Richard speaks to “CTV News at 11:30” anchor Zuraidah Alman about movies in theatres and on VOD to watch this weekend including the Gillian Jacobs college comedy “I Used to Go Here,” the Mick Jagger thriller “The Burnt Orange Heresy” and the biodoc “Howard: The Howard Ashman Story.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Leena Latafat have a look at the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the college comedy “I Used to Go Here” starring Gillian Jacobs, the satire “An American Pickle” and the crime drama “The Burnt Orange Heresy.”
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with host Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including the college comedy “I Used to Go Here” starring Gillian Jacobs, the satire “An American Pickle” and the crime drama “The Burnt Orange Heresy.”
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 college comedy “I Used to Go Here” starring Gillian Jacobs, the psychological thriller “She Dies Tomorrow,” the crime drama “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” the kid’s fantasy “The Secret Garden” and the biodoc “Howard: The Howard Ashman Story.”
“An American Pickle,” the new Seth Rogen movie now streaming on Crave, begins as a fish-out-of-water—or perhaps it should be a pickle-out-of-brine—comedy but gradually settles into a heartfelt story about blood being thicker than pickle juice.
The first time we see Rogen he’s playing Herschel Greenbaum, a laborer living in the Eastern European country of Schlupsk. He’s a ditch digger, married to Sarah (Sarah Snook), who dreams of a better life, one that involves one day being able to afford drinking seltzer water. In 1919 he and Sarah immigrate to America, where he gets a job killing rats at a pickle factory.
One day on the job, while everyone is distracted by the Condemned signs being posted on the front door, he stumbles into a vat of pickles, is sealed up and preserved in brine for 100 years.
He re-emerges, unchanged, in present day Brooklyn. His closest living relative is his great grandson Benjamin (also played by Rogen), who is exactly the same age (minus the 100 years of brining) as Herschel was and is. “I can’t wait to show you the future,” Benjamin says.
Benjamin helps his great grandfather negotiate the new world—“Imagine, a Greenbaum with twenty-five pairs of socks,” Herschel marvels—but when Herschel’s old-world temperament blows a five-years-in-the-making business deal for Benjamin, the relationship becomes as sour as an old deli pickle.
Feeling the burn, Benjamin tries to sabotage his grandfather’s burgeoning pickle business but instead Herschel becomes an online sensation as a beacon of free speech.
“An American Pickle” is “Encino Man” with a heart. The oddball, one joke premise gets the action started but it’s just kindling for what comes later. Screenwriter Simon Rich (who wrote the short story “Sell Out” the movie is based on) weaves in comments on the internet age, cancel culture and assimilation, themes that enrich a story that could have relied on one-liners and time travel gags.
It’s uneven in tone, dragging in the middle section, but between the laughs there is an unexpected sense of poignancy. “The world has changed,” Herschel says. “Everything I know is gone. Everyone I knew.” The comedy is broad but the heart of the story, the sense of the importance of family, inner strength and the feeling of displacement immigrants often feel in a new land are all handled sensitively. Rogen, in the dual roles, brings both the laughs and tenderness.
“An American Pickle” works as a satire of modern life but works best when it wears its heart on its sleeve.
“I Used to Go Here,” a new film on VOD starring Gillian Jacobs, challenges the wisdom of the famous Thomas Wolfe title, “You Can’t Go Home Again.”
With her upcoming book promo tour cancelled due to poor sales and still feeling the sting of a recent break up, Kate Conklin (Jacobs) is at a low ebb in her life. Her spirits are lifted when her favorite creative writing professor David (Jemaine Clement) reaches out with an invite to do a reading at her alma mater. She hasn’t been to Carbondale, Illinois in fifteen years but she hopes a trip down memory lane might be the tonic she needs.
In town memories come flooding back. The only change at her old frat house, nicknamed the Writer’s Retreat, are the faces on the students. It is otherwise frozen in time. Even the glow-in-the-dark stars she glued to her bedroom ceiling are still in place. David, her one-time mentor, is still an encouraging voice and an old friend with the unlikely name of Bradley Cooper (Jorma Taccone) still works at the campus bookstore.
But it’s not all déjà vu. Hanging out with some of the new students Kate has a rebirth. Given the time to reflect on the recent downturns in her life she is transported back to her school years, a time when risks were taken and the future seemed ripe with possibilities.
“I Used to Go Here” avoids the clichés of many other college comedies. A professor-student subplot isn’t played for its salacious value but as a comment on #MeToo’s power structure, and there is a bittersweet quality to much of the humour.
Jacobs is the above-the-title star here. She’s very good, providing the movie’s heart while painting Kate as someone who has lost her way on the path to recovery, but this is an ensemble piece filled with nice supporting performances.
Clement brings a rumpled charm as a professor who chose the security of academia over the real world of writing for a living. As Kate’s student guide Elliot, Rammel Chan is a welcome comedic presence and the group of college kids Kate befriends, played by Forrest Goodluck, Brandon Daley and Khloe Janel, are affable, compassionate and real. Of the younger actors it’s Josh Wiggins as Hugo, the empathetic wannabe writer who makes the biggest impression. His observation that, “Just because a connection with a person doesn’t last forever doesn’t mean it’s not real,” could have sounded ripped from the pages of a Nicholas Sparks novel but is delivered with a sincerity that transforms it into an insightful comment on the weight that is keeping Kate down.
Writer/director Kris Rey clearly relishes spending time with “I Used to Go Here’s” characters and gives each of them a clear-cut role in moving the story, and Kate’s life, forward. It makes for an engaging set piece, specific to its setting but universal in its outlook.