The Girl On The Train

the-girl-on-the-train-movie-emily-blunt

The Sloth was lucky enough to attend the premiere of The Girl On The Train – an unexpectedly informative experience. For it revealed a vocation your careers teacher never told you about: Nipple Monitor. Yes, the lovely Hayley Bennet had chosen a red carpet frock so dangerously low cut she required a full time assistant to repeatedly hoik and squash her overflowing bodice into maintaining a PG-13 rating. Surely an inexcusable oversight on the school curriculum when boys now trail girls in performance? A 5 minute overview could eradicate truancy and improve GCSE results overnight.

State of our nation aside, was it any cop? Firstly, The Sloth is one of about 24 people in the western hemisphere who have not read the book. To bring the remaining 23 up to date: Rachel (Emily Blunt) is an alcoholic. Her drinking led to the breakdown of her marriage and loss of her job.  Struggling to come to terms with the fact her husband Tom (Justin Theroux) has moved on and is remarried to Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) with a young family, Rachel continues to take the train each day as if to her old job. From the train window, she observes and obsesses over a beautiful young woman Megan (Hayley Bennett) who, unknown to Rachel, is nanny to Tom and Anna’s child.

Megan has troubles of her own. Married, but bored with her life and haunted by a difficult past for which she is in therapy, Megan is sexually predatory. One morning from her train window a shocked Rachel witnesses Megan kissing a man other than her husband. Later that day Rachel embarks on another alcoholic binge, waking the following morning bloodied and injured with no recollection of what has happened and the TV news full of reports that Megan has gone missing.

We will leave it there, to avoid being a spoiler spoil sport. Suffice to say there are more twists, turns, red herrings and sub-plots than Agatha Christie on steroids and this could easily descend into hammed-up melodrama. But it isn’t, primarily due to the fabulous performances of the three leading ladies. The Sloth could virtually smell the stale booze reeking from Emily Blunt’s chapped lips and Hayley has far more to give than just impressive corset (love – sack the stylist). Coupled with tight direction and just-stylised-enough visuals, it’s gripping, relentless and frankly quite exhausting. If you’ve been ruing the lack of decent thrillers since Gone Girl, fret no more.

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Into The Woods

into woodsLet’s examine this on paper: an all-singing, Disney adaptation of a Stephen Sondheim musical featuring a selection of traditional fairy tale characters. We’re not exactly salivating. Rather, we’re plugging our ears and running screaming to the nearest bridge with active plans to throw ourselves off.  But wait, we’ll miss the season 1 finale of Homeland (Yes, we’re 2 seasons behind. And what?). Saved by the Brody…

A baker (James Corden) and his baker’s wife (Emily Blunt) run a little bakery (funny that) somewhere in fairy-tale-ville. Happy with their meagre peasant lot they selflessly give free buns to a little girl in a big red cloak (Lilla Crawford) who needs food for her poor grandmother. The only thing missing from their lives is a baby baker.

Cue flashes and bangs as a witch (Meryl Streep) appears, who reveals Mr Baker is victim of a family curse that prevents the couple having a child. To reverse the curse they must venture Into The Woods (see what they did there) and collect items including a cow, a golden slipper and a big red cloak. In the process they’ll encounter Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Jack and his beanstalk and Rapunzel. Tally ho.

Into The Woods, believe it or not, is a joy.  Visually rich, dark and spookily Gothic, the stuff of childhood nightmares, it’s packed with gloriously OTT frightwigs and corseted tulle costumes. All that’s missing is Helena Bonham Carter.  And the actors wind their lungs round the surprisingly complex songs with gusto. But what really makes it work is the tone, hitting just the right notes of arch and knowing, The Brothers Grimm mashed up and reinvented for 2015.  Cinderella (Anna Kendricks) finds herself nonplussed with her preening, caddish Prince Charming (Chris Pine) who petulantly protests he was “brought up to be charming, not sincere”.  The Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp) stalks the shrill, brattish Little Red Riding Hood with a drooling lasciviousness that is deeply disturbing, if not illegal.

Like the best ‘family’ entertainment, most will go over the heads of kiddies, who will have buried their head in their popcorn and / or fainted by the time some of the more violent scenes have passed (an Ugly Sister getting her eyes pecked out by a flock of crows, anyone?).  Welcome to The Disney Dark Side.

UK release 9 January

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Edge Of Tomorrow. Groundhog D-Day.

edge of tomrLet’s address the elephant in the room. Edge of Tomorrow stars Tom Cruise.  Whatever your personal view, Tom’s not been public flavour of the month for some time. Rather ingeniously, Edge of Tomorrow capitalises on this.

The world is at war with Mimics – alien spider-like creatures fond of killing people. No idea why they are called Mimics, we didn’t spot them doing Tommy Cooper impressions (with all those legs they could have done a great cup & ball trick).  Tom plays US Army Lieutenant Colonel Bill Cage. Except Cage doesn’t do combat. He’s just a slick, oily, dirty-dealing media frontman who exists to spin TV sound bites. Read – we’re not meant to like him.

But Cage soon gets his comeuppance when he is ordered to the battle frontline. Scorned by his fellow soldiers, battle virgin Cage enters the brutal warzone terrified and unprepared, lasting all of 20 minutes before meeting his maker at the hands of a Mimic. But then he wakes up. And finds himself back at the beginning of the same day, before he entered the warzone.

Yes kids, it’s Groundhog Day.  Destined to live the same day out repeatedly until he is eventually killed, Cage must learn from his mistakes to survive longer each time. Eventually, he lasts long enough to meet star soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt – scary) a Lara Croft-a-like who believes Cage’s time-warping talent is the key to winning the war.

There are lots of good things here- aliens!  Cruise being obnoxious! He’s great at vile, we wish he’d do it more often. Annoyingly, he got nicer as it progressed. Boo. We were also blown away by some of the effects; the war scenes were so terrifyingly realistic we wanted a flak jacket.  Our main gripe is it’s a touch too long. Take a short nap through some repeats of repeated scenes and wake up in time for the ending – just like that!

UK release 30 May. More Sci-Fi monsters? Try Godzilla.

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