Richard and CP24 anchor Nneka Elliot talk about the weekend’s big releases, the comedy of “Keanu,” the maudlin humour of “Mother’s Day,” the kid’s sci fi of “Ratchet & Clank,” the punk rock fury of “Green Room” and the b-movie action of “Precious Cargo.”
Richard and “Canada AM” host Beverly Thomson kick around the weekend’s big releases. They find out if “Keanu,” the kitten caper movie from Key & Peele is worth a look, if “Mother’s Day” is more than a Hallmark card come to the screen and if “Ratchet & Clank’s” good messages for kids make it a good movie.
Julia Roberts is one of the biggest female movie stars of all time. With a career box office north of $2 billion she, and her megawatt smile, were the stuff of blockbusters throughout the 90s and early 2000s. She was everywhere, and then, somewhere around the time Jennifer Lawrence was celebrating her thirteenth birthday Roberts stepped away. Not completely, but she jumped off the Hollywood treadmill, doing what movie stars who have nothing left to prove do.
That is, whatever she wanted. She stayed out of view, voicing a couple of animated movies and popping up in the occasional film, some high profile—like the ensemble of Ocean’s Twelve—some not—like Fireflies in the Garden—but the days of solo Pretty Woman-esque success were, by her own choosing, behind her. By and large her choices became a bit more eclectic as she relied less on the famous smile and more on flexing her acting muscles. Since 2004’s Closer her filmography has been splintered between crowd pleasers like Eat Pray Love, dramas like August: Osage County and misfires like Secret in Their Eyes.
This weekend she’s back working with the director who helped make her famous starring in Mother’s Day, her fourth collaboration with filmmaker Garry Marshall. The pair make a movie roughly every ten years, from 1990’s Pretty Woman to Runaway Bride in 1999 to 2010’s Valentine’s Day to this year’s entry, and their combo usually delivers big box office.
In between her the commercial films she makes with Marshall, Roberts makes a movie a year and while they haven’t always connected with audiences many are worth a look.
Duplicity is a romantic comedy about espionage. Imagine if Rock Hudson and Doris Day starred in Mission Impossible. Instead you have Roberts as an experienced CIA officer looking for a change and Clive Owen as a charming MI6 agent. Both left the world of international intrigue for the infinitely more profitable task of corporate security. Together they launch an elaborate plan of corporate dirty tricks to steal a top-secret formula that will revolutionize the cosmetics industry. Roberts and Owen are witty and charming and Duplicity, with its entertaining performances and stylish look, is a bit of fun despite its convoluted story.
August: Osage County, an all-star remounting of Tracey Letts’s hit Broadway play, gives Roberts her juiciest role in years. As Barbara she’s a bit of an enigma. She’s a jumble of mixed, complicated emotions, capable of both great kindness and compassion but able only to express herself through tough love. When she explodes she lets loose a lifetime of rage stemming from her mother’s (played by Meryl Streep) mistreatment. When they go head-to-head it is the clash of the titans and an unforgettable scene.
Finally, there’s Larry Crowne, a boomer comedy aimed at audiences with memories long enough to remember when gas only cost 54 cents a litre, none of your neighbours had foreclosure signs on their front lawns and Tom Hanks and Roberts ruled the box office. It’s an uplifting comedy about middle age, brave enough to tackle modern problems like downsizing and foreclosure, but non-challenging enough to weave all the bad stuff into a pseudo romantic comedy. Hanks and Roberts cut through the material like hot knives through butter and Julia treats audiences to one of her trademarked laughing scenes.
Take one part “Key and Peele,” add the appeal of an internet cat video and you have “Keanu,” the new kitty caper comedy from Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. The big screen debut of the sketch comedians isn’t purrfect but it has some furry funny moments.
At the beginning of the movie the Allentown Brothers (the heavily made-up Key and Peele) shoot up a drug lab, killing everyone inside. The only survivor is a kitten who makes a run for it, escaping the carnage and who, after a trek across Los Angeles, ends up at the doorstep of stoner photographer Rell (Peele). It’s fortuitous for both of them. The kitten needs a home and Rell, who was just dumped by his girlfriend, desperately needs a companion. By the time Rell’s pal, family man Clarence (Key) stops by, the lonely guy has bonded with the cat, now named Keanu. When Keanu is stolen in a burglary these two button-down guys take a walk on the wild side, tracking down Keanu’s new owner, gang leader Cheddar (Method Man). Taking the street names Shark Tank and Techtonic they infiltrate the gang, take drugs (“It’s like you’re smoking crack with God!”), get shot at and rescue the cat. “We in the market right now for a gangster pet.”
The SPCA is going to love “Keanu.” The cat hero isn’t exactly the main character, he’s more of an excuse for the action, but he may be the most memorable film feline since Blofeld’s cat. The stars of the show are Key and Peele who bring the strengths of their sketch show to the movie. Key’s facility with voices and words coupled with Peele’s elastic face keep things interesting in what is essentially a skit stretched to feature length.
