Baby Driver: Although it contains more music than most tuneful of movies “Baby Driver,” the new film from director Edgar Wright, isn’t a musical in the “West Side Story,” “Sound of Music” sense. Wallpapered with 35 rock ‘n roll songs on the soundtrack it’s a hard driving heist flick that can best be called an action musical.
The Big Sick: Even when “The Big Sick” is making jokes about terrorism and the “X-Files” it is all heart, a crowd-pleaser that still feels personal and intimate.
Call Me By Your Name: This is a movie of small details that speak to larger truths. Director Luca Guadagnino keeps the story simple relying on the minutiae to add depth and beauty to the story. The idyllic countryside, the quaint town, the music of the Psychedelic Furs and the languid pace of a long Italian summer combine to create the sensual backdrop against which the romance between the two blossoms. Guadagnino’s camera captures it all, avoiding the pitfalls of melodrama to present a story that is pure emotion. It feels real and raw, haunted by the ghosts of loves gone by.
Darkest Hour: This is a historical drama with all the trappings of “Masterpiece Theatre.” You can expect photography, costumes and period details are sumptuous. What you may not expect is the light-hearted tone of much of the goings on. While this isn’t “Carry On Churchill,” it has a lighter touch that might be expected. Gary Oldman, not an actor known for his comedic flourishes, embraces the sly humour. When Churchill becomes Prime Minister his wife, Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas) makes an impassioned speech about the importance of the work he is about to take on. He raises a glass and, cutting through the emotion of the moment, says, “Here’s to not buggering it up!” It shows a side of Churchill not often revealed in wartime biopics.
The Disaster Artist: The key to pulling off “The Disaster Artist” is not recreating “The Room” beat for beat, although they do that, it’s actually about treating Wiseau as a person and not an object of fun. He’s an outrageous character and Franco commits to it 100%. From the marble-mouthed speech pattern that’s part Valley Girl and part Beaker from The Muppets to the wild clothes and stringy hair, he’s equal parts creepy and lovable but underneath his bravado are real human frailties. Depending on your point of view he’s either delusional or aspirational but in Franco’s hands he’s never also never less than memorable. It’s a broad, strange performance but it may also be one of the actor’s best.
Dunkirk: This is an intense movie but it is not an overly emotional one. The cumulative effect of the vivid images and sounds will stir the soul but despite great performances the movie doesn’t necessarily make you feel for one character or another. Instead its strength is in how it displays the overwhelming sense of scope of the Dunkirk mission. With 400,000 men on the ground with more in the air and at sea, the sheer scope of the operation overpowers individuality, turning the focus on the collective. Director Christopher Nolan’s sweeping camera takes it all in, epic and intimate moments alike.
The Florida Project: This is, hands down, one of the best films of the year. Low-budget and naturalistic, it packs more punch than any superhero. Director Sean Baker defies expectations. He’s made a film about kids for adults that finds joy in rocky places. What could have been a bleak experience or an earnest message movie is brought to vivid life by characters that feel real. It’s a story about poverty that neither celebrates or condemns its characters. Mooney’s exploits are entertaining and yet an air of jeopardy hangs heavy over every minute of the movie. Baker knows that Halley and Moonie’s well being hangs by a thread but he also understands they exist in the real world and never allows their story to fall into cliché.
Get Out: This is the weirdest and most original mainstream psychodrama to come along since “The Babadook.” The basic premise harkens back to the Sidney Poitier’s classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” In that film parents, played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, have their attitudes challenged when their daughter introduces them to her African American fiancé. The uncomfortable situation of meeting in-laws for the first time is universal. It’s the added layers of paranoia and skewered white liberalism that propels the main character’s (Daniel Kaluuya) situation into full-fledged horror. In this setting he is the other, the stranger and as his anxiety grows the social commentary regarding attitudes about race in America grows sharper and more focussed.
