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 Charlize Theron in the mothering dramedy “Tully,” the political drama “Backstabbing for Beginners” and the down ‘n dirty flick “Lowlife.”
Richard joins CP24 anchor Nick Dixon to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the Charlize Theron in the mothering dramedy “Tully,” the political drama “Backstabbing for Beginners” and the down ‘n dirty flick “Lowlife.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, the new Charlize Theron mothering dramedy “Tully,” the political drama “Backstabbing for Beginners” and the down ‘n dirty flick “Lowlife.”
The name “Backstabbing for Beginners” sounds like a nasty teen drama, a high school how to on how to survive in the mean hallways of twelfth grade. “Mean Girls” with an edge. Instead, it’s a political drama, the kind of thriller that relies more on the cerebral inner workings of backroom manoeuvrings than the kind of things the newspapers write about. Proving the old adage that everything is high school, however, it turns out the two milieus are not dissimilar.
Based on the memoirs of Michael Soussan, the film details the corruption within the United Nations Oil-for-Food program during the early years of the Iraq War. Theo James is Michael, a principled but naive aide to an influential U.N. undersecretary Pasha (Ben Kingsley). A greenhorn, he is soon schooled in the crafty way Pasha does business. “The first rule of diplomacy,” says the older man, “is that the truth is not a matter of fact but a matter of consensus.” As the United Nations Iraq War-era Oil-for-Food program goes south Michael begins to poke around into the suspicious death of his predecessor. Coming into the orbit of Nashim (Belcim Bilgin) Michael struggles with where his loyalties should lie.
“Backstabbing for Beginners” isn’t a thrill ride. Deliberately paced, it covers a lot of ground. To guide the viewer through the story’s socio-political unpredictability Danish director Per Fly layers exposition throughout, in the form of explanatory dialogue and narration. He limits the detail to the ins and outs of what turns out to be a global conspiracy, but it slows down the action, sucking away much of the tale’s inherent tension.
The conspiracy and whistleblowing does not provide the rollercoaster ride it could have been but it provides Kingsley with the opportunity to chew the scenery. It’s a plum role for the 74 year-old actor who unleashes a controlled but spirited performance as the morally compromised, foul mouthed Pasha. It’s also a pleasure to see Jacqueline Bisset as his nemesis, a stern enemy who isn’t afraid to get under the skin of the undiplomatic diplomat.
“Backstabbing for Beginners’s” story of corruption from our recent past, complete with Pasha’s self-serving doublespeak about the “the growing pains of a new democracy,” is timely, if not exciting.
Topher Grace doesn’t need me to put words in his mouth, but in this one instance I’m going to.
I recently sat down with the former That ’70s Show star to talk about his new Netflix movie War Machine. Based on the Michael Hastings New York Times bestseller The Operators, it fictionalizes the real life career implosion of General Stanley McChrystal, Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan. An article in Rolling Stone that reported on the McChrystal’s disappointment with Obama and his policies undid the General’s distinguished career. In the film he is renamed Gen. Glen McMahon and played by Brad Pitt, who also produced the film.
“What I love so much about the film [director and writer David Michôd] made,” said Grace, “and it was in the script but I really felt it when I saw the film, is the emotional journey. That is so hard to get into a war movie. Anyone who is willing to watch it understands it on an emotional level, which is a much more effective way to communicate to the audience than just using facts.”
Here’s where I chime in. “I think that when you have a very specific story it can become universal because of the emotions,” I said. “None of us will find ourselves in that particular situation but all of us, at some time in our lives, will end up in a mess of some kind. It’s relatable.”
“That’s what I meant to say,” said Grace with a laugh. “Can you quote yourself and use that?”
Consider it done.
Grace plays Matt Little, McMahon’s civilian press adviser. He’s young, brash, and according to Grace, not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
“What is the definition of an idiot?” he asks. “Is it knowing you don’t know but still going ahead anyway? I don’t think it is, but that’s who he is.
“On the first day I popped my collar up and the military advisor said, ‘They don’t do that in the military.’ The director said, ‘No, no, no! He’s playing an idiot. He would totally have his collar popped up.’ He’s a civilian and he doesn’t even really care about the war going on.”
The thirty-eight-year-old actor says despite the story’s timely nature and the inclusion of a character based on recently disgraced National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, the film isn’t political.
“I want people to check their politics at the door and take the emotional ride of what it would feel like to be in that position.
“The really cool thing is that it is not an American telling the story. David is a great talent out of Australia and no matter what he brings a non-American POV. The fact that it can be that heightened in terms of humour at some points and so real when they are out on the battlefield is really great. He told me he wanted to make a war film before Brad’s company sent him the book but he couldn’t think of a way to do a war film that didn’t glorify war. This does not glorify war.”
It may not be political but Grace says it is timely.
“We made it in Obama’s America,” says the thirty-eight-year-old actor. “It’s crazy releasing it now. It is timelier than when we shot it. I haven’t been on a lot of projects that were like that.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Rena Heer talk about the weekend’s big releases, the revamped “The Jungle Book,” a third visit to Calvin’s in “Barbershop: The Next Cut,” the jazzy notes of “Miles Ahead” and the mind altering ‘Criminal.”
Richard and “Canada AM” host Jeff Hutcheson kick around the weekend’s big releases. They find out if “The Jungle Book” is appropriate for all ages, if “Barbershop: the Next Cut” makes the cut and if “Criminal” should be put in movie jail.
