The Girl on the Train: Movie Man Jackson


I’ll stick with taking the A train. Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) has lost everything. Her marriage, home, and career are all gone as a result of her drinking problem. Her former husband Tom (Justin Theroux) has moved in the woman he cheated on Rachel with, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and they have a newborn. The only enjoyment she gets out of life these days is when she’s riding on the train, drawing pictures and visualizing a perfect life through voyeuristic eyes of a married couple, Meghan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans). Coincidentally, they live right down the street from Tom and Anna.

That perfect dream life dissolves when Rachel sees something that suggests infidelity. She takes it upon herself to inform Scott, who has his reservations about taking a stranger’s word for fact, but acknowledging that a psychiatrist his wife has been seeing could be the other man. The matter of possible infidelity becomes even more serious when Meghan goes missing, with nary a lead—except for Rachel waking up with gashes and a noticeable amount of blood. Surveillance and witness account put Rachel in the neighborhood hours before Meghan was last seen. And so questions are raised: Did Rachel actually see infidelity occur? More importantly, could she, in a drunken stupor, have more to do with this disappearance then she believes?


Yours truly had an awfully tough time writing the opening summary to The Girl on the Train, the silver screen adaptation to one of 2015’s most popular novels. And I don’t believe I did a good job in doing so. Some books are simply difficult to carry over into big screen success, and I believe that is where most of the problems of The Girl on the Train arise from.

Let me explain. The great thing about novels is the fact that chapters, entire sections, etc., can be chunked out, separated, and given the requisite time needed to learn and know the characters, the background, the relative timeline, and how each person fits into the proceedings. This can be done in movies as well, but the trouble is that so much of the novel’s information has to be condensed to fit time, and in the case of The Girl on the Train, it feels like there’s a lot of information that isn’t delivered in a way that makes narrative sense.

From the first line of spoken dialogue, director Tate Taylor’s (The Help, Get on Up) feature just seems a little off, getting extending openings for each lead female character without, aside from maybe Rachel, really understanding them. The pace truly does meander for the first half, whether moving straightforward in its storytelling, or backwards and then forwards. As a whole, the execution in storytelling is lacking, with flashbacks being used generously but without focus. It is difficult to ascertain when they end and when events are unfolding in current time. Even the visual style and technical aspects come off as a little cheap and something one could see on Lifetime, despite the starpower attached and the fairly sizable budget.


The story does find its groove somewhat in the 3rd act (as flashbacks become minimized), but unfortunately, it is a little too late to care about the payoffs by that point. No favors are done either with a twist that is pretty obvious about halfway through with a certain line of dialogue, which is saying something because I’m usually terrible with predicting those types of things. Overall, The Girl on the Train is very cold, darn near impossible to get invested into any one character.

The character that comes closest to evoking a emotional response is Rachel, played greatly by Emily Blunt. She’s been on the up and up for a while now, and roles in movies like Edge of Tomorrow and Sicario have proven her to be a scene-stealer capable of owning a feature. Her character is not the most well-written, and her arc is sort of rushed, but Blunt has a presence that is impossible to take eyes off of. As for everyone else, though there are no true bad performances, characterizations are so light (whore, womanizer, devoted mother, hard-nosed cop) that those in the roles have no real opportunity to do anything with them.


Seemingly destined to be the next great film based on a wildly popular adult novel, The Girl on the Train gets derailed with lackluster directing and a slow moving story that struggles to flow. All aboard the D train.


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Jack Reacher: Movie Man Jackson


He who drifts is not directionless. Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) is a former U.S. Army Military police officer living away from society more or less. He’s impossible to find or locate. However, he’s drawn out of the shadows by by an old acquaintance who needs his help.

A man by the name of Barr has been accused of murdering five innocent people, and all of the evidence points to him. While not surprising to Reacher in the fact that Barr is the main suspect, something doesn’t exactly sit right with him. Along with Barr’s defense attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), the two work to uncover the case, the killer’s motives, and of course, the right killer.


It may feature the same star, but the silver screen treatment of the Jack Reacher character from the novels is far from what one (a.k.a me) might initially expect it to be. Mission: Impossible, this is not. Jack Reacher is perfectly content being a little more lowkey.

