Welcome to the House of Crouse. This week stand up comedians Darren Frost and Simon Rakoff hang out with Richard in the living room. In a wide ranging conversation they talk about everything from free speech to what happens when you get death threats and are assaulted on stage. It’s good stuff so c’mon in and sit a spell.
Richard sits in with Marcia McMillan to have a look at the the rollercoaster action of “Jason Bourne,” the heartwarming (and slightly raunchy) comedy of “Bad Moms,” “Cafe Society’s” period piece humour and the online intrigue of “Nerve.”
In the latest Jason Bourne movie, Matt Damon will punch, kick and spy master his way to the top of the box office charts.
His previous Bourne films, Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum, were all hits commercially and critically.
Damon says he owes a great deal to the fictional character.
After the early success of Good Will Hunting, Saving Private Ryan and The Talented Mr. Ripley made him a star, a string of flops cooled his box office appeal.
“Right before The Bourne Identity came out,” he said, “I hadn’t been offered a movie in a year.”
Then his career was Bourne again.
“It’s incalculable how much these movies have helped my career,” he told The Telegraph. “Suddenly it put me on a short list of people who could get movies made.”
In the spirit of “one for them, one for me” for every film like The Martian or the new Jason Bourne, Damon has attached himself to smaller, riskier projects.
He lent his star power to The Good Shepherd, a low budget film directed by Robert De Niro. It’s a spy movie without the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect from our favorite undercover operatives.
There are no elaborate chase scenes a la James Bond or even the great scenery of the Bourne flicks.
In fact, the only thing The Good Sheperd shares with any of those movies is Damon, who plays Edward Wilson, one of the (fictional) founders of the CIA.
Despite mixed to good reviews — USA Today gave the film three out of four stars—and winning the Silver Bear of the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival, the movie barely earned back its production costs at the box office.
Ninety per cent of director Steven Soderbergh’s job on The Informant! was casting this mostly true tale of a highly paid executive-turned-whistleblower who helped uncover a price fixing policy that landed several executives (including himself) in jail.
It’s a tricky balancing act to find an actor who can keep the audience on-board through a tale of corporate malfeasance and personal greed, who can be likeable but is actually a liar and a thief, but Damon is the guy.
The Informant! skewed a tad too far into art house territory to be Soderbergh’s new Erin Brockovich-sized hit, but Damon’s presence kept the story of accounting, paperwork and avarice interesting. Reviews were kind but A Serious Man and The Twilight Saga: New Moon buried the film on its opening weekend.
Damon teamed with John Krasinski to produce and co-write Promised Land, a David and Goliath story that relied on the charm and likability of its cast to sell the idea that fracking is bad and the corporations who dupe cash-strapped farmers into leasing their land are evil.
It’s hard to make talk of water table pollution dramatic but Promised Land makes an attempt by giving much of the heavy lifting to Damon.
Done in by middling reviews and “sobering” box office receipts, this earnest and well-meaning movie might have been better served in documentary form.
With an Oscar on his shelf and more than 70 films on his resume Damon is philosophical about the kinds of films he chooses to make, big or small.
“If people go to those movies, then yes, that’s true, big-time success,” he says.
“Jason Bourne,” the first Matt Damon led film in the series in nine years, proves that actions speak louder than words. Damon speaks a mere twenty-five lines of dialogue as he kicks, punches and crash-boom-bangs his way through this spy thriller, letting the action do the talking.
Damon’s fourth go-round as amnesiac superspy Jason Bourne begins with him tormented by his violent past. Most of his memory is intact, but he’s eaten away by guilt for the terrible things he did as a government programmed killer. “I remember,” he says. “I remember everything.”
To get his ya-yas out he goes all Fight Club, bare-knuckling any and all contenders but he’s drawn back into the international spy game—the movie never met an exotic location it couldn’t use, whether it’s Berlin, Reykjavík, Athens, London or even Vegas—after his former-handler-turned-hacker Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) tells him of a collaboration between CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones, whose face is one forehead wrinkle away from becoming a caricature of an old man) and Silicon Valley kingpin Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed). They’re working on Edward Snowden’s worst nightmare, a new program called Ironhead, a system of full spectrum surveillance; watching everyone all the time.
