a little on the assumption that every “real” Star Wars fan would’ve attended a showing within twelve hours of release.

We had thoughts, some of which I remembered to write down before they faded. Here’s a COURTESY SPOILER WARNING in case you somehow overlooked the title.

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“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”: the IMAX 3-D Entry

M-Falcon!

Even the silliest pew-pew-pew effects sound glorious when you crank the speakers up to 27.

I have no current plans to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens six times as I did with one of its predecessors, but my son and I caught an encore for fun at one of the local IMAX theaters to see if the 3-D made any difference. It’s something we try maybe once every 2-3 years, not a regular part of our movie-going diet. I confess I dig IMAX screens more for their super-sized speaker systems than for any picture enlargement. In both TV and movies, JJ Abrams tends to be one of those directors who coach their sound effects team to deliver a booming, raucous performance in which you can feel the depth and the weight of every noise great and small. As a guy with lousy hearing who watches most TV shows with the captioning turned on just in case, I love a heavy hand at the soundboards.

After seeing the same scenes twice, I noticed slight shifts in a few of my opinions, along with a few other random observations beyond what I previously wrote over here and over there. I talked to a few relatives at Christmas gatherings today who still haven’t seen TFA, so I’m not the sort of elitist to assume that anyone who hasn’t seen it yet deserves spoilers as their punishment. If you’re like them and haven’t had the time or funds, please enjoy this courtesy SPOILER ALERT telling you politely to go away for now and save this entry for later.

Right this way for MCC bonus notes!

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”: The All-Spoiler Entry

Captain Phasma!

Hey, remember that time we had high hopes for every well-dressed new character in The Force Awakens?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens! The previous entry was the requisite MCC review-not-review, but lighter on details this time for the benefit of those fans who want a fighting change to see the movie with as few surprises spoiled as possible. According to my son, some deranged Expanded Universe fans were invading random YouTube comments sections for videos that had absolutely nothing to do with Star Wars and were posting major TFA spoilers because they are bitter and they are twelve. Between the heavily armed loner gunmen we fear are waiting at the crowded theater lobbies and the entitled trolls waiting to type furiously at innocents at home, the cinema experience is strangely more challenging and less fun than ever.

That didn’t stop us, though. We had thoughts and I remembered to write down many of them. Here’s a COURTESY SPOILER WARNING in case you somehow overlooked the title.

Right this way for another round of Star Wars!

Top 10 Greatest “Star Wars Episode VII” Leaked Set Photos

The filmmaking process for every Star Wars movie in the modern era has its traditions, and none refuse to die more irritatingly than the part where professional paparazzi, busybody neighbors, and travel-happy geeks pool together their collective talents and impatience, set up base camps all around the official closed sets, take pictures of everything that moves, and hope they catch a glimpse of something that’ll ruin the entire movie for everyone.

These photos are usually out of focus, distantly shot, wildly off-center, totally out of context, filled with restless inaction, and/or bereft of the CG work and color timing that’ll make the up-close, unadorned reality look watchable and actually interesting on the big screen a year later. Many movie sites treat such unauthorized, amateurish, slapdash, eminently deletable results as useful content. Every time without fail, enough fans and enough clicks reinforce their theory. Goody.

Now that Star Wars Episode VII finally hired a cast to act out its hopefully finished script and has allegedly begun shooting, it’s only a matter of minutes before we begin seeing photos of stunt doubles in Jedi robes, puppeteers catching a cigarette break outside a rear entrance, or empty yogurt cups that some muckraking blogger scavenged from Carrie Fisher’s trash. We, the public, will be expected to treat these offerings as Movie News.

So why not go with the flow? We here at Midlife Crisis Crossover gave in to peer pressure, did some digging without due diligence, and came across a stash of photos that we’re 30% certain were recently, surreptitiously snapped on location in London while J.J. Abrams and his spoiler sentries weren’t looking. Seems like a reasonable ploy. They have to sleep sometime, right? So we’re kinda sure these are legit. By the time we’re all done overanalyzing them, we can skip watching Episode VII altogether and move on to overanalyzing blurry set pics from The Justice League Movie instead.

From the Home Office in Indianapolis, IN: Top 10 Greatest Star Wars Episode VII Leaked Set Photos:

10. Peter Mayhew, a.k.a. Chewbacca, hanging out between takes with his manager. Or the head of his entourage. Or the guy who’s playing his son Lumpy, which would mean Abrams’ team has decided The Star Wars Holiday Special should be canonized by unpopular demand. Maybe now it’ll see a long-overdue Blu-ray release that will include much-needed extras such as a commentary by all the actors taking turns explaining exactly what the heck.

The Real Peter Mayhew, a.k.a. Chewbacca!

This way for nine more spoilers! Or probably not!

Treatment Suggestions for Sufferers of Repressed Spoilers Syndrome

Daryl Dixon, Norman Reedus, Walking Dead

If Daryl Dixon ever dies, your dreams of a spoiler-free Sunday evening will be beyond laughable.

Every Sunday evening during the active TV seasons, my online experience takes the same shape: a few friends share their vague reactions to the new episode of The Walking Dead that signify something game-changing happened yet again, right on schedule; one or two other friends dispense with discretion and blurt out what the game-changing thing was to anyone who’ll listen; and another friend or two explode with spoiler rage because they weren’t watching the show as it aired, but totally planned to watch it as soon as they could, or as soon as they felt like it, apparently having learned nothing from the last forty times this happened with the last forty episodes.

Of those three fan divisions, it’s my belief that the most stressed-out and in need of help is Group 1.

This way for theories and treatment…

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