Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep

By: Kevin Jordan

You won’t be dozing off in this one.

The climax of Doctor Sleep really confused me because it takes place at the Overlook hotel (this is shown in the trailer). For the record, I have managed to watch Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining exactly one time and that was decades ago. Despite it being considered a masterpiece by many people, I remember it being really boring and not scary, falling asleep multiple times during multiple attempts to watch it. That one time is actually a composite of piecing together multiple viewings, starting each successive time from the point at which I was bored into unconsciousness. So, it should not surprise you that I do not remember the hotel still standing at the end of the film.

My memory of the story comes from reading Stephen King’s novel and the mid-1990s miniseries adaptation featuring Steven Weber. In both of those versions of the story, the Overlook is destroyed at the end. Hence, my confusion during Doctor Sleep. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining that Doctor Sleep is a sequel to Kubrick’s version of the story (no, seriously), but I am wondering if King resurrected the hotel in the novel. I am guessing yes, but I refuse to Google it since Doctor Sleep is high up on my list of books to read. Now that I have seen Doctor Sleep, I need to bump it up the list even higher because the movie was quite good.

Welcome back.

(SPOILER ALERT – minor plot and character points, but only for the movie.)

Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is all grown up and drinking to a point that even his father would think is excessive. After escaping the Overlook hotel with his mother, some of the Overlook’s ghouls followed him and continued to terrorize him (when he was still a child). Luckily, he was also visited by old (and dead) Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly), who taught him how to confront the ghosts and lock them away in his mind with the power of his shining. Back to adult Danny, the ghosts may be locked away, but he is still haunted by his past, so he tries to drink it away. As his father belatedly learned, drink as medicine does not work. Not that we can blame him – how else do you mentally cope with freaky twin girls and a gross old naked lady in a bathtub haunting your synapses?

Eventually, Danny ends up in a small town in New England, where a local, Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis), takes him under his wing and helps him sober up. While Danny is growing up, drinking, and getting sober, we are introduced to Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). Yes, the punctuation in that previous sentence is correct – she is called Rose the Hat. In this introduction, she lures to her a young girl by offering her a flower, delivers creepo-in-van dialogue and facial expressions, then grabs hold of the girl’s arm (drawing blood even) until the rest of Rose’s clan swoops in and swarms the girl. I really like this scene because it doesn’t mince words about Rose or try to endear the audience to her with any sympathy. She is a monster right off the bat and we are instantly clear on who Danny will ultimately face off with in the climax.

Want to see what’s in my hat? It’s in a van down by the river.

The other important person in the film is teenaged Abra Stone (Kyleigh Curran). At a young age, Abra was enthralled by magicians because she herself could perform magic. As it turns out, Abra has the shining as well and has developed it quite a bit into her teenage years. When Danny moves into the small town and starts sobering up, very young Abra makes contact with him through messages on a chalkboard in his apartment. Eight years later, teenage Abra sends him another message and they begin talking a little more frequently. This was another clever bit of imagination in the story that highlights another use of the shining. I suspect the book has far more correspondence between the two, but is justifiably cut from a movie that is still two and a half hours long.

These three people are arguably the most powerful people on Earth, with regards to the shining. The difference with Rose is that she (and her clan) eats the shining. Much of the film is devoted to Rose’s companion Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon) – a very Stephen King-y character name – whose shining allows him to track down others who may also have the shining. Eventually, they become aware of young Abra and how immense is her shining and all of them are licking their chops. Of course, you, the audience, expect the movie to become a Terminator analogue at this point, with Danny using his power to protect the girl while fending off a seemingly invincible Rose, both of them on the run. But, it’s so much better than that. To paraphrase Crow Daddy, King and screenwriter Mike Flanagan have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Like any good Stephen King tale, the audience is drawn in through a combination of rich and well-developed main characters and a methodical plot building to a crescendo at the end. Details and call-backs are used to maximum effect, pushing the story and characters forward. The chemistry between Danny and Abra is perfect, as she leads Danny and forces him to confront his past and his shining. Abra is the stronger of the two, highlighted in several great scenes showcasing her abilities. Never does it feel like an inappropriate relationship, partly because Abra often feels like the older and wiser of the two. Also like any good King tale, it makes you feel icky and uncomfortable at certain parts, including the treatment of some of the children. The fate of young Bradley Trevor will particularly make you squirm.