After the marvelous (and very, very unnerving) opening sequence with the sniper setting up shop, one of the first things noticed about this Christopher McQuarie feature is how it looks. It is hard to pinpoint exactly why, but Jack Reacher feels like a movie that would be right at home in the 90’s or the 80’s, maybe even the 70’s through camera angles, lighting, score, etc. Despite the heavier tone, I immediately thought of movies like Speed and Beverly Hills Cop when watching this.


Plot-wise, Jack Reacher is sort of like a poor man’s The Bourne Identity. The few action sequences are well-filmed, with the highlight being a great car chase midway through. But this is more committed to telling a mystery, or, more accurately, at least how Reacher solves it. It starts off well enough, but by the midpoint, it is a tad tedious and the finale couldn’t come sooner.

As time wore on, one might find that they’re not watching the film for its plot but for Tom Cruise. Or at least, I was. The fun lies in the character, not the mystery that devolves into common corruption and foreign baddies. The wrong actor could have made this Reacher movie a big disappointment, but Cruise keeps it at a consistent quality level. Reacher’s a wise-ass who knows exactly how everything went down or didn’t go down in CSI fashion just because he’s that good, a hardened soldier, a ladies man, and a vigilante who isn’t pure good or bad, among other things. And Cruise embodies all of this, even with his diminutive height. Didn’t know it was an issue until some of the notes about the casting were read. Author Lee Child stated it best: “With another actor you might get 100% of the height but only 90% of Reacher. With Tom, you’ll get 100% of Reacher with 90% of the height.”

The rest of the cast predictably comes nowhere near Cruise, but aren’t major detractors to the movie, either. Usually derided in much that he appears in, Jai Courtney is actually a pretty good, albeit generic, menacing antagonist here, much better than Werner Herzog’s character, who lacks intrigue and any real fear aspect. Rosamund Pike fits well with Cruise, and David Oyelowo is sound as an agent who doesn’t know what to make of Reacher. Robert DuVall’s gun owner character doesn’t appear until the middle and then becomes the wily sidekick of Reacher. Not that he isn’t entertaining, but the choice comes out of nowhere. It never feels like Reacher is that close enough with him to employ him as backup.


Jack Reacher is a prime example of a true movie star elevating basic, cliched, and possibly boring in the wrong hands, material to something of a pleasing watch. Do I ever want to see Jack Reacher again? Sure, as long as Cruise is involved.


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The Maze Runner: Movie Man Jackson


“Who knows where this might lead us.”

Most people who wake up with absolutely no memory of anything wake up anywhere but an all-boys community. Yet, that is what happens to Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), in The Maze Runner. He is the latest boy to be dropped into this mysterious place called The Glade, a place where these boys have learned to make their own society and fill specific roles for the betterment of it.

Like Thomas, all have been dropped into this world in the exact same manner, but so many years have passed by and this place is accepted as home. The secret to escape could lie in the form of a monolithic maze, to which little is known as to what exist when in those walls. Societal “runners” are the only people to truly know, but none have survived to tell others about what is in there. If Thomas wants to get out, becoming a runner is a good place to start.


Praise goes to director Wes Ball for at least bringing some freshness to the young adult movie genre in The Maze Runner, taken of course from the novel with the same name. It is a movie where, taken as a whole, is probably better than even the most harshest of YA movie genre haters would have believed. Even with the problems, which manifest more as the runtime goes on.

Right from the jump, a short but attention-grabbing opening puts one right into the film’s world. Just like Thomas who is trying to piece together what exactly is going on, we too as the audience are doing the same. Everything is shrouded in mystery, with enough but not too much information given that does push along the story. The first 30 -45 minutes exist and deliver as a very hooking, Lord-of-the-Flies-ish setup.

It can be compared to The Hunger Games, sure, but without the battle royal aspect and an even darker (both literally and figuratively) tone. This extends itself to the action, or more like the running sequences. Though most are cloaked in darkness, they are shot well enough. If only what the characters go up against were cloaked in darkness for the whole film. They are the types of things that sound scarier when not shown in full, but look dumb when fully revealed.


