Agatha Christie’s cinematic renaissance

With the release of Rian Johnson’s Agatha Christie-esque whodunit Knives Out (2019) coming up November 29, the Queen of Crime is making a comeback after BBC One’s Miss Marple (1984-1992) and ITV’s Poirot (1989-2013) sanitized her writing, according to The Guardian. Johnson cites Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express (2017) as well as even Kyle Newacheck’s Christie parody, Murder Mystery (2019), as inspirations behind his own homage. David Brawn of HarperCollins, Christie’s publisher for the last twenty-five years, says the darker, more psychological crime authors of the 1980s are the reason audiences stopped taking her as seriously.

“Knives Out” and “Marriage Story” to bookend this year’s Denver Film Festival

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The Denver Film Society says the 2018 festival sold $442,701 worth of tickets, compared to $401,000 in 2017; however, attendance dropped to 42,415 in 2018 from 46,912 in 2017. (Image Courtesy: The Know).

From October 30 to November 11, the Forty-Second Denver Film Festival will screen more than two hundred fifty features, documentaries, and shorts at the Sie FilmCenter, UA Pavilions, and the Ellie in between virtual-reality specials at the McNichols Building, according to The Know. Colorado native Rian Johnson, the filmmaker behind Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017), will open the red carpet series with his ensemble murder mystery Knives Out (2019) on Halloween at the Ellie, and Noah Baumbach will close it with his Marriage Story (2019).  Denver Film Society anticipates the same turnout of young people as well as new residents as 2018, which was as successful as the year before that, when Emma Stone and director Damien Chazelle came to town with La La Land (2016).

Netflix review: Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi” (2017)

With a hero from a desert planet who goes on to help destroy a galactic fascist’s superweapon, J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015) can be read as a companion piece to George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977).

In a similar vein, Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017) aims to be as game-changing a sequel as Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), but as it shoots for the moon, where does it land among the stars?

If you don’t know what to watch next, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is available to stream on Netflix. The epic space opera was nominated for four Academy Awards. The filmmaker also served as scriptwriter.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) arrives on the planet Ach-To to train in the Jedi arts with exiled Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hammill) so she can defeat Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his master, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).

At the same time, Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) flees a First Order dreadnought with a comatose General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern); Poe plans to fight, but Holdo plots an escape.

Poe sends former First Order stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and a mechanic named Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) to Canto Bight to rendezvous with the hacker DJ (Benicio del Toro) so he can deactivate the First Order’s tracking device.

It is refreshing to see a popular entertainment franchise like Star Wars and all its self-contained stylistic formulae churn out a “critic’s film” to be deconstructed through an authorial lens.

From a postmodern context, it is the most thematically ambitious release in the saga (not to say “ambition” always translates to “success”), and it needed to be after The Force Awakens inaugurated the third trilogy with a beat-for-beat revisit to A New Hope.

If The Empire Strikes Back is most remembered for its “big reveal,” then The Last Jedi is defined by its subverted expectations.

That said, as a sequel to The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi fails to satisfy some of the foreshadowing introduced in its parent film. While this is intentional, dramatically, it’s still… well… unsatisfying.

Maybe these films would have better consolidated this experiment with the mainstream myth that is the Star Wars universe if the same director had shot both of them.

In any case, the overarching poetry of Star Wars is the past rhyming with the present, and using the Rotten Tomatoes audience reception score for a litmus test, The Last Jedi complements The Empire Strikes Back as the movie even more beloved than A New Hope, the one that started it all.