Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with news anchor Angie Seth to have a look at the weekend’s big releases including the hairpin twists and turns of “Ford v Farrari,” the secrets and lies of “The Good Liar” and the life of one of Canada’s best known authors in the documentary “Margaret Atwood: A Word After A Word After A Word Is Power.”
Richard joins CP24 to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the pedal to the metal “Ford v Ferrari,” the b-movie with an a-list cast “The Good Liar,” and the documentary “Margaret Atwood: A Word After A Word After A Word Is Power.”
A weekly feature from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest and most interesting movies! This week Richard looks at “Ford v Ferrari,” “The Good Liar,” and the documentary “Margaret Atwood: A Word After A Word After A Word Is Power.”
Richard has a look at the new movies coming to theatres, including the hairpin twists and turns of “Ford v Farrari,” the secrets and lies of “The Good Liar” and the life of one of Canada’s best known authors in the documentary “Margaret Atwood: A Word After A Word After A Word Is Power” with CFRA morning show host Bill Carroll.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk the new movies coming to theatres including the pedal to the metal “Ford v Ferrari,” the b-movie with an a-list cast “The Good Liar,” and the documentary “Margaret Atwood: A Word After A Word After A Word Is Power.”
As unbelievable as it may seem Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen have never appeared on screen together. They did a stint on Broadway in August Strindberg’s “Dance of Death” but the con job flick “The Good Liar” is the first time they have acted together in a film. It’s been worth the wait. More on that later.
The old-fashioned story of secrets and lies begins in a very modern way, on a dating site for widowed septuagenarians. Mirren plays Betty McLeish, a wealthy widow and retired Oxford professor. She’s upbeat and realistic, looking for new love in the time she has left. McKellen is Roy Courtnay, a charming but dirty-rotten-scoundrel looking to separate Betty from her cash who complains that the dating site is “a system for matching the delusional with the hopeless.” Over their lunch he beguiles her and soon romance blossoms. “Do you know who you are?” she asks. “You’re the only person on this planet who makes me feel that I’m not alone.” When the crafty old guy fakes a knee injury so he can move in with her she agrees it is the second part of his plan (along with a skeevy sidekick played by “Downton Abbey” star Jim Carter) to convince her to sign over her bank accounts, combining their money to provide for their future together. Despite the objections of her grandson Steven (Russell Tovey), she agrees but first they take a trip to Berlin where cracks in their stories are revealed. “In just a blink,” Roy says, “your life is changed forever.”
“The Good Liar” is a b-movie with an a-list cast.
Director Bill Condon has made a nicely crafted cat-and-mouse thriller that for most of its running time rattles along at a good clip, doling out clues like candy at Halloween. It’s when the twists become preposterous that the plot lets down its fine cast. As the story starts swinging for the fences McKellen and Mirren are left batting clean-up, trying to keep the thrills intact while the drawn-out conclusion dilutes the pleasures of the earlier, tension-laden scenes.
It’s a delight to watch McKellen and Mirren’s chemistry. As Roy, McKellen is easy charm one second, hard and cunning the next. Mirren gives Betty a naïve appeal tempered with the excitement of the start of a new adventure. Together they click, belonging together like peanut butter and jelly but nothing is as it seems in “The Good Liar.” The film’s biggest pleasure is (MILD SPOILER) witnessing these two fine actors carefully gauge their performances as the power dynamic between them shifts. Their work provides the thrills the over-plotted story misses.
If Wolverine had been around in the 1840s P.T. Barnum would have made him a star. As “The Greatest Showman” tells us, the inventor of the modern circus sought out “unique persons and curiosities” to build a show that lasted for 143 years. After nine movies as the cigar-smoking X-Man Hugh Jackman now dons the ringmaster’s trademarked top hat to tell the tale of an American institution.
