Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

I have waited all year for this movie! Part of my birthday celebration was seeing the first showing at my local theater. As a passionate Agatha Christie fan, I have thoughts both good and bad so settle in for a semi-bumpy Orient Express ride.

Many people had doubts about Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of beloved detective Hercule Poirot. If you’re a doubter, I want to put your mind at ease. Mr. Branagh is hands down the best part of the movie. He kept the spirit of the Poirot we all know and love while adding humor and his own unique touch to the character. He is a constant source of smiles and laughs, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Overall the ensemble cast did not disappoint. Johnny Depp is fantastic as always (SPOILER) even though his part is short-lived. Michelle Pfeiffer and Penelope Cruz have some shining moments, and Dame Judi Dench’s monologue about little Daisy Armstrong made me tear up. Lucy Boynton and Sergei Polunin’s respective portrayals of Count & Countess Andrenyi are dark, a hidden gem that is impressive considering their inexperience. Josh Gad was good for the most part, but the chase scene involving Poirot felt awkward. The conflict between Hercule and Dr. Arbuthnot also felt clumsy. Daisy Ridley acted well, but I did not like Mary Debenham’s demeanor. In the book, she is polite and reserved which leads Poirot to suspect she might be the mastermind behind the murder; his suspicion makes little sense in the movie because Mary is much too bright and happy.

The book’s methodical layout is not perfectly suited for a movie. Some may find the added action irritating, but I understand the necessity to shake up the format onscreen. That being said, some of the clues got lost in the shuffle due to a speedier pace. As far as I remember, all the clues from the book were included, but they weren’t given the time they needed to simmer and encourage the audience to consider possible outcomes. Perhaps the extra, non-book stuff could’ve been trimmed to accommodate character interviews and clue discoveries, making the final reveal much more grand than it actually was. I also want to mention that I don’t remember Biniamino Marquez being named at the end. (SPOILER) The twist relies on the shock of twelve people being involved, each with a specific connection to the Armstrong family. The cast may seem large, but those who know the story well won’t miss anything, even if only one name is passed over. This goes back to details being muddled at the end. Murder on the Orient Express is one of the greatest stories ever written in the mystery genre. If you don’t lay it out correctly, you spoil the thrill and fun of the twists and turns.

I love two-thirds of the movie, but the ending is a disappointment. Things can surely get better from here so I hope Kenneth Branagh is giving the chance to continue the series, perhaps with a book that has less adaptations. I truly believe he can do great things with Poirot. The final scene hints at a sequel based on Death on the Nile. How great would that be?! 😄

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Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boSSSZpAkyw&t=25s

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Once Upon a Time Season 6 Finale

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I know this is a sad and confusing time for Oncers. I want to try and shed some positive light on the situation. When I first heard that Jennifer Morrison was leaving the show, I didn’t want to believe the news was true. Once it was confirmed, my heart shattered into a million pieces. To make life even better, it was not long after confirmed that five other cast members were departing (for a variety of reasons). My mind was blown, but not for the right reasons. What would the show be without the faith of Henry, the love of Charming and Snow, the strength of Belle, and the wit of Zelena?? All those characters bring something unique and special to the main cast. I went into watching the final episode of season 6 upset and a bit bitter towards the turn of events. However, I couldn’t be happier with the finale. The departing cast members were sent off with an ending worthy of a neatly tied bow. Before the actual ending played out, I was ready to hop on the bandwagon and protest that the show end there. [ S P O I L E R S   A H E A D  ! ! ! ] During the first scene, I had a strange feeling the dad was Henry. My suspicion was proved to be correct during the final scene. The show started with a little boy in possession of a book finding his mom and taking her on a mission to fulfill her destiny. After six seasons, the focus shifts into the future, a future where a little girl finds her dad and gives back his book entitled Once Upon a Time. I wasn’t expecting this twist, and I’m intrigued to see where season 7 leads. I know it feels lousy right now, but when have Adam Horowitz & Edward Kitsis ever let us down? Oncers, let’s put on a brave face and trust that OUAT will remain the same show we’ve all loved for the past six years. We still have Hook, Regina, & Rumple, and there are sure to be many new fairytale characters ahead.

