Richard joins CTV NewsChannel and anchor Lois Lee to have a look at new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including the virtual reality of “The Martrix Resurrection,” the coming of age dramedy “Licorice Pizza” and Denzel Washington in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and the jukebox musical “Sing 2.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with guest host Matt Harris to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the virtual reality of “The Martrix Resurrection,” the coming of age dramedy “Licorice Pizza” and Denzel Washington in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and the jukebox musical “Sing 2.”
Can Richard Crouse review three movies in just thirty seconds? Have a look as he races against the clock to tell you about the Neo’s return to virtual reality in “The Matrix: Resurrections,” the coming of age dramedy “Licorice Pizza” and Denzel Washington in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” in less time than it takes to buy a pack of Twizzlers.
Austere and theatrical, “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” in theatres on December 25, streaming on Apple TV+ on January 14, feels like an up-scale horror film in its examination of ambition and violence.
The plot is familiar from high school English class. Three witches (all played by Kathryn Hunter) prophesize that Macbeth (Denzel Washington), a heroic general in King Duncan’s (Brendan Gleeson) army, is bound for glory. He will be named Thane of Cawdor, they say, and one day, if he has the backbone, King. It’s welcome news for the ambitious warrior and his ruthlessly Machiavellian wife, Lady Macbeth (Frances McDormand), who helps kickstart her husband’s rise to power by devising a plot to kill the King.
Their bloody coup sees the well-liked Duncan murdered, triggering Macbeth’s ascent to the throne. The couple’s lust for power leads to a reign of terror, which includes the wholesale slaughter of King Duncan loyalist Macduff’s (Corey Hawkins) family and a civil war.
The crown sits heavily on their collective heads. The new power couple are soon overwhelmed by insomnia, festering paranoia and guilt. “By the pricking of my thumbs,” says one of the witches, “something wicked this way comes.”
Adapted for the screen by director Joel Coen, working for the first time without his brother Ethan, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” blends theatre and cinema in a seamless and powerful way. The expressionistic sets and minimalist soundtrack feel transported in from the theatre, while the beautiful stark black-and-white photography and charismatic performances are pure cinema.
Washington is quietly powerful as his immorality grows. His entrance, a bold walk straight up to the camera out of the fog, establishes his movie star cred. His letter-perfect line readings, imbuing meaning and emotion into even the most intimidating of Shakespeare’s passages proves he was born to say these words.
McDormand plays Lady Macbeth as her husband’s equal. She captures her ambition, but tempers the performance with notes of desperation.
Also striking is legendary stage actress Kathryn Hunter. She plays all three of the prophetic weird sisters in a physically transformative way that sees her bend into shapes that look almost supernatural.
All are ably supported by an exemplary cast, including Gleeson, Corey Hawkins as Macduff, the Thane of Fife, Bertie Carvel as Macbeth ally Banquo and Harry Melling as Malcolm, the King Duncan’s eldest.
“The Tragedy of Macbeth” is accessible without ever playing down to the audience. Masterful filmmaking mixes and matches the text with compelling images and wonderful performances to create a new take on the Scottish Play that is both respectful and fearlessly fresh.
Go see it, “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres including “Emma,” a period piece with a modern sensibility, “Seberg,” a by-the-book retelling of the defining time of movie actress Jean Seberg’s career, the memory mysteries of “Disappearance at Clifton Hill” and the “Big Lebowski” spin-off “The Jesus Rolls.”
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk about the weekend’s biggest releases including the upper crust shenanigans of “Emma,” the real life drama of “Seberg,” the “Big Lebowski” spin-off “The Jesus Rolls” and the thriller “Disappearance at Clifton Hill.”
The Coen Brothers have spent most of their careers as critical darlings, favourites of people like me who love the offbeat sensibility they bring to their films.
Their classic work, which includes O Brother Where Art Thou, Barton Fink and of course, the Oscar winning Fargo dates back to the early eighties with their breathtaking debut Blood Simple.
The Coens made their name mixing off-the-wall comedy with crime stories. Raising Arizona redefined quirky and The Big Lebowski is a cult classic.
The sibling directors set their new film Hail, Caesar! in a fictional movie studio called Capitol Pictures but populated the story with characters ripped from Hollywood history. Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s legendary producer and “fixer.” In Tinseltown’s Golden Age Mannix solved star’s problems, allegedly using his influence to keep some of the most notorious crimes and scandals on the LAPD blotter under wraps.
They don’t hit a homerun every time up at bat—their romantic comedy Intolerable Cruelty lacked both romance and comedy and The Ladykillers was an ill-advised remake of an Ealing Studios classic—but their genre-jumping resume contains many marvellous films that are as varied, subject wise, as they are entertaining.