Lady Bird: Greta Gerwig’s skilful handling of the story of Lady Bird’s busy senior year works not just because it’s unvarnished and honest in its look at becoming an adult but also, in a large degree, to Saoirse Ronan’s performance. I have long called her ‘Lil Meryl. She’s an actor of unusual depth, a young person (born in 1994) with an old soul. Lady Bird is almost crushed by the weight of uncertainty that greets her with every turn—will her parents divorce, will there be money for school, will Kyle be the boy of her dreams, will she ever make enough cash to repay her parents for her upbringing?—but Ronan keeps her nimble, sidestepping teen ennui with a complicated mix of snappy one liners, hard earned wisdom and a well of emotion. It’s tremendous, Academy Award worthy work.
The Post: Steven Spielberg film is a fist-pump-in-the-air look at the integrity and importance of a free press. It’s a little heavy-handed but these are heavy-handed times. Director Spielberg and stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep are entertainers first and foremost, and they do entertain here, but they also shine a light on a historical era whose reverberations are being felt today stronger than ever.
The Shape of Water: A dreamy slice of pure cinema. Director Guillermo del Toro uses the stark Cold War as a canvas to draw warm and vivid portraits of his characters. It’s a beautiful creature feature ripe with romance, thrills and, above all, empathy for everyone. This is the kind of movie that reminds us of why we fell in love with movies in the first place.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: The story of a mother’s unconventional war with the world is simple enough, it’s the complexity of the characters that elevates the it to the level of great art.
Wonder Woman: Equal parts Amazon sword and sandal epic, mad scientist flick, war movie and rom com, it’s a crowd pleaser that places the popular character front and centre. As played by Gal Gadot, Diana is charismatic and kick ass, a superhero who is both truly super and heroic. Like Superman she is firmly on the side of good, not a tortured soul à la Batman. Naïve to the ways of the world, she runs headfirst into trouble. Whether she’s throwing a German tank across a battlefield, defying gravity to leap to the top of a bell tower, tolerating Trevor’s occasional mansplaining or deflecting bullets with her indestructible Bracelets of Submission, she proves in scene after scene to be both a formidable warrior and a genuine, profoundly empathic character.
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 “The Disaster Artist,” the neo-noir “Sweet Virginia” and the buddy flick “Suck It Up.”
The Disaster Artist details a filmmaker whose artistic ambitions outweigh his talent. Tommy Wiseau, the writer, director, producer and star of The Room, is the title character, a man who miraculously and unwittingly turns disaster into triumph.
The key to telling the story of the making of the worst film ever is not recreating The Room beat for beat — it’s actually about treating Wiseau as a person and not an object of fun. He’s an outrageous character and James Franco commits to it 100 per cent. From the marble-mouthed speech pattern that’s part Valley Girl and part Beaker from The Muppets, to the wild clothes and stringy hair, he’s equal parts creepy and lovable. But underneath his bravado are real human frailties. Depending on your point of view, he’s either delusional or aspirational, but in Franco’s hands he’s also never less than memorable.
Wiseau is undeniably a terrible filmmaker and actor. The Room is an incomprehensible mess, a movie so misguided it starts off bad, gets worse and keeps going, through sheer force of will to become enjoyable. It’s a film so awful audiences can’t take their eyes off it, like a car crash.
In that sense Wiseau reminds me of Ed D. Wood Jr., another filmmaker whose name has been synonymous with failure and ridicule. The 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards singled out Wood’s movie Plan 9 from Outer Space in the Worst Movie Ever Made category while also hanging the title of Worst Director around his neck.
To be sure Mr. Wood was no Cecil B. DeMille, but he doesn’t deserve the critical sneers levelled at his work. Certainly movies like Glen or Glenda and Jail Bait were restricted by their über-low budgets and appear hopelessly amateurish, littered by ridiculous special effects and melodramatic acting, but they are entertaining and isn’t that what it’s all about? Many directors have spent a lot more money and not come close to delivering the same kind of giddy fun that The Sinister Urge pulsates with.
Take Michael Bay for instance. His movies make loads of money at the box office, but never fail to put me to sleep. Visually his 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 Snickers bar a gourmet meal.
