Call It a Name Oscar Wilde Dares Not Speak

DATELINE:  Calling Your Name

Chalamet Timothee Chalamet, aka Lolita!

If you’re wondering about the title of the movie Call Me by Your Name, it is a sign of gay regression.  In an age when women keep their own name upon marriage, gay men are prepared to give up theirs.


This is the movie that its young teenage star (Timothee Chalamet) earned an Oscar nomination. It’s not so much for performance, but for the fact that he plays the most intelligent teenager on film in almost a decade or perhaps longer.


Like Sue Lyon 50 years ago, Chalamet epitomizes a male Lolita, also earning an Oscar nomination as a supporting actor and symbol of loincake. The only things missing from his acting are heart-shaped sunglasses and a lollipop.


Elio is a bilingual, bisexual child prodigy at the piano. His father is an important professor who spends the summer in Italy and needs a long-in-the-tooth graduate student assistant to do nothing in particular. The characters seem to be on an endless vacation. Elio mostly cavorts around in his bathing suit.


The story is adapted from a novella by James Ivory which caught our eye. He wrote all those great Ivory-Merchant movie screenplays 30 years ago. As he approaches 90-years of age, he has come up with another one: stunning ennui on display.


Armie Hammer played Leonardo’s boyfriend in Hoover, and was Depp’s boyfriend in the Lone Ranger, and now has his sights on a teenager who is more winsome and more often unclothed than Frankie Avalon in his prime Beach Party get-up.


Pardon us, but teenagers are lacking experience and maturity—and Humbert Humberts of the world never seem to learn this.


Chalamet and Hammer insist they are not gay, but only play gay (for pay) on screen.


Civil War Gold De-Railed



DATELINE:  More Gary Drayton Please!

In the second episode of The Curse of Civil War Gold, we learn what it’s like to conduct a treasure hunt on the cheap in a show called “Right on Track.” Not even the narrative voice of Robert Clotworthy can save this mess.

Because Marty Lagina has not come through with funding, the alleged treasure hunters continue their amateur hour shenanigans. We presume Marty will cough up some bucks or this show will not be on much longer, or would not be on TV at all.

This series is apparently an exercise in what happens when people over-extend their reach. Without trust in real experts, these hunters make bonehead decisions—and seem to be lucky beyond belief. It’s anti-intellectualism in America writ big.

Of course, maybe the unwashed public loves this kind of fraud: High school teachers gone amok, and President Trump gone bonkers.

Kevin Dykstra is the leader with his brother, in a blatant imitation of the Lagina brothers, and he assembles a group of family and friends to excavate a beach along Lake Michigan in a truly ridiculous effort. Without real knowledge or safety, they begin digging in the sand. Most nitwits know this is a recipe for disaster. Dykstra’s minions cannot overcome the leakage into the pits they dig.

Information tells them that the stolen steam engine from 1869 is buried there, derailed after unloading Confederate gold into the lake. It may be feasible, but with plans like those excavation ideas, no one will find much of anything.

In the meantime, kingpin Marty Lagina sits in his palace with a checkbook, demanding more proof. If you love this kind of thing, you may be in your element.

A new style of colorized Civil War photos starts to look like comic book illustrations, also used recently on the Oak Island series. We are in familiar territory here. We doubt that can stretch this into a five-year plan, but History Channel works in mysterious ways.

We still say, give Gary Drayton, metal detective, his own show.


One Last Gasp from Oak Island for Season 5

DATELINE: Not Exactly a Cliff-hanger

pexels-photo-220994.jpeg Nothing here

Lacking the sonorous tones of Robert Clotworthy as narrator, another “clone” ersatz episode of The Curse of Oak Island came out of the ever-greedy History Channel.

A summary show about Digging Deeper had little of importance to add to the hunt, which is over for this season, but did not let series producers stop them from adding another hour of rehash and recap to the proceedings.

Their cheerleader is the same overactive and overeager puppy that has won the Lagina hearts over the past few years as the in-house and resident documentary interviewer. There’s nothing like having your own toady throw cream-puff questions to you and your friends. It sounds rehearsed because it is.

He is not part of the field crew, and never shows up for anything except to serve as a public relations tool. When Marty Lagina showed him an important “archeological find” that he was unable to explain during the slow season past because of “time constraints,” the host interviewer accepted the shocking information with cheery obtuseness.

He was literally dropped into a cordoned-off and filled-in shaft that may go back to the original digging in 1795. Why was this deemed too unimportant for the regular season incidents?