Here are three of their movies that translate easily from the arthouse to your house.
No Country for Old Men: The Coens faithfully adapted Cormac McCarthy’s novel, keeping the dark humor, unbearable suspense and high body count—the ultra-violence would make David Cronenberg proud—while at the same time tightening up their notoriously loose narrative style. This is muscular filmmaking, highly structured but not predictable; it’s well paced and suspenseful. Couple the terrific story with great performances and beautiful New Mexico photography and the result is one of their best films.
A Serious Man: Though billed as a comedy, this may be the bleakest film the Coen Brothers have ever made. And remember these are the guys who once stuffed someone in a wood chipper on film. The story of a man who thought he did everything right, only to be jabbed in the eye by the fickle finger of fate is a tragiomedy that shows how ruthless real life can be. Set in 1967 Minnesota A Serious Man is apparently a thinly veiled look at the early life of the Coens, and if this is true, they deserve the designation of tortured artists. This film is darkly brilliant and funny, but a celebration of life it ain’t.
Inside Llewyn Davis: This one is a fictional look at the vibrant 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene. Imagine the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan come to life and you’ll get the idea. More a character study than a traditional narrative, Inside Llewyn Davis lives up to its name by painting a vivid portrait of its main character, played by Star Wars’ star Oscar Isaac. Sharp-eyed folkies will note not-so-coincidental similarities between the people Llewyn meets and real-life types like Tom Paxton, Alert Grossman and Mary Travers, but this isn’t a history, it’s a feel. It gives us an under-the-covers look at the struggles and naked ambition it takes to get noticed. Once you get inside Llewyn’s head you probably won’t want to hang out with the guy in real life, but you won’t regret spending two cinematic hours with him.
Coen Brothers fans will recognize the backdrop of “Hail, Caesar!,” the new screwball comedy from the prolific siblings. Fifteen years ago they doomed screenwriter Barton Fink (John Turturro) to a hellish stint fighting writer’s block at Capitol Studios. This time around the fictional studio is the setting for one day in the life of a Hollywood fixer.
James Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, a shady figure from Tinseltown’s Golden Age. Loosely based on the legendary MGM “producer” of the same name, he solves star’s problems, using his influence to keep some of the most notorious crimes and scandals on the LAPD blotter under wraps. He is, an associate says, a babysitter to “oddballs and misfits.”
As Capitol’s “Head of Physical Production” he’s about to have the busiest day of his career when an up-and-coming starlet is caught in a compromising “French postcard situation” while his leading lady, DeeAnna Moran’s (an Esther Williams-esque Scarlett Johansson), is about to have an out-of-wedlock baby. “is there any way she can adopt her own child?” he wonders.
If that wasn’t enough Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the studio’s biggest star, is drugged and kidnapped from the set of his sword-and-sandal epic Hail, Caesar!: A Tale of the Christ. “This is bad!” exclaims actor Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich). “Bad for movie stars everywhere.”
The action revolves around Brolin’s character, but this is truly an ensemble piece made up of many moving parts. Maybe too many.
“Hail, Caesar!” is a buoyant movie and when it is firing on all cylinders it can only be described as delightful. Clooney’s stagey reaction to meeting Jesus in the movie-within-the-movie—“Squint against the grandeur!”—and Ralph Fiennes as the marvellously named director Laurence Laurentz giving southern hick Hobie an on-set lesson in elocution—“Would that it were so simple.”—are a slices of comedic heaven. An editing mishap involving Frances McDormand, a scarf and a cigarette and Johansson’s hard-boiled dame accent are great character pieces while Channing Tatum channels Gene Kelly in an athletic tour-de-force dance number called “No Dames.” Add to that a breakout performance from Ehrenreich and the wonky Coen sensibility and you have a movie with much to admire.
It’s the other stuff, the connective tissue, that doesn’t hold up. In “Hail, Caesar!” the Coens seem more interested in set pieces than story. In between inspired bits—see above—the movie meanders looking for Mannix to bind it together. Brolin certainly looks the part of a 1950s tough guy but he is a device more than a character. His job is to connect the various story threads but he gets lost between the subplots. From communism to wayward movie stars to nosy twin gossip columnists (both played by Tilda Swinton) and manufactured romances the Coens leave no old Hollywood stone unturned.
“Hail, Caesar!” doesn’t quite come together as a fully formed movie but it does play as a love letter to the cinema. Its a satirical portrait of Hollywood’s Golden Age and the underlying message about the importance of movies should appeal to cinephiles but may have less impact on casual viewers.