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 Richard Gere in “Norman,” Emma Watson in the cyber thriller “The Circle” and the animated movie “Spark: A Space Tail.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, Richard Gere in “Norman,” Emma Watson in the cyber thriller “The Circle” and the animated movie “Spark: A Space Tail.”
One day someone may write about Emma Watson without mentioning the Harry Potter franchise, but today is not that day. Few child stars have faced the glare of the spotlight as acutely as the core Potter cast and the fame that came along with playing Harry, Ron and Hermione will likely follow them around for as long as Potterheads roam the earth.
It’s not like they are crying over spilt potion, however. On screen Daniel Radcliffe takes on demanding roles that give him the chance to distance himself from Harry and, apparently, show his bum at every opportunity. Rupert Grint has kept a lower profile, starring in a few independent films and playing an upper-crust criminal on the television adaptation of Snatch.
Of the three Emma Watson has maintained the highest professional profile. Whether addressing the United Nations or starring opposite a heartbroken furry beast or accepting British GQ’s Woman of the Year Award she has rarely been far from view.
This weekend she follows up her biggest post-Potter hit, starring as Belle in the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast, with the high-tech thriller The Circle. Appearing opposite Tom Hanks she plays a young woman hired at The Circle, America’s most influential and possibly dangerous tech company.
She says, “I pick movies, not roles,” and has amassed a carefully curated IMDB page—including everything from This is the End’s axe wielding version of herself to Noah’s adopted daughter—designed to challenge an audience used to seeing her as Hermione and showcase strong and independent characters.
A year after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 she surprised fans by playing a wise-beyond-her years free spirit in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. “If you had told me that the first movie I was going to do coming out of Harry Potter was an American high school movie,” she told the Hollywood Reporter, “I would have laughed at you.”
Based on a popular junior adult novel, it uses one of the building blocks of teen drama—the friendless teen trying to navigate high school in his freshman year—but layers in equal amounts of teen angst and exuberance before the final class bell rings. Watson is terrific, avoiding the square-peg-in-a-round-hole clichés that could have dogged her character.
Her next starring role silenced Hermione comparisons forever. The Bling Ring plays like a Law & Order episode of The Hills. Based on actual events, it centers on a group of narcissistic Los Angeles teenagers who track the comings and goings of their favourite celebs on the internet. While one-named millennial stars like Paris, and Lindsay are out on the town the Ring “go shopping,” breaking into their homes, helping themselves to jewels, designer clothes and loose cash.
Watson’s performance nails the vapidity that made the robberies possible. Dead eyed, with a bored infliction on every word she mispronounces, her take on Nicki shows there’s more to her than being a wizard’s sidekick.
“I am aware I have a long way to go,” she told Elle UK. “I am not sure I deserve all the respect I get yet, but I’m working on it.”
The twenty-seven-year-old may have a long way to go, but one thing is for sure, if she continues to choose daring and exciting roles, she’s not going anywhere.
There’s an old saying that says a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. “The Circle,” a new Emma Watson, Tom Hanks’ thriller updates the message for the cyber age. “Knowing is good, but knowing everything is better,” is the chilling message.
Based on the Dave Eggers bestseller of the same name, “The Circle” stars Emma Watson as Mae Holland, a young woman who lands a gig at The Circle, a social media company with the influence of Apple and Facebook combined. It’s high tech glamour with a human touch, the chaos of the web made elegant. When Mae’s father falls ill her health coverage is extended to include her extended family. “You are a valued member of the Circle,” says the Zuckerbergesque company head and co-founder Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks). “We care about everybody you care about.”
As she moves up the ranks Bailey convinces her to take part in a radical test. “Mae,” he asks, “do you think you behave better or worse when you are being watched?” It is a grand social experiment that sees her observed on-line every minute of the day via a new, lightweight, wireless portable camera. On the surface it’s a utopian idea, a way to make people better—“When we are our best selves,” says Bailey, “there isn’t a problem we can’t solve.”—that soon has some unexpected consequences.
When her co-worker Ty (John Boyega) warns her that “all the information, everything broadcast, recorded and seen is stored there and they can use it however they want,” she realizes the possibilities of a surveillance culture.
“The Circle” is a snapshot not of today but of two years ago. It’s almost impossible to tell a dystopian or cautionary cyber tale when Russian hackers are throwing American elections and your laptop is already spying on you and likely has been for years. The film feels as current as it’s musical guest star Beck, a musician old enough to be Watson’s father.
It does raise questions about the usage of personal data for the gain of personal wealth, the role of technology in government—“The government needs us more than we need them,” snarls The Circle’s COO (Patton Oswalt)—and the nature and importance of privacy in the wild west of the internet but it doesn’t add much to the conversation. The messages are earnest, but Watson’s Mae is a passive player, a shallow character too gullible and easily influenced to maintain our interest. The solution to her moral quandary feels better suited to a Facebook post than the climax to a movie.
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.
Director Richard Linklater’s twelve-years-in-the-making, coming of age story “Boyhood,” is more than a slice of life. It’s slices of lives anchored by one character, Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, who was six when filming began, eighteen when the movie wrapped.
When “Boyhood” begins with Mason and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) are being raised by their mom (Patricia Arquette). Their father (Ethan Hawke) is a sporadic presence, an absentee dad who’s trying to do better. Mason is an introverted, artistic boy, Samantha an extrovert who rolls her eyes and hates the clothes her mother chooses for her.
To tell more would do the movie a disservice because the extraordinary thing about this movie isn’t the story, it’s the performances and the scope. The story of a single mother coping with bad relationship choices as she tries to better her life and the lives of her kids isn’t particularly new.
Here it is the execution that counts.
Linklater’s decade long shoot is more than just a gimmick, it’s a technique that sucks the viewer in, much in the same way home movies, viewed many years later, can evoke deeply held feelings. Watching these characters grow up on screen, literally, brings an authenticity to the film and the story, almost like a documentary. “56 Up,” in which director Michael Apted revisits the same group of British-born adults every seven years, is similar, but “Boyhood” feels different. The narrative construct of watching the character Mason grow up on screen is one thing, but on a larger scale we’re also watching Coltrane mature and that’s what makes this movie special.
There are great performances all round—Arquette and Hawke are especially good—but Coltrane’s performance is so natural that he, whether he knew it at the time or not, is portraying each of the phases of a young man’s—almost any young man—life. He’s not a precocious child actor, but a regular kid behaving like a regular kid. His real-life awkward teenage years, for instance, bleed into the film, producing a beautiful rendering of the middle teens that feels absolutely authentic because it is.
“Boyhood” is a remarkable film but not a perfect one. At almost three hours it occasionally feels aimless, but as a chronicle of life it’s an ambitious undertaking, a moving experience about the individual moments that make a life.