Murder on the Orient Express

Weekend Movies: Off the Rails

Just like your local Walmart, movie theaters are putting out their Christmas content well in advance of the holiday season. We’re ten days into November and we already have our second festive feature of the year.

Oddly enough, this week’s Christmas movie is basically a gender-swapped version of last week’s. In ‘A Bad Mom’s Christmas’, the grandmothers show up for the holidays and ruin the mojo created in the first movie. In ‘Daddy’s Home 2‘, the harmonious double-dad family led by Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg (and Linda Cardellini) is thrown off balance by the grandpas coming for Christmas. John Lithgow joins the cast as Ferrell’s sensitive daddy, while Mel Gibson pops up as Wahlberg’s unrefined and tough-as-nails father. The first ‘Daddy’s Home’ is 100% forgettable, but the trailers for the sequel are surprisingly funny. Screened for press at the exact same time as our next release, I didn’t see ‘Daddy’s Home 2’, but I’m told that all the good parts are in the trailer.

Likely to earn some technical award nominations, Kenneth Branaugh’s remake of ‘Murder on the Orient Express‘ is the week’s other big release. Based on the Agatha Christie novel, the majority of the murder mystery takes place on derailed train stranded high in a snowy mountain pass immediately following a homicide. With the world’s best detective (Branagh) present, all passengers are suspects in the masterfully crafted film. Many critics are claiming the film is dry and needless, but I was glad to be along for the ride and found every aspect of it to be executed perfectly. From screenplay and direction to design and score, I loved it. The excellent ensemble cast includes Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr., Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench and Willem Dafoe.

A notable title on the indie front is ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri‘. From the filmmaker behind irreverent gems ‘In Bruges’ and ‘Seven Psychopaths’, the new black comedy stars Francis McDormand as a pissed-off mother who paints three controversial signs outside of town that challenge the local police chief (Woody Harrelson) to find her daughter’s murderer. Tensions rise between the loud mother and the police force. Sam Rockwell, who killed it in ‘Seven Psychopaths’, also co-stars. If you’ve seen Martin McDonagh’s other films, you know you’re in for a treat.

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