Richard and CTV NewsChannel anchor Andrea Bain talk about the latest movies coming to VOD and streaming services, including the Dakota Johnson-Tracee Ellis Ross musical drama “The High Note,” the Midnight Madness ready “Dreamland,” the rom com riff of “All About Who You Know” and the implausible twists and turns of “Inheritance.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to VOD and streaming services including the Dakota Johnson-Tracee Ellis Ross musical drama “The High Note,” the Midnight Madness ready “Dreamland,” the rom com riff of “All About Who You Know” and the implausible twists and turns of “Inheritance.”
“The High Note,” coming out this week digitally via video on demand, mixes ambition, romance and music in a movie that tries to hit a high C but actually works better when it plays the minor chords.
Set against a backdrop of the Los Angeles music industry, the new film from Nisha Ganatra, now on VOD, sees Dakota Johnson play Maggie, a music obsessed wannabe producer, currently working as a personal assistant to superstar singer Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross). Between running errands and running Grace’s life, Maggie finds time to oversee production on a live album of her boss singing the old hits and discover a new talent, singer-songwriter David Cliff (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Passing herself off as an experienced producer with loads of industry hook-ups, she inspires him to write great new songs that could launch him into the big leagues. When a plan to position David as the opening act for Grace’s upcoming tour backfires, it threatens to torpedo all of Maggie’s hopes and dreams.
Following up on Ganatra’s last film “Late Night,” which starred Emma Thompson a late-night talk show host whose career is revamped by the influence of a younger, ambitious woman (Mindy Kaling), comes a story that sounds like an echo of the first. There’s more flash here and fewer laughs, but the essential story of a showbiz icon given a new lease on popularity by a newcomer with fresh ideas has a sense of déjà vu to it.
Originally scheduled for a big screen release “The High Note” moved to a digital release in the wake of the pandemic, which may have been a good thing. Its movie-of-the-week plotting and familiar premise feels suited, in a good way, to the smaller screen.
It’s a story about ambition, empowerment and music geekery given charm by Johnson and Ross. Johnson brings her trademarked steely-yet-vulnerable charm to the role of Maggie, while Ross—the daughter of iconic superstar Diana Ross—is a diva with flamboyant clothes and a temperament to match.
Despite the charismatic performers, both characters feel like caricatures. Maggie is a “High Fidelity” reject, a music junkie who speaks as though she’s reciting the liner notes of her favorite album. Ross does some powerful singing but plays Grace in broad diva-esque notes.
“The High Note” is a pleasant enough diversion as a story of empowerment but doesn’t have enough range to make it memorable.
Richard has a look at the new movies coming to theatres, including “Knives Out” with Daniel Craig and a cast of n’ere do wells, the Disney+ revamp of “Lady and the Tramp,” the odd couple picture “The Two Popes,” the corporate legal drama “Dark Waters,” and the thought provoking “Queen & Slim” with CFRA morning show host Bill Carroll.
The only thing big and green in Mark Ruffalo’s new film “Dark Waters are the hulking wads of cash a major corporation is willing to pay to cover up an ecological disaster.
Based on true events, Ruffalo plays corporate defense lawyer Robert Bilott, a native West Virginian now working for an upscale Cincinnati firm. He makes a living defending big companies but when Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp), a friend of his grandmother shows up complaining that chemical giant Dupont is poisoning his livestock, Bilott is at a loss for words. “I defend chemical companies,” he stuitters. “Well, now you can defend me,” replies the plainspoken Wilbur.
Bilott knows the farm. As a kid he rode horses and milked his first cow there and even though the he doesn’t think he can help, he agrees to have a look. On the land he finds horrifying things. 190 cows dead, many born with birth defects and tumors. Wilbur is convinced that runoff from a nearby landfill is responsible. What was once a pastoral paradise is now a poisoned plot of land.
To paraphrase the famous John Denver song, country roads lead Bilott back home to place he belongs, defending a farmer done wrong by a conglomerate more concerned with profit than people.