Wanting Bourne out of the way Dewey uses every newfangled asset at his disposal—like state-of-the-art global surveillance—to find the agent before turning to the old ways and bringing in an assassin known as, appropriately enough, The Asset (Vincent Cassel) to take care of business. “I’m going to cut the head off this thing,” says Dewey.
Flitting about the edges of the intrigue is the CIA’s cyber ops head Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), who helps Bourne in an effort to keep him away from The Asset’s deadly gaze. “Bringing him in is the smart move,” she says. “There’s no bringing in Bourne,” Dewey says. “He needs to be put down.”
Cue the carnage.
If nothing else “Jason Bourne” proves once and for all that you can’t keep a good man down. Shot, beaten, dropped from a tall building or whatever, he’s the Energizer Bunny of international spies. He just keeps on ticking. We expect that from Bourne and we also demand feral fighting scenes, crazy car crashes and action, action, action. Make no mistake, there’s plenty of Bourne battle and bloodshed and some of it is quite exciting but it doesn’t have the finesse of the earlier films. Director Paul Greengrass’s signature handheld you-are-here style is in place but doesn’t feel as fresh as it did in the other films. Often frenetic instead of pulse-racing, the action sequences are frequent but not as memorable as the magazine-in-the-toaster gag from “Bourne Supremacy” or “Bourne Ultimatum’s” hardcover book punch. Still, you might not make it quite to the edge of your seat, but the combo of action and intrigue will shift you out of a reclining position.
“Jason Bourne” has its moments. Damon brings a grizzled power to the role and Vikander is a welcome addition, even if her motives are sometimes are hard to understand. There are interesting messages about online personal rights versus public safety that would have been moot in 2002 when the series debuted, a labyrinthine plot occasionally weighed down with unnecessary exposition and an unhinged Vegas climax—Bourne must really hope that whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—that would not be out of place in an Avengers movie. I just wish the ending felt less like an Avengers scene—with cars comically flying through the air—and more like a Bourne moment.
From the comedy minds who gave us “The Hangover” comes another trio. This time it’s less a Wolf Pack than it is a Coffee Klatch of moms fed up with the burden of having to be perfect. It has its raunchy moments—thanks to Kathryn Hahn’s spirited performance—but by and large “Bad Moms” might better be titled “Tired Moms.
Amy (Mila Kunis) is a thirty-two-year-old frazzled mom struggling to keep up with her family life and work. She has two kids, the overachieving Jane (Oona Laurence) and Dylan (Emjay Anthony) and a husband (David Walton) “who sometimes feels like a third child.”
“I’m doing the best I can,” she sighs. “That makes it sadder,” replies Jane.
When an epiphany turns her from stressed mother to bad mom, she sleeps in, lets her kids make their own breakfast and drinks loads of wine with two other exhausted mothers, Carla (Hahn) and Kiki (Kristen Bell). Having tossed the shackles of the daily grind of motherhood aside, Amy is reborn, but not everyone is pleased. Her newfound freedom puts her in the crosshairs of the fascistic PTA president Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate).
The mothers in “Bad Moms” aren’t bad moms, they’re simply fed up with trying to live up to the expectations. The movie has laughs, mostly courtesy of Hahn’s laser sharp delivery of lines like, “I feel like everything that comes out of your mouth is a cry for help,” but mostly this is a manifesto for taking a breath and giving both yourself and your kids a chance to enjoy their childhoods. As Amy becomes the Norma Rae of mothers, she discovers taking a step away from what she thought she should do as a mom is the best way to discover the joy of parenthood.
It’s a story of the power of friendship and despite the promise of raunch “Bad Moms” is filled with gooey warmth. The set up is formulaic—you know the bond between children or parents will only grow and get stronger by the time the end credits roll—but despite the obvious story, and some obvious plot holes, the movie succeeds because underneath it all it’s not just about them talking about their kids, their exhaustion or how to best to dress for a night out. It’s about taking control of their lives, standing up to injustice and, yes, getting a date with the handsome widowed dad (Jay Hernandez) who drops his kid off at the playground everyday.
