For the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend, we’re treated to a fresh crop of movies ripe for the picking.
Here’s a rundown of which are worth the price of popcorn, better to stream from the comfort of your couch or worth a pass completely.
The Girl on the Train
Who’s it for? Members of the Emily Blunt Appreciation Society or Gone Girl fans looking for a similar book-inspired blockbuster.
What is it? In the opening frames of The Girl on the Train, Emily Blunt stares out of a train window and imagines the inner lives of the beautiful homes passing by. The vicarious thrill of voyeurism is a hint of things to come in this adaptation of the bestselling novel by Paula Hawkins.
What lies within the film is a trio of frustrated, flailing women: an obsessed stay-at-home mom, a depressed beauty and a drunk. It’s like a Tim Burton film, with a better wardrobe.
As the alcoholic Rachel, Blunt is the centre of the story. Fixated on her ex, she witnesses something — spied from that train window — and is drawn into a missing-persons case.
As always, Blunt is a cinematic force who gives depth to what could have been a cliché alcoholic character. The problem is the script, which vacillates between awkward and obvious. Meanwhile, director Tate Taylor captures everything with a suffocating, picture-perfect polish. As The Girl on the Train barrels towards the end, it risks derailing into camp. But some of those twists along the way? My, what a ride.
See it, stream it or skip it? The Girl on a Train is not a good film, but it may be worth a trip to the theatre to share the gasps and giggles with other strangers in the dark.
The Birth of a Nation
Who’s it for? American history buffs or awards-season aficionados looking to see what’s behind the hype.
What is it? The Birth of a Nation is a dramatic retelling of the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner, a preacher who believed he was God’s messenger. Regardless of your opinion on filmmaker Nate Parker’s personal life, The Birth of a Nation is an impressive debut for the director, producer, co-writer and star.
He commands the screen as Turner, the preacher wrestling between his faith and being used as tool to pacify other slaves.
Parker also displays an eye for striking imagery: a butterfly perched on a hanging body swaying in the breeze or sun-kissed cotton fields speckled with blood.
But as Turner’s sermons take on a messianic tone, subtlety is abandoned. Birth gallops down the path of righteous vengeance. There’s little room for introspection by the time we reach the Braveheart-worthy finale.
See it, stream it or skip it? Stream it to see what Parker is capable of and how a timely story missed the mark.
Two Lovers and a Bear
Who’s it for? #CloneClub fans looking for a love story on ice.
What is it? Canadian director Kim Nguyen scored an Oscar nomination with 2012’s War Witch, a child-soldier story with a supernatural element. With Two Lovers and Bear, he tries for something similar — to mixed results.
Set in Canada’s North, the film follows Lucy (Tatiana Maslany) and Roman (Dane DeHaan), who are running from their past.
Part of what makes Two Lovers distinct is the setting, which offers a refreshingly contemporary view of life in the North. In the midst of this isolated Nunavut community, the lovers distract themselves with house parties and contraband alcohol as they battle demons real and imagined.
Two Lovers is a wildly ambitious film that almost works as three separate elements: an unvarnished view of Northern life, dashes of magical realism and a final, epic, arctic journey. Separately, they are stunning, but the overall story lacks cohesion.
See it, stream it or skip it? See it on the big screen for the stunning vistas and the naked vulnerability of Maslany and DeHaan, both compensating for an uneven script.