Unfortunately, it is around the middle point of The Maze Runner where the mystery starts to become less intriguing, if only because a sizable chunk of it can be put together. That isn’t to say every detail in the mystery can be nailed, however. It is just that the general mystery as to why they are down in this situation can be nailed. Even with this mild predictability, the movie still carries intrigue, but the reveal found at the end damn near tears all of the positives of the initial start of the story down. It doesn’t help that everything is so serious, despite the movie not really bringing anything thematically to the table.

With yours truly’s thoughts on TMR coming much later than the actual release of the movie, I have heard of the ending being less than satisfactory, and it absolutely is. When the exposition begins, each line only serves to complicate matters, while setting up a sequel, and throwing in a farfetched character appearance that makes no sense whatsoever when only 10 minutes ago matters were bleak for the respective character. Perhaps the ending makes more sense in the book, but it doesn’t translate to the movie.

Thankfully, the bad ending does not mar the generally good acting turned in by the cast. Nothing is really found out about their characters to flesh them out, but their actual thespian work is better than what is often found in the genre. Dylan O’Brien initially looks like the general handsome guy that all of these films seem to have, but he gets chances to prove he isn’t just a handsome face as Thomas. His opposition is Will Poulter, who is the strongest performance-wise in the movie as “Gally,” representing a young man trying to keep order in the wake of the curiosity and change Thomas brings in.

Some of the others, while sort of interchangeable, are fine, with a kid by the name of Blake Cooper sticking out (for good) because he is so different aesthetically from the rest and has a real emotional core that other characters do not have. The only real weak link is Kaya Scodelario, who comes in midway and doesn’t add anything to the plot except being lifeless with a fading American (?) accent.


With a strong start and a surprisingly good cast, The Maze Runner is a more entertaining watch than most it shares similarities with. The aforementioned problems prevent it from being a very good film instead of one that is just good for its genre, but the fact that it isn’t Twilight or Vampire Academy is a plus.

Grade: C+

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Fifty Shades of Grey (trailer): Movie Man Jackson Analysis

Whether you’re a preteen or well into adulthood, chances are you have heard of Fifty Shades of Gray, the controversial novel that has sparked tons of debate for its graphic descriptions of not-exactly-vanilla sex acts and practices. With its popularity, a film adaptation could be seen from a mile away, and the trailer has finally arrived to the world, seen earlier today on The Today Show.


I’ve never read the book, have no desire to, and this movie doesn’t make me want to change that. But I will say that while this new trailer doesn’t excite me, it does sort of intrigue me, if only for the interest of how the more explicit acts will be shown. With what the book is famous for, there is almost no way this could be PG-13 right? The second half of the reveal hints at what we can be expected. It will be fun seeing this officially rated and described on once more information is known.

From what can be observed, the film looks fairly cool  from a visual standpoint. Blue, greys, and whites really blend in to create an cold and mysterious tone. It establishes a mood quickly, one that will probably be evident for most of the runtime.  This could surprise aesthetic-wise, as it looks like it has a lot of potential to look really good.

I don’t know much about the leads in Dakota Johnson & Jamie Dornan, but they look solid enough as a couple, which ultimately may be what the success of the movie boils down to. Crazy as it sounds,  how the score/soundtrack is something I am highly engrossed with. The perfect balance has to be found; go too far one way during certain scenes and this could come off as unintentionally hilarious.

Fifty Shades of Gray has done what an effective trailer is supposed to do: Get people talking, regardless of the fact if they are versed in the “lore” or not. The months leading to the essentially Valentine’s Day 2015 release should be interesting. Whether the film is good or not, it will certainly bring buzz to a period of the moviegoing year often known as “Dumpuary.”

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Lolita: Movie Man Jackson


“I want you to live with me and die with me and everything with me!”

