Richard sits in with CP24BREAKFAST host George Lagogianes to talk about the best movies of 2018. Watch the whole thing HERE!
ELEVENTH HEAVEN: THE TOP 11 FILMS OF 2018 (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER):
A STAR IS BORN: Bradley Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a rock star with magnetism to spare but carrying around a guitar case overflowing with personal problems. Drug addicted and alcoholic, he’s a troubled guy who falls for Ally (Lady Gaga) after seeing her perform a tour de force version of “La Vie En Rose“ in a bar. It’s love at first sight. He’s attracted to her talent and charisma; she is wary but interested. Soon they become involved, personally and professionally. As their romance blossoms her star rises meteorically as his fades slowly into the sunset. It’s a familiar story given oxygen by rock solid direction, music with lyrics that forwards the story and two very good, authentic performances. “A Star is Born” could have been product, a glitzy film with a heartthrob and a pop star in the leads but instead resonates with real feelings and heartfelt emotion.
A QUIET PLACE: Real life couple John Krasinski (who also wrote, produced and directed) and Emily Blunt are Lee and Evelyn, a mother and father fighting for the survival of their kids Beau (Cade Woodward), Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe) in a world where making a sound, any sound, can be deadly. Deadly blind aliens who hunt their prey through sound have invaded the world turning noisy people into human cold cuts. The family lives in silence, using sign language and eating off leaves to avoid the clinking of cutlery on china but what happens when a newborn baby cries? Can life go on? The silence of the first half of “A Quiet Place” is deafening. There is no spoken dialogue for forty minutes, just dead air. In the way that many filmmakers use bombast to grab your attention Krasinski uses the absence of sound to focus the audience on the situation. Very little information is passed along. We don’t know where the aliens came from, why they’re terrorizing earth or how many there are. Ditto the Abbotts. We know nothing about them. The connection the family feels is transmitted through looks and actions, not words. This isn’t a story where character development is important, it’s a tale of survival pure and simple. “A Quiet Place” is a nervy little film. Other filmmakers might have tried to find a way to wedge in more dialogue or spell things out more clearly but the beauty of Krasinski’s approach is its simplicity. Uncluttered and low key, it’s a unique and unsettling horror film.
BLACKKKLANSMAN: When we first meet Stallworth (John David Washington) it’s the mid-1970s and he is an ambitious rookie cop who wants out of the records room and into the action. The overwhelmingly white Colorado Springs police department doesn’t quite know what to do with him until Civil Rights organizer Stokely Carmichael (Corey Hawkins) is booked to speak in town. “We don’t want this Carmichael getting into the minds of the young people of Colorado Springs,” he’s told. Sent undercover to the meeting wearing a wire, he meets local college activist Patrice (Laura Harrier). She calls the police “pigs” but awakens Ron’s dormant activism with her passion. Back at his desk a recruitment ad for the Ku Klux Klan. On an impulse he dials the number, changes his voice and gets a meeting with a local, high-level Klansman. Now what to do? Stallworth continues wooing the Klan on the phone, spouting racist gobbledegook, while his colleague Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) plays the part in person. “BlacKkKlansman” is set forty plus years ago and comes complete with flared pants, jive talk and other indicators of the time but feels timely and alive. This is not a period piece. It’s a slice of Stallworth’s life that bristles with Lee’s anger, social commentary and humour. Parallels to today’s news are woven throughout, sometimes subtly, sometimes with the delicacy of a slap to the face. For instance, midway through Duke says he’s working, “to get America back on track, to give America its greatness again.” It’s a barbed satire with its feet firmly rooted in the realities of American life.
BLACK PANTHER: The film starts with a quick origin story, detailing the introduction of vibranium to the small (fictional) African nation of Wakanda. This mysterious metal is a wonder. Near indestructible, it can absorb kinetic energy and has imbued a Wakandan flower called the Heart-Shaped Herb with a supercharge that gives superpowers when ingested. Cut to modern day. After his father’s death T’Challa (Boseman) is crowned King but just as he is ordained a rare Wakandan artefact made of vibranium is lifted from a London museum by two very bad men, Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan). To retrieve the precious metal T’Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther, along with spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira), travel to Korea where the artefact is about to be sold to CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman). A wild battle ensues to a power struggle that may not only compromise the throne of Wakanda but also threaten the safety of the world. “Black Panther” takes place in a couple of time frames—NO SPOILERS HERE!—but at its heart it is a timely story about social responsibility—a wealthy nation state confronting its role in the world—that pulsates with smart commentary about race and revolution. “Black Panther” pushes the Marvel Universe past the typical Avengers style bombast fests like “Age of Ultron.” This is a breath of fresh air, a warm breeze along the lines of “Ant-Man” or “Doctor Strange,” films that transcend the superhero genre, pushing the form into new, unexplored territory. It may be a tad too long and slightly uneven in it’s first hour but with its strong female characters—who work together rather than as opponents—an Afrocentric story and social commentary it feels like the perfect movie for right now.
