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Film Review: The Girl On The Train

“What Happened That Night In The Tunnel?”

Much like the unreliable UK train service in out current state of affairs, this review comes somewhat a little late to proceedings in contrast to our usual disciplined services, due in part to my reluctance at seeing the big screen adaptation of The Girl on the Train, the ridiculously popular novel published last year and written by author Paula Hawkins, a novel in which I came to thinking it was something completely different, a novel which was indeed gripping in places but ultimately felt like a jumped up Midsummer Murders with an added slice of spice in order to fit in with the literary era of a novel such as Fifty Shades of Grey. Although book reviews aren’t a speciality of Black Ribbon just yet, Tate Taylor’s cinematic adaptation was somewhat something of a mystery on the face of it. Coming to the movie being well aware of the plot, it could have been an utter bore, yet with a cast that boasts pedigree left, right and centre, The Girl on the Train isn’t exactly remarkable, it’s just straightforwardly solid, featuring a stand out performance from Emily Blunt and sticking so close to the source material of which had the inherent problems the film contracts onto the big screen.

Where the film succeeds is in the casting of Blunt in the lead role of Rachel, who takes to the challenge of giving her all to the max, swaying in a drunken mess throughout most of the movie, unaware of her actions and the consequences that are the cornerstone of the movies’ mystery, whilst The Magnificent Seven’s Haley Bennett also deserves a mention for the conflicted Megan Hipwell. Aside from the movies’ two leading ladies, The Girl on the Train features a rafter of one-dimensional male characters, with Luke Evans and Justin Theroux being portrayed as sex/power hungry misogynist pigs, a cold portrayal of humanity in a film similarly cold and lifeless without much dramatic effect to keep it entertaining. Aside from characterisation, The Girl on the Train suffers from having the same problem as the novel; it’s just not that groundbreaking. Sure, as a two-part ITV drama it may have succeeded, yet on the big screen, Tate Taylor’s latest isn’t anything apart from good and for a film with such a cast list, I expected more.

Overall Score: 6/10

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Film Review: Point Break

“The Only Law That Matters Is Gravity…”

The first real remake of 2016 is upon us and what a shame it is to witness one of my favourite action cult classics of the 1990’s being the latest to be swiftly put through the Hollywood meat-churner for the sake of a quick buck. When remembering the original Point Break, the classic crime caper directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring the one-two of a younger and fresher Keanu Reeves as FBI Agent Johnny Utah alongside Patrick Swayze as Bodhi in arguably his most iconic role aside from Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing and Jim Cunningham in the truly masterful Donnie Darko, it is hard to deny its’ fundamental likability with the two leads both weighing heavily in enough personality and swagger to distract from its’ rather ludicrous plot, all of which is played out strangely perfectly in the grungy, surfer-dude era of the early 1990’s where Hendrix and L.A. Guns made up the soundtrack and Gary Busey chews up the scenery in his role as Agent Pappas, Utah’s partner. Now in 2016 however, we have a completely unnecessary remake, helmed by second time director Ericson Core and featuring Luke Bracey in the role of Utah and Edgar Ramirez as Bodhi, an actor who recently impressed in David O. Russell’s Joy. In rather inevitable fashion however, the remake of Point Break is a film that includes none of the charm, the character or in fact the enjoyment factor of the original and instead takes a cherished cult classic and erodes its’ once untouchable reputation as a certain guilty pleasure.

Where the original flourished under the charisma of both Reeves and Swayze as Utah and Bodhi respectively, the relationship between the two was not only one that was entirely believable, so much so it verged on the edge of bromance, it was also a friendship that was incredibly delicate with the deception of Utah’s real purpose always in danger of seeping out and causing chaos between the two and the rest of the Ex-Presidents, the merciless gang of thieves hell bent on destroying the system that was “killing the human spirit” whilst chasing the rush of adrenaline fueled pastimes such as surfing and skydiving. Where these pastimes were demonstrably the second-hand plot strand of the original, the remake has taken upon itself to disregard any possible hope of characterisation, whether it be between the two leads, between Utah and Ray Winstone’s laughable interpretation of Agent Pappas, or even the unbelievably paper thin relationship between Utah and love interest Samsara, a partnership embarrassingly shallow in comparison to the one between Reeves and Lori Petty in the original, and instead has decided to play out in favour of completely focusing on the sport end of the original, with most of the film portraying endless scenes of skydiving, snowboarding, surfing, all of which are as shallow and empty as the films’ attempts at characterisation, resulting in scenes that are strangely low in tension and thrills when the sport itself is one of fundamental adrenaline-fueled power.

