For a re­view of ‘ The Com­muter,”

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Span­ish film maker Jaume Col­let-Serra has carved out a nice niche for him­self as a pur­veyor of el­e­gantly-craft-eds chlock. Al­though he started in hor­ror, Col let- Ser-ra has found a groove with highly ef­fi­cient, ex­tremely ef­fec­tive thrillers. His 2016 fea­ture“The Shal­lows” be­came a cul­tural phe­nome-non with the sim­plest of premises: Blake Lively vs. shark. In his lat­est ef­fort“The Com­muter ,” he teams up for the fourth time with his muse, Liam Nee­son, for a pop no ir set aboard a com-muter train :“Con­spir­acy on the 6:25 to Cold Spring .” Michael(Nee­son) is amid-d le-class fam­ily man, his happy, sub­ur­ban life de­tailed in a bril­liant open­ing mon-t age of morn­ing sat home and on the way to work, on the train he’ s taken for 10 years into Man­hat­tan to sell life in­surance. On this par-tic­u­lar day, Michael is un­cer-emo­ni­ously fired, five years from re­tire­ment, no sever-ance, with his mort­gage due and his kid im­mi­nent ly de­part­ing for a pricey pri-vate col­lege. He’ s two beers deep on the train when a strange woman( Vera Farmiga) ap­proaches him. Pur­port­ing to be a be­hav­ioral sci­en­tist, she puts forth a hy­po­thet­i­cal ques­tion that turns out to be all too real. Would you find and do some­thing to an­other pas-sen­ger on this train for $100,000? Of course, it’ s much more com­pli­cated than that, but as soon as Michael gets a whiff of the cash, he’ s al­ready in too deep with a shad­owy, anony­mous, mur­der­ous mob. He’ s obli-gated to search for a passen-ger go­ing by “Prynne.” Trains have al­ways made great set­tings for thrillers—go­ing back as far as 1896, when “Ar­rival of a Train” thrilled and ter­ri­fied audi-- enc es. Col­let-Serra makes good use of the lim­i­ta­tions, op­por­tu­ni­ties and unique sit­u­a­tion soft his par­tic­u­lar train, car­ry­ing friends, strangers and en­e­mies alike. The joc­u­lar char­ac­ters are rem­i­nis­cent of the ev­ery­day folk that gave“Speed” so much of its charm. It’ s fun to imag­ine Col let-Serra hop­ping a Metro-North train from Grand Cen-tral and fall­ing in love with the de­tails of its spe­cific and con­tained cul­ture. Col let-Serra’ s rich de­pic­tion of train life is a sen­sory plunge into the hus­tling chaos that is ex act­ing in its pre­ci­sion. He and cin­e­matog­ra­pher Paul Cameron uti­lize vis­cer-al hand-held camera work along­side dizzy­ingly elabo-rate zoo ms be­tween punched pas­sen­ger tick­ets. The bold style breath es life into the rather generic script by By­ron Willinger, Philip de Bl asia nd Ryan Eng le, which is a ser­vice­able mys­tery with some tepid so­cial com-men­tary about big banks and bad sys­tems stomp­ing on the lit­tle guy. In the cur­rent state of Ne es on’ s ca­reer, he’ s am an with a very spe­cific set of skills. And here, he’ s an ex-cop, trained to ob­serve ti cs of hu­man be­hav­ior and as­sess threats. As the mys-tery dee pens, his goals evolve, not content with just fin­ish­ing his task, but fin­ish-ing the en­tire group that put him in this sorry mess. It’ s at this point when the story, well, de­rails. The twisty tale keeps point­ing to­ward“a con­spira-cy ,” be­hind the mo­tive for Michael’ s in­creas­ingly har-row­ing task, but it never ex­plains what the con­spira-cy is, so when any­one is re­vealed to have been apart of said con­spir­acy, it falls flat. All of the el­e­ments are there for stylish and sus­pense­ful flick, but the sus­pense seems to have been for­got­ten. Ul­ti­mately, “The Com­muter” gets the job done, but it won’t get hearts racing.

“The Com­muter,” a Lion­sgate re­lease, is rated PG- 13 for some in­tense ac­tion/ vi­o­lence, and lan­guage. Run­ning time: 104 min­utes.  