EIGHTH GRADE: Elsie Fisher is Kayla, a newly minted teen struggling through the last week of grade eight. “The hard part of being yourself is that it’s not easy,” the thirteen-year-old says in one of the many inspirational YouTube videos she posts to the web in a search for friends, validation and most of all, likes. Trouble is, she’s no JennaMarbles. Despite being glued to her phone and coining a perky catchphrase—“Gucci!”—she has no social media presence to speak of. “The topic of today’s video is putting yourself out there,” she says, “but where is there?” It’s not much better in IRL. Ignored by schoolmates, she’s only invited to the popular girl Kennedy’s (Catherine Oliviere) pool party because her mom (Missy Yager) has a crush on Kayla’s father Mark (Josh Hamilton). Speaking of her long-suffering dad, he spends his time trying to make contact only to be met with monosyllabic grunts as he desperately tries to distract her from her ever-present phone. “Eighth Grade” is an unvarnished, pimples and all, look at adolescence and the anxiety that comes with it. Kayla may not always be able to exactly articulate the way she’s feeling but the movie has no such problem. It’s a study in her innocence and awkwardness that uses carefully selected moments to highlight Kayla’s mindset.
THE FAVOURITE: Set in the early 18th century, “The Favourite” begins as England, under the rule of Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman), is at war with France. A clueless and vain monarch stricken with gout from gorging on chocolate and cheese, the Queen is haughty in the style of, “Look at me! How dare you look at me!” The real power behind the throne ismovie notes the Queen’s close friend and confidant Lady Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz). She’s a stern figure equally at home pampering the Queen or ordering a maid to be whipped for any minor transgression. Life at the castle is a decadent push-and-pull for favour between those who want the Queen to end the war, like Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford (Nicholas Hoult), and those who feel the battle must continue. The battle for power becomes more intense when Abigail Masham (Emma Stone), Lady Marlborough’s cousin and fallen gentry whose father gambled her away in a card game, arrives looking for a job. Put to work as a maid she quickly moves up the ranks, befriending the Queen and aggressively pushing Lady Marlborough to the fringes. “As it turns out I am capable of much unpleasantness,” Abigail snorts. Broken into chapters like “What An Outfit“ and “A Minor Hitch,“ the film is a wickedly nasty look at the inner workings of a personal coup d’etat. Smartly written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, it brims with court gossip, quotable lines—“If you do not get out I will start kicking you and I will not stop,” sneers Marlborough.—and machinations enough to make Machiavelli green with envy. Director Yorgos Lanthimos has made a strange and beautiful movie, one that has the twilight zone feel of his other films “The Lobster” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” They all feel like real life, but tilted by 180 degrees. With “The Favourite” he has made a revisionist history that comments not only on personal politics but also how political power is open to the whims of who holds it.
FIRST REFORMED: Ethan Hawke is a Father Toller, a former military chaplain at the under attended First Reformed Church. New to the church and still stinging from a troubled past he’s akin to another of Schrader’s creations, “Taxi Driver’s” Travis Bickle. He’s one of God’s lonely men, racked with despair, plagued by stomach problems brought on by drinking and thoughts of ecological failure. “I think we are supposed to look with the eyes of Jesus into everything,” he says. While overseeing the heritage church he creates his own “form of prayer,” a daily journal where he documents his crisis of faith. His personal issues are amplified when Mary (Amanda Seyfried), a pregnant parishioner, seeks Toller’s council. Her husband Michael (Philip Ettinger), an extreme eco activist, is having second thoughts about bringing a baby into a world he is convinced is dying. His apocalyptic view of the world unsettles Toller, feeding his inner spiritual struggle. Questions are asked; answers are left in the ether. It’s a portrait of a man in progress, trying to figure out his place in the world, if there will be a world to be part of. Hawke is subdued, handing in an internal performance that creates tension as Toller waits for God to tell him what to do. It is powerful work complimented by strong performances from Seyfried and Cedric the Entertainer as the condescending mega-church preacher Pastor Jeffers. Writer-director Paul Schrader makes some bold choices here—the film is unrelentingly sombre—but most notably with the sudden and ambiguous ending. Toller looks to be finally taking control of his life, although the form of his redemption is left open to interpretation. This is Schrader’s ode to Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman, contemplative filmmakers of the past who essayed questions of theology and spiritual growth without judging their characters. Uncluttered and edited with laser like attention to detail, “First Reformed” is a thought-provoking movie that bears repeated viewing.
