Richard and “CP24 Breakfast” host Pooja Handa have a look at some special streaming opportunities and television shows to watch over the weekend including the nature documentary series “Tiny World” on Apple TV+, the Aaron Sorkin written and directed drama “The Trail of the Chicago 7,” and Rihanna’s music and fashion hybrid “Savage “X” Fenty Show Vol. 2″ on Amazon Prime Video.
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the timely period piece “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” “On the Rocks,” the re-teaming of Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola, the cerebral sci fi of “Possessor Uncut” and the unusual Gloria Steinem biopic “The Glorias.”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” now playing in theatres, sees Aaron Sorkin return to the courtroom twenty-eight years after he put the words “You can’t handle the truth,” into Jack Nicholson’s mouth. This time around he’s re-enacting one of the most famous trials of the 1960s, using transcripts from the actual proceedings as a basis for the script. There is no one moment as powerful of Nicholson’s “truth” declaration but there is no denying the timeliness of the film’s fifty-two-year-old story.
Here’s the basic story for anyone too young to know the difference between Yippies and Yuppies.
The trial, which was originally the Chicago Eight until Black Panther leader Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) had his case severed from the others, saw 60s counterculture icons Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong) of the Youth International Party (the aforementioned Yippies), and assorted radicals David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), John Froines (Daniel Flaherty), and Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins) charged with conspiracy and inciting to riot stemming from their actions at the anti-Vietnam War protests in Chicago, Illinois, during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
Behind the prosecution desk is the young and meticulous Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) acting as assistant to the truculent chief prosecutor Tom Foran (J. C. MacKenzie). On the defense is lawyer William Kunstler (Mark Rylance), a boldfaced name in civil rights litigation. On the bench is Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella), a conservative judge who once presided over an obscenity case against Lenny Bruce.
Those are the players and to a person they deliver solid performances, making the most of Sorkin’s snappy, rapid-fire dialogue. Of the ensemble cast Baron Cohen stands out, handing in a straight dramatic role; there’s no Mankini in sight. He’s too old by half to play the character who once famously urged kids to, “Never trust anyone over thirty,” but maintains the edge that make his comedic characters so memorable.
Sorkin, who also directs, has made a period piece that reverberates for today. A bridge that spans the five decades from the actual events, it’s a bit of history that comments on contemporary hot button topics like protest, civil rights and police brutality. The sight of Seale, the lone African American defendant, bound and gagged at the judge’s order, is a potent reminder of racial injustice in the penal system. Re-enactments of police brutality during the riots and the consequent discussion of who is to blame for the violence, the protestors or the bill club swinging cops could be ripped from today’s headlines.
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” isn’t perfect. Gordon-Levitt’s character is a cypher, a prosecutor who breaks with his colleagues at a crucial moment and Hoffman is played as a pantomime villain, but as a reminder of how history is repeated, it is a compelling watch.
Richard and CP24 anchor Nneka Elliot talk about the weekend’s four big releases, “Ghostbusters,” the new Kristen Stewart sci fi flick “Equals,” “Captain Fantastic,” starring Viggo Mortensen and the new Canadian horror film “The Dark Stranger.”
It’s hard to know whether “Captain Fantastic,” a new drama starring Viggo Mortensen as a task master father raising a brood of philosopher kings in a forested paradise right out of Plato’s Republic, is a condemnation of the American Dream or parody of hippie ideals or both. By the time the unconventional family celebrates Noam Chomsky Day instead of Christmas it’s hard to know whether to giggle at the absurdity of the situation or cry at the earnestness of the film’s intent.
Mortensen is Ben, father of six, husband of Leslie (Trin Miller). They have made their home deep in the forest of the Pacific Northwest. As Leslie lies dying in a faraway hospital, Ben puts his kids through a boot camp of rigorous physical and intellectual training. They rock climb, participate in coming of age rituals, learn about quantum entanglement and at night sit around a campfire eating the days kill and reading books like “The Brothers Karamazov.”
They are a tight unit untouched by the outside world. Home schooled and trained the kids each speak six languages and are all, even the youngest ones, self sufficient, but is Ben helping or hurting the kids? Does his unwillingness to bend in his extreme opinions make him a caring father or a fascist who has not prepared his kids to be out in the world?
The answer to that question comes, sort of, when he makes an announcement. “Last night mommy killed herself. She finally did it. Your mother is dead and nothing is going to change.” A cross-country trip to Leslie’s funeral, a place where Ben is not welcome, makes him confront his ideas on parenting.