Bring it.

If there is one negative thing about the film, it is that the title doesn’t really fit the film. When Danny is first sobering up, he is offered a job as an orderly at a hospice. One night, Danny follows the building’s resident housecat into a man’s room, where the man informs Danny that the cat only sits on people’s beds when they are about to die. Danny comforts the man and mentally pushes him to sleep to help the man face his fear, earning him the nickname Doctor Sleep. This is the one thing in the entire movie that never comes into play in the main story, instead simply used as a tiny bit of character development to show Danny willing to use his power again, after locking it away as much as possible. Ordinarily, this would not be a complaint, but the title suggests this ability to be much more important. Considering how careful King is with his titles, I am guessing there is far more to this in the book and the film leaves it hanging out there.

Doctor Sleep is one of the better movies I have seen this year, partly due to the fact that I am a big Stephen King fan and this Stephen King adaptation was not a complete letdown like so many before it. To be fair, I have not seen It: Chapter 2 or the Pet Sematary remake, but both of those are stories I am well familiar with, and I still have a bit of The Dark Tower taste left in my mouth from last year. I enjoyed the homages to the original adaptation of The Shining (especially the Redrum call-back), as well as the idea of monsters feeding on people’s shine (or steam, as they call it). Most importantly, I was happy that a two-and-a-half-hour movie felt like it was half that long because we all know how long some of King’s books are and can feel like.

Rating: Do not ask for any money back no matter how uncomfortable this movie makes you.

Men in Black: International

Men in Black: International

By: Kevin Jordan

M is for mole.

For my wife, time travel in a movie kills that movie for her. I get it – time travel solves any problem, undoes any death or event, and, of course, comes with that pesky paradox (if you change the past, you erase the reason for going back to the past to make the change). Avengers: Endgame might be the best case way to deal with time travel and scores of movies are the worst way (I will go with Timecop). I do not have an issue with time travel in movies.

For me, a mole in the agency ruins a movie. The mole is a lazy plot devices that allows you to explain away almost anything. Need a bad guy to know where the heroes are or looking for the MacGuffin? The mole told them. Need the bad guys to always be one step ahead? The mole is helping them. Need to defeat something the agency is using? The mole did it. Need to find out if a spouse is cheating? Hire a private detective. The mole is for official use only.

My loathing of the mole all started with season two of 24. Season one of 24 is arguably one of the best seasons of television ever and is one of the very few instances where the mole subplot was handled beautifully. Season two, not so much. Then, season three commenced and gave us another mole and I quit watching the show mid-season. Since then, it seems like every movie and TV show involving secret agents or cops has a mole. Agents of Shield, Castle, The Blacklist, Casino Royale, every Mission: Impossible movie. It’s no wonder that Republicans buy the conspiracy-theory nonsense about the “deep state” when this is what they are being fed on TV (not really a surprise since they continue swallowing other bullshit from Fox ahem-News). See where I’m going with this?

Who do you think the mole is?

(SPOILER ALERT – Too late.)

Yes, MIB:I has a mole, but we’ll come back to that in a minute. MIB:I can be considered a bit of a reboot for the series (and it is also a sequel), but with the least amount of effort to distinguish itself from the previous three films. Basically, they changed the cast and called it a day. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing, but the film doesn’t even attempt to add any new elements beyond Chris Hemsworth (Agent H), Tessa Thompson (Agent M), and Liam Neeson (High T – yes, High T). Just because you have Thor, Valkyrie, and Ra’s al Goul, doesn’t mean you don’t have to try hard.

