Richard joins CP24 anchor Nathan Downer to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the return of Newt Scamander in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald,” the political doings of “The Front Runner” and the arthouse heist of “Widows.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, the continuing saga of magizoologist Newt Scamander in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald,” the political intrigue of “The Front Runner” and the arthouse heist of “Widows.”
A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the heartfelt dramedy “Instant Family,” the heist flick “Widows” and the political scandal of “The Front Runner.”
“Widows” may be one of the most subversive heist films ever made. Based on a British mini-series from the 1980’s it stars Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Erivo as four women bonded by debts left to some very bad men by their late husbands. It is part caper flick and part survival story that makes strong statements on hot button topics like sexism, poverty, prejudice, power and police brutality.
Set in modern day Chicago, the action in the story begins when Harry (Liam Neeson) and his crew of robbers gunned down and blown up after a heist gone wrong. His widow, teachers’ union executive Veronica Rawlins (Viola Davis), is left with a $2 million debt to local crime boss Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry). Manning is a tough guy attempting a stab at legitimacy by entering politics, running against corrupt local alderman, Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell). Manning wants his money and, after mistreating Veronica’s dog, gives her just one month to come up with the cash. “That money was meant to buy me a new life,” snarls Jamal. “That money was about my life. Now it is about yours.” If she can’t come up with the cash she’ll have to deal with psychopathic strong arm Jatemme Manning (Daniel Kaluuya).
It is a dire situation but Veronica has a plan, or rather, a notebook and a plan. Harry left behind a handwritten book detailing every bribe he ever paid and blueprints for a future heist. Putting the widows of her late husband’s hoodlum crew to work (Debicki, Rodriguez, and non-widow Cynthia Erivo), she creates a gang of her own to steal $5 million cash and save their lives. “I’m the only thing standing between you and a bullet in your head,” says Veronica.
Co-written by McQueen and Gillian Flynn, the author and screenwriter of “Gone Girl,” “Widows” is a tightly constructed thriller that builds with each passing moment. McQueen takes his time with the material, allowing the audience to get to know the characters, to learn what’s at stake if this caper goes south.
First and foremost is Davis, fierce and formidable. Her evolution from executive and unsuspecting wife to criminal mastermind is emotional, logical and very motivated.
Opposite her is Debicki as a damaged woman whose own mother suggests prostitution as a career choice to make things meet. Her shift from abused woman to a person completely in control of her life and the way she is perceived—“It’s mine to be ashamed of or be proud of,” she says. “It’s my life.”—is one of the film’s true pleasures.
The cast is universally strong. Farrell could use a different accent coach but Kaluuya is evil personified, a psychopath with dead eyes and an attitude.
“Widows” is a stylish art house heist flick that pays tribute to the genre but layers in not only intrigue but also social commentary about racism, the cost of political power and the imbalance of power between some of the female characters and their male counterparts. The thrills will appeal both to your heart and head.
“Gone Girl” is about many things. It’s about the perfect crime. It’s about the disintegration of a marriage. It’s about the mob mentality that shows like Nancy Grace creates when “innocent until proven guilty” becomes a meaningless catchphrase. Heck, it’s even about proving Tyler Perry actually can act but mostly its about keeping the audience perched on the edge of their collective seats.
When Amy (Rosamund Pike) and Nick (Ben Affleck) first meet both are writers living in New York City. It’s love at first sight. “We’re so cute I want to punch us in the face,” she says. but after a few years of marriage, a recession and a downsizing from Manhattan to Missouri, things go sour. On the morning of their seventh anniversary Amy disappears, leaving behind only an over turned coffee table and a smear of blood in the kitchen. In the coming days Nick’s life is turned upside down. “It’s like I’m on a Law and Order episode,” he says. His wife is gone, her over protective parents are on the scene and he is suspect number one.
Telling any more of the story would be akin to like giving you a puzzle, with all the pieces in place save for one corner. In other words, the more you know the less fun the movie will be. Director David Fincher has constructed an intricate, he-said-she-said thriller, based on a bestseller of the same name by Gillian Flynn, that relies on the element of surprise.
At the helm is Affleck. He’s terrific in what may be his most natural performance ever. He has the charm of a romantic lead but the soulless affect of a man lost at sea personally and professionally.
Affleck is a bright light but Pike burns a hole in the screen. The former Bond girl and “An Education” star has never been better. Cold and calculating, terrified and terrifying, she puts the femme in fatale. A star in the Brian DePalma mode, she’s capable of almost anything except being ignored. It’s a bravura performance and one that will garner attention come Oscar time.
Fincher has populated the film with strong supporting actors. The unconventional casting of Neil Patrick Harris, as an wealthy, controlling ex-boyfriend and Tyler Perry as a celebrity attorney both work well, but the stand-outs are in the female secondary cast.
As Nick’s twin sister Margo, Carrie Coon is spunky, funny—“Whoever took her is bound to bring her back,” she says of the sister-in-law she doesn’t like.—and finally desperate. Kim Dickens as the no nonsense Detective Rhonda Boney, the lead of the team investigating Amy’s disappearance, provides the procedural portion of the story.
“Gone Girl” is not great art, but it is an artfully made potboiler with memorable performances and slick direction that will keep you guessing until the end.