I appear on “CTV News at 6” with anchor Andria Case to talk about the best movies and television to watch this weekend. This week I have a look at the theatrical release of “Amsterdam,” starring Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and John David Washington, the period comedy “Catherine Called Birdy” and the Netflix docuseries “Eat the Rich: The Gamestop Saga.”
I joined CP24 to have a look at new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres. Today we talk about the all-star “Amsterdam,” the period piece comedy “Catherine Called Birdy” and the kid’s flick “Lyle, Lyle Crocodile.”
I sit in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres including the all-star “Amsterdam,” the period piece comedy “Catherine Called Birdy” and the kid’s flick “Lyle, Lyle Crocodile.”
I join NewsTalk 1010 host David Cooper on the coast-to-coast-to-coast late night “Showgram” to play the game “Did Richard Crouse Like This?” This week we talk about the all-star “Amsterdam,” the period piece comedy “Catherine Called Birdy” and the kid’s flick “Lyle, Lyle Crocodile.”
Watch as I review three movies in less time than it takes to write the name Amsterdam three times! Have a look as I race against the clock to tell you about the all-star “Amsterdam,” the period piece comedy “Catherine Called Birdy” and the kid’s flick “Lyle, Lyle Crocodile.”
“Amsterdam,” a quirky new film starring John David Washington, Margot Robbie and Christian Bale and now playing in theatres, is a convoluted story fueled by everything from fascism and birding to murder and music. If there ever was an example of a film that could have benefitted from the KISS rule, Keep It Simple Silly, this is it.
The madcap tale begins in 1933 New York City. WWI vet Dr. Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale), once a Park Avenue physician, he now runs a downtown clinic where he caters to the needs of soldiers who came back from the war broken and in pain.
When Berendsen and his best friend, fellow vet and lawyer Harold Woodsman (John David Washington), are hired by Liz Meekins (Taylor Swift), the daughter of their beloved commanding officer, to ascertain the cause of his death, they are drawn into a murder mystery involving secret organizations, ultra-rich industrialists and a crusty Marine played by Robert DeNiro.
In a flashback to the final days of WWI, we learn their backstory and meet Valerie (Margot Robbie), a nurse who treats their wounds, physically and mentally. As a trio, they swear allegiance to one another during an extended bohemian get-a-way in Amsterdam, a city that becomes a metaphor for freedom and friendship.
Reviewing “Amsterdam” stings. The production is first rate, from Academy Award nominated director David O. Russell, to the a-list cast to the ambitious script that attempts to link events of the past to today’s headlines. But, and this is what stings, the film is definitely less than the sum of its parts.
From the off-kilter tone, part screwball, part deadly serious, to the glacial pacing, which makes the already long two-hour-and-fifteen-minute running time seem much longer, and the script, which casts too wide a wide net in hope of catching something compelling, “Amsterdam” flails about, lost in its own ambition. This is the kind of story, it’s easy to imagine, the Coen Brothers could make look effortless, but Russell does not stick the landing.
He does, however, forward some lovely ideas about embracing kindness and the full experience of being alive, but even those are muddied by the inclusion of heavy-handed, and not particularly original, warnings about domestic terrorism and authoritarianism. Ideas get lost in a sea of exposition and narration, that not even these interesting actors can bring to life.
There may be an interesting story somewhere within “Amsterdam,” but it is hidden, lost in the movie’s epic ambitions.
Jennifer Lawrence continues her unbeaten streak (OK, I’m choosing to ignore “Serena”) with her regular dream team of director David O. Russell and co-stars Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. “Joy” is slight but succeeds because we want her to succeed.
“Joy” is a real life female empowerment story that plays like a fairy tale. When we first meet Joy Mangano (Lawrence) she’s a young girl making a fairy tale kingdom out of bits of paper. When she’s told a prince would complete the picture she says, “I don’t need a prince,” suggesting that Joy may be headed for her own happily ever after, but will do it on her own terms.
As an adult she’s a single mom struggling to make ends meet. Her ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez) lives in the basement, her mother (Virginia Madsen) hasn’t left her bedroom in an alarmingly long time, her passive aggressive sister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm) is more aggressive than passive and now it looks like her pig-headed father Rudy (Robert De Niro) needs a place to crash. Only grandma Mimi (Diane Ladd) provides unconditional love. “My whole life is like some sort of tragic soap opera,” she says.
When Rudy becomes involved with a wealthy widow named Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) a random incident leads to opportunity for Joy to reinvent herself. A red wine spill gives Joy the idea for a new kind of mop, a durable cleaning tool with a head made from a continuous loop of 300 feet of cotton that can be easily wrung out without getting the user’s hands wet. She called it the Miracle Mop and with a sizable loan from Trudy tries to bring her invention to market. She meets with slammed doors until the mop becomes a hit on the home shopping network QVC. Still, even with sales in the tens of thousands she has problems wringing a profit out of her mops.
“Joy” is a thoroughly enjoyable movie elevated by the strength of its performances. The film itself feels a bit sloppy—maybe that’s because there are four credited editors—but Lawrence and cast mop up the mess with top-notch performances.
De Niro often get accused of taking paycheques roles these days but his work in “Joy” proves he’s not on permanent cruise control. As Rudy he’s the worst kind of dim bulb, a hard-headed old-timer with too much confidence. It’s a complex comedic performance that will make you wish De Niro made more movies with Russell and fewer with everyone else (except maybe for Scorsese).
Bradley Cooper makes the most of a small role as the fast-talking QVC executive but it is the third part of Russell’s Golden Acting Triad—Jennifer Lawrence—who brings the joy to “Joy.”
For the second time this year, following “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” Lawrence dominates a big movie by sheer talent and strength of will. As Mangano she’s gritty, funny and completely genuine in a role that should earn her another Best Actress Oscar nomination.
“Joy” is a success story whose fast-paced joyfulness in performance and pacing makes up for the bumpy execution.
Richard’s CP24 reviews about the big movies opening on Christmas Day: Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling in the financial drama “The Big Short,” Quentin Tarantino’s neo-western “The Hateful Eight,” “Joy,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro and Will Smith in “Concussion.”