Oops, we discussed this one but I never wrote anything down about it. Australian period lit adaptation with some lively bits. I completely cannot recognize the Judy Davis of Barton Fink and Naked Lunch (which I just rewatched) in this Judy Davis… both Judys are very good, they just might as well be different people. We very much recognized Sam Neill as her suitor in the latter half, but it’s the odd movie about a woman who chooses to stay unmarried so she can have a career. Along the way we get one of the most well-staged pillow fights since Zero for Conduct.

I lose track of who’s supposed to be dead at the end of the previous movies, but Loki is alive all through this one, Odin (Anthony Hopkins with an eyepatch) dies here, unleashing Thor’s evil sister Cate Blanchett from interdimensional prison, she’s presumably dead at the end of this since she gets her power from the planet and it’s destroyed by Ragnarok, and Thor is ok at the end, with a new hammer, now wearing an eyepatch like his dad, but they also said his power comes from the planet so I dunno if that’ll be important in later movies. Almost everyone on Asgard dies, including the warrior who becomes a lackey for Cate (Karl Urban: Bones in the new Star Treks), but Idris Elba and some refugees make it onto a spaceship.

So, Thor gets stranded hammer-less on a planet run by game-show-master Jeff Goldblum, teams up with a reluctant Tessa Thompson (the last Valkyrie) and a reluctant Loki, and a very reluctant Hulk, who somehow also ended up here, to steal a ship, fleeing an army led by Rachel House (social services in Hunt for the Wilderpeople) and return to Asgard to fight the rogue sister.

Other highlights: Bruce Banner wanders around confused in a Duran Duran t-shirt, the director plays a hilarious rock monster, Hopkins is entertained by a royal play starring Luke Hemsworth, Matt Damon and Sam Neill as Thor/Loki/Odin, the fun bright colors, the makeup and headgear and some mythic shots that are composed like religious paintings. Mostly we came for Guardians-style entertainment, and this totally delivered – seems like the most rewatchable of the Avengers movies.

Sam Neill as Anthony Hopkins:

There’s a whole subgenre of action thrillers in which Liam Neeson’s family members get taken, with different spinoffs and variations (like Keanu Reeves’ dog getting taken), all of which I’ve been skipping. I probably would’ve skipped this too, but I was fifteen minutes late for The Square, and I’m saving The Post for Katy, and the vulgar auteurists who prompted my fruitful journey through the Resident Evil movies last summer are saying The Commuter is pure cinema, so fine. And they’re wrong, obviously, though their articles are a blast to read – it’s just a pretty good suspenseful movie where Liam kicks some ass and we forgive the ludicrous situation because we’re having a good time.

Liam is a good family man, ex-cop with a kid entering college and major money problems, especially today when he lost his wallet and his insurance job, so when he’s offered $100k to finger a witness on his daily train, he goes along at first, then discovers the people he’s working with are murderers covering for corrupt cops including his ex-partner Patrick Wilson. Various groups claim to be holding Liam’s wife Lady Grantham, but this turns out maybe not to be true – either way, Liam runs up and down the train, making enemies and alliances, eventually gathering everyone in one car and yelling at them while carrying a gun until things get sorted. This is all what I imagine the recent remake of Murder on the Orient Express was like, but with funnier mustaches. The opening montage detailing Liam’s daily family routine is excellent, and a massive train derailment scene was exciting if you get past the conductor’s little Titanic-like self-sacrifice dialogue. The super-happy post-hostage-situation wrap scene was a bit of a stretch. People are dead, a train is destroyed and Liam is supposedly holding hostages. The cop sent in to negotiate is killed. Then a couple minutes after a thousand police storm the train car and grab everybody, Liam is just allowed to go free because the other passengers say he’s a hero. Call me cynical, but I’d expect him to be taken away, beaten half to death and held as a terrorist for at least a few months.

Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) is Liam’s contact, Sam Neill a cop boss, and Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth herself) a passenger. The crossover casting between this movie and Atomic Blonde (more deserving of the “pure cinema” label) is tough-looking fellow commuter Roland Møller. This is Collet-Serra’s fourth film where Liam Neeson is holding a gun on the poster, and I’m glad it’s working out for both of them – he also made The Shallows, which I’ve been meaning to watch some SHOCKtober.

Fun comedy with spot-on performances, a step up from What We Do In The Shadows. Family crowd-pleaser with some harsher realities than most (Ricky Baker’s foster mother / Sam Neill’s wife’s death was horrifying, as was Sam having to shoot his beloved dog after a boar attack). Misfit orphan Ricky is homed with Bella, who dies soon afterward, so he tries to run off into the woods and grumpy old Neill ends up joining him, both of them on the run. Not enough of the director himself (he plays a priest) but we get a good dose of Rhys Darby as a foil-hatted master of disguise who helps our guys nearly escape at the end. In the coda, Ricky and his new family adopt Neill, kind of an obvious wrapping-up but it works.

Ricky previously appeared in a Sam Worthington movie about an international paper plane competition. I haven’t seen Neill since Sally Potter’s Yes. Bella was Rima Te Wiata, of recent comedy/horror Housebound. Rachel House, dedicated child-services Ricky-pursuer (who helps draw connections to Moonrise Kingdom) was in Waititi’s Eagle vs. Shark.

An extremely by-the-numbers account of a girl named Sandra born with black skin to white parents and what that means in apartheid-era South Africa. A couple of surreal moments (after a law change, Sandra’s dad Sam Neill proclaims that his daughter is white again) but mostly a straightforward story with oscar-wannabe production (no dice, but won two major awards at the Pan-African festival in L.A.) and no particular interest.

Young Sandra grows into Sophie Okonedo (who had hands-for-feet in Aeon Flux). She and her mom Alice Krige (star of Institute Benjamenta) are the powerhouse actors of the film (that’s not Sam Neill’s fault – he just has to be a bitter ol’ racist, and does a fine job at it). The movie is (of course! apartheid!) full of easy-target racist characters calculated to inflame audience emotion. Surprisingly, Sandra’s older brother becomes one of them late in the film. She gives up on the white life, runs off with a black man (Tony Kgoroge of Invictus) and has two kids, but leaves him after a beating, moves to Jo-burg and gets a factory job. Dad never gets a reconciliation, but mom (with decent old-age makeup) does.