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 “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” the adult rom com “The Big Sick” and the political buddy movie “The Journey.”
Richard and CP24 anchor George Lagogianes have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the superhero flick “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” the adult rom com “The Big Sick” and the political buddy movie “The Journey.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies including the superhero flick “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” the adult rom com “The Big Sick” and the political buddy movie “The Journey.”
To understand “The Journey” you need to know the players. The film, a speculative look at the negotiations that brought peace to Northern Island after forty years of violence, does a good job of setting the stage but in the interests of clarity, or if you miss the movie’s opening minutes, I’ll give you the Coles Notes.
Set in 2006, the film sees Colm Meaney as Martin McGuinness, the former chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army (“Allegedly,” he says) and Sinn Féin politician. “You may call me the acceptable face of the organization,” he says. Timothy Spall is Ian Paisley, the eighty-one-year-old leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and founder and moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church. The two are sworn enemies—“They are civil war,” says MI5’s Harry Patterson (John Hurt), “they are anarchy.”—warriors on opposite sides of a bloody decades long war known colloquially as The Troubles.
Northern Irish director Nick Hamm and writer Colin Bateman play fast-and-loose with the details. In real life the men met on an airplane. In reel life the film finds a contrivance to place the two in the back of a car, on a sixty-minute trip to the Edinburgh airport. MI5 secretly arranged the meet in hopes the men will discover what they have in common, that barriers will be broken down and that some sort of pact will be reached. It doesn’t start well. “I haven’t spoken to him in thirty years,” snorts Paisley, “another hour will be no trouble.”
History tells us the conversation led to the 2006 St. Andrews Agreement and an end to The Troubles. “We need a leap of faith,” says McGuinness, “and you are a man of faith.” The film shows the head-to-head that led to the treaty; how the two began as egotistical enemies and ended as friends and allies in a new, shared Northern Irish government.
“The Journey” is essentially a two-hander between Meany and Spall. There are others characters—Freddy Highmore as a British agent masquerading as their driver, Hurt as the architect of the scheme—but the movie hinges on the chemistry between its leads. Both hand in sturdy, theatrical performances as they spar, like two heavyweights trading words instead of punches. It often feels like a play adapted for the screen.
Spall is all bluster and religious rage. Meany plays McGuinness as a canny but pliable politician, resolute in his beliefs but hopeful for a deal. Each hand in interesting work but their conversation often feels like history in point form. The passing along of this information feels artificial and drains much of the juice from the situation. The script zips along, never digging too deep, which given the performances is a shame. These actors are hungry for a meatier script but Bateman’s dialogue doesn’t deliver.
Despite the performances “The Journey’s” take on the St. Andrews Agreement feels false. By the time Patterson shrieks, “Bloody hell, they’ve done it! They’ve bloody done it!” the film takes on the tone of a buddy movie and not a persuasive document of how peace came to Northern Ireland.
Arthur and the Invisibles is a whimsical kid’s movie that blends live action with animation. It’s a story about a young boy (Freddie Highmore from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) with a vivid imagination left to live on a Connecticut farm with his grandmother (Mia Farrow) while his parents search for work in the big city. The boy passes his time reading his missing grandfather’s diaries and daydreaming about the older man’s adventures in deepest Africa with two tribes—one giant, one small, known as the Minimoys.
When an evil real estate developer tries to foreclose on his grandmother’s land Arthur hatches a plan to use his grandfather’s papers and maps to uncover treasure buried on the property. With just 48 hours before bulldozers raze the house Arthur follows his grandfather’s instructions, shrinks himself to microscopic size and enters the world of the Minimoys to search for the treasure.
Here the movie gains some steam. Insects are as big as airplanes and one Rastafarian Minimoy sounds an awful lot like Snoop Dogg. Arthur, now equipped with a shock of white hair that makes him look more like Billy Idol than a superhero falls for a princess voiced by Madonna, does battle with a bad guy whose name no one dares utter and finds out why his grandfather mysteriously disappeared.
While it’s a relief to find a computer-animated movie that isn’t about talking animals on a quest to get home / back to Africa or fractured fairy tales Arthur and the Invisibles only delivers up to a point. A little over-long at 2 hours, the movie is exciting during its chase and action scenes but borrows a little too heavily from familiar fare like The Wizard of Oz and even Honey, I Shrunk the Kids to feel completely fresh.
We’ve finally reached the tipping point where casting Robin Williams has officially become a liability. A case in point: August Rush is a perfectly acceptable modern fairy tale about an orphaned young boy (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Freddie Highmore) who feels that his love of music will reunite him with his parents one day. It is a sweet idea, and Highmore with his sad eyes and apparent vulnerability is perfectly cast. If you buy into the idea that this neo-Oliver Twist could truly believe this airy-fairy idea about the magical power of music, then August Rush will work for you. Work for you, that is, until Robin Williams comes along with his Bono-wannabe hat and all his usual bluster and completely throws the movie off the rails.
Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers play Lyla and Louis, musicians from two different worlds. He’s a poor rock singer, she a rich cello prodigy. They meet on a rooftop overlooking NYC’s Washington Square Park, spend the night together and conceive a child. Her overbearing father conspires to keep them apart, and following a tragic car accident tells Lyla that the child was killed, while, in fact, secretly putting it up for adoption.
Eleven years later Lyla and Louis have moved on. She’s now a music teacher, unaware that her son is still alive; disillusioned he’s given up music completely. The child, convinced he can locate his parents, escapes the orphanage where he has grown up and makes off for the big city. He comes under the spell of a “musical Fagin” named Wizard (Robin Williams) who imparts new agey wisdom like “music is the harmonic connection between all living beings” and teaches the boy how to play the music that may eventually reunite him with his parents.
You have to have a strong willingness to suspend your disbelief to buy into August Rush’s storyline, but if you can you’ll find lots here to like. Highmore is a charmer on screen, Russell and Meyers are the very definition of star-crossed and director Kirsten Sheridan gives the proceedings an agreeable fairy tale feel, but whenever Williams hits the screen it’s as though this fable’s Ogre has awoken to chew the scenery and destroy any of the good will the movie had already accrued. He’s so annoying, and in the later half of the movie, so unnecessary to the plot, that the term “over-the-top” scarcely does him justice.
August Rush is a well-meaning but clichéd film with a nice message and decent music, but is almost done in by its casting.