ISLE OF DOGS: Once again working in stop motion, Wes Anderson creates a fictional world, the Japanese city of Megasaki, twenty years from now. An epidemic of dog flu prompts the fear mongering Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) to forewarn that snout fever is about to spread to humans and order all dogs deported to a toxic wasteland called Trash Island. Dog-zero is Spots (voiced by Liev Schreiber), the beloved pet of the mayor’s orphaned ward 12-year-old Atari (Koyu Rankin). When he is deported the boy makes the dangerous journey across the river in a prop plane to look for his dog. With the help of newfound mongrel pals, including the good-natured Rex (Edward Norton), former baseball mascot Boss (Bill Murray), King (Bob Balaban), the gossipy Duke (Jeff Goldblum), Chief (Bryan Cranston) and Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson), Atari takes on the corrupt government. “Isle of Dogs” is a fairy tale with a bite. Anderson, one of the most distinctive directors working today (or any day for that matter), brings a child-like wonder and unfettered imagination to bring this boy-and-his-dog story to vivid life. Gorgeous, soulful stop motion animation and Anderson’s trademarked banter combined with a timely story of deportation and exile makes for an unforgettable film.
PADDINGTON 2: “Paddington 2” finds the bear settled in to a comfortable life with the Browns—Mary (Sally Hawkins), Henry (Hugh Bonneville) and kids Judy (Madeline Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin)—and trying to save money to buy his Aunt Lucy (voice of Imelda Staunton) an antique pop up book of London for her birthday. When the book is stolen from Samuel Gruber’s antique shop Paddington is accused of the crime, wrongfully convicted and jailed. While the bear languishes in prison the Browns attempt to prove Paddington’s innocence. “Paddington wouldn’t hesitate if any of us needed help,” says Henry. “He looks for the good in all of us.” One jailbreak later Paddington is also on the case, convinced he knows who took the book but can he solve the case before Aunt Lucy’s centenary celebration? With his red hat and blue duffle coat Paddington is almost un-bear-ably cute. Gentle and good-natured, he’s at the very heart of the movie. Instead, it’s a good old-fashioned romp with larger-than-life characters supplied by Hugh Grant, in a fun pantomime performance and Brendan Gleeson as Knuckles McGinty, a hardened criminal whose bluster disguises his warm heart. Mostly though, it about the bear. With soulful eyes, good manners and large doses of slapstick—he’s a furry little Charlie Chaplin, excelling in physical humour with lots of heart—he’s a joyful presence. Without an ounce of cynicism “Paddington 2” transmits messages of tolerance, friendship and loyalty but never at the expense of the story. Those characteristics are so central to Paddington’s character that the movie positively drips with not only the sticky sweet smell of delicious marmalade (the bear’s favourite snack) but emotional depth as well. “Paddington 2” isn’t just a kid’s flick, it’s a film for the whole family; it’s one of those rare movies for children it doesn’t just feel like an excuse to sell toys. #paddingtonpower
THE PARTY: Kristin Scott Thomas is Janet, the newly appointed U.K. Health Minister and host of the party. When we first see her she’s holding a gun on a guest. It’s that kind of party. Cue the flashback. Gathered together are Janet’s nearest and dearest. There’s sharp-tongued best friend April (Patricia Clarkson), her almost ex and professional life coach Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), Martha (Cherry Jones) and her pregnant partner Jinny (Emily Mortimer), jumpy financial whiz Tom (Cillian Murphy), whose cocaine and aforementioned gun add some spice to an already edgy situation. On the periphery, for a time anyway, is Bill (Timothy Spall), a ticking time bomb with a glass of champagne. Director Sally Potter wastes no time in presenting her sophisticated but sour soiree. The verbal—and text—fireworks begin almost immediately. Sparkling dialogue drips from the mouths of these actors like liquid gold. When Jinny announces she’s have more than baby Martha says, “Triplets. People. Small people.” It doesn’t sound like much on paper, but the magic is in the delivery. The best lines are reserved for Clarkson, whose blunt, plainspoken words add fuel to the already hot state of affairs. “Although it may have a deleterious effect on your career I think you could consider murder,” she purrs at one point. Canapés smoulder, truths are revealed—there will be no spoilers here—and lives are shattered, all in just 71 minutes. “The Party” is a delightfully nasty piece of work, artfully realized by Potter and delivered with just the right amount of venom by a dedicated cast.