Unlike me, who couldn’t resist some terrible cat puns while writing this review, K&P don’t go looking for the “purrpatrator” of the crime or anything like that. Instead the movie is a mix of down ‘n dirty jabs—for instance, the local strip club is called Hot Party Vixens or HPV—fish out of water gags, a brilliant celebrity cameo and a fixation on George Michael that borders on the pathological. Throw in a few shoot outs and some quirky characters—thanks to Will Forte as Rell’s pot dealer and Jason Mitchell as gang member Bud—and you have a movie that aspires to be a spiritual cousin of 80s action comedies like “Beverly Hills Cop” or “48 Hours.” It doesn’t quite scale those heights but there are enough laughs to keep things interesting, especially if you are a cat lover.
Does Garry Marshall work for Hallmark or does he just love holidays? In the last few years he has turned his lens toward “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve,” movies that bundle stars of dubious box office power in big, glittery packages to celebrate the holidays with all the joy and emotional resonance of a Budweiser Clydesdale commercial.
This weekend he casts his maudlin eye toward “Mother’s Day,” a look at mother’s and daughters featuring a Holiday Parade Womb Float.
Marshall continues with the scattershot story telling of his other holiday movies, presenting the story montage style. It’s as though he’s surfing the net, jumping from site to site, looking for something interesting to rest on. Three stories randomly dovetail together with contemporary motherhood as the glue that binds them.
Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) is a divorced mother of two whose kids like her ex’s much younger wife (Shay Mitchell). Sandy’s gym is run by widower Bradley (Jason Sudeikis), a guy with kids of his own who dreads Mother’s Day. Then there’s Kristin (Britt Robertson), a young woman searching for biological mom, Home Shopping Network star Miranda (Julia Roberts). The final flower in the Mother’s Day bouquet is Jesse (Kate Hudson), an overstressed mom who, along with her doctor husband Russell (Aasif Mandvi), is trying to deal with an unexpected visit from her squabbling, judgemental parents (Margo Martindale and Robert Pine).
There’s more—it’s a Gary Marshall All-Star-Holiday-Extravaganza so there’s always more—like Jesse’s gay sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke), Timothy Olyphant as Sandy’s former flame and a Jennifer Garner cameo—which I suppose is appropriate because the holidays are supposed to bring everyone together are they not?
“Mother’s Day” is filled to over flowing with faux heart warming moments, like a Lifetime movie on steroids. It hits all the emotional hot buttons—a dead wife who also happens to be a veteran, abandonment, first love, an awkward dad, kids growing up too fast—and tops off the whole thing with two, count ‘em two, dewy-eyed American sweethearts, Roberts and Aniston. To avoid troubling the audience with actual human emotions Marshall runs the whole thing through The Sitcomizer™ to ensure maximum blandness and erase the possibility that viewers will see something they haven’t already witnessed a hundred times before.
None of that would matter much if the movie was funny but real laughs are scarcer than last minute Mother’s Day brunch reservations. A likeable cast is wasted on a movie that panders to greeting card sentiment and slapstick.
The best part of “Mother’s Day” is that it puts Marshall one closer to running out of holidays to cinematically celebrate. What’s next? Hug Your Cat Day starring Courteney Cox and Luke Perry?
“Ratchet and Clank,” a new animated movie based on a popular video game series, has good messages for kids but is that enough to make it a good movie?
The Chairman (voice of Paul Giamatti) of Drek Industries has a plan. Using the deplanetizer, a terrible war machine invented by Doctor Nefarious (Armin Shimerman), he destroys planets in the Solana Galaxy with the idea of cobbling together one perfect world from the remains.
On the other side of the quickly disappearing galaxy Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor) is a rambunctious mechanic with dreams of one day becoming a Galactic Ranger like his hero Captain Qwark (Jim Ward). Trouble is, he’s a Lombax—ie: a “cat thingy”—and far too small. “Dream smaller,” says his grandfather (John Goodman). “There’s less disappointment that way.”
Rejected by the Rangers as “a weak, muscle less mass of weakness,” Ratchets gets a second chance to do his duty when a helper bot named Clank (David Kaye doing a C3PO impression) crash lands on his planet. Together they are a formidable team who aid the Rangers in the battle against Drek but is being a hero all Ratchet thought it would be?
“Ratchet and Clank” is sci-fi for kids too young for Kylo Ren’s nasty father issues. Starring an underdog character whose disappointment will turn into triumph, its colourful and constantly-in-motion-design will entertain young eyes but is unlikely to engage their brains.
There are lessons about everything young folks need to be successful and happy—not allowing a swelled head to get in the way of doing the job, the virtues of teamwork, friendship and perseverance, being true to who you are, treating people (or aliens) with respect, thinking before you act and even, for Kardashian wannabees in the audience, a warning against the seduction of fame. That’s enough life lessons here to make self-help guru Dale Carnegie’s head spin but that’s the kind of movie this is. There is always something happening, a joke, a moral or more complicated world building. It’s busy, as if the filmmakers didn’t trust the characters to maintain the interest of young minds. Didn’t like that storyline? Don’t worry there’ll be another one shortly.
