Movie Review: Murder On the Orient Express

So earlier this week, I had the honor of being asked to be on a podcast for the ESO Network who are a large group of amazing geeky people.  I’ve had run-ins with them before at conventions and technically I’ve been on a few podcasts of theirs by virtue of simply being on a panel they were recording, but this was the first formal invitation.   So I got put into the Geek Seat.

Ya’ll.  I have hardly ever giggled or laughed that much in such a short period of time, it was amazing.   So if you want to hear me answer some hysterical questions all about nerdity and geekery and then a panel review with me and several of the other amazing ESO hosts about the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, give this episode a listen.   Click on the picture below to take you to the direct link for the podcast OR  find it where you find all great podcasts.

I really enjoyed the movie itself, though I will freely admit that I walked into it having freshly re-read the book so I could do a better compare and contrast and with having seen several of the other adaptations.   The book is a wonderful character piece and the movie portrays that well.  Kenneth Branagh does a great job with the role of Hercule Poirot, though much like with Doctor Who, he’ll never be my Poirot ( David Suchet, if you wondered, I watched a lot of PBS as a kid).   He did the role justice though and it’s my second favorite adaptation of this book.    The rest of the cast is fabulous and there’s a lot in there to unpack.  The movie isn’t as long as I thought it would be and it drags a little in some odd places.   Overall, I give it a 4.5 out of 5 (with the .5 attributed to nostalgia because I love Poirot and hope this will inspire fresh interest in Agatha’s works).

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Everything Old Is New Again

Everything old is new again.  

A fact for which I am profoundly delighted.  The latest from Shonda Rhimes,  Still Star-Crossed takes a centuries old play and breathes new life into it.  Everyone knows how the story of Romeo and Juliet ends.   The tragic end of the two heirs of the great houses and how their death ended a feud between their families. The title of the show even comes from that very first monologue.  “A pair of star-cross’d lovers…”   

Lashana Lynch as Rosaline ( taken from Lashana Lynch’s Twitter: @LashanaLynch )

This show takes that ending and runs with it, spinning out for us a glorious tapestry of politics, murder, intrigue, and marriage. For anyone like myself, who always wonders about what happens next, this show is an marvelous delight.   It takes what we already know and elevates that knowledge from a two hour play into a larger story that plays out extraordinarily well on the television screen. 

The deaths of the two heirs is simply a drop in the bucket of the much larger story unfolding in Verona. The death of the old Prince, leaving his son, Escalus and daughter, Isabella in charge of a city that is lacking only a spark to set off the powderkeg that dwells beneath it.

There are some lovely new twists as well that add more depth and intrigue to what we already know from the play.  Lord Montague having known already of the marriage between his son and Juliet, and indeed, having paid Friar Lawrence to make it happen.  Count Paris is not dead after all, but secretly recovering from his wounds in the basement of the Capulet stronghold. It is not said whether Paris is related to Escalus and Isabella, however there is a notable change in that Mercutio is not kin to them.  They’ve slotted him firmly in as belonging to House Montague.   A curious change, but easily understandable.

Wade Briggs as Benvolio Montague (taken from the ABC Still Star Crossed website)

The show displays elegantly exactly how precarious the situation for some city-states in Italy could be during this time period.   As Escalus states, there are threats within the city walls and outside of them and in order to preserve their lives as well as their seat of power, they have to walk a very tight line through all the factions.

I do wonder a little that instead of forcing Rosaline and Benvolio to marry, Escalus didn’t think to marry Rosaline himself and order Isabella to marry Benvolio and solve the issues that way.   Both houses now joined with the royal one and therefore now having a greater stake in what happens to Verona.   It would have allowed him to marry the woman he loved as well as solving some of the touchier political issues (and creating whole new ones as well, but there is no such thing as a perfect marital alliance during this time period).   Alas, he did not.  Which turns out to our benefit, as it would be a different show, if he had.

The casting for this show is lovely.   It’s a similar style of casting to the 1997 Disney version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella and I, for one, adore it.   I wish all my favorite shows would look like this, with the care and the talent and the attention to detail.   Lashana Lynch as Rosaline is absolutely perfect.  

Still Star-Crossed airs on Saturdays on ABC 10/9 Central and if you enjoy period television at all, you won’t want to miss this one.   There are currently only four episodes out, so it should be simple to catch up if you’ve missed the first few.

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