Where was the on-site expert, Laird somebody, the government forced upon the Lagina brothers? How did they find this and why did he not offer any insights? And why did they not continue to excavate the spot that first inspired treasure hunters?

This serious bit of history was shunted aside with red tape.

You won’t find answers here in this addendum episode. This clown narrator/interviewer declines to press on whether there will be an explanation ever.

You know that it is the insurance policy for another season.

It’s called a “teaser” in show business for those disgruntled fans who feel like they have been strung along for another year.


Tom Brady’s End Game

DATELINE:  End of the Time Bomb

smashing mirror

A month later, Tom Brady scraps his final TV episode to surge into a new phase of life: he makes a blitzkrieg of appearances on New York live TV interviews.

After discarding the previously filmed episode of Tom Versus Time which had Tom winning the Super Bowl, the Chopra re-telling has been re-mixed for a re-do.

It seems everyone was a tad overly optimistic, like treasure hunters on Oak Island.

Episode 6 in the saga of the oldest MVP quarterback in NFL history is more than the remains of the day. However, Tom is playing it like the last scene of Sunset Boulevard, ready for his closeup.

Everything is fine, if you don’t confuse Tom with Tom of Finland. They have the same interest in big men, but from different perspectives.

Let the parsing begin.

The bittersweet final episode of the sixpart series called modestly Tom Versus Time was short and bitter. You can slice it up any way you want, but it looks like Tom is considering whether he still has convictions to prove in football.

One of the first calls he receives is not from his wife that from Gronk. Perhaps they are both contemplating retirement to the WWE. Perhaps, too, we might see them his buddies in an action adventure movie. Tom is ready made for the movies and has already appeared in one of those Ted puppet movies with Gronk.

As for the finished series, Tom has suddenly taken to making appearances to plug the video audition tape. He chugged a beer with Stephen Colbert on late night. And he appeared on the Good Morning America show with show biz producer-partner Michael Strahan.

He and Gronk shared a laugh about Danny Amendola, which shows how close Tom and his tight end are. Within 24 hours Amendola was gone in free agency to the Dolphins, where Wes Welker began.

Gronk and Tom may want to go out in retirement, hand-in-hand, on to the Hall of Fame together. Or, maybe they will play one more season together.

Brady admits he’s closer to the end than to the beginning. This episode was a re-do because he really thought he would win another Super Bowl, which would’ve greased the skids into retirement.


Tom asks in the show: why are we doing this? He has no answer. All through the series, he has been sophomorically philosophical. He also admits that losing one’s conviction means you should look for another job.


Is Tom looking for another job? His wife, Gisele Bündchen, clearly admits the past two years have been difficult. She wants him to spend more time with the family. And, she holds all the cards—and all the money too.


Kingpin Whitey Bulger on History Channel

DATELINE:  King Whitey & Crown & Anchor Gay Bar!

Jimmy  Rough Trade Whitey Bulger

Leave to History Channel to insult women with their series called Kingpin during Women’s History Month. The good news for women is that the first episode, of Kingpin features no women.

Indeed, the episode glorifies the bloody thughood of young Jimmy Bulger who rose from boy prostitute to homicidal maniac. Oh, you mean they didn’t mention the fact that Whitey Bulger started out as a frequenter of gay bars in Boston in the 1950s. The moniker Whitey came from his alabaster skin and blond hair.

The producers also left out the salient fact that Whitey’s brother was one of the most powerful politicians in Boston for a generation, the founder of the St. Paddy’s Day roast, Billy Bulger of South Boston.

Apart from general inaccuracy and consulting a bunch of stiffs who are thrilled at Whitey’s shenanigans, the series is nothing short of appalling. Boston ought to sue History Channel for slander and libel.

We remember that Boston was not Chicago in the 1920s. Crime was localized, however violent.  People like Howie Carr, radio celeb and sometime author, know better, but jumped at the chance to be on screen.

Carr knows better than anyone how Whitey, known as Jimmy in his more refined circles, was a frequenter of Jacques, one of the more notorious gay bars of the the 1950s in Bay (aka Gay) Village, among his foibles and indiscretions.

Cutie-pie and rough trade Jimmy carried on in P-town too, at the Crown and Anchor Bar, where he stayed with its owner often. There, too, he canoodled his affair with movie star Sal Mineo. Oh, they left that out too?

sal Sal Mineo

You don’t want to alienate the audience for this kind of drivel. They wouldn’t cotton to affairs among the cognoscenti when a bloodbath would do.