In 2009 I hosted an on-stage event with Disney legend Richard Sherman.
The co-writer (with his brother Robert) of classic songs like It’s a Small World (After All), Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and the Oscar winning Chim Chim Cher-ee, was seated behind a piano and after regaling us with stories from his career, asked if anyone had any song requests.
I took advantage of my position as host and butted in, asking if he’d sing the hippest children’s song ever written, I Wan’na Be like You (The Monkey Song) from The Jungle Book.
As his fingers danced across the keyboard, he began, “Now, I’m the King of the Swinger’s Ball, a Jungle V.I.P…” and I was transported back to being a kid, wearing the grooves off the soundtrack record, playing it over and over. I was reminded of that memorable moment earlier this week as I watched the new, updated version of The Jungle Book. The song gets a remake, this time sung by Christopher Walken, but the magic is still there.
In the animated 1967 original, Louis Prima — playing the raucous orangutan King Louie — sang the upbeat tune but Richard Sherman says when they wrote the song they didn’t have Prima in mind.
Walt Disney hired them to help “Disnify” Rudyard Kipling’s original stories about a feral child raised in the jungle by wolves.
“Our assignment was to find crazy ways of having fun with it,” says Sherman.
For King Louie’s big moment the brothers went with a New Orleans inspired musical arrangement, complete with scat-singing.
They played the swingin’ song at a story conference and it was decided the singer should be the most swingin’ jazz act in the country. “When we first got an idea for I Wan’na Be Like You, we said an ape swings from a tree, and he’s the king of apes. We’ll make him ‘the king of the swingers.’ That’s the idea, we’ll make him a jazz man.”
The brothers presented the song to Prima who reportedly said, “You want to make a monkey out of me? You got me!”
It was a perfect marriage of performer to character, so much so that Disney animators filmed Prima live on a soundstage as a guide to animate his movements in the movie.
The I Wan’na Be like You (The Monkey Song) sequence is a standout in a film filled with great songs and has made a lasting impression on a generation or two of musicians.
Everyone from Phish and Voodoo Glow Skulls to Los Lobos and Fall Out Boy have covered the song. There’s a Hungarian version called Egy ilyen majom embernek való by Gyula Bodrogi & László Csákányi. And O Rei do Iê-Iê-Iê was a hit in Brazil for Márcio Simões & Mauro Ramos.
Of all the covers, Sherman says he likes the version by Smash Mouth featured in The Jungle Book 2. Almost 50 years after he originally co-wrote the song Richard Sherman revisited the tune. On the red carpet at The Jungle Book’s premier last week Sherman said he wrote new lyrics, “because it’s not the King Louie you saw in the first movie. This is a gigantopithecus, the greatest ape there ever was.”
Louis Prima’s version will always be the classic, at least for me, but Sherman says, “Chris Walken does a great job (on the song).”
The Disney animated classic “The Jungle Book” has been given a high tech makeover. The colourful characters are gone, as are most of the songs, but what the new version lacks in nostalgic kitsch it makes up for in eye-popping action adventure that’s part Rudyard Kipling, part “Apocalypse Now.”
A mix-and-match of Kipling’s stories and the 1967 Disney film, the new movie opens with Mowgli (Neel Sethi) racing through the jungle, running, climbing and jumping as a pack of animals chases. Turns out it’s a family outing. You see, Mowgli is a man-cub raised by wolf mother Raksha’s (voice of Lupita Nyong’o) and father Akela (voice of Giancarlo Esposito) who treat him as one of their own. The only animal who doesn’t welcome the young boy is human hating tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba).
The majestic tiger was once badly injured by a human and firmly believes that men have no place in the jungle. He threatens violence if Mowgli isn’t handed over. “Ask yourselves,” he purrs, “how many lives is a man-cub worth?”
To save his kin Mowgli sets off into the jungle with his mentor Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley) at his side and Shere Khan in hot pursuit. Bagheera’s wants deliver the boy to a human village where he’ll be safe, but first they must navigate jungle and its denizens, like the hypnotic python Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johansson), ape King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken) and loyal Baloo (voice of Bill Murray), the brown bear who becomes Mowgli’s friend and ally.
The end of the journey brings Mowgli a resolution to the Shere Khan problem but also a new understanding of his place in the jungle.
Director Jon Favreau uses state-of-the-art technology to bring the story to life but never allows the computer-generated imagery to get in the way of the story. He’s crafted a beautifully cinematic film, with exciting action scenes—and, it should be noted some circle-of-life stuff that young animal lovers might find upsetting—and wonderful animation but the stars of the show are the characters.
Sethi is the only flesh-and-blood on display, all others are artfully arranged photorealistic pixels. Fan favourite Baloo looks as if he just lumbered off the set of “The Revenant,” but is rendered charming and harmless by Bill Murray’s voice work. When he threatens a small animal for stealing his honey with the words, “You have never been a more endangered species,” it’s pure Murray and pure fun.
The stand out character is Shere Khan, the best feline villain since “The Lion King’s” Scar. Muscular and menacing, he’s expertly voiced by Idris Elba, who, like the rest of the cast, avoids doing cartoon voices. It’s naturalism in a natural setting and it works wonderfully.
“The Jungle Book” is a worthy and entertaining remake of a classic that gives us much of what we want—the songs “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You” both make appearance—and more.