Almost there, folks.  Almost there.  Make it through a few more hail storms, a couple of tornado warnings and some finals and we’ll be in full-blown summer blockbuster mode!  Course, first, you’ve got to get your exams out of the way so stop reading this and go study!!  Then come back and read this.

Good, I feel better knowing that you put a little time into your studies.  Oh, and thanks for all of the movie suggestions you guys and gals have been sending.  I really wanted to have a review of the new, live action Ghost In The Shell but I’ve been studying too.  Worry not, however, it is my goal for next month.  Hold me to that.

But rather than talk about what I haven’t seen yet, let’s talk about two movies that I have seen.  This month, we have two movies that explore the idea that how we see ourselves is often clouded.  These movies suggest that if we can step out of our daily routine for a minute, maybe we can get a truer picture of ourselves and our situation.

The Girl On The Train (2016) [R]
The Girl On The Train (2016) Poster First, if you loved the book, you are probably not going to like this review.  I wrote this for those of you who haven’t read the book or have some preconceived idea of whether or not you would like The Girl On The Train.

What we have here is a good, old-fashioned murder mystery.  Is this the best murder mystery I’ve ever seen?  No.  But what I did particularly like about it was that you see the story through the eyes of three different women.  Your perspective is informed by how they see themselves and what is going on around them.  Just as the characters themselves begin to see things more clearly, we, the viewers also begin to understand the situation better. That’s much easier to pull off in a book than a movie but I feel like they did a good job here.

I’ve read several reviews of The Girl On The Train and one of the consistent complaints is that there aren’t any likeable characters in the story. I don’t know that you are necessarily supposed to like any of the characters.  This isn’t a light romantic comedy.  People are complicated in real life and you aren’t going to agree with every decision they make.  But I do think you’ll see pieces of yourself or people you know in the women in the movie and that helps make the moving compelling.

I don’t know that The Girl On The Train is particularly great in any one aspect but it is pretty good in several. The acting is honestly better than I was expecting.  The pacing is all right.  And maybe most importantly, I don’t feel that the movie is trying to be more clever than it actually is. Director Tate Taylor is no Hitchcock and you’ll probably see the twists coming.  But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, I think you’ll find it’s better than you thought it would be.

7 paws out of 10

Monsters (2010) [R]
Monsters (2010) Poster“Collin, didn’t we just talk about a Gareth Edwards movie last month when we talked about Rogue One?  Yeah, we did.  And we’ve talked about another of his movies back in 2014 when we discussed the reboot of Godzilla.  Edwards has only made three movies and I was surprised by the two I had seen so I thought, let’s try his debut.

Monsters is a science fiction film that takes places six years after a NASA probe that was sent to collect signs of alien life crashed inadvertently spreading lifeforms across the U.S. border with Mexico.  The story follows Andrew, an American photojournalist in Mexico who is ordered by his employer to find and escort Samantha, the daughter of the employer, across the border and back into the United States.

Both Andrew and Samantha are in the middle of personal crises and despite initial misgivings about each other, they bond the night before the border crossing.  Then Andrew makes a poor decision and the pair miss the last transport back to America before the border is closed for a quarantine period.  Trapped on the wrong side of the border, Andrew and Samantha make the decision to try and travel through the Infected Zone where the aliens have taken up residence to get back to the U.S.

Sounds like the recipe for a great shoot-up-the-aliens action flick, right?  And there are a few surprisingly arresting action sequences in the film.  I say “surprisingly” because Monsters was made for FAR less than a regular Hollywood alien action film.  There is no exact amount out there but the estimates I’ve seen in interviews are all well under $500,000.  Now, that’s a lot of money but not in movie making terms.  Especially one filled with CGI aliens.  So how did he keep costs low?  For one thing, not only did Gareth Edwards write and direct the film, he was also the cinematographer, the production designer and he did all of the visual effects himself with Adobe Creative Suite.

But Monsters isn’t really about the special effects.  Instead, Monsters is about the journey that Andrew and Samantha undertake.  As they travel through the Infected Zone and come in contact with alien life, they learn that maybe they aren’t the people they thought they were.  I hate to go this much into detail for you all because it was such a great surprise as I watched to see how the movie unfolds.  Don’t worry, I’ve tried to be vague and I’ve left some big stuff out.

The movie looks better than a lot of the blockbusters I’ve seen lately.  The acting is surprisingly effective.  The story, while not perfect, is moving and goes in places I didn’t expect. Monsters was a pleasant surprise.  Give it a shot and I think you’ll understand why they let this wet-behind-the-ears kid direct the Godzilla reboot and Rogue One.  Gareth Edwards is definitely one to watch and so is his debut, Monsters.

7.5 paws out of 10

As always, if you have a movie you think I should check out or you want to talk further about one of these reviews, drop me a line at or leave me a message on Facebook.