CHIPs: It’s a remake, a comedy and an action film and yet it doesn’t quite measure up to any of those descriptors. It’s a remake in the sense that writer-director-star Dax Shepard has lifted the title, character names and general situation from the classic TV show but they are simply pegs to hang his crude jokes on.
The Circle: While it is a pleasure to see Bill Paxton in his last big screen performance, “The Circle” often feels like an Exposition-A-Thon, a message in search of a story.
The Fate of the Furious: Preposterous is not a word most filmmakers would like to have applied to their work but in the case of the “Fast and Furious” franchise I think it is what they are going for. Somewhere along the way the down-‘n’-dirty car chase flicks veered from sublimely silly to simply silly. “The Fate of the Furious” is fast, furious but it’s not much fun. It’s an unholy mash-up of James Bond and the Marvel Universe, a movie bogged down by outrageous stunts and too many characters. Someone really should tell Vin Diesel and Company that more is not always more.
Fifty Shades Darker: Depending on your point of view “Fifty Shades of Grey” either made you want to gag or want to wear a gag. It’s a softcore look at hardcore BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) that spanked the competition on its opening weekend in 2015. Question is, will audiences still care about Grey’s proclivities and Ana’s misgivings or is it time to use our collective safeword? “Fifty Shades Darker” is a cold shower of a movie. “It’s all wrong,” Ana says at one point. “All of this is wrong.” Truer words have never been spoken.
The Mountain Between Us: Mountain survival movies usually end up with someone eating someone else to stay alive. “The Mountain Between Us” features the usual mountain survival tropes—there’s a plane crash, a showdown with a cougar and broken bones—but luckily for fans of stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet cannibalism is not on the menu. Days pass and then weeks pass and soon they begin their trek to safety. “Where are we going?” she asks. “We’re alive,” he says. “That’s where were going.” There will be no spoilers here but I will say the crash and story of survival changes them in ways that couldn’t imagine… but ways the audience will see coming 100 miles away. It’s all a bit silly—three weeks in and unwashed they still are a fetching couple—but at least there’s no cannibalism and no, they don’t eat the dog.
The Mummy: As a horror film it’s a meh action film. As an action film it’s little more than a formulaic excuse to trot out some brand names in the kind of film Hollywood mistakenly thinks is a crowd pleaser.
The Shack: Bad things in life may be God’s will but I lay the blame for this bad movie directly on the shoulders of director Stuart Hazeldine who infuses this story with all the depth and insight of a “Davey and Goliath” cartoon.
The Snowman: We’ve seen this Nordic Noir before and better. Mix a curious lack of Oslo accents—the real mystery here is why these Norwegians speak as though they just graduated RADA—Val Kilmer in a Razzie worthy performance and you’re left with a movie that left me as cold as the snowman‘s grin.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: Movies like the high gloss crime thriller “La Femme Nikita,” the assassin mentor flick “Léon: The Professional” and outré sci fi opera “The Fifth Element” have come to define director Luc Besson’s outrageous style. Kinetic blasts of energy, his films are turbo charged fantasies that make eyeballs dance even if they don’t always engage the brain. His latest, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” not only has one of the longest titles of the year but is also one of the most over-the-top, retina-frying movies of the year. Your eyes will beg for mercy.
Wonder Wheel: At the beginning of the film Mickey (Justin Timberlake) warns us that what we are about to see will be filtered through his playwright’s point of view. Keeping that promise, writer, director Woody Allen uses every amount of artifice at his disposal—including cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s admittedly sumptuous photography—to create a film that is not only unreal but also unpleasant. “Oh God,” Ginny (Kate Winslet) cries out at one point. “Spare me the bad drama.” Amen to that.
Song to Song: I think it’s time Terrence Malick and I called it quits. I used to look forward to his infrequent visits. Sure, sometimes he was a little obtuse and over stayed his welcome, but more often than not he was alluringly enigmatic. Then he started coming around more often and, well, maybe the old saying about familiarity breeding contempt is true. In “Song to Song” there’s a quick shot of a tattoo that sums up my feelings toward my relationship with Malick. Written in flowery script, the words “Empty Promises” fill the screen, reminding us of the promise of the director’s early work and amplifying the disappointment we feel today. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back, the Terrence Malick movie that put me off Terrence Malick movies. I’ll be nice though and say, it’s not him, it’s me.
EXTRA! EXTRRA! MOST COUNFOUNDING
mother!: Your interest in seeing “mother!,” the psychological thriller from “Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky, may be judged on your keenness to watch American sweetheart Jenifer Lawrence flush a beating heart down a toilet. Aronofsky’s story of uninvited guests disrupting the serene lives of a poet and his wife refuses to cater to audience expectations. “mother!” is an uncomfortable watch, an off-kilter experience that revels in its own madness. As the weight of the weirdness and religious symbolism begins to feel crushing, you may wonder what the hell is going on. Are these people guilty of being the worst houseguests ever or is there something bigger, something biblical going on?
