This week on The Richard Crouse Show: In 1976, Ian McEwan’s first collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, won the Somerset Maugham award; his first novel, The Cement Garden, was published two years later. He won the Booker prize in 1998 with Amsterdam. He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of British Empire) in the 2000 Queen’s Millennium Honors List for his services to Literature. His novels Atonement, On Chesil Beach, Enduring Love and The Children Act have been made into films. His new book Machines Like Me is in bookstores now. Listen to the whole thing HERE!
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Each week on the nationally syndicated Richard Crouse Show, Canada’s most recognized movie critic brings together some of the most interesting and opinionated people from the movies, television and music to put a fresh spin on news from the world of lifestyle and pop-culture. Tune into this show to hear in-depth interviews with actors and directors, to find out what’s going on behind the scenes of your favourite shows and movies and get a new take on current trends. Recent guests include Ethan Hawke, director Brad Bird, comedian Gilbert Gottfried, Eric Roberts, Brian Henson, Jonathan Goldsmith a.k.a. “The most interesting man in the world,” and best selling author Linwood Barclay.
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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 “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” an awkward wedding night in “On Chesil Beach” starring Saoirse Ronan and a documentary on one of fashion’s leading figures, “The Gospel According to Andre.”
Richard joins CP24 anchor Nathan Downer to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” an awkward wedding night in “On Chesil Beach” starring Saoirse Ronan, “Birthmarked” with Toni Collette and Mathew Goode and a documentary on one of fashion’s leading figures, “The Gospel According to Andre.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” an awkward wedding night in “On Chesil Beach” starring Saoirse Ronan and a documentary on one of fashion’s leading figures, “The Gospel According to Andre.”
Adapted by Ian McEwan from his novel of the same name, “On Chesil Beach,” spends some up-close-and-personal time with an awkward young couple on their wedding night.
It’s the summer of 1962 and Saoirse Ronan is Florence Ponting, a straight-laced,
upper class musician with dreams of playing with an orchestra. University College of London history student Edward Mayhew (Billy Howle) is working class, but despite their different stations in life, woos her and soon the pair is married.
We meet them on their honeymoon in a hotel on Chesil Beach, Dorset. Their obvious affection for one another aside, they are inexperienced and anxious. Edward is eager but Florence is torn between her distaste of personal intimacy and her fear of disappointing her new husband. “You’re always advancing and I am always backing away,” she says, “and we can never talk about it.”
Through flashbacks from their lives, both separately and together, we learn of Edward’s difficult home life with a mentally ill mother (Anne-Marie Duff) and what makes them both tick.
“On Chesil Beach” is essentially a chamber piece, built around the two lead performances. Director Dominic Cooke takes full advantage of them, luxuriating over their faces, letting their eyes, rather than the dialogue tell the story. Once again, Ronan is remarkable, authentic in every way. Howle contrasts Florence’s calm presence with a more volatile presence. From flashbacks to happier times and their their eventful honeymoon to a flashforward, we see a couple slowly crushed by the emotional weight of their circumstances.
Despite the emotional heaviness the film is light on its feet, only becoming bogged down in an overly sentimental—and tacked on feeling—coda.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show host Andrew Carter to talk about the origins of one of the most famous characters in movie history in “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” an awkward wedding night in “On Chesil Beach” starring Saoirse Ronan and a documentary on one of fashion’s leading figures, “The Gospel According to Andre.”
Given director Roman Polanski’s recent legal troubles it’s hard not to infer some deeper meaning into the plight of “The Ghost Writer’s” ex-Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan) accused of war crimes. In a moment of art imitating life Adam Lang’s lawyer says, “I strongly advise you not to travel to any country with extradition policies.” If Polanski had listened to that advice he might not have had to finish editing this movie from a jail in Switzerland.
Within Lang there are echoes of Tony Blair. He’s a popular, if controversial ex-Prime Minister—“He wasn’t a politician,” says the ghost writer, “he was a craze.”—with a ten million dollar book deal and a dead co-writer. The late journalist was found washed up on shore near Lang’s remote Cape Cod beach house under very mysterious circumstances. Pitch hitting for the late writer is Ewan McGregor’s character—he doesn’t have a name in the film—a professional ghost writer whose biggest hit was a biography of a magician called “He Came, He Sawed, He Conquered.” His job is to turn “incoherent rambling into a book.” Soon, however, his job is complicated when Lang is accused of war crimes by a former colleague. Untangling facts that may (or may not) place his own life in danger he turns from writer-for-hire to investigative journalist.
There is so much to like in “The Ghost Writer” that the few lapses in credulity are easy to forgive. I mean, are we really to believe that a massive conspiracy could be figured out using google? What’s next? Sherlock Holmes using Ask Jeeves? Apart from that bit of silliness Polanski has crafted a film that can comfortably sit beside “Three Days of the Condor” and “The Parallax View” for political intrigue.
