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 the Helen Reddy biopic “I Am Woman,” the gritty gangster flick “The Tax Collector,” the glossy rom com “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” the Shakespeare update of “Measure for Measure” and the violent revenge film “Ravage.”
416 years after it was written Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” a story of morality and mercy in Vienna, has been relocated to a modern day housing commission apartment block in Melbourne, Australia. Paul Ireland’s “Measure for Measure,” now on VOD, condenses the Bard’s four-hour play into a time saving and timely 2 hours.
The action begins with a Meth-fueled shooting rampage breaking the relative calm of an apartment block’s communal garden. The place is a mini city within a city, a microcosm of society where its citizens are reliant on a leader in the form of crime boss Duke (Hugo Weaving), an aging godfather who controls most of the goings on in the neighborhood. The shooting has brought unwanted attention to Duke who hightails it out of town leaving his first lieutenant, drug dealer Angelo (Mark Leonard Winter) in charge until the heat dies down.
Angelo is loyal, almost like a son to Duke, but he wants to expand the empire and his influence. Plus, can’t stop thinking about his neighbour Jaiwarra (Meagan Hajjar), whose brother, a violent gun runner named Farouk (Fayssal Bazzi), does not approve of his sister’s relationship with aspiring musician Claudio (Harrison Gilbertson).
Director Ireland and screenwriter Damian Hill weave together Shakespearean themes of power, corruption, revenge and star-crossed lovers with modern day concerns of racial divisions, trauma and the drug epidemic but at its convoluted core “Measure for Measure” essays feelings of love and hate. The relationship between Duke and Angelo comes with complicated and deep seeded feelings of allegiance but is beginning to fray at the edges. Jaiwarra and Claudio have a deep bond that is threatened by Farouk’s hatred. Each character is intertwined and while the mix-and-match of love story and social commentary sometimes feels strained and melodramatic, Ireland offers up good performances—particularly from Weaving—that smooth over the film’s rough spots.
Richard and CP24 anchor George Lagogianes have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Doctor Strange,” the fourteenth film in the Marvel Universe, “Trolls,” the return of a 1970s pop culture phenomenon, Andrew Garfield as real-life WWII hero and pacifist Desmond Doss in “Hacksaw Ridge” and the Iggy and the Stooges documentary “Gimme Danger.”
Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, Benedict Cumberbatch in “Doctor Strange,” the fourteenth film in the Marvel Universe, “Trolls,” the return of a 1970s pop culture phenomenon with Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick, Andrew Garfield as real-life WWII hero and pacifist Desmond Doss in “Hacksaw Ridge” and the Iggy and the Stooges documentary “Gimme Danger.”
“Hacksaw Ridge,” a new war film from director Mel Gibson, is much like the man himself; blustery, loud, occasionally profane and with a muddled moral core.
The film opens with grim imagery, soldiers with their faces blown off, engulfed in flames, before jumping back in time sixteen years to tell the tale of real-life pacifist Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield). Growing up in podunk Virginia Desmond is a high spirited boy who almost kills his brother during a play fight spun out of control. When his mother (Rachel Griffiths) tells him the most egregious sin of all is the taking of another person’s life, he allows the potent words to sink in and take root.
Later, after a whirlwind romance of the, “Today I met the girl I’m going to marry,” type he enlists in the army, despite the protests of his WWI vet father (Hugo Weaving and his fiancée (Teresa Palmer). A conscientious objector, Desmond refuses any kind of weapons training, insisting instead to go into battle as a medic. In boot camp his fellow cadets treat him like a pariah while his superiors (Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington) threaten him with a court martial. “I’m not off up above,” he says pointing to his head. “I just believe what I believe.”
“Hacksaw Ridge” is the kind of movie that presents the main character as an underdog, but you know by the end of the film someone will say, “That crazy SOB was the bravest man I ever met,” or words to the effect. And so it goes. On Hacksaw Ridge, an impossibly tall cliff on the Japanese island of Okinawa, his mettle is tested when his platoon is attacked and overwhelmed. Without firing a shot, or even touching a gun, Desmond dodges death in the form of Japanese soldiers, bullets and grenades to bring aid to his colleagues.
This is a morality tale about a man whose noble intentions are misunderstood by everyone. Based on real events, it nonetheless has the feel of Hollywood fiction. Perhaps it’s because of our cynical times, but stories of the indomitable spirit seem to take on a corny edge no matter how much gruesome stuff—legs turn in the hamburger meat, rats eating corpses—the director uses to paint the screen.
