As an avid fan of Agatha Christie mysteries on book and screen - especially David Suchet's excellent portrayal of her most famous detective, Hercule Poirot - I had to admit that the preview images of Kenneth Branagh and his take on Poirot's inimitable moustache put me off. What was he thinking? It was simply too ridiculous to be taken seriously. But I am happy to report that Branagh not only pulls off the Belgian sleuth, but he approaches the character and Christie's most famous puzzle with originality and enthusiasm. Branagh is not only the lead actor in the film, but
Recently by Elizabeth Periale
Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Blu-ray Review: Kenneth Branagh Dunnit (Pulled Off Poirot, That Is)
Branagh is in his element here and whether one is previously familiar with the great Belgian detective or not, there is a lot to enjoy in Murder on the Orient Express.
The crew's encounters with beings different from ourselves is still as fun and fascinating today as it ever was.
There are so many branches to the Star Trek universe: novelizations, movies, re-boot film series, animated series, magazines, television series, toys, games, etc. that even the most dedicated fan, Trekkie or Trekker, might have trouble keeping up. The original series (TOS) first aired on American television in September of 1966. It included its now immortal cast of characters - Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), his Vulcan first officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), ship's doctor Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), communications officer Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), helmsman Lt. Sulu (George Takei) and Ensign Chekov (Walter Koenig). That key crew accompanied its
You may not want to go hiking or camping anytime soon after viewing The Forest, but you are likely to want to seek out Natalie Dormer in her next feature.
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, The Tudors) stars in the supernatural thriller The Forest. The film is an old-school jump-scare movie that substitutes a haunted house for a creepy forest in Japan. The only problem with this conceit is that the spooky forest featured in the film, Japan's Aokigahara Forest, at the foot of Mount Fuji, is a real place, with a real and poignant modern history of being a site where people choose to go to die. The Forest quickly presents this fact and then...does not much with it, proceeding with its fairly traditional ghost story.
A fun-filled musical romp through classic cartoons.
Looney Tunes Musical Masterpieces, a recent release from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, is a fun-filled musical romp through classic cartoons. In fact, while watching the eighteen shorts on the DVD, viewers may come to realize that their knowledge of classical and American popular music may have originated with Bugs Bunny and his looney friends. Many of these cartoons have been previously released on the Looney Tunes Golden Collections, so this compilation is of interest to the more casual collector, or folks who just want to focus on the music. Fan-favorite characters like Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Sylvester, and Porky Pig
Kids and adults (and tweens especially) will enjoy the fun, fast-paced episodes.
There seems to be a never-ending desire for superheroes and their stories these days. Origin stories are all the rage. DC Comics gave their readers a glimpse into the origins of popular characters like Batman's sidekick Robin in the Teen Titans comic book series, which has been running intermittently since the mid 1960s. In 2003 an animated series based on the comics premiered on the Cartoon Network, and featured Robin as the leader of a crime-fighting crew that included Cyborg, Beast Boy, Starfire, and Raven. The five superheroes-in-training live in Titans Tower, which actually looks like a gigantic letter "T,"
Tweens and fans of the Disney Channel will like seeing Jake T. Austin as Huckleberry Finn. But parents will have to hold out hope for a definitive take on the classic character.
Kids will like the latest filmed version of the adventures of Mark Twain's classic characters, Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn, but adults may be left wishing for more. The film features some of the most memorable moments from Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: Tom having to paint a white picket fence, he and Huck attending their own funeral, his romance with Becky Thatcher, and their getting lost in the cave. While it is fun to see these scenes depicted, there is something missing, some sense of urgency or mischief that leaves everything feeling a bit flat. The lead actors
It is always fun to watch Lovejoy straddle the outer edges of honesty in his various deals and swindles, and Series 4 is yet another great edition.
Lovejoy (Ian McShane) has always walked a fine line between legitimate and slightly shady deals - such seems to be the nature of the antiques trade. But in Lovejoy, Series 4, the always charming rogue has crossed over to out-and-out swindling - for a good cause, naturally - the saving of his own skin. Lovejoy is a "divvie," someone who has the gift of being able to sniff out a real antique. This feature has both helped and hindered Lovejoy in his life, loves, and business. As the series opens, Lovejoy Antiques, Inc. has been seized by the authorities -
The series does a wonderful service in telling stories about some of these little-known artist's lives and shining a light on their talents.
Art historian and host Amanda Vickery (professor of early modern history at Queen Mary University of London) poses a question at the start of her series The Story of Women and Art: Women as muses and artists' models line countless gallery and museum walls - in sculptures and paintings made by male "old masters" - but where are all of the female artists? In three one-hour episodes, Vickery travels the world to try to highlight some of the unknown heroines of art history. In the first episode, Vickery travels through Italy and Holland to showcase the work of 16th and
A great edition in the series, with lots of the usual fun that Ian McShane's Lovejoy brings.
