Richard speaks to “CTV News at 11:30” anchor Andria case about the best movies and television to watch this weekend. This week we have a look at the kid friend “DC League of Super Pets,” the B.J. Novak mystery “Vengeance” and the family drama “Ali & Ava.”
I sit in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with guest host Matt Harris to talk the new movies coming to theatres including the animated superhero flick “DC League of Super-Pets,” the social media thriller “Vengeance ” and the British drama “Ali & Ava.”
I join NewsTalk 1010 host David Cooper on the coast-to-coast-to-coast late night “Showgram” to play the game “Did Richard Crouse Like This?” This week we talk about animated superhero flick “DC League of Super-Pets,” the social media thriller “Vengeance ” and the British drama “Ali & Ava.”
Watch Richard Crouse review three movies in less time than it takes to do a jumping jack! Have a look as he races against the clock to tell you about the animated superhero flick “DC League of Super-Pets,” the social media thriller “Vengeance ” and the British drama “Ali & Ava.”
“Vengeance,” a new satire playing in theatres, written, directed and starring “The Office” actor B.J. Novak, mixes-and-matches social commentary, the opioid epidemic and social divides, in a story that plays like a murder mystery wrapped around a journey of self-discovery.
Novak plays New York City writer Ben Manalowitz, a shallow, self-absorbed, know-it-all who wants to host an important podcast that will make sense of America and its current state of divide. “I don’t just want to write,” he says pompously. “I want to have a voice.”
When an unknown number pops up on his phone in the middle of the night, it sets him on the path to finding his voice as a weepy caller gives him the “bad news” that his girlfriend has died.
Girlfriend? Which one?
Turns out it was Abilene (Lio Tipton), one of several women he dated at the same time. The family believes they were in love but Ben has to look up her photo to put a face to the name.
Abbey’s good-old-boy brother Ty (Boyd Holbrook) insists Ben come to the funeral in West Texas. “I can’t do this,” Ben says. “None of us can do this,” says the grief-stricken Ty, “and face the future alone.”
Reluctantly Ben agrees to travel to West Texas and even gets roped into speaking at the funeral. “I wish I had known her better,” he says, looking at a picture of her and a guitar. “I wish I had spent more time with her. She loved music and will always be a song in our hearts.”
On the drive back from the funeral, Ty drops a bomb. “Abbey didn’t just die,” he says. “She was murdered. And we’re going to avenge her death.”
Why not just call the police? “In Texas we don’t call 911.”
Ben says, “As a personal boundary, I don’t avenge deaths. I don’t live in a Liam Neeson movie,” but a lightbulb goes off. This is the story he has been looking for.
He agrees to investigate Abilene’s death in the form of a true crime podcast. “This isn’t a story for everyone,” he says. “It’s a story about the need for vengeance.”
Working with his New York based editor (Issa Rae) to shape the story, his investigation leads him into murky territory, both personally and professionally.
The film’s title suggests a blood-speckled search for retribution but “Vengeance” is more interested in provocation than payback. Abilene’s death is the engine that drives the story, but it’s also a McGuffin, an ultimately not important detail in the overall scheme of things. Novak is more interested in our preconceptions about each other in the great red-state/blue-state divide, and how those biases color the way we behave.
It’s a heady backdrop for a neo-western noir, and it starts strong as fish-out-of-water Ben slowly realizes there is life outside his tiny bubble. Ben is a satire of east coast arrogance, looking down on anyone who dares to live outside the borders of New York City. As he digs into Abilene’s passing, investigating if she was murdered or took an accidental overdose, he begins to place old prejudices aside and actually becomes less insufferable. He is pointed in a new direction as his moral compass leads him to wonder if his own caddish behavior may have played a role in Abilene’s fate and, with the podcast, if he is exploiting her family.
Unfortunately, it is also at this point that the film begins to crumble under the weight of broad MAGA characterizations and juicy droplets of pop psychology doublespeak like “everything is everything so everything is nothing.”
As the story splinters off into a satire of true crime podcasts and social media in general, it gets mired in its own philosophies and the fleet-footed pacing of the early sections slows, dragged to a stop by a muddle of ideas.
“Vengeance” is an ambitious movie that bites off a bit more than it can easily chew and digest, but provides enough laughs and intrigue to be worth a look.
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to VOD and streaming services including the psychological drama “The Lodge,” the poignant Brit com “Military Wives,” the Netflix comedy “The Lovebirds,” the family drama “The Roads Not Taken” and the Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon comedy “The Trip to Greece.”
“The Lovebirds,” a new comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae debuting on Netflix this week, belongs to a very specific sub-genre of rom com. Like “Date Night” and “Game Night” it’s the story of a rocky romance rescued by one wild night on the town.
Nanjiani and Rae are Jibran and Leilani, a couple we meet on their first date. It’s all sunshine and roses (and some day-drinking) until we cut to four years later. The genial tone of the first date is gone, replaced by endless bickering about how he can’t make up his mind about which restaurant to go to and even “The Amazing Race,” a show he’s never seen. “I don’t need to get hit by a truck to know it would suck,” he says.
On the drive to a dinner party, things come to a head. “I feel like I’m one page of the book,” he says, “but you’re reading a magazine.“ Just as a petty spat leads them to the brink of a break-up they unwittingly become involved in a crime when their car is commandeered by someone claiming to be a cop (Paul Sparks) and then used to brutally run over and kill a bicycle courier.
Afraid the police won’t believe their version of events, the couple leave the scene of the crime, determined to take matters into their own hands and figure out who the bad guy is. Plunged into world that makes their relationship woes look tame by comparison, the couple uncover clues and rekindle their romance. “This is like ‘The Amazing Race,’” she says, “except with dead people.”
“The Lovebirds” is a rom com, or maybe it’s better to call it a rom crime? Either way, it mixes affection, funnies and felonies in one package that rests solely on the shoulders of its two charismatic stars. Their Fred and Ethel style bickering, which supplies much of the film’s enjoyment, doesn’t feel mean-spirited or contrived. Just the banter between two people who may have forgotten what they liked about one another to begin with. Nanjiani and Rae bring the comedic chops to make us laugh and the magnetism to keep us onside when the action ramps up and grows more and more extreme. “We couldn’t figure out our relationship,” he says. “Do you think we can figure out a murder?”
“The Lovebirds” works best when it has an edge, less so (and you knew this was coming) when romance is reborn. The (NOT A SPOILER! IT MAY HAVE VIOLENCE BUT IT IS STILL A ROM COM) conventional ending is a predictable but happy way to put a bow on the story.