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Farewell to Emilie de Ravin, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jared Gilmore, Jennifer Morrison, Josh Dallas, and Rebecca Mader. Each of you will be dearly missed by the OUAT community. Should the door open for one or all of you to return, Oncers will welcome you back with open arms. 💕

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– Lauren Michele <3

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Beauty and the Beast Movie Review

🎬 Directed by Bill Condon

🎼 Music by Alan Menken

📝 Screenplay by Evan Spiliotopoulos & Stephen Chbosky

🌟 S T A R R I N G

👗 Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe

🐗 Dan Stevens as Beast/The Prince

☕ Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts

👸🏻 Emma Watson as Belle

🔥 Ewan McGregor as Lumiére

💋 Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette

🌹 Hattie Morahan as Agathe/Enchantress

⏰ Ian McKellen as Cogsworth

🎭 Josh Gad as LeFou

🔨 Kevin Kline as Maurice

💪🏻 Luke Evans Gaston

☕ Nathan Mack as Chip

🎶 Stanley Tucci as Cadenza

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Beauty and the Beast was one of my favorite Disney movies growing up. The love story goes beyond girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy. Belle is the first human, not counting the enchanted objects, to look past Beast’s exterior. Her attention and kindness encourages him to become more human, making his inner transformation just as important as his outer change. They develop a friendship first and then fall in love. I am ashamed to say that despite being initially excited, I allowed myself to be swayed by critics giving their opinion based on the trailers. Once the movie was released and I heard great feedback from lifelong fans, I started to relax and get excited again. I finally saw the movie last Wednesday. When the title card filled the movie screen, I got chills and teared up. In that moment I realized how emotional the experience was going to be for my inner child.

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The sets are stunning. The village is like the picturesque interior of a snowglobe isolated from the rest of the world. There are golden, ornamental baroque details all over Beast’s castle, specifically French Rococo. Under the curse, the exterior is dark and dramatic; the word gothic comes to mind. As the centerpiece of the story, the enchanted rose is as striking as it needs to be. The theme is appropriately weaved into other parts of the film; Maurice attempts to pick a white rose from Beast’s garden, and Belle’s baby rattle is a red rose. Don’t even get me started on the final scene. The flower-draped ceiling is GORGEOUS!! The entire ballroom looks like springtime, airy & bright.

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Belle is the same beloved character but with a few modifications. Her day-to-day outfits are a quirky mix of materials and patterns, and combat boots are her footwear of choice. The wardrobe update matches her new role as an inventor just like her father Maurice. The yellow ballgown is a simpler design than it’s 1991 counterpart, but when you see how it moves onscreen, doubts will fly out of your mind. The gold touches make it shine, and the skirt floats through the air as if it were weightless. The look wouldn’t be complete without the gold ear-cuff, a subtle nod to Belle’s unconventional style. There is no need to say much about the celebration dress. The way it looks and moves in the ballroom during the final scene will take your breath away. Belle’s hairstyles are simple but very beautiful. My personal favorite is her updo in the library scene accessorized with a blue headband. Of course I have to mention Beast’s wardrobe which goes through a transformation of its own; it becomes more refined and princely as the movie goes on. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran deserves a lot of credit because she came up with outfits for a character who is animated during most of the film. A lot of work went into making sure the animated garments had the depth and detail of tangible clothing. The animators did a phenomenal job.

