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 clown prince of Asgard in “Thor: Ragnarok,” the grammatically incorrect “A Bad Moms Christmas,” and the strange “The Killing of the Sacred Deer.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Nick Dixon have a look at the weekend’s new movies including Chris Hemsworth’s funny take on his most famous character in “Thor: Ragnarok,” the lump of coal that is “A Bad Moms Christmas” and the strangest movie of the year, “The Killing of the Sacred Deer.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Lois Lee to have a look at the clown prince of Asgard in “Thor: Ragnarok,” the grammatically incorrect “A Bad Moms Christmas, the strange “The Killing of the Sacred Deer” and the religious drama “Novitiate.”
If you are to believe the new Mila Kunis comedy, “A Bad Mom Christmas,” the Yuletide is a time of joy… unless you are a mother. “Moms don’t enjoy,” we’re told, “they give joy. That‘s how being a mom works.”
In 2016’s “Bad Moms” Amy (Mila Kunis) Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) were a Coffee Klatch of moms fed up with the burden of having to be perfect. Today not much has changed except for the weather. They are all still overworked and underappreciated as the holidays approach. “I feel like a giant stress ball from November to New Years,” says Amy.
On top of providing a memorable Christmas for their families, the original three moms, in the kind of miracle that only happens in Christmas movies, are ambushed by their own mothers, the primly perfect-in-every-way Ruth (Christine Baranski), the overbearing Sandy (Cheryl Hines) and former REO Speedwagon roadie Isis (Susan Sarandon). Each are as welcome as a bad case of Christmas Itch and all three complicate an already complicated season. “Remember when the holidays were actually fun?” asks Amy. “Let’s take Christmas back.”
Only in the era of climate change would it seem appropriate to release the snowbound “A Bad Moms Christmas” the day after Halloween. The first “Bad Moms” movie was a hell raising grrrls-gone-wild romp with plenty of gags but this one falls into the sloppy sentimental trap of many holiday movies.
It’s an hour-and-forty-minutes of dime store psychology—families aren’t perfect but they’re the only family you’ll ever have—that makes “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever” look like “The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance” by comparison. It wants to warm the cockles of your heart with its tale of mothers and kids but none of it feels authentic. The heart-tugging stuff doesn’t tug because none of it feels authentic and the raunchy humour—the potty mouth kids, endless vaginal waxing jokes, the twerking on Santa and gingerbread cookies shaped like… well, you can guess—feels wedged in. Imagine a Hallmark Movie with male strippers and you get the idea.
It’s not the cast’s fault the script is drier than Aunt Ethel’s Christmas turkey. All of them—particularly Baranski and Hahn—are game but cannot turn this lump of coal into a polished diamond. Kenny G earns points as a willing pop-culture punchline and Baranski should win some sort of special prize for squeezing as many laughs out of this material as she does. Her take on “the most critical human being on the planet”—“When I was nine I made her a Mother’s Day card,” Amy says, “and she returned it with notes.”—is worthy of a much better movie.
“A Bad Mom Christmas” only gets one thing 100% right. “We’re going to watch ‘Love, Actually,’” says Amy. “Dumb movie,” sneers Ruth.
Welcome to the House of Crouse. First up, “Wilson” star Judy Greer stops by for a quick visit to talk about working with Woody Harrelson and signing the boobs of Archer fans. Then we go long with “Goon: Last of the Enforcers” star Kim Coates. He recites Shakespeare, talks about “Sons of Anarchy” and growing up on the Canadian Prairies. From boobs to Shakespeare, we cover it all, so c’mon in and sit a spell.
Judy Greer wrote a charming, self-depreciating book called I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star that chronicles her busy career as the second lead in dozens of movies and television shows like Jurassic World, Ant-Man, Arrested Development and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
She is, as her twitter bio reads, “that girl from that movie/tv show,” a familiar face on screens big and small. If you can’t place the face, perhaps you’ll recognize the voice. One of her longest running roles has her voicing the clingy and emotionally fragile Cheryl Tunt on the wildly popular adult animated spy sitcom Archer. For Greer herself the show has provided a career highpoint.
“I got to sign someone’s boobs at Comic-Con last year,” she says. “I think you’ve really made it if you have your own action figure and people want you to sign their boobs.”
There are other perks as well.
“I went to a dinner party recently, now I’m about to name drop, and Jon Hamm was there. He played a role on Archer but we don’t record together so I never get to meet anyone who does it. When I saw him he said, ‘God, I love your work on Archer and I love Archer so much I just wanted to be in it.’ That was so cool. That was a highlight. Jon Hamm and the boob signing. They work well in tandem. Maybe I’ll sign Jon Hamm’s boobs sometime!”
Her latest film, Wilson, gave her the chance to meet another of her favourite actors.
“I’m looking to work with people who inspire me. I’m pretty happy with the roles I‘m getting and I just want to work with more of my idols. I definitely checked that box with Woody [Harrelson].”