In this mixed-up, shook-up world there are fewer and fewer things we can count on as absolutes. One of them is that there will be a new Woody Allen movie every year with a jaunty jazz soundtrack and credits written in the Windsor Light Condensed font. His new film, “Café Society,” the story of a frantic young romantic trying to find himself in 1930s Hollywood, is slice of comfort cinema with all of Allen’s trademarks intact.
Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) is a native New Yorker who jumped coasts to take up in Los Angeles. The slightly neurotic east coaster is not a natural fit in Tinsel Town, but his powerhouse uncle Phil (Steve Carell) helps out, giving him a job at his powerhouse talent agency and introducing him to a beautiful secretary named Vonnie (Kristen Stewart). By day he does odd jobs for Phil—“Menial errands are my specialty,” Bobby says, “but I don’t see a great future in it.”—while on the weekends he slowly falls for Vonnie. They share a disdain for industry talk and Hollywood’s catty innuendo and a love of cheap Mexican food but she doesn’t share his feelings. Unfortunately (for Bobby) Vonnie has a mostly absent boyfriend.
Enter romantic plot complications and Bobby hightails it back to New York where he goes into the nightclub business with his gangster brother Ben (Corey Stall). Finally successful, he marries and has a child with Veronica (Blake Lively), who he nicknames Vonnie, betraying the feelings he harbours for his west coast love. When Vonnie number one returns to New York for a visit the film offers up a line that sums the situation up, “Life is a comedy written by a sadistic comedy writer.”
A light-hearted tapestry, “Café Society” is embroidered with the odd punch line and hints of melancholy. It’s a comedy tinted with heartbreak, a look at true love and unsatisfactory options. It returns Allen to the fertile ground he ploughed with “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan” and while this film isn’t a classic on those terms, it’s an engaging look at life and love buoyed by great performances.
Eisenberg does the best Woody Allen impression we’ve seen on screen in some time, but there’s more to him than simply aping the master. His journey from nebbish to notable is believable and gives the movie its heart.
Co-star Stewart hands in what may be her first truly adult role. She plays Vonnie as level-headed in a sea of dreamers. When Bobby describes Joan Crawford as “larger-than-life” she replies, simply but compellingly, “I think I’d be happier life-sized.” It’s the line that sums up her character and Stewart makes the most of it and Vonnie.
“Café Society” is a welcome uptick after Allen’s last two films, “Magic in the Moonlight” and “Irrational Man.” For Woody’s fans it may feel familiar but in the most soothing of ways.
If you thought Pokémon Go, with reports of people being ambushed and robbed while searching for those elusive Digletts and Rhyhorns, was risky along comes a new movie with an even deadlier game. “Nerve,” a new thriller starring Emma Roberts, Dave Franco and Juliette Lewis, introduces an on-line truth or dare game… minus the truth.
Roberts stars as Venus Delmonico—Vee for short—a Staten island high school senior who rarely strays outside her comfort zone. “Life is passing you by,” her friend Sydney (Emily Meade) says. “You need to take a few risks every once and a while. You’re playing Nerve.”
The on-line game is fairly simple, or so it seems. Players are given a series of stunts to perform—like hanging moons, getting a tattoo, eating gross stuff or singing in public. Basically it takes advantage of its player’s poor impulse control and bad decision-making. “Watchers pay to watch, players play to win. Cash or glory? Are you a watcher or a player?” The game that uses your personal online info to tailor dares that play on your fears and deposit cash in your account for every challenge completed. The wilder the stunt the bigger the payday.
Vee becomes a player and when dared to kiss a stranger for five seconds she lip locks with Ian (Dave Franco), a random guy at a diner. The game partners them–“Apparently the watchers like us together,” he says.—and soon Vee is on a wild adventure across New York Bay in the Big Apple. What began as a simple kiss quickly escalates. It’s all fun and games until Vee begins to realize the game controls her life. She’s not playing to win, she’s playing to survive.
