Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Multi-talented Kenneth Branagh is the lead actor, producer and director of this film, based on the classic novel by Agatha Christie, and manages to set himself apart very successfully from his previous characters.

The movie has a host of actors; Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley, all in supporting roles, each doing their part well to keep the audience guessing who is the murderer.

The opening act and the scenes that follow set up the premise of the film well, and reach a fitting conclusion in an appropriate length of time. Great cinematography and visuals don’t distract from the murder at hand, rather paint a lovely period drama.

An interesting watch, especially if you haven’t read the book.

3/5

Victoria & Abdul (2017)

A long awaited film for a Judi Dench fan, it didn’t let me down on her account. Stephen Frears, a royal family specialist, directs a lesser known story of Queen Victoria, Empress of India and her teacher and friend, Abdul Karim.

It was the curiousity of the story and how it would be presented, that drew me to it. The grandeur and pageantry is present, but the pace is haphazard. At times it moves too slow, at others too hurried, yet the royal protocols never seem to be in place where Abdul is concerned, from the first moment on.

Performances are average by the supporting cast, and let down further by the screenplay. Judi Dench, at the age of 82 shows us acting and character from every pore, line and wrinkle, whereas Ali Fazal is a worthy and an inversely proportionate tall co-star. He emotes volumes in his gestures and is not as much in awe as in reverence of his Queen and Empress.

It was a rare insight to what could have been her state of mind and loneliness, but we have to remain satisfied with conjecture and it’s limitations.

2.5/5

Spectre (2015)

A Bored Bond combined with slick Indian censorship results in a series of scenes sewn together for our benefit.

To give director Sam Mendes his due, he has handled the various modes of transport with some remarkable action, but there is no tension.

A lack of adrenaline is precisely what this film suffers from, and it seems Daniel Craig’s apathy towards a character that gave him so much, weakens it further. Bond Girl Lea Seydoux is a combinations of beauty, brains and brawn and puts a little sparkle into the fading Bond.

We miss Judi Dench as ’M’, though Ralph Fiennes does an ok job minus the wit. Monica Bellucci makes a cameo while not so menacing villain Christoph Waltz tries to terrorise but fails.

Ben Whishaw as ‘Q’, Naomie Harris, Andrew Scott provide able support and Dave Bautista leaves an ‘impact’ without saying much.

One of the weaker films and a let down after Skyfall. Points for action and locales, not traditional Bond espionage and spy thrills.

2/5

The second best exotic marigold hotel (2015)

The old crew is back (pun intended), this time they are settled in the pink city and looking forward to ‘sunny boy’s’ wedding.

The story moves forward with characteristic British humour and the wit we rely upon from stalwarts Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Richard Gere becomes the ‘eye patch candy’ in the group and the looming expansion of the business provides the back drop of the tension.

Lots more music and dance make this a departure from its predecessor, but it’s heart is still in the place you left the first one. The line that resonated with me the most was, “There’s no such thing as an end, it’s only when you leave the story.”

Director John Madden has provided a fitting sequel for a film which embraces old age (if you are lucky to reach it) and death (how much time do we really have left?).

Watch it if you enjoyed the first one ( its more sober brother). You are in for more treats and irony.

3.5/5

Philomena (2013)

Judi Dench brings us yet another deep and understated performance as Philomena, supported brilliantly by screenplay writer and actor Steve Coogan. A political journalist needs to resurrect his career and a real life story takes him and his subject to the USA and back, where he unravels not only her past, but deals with his present as well.

The theme is difficult to bring alive, the proceedings make you wonder how it will all end. Theories of religion, the instincts of a mother, tolerance of sexuality, the past of the church all make a compelling story, which has a fair pace keeping in mind the length and breadth of the mystery. Peppered with footage which gives us glimpses of the past, we too feel like discovering and putting this piece to rest.

A film directed by two time Oscar nominee Stephan Frears (The Grifters, The Queen), it is filled with emotion and drama in the most tight-lipped, restrained manner possible.

3.5/5