As remakes go, Murder on the Orient Express has its work cut out for it – or does it? When it was first made in 1974 with an all-star cast that included John Gielgud, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, and Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot, its labyrinthine plot – adapted from the novel by Agatha Christie – required a cool head to keep up with it all, and to follow the various strands of its complex narrative. And the solution to it all still ranks as one of Christie’s more ingenious and surprising resolutions. So, with that in mind, perhaps it’s best that over forty years have passed between the original and this new version, directed by Kenneth Branagh, and featuring Branagh himself as the Belgian detective. Another strong point for the movie is that Branagh is working from a screenplay by Michael Green, who has provided scripts for two other highly anticipated movies this year, Logan and Blade Runner 2049. With a starry cast that doesn’t quite match the A-listers of 1974, this version still has enough acting firepower to ensure that audiences are kept on the edge of their seat – unless they’re focused entirely on the humongous moustache that Branagh sports as Poirot.
When Steven Soderbergh announced his retirement from directing movies after making Behind the Candelabra (2013), it was regarded as a definite loss. An idiosyncratic moviemaker with a great deal of smarts and an enviable career (few directors could release movies as disparate as Erin Brockovich and Traffic in the same year), Soderbergh’s retirement always seemed to be less of a retirement and more of a break. And so it proves – hurrah! – as he returns with a spirited caper movie that features a great cast (including some newcomer called Daniel Craig), the kind of convoluted plot that won’t be as straightforward as it looks, and Soderbergh’s bold, feast-for-the-eyes cinematography. The script is by another newcomer, Rebecca Blunt, but from the trailer it looks as if Soderbergh has allied himself with the kind of tale that suits his eye for the ridiculous and his talent as a storyteller. If Soderbergh brings his A-game, this could well be one of the funniest, and most enjoyable movies of 2017 – and it could make a star out of this Craig guy.
If you’ve never heard of Shirley Spork, Marilynn Smith, Louise Suggs, or Marlene Bauer Vossler, it’s not so surprising. They were pioneers in a sport that didn’t encourage female players, and they helped to legitimise women’s involvement in that sport. In 1950, they and nine other women players formed the LPGA, the Ladies Professional Golf Association, an achievement that The Founders covers through a mixture of contemporary footage and interviews with the four surviving founder members. It’s an inspiring tale, and shines a light on yet another example of the institutional sexism that permeated sporting life in the US, where women were deemed unable to play as well as their male counterparts. It’s the first feature-length documentary for its directors, Charlene Fisk and Carrie Schrader, but in telling the story behind the founding of the LPGA, they’ve hit on a piece of recent history that has a wider relevance even today.