The Girl On The Train


Back in 2015 it seemed like everyone was reading Paula Hawkins The Girl on the Train and now everyone seems to be going on about the film version directed by Tate Taylor. But can the big screen adaptation be anywhere near as successful as the book?

Rachel is a lonely divorced alcholic who rides the same train everyday which passes by the house of her her ex hsuband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) house. She also watches another couple Scott and Megan who live on the same street (played by Luke Evans and Hayley Bennett) and daydreams about their seemingly idylic life. However when Megan goes missing Rachel becomes obsessed with finding out the truth about her disapearance, especially as she fears she may have seen Megan during a drunken blackout.

The Girl on the Train is a solid adapatation, with a great performance by Emily Blunt as the messed up Rachel. Blunt emotes sympathy for the main character while also showing us the flawed and desperate person she has become. While Blunt wasn’t who I imagined playing Rachel when the film was first announced she plays a convincing drunk who looks suitably dishevilled for most of the movie. The other central female roles are also well played by Bennett and Furguson and they are certainly more interesting roles then the ones Evans and Theroux have to play (which makes a nice change for the female to get the better roles in a film).

As I’ve read the book before this did limit my enjoyment of the mystery at the heart of the film but I was still engaged in the story. Much like the book I found the main character interesting, especially as she is such an unreliable narrator therefore you are always questioning what you are seeing and being told by her. However as the revalations gets revealed the film gets less engaging and it almost feels as though Taylor felt he had to rush through the last act to it’s so-so conclusion.

Rating 3/5 – a solid movie that isn’t quite as good as it’s leading actresses

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Rapid Review: Blair Witch


When James (James Allen McCune) finds footage that appears to be of his missing sister Heather, who had disappeared 20 years earlier while investigating the Blair Witch. After meeting the locals who uploaded the village He and his friends go and investigate in the woods. Soon they find themselves trapped in a nightmare situation with seemingly no way out.

This sequel surprised everyone on release as no announcements had been made beforehand that at a Blair Witch sequel was in the works and the movie was filmed under the title The Woods. After the awful result of  Book of Shadows: Blair Witch it’s a relief that the director/writer combo  Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett (who made the excellent You’re Next) have given the Blair Witch a worthier sequel.

At it’s best the film is a good retread of the original film and adds some nice touches like the use of drones instead of just handheld cameras. Theres also some nice tense moments like a claustraphobic scene in an underground tunnel and some effective jump scares. However there’s only so much originality can be added to a film like Blair Witch and the action can get overfamiliar at times with characters that are vaguely drawn.

Rating 3.5/5 – effective but ultimately unoriginal horror


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Bridget Jones’s Baby


It’s been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie and 15 years since we had a decent Bridget Jones movie. Now Renee Zellweger is back as the loveable heroine but will she win back the hearts of the audience?

Bridget (Zellweger) is 43 and despite splitting with Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) since the last movie she is celebrating life with a successful career as a television producer and spending time with her new friend Miranda (Sarah Solemani). However life gets complictaed when she falls pregnant and the father is either old flame Mark or dashing American Jack (Patrick Dempsey).

After the disapointing Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason finally we get a sequel that is a worthy successor to 2002’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and a great rom-com in it’s own right. Bringing back Bridget Jones’s Diary director Sharon Maguire was a smart move as is signing on Emma Thompson to co-write the screenplay. Together not only is the film funny but it also remembers not to treat Bridget as an incompentent idiot, fawning about over blokes. Instead we get a more grown up Bridget whose love life is not the be all and end all of her life, although she’s still a flawed woman who occassionally screws up (as many of us do). It also makes you appreciate Zellweger’s performance and the warmth she puts into portraying Bridget.

Although I was disapointed that Hugh Grant’s caddish Daniel Cleaver did not return, it would have been ridiculous if Bridget went back there with Daniel again. Plus the little mentions we do get about Daniel are hilarious. Stepping into the love triangle instead is Dempsey’s Jack, whose makes a worthy play for Bridget’s heart and refreshingly is a decent guy instead of another Daniel Cleaver in waiting. The best newcomers through are Solemani’s anchorwoman Miranda who has some of the best scenes and Emma Thompson’s Dr. Rawlings-Bridget’s gynacologist- who shows it pays to give yourself the best lines in the film you are co-writing.

