Richard speaks to “CTV News at 11:30” anchor Andria Case about television and movies to watch during the pandemic including the reality show “World of Dance,” the family drama “The Rest of Us” with Heather Graham and “Mr. Jones,” a story of journalism in a fraught time.
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 new Kevin Bacon psychological thriller “You Should Have Left,” the Heather Graham family drama “The Rest of Us,” the “Showgirls” rethink “You Don’t Nomi” and “Mr. Jones,” the true-life story of one journalist’s journey to tell the truth.
“Mr. Jones,” a new drama starring James Norton and Vanessa Kirby that comes to VOD this week, is a period piece set in the years leading up to World war II but the themes it explores, fake news and media corruption are just as timely today as they were in the 1930s.
The action in “Mr. Jones” begins in 1933 after idealistic Welsh journalist Gareth Jones (James Norton) used his connections as foreign advisor to prime minister David Lloyd George to score a sit-down with Adolph Hitler. The resulting story, warning of Hitler’s ambitions, costs him his government job, leaving him free to explore his next story, a proposed interview with Joseph Stalin to discuss the truth of the Communist Party’s five-year plans for the development of the national economy of USSR. “The Soviets have built more in five years than our government can manage in a hundred.” He’s determined to find out how the poor country is funding such large scale technical and military achievements. What is being sacrificed in return?
Upon arrival in Moscow Jones is stymied at every turn. With no access to the leader the journalist, although a teetotaler, dips his toe into Moscow’s hedonistic nightlife scene where he meets the decadent Walter Duranty, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Walter Duranty (Peter Saarsgard), a man as blind to the truth as Jones is open to it.
His search leads him to train, with a Communist minder, bound for Ukraine. Slipping away, he escapes into Stalino (now Donetsk) to uncover the unimaginable horrors of the Holodomor, a famine that killed at least 7.5 million people between 1932 and 1933. “They are killing us. Millions, gone,” says one townswoman. “Men thought they could come and replace the natural laws.”
What had been portrayed in the press as “the breadbasket of the world”—”Grain is Stalin’s gold,” says Duranty. “The 5-Year Plan has doubled the output.”—is in fact a hellscape of death where bodies are stacked on horse carts, abandoned houses dot the landscape and families eat tree bark and resort to cannibalism to survive.
Upon his capture he makes a deal with the devil to ensure the safety of six engineers arrested by the Russian state. As long as he promises to return to England and “tell the truth about what he saw;” to tell stories about the “happy and proud farmers and the remarkable efficiently of our collective farms,” and ensure the world that any rumors of a famine are just that. Rumors.
Back in England Jones says, “I do have a story but if I tell it six innocent men will die. But if I write the story millions of lives may be saved.”
“Mr. Jones” is an unevenly paced but haunting account of one man’s search for truth. At the center of it is Norton who effectively portrays Jones’ steeliness and his frustration at not being able to do his job but it is his time in Stalino that resonates. The long section, shot in desaturated black and white, with very little dialogue, allows the actor to portray the true horror of his surroundings. For the most part he keeps his revulsion internal, there are no hysterics here, just the soul crushing realization of the savagery of the surroundings.
Director Agnieszka Holland is no stranger to this subject matter or time frame. “Europa Europa” and “In Darkness” are compelling examples of her documentation of the worst events of the 20th century. She brings a similar gravitas to “Mr. Jones” and her unwavering sense of outrage at the atrocities is undiminished. It makes for forceful filmmaking but there are other choices that siphon some of the film’s power.
The opening moments, as Jones warns about Hitler’s threat, feel like something out of Masterpiece Theatre but quickly lead to more captivating material. It’s the inclusion of passages from George Orwell’s 1945 political satire “Animal Farm” that help bog down the film’s final forty minutes. Orwell was influenced by Jones’ reporting but didn’t write the book for a decade after the events portrayed in the film and his inclusion feels wedged in.
Despite some slack pacing “Mr. Jones” is an absorbing history lesson with a timely message for today. It’s a rejection of fake news and those who belittle the life-saving value of journalism.
Richard joins CP24 to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the “Little Women,” the war epic “1917,” the courtroom drama “Just Mercy,” the animated spy flick “Spies in Disguise” and Adam Sandler’s surprising work in “Uncut Gems.”
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel to have a look at the weekend’s big releases including the latest remake of “Little Women,” the war epic “1917,” the courtroom drama “Just Mercy” and Adam Sandler’s surprising work in “Uncut Gems.”
Director Greta Gerwig keeps the bones of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” in the new big screen treatment of the 19th century story, but reshapes the March sisters’ coming-of-age in fresh and exciting ways.
Set at the time of the Civil War, the eighth film adaptation of the tale sees the March’s, debutant Meg (Emma Watson), strong willed Jo (Saoirse Ronan), sickly and sweet Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and self-centerd Amy (Florence Pugh), with mother Marmee (Laura Dern), living a threadbare existence. The war has stripped them of whatever money they once had but they remain committed to charity—helping a destitute family down the road—and one another as they wait for the return of their father (Bob Odenkirk) from the battlefield.
As the story jumps through time their lives intersect with Theodore ‘Laurie’ Laurence (Timothée Chalamet), a charming, wealthy lay-about neighbor who has designs on Jo, his millionaire uncle (Chris Cooper), acid-tongued Aunt March (Meryl Streep) and Mr. Dashwood, the terse-talking newspaper publisher.
Told on a broken timeline, “Little Women” forgoes the linear structure of the novel to jump back-and-forth in time. It’s a clever device that takes some getting used to—at first it’s not immediately obvious the story is skipping around like a flat rock skimming across a lake—but ultimately it provides insightful perspective on the characters and why they make the decisions they do. Gerwig has fiddled with the story’s collision of feminism, romance and family dynamics just enough to amplify its resonance for a modern audience. Playing around with a well loved and well-worn classic is risky, but Gerwig pulls it off with panache, aided by an extraordinary cast who bring the material to vivid life.
As a collective the cast of “Little Women” are as finely tuned as the piano Beth practices on, pitch perfect with no sour notes.
Chalamet, reteaming with Ronan and Gerwig after the success of “Lady Bird,” drips charisma as the foppish and devoted friend/love interest Laurie. He’s equal parts awkward and arrogance, putting a new spin on a character that’s been played by everyone from Peter Lawford to Christian Bale.
Streep and Letts drop in for some comic relief but it is the chemistry between the sisters that is the film’s biggest success. Previous adaptations have tilted in Jo’s favor, giving her the most screen time and the juiciest character arc. Gerwig recalibrates, allowing each of the sisters to shine. The story still revolves around Jo’s interactions with each of the women, but here each of them push the story forward. Watson beings kindness and empathy to Meg. In Scanlen’s hands Beth is sweetly realistic about her lot in life. Ronan and Pugh leave the largest impression, imprinting the tale with their steeliness, humor and humanity.
“Little Women” is a rarity. It’s an adaptation of an often told tale that manages a rethink while still holding true to what made the source material so beloved.