Murder on the Orient Express (2017) – Review

Kenneth Branagh crafts a Poirot-laden blockbuster for Orient Express redux to secure his future gigs.

Review: Kenneth Branagh knows that modern viewers don’t fancy over-exposition in crime-mystery story as in Agatha Christie’s original whodunit classic, Murder on the Orient Express. Therefore, the actor/director adjusts the premise and crafts a more energetic, carefree version of the story which focuses more on the main protagonist, Hercule Poirot, more than anything else in the story.

Details are altered; but, the basic things are intact. The titular Orient Express still leaves from Istanbul to London during a cold winter; and, Poirot boards in the train along with dozen strangers. As the title might suggest, there’s a murder on board. The detective must solve the case by interrogating other passengers of the train before the train stops on the nearby station. Staged within limited area with limited access, Branagh presents a non-stop series of investigation that goes back and forth at full-speed. At that speed, we might get the illusion that the train (and the case) is going somewhere enticing; while it hasn’t actually moved a bit. Continue reading “Murder on the Orient Express (2017) – Review”

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Wind River (2017) – Review

Review: In Wind River, Taylor Sheridan again demonstrates a prowess he once showcased on writing tenure for Sicario and Hell or High Water. His painstaking flair for slick and immaculate script—with penchant to coherence and symmetrical storyline—is utterly exquisite. With Sheridan running for both writing and directing gigs, we finally get to see his full-creative-control mode; and, lucky you, it’s taut and clever as you might imagine.

The title refers to a snow-covered Native American reservation in Wyoming, which becomes the setting of this film. It’s the place where a hunter, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), resides. As he tracks a wild mountain lion who preys on local cattles, the all-white-camouflaged hunter accidentally finds a local girl’s body… dead and stark. For the case, FBI sends rookie Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), who immediately team up with Lambert to investigate it.

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Detroit (2017) – Review

Review: As timely and important than ever, Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit makes an unsettling yet poignant film about racism-induced Afro-American uprising in Detroit circa 1967. While Bigelow presents downtown Detroit riot in Hurt Locker fashion where smoke soaring high and dusty ruins are practically adorning every corner of the city, it’s not the carnage which is highlighted; but, the root of it all: white’s oppression.

Combining real footage with sharp recreations of the event, Detroit immediately plunges into the warzone, displaying the horror and volatile circumstances. Without warning and proper exposition, pivotal characters—including racist cops, undervalued security guard, white girls among black, black ‘Nam veteran & black musicians—are introduced and lured into the climactic standoff patiently; while audiences are expected to draw the thread between them. Circumstances, characters and the film’s message culminate in robust one-location havoc in a place called Motel Algiers.

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Midnight Runners (2017) – Review

Review: In Midnight Runners, writer-director Johan Kim recycles classic buddy cop tropes into a same-old-brand-new comedy-thriller, which benefits from chemistry of the leads, Park Seo-joon and Kang Ha-neul. It’s indeed a heroic story of two South Korean cop trainees, but, it’s also simply funny, entertaining, action-packed and sweet at the same time.

Gi-joon (Seo-joon) and Hee-yeol (Ha-neul) become unlikely best friends during their horrendous training, despite their completely different background and characters. One day, they witness an assault and kidnapping during their disastrous romance-seeking tenure in Gangnam. Despite the odds against them, they have to implement what they have learned in police academy in a real-life situation with real human life as the risk.

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Death Note (2017) – Review

Review: So, why bother remaking a story that feels Japan through and through in a same old brand new American setting? Or, why bother retelling a story that might venture well in nowadays internet-advanced world in a world which feels no different to early internet day? Why bother remaking Death Note in an all-American high school drama?

Those questions keep linger in my head while I watched Adam Wingard’s Death Note, an Americanized version of Japanese manga series written by Tsugumi Oba and Takeshi Obata. In presenting this story, Wingard (The Guest, You’re Next) keeps trying to impress audiences with his eye for stylish visual violence.  Without ever losing his touch, there’s practically nothing wrong with the directorial effort; but, judging from the director’s adamant persistence in making the film and the end-results, there lies a much bigger question: is this all Adam Wingard’s vision to Death Note?

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Baby Driver (2017) – Review

Review: Ever since the delightfully staged getaway scene in the opening, when Baby (tall, pale Ansel Elgort) hit the gas and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Bellbottoms burst in stereo, Baby Driver has given the impression that it isn’t an ordinary ‘action film with some cool soundtracks.’ The scene that follows further evidences the same notion as Baby, in a slick tracking shot with Harlem Shuffle played, walks around the blocks buying coffees for his passengers.

Both scenes shows off that highly curated music tracks and stylish action bravura can go hand in hand. Even further, the music dissolves into the core—the cinematography, the choreography, the staging and the editing—unexceptionally. And, only in Edgar Wright’s over-stylized writing-directing feature, his nifty film-making class and exquisite music repertoire find a way to breakthrough.

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