The Girl On The Train

The Girl On The Train is a subtle, well paced mystery thriller about a woman, Rachel, as she struggles with alcoholism after her divorce from her husband Tom. She is forced out of the home they put together in favor of Tom’s new wife, Anna and their new child. Rachel drifts in and out of sobriety as she clings to the life she once had and longs for something better. The focus of her longing is a young couple in a house a few doors down from her old one which she can see from her seat on the train which she rides each day. She watches them make love and cuddle and she feels that missing part of herself.

One day, Rachel witnesses the young woman with another man. Having been cheated on herself, the pain is deep and maddening and mixed in with alcohol, dangerous. Rachel gets off the train to confront the woman. In that brief space of time, something happens which Rachel can’t seem to remember and the next day the woman she was about to confront is found to be missing. Things go from bad to worse when Rachel reaches out to the woman’s husband and informs him about his wife’s infidelity. This sets forth a chain of events that ensnares everyone’s lives and Rachel’s sanity is on the brink as the police close in on her as a prime suspect. With no memory of what happened and all evidence pointing to the unthinkable, Rachel must fight to recover her mind and discover the truth, not only to what happened that night, but the truth to her own life.

This is a deeply psychological thriller that attacks from all sides. With the shifting perspective you never know quite what’s going on and whose side you should be on, but you also can’t wait to find out. Emily Blunt turns in a strong performance as a broken woman clinging to the last of her sanity as she tries to see the truth. There are times her drunk performances can seem a little forced or pushed, but it’s easily forgiven when you can feel her power coming through the screen.

Audience:  A very well behaved audience. It looks like we’re on quite a roll.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

Tim Burton returns to the big screen in his director’s pants with this adaptation of the bestselling YA novel of the same name. The theme of isolated youth is a popular one in the YA fiction world and this one serves the cause as well as Harry Potter.

Jake is a young man living in Florida and one night he is set to visit his eccentric grandfather but when he arrives he discovers his grandfather is dead with his eyes missing and after witnessing that horror, he sees a lanky, stalking creature with a long tongue. Jake’s grandfather always told him wild tales of his days during the war and after his passing, Jake is convinced there is more to what’s going on and the secret lies in a children’s home in Wales. Jake and his father journey to this lonely island and there Jake discovers that the children that his grandfather told him about when he was a child himself, are still there. They are hidden in what is called a Loop, which is a piece of time that repeats over and over keeping all within held in that one point of time. The children are under the care of Miss Peregrin who understands how special they are and protects them from forces that would destroy them. Jake meets Emma who can fly and use air to accomplish a variety of tasks. There is also an invisible child, a pair of twins in burlap masks and a young girl with a mean set of jaws in the back of her head.

The children’s abilities are used well in the story and show that they are strong and know how to defend themselves against the formidable forces that seek them out, but they are only at their most effective when Jake leads them. His ability is special and crucial to the survival of the peculiar children.

With many differences from the book, the movie still entertains and creates a wonderfully weird world that seems right at home in the Burton universe. There are no punches pulled and children are given credit for having brains and the ability to understand right from wrong. There are some moments early on that give the film a rough start but once it finds it’s rhythm, everything starts to click. It may play out as an X-Men in England, but it isn’t quite that cut and dry. With plenty of twists and eye candy to be had, it’s a welcome addition to the Burton stable. There’s even a brief sequence featuring some classic stop motion animation. Real film craftsmanship is so hard to find these days.

Audience: The people in this theater were fairly quiet and well focused on the film. Thank God for that.

Southside With You

When I saw the trailer for this movie, I knew I had to see it and I finally did and totally fell in love with it. Basically, it’s Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama’s first date. I don’t know how much of the film is rooted in actual events, and I don’t care. It was a beautifully composed romantic film that had something most romances are missing. Intelligence.

