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LET'S DO SOME ACTION - THE COMMUTER - FILM REVIEW

The Commuter (2018)

PG-13 | | Action, Crime, Drama | 12 January 2018 (USA) 


A businessman is caught up in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute home.

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(story by), (story by) | 3 more credits »

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12 January 2018 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El pasajero  »

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2.39 : 1 
 
Frustratingly not-quite-there from start to finish, the paranoia-soaked railroad thriller "The Commuter" is the latest installment in the unofficial "Liam Neeson Late Winter Butt Kickers" series. The LNLWBKs started in January 2009, with the surprise smash "Taken," and continued with more "Taken" movies, plus three Neeson adventures by Jaume Collet-Serra, the director of this new one ("Unknown," "Non-Stop" and "Run All Night" were the others). They're a staple of our moviegoing diet by this point, nearly as ingrained in the seasonal calendar as the holidays themselves. Like nearly every entry, this new one is worth seeing for the unfussy determination of Neeson, a couple of impressively choreographed action sequences (in particular a one-take, hand-to-hand fight that attempts to one-up the famous hammer sequence in "Oldboy"), and an intriguing premise that the filmmakers never manage to fully exploit. By "worth seeing," I don't necessarily mean "rush to the nearest theater, forsaking all else," but rather, "if this comes on TV, you'll probably watch the whole thing, as long as you're not in a hurry to be somewhere." Who knows, it might even be ideal train viewing. The plot has all the hallmarks of a daydream that got obsessively worked-over for years during somebody's daily rides to and from work.

Neeson's character, Michael MacCauley, is a 60-year-old ex-cop turned insurance salesman who works in midtown Manhattan. His boss tells him that he's being fired right when he's about to begin his return trip home to see his wife (Elizabeth McGovern, who deserves better than this) and college-aged son (Dean-Charles Chapman) in Westchester, Long Island. Michael loses his phone in the train station due to a pickpocket he doesn't realize bumped him on purpose, then meets a mysterious stranger (Vera Farmiga) who tells him he has to locate a certan passenger on the commuter train before it arrives at its final stop and plant a tracking device on him/her, at which point that person will be killed. Michael will get $25,000 up front and another $75,000 upon completion of the mission—enough to offset the economic havoc wrought by his firing, including the potential scuttling of a reverse-mortgage on the family home that would've paid for his son's college.

This is one of those moral conundrums that really only generates suspense if you believe that a working class hero who radiates decency would condemn another person to death for $100,000. Nevertheless, Neeson goes the extra kilometer trying to sell us on the character's economic desperation as well as his macho pride (Michael couldn't bring himself to tell his wife and kids that he just got fired, so there's pressure to make this right immediately so he'll never have to spill the truth).

Director Collet-Serra, who did the mostly terrific shark thriller "The Shallows" and seems to have a knack for stripped-down, goal-directed action flicks, has clearly absorbed Alfred Hitchcock films where the action occurs on the boundary separating the real from the metaphorical or dreamlike. The kaleidoscope of humanity that Michael meets on the train is a touch of "Rear Window," the arrangement between him and Farmiga's character is a faint echo of "Strangers on a Train," and there's a hint of "North by Northwest" in the notion of a (mostly) ordinary New Yorker getting pulled into a conspiracy and struggling to regain control over his life. In the end, though, this is a tweedy suburban version of a confined-space action flick. Michael is on his own the whole time. Any allies he picks up along the way are temporary, and not all can be trusted.

The class-warfare, eat-the-rich messaging feels rather slapped-on, though, and the movie never gets close to generating the political framework it would have needed to to be taken seriously as a parable of this or that, as opposed to yet another movie where Liam Neeson beats people up. It should be assumed that there are no extraneous scenes in a film like this—by which I mean that, if you meet Michael's ex-partner (Patrick Wilson) and their former supervisor (Sam Neill) early in the story, and get a couple of moments where Michael talks about the economic collapse of 2008, and a scene that ends with Michael giving the finger to a jerkbag of a stockbroker, and one where Michael looks up from a bar to see a TV news story about officials being arrested on corruption charges, you can bet it will all come together in the end, haphazardly. No one involved in the production seemed to think we'd care about clarity when it came to stuff like this. They weren't entirely wrong, but the articulation is still wanting: why even do this kind of politically allegorical action picture if you're not going to, y'know, really do it? Like, with feeling?

