A HAUNTING IN VENICE – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Famous detective Hercule Poirot is a haunted man, even when not in a haunted house. A Haunting in Venice, director and star Kenneth Branagh’s third outing as Agatha Christie’s brilliant and persnickety detective, is his most satisfying turn yet. Full of Gothic touches that enhance the mysterious mood, the film also is rich in theme: that we all live with ghosts, to paraphrase one character, whether real or not. A Haunting in Venice is briskly entertaining Agatha Christie comfort food with a larger theme about the secrets we carry. Should Branagh and company continue putting Poirot on the case, here’s hoping they also dip into Christie’s more obscure catalogue to offer audiences more surprises.

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A HAUNTING IN VENICE – Review by Susan Granger

Released on September 15, Dame Agatha Christie’s 133rd birthday, Kenneth Branagh’s A Haunting in Venice is adapted from her novel Halloween Party. In post-World War II Venice, ostensibly retired Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) is urged to attend a séance by mystery writer Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), who has used him as a character in her crime-riddled novels. Taking considerable liberties with Agatha Christie’s original 1969 whodunit, screenwriter Michael Green and actor/director Branagh have transplanted the murder mystery to picturesque Venice, where gothic ghosts seemingly waft among the rain-shrouded canals.

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A HAUNTING IN VENICE – Review by Maitland McDonagh

Hercule Poirot is attuned to the finer points of human psychology, allowing Agatha Christie room to explore emotions alongside clues and Kenneth Branagh’s A Haunting in Venice is just as invested in the way its characters feel as in what they do. Branagh never lets Poirot’s quirks take precedence over the fact that he’s a character with real depth, a man whose dedication to uncovering the truth is rooted in a past darkened by tragedy and dislocation. For all his mannered affect, injustice and cruelty offend Poirot’s sense of the way things ought to be but all-too often aren’t, and that any victory over life’s fundamental unfairness is worth the fight. When everything has been unraveled and explained, that’s a solid and satisfying takeaway.

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TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS – Review by Susan Granger

Secrets of synchronicity: Transformers: Rise of the Beasts once again lures fans back into theaters while the New York Times Business section lauds Silicon Valley’s highly anticipated new technology that would unite human and machine. Known as The Singularity, it envisions a self-aware superhuman machine that could design its own improvements faster than any group of scientists. That’s not what happens in the seventh movie in the family-friendly Transformers franchise, spawned by Hasbro action figures, but it’s not far off.

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TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is like an old car outfitted with some new accessories. The spoiler and the hubcaps change it up a bit, but it has the same chassis underneath. The seventh (!) film in an action franchise launched in 2007, Rise of the Beasts introduces some new characters (human and robot) who liven up things enough for the first half. Yet it ultimately devolves into a big smashing robot movie that’s so-so, with a final showdown that could have been avoided if a character behaved the way we’ve seen in other films.

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TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS – Review by Nadine Whitney

In 2007 Michael Bay brought Tomy/Hasbro’s Transformers toys to live action with Transformers. Although there had been a series of animations Bay’s film kickstarted the cinematic franchise and allowed it to devolve into complete dross by the time the last film came around in 2017. That’s not to say that Transformers was any kind of marvel; typically shot in the frenetic ‘Bayhem’ fashion, the film was also uncomfortably exploitative of Megan Fox’s body and Revenge of the Fallen doubled down on the particularly predatory male gaze. Travis Knight’s 2018 Bumblebee corrected Bay’s formula and was genuinely good as an action film with an emotional core. Now we have Steven Caple Jr.’s Rise of the Beasts which avoids Bay’s worst directorial instincts but doesn’t measure up to Bumblebee in terms of quality.

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WEEK IN WOMEN: TIFF’s inaugural Share Her Journey Award to Michelle Yeoh – Brandy McDonnell reports

Esteemed performer Michelle Yeoh will receive the inaugural TIFF Share Her Journey Groundbreaker Award during this month’s Toronto International Film Festival. The award recognizes a woman who is a leader in the film industry and has made a positive impact for women throughout their career. The inaugural award is inspired by TIFF’s Share Her Journey initiative, which was created to address gender parity in the film industry, to champion women at every stage of their creative journey, and to shine a spotlight on women creators making a significant difference in the industry.

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EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Everything Everywhere All at Once has moments where viewers might wonder, What the heck did I just watch? The film has martial arts fights with dildos and pixelated body parts, characters who nibble on “hot dog fingers”, and sentient rocks. But stick with it. Everything matters, as absurd as it is, and it’s beautiful when you least expect it. A stellar cast led by Michelle Yeoh holds this zany multiverse together. The martial arts veteran naturally makes her action scenes look effortless. She’s also funny, poignant, and incredibly endearing as Evelyn Wang, a put-upon Laundromat owner whose fractured relationships hint at her greater adventure.

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EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE – Review by Susan Granger

Never has there been a more truthful title. In Everything Everywhere All at Once, the filmmakers adhere to the motto that too much is never enough. It’s like watching a deftly structured Sliding Doors concept become an action-packed, cacophonous Cloud Atlas.

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GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE – Review by Leslie Combemale

Gunpower Milkshake is proof that you can have five talented, compelling actors acting the hell out of themselves and it still won’t make up for a one-dimensional derivative script. I’d still crawl through teargas to see Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, and Carla Gugino in an assassin sisterhood, but it’s a real disappointment they didn’t have a script that could leverage their combined star power and thespian skill.

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