Penélope Cruz

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) [DVD]

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It was with some trepidation that I approached the latest big screen adaptation of Agatha Christie’s seminal Murder on the Orient Express. For one thing, my enduring affection for both the novel and Sidney Lumet’s 1974 film meant I was already predisposed to not liking the new kid on the block. For another, I’d heard some very polarised reactions to the new film with some not liking it one bit. I can’t remember the last time that my father was ever as vitriolic about a film as he was after seeing this at the local Odeon.

Given all that, I was surprised by how much I liked the new film. Its by no means a match to the original version, nor even to the delightful 1994 BBC Radio 4 dramatisation by Michael Bakewell starring John Moffatt as Hercule Poirot (the pictures are always better on the radio.) But it’s nonetheless a solid, quality production which strikes a balance between sensible reverence for the source text with the necessary updates to appeal to a 21st century cinema-going audience. Read the rest of this entry »

Sahara (2005)

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I’ve never quite understood why Sahara (the 2005 film starring Matthew McConaughey and Penélope Cruz) is quite so widely disliked as reviewers and review sites make it out to be.

It’s not a great work of art, but it’s a cheerfully good natured big budget action film based on the novel by Clive Cussler, which did reasonably well at the box office at the time but which now is poorly remembered if remembered at all. Which seems a bit harsh, because it has much to recommend it, from the spectacular African locations gorgeously shot by director Breck Eisner to the well-mounted action sequences that eschew CGI for the real thing wherever possible.

It’s very much a case of being an attempt at an updated Indiana Jones film, with a historical puzzle to solve that puts it firmly in the footsteps of the likes of National Treasure and the then in-vogue novels of Dan Brown such as The Da Vinci Code. And it all has more than a little pre-Daniel Craig Bond vibe to it as well, with a similar feel to the overall plot, the battle sequence on the river feeling oddly familiar from the likes of Moonraker and the climax being staged at the suave villain’s hi-tech desert superlair. The film’s composer Clint Mansell certainly got the same vibe and infuses the score with more than a little homage to John Barry’s big-brass waah-waah sound at key moments. Read the rest of this entry »