I did care very much about Neeson's character, though, thanks mainly to his mastery of the same "just say your lines and hit your marks" style of film acting. No matter who he's playing in these movies, he always attacks the problem at hand with the low-key focus of a guy trying really hard to open a stuck jar of jam. It's my considered opinion that Neeson's late-career brand of business class dad machismo has yet to meet a director that can fully do it justice, but reasonable minds may differ. In any case, it's doubtful that any will be debating the fine points of his late-career filmography when Michael is hanging underneath a moving train like Indiana Jones, or breaking the little glass box at the end of a car so that he can use the hammer on someone's skull.
 





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16 MINUTES - CHECK OUT ALL TRAILER OF WEEK 2 2018

Let's have a look at the best trailer of week 2 in 2018.


The Strangers 2: Prey at Night 
Red Sparow 
Black Panther 
Blockers 
Victor Crowley 
Teen Titans GO! To the Movies 
The Vanishing of Sidney Hall 
Tully 
Breaking In 
Beirut 
Ghost Stories

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BEAUTIFUL EYES TO SEE IN - ALITE: BATTLE ANGEL - TRAILER

Alita: Battle Angel (2018)


An action-packed story of one young woman's journey to discover the truth of who she is and her fight to change the world.

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(screenplay by), (screenplay by) | 2 more credits »

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Alita is a creation from an age of despair. Found by the mysterious Dr. Ido while trolling for cyborg parts, Alita becomes a lethal, dangerous being. She cannot remember who she is, or where she came from. But to Dr. Ido, the truth is all too clear. She is the one being who can break the cycle of death and destruction left behind from Tiphares. But to accomplish her true purpose, she must fight and kill. And that is where Alita's true significance comes to bear. She is an angel from heaven. She is an angel of death. 


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20 July 2018 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alita: Ángel de combate  »

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$200,000,000 (estimated)

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2.39 : 1

Did You Know?

Trivia

James Cameron confirmed in an interview that this will be a combination of the first four books in Yukito Kishiro's series of manga books ("Motorball" from books 3 and 4, and the story from books 1 and 2). In another interview, Cameron also said that should this film be successful, he hopes to make another two "Battle Angel" films. See more »

Quotes

[from trailer]
Alita: I'd do whatever I had to for you. I'd give you whatever I have. I'd give you my heart.
[she offers Hugo her mechanical heart]
See more »

Connections

Version of Gunnm (1993) See more »
 
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LATE NIGHT REVIEW OF A MASSIVELY BRUTAL HORROR MOVIE - DEVIL'S GATE

Devil's Gate (2017)



Set in the small town of Devil's Gate, North Dakota, the film examines the disappearance of a local woman (Regan) and her young son. Schull plays an FBI agent who helps the local sheriff (... See full summary »

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Set in the small town of Devil's Gate, North Dakota, the film examines the disappearance of a local woman (Regan) and her young son. Schull plays an FBI agent who helps the local sheriff (Frakes) search for answers. Partnering with a deputy (Ashmore), they track down the missing woman's husband (Ventimiglia) and find that nothing is as it seems.  


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5 January 2018 (USA)  »

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Devil's Gate  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Shawn Ashmore (Conrad 'Colt' Salter) and Amanda Schull (FBI Special Agent Daria Francis) have both worked with actor Aaron Stanford: Shawn and Aaron appeared together in both the movies 'X-Men 2' and 'X-Men: Last Stand', playing Bobby Drake/Ice Man and John Allerdyce/Pyro respectively, while Amanda and Aaron appeared in the TV show '12 Monkeys', playing Dr. Cassandra Railly and James Cole respectability.
 