Molly is a young girl when she has her first run-in with an alien – a cute little blue stuffed animal-looking-thing that she helps escape the men in black that show up at her house to find it. For plot reasons, Molly isn’t neuralized along with her parents, even though Molly is looking at the neuralizer (albeit, from a distance, which is definitely lazy writing based on what we know from previous movies).  Flash-forward twenty years and we find that Molly interviewing with every spy agency in America because she’s spent two decades trying to fulfill her dream of joining the men in black. How the men in black haven’t discovered Molly’s search is a testament to how little the writers think of them and how obvious it is that neither of the two writers bothered to even watch the previous films (let alone read the comic books).

(Side note: as another example of laziness, the movie tells us the men in black have existed since at least Eiffel built his tower, which directly contradicts the origin story in the first MIB film.)

Good thing both of you are awesome or this movie would totally suck.

Finally, Molly tracks them down and attempts to sneak into MIB headquarters. She is immediately discovered and, with barely an objection by the head of MIB (Emma Thompson as Agent O), is taken on as a recruit and quickly earns probationary agent status and dubbed Agent M. For her first mission, she is sent to London to the international branch of MIB for reasons that are never shared with the audience (O cryptically just says she has a feeling M will be needed there).

There she meets Agent H, volunteering to help him escort a royal alien named Vungus (Kayvan Novak) for a night out on the town. When their night is interrupted by two aliens from the Hive (played by twins Laurent and Larry Bourgeois), Vungus gives Molly an everlasting gobstopper that is also the most powerful gun in the universe (it’s fueled by a miniaturized blue giant star). For the rest of the film, M and H are pursued by the alien twins and another MIB agent (Agent C – played by Rafe Spall – believes M and H have gone rogue).  Throw in Riza (Rebecca Ferguson), an international arms dealer – who also happens to have three literal arms (GET IT!?!) – because the writers have definitely seen Mission: Impossible a thousand times.

Good thing she didn’t try to eat it before it transformed.

While the plot is incredibly lazy, yet somehow wildly over-complicated, the film is a fun watch. The big problem with MIB:I is (and here comes that big SPOILER) the opening scene telegraphs the mole. So, instead of fully enjoying the movie, part of your brain is sitting there waiting for the least surprising reveal in the history of film. And, since the reveal doesn’t happen until the very end of the film, you keep noticing how the script has to keep the men in black stupid in order to protect the reveal. Even after the reveal, the movie thumbs its ass at the audience when O tells M “I’ve suspected something wasn’t right with London Branch for quite some time.” Wait – so you sent a probie, alone, to another branch with no clear mission (at least that the audience was told of), hoping she would discover whatever it was you thought was amiss? Oh, if only Zed were still alive.

If you can ignore the hilariously stupid writing (and it gets no dumber and predictable than how H and M get out of a sure-death situation with Riza), you will enjoy really good performances from Hemsworth and Thompson, with an assist from Kumail Nanjiani (voicing a tiny little sidekick alien named Pawny). The three of them keep this movie from being the diaper blowout it was desperately trying to be.

Rating: Ask for all but two dollars back, because…damn.

The Kid Who Would be King

The Kid Who Would be King

By: Kevin Jordan

Another legend in the toilet.

Walking out of The Kid Who Would be King, I was mentally justifying it:  my kid loved it (his exact words), and it is a movie for kids, so that’s all that matters…right?  But parents have to sit through these movies too, so our opinions matter a little bit.  A very little bit, but some nonetheless.  What I said on my way out was “it was fine,” which was a very begrudging “fine” because there were a bunch of kids around me and I did not think their parents would appreciate my true thoughts: “it shit on my childhood and the legend of King Arthur.”

