Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with guest host Matt Harris to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including Gal Gadot’s return to superhero-dom in “Wonder Woman 1984” (available in theatres and as a 48-hour rental on various digital movie stores for $29.99), the existential animation of “Soul” (Disney+), the timely sci fi of George Clooney’s “The Midnight Sky” (Netflix), Tom Hanks, western style in “News of the World” and “Chicago 10” (The Impact Series, VOD/Digital).
“Chicago 10,” a documentary that echoes the events detailed in the recent Netflix drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” brings a sense of immediacy and even anarchy to an often-told story.
Director Brett Morgen uses mixed media, a amalgamate of archival footage and animation set to a soundtrack of edgy protest music, to tell the tale of one of the defining events of 1968. In an unsettled and unsettling year, a trial saw 60s counterculture icons Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin of the Youth International Party, and assorted radicals David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, and Lee Weiner 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. Black Panther Bobby Seale had his case severed from the others but earns considerable coverage here.
The story, based on transcripts and rediscovered audio recordings, is familiar but Morgen’s film is as much an experience as it is a straightforward documentary. His mix and match of styles brings with it an energy that captures the wild ‘n woolly climate of the times, from the hippies and the Yippies to the general atmosphere in Chicago. It’s trippy with a vibrant social awareness that side steps many of the cliches used in portraying the times.
“Chicago 10” is a digital release as part of the Impact Series.
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.”
To play the title character in “Norman,” a strategist, a consultant who sometimes consults with consultants, Richard Gere dimmed his matinee idol looks with a bad haircut and thick glasses. It’s his best role in years, a character study that gives him the chance to go deep in a movie that isn’t as deep as it thinks it is.
Gere is Norman Oppenheimer, a down-at-the-heels New York City wannabe wheeler-dealer. He’s a connector, a facilitator who brings people together. In conversation he repeats, “I’d be very happy to introduce you,” like a mantra, seven words that could unlock the mysteries of the universe.
Everybody who’s anybody knows who he is but nobody knows anything about him. He’s a cipher who lives on his cell phone, has no office but does have nerve and something to prove. He’s so keen to impress Micha Eshelan (Lior Ashkenazi), up-and-coming Israeli politician he buys him a very expensive gift just minutes after meeting him. “I bought him a pair of shoes,” he says. “The most expensive pair of shoes in all of New York. Best investment I ever made.”
His investment pays off years later when Eshelan becomes the Prime Minister of Israel. Norman’s stock rises considerably but is his relationship with the world leader illegal and corrupt? Is Norman simply a delusional name-dropper or is he the one virtuous man in a den of wolves?
When we first meet Norman he is the living, breathing embodiment of disappointment. A man who rides a razors edge of failure every time he picks up his cell phone. He swallows his pride at every turn, trying to maintain dignity even as he is thrown out of a wealthy man’s home. He’s a goodhearted weasel who lies and cheats in his quest to do the right thing and Gere plays him as a man desperate to matter, to experience the kind of recognition that would come with the right connections.
It feels like he has tasted the good life and, as Eshelan says, “once you have been up, way up, you can’t settle for anything less.” Norman wants more but it’s never exactly sure what that means to him. He’s a fascinating, annoying character and Gere brings him to life.
There’s also interesting work from Ashkenazi, Charlotte Gainsbourg as a crusading lawyer and Steve Buscemi as a rabbi but the film feels cluttered, as though director Joseph Cedar was so fascinated by Norman’s ever spreading web of obligations, he couldn’t stop adding to it.
“Norman” is an in-depth look at a superficial man, a movie that works best when it focuses on Gere and not baroque political intrigue.
Five years ago I wrote, “Penguins are the new dogs. Not since the heyday of dog movies like Benji and Lassie has one species won over the hearts of so many. “ Penguins were all the rage, appearing in movies as diverse as “March of the Penguins,” the R-rated parody of that movie, “Farce of the Penguins,” family flicks like “Madagascar,” even something called “Penguins Behind Bars” and, of course the Oscar winning dancing penguin movie “Happy Feet.” You couldn’t swing a haddock without hitting a flock of movie penguins, but that was in 2006. The question today is, will people still want to watch waist-coaters do the soft shoe?
“Happy Feet Two” is a series of stories set against a similar theme. Eric (Elizabeth Daily), the son of Mumble (Elijah Wood) and Gloria (Pink) doesn’t have the natural grace of his dad, and like all kids is slightly embarrassed of his old man. Meanwhile Bill and Will (Matt Damon and Brad Pitt), leave the krill swarm, they have grown up in to make a life for themselves in the outside world and the Mighty Swen (Hank Azaria), an odd looking penguin, impresses Eric with his ability to fly. When a catastrophic natural disaster threatens the very existence of the penguin population, however, Eric, the krill and Swen learn what it really means to be a part of something large than yourself.
The original “Happy Feet” and its sequel don’t look or feel like other movies for kids. Director George “Mad Max” Miller is a maximalist director who opens up the usual kid flick palette with swooping cameras, wide-open vistas and beautifully effective 3D. Featuring a cast of thousands—animated penguins as far as the eye can see and “krillions” of krill—the movie is made on a scale that would make Cecil B. DeMille proud.
Story wise the movie also takes a different approach. It’s a blend of musical theatre—many of the story points are introduced or at last supported by epic tunes—inspired by the Emperor penguins who use heart songs to attract mates—and some traditional family themes—father and son conflict, the importance of family—but Miller also digs a little deeper and really examines why people form families.
Mix in a “free to be me and you” subplot about the consequences of conformity and a subtle environmental message and you have a movie that dispenses with the easy morality of most animated films. Who else but Miller would create Bill and Will, two new bug-eyed characters who can only be described as existential shrimps? Actually they are krill, a tiny marine crustacean, but just because they are small doesn’t mean they don’t have aspirations. And most of the movie’s best lines. They banter back and forth like Ionesco and Beckett discussing the vagaries of their limited lives. “I fear the worst,” says Will, “because fearing the best is a waste of time!” Small but mighty they are a highlight of the film.
“Happy Feet Two” is a step above most kid’s movies. It is joyful, beautiful to look at, and has more to say about life, love and the pursuit of happiness than most movies aimed at adults.
This live-action/animation hybrid reintroduces the little blue creatures of Smurf Village — a place where there is no sadness and feeling blue is a good thing — to a new generation not raised on the effervescently perky pint — they may be blue but there’s not a melancholy one in the bunch — sized blue creatures.
I was a bit too cynical to buy into the Smurf craze of the 1980s — they were so popular one writer called them “kiddie cocaine” — but now I can see it as something other than an hour and a half advertisement for Smurfs Are Us. The new incarnation is a sweet kid’s movie with just enough grown-up material to keep the parents interested.
Of course the Smurfs are the main attraction, but it is bad guy Hank Azaria and his evil cat sidekick Azrael who provide the movie’s biggest laughs. The live action Gargamel is a classic kid villain, a baddie who’s not as smart as he thinks he is, and Azaria plays him with pantomime relish in a performance that is as big as the Smurfs are small. His evil feline sidekick is almost as big a scene stealer as he is.
Voice work is uniformly good, with Jonathan Winters leading the way with his warm and fuzzy take on Papa Smurf’s voice. Also clever is the Narrator Smurf (voice of Tom Kane) who provides a play-by-play of the action in dulcet tones.
“The Smurfs” trades on its inherent cute factor and nostalgia for much of its appeal. There are some good messages for kids woven in and the animation is relentlessly adorable but is there anything here for anyone over the age of five? Silly question. Is a Smurf’s butt blue?