In the second season of Lovejoy, the last time we saw the irascible but ever-charming antiques dealer played by Ian McShane, he was swindling (for a good cause, naturally) crooked antiques dealer Harry Catapodis (Brian Blessed) in order to help out a Japanese businessman (Mako) and a lovely widow Victoria (Joanna Lumley) who had both been cheated by Harry. Lovejoy Series 3, recently released on DVD by Acorn Media, picks up a year later, after Lovejoy has been taking a holiday in Spain, where he has enjoyed (and spent) all the proceeds from that last big deal. He returns home
The real reason to see Horns, of course, is for Daniel Radcliffe, who is quite good as Ig, American accent, horns, and all.
Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) met the love of his life, Merrin Williams (Juno Temple), when they were just children, and the two fell in love and shared everything together. Their romance seems idyllic, until one night when Merrin is found dead, the victim of a brutal rape and murder. Ig finds himself the prime suspect, his town, friends, and even most of his family shunning him. The heartbroken Ig maintains his innocence, to deaf ears. And then, as the opening line of the novel by Joe Hill states, after he "spent the night drunk and doing terrible things," Ig wakes
Hiccup and Toothless are still a great team and How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a nice middle chapter in their story.
Fans of Hiccup and his adorable dragon Toothless will be delighted to learn that their second feature, How to Train Your Dragon 2, is now available as a digital download. The Blu-ray/DVD will be released next week, November 11th. This is a review of the digital version of the film, which viewers may be surprised to learn also includes some great bonus features usually reserved just for Blu-ray and DVD. The original DreamWorks Animation film, How to Train Your Dragon (2010), was based on the popular series of books by Cressida Cowell. It was not only a financial success, but
Ian McShane is charming and funny and even a little bit tough when necessary. He is wonderful as Lovejoy, and his show is as charming as its star.
Acorn Media has recently released Lovejoy, Series 2, and it is just as much fun as the first series. Based on the books by Jonathan Gash, Lovejoy stars Ian McShane as an antiques dealer who has an eye for authenticity — in antiques and women. The British series was originally filmed and aired in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the A&E Network showing the series stateside in the 1990s. Fans of McShane and the series should be very happy that Lovejoy is finally available on DVD. Lovejoy is a British mystery series, but the accent is more on
Luca's intuitive yet iconoclastic approach to crime-solving is a lot of fun to watch, but it is the romance of Luca and Lara that is sure to keep viewers interested and involved.
MHz has recently released the second season of the Italian crime/comedy series Inspector Manara 2. Fans of the first season will be sure to enjoy the further adventures of the title character, Luca Manara, played by the charming and handsome Guido Caprino. In the first season, a reluctant Luca had been transferred to a sleepy little Tuscan seaside town, where he soon, unexpectedly, found himself busy chasing down clues to countless murders and other associated crimes. He was helped in his endeavors by the lovely Inspector Lara Rubino (Roberta Giarrusso), a former fellow student from their days at the police
It covers all aspects of Oz, from Garland's recording of "Over the Rainbow" to costumes to casting, to fan reaction to the film - and yes, even includes stories about Ebsen and the Munchkins
The Wizard of Oz is an enduring and endearing classic. Who hasn't seen it, perhaps even multiple times? It made a star out of cultural icon Judy Garland and has held up remarkably well over the years since its 1939 release, enchanting generations of young and old alike. There have been stories over the years about what went on behind-the-scenes of making the film. The most familiar factoids center around Buddy Ebsen, who was originally cast as the Tin Woodman, but had such a terrible reaction to the silver make-up that he had to quit. Another popular story concerned the
Inspector Manara features a winning mixture of comedy and mystery.
MHz has released another international series on DVD, Inspector Manara (Il Comisario Manara). Part police procedural, part romantic comedy, it is a very engaging show with likable characters that American audiences should take to immediately. Set in a small Tuscan town by the seaside, Inspector Manara features Guido Caprino as Luca Manara, who has been transferred from his beloved and fast-paced Milan to be the new police commissioner of what he thinks is a tiny, boring, crime-free town. He will soon learn that murder is as frequent an occurrence here as in some other mythical television hamlets like Cabot Cove
It may seem impossible to American viewers to take Lisa seriously when watching her switch gears so quickly but that is exactly the show's charm.
Donna Detective is one of the latest offerings from MHz Networks, which releases international television shows on DVD. Originally aired in 2007, Donna Detective: Season 1 is a three-disc set of six feature-length episodes, which should appeal to American audiences. Each movie is in Italian, with English subtitles. The widescreen episodes have a total running time of 608 minutes. There are no extras on the discs. A twist on a typical detective procedural, Donna Detective features cop Lisa Milani (Lucrezia Lante Della Rovere) in the title role. Once a top detective in Rome, Lisa requested a desk job so that
Lovejoy Series 1 DVD: Ian McShane is a Lovable Rascal (and Might Just Teach You a Thing or Two about Antiques)
The true pleasures of the show are in the charm of its star and the great settings and art objects he shares with the audience.