On the way home, my wife and I wondered if the movies we liked as kids were as crappy as this film.  Are we remembering Flight of the Navigator and The Wizard far more rosily than we should?  Even we know that Super Mario Brothers is the movie equivalent of underwear skid marks, so I would like to think it is more than just nostaglia.  I am also not saying kids should not enjoy these movies.  I enjoy some crappy movies every year, so who am I to begrudge them brainless entertainment?  But it is still worth pointing out that The Kid Who Would be King represents the lazy writing and bad filmmaking pervasive of most kid movies that are not made by Pixar or Dreamworks.  Look no further than the two recent toilet clogs called A Wrinkle in Time and Nutcracker and the Four Realms and you understand what I mean.

Did you wash your hands?

(SPOILERS, but only for kids.  Who are not reading this.)

The Kid Who Would be King starts out bad – with a speed reader’s version of the legend of King Arthur, presented in a cartoon format that looks like it jumped out of a Sandra Boynton book.  That is not a knock on Boynton, but a knock on the filmmakers for presuming the audience has the collective intelligence of three-year olds.  Opening narration is almost always useless and definitely lazy, but what makes it especially egregious in this film is that the entire rest of the movie beats you over the head with Arthurian legend anyway, including the main character literally reading aloud from a King Arthur book.

After that waste of time, the film introduces us to Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), the stereotypical pudgy kid with a nerdy friend, Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) and two personal bullies, Lance and Kaye (Tom Taylor and Rhianna Dorris, respectively).  Touching on one of my pet peeves, Alex gets in trouble for defending Bedders (who was actively being robbed by Lance and Kaye) by tackling Lance.  Immediately after serving detention (with the bullies), the bullies chase Alex into a construction site and nary a teacher witnesses this, despite the chase starting on the steps of the school.  I could rant about this for hours, but how about I just skip to the part where Alex wakes up after taking a fall in the construction site and pulls Excalibur from a chunk of concrete?

No points for guessing who is the bully.

He takes the sword home and shows it to Bedders and they have a laugh.  Meanwhile, the evil witch Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) wakes up in some random underground lair and resumes her centuries’ old plot to take over the world.  Or just Britain (this is never really clear).  To do that, she must have Excalibur because only the true king (or queen) possesses Excalibur.  Just one problem.  They tell us multiple times during the movie that Excalibur chooses its wielder.  So, Morgana can never wield Excalibur and she knows this.  Did I say this movie had lazy writing?  Any lazier and it would be in a coma.

We also get an arbitrary countdown, as all hero’s journey stories must.  In this film, Alex and his knights (Bedders and the bullies for some reason) have four days to defeat Morgana because there is a solar eclipse in four days.  Also, Morgana is rising because people have become bad enough to want Brexit, which returns her strength and the eclipse and stuff.  I am not making this up.  This film shows us news clips of Brexiteers and the divisiveness between people that caused it and now children have to buy and wear fake armor and fight a witch who can morph into a fire-breathing succubus-dragon.  All because of racism.  Oh wait, there is more.

Merlin shows up as a young man (Angus Imrie) to help guide and train Alex and friends, but he can only help them during the day.  Unfortunately, Morgana can only exercise her powers at night, so Merlin is pretty useless.  Then again, sometimes Merlin is old (Patrick Stewart) and can sometimes help at night.  Then again, again, Morgana can sometimes attack the kids during the day.  I call timeout!!!

Do not go in there. Whewwwwww!

Compounding the nonsense seems to be the goal of writer/director Joe Cornish, and he does not stop with the Merlin/Morgana contradictions.  The kids’ journey is filled with false quests like searching for a lost father (who turns out to be a drunk and whom they never find), going to an Arthurian castle where they are protected by magic only to leave said castle the same day, and travelling to the underworld to fight Morgana before she can rise even though they know (THEY KNOW!!) she has to come to them to get the sword.  And just to put the rancid cherry on top, Morgana continually mocks Alex for believing in myths even though she is the myth.  Is it too much to ask the lady of the lake to drown me in my giant soda?

