The Girl on the Train


Viewed – 05 August 2017  DVD

This is the latest movie adaptation of a best selling novel that seems to be a bit of a trend lately, what with similar suburban-set books like Gone Girl previously getting the movie treatment.  With such things we get the usual, tired reports of ‘its not as good as the book’ yadda yadda.  I am not a big reader so approached this from generally favourable word of mouth and the fact it has Emily Blunt in it.

Girl on the Train

Blunt plays Rachel, an alcoholic who never got over the failure of her marriage and spends most of her life obsessing over her ex-husband’s new relationship and trying to deal with a growing jealousy.  Blunt is one of those dependable actresses, and is incredibly convincing here and after she suffers a black-out following an attack in a tunnel, starts to piece together a mystery involving her ex-husband’s missing nanny.  Offering up plenty of red herrings and clues as to what actually happened … with an alcoholic as the lead anything that is recalled is of course open to question.  So this made for a rather different take on the who-dunnit than I anticipated..  Add to this decent turns from The Hobbit’s Luke Evans and Justin Theroux and I found myself thoroughly entertainment.   Helps that I really felt for Rachel’s plight.

It goes out of it’s way to cleverly fool the viewer and mislead, which was initially confusing, but came together effectively even if I felt rather stupid for not guessing the outcome.  An easy  recommendation.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Huntsman: Winter’s War


Viewed – 21 April 2016  Cinema

Following some controversy over Kristen Stewart and the director of Snow White and the Huntsman, this sequel has languished in development with us not really knowing what we were getting.  Turns out a sort of origin tale and a sort of follow up, with mixed results.  Chris Hemsworth returns as the charismatic Huntsman whose growing love for fellow warrior Sara (Jessica Chastain) quickly catches the eye of bitter Freya, the sister of Charlize Theron’s Ravenna who has now turned Ice Queen following the death of her child and forbids the land from experiencing love.

The Huntsman

Despite lacking the scope of the actually very good Snow White and the Hunstman, and possibly on a smaller budget – this is still an entertaining ride.  Hemsworth is again charismatic even if his (Scottish?) accent is pretty bad.  The same can also be said for Chastain who makes for a bad-ass warrior woman but strays awkwardly between Irish Emily Bluntand Scottish.  Thankfully then their love affair and the rivalry between Emily Blunt’s Ice Queen and Theron’s Ravenna are all handled well and make up for what is otherwise quite simple fantasy fair.  The action, especially some awesome fight choreography is exciting, and we also get a couple of Dwarfs in the form of Nick Frost and Rob Brydon who makes for perfect comedy support as does a scene-stealing Sheridan Smith.

Considering how much the character is mentioned, the lack of an appearance by Snow White seemed odd (even if recast).  Also I’d have liked some larger-scale battles and a few more creatures and effects going on … but what we have instead is a focused tale of love and manipulation and rivalry that I thought worked a treat.  Perhaps dial one’s expectations back a tad, considering how spoilt we have been with Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings etc. and you should still get a kick out of this.

Verdict:  3 /5

Sicario


Viewed – 02 February 2016 Online-rental

I had heard some good buzz surrounding this gritty thriller set in the drug underworld of the Mexican Cartels, so was quite hyped up to sit down to it finally.  Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, Looper) plays an F.B.I. agent who attracts the attention of a team of government agents when she stumbles upon a crime scene associated with the Mexican drug barons.  Given the opportunity to join a top secret mission into Mexico, she at first thinks this is a chance to further her career, until eventually she starts to realize maybe what she’s involved in may not be strictly by the book.

SICARIO Day 01

Skilfully shot and with a very authentic feel, this thriller was packed full of tension and drew me in easily with echoes of Stephen Soderberg hit ‘Traffic’ as well as aspects of cult TV series Breaking Bad.  However with an emphasis on secret operations and misleading information, especially from the point of view of Blunt’s character I’ll admit I found this confusing for a good portion of the run time.  The subject is nothing particularly new and doesn’t really go anywhere all that surprising, but with added support of a cool and mysterious Benicio Del Toro and the always enjoyable Josh Brolin … this at least had some solid performances to help me through a convoluted narrative.  Blunt is especially good in an emotional role that cements her reputation as one of the more interesting British actresses around.  I’d have really likbenicioed more action to offset the tension as it’s a movie where I was expecting something to kick off any second.  Tense moments such as a claustrophobic tunnel scene and a drawn out freeway journey certainly added to such expectations.  Yet much is left until the closing moments, which by then I was feeling more frustrated than entertained.