The most fantastic thing about “Captain Fantastic” is Mortensen’s performance. As Ben he is a plain spoken, rough-hewn man so convinced of his correctness he is willing to risk the lives of his children. Underneath the bluster, however, is a man who cares deeply about his family and his late wife. He’s a man of extremes—both in beliefs and actions—but his love and his grief are heartfelt, even if they are run through Ben’s unforgiving filter. Mortensen makes an unlikeable character likeable and that goes a long way to making the film enjoyable.
Otherwise the journey to Leslie’s final resting place is an occasionally bumpy ride. The feral kids speak Esperanto, pontificate on the US Constitution and sit, gobsmacked, at the sight of their first videogame and it is in these moments that parody seems to nudge its way into the storytelling. The hippie heaven Ben builds for his kids is less a nirvana than a cage to protect them from what he sees as the evils of the world. He teaches them to survive in the wild, but it seems unlikely any of them could survive a solo subway ride.
“Captain Fantastic” loses more steam in a rushed final act, but luckily Mortensen is there to keep it interesting.
The message behind “Draft Day,” Kevin Costner’s last sports flick, is that technical ability is one thing, but having heart is just as important. It’s a key message for the story but also vital when considering the movie as a whole.
This film is technically proficient, but loads of technically proficient flicks aren’t as entertaining as this one. This movie works particularly well because it has heart, just like the players that Kevin Costner’s character recruits for his football team.
On the day of the NFL Draft, Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner) is faced with some tough choices. His team is not doing well, sports radio talking heads are beating him up for ruining the franchise his late father, the legendary coach Sonny Weaver Sr, built up and his girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) is angry with him. His future and possibly the future of the team hinges on one deal; a massive trade for hotshot quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence).
Like “Moneyball,” “Draft Day” scores authenticity points by casting a number of sports figures and insiders playing themselves. Cleveland Browns Center Alex Mack appears as does San Francisco 49ers defensive player Delon Sanders, but it’s the supporting cast of professional actors who really score a touchdown.
Frank Langella, playing the anything-for-a-buck owner of the Browns plus Ellen Burstyn and Dennis Leary as Sonny’s mother and grumpy coach respectively, are all great. Sean Combs as a smarmy sports agant didn’t even bother me. But of course, this really is Kevin Costner’s movie. He’s easy to watch at the best of times but particularly so when he’s in the genre that works best for him, and that’s sports movies.
He plays Weaver much differently than Brad Pitt handled real life manager Billy Beane in “Moneyball.” Unlike Beane, who used an algorithm to put a team together, Weaver works on a combo of instinct, experience and guts, which makes for an all round more emotional trip for him and the audience. “There’s no such thing as a ‘sure thing,”” the movie tells us. “All that matters is your gut.”
Story wise this is a pure sports film, complete with lingo and all kinds of stats, but it’s also a mystery. As Weaver digs into Callahan’s past, questions arise, leaving the movie’s central bit of action—will Weaver draft Callahan or not—up in the air until the closing minutes of the movie. It’s not Hitchcock, but it will keep you guessing.
Sports illiterates might need subtitles to understand some of the goings on. For me it didn’t matter if I followed the intricacies of the trades because the underlying emotion that comes along with changing someone’s life by drafting them into the NFL is very powerful and well played here.
Synopsis: On the day of the NFL Draft, Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) is faced with some tough choices. His team is not doing well, sports radio talking heads are beating him up for ruining the franchise his late father — the legendary coach Sonny Weaver Sr. — built up and his girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) is angry with him. His future and possibly the future of the team hinges on one deal: a massive trade for hotshot quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence).
• Richard: 3/5
• Mark: 4/5
Richard: Mark, the message behind Draft Day is that technical ability is one thing, but having heart is more important. It’s a key message for the story but vital when considering the movie as a whole. This film is technically proficient, but loads of technically proficient flicks aren’t as entertaining as this one. This movie works particularly well because it has heart, just like the players that Kevin Costner’s character tries to recruit for his football team.
Mark: Which makes the movie the opposite of Moneyball, which celebrates rationality and scientific method. I much preferred Costner’s flawed, slightly desperate soul over Brad Pitt’s technocrat. But there were other reasons I liked the movie. Having it take place on one day gives the film an urgency that really pulls you in. And there were some nice directorial flourishes, too. I haven’t seen split screen used so well in a long time. And let’s not forget a strong supporting cast.
