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Murder on the Orient Express

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A competently directed and beautifully shot film by Kenneth Branagh that did not veer too much from Agatha Christie's source material. A refreshing take of a classic story that engages but never really hooked the audience. And if not for the strong ensemble of veteran thespians holding this film up, it would surely have not been as entertaining especially since the younger actors were general disappointments (with the exception of breakout actor Tom Bateman) as their obvious inexperience were starkly apparent when compared directly opposite the likes of Branagh, Dame Judi Dench, Olivia Coleman, Derek Jacobi, William Dafoe and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Branagh and writer Michael Green managed to inject some originality and freshness to this (mostly) familiar story but despite Branagh's eye for staging, blocking and mood, he never really managed to capture that elusive hook that made this improbable Christie's story so gripping in text. There was a lack of climatic excitement and …

Coco

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An absolute crowd-pleaser  for the whole family. Pixar has done it again with a four-quadrant winner that resonated across generations and culture. It may not be as (pseudo)-intellectual as Inside Out but it definitely pack a great emotional punch especially in its third act, with a strong story line on the evergreen theme of family vs self and obligation vs passions that never turned schmaltzy. Great voice work all around in particular Anthony Gonzalez and Gael Garcia Bernal, with great music and score from Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the duo that gave us the hits from Frozen, and Michael Giacchino who is back - at last - with a mariachi-tinged score that delivered on the emotional journey.

Directed by Lee Unkrich, who also gave us the last real Pixar tearjerker, Toy Story 3Coco continued Pixar's animation technological supremacy. The film was gorgeous to behold and tiny nuances like the translucency of the skin, the glow of candle light and the luminosity of the 

Justice League

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An entertaining film that brought some laughs and some serviceable action, but ultimately felt like a wannabeAvengers. Although a definite improvement over the travesty that was Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, it was still far from the (overrated) high bar ofWonder Woman. The film rushed through its introduction of the new characters leaving most of the newbies as one-dimensional freaks with gifts, and the primary conflict itself suffered from a paper-thin villain and a drastic lack of urgency and gravitas.

Justice League also suffered from being tonally unevenly throughout its near 2-hours run, and it was clear that there were more than one pair of hands involved in the creation of this film. From the hyper-realistic and over-stylised shots of Zack Snyder to the oddly more intimate and less grandoise moments by (likely) Joss Whedon; similarly, for every zinger and witty repartee, there were ten equally eye-rolling clunkers and clumsy bantering.

Wonder woman remained the most int…

The Mountain Between Us

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The seemingly impossible has happened. There was nary a spark of romantic chemistry between both Kate Winslet and Idris Elba. Who knew that that would have been possible between these two gorgeous people. Coupled that non-chemistry with a survival-in-the-wilderness film that lacked realism and grit, this film ended being as frigid as the mountain our two leads were stranded on. 
The lack of chemistry between Winslet and Elba was not only in the romantic side of things, but also in general. The weak script left much to be desired as bantering gave way to heavy-handedness and Nicholas Sparks-ian dialogue. Unfortunately, as the main stars of the film, these two heavyweight actors did not work.
The first fifteen minutes showed potential, as director Hany Abu-Assad effectively set the premise, but from then on, the 112 minutes film just dragged on with many languid moments of waiting and longing and trudging through snow. Abu-Assad and writers Chris Weitz and J Mills Goodloe were egregiou…

Suburbicon

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A typical Coen brothers black-comedic opera that, unfortunately, under George Clooney's direction ended up being neither dark nor funny. What Clooney gave us was instead a messy juggling of a pseudo-murder mystery and a socio-political satire that lacked subtlety and finesse; the former being eye-rollingly ridiculous and the latter being narratively incoherent and irrelevant. Clooney even managed to mangle Alexandre Desplat's score with odd musical cues. The film was only saved by the brilliant - and only truly darkly comedic - Julianne Moore, who - yet again - beautifully embodied the persona of a 50s housewife, and also by the brief comedic turn of third-billed Oscar Issac.

Suburbicon, as a film, had nothing new to say. It seemingly wanted to comment on white-privilege, racial discrimination and maybe even political hypocrisy, but none of those messages were coherently translated on to the screen. Throughout the film, a big question mark looms over the whole narrative, beggi…

Thor: Ragnarok [IMAX/3D]

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Not a simple feat, but kudos to director Taika Waititi for bringing us not only the best film of the Thor franchise but also one of the best entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thor: Ragnorak was a superhero space/fantasy that effectively weaved the current wave of 80s nostalgia, from the homage to the old school Star Wars trilogy to the retro electronica and cyberpunk synthesiser beats, into the current fabric of technology-enabled, explosion of colours, sounds and CGI effects. It was not only a rollickingly exciting and fun ride, but it was also downright funny with many laugh out loud moments and excellent comedic beats by everybody in the cast. Perhaps, the weakest part of the film was the plot, and not surprisingly, the villain. The basic storyline was thin, basic and stretched out to fill the spectacle, but at least in this case, the fillers more than made it up to distract from the A-plot.
Finally, since Joss Whedon and the first two Avengers, Marvel has got writers – Eric…

Blade Runner 2049 [IMAX/3D]

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If nothing else, this was a singularly stunning, breathtakingly gorgeous, absolutely beautiful piece of film. Just give Roger Deakins his Oscar now! As for Dennis Villeneuve, the man is now five for five since his 2010 breakout film Prisoners, and he will surely be in the running for Best Director again this year. His film in itself - prior viewing of the 1982 original not necessary, but does inform the experience - was a surprisingly simple, yet layered noir/science fiction story that was effectively told despite its length (163 minutes) and also, ironically, satisfyingly unresolved. Ryan Gosling stood out and may get a nod but he is in danger of not breaking out of his comfort zone.

The IMAX experience was really worth it here. Not only as a canvas for Deakin's sumptuous cinematography, but also for the excellent sound design and mixing. So far, only this film, DunkirkMad Max: Fury Road pioneer Avatar has really, properly utilised the capabilities of IMAX.

Villeneuve's di…