“Padding­ton 2”

Could it be that Hugh Grant was born to play a vil­lain­ous dandy in a kid’smovie? He cer­tainly seems to be hav­ing the time of his life ham­ming it up in “Padding­ton 2” as a pre­ten­tious, has­been actor who’s now rel­e­gated to dress­ing up like a spaniel for dog food com­mer­cials. His de­light is con­ta­gious.

The fam­ily- friendly se­quel to the 2014 film about a talk­ing bear cub - al­ready a mon­ster hit in Eng­land, as well as aBAFTAnom­i­nee for best Bri­tish movie— is a charmer from its first ac­tion­packed frames to its over- thetop jail­house- mu­si­cal scene dur­ing the end cred­its.

The heart of the movie, di­rected by Paul King, is once again the ti­tle char­ac­ter ( voiced by Ben Whishaw): an ex­ceed­ingly po­lite but flam­boy­antly clumsy talk­ing bear from Peru who now lives full- time in Lon­don with the Brown fam­ily. He has won over just about ev­ery­one within a one- mile ra­dius— with the ex­cep­tion of a nosy neigh­bor ( Peter Ca­paldi), who might as well be called Mr. Brexit for his sus­pi­cious view of out­siders — palling around with the garbage col­lec­tor, ran­dom bike com­muters and the lo­cal an­tiques dealer, Mr. Gru­ber ( Jim Broad­bent).

It’s at Gru­ber’s odd­i­ties shop that the story gets started, as Padding­ton comes across a gor­geous pop- up book that he wants to buy for his beloved Aunt Lucy— the bear who raised him, voiced by Imelda Staunton— for her 100th birthday. The only prob­lem is the un­af­ford­able price. Padding­ton starts pick­ing up odd jobs to save up, but be­fore he can pur­chase the one- of- akind present, the de­vi­ous Phoenix Buchanan ( Grant) swoops in and steals the trea­sure from the store, for mys­te­ri­ous rea­sons.

That’s bad enough, but it gets worse: The po­lice col­lar Padding­ton for the crime and send him to prison. Brown fam­ily ma­tri­arch Mary ( Sally Hawkins) sets about try­ing to prove her adopted son’s in­no­cence. In the mean­time, the furry marmalade ad­dict has to learn to make it alone be­hind bars.

It’s not go­ing to be easy. “Mrs. Brown usu­ally reads me a story be­fore bed,” Padding­ton tells the war­den, earnestly, while be­ing es­corted to his cell.

As you can imag­ine, the other in­mates aren’t eas­ily won over by Padding­ton’s fa­vorite adages — “If we’re kind and po­lite, the world will be right,” he prom­ises— but even they can’t re­sist his adorable mug. Soon, Knuck­les McGinty ( Bren­dan Glee­son), the most fear­some of crim­i­nals, has come around.

Glee­son, like Grant, does sub­limely silly work here, al­though the lat­ter re­mains the main at­trac­tion, thanks in part to his cos­tumed al­ter egos — which in­clude a se­duc­tive nun — and his lengthy con­ver­sa­tions with man­nequins dressed up as fa­mous fic­tional char­ac­ters. ( The actor was sin­gled out by the BAFTAs with a best­sup­port­ing-actor nom­i­na­tion.)

As with the first in­stall­ment, based on Michael Bond’s se­ries of chil­dren’s books, the se­quel is stun­ning to look at, with in­ven­tive, col­or­ful sets and such crafty in­ter­ludes as a se­quence in which Padding­ton imag­ines him­self and his Aunt Lucy frol­ick­ing through the pages of the elu­sive pop- up book.

“Padding­ton 2” leans a lit­tle heav­ily on its sim­plis­tic mes­sage: There’s good in ev­ery­one. Still, that’s worth re­mem­ber­ing dur­ing these di­vi­sive times. Maybe all it needs is a lov­able bear to drive the point home.

“Padding­ton 2,” aWarner Bros. Pic­ture re­lease, is rated PG for some ac­tion and mild rude hu­mor. Run­ning time: 103 min­utes. ½

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ben Whishaw pro­vides the voice for the char­ac­ter Padding­ton in the new Warner Bros. Pic­tures re­lease “Padding­ton 2.”

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