The Girl on the Train

By: Kevin Jordan

If that didn’t happen, and that didn’t happen, then what did happen?

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The easiest comparison for The Girl on the Train is 2014’s Gone Girl.  Both are based on books, both feature a messed-up title character, and both are thrillers revolving around murder.  The big difference is Gone Girl gives up its big reveal just forty minutes in, while The Girl on the Train saves it for the climax.  The bigger difference is that I knew how I felt immediately after watching The Girl on the Train (unlike with Gone Girl in which I’m still unsure how good that movie was) – I liked it quite a bit.  Moreso, in fact, than Gone Girl.

(Mild SPOILERS ahead.)

Have you seen this girl?

Have you seen this girl?

As stated, the biggest reason I liked The Girl on the Train more is because the suspense of the murder is kept up for the entire film.  On top of that, the movie keeps throwing curveballs to keep the viewer from guessing which of the four major characters is the actual murderer.  Granted, I managed to guess who it was before the reveal, but that’s only because I’ve seen hundreds of movies and have learned to spot the little things that foreshadow reveals.  Though, it wasn’t so much that I figured out who the killer was, it was whom I was able to eliminate early on.  But enough patting myself on the back (you’re welcome), let’s talk about the meat of this film.

Was it she?

Was it she?

The girl on the train is Rachel (Emily Blunt), an alcoholic divorcee living with her sister (Laura Prepon).  Every day, her train ride takes her past her old home where she sees her husband’s new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and their baby.  In addition, she sees the neighbors, Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan (Haley Bennett), who she fantasizes as the perfect couple with the perfect love.  One day, while staring at Megan, she notices that the man with her isn’t her husband.  She gets off the train, has a confrontation with a blond woman (who could be Anna or Megan), then wakes up much later on the side of the road.  She goes home, only to discover that Megan has gone missing and eventually turns up dead.  Right away, you’re probably doubting that she had anything to do with it because that is your natural inclination toward the main character of any film. However, the film spends a good amount of time convincing you that she is a terrible person fully capable of such dastardly deeds.  Yes, I said dastardly.

Was it he?

Was it he?

Just when you start to think that Rachel might just be the murderer, the film starts throwing those curveballs and they have some nasty bite to them.  As the second act moves along, we get far deeper looks into Scott, Anna, Megan, and Tom (Justin Theroux), Rachel’s ex-husband.  There are affairs, abuses, haunted pasts, shady therapists (Edgar Ramirez) – essentially the full gamut of soap opera plot lines, but with much better execution and writing.  A character will start off as either likable or unlikable, then the movie will try to convince you otherwise.  By the end of the second act, if you haven’t noticed those subtle little clues, you will equally suspect Scott, Tom, and Rachel, as well as Anna to a slightly lesser degree (though equally as plausible).  Even as sure as I was about my guess, I was still on the edge of my seat because of the suspense.  They even pull that stunt with Rachel’s previously mentioned confrontation, causing you to keep second guessing what really happened.

Surely not her?

Surely not her?

There isn’t much more I can tell you without ruining the film, but I can tell you that the acting was superb, most notably by Emily Blunt.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Blunt is fantastic, but she’s somehow one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood.  She pulls off beat-down alcoholic as well as anybody’s proverbial drunk uncle.  And kudos to the hair and makeup people who had the daunting task of making Blunt’s appearance match her performance.  She looks at least a decade beyond her actual age (33) and I could almost smell how bad she looked.

Possibly him?

Possibly him?

Like I said, the easy comparison to this movie is Gone Girl, but I think The Girl on the Train is much more interesting due to the whodunit nature of the plot.  That’s not to say Gone Girl was an uninteresting movie, it just wasn’t as suspenseful.  Personally, I enjoyed the subterfuge and mind games The Girl on the Train plays with the audience.  In short, if I’m picking between these two films to rewatch, I’m picking The Girl on the Train.

Rating: I wouldn’t ask for any money back, but if you think Gone Girl is better, ask for a dollar back because it’s very close.

(Note: A quick shout out to comedian Mike Birbiglia, who is the originator of my tagline.)

Dracula Untold

By: Kevin Jordan

Bite me.

 

If you are wondering why I would bother seeing a movie as obviously wretched as Dracula Untold promised to be, it’s because it’s DRACULA Poster Artbeen two months since I last saw a skidmark of a film (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and they are the most fun to write about.  Also, it screened the night after The Judge and I thought it would be fun to watch two polar-opposite films on consecutive nights.  I was right.  So, let’s get right to it with our old friend, Mr. Q&A, who is not shy about giving out SPOILERS.

Q: Ugh – is the title really Dracula Untold?

A: This is what passes for creativity in Hollywood these days -slapping dumb words that have been market-tested against the lowest common denominator on the end of movies to make them sound edgy or interesting.  Rises, returns, untold – they’re all the same – except “untold” is extra stupid because the movie is telling you whatever it is that’s untold.

Q: Right.  So, what are they telling us?

