Richard speaks to “CTV News at 11:30” anchor Andria case about the best movies and television to watch this weekend. This week we have a look at the kid friend “DC League of Super Pets,” the B.J. Novak mystery “Vengeance” and the family drama “Ali & Ava.”
I sit in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with guest host Matt Harris to talk the new movies coming to theatres including the animated superhero flick “DC League of Super-Pets,” the social media thriller “Vengeance ” and the British drama “Ali & Ava.”
I join NewsTalk 1010 host David Cooper on the coast-to-coast-to-coast late night “Showgram” to play the game “Did Richard Crouse Like This?” This week we talk about animated superhero flick “DC League of Super-Pets,” the social media thriller “Vengeance ” and the British drama “Ali & Ava.”
Watch Richard Crouse review three movies in less time than it takes to do a jumping jack! Have a look as he races against the clock to tell you about the animated superhero flick “DC League of Super-Pets,” the social media thriller “Vengeance ” and the British drama “Ali & Ava.”
“Vengeance,” a new satire playing in theatres, written, directed and starring “The Office” actor B.J. Novak, mixes-and-matches social commentary, the opioid epidemic and social divides, in a story that plays like a murder mystery wrapped around a journey of self-discovery.
Novak plays New York City writer Ben Manalowitz, a shallow, self-absorbed, know-it-all who wants to host an important podcast that will make sense of America and its current state of divide. “I don’t just want to write,” he says pompously. “I want to have a voice.”
When an unknown number pops up on his phone in the middle of the night, it sets him on the path to finding his voice as a weepy caller gives him the “bad news” that his girlfriend has died.
Girlfriend? Which one?
Turns out it was Abilene (Lio Tipton), one of several women he dated at the same time. The family believes they were in love but Ben has to look up her photo to put a face to the name.
Abbey’s good-old-boy brother Ty (Boyd Holbrook) insists Ben come to the funeral in West Texas. “I can’t do this,” Ben says. “None of us can do this,” says the grief-stricken Ty, “and face the future alone.”
Reluctantly Ben agrees to travel to West Texas and even gets roped into speaking at the funeral. “I wish I had known her better,” he says, looking at a picture of her and a guitar. “I wish I had spent more time with her. She loved music and will always be a song in our hearts.”
On the drive back from the funeral, Ty drops a bomb. “Abbey didn’t just die,” he says. “She was murdered. And we’re going to avenge her death.”
Why not just call the police? “In Texas we don’t call 911.”
Ben says, “As a personal boundary, I don’t avenge deaths. I don’t live in a Liam Neeson movie,” but a lightbulb goes off. This is the story he has been looking for.
He agrees to investigate Abilene’s death in the form of a true crime podcast. “This isn’t a story for everyone,” he says. “It’s a story about the need for vengeance.”
Working with his New York based editor (Issa Rae) to shape the story, his investigation leads him into murky territory, both personally and professionally.
The film’s title suggests a blood-speckled search for retribution but “Vengeance” is more interested in provocation than payback. Abilene’s death is the engine that drives the story, but it’s also a McGuffin, an ultimately not important detail in the overall scheme of things. Novak is more interested in our preconceptions about each other in the great red-state/blue-state divide, and how those biases color the way we behave.
It’s a heady backdrop for a neo-western noir, and it starts strong as fish-out-of-water Ben slowly realizes there is life outside his tiny bubble. Ben is a satire of east coast arrogance, looking down on anyone who dares to live outside the borders of New York City. As he digs into Abilene’s passing, investigating if she was murdered or took an accidental overdose, he begins to place old prejudices aside and actually becomes less insufferable. He is pointed in a new direction as his moral compass leads him to wonder if his own caddish behavior may have played a role in Abilene’s fate and, with the podcast, if he is exploiting her family.
Unfortunately, it is also at this point that the film begins to crumble under the weight of broad MAGA characterizations and juicy droplets of pop psychology doublespeak like “everything is everything so everything is nothing.”
As the story splinters off into a satire of true crime podcasts and social media in general, it gets mired in its own philosophies and the fleet-footed pacing of the early sections slows, dragged to a stop by a muddle of ideas.
“Vengeance” is an ambitious movie that bites off a bit more than it can easily chew and digest, but provides enough laughs and intrigue to be worth a look.
I have a rule, The flashier the press kit, the worse the movie, and Guess Who has a very flashy press kit. It is a faux leather bound book with cut-outs of Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac that move when you open the front cover. In this case, however, you can’t judge the book by its cover, or a movie by its press kit.