So, yeah, I was not amused by this film.  To be fair, Imrie’s performance as young Merlin was a bright spot, and who doesn’t love Patrick Stewart?   But the rest of the cast was mediocre and the Alex wasn’t even a good Arthur-analogue.  A clever director would make Lance the main character – a bully who has to learn the virtues of knighthood and leadership – not Alex, who already believes the in the legend and does not have to grow by the end of his journey.  With Lance, a real statement about bullying could have been made, but instead this movie treats bullying like a childhood rite of passage, as all movies do.  But, when it comes down to it, my son loved watching kids fight enflamed skeletons on undead horses and that matters far more to studios than what a forty-year old man thinks.

Rating: Ask for all of your money back, but not your kid’s.

The Snowman

The Snowman

By: Kevin Jordan

The Iceman Cometh.

 

Oh man, am I proud of that tagline.  I always try to avoid using clunky puns in my taglines, and this movie just begs for something hacky like “This movie leaves everything out in the cold” or “You just got snowed in” or “’Snow joke this movie is bad.”  For the record, those last two came from my wife and they are brilliantly awful.  Basically, anything where the author is forcing a pun into a random sentence should be auto-deleted by whatever method they are using to write.  That includes pens, by the way.  On a related note, Val Kilmer is in this movie and now you know why that tagline is awesome.  I wasn’t even sure he was still alive, especially after he was tricked into doing MacGruber.  If you asked me to name a movie he was in after Red Planet in 2000, I would have blankly stared at you until you wondered if I had fallen asleep with my eyes open.  That includes me completely forgetting he was in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2006), and I liked that movie.  The point I’m trying to make is great job, KJ.  Why, thank you, KJ.

But seriously, what the hell happened to Kilmer’s career?  His IMDB page claims he hasn’t stopped acting, but reads like a bad recommendation list on Craig’s List.  Kilmer was one of my favorite actors, and I guess I assumed he just retired.  Imagine my surprise to see his name in the opening credits of The Snowman.  I thought “Oh hey!  Cool.  Val Kilmer.  I’ll be your huckleberry.”  Now, imagine my surprise when something that can only be described as the physical-embodiment-of-a-witch’s-curse-on-Val-Kilmer appeared on the screen.  And to add insult to injury, the role was just barely above glorified cameo.  As I sat through one of the worst films of 2017, I was devastated to see what The Iceman had been relegated to, and I wondered what he did that caused his career to swan dive into a wood chipper.

Symbolism.

So, yeah, The Snowman is the kind of shitty movie that one would expect to see a former A-lister in because he crapped in some studio head’s cereal, so I’m hoping Val will clear up my confusion (call me!).  However, that doesn’t explain Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, J.K. Simmons, James D’Arcy or Toby Jones headlining a film where the lead character’s name is Harry Hole.  No, I did not make that up and, no, this movie is not a porno.  To be fair, the series of novels the film is based on (particularly a novel with the same title) features that same character with that same name, plus are Norwegian (the author is Jo Nesbo), but come on.  There is a zero percent chance that less than five fake vaginas or butts were left in Fassbender’s trailer.

I have to believe that the book is orders-of-magnitude better than this film, but I don’t speak or read Norwegian, and if there’s an English translation of the book, I wouldn’t know about it.  Call it a hunch.  I did read the wiki page for the novel and, based on the plot synopsis, it’s a safe assumption the screenwriters didn’t read the novel either.  Hell, the marketing people didn’t even bother reading the screenplay because the movie poster says “Mister Police.  You could have saved her.  I gave you all the clues,” even though nothing even remotely similar to that happens in the movie.  Speaking of which…

You know what is never in this movie? This.

(SPOILER ALERT, but please keep reading in order to save ten dollars or more).

I thought this movie was going to be another Silence of the Lambs or Se7en type of movie, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Sure, there’s a serial killer and a cop investigating the murders, but any similarity ends there, including a sympathetic protagonist.  Hole (Fassbender) is an alcoholic detective who is only still employed because of his legendary past.  Two of the first times we see him, he is passed out in a public place, lucky that nobody lights a match near him to keep him from freezing to death (the film takes place in Oslo).  Want to know anything about Harry’s past cases that are so famous they are literally studied at the police/detective academy?  Too bad.  Wondering why supercop is a fall-down drunk?  Synd (that’s Norwegian for “too bad”).  Want to know if all houses in Norway include an interior window into the master bedroom?  Too ba…wait, what?  Really?  Were those windows in the books and that’s actually a thing in Norway?  No wonder the kid in the beginning of the film became a serial killer with mommy issues.  It’s a better explanation than because his mom tried to kill them both by parking her car on a frozen lake (in the slowest ice break you will ever see).