“Nerve” is a stylishly made teen flick with an interesting premise and likeable characters and actors. It follows the age-old adolescent formula—there’s unrequited crushes, underage drinking and two-faced BFFs—with one major change. It used to be teen movies always had an athletic character who could be counted on for muscle when the going got tough. Now it’s a hacker, which comes in very handy for Vee as the story takes a dangerous turn. A dangerous turn for Vee and the viewer. What begins as an appealingly made juvenile thriller—complete with comments on how much importance millennials place not on social standing but on social media standing and how the anonymity of the Internet allows people to use cyberspace to do things they never consider in real life—dissolves into typical teen fare by the time the end credits roll. What could have been an edgy analysis on the responsibility of social media is, instead, reduced to an actioner with an upbeat ending.
“Nerve” is almost really good. Too bad co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman didn’t have the nerve to continue with the dark tone all the way to the end credits.
For a fourth year in a row, Telefilm Canada and Birks, have partnered to celebrate Canadian women in film during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The 2016 honourees of the Birks Diamond Tribute to the Year’s Women in Film are directors Tracey Deer, Ann Marie Fleming, April Mullen, Léa Pool and Ann Shin; actors Amanda Crew, Caroline Dhavernas, Christine Horne, Sandra Oh and Jennifer Podemski; as well as scriptwriters Emma Donoghue and Marie Vien.
The 12 Canadian women actors, directors, and scriptwriters were selected by a pan-Canadian jury of 20 journalists and bloggers covering the world of arts, culture and entertainment. The recipients will be honoured on Monday, September 12, 2016 at an invite-only event at the Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto.
“The 2016 edition of the Birks Diamond Tribute to the Year’s Women in Film showcases diversity—that of our industry and our country. Among the honourees are rising stars and established talent, as well as filmmakers who have distinguished themselves in a wide variety of genres and styles,” said Carolle Brabant, Telefilm Canada’s Executive Director. “It is essential to promote the dynamism that these women bring to cinema, both at home and abroad. They are true stars and we want all Canadians to be proud of them!”
“Birks is extremely proud to recognize Canadian female talent in film for the fourth year in a row during TIFF. This year’s honourees are highly deserving of the reward and demonstrate that in every category of film, from writers to directors to on screen, women are leading the way. Canadian women are setting the bar extremely high,’’ added Eva Hartling, Vice President, Marketing & Communications of Birks Group Inc.
Amanda Crew, actor, is well known for her performance in the comedy Sex Drive, which was followed by a role in the supernatural thriller The Haunting in Connecticut. She also played the lead in the films Repeaters, Sisters & Brothers and Charlie Zone. Since 2014, she has been portraying Monica on the HBO sitcom Silicon Valley.
Tracey Deer, director, has made fiction films and the documentaries Club Native and Mohawk Girls, the latter of which she turned into a TV series. Her work has been honoured with two Gemini awards and has earned acclaim at the Hot Docs festival. She has worked with the CBC, the National Film Board of Canada and independent production companies. In 2008, Playback declared her one of the rising stars in the entertainment industry.
Caroline Dhavernas, actor, has over 50 film and television credits to her name. She is the recipient of two Gémeaux Awards for the series Zap and Tag, and has also drawn praise for her work on Mars et Avril and Blue Moon. Her American filmography includes the series Wonderfalls and Hannibal, as well as the film Hollywoodland with Adrien Brody.
Emma Donoghue, scriptwriter, is also a very successful novelist. She adapted the script for Room, the Canadian-Irish coproduction that won at the Oscars and at the Canadian Screen Awards, from one of her novels. The film was nominated for more than 100 awards from around the world. She has also written a short film, Pluck, and is working on the screen adaptation of her latest book, Frog Music.
Ann Marie Fleming, director, has over 30 award-winning films to her credit, focusing on family, history and identity. In June 2016, her film Window Horses was shown in competition at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. In 2010, I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors made the Toronto International Film Festival’s Canada’s Top Ten list.