The movie however pulls no punches as far as showing the shocking lengths these drug dealers will go to, but with several confusing characters (not helped by similar Mexican names) and a pace that rushed through important plot details … this, although intriguing could have been so much better.

Verdict: 3 /5

The Wind Rises


Viewed – 19 November 2014  Blu-ray

In some ways I was a bit nervous going into this.  The much anticipated swansong for arguably one of the finest animation directors in the world.  Hayao Miyazaki chose this very personal and understated story as his final feature for the famed Japanese animation house ‘Studio Ghibli’ following an illustrious career that spawned such classics as Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro and Howls Moving Castle.  However this is not the fantastical world we may have become used to but more a thought provoking biopic of a famed aircraft designer.

the-wind-rises

I’d say Miyazaki has always had an interest with aircraft and flight, and this is certainly his love letter.  Jiro Horikoshi (voiced in the very good English dub by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) since he was a child has had a fasciation with air travel and the designing of planes.  He often slips into fantastical dream sequences where he meets and talks to famed Italian Aviation pioneer Giovanni Battista Caproni.  As time passes Jiro studies aeronautical engineering, and soon begins working for a plane building firm.  However with the advent of World War II, his designs become increasingly involved in the Japanese Army’s invasions plans, and Jiro finds himself questioning his conscience.

With a similarity to the Martin Scorsese / Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle The Aviator, and boasting several quirky characters, (Jiro’s boss is classic Ghibli), I did find this interesting even if all the plane building and Jiro’s enthusiasm went over my head.  More absorbing was his gentle love story with Nahoko (Emily Blunt) who develops Tuberculosis.  Yet this storyline also brought into question some of Jiro’s actions, with him having full knowledge that his planes would be involved in mass genocide but he seems to have more focus on building them than looking after his sick fiancé.  Thankfully the art and animation on show distracts from such a morally dubious main character and should be heralded as one of the studio’s most beautiful works – a real treat for the eyes that shows there is plenty of life left in traditional hand drawn animated movies.

Perhaps not as uplifting or as boundlessly-inventive as Miyazaki at his best, but with a good story and some great moments (the 1923 Tokyo earthquake is portrayed like the ground breathing and groaning…), this is still worth checking out.

Verdict:  3 /5

Edge of Tomorrow


Viewed – 21 October 2014  Blu-ray

There’s something about Tom Cruise’s latest foray into blockbuster territory that feels like it’s late to the party.  Mech-suits – didn’t Avatar or Elysium do this already?  And don’t get me started on the Groundhog Day plot.  But I digress.  This has Cruise as a Major in the army who reports on the war against an alien race that has invaded earth.  On a routine visit to report on the latest onslaught, he suddenly gets shoehorned into battle against his will.  Only thing is once on the battlefield and seriously outnumbered by the enemy, Cruise (or Cage as his character is named) discovers that getting killed is only the start of the longest day of his life.  Along the way he meets up with war hero Emily Blunt who may just know why he’s repeating his day over and over again.

edge-of-tomorrow-tom-cruise-1

Cruise is decent in not a particularly demanding role…he gets to shoot aliens a lot and look sort of awkward in his mechanised suit, but surrounded by a group of clichéd ‘grunts’ he stands out (despite an entertaining Bill Paxton).  Better is Blunt, one of the more interesting and has to be said bad-ass of the current female acting crop and her presence means this movie had echoes of Looper what with it’s time-paradox storyline.  It’s not as clever as that movie though and lacks any real depth to the characters or especially the aliens who just look like throwbacks to The Matrix’s sentinels.  More interesting is the repeating day plot-device which director Doug Liman plays with wonderfully and at times the getting-it-wrong moments are quite funny (Cruise daringly rolls under a passing tuck … with a resulting splat). 

I would have liked more of a love story-angle to Cruise & Blunt’s partnership (it’s certainly hinted at) and maybe some more detail on the aliens … and just why the day is repeating all the time left me saying … er, what was that again?   However, the movie makes up for such shortcomings with several superb action sequences (the beach stuff is like a futuristic Saving Private Ryan) and on a decent set up, with a big screen and surround sound…this packed a punch.  Just a shame it’s fairly basic characterisation and copy-cat ideas prevent it from being a classic.

Verdict:  3.5 / 5