It’s 1989 in Chicago and a young Barack Obama is spending the summer working at a law firm in town and his advisor is one Michelle Robinson (one day to be the First Lady). He invites her to a community event and she accepts, but maintains it is NOT a date. At first it’s fascinating to see these characters as young starters now that we know where their paths will lead them, but after a while you forget about their destinies and you just see two people making a real and honest connection. Despite Michelle’s reservations, Barack manages to charm his way through her defenses, just as he begins to see the fragile soul that is held together behind her iron-strong armor. It’s easy to get lost in this glorious interpretation of their first date. It’s clear to see these are two strong people who come from very different backgrounds but manage to let down their guards enough to see each other for who they are, flaws and all. It’s the kind of date movie that could make you angry that people don’t date like this anymore. Their conversations were deep and complex and the emotions were raw and real. The story is as true and honest as you can imagine. Despite what your politics may be, the strong bond between Michelle and Barack is bound to win you over. This isn’t a political story. It’s a love story.

Audience: The audience was pretty good for this one. There was some woman in the row ahead of me who was wrestling with a particular noisy candy wrapper for a bit, but other than that, everyone was good as gold.

Hell Or High Water

Of course you all have heard about this movie. It’s the one getting all the Oscar buzz already. I have just seen it and the question is ‘Does it deserve all the rave reviews?’ and the answer is ‘yes’. Honestly I wasn’t too interested in seeing this one because I thought it was going to be a painfully dry crime drama, but that is far from the case.

Chris Pine and Ben Foster play two Texan brothers who are out to steal a whole Hell of a lot of money. Their primary M.O. is to strike early in the morning when the bank is empty and only steal small bills. Soon, an old Texas Ranger played by Jeff Bridges is on the case. It looks to be his final case before retirement and it seems he is taking his sweet time in getting to the bottom of it, maybe in a bid to prolong his march into retirement.

The two brothers have a plan for the money they’re stealing and thanks to lively performances by Pine and Foster, you can’t help but root for them and smile along the way. Jeff Bridges once more turns in a defining performance. I don’t know if that’s his real voice or an accent he puts on, but it is damn effective.

Add to all of this star power the magnificent cinematography. I don’t normally notice such subtlety, but the way this film was shot was beautiful. There was a sad beauty in every shot of the Lone Star state. To see the wide open spaces it’s easy to understand how cowboys have come to be known to be as lonely as the land that bore them.

All in all, a great film and certainly one we’ll be seeing a lot of during Oscar season.

Audience: Everyone in the theater was so gripped by the film, they were all very quiet, except for one doucheskid behind me who took the quiet moments of the film to chatter about whatever idiots talk about during a fine movie. While it did not diminish my enjoyment, I still must note it. I just wonder why is it so difficult for people to NOT talk during a damn movie!? Just DON’T TALK!!!! However clever your observations may be, save them for the ride home, okay?

Don’t Breathe

Few movies these days truly deserve to be called a thriller. The plots can be predictable and the action scenes can come off too choreographed. As far as the new movie ‘Don’t Breathe’ is concerned, thriller is the only way to term it.

Rocky is a young girl trying to make her way in a depressed part of Michigan. She has no money and a boozy mom who is sponging off of her. The only way she makes any money is by breaking in and robbing people with her friends Money and Alex. One day Money comes to them with the chance to rob a house that may be holding over $300,000. Enough for Rocky to escape with Alex and her little sister to someplace better. The trio embark on the biggest score of their lives, maybe a little over confident since the man they are robbing is not only a loner, but also  blind as a bat. They go in thinking it’s going to be a push over, but things quickly turn and it’s clear they have bitten off much more than they can chew.

From the minute they get into the house, the tension starts to rise and it just keeps going from there. You will literally be on the edge of your seat as they find escaping from the blind man’s home proves to be far more of a challenge than they thought it would be. Not for a moment do you believe they are safe or anything is fixed. The action unfolds fast and with unrelenting pace. Just when you think you see the light at the end of the tunnel, something comes along to block it out. You won’t be able to breathe as all your breath will be taken away in this claustrophobic thriller. There are twists and turns you do not see coming. It is without a doubt one of the best thrillers I have seen this year and something very special is going to have to come along to impress me more than this film did.

