Tag Archives: Johnny Depp

My Thoughts on: Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

I’m so ashamed that it’s taken me 4 years to finally sit down and watch Murder on the Orient Express. Don’t ask me why it took so long, I honestly have no idea why I skipped out on seeing this film in theaters (though I imagine my school work played a major role in the decision). The good news is, I finally sat down and watched it tonight at the suggestion of my friends on YouTube and I’m so glad I did.

Murder on the Orient Express is adapted from the Agatha Christie novel of the same name and sees the famed detective Hercule Poirot tasked with solving the murder of a passenger on the titular Orient Express while he is en route to another case in London. Given the circumstances, it initially seems like an impossible crime, but Poirot soon discovers that all is not as it seems with this case and his longstanding notion of justice will be strongly challenged by the time it is all over.

First of all, I’m blown away by the all-star cast in this film. This is an ensemble cast loaded with talent. There’s the legendary Kenneth Branagh playing Poirot (and playing him brilliantly), as well as Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom, Jr., Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench AND Derek Jacobi, to name a few. And everyone turns in an eye-catching performance, even Depp, who I admit isn’t my favorite actor to watch. Branagh as Poirot is far and away my favorite part of the film. I’m almost completely unfamiliar with the character of Poirot, so the character’s eccentricities were completely new to me, and I delighted in all of them, particularly his fascination with getting two boiled eggs that were exactly the same size.

Then there’s the setting of the film itself. From 1930s Jerusalem to Istanbul to the train itself, I love all of the visual details in this film. This is a sensual film in the best sense of the word: I can practically smell the bread in an Istanbul kitchen, I can feel the rumbling of the train, feel the textures of all these wonderful surfaces and fabrics, what more can I say to indicate how visually delightful this film is to me? Everything about this film captures a glimpse of a bygone era, when train travel was still luxurious in a way that it just isn’t anymore. That’s not to say that there isn’t luxury in train travel anymore, but it’s not the same thing. This was a luxury you could touch and feel in every detail, and I couldn’t get enough of it. This will be a film I rewatch just to enjoy those little details, I know it.

And then there’s the plot, which slowly but surely drew me in. For years I’ve been a staunch fan of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, but after seeing this film I’m starting to believe I was wrong for ignoring Poirot all of these years (nothing personal, I just never had a reason to check it out). I know the film has changed some details around from Christie’s original novel, but I know the solution of the case is more or less the same. If most of Christie’s Poirot stories are like this, or at least similar, then I think Hercule Poirot may soon become one of my favorite fictional detectives, or at least one I like just as much as Holmes.

But I digress, the murder plot that’s central to this story is very complex, and in a million years I would’ve never guessed the ultimate solution. This is a sign of good writing, because if the audience can deduce the culprit early on, that’s going to make the rest of the story boring. But what makes Murder on the Orient Express fascinating is that the plot twists and pivots to make you believe that a number of people can be the killer, leaving you no closer to the truth than Poirot until the very end of the film when everything comes together. Speaking of, the scene where Poirot spells out exactly what happened is very powerful, and I was mesmerized by Branagh’s performance. The solution will strongly challenge your notions of what “justice” entails, and I can imagine that some unfamiliar with Christie’s work may have been unsatisfied with how the story ends. But I loved it, it was the perfect conclusion to a gripping story and it serves as a reminder that not all criminal cases are black and white (in fact I believe a few Sherlock Holmes stories deal with justice in a similar way, though I can’t name the case off the top of my head).

I initially picked up this film to prepare for Death on the Nile (this is before the film was rescheduled to 2022). Now that I’ve finally seen Murder on the Orient Express, I’m more excited than ever to see Branagh’s Poirot return in Death on the Nile and I dearly hope this leads to a string of Poirot films, because I would happily watch all of them.

Let me know what you think about Murder on the Orient Express in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Corpse Bride (2005)

I’m fourteen years late to the party, but I’ve finally been able to watch Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, a film I’d seen clips of but never watched all the way through until recently. I’m kind of surprised I put it off this long, because I’ve been a fan of stop-motion animation for years and this film is one of the best examples made in the last 20 years.


