Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Girl on the Train

The horrible “Keeping Up With The Joneses” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Great stories, whether they be movies, books, plays, etc. are like an onion. As each layer is peeled away, more and more is revealed until we finally get to the core. Since I have not read Paula Hawkins novel “The Girl on the Train,” I cannot speak to whether or not it tells a great story in a “peeling back the onion” sort of way. I can, however, say that the movie version, written by Erin Cressida Wilson and directed by Tate Taylor, sure does.

The movie is the story of three women: Rachel (Emily Blunt), Megan (Haley Bennett), and Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). Rachel, an alcoholic who works at an art gallery in Manhattan, is the titular girl on the train. Each morning as she rides the train she passes by the back yards of Anna and her husband Tom (Justin Theroux) as well as their neighbor Megan and her husband Scott (Luke Evans).

How these women and their men are all interconnected is revealed bit by bit. I don’t want to write too much about it because I admire the story so immensely that I don’t want to give too much away. The restraint and self-control of this movie’s narrative is remarkable. Once all of the secrets are revealed by the end (and there are many), I sat in amazement of the cleverness and craftiness of the story structure of “The Girl on the Train.” It’s complex, to be sure, but never so much so that it gets confusing. For a movie this in depth and with so much going on, it’s surprisingly easy to follow.

The performances in “The Girl on the Train” are amazing all around. Blunt and Bennett in particular do a lot of the emotional heavy lifting in the story, and they nail their parts flawlessly. Ferguson is well cast in her role, and while Theroux and Evans may be in mere supporting roles, what they do is integral to the story and the two men hardly remain on the periphery.

The task of creating a twisty thriller is not an easy one. A lot of thought and preparation goes into it. Even if it’s a basic twist that pulls the rug out from the audience in the third act, everything that comes before it has to add up and make sense. Movies in this category succeed or fail based on how well the narrative is crafted. “The Girl on the Train” takes the challenge of the good twist up several notches, with revelations not only at the end but also in the beginning, middle, and spaced throughout the entire plot. The movie is a wonderful specimen of refined, well-planned, and keenly executed storytelling with devious twists that cleverly play around with what we know—and what we think we know. Buy it on Amazon: The Girl on the Train (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD).

Also New This Week

Keeping Up With The Joneses

By now, the contempt with which Hollywood holds middle class America—you know, the backbone of this country—is not secret. Just take a look at the didactic, finger-wagging “acceptance” speeches at the award ceremonies (I am sure the preachifying at this year’s “Golden Globes” is a mere preview of the cringeworthy pablum to come). The Hollywood elites tend to lay off this type of heavy-handed rhetoric when things are going their way. When things are not, we see what kind of narcissistic, thin-skinned, crybabies they really are under the façade of celebrity.

But I digress. I bring up this attitude because one of the first messages that “Keeping Up with the Joneses” sends is what they think of middle class America—specifically, white middle class America. We are introduced to two men—Jack Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis) and his neighbor/co-worker Dan Craverston (Matt Walsh). These two exemplify everything that Hollywood leftists think of American white men—dim, pasty-skinned, emasculated, and cuckholded. Their beta qualities are amplified by their wives, who are either put upon like Jack’s wife Karen (Isla Fisher) or are domineering control freaks like Dan’s wife Meg (Maribeth Monroe). We learn in a conversation among the four that the new bathroom Karen is designing for the Craverston’s will have a urinal because Meg wants her husband standing up again. I struggled with deciding if this is more demeaning for Karen or for Dan, but ultimately went with Dan because it’s Karen’s choice to take on the job and at least she’s getting paid for it. Dan is just pathetic.

But it doesn’t end there. In addition to being a totally pussified weakling, Dan is also a sexist. Of course he is—I would actually be shocked if he wasn’t. At a backyard barbecue, the new, good-looking neighbors, Tim and Natalie Jones (Jon Hamm and Gal Godot), are in attendance. The one thing Dan has going for him is that he is good at darts. When Natalie expresses an interest, he shows her how he does it then chides her for throwing like a girl. Anyone who has seen more than two movies will easily guess what happens next, and when it’s over, any shred of dignity this character had is gone. It’s supposed to play like empowerment, but it comes across more like Hollywood leftist wish fulfillment. It’s heavy handed preaching in its own, unique, terrible, stupid way.

Terrible and stupid can pretty much sum up the rest of the movie too. “Keeping Up with the Joneses” is a completely aimless action-comedy that face plants at being either action or comedy. It’s not exciting or suspenseful enough to be action, and it is certainly not funny enough to be comedy. It’s trash, but least if it could have done either one properly, it would have been good trash. Instead, “Keeping Up with the Joneses” isn’t just bad trash, it’s the worst kind of trash imaginable—tiresomely trying to push a failed vision on to a mass of people who have woken up and don’t for one second accept what they’re shoveling. Skip it.

Ouija: Origin of Evil

Sometimes, we can all agree. I must concur with the majority of audiences and critics in regard to “Ouija: Origin of Evil.” It is better than the first one. How much better is a juicier topic for debate, but since the first “Ouija” movie from 2014 set the bar so incredibly low, the consensus that this 2016 prequel is “better” is hardly a shock.

“Ouija: Origin of Evil” follows the Zander family—mom Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) and daughters Lina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson). They make a quiet living staging séances for people who recently lost loved ones. Once they start using a Ouija board to increase their business, they invite in an evil presence that latches on to youngest daughter Doris.

The movie offers a couple of thrills and scares here and there, but nothing ground breaking. I will say that the final shot of the movie is a gasper, and it does leave things on a high note. It also effectively does the job that prequels are supposed to do in tying itself to the original. “Ouija: Origin of Evil” may not be a movie anyone is clamoring for after seeing the original “Ouija,” but it is the superior movie of the two. I say Stream it, which is a new recommendation I will have going forward. Stream it movies are movies that I regard as not worthy to buy or even pay to rent, but are not so terrible that they should be skipped. If you have an account for which you pay a monthly fee, like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc., and this movie happens to be streaming as part of that paid account, it’s worth checking it out if you’re flipping through and looking for something to watch.

More New Releases: “Come and Find Me,” starring Aaron Paul as a man searching for his missing girlfriend and uncovering clues about her past; “The Whole Truth,” about a defense lawyer seeking acquittal for his teenage client who stands accused of murdering his wealthy father, starring Keanu Reeves and Renee Zellweger; and all of the previous “Resident Evil” movies to prep us for the January 26 release of “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.” Oh boy, we can only hope so.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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