Critics Consensus

Murder on the Orient Express Mostly Stays on Track

Plus, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Thelma are Certified Fresh.

by | November 9, 2017 | Comments

This weekend at the movies, we have a man with a spectacular mustache on the trail of a killer (Murder on the Orient Express, starring Kenneth Branagh and Penelope Cruz) and dads who are home again (Daddy’s Home 2, starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell). What are the critics saying?

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) 61%

Strangers on a train, trapped in an avalanche, with murder afoot and the world’s greatest detective on the case: in a career full of classic mysteries, Murder on the Orient Express ranks among author Agatha Christie’s most brilliantly conceived stories. Naturally, it’s already been adapted more than once, including a 1974 big-screen version directed by Sidney Lumet and boasting some of the most famous actors of its day — an all-star ensemble spirit recaptured in the Kenneth Branagh version pulling into theaters this weekend. The award-winning director also leads the cast as renowned detective Hercule Poirot, whose dreams of a leisurely ride on the titular train are dashed when a passenger (Johnny Depp) approaches him for help, and is subsequently found stabbed to death by one of his fellow travelers — a group that includes characters played by Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, and Daisy Ridley, just to name a few. With all the talent assembled, it’d be a surprise if Branagh’s Orient was less than entertaining, so the good news is that critics say this retelling makes solid use of its source material and its sterling cast. The bad news? While it has its moments, it hardly feels essential — and for anyone who already knows the story, Christie’s twists will have lost their ability to surprise. Don’t be afraid to buy a ticket for this voyage, in other words, but you might want to temper your expectations, especially if you already know whodunit.

Daddy's Home 2 (2017) 21%

‘Tis the season… for holiday-themed sequels adding an older generation of actors to play the parents of the original stars! Ho, ho, ho. One week after A Bad Moms Christmas sought to double down on the laughs by introducing the bad moms’ moms, here comes Daddy’s Home 2, the second chapter in the comedic saga of mild-mannered suburban Brad (Will Ferrell) who’s learning how to coexist with his stepkids’ father Dusty (Mark Wahlberg). After spending the first film largely at odds, the two have struck up a friendship — which is put to the test in the sequel, thanks to Christmas visits from Ferrell’s PDA-dispensing pops (John Lithgow) and Wahlberg’s uncouth old man (Mel Gibson), not to mention interference from the biological father (John Cena) of Dusty’s stepchild. It’s the stuff holiday nightmares are made of — or big laughs, if the cast and the screenwriters play their cards right. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you which is which yet with Daddy’s Home 2, because reviews are still embargoed. While we wait to determine this sequel’s critical fate, how about a round of Guess the Tomatometer?

What’s New on TV

Damnation: Season 1 (2017) 64%

Damnation‘s complex character driven mystery is intriguing, though it occasionally feels like homework.

Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • Destination Unknown (2017) , a documentary offering firsthand accounts of the Holocaust from a dozen survivors, is at 100 percent.
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) , starring Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in a drama about a grieving mother’s furious quest to obtain justice for her murdered daughter, is Certified Fresh at 95 percent.
  • Thelma (2017) , about a young woman (Eili Harboe) whose budding attraction for a fellow student dovetails with a sudden physical transformation, is Certified Fresh at 91 percent.
  • Mayhem (2017) , an action thriller about a fired employee (Steven Yeun) who discovers he’s trapped in the office with former co-workers who’ve been infected with a deadly virus, is at 86 percent.
  • Intent to Destroy (2017) , a documentary about the Armenian genocide, is at 86 percent.
  • Santa & Andrés (2016) , about the unlikely bond that develops between a political dissident and the guard assigned to monitor his activities, is at 80 percent.
  • Thumper (2017) , about a drug dealer whose hold over his network of teenage workers is threatened by the arrival of a mysterious girl, is at 80 percent.
  • Bitch (2017) , about a wife and mother (Marianna Palka) who’s driven to a canine-inspired breakdown by her family’s bad behavior, is at 59 percent.
  • The Price (2017) ,  a drama depicting the fallout from a Nigerian-American banker’s (Aml Ameen) desperate efforts to succeed on Wall Street, is at 57 percent.
  • Hello Again (2017) , a theatrical adaptation of the off-Broadway musical, is at 33 percent.

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