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.

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?

Florence Foster Jenkins

Picture it. New York. 1944 and a certain Mrs. Florence Foster Jenkins is an aging yet bubbly socialite with a great passion for music yearns to be as close to that world as she can be. She has for years been a passionate benefactor to the musical community of New York. She lives and breathes music and that love of music seems to have kept her alive well past expectancy. Her husband is a former actor who is devoted to her dreams, but due to circumstances, he maintains a separate address and lives with a younger girlfriend while he tends to and indulges his wife.

One night, Florence decides she wants to sing again and just like that she secures a voice coach and a young pianist to accompany her. The only problem is Madam Foster cannot sing to save her life. For all the passion she puts into it, the poor dear just doesn’t have the pipes. Her husband proves his devotion in how he makes sure not a single scrap of negative criticism falls upon her head. He bribes and influences anyone and everyone he can to keep her dream alive, which becomes increasingly difficult as her dreams get bigger and bigger with every passing day.

Based on the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, the story is full of humor and heart and Meryl Streep brings such conviction to her role, you can’t help but fall in love with Madam Jenkins. She may not be able to sing, but her spirit and boundless joy for music is infectious. How can you not root for the old gal? Hugh Grant also turns in an incredible performance as Florence’s husband. I feel like there may have been more detail to their story and the movie may have merely hinted at some things, but it’s such a joy to watch and experience it’s hardly a consideration. A real stand out is Simon Helberg as Cosme McMoon, Madam Foster’s pianist. He’s a far cry from Howard Wolowitz from the Big Bang Theory, as many will recognize him, and as timid as he may seem it’s thrilling to see him go on this incredible journey with Madam Foster and you see how her contagious spirit endears her to others.

A great movie with a great cast. Lighter than the average ‘based on a true story’ fare and I think that is to its credit. The film spares no expense in transporting you back to 1940’s New York. It brings the glitz and charm of the bygone era back to our hearts, even if it was only a world seen by the rich and priveleged. It truly is a movie that will transport you and you will wish you could have been there to see the real Florence Foster Jenkins, but I think this movie is the next best thing.

Audience: The audience was rather small for this presentation and they were very well behaved. It was made up of mostly older women. They drove me a little nuts during the trailers since they all felt they needed to verbally react to each trailer, but once the movie started, everyone was very respectful.

Justice League Vs. Teen Titans

This is unusual and will be short. I just felt the need to express an opinion about the animated direct-to-video movie “Justice League vs. Teen Titans”. It basically is a sequel to the animated feature ‘War’ which picks up the animated New 52 universe. The Justice League is a power to be reckoned with but there’s a problem. Batman’s new Robin partner, Damian, is not really a team player. In fact he’s a little @$$hole to be honest. In order to get him to learn teamwork, he is put in with the Teen Titans, led by Starfire. Robin meets all the members, but seems to clash the most with the mysterious Raven. After that, it’s pretty much a retread of the whole Trigon story they have done in Teen Titans since the day it was conceived. Basically, an extra dimensional demon tries to take over the world using the Justice League and the Teen Titans are the only ones standing in Trigon’s way.

First, I did like the movie. It was well animated. To be honest, it looked a lot better than the recently released ‘Killing Joke’ movie, which I reviewed previously. Check it out. It’s more an anime style but it has some good action sequences and is a fairly good story. What I did NOT like about it was Damian Wayne. I have hated this character since the day he showed up in Batman comics. He’s an insufferable brat who thinks he’s better than everyone else, including Batman himself. He’s obnoxious, entitled and an all around nightmare yet, DC seems determined to shove him down our throats. I was around when Jason Todd was killed by reader poll. I had heard the reason was readers found the character Jason Todd annoying. I have read some issues from the Jason Todd years, and he was no where as annoying as Damian. In fact, Jason was a pleasure compared to Damian. They had killed Damian off a few years ago and I thought ‘whew!’ but alas, they brought him back and I guess he’s here to stay. Sad. So, Yes to the movie, no to Damian. If you can cut him out and also ignore the horrendous music that is played in this movie, you’ll have a good time. I suggest getting it used at a low price. Not worth 19.99

Audience: I was watching it at home alone, so the audience was incredible!

Nine Lives

Nine Lives, the new fantasy family comedy, has been getting a lot of bad press and I was unsure about seeing it, even though I was excited about seeing it when I first heard about it. I love cats and I thought this would be a hoot and a half!

The movie is directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, a name I haven’t heard attached to a film in a long time, and his trademark camera work is clearly identified. The story focuses on Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey) an egotistical billionaire poised to build the world’s largest skyscraper in New York. He’s a success, but it has come at a cost. He spends 23 hours a day working and his family with his second wife and their daughter, Rebecca, take a back seat. On the eve of Rebecca’s 11th birthday, she has a request. She wants a cat. Tom hates cats, but despite himself he sees the only way to make her happy is to get her a cat. He finds himself at a out of the way pet store that seems to only have cats. The shopkeeper (Christopher Walken) is ominous and seems to know more than he lets on as he sets Tom up with a new cat. Tom rushes off on a business call and after a tragic accident, he winds up in the hospital. At least his body does, his mind is instead transferred into the cat, Mr. Fuzzypants.

