‘The Girl on the Train’
(R; 112 minutes; Universal): Portrayed by Emily Blunt, who commits to the role with ferocious intent and disarming intensity, Rachel Watson is one of three well-drawn female characters whose lives become enmeshed in this movie about sex and murder in an upper-middle-class suburb.
The other two women in the film, based on the Paula Hawkins bestseller, are thirty-something wife and new mother Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and her twenty-something nanny Megan (Haley Bennett).
The film takes a Rashomon-like approach to storytelling, with a point of view that keeps shifting among the three women. Rachel dominates, and a more unreliable, sometimes awfully unlikable narrator you could not find. She's in that self-pitying, heavy-drinking mode some of us fall into after being dumped. Except that it has been a full two years since Rachel lost her gorgeous, well-to-do husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), to the younger Anna.
Consumed with rage - and consuming unreal amounts of vodka - Rachel rides the train and fantasizes about the perfect lives led by women she sees out the window. She becomes scarily fixated on Megan, a restless, erotically charged woman newly married to hot, tall alpha male Scott (Luke Evans). Megan makes ends meet by working full time as a nanny for Anna and Tom.
It's all such a mess. Then, one night, Rachel sees Megan kissing another guy. Megan isn't perfect after all. The shock sends Rachel into a tailspin. She wakes up hours later covered in bruises, her duds stained with blood. Next morning, one of the two other women is reported missing. Detectives come by for a witness statement.
The narrative becomes a murder mystery after that.
“The Girl on the Train” is a fun ride, despite its failings. That's chiefly thanks to Blunt, who manages to humanize Rachel so successfully that we root for her by the end.
Contains violence, sexual content, language and nudity.
‘Keeping Up with the Joneses’
(PG-13; 101 minutes; 20th Century Fox): Worldly, gorgeous, impossibly perfect new neighbors move into the cul-de-sac, but these Joneses (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot) aren't exactly what they seem.
The film is necessarily without its merits, but it's wildly uneven, riding on a half-baked script and the energetic efforts of star Zach Galifianakis. In concept, it's all there: Galifianakis as fuddy-duddy suburban dad Jeff Gaffney, the delightfully unhinged Isla Fischer as his wife, Karen; Hamm and Wonder Woman Gadot as their new super-sexy spy neighbors, Tim and Natalie. But there's something not quite right; this one needed more time in the oven.
It's a twist on the “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” concept that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie perfected back in 2005, but instead of hiding their top-secret lives of international espionage and covert operations from each other, the Joneses are trying to hide from their busybody neighbors.
The draw here is the chemistry of the performers – Hamm suave and sophisticated, Gadot exotic and strong, Fischer cute and neurotic, while Galifianakis does his dorky, lovable-coward routine.
It's just that everything around them doesn't work. The editing is awkward, the pacing off – jokes don't land, action scenes are illegible. The in-between moments are the funniest bits, rapid-fire riffs or bits of physical comedy, but there's no time to enjoy them. The story takes too long to get going, and once the film finally starts to fire on all cylinders, it's over.
Contains sexual content, action/violence and brief strong language.
Tribune News Service
Ouija: Origin of Evil
(PG-13; 99 minutes; Universal): The latest entry in the milder PG-13 branch of the possessed-child genre spawned by the original “The Exorcist,” “Ouija: Origin of Evil” is, somewhat unexpectedly, not that bad.
Directed by Mike Flanagan, the new film conjures shivers worthy of Halloween. Flanagan has a good eye for spirits flitting in and out of the corners of the frame, for shadows lurking in an old house and for a basement loaded with – well, never mind. The plot has a spine and good actors to flesh it out. There are even moments of actual humor.
“Origin” is a prequel to the earlier film, in which a teenage girl died mysteriously after pulling her old Ouija board out of the attic and playing with it alone – a Ouija no-no – thus releasing an angry spirit. Friends who tried to contact her spirit via the board fared badly, too. “Ouija: Origin of Evil” shows how all that began.
Set in 1967 Los Angeles, the film follows recently widowed fortune teller Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) and her daughters: 15-year-old Paulina, known as Lina (Annalise Basso), and 9-year-old Doris (Lulu Wilson). The girls help Mom with special effects for her sham act.
But when Alice picks up a Ouija board to add pizazz to the mix, somber little Doris plays with it. She shouldn’t have done that.
Contains disturbing images, terror and thematic elements.
Also out Jan. 17
- “12 Monkeys: Season 2”
- “Zero Days”
- “Come and Find Me”
- “Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050”
- “Rizzoli & Isles: Final Season”
- “Surf’s Up: Wave Mania”
- “The Whole Truth”
- “When Elephants Were Young”