Guess Who takes its inspiration, but very little else from the 1967 Stanley Kramer directed Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, with Spencer Tracey, Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Hepburn. That one was a socially aware film, which tackled heavy racial issues with a mix of humor and drama. In 2005 the movie has been remade into an off the wall, disposable comedy starring Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac which inverts the original idea by having an African-American family face the entrance of a white boyfriend into their home.
The father is played by Bernie Mac—and I don’t know why he bothers with character names in movies because he essentially just plays himself in everything. He should simply call himself Bernie Mac and be done with it. Fortunately he’s really good at being Bernie Mac and here he is fun to watch. As the boyfriend, Ashton Kutcher looks good in clothes and doesn’t bump into the furniture.
The tone of the film is a little weird—somewhere between Meet the Parents and Father of the Bride, managing to be both trite and the earnest at the same time.
It lacks the import or backbone of the original, yet Guess Who still manages to say something sensible about tolerance while being fluffy and fast moving.
Eureka moments abound in “Jobs,” the new biopic about the life of tech wizard and Apple founder Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher). According to this film Jobs grabbed inspiration in the most unlikely of paces, usually accompanied by a wide-eyed look. In fact he spends so much time staring off into space one has to wonder if there isn’t another, more interesting movie playing just off screen.
Early on in the film the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote reminds us that, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” This journey takes us from Jobs’ early days in Paulo Alto, California where he and a motley group of techies began to redefine the way that people interacted with technology, through to his rise and fall as Apple’s CEO and head nerd to his eventual redemption. Strangely, the movie begins with a clip of the older, obviously ill Jobs, but never revisits that flash forward scene or the man’s illness.
“Jobs” serves as a reminder that it is rare to find an extraordinary film about an extraordinary person. Perhaps it is that it’s hard to take “Two and a Half Men” star Kutcher, despite his resemblance to Jobs, seriously in the role of a visionary. Or maybe it’s just a standard movie about a man who made innovation his life’s work. Either way “Jobs” is the kind of movie that feels better suited to television than the movies.
It doesn’t sugar coat Jobs’ legendary temper. In fact, given the way he behaves for most of the film—dismissing Apple founding father Daniel Kottke (Lucas Haas), or denying paternity of his child—the movie should be called “SOB”, not “Jobs.”
Ripe with inspirational music cues and lines like “There are still those of us who believe in what Apple stood for… what you stood for,” that despite the raw edge to the man’s personality, “Jobs” often plays like a hagiography rather than biography.
A movie about a man driven to excellence should have a bold connection to its subject. Unfortunately “Jobs” feels like an old dial-up connection.
“No Strings Attached,” the new R-rated rom com from director Ivan “Ghostbusters” Reitman is a modern movie for a generation of text and sex couples terrified of commitment.
Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman play 20-something Los Angelenos who slowly realize that sex is easy while love requires a lot more work. She’s a “relationshiphobic” workaholic. He wears his heart on his sleeve. At first they agree to a friends-with-benefits set up, arranging trysts by text and keeping it informal but when the l-word—that’s love—rears its head it threatens to blow apart their casual connection.
“No Strings Attached” is one of those rare movies where the main characters are the least interesting people in the movie. Natalie Portman (who stars and is one of the movie’s producers) is having an interesting year professionally. In “Black Swan” she hands in one of the most memorable performances of the year only to follow it up with a dull offering a movie that she seems miscast in. This seems more like a Kathryn Hiegl movie than a Natalie Portman vehicle; a movie with leads that could have been played by any number of Hollywood rom com regulars. Insert Heigl and Paul Rudd or Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel and this would have been pretty much the same movie.
Worse, despite the bouncing bed springs and many, many shared sex scenes, Kutcher and Portman don’t seem to have much chemistry. The pair generates so little heat you may want to bring a blanket with you to the theatre.
Luckily the supporting cast has more to offer than the above-the-title stars. Who knew Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges had such a light touch? He has a small, recurring role and knocks it out of the park every time he’s on screen. Ditto Greta Gerwig, the former indie darling who impressed in “Greenberg” and now has the funniest line in this movie and will someone please give Lake Bell the lead in a comedy. She’s beautiful, funny and pulls focus from whoever she shares a frame with. As the neurotic television producer she has the funniest almost-love scene we’ve seen in ages and adds some much needed zip to the predictable and occasionally even dull story.
Go to see Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher sorta naked. Stay to see Lake Bell, Ludacris and Gerwig bring the funny.