The pacing is deliberate, not slow, but deliberate. Clues are doled out carefully, keeping red herrings to a minimum and allowing suspense to build with each new nugget of information. Tension and paranoia build with every scene. This is the man who made “Repulsion” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” so he knows how to make the mundane sinister. Ringing phones and loud raps on doors create an ominous atmosphere where danger is around every corner.
Add to that some interesting work to show the futility of the writer’s job. Watch in the background, the director places a gardener endlessly sweeping up dead leaves from the compound’s many patios, only to have them blow out of his wheel barrel every time he makes any progress. It’s a clever metaphor for the writer’s Sisyphean search for the truth. As he gets in over his head, trying to unravel years of twisted political strategy, I wanted to paraphrase Polanski’s most famous movie, “Chinatown.” “Forget it, writer. It’s politics.”
McGregor, who has played a writer twice before in “Moulin Rouge,” later in “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” is convincing but really shines when he is working opposite Pierce Brosnan. I’m willing to overlook Brosnan’s recent turn as a half man / half horse in “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” when he can be this good. He looks like a politician, like he was made for photo ops in front of private jets, waving to his constituents, but it is in the cat-and-mouse dialogue between Lang and the writer that he does his best work.
“The Ghost Writer” is Polanski’s first film in five years, and for those willing to judge the art, not the artist, it is as satisfying a thriller as we’ll see this year.
Visually Michael Bay’s films are spectacular feasts for the eyes. The former commercial director has a knack for making everything look shiny but having great taste doesn’t make a great film director any more than great taste makes a Snicker’s bar a gourmet meal.
The Island sacrifices a germ of a really strong sci-fi concept—the idea that clones are being created as spare parts for rich people—for bombast in the form of endless chase sequences, explosions and really stupid dialogue. I don’t mind action, and I’ll even put up with stupid dialogue, but what I found frustrating about The Island was Bay’s decision to go for sensory overload rather than tell a good story. The idea that the inhabitants of a futuristic compound believe that the outside world has been destroyed and the only inhabitable place on earth is an island where, if they win a lottery, they will be sent to help repopulate the world is a good one. When two of the group learn that everything isn’t what it seems they go on a Logan’s Run and escape. From there the movie becomes less sci fi and more hi fi—high fiasco, that is. Bay drops any pretense of sense and starts throwing money at the screen—buildings are destroyed, strange cars fly through the air and let’s just say the landscape of downtown Los Angeles will never be the same. Bay avoids any kind of depth—there is no comment on hot button topics like cloning or stem cell research, both of which could easily have been addressed—opting instead to further a plot that is so full of holes, if it were a ship it would be called The Titanic.
More insulting than the weak storyline is the blatant product placement. Michelob Light, X-Box and Cadillac and even the Calvin Klein commercial that Johansson made for television litter the screen. The obvious placement of paid advertising becomes even more bizarre in a film that centers around two clones—called “product” in the film—that are trying to escape their consumerist fate.
Paradise Island this ain’t. Perhaps Temptation Island because I was tempted to walk out of the theatre. Stay home and rent Logan’s Run instead.
Not since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has there been a novel so faithfully modified for the big screen. Atonement, adapted from the popular 2001 novel by British author Ian McEwan—sometimes called Britain’s greatest living novelist—perfectly captures the tone of the novel reproducing many scenes and much of the dialogue directly from the book.
Set in pre-World War II England Atonement begins as an idyll. A rich family with two daughters, the fetching and flirty Cecelia (Keira Knightley) and 13-year-old Briony (Saoirse Ronan), are vacationing at their rural country home. The handsome son of the family’s housekeeper Robbie Turner (James McAvoy) is the object of affection for both girls, but he only has eyes for Cecelia. When Briony catches the two in a passionate embrace she is overcome by jealousy. To keep the young lovers apart she impulsively comes up with a childish, but devastating plan to accuse him of a crime he didn’t commit.
There are serious repercussions to her impulsive of jealousy and years later she must atone for her actions.
Leading the cast is James McAvoy in a role that should catapult him to the ranks of a-list stardom. His emotionally rich take on Robbie follows the character from youthful innocence to the hardened edge of someone who was forced to grow up too quickly. There’s a range here he has never displayed before and it is one of the best performances of the year. Knightley—who looks like she was born to play 30s era flappers—is her usual charismatic self and brings much sexual energy to her scenes with McAvoy. And yes, for fans of the book, the green dress is very much on display.
Atonement is an epic tale disguised as a human drama. At its heart it is a love story, but through the trio of main characters—Robbie, Cecelia and Briony—it also tells us of the class structure of mid-century England, how deceit and remorse can ruin a life and how, sometimes, love can win out. Directed with raw power and compassion by Joe Wright, the movie is chock full of big ideas but never loses sight of the romance that is at the core of the film.