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Justice League

This year has been the year of the superhero movies with one nearly every month. With the box office showing a little sign of ‘superhero fatigue’, that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from churning them out. They are lucrative business with the various spin-off merchandising raking in big bucks. ‘Justice League’ leaps its way to screens in the same fashion. Almost as non-distinguishable from other similar movies, it’s still an exciting blockbuster sure to draw in crowds no matter what film critics say.

Determined to form a team of heroes to combat otherworldly evil, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) takes charge. Assembling a group including The Flash (Ezra Miller), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and others, Batman labels them the Justice League. Their formation comes at a perfect moment due to the arrival of deadly alien Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds). On the hunt for a powerful weapon that could destroy the universe, Steppenwolf’s actions spur the Justice League to combat evil in any way possible.

‘Justice League’ is a predictable but fun superhero yarn. It’s neither fish nor fowl as it plays things safe by presenting a straight forward spectacle. The cast work as a true ensemble with Affleck, Miller, Gadot especially diving into their roles with gusto. It’s a pleasure watching them strut their stuff against an array of ghoulish baddies. It’s also pleasing they carry off their civilian guises equally well, infusing genuine emotional weight not often seen in films like these.

The weakest aspect of ‘Justice League’ is the choice of villain. Whilst Steppenwolf does evil things and looks bad, he never projects a sense of true menace. You don’t feel as though the heroes are in any danger when confronting him which dilutes impact. The CGI looks amazing, if a little rushed, but Zack Snyder’s energetic direction and Danny Elfman’s great orchestral score aid in moving the story along. ‘Justice League’ moves fast so one doesn’t think about the ridiculous plot holes for which comic book movies are renowned.

‘Justice League’ does a good job of furthering the DC movie mythology along while being entertaining. It’s among the easiest superhero movies to sit through with solid pacing and fine performances. Although these films appear with alarming regularity, they have their place as blockbuster spectacles with ‘Justice League’ standing among the others with pride.

Rating out of 10: 7

Murder on the Orient Express

Although the works of mystery writer Agatha Christie have been adapted for TV for decades, movie versions of her books have been rare. The latest version of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ is the first English language film based on her books for over twenty years. Maybe her novels are more suited for the small screen even if several Christie films in the 70’s and 80’s proved popular. ‘Orient Express’ may rectify that with its sumptuous cast having a grand time figuring out whodunit.

Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is looking forward to a relaxing journey on the famed Orient Express train. Filled with guests including Princess Dragomiroff (Judi Dench), Samuel Ratchett (Johnny Depp) and Mrs Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), the esteemed company enjoys the ride. Unfortunately their trip is rudely interrupted when one of the passengers is killed. Tasked with finding the culprit, Poirot questions each guest before time runs out with the train’s final destination leading to murder.

Calling ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ old-fashioned isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Whilst occasionally creaking under its genteel antiquity, it commands attention due to a great cast. Each has their moment to shine and seem to enjoy partaking in Christie’s murderous parlour game. Branagh, Dench and others are at the top of their game with well-rounded performances. Letting them down are leaden pacing and the lack of genuine thrills that make Christie’s books great reading.

Although initial scenes in Malta are full of nice humour and action, once the train stops and the murder occurs the momentum halts. What follows is a series of interviews with suspects that gradually bores more than excite. Branagh does what he can as director, as well as actor, to keep things moving and his technical skills are superb. It’s that the screenplay suffers from lack of genuine movement – it needed more life to make it memorable. The cinematography does what it can to compensate and successfully provides the glossy colour crucial in building the overall 1930’s atmosphere.

‘Murder on the Orient Express’ is a generally fine adaptation of one of Christie’s most famous works. Despite not really grabbing attention as it should, the cast and direction do their best to jazz up a rather static script. It will be interesting seeing if this is a hit with modern audiences with a gap between further Christie movies hopefully not as long.

Rating out of 10: 7