You can check out most of this stuff in books (try Mafia & the Gays) on the Mafia and Whitey, including one by Howie Carr.


How Many Oscars to Put Up a Billboard?

DATELINE:  Ebbing Tide!


Two major Oscars went to the star actors of Three Billboards Near Hibbing, Minnesota, or was it Ebbing, Missouri?

We think the ridiculous title seemed laughable at first, but becomes seriously apt by the end.

Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell play borderline sociopathic and violent characters who are held in check by the small-town sheriff played by Woody Harrelson.

Audiences have been deeply bothered by a racist cop (who may be latently gay) and vindictive mother of a murdered girl who become, weirdly, sympathetic, owing to the brilliant performances of Oscar winners Rockwell and McDormand.

The audience faces a story wherein characters repent and try to mend their nasty ways. It’s not looked upon with much favor. It becomes far worse if they turn into outright vigilantes, leaving us with complete moral and ethical ambiguity. We seem to forget Bruce Willis has just released his remake of Death Wish, the ultimate film about taking the law into one’s hands, just to entertain us.

The Oscar winners are surrounded by other tour de force actors, playing small-town Missourians to the hilt. And, there were likely no other stars who could have played the leads: we doubt that Meryl Streep or Tom Cruise could have pulled it off with such aplomb or lack of glamour.

The story has absurdist elements that make for that most deplorable of all genres: dramedy or black comedy, with fewer and fewer laughs along the way.

Perhaps life is not so black and white as good guys and bad after all, but our movies usually refuse to reflect this. This film challenges its audience to live with moral ambiguity in their art, as well as in life.

This is the first movie in quite some time in which characters mention Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde in the same scene, among other quirks, making this the most intriguing film of the year.





Darkest Hour Before Gary Oldman

DATELINE:  Two Fine Hours

Oldman Churchill Oldman Churchill!

Gary Oldman had several makeup specialists to help him take on the dowdy appearance of an old reprobate as he played the gin-swilling, cigar-chomping temperamental British prime minister during World War II, the irascible Winston Churchill.

You might think he won Best Actor Oscar for his prosthetic achievement, but his performance is a gem—and you can almost forgive him for playing Commissioner Gordon in the Batman movies.

Joe Wright’s Churchill movie is quite different from the many others that have come and gone over the past few years. In the past you had Albert Finney, and in the distant past you had Timothy Spall and even Richard Burton. We could go on and on.

The latest version takes on a slightly different approach, lending itself to atmosphere, style, and a human touch. This Churchill’s worst enemies are his own conservative party members—and appeasing, peace at any price types who want to work things out with Hitler.

The film also takes the non-epic approach to the rescue of British soldiers at Dunkirk. That movie was the arch-rival to the Darkest Hour at the Oscars.

Kristen Scott Thomas plays wife Clemmie and Lily James does a turn as Churchill’s private secretary, but make no mistake, the bull in the china shop is Oldman, almost unrecognizable and totally convincing, perhaps with the performance of his life.

The film puts its focus on a short time when Churchill had to convince the public, and his King, that he was the man for the job. A couple of bravura scenes make the film well-worth the time, in which Churchill challenges himself to ride the subway to find how the common citizens feel, and his stirring speech that set Hitler on the road to ruin.

You can fit Darkest Hour on your DVD shelf next to The King’s Speech, as grand use of oratory skills and language during World War II.


Our Anti-Oscars

DATELINE: Ten Who Dared


We saw a few movies this year, since the last Oscar ceremony, and we enjoyed them thoroughly. As you might expect, none of these movies won much of anything. In fact, they were reviled in some circles.

In no particular order, we recommend four documentaries, 2 docudramas, 6 movies about writers, and a partridge in a pear tree. They are politically incorrect for the most part.

78/52:  This little documentary gives us a full-length movie that looks at how Alfred Hitchcock put together a two-minute shower scene in Psycho.

A Ghost Story: A fascinating look at the personal, sad history of one ghost (in a classic white sheet). Eschews the normal clichés.

Chasing Pavement:  An interesting look at the life, off-screen, of a gay porn star whose life is someone else’s fantasy. Not a documentary.

Frantz:  A French-German language movie about a girl who discovers a stranger leaving flowers at her dead boyfriend’s grave after World War I.