Everyone gets sprung at some point. It is just a fact of life. But getting sprung on a 14 year old as an older middle aged man? That is not exactly normal. And this is the premise of Lolita, based on the novel by Vladimir Nabokov. Lolita begins somewhat unconventionally, as a murder occurs in a mansion after quite the lengthy conversation. Quickly after, the film introduces Humbert Humbert, a professor from Europe moving to the U.S. for an instructional position. Needing a place to rent, he takes the offer served on a platter by Charlotte Haze, a widowed woman looking for some male companionship in her life. What sells him on the renting situation? Charlotte’s daughter, a 14 year old stunner named Lolita.

For some reason, there is something about this girl that drives males crazy, and Humbert is just the latest to fall victim. A love triangle ensues between Lolita, Humbert, and Charlotte. Despite being unattracted to Charlotte, Humbert will do anything to get closer to Lolita, even if that means marriage to the elder Haze. After some interesting circumstances, it looks as if Humbert will finally have Lolita all for himself. But when you’ve got what Lolita’s got, other men are always going to be lurking…


Directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick, Lolita is one of the works in his filmography that is often overlooked. It is one of his earlier full length films and at times, it shows. But, it is a pretty effective tale of uncomfortable romance mixed with parental overtones. Even today with stories of these situations in the news, it does not dull the effect of the film. While not necessarily uncomfortable to watch, it is still disturbing to think about a “romance” like this.

One would think that a movie dealing with this subject matter would be really heavy handed, and in this instance, nothing could be further from the truth. Lolita is really a comedy. Dark comedy sure, but comedy nonetheless. There is something inherently humorous seeing the depths as to which James Mason’s character of Humbert will go to appease, and be with Lolita. Some of his reactions to various occurrences within the story are comedic gold; namely there is one scene that is forever etched into my brain. Both he and Charlotte are hilariously pathetic in their pursuit of their intended targets. Additionally, there are many subtleties nestled in-between dialogue that sort of serves as a middle finger by Kubrick to the MPAA, who forced Kubrick to tone down the film.


Lolita is an adapted screenplay from the novel. At the core it is roughly the same story, but many and sometimes key details found in the novel are either removed or tweaked to a certain extent. I have never read the book, but after viewing comparisons between the two mediums used to tell the story, it does appear that Kubrick could have expounded on a few more elements.

For one, it is never told why Humbert immediately takes a liking to Lolita. It is quickly assumed as “love at first sight,” but there is no indication that he is into this type of thing, it just happens which seems a bit odd. Some narration on Humbert’s part would have alleviated this problem, and Kubrick does use it but not enough. The story is told from Humbert’s perspective, so why not take full advantage of that fact? As far as the pacing goes, some scenes drag on longer than needed. The banter between characters is generally entertaining but a few times the dialogue sorely needed to be shortened.

During its nomination year, Lolita received many well-deserved nominations, mainly for acting. James Mason possesses a cool and regal persona throughout this movie, and does so while providing humor and drama. Shelley Winters serves as the harlot’s mother, and her efforts go unrecognized in comparison to others. She brings an awkwardness to the movie, but at the same time is able to make the audience feel her pain. Between seconds she is able to switch from starved and desperate to a wretched woman. Peter Sellers was one of the great comedic actors of his time, and his portrayal as the mysterious Clare Quilty is memorable, albeit too eccentric and over the top in moments.


But Sue Lyon steals the show in the title role. Mind you, this was her first every acting performance, and at 14 she never appears out of place with legends on the screen. She possessed a sort of hypnotic gaze that seizes the viewer’s attention and tells a story of a girl knowing way too much about the world than she should at her particular age.

Kubrick was always praised for his unique and innovative directing. With that said, do not go into this expecting amazing cinematography on par with his later stuff in his catalog. Many scenes are shot and then fade to black, leaving what happens to the viewer’s imagination as Kubrick had to be really careful with the content. That is not to say there are not extremely well done shots, as Kubrick definitely knows when to use certain camera angles and how to hold a shot. As a whole though, this is one of his more “basic” works from a technical standpoint.

Lolita is ultimately not as well crafted as Kubrick’s subsequent films, and does drag occasionally. While probably not as shocking as it was in 1962, it is still worth a watch for its controversial subject matter and all-around great acting work.

Grade: B-

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