Directed by Kenneth Branagh Starring Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Marwan Kenzari, Olivia Colman, Lucy Boynton, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Sergei Polunin and Tom Bateman
Spoiler warning: While this is a brand new murder mystery film at the time of writing, the source which it follows is decades old and one of the most famous whodunnits of the golden age. I will therefore be discussing the solution, at least in passing.
After solving a tricky problem in Jerusalem by shamelessly abusing the Wailing Wall, world famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) and his fabulous moustaches are summoned to assist with a tricky case in London. A friend in the company, unapologetic hedonist Bouc (Bateman) gets him a berth on the overbooked Orient Express from Istanbul, alongside an eclectic bunch of travelers. On the first day of travel, he is approached by Mr Ratchett (Depp), a shady American antique dealer, who wants to hire him to watch for his enemies, but refuses. That night, the train is caught in an avalanche and derailed, and Ratchett is murdered.
Directed by Armando Iannucci Starring Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Olga Kurylenko, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Jeffrey Tambor
In 1953, an angry letter from concert pianist Maria Yudina (Kurylenko) precipitates a seizure in Soviet leader Josef Stalin (Adrian Mcloughlin). His sudden incapacity and death leaves a vacuum at the top of the party, with reformer Nikita Khrushchev (Buscemi) and secret police chief Lavrentiy Beria (Beale) courting favour with his deputy Georgy Malenkov (Tambor), and his most popular child, Svetlana (Riseborough).
Directed by Patty Jenkins Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya and Lucy Davis
On the isolated, paradisaical island of Themyscira, Diana, daughter of Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons (Nielsen) is the only child on an island of women. Trained in combat by her aunt Antiope (Wright), Diana (who grows up into Gadot) is fascinated by the origin story of her people and their prophesied battle to destroy Ares, last of the Olympians and bringer of all wars.
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley
In Ancient Egypt, Pharaoh Seti I (Turturro) sends his son Ramses (Edgerton) and foster son Moses (Bale) to destroy a Hittite army massing near the border. In the battle, Moses saves Ramses’ life, completing the first part of a pre-battle prophecy that ‘a leader will be saved, and the saviour will one day lead’. Moses later visits the Hebrew slave works under Viceroy Ambiguously Queer Hedonist Scumbag (Mendelsohn; the character has a name, but names are actually pretty hard to come by in this film), and there learns from one of the elders (Kingsley) that he is in fact the child of a slave, floated down river during a cull of the slave population (and by ‘floated downstream’, I mean literally walked downriver into the hands of a childless princess by his sister.)
Directed by James Mangold Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen
As always, there will be spoilers in this review.
In the not-too-distant future, Logan (Jackman) is living on the (unwalled) Texas/Mexico border, working as a limo driver in order to support Charles Xavier (Stewart), who now suffers from an unspecified degenerative brain condition that causes him to suffer seizures with terrible effects on those around him. The mutant tracker Caliban (Merchant) acts as Charles’s nurse and struggles to be a conscience to Logan in a world where most mutants have been exterminated. This arrangement is upset when a nurse named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) finds Logan and asks him to transport her and a young girl, Laura (Keen) to Dakota.
Directed by Robert Schwenke Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jeff Daniels, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Zoë Kravitz, Maggie Q, Bill Skarsgård, Octavia Spencer and Naomi Watts
Having overthrown the fiendish academic oligarchy of Jeanine in Divergent and Insurgent, Tris (Woodley) and Four (James) find the city in the grip of a mania for frontier justice led by Four’s figuratively trigger-happy mother, Evelyn (Watts) and her literally trigger-happy goon Edgar (Jonny Weston), and opposed by almost-literal Earth mother Johanna (Spencer). Instead of signing on with the new order or attempting to moderate it, they opt to break out of the walled city of Chicago to accept the invitation left for them in the Divergent Box.
Directed by Chris McKay Starring Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes
In crime-ridden Gotham City, the Joker (Galifianakis) launches a devastating attack in concert with a vast assortment of other villains, only to be soundly (and rhythmically) defeated by Batman (Arnett). When Batman declines to acknowledge his greatest foe (because he doesn’t do ‘ships,) however, Joker concocts a plan of breathtaking audacity to take his nemesis down a peg or two.
Directed by David Yates Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo and Colin Farrell
Harry Potter. Seriously, if you’ve been sufficiently living under a rock to not know, I can’t remotely do it justice here, but I will pencil in a massive rewatch and review sometime after I find the time for my Jackson-Tolkien extended editions marathon.
The important thing, vis a vis Rebourne, is that after seven books – made into eight movies, because the last book is always two movies – JK Rowling swore up and down that she was done with the boy wizard and off to writing grim and gritty detective fiction. And technically that still holds, as someone else wrote the script for the two-part stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and this film is actually a prequel without Harry or any of his immediate relatives (the nearest it gets is a photo of his godfather’s aunt.)
The Totally Unexpected Prequel
In 1926 the US magical establishment, headed by President Picquery (Ejogo), is in turmoil as a series of seemingly magical events, and the actions of dark wizard Gellert Grindlewald, threaten to reveal the magical world to the No-Maj (American for Muggle) community. Unto this came Newt Scamander (Redmayne), a hapless-looking chap with a suitcase full of magical beasts. A series of accidents lead to Scamander crossing paths first with No-Maj wannabe baker Jacob Kowalski (Fogler) and then with ex-Auror Tina Goldstein (Waterston), and his case being swapped for Kowalski’s.
Directed by Zach Lipocsky Starring Jesse Metcalfe, Meghan Ory, Virginia Madsen, Dennis Haysbert, Keegan Connor Tracy
Reporter Chase Carter (Metcalfe) and camerawoman Jordan (Tracy) are reporting on the evacuation of East Mission in the face of a resurgence of a zombie virus despite the use of a drug called Zombrex to control infection. When the Zombrex injections fail, panic breaks out and zombies run amok.
Directed by Tim Burton Starring Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson
Jake Portman (Butterfield) is a regular American (honest) loser, who connects better with his grandfather Abe (Stamp) than with his father (O’Dowd). When Abe dies, an apparent victim of a wild dog attack, and Jake believes that he sees a faceless giant looming in the bushes, his psychiatrist (Janney) suggests that it would do him good to go to the island in north Wales where his grandfather once lived in a children’s home, run – he always insisted to Jake – by a woman named Miss Peregrine who could turn into a bird, for the protection of children with extraordinary powers.