When American audiences hear the name Ian McShane, the first image that comes to mind is most likely his gritty, brilliant portrayal of Al Swearengen in HBO's Deadwood. But the actor has been busy on stage and screen since 1962. And before Deadwood, he created another iconic character, Lovejoy, whose series aired in the U.K. from 1986 to 1994. The shows were picked up in the U.S. and broadcast by the A&E Network in the 1990s. They haven't been available to American audiences on DVD until recently, thanks to Acorn Media, who has released the first set, Lovejoy, Series 1,
Girl Crazy is an extremely silly romantic comedy, but offers fast-paced fun.
Hollywood churned out romantic comedies by the dozens in the 1930s and 1940s. Wacky heiresses, bumbling suitors, and their faithful sidekicks made up most of the casts, along with some situational impediments to romance until the final few minutes. 1942's Girl Trouble, starring Joan Bennett and Don Ameche, is one of the genre's lighter, fluffier entries, but it is good fun all the same. Bennett stars as socialite June Delaney, who is informed in the first few moments of the film that she is currently broke. The stylish young woman isn't exactly thrilled at the news, and is reluctant to
This welcome arrival to DVD is good fun and should be enjoyed on repeat viewings.
Woman's World is a glossy, mid-'50s drama, with comedic undertones provided by June Allyson, and finally available on DVD on-demand from Fox Cinema Archives. The plot centers on automobile mogul Ernest Gifford (Clifton Webb) and his search for a new general manager from a small pool — three of his best and brightest salesmen. Gifford Motors' (not so loosely based on Ford Motor Company) corporate headquarters is in New York City, and Gifford intends to bring his three top candidates — and their wives — for a long-form interview and look-see. Bill and Katie Baxter (Cornel Wilde and June Allyson),
It shows what a training ground pulp fiction played for such a good and prolific writer as Block.
Lawrence Block is one of the country's best-known and successful mystery and crime novelists (8 Million Ways to Die, When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart). He has created memorable characters like the hard-boiled detective Matthew Scudder and the charming burglar-turned-bookseller (and crime solver) Bernie Rhodenbarr. But many of his most ardent admirers may not know that Block started his writing career in the pulp field, frequently using pseudonyms to churn out stories mixing crime and sex. Hard Case Crime has been reissuing these lost dimestore novels, now under Block's name, and the latest, Borderline,
With an emphasis on scares, it's great to re-welcome Dan Curtis' Dracula to the filmed pantheon of the infamous bloodthirsty Count.
Just released on Blu-ray, Dan Curtis' Dracula features Academy Award-winner Jack Palance (City Slickers, Shane, Barabbas) in the title role of the Transylvanian count. Produced and directed by Dan Curtis of Dark Shadows fame, the film adds a more romantic spin to Bram Stoker's classic tale, with Dracula obsessed with a beautiful young woman who resembles his long-lost wife. The film was written by science-fiction and horror legend Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Box, Trilogy of Terror), who pared down Stoker's epistolary tale to a fast-moving, but still scary 98-minute film. The always charismatic Palance is impressive as Dracula.
Terry-Thomas' attempts to steer clear of his female fans, including the adorable Jessica the dachshund, provide the real laughs in Bachelor Flat.
Bachelor Flat is one of those breezy, zany, battle-of the-sexes farces that were cranked out a lot in the 1960s. Although the cast is headed by actress Tuesday Weld, the film belongs to British comedian Terry-Thomas, in a role that seems styled after similar parts played by fellow-Brit David Niven. Thomas plays anthropology Professor Bruce Patterson, teaching at a California university, who is the object of mad crushes by just about every female who lays eyes on him, young and old. Is it his British charm or exotic (to the California girls) accent? Even his neighbor's dog, Jessica the dachshund,
When Huston, Bogart, Astor, and the rest of the crew got together it was movie magic.
Continuing my Humphrey Bogart film-watching... Set in 1941 San Francisco, The Maltese Falcon follows detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) who gets mixed up with a group of adventurers who are in search of a treasure - the eponymous Maltese Falcon, which the opening credits tell the audience was "... a Golden Falcon encrusted from beak to claw with rarest jewels ..." On the trail of this priceless and mythical artifact are some wonderful characters: Sydney Greenstreet (in his first screen appearance) as "the Fat Man" Kasper Gutman, Mary Astor as the unforgettably lethal femme fatale Brigid O'Shaughnessy, Peter Lorre as
It is quickly becoming a wonderful tradition for film buffs and Bogie enthusiasts - in a relaxed and beautiful setting.