The story revolves around the misadventures of Victor van Dort (Johnny Depp), a shy man who is meant to be marrying Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson) the next day. Except, while practicing his wedding vows in the wood, Victor suddenly finds himself married to an undead bride named Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), who is determined to make the marriage stick despite the fact that she’s, well, dead, and he isn’t!

While a lot of Corpse Bride is hysterically funny, particularly some of the sequences in the Land of the Dead, there is much that is deadly serious and, in keeping with Tim Burton’s style, quite dark. For example, Victoria’s parents are clearly terrible people who have no concept of love, not even for their own child. Victor’s parents aren’t much better, they’re far too focused on moving up in society. And then there’s the story of Emily, the titular Corpse Bride. Her story is so sad: a mysterious man convinced her to grab her family fortune and run away with him to elope. All well and good, except he killed her and ran off with the money! Poor Emily died before she really had a chance to live, and it makes me so sad just thinking about it.


And then there’s Lord Barkis Bittern, quite possibly one of the most despicable villains I’ve ever seen. Just from the way he struts around, you know he’s up to no good, but he’s actually far worse than you think. Once it comes out that he’s the one who killed Emily all those years ago (and he would’ve done the same to Victoria except she doesn’t have any family money), the expectation is that something terrible should happen to him as punishment. And oh boy, does Tim Burton ever deliver. After mistakenly drinking poison while mocking Emily, Bittern ends up dead as a doornail and is dragged off screaming to the Land of the Dead, to a hopefully gruesome fate. I’ve rarely seen a comeuppance more fitting.

Another thing that makes Corpse Bride a lot of fun to watch is the awesome soundtrack provided by Danny Elfman (who has collaborated numerous times with Tim Burton). Elfman also plays Bonejangles, the singing skeleton who tells Victor the story of Emily. And speaking of music, I absolutely love the duet that Victor plays with Emily, not only is it beautiful music, the animation that goes with it is simply flawless.

If you haven’t seen Corpse Bride, it really is worth watching. Even though the film is 14 years old, the stop-motion animation holds up very well, and I’m already looking forward to watching it again.

What do you think of Corpse Bride? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

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Danny Elfman talks Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)

Danny Elfman talks Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)

Oh dear…I actually had some hope for this sequel at first. When Alice Through the Looking Glass was announced, I felt excited because I’d enjoyed Alice in Wonderland and I was initially up for a return to this crazy world. And then the previews started and things got…weird (and I don’t mean weird in a good way).

The more I watched and learned, the more this felt like a re-hash of the first film (with Sasha Baron Cohen thrown into the mix). I’m not ALWAYS opposed to sequels, but if the best they can do is remix the original plot…then forget it!!


The basic plot is as follows: Alice has spent the last three years sailing on the high seas (as she said she would do at the end of the first film) but finds upon returning home that her ex-fiance has bought her father’s company and wants her ship in exchange for the family home. The Butterfly leads Alice back into Underland where things are in a right mess: the Mad Hatter is “madder” than usual, convinced his family is still alive. The White Queen asks Alice to visit Time to see if he can save the Hatter’s family in the past and from there…things get slightly screwy (okay things get royally screwy).

There are several trips back into time; we learn why the Red Queen has an abnormally shaped head (because apparently she wasn’t always like that); we learn why the White Queen is the rightful ruler and we also learn why the two sisters hate each other so much. At the end of it all, time is restored, the Hatter is reunited with his family and the White Queen and the Red Queen are friends again while Alice returns home and now sails on the high seas with her mother (somehow retaining the company? or the ship? It’s confusing…)


That being said, Danny Elfman DID return to score the film, so that is one positive in a film that largely disappointed. I hope you enjoy this brief interview with the composer.

See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

Danny Elfman talks Batman (1989)

Danny Elfman talks Batman Returns (1992)

Danny Elfman “Planet of the Apes” scoring session (2001)

Danny Elfman talks Spider-Man (2002)

Danny Elfman talks Meet the Robinsons (2007)

Danny Elfman talks Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Danny Elfman talks Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

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Thoughts on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

WARNING: Spoilers abound especially towards the end so if you haven’t seen this film and DON’T want to know…turn back now!!!