A farmer's fringe-y religious beliefs prove oddly rooted in reality in Devil's Gate, the first feature by director Clay Staub and his co-screenwriter Peter Aperlo. The fact that the pic is titled Abduction in other territories more than hints at the fact that what this troubled man sees as angels or demons may in fact be old-fashioned extra-terrestrials. But his confusion and zeal add little texture to this unmoving genre exercise. A cast with plenty of exposure on TV series may help with the film's commercial prospects, but only the least critical genre auds are likely to enjoy it much.

Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us) plays Jackson Pritchard, whose family has owned this plot of land for several generations, barely scraping by but believing angels will some day make the ground fertile. Though he's known to be unkind to his wife and son, local good-ol-boy lawmen don't want to question him when they disappear. It takes an out-of-town FBI agent, Amanda Schull's Daria Francis, to force the issue, insisting that sheriff's deputy Colt Salter (Shawn Ashmore) accompany her out to the family compound.
In addition to creaky, booby-trapped buildings that scream "hillbilly serial killer," the two encounter some phenomena they can't easily explain; with Pritchard trying to threaten them off his land and sabotage their attempts to search his home, they have little chance to protect themselves before they realize what the man has trapped in his basement.

Suffice to say that the icky thing down there is not only connected to Pritchard's family's disappearance, but it has friends. Soon, the humans are in a siege situation, trying to fend off beasts until they can find a way back to safety.

Though the FX and photography are competent for a film of this scale, the screenwriters appear to have put much less effort into dialogue and pacing. That, plus hit-and-miss acting, means viewers may have a hard time sticking with the film until the real action starts. Even then, they won't be rewarded with much in terms of mystery: Though Aperlo and Staub allude not just to religious faith but to real-world themes of colonialism and conquest, what's onscreen isn't persuasive enough to give those themes the appropriate weight.
 




The movie is extremly brutal and bloody and some of sequences do not make any sense. It gets lots in its own brutality.

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RECRUITING TO: RED SPARROW - TRAILER 2

Red Sparrow (2018)


 
Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to 'Sparrow School' a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. But her first mission, targeting a CIA agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.

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2 March 2018 (USA)  »

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Operación Red Sparrow  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

When the project was announced in 2013, Darren Aronofsky was in talks to direct it. Aronofsky dropped out in 2014, and in the same year, David Fincher and Rooney Mara were in talks to direct and star in the film, respectively. In July 2015, it was reported that Francis Lawrence was in talks to direct the film. In September 2015, Jennifer Lawrence was announced in the lead role with Francis Lawrence as the director. See more »

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PREY AT NIGHT: THE STRANGER 2 - TRAILER

The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)




A family staying in a secluded mobile home park for the night are visited by three masked psychopaths, to test their every limit.

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(original screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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A family's road trip takes a dangerous turn when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park to stay with some relatives and find it mysteriously deserted. Under the cover of darkness, three masked psychopaths pay them a visit to test the family's every limit as they struggle to survive.

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9 March 2018 (USA)  »

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The Strangers: Part 2  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Was announced back in 2009. See more »

Connections

Follows The Strangers (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

I Think We're Alone Now
Performed by: Tiffany

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LATE NIGHT HORROR FILM REVIEW - BEFORE I WAKE

Before I Wake (2018)




A young Television actress is stalked by a disturbed individual who continues to make threatening phone calls to her.

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2018 (Canada)  »

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2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The location for the Taxi scene was not secure until a week before shooting. Initial locations were constantly being changed throughout production as a permit could not be obtained; thus having to delay shooting for that scene until a spot was finally secure. 

