The Girl on the Train: follows a homo sapien with two X chromosomes on a track-based transport vehicle. Seriously though, blackout drunk alcoholic becomes involved in a missing person case that keeps throwing up more questions than answers. Blunt is outstanding. One of the best performances I’ve seen anyone give in a long time; complaints about her being too glamorous (duh, she is Emily Blunt!!) don’t wash with me, as she’s looked like a trainwreck for the majority of the film. The remaining cast – championed by an equally impressive Haley Bennett – are firing on all cylinders, it’s impossible to pick out a bad performance. Like the best narratives, the film is continually revealing new information that changes how we view the relationships between the main characters, and constantly shifting the focus and blame. It’s also refreshing to see a film centered on three completely different women; providing various view on motherhood, being a wife, and their strange three-way relationship, which are intelligently pleated through one another. I think the off-kilter, dark, and borderline horror tone (screechy strings, close-ups, titled cameras) will have alienated a lot of casual viewers. Critics and book snobs couldn’t beat this film down enough but as someone going in completely cold, it really impressed me: the only part I could imagine tightening up would be the lengthy introduction, but even then, it’s not too flabby. Although it was sold as “if you liked Gone Girl, you’ll love this” I’d sooner watch this again. The Girl on the Train is a gripping, dark, Hitchcockian thriller where nothing is spelled out, and it’s constantly swaying and misdirecting you, through to the revelatory ending.
Night Watch (Ночной дозор): after a truce that has lasted for centuries, tensions between Russia’s light and dark sides come to a head when the most powerful ‘Other’ has to choose which side to join. This is an ultra-styalised, almost indie-spirited blockbuster that combines multiple sci-fi/fantasy genres and glues them together with a large dose of Russian folklore. It’s filmed with an impressive style; the colours are bold and bright, the cinematography is striking, the camera work is technically sound, and the editing is fast and exciting… The most impressive aspect of this is that it was made for $4.2M despite being CGI heavy, and looks better than most $100M pictures. Good vs Bad, Light Vs Dark – it’s just a shame that the story is nothing to shout about. Overall, this is a solid pre-twilight vampire film that’s less about the emotional complexities of being a vamp, and more about utilising their superpowers to create exciting action set pieces. Night Watch is totally watchable, entertaining, and big/loud/shiny enough to help you forget that the story is actually a bit pants.
The Duel Project started out as a drunken bet, when Japanese movie producer Shinya Kawai challenged two up-and-coming directors to each make a film that had only two actors, who would fight to the death, in a single location – it also had to be shot in less than a week, and stick to a tiny budget. The results were Aragami and 2LDK (2LDK REVIEW HERE)
Aragami: two wounded soldiers collapse at the door of a monastery, but when one wakens up the hospitality doesn’t last long. This film couldn’t be more different to 2LDK. The dialogue feels slow and padded out. There’s continual talk of magic, immortality, demons, goblins and such fantasy staples – bit of a turn-off for me. The film’s soundtrack is OTT porno music / thrash metal, and the tone is equally unusual – slapstick/manga. All familiar territory for Ryuhei Kitamura who’s biggest film to date was Versus, and was using this as a ‘dry run’ for Azumi – unfortunately the film only finds its stride in the last 10 minutes. My favourite aspect was how much the film was steeped in a history of swordplay and swordfighting movies yesteryear – from intricate/complex katana flare, down to some lovely, old school, ‘Shing! Ching!’ metal-clashing sound effects. Aragami isn’t a bad film, but watching it after 2LDK really takes the sting out it’s tail: whereas you enjoy the pressure-cooker buildup in 2LDK, Aragami’s set-up feels flat and uninteresting, you just want to see these guys battle it out, and when it does roll round, it feels much shorter and less innovative/satisfying than the other movie. The Duel Project is definitely worth checking out, but I’d recommend watching this first, building up to the superior 2LDK.
“Ninja Stars are for losers”
Salt: (Mild Spoilers) CIA agent Evelyn Salt is accused of being a Russian sleeper assassin and has to go on the run ’til she can prove her innocence – but who are her loyalties to?? Jolie‘s still looking good and does a top job at keeping the character of Salt grounded in reality (even though her action capabilities are anything but realistic). Liev is typical Liev and Ejiofor is Mr bit part again, which is a shame as he can hold his own as a main. Action-wise the film’s pretty good, and although you’ll have seen most of this done before, and better, it’s all done quite well (other then a few super-crazy shaky cam scenes). The story, however, is as uninspired as modern spy thrillers go – with the film twisting its way to the end from about the 40 minute mark. Twists have become so much the staple of this genre that they’re no longer effective – you can also see the plot developments and twists in Salt a million miles off. What ever happened to the good guys being good and bad guys being bad? After years of modern thrillers being based in and around the middle east it’s refreshing to see the good old Col War Russians getting back behind the guns and planning AmericaMageddon!! All-in, this is essentially Jolie’s chance to play a sexier version of Bourne or Bauer… no complaints from this guy.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: A man lives his physical life backwards, from a pensioner to a baby while his mental age increases as normal – interesting premise. This reminded me a lot of Forrest Gump: extraordinary life, laced with American history, boats, war, walking troubles and romance all told in flashback. The main difference is that BB doesn’t rely on being fluffy and funny; it tackles the topic of death from the start, and was just a more modest, and believable (!) story. It does have some humour with the lightning strikes, Irish sailor, and general growing young antics. Every possible effect must have been used to make Pitt & Blanchett look young & old, and the scary pensioner-baby and man-child are like something from a horror film. My only big problem was the thick southern accents (particularly the mumbling woman on her death bed) a lot was lost in translation for me. The heavy symbolism and long runtime were also minor nags. Fincher’s on top form here and it could arguably be his finest film to date – tough call though. It’s a great story, brilliantly acted, powerful, engrossing and tugs at the heart strings.