Archive for August, 2014

The Calling: A throwback to slow-burn crime dramas from director Jason Stone

susan_sarandon-the_callingBy Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

“My resume belies some of my appetite for gross out humor,” laughs the South African born, Toronto-raised producer of the Seth Rogen hit This Is the End.

But today we’re not talking about his edgy work with Rogen, his writing (he co-wrote the satanic comedy Teen Lust which debuts at the Toronto International Film Festival this year) or his award winning short films.

“I love using the scope of filmmaking and really getting the wheels turning,” he says, “being larger than life and creating a world. I thought The Calling had all of that, elements of mystery and comedy and drama, that I thought were a real draw.”

The Calling is his feature directing debut and stars Susan Sarandon as small-town Canadian cop tracking down a serial killer.

“I still pinch myself that it all came together the way it did,” he says. “There’s a saying in casting, ‘Who’s going to be your cast magnet?’ We had a pretty powerful magnet with Susan and once she was involved we were able to attract talent as diverse as the top line cast, Topher [Grace], Ellen [Burstyn] and Donald [Sutherland].”

The movie is a throwback to, as Stone says, “propulsive thrillers with big ideas executed by brilliant actors.” He says movies like Kiss the Girls, Along Came a Spider and Silence of the Lambs, “used to be the bread and butter back in the early 90s and if we could even be put in the same breath as any of those I’d be thrilled.”

“Those are some of my favorite movies of that era. There is so much character in them. I feel like the studios have replaced a lot of the character in those mid range films with spectacle. It takes a lot more money to make your money back so you have to appeal to a much broader audience. I guess that means adding robots.”

Not that he’s unwilling to make a mega movie one day.

“I hope to have a long career making the films I’d love to make,” he says, “so if the right story comes along and there’s a budget behind it I feel like I’d definitely jump at the chance if there was a story I could connect to and I thought there was some humanity to it. I would like to think I would only make something I feel a personal connection to.”

“Red Alert” director Sloan Avrich talks about working with Richard!

d0116b437e3867f34f68cfd0ca11c208The producer and star  of the TIFF film “Red Alert,” Sloan Avrich, tells Anne Brodie of Monsters and Critics about the film and working with Richard, who talks about Hollywood’s flame haired stars in the short film. Read the article HERE!

See the movie here:

Red Alert at TIFF:

Public Screening 1: Sunday, September 7, 3:45PM @           Isabel Bader Theatre (Isabel Bader)       

Public Screening 2: Wednesday, September 10, 2:15PM @ The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Press & Industry 2: Thursday, September 11, 1:00PM @ Scotiabank 11


Richard picks NKPR’s Top 10 Toronto International Film Festival Films of 2014!

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 11.50.01 AMFrom

The Toronto International Film Festival premieres some of the best movies across the globe and attracts some of the biggest names in Hollywood. This year is certainly no exception with expected appearances from Reese Witherspoon, Robert Downey Jr., Kristen Wiig, Bill Murray and more.

Each year we get the inside scoop on the hottest TIFF movie premieres from renowned Canadian critic Richard Crouse, an expert in what films to see…and what films to skip…

See the whole thing HERE!


Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 6.17.53 PM“Canada AM’s” film critic Richard Crouse shares his reviews for ‘The November Man,’ ‘Life of Crime,’ ‘The Calling,’ and ‘As Above, So Below.’

Watch the whole thing HERE!

Atom Egoyan: Filmmaker found inspiration in true child abduction cases

the-captive-mireille-enos-rosario-dawsonBy Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

Writing the screenplay for his new film was a tough experience for Atom Egoyan.

The Captive, starring Ryan Reynolds, is a fictional story about child abduction in the Niagara region but it has roots in reality.

Missing child posters in Egoyan’s hometown of Victoria, British Columbia haunted his dreams, giving him a heightened awareness of “this person who created this huge hole in another group of people’s lives.”

Those images, coupled with news of a pedophile ring in Cornwall, Ontario, inspired the hard-hitting story of a the mysterious disappearance of Cass (Alexia Fast), taken from the backseat of her father’s (Ryan Reynolds) truck as he picked up food at a diner. Held hostage by a pedophile (Kevin Durand), the girl is locked in a hidden apartment where she plays piano and watches streaming video of her mother (Mireille Enos) at work as a hotel maid.

“When the results of [the Cornwall case investigation] were announced I just found it so troubling,” he says. “I started writing this script in 2009 and put it aside for a while because it just felt too dark and then I began to think about it as three couples: A couple who are trying to understand what happened to their daughter. One couple who we aren’t sure should be together; the detectives (Scott Speedman and Rosario Dawson) who form a relationship over the course of the case. And then this other couple who you know should not be together, the pedophile who steals a child and holds her captive for eight years.

“When I began to see these three couples and examine the relationships it began to find a form.”

The next hurdle was finding a star. The Oscar nominated director, known for highbrow films like The Sweet Hereafter and Exotica found his leading man Reynolds at the movies.

“If I was to be honest,” he says, “I’d say the reason I was inspired to work with him was Safe House. There were elements in that film that were exciting to me.”

Reynolds says he’s always wanted to work with Egoyan, saying, “growing up as a Canadian kid who loved movies, you’ve got to understand that Atom Egoyan was a kind of Holy Grail to me.”

“That’s very sweet,” Egoyan says. “God, I’m not that much older than him. But I guess I am. I don’t think he saw Next of Kin and Family Viewing or Speaking Parts. He must be talking about starting with Exotica. I found that touching but I found his commitment and his desire to be in the film is what really brought the while film together.”