Audience: A little worse than what I’ve gotten used to lately. First, some kid and his father brought  in some take out food that stunk to high heaven and a few rows up, there were some people who seemed to forget they were in a theater with other people as they weren’t shy about speaking at their normal voice level. Let’s not forget the whisperers in the  back who spent  most of the movie trying to predict what was going to happen next, only after commenting on what had just happened. Thankfully as the  movie really got into gear, everyone shut up because the tension of the movie was so real. Thumbs down for this audience, but up for the movie.


First off in this review of ‘Indignation’ based on the novel by Philip Roth, this is not my kind of movie. I admit I prefer the big studio popcorn flicks. Just my preference. I went to this movie on the recommendation of a friend. That being said, I did not like the movie, but it is a very good movie. Weird opinion, I know, but it’s how I feel.  It was well acted and it looked great. It really transports you to the 1950’s and you get a honest, unfiltered view of a world that few have experienced.

The movie tells the story of Marcus Messner, a young Jewish boy from Newark who heads off to the prestigious Winesburg University in Ohio. His father worries for him due to the number of young men lost to the Korean war. Marcus escapes the draft through his scholarship to Winesburg. When Marcus arrives at college, he takes to his studies with extreme focus and works in the school library. His attention is caught by a beautiful coed, Olivia Hutton. They have a eventful first date which sets into motion a difficult and challenging relationship. Olivia is troubled but Marcus can’t stay away.

Personalities clash as Marcus meets with his roommates and Dean of the school. The script is eloquent and intelligent and you soon find yourself lost in the characters’ lives. Marcus is an intense character and you can feel every moment of his journey through his college days. The pain and confusion of his first real love and the frustration of being trapped in a world that not only does not understand him, but refuses to understand him. I’m sure we’ll be hearing Oscar buzz for this one in the coming months. As good as it was though, I had problems with it. I just found Marcus to sometimes be overly aggressive in his ideals. One entire scene which could have ended with a single sentence was drawn out simply due to Marcus insisting to create an argument where none existed. It seemed in every scene he would get along with whoever it was he was talking to, and then it would turn and become a angry confrontation and t hen back to being civil again. It just seemed to me a lot of Marcus’ problems were self-inflicted.

Audience: The audience was fairly well-behaved. They were quiet and attentive, but there was one point during the film in which a gentleman in the row ahead of me seemed to nod off and started to snore rather loudly. Other than that, no incidents.


In the new film ‘Nerve’ Emma Roberts plays Venus, a practical, timid young woman who seems to have trouble showing up for herself but is challenged one day by her best friend Sydney. This challenge leads her to participate in a game of dares known as ‘Nerve’.

At first the dares are fairly daring but not too extraordinary, but the stakes rise and they rise fast after she meets the handsome Ian, played by the adorable Dave Franco. The Watchers of the game take a liking to their pairing and continue upping the challenges for them both. It isn’t long until the line is crossed and the game becomes one of survival.

Nerve is a fast paced tale of suspense that at times strikes a very real nerve. Roberts and Franco have excellent chemistry as Venus and Ian and the stunt set pieces come at you with a frenzied energy and make you feel like you’re along for the ride as well. As the night progresses, Venus finds herself on a journey of discovery as she realizes she’s stronger and braver than she, or her best friend, ever gave her credit for. They manage to attach a real and deep relationship between Venus and Sydney that plays out organically and with great truth. The story itself seems to tease a more complex one which is perhaps found in the novel upon which this movie is based, but as it is now it’s an expertly woven morality tale that, I think, says a lot about the hive mind of the social media of today. It reminded me of the days of ancient Greece and their gladiatorial combat. Two warriors pitted against an opponent for the amusement of the masses. Nerve shows that even when you just watch, you’re still a part of it.