We first meet the future impresario as the young son of an impoverished tailor. When he makes the daughter of one of his father’s rich patrons laugh, it is love at first sight. Cut to a song or two and many years later, Barnum (now played by Jackman) is grown up with a head full of dreams, a houseful of children and a happy marriage to his childhood sweetheart Charity (Michelle Williams). What he doesn’t have is a viable career.
Fired from a job as an accountant, he packs up his desk, taking his ledger, pens and a packet of worthless deeds to sunken ships. Using those certificates he secures a $10,000 loan to start his first business, The Barnum Museum, complete with wax sculptures, stuffed animals and a thief-turned-magician named O’Malley. “People are fascinated by the exotic and the macabre,” he says.
He has trouble selling tickets until his daughters make a suggestion. “You need something sensational,” they say, “like a mermaid or unicorn. Something alive, not stuffed.” He doesn’t round up any mermaids or unicorns but does assemble a bearded lady (Keala Settle), trapeze artists (Zendaya and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), tattooed men, Dog-faced boys, Irish giants (Radu Spinghel) and Siamese twins.
Critic James Gordon Bennett (Paul Sparks), denounces the show as exploitation. “It’s a circus,” he raves. “The word you used to describe my show has a nice ring to it,” says Barnum and the concept of the contemporary circus was born.
Money poured in but respect did not. “My father was treated like dirt,” says the so-called “purveyor of the obscene and indecent.” “I was treated like dirt. My daughters won’t be treated like dirt.” In an attempt to court a more upscale crowd he brings on socialite and actor Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron). Carlyle, when he isn’t pining for acrobat Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), sets up shows for Queen Victoria and introduces Barnum to opera singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson). Dubbed the Swedish Nightingale, she is the biggest singing star in Europe, and Barnum almost goes bankrupt trying to make her a sensation in America.
It isn’t until he rediscovers his roots—and the virtues of performing under a tent—that he makes a lasting impression.
“The Greatest Showman” is a period piece but pulsates with the rhythms of contemporary music. Songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who took home as Oscar last year for their work on “La La Land,” provide a timeless score that rings with the brassiness of present-day Broadway. It feels slightly strange, although no more strange than people suddenly bursting into song while traipsing down the street. The songs are catchy and the loose-limbed contemporary choreography would likely have caused riots in 1845.
As the flamboyant huckster who craves legitimacy Jackman returns to his musical theatre roots, handing in a performance that wouldn’t be out of place on the Broadway stage. The flimsy-ish story doesn’t give him much opportunity to really dig deep into what made Barnum tick. The genial actor, however, in a bigger-than-life performance, brings the rags to riches tale if not to vivid life, at last to tuneful life.
More interesting is the film’s subtext. It’s an American success story writ large but beyond that are comments on equality and bigorty. Despite advertising his menagerie of performers as a freak show we’re told Barnum saw his circus as a celebration of humanity in all its forms. The movie favours uplift and inspiration over deep insight, but its harmonious pop psychology will make your feet tap.
The message of tolerance is central to the plot, reinforced by the Carlyle, Wheeler romance. The upper crust actor and the African American acrobat are drawn to one another despite societal the norms of the day. When his father scolds him, reminding him to remember his place he snaps back, “If this is my place I don’t want it.” As Barnum reaches for the gold, turning his back on his family and ‘freaks,’ Carlyle walks away from his privilege, following his heart.
With that in mind it’s a shame that the move doesn’t give its marginal characters more of a voice. The Bearded Lady, the Dog Faced Boy and others are more or less treated on film as Barnum treated them in life, as set dressing and not much more.
“The Greatest Showman” seems to have taken its lead from its subject and delivered a movie in which every number is a showstopper. It’s a rollercoaster of story and music that occasionally moves too fast but delivers enough thrills along the way to be worth the price of admission. Maybe that’s enough. As Barnum himself said, “The noblest art is that of making others happy.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, the live action version of “Beauty and the Beast,” the drug addled “T2 Trainspotting” and the no-holds-barred “Goon: Last of the Enforcers.”