Well…of all the surprises I was expecting/hoping for this year, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was definitely the biggest! I say this because I originally had no plans to see this film at all. With all due respect to the legions of Harry Potter fans, this is one film franchise I just couldn’t get into. But then, due to a podcast commitment, I decided to give this film a chance and wow!!! I’m so glad I did!

The magical world in 1920s America is beautifully realized, with one of my favorite parts being the magical speakeasy (with a house elf singer no less, at least, I think she was a house elf, please correct me if I’m wrong). My only complaint is the insistence on calling non-magical people “no-maj’s”. I mean, seriously, that just sounds stupid. Can’t Muggle just be the universal term for people with no magic? But really, that was my only major complaint (well, there is one other minor issue, but I’ll come to that momentarily).


The Beasts are beautifully rendered, and their home inside the magical suitcase is one of the highlights of the film (James Newton Howard outdid himself with a beautiful score). For most of the film, my favorite Beast was the Niffler, a creature that somewhat resembles a mole, and has an insatiable desire for all things shiny and valuable (to put it bluntly, he’s a kleptomaniac who likes to swipe gold and jewelry). In fact, there’s a hilarious sequence where Newt Scamander (a brilliant Eddie Redmayne) attempts to get the Niffler out of a jewelry store with “bull in the china shop” consequences.

But then Newt introduces us to the Thunderbird and I knew I’d found my favorite magical creature. The Thunderbird is a huge, gorgeous creature with gold and silver in its feathers (and according to Newt is a native of Arizona) that has the power to generate thunderstorms, hence its name. Seeing a bird like that made me wish (again) that this magical world really did exist. The other beasts are also well-done (one creature had to be tracked down in a zoo, leading to a funny moment where Newt has to imitate a mating ritual to lure the beast back into the suitcase).

And then there’s the American wizards and witches….Tina and Queenie are an interesting pair of sisters (I love Queenie, I really do), and it was cool to see how life went on in their apartment (with all the magical activity). The President of MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America) is a reasonably good person who just wants to protect her fellow witches and wizards from a populace that would most likely lynch them all if the truth ever got out. And then there’s Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), a high-ranking Auror with his own agenda. He’s initially presented as a stern, but reasonable man. If someone presents him with firm evidence of something, he’ll act on it. But there’s a lot more to Graves than meets the eye (more on that shortly).


And I can’t forget Jacob Kowalski, the “No-maj” of the story who becomes tangled up in this magical adventure (to his growing delight). He simply wants to open a bakery because that’s what he loves to do, but a chance encounter with Newt changes everything. He really steals the show at several points throughout the story, and I hope he turns up in the sequel, I really do.


Back to Percival Graves: it turns out he’s hunting through New York City for a certain child, one that contains incredible power that’s been repressed into what’s known as an “Obscurious.” Graves is desperate to find this individual and is using a young man named Credence to help him do it. It turns out that Credence had magical parents (at least his mother was magical) but his mother died giving birth to him and he was adopted by a cruel no-Maj woman who beats him every chance she gets. Graves has promised Credence that if he can find this child, Graves will take him away to the magical world and teach him magic. But once Credence believes the child in question is his foster sister Modesty, Graves abandons him, believing Credence to be a Squib (child of magical parents but with no talent for it themselves).

Well…as it turns out, Credence had the repressed power all along (much to Graves’ surprise) and though Graves (and Newt) attempt to save Credence, other Aurors swoop in and kill him. Newt had been suspicious of Graves for a while and after binding the Auror with one of his creatures, he uses a revealing spell and…surprise surprise, Graves is actually the notorious wizard Grindelwald played by Johnny Depp!! I’m not sure how I feel about this casting choice to be honest, I mean it COULD be okay, but he’s onscreen for maybe five minutes maximum so you can’t really gauge how he’s going to play the character yet. I’m actually a little disappointed because I’d gotten used to Colin Farrell and I would’ve been intrigued to see him continue in the role.

Final verdict: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was an enjoyable ride that’s left me excited for the sequels that are sure to follow.

See also:

Nicholas Hooper “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” scoring session (2009)

Alexandre Desplat talks Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)

Live-Action Films/TV

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