The Wolfman 2010 ***

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If the public flock to see a galaxy of superheroes, why wouldn’t they flock to see a universe of monsters? That’s the conundrum as yet unsolved by Universal’s proposed Monsterverse, which aimed to bring together Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, the Wolfman and more, but has faced several false starts. These IP are better known that anything Marvel or DC offer, and yet there are narrative issues; aside from origin stories, what would the public want to see the monsters do? With a script co-written by Se7en’s Andrew Kevin Walker, Joe Johnson’s The Wolfman tries harder than most to invigorate the clichés; Shakespearean actor Larry Talbot (Benicio del Toro) returns home to Blackmoor, and Talbot Hall specifically, after hearing word of his brother’s disappearance. His father Sir John (Anthony Hopkins) is already in on the werewolf family secret, and Larry finds himself involved with his dead brother’s fiancé Gwen (Emily Blunt) as well as the usual mistrustful villagers. Inspector Abberline (Hugo Weaving) of Scotland Yard is also on the case, fresh from his work on the Jack the Ripper murders. The Wolfman looks great, and has some cool make-up from Rick Baker, plus better acting than most horror films. There’s a duff ending, and an overall lack of suspense, possibly due to re-cutting, although a medical inspection at the hands of Anthony Sher’s asylum manager goes amusingly and spectacularly awry. Universal seem to have been somewhat dismissive of the outcome, but The Wolfman is better than it’s dire reputation suggests; it’s clearly a loving attempt to revise a classic story, with top talent del Toro, Hopkins, Blunt and Baker all on message, and a few neat moments for genre fans to enjoy, even if the final wolf-on-wolf fight is risible.

Mary Poppins Returns 2018 ****

Reviving a beloved fifty-year old property was always going to be a tough ask for Disney; Mary Poppins Returns succeeds primarily because Emily Blunt is perfect casting to take over the umbrella from Julie Andrews; there’s a mix of starch and sweetness here that’s ideal to recapture the character, although Blunt’s Poppins is notably different, particularly in a sexualised way. Rob Marshall’s film doubles down on the musical-hall styling of the original, but the fresh emphasis on innuendo; Blunt’s performance of The Cover is Not The Book shifts somewhat towards Sally Bowles in Cabaret. Otherwise, there’s a familiar mix of 2D animation, sentiment, and of course every child loves a trenchant analysis of the banking system. Nefarious disaster capitalist Colin Firth has the Banks family (Ben Wishaw and Emily Mortimer) over a barrel unless they can recover precious deeds. Mary Poppins Returns scrupulously adheres to the original film, right down to longeuers, general over-length and a lack of pace. But the music is fine, and Blunt revitalises the character for a new generation of nanny-seeking children of all ages.

The Girl on the Train 2016

girl-trainEmily Blunt turns out to be the major plus and saving grace of this Tate Taylor adaptation of Paula Hawkins‘s bestseller. With the action unwisely shifted from the UK to the US, Blunt plays Rachel, a permanently plastered woman who finds herself drawn to the mysterious actions inside a house she can see from her daily commute. Why is Megan Hipwell (Hayley Bennett) missing? Is Luke Evans up to something? Is Blunt shielding herself from the truth about her own actions? And why is Lisa Kudrow from Friends in this? The answers are all unraveled round about the half-way point, and even if some of the initially storytelling is muddled, that can be excused as matching Rachel’s own befuddled state of mind. What could be a mediocre thriller is saved by Blunt, as empathetic as ever, and making a decent fist of a tricky, unreliable heroine.

Edge of Tomorrow 2014 ***

edgeAlso known by its tagline (Live, Die, Repeat), Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow considerably transcends the reductive formula of Groundhog Day with Aliens to provide a mind-bending proposition for most of its running time. Tom Cruise flexes his muscles as Major William Cage, a PR man who finds himself sent to the front line in a battle against aliens raging across Europe. Killed in action, Cage awakens to fin himself playing through the day over and over again, making tiny changes each time that further his adventure. Cage teams up with Rita (Emily Blunt) to discover what his gift is and how it can be used against the invasion force. The writers seem unable to resolve an amazing idea in a satisfactory way, and the conventional ending doesn’t make much sense, but the brisk opportunities offered by a complex plotline provide plenty of entertainment, with Cruise and Blunt squaring up nicely as increasingly battle-weary veterans.

Sunshine Cleaning 2008 ***

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From the producers of Little Miss Sunshine comes this similarly titled but much darker comedy drama, with Amy Adams and Emily Blunt as two sisters with an unusual cleaning business; they specialize in sorting out bloody crime scenes. Christine Jeffs directs from a script by Megan Holley, with Alan Arkin and Steve Zahn providing reliable support as the unreliable father and the local cop involved with the girls. Packed with unsavoury but fascinating details about a side of the cleaning industry rarely seen outside of Pulp Fiction, Sunshine Cleaning is a blackly comic showcase for Adams and Blunt, both of whom excel as the entrepreneurial sisters.