Paterson:  Jim Jarmusch presents us with the pedestrian life of a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey, who happens to be a poet.

The Man Who Invented Christmas:  The amusing story of how Charles Dickens invented Scrooge—and their intriguing discussions on how to tell his ghost story.

Rebel in the Rye:   J.D. Salinger’s life is told, through Nick Hoult’s performance, and his mentor (Kevin Spacey) who seems to have an unhealthy obsession with the writer.

The Gallapagos Affair: Documentary about a strange murder and disappearance in the Enchanted Isles of Darwin and Melville.

I am Nobody’s Negro:  The life of James Baldwin who never compromised his writing or life, and refused to become the black Truman Capote.

The list falls short of a top-ten litany, and that’s how it should be. Nobody really raved about hard-working filmmakers who came up with these labors of love. Their artistic integrity and small budgets defy the art they created.

You could watch worse movies, mostly from this year’s Oscar list.

William Russo compiled a couple of volumes of movie reviews this season:  Red Carpet Tickets and Is It Real? …or Just Another Movie.


Grapes & Gold of Wrath: Civil War Curses

DATELINE:  Look Away, Look Away, Dixieland!

ClotRobert Clotworthy

If there is a revelation about Civil War gold in this new series, the big goldmine belongs to Marty Lagina. He has put his production company with Ancient Alien and Oak Island narrator Robert Clotworthy’s dulcet tones behind a new show, Curse of the Civil War Gold.

Marty Lagina admits as he exits Oak Island for the season, that he has money to burn. Why does he need a gold treasure when he already owns one? For the first time in five seasons on Curse of Oak Island, we are treated to a visit to his business on the new series, which happens to be a giant winery in Michigan.

There’s gold in them thar grapes.

So, Lagina finds a group of high school teachers with a penchant for getting rich slowly who come to him for funding. It is a surprise that Marty allows them into his inner sanctum boardroom. His office kingdom is right out of the movies, and these obsequious gold diggers beg for money.

The formula is the same:  two brothers, their close friend (also a history teacher in a Michigan high school). Since this is hardly the kind of eclectic, adventurous crew we find on other adventure reality shows, Marty Lagina throws them Gary Drayton, his Australian metal detective, the only real holdover from the Oak Island show.

Lagina will appear as a deus ex machina, or Professor Kingsfield, at the start and finish of each episode, putting down his cynical pronouncements.

When the Michigan high school teachers set off for Dixieland and Georgia where Jeff Davis was captured, we wondered how the locals will take to Yankee hunters wanting to find the Confederate treasure.

This is an enterprise borne out of greed and likely to be as unpleasant as suggesting that J. Wilkes Booth and Jesse James were members of a Masonic-style Knights-Templar wannabe group known as the Knights of the Golden Circle, behind the gold curse.

A bunch of pro-slavery advocates with gold to hide, the KGC and their gold cache should be justifiable confiscation, kind of a government asset forfeiture.

Will a bunch of mundane Michigan high school teachers take the prize? This series is betting you care. Marty Lagina is crushing his grapes before their time.



Wrap Up Oak Island: Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

DATELINE:  Like a Hunt for the Maltese Falcon


If ever a season of hope was upon Oak Island, the fifth year of the series dig was it. Yet, the curse of the treasure hunt was that hope may be their worst enemy.

As the team of hunters gathered at the end of The Curse of Oak Island for an assessment, we came away yet again with a great respect for 94-year old Dan Blankenship. He cut through all the discoveries and made a simple pronouncement. He felt 90% of what they found was on the surface, not under ground.

He wondered about the expense. Yet, he was also even as he comes around the bend toward a century of life, allured by the mystery of the place where he has spent half his life.

We went around the table at the faces of we have come to know quite well: Dan, the wise elder, to Gary Drayton, our metal detector, to Alex Lagina, the hot young nephew of the expedition leaders, to his bearded cousin—and a couple of historians who lead the scribe element of grand expeditions from Alexander the Great to Lewis & Clark.

Dumb luck was lost to dumb decisions, that made the dive team into a 75-foot shaft disheartening. The wish for a steel plate over a treasure chest is the stuff of dreams. If Oak Island is just another Maltese Falcon, we are satisfied with the adventure of it all.

Will there be another season? You can bet your Nielsen ratings on it.








Inventor of Xmas? Charles Dickens, Really?

DATELINE:  Ghosts for the Holidays

Dickens with ScroogeDickens with Scrooge!