Audience: I should have known with a movie like this there were going to be audience issues. First, the two girls who sat behind me would NOT SHUT UP. They kept whispering and chattering to their reactions to everything on-screen. Secondly, there was a group of douches in the back who also enjoyed disrupting the auditorium with their nonsense. They were trying to snag someone else’s seats before the movie began but got booted out right away. They adjourned to the back row where they seemed to carry on their own little drama. This generation knows so much, yet common courtesy seems to be missing from their skill set.

Lights Out

Horror movies in the summer. Seems odd to me, but here we are. I Lights Out was based on a short film by the director of the feature. I think I remember seeing that once a few years ago. It gave me chills and the full feature fulfills the promise and then some. I warn there may be some crucial spoilers in this review so if you don’t want some aspects of the movie ruined, stop reading now and go see it! Then come back and read it.

Rebecca is a strong, independent woman who seems to have commitment issues, since she can’t seem to let her hot boyfriend even stay the night. There are issues here and we get a clearer picture when we meet her mother Sophie. Suffering from depression, Sophie seems to have a history of trouble keeping up with her meds and things just get worse when she experiences the loss of her husband. She seems to fall apart and fall upon an old coping device, much to the chagrin of her young son, Martin.

This is when things get creepy. A figure of darkness begins to appear in the house. Only existing in the darkness, this creature seems to grow stronger and will do absolutely anything to survive. Questions begin to arise when Rebecca and Martin discover that this shadow creature is real and even has a name. Diana. Rebecca puts on her detective cap and digs up the truth behind Diana but that’s only half the battle as every shadow becomes a threat.

This film is a perfect practice in suspense. The omni-present nature of Diana makes you anxious for every jump scare and sudden noise. The rules of her existence i.e. only in the dark, are held to nicely and never stretched beyond belief, which makes the creature even more startling. You know she’s there, just waiting to strike. The story of Rebecca and her relationship with her family and boyfriend is also well constructed and believable. It’s a horror movie that make you really care about the people and hate the monster. Trust me, there have been films in the past that fail to illicit any sympathy for the hero and little to no fear in the bad guy. A surprisingly short film, which perhaps works in its favor. It never bores and keeps you on  the edge of your seat. I probably would have opted to release this one closer to Halloween, but maybe that’s when it’ll be out on video. So, as a person who is not a huge fan of horror films, I say that this one is very much worth your attention.

The Audience: I was expecting a typical horror movie audience. Loud and mouthy. Much to my delight, the audience tonight was fairly sedate. A few folks failed to mute their phones. At one point Siri could be heard. They only got a little annoying during the final act. I didn’t like that, but it didn’t ruin my experience. This was a Thursday night crowd. I wonder how it’ll be on Friday night.

The Secret Life Of Pets

In Illumination Animation’s new feature, we are brought on a journey to discover the truth of what our pets do when we turn our backs. Particularly centered on the lives of a group of neighborhood pets in New York City. Max is a Jack Russell Terrier(close enough) who loves his human Katie. They are devoted to each other and are living life like no others but the tranquility of this paradise is upturned by a large, shaggy beast known as Duke. Rivalry comes into place right away as Max tries to find a way to get rid of Duke and reclaim his rightful place in Katie’s heart, and his old dog bed. However, when Max finds his upper hand, he overplays it and soon he and Duke are collarless and lost in the Big Apple with no other choice but to depend on each other to find their way back home.

Not quite ‘Despicable Me’, but way better than ‘Minions’, this movie boasts a bouncy, bubbly appearance with a cast of cleverly designed and written characters ranging from cats and dogs to crocodiles and hawks. The story is brisk and moves with a lot of slapstick physical humor along with some clever word play and a few hidden gems that require you to be observant or you’ll miss. The chemistry between the characters is natural and believable. You will buy a poodle becoming best friends with a hawk. It works. While not exactly hitting the emotional depth of a Pixar film, there is an emotional center to Duke’s story that gives hope to something deeper, but unfortunately any movement in that direction is cut short. Very clearly made for a family audience and on that merit, it hits all the right notes. Never boring and always visually engaging. Definitely one to check out. I did not see it in its 3-D format, but I think, based on the opening sequence, it would have been even more impressive.