Christine Horne, actor, has worked in film, television and theatre. She is known for her outstanding performance in The Captive, Hyena Road and Stories We Tell and has also appeared on Republic of Doyle. She won a Best Performance Canadian Screen Award for her guest role in the TV series, Remedy.
April Mullen, director, has just completed the feature film Below Her Mouth, which was shot entirely by an all-female crew. Previously, Dead Before Dawn 3D marked Mullen as the first-ever woman to direct a live-action stereoscopic 3D feature and took home the Perron Crystal Award. Her other films include 88, which has sold in over 22 territories, and Badsville, slated to begin its festival run this year.
Sandra Oh, actor, known for roles in award-winning television series and feature films including Double Happiness, Last Night, Sideways, Rabbit Hole, among others. One of her most notable roles includes her portrayal of fan favourite “Dr. Cristina Yang” in the long running, hit series Grey’s Anatomy, for which she garnered Golden Globe, Emmy and SAG award nominations. Most recently, she stars as the voice of “Rosie Ming” in Ann Marie Fleming’s upcoming animated film Window Horses, which she also produced.
Jennifer Podemski, actor, has enjoyed a 25-year career and in recent years has appeared in Jimmy P., Take This Waltz, Empire of Dirt and Fire Song. She was co-executive producer of the Indspire Awards, which recognizes achievements made by Indigenous Canadians, and is host of Seventh Generation, a television series for Aboriginal youth who speak Hebrew and Ojibwa/Saulteaux.
Léa Pool, director, has made her mark on Canadian cinema history with over 15 works. Her latest offering, La Passion d’Augustine, took home six awards at the Gala du cinéma québécois, including Best Film. She has garnered tremendous international acclaim for films such as Emporte-moi, La Femme de l’hôtel and the documentary L’Industrie du ruban rose.
Ann Shin, director, has recently helmed My Enemy, My Brother, the 2016 Oscar-nominated documentary short, and The Defector: Escape from North Korea. She has won three Canadian Screen Awards including the Diversity Award. Her talent is also celebrated in Asia.
Marie Vien, scriptwriter, made quite the debut with her work on La Passion d’Augustine, winner of Best Film at the 2016 Gala du cinéma québécois as well as the Audience Award at the Mill Valley Film Festival. She has also created many variety shows and enjoyed renown for her work on youth documentary series, including M’aimes-tu?
Nomination process and jury
In addition to an internal committee, this year, for the first time, Telefilm and Birks called upon the industry to be a part of the nomination process for the Birks Diamond Tribute to the Year’s Women in Film, namely the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), the Association des réalisateurs et réalisatrices du Québec (ARRQ), the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC), the Société des auteurs de radio, télévision et cinéma (SARTEC) and the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC).
Telefilm and Birks brought together a jury of 20 people, representing the largest panel in the event’s four-year history. The pan-Canadian jury is made up of renowned journalists and bloggers covering arts, culture and entertainment: Victoria Ahearn (The Canadian Press), Katie Bailey (Playback), Ilana Banks (CBC News, Arts & Entertainment), Linda Barnard (Toronto Star), Richard Crouse (Metro), Laura deCarufel, (thekit.ca), Maxime Demers (Journal de Montréal), Noreen Flanagan (Elle Canada), Dana Gee (The Province), Teri Hart (CityTV BT), Marc-André Lussier (La Presse), Randall King (Winnipeg Free Press), Katherine Monk (Global, CBC, Corus), Bernadette Mora (Fashion Magazine), Ingrid Randoja (Cineplex Magazine), Kiva Reardon (freelance journalist), Johanna Schneller (The Globe and Mail), Odile Tremblay (Le Devoir), Will Wong (Mr. Will Wong) and Natalia Wysocka (Métro).
The committee members took into consideration the work of women who are part of the new generation of exceptional talent in our milieu; and who throughout their careers have used their creative talent to greatly contribute to the growth of the industry.