Finnegan On Films: Murder, Intrigue And The Mob

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Our movie guy, James Finnegan, picks three movies to enjoy on RTE and TG4 this week…

You can’t beat an Agatha Christie murder mystery on a Saturday night and Murder on the Orient Express (Saturday 9.40pm RTE One) is a classic of the genre.

This is the most recent film version, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

An American business man is travelling on the famous train.  He has received a number of death threats and wants to hire Poirot as his bodyguard.  However, the business man is not all he seems.

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When the businessman is found dead, there are no shortage of suspects, all played by star acting talents such as Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer and Olivia Coleman, stuck on a train that can go nowhere, so neither can they.

In The China Syndrome (Saturday 11.45pm RTE One), a nuclear power plant operative, Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon) discovers a potential operational problem.

He does not report it, but a visiting TV Journalist Kimberley Wells (Jane Fonda) and her cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas) have secretly filmed it.

When they try to broadcast their story, they find there a numerous obstacles in their way, and as the stakes get higher, more drastic actions are taken.

Upon release, the film, named after the theoretical result of a nuclear power station meltdown going into the earth below “all the way to China”, was given an added piquancy by a real life nuclear accident at the Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania.

That, and exceptional performances especially from Fonda and Lemmon, make this a thriller well worth a watch.

I must admit to a personal link to Molly’s Game (Monday 9.30pm TG4).  A few years ago, I met the titular character, a young woman Molly Bloom whose story inspired the film.

Amazingly enough, even with her name, she has no Irish connections.  What she does have is a fascinating story that has in turn developed into an entertaining film.

Molly was an Olympic class skier whose sporting aspirations suffered a freak mishap.  Coming from a family of high achievers, she needed a new direction in life.

James Finnegan meets Molly Bloom, the inspiration behind the movie ‘Molly’s Game’.

She ended up running one of the most exclusive high stakes poker games for Hollywood stars, business moguls and, unfortunately for her, the Russian Mob.  Naturally this also brought her to the attention of the FBI.

This is one of the rare occasions when the true story is even more amazing than the film version.  I strongly recommend the book, also called ‘Molly’s Game’.

Staring Jessica Chastain as Molly, Kevin Costner as Molly’s father, Michael Cera as Player X (a composite character of several Hollywood superstars) and Idris Elba as Charlie Jaffey, Molly’s lawyer, this was Aaron Sorkin’s film directorial debut.

He decided to do this after he met Molly, who wanted him to write the screenplay.   She is that kind of lady, a truly impressive force of nature. Enjoy and stay safe!

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