Mike Flanagan has become an in-house horror factory for Netflix, and built quite a following in the process. Netflix Originals “Hush” and “Gerald’s Game” earned the talented filmmaker such cultural cachet that he parlayed their success into an original series for the service, “The Haunting of Hill House,” currently in production. As if to further bolster what seems like it could become its own channel on the service before long, Netflix has unearthed the long-delayed third film by the director of “Oculus” and “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” “Before I Wake,” which was originally scheduled to be released in 2015 and already premiered in most international markets. The film was delayed a few times after its 2014 production and then fell into release limbo after Relativity Media went out of business. When this happens, the eventual release is often a letdown. Put simply, films often gather dust when left on a shelf, and sometimes they’ve been left there for reasons other than financial. But this is not the case with “Before I Wake”—well, not completely. It’s a flawed film, but there are elements that really work, especially the lead performance and some of Flanagan’s gifts with composition. "Before I Wake" is also particularly interesting to watch now as one can see it as a career stepping stone to the movies he's made since.

The release of “Gerald’s Game” revealed that Flanagan had long been carrying around the Stephen King book on which that film was based as it was his dream project. Were “Before I Wake” to be released when it should have been, it would have been easy to see even then that Flanagan was a fan of King’s style. This unfolds a lot like a King short story with its focus on grief and lessons about being careful what you wish for. Clearly inspired by the author, “Before I Wake” is evidence of a young horror voice working through ideas that one would have called promising three years ago—a promise Flanagan has already fulfilled for most. He’s a filmmaker interested in human emotions and reactions more than he is things that go bump in the night.
“Before I Wake” opens with a scene reminiscent of the opening of Joachim Trier’s “Thelma.” A man (Dash Mihok) nervously watches a boy sleeping. The man pulls a gun on the child, clearly terrified. What would make a man almost kill a young boy? He can’t do it, and we cut to the boy being adopted by Mark and Jessie Hobson (Thomas Jane & Kate Bosworth), a couple who we learn has not long ago lost their own son in a tragic drowning. The boy is named Cody (Jacob Tremblay, who shot this before his breakthrough in “Room”), and he’s, well, special. 

After Cody has gone to sleep one night, Mark and Jessie see brightly colored butterflies around their living room. Mark goes to capture one, only to have it disappear as Cody wakes. Yes, Cody can manifest his dreams. Rather than turn this into a pure boogeyman tale, Flanagan channels the grief of parents who have lost a child through his concept when Cody “manifests” Mark and Jessie’s dead son. What if someone could give you one more chance to see, touch, and even hear someone you’ve lost? Of course, it comes with a hitch—kids have nightmares too, and Cody’s are of a monstrous creation he calls “The Canker Man.”
Flanagan cleverly weaves his emotional themes through his horror story, embodied in lines like “Sometimes scary things go away when we understand them a little,” one that has heightened meaning when one considers the story when the origin of “The Canker Man” has been revealed. It’s things like this—the way Flanagan refuses to merely tell a jump scare story—that elevate his work. And he’s phenomenal with actors, drawing a great performance from Carla Gugino in “Gerald’s Game” and the underrated Kate Bosworth here, who’s fantastic at conveying a hard-to-imagine blend of grief, anxiety, fear, and hope. Flanagan loves close-ups, and he directs his actors well within them. He’s equally deft at the reveal shots we come to expect from horror such as a figure in a doorway in the background in the middle of the night. When “Before I Wake” gets to the jump scare portions in the mid-section of the movie, especially in a misguided bully subplot, that's when it falters, almost as if Flanagan is way less interested in boogeymen than he is the face of a grieving mother. 

“Before I Wake” culminates in a sequence almost out of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” in its dreamscape visuals and one is reminded of Flanagan’s skill with framing (and he uses a great score by Danny Elfman effectively), but also that not everything is coming together here thematically or narratively. Like the butterflies that flit across the frame throughout the movie, the various pieces of “Before I Wake” are individually beautiful but don’t quite cohere into a complete vision in the end. While there's more to like here than in half the horror offerings on Netflix, "Before I Wake" needed one more pass in the writing or editing process, or needed to be done later in Flanagan’s career when he could more confidently stick the landing. Given his rise to fame in the few years this has been on the shelf, maybe Netflix will let their horror all-star remake it someday.  

 
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