Movie reviews, Oct. 13, 2016

A Woman’s Movie — All Growed Up. — A Film Review By Lisa Miller

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

(2016)

PR: * * * (B)

Directed By Tate Taylor

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

Universal//Rated R//Drama//112 minutes

        Focusing on three women as its central characters, potential viewers may dismiss “The Girl On The Train” as a chick flick. It isn’t.

        Adapted from the Paula Hawkins runaway bestseller, it’s neither a sudsy romance nor a comedy ridiculing silly female hang ups. It studies the effects of sexual relationships as they relate to love, for both women, and men, and examines how our life experiences influence self image.

        Rachel, played with earnest immediacy by Emily Blunt, is our conduit into a chaotic world that appears to be neat and orderly. Each day Rachel boards a commuter train that passes through Westchester, New York. As an artist, she doodles while lamenting the woman she’s become. From the train window she passes close to the home of her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux), his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and the couple’s infant, Evie. Anna, once Tom’s other woman, now wanders through rooms filled with furnishings selected by Rachel. A few houses away, Rachel observes Megan and Scott (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans), an attractive, overtly loving couple — who seem to embody everything Rachel imagines marriage can be.

        Rachel’s emotional turmoil leaves her unable to move forward. She feels guilty about losing her marriage because of her drinking, and two years on, still uses booze as her coping mechanism. Daily, she revisits both her guilt and resentment during the train ride through her old neighborhood — whistfully studying both couples, but unable to find either redemption or resolution for herself.

        The story then takes us inside Anna and Scott’s marriage. They are restless and unsettled. We learn that Megan, who has resisted having a baby, works for Anna and Scott as Evie’s nanny. Her husband Scott approves because he wants children, leading to frequent arguments between them. In explaining her predicament to therapist, Dr. Kamal Abdic (Edgar Ramirez), Megan says, I’m surrounded by people, but I feel alone and disconnected. “I feel like myself only when I’m running.”

        Sometimes, Rachel drunk dials Tom, or appears at his house. She takes liberties with the couple’s unattended child. In fact Anna awakens to discover Rachel in her yard holding Anna’s baby and tells Tom to call the police. He replies, “Rachel’s harmless. She would never hurt Evie.”

        Both in the past as in the present, Rachel’s alcoholism leaves her extremely vulnerable. Staying in the spare room of a patient friend, Rachel awakens with cuts and bruises, and covered in an alarming quantity of blood, but having been drunk at the time, she is unable to recall the previous night’s events. When someone she knows comes up missing, Rachel is beside herself with worry. She goes to the police, but her blackout leaves her incapable of conveying a coherent story. Detective Riley (Allison Janney) dismisses Rachel as an addict-addled nuisance.

        Although the forgoing description may leave you wondering whether this story is anything more than a shaggy dog tale, “The Girl On The Train” works. It does so by taking the viewer deep inside its characters’ psyches, and revealing who they really are through their behaviors. Having known both vulnerable and alcoholic women, I recognized many of the dynamics at work within these couples. “The Girl On The Train” may not be especially pleasant, but it’s thought provoking. It’s about ordinary people leading ordinary lives. It might be fair to call it a woman’s movie, but there’s much everyone can learn from it.

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MOVIE PREVIEWS – By Lisa Miller (Edit For Local Distribution)

CR = Critics’ Consensus Rating (where available), PR = Lisa’s Predicted Rating

MAX STEEL

(2016)

PR: * *1/2 (B-)

Directed By Stewart Hendler

Starring Andy Garcia, Ben Winchell, Ana Villafane, Mike Doyle, Maria Bello, Billy Slaughter

Open Road Films//Rated PG-13//Action//100 minutes

New in Town, 16-year-old Max McGrath has no idea he’s been selected to help battle sinister forces from another galaxy. Unknown to Max, a bionic extraterrestrial named Steel has been watching him, and believes Steel can help Max to harness massive powers — providing Steel is able to gain the lad’s trust and teach him to use those powers. Together, the pair become Max Steel in this superhero movie adapted from the Mattel Toy line. Max’s role, once set to be played by Taylor Lautner back in 2009, ultimately went to Ben Winchell.