Aronofsky is generous with the biblical allusions—the house is a paradise, the stranger’s sons are clearly echoes of Cain and Abel, and there is a long sequence that can only be described as the Home-style Revelation—and builds toward a crescendo of wild action that has to be seen to be believed, but his characters are ciphers. Charismatic and appealing to a member, they feel like puppets in the director’s apocalyptic roadshow rather than characters we care about. Visually and thematically he doesn’t push button so much as he pokes the audience daring them to take the trip with him, it’s just too bad we didn’t have better company for the journey.
“mother!” is a deliberately opaque movie. Like looking into a self-reflective mirror you will take away whatever you put into it. The only thing sure about it is that it is most confounding studio movie of the year.
A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Blade Runner 2049,” the survival flick “The Mountain Between Us” and the J.D. Salinger biopic “Rebel in the Rye.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the much anticipated “Blade Runner 2049,” the survival flick “The Mountain Between Us” and the J.D. Salinger biopic “Rebel in the Rye.”
Mountain survival movies usually end with someone eating someone else to stay alive. The Mountain Between Us features the usual mountain survival tropes — there’s a plane crash, a showdown with a cougar and broken bones — but luckily for fans of stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet cannibalism is not on the menu.
“The combination between survival and romance is why I wanted to do this movie,” says director Hany Abu-Assad. “It is very original. I could make a different survival movie which is on the surface is about survival but deep in its heart it is about love and the spirit of human beings. On the other hand it is an opportunity to make an entertaining movie. It is an entertaining but also sophisticated movie that tells the meaning of life.”
Elba and Winslet play strangers who must bond after a devastating plane crash leaves them badly injured and stranded. They are onscreen for 99 per cent of the film so the casting of the two leads was the first major hurtle for director Abu-Assad.
“This is a very risky movie because it depends on just two characters and if the actors are not good, you’re f—ed,” he laughs. “The process was very long and thoughtful. At the end we came up with Idris and Kate after we saw them at the BAFTAs together. They were presenting. We were throwing all kinds of names around. I don’t want to say who but we wanted to be sure you would want to look at them for an hour and a half and still not get enough. The moment I saw Idris and Kate together on the stage, immediately I thought, this is the movie I want to see. There is fire between these two that made us realize these were the actors we wanted.”
Shot in Western Canada, the vistas of ice and snow — imagine Lawrence of Arabia with snow instead of sand — were real and brought a sense of authenticity to the production.
“All the snow is real, pristine but this comes with a price,” Abu-Assad says. “For example you can’t shoot long days, just six hours a day. Otherwise you will be beaten up from the cold. People from Chicago or Montreal tell me they’re used to the cold. They are used to going 10 minutes from the house to the car or for a five-minute walk in the cold but six hours? That takes a toll. The equipment won’t work so we had to leave the cameras on 24 hours. The moment we stopped them it took hours to warm them up again. Some equipment froze in a way that we couldn’t even move it or touch it.”
Abu-Assad says the elements challenged the cast, crew and him during the shoot, but that it was worth it.
“It makes you hyper-vigilant,” he says, “because you can’t afford to make a mistake. Some scenes are just one take because it is a pristine snow and you can’t go back. It’s very tiring but not frustrating because your adrenaline is pumping. It was beautiful to watch. Things happened in a way that felt so genuine. It was like an orgasm to watch these shots being made.”
Mountain survival movies usually end up with someone eating someone else to stay alive. “The Mountain Between Us” features the usual mountain survival tropes—there’s a plane crash, a showdown with a cougar and broken bones—but luckily for fans of stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet cannibalism is not on the menu.
The melodramatic tale begins at the Idaho airport on December 29. A storm is brewing and all flights are cancelled, grounding Dr. Ben Bass (Idris Elba) and photojournalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet). He’s scheduled to perform surgery the next day in Denver, she’s getting married to Mark (Dermot Mulroney) on the 30th. Desperate to make their obligations, professional and personal, the two strangers pay former Vietnam pilot Walter (Beau Bridges) $800 to fly them to Denver in his twin prop plane. The jovial Walt doesn’t bother to file a flight plan because it’s daylight and he’s confident he can beat the storm.
All is going well until Walter suffers a stroke and the plane falls from the sky, crash landing at the top of a remote mountain. The situation? “Your phone is smashed,” says Ben. “Mine has no bars and we’re pretty high up in the mountains.” They’re also banged up. She has a broken leg, he has lacerations on his side. Walt isn’t so lucky, but his dog, who came along for the ride, is unharmed.
Around them is a winter wonderland: cougars, and miles of ice and snow as far as the eye can see. Tucked away in the broken airplane fuselage they wait for rescue. Ben, a man of logic and science, is convinced the airplane’s beacon will alert the authorities. Alex wants to move but is hampered by her injury. They bicker. He calls her reckless; she says he’s afraid to take risks. He’s a neurosurgeon, all logic. “What about the heart?” She asks. “The heart is nothing but a muscle, “he snorts.
Days pass and then weeks pass and soon they begin their trek to safety. “Where are we going?” she asks. “We’re alive,” he says. “That’s where were going.” There will be no spoilers here but I will say the crash and story of survival changes them in ways that couldn’t imagine… but ways the audience will see coming 100 miles away.
