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Film Dispenser Short Takes (1/25/17)

This week Film Dispenser Short Takes looks at a mixed bag of home video purchase and rental options. Our collection of critics advise you on two new thrillers, a tearjerker starring two of the hottest actors in the business and conclude with a look at one of the better films released in 2016.

The Girl on the Train (Spencer Howard): Emily Blunt can act her way out of a box. She can act her way out of the action movie box. She can act her way out of the romantic comedy box. But she can’t act her way out of the tepid puzzle box that is The Girl on the Train. Blunt plays Rachel, an alcoholic alone after a difficult divorce. She’s obsessed with Megan (Haley Bennett) and watches her every day from a commuter train. Then Megan disappears, and Rachel is sure she can solve the mystery. You will solve it before Rachel. As the film plods toward its all-too-inevitable conclusion, you might feel a twinge of disappointment as Blunt wastes so much talent on a film mired in the melodramatic swamp of neutered imagery and predictable plot turns. It may just work if this is your first mystery movie, but the movements are too familiar and ordinarily drawn.  (4 out of 10)

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Marie O’Sullivan): This Tom Cruise vehicle was presumably designed as an opportunity for its star to show that he is still capable of doing the action movie stuff. And while he can to an extent, this is not a patch on his first Reacher outing. This second Reacher film sees Cruise hiding from law enforcement as he tries to clear his name and punching people in the face quite a lot along the way. He seems to be assisted by Cobie Smulders, but then it turns into some kind of weird violent babysitting job.  It’s highly likely that you may get more from this if you are a fan of Lee Child’s books, and I will freely admit that I haven’t read any. You may have already guessed that Jack Reacher: Never Go Back was not my cup of tea. (4 out of 10)

The Light Between Oceans (Marie O’Sullivan):   The audience who shared the screening of The Light Between Oceans with me appeared to have thoroughly enjoyed this film, if the post-credit sniffles and eye-wiping were anything to go by. Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz certainly deliver performances that tug on plenty of heartstrings in this period piece set largely on a rocky windswept island. The idea behind the narrative is intriguing – the choices we make for those we love; the unforeseen repercussions down the line; how we handle the guilt that comes in the aftermath – yet I did feel that the script was a little mawkish at times. Fassbender buried everything so deep in his character that I wanted to understand more about him at the center of this story. An undeniably beautiful film though.  (6 out of 10)

Loving (Scott Phillips):  A film about a “cause” that avoids being a cinematic call to arms and chooses instead to explore the very human love story at the core of the societal conflict.  Most narratives that are “based on a true story” feel the need to shout their themes when a whisper would suffice. They wear their social causes on their cinematic sleeves. Instead, Loving is an exercise in nuance, telling its story quietly.  The film is based on the real case from the state of Virginia where Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga) were criminally prosecuted for being a married couple of mixed race. The mastery of Loving is found in the paths not taken. Absent is the sadism so often associated with films about slavery and racism. Instead, they faced something far more sinister: institutional racism. There is no single foe to be vanquished. The Lovings’ enemy was an entire way of life. They followed their hearts and inadvertently changed the country in the process. (9 out of 10)            [To read our featured review on Loving, click here.]




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