“The Girl on the Train” – Movie Review

the_girl_on_the_train_logoIntense! There is really no other word to perfectly describe “The Girl on the Train!” Walking out of the theater I heard a few other comments, such as, “you women are crazy” and “that was crazy,” but my immediate reaction when the studio representative asked, “what did you think?” was – “intense.”

“The Girl on the Train,” directed by Tate Taylor is the theatrical adaptation of the book by the same name written by Paula Hawkins. It is a psychological thriller with a lot of twists and turns. I’m not big on “thriller” movies but I am always intrigued by psychological thrillers that have a good story line. This is one of those movies that captivates you from the first scene.

Someone said the movie was a “train wreck” and it was the worst movie they’d seen in a long time. I disagree; although I do like the use of the expression “train wreck” because in my opinion, the movie is about relationship train wrecks. The movie focuses on one main character Rachel Watson, who is the center of this relationship “Ven diagram.” As expected, Emily Blunt’s performance as Rachel is superb. As the story unfolds you see that every character is related by “six degrees of separation” to Rachel.  I recently read a review and the author said that it was difficult to follow along. I wouldn’t say it was difficult; you just have to pay attention. Isn’t that why we go to movies? – to engross ourselves into the story-line?  I thought the suspenseful plot twists made the movie interesting.

It is difficult to review movies without spoiling it for future viewers, and I can’t stand reviews that actually tell the entire story. So, I won’t do that to you.  I’ll just touch on what you already may have gleaned from the trailer. Rachel is an artist with a vivid imagination, which is fueled by alcohol. She rides the train into the city every day and fantasizes about Megan and Scott Hipwell, a couple that lives in a house she passes daily.  Luke Evans, plays Scott; he’s ruggedly sexy (on and off-screen).  We feel sorry for him and fear him at the same time. Luke was on Harry Connick, Jr.’s talk show – #Harry – this week. I didn’t know that he is also a singer! I mean he’s already a hot actor, but once you hear him sing, you’ll be, as Harry put it, “smitten.” Watch the clip here:

Haley Bennett plays Scott’s wife, Megan, another complex character. Edgar Ramirez, plays her psychiatrist, Dr. Kamal Abdic. Rebecca Ferguson is Anna, Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom’s (Justin Theroux) new wife. Rachel’s daily train ride represents her inability to move forward; she sits rear-facing – looking back. Rachel appears to be a typical “crazy-ex” who is fixated on the past and stalks her ex-husband.

Laura Prepon of “That 70s Show” fame, plays Rachel’s friend, Cathy, who took Rachel in when she had nowhere else to go. Allison Janney is the detective investigating the murder case. She is perfectly cast as she seems to always play the role of an arrogant woman of power, who always gets to the bottom of things and doesn’t care who she takes down in the process. Lisa Kudrow plays Martha, Scott’s ex-boss’s wife.  Though she is not a main character, her role in the movie is crucial to the plot line. Rachel runs into her on the train and suddenly learns unnerving information about her ex-husband.

It is all seems so far-fetched, yet, so real due to the awesome cinematography by Charlotte Bruss Christensen and the artistry of director, Tate Taylor. The story is basically told through the use of flashbacks. We feel Rachel’s confusion and fragile mental state through her eyes and the reflections in the train windows. In one scene her reflection is superimposed with the reflections of the trees as the train passes them. You feel the speed of the train and Rachel’s internal conflict. As in Alfred Hitchock’s classic movie, “Strangers on a Train,” the train ride is used as a means to create suspense and the place where the main character impulsively makes her next move.  Though “Strangers on a Train” is about a criss-cross murder plot; “The Girl on the Train” involves an unplanned murder alliance. That’s all I’m going to say.

I highly recommend you see this movie. Did you see it this weekend?  What did you think?  I’d like to know, so please post your comments below. – BMT

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Checkmate for “Queen of Katwe” – Movie Review

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Photo taken by me of the screen before the movie.

“Queen of Katwe” #QueenofKatwe is a Disney movie, based on a book of the same name written by Tim Crothers, based on the true story of a young Ugandan girl from the small village of Katwe, who becomes an international chess “Queen”. The screenplay was written by William Wheeler. The executive producers of the film are Will Weiske and Troy Buderand and the producers are Lydia Dean Pilcher and John Carls.  It is a real life “rags to riches” story worthy of the Disney name.

I had the opportunity to attend a special advanced screening followed by a live Q&A session (via twitter – #askqueenofkatwe) with the director and the movie cast.  It was even attended by the real main character, Phiona Mutesi.