(Note: seriously, those windows are in the movie.  One of them is in the wall between the master bedroom and little girl’s bedroom.  Either parents use that window to scare their kids away from ever having sex or figure it’s easier just to show them the birds and the bees talk.)

I’d like to tell you that any of the other characters are more interesting, but then I’d also like to tell you that wasn’t really Val Kilmer in the movie, but Jame Gumb wearing Kilmer’s skin as a suit.  Ferguson plays Katrine Bratt, a detective assigned to the department investigating a 9-year-old cold case from Bergen, Germany.  When a woman is reported missing, she connects the old case (in which a woman was murdered and partially dismembered) with the missing woman based on – I swear to you I’m not making this up – the old murder and the new disappearance happening during a snow storm.  This connection is so stupid, Harry even calls her out on it, pointing out that it snows a lot in Northern Europe.  As the movie reveals the actual motivations and M.O. of the killer, we learn that connection is indeed flat-out wrong.  Of course, it turns out she’s out for revenge on Arve Stop (Simmons) because she believes Stop is responsible for her father’s death because her father was investigating the cold case before it became a cold case.  Did you follow all that?  In short, she’s a bad detective bent on murder.

You see, it is all about falling snow.

The parade of bad characters continues while the plot contorts itself into a Dali painting.  Stop may or may not be raping orphans and abortion patients, but definitely has a weird phone fetish and is leading the bid for Oslo to be awarded the Winter Cup Games (don’t ask).  Hole’s ex-girlfriend (ex-wife?), Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg), is kind of sympathetic until bad scene #78, where she goes to Harry’s apartment to yell at him for forgetting his camping trip with her son, then hikes up her skirt and rubs around on Harry’s bumpy part for a minute because her live-in boyfriend, Mattias (Jonas Karlsson), goes to a lot of conferences.  Then, because this really isn’t porn, she just stops all the rubbing before the movie has the decency to remove either actor’s clothing, which should have been the reward to the audience for sitting through 119 minutes of reheated leftover Hot Pockets.

At this point, you are probably just hoping to hear about whatever clever thing the movie does with the snowmen, but clever is wildly optimistic.  As I noted earlier, there is no cat-and-mouse game between the killer and the police, despite what the movie poster promises.  The killer is never taunting Harry or leaving clues.  The killer leaves a snowman sometimes, the body of a snowman with a human head sometimes, the head of snowman and a human body sometimes, and sometimes just builds a snowman on the back of other snowmen.  Most of the time, the snowman goes completely unnoticed by Harry and Katrine, if it is there at all (the partial snowmen melt before the cops show up).  The snowmen in the movie serve the same purpose as every snowman you have ever built – decoration or building something to distract your mind from dwelling on just having seen your parents 69-ing it through the Norwegian viewing window.

For about four minutes after the movie ended, I tried to talk myself into the movie not being that bad, but my friends immediately started crapping on the film, which is usually my lead.  But can you really blame me for hesitating?  Fassbender and Simmons are amazing actors, D’Arcy and Jones are great character actors, Ferguson shows a lot of promise, and Val freaking Kilmer.  Every one of them gave it the old college try, but the college was Trump U.  Bad writing, undeveloped characters, sluggish pacing, cliched dialogue and motivations, and false promises combined to form a movie so bad that not even Kilmer’s doppelganger should have been forced to appear in it.

Rating: Ask for all of your money back, plus the last fifteen years of Val Kilmer’s career.

The Girl on the Train

By: Kevin Jordan

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

image001

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.)