Movie Review: “The Girl on the Train”

Starring
Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Allison Janney
Director
Tate Taylor

Paula Hawkins’ “The Girl on the Train” instantly drew comparisons to Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” thanks to the use of multiple viewpoints, but let’s make something clear: as enjoyable as “Train” was to read, it doesn’t come close to plumbing the emotional depths that Flynn wrote into the truly psychotic Amy Dunne. At the same time, this works in the favor of the film version of “The Girl on the Train.” Erin Cressida Wilson’s script puts a higher percentage of the source material into the film (the one thing book fanatics complain about the most), and the story’s main obstacle (recovering a lost memory) is a tried and true film device. Ask anyone who saw “Jason Bourne” earlier this year.

Films, however, reveal things that books do not, and that is what prevents “The Girl on the Train” from hitting the next level. It is competently made, with some outstanding performances, but the book is capable of concealing things that the film cannot. And with that, we will say no more.

Rachel (Emily Blunt) is a sad, drunk divorcee, taking the train five days a week to a job she no longer has. The train takes her by the house she once lived in, the one her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) now shares with Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby daughter. A couple of houses down, Rachel sees a younger couple that seems blissfully in love. Recognizing that they have what she’s lost, she becomes obsessed with them, giving them fake names and occupations while she spies on them for a few seconds each day. One day, Rachel sees what appears to be a betrayal on a member of the happy couple, and when one of them disappears shortly after, she offers what she thinks she knows to the police, only to discover that in doing so, she has made herself the prime suspect.

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Movie Review: “The Huntsman: Winter’s War”

Starring
Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith
Director
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Snow White and the Huntsman” wasn’t a terrible movie, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that was craving another installment, especially one without its titular heroine. Plans for a proper sequel were reportedly axed in the aftermath of Kristen Stewart’s scandalous affair with director Rupert Sanders, so Universal forged ahead with a Huntsman-centric film instead, relegating Snow White to a mere footnote. (Though she’s still hanging around the kingdom somewhere, she’s only mentioned in passing.) That may seem a bit harsh for a would-be franchise originally built around the Snow White tale, but the studio has tried to distract from Stewart’s absence with the casting of A-listers like Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain. However, while both actresses help to class up the movie, no amount of talent can save “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” from its dull and completely pointless existence.

In a lengthy prologue set before the events of “Snow White and the Huntsman,” we learn that the evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) has a younger sister named Freya (Blunt), who flees to the north to rule her own kingdom after a tragic betrayal turns her heart ice-cold and awakens her dormant magical powers. In order to conquer the land, Freya trains an army of Huntsmen using orphaned children from the nearby villages and forbids them to love. But when she discovers that two of her best warriors, Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Chastain), have developed a secret relationship over the years and plan to defy Freya by running away together, she sentences them to death.

Eric miraculously survives, and seven years later, he’s living a peaceful life within Snow White’s kingdom following Ravenna’s demise. However, when her Magic Mirror is stolen while being transported to a place called the Sanctuary, where its dark power can be contained, Eric teams up with a pair of boisterous dwarfs (Nick Frost’s returning Nion and Rob Brydon’s newbie Gryff) to track it down before it falls into the wrong hands. During his journey, Eric crosses paths with a very much alive Sara – whose death, it turns out, was simply a trick played on him by the ice queen – and must regain her trust to stop Freya from retrieving the mirror for her own nefarious reasons.

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Movie Review: “Sicario”

Starring
Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Daniel Kaluuya, Maximiliano Hernández, Victor Garber
Director
Denis Villeneuve

One popular web site called “Sicario” an unrelenting horror story disguised as a drug-war action movie. I wish I had seen that movie, because that sounds really interesting. The “Sicario” I saw was a ‘talented but naïve FBI agent falls under tutelage of high-ranking officer of questionable intent’ story that awkwardly morphs into a revenge thriller. It is beautifully directed, it features top-notch work by its three leads, and it is all set to a dazzling, unnerving score (Johan Johannson, who wrote the gorgeous score for 2014’s “The Theory of Everything”), but the film is all undone by a script that isn’t half as clever as it thinks it is.

Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) has impressed many people with her work on an FBI kidnapping task force in Arizona, and is asked if she would be interested in volunteering for a Department of Defense investigation that seeks to track down the Mexican drug kingpin who owns many of the homes in which their raids take place. She accepts, and her new boss Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) tells her nothing about what they’re doing: he simply asks her to watch and learn. Matt’s right hand man is Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), who is valuable to Matt because of his extensive knowledge of the Mexican crime syndicates. Kate quickly realizes that Matt and Alejandro do not play by the same rule book that she does (read: the legal one), and begins to question why they brought her onto this team in the first place. That is when stuff gets real.

Roger Deakins’ cinematography, as usual, is gorgeous, but director Denis Villeneuve was thick with the symbolism. His overhead shots of the Mexican desert were bleached and reeking of death, while his landscape shots (also bleached and reeking of death) had a storm on the horizon nearly every time. In one scene, we even see lightning, but it never rains in the movie. This is a movie about drugs, and the battle to beat the people bringing them into the United States. We already knew that a storm was coming, and that the border is a hostile place. There was no need to constantly remind us of this.

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Movie Review: “Into the Woods”

Starring
Meryl Streep, James Corden, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Daniel Huttlestone, Lilla Crawford
Director
Rob Marshall

It is strange to watch a film like “Into the Woods” in a post-“Shrek” world. When “Into the Woods” first debuted in 1987, and turned fairy tales on their heads, it was a truly unique concept. Why should we accept that all princes and princesses have a happy ending? Why should poor children be allowed to steal without consequence? Why shouldn’t terrible parents pay for the sins they committed in the name of “protecting their children”? Those are all fair questions, and many of them have since been addressed in films like “Shrek,” “Tangled,” and “Jack the Giant Slayer,” to name a few of the characters involved here. All of these films owe a debt of gratitude to “Into the Woods,” yes, but when you take 27 years to go from the stage to the screen, all debts have been paid far in advance. We are now at the point where pop culture has passed “Into the Woods” by, stripped it for parts, and left it for dead.

The Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) want a baby, but the witch who lives next door (Meryl Streep) reveals to them that she has cursed the Baker’s bloodline with impotency for a crime that his father committed. But she will undo the curse – which will then restore the witch’s beauty – if the two collect four items from previously separate fairy tales: a cow (the one Jack sells for magic beans), a red cape (yep, Little Red Riding Hood), hair as gold as corn (Rapunzel’s), and the golden slipper worn by runaway bride Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), who leaves the prince (Chris Pine) in a hurry every night of the big festival. As their lives intersect, the characters learn things about themselves. Some of the things they learn are good, while others are lessons like, if you kill a guy, be prepared to kill his vengeful wife as well. Wait, what?

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Movie Review: “Edge of Tomorrow”

Starring
Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, Noah Taylor
Director
Doug Liman

There’s a pretty good chance that every review about “Edge of Tomorrow” will reference the 1993 comedy “Groundhog Day” at least once, and that’s because both films feature a very similar plot device, not unlike the one that was also employed in Duncan Jones’ underseen sci-fi thriller, “Source Code.” But while it may not be the first time that someone has thought of the loop-based time travel concept, “Edge of Tomorrow” is a truly original piece of science fiction that Hollywood should make more often. Clever, fun and surprisingly bold, the film also represents a return to form for director Doug Liman, who makes up for his last foray into the genre (the dull and disappointing “Jumper”) with the first great movie of the summer season.

Based on the Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill” (a title that Liman should have fought tooth and nail to keep), the film takes place in a near future where Earth has been invaded by an alien race known as Mimics. With most of Europe already lost, the world’s leaders plan to launch a synchronized, all-or-nothing attack on the enemy in an attempt to gain the upper hand. But when Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) – a hotshot spin doctor for the U.S. Army – is ordered onto the front line in a bid to rally public support, he tries to blackmail the general (Brendan Gleeson) responsible and is arrested, stripped of his rank and deployed anyway. Cage has absolutely no combat training, and he dies within minutes of landing on the battlefield… only to wake up back at the base camp 24 hours earlier. Caught in an infinite loop where he must repeat the same day over and over again (with his death serving as the reset button), Cage discovers that he’s been infected with the Mimics’ ability to control time. Desperate for answers, he teams up with Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) – a celebrated war hero who acquired the same powers before eventually losing them – to track down the alien hive and put an end to the war.

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