Posts Tagged ‘B. J. Novak’


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.”

Watch the whole thing HERE! (Starts at 19:04)


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.”

Listen to the whole thing HERE!


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.”

Listen to the whole thing HERE!


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.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!

VENGEANCE: 3 STARS. “an ambitious movie bites off a bit more than it can chew.”

“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.

SAVING MR. BANKS: 3 ½ STARS. “Hanks is effortless as the folksy Disney.”

saving-mr-banks-tom-hanks-600-370Based on the true story of Walt Disney’s (Tom Hanks) attempts to convince cantankerous “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers (Emma Tompson) to sell him the movie rights to the story, “Saving Mr. Banks” may be the only documented case of a writer holding an entire studio hostage.

Walt Disney made a promise to his daughter that would take twenty years to fulfill.

The young girl loved the magical nanny Mary Poppins, and wanted her father to bring her to life on the big screen. Trouble was, writer P.L. Travers wanted nothing to do with Disney.

“These books,” she said, “don’t lend themselves to chirping and prancing.” Fearing his adaptation of Poppins would careen “toward a happy ending like a kamikaze,” she tried to explain that Mary was the “enemy of whimsy and sentiment.”

Still, Disney wouldn’t take no for an answer and that’s where “Saving Mr. Banks” begins.

In a last ditch attempt to woo her, Disney flies Travers to Hollywood to work on a script with songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak) and screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford). The idea is to shape a movie that everyone can live with, but Travers, a pinched women whose withering remarks leave welts, is uncooperative.

(Side note: If she really was this contrary in real life, one has to wonder how the controlling Travers would have felt about having her actual life portrayed one screen.)

As the movie unfolds a psychological drama reveals itself in the form of flashbacks to Travers’s life as a child in 1907 Queensland, Australia. Turns out her contrary nature with the filmmakers comes from a deep seeded desire to protect the memory of her father, bank manager Travers Goff (Colin Farrell), a loveable scamp who drowned his inner torment with a sea of booze, and was the inspiration for the “Mary Poppins’s” patriarch, Mr. Banks.

“Saving Mr. Banks” is a serious movie about a whimsical movie. It also has darker underpinnings than you might imagine about the origins of “Mary Poppins.” The glossy Disney sheen casts its glow but the tone of the film is downbeat. Travers is a tough cookie, but heartbreakingly so. She’s a little girl lost, the product of an unhappy childhood that haunts her into adulthood.

It’s a character that could have been a flat line, a portrait of an unhappy woman with a perm-scowl and a bad attitude, but as Thompson allows her icy façade to melt Travers takes on dimensions. By the time we realize that Mary Poppins is not there to save the children but the troubled father the movie starts to pluck the heartstrings but because of Thompson’s skill it doesn’t feel manipulative.

Hanks is effortless as the folksy Disney. He hands in a quiet but lovingly rendered portrait with some real heart and lots of nuggets of wisdom.

Ditto Schwartzman and Novak, who breathe life into the creative process with enthusiastic performances and Paul Giamatti as limo driver Ralph. It’s a supporting role that doesn’t forward the story much but does add some nice light moments that seem to blunt some of Travers’s more deeply set psychological issues.

On the minus side “Saving Mr. Banks” hopscotches between time zones in Hollywood and Australia, a contrivance that slows both stories down, dividing the focus and keeping the audience off kilter for the entire running time. It’s a tough balance and the film doesn’t quite pull it off, but makes the uniformly excellent performances to cover the movie’s languid pacing.