One presumes Dickens would be appalled that he was given the label as The Man Who Invented Christmas because in 1842 under financial pressure, he wrote a little ghost story in six weeks. We always thought Jesus probably deserved a little credit for inventing Christmas.

Having dozens of movie versions of the famous holiday tale about the reclamation of Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol, it seems only fitting that a charming tale, slightly mythological rather than biographical, would be the latest incarnation of the story.

Dan Stevens, hot off Downton Abbey, plays a stylish, boyish Charles Dickens, a man surrounded by his own spendthrift ways and a brood of interruptions in his home, faces a daunting deadline to come up with a novella to make ends meet.

Stories about writers are usually deadly dull and impossible to show creativity, but this film manages to show how the characters, and caricatures, came to life for Dickens.

No small feat is the marvelous performance of the difficult quarry of Scrooge in the person of Christopher Plummer. He argues he wants his point-of-view better expressed, feeling the story is too one-sided!

The cast is up to the weird exaggerations of Dickens, including Jonathan Pryce as the author’s father. Many people in Dickens’ life take a role in his story.

Cute, by some standards, we see snippets of dialogue picked off the streets as Dickens goes on his daily duties. He hears the best lines and incorporates them into his text. But, it is his debates with Scrooge who visits him in his room that is the heart of the film.

Dickens purists might take issue with the pabulum portrait by Stevens, but this is a sentimental story, intelligently told, without profanity, sexual situations, or other unpleasantness, while maintaining dramatic and psychological effectiveness.

This is a film that insists Dickens did more for Christmas than you may want to believe. Yet, this is more than a holiday fest and more than a simple biographical movie. It is charming, an addition to the Christmas canon.



Oscar Night Under Review

 DATELINE: Awards We Consider

 Itt    Uncle Oscar Unshaven!

Gone are the days when we would blindly follow Oscar to the bank. Oh, we think Oscar still points to True North, but usually its global directions system is busted.

We don’t go out to movies anymore. We watch on the smaller, but big screen in our home theatre. It’s comfy and cozy. Worse yet, we dismiss Golden Globes, Emmy, and only give Screen Actors Guild a cursory nod because our favorite uncle still belongs from his days as a movie star.

Nor do we review every film we see. Take this past season: we saw Get Out and chose not to review it, feeling it was not our cup of tea. It was nominated for Best Picture and the director won an Oscar for writing. Then again, so did Kobe Bryant for writing the animated short. So much for the Hollywood/Los Angeles voters.

Back in the day, we actually knew voters at the Academy. Most have gone on to a better world, or retirement.

Many of the films are ones we have not seen, nor had any plans to see. Oscar pushes us in a direction, but a blink or nod nod is the same to a blind horse. We use Oscars to decide if a movie not on our list should be included in one of our nasty reviews. We only review films we think you should see. We will not publish anything if the movie is unworthy, even under threat of having our remote taken away.

When The Darkest Hour won an Oscar for costume and makeup, we felt our favorite Gary Oldman was about to be snubbed and insulted: in a fat suit with shaved head, he plays Churchill. Yet, he actually won Best Actor. We want to see it more than ever.

We noted that James Ivory’s screenplay called Call Me By My Name won as homage to all his great movies a generation ago: thoughtful and intelligent.

On the other hand, we thought Dunkirk would fall into a long line of epic movies that win Best Picture. Instead, the award went to the remake of Creature from the Black Lagoon—or The Shape of Water as it is now called. We will review it.

When two actors win performing Oscars for the same picture, we know that it is well-written, a character drama, and well-acted. So, Frances Normand and Sam Rockwell have made the cut this year in a movie with an awful title: Three Billboards Some Place or something like it.

On the whole, we prefer movies that are off the radar screen. We prefer movies that do not have astronomical publicity budgets.

So, these are our thoughts after this latest Oscar night. We will take it to the bank and put it in a review. All on the small screen for our viewing.


**We hate it when the automatic spell checker changes our correct grammar and spelling to something incorrect, and it goes out to the world wrong.


Did Leonardo Forge the Shroud of Turin?

DATELINE: Confounding Conspiracy

Leo purported self-portrait Pia's 1898 negative photo

Same Face? Leonardo & Jesus

A new documentary comes up with an interesting conspiracy theory from the de-bunkers of the famous shroud of controversy.

Though scientists have been unable to prove its authenticity, the de-bunkers have not been able to prove it’s fake.