“Ratchet and Clank,” with its so-so animation and excitable nature is less a move than a PlayStation 2 game blown up for the big screen.
When I think of Patrick Stewart I think of heroes. I picture Jean-Luc Picard, stern faced on the bridge of the USS Enterprise, courageously going where no man has gone before. Or I see the chrome-domed Professor Charles Xavier telepathically (and once again heroically) reading and controlling the minds of others.
“Green Room,” a grisly new survival horror flick from Jeremy Saulnier presents a new, but not necessarily improved Patrick Stewart. Don’t get me wrong, he’s great in the film, but heroic he is not.
The action begins with The Ain’t Rights (Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner), a punk rock band struggling to make money for gas after a failed tour of the Pacific Northwest. Existing on the kindness of strangers, siphoned gas and Ramen noodles, hoping for a quick payday they take a gig at a skinhead bar in remote Oregon. “Don’t talk politics,” they’re warned by the promoter. Run by the homicidal white supremacist Darcy (Stewart), it’s a hellhole of a place that hosts Racial Advocacy Seminars when they aren’t hosting a hard-core punk shows. Following a contentious set, kicked off with a song called “BLEEP Off, Nazi BLEEPS,” the band grabs their money and gear but just as they are about to leave witness the aftermath of a murder in the club’s dingy green room. While Darcy and his jackboot lieutenants figure out how best to dispose of the band The Ain’t Rights and a friend of the dead woman (Imogen Poots) have to fight for their survival.
Like his Saulnier’s previous film, “Blue Ruin,” the new movie is a stripped down thriller with a focus on the gore and the characters. He takes his time getting to the gruesome stuff, setting up the story as we get to know and like the members of the band. Why else would we care when they (NOT REALLY A SPOILER) start to get picked off one by one? Otherwise it would just be torture porn, and while there are some unpleasant images that wouldn’t be out of place in one of the “Hostel” movies, the point of the story is survival not icky deaths.
The band’s life and death struggle is at the center of the film but the chilling malicious force that propels the movie forward is Stewart’s coldly methodical Darcy. At first he seems reasonable—well, as reasonable as a neo Nazi can be—but by the time he says, “We’re not keeping you, you’re just staying,” you know he lives in a world of his own construction; a world where his acolytes will do almost anything to protect him and their cause, no matter how wet and wild. Stewart is icy calm, a coiled spring capable of anything. Images of Professor X and Jean-Luc Picard will be forever erased from your memory.
“Green Room” is a nasty piece of work, a tense Tasmanian Devil tornado of a movie with solid performances and a DIY feel that meshes perfectly with its punk rock heart.
There’s nothing particularly precious about “Precious Cargo,” a new crime thriller starring Mark-Paul Gossalaar, Claire Forlani and Bruce Willis. A b-movie—in this case I think the “b” stands for bullets, bikinis and bombs—with wild heists, action scenes and bad dialogue delivered badly, it’s as subtle as a slap to the face.
Gossalaar is Jack, a cocky guy who thrives on the adrenaline rush that goes along with doing bad things. At the beginning of the film he is almost killed when a deal to sell guns goes bad. In the aftermath he tries to lay low but is drawn back into the life when his former partner in bed and out, Karen (Forlani), shows up pregnant with an offer and a bunch of bad guys on her tail. The villains (who are luckily very bad shots) are the henchmen for Eddie (Willis), a vicious crime boss who Karen conned. Seems she owes Eddie $12 million and wants Jack to help her steal the money.
“The last time I helped you I almost ended up on the wrong side of the grass,” he moans before agreeing to lift an armoured car full of diamonds.
The job goes well, until Jack has a gut feeling something is amiss. Turns out Karen hasn’t been completely upfront (“She’s always going to be Karen,” says sniper Logan (Jenna B. Kelly). “Now she’s just Karen with a kid.”) and from this point on the movie turns into a criminal “Inception,” a heist within a heist, complete with double-crosses and improbable alliances.
“Precious Cargo” is an enjoyably forgettable shoot ‘em up. Short on plot believability but long on hard-boiled dialogue, (“You’re not dead yet?” “Only on the inside.”) it’s the kind of movie where getaway drivers are drunkards (“I never drive drunk. Buzzed, maybe. Hungover? Absolutely.”) and where characters say things like, “I got to put a bullet in somebody’s brain before I put one in my own.” In its dialogue and not-exactly-enlightened attitude toward women it almost plays like a satire of b-movies, but director Max Adams’s background as a writer on po-faced hardboiled potboilers like ”Heist” and “Extraction” suggests otherwise.
At a tight 90 minutes—including bloopers and a tagged on post-heist scene—“Precious Cargo” is here for a good time and blessedly not a long time.
Welcome to the House of Crouse. This week we dig into the vault to chat with James Cameron. The Avatar director has just announced he will make four Avataronian sequels and shoot them all at the same time. In this conversation from 2010 Cameron discusses making the original film, “I’ll be back,” and much more.