Murder on the Orient Express

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

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Both Mrs. Salad and Pun Son were enthusiastic about seeing this in the theater. I was less so, but OK. With Kenneth Branagh, how bad could it be?

Well. The theater has comfy reclining seats. I fell asleep. Despite a number of elbow-pokes from Pun Son, I missed a lot.

I usually say something about the plot, so: It's set in the 1930s. On a famous train. There's a murder. Hercule Poirot is on hand to figure it all out, and does.

It made me wonder just how such movies get made, especially since there have been a couple of decent treatments of the Agatha Christie novel already. Actors must be suckers for the opportunity to dress up in period costumes, affect accents, and chew scenery.

It also made me remember the first movie in which I saw Kenneth Branagh: Dead Again, in which he also played a detective. And, hey, Derek Jacobi was in both movies as well!

I liked Dead Again a lot better. It would have made Murder on the Orient Express a lot more interesting if they had imported more of the cast from Dead Again: Emma Thompson instead of Judi Densch; Andy Garcia instead of Johnny Depp; Wayne Knight ("Oh, hello, Newman.") instead of Josh Gad; Campbell Scott instead of Willem Dafoe; Robin Williams instead of … well, I guess that's not an option.

Daisy Ridley can stay, though.

Last Modified 2024-06-03 6:05 PM EDT

URLs du Jour


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■ As we've seen before, the Proverbialist was not a fan of mockery. Proverbs 19:25 continues that tradition:

25 Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence;
    rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.

I can't agree with the disparate treatment advocated here. Although I'm sure it reflects the mindset behind advocates of campus censorship.

Our pic du jour shows some mockery committed against Adam Smith by some rowdy Scottish drunks ("but I repeat myself"). Obviously candidates for flogging. I'll make an exception to my general rule, and as a lame excuse … um … oh, yeah, Scotland has no First Amendment.

■ At Reason, Sheldon Richman wishes for Real Common Sense on Gun Control.

Here's how to judge the pragmatic case for gun control: if the pro-control lobby managed to have each of its favorite restrictions enacted, could we as individuals be more casual about our safety than we are today? The answer clearly is no. So what's the point of the restrictions beyond letting their advocates feel good about themselves?

A false sense of security is worse than no sense of security at all.

A crackpot idea of mine is to amend the Constitution to require all Congressional legislation to have a suicide clause: (a) a list of objective benefits it would allegedly confer; and (b) automatic repeal if those benefits did not materialize.

In short, CongressCritters would have to believe in their pie-in-the-sky promises so strongly that they would bet on them coming true.

I think such a measure would safeguard against proposals such as those discussed in our next item…

■ … in which Eric Boehm (Reason again) looks at a recent proposal from a genuine enemy of liberty: Sen. Feinstein's New Assault Weapons Ban Proposal Is the Perfect, Pointless Response for the 'Do Something' Crowd.

The bill exempts weapons used for hunting, and it would allow anyone who already owns one of the proscribed guns to keep them. In other words, it would be completely ineffective at removing these weapons from American society. But that's not really the goal at all. The goal is to do something about gun violence, and Feinstein's proposal certainly counts as something. Something ineffective and useless, but still a thing. A thing that could be done.

Complete sham symbolism, in other words.

■ But let's move on from guns to simple robbery, committed without violence. Well, only that violence (usually just implicitly, but not always) involved in taxation. An AEI report on farm subsidies claims Agricultural subsidies aid the wealthy, not those in rural poverty.

The subsidy programs that the House and Senate agricultural committees are defending and would like to expand include the federal crop insurance subsidy program, direct payments to farm businesses through so-called supplementary “farm income safety net” initiatives, and outlays on conservation programs.

Taken together, these programs cost about $20 billion every year. Crop insurance subsidies alone cost $8 billion, 30 percent of which goes to private insurance companies. Two additional “safety net” programs — price loss coverage and agricultural risk coverage — cost taxpayers between $6 billion and $8 billion in annual payments. Farm businesses also receive $5 billion a year in subsidies for adopting or simply continuing farming practices (such as soil conservation and protecting the environment) that are already being used because they are profitable.

And folks that like to say "the system is rigged" will find plenty of support from the article:

Who gets all that federal money? About 70 percent of all crop insurance and other farm income safety net payments flow to 10 percent of the largest crop-producing farm businesses. This group comprises less than 100,000 farm operations, each of which on average receives more than $140,000 every year. Those farms are owned by households with annual incomes and levels of wealth that are multiple times higher than those of the typical American family, and certainly far higher than those of families in poverty. Conservation subsidy payments also predominantly flow to the largest farm operations and wealthiest farming households.

Cliche: if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

■ George F. Will has a modest proposal: Repeal and Replace the Tax Code.

The Republicans’ tax bill would somewhat improve the existing revenue system that once caused Mitch Daniels (former head of the Office of Management and Budget, former Indiana governor) to say: Wouldn’t it be nice to have a tax code that looked as though it had been designed on purpose? Today’s bill, which is 429 pages and is apt to grow, is an implausible instrument of simplification. And it would worsen the tax code’s already substantial contribution to “moral hazard.”

Economists use that phrase to denote circumstances in which incentives are for perverse behavior. Today’s tax code is such a circumstance, and the Republican bill would exacerbate this by expanding the $1,000 child credit to $1,600 with an additional $300 “family credit” for each parent and non-child dependent, and by doubling the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. These measures would increase the number of persons not paying income taxes and would further decrease the percentage of income tax revenues paid by low-income earners.

The GOP tax proposal has some good ideas, but I can't get excited about it. (1) It only reminds us of how gutless the GOP is on spending, which is the more serious issue; (2) as GFW notes, it's full of social-engineering gimmickry.

Personal note: our family would have benefited from the generous adoption tax credit that was (briefly) on the chopping block, had it been in place back when we adopted the Salad kiddos. But it is (nevertheless) an example of the gimmickry that should go.

■ And our Tweet du Jour speaks for itself:

I, for one, regret party disunity over sex clams.

Last Modified 2024-01-26 6:10 AM EDT