On DVD & Blu-Ray: January 17, 2017


The Girl on the Train, the film adaptation of Paula Hawkins best-selling novel, is directed by Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up) and features a solid cast of talent led by the remarkable Emily Blunt, but ultimately serves as a reminder that even the most creative juices can be filtered through the system and down into the most generic of thrillers when there is no more motivation to a story than to relay melodrama. My apologies for the run-on, but like the movie it is describing there is a lot going on in The Girl on the Train with none of it seeming to amount to much at all. Even as the film comes to its "shocking" conclusion there is little to take away from the film other than the fact that we now know "whodunit" never mind the fact we don't really know why they did it or what more might be going on below the surface because that is as deep as The Girl on the Train gets: surface-level. That isn't to say there aren't glimmers of more interesting caveats to the film as it's clear the intent of the premise was to allow the material to explore how we perceive the lives of others yet only assign them a handful of details to remember them by when they, in reality, have just as full a life as one's own self. Taylor and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary, Men, Women, & Children) don't have much of an interest in these aspects of the story though, as they seem more concerned with cramming in as much of the source material into their one hundred and twelve minute feature version without bothering to flesh any of that material out. Novels are, by nature, too layered and more inherently nuanced than films to be adapted directly and so the key when taking on a project such as this is to latch onto one idea or theme that the book contains and view the entirety of the story through that prism so as while maybe not capturing every moment from the beloved book one actually stands a better chance at capturing the spirit-which, both fans of the novel as well as the uninitiated (counting me among them), will undoubtedly thank you for in the long run. This will not only add more compelling and fascinating aspects to the film with each viewing, but it will help viewers to better understand the fractured psyches through which this story is conveyed. As for the product Taylor and his team have delivered-there will be no replay value here. Once the mystery is gone it only becomes more glaring how poor the execution is. Video review here. Full review here. D

There is a point in the newest comedy from director Greg Mottola where it seems this broad comedy might rise above the grind it seems so destined to follow, but it only ends up being a brief moment of wackiness that Mottola and crew don’t care to dedicate themselves to carrying out. Rather, Keeping Up With the Joneses continues its stride toward the mediocre with very little to serve as surprising or inspired despite being made by the guy who put together Superbad and Adventureland. Yes, Mottola, the man who directed the likes of one of the great high school comedies of the last fifteen years as well as tapping into the struggles of that weird time post-college where you’re not sure where to go from that point has made a movie for the first time in five years that in fact couldn’t feel more uninspired. My hope, when I saw that Mottola was directing, was that the trailers and TV spots for the film might intentionally be setting our expectation bar low so that when we finally saw the finished product we might be taken with how much better it actually was than we expected. And while this does somewhat happen given the trailers and TV spots indeed made this look terrible in the vein of a run of the mill comedy that says let's put your average person in the midst of a ridiculous situation and see how funny they act in response to it kind of way. Still, with the talent Mottola and the studio garnered for this project my hope was that the film might bring something deeper or more acute to the scenario of superspies in suburbia, but there is no such sly observations or social commentary to be found in Keeping Up With the Joneses. Unfortunately, all we have here is a wacky situational comedy that too often relies on lead Zach Galifianakis’ one-liners to lift it from the doldrums of the generic jokes and obvious pratfalls Michael LeSieur’s screenplay is built on. LeSieur (You, Me & Dupree) seems the type of comedy writer who comes up with an interesting or funny enough scenario and then applies it to a familiar structure making the final product more predictable than laugh-inducing. That said, Keeping Up With the Joneses is about as good (and bad) as one would expect given the terrible trailers. It’s familiar and overly safe, but the fun performances from each of the four leads lend it a spring in its step that otherwise would have left this thing dead on arrival. Full review here. C-

I didn't see 2014's Ouija because frankly, it looked terrible. And upon its release the scathing reviews only confirmed it likely wasn't worth my time, but it apparently made enough money to warrant a sequel and thus we had last years prequel/sequel in Ouija: Origin of Evil. Now, despite this being more of a spiritual sequel and despite its terrible box office (no doubt due to the poor quality of the first) this follow-up from writer/director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) is supposed to be pretty good. While it might have come out last week to create more a opportune viewing time on Friday the 13th I'm still curious enough in the film to rent it and give it a go. Here's hoping word of mouth doesn't fail me.

It always fascinates me when movies such as The Whole Truth show up on home video without any warning or marketing push. The film, about a defense attorney who works to get his teenage client acquitted of murdering his wealthy father, stars Keanu Reeves, RenĂ©e Zellweger, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jim Belushi, and Gabriel Basso and doesn't look half bad. It's the type of courtroom drama with marketable stars that might have made a bigger splash in the early to mid nineties, but that would have to fight for screens now and undoubtedly flounder at the box office. I'm curious to know the budget on something like this and if it would be able to make it back on unsuspecting redbox rentals alone. Either way, after watching the trailer I may give it a go myself. 

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