THE ACCOUNTANT

(2016)

PR: * *1/2 (B-)

Directed By Gavin O’Connor

Starring Anna Kendrick, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons

Warner Bros.//Rated R//Drama//128 minutes 

Affleck appears as Christian Wolff, a math savant stricken with Asperger’s syndrome who becomes a highly skilled accountant working for multiple criminal organizations. Then Wolff is called upon by accounting clerk Dana (Kendrick) to find the reason for a multimillion dollar discrepancy in a robotics company’s books. Bodies pile up as Wolff gets closer to the truth prompting Wolff to use a variety of military tactics to protect both himself and Dana from a host of bad guys. Warner Brothers and script writer Bill Dubuque were unable to settle on whether to make a thriller, or a comedy-action flick. The final product is some of each, and not enough of either.

KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW?

(2016) PR: * * * (B)

Directed By Leslie Small, Tim Story

Starring Kevin Hart, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Ed Helms

Universal//Rated R//Comedy, Concert//96 minutes

Kevin Hart’s latest comedy tour opened in 45 cities, with advance ticket sales topping $35 million dollars. Filming his final stop at Lincoln Financial Field, stadium to the Philadelphia Eagles in Hart’s hometown, Hart adds a preamble that finds him facing off against Don Cheadle in a poker game, then being protected from Mafiosos by Bond-girl, Halle Berry. Ed Helms stops in to play a wisecracking bartender. Note: Hart’s ‘no cell phone’ policy prompted his stone-faced security detail to boot 100-200 nonconforming patrons from each and every show.

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MOVIE SHORTS – By Lisa Miller (Edit For Local Distribution)

CR = Critics’ Consensus Rating

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

(2016)

* * * (B)

Directed By Tate Taylor

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

Universal//Rated R//Drama//112 minutes

Thirty-two-year-old alcoholic Rachel (Blunt), still pines for her cheating, ex-husband Tom (Theroux), who resides in their old home with current wife Anna (Ferguson). Daily passing the house on her commuter train, lonely Rachel becomes obsessed with Tom’s neighbors Megan and Scott (Bennett and Evans), whom she imagines to be the perfect, happily married couple. Following a night of blackout drinking, Emily awakens bruised and cut to learn someone she cared about is missing. After partially recovering her memory, Rachel believes that she witnessed something important. Rachel recklessly inserts herself into the case, endangering herself of becoming its prime suspect. A psychological thriller, penned by British author Paula Hawkins, this adaptation of the monster bestseller seeks to attract an audience on par with that for, “Gone, Baby Gone.”

DEEPWATER HORIZON

(2016)

CR: * * *1/2 (A-)

Directed By Peter Berg

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien

Lionsgate//Rated PG-13//Action//107 minutes

Reteaming with Mark Wahlberg from his brilliant “Lone Survivor,” director Peter Berg, adapts the true story of the worst deep-water-drilling disaster in history. Malkovich appears as the profit-minded boss compelling crew chief Jimmy Harrell (Russell) and chief electronics technician Mike Williams (Wahlberg), to place the unready Deep Horizon rig into operation, with disastrous results. Berg built an 85% scale replica of a rig he pulls apart rivet by rivet, then engulfs in flames. The result is nonstop action as rescuers arrive and crew members try every possible maneuver in an effort to survive.

MASTERMINDS

(2016)

CR: * * (C)

Directed By Jared Hess

Starring Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Owen Wilson, Ken Marino

Relativity Media//Rated PG-13//Comedy//94 minutes

This true crime story aims for farcical lunacy, but garners few laughs and falls short of creating persuasive action sequences. Galifianakis portrays David Ghantt, a lackadaisical armored truck driver who falls for coworker Kelly Campbell (Wiig). She proposes David steal 17 million dollars being transported in his armored truck, promising they’ll use the money to run away together. Instead, Kelly and her husband Steve (Wilson), hire a hit man (Sudeikis) to dispose of David, the only person able to tie the couple to the crime.

MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

(2016)

* * * (B)

Directed By Tim Burton

Starring Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench, Chris O’Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Kim Dickens

Fox//Rated PG-13//Fantasy//127 minutes

Tim Burton (57) finds a new muse in Eva Green (37), who portrays Miss Peregrine, a shape-shifting bird-woman. She shepherds a pack of orphans gifted with special powers, keeping them safe from killer hollowgasts by creating a time loop that perpetually repeats a day 70 years in the past. When Jacob (Butterfield) arrives at her refuge on a tiny Welsh island, Miss Peregrine is pleased, claiming he’s destined to protect the orphans when she is forced to assume her bird-form by the hollowgasts. Adapted from a popular YA novel by Ransom Riggs, the material is perfect for Burton’s ghastly perspective. Incidentally, the director split from Helena Bonham Carter in 2014, but more surprisingly, number one muse, Johnny Depp, is not in this film. Have they split too?

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

(2016)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed By Antoine Fuqua

Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer, Byung-hun Lee

Sony//Rated PG-13//Western//132 minutes

In order to save the Rose Creek townies from the greedy designs of a murderous gold baron (Sarsgaard), flinty-eyed Sam (Washington) recruits a group of misfits to form a 7-man army. They include: a gambler (Pratt), a marksman (Hawk), a crusty mountain man (D’Onofrio), a swordsman (Lee), an outlaw, and an American Indian — incidentally expert with a bow and arrow. Spurts of violent action substitute for character development and while the climactic showdown offers a few diversions, presenting the villain as more ridiculous than menacing, undermines this remake of the bang-on 1960’s classic.

STORKS – 3D

(2016)

CR: * * * (B)

Directed By Nicholas Stoller,

Starring Andy Samberg, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Kelsey Grammar, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele

Rated PG//Animation, Fantasy//89 minutes

Storks once manufactured and delivered babies to order, but changing times mean they now deliver packages for Cornerstore.com. Working at the stork’s mail center, orphan human girl Tulip opens a letter from lonely only child Henry. Feeling his pain, Tulip inserts his letter into the baby-making machine and out pops Henry’s new baby brother. Lead delivery stork Junior hopes to help his friend Tulip by delivering the baby to its intended family before the stork’s boss returns from a weekend away. This task is made difficult by a shape-shifting wolf pack that covets the baby. Attempting to addresses stork folklore using comic characters, and perilous action, the film exhibits moments of charm while simultaneously barraging kids with its family-friendly messaging.

BLAIR WITCH

(2016)

CR: * *1/2 (B-)

Directed By Adam Wingard

Starring James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Valorie Curry

Lionsgate//Rated R//Horror//89 minutes

When a handful of young people go searching the woods for a legendary evil witch, it seems no one learned the occurances 17 years earlier. Their story is told via found footage, although the dreaded, handheld shaky cam is largely replaced by an over-the-ear variety, or cameras hung from trees, or those floating beneath drones. Having recently seen new footage of his sister Heather’s Blair Witch experience on the Internet, James (McCune) is determined to learn whether she is still alive. He, along with a few friends, returns to the house in the woods where Heather was last seen. Sprinkled with humor during its first half, the film’s final act is hard-core horror.

SNOWDEN

(2016)

CR: * * * (B)

Directed By Oliver Stone

Starring Shailene Woodley, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Wilkinson, Scott Eastwood, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Rhys Ifans, Nicolas Cage, Timothy Olyphant

Open Road//Rated R//Drama, Biography//134 minutes

Having worked as an intelligence analyst for both the CIA and NSA, Snowden gave reporters, in May, 2013, thousands of classified NSA documents showing the mass surveillance conducted on U.S. citizens by our government. Writer-director Oliver Stone seeks to illustrate the personal convictions that prompted Snowden’s desperate act, making him a hero to some, but a traitor in the eyes of the law. The story attempts to show Snowden’s growing pangs of conscience via his romance with photographer Lindsay Mills (Woodley). A fascinating examination of individual rights versus security, Stone gathered a stellar cast, for this slick, but somewhat flat production.