A: Following the current trend of neutering historically evil villains, Vlad/Dracula (Luke Evans) is actually a well-meaning prince trying to keep his people safe and only temporarily becomes a vampire to achieve that goal…

Q: Brruhhherrrerrr….

A: Are you alright?

Q: Yeah – just threw up in my mouth a little bit.  You were saying?

A: Mehmed, the sultan of Turkey (Dominic Cooper), demands that Vlad give him 1000 boys and young men for his army, including Vlad’s son, as part of their annual tribute.  Vlad refuses and kills the sultan’s men, knowing that he just doomed his people, though he only really cares about his own wife (Sarah Gadon) and son.  Luckily, he knows there is something powerful living in Broken-Tooth Mountain and goes up for a chat.

Q: Wait – Broken-Tooth Mountain?  Are you sure you didn’t make that up?

A: As sure as I am that the vampire living in the mountain is played by Charles Dance (aka Tywin Lannister) and that that vampire is actually the Roman emperor, Caligula.

Q: Wow.  That’s worse than when Christopher Lee slummed it as a leprosy-riddle cardinal in Season of the Witch.

A: Tell me about it.

Q: What did you mean by “temporarily becomes a vampire?”

A: Vlad must drink some of Caligula’s blood to gain Caligula’s powers.  Caligula explains to Vlad that if Vlad can resist drinking human blood for three days, Vlad will return to normal.  Caligula agrees to help because if Vlad succumbs to the thirst, then Caligula is freed from his curse.  We don’t really know what that curse is (it’s definitely not just being made a vampire), but we know he wants revenge on the demon that cursed him.  This will not matter to the story at all nor will we so much as see Caligula again until just before the credits roll.

Q: So, three days to defeat the entire Turkish army and probably also must avoid being killed by his own people for being a vampire?  Tough gig.  I’m guessing this doesn’t go so well considering vampires can’t go out during the day (at least those outside of the Seattle, Washington area).

A: Lucky for Vlad, the Turks only fight at night.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how ridiculous a contrivance that was, even for this kind of movie.  Militaries rarely fought at night throughout most of human history due to that pesky problem of not being able to see in the dark.  Of course, this will become a moot point later in the movie when Vlad is able to control the weather.

Q: Hold on – what do you mean he can control the weather?

A: On the third day, he simply causes the sky to cloud over so he can go outside.  Never mind that clouds still allow sunlight through; he’s out of time and the Turkish army is upon them.

Q: WTF?  What other powers does he have?  Night vision?  Teleportation?  A utility belt?  I thought we were talking about Dracula here – a traditional vampire that is just strong and immortal and can maybe turn into a bat.  The kind that can be killed by silver, sunlight, garlic, and crosses.

A: Nah.  The silver and sunlight thing is true except when it’s inconvenient to the plot.  The cross thing only applies after a couple of tries by a priest (he’ll even remark that Vlad is immune to it) and then only when it’s convenient.  In fact, this movie should have been called Dracula: An Inconvenient Truth.

Q: Is that all?

A: God no.  He actually does have night vision (he sees in infrared), can control creatures of the night, moves around extremely quickly as a swarm of bats (except when his wife is about to die, in which he moves just too slow), heals as quickly as Wolverine, and has super-heightened senses.  And remember, he can do all of this stuff tirelessly and without having to sustain himself with blood.  He is basically the X-Men, but with dragon armor.

Q: I can see why you were so excited about this movie.  There’s one thing I don’t understand – you said the sultan demanded a tribute.  Why is the sultan marching his entire army into Vlad’s kingdom if that kingdom is (apparently) already under his control?

A: He’s a big meanie-head?  There isn’t a good reason.  In fact, it’s dumber than you think.  Vlad originally offers himself in place of the 1000 because he claims he is worth the same on the battlefield.  The sultan agrees with Vlad’s claim, but would rather have the children anyway because he’s the villain and stuff.  It’s the same tired trope we see in lots of movies where the bad guy spends all of his resources to stop a good guy who isn’t even a threat.  Even after losing 1000 soldiers in the initial attack, the sultan continues on, despite remarking that Transylvania is his least favorite part of his kingdom and despite that he has plans to conquer other parts of Europe.  The only conclusion here is that the sultan is a terrible general and a raging pedophile.

Q: So, I guess since Vlad is invincible, he saves the kingdom and his family and destroys the Turkish army?

A: Actually, no.  Most of his people are killed in the battles, including his wife.

Q: No effing way.

A: Yes effing way.  Plus, as his wife is dying in his arms, she convinces him to drink her blood because the movie needed to render meaningless everything he did and stood for.

Q: Wait.  Stop…I don’t think I can take any more.

A: Sure you can.  Renfield shows up a couple of times as some kind of homeless guy trying to tempt Vlad with his blood so he can be Vlad’s servant…

Q: No…more…

A: …and after destroying the Turks, Vlad kills himself, only to be resurrected by Renfield and appear in modern day London flirting with a woman who looks like his old wife.

Q: BRRUHHHERRRERRR!!!!!

A: Tell me about it.

Rating: Leave the poor theater manager out of this – you knew this movie would suck (rimshot) and you handed your money over anyway.