With two-dimensional characters and a shallow core relationship as the main basis of the film, Point Break is not saved by the terrible, ear-scraping dialogue, resulting in Ray Winstone taking the plaudits for producing one of the worst supporting acting roles I have seen in a long time due in part to his seemingly called-in cameo as Agent Pappas, a portrayal far away from the charismatic and highly enjoyable one by Gary Busey in the 1991 original. Add into the equation a soundtrack combining stoner rock and Jimi Hendrix being replaced by boring house music and a strange cameo from renowned DJ Steve Aoki, Point Break is the sequel I feared it was going to be; undeniably pointless, pointless in a similar vein to last years’ Poltergeist, and like Poltergeist, Point Break has a strong chance of being left behind in cinematic history and simply forgotten. Want my advice? Do so, forget it and watch the superior 1991 original instead.

Overall Score: 3/10 

Film Review: Joy

“Don’t Ever Think The World Owes You Anything, Because It Doesn’t…”

Although I’m fundamentally confused and sometimes disorientated at the sheer amount of Oscar-waving movies that are dumped upon our screens within the space of around eight or so weeks at the beginning of each year, there is a sense of wonder when examining what makes the blueprint of a film destined for awards from all corners of well, Hollywood. Beginning my venture into the year of film in 2016 is Joy, the new film by David O. Russell, the man behind the simply brilliant one-two of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook and the rather tedious twiddle that was American Hustle, but hey, you’ve got to take the bad with the good. Ever since the success of Silver Linings Playbook, there is always a guaranteed set of events that are set to follow when a O. Russell film is announced. One. a cast that includes Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro in a supporting role. Two, a story that is overtly dramatic but relies mainly on performance rather than a presence of underlying depth, and finally, Oscars. With Joy, Russell’s latest indeed features the first two and may indeed end with the latter but in an overall summary, Russel improves on the no-show of American Hustle but fails to live up to the exceedingly high watermark of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook.

Loosely based on the real-life tale of Joy Mangano, Joy, features Jennifer Lawrence in the titular role, a over-worked single mother, basked with the responsibility of not one, but three generations of family from grandmother down to daughter and son, but with mother, father and half-sister seemingly being the hardest to comprehend and control. After a ring of unsuccessful attempts to spring out from obscurity, Joy begins to design the “miracle mop” with the financial help of her father’s partner and the advertising of Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), a leading executive at QVC, yet it soon begins to materialise that perhaps Joy’s attempts at gaining success and riches are as difficult as controlling her stereotypical family of madness. Much like the life outside the ring for both Dickie and Micky in The Fighter, Joy is at its’ best when the real-life trivialities of family life is exposed, with its’ surprisingly limited comedic element only being adhered too during such scenes, scenes in which sibling rivalries are effectively propositioned by the acting talents of Robert De Niro and Diane Ladd as the one-two mother and father, and Elisabeth Rohm as Joy’s estranged and slightly jealous half-sister.

Where the film ultimately succeeds is it’s reliance on the strength of Lawrence’s leading performance, a testament to her incredible abilities as an actress who, at the age of 25, seemingly has accomplished much more than most of the veterans of today’s acting establishments, yet Joy not only gives her room to expand her vast array of acting talent in the titular role of her character’s single mother lifestyle, it also proves that even with a minimalistic plot that Joy unfortunately has, Lawrence can propel a film into something actually quite good rather than just being okay. Saying that, Joy indeed is the best film you will see this year about the creation of a mop, and as a starter for the year in film, it’s not a bad one. Not quite The Fighter, but definitely better than American Hustle, Joy is a heartwarming addition to the filmography of both Lawrence and Russell.

Overall Score: 7/10