Phiona’s family sells corn on the streets of a war-torn and impoverished village in Katwe, Uganda. The homes are basically run-down huts without roofs and four walls. The children cannot afford to go to school; they barely have food to eat. She meets coach Robert Katende, played by David Oyelowo. He is a well-educated man who left the corporate world and decided to become a missionary in Uganda. He sets up a make-shift game room, which becomes a safe haven for the local children to get a hot meal and learn to play chess. Phiona’s mother, Harriet, played by Lupita Nyong’o, is at first reluctant to allow Phiona and her brother to attend this chess group.  She doesn’t understand the game and based on rumors, thinks Katende is teaching them some type of voodoo.  Coach Katende realizes very quickly that Phiona has a natural talent for the game and that she could win tournaments and earn scholarships to get an education. He pleads with Harriet to allow Phiona to pursue this opportunity. Phiona goes on to become an international chess champion.

Having the advantage of watching the live Q&A session, I learned that the movie was filmed on location, in Katwe, Uganda, many of the players are local villagers. Phiona is played by a native Ugandan girl, Madina Nalwanga, the director, Mira Nair, spent much of her life living in Uganda, and the real characters were on-set to offer their true accounts.  This ensured the authenticity of the movie. I was a bit shocked when Phiona revealed that watching this movie was her very first time to ever see a movie on the big screen! It also made me happy to know that she had come so far.

I thought the movie was fantastic.  The director uses many close-up shots to focus on the character’s faces, allowing the audience to see into the character’s souls and make a connection with them. These are strong, proud, and faithful people despite their hardships. “Queen of Katwe” sends the message that education does not make people smart or intelligent.  Education allows brilliant people to sharpen their minds. There are some interesting scenes in the movie that show that there is even prejudice among Africans against their own people.  The affluent, educated students that participate in the chess tournaments, as well as the tournament sponsors, turn-up their noses at the kids from Katwe. Eventually, when they show their chess skills, the Katwe kids earn the respect of their opponents.

This is a must see movie.  There are so many lessons learned within this film.  We see how much Harriet loves her family by the sacrifices she makes to allow Phiona to play chess and go to school. We also see how much the children love and respect their mother. One night, they give up their dinner portions to allow the mother to eat. We learn that if we work hard, stand tall, and believe in ourselves, our dreams can become reality.

I see Oscars in the future for the stars and the movie itself.  I also see this movie being shown in schools once it becomes available. “Queen of Katwe” is rated PG and opens Friday, September 30, 2016, get your tickets now.  I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Please post your comments to let me know what you think about the movie.  – BMT

 

Review – “If You Feel Too Much,” by Jamie Tworkowski – Book Signing Event

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In case you didn’t see it on my Facebook, here’s the link to my brief review of the book signing I attended tonight –

https://www.facebook.com/ReviewsoftheArtsSA/posts/1138041892928168

In case you are not on facebook:

So glad we got to meet Jamie Tworkowski at The Twig Book Shop at The Historic Pearl this evening. We had another event to go to, but my daughter asked me to take her because his work means so much to her. I vaguely knew about the To Write Love On Her Arms. movement from the little she told me, but actually didn’t know he was the man behind it, neither did I know about his book, If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For #Ifyoufeeltoomuch. I told her we were only going to stay until 6:30/6:45 because we had to get to a college reception that she was invited to attend. However, once he started talking and reading excerpts from his book, I was captivated. I can’t wait to read the book from cover to cover.

If you already read the original, there is now an expanded edition. To me, based on what he told us tonight, I think it completes his story. Be sure to follow Jamie Tworkowski to find out where he will be appearing next, then mark your calendar, cancel all your plans and GO!!!

Thank you Jamie for being there for my daughter and for all of us who are battling internal demons. Thank you for spreading God’s message of faith, love, and HOPE. – BMT

P.S. Jamie, I wasn’t even kidding, you should seriously look into doing stand-up comedy. Your comedic delivery is great! – BMT

 

Movie Review – “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”

3995091949_fef91b210b_bMy high school was invited to a special “invitation only” screening of Sony Screen Gems “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” directed by Burr Steers, on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at the Santikos Embassy Theater.  I read the Jane Austen book revised by Seth Graham Smith in Middle School, back when I enjoyed reading about zombies.  It is basically the “Pride and Prejudice” story with Zombies edited into it.  I didn’t really like the book, so I wasn’t expecting much from the movie. However, I was excited by the fact that it was by “invitation only” and my friends would be there, so I decided to go.  I also hoped for a chance that it would be better than the book. It wasn’t!   It was so absurd that my friends and I laughed through most of the movie. That was fun. So if you can handle zombie movies and want to have  good laugh, take a few friends and go see it.  – RCT

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” will open some time in February 2016.  If you want find out more about the movie or to “zombify” yourself, go to ppz-movie.com.