Now, for the audience. I will go easy on this part of my review because it was a family movie and my friend insisted on going to a mid afternoon show. There were kids. Lots of kids. They were actually rather complacent during the movie. I think that is credited to the films bright and fun look. It was animated and frenetic enough to hold their attention spans. I heard a few babies crying and there was one little girl who was standing on her seat, hopping up and down, but those were minor annoyances overall. For the type of film and the make up of the audience, it wasn’t an unpleasant experience; but I would advise if you are without children, check out a late show of this movie to hopefully ensure a low kid turn out.

Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates

New idea. I’m going to start reviewing the movies I see but I will also review the audience. You’ll see.

Up first is the new comedy “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” starring Zac Efron, Adam Divine, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza

First off, I wasn’t aware there was any truth to this movie, but apparently there’s really a Mike and Dave Stangle out there and they did something that was crazy enough to rate a movie being made. I’ll have to research this later, but for now let’s look at the movie.

First of all, our leads are cute, funny and disarmingly adorable from the very start. We like Mike and Dave right off and we can see these are two devoted, close brothers. Every moment we see them on screen you’re just waiting for the next crazy thing they will say, and one of them will say it. Enter the girls who are a different flavor but are just as fun as the guys. They’re two fun loving girls who walk on the wild side, but aren’t bad bad. Just fun bad, and when they find out Mike and Dave are offering a free trip to Hawaii to attend their little sister’s wedding they set out to be those dates. They attack the situation in a different angle than everyone else attempting to join Mike and Dave, showing while they may be fun loving, they’re also deviously clever.

Of course the girls win the guys over and mission accomplished, but when they realize they have to keep up the appearance of respectable young women, things get a little dicey, but not before they manage to ingratiate themselves to Mike and Dave’s family.

The humor never gets stale and thankfully in parts that could have dragged on forever, the director chose to be merciful and compact those bits into brief montages leaving more time for the actual story to unfold.

A very brisk comedy and full of plenty of bite as well as a good amount of humanity. Anna Kendrick comes in as an odd card but easily wins everyone over with her ditzy allbeit sweet disposition. Aubrey Plaza is the edgier of the two girls, which should come to no one as a surprise. It’s what she does well and this time is no exception. Her character is a bit more lively than what she played on ‘Parks & Recreation’ and it suits her. The guys are just fantastic playing off the girls as they begin to slowly realize their dates are a bit more than they thought they were. Zac wields his big eyes and sweet ‘aw shucks’ personality. His chemistry with Adam is totally organic and it’s clear they are playing off each other beautifully. Well cast and never a dull moment, this is a date you will want to keep.

Now, for the audience. It was a pretty full auditorium considering it was opening night. We were packed in. My friend to my left and some kid on my right. There was some whispering in the rows behind me but not too much. My main complaint comes from the row in front of me. There was one couple who could not see to keep their mouths shut for the whole movie as they constantly whispered to each other when anything happened. Then there was a gaggle of girls who came in late in the trailers who seemed to have come just for Zac because they couldn’t shut up whenever he was on screen. I have no idea what the chatter was about, but I’m sure it was some unrealistic dreaming of becoming Mrs. Efron. One of the girls was wrestling with what had to be the loudest bag of popcorn in  history  for about half the film and during one particular scene toward the end, they kept cooing like they had never felt human emotion before today. Not as annoying as a horror movie crowd, but enough to raise my blood temp a degree or two, yet not bad enough to spoil the movie. Either they were better than I thought or the movie was. How knows?

That’s it for this review. Until next time, if someone’s talking in the theater, just tell them to shut up. You know you want to.