BRIDGET JONES’S BABY

(2016)

* * * (B)

Directed By Sharon Maguire

Starring Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Sarah Solemani, Emma Thompson, Kate O’Flynn

Universal//Rated R//Comedy//122 minutes

Following a steamy night with her ex-beau, Mark Darcy (Firth) and one (a day later) with an American named Jack (Dempsey), 43-year-old British TV exec Bridget Jones (Zellweger), finds herself pregnant, single, and confused. Both men claim paternity and doggedly accompany Bridget to her OB-GYN (Thompson, who also cowrote the screenplay) appointments, as well as her natural-birthing classes. Ever the klutz relying on her unreliable instincts, Bridget is considered too old to be relevant by her 20-something bosses, yet doesn’t fit in with settled-down married friends her own age. A hopeful sign is the return of director Sharon Maguire, who helmed the first “Bridget Jones.”

SULLY

(2016)

* * * * (A)

Directed By Clint Eastwood

Starring Tom Hanks, Anna Gunn, Laura Linney, Aaron Eckhart

Warner Bros.//Rated PG-13//Biography, Drama//96 minutes

An unfussy account but highly effective of circumstances leading commercial airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger (Hanks) to land his crippled plane on the Hudson River. Depicting the crash in six different ways, Sully’s story focuses on the NTSB’s (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation and subsequent grueling interrogation of Sully and his copilot Jeff Skiles (Eckhart). When a flock of Canada geese strike Sully’s aircraft shortly after its takeoff from La Guardia, in January, 2009, the pilot learns both engines are severely crippled. Though Sully’s decisions saved many lives, the NTSB remains unconvinced he chose the right course of action. Back home, Sully’s wife Lorrie (Linney), worries and encourages her modest husband to stick to his guns.

DON’T BREATHE

(2016)

* * * * (A)

Directed By Fede Alvarez

Starring Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto

Sony//Rated R//Thriller//88 minutes

Featuring a frightening trailer and monstrously favorable early reviews, “Don’t Breathe” finds three teens attempting to rob a large cash insurance settlement from a blind man who turns out to be anything but helpless. Awakening to find intruders in his home, the sightless, fighting machine (Lang) quickly overpowers one teen, and sets about hunting down the others who are trapped inside his labyrinthine home, located in an abandoned Detroit neighborhood. While the man knows every inch of his terrain, the kids’ only advantage is that he can’t see them. However, the slightest creak of a floorboard, or a bit of heavy breathing is enough to give them away. Watch for a basement-bound sequence that is so scary, you too will be afraid to breathe.

BAD MOMS

(2016)

CR: * *1/2 (B-)

Directed By Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Starring Mila Kunis, Christina Applegate, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Jada Pinkett Smith, Annie Mumolo

STX Entertainment//Rated R//Comedy//101 minutes

Fed up with being the perfect working wife and mother, Amy Mitchell (Kunis) tells off overachieving moms (Applegate, Smith and Mumolo) at a meeting for the school’s upcoming bake sale. She’s tired of never saying “no” and living “to make my children’s lives magical.” Thrilled when Amy voices their feelings, moms Kiki and Carla (Bell and Hahn) join Amy on a journey of irresponsibility and self-indulgence. As the three self-proclaimed “bad moms” drink, talk dirty, and eat junk food, the film explores women’s perspective on men, marriage and sex. More importantly, why shouldn’t we all love the uni-boob bra?

JASON BOURNE

(2016)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed By Paul Greengrass

Starring Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles,  Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel

Universal//Rated PG-13//Action//122 minutes

With his memory regained, Jason Bourne (Damon) ekes out a living as a street fighter until the former CIA operative is drawn out of the shadows, when once again, the government is out to get him. Teaming with Nicky Parsons (Stiles), an administrative Operation Treadstone survivor, Bourne seeks to uncover the whole truth about Treadstone while also eluding capture and exacting revenge. Damon, now 45, happily signed on for his fourth installment with director Paul Greengrass at the helm. The actor trained hard to acquire a boxer’s chops for brutal fight scenes that find Bourne resourcefully weaponizing any handy item.