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 Disney+ presentation of “Hamilton,” the most popular musicals of recent years, the psychological drama of “Shirley” and the crime thrillers “American Woman” and “Strange But True.”
“Strange But True,” a neo-noir thriller on VOD starring Amy Ryan and Margaret Qualley, examines grief in the context of an ordinary family thrown into extraordinary situations.
The action takes place against the backdrop of loss. Five years ago Ronnie Chase (Connor Jessup) and Melissa’s (Margaret Qualley) prom night began as they all do, with a rented tux, a frilly dress and proud parents taking photos. It ended in tragedy, with Ronnie dead in a car crash, an event that sent shock waves through the family. Stricken, his folks Charlene (Amy Ryan) and Richard (Greg Kinnear), split under the weight of their grief. Younger brother Philip (Nick Robinson) hightails it to NYC to pursue his dream of being a photographer and girlfriend Melissa is wracked with guilt, left with only her dreams of her late boyfriend.
Cut to present day. Charlene’s life has fallen apart. Her husband and job are gone, so when Melissa shows up, five years after the fateful night, claiming she is pregnant with Ronnie’s baby, she is not met with hugs and congratulations.
“If you think about it,” says Phillip, home recuperating from a badly broken leg, “there’s a chance what she said is true. If, and it’s a big if, if Ronnie’s sperm was somehow frozen before he died there’s a chance Melissa could have used it and impregnated herself years later.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Charlene snarls. “He was a teenager with his whole life ahead of him. Why would he do that?”
She sets off to find a rational explanation while Phillip grasps at straws, consulting psychics and leaving no possibility off the table. “I might not believe that this is Ronnie’s baby,” he says to Melissa,” but I believe that you believe it and I believe that Ronnie would have too. If that makes me an uncle, so be it.”
That search is the bedrock for a story packed with secrets and intrigue. Adapted from John Searles’s 2004 novel, “Strange But True” is a bit of a nesting doll of mysteries. Everyone has a backstory and a different relationship with the intrigue that forms the plot and the action toggles between past and present. That means there’s a lot to wade through in the film’s tight ninety-minute running time but director Rowan Athale manages it. He weaves psychological drama, a hint of paranormal, suspense and even some gothic horror into the story.
In the end the pregnancy is a McGuffin, simply a device to put all these elements into motion, but the result is a tightly wound thriller that leads to a gripping and satisfying conclusion.
Richard and CTV NewsChannel anchor Andrea Bain talk about the latest movies coming to VOD and streaming services, including the darkly comedic revenge story “Judy and Punch,” the Hitchschlockian thrills of “Last Moment of Clarity,” a pair of home invasion movies, “Survive the Night” and “Becky” and the eco doc “2040.”
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 darkly comedic revenge story “Judy and Punch,” the Hitchschlockian thrills of “Last Moment of Clarity,” a pair of home invasion movies, “Survive the Night” and “Becky” and the eco doc “2040.”
In the publicity material for “Last Moment of Clarity,” a new crime drama starring Samara Weaving and Zach Avery, the movie is being billed as a Hitchcockian thriller. I have a different, more accurate term. Hitchschlockian. It’s a little clumsy, I know, but it sums up the film’s mix of schlocky twists and turns that make up the plot.
Georgia (Samara Weaving) and Sam (Zach Avery) are a couple. She’s an aspiring actress and photographer and he has the incredible misfortune to have an apartment window that faces a crime scene. When he picks up one of her cameras and absentmindedly snaps a photo he captures Russian mobster Ivan (Udo Kier) kill a woman. Ivan sends his henchmen over to kill Sam and get the camera. They botch the job, and after several stray bullets fly, Georgia is shot. Thinking she is dead Sam hoofs it, hiding out in Paris.
Cut to three years later. Sam, now working in a café run by Gilles (Brian Cox), takes a day off to go to a movie and lo and behold the lead actress, Lauren Creek, looks just like Georgia, except now she has blonde hair. One Google search later he discovers she is an up-and-comer but has virtually no on-line personal history. Convinced this movie star with an enigmatic past is the love of his life, he jets off to Hollywood to track her down.
There he reconnects with Kat (Carly Chaikin), an old high school friend, now working as a film publicist. She doesn’t believe his story but agrees to help him find the truth—is it George in disguise? Is it mistaken identity? Or has Sam gone over the edge?
The clichés come hard and fast in “Last Moment of Clarity.” Characters are imported directly from the thriller department at Central Casting with dialogue to match. The best and most authentic line in the whole film comes from Chaikin, who is more interesting than either of the lead characters, when she says, “This is so f***ing dumb!” As a viewer you’ll be saying the same thing.
“Last Moment of Clarity” simply isn’t as clever as it needs to be. Twists are telegraphed in advance and worse, the very idea that a dye job is enough of a disguise to keep Georgia incognito… while starring in Hollywood films. No amount of stylish low angle shots and atmospheric cinematography can fill the holes in this plot.
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, including “The Mummy” starring Tom “Show me the Mummy” Cruise, Kate Mara in the woman-and-her-dog story “Megan Leavey” and the D-Day drama “Churchill.”
Winston Churchill, two time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and, according to a 2002 poll, the Greatest Briton of all time, has been played on screens big and small by everyone from Orson Welles and John Houseman to John Cleese and Richard Burton. Recently John Lithgow was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance of the British Bulldog on “The Crown,” and now along comes Brian Cox as the great man in a not-so-great movie.
Set in the four day lead up to the Allied D-Day landings in Normandy, France in June, 1944 “Churchill” presents a different take on the prime minister than we’ve seen before. Cox plays him as a sixty-nine-year-old man exhausted by the weight of power, terrified of repeating the mistakes made at the bloody World War I Battle of Gallipoli. A personal and professional downward spiral following discord with Generals Eisenhower (John Slattery) and Montgomery (Julian Wadham), is slowed by intervention from the PM’s wife, the strong willed Clementine Churchill (Miranda Richardson)
Feature films are not documentaries nor are they history lessons, but “Churchill’s” fast-and-loose relationship with the truth does not play well. While it is true that Churchill did have misgivings about the D-Day invasion the timeframe has been twisted for dramatic effect. Writer Godfrey Cheshire reports that writer and historian Alex von Tunzelmann “’telescoped’ the events of Churchill’s opposition, bringing them from months earlier to the days just before the invasion.” In an effort to link Churchill’s documented depression with one of the key events of WWII she goes nonlinear with history but fails to draw any real drama from her contrived version of events.
Cox grandstands throughout, perhaps in an effort to overcompensate for the cliché dialogue. “Sometimes you can’t lead everything from the front,” he bellows as though saying it louder amplifies its meaning. The gruff portrayal falls into caricature early on and has a hard time transcending into something compelling, let alone the psychological examination director Jonathan Teplitzky had in mind.
James Purefoy as King George VI and Richardson fare better but are bowled over by a script that suffers form a lack of subtlety.
“Churchill” is a beautiful looking movie, but it isn’t history or a portrait of a real person. Instead it is a misleading look at one of the most important eras in modern history.