Tom’s adjustment to his new body takes some time, but he gets the hang soon enough and uses his diminutive stature to win back his family and save his company from a scheming CEO (Mark Consuelos). Spacey excels in his sarcasm as Tom. When he sounds pleased with anyone, you know the hammer is about to drop any moment. It seems to be his niche. Cheryl Hines shines as Tom’s first wife who comes into rather tepid material to add a little spice as best she can.

Most of the films humor comes from a few slapstick set pieces surrounding the cat and his activities and are amusing but nothing Earth shattering. I have to admit, the CGI for the cat in parts was quite good; or as good as I’ve seen since ‘Garfield’. The tone of the movie is rather boring and the humor falls flat most of the time. It’s clearly made for families/kids so I think they weren’t able to get very spicy with it. I think the harshest swear word I heard was ‘Jesus’. Jennifer Garner plays Lara, Tom’s second wife and she works her mom mojo very well. I wanted to like this movie much more, but as a comedy it wasn’t very good, but the story was very effective and I found it to be surprisingly touching and relevant to today’s busy lifestyles. Sometimes we can get our priorities mixed up. Watching Tom reconnect with his family through the cat was heartwarming and we can see how pets need families as much as families need pets. It also shows that while cats may not be people, some people aren’t people either. As a cat lover I liked the movie, but as a movie lover, I was disappointed.

Audience: The audience was made up of mostly children and they were quiet. It was the parents who were the problem. On and off their phones for the whole movie and rummaging through the plastic bags they smuggled their snacks in. Honestly. Show a little class.

Indignation

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.

Absolutely Fabulous : The Movie

The big screen adaptation of the popular BBC series has finally arrived. After years of speculation and rumors it has proven to be a reality. It was hard for me to picture what a film version of Ab Fab would look like. I am familiar with the series and while I’m not a rabid fan, I did enjoy the show’s humor and wit.

In the film version we see how life has continued on for Patsy and Edina. Saffy, Edina’s daughter, is now living with her along with her own daughter Lola. Other than that, not much has changed. Eddy and Pats are still living as large as they can manage, and usually on someone else’s dime. Two forces of destruction plowing down everyone and everything around them with no regard to the destruction they leave in their wake. In other words, business as usual.

Edina is on the verge of a book deal but when the publisher declines buying the story of her life, she begins to see how life seems to have passed her by without her noticing. Her PR business is non-existant and the money is running out fast. Her one glimmer of hope is signing supermodel Kate Moss as a new client. In her zeal to land the deal, Kate Moss winds up falling into the Thames river and is presumed dead with Edina in the center of the controversy.

Things get real for the two best friends and they are set upon an adventure to find a safe place to hide and get away from the nightmare that has consumed their lives with Lola, and her credit card, along for the ride.

I enjoyed the film for what it was. A longer version of the show with a larger budget. It was nice to see all the old gang back played by the original performers. While they have changed on the outside, the spirit and talent remained. Jane Horrocks returns as Bubble and is as ditzy as ever and a perfect comic foil, if not a bit underused in this adventure, but keep an eye peeled as she pops up in other parts of the movie in different guises. Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley haven’t missed a step. They ease into Patsy and Edina’s vibe so easily and it’s so good to see the energy between them. The story does make sense in the Ab Fab tradition but is largely uninspiring and even a bit ridiculous and requires a great deal of faith from the audience to make plausible. However it’s not the story that we have come for. The script can lapse into some over silly moments that can take you out of the action, but all in all, it hits all the points. If you are a great fan of the show, you will love this addition to the phenomenon however, it  may be a little over the head of those new to Ab Fab and a little viewing of the series may prove helpful.

Audience: Sadly, there wasn’t much of an audience for this one but thankfully they were quiet as mice for the entire film. Which I think is a testament to the dedication to those who are fans of the show. Everyone was focused on the movie and all I heard out of them was laughter.

Nerve

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.

Bad Moms

Bad Moms, a new comedy starring Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Kristin Bell and Christina Applegate, opens this weekend and it is anything but. Mila stars as Amy, a put upon mom who tries her hardest to balance all aspects of her life but falls short. When the pressures get to her, she takes a stand and says ‘no’ to the expectations others have heaped upon her. She meets a couple of fellow moms who, like her, are tired of the judgement and together they set out to flip the script and start enjoying life. This doesn’t set right with the PTA queen bee (Applegate) and when Amy’s daughter gets benched on her soccer team, the gloves come off and the battle for leadership of the PTA is on!

Amy’s journey is one of rediscovery and she soon finds out what she’s been missing during all the years she spent trying to be perfect. The trio of moms are perfectly cast with Hahn as the boisterous one, Bell as the meek one and Kunis who is a perfect balance of the two. The script pulls no punches and treats the humor of motherhood honestly and with great skill. Mila Kunis emerges as a capable leading lady who can hold the film together and go from laugh out loud funny to heartbreakingly real. Christina Applegate is the PTA perfect  mom you love to hate, always accompanied by her two hench-moms.

A solid, balanced script keeps the laughs coming and the three moms have you rooting for them from the first moment you meet them, and the hot dad is definitely to die for. Just saying. Go get you ‘Mom’ on!

Audience: The audience for this show wasn’t too bad. A little chatty here and there but nothing disruptive. I could tell that the majority of the women there were moms themselves, judging by their enthusiastic reactions. The only real distraction was a couple in the row in front of me who seemed more interested in making out than watching the movie. If you don’t have any place to make out with your date, at least get seats in the back of the auditorium. Have that much courtesy please.