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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

They Shall Not Grow Old review – a breathtaking journey into the trenches

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Written by Mark Kermode, Observer film critic

“There’s a familiar mantra that computers have somehow taken the humanity out of cinema. In an age when it’s possible to conjure spectacular action from digital effects, many modern movies have developed a sense of weightlessness – the inconsequentiality of artifice. Along with Avatar director James Cameron, New Zealand film-maker Peter Jackson has been at the forefront of the digital revolution, with his twin Tolkien trilogies (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) pushing the boundaries of computer-generated entertainment.

Yet with his latest project, a revivification of the Imperial War Museum’s archive of first world war footage, Jackson has done something quite remarkable: using 21st-century technology to put the humanity back into old movie stock. The result is utterly breathtaking.

Commissioned for the Armistice centenary by IWM and 14-18 NOW in association with the BBC, They Shall Not Grow Old is not a document of the world at war. Rather, it is an arresting snapshot of the lives of British soldiers who went to fight in Europe, many of them having lied about their tender ages to enlist. There are no historians, narrators or political commentators to guide us; the voices we hear are those of veterans, many gathered by the BBC during the making of its 1964 documentary series The Great War.

As we watch a line of soldiers marching through mud towards the front, something extraordinary happens. The film seems almost miraculously to change from silent black-and-white footage to colour film with sound, as though 100 years of film history had been suddenly telescoped into a single moment. Stepping through the looking glass, we find ourselves right there in the trenches, surrounded by young men whose faces are as close and clear as those of people we would pass in the street. I’ve often argued that cinema is a time machine, but rarely has that seemed so true………………………………………………”

Read the rest of the article here: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/nov/11/they-shall-not-grow-old-peter-jackson-review-first-world-war-footage

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New Movie Reviews

What critics thought of ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’

Charmaine Blake

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Image: Jaap Buitendijk / warner bros.

“The real driving force behind Crimes of Grindelwald seems to be a burning desire to set up a sequel. If only it had gone to the trouble of making me want to see one.”

Early reviews of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald reveal critics, like Mashable‘s Angie Han, are less than spellbound by the second part of the planned five film franchise.

The Harry Potter spinoff marks the tenth cinematic visit to J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World; and while trips to Hogwarts are always welcome, the monstrous flick isn’t leaving anyone wanting more. According to critics, the starring performances of Eddie Redmayne and Johnny Depp both fall flat, while the fan service remains thin and unimaginative.

In theaters November 16, Crimes of Grindelwald will need to dazzle fans better than it wowed critics to keep momentum up. If not, the beastly flick could meet a grisly end.

Check out critics’ takes on Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald below.

Crimes of Grindelwald is a little too focused on its own long game

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian:

This Fantastic Beasts film is as watchable and entertaining as expected and it’s an attractive Christmas event, but some of the wonder, novelty and sheer narrative rush of the first film has been mislaid in favour of a more diffuse plot focus, spread out among a bigger ensemble cast. There’s also a more self-conscious, effortful laying down of foundations for a big mythic franchise with apocalyptic battles still way off below the horizon.

Andrew Barker, Variety:

Unfortunately, even the most meticulous world-building is only half the journey; you still have to populate that world with real characters and compelling stories, and it’s that second half of the equation that comes up missing in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” The noisiest, most rhythmless, and least coherent entry in the Wizarding World saga since Alfonso Cuarón first gave the franchise its sea legs in 2004, “Grindelwald” feels less like “The Hobbit” than a trawl through the appendixes of “The Silmarillion” — a confusing jumble of new characters and eye-crossing marginalia. Most of the surface pleasures of filmic Potterdom (the chiaroscuro tones, the overqualified character actors, the superb costuming, James Newton Howard’s warmly enveloping score) have survived intact, but real magic is in short supply.

Eddie Redmayne’s Newt is still no Harry

Eric Francisco, Inverse:

Two movies in, I don’t know what Newt wants besides becoming the Wizarding World’s Steve Irwin. That goal involves neither Grindelwald nor Dumbledore, and, even as a reluctant protagonist, I fail to see any reason why Newt is qualified to lead this story. Things only happen to Newt. Nothing happens because of him. This was also Harry Potter’s problem, but at least Potter’s “Chosen One” schtick had legs to get him through seven books and eight movies. Newt doesn’t even have that, which makes the prospect of another Fantastic Beasts sound less exciting and more like a threat against the Muggle world……………………………..”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/fantastic-beasts-crimes-of-grindelwald-review-roundup/

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Homecoming starring Julia Roberts – Review

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“As Amazon’s new thriller Homecoming unfolds, it becomes more and more clear that its lofty ambitions are both a curse and a blessing.

The series, which stars Julia Robertsis built like a puzzle box, weaving a story between the past and the present that often threatens to fall apart under its own weight. Its tropes are well-worn, and its narrative doesn’t go anywhere unexpected.

And yet all these elements miraculously coalesce into a show that is still tremendously emotionally affecting. Ultimately, Homecoming has too many strengths — and is a story too strikingly told — for its flaws to find real purchase.

The title of the series refers to the treatment facility where Roberts’s character, a novice psychologist named Heidi Bergman, works to help transition military veterans back into civilian life — at least in flashbacks. In the present timeline, a few years later, she’s waitressing. When Shea Whigham’s Thomas Carrasco, a Defense Department auditor, comes calling with some questions about her former employer, her new life starts to fragment.”

Read More: https://www.vox.com/tv/2018/11/2/18046914/homecoming-amazon-julia-roberts-review

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