For me this movie isn’t quite on par with Bridget Jones’s Diary and it’s a shame the film becomes a bit more conventional at the end. But overall it’s hilarious and makes you wish the film industry was producing more romantic comedies.

Rating 4/5 – fresh, funny and feelgood


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Empire Live: Hackshaw Ridge


So last month I was lucky enough to go to an exclusive screening of Hacksaw Ridge, which won’t be out in the UK until 2017. Mel Gibson is back and this time he’s behind the scenes with a World War 2 movie that some critics are seeing as his Hollywood redemption. But is it actually any good?

Hackshaw Ridge tells the true story of Desmond Doss, the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor depsite refusing to hold a gun.

I came out of this screening feeling completely overwhelmed by what I just saw. It was such a a powerful experience that I was raving about to my friends afterwards.

The film had such a compelling story about a conscientious objector (or co operator as Doss liked to put it) and I was surprised I never heard about it before. Doss’ beliefs may be the focus of the movie but the film never feel preachy or try to convince you that Doss is right or the army is right, just that no one should go against their beliefs whatever that is. It also shows that you don’t have to hold a gun or fight in a war to be brave.

The first part of the film shows Doss early life as we get to know the young man and his loved ones. Then we see him volunteer for the army where his fellow soldiers and superiors are distrustful of Doss believing he is a coward and a liability. How can he help his follow men if he doesn’t have a gun? But throughout the training Doss doesn’t compromise on his beliefs-to serve his country and maintain his pacifist views. Two views that seem conflicting to the army but Doss had absolute belief in.

As we see Doss and the other soldiers head off to combat the brutal reality of war hits them, and the audience. There is no discretion shots or bloodless injuries instead the audience is subjected to extraordinary and brutal scenes of war. Gibson does a fine job directing throughout but really exels during the battlefield scenes as the soldiers come under constant fire.

The film does have a few flaws such as some moments which almost crosses into cheesiness. There’s also the fact that most of the soldiers in Doss regiment fail to stand out apart from Luke Bracey’s aggressive and determined Smitty and Vince Vaughn’s memorable turn as Sergeant Howell who tries to force Doss into quiting.

Through it all Garfield is outstanding. Doss could have come across as a bland do-gooder or a bit preachy but Garfield gives grace, intelligence and stoicism to his role of a true life hero. Can this be the year Garfield finally gets recognised this award season? His chances may be better than Gibson who may struggle to get such recognition considering his past, unacceptable behaviour. But with a film that promotes tolerance maybe Gibson can work his way back out of the Hollywood wilderness.

Rating 5/5 – outstanding, emotional and great work from Gibson and Garfield

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Empire Live: Swiss Army Man and Imperium

So last weekend I was at the Empire Live weekend at the O2 where I got a chance to meet the star of Swiss Army Man Daniel Radcliffe.


Daniel Radcliffe was looking a bit under the weather at Empire Live

OK so I didn’t get to meet the man himself but I did see a special double screening of the actor’s two new films with an introduction in person by Daniel Radcliffe himself. I’m pleased to report he was as self deprecating and funny as he comes across in interviews. But what of the films themselves?

Swiss Army Man


Hank (Paul Dano) is alone on an island and contemplating suicide when a man’s corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) is washed ashore. As he has been isolated for so long Hank develops a weird friendship with the corpse-Manny-who slowly seems to be developing strange powers and may be coming back to life. The two then begin a strange jounrey back to civilisation.

Swiss Army Man is a weird film but as it says itself maybe its OK to be weird and not perfect and to celebrate the ugly things about yourself.

To say that Daniel Radcliffe’s best role post Harry Potter is as a corpse may sound like an insult but he’s truly great as the dead man who seems to be coming back to life. As Hank’s optimism grows so Manny becomes more alive and displays new powers with Dano and Radcliffe make for a hilariously great partnership.

Swiss Army Man is such a strange creature that it manages to make a film about a farting corpse into a heartwarming, life affirming movie. It’s also very funny. But I can also imagine this film will prove to be devisive among audiences. Some will love it and others will hate it. At the Empire Live screening we were given a free bottle of Heineken and it’s probably helped throw me into a film as odd as this.

Rating 4/5 -it’s the best film about a suicidal man and a farting corpse you’ll see all year, high praise indeed!