AS ABOVE/SO BELOW: 1 STAR. “forced to relive their own ideas of hell.”

NEiVBzFW1O8Zmn_1_aIt seems archeologists will never learn. At least movie archeologists. In every decade since the 1920s a cinematic excavators has unleashed all kinds of trouble in the present because they messed with the past. Sir Joseph Whemple gave us the Mummy’s Curse, Indiana Jones uncovered flaming Nazis and Lara Croft left us with two so-so movies.

In the new thriller “As Above/So Below” a group of young “urban” archeologists led by Krav Maga black belt Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) explore miles of unmapped catacombs under the streets of Paris, searching for the Philosopher’s Stone, a fabled artifact with the power to grant eternal life. A similar search for the relic drove Scarlett’s archeologist father barmy—“His quest was a quest to madness!” says a friend.”— but she is convinced that she, her ex-boyfriend George (“Mad Men” co-star Ben Feldman), a cameraman named Benji (“The Purge’s” Edwin Hodge) and a group of apparently expendable spelunking explorers (Francois Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar) can play DaVinci Code and follow ancient symbols and clues deep underground and succeed where dear dad failed. Instead of eternal life, however, they discover quite the opposite. They end up having a helluva time—literally.

The idea of being in a location where your deepest fears and terrible memories manifest themselves is a good “Twilight Zone-ish” premise, but the found footage style is so wild it seems as though they strapped a camera on the back of an angry dog and let it run wild in the catacombs. My kingdom for a tripod!

As for scares, there are a couple of good “jump“ moments and claustrophobics may want to stay home but the creepy stuff—like the weird wall-eyed lady who wanders in and out of the action like some specter from a better movie—is not so much terrifying as it is jarring. Although on the plus side the jumps are a good break from the tedium of watching this bunch say, “We have to find a way out,” over and over.

The characters in “As Above/So Below” are forced to relive their own ideas of hell. Mine would be having to watch this movie again.

LIFE OF CRIME: 3 STARS. ” slickly made but blandish Elmore Leonard adaptation.”

bilde“Life of Crime” is slickly made but blandish adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel “The Switch.” As usual Leonard’s bad guys are more interesting than the straights. The trick here is figuring out who the bad guys are.

Jennifer Aniston is Mickey, the trophy wife of the abusive and corrupt Frank Dawson. Outwardly they have the perfect marriage, but at home trouble is brewing. At home, at least when Frank isn’t off doing “business” at his hideaway in the Bahamas, tending to his girlfriend Melanie (Isla Fisher) and off shore bank accounts.

When two low-rent criminals, Louis (John Hawkes) and Ordell (Yasiin Bey, the artist formerly known as Mos Def) kidnap Mickey they hadn’t counted on Frank using their plan as a quickie divorce. No ransom, no alimony. Cue the double crosses and intrigue.

The major selling point here is the dialogue. Leonard was a master of the backroom criminal dialogue and here they have the good sense to keep most of his snappy words intact. Hawkes and Bey are particularly adept at delivering the goods, mouthing the words as if they were Leonard’s illegitimate children. Robbins is convincing as the sleazy land developer and Fisher is a femme fatale in the making. The weak link is Aniston, who seems like she might have calibrated her performance for the similarly plotted “Ruthless People” rather than a down-and-dirty crime drama.

Like many of Leonard’s stories “Life of Crime” tends to favor the characters who live on the down low. Hawkes and Bey—despite their association with a neo-Nazi (Mark Boone Jr.)—are treated as the sensitive heroes of the piece, while everyone else is playing some sort of game. It makes for interesting character dynamics but doesn’t sit as well here as it did in “Get Shorty” or “Out of Sight.”

THE CALLING: 3 STARS. “Sarandon is terrific as outwardly tough detective.”

-1There was a time when serial killers ruled the movie theatres. Movies like “Kiss the Girls,” “Se7en” and “Silence of the Lambs” were big hits and law enforcement types like Alex Cross and Clarice Starling were big draws. Now those stories have been moved to the small screen and television shows like “CSI” and “Criminal Minds” track down the kinds of killers their big screen counterparts used to stalk.

“The Calling” is a throwback to the type of 90s thrillers that made Ashley Judd a star and kept audiences on the edge of their seats.

Drawn from the pages of Inger Ash Wolfe’s mystery novels, Susan Sarandon plays pill-popping Detective Hazel Micallef, a world weary small town Canadian cop just a drunken whisper away from unemployment. The sleepy little town of Fort Dundas doesn’t offer up much in the way of major cases until a string of grisly murders—slit throats and organ removals—forces Micallef to dust off her detecting skills and track down a killer with driven by fanatical religious fervor.

First time director Jason Stone ratchets the bleak atmosphere up to Creep Factor Five in this eerie character driven mystery. There’s a little bit of “Fargo” in the mix, with some dark humor—“I just found the guy’s stomach!”—and disquieting imagery, but the real draw is watching the characters navigate through the film’s unsettled but strangely familiar world.

Sarandon is terrific as outwardly tough detective with a self-destructive center, while Sutherland brings his patented gravitas to the role of a priest who knows more than he is willing to let on. They, along with Grace, Burstyn (who isn’t given enough to do) and Gil Bellows as a no nonsense detective, temper the story’s more outrageous holistic killer Catholic elements.

“The Calling” could have snapped up the pacing a bit, but the slower tempo gives us more time to sit back and enjoy the performances.