RC: Like Moneyball, Draft Day scores authenticity points by casting a number of sports figures and insiders playing themselves, but you’re right, the supporting cast of professional actors really scores a touchdown. I enjoyed seeing Frank Langella playing the anything-for-a-buck owner of the Browns and Ellen Burstyn and Dennis Leary as Sonny’s mother and grumpy coach respectively, are both great. Sean Combs didn’t even bother me. Of course, this really is Kevin Costner’s movie. He’s easy to watch at the best of times but particularly so when he’s in the genre that works best for him, and that’s sports movies.
MB: And it’s hard to watch Costner in this without thinking about his iconic sports roles in Field of Dreams or Bull Durham. In fact, this is often where players wind up — as coaches and managers. So there’s a through line to the character to appreciate. The only thing that bothered me was that I am not a football fan. I’ve never seen a game. So all the negotiations were like watching a game of chess without any idea how the pieces are moved. Could you follow the technical details of the trades? Or were you wishing for subtitles?
RC: Subtitles might have helped a bit, but for me it didn’t matter if I followed the intricacies of the draft day business because I think the underlying emotion that comes along with changing someone’s life by drafting them into the NFL — I found those scenes powerful.
MB: Director Ivan Reitman has had a tendency to lapse into sentiment and bathos, but he keeps these tendencies nicely in check. I loved Costner, but I was also impressed at the sure handed direction. Reitman’s working at the top of his game.
At first glance you wouldn’t imagine television presenter David Frost and disgraced ex-president Richard Nixon have much in common. Frost was a well known playboy, as famous for his off screen antics as he was for his various television shows. Nixon was, well Richard Millhouse Nixon, the only US president to ever resign the presidency. They were an odd couple who became inextricably linked in the public’s mind following an historic series of interviews that brought in the largest audience for a news interview in history. In the new film Frost / Nixon, director Ron Howard details how much alike these two men actually were. He spends time forging psychological parallels between the pair as two men from modest circumstances who rose to the top of the heap in their fields but never earned the respect they felt they deserved.
When we first meet Frost (Michael Sheen) he’s a successful talk show host in Australia. His American show had been recently cancelled and he longed for another chance at fame in the US. “Success in America is unlike success anywhere else,” he says. Meanwhile Richard Nixon is about to resign the presidency following the Watergate scandal. When Frost—and 400,000,000 other people worldwide—watched Nixon’s resignation Frost saw a chance to rehabilitate his reputation. He understands that Nixon’s Shakespearean fall from grace would make great television, and he knows how to make great TV. He plans a series of four ninety minute interviews with Nixon covering a variety of subjects, including Watergate and the subsequent cover-up. Nixon signs on, for a price, seeing the interviews with the lightweight Frost as the perfect venue to mend his battered political status.
Based on a play by The Queen screenwriter Peter Morgan Frost / Nixon is one of the rare plays that actually works better as a film. Howard opens up the story taking us to places and events that are only talked about in the stage show. His work here is enlivened after the turgid DaVinci Code, with a quick pace that keeps the wordy script moving along at a fast clip.
There’s no action to speak of, save for the verbal sparring between interviewer and interviewee in their fourth and final televised meeting, and it is here that sparks fly. Sheen, best known to North American audiences for his portrayal of Tony Blair in The Queen, gives a flamboyant performance as the showy Frost but this is Frank Langella’s movie.
In Langella’s hands Nixon, one of the most vilified public figures of the last fifty years becomes almost sympathetic and not because he is handled with kid gloves. Quite the opposite; Howard often shoots Nixon peering out from the shadows to subtly imply that he is a shady character and the script has great fun portraying the president as a money grubbing opportunist. He becomes sympathetic through Langella’s humanizing portrait. A man so often remembered in sound bites is shown here, in a commanding performance, as a real person, warts and all. He isn’t, by his own admission in the script, a likeable man, but Langella’s carefully calibrated performance unveils previously unseen aspects of his personality. In the film’s final half hour—the events leading up to the final interview and the interview itself—Langella delivers tour de force work that could win him the Oscar for Best Actor.
The timing of the release of Frost / Nixon is interesting. Obviously a December release date puts it squarely in line for Academy consideration but beyond that it is an interesting look at the sad post Oval Office life of a president who left office with a very low approval rating. George Bush, take note.