This little hour documentary spends some time laying some dubious groundwork, blaming a rabid fascination on relics of dead saints on the Roman Catholic Church as a background. Filmed mostly in Italy with a few American, South African, and British “experts”, the film goes about attacking the shroud with logical fallacies.

Guilt by association is a nonstarter. Then, comes a series of attacks on the poltergeist personality of Leonardo Da Vinci. Noting he never mentions “God” in his journals and was a vegetarian and purported homosexual, he would be more than a willing participant to create a fake shroud to delude the public and give the Savoy family more political influence. Hunh? and double hunh?

There are some curios in the hour: but as explicable as any other fallacy, such as the size difference between the height of the man on the front and on the back of the shroud.

DaVinci’s associations with members of the Savoy family and Pope tend to be reason for making a fake shroud on old material through some amazing and undetectable method.

There is the rather fascinating parallel that Da Vinci put his own face on every major work of art, from Mona Lisa to the Last Supper. So, the comparison of the man on the shroud and Leonardo’s self-portrait is amusing.

Chalk this up to another time-passing lack of closure on a barroom betting topic.


Super Dooper Looper Scooper

DATELINE:  Old Meets New!

like son, like son

Well, if you asked us to watch a futuristic sci-fi adventure about time traveling assassins in the 2040s with an old star teamed up with or against a new star, you might think we would tune in to see the sequel to Blade Runner. Nope, instead we found ourselves in an endless loopy movie.

From the past of 2012, Looper has all the elements you’d expect: the old star is Bruce Willis who has a fairly good track record of finding unusual, if not intriguing science fiction films. The young star is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose allure remains hypnotic but incomprehensible.

In this particular pastiche of all your favorite movies, Gordon-Levitt underwent hours of makeup each day in order to look like a young version of Bruce Willis, down to the mannerisms.

The result is that Gordon-Levitt looks like something quite odd, but not at all like himself, our favorite young actor. Instead, he turns into Keanu Reeves!

If the director wanted to make an early version of the John Wick saga, he cast the actor to rival Reeves.

The notion of the plot has something to do with a younger hired gun (a looper) in the 2040s who must assassinate his old self from the future. Alas, the old fox (Willis) is smarter than the young idiot (Gordon-Levitt), and a merry chase is on.

If anyone thinks a pack of bad guys can stop Bruce Willis, they haven’t seen any Die Hard movies.

Along the way the movie turns into a semi-mixed up film called The Terminator with Willis out to kill the future leader of a crime syndicate who happens to be 10-years old. Of course, said future villain also happens to be an expert in telekinesis, which turns the film into an over-baked film called The Omen.

You can take parts of all kinds of movies and toss them into a Hollywood crock pot, and out comes a crock of a movie.

Yes, to our endless shame, we enjoyed it.


Branagh’s Murderous Result: Disoriented Express

DATELINE: Strike Three!

Branagh Hit & Run?

Pit-stop for Orient Express!

When dainty detective Poirot is transformed into a Belgian Sam Spade, we know the troubles are just beginning. Director and star Kenneth Branagh has tackled Agatha Christie with hairy results on his upper lip and elsewhere in this latest version of Murder on the Orient Express.

Bombast and exaggeration are the hallmarks of every performance, as if the actors had to make a cartoon version of Christie’s classic. Oh, yes, the sets are gorgeous and breath-taking, but filled with dead red herrings.

Alas, Branagh has miscast himself in the lead role.

We found Branagh’s bold mustache leaving the detective ripe for plucking. When your first visual image of Poirot does not work, you leave little wiggle room for the rest of the clever story. Throwing in a few fights and action scenes for Poirot is too much like James Bond than Hercule. The film even gives Poirot a girlfriend!

Agatha’s Christie’s perps in this edition match the number who likely deserve to be killed on the Calais sleeper car. Once again, famous faces take on minor roles in an ensemble cast meant to delight us. There is a tad much emphasis on political correctness as the cast is far more diverse than Dame Agatha ever envisioned, which is not a criticism.

Like Hamlet, the story can be done with an all-black cast, or an all-nude cast, though we are not convinced it adds anything to the tale.

Everyone is working extremely hard to pull this off, and the pretend fun from the cast is exhausting.

Inevitably, it is Branagh who botches the climax revelations and the explanation of the murder on the Orient Express, wasting stars like Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Derek Jacobi, and even Johnny Depp, in underwritten roles for the attention deficit audience.

Try one of the other two, preferably Suchet’s version.