In the film Greer plays Shelly, a dog sitter who is one of the only people who finds the offbeat title character charming.
“There are a handful of actors who couldn’t play this role because you would hate them all the way through to the end. Woody himself is so lovely and wonderful that in the beginning when Wilson is kind of terrible Woody makes you root for him.
“After I saw the movie I found myself wanting to spend more time talking to people who irritate me,” she says. “Maybe that person is a Wilson and Wilson is great. I would want to hear Wilson’s opinion about things. Maybe I’m shutting people down too quickly. Maybe I need to give people who have strong opinions a little bit more of a minute in my life. Maybe there is something to be learned from them.”
The effervescent forty-one-year-old, who will next be seen in War for the Planet of the Apes, laughs when she says, “I felt strongly that [director] Craig [Johnson] would be making a huge mistake by not casting me.”
“Sometimes when I read something I fall in love with the character I’m going to play and sometimes I fall in love with the movie itself. In this case I fell in love with the whole movie, the script itself. I had to see this movie pop up for years to come and be so proud that I had a small piece of it. I wanted to do what I could to help Wilson and his story.”
Wilson, the titular character of the new Woody Harrelson dramedy, is the kind of unfiltered curmudgeon who calls his oldest friend a, “toxic, soul destroying vampire.”
He’s the kind of guy drives too slow on the highway and complains when people honk at him. “Everyone is in such a rush,” he harumphs.
He’s the kind of exasperating person who sits next to you on an empty train and then proceeds to ask deeply personal questions.
He’s the kind a guy who has probably been punched in the face, a lot.
But is he the kind of guy you want to spend 90 minutes with in the movie theater?
My answer would be no, but it really depends on whether you call his unfettered behaviour “open and fearless” or just plain rude.
Wilson is a square peg in the world of round holes, a man left alone and friendless when his father died and his only pal, Robert, moves away.
Convinced he must find a companion he tries to re-enter the dating pool. A couple of disastrous dates puts him on the trail of his ex-wife, a woman hasn’t seen in 17 years.
When she tells him she had their baby and put the little girl up for adoption, he insists on hunting her down in an attempt to form a lasting relationship. She is his legacy but her adoptive parents aren’t keen to have Wilson in their daughter’s life.
There’s more, but it would only lead you down the rabbit hole of Wilson’s off beat existence. No spoilers here.
“Wilson,” written by Daniel “Ghost World” Clowes and directed by Craig “The Skeleton Twins” Johnson, never quite finds the sweet spot between world weary versus depression, comedy versus tragedy. Harrelson and Co. play it at a heightened tone, only allowing dribs and drabs of real life to invade Wilson’s made up world.
The film trades on the theme that as people we are a fleeting, temporary presence in the world, soon to be forgotten.
“We want people to love us for who we are,” he says, “but that’s not possible because were all too unbearable.”
But just as that theme settles in Wilson, the man in the movie, shifts into a feel good mode that makes everything that came before seem a little like an elaborate but meaningless set up for some happy-making redemption. Everybody likes a happy ending, I know, but keeping true to Wilson’s crabby character and his journey would’ve been a more satisfying ride.
Director Zak Penn has taken a page from Christopher Guest’s Best in Show playbook and made an improvised film set in the world of a high stakes poker tournament at the Rabbit’s Foot Hotel in Las Vegas.
Woody Harrelson is One Eyed Jack Faro, a drug-addled heir to a Las Vegas casino. He has squandered his inheritance—on bad investments like a theme hotel/casino based on the Chicago Fire and wild partying—now may lose the business his father built up from nothing. To earn some desperately needed money he enters a tourney playing opposite a cast of characters that include Werner Herzog as a sadistic cardsharp called The German; Dennis Farina as a Vegas old-timer who longs for the days when the mob ran Sin City; Yakov Achmed (Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander), a man of undetermined ethnicity, and Cheryl Hines and David Cross as brother-and-sister competitors with an overbearing father, Seth Schwartzman (Gabe Kaplan).
Working from a script that was only 29 pages long, more a treatment really than a script, Penn determined the course of the action by staging a fake Las Vegas poker championship with the actors, in character, playing a real poker match up to determine the winner. It’s not quite as exciting as the Texas Hold’ Em shows that are all over television these days, but it is much funnier.
Among the highlights are Herzog’s delightfully unhinged performance as a man who needs “to kill something each day” and travels with a menagerie of small animals, and Ray Romano as the insecure husband of the Hines character but this is Harrelson’s movie.
His strange portrayal of Jack Faro brings to mind his delightfully off kilter turn as Woody on Cheers. He has an easy-going charm and a way with a line that makes even the more outrageous moments of this story seem almost plausible.
The Grand doesn’t quite measure up the Christopher Guest’s films—he’s the master at balancing the silly with the poignant—but it will work just fine as a stop gap while the master works on his next release.