I just got back from the second annual Humphrey Bogart Film Festival in Key Largo, FL, and like many of my fellow attendees, I am already looking forward to next year's festival. Attendees were treated to a series of events where they could meet and greet festival organizer and son of the actor, Stephen Bogart (host of WXEL's Bogart on Movies), and renowned film critic and historian Leonard Maltin, as well as take in a list of over twenty classic films, all celebrating the theme of "Romance." I was lucky to be able to see some classic Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall
Sounds like a busy, film-filled (and pretty fun) weekend.
This weekend I will be attending the 2014 Humphrey Bogart Film Festival (May 1-4), and writing about my experiences for Cinema Sentries (and also on my blog). I can't wait! I inherited the love of Bogie and classic films from my dad, and am thrilled to have chance to check out this festival, now in its second year. Put together by Bogart's son Stephen Bogart and the Humphrey Bogart Estate, the festival meets every year in Key Largo, Florida, the setting for the classic John Huston film of the same name that starred Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Claire Trevor, and Edward
A great companion guide to the series, as well as a reference guide to Portland's creepiest inhabitants.
Grimm is a television show that has been running on NBC since the 2011 fall season. Part procedural cop show, part fantasy, the series follows Portland homicide detective Nick Burkhardt, who is descended from a long line of hunter/protectors known as Grimms. After his Aunt Marie is killed, Nick inherits the family business, from her extensive weapon collection to some super-human abilities. Grimms have the ability to see Wesen, creatures with animal characteristics that live among humans. Many Wesen are dangerous to humans and prey upon them, but as Nick becomes more and more comfortable with his supernatural abilities he
It brings to mind classic Bugs Bunny - alas, none of the characters have quite the personality of Bugs, but then, who does?
Universal Studios is releasing on Blu-ray and DVD The Nut Job on April 15. The animated film is set in the fictional town of Oakton, which, as far as its wild animal inhabitants are concerned, is in the middle of an extreme food shortage as winter fast approaches. Surly the Squirrel (Will Arnett) and his mostly mute rat buddy named Buddy march to a different drummer, and are constantly getting in trouble with the rest of the local animals. Surly's latest gaffe has been to inadvertently destroy what little was left of the community's stored food, and as a result
A welcome addition to fans of David Suchet's definitive portrayal of the little Belgian sleuth.
David Suchet is as wonderful as ever as Hercule Poirot in this latest DVD collection from Acorn Media, Agatha Christie's Poirot: Series 11. The costumes, settings and locations are as gorgeous as ever in these first-class adaptations of Christie's mystery novels. The films stay mostly true to Christie's original novels. Two of the episodes pair Poirot with Christie's thinly-veiled spoof of herself, crime novelist Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker). The first film in the set, "Mrs. McGinty's Dead," seems a bit more artistically framed than previous Poirot episodes. It features one of Christie's most clever plots, with Poirot taking on a
Equally at home in drama or comedy, Joanna Lumley seems to have found a new calling in these travel programs.
Isn't that Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous? Yes, it is. Joannna Lumley has calmed down her signature beehive and put aside the endless glasses of bubbly and taken on the role of travel guide for two very watchable documentaries from Athena, Joanna Lumley's Nile and Joanna Lumley's Greek Odyssey. Both two-disc DVD sets feature four episodes and Lumley's delightful observations on the local sights and history. In Joanna Lumley's Nile the host lays out her plan of attack, to travel the entire length of the north-flowing Nile, considered the longest river in the world, with a length of 4,132 miles (6,650
This delightful new box set of Christie mysteries is worth the effort of reading a few subtitles.
Just when Agatha Christie fans might be feeling a bit bereft since David Suchet hung up his Poirot mustaches, Acorn Media has released a delightful new box set of Christie mysteries available from France — Les Petits Meurtres D'Agatha Christie, Set 1. Viewers should not be put off by the prospect of subtitles. Yes, the mysteries are all in French, with easy-to-read, large subtitling, and they are most definitely worth the effort. Originally made for French television in 2009-2012, this collection has dusted off the classic Christie tropes and given them a distinctly Gallic flavor, which surprisingly, works beautifully. Christie's
Agatha Christie's The Queen of Crime Collection: No Poirot, But Plenty of Madcap Amateur Sleuths in this Fun DVD Set
These films should keep Christie and British mystery fans entertained, too.
Acorn Media has released Agatha Christie's The Queen of Crime Collection, three feature-length adaptations of Agatha Christie novels. The three movies are on three DVD discs. Although they are older programs, the images, with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, look sharp on a large-scale high-definition television screen. The sound, in Dolby Digital Stereo, is also crisp and clear. SDH (English) subtitles are available. The films are all NR (Not Rated), but viewers should note that Sparkling Cyanide does contain brief nudity. The first disc in the set, Sparkling Cyanide, originally broadcast in 2003, has updated Christie's story to current-day London,