ROMA: Set in the Roma section of Mexico City of Cuarón’s youth, this semi-auto-biographical slice of life plays like a sense memory, a dream. Although based on his early childhood Cuarón focuses the story on Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), maid to a middle-class family. She raises the kids, cooks and cleans up after the dog who cannot seem to stop pooping. Dutiful, she loves the family as if they were her own, a feeling that is mutual despite their occasional dismissiveness. The family is like many others, rambunctious kids barely kept in line by Cleo and her boss Sofia (Marina de Tavira). The father, a doctor who always seems to be away at a medical convention—a cover for his philandering—is mostly absent. Cuarón lovingly details Cleo’s daily routine at the house and even spends time on her off hours as she goes to the movies with her intense boyfriend Fermín (Jorge Antonio Guerrero). It’s a slice of life, not plot driven. It feels like a recollection of the long-ago time brought to life. When crisis comes both for Cleo and Sofia the power of their humanity and family solidarity comes to the fore. It may put you in the mind of other movies like “Amarcord,” films that could be described as intimately epic, telling stories about people set against a backdrop of wide societal change. It is picturesque but occasionally horrific, naturalistic yet heightened, a film as a snapshot of a place and time and its people. It drips with empathy and affection for its characters, particularly Cleo, played by first time actor Aparicio. She grounds the movie with a performance that is both warm and stoic, never once betraying her character’s fundamental sense of decency and humanity. Movies like “Roma” don’t come around often anymore. Daring in its simplicity and lack of sentimentality it has the power to devastate and uplift, sometimes in the same scene.
Richard sits in with CP24BREAKFAST host George Lagogianes to talk about the worst movies of 2018. Watch the whole thing HERE!
THE POISON PEN TEN: THE BOTTOM TEN MOVIES OF 2018 (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER):
7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE: An international cast, including Daniel Brühl and Rosamund Pike as the German reactionaries and Eddie Marsan as Israeli Minister of Defense Shimon Peres, tell the story of what would become the Entebbe rescue operation. On July 27, 1976 an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris via Athens was hijacked and forced to land in Entebbe, Uganda. On the ground the Jewish passengers were singled out and held hostage. The hijackers, two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and two Germans affiliated with the left-wing extremist group Revolutionary Cells, demanded a ransom of $5 million and the release of prisoners from Israeli jails. If their conditions weren’t met by the deadline of Sunday, July 5 the terrorists would start executing hostages one by one. In response the Israeli government ordered a daring counter-terrorist hostage rescue operation.
It’s sometimes difficult to find a new spin on an old story. The raid on Entebbe has been told many times on the big screen, on TV, on the stage and even in videogames. There’s probably something left to say but “7 Days in Entebbe” doesn’t say it. It talks and talks and talks an endless stream of words, many right out of “Revolutionaries for Dummies.” “I want to throw bombs into the consciousness of the masses,” intones terrorist Wilfried Böse (Daniel Brühl) when, realistically, we would have been better served if that bomb had been better thrown at the slack-jawed script. Every time the movie finds some momentum the story’s forward movement is stymied by speechifying. Add to that dubious artistic choices and you’re left with a Mulligan Stew of political ideology with no strong point of view. In what maybe one of the silliest flourishes in a film this year, and the director cuts back-and-forth between a dance performance and the military operation. “I fight so you could dance,” says a commando to his ballerina girlfriend. It’s meant to illustrate the art of war brought to life I suppose but I’m sure Chuck Norris—who starred in “Delta Force,” one of the better movies inspired by Entebbe—would approve. “7 Days in Entebbe” takes a significant world event and reduces it to melodramatic pap and speechifying. And the dance. Don’t forget the dance.