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Alan Menken is a musical genius so it’s a no-brainer that I like all of the new songs, especially Evermore. In terms of flow, Days in the Sun is a nice song, but it feels unnecessary. There is no nice way to say this so I’ll just rip off the band-aid. Many of the vocals are heavily edited, and I suspect it has more to do with lack of vocal ability than over-zealous audio editors. It is a fact that Dan Stevens hired a vocal coach to learn how to sing for this movie, and Emma Watson has never sung professionally. I am thrilled with their acting performances, but the vocals leave a lot to be desired; they sound robotic and lack emotion. I found myself holding my breath every time they sang because I desperately wanted it to sound good but knew it probably wouldn’t. A few times I was pleasantly surprised. Emma did a good job with Belle (Reprise), and Beast sounded much better in the second verse of Evermore. I saw a comment on YouTube regarding Emma’s vocals that was well put. I can’t remember the exact words, but this is the basic idea: The original songs, written for an experienced singer, are above Emma’s capabilities. She sounded better singing the songs written for her portrayal of Belle. I had the same problem with Ewan McGregor and Emma Thompson. Ewan has sung before in a film, and for the most part his vocals sound good. I know Emma can sing, and I think she was a great choice for Mrs. Potts. The issue is inconsistency. Sometimes the vocals sound good, and other times they sound heavily autotuned. Since both roles requires a certain voice, it is possible that manipulation was required to help Ewan and Emma stay in character while singing. The song Beauty and the Beast is a turning point in the story, and Mrs. Potts’ singing voice ruina a bit of the magic in what is an otherwise beautiful scene. Listening to it again, the vocals sound better than I remembered, but there are still some parts that don’t sound as nice as they should. Knowing that Emma has a great voice makes this even more of a heartbreaking disappointment. I love the cast, but this movie is a musical. Acting and vocals should be split 50/50 when considering the potential actors. Perfection was well within reach for this film, and lack of vocal ability was the one and only roadblock. Consider the rave reviews that Josh Gad and Luke Evans are receiving. Why do you think that is? Not only are their acting performances spot-on, but their vocals are spectacular. That is why they are the most successful part of this musical film. I want to end my rant by mentioning that I find the entire soundtrack to be over-edited, even the experienced voices such as Kevin Kline. I would have preferred less effects and rough edges. At least the final result would have sounded more genuine.

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Animation was the perfect medium for this story because it is a fairy tale that is not at all grounded in reality. When considering a live action version, you have to ask yourself if the story will translate. I commend the crew because I was a believer every step of the way. I like the realistic design of each enchanted object. They fit the style of the movie and still feel like the same beloved characters. I love the way the friendship develops between Beast and Belle.  There are so many amazing scenes I could mention such as the library and Belle’s childhood home in Paris, but I will stick with one. Up until the ballroom scene, I was fully invested in the budding friendship. During the waltz when Beast lifts Belle, I felt a strong wave of emotion and instantly knew the relationship had become a love story. I was worried about the transformation because I wanted to be in the moment; I didn’t want to only see Dan Stevens in a wig. I am so relieved that the scene came together because it cemented the couple’s chemistry. I know that Belle’s final quote is controversial, but I LOVED it. I found the playful moment to be cute and relatable.

Belle: How would you feel about growing a beard? 😘

Beast: GROWL! 😉

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There are details that disappoint and frustrate me, and I’m not afraid to talk about them. However, I can’t change anything so there’s no use dwelling on the negative. My emotional reaction speaks volumes, and I will definitely be watching this movie again. Please go and see it before you form an opinion. You might be pleasantly surprised! :)

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Beauty and the Beast Artwork ➡️ Tale as Old as Time

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– Lauren Michele <3

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The Walking Dead Season 6 Finale | April 2016

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Take a deep breath TWD fans.  Let’s talk through the pain.

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* * * Warning: I will be talking openly so please DO NOT read this if you have not watched the season 6 finale.  There may be SPOILERS ahead.

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1.  I have no idea what is wrong with Maggie, but I’m scared.  What happens if she miscarried??  Every human that dies becomes a zombie.  What does that mean??  Are things about to get really weird??

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2.  I’m pretty sure Carl and Enid will never be friends again.  He locked her in a closet!!  I know he was trying to protect her, but I don’t think she will be very understanding.  On the other hand, maybe she will be.  The group has worse things to deal with now.

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3.  I loved watching Carol’s progression into the kick-butt category but didn’t realize the toll it had taken until this episode.  She stared death in the face and taunted her shooter to finish the job.  She has managed to stay alive, but fear and emotion are starting to make her unstable.

