Richard speaks to “CTV News at Six” anchor Andria Case about television and movies to watch this weekend including the Bryan Cranston drama “Your Honor” on Showtime, the Netflix Chadwick Boseman film “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and the Apple TV+ M. Night Shyamalan-produced supernatural thriller “Servant.”
Richard joins CP24 to have a look at new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including the Chadwick Boseman drama “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix), the time loop rom com “Palm Springs” (Amazon Prime Video), the loud and proud “Monster Hunter” (in theatres) and the recent winner of the Best European Film Award, “Another Round” (in select theatres and the Apple TV app and other VOD platforms).
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with host Angie Seth to have a look at the new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including the Chadwick Boseman drama “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix), the time loop rom com “Palm Springs” (Amazon Prime Video), the loud and proud “Monster Hunter” (in theatres) and the recent winner of the Best European Film Award, “Another Round” (in select theatres and the Apple TV app and other VOD platforms).
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the Chadwick Boseman drama “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix), the time loop rom com “Palm Springs” (Amazon Prime Video), the loud and proud “Monster Hunter” (in theatres) and the recent winner of the Best European Film Award, “Another Round” (in select theatres and the Apple TV app and other VOD platforms).
It’s hard not to watch “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” the vibrant adaptation of August Wilson’s play of the same name, now streaming on Netflix, without feeling a sense of loss. It’s Chadwick Boseman’s last performance and the life he brings to the role of ambitious trumpet player Levee acts as a poignant reminder of a career cut tragically short.
Set in the roaring 1920’s Chicago, Viola Davis plays the titular character, a real-life musical trailblazer known as “Mother of the Blues.” On a sweltering day in a dank basement recording studio, the band, pianist Toledo (Glynn Turman), trombonist Cutler (Colman Domingo), and string bassist Slow Drag (Michael Potts) and Levee, rehearse as they wait for the fashionably late Ma to arrive.
The heat, claustrophobia, frayed egos and twitchy Levee’s insistence on changing tried-and-true musical arrangements, fuel a war of words and wills as they attempt to put Ma’s signature “Black Bottom” song to disc.
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” theatrical roots are very much on display in director George C. Wolfe (a five-time Tony winner) and screenwriter Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s adaptation. The presentation is energetic but simple; a showcase for the performances. Like bandleader Cutler says, “a-one, a-two, a-you know what to do.”
And they sure do. The core cast is uniformly excellent.
Domingo is understated but powerful as the bandleader, heading off interpersonal crisis with a few well-chosen words. Turman, recently seen as the stately Doctor Senator, consigliere to Chris Rock’s crime boss, on “Fargo,” is the sage of the group, gives Toledo’s monologues gravitas as he speaks of racial pride and personal sovereignty.
Davis is flamboyant, a diva who uses her demands to maintain control over her band and respect from her white producers (Jeremy Shamos and Jonny Coyne). “They don’t care nothin’ about me,” she says. “All they want is my voice. I learned that and they are going to treat me the way I want to be treated no matter how much it hurts them.” It’s a bravura performance that’s almost as loud and proud as the garish make Ma has slathered on her face.
Ma Rainey’s name may be on the marquee but the most memorable character is Boseman’s Levee. Ambitious, he wants to leave behind the sideman gigs and form his own band, Levee Green and His Foot Stompers, but his bluster hides a deep well of pain that overflows during the steamy afternoon recording session. Levee is a tragic character, a classically flawed man straining against the weight of personal trauma, hoping that his talent will bring him the respect he needs to survive. The distressing effects of racial discrimination are written large on Boseman’s expressive face, informing every twist and turn in his character’s journey. It’s a skillful and heartbreaking performance that doesn’t just hint at his great talent, but lays it bare. It’s the kind of performance, filled with fury and frustration, that makes you hungry for more. Sadly, it’s his swan song.
Although set in the 1920s and written in the 1980s, the ideas and the anger in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” feels of the moment and indispensable. The dialogue crackles and the context resonates because Wilson’s source material has not only stood the test of time, but transcends it.
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling big screen musical “La La Land,” Fences” with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis and “Why Him?” starring Bryan Cranston and James Franco.
Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the Christmas weekend movies, the Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling big screen musical “La La Land,” Fences” with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis and “Why Him?” starring Bryan Cranston and James Franco.
“Fences,” August Wilson’s rumination on race, masculinity, betrayal and dissatisfaction, won four Tony Awards, including best actor for James Earl Jones, when it first played on Broadway in 1983. The 2010 revival was also lauded, winning Tonys for Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, who now reunite in a big screen version of the popular play.
Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, Washington (who also directs) is Troy Maxson, a former Negro League baseball player now working as a garbage man. Each Friday he turns over his $76 weekly paycheck to wife Rose Maxson (Viola Davis) before his co-worker and best friend Jim Bono (Stephen Henderson) blow off some steam with a bottle of gin. Troy drunkenly tells wild stories about beating up the Devil and lectures about the virtues of self-reliance and responsibility to himself and his family. Always teetering on the edge of a blow-up, he’s a thin-skinned man in a world that is changing rapidly around him, who builds a literal and metaphorical fence between him and the outside world.
Troy has a combative relationship with Lyons (Russell Hornsby), his son from a previous marriage, and a strict, disciplinarian rapport with Cory (Jovan Adepo), his youngest who still lives at home. Tension builds as Cory decides he wants to take a football scholarship in favour of learning a trade.
It’s tempting to suggest that “Fences” doesn’t have a plot. Certainly it presents a slice of Troy and Rose’s life that isn’t necessarily driven by story in the strictest sense, but the through lines from scene to scene create a loose narrative that paints a vivid picture of a man whose resentments and bitterness will soon have a palpable effect on everyone around him.
As a director Washington doesn’t do much to open the story up. It takes place on a handful of sets and feels very much like a play, but when the words are this good there isn’t a need to spice it up with flashy production work. Washington focuses on the script and the performances, allowing the power of Wilson’s ideas carry the movie. “Fences” may be set in 1957 but the Troy’s sense of fighting against almost constant injustice feels as timely as it ever has.
Towering in the center of all this is Washington’s performance. His Troy is beaten down but not beaten. He’s hardened to the cruel realities of his life, that integration in baseball came just a few years too late for him to make a go of it, that hope is for dreamers too lazy to get a real job. He settles into the character with remarkable ease, erasing any residual memory of his big movie star turns in films like “American Gangster” or “Flight.” It is as though we’re seeing him for the first time, and yet, to many his story will feel all too familiar.
He finds his equal in Davis who brings a quiet dignity to the often put upon Rose. Her transformation from stay-at-home wife to independent woman as she realizes the eighteen years spent with Troy have not meant what she thought is as remarkable as it is subtle.
As Mr. Bono New York stage and screen actor Henderson rounds out the main cast in a performance brimming with wit and wisdom.
As a showcase for ideas and performances “Fences” hits a home run, offering fodder for Oscar talk and intellectual discourse. As a movie going experience, however, it feels a tad overlong. As much of a pleasure as it is to watch Washington, Davis and Henderson interact, the film loses steam as it enters the final third.