ALLURE: Evan Rachel Wood plays Laura Drake, a troubled 30-year-old woman who works for her father’s cleaning service. On one of her house calls she meets 16-year-old unhappy musical prodigy Eva (Julia Sarah Stone). As Eva’s mom (Maxim Roy) makes plans for them to move in with her boyfriend Laura befriends the girl, introducing her to pot and lending an understanding ear. When Eva explains why she is so unhappy—she doesn’t like the boyfriend and doesn’t want to move—Laura comes on strong. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do,” she says. “You don’t have to let your mother control your life!” Seeing Eva’s tears Laura suggests a way out. “Come live with me.” Eva readily agrees and they leave without a word to anyone, including Eva’s mom. What begins as a break from Eva’s turbulent home life turns into a hostage situation when the police start poking around. “I’ll go to jail if they find out what I did to help you,” Laura says as she locks her young charge in a basement room, away from prying eyes. She is now an illegal guardian, kind of like a cool aunt, only with bad intentions. When the furor over Eva’s disappearance dies down the two return to their version of normal life. Laura, an expert manipulator controls Eva physically and emotionally. “I say what you can and cannot do,” she hisses. As time goes on, whether it is Stockholm Syndrome or true emotion, they become a romantic couple as Laura spirals further out of control.“Allure” is relentless in its downbeat look at life and relationships. A minor chord score underlines the overwrought drama, offering no relief from the deeply unpleasant story. Unpleasant is OK if it reveals inner truths about the characters but “Allure” rarely really gets under the skin of Laura or Eva. They make inexplicable choices and most importantly, there are few moments that feel truthful.
BIRTHMARKED: The action in the film begins with a simple, timeless question, “Could we have been anyone other than who we are?” Married scientists Ben (Matthew Goode) and Catherine (Toni Collette) attempt to answer the question by staging a social experiment that they hope will once and for all determine what is more important in shaping young lives, nature or nurture. In a remote cabin under very controlled circumstances Ben and Catherine, with the help of sex-starved Russian assistant Samsonov (Andreas Apergis), condition their kids to defy expectations. Their son Luke (Jordan Poole), their biological child is be raised as an artist. Two adopted children, daughter Maya (Megan O’Kelly), from a “long line of dimwitted people,” is trained as an intellectual while son Maurice (Anton Gillis-Adelman), adopted from a family with angry, aggressive ancestors, is taught the ways of peace and love. The artist. The brain. The pacifist. “No one is a prisoner of their genetic heritage,” says Ben, who “teaches” his kids unorthodox classes like Stimulated Self Expression. Their carefully documented experiment takes a turn when their patron (Michael Smiley) demands results. “Remember our deal,” he says. “If this fails you owe me every cent I put into this.” “Birthmarked” has the kind of low-key quirk that Wes Anderson has mastered. Unfortunately it eludes Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais. Example: “The use of a narrator is weak dramaturgy,” Ben says by way of criticism of his son’s play, in a movie with loads of narration. You can imagine “Birthmarked” being given a freshening up by someone who looks past the character’s idiosyncrasies instead of embracing them. A little less cleverness might have left room for whatever humanity these characters possess. As it is the film never lifts off because Ben, Catherine and Company don’t feel like real people. They feel like characters thrown into an odd situation and not like people living in, and dealing with, a strange state of affairs.
FIFTY SHADES FREED: Things get underway when Christian (Jamie Dornan) and Ana (Dakota Johnson) tie the knot; on an altar this time, not in the bedroom. Their glamorous French honeymoon is disturbed when Ana wants to go topless on the beach while Christian, that blushing flower, wants her covered up, for his eyes only. “Do you want to be ogled by every guy on the beach?” he whines. That speed bump aside, things are mostly status quo for the newlyweds. I said mostly. This is a “Fifty Shades” movie, so it’s not all happily ever after. Bedroom bondage soon leads to a pregnancy that leaves Christian upset. (The least I think he’s upset. It’s hard to tell with Dornan.) “You’re going to take her from me aren’t you?” he whispers to her pregnant belly. Looks like he’s not ready to turn the Red Room of Pain into a nursery just yet. Sparks fly as she tries to assert herself. Meanwhile Ana’s former-boss-turned-stalker Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) ups his game as Christian discovers a dark secret from his past. There’s more, but nobody really goes to the “Fifty Shades” movies for the plot so let’s move on. The sexiest thing about “Fifty Shades Freed” is the way Ana handles the Audi in a high-ish speed chase through the streets of Seattle. Sure clothes are doffed and handcuffed snapped shut but there is so little fusion between these two allegedly steamy lovers it’s as though they have never met in real life and are acting to green screen versions of each other. “Fifty Shades Freed” comes at an interesting time. The story of a rich, powerful man who tries to control every situation with only minor pushback from the woman in his life seems like yesterday’s tale in the post-Harvey Weinstein era. The movies, I think, are meant to be sexy romps, a bit of fun, but at the end of the series have proven themselves to be ten pounds of sex toys in a five pound bag.
THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS: Set in a Los Angeles where humans and puppets co-exist—imagine “Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s” Toontown with hand puppets—“The Happytime Murders” is an R-rated comedy that sees the felt cast members of ’80s children’s TV show “The Happytime Gang” systematically murdered by a mysterious killer. Next on the hit list is Jenny (Elizabeth Banks), a burlesque dancer who was the “The Happytime Gang’s” sole human cast member. She’s also the ex-girlfriend of Phil Philips (Bill Barretta), the first puppet to join the LAPD. After a scandal pushed him off the force he became a private investigator but when his older brother and “The Happytime Gang” actor, Larry (Victor Yerrid), is offed, and with Jenny in danger, he teams up with his former partner Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) to find the puppet serial killer. “If it gets crazy,” he says, “I’m going to get crazy.” Repeat after me, “The Happytime Murders” is not a movie for kids. With the first F- bomb less than thirty seconds in, the tone is set early. By the time we get to the puppet porn shoot and McCarthy snorting ecstasy with down-on their-luck puppets it’s abundantly clear this isn’t your father’s Muppet movie. Trouble is, I’m not sure who it is for. The idea of a raunchy puppet flick isn’t new, “Meet the Feebles,” “Team America” and others have put the ‘R’ in marionette with great success but they did it with wit as well as in-your-face vulgarity. In “The Happytime Murders,” easily the least funny comedy to hit screens this year, the laugh lines mostly get laughs because we’re not used to seeing puppets in… er… ahhh… compromising positions. Watching McCarthy and Maya Rudolph, who plays Phil’s love struck secretary Bubbles, flounder in a sea of felt and unfunny “gags,” is almost as sad as seeing the vaunted Henson name in the opening credits. You know when someone constantly swears just for the sake of swearing? That’s shock value. “The Happytime Murders” is all shock, very little value.
HENCHMEN: “Silicon Valley’s” Thomas Middleditch is Lester a self described comic book nerd and orphan. On his sixteenth birthday he auditions at the Union of Evil—“The best of the worst!”—only to be assigned Henchman Third Class. A janitor. His dream of one day making his super villain persona, The Orphan,” a reality will have to wait. He’s assigned to Hank (Marsden), a disgraced former First Class henchman (he was too nice a guy to be bad), now pushing a mop. On a visit to the Vault of Villainy Lester accidentally winds up wearing an old super villain suit. Taking advantage of Lester’s newfound powers Hank sees a way to change his life. Using Lester’s ray gun hands he tries to free a chip of What-ifium—a substance that can change the past—from a giant crystal block. Before he can go back in time mega-baddie Baron Blackout (Alfred Molina), who put me in the mind of Kate McKinnon’s Jeff Sessions impersonation, asserts his intention to take over Super Villain City. Will the What-ifium save the world and make all their dreams come true? There’s more—a team of superheroes called the Friendly Force Five, and a goopy gangster called Gluttonator who wants to use radioactive cheese to bring his foes to their knees and shouts “What the feta??!!” when his plan goes south—but why prolong this any more than I have to? Set to a soundtrack of sound-alike classic rock songs “Henchmen” is about as imaginative as you can expect from a movie where all the criminals live in a place called Super Villain City. From the uninspired voice work to animation that looks like next wave cheapo Hanna-Barbera style animation without any of the organic charm, “Henchmen” is little more than a collection of cartoon clichés. Very small children might find distraction in the colourful design or the bullet proof underpants or the ‘Bad guys always lose’ moral but all others beware. I took no joy in writing this review but then again I could find no joy in “Henchmen” either.
