- Death on the Nile
Murder on the Orient Express (2017) was an entertaining throwback blessed with an all-star cast and great production values, which performed brilliantly at the box office returning around 350 million dollars from a 55 million dollars budget; a sequel was teased at the end and – after numerous delays due to the pandemic – it has finally arrived. Sir Kenneth Branagh returns as the titular Hercule Poirot and serves as the director to lead another star-studded cast to adapt one of Agatha Christie’s most well-known novels. The cast includes Gal Gadot, Annette Bening, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, and Emma Mackey, amongst others. Despite all the wonderfully talented people and the great production values, my reaction to this adaptation was a lot tamer than the first one. Murder on the Orient Express was an old-school, “whodunnit” with modern production values, performances, and pacing, so it was a nice surprise to see that; Death on the Nile is exactly that but adding a few grievances to it. Weird decisions like adding a chase scene for no reason worked in the previous movie but fall flat here. Strange decisions, such as Poirot’s mustache having a tragic backstory point clearly to his character not being created with a backstory or any dramatic traits in mind; he was an amalgamation of the literary detectives of the time. Even without those decisions that rubbed me the wrong way, I still would have found it hard to conjure up any excitement over it; that’s not to say it was bad, just temper expectations before going in.
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)
Ironically, the massacre this movie faced when fans and critics alike saw it was, in a lot of ways, worse than the movie’s massacre of its characters. For my part, I actually enjoyed the first half of this movie. Directed by David Blue Garcia, story by Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues (the duo behind the Evil Dead reboot and Don’t Breathe movies) with the screenplay done by Chris Thomas Devlin, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) is a direct sequel to the 1974 classic that disregards everything after that since it picks up the story 50 years after the original where a bunch of hipsters/internet stars buys all the property in Harlow in order to build their version of paradise, however that includes the orphanage where Leatherface’s mom still lives in and things escalate from there. This sequel has some good points that all become exhausted by the first half of the movie; good performances, an attempt at modernizing the setting, throwing vicious and unreasonable evil (armed with a chainsaw and brutal strength) against hipster characters. I was hoping (although I knew it wasn’t happening) that the first half was setting up something similar to the original classic; instead of the senseless depiction of violence from the 70s, a new take on that theme with modern influences. Unfortunately, the second half goes off on a murderous gory rampage that is a more conventional slasher; some of the kills are fun, but most are boring. Then, there’s the trend of having original characters return for their heroic moment (which I found to be particularly uninteresting for this franchise), and the unintentionally goofy ending. These combine to make it a pretty bad sequel and mediocre slasher at best; I do wish that the franchise makes a comeback as I think even this concept can be worked into something more appropriate to the original, but as is, fans are best served to rewatch the ’74 classic for the umpteenth time.
If you’ve read my blog, you will know that I am an Xbox fan, so I’ve never actually played any of the Uncharted games, but I have seen a lot of coverage of them to know that they are beloved; since they are clearly inspired by adventure films and characters like Indiana Jones, they are as perfectly suited for the big screen as The Last of Us is for HBO Max. Unfortunately, the end result is a safe blockbuster that fails to excite. Directed by Ruben Fleischer, written by Rafe Lee Judkins (alongside Art Marcum and Matt Holloway for the screenplay, and Jon Hanley Rosenberg and Mark Walker for the story), and starring Tom Holland as Nathan Drake and Mark Wahlberg as Sully, Uncharted is a prequel to the games as a young Nathan Drake is recruited by Sully to find a lost treasure that his brother had been helping him track. To me, the biggest problem of this movie is that it sticks too close to what made the games great; bigger-than-life characters, bombastic playable action, frenetic pacing with lots of banter, and likable scoundrels. Playing that action is a different feeling than watching it because watching it felt lifeless and drained of any excitement (despite having legendary cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon); the banter didn’t need to work all the time in the games because there was interactivity and exploration/puzzles to keep you going through the segments where stuff was not blowing up, but here these characters are only bantering and being dicks to each other so the lack of chemistry and humor not only makes these scenes dull, it makes the characters feel like assholes who you don’t want to root for. Trying to save all of this is a story that feels worse than most videogame stories and blockbuster thrills that don’t feel all that thrilling anymore. Usually, I like blockbusters and am less harsh on them, but I’d say wait for the certainty of Michael Bay if you are craving for a blockbuster, as Uncharted was a disappointment despite having no affinity or expectations from it in the first place.