'Murder on the Orient Express' offers grand ride


By Shirrel Rhoades
At the Movies

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Agatha Christie was known as the “Queen of Crime.” She’s said to be the world’s bestselling mystery writer, her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections having sold more than 2 billion copies.

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, is best known for creating a fictional detective known as Hercule Poirot, a mustachioed Belgium sleuth who appeared in 33 novels, one play, and more than 50 short stories.

One of the most popular Poirot books is the 1938’s “Murder on the Orient Express.” This is the one where there’s a murder on a train, but identifying the guilty party is complicated by the fact that all the passengers appear guilty.

The dust jacket on the first edition noted that it ranks as “one of the most ingenious stories ever devised. The solution is brilliant.”

The intricate plot caused Raymond Chandler to remark that it was “guaranteed to knock the keenest mind for a loop. Only a half-wit could guess it.”

In 1974 there was an elaborate movie version starring Albert Finney as the great detective. In 2001 Alfred Molina reprised the role in a TV movie. Now, Sir Kenneth Branagh both directs and stars as Hercule Poirot in an epic new cinematic production of “Murder on the Oriental Express.”

This, like previous versions, is a grand excuse to cast an array of talented actor and actresses in the trainload of supporting roles. This time around we encounter Dame Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Sir Derek Jacobi, Josh Gad, Daisy Ridley, and Willem Dafoe, among others.

Surprisingly, Branagh compares Agatha Christie to William Shakespeare.

“The surface of what she writes has led people to dismiss her as a second-rater,” he says. “But I think she is far more than that. I think people often feel this about Shakespeare. They’re annoyed by his bourgeois credentials.”

Having done a number of films based on the Bard’s plays (“Much Ado About Nothing,” “Othello,” “Hamlet,” etc.) , Branagh now wants to do more Agatha Christie movies.

“Personally I admire the prolific nature of what she does,” he says. “Her ability to grab the audience’s attention is really striking.”

Entertainment Weekly reports that Hercule Poirot sequels are being discussed.

“Daddy’s Home 2”

gives 2nd chance

Maybe Hollywood will eventually forgive Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. After all, the movie community is coming around on Mel Gibson.

Not only is Gibson plastered on billboards promoting “Daddy’s Home 2,” but the word on the street is that he’ll be reprising his iconic crazy-cop role in a “Lethal Weapon 5.”

As you’ll recall, “Daddy’s Home” starred Mark Wahlberg and Will Farrell in a comedy about stepfathers. As IMDb describes it: “ Brad Whitaker is a radio host trying to get his stepchildren to love him and call him Dad. But his plans turn upside down when their biological father, Dusty Mayron, returns.”

For the sequel -- Daddy’s Home 2 -- Wahlberg and Farrell return with a new comedy, this time about Brad and Dusty dealing with their own pain-in-the-butt fathers during the holidays.

Needless to say, Mel Gibson is one of the intrusive fathers. John Lithgow is the other.

The joke here is the mix-’em-and-match-’em relationships.

Brad is Sara’s husband, and Dylan and Megan’s stepfather. Dusty is Sara’s ex-husband, Karen’s husband, Dylan and Megan’s father and Adrianna’s stepfather. Sara ( Linda Edna Cardellini ) is Brad’s wife, Dusty’s ex-wife, Dylan and Megan’s mother. Karen ( Alessandra Ambrosio ) is Dusty’s wife, Adrianna’s mother and Dylan and Megan’s stepmother. And Roger (John Cena) is Karen’s ex-husband, and Adrianna’s father.

Don’t make us list the kids.

Confused? You bet.

But the real catalysts for laughs comes from Brad and Dusty’s dads. Lithgow is a proven funnyman. And we’d almost forgotten that Gibson can be goofy too.

Should we give Mel Gibson a second chance? Audiences will decide.

Top 10 lowest

opening movies

Opening weekend ticket sales usually foretell how a movie will do in its overall box office grosses. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” holds the record with an opening of $247,966,675. “Thor: Ragnarok” did pretty good this past weekend with $121,005,000.

But how low can you go?

The Katherine Heigl indie “Zyzzyx Road” collected exactly $30 when it opened in one theater in 2006. The British sci-fi flick “Storage 24” scored just $74 by playing in a single theater for one week. But what about films that open on not just a handful of screens, but on several thousand?

Here are the Top Ten (or should we say “low ten”?) film openings:

10. “Strange Magic” (2015) -- George Lucas said he created “Star Wars” for 12-year-old boys. Well, this one he created for 12-year-old girls. However, with its lousy songs, bad script, and poor marketing, the animated film opened to only $5,504,441. Grossing a puny $13.6 million overall, it’s the largest turkey with Lucas’ name attached to it.

9. “Imagine That” (2009) -- 
Funnyman Eddie Murphy used to be a guaranteed moneymaker, but this story of a workaholic guy whose daughter can magically read the stock market confused audiences and they stayed away in droves, coughing up a measly $5,503,519 as its first-weekend haul.

8. “Keeping Up with the Joneses” (2016) -- This Zach Galifianakis - Isla Fisher comedy was met with bad reviews. Galifianakis’ successes in the “Hangover” films did not translate into gold here. It netted only $5,461,475 on opening weekend.

7. “What’s Your Number?” (2011) -- 
This gross-out rom-com offered a mean-spirited story about a woman contacting all her past lovers. Wasting the talents of Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Anna Faris, and many others, it delivered an opening weekend of $5,421,669.

6. “Meet Dave” (2008
) -- Playing both a human-like alien ship and the tiny pilot inside, Eddie Murphy faced a disasterous first weekend pull of $5,251,918. Then it set a new failure record when theaters dropped it from 2,523 of the 3,011 screens it debuted on.

5. “Hardcore Henry” (2016) -- 
An actioner filmed entirely from a first-person perspective, the handheld camerawork and jarring stunts failed to appeal audiences, adding up to a mere $5,107,604 opening. However, the entire film cost only $2 million to make, so with its $16.8 million in gross sales, the film actually made a profit.

4. “Burnt” (2015) -- 
This Bradley Cooper vehicle about a high-flying, drug-addicted chef flamed out with a $5,002,521 opening, though it would eventually earn more than its $20 million cost.

3. “Fun Size” (2012) -- 
While this teen-market entry had the Nickelodeon brand imprint, it was far more adult in the way it depicted sex and partying. Not satisfying either kids or adults, it only pulled $4,101,017 on opening weekend.

2. “The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising” (2007
) -- Based on the second book of a fantasy YA series, this teen wizarding tale was far too dark. This lame approach to magic garnered just $3,745,315 when it opened.

1. “Hoot” (2006
) -- The worst of the worst, this kid-targeted story based on a Carl Hiaasen novel about children protecting an owl habitat from construction developers got bad reviews. This Luke Wilson stinker only pulled in $3,368,197 on opening weekend … but “Hoot” was later added to the Museum of Modern Art’s film collection. Go figure.

The opening weekend of a movie’s release typically accounts for 25 percent of the total domestic box office gross, so opening weekend’s grosses are highly predictive of a film’s overall success.

Does this formula hold true? Pretty much. For example, the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opening weekend (noted above) is 26.5 percent of its $ 936,662,225 domestic gross ticket sales.