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4.  I was concerned when Morgan told Carol’s shooter he could leave alive.  He has tried my patience this season with his “zen” approach to the zombie apocalypse.  Thankfully he did what he had to do: shoot the enemy.  Seriously though, the one time he decides to kill a (bad) human, and he wastes all of his bullets.  One headshot would have sufficed.

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5.  The Saviors taunted Rick’s group the entire episode, but the worst blow was the stunt they pulled dressing two zombies with items from Daryl and Michonne.  That was cruel considering no one knew Daryl, Glenn, Michonne, and Rosita were in danger.

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6.  This episode had me on edge the entire 90 minutes.  By the end, I had cried and said goodbye to every character just in case.  When Eugene left with the RV, I was sure he was a dead man.  Next thing I know, I’m watching several beloved characters kneel before Negan and fear for their lives.  My body was shaking.  My hands were partially covering my eyes.  Tears were streaming down my face.  I was not okay.  I’m still not okay.

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Closing Thoughts:  First of all, let’s take a moment to appreciate the stellar cast.  The regulars did a fantastic job, especially those who came face to face with Negan.  Watching Rick go from confident leader to powerless victim was heartbreaking.  The Saviors’ whistling sent chills down my spine and freaked me out, paving the way for Negan.  I knew Jeffrey Dean Morgan would kill it, and he did not disappoint.  In the end, it was implied that someone died a la Lucille, but the identity was not revealed.  I was so emotionally shaken that I didn’t think twice about the cliffhanger until I read social media comments.  I have come to expect cliffhangers from TWD so I wasn’t bothered, but I understand why fans are upset.  After numerous mid-season and season finale cliffhangers, people were craving some closure, closure they once again did not get.  I trust that the writers know what they’re doing, but I do think the show has lost some of its edge in the eyes of viewers.  I have not given up and don’t plan on doing so anytime soon.  The Negan storyline is promising in terms of edgy content, and I’m nervous/excited to see what happens next.

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– Lauren Michele <3

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The Wonderful World of Disney Presents:

Image Source: http://abc.go.com/shows/the-wonderful-world-of-disney-disneyland-60

I know I know I know!!  I talk about Disney A LOT.  However, I couldn’t help writing a post about the Disneyland 60 celebration that aired on ABC tonight.  Before I jump headfirst into all the amazing moments that took place, I want to mention two things that are not so good.  Go ahead and call me a prude, goodie two-shoes, etc.  I don’t care!  I personally think that the revealing costumes in the opening dance number were inappropriate; this was a special in honor of a family friendly theme park, and families at home and in the park were watching.  The second thing I want to mention isn’t bad, but it is somewhat of an elephant in the room and a detail that will most likely be mentioned by at least one person on the internet.  Most Disney fans wont mind watching two hours of Disney-related television and freaking out over the nostalgia and memories.  However, this two-hour special was more about Disney than Disneyland with the exception of a few interviews and fun facts throughout.  I don’t really care, but the truth is the special was a tad bit unnecessary if you consider that the subject was supposed to be Disneyland.  Moving on to the good stuff!

– Dance –

The “Part of Your World” dance number featuring Maddie Ziegler was short but beautiful.  The flowy costumes, monochromatic blue stage, and underwater background set a tranquil, dreamy mood.  Derek Hough lead a dance number set to “Step In Time.”  I couldn’t help but shed a few tears when Dick Van Dyke stepped onto the stage and danced at the end.

– Music –

The musical performances were amazing!  Here is a list of the songs performed in order:

• “Be Our Guest” – Pentatonix

• “When You Wish Upon a Star” – Jessie J

• “I Wan’na Be Like You” – Fall Out Boy

• “Circle of Life” – Elton John

• “Rainbow Connection” – Tori Kelly & Kermit the Frog

• “Let It Go” – Idina Menzel

• “Part of Your World” – Kelsea Ballerini

• “Friend Like Me” – Ne-Yo

• Star Wars Medley

Hore, Steven, and Sky Creative. Sky Movies, Star Wars. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. http://imgur.com/gallery/G7AaaFg.

Hore, Steven, and Sky Creative. Sky Movies, Star Wars. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. http://imgur.com/gallery/G7AaaFg.

