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The Commuter Review – Liam Neeson

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Speeding along familiar action-thriller tracks, the actor reaches peak Neeson as a former cop forced to rescue his abducted family while on his daily commute

Theres no stopping this thoroughly efficient train-bound action thriller, which pulls out of New Yorks Grand Central at a sedate pace and steadily accelerates through the suburbs, almost in real time, until 90 minutes later were careering out of control in a reckless race against time. Its another white-knuckle ride from Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra something of a master of high-concept, ticking-clock B-movies and his regular leading man, Liam Neeson, who is now as dependable as a Swiss watch in this type of senior action-hero role.

Liam
Liam Neeson in The Commuter. Photograph: Jay Maidment/AP

Neeson plays Michael MacCauley, insurance broker and family man (although they might as well just name his character Liam Neeson). Hes caught the same Hudson line commuter train for 10 years; except this time Vera Farmiga elegantly plonks herself into the seat opposite and makes Neeson an offer he could refuse but doesnt: find one person on the train based on their destination and nickname, plant a tracking device on their bag, and shell give him $100,000. Hes just lost his job, so why not? As an added incentive, Farmiga tells him theyll kill his wife and son if he refuses or fails.

No sooner is Neeson pitched into this predicament than the questions mount up. Who are they? Why are they doing this? How can he possibly locate this mystery person? Why dont they simply tell him who it is? And first and foremost, havent they seen the Taken movies? Dont they know that if theres one person whose family you dont abduct in order to coerce him into being your random fall guy, its Liam Neeson?

But no time for details. Neesons tormentors quickly demonstrate they arent kidding, the pace starts picking up, and the race against time is on. It helps that Neeson is a former cop, and thus well equipped for the challenge. It also helps that he knows some regulars on the train, and we get to know plenty more passengers or suspects. Who could it be? His buddy Jonathan Banks? The brash Wall Street type? Florence Lady Macbeth Pugh? The cocky conductor? The shifty guy with the snake tattoo? The Latina nurse?

As we accelerate from Hitchcock territory into the Die Hard zone, theres a perverse hows he going to get out of this? pleasure to proceedings, with a few switchbacks and red herrings to keep us guessing. Despite the confined location, theres rarely a dull moment visually, either. Collet-Serra is constantly finding new places to put the camera, to the extent that by the end were familiar with every part of the train, from the vent in the toilet to the carriage couplings beneath the floor. The camera even flies through the punched hole of a train ticket in one gratifying shot.

The Commuter trailer video

But what keeps The Commuter on the rails is Neeson himself. Hes in amazing form for a 65-year-old (his character is only 60), and in terms of actorly presence, hes still got it. His craggy face is now as monumental as Mount Rushmore, his voice is a resonant velvety growl, and his body can still give and take one hell of a pounding. Whats more, he can leap crashing train carriages in a single bound. Hes like a live-action version of Pixars Mr Incredible.

On the downside, The Commuter is in such a hurry to reach its destination without delay, theres no time to enjoy the view. Its so stripped down, the characters are mostly ciphers and theres little in the way of leavening humour or unexpected detours. Perhaps you cant ask too much from a modest, mid-range crowd-pleaser like this, but the experience ends up something like a commuter service itself: you know where its going and it gets you there perfectly well, but in a few years time youd be hard pressed to distinguish it from dozens of similar journeys.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/jan/10/the-commuter-review-liam-neeson-train-thriller

New Movie Reviews

Spike Lee Is at His Searing Best With BlacKkKlansman

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“Spike Lee’s white-hot genre mash-up BlacKkKlansman initiates its course in the early 1970s. It’s a time “marked by the spread of integration and miscegenation,” according to an unnamed race theorist in the opening sequence (he’s played with palpable animosity by Alec Baldwin). In Colorado Springs, he continues, a sect of “true, white Americans” sense a movement brewing among black “radicals” and Jews who they feel have “pressured their great way of life.” The proto-MAGA sentiment is but a backdrop, one of many ways Lee’s latest joint teases out the resonances between then and now. The parallels aren’t simply the work of a fabulist, though; the playfully urgent film is inspired by real events—as Lee styles it, “some fo’ real, fo’ real shit”.

