You are defiling one of the wonders of the world!

Death on the Nile (2022)   A great steaming pile on the Nile. I was mildly surprised to find Oscar-winning Sir Ken was able – at times, mind – to observe a modicum of restraint with Belfast. So it’s gratifying and a great relief to learn that was a mere passing aberration. Death on the Nile sees him revert to form, as lousy as he’s ever been as a director. And as an actor, he clearly hasn’t the faintest clue about Hercules Parrot. Except, it seems, that he should play him as Doctor Who. And by that, I mean nu-Doctor Who. It’s difficult to

Get yourselves to the Moon.

Belfast (2021)   I wasn’t expecting that. I may have to retract my assessment that Sir Ken is one of the worst directors under the firmament. There’s no doubting his responsibility for the steaming pile that is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and I wouldn’t wish to go to the opposite of extreme of suggesting Belfast is some kind of small miracle, but it is, for the most part, a model of restraint and well-wrought performances. Almost as if, when faced with something personal, Branagh was ironically able to get out of its way. Cynicism is due Belfast, however. It’s a modest little movie, calibrated, with its black-and-white

You gave me life, and then you left me to die.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)   Or Francis Ford Coppola’s Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to the plebs. Except that Franny was very quick to disassociate himself from the garbage spewed forth by Ireland’s favourite Englishman. For anyone else, this would deservedly have been a career-ending episode. Just look at what happened to another swirling-camera artisan with another crude goth knock-off; Stephen Sommers struggled to catch a break after Van Helsing preposterously failed to be the next The Mummy. But a trained luvvie with boundless self-regard was bound to bounce back. Sir Ken retreated to Shakespeare for a few years (and an equally overblown “definitive” Hamlet)

How did you get inside that cloud? Also, how could you eat an entire box of Pop-Tarts and still be hungry?

Thor (2011)   Thor gets several things very right, suggesting Marvel were shrewd to offset their nervousness over a magical/supernatural, cod-Shakespearean departure from their semi-realist pictures so far by casting Sir Kenneth Branagh as director. Being a luvvie, he’s right at home with theatrical tones erupting from thespians hamming it up. Unfortunately, he’s also a movie director of negligible pedigree, one who thinks moving the camera a lot represents style, and that Dutch angles are evidence of auteurism. There’s not all that much hyperactivity in Thor, the less the pity – even the Dutch angles are more subdued than one’s accustomed to

Dude, you’re embarrassing me in front of the wizards.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)   The cliffhanger sequel, as a phenomenon, is a relatively recent thing. Sure, we kind of saw it with The Empire Strikes Back – one of those “old” movies of which Peter Parker is so fond – a consequence of George Lucas deliberately borrowing from the Republic serials, but he had no guarantee of being able to complete his trilogy. It was really Back to the Future that began the trend, and promptly drew a line under it for another decade. In more recent years, really starting with The Matrix shooting the second and third instalments back-to-back has become a thing, both

Hercule Poirot. I do not slay the lions.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)   Sydney Lumet’s 1974 adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express could scarcely be called the pinnacle of his career, but (Sir) Kenneth Branagh’s latest version of Agatha Christie’s (probably) best known novel (in the world) invites new-found appreciation of its merits. Ken’s film is a bauble, and like much of his work in cinema, it’s big and showy and overblown and empty. You need to fill that space with something, but unfortunately, neither his Poirot nor Michael Green’s screenplay does the job. His Mr Poirot, then. I commented of Albert Finney’s (Oscar nominated) incarnation that it

I can’t drive. I’m a goose.

Cinderella (2015)   I guess you can’t really complain about a new version of Disney’s animated Cinderella, but live action this time, doing exactly what everyone expected of a new version of Disney’s animated Cinderella, but live action this time. I mean, it could have been fun, vibrant, witty, clever, different, twisted, edgy – any of those things, or even just one – rather than entirely obvious, without even the slightest glimmer of creativity. But then it might have run the risk of not being what audiences wanted (or were made to want, since the Mouse House is astutely serving up yesterday’s leftovers, with a

You’re the Compliance Officer. It’s your call.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)   The mealy-mouthed title speaks volumes about the uncertainty with which Tom Clancy’s best-known character has been rebooted. Paramount has a franchise that has made a lot of money, based on a deeply conservative, bookish CIA analyst (well, he starts out that way). How do you reconfigure him for a 21st century world (even though he already has been, back in 2003) where everything he stands for is pretty much a dirty word? The answer, it seems, is to go for an all-purpose sub-James Bond plan to bring American to its knees, with Ryan as a