The crash sequence in “The Mountain Between Us” is vivid and exciting but the rest of it, including the inevitable plunge-through-the-ice-into-the-icy-depths sequence doesn’t have enough juice to get the pulse racing. Oscar nominated director Hany Abu-Assad is content, for the most part, to keep things light. It’s a grim situation and yet they make cocktail party conversation. “Do you have kids?” “I hope I get to meet your wife,” rather than discussing more pressing matters. The gravity of the circumstances seems to be of secondary importance as she says to the dog, “Don’t look at me like that.” They flip-flop between cozy moments and bickering and their corny reactions don’t ever feel like life-and-death reactions.
It’s all a bit silly—three weeks in and unwashed they still are a fetching couple—but at least there’s no cannibalism and no, they don’t eat the dog.
Salman Rushdie once wrote, “Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.” It’s a quote that resonates throughout “Lavender,” a new psychological thriller starring Abbie Cornish as a woman whose ghostly, fragmented memories haunt her.
In this elegant and eerie movie from “The Last Exorcism II” director Ed Gass-Donnelly, Cornish stars as Jane, a photographer who snaps pictures of old, dilapidated homes. One house in particular seems to have a draw on her, but after photographing it she has visions, one of which cause her to run her car off the road. Suffering memory loss, she undergoes therapy to stimulate repressed memories, a treatment that works all too well. Soon strange boxes appear, seeming to be clues to a past she had long ago left behind. Jane’s unfinished business comes flooding back in the form of long forgotten memories of a tragic and unsettling event.
“Lavender” is a hallucinatory study of the hidden horrors of the mind, a look at false memories and how they can be used as a shield from madness. It follows a well-trodden path—previously explored in mind movies like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Shining”—but Gass-Donnelly’s deliberate, almost trance-like direction lends plenty of atmosphere to the story. He effectively milks an emotional response with an anxiety inducing score by Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stetson and an assured performance from Cornish.
Cornish is at the very center of “Lavender,” grounded and eerie at the same time, she’s a sympathetic character with a hint of menace. This character driven story gives Cornish the chance to explore the psychological implications of a woman uncovering her uncertain past.
I figure the new Robert De Niro comedy is called, simply and inelegantly, “Dirty Grandpa” because “Filthy-Foul-Mouthed-Misogynist-Sex-Crazed-Pervert-Filthy-Rotten-Old-Coot-Grandpa” was too ungainly for the marquee.
De Niro plays Dick Kelly, a recently widowed seventy-two year old. His grandson Jason (Zac Efron) is a twenty-something who gave up his dreams of being a photographer to study law and join his father (Dermot Mulroney) firm. Jason has his life figured out—he’s about to marry the beautiful but controlling Meredith (Julianne Hough)—but is tragically unhip. According to grandpa he is like “Mitt Romney in Terminator.”
The grieving grandfather asks Jason to drive him to his summer home in Florida. “Your grandmother and I were there this time every year,” he explains. “It’s what she would have wanted.” Instead of a melancholy pilgrimage the trip takes a sideways turn when Dick goes on the prowl for a woman. He gets the chance to hook up when Jason bumps into Shadia (Zoey Deutch), an old schoolmate of his, and her friends, including the oversexed Lenore (Aubrey Plaza).
“The greatest gift a grandson can give to his grandfather,” says Dick, “is a hot college girl who wants to have unprotected sex,” so they take a detour and follow the crowd to Daytona Beach. There they meet a male drug dealer named Pamela (Jason Mantzoukas) who introduces Jason to crack cocaine, get thrown in jail, compete in a bodybuilding contest and much more.
Of course Dick’s unorthodox behaviour is ripe with life lessons… you just have to endure 60 minutes of pedophilia, masturbation and rape gags before those lessons become apparent.
“Dirty Grandpa” is credited to one writer but feels like it was penned by a group of drunken frat boys on the beer and bourbon binge. What, I guess, is supposed to be a funny look at aging and making the most of the time we all have, is reduced to a spectacle of a once revered thespian calling his lawyer grandson “Alan Douceowitz.” If this were a drinking game where you took a shot every time De Niro says “vagina” (and all of that word’s derivations) or any number of other words I can’t print here you’d have alcohol poisoning half an hour in. It mistakes politically incorrect “did he really just say that” jokes for actual humour.
Then there is the presence of the great man himself. I can forgive Zac Efron’s participation in “Dirty Grandpa,” he’s young and the idea of starring with De Niro (who he imitated rather perfectly in “Neighbors”) must have been irresistible but what is the star of “Taxi Driver” doing here? At one point Jason yells, “What the ‘bleep’ is wrong with you?” at him repeatedly. It’s a legit question. Perhaps it’s time for a career intervention. For the good of all of cinema let’s get David O. Russell to talk to De Niro before he accepts “Dirty Grandpa Pt. 2.”
“Dirty Grandpa” is the kind of film that, one day, De Niro’s great-grandchildren will watch and wonder what all the fuss about him was.