Elsewhere in Colorado Springs, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is at a crossroads. The first black officer on the Colorado Springs Police Force, he’s overcome the department’s internal racism to attain the rank of a detective, but an assignment has left him with mixed allegiances, torn between his work and the world. It’s not until he comes across an ad in the paper from the Ku Klux Klan that it all clicks—call them, and pretend to be white.

With a jazzman’s knack for grandiosity, one that’s more Charlie Parker bebop than Miles Davis cool, Lee understands tone better than most filmmakers of his generation. Over his career, he has found ways to bring sound and color into symmetry as well as discord, and to derive power from both. He’s got an appetite for climax……………..”

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Movie Review: Christopher Robin Revives Winnie the Pooh

Charmaine Blake

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“It’s been a banner summer for crying. Some of the tears came from movies you’d expect, like one in which an eighth-grade girl struggles with her self-esteem. Other times, they were sneak-attack snivels, like when a movie-musical sequel based on the songs of ABBA triggered four different tear-jerking moments, one of which had me stifling an audible shriek-sob.

Anyone who saw the trailer for Disney’s new Christopher Robin film, which gives Winnie the Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood the Paddington treatment, probably expected to have their heart strings plucked a bit. This movie gives them a full-blast bluegrass strum.

That’s one willy, nilly, silly, old, emotionally devastating bear.

Maybe its because were all feeling a bit brittle lately. There are Heffalumps and Woozles at every terrifying turn in todays world. We could use an old friend to help fight them off and feel safe again.

Christopher Robin is written by Allison Schroeder (Hidden Figures), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), and Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Philip), directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland), and of course, inspired by the characters of A.A. Milne and Ernest Shepard. Its a veritable Avengers of emotional storytelling. Together, they prove that feelings are still movies most valuable special effect. (Though the special effects used to animate these characters is pretty darned impressive, too.)

When we meet up with our old friends, the animals are gathered for a farewell party for young Christopher Robin, who will soon be going off to boarding school. A clever narrative device then makes…………..”

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/christopher-robin-revives-winnie-the-pooh-as-an-emotional-terrorist

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Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Review!

Charmaine Blake

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I was not among those begging for a followup to the wildly successful 2008 Abba musical. But after just a few scenes, all I could say was: Gimme, Gimme, Gimme

“Benny Andersson and Bjrn Ulvaeus of Abba must over the years have considered what they would do if they were asked to sign off on a second iteration of what can only be called the Mamma Mia! movie franchise which first appeared in 2008. Perhaps they thought that, in the words of the song: If I had to do the same again, I would my friend, because quite frankly its a licence to print money.

That first film made me break out in a combination of hives and bubonic plague. And to be honest, this new one does have the original films plotless melange of feelgoodery, an exotically amorphous jellyfish of a film which is periodically zapped with the million-volt shock of a zingingly brilliant Abba tune.

But something in the sheer relentless silliness and uncompromising ridiculousness of this, combined with a new flavour of self-aware comedy, made me smile in spite of myself: there are funny, campy performances from Cher, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters and also Alexa Davies as Walterss younger self, and some very good lines. People are always running absurdly around a Greek island waving their arms in the air like they just dont care and its always sunny, except when gasp! theres a storm and plans for the relaunch of a tourist hotel are briefly and unimportantly derailed. This film reminded me weirdly in its staging of Kenneth Branaghs 90s film version of Much Ado About Nothing, with its golden southern European hues and beaming cast. Theres the same bizarre plot convolutions and holiday-romance departure from reality.

After the first film, I noted that the song Fernando was not included and suggested that next time they should include a hearing-impaired character of that name and someone desperately worried should bang a particular percussion instrument and ask of Fernando a certain impassioned question. In fact, Cher sings Fernando now, and addresses it to a bearded Andy………”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/jul/17/mamma-mia-here-we-go-again-review-feta-fever-dream-sequel-is-weirdly-irresistible

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