That may be unfair, but there is an undeniable aw-shucks vibe that permeates the air. Gibson clearly respects the moral high ground his main character takes, but allows Garfield to play Doss as a hokey cliché, with one hand on the bible and a goofy grin plastered on his face. It’s amiable enough work but when the “hellfire of combat” kicks in he tends to get lost amid the action.
And there is a lot of action. By the time the movie shifts location to the titular warzone Gibson goes full tilt with skilfully shot, hardcore battle scenes. For a film about pacifism he doesn’t hold back, bringing his usual subtlety (think “Braveheart,” “The Passion of the Christ” or “Apocalypto”) to scenes of dismemberment and even a glimpse of ritual Seppuku. It’s wild and woolly and often very effective. A slow speed chase sequence in one of the cliff’s tunnels has tension and a couple of good jump scares. It’s solid filmmaking, if just a little safe. There’s nothing here as oddball or challenging as the use of arcane languages in his last two films or “Passion’s” female Satan. Instead he’s made a conventional, if somewhat gory inspirational biopic that suggests, come for the old time religion, stay for the blood and guts.
It’s hard to separate Mel Gibson from his films. “Hacksaw Ridge,” despite its lack of his usual eccentric flourishes, still feels like it could only be made by a man torn between deeply held faith and a wild side that sometimes runs free.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All atmosphere and no urgency make “Strangerland” a dull film.
Catherine and Matthew (Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes) and teenaged kids Tommy and Lily (Nicholas Hamilton and Maddison Brown) are struggling to survive in the remote (and fictional) outback desert town of Nathgari. Dad, the town pharmacist, is less than enthusiastic at living in Strangerland despite his wife’s attempts to fit in. Fifteen-year-old Tommy is an insomniac who goes for late night walks while his older sister has caught the eye of the local boys.
One morning, on the eve of an immense dust storm it’s discovered the kids didn’t sleep in their beds. Or show up at school. By nightfall a search has begun, led by policeman David Rae (Hugo Weaving). As the weather intensifies so does the hunt as Catherine and Matthew struggle to cope with their grief and sense of loss.
“Strangerland” wallows in the grimness of its story. The undeniable splendour of the cinematography—the landscape and the dust storm are spectacular in their rugged, terrible beauty—plays in stark contrast to Kidman’s hysterical performance and the anxiety inducing score by “True Detective’s” Keefus Ciancia. This could have been a welcome addition to other Australian lost-in-the-wilderness flicks like “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and “Walkabout” but lacks the spark to keep the story interesting.
Cloud Atlas, the new movie co-directed by Matrix filmmakers the Wachowski Siblings and Tom “Run, Lola, Run” Tykwer, is a sprawling story about the interconnectedness of humankind. To illustrate how we are linked the directors took the unique tactic of assigning multiple roles to the entire cast, including stars Tom Hanks and Halle Berry.
Hugo Weaving, the Australian actor of Matrix Trilogy Agent Smith fame, for instance, plays everything from a hired-gun assassin to an evil spirit to a female nurse (which he based on Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and more.
“Most of my characters were agents of control, enforcement or attempting to limit imagination or incarcerate people or stop certain stories from getting out into the world or just plain going out and killing people,” he says, “and then there’s Georgie. He actually doesn’t exist as an embodied figure. He’s literally a devil, so he’s a fear.”
Playing a range of characters spanning centuries and even gender divides didn’t faze the veteran actor.
“I was completely thrilled at embracing the idea of it,” he says. “When they told me the idea originally, ‘We want you to be one character in each storyline and at this stage we’re calling him the antagonist,’ it was a big thrill. If an idea grabs you in the gut, it is something you should definitely do.”
Gut feeling aside, juggling six roles presented challenges during the shoot.
“Right from the go the stories weren’t going to be shot in the same block,” he says. “We would do elements of certain stories in certain locations. If most of a particular story took place on one set of course you would tend to shoot most of that story before moving on to the other,” he says, “but there was one time I had five characters in a week.”
The unusual approach, he says, gives the film “a sense of playfulness that it wouldn’t otherwise have.”
“That’s what was fascinating to me,” he says, “seeing how one story can parallel another one because people are in sort of the same place. Then you get the strong sense of life repeating itself and certain constructs in the world repeating themselves time and time again. Certain power games being repeated time and time again and then you realize this same actor is playing all these characters and having the same attitude toward life.”