FBI Agent Nate Foster (Daniel Radcliffe) goes undercover to investigate white-supremacist groups. However Foster is not used to working as a field agent, can he handle the difficulties of maintaining his cover and discovering connections to a posisble bomb plot?

As an FBI agent going undovercover as a Neo Nazi, this does not seem like a natural fit for Radcliffe but then real life FBI agent Michael German (who is the inspiration for this film)  didn’t seem like an obvious choice to go undercover either. In his post Potter career Radcliffe has admirably aimed to go into as many varied roles as possible, which while commendable it has not always completely convinced. However Imperium and Swiss Army Man sees the actor finally come into his own and seem more comfortable in these new roles.

Imperium is a more conventional film than Swiss Army Man and makes a good drama thriller. It won’t hold many surprises for its audience and has over familiar plot beats but is also engaging throughout. The director Daniel Ragussis creates many tense scenes like a rally that discends into violence. The cast is good with Radcliffe convincing in the lead role while Toni Collette also manages to sink her teeth into the role of his superior in the FBI.

Imperium may appeal more to the average cinema goer and won’t be as divisive as Swiss Army Man but it also won’t be quite as memorable.

Rating 3.5/5 – tense and thrilling but lacks originality


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Technology and society’s relationship with it has been the focus over many films over the years. In Spike Jonze’s film we see how technological advances leads to an unconventional romance.

In a futuristic Los Angeles Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is lonely and going through a stressful divorce. When he purchases an A.I operating system called Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) the two begins to form an unexpecting relationship.

The world inahbited in Her is very similar to ours  but where technology is five minutes into the future. I could believe a lot of the technology we see here being made in the future, if not already being developed. The main focus is on humans relationship with technology, while you would expect all this new tech to be isolating (and some early scenes show how this could be the case) Theodore’s relationship with Samantha opens him up to the world in a way he never did before.

At first I thought that Theodore would come across as a bit creepy and be unable to cope with a real woman with her own thoughts and that’s why he’s in a relationship with an OS. Luckily the film is more complex than that and while Samantha may be an A.I she also comes across as real and complicated just like everyone else.

Phoenix is great in the lead-which is good as he is in practically every scene. And he’s especially good when you think about the fact he is reacting to someone who wouldn’t have been present in the room with him, yet you believe in his bond with Samantha. As someone who is only present through her voice Johansaan is a dominating force and manages not to come across as robotic but still have an otherworldly feeling to her character that marks her out as not human. I also liked Amy Adam and Rooney Mara in supporting roles that add differing views on the central relationship.

The only thing I wasn’t sure of was the ending, not that it was a bad ending but the whole third act seemed a bit random. Hopefully if I watched it again maybe the climax will make more sense.

Rating 4/5 – intelligent, funny and strangely romantic


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Don’t Breathe


I’m not overly keen on home invasion movies. Why would I want to see a film about people’s houses being burgled? (Then again, why do I watch horror movies where people are getting murdered? So many questions for therapy!) Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez promises a fresh twist on the tired format.

Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are three friends who burglarize homes but find they’ve met their match when they break into the house of a blind man (Stephen Lang) who won’t take their tresspassing lying down.


Don’t Breathe introduces us to  three thieves with varying degrees of likeability and sympathy and a deceptively vulnerable antogonist, forcing the audience to question who we should be rooting for and where our sympathies should lie. It would have been more interesting if the film had kept some ambiguity with this but it soon becomes obvious who is the true villian of the piece is, even if other characters can not whiter than white.

For the first two thirds of the movie the direction is tight and the limited set is contained to one house bringing a claustraphobic atmosphere that is well maintained. Tension is derived from the littlest thing, where a squeak of a shoe or an inhale of breathe can be a deadly error. Alvarez gives us great moments such as a chase in the basment in total blackout. The small cast make the most of their moments with Minnette as the sensible member of the group Alex standing out performance wise and Lang making for an intimadating antagonist.

It’s a shame the last third becomes silly and one scene verges on becoming something much nastier which left a sour note behind. It prevents the movie from being the top notch thriller that it wants to be however it doesn’t undo the previous good work.

(As an aside note I couldn’t help thinking as I was watching Don’t Breathe that this would make for an interesting and contrasting film to the Audrey Hepburn movie Wait Until Dark.)

Rating 3/5 – a tense twist on the home invasion movies decends into silliness in it’s final act


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