LIFE ITSELF: Divided into chapters, “This is Us” guru and “Life Itself” director Fogelman goes multigenerational, guiding us through the lives of a handful of people on a couple of continents. Anxious New Yorker Will (Oscar Isaac) bends his therapist’s (Annette Bening) ear, droning on about his failed marriage to Abby (Olivia Wilde) and Bob Dylan. Cut to the future. There’s Will and Abby’s daughter Dylan (Olivia Cooke), an angry punk chanteuse who specializes in, SURPRISE, Bob Dylan songs. Jump across the pond to Spain. There the wealthy Mr. Saccione (Antonio Banderas) promotes one of his workers, Javier (Sergio Peris-Mencheta). With the extra money is able to marry his girlfriend Isabel (Laia Costa), but later a tragedy, witnessed by their son Rodrigo (Àlex Monner), traumatizes the boy. Saccione pays for therapy and later, after some turmoil, pays for Rodrigo to go to school in New York, which co-incidentally is where the story comes full circle. See how everything connects in the grand soap opera of life? There’s more. Mandy Patinkin pops up as Will’s father, a cancer diagnosis rocks a family and don’t forget molestation. It’s a litany of tragedy—suicide, mental health issues, abandonment and family dysfunction—that feels like a sappy Afterschool Special written by Nikolai Gogol, coated in a fine dusting of schmaltz. It longs to be a rich, complex look at life, love, loss and olive oil but is instead a metaphorical Crock-Pot—a slow burn of the story that never comes to a boil—that, unlike the one on Fogelman’s TV show, never actually catches fire.
LITTLE ITALY: Leo Campo (Hayden Christensen) and Nikki Angioli (Emma Roberts) were inseparable while growing up in Toronto’s Little Italy. “To us Little Italy wasn’t just a few blocks, it was our whole world.” Their families were tight, working side by side at the Napoli Pizza Parlour until the Great Pizza War erupted, causing a split that saw the pizza place sliced down the middle, cleaved into two separate businesses. Years pass. “It’s Little Italy’s oldest food fight.” Nikki moves to England to study the culinary arts while Leo stays home, working with his father. Five years later Nikki returns home to renew her English work visa and is drawn back into the world she thought she had left behind. My Nikki is coming home today,” says mother Dora (Alyssa Milano). “Now we have to find her a husband so she’ll stay.” Will there be amore? Will the moon hit her eye like a big pizza pie or will she return to her cooking career in London? “Little Italy” is an “I’m not yelling I’m Italian” style rom com. Desperate to establish the flavour of Little Italy it parades stereotypes across the screen speaking in loud exaggerated Italian accents. It’s annoying but it is all played for laughs, tempered with the easy sentimentality of the most rote of rom coms. Director Donald Petrie, whose “Mystic Pizza” made a superstar out of Roberts’s Aunt Julia, never finds the balance between the slapstick, romance and cliché. Sometimes it feels like sketch comedy, other times like every rom com you’ve ever seen. Either way, it never feels original or particularly likeable. Top it off with a been-there-done-that run to the airport climax that would likely get everyone involved, if this is anything like real life, arrested and you have a movie that is all about love that is anything but loveable.
MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE: “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” assumes you’re up to speed with the story I’ll save you the trouble of having to binge watch the first two movies. Here’s the catch-up: Based on a series of wildly popular YA books, 2014s “The Maze Runner” sees Thomas, played by “Teen Wolf’s” Dylan O’Brien, plopped into a community of young men surrounded by a labyrinth. The rebellious Thomas wants to see if there is a way to navigate through the ever-changing maze that stands between the boys and whatever is happening in the outside world. The following year “The Scorch Trials” saw the virtuous Thomas and his gang take on the worst people in the world, W.C.K.D., a group of evildoers that appear to use an Instagram acronym as their name. After a three-year wait Thomas is back with his stylishly dishevelled hair and chiselled face to break into The Last City, a fortified town where doctors work to find a cure for a plague that turns people into snarling zombies. The good doctors, including Thomas’s former flame Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), are experimenting on the Maze Runners who are immune to the disease. In particular Thomas wants to rescue Minho (Ki Hong Lee), a pal being mercilessly poked with needles in search of a cure. “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” features lots of ominous music, attractive stars in motion, dusty dystopian landscapes and something gets blown up or shot at every 10 minutes or so. What’s missing is the emotional content that might make you care about Thomas and Company. The movie really wants you to love the characters. The camera endlessly caresses their determined and often tearstained faces but the ham fisted big emotional moments are as empty as the jars of gel thrown in the trash after being used to poof up the cast’s hair. The characters are mannequins mouthing generic dialogue—speeches begin with, “I knew I know you have no reason to trust me,” and every few minutes someone says, “We have to get out of here!”—for two hours and twenty minutes. Think what else you could do with that time!
THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME: Kate McKinnon plays Morgan Freeman (you read that right), BFF to Audrey (Mila Kunis), a cashier still stinging from being dumped by her boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux). They both thought he worked for NPR as a jazz and political podcaster. Turns out, he’s a secret agent for the CIA. Despite dumping her on her birthday, and by text no less, he reaches out to ask her to deliver a flash drive containing the “back door to the entire internet” to Vienna. With some coaxing from Morgan—“Do you want to die never having been to Europe or do you want to die on a European trip?”—Audrey agrees and the best friends head for Europe. On their tails are squabbling MI6 spies Sebastian (Sam Heughan) and Duffer (Hasan Minhaj) the “bad people” who have been tracking Drew. “Some bad people are after me and now they are after you,” says Drew. It seems Audrey‘s video game playing experience has trained her for life in the field. On the mission the two newbie spies Jason Bourne their way through Europe, stamping their stolen passports in Prague, Paris, Berlin while fending off ice cold Eastern European assassin Nadedja (Ivanna Sakhno). Several car chases, one death by fondue and hundreds of bullets later they uncover the truth of their assignment. “The Spy Who Dumped Me” gets lost amid all its duelling genres. It’s not dark enough to be a dark comedy, not funny enough to be a full on comedy, not romantic enough to be a rom com and certainly not thrilling enough to give 007 a run for this money. Instead it’s a Frankensteined version of all the genres sewn together sitcom style.
Richard joins CP24 anchor Cristina Tenaglia to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including Christian Bale as former vice president Dick Cheney in “Vice,” the James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk” and Felicity Jones as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg in “On the Basis of Sex.”
Check out the Richard Crouse Show on NewsTalk 1010 for December 29, 2018! This week on the Richard Crouse Show we chat with Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall author of “Hungover: The Morning After And One Man’s Quest For The Cure.” From www.penguinrandomhouse.com: Bishop-Stall spent the better part of a decade studying the complex state of post-drunk hell for “Hungover: The Morning After and One Man’s Quest for the Cure.” He doesn’t just delve into the chemical science of hangovers; he also mixes personal memoir with some of history’s most storied mornings after. Bishop-Stall insists that hangovers should stop being viewed as some sort of cosmic punishment , and instead as a common condition worthy of a cure. Listen to the whole thing HERE!
Here’s some info on The Richard Crouse Show!:
Each week on the nationally syndicated Richard Crouse Show, Canada’s most recognized movie critic brings together some of the most interesting and opinionated people from the movies, television and music to put a fresh spin on news from the world of lifestyle and pop-culture. Tune into this show to hear in-depth interviews with actors and directors, to find out what’s going on behind the scenes of your favourite shows and movies and get a new take on current trends. Recent guests include Ethan Hawke, director Brad Bird, comedian Gilbert Gottfried, Eric Roberts, Brian Henson, Jonathan Goldsmith a.k.a. “The most interesting man in the world,” and best selling author Linwood Barclay.
Click HERE to catch up on shows you might have missed! Read Richard NewsTalk 1010 reviews HERE!
The show airs:
NewsTalk 1010 – airs in Toronto Saturday at 9 to 10 pm.
For Niagara, Newstalk 610 Radio – airs Saturdays at 6 to 7 pm
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Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Angie Seth to have a look at the weekend’s big releases including Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in “Vice,” the James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk” and Felicity Jones as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg in “On the Basis of Sex.”
Richard’s “Reelside” column is in the new issue of “Movie Entertainment”!
“December brings with it the expectation of gifts. Presents, often wrapped in silver and gold, are exchanged at Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa but the month brings a different kind of expectation in Hollywood. Forget the silver. In December Hollywood is only interested in one thing, award gold. To qualify for the Academy Awards any movie must play in theatres by the end of the calendar year so typically December is a goldmine of Oscar-bait movies. This year is no different…” Pick up the December issue of “Movie Entertainment” to read the whole thing.
A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” the James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk,” and Felicity Jones as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg in “On the Basis of Sex.”