This week, pop culture critic Richard Crouse reviews new movies: 'Bullet Train,' 'Thirteen Lives,' 'Prey' and 'Not Okay.'


Your enjoyment of “Bullet Train,” a new action adventure now playing in theatres, will depend directly on your enjoyment of star Brad Pitt. He’s having fun punching, shooting and generally behaving badly throughout, but it’s possible he’s having more fun than the audience.

Based on the Japanese novel “Maria Beetle,” “Bullet Train” stars Pitt as an assassin called Ladybug. Plagued by mishaps—“My bad luck is biblical,” he complains—he wants out of the criminal life. “You put peace into the world and you get peace back,” he says.

When his handler, Maria Beetle (Sandra Bullock), needs a replacement for a quick job aboard a bullet train heading from Tokyo to Kyoto, she reaches out. He gives her the “peace” line. Her response? “I think you’re forgetting what you do for a living.”

She ropes him in with the promise of an easy gig. Grab a silver briefcase full of cash and get off at the next stop. “What’s the catch?” “There is no catch,” Beetle says.

Of course, there is a catch. In this kind of movie, there is always a catch.

In this case, the world's fastest train is packed with some of the world’s most highly trained killers, and every one of them has some kind of tie to a psychotic crime syndicate boss known as the White Death. “He doesn’t need a reason to kill people like you,” says a passenger. “He needs a reason not to.”

Among them are Cockney killers Tangerine (Brian Tyree Henry) and Lemon (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), The Prince (Joey King), a British assassin posing as a schoolgirl and The Wolf (Benito A Martínez Ocasio), a Mexican murderer with a vendetta against Ladybug.

Cue the darkly, comedic action.

For all its high-speed antics, “Bullet Train” feels been-there-done-that. It’s as if Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie met in a head-on collision. Director David Leitch and screenwriter Zak Olkewicz borrow elements from both filmmakers, but despite the flash and sass, the quick edits and even quicker quips, their film lacks the gusto of its inspirations. It’s a familiar tale told with flashbacks, revenge motifs, pop culture references—one of the assassins endlessly quotes “Thomas the Tank Engine”—pop songs layered over violent fight scenes and Ninja swords.

It is, I suppose, a great example of reduce, reuse and recycle -- except other than the reductive script, Leitch doesn’t actually reduce anything. Reuse and recycle, for sure, but the film’s commitment to ultraviolence, sprawling cast and excessive 126-minute running time do not suggest a reduction of any kind.

Pitt appears to be having fun, but the character’s new age journey—he’s a non-stop font of “let this be a lesson in the toxicity of anger” style platitudes—grows wearisome and it’s hard to shake the feeling that the actor is revisiting his Cliff Booth character in the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s” LSD fight scene. It is a hoot to see him cold-cock a giant Anime character, but his befuddled killer act gets old quickly.

“Bullet Train” is a derailment. It’s a movie with the odd highlight—Lemon and Tangerine’s banter is a hoot—but despite its desperate need to entertain, it ultimately goes off the rails.


It's taken 35 years, a journey through development hell, a bidding war and more than a few nightmares, but writer Neil Gaiman reckons he's finally done the impossible. He's brought The Sandman to the screen, without ruining the story.

The comic, which he first outlined in 1987, had an original run through DC Comics from 1989 to 1996. Among those who read it, The Sandman has since gained a cult following as one of the most influential — and creative — works of literature to come out of the comics world. 

Dr. Meredith Grey will be cutting back her workload on "Grey's Anatomy."

Series star Ellen Pompeo is set to appear in eight episodes of the hospital drama -- about a third of the usual per-season number -- when the ABC show returns for its 19th season on Oct. 6.

Pompeo is reducing her commitment as she prepares to star in an untitled, limited series based on the real-life story of a tangled 2010 adoption involving a U.S. couple. It's for the streaming service Hulu, a Disney corporate sibling to ABC.

The network declined comment. Pompeo's spokeswoman didn't respond to an email request for comment.

There will be newcomers to help pick up the slack at fictional Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital in Seattle. Alexis Floyd, Niko Terho and Harry Shum Jr. will be among those joining the show as interns.

Pompeo is one among the few original remaining cast members, which include Chandra Wilson and James Pickens Jr. The series was created by producer-writer Shonda Rhimes, a TV powerhouse whose credits include "Bridgerton" and "Scandal."

Pompeo will retain her duties as an executive producer and narrator for "Grey's Anatomy," said Deadline Hollywood, which reported the story Wednesday.



This image released by Warner Bros Pictures shows characters, from left, Chip, a squirrel voiced by Diego Luna, PB, potbellied pig voiced by Vanessa Bayer, Krypto, voiced by Dwayne Johnson, Ace, voiced by Kevin Hart and Merton, a turtle voiced by Natasha Lyonne in a scene from "DC League of Super-Pets." (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

Krypto the Super-Dog and Superman are inseparable best friends, sharing the same superpowers and fighting crime side by side in Metropolis. However, Krypto must master his own powers for a rescue mission when Superman is kidnapped.


Ellen Pompeo watches during the second half of an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Boston Celtics, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 114-90. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Tom Sturridge appears as Dream in Netflix's The Sandman. The show has taken decades to make its way to the screen, as its creator waited for a media landscape that could do it justice. ( Liam Daniel/Netflix)