• “Steve McQueen” – Little Big Town

• “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” – Gustavo Dudamel & The Los Angeles Philharmonic

• “Wonderful Crazy Night” – Elton John

– Non-Musical Highlights –

• Helen Mirren was one of the first presenters.  Her grace & eloquence was in fine form and the perfect way to open the show.  She’s not a Disney princess; she is an honorary Disney QUEEN!  👑

• During the “Modern Family” cast interview, hidden Mickeys were discussed.  Being the geek that I am, I began to hyperventilate when I realized that hidden Mickeys were placed within the interview setting.  They were eventually pointed out, making me feel super smart.  😉

• I must admit I got teary eyed during the Disney girls montage.  Hearing famous lines from the diverse group & interviews from female celebrities impacted by female Disney characters was touching.  💕

• It was really cool to see a sneak peek of Star Wars land & the Shanghai Disneyland Park.  Soon, Star Wars fanatics will be able to board the Millenium Falcon in California 🌠, and Disney princess enthusiasts will be able to see the largest Disney theme park castle in Shanghai 🏰.

• Last but certainly not least, my favorite part of the entire show which occurred early on.  While walking around Disneyland, Josh Gad visited Walt Disney’s apartment and mentioned a lovely fact: When working inside the park, Walt Disney would keep his lamp by the window lit to let employees know he was watching to make sure everything was running smoothly.  Now, in his honor, the lamp is lit at all times.  🌟

During financial troubles, Walt took a leap of faith and created a mouse.  His creation continues to have a worldwide impact.

“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

Now I desperately want to visit Disneyland.  I hope you enjoyed this post readers.  “See” you soon!  :)

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– Lauren Michele <3

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United

On a day that is dedicated to giving thanks, I want to draw attention to a video I just watched.  For those who don’t know, the band “Eagles of Death Metal” recently spoke about what happened at their concert in Paris.

* * * I don’t want to take away from the emotion of the interview, but if you are around small children, there is some language in the video.

Eagles of Death Metal Discuss Paris Terror Attacks

My heart breaks for the band and crew members that survived because what they saw and who they lost will forever affect them.  I want Dave, Eden, Jesse, Josh, Julian, Matt, and anyone else involved to know that they are in my prayers.  I am only one person, but it is important to show that no matter what people around the world are going through, there are others who are aware of and care about what is taking place.

If you would like to send messages of encouragement to Eagles of Death Metal, here are their social media links:

Eagles Of Death Metal – Facebook

EaglesOfDeathMetal (@EODMofficial) | Twitter

I want to share an expression that is used by Jewish people when someone passes away.  In honor of the lives that have been lost in 2015, may their memory be a blessing!

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!  Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.  For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods.”  Psalm 95:1-3

Happy Thanksgiving readers!  I hope you have a safe, blessed day.

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– Lauren Michele <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

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Moving On

Moving On

On Monday I left Texas, my home of 13 years. My family’s 6-bedroom house provided shelter to 26 people, not including me, my parents, and my brother; I always had extended family around me. On Tuesday I arrived in California, my new home; my family currently lives in a one-bedroom apartment above a garage. Quite the adventure we are on!! The picture you see above is my room, an empty room bursting at the seams full of memories. It is amazing to recall all the things that took place in that space: Babysitting, beauty transformations, concerts, counseling, dance practice, dreams, doll shenanigans, dramatic dress up, DVD viewings, emotional breakdowns, exercise sessions, fashion shows, fights, hide-and-seek, 2+ hour phone calls, illness rehabilitation, internet browsing, late night reading, outfit planning, schoolwork, and sleepovers. One last thing: Me and my best friend Gabby officially became friends in that room thanks to “Lord of the Beans.” I moved to Texas when I was 8, and I am now 21. My middle school, junior high, high school, and college years took place in that state. Many different struggles and transitions took place in that house; perhaps now you have a better idea of why it is so special to me. It is bittersweet to move on, but I will always carry the memories with me in my heart.

Treasure each moment readers! You never know when you will be uprooted and replanted.

– Lauren Michele :)

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