“Dark Waters” is about accountability. Bilott spends more than a decade of his life, putting his health and family life at risk to take a corporate Goliath to task for their irresponsible behavior. Ruffalo does a good job at portraying the Bilott’s decline as he is worn down by the tactics of his foe, the impatience of the people he is trying to help and his inability to force the power brokers to play fair. It humanizes a story that otherwise would be a high level legal procedural.
Director Todd Haynes shoots the story in drab tones that echo much of the colorless work—i.e. cataloguing the mountain of paper sent over by Dupont in the form of discovery. It doesn’t make for a compelling looking film but it helps set the scene and tone. Fighting back isn’t glamourous work. It’s about late nights, crappy food and a constant feeling of exhaustion.
“Dark Waters” isn’t a thriller. From the first frame there is no question about who is guilty. The question here is how guilty and will they ever pay for what they have done? It is geared to outage and infuriate, to underscore that the big guys don’t always win. It is marred by a leisurely approach and some paper-thin characterizations, but the David and Goliath story is compelling.
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 Denzel Washington in “The Equalizer 2,” the delightful “Eighth Grade” and the biopic “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.”
Richard joins CP24 anchor Nathan Downer to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including Denzel Washington in “The Equalizer 2,” the delightful “Eighth Grade” and the biopic “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Erin Paul to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, Denzel Washington in “The Equalizer 2,” the delightful “Eighth Grade” and the biopic “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.”
Like a perfectly cooked egg, or popping the individual pockets of air on bubble wrap or the “pawooof” sound a properly opened bottle of champagne makes, watching Denzel Washington open up a can of whoop ass on bad people is extraordinarily satisfying. His latest film, “The Equalizer 2,” the first sequel in his long and stories career, offers up a cornucopia of fisticuffian delights that should keeps fans of tough guy Denzel happy.
Denzel returns as former secret agent and righter-of-wrongs Robert McCall. Although he’s looking to scale back his ongoing quest to protect and serve the exploited and oppressed, when his former boss and close friend Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) is murdered, he goes looking for revenge. “You killed my friend,” he says to the baddies, “so I’m going to kill each and every one of you. My only disappointment is that I only get to do it once.” Cue the carnage, Denzel-style.
There’s more, like a subplot with a young artist McCall tries to steer away from gang life and some double crosses, but you don’t go to an “Equalizer” movie for the social messaging or the plot. You go to see Denzel reign holy hell down on people that deserve a punch or two. That’s why the first, largely plot free, half of the movie is more satisfying than the second. We see McCall in random situations doing what he does best, not getting bogged down by the vagaries of narrative style or thematic statements. The fight scenes are don’t vary much, he scopes out the room, mutters a killer one-liner and devastates those who get in his way. It’s in the second half, after Susan’s murder that it sags as the movie strays into procedural territory. McCall’s investigative work leads to another improbable “Equalizer” style climax, although this one, set in a beach town during a hurricane, isn’t quite as ridiculous as the Home Hardware shootout—who knew those places were so dangerous?—in the first film, but it still requires some suspension of disbelief. (Start by asking yourself, when did he have time to hang up all those pictures of Susan in a wild windstorm?)
Director Antoine Fuqua has snapped up the pace from the first film, showcased the action, and added in two great motivators, betrayal and grief. Washington brings gravitas and ferocity to a character stuck somewhere between atoning for his violent life by helping those around him and knocking the snot out of people who get on his bad side. This sequel muddies the character by presenting him as a one-man posse, meting out his own brand of over-the-top justice. You can root for him, just don’t get on his bad side.
Not as trashy as “Death Wish” or as action-packed as “John Wick,” two other exemplars of the man on a crusade genre, “The Equalizer 2” is a solidly entertaining popcorn flick with pretensions of bringing Shakespearean level of pathos to the tale of vengeance. Instead, it’s “Taken” with the special set of skills and without the annoying daughter character.