To my mind the difference between awful auteurs Wiseau and Wood and Hollywood hit-maker Bay is simple. Wiseau and Wood’s films are inexpertly but lovingly made by someone desperate to share their vision. Bay’s big glitzy movies feel like cynical money grabs more concerned with the bottom line than personal expression. I’m quite sure that if Bay had to undergo the trials and tribulations Wood had to suffer to get his movies made he would run to the hills, or maybe just back to his big house in the Hollywood Hills.
The Disaster Artist is a love letter to the movies and how they are the stuff dreams are made of. As for the success of Wiseau’s dream? It’s like what Adam Scott says about The Room in one of the film’s celebrity testimonials, “Who watches the best picture from a decade ago? But people are still watching The Room.”
“The Disaster Artist” details a filmmaker whose artistic ambitions outweighed his talent. The true story of Tommy Wiseau, the writer, director, producer and star of “The Room” is the title character, a man who miraculously and unwittingly turned disaster into triumph.
The story of the making of the worst film ever begins in 1998 at an acting class. Greg Sestero’s (Dave Franco) excerpt from “Waiting for Godot” has severely underwhelmed the teacher. Uptight and timid he’s as stiff as a board onstage. In other words he’s the complete opposite of Wiseau (James Franco), a loose-limbed performer with a wardrobe that looks nicked from Madonna’s closet circa 1986, who is as uninhibited as Greg is clenched.
Tommy is mysterious figure. He claims to be in his twenties, despite clearly being a child of the 1960s. He says his unusual Eastern European accent hails from New Orleans and insists on not being asked personal questions. The there is the question of why his bank account is, apparently, bottomless.
As the odd couple get friendly Tommy becomes Greg’s mentor. “You have to be the best, Greg,” he says, and never give up.” They hang out, watch “Rebel Without a Cause”— “You could be like James Dean,” Tommy says.—and hatch a plan to move to Los Angeles to make their mark in show biz. “I don’t want a career,” Tommy says. “I want my own planet.”
Setting up shop in Tommy’s LA pad, they audition and work but an impromptu audition is an epiphany for Wiseau. Spotting a high rolling producer (Judd Apatow) at a fancy restaurant Tommy recites Shakespeare for the bewildered man. Before being thrown out the producer gives him some advice. “Just because you want it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Even with the talent of Brando it’s one in a million and you don’t have it. It’s not going to happen for you.”
In the face of rejection Tommy decides to take matters into his own hands. “Hollywood rejects us,” he says. “We do it on our own.” He writes “The Room,” a self proclaimed masterpiece that he will produce, direct and appear in. Of course there is a juicy role in there for Mark as well.
Much of the rest of the movie is spent chronicling the bizarro-land production of the film-within-the-film. Bankrolled by Tommy, the $6 million production was plagued not only by a nonsensical script but Wiseau’s strange behaviour. When Greg moves in with his girlfriend (Alison Brie) Tommy feels betrayed and takes it out on the cast and crew.
The final product is the stuff of legend. “The Room” is an incomprehensible mess, a movie so misguided it starts off bad, gets worse and keeps going, through sheer force of will to become enjoyable. It’s a film so awful audiences can’t take their eyes off it, like a car crash. “Is it still going?” asks Lisa (Ari Graynor), one of the stars of the film through tears and giggles.
The key to pulling off “The Disaster Artist” is not recreating “The Room” beat for beat, although they do that, it’s actually about treating Wiseau as a person and not an object of fun. He’s an outrageous character and Franco commits to it 100%. From the marble-mouthed speech pattern that’s part Valley Girl and part Beaker from The Muppets to the wild clothes and stringy hair, he’s equal parts creepy and lovable but underneath his bravado are real human frailties. Depending on your point of view he’s either delusional or aspirational but in Franco’s hands he’s never also never less than memorable. It’s a broad, strange performance but it may also be one of the actor’s best.
“The Disaster Artist” is a character study about the power of dreams. Even if it isn’t in the way Tommy intended, audiences have fun at “The Room” screenings. “How often do you think Hitchcock got a response like this?” asks Greg as the crowd roars with laughter.
The new film is a love letter to the movies and how they are the stuff dreams are made of. As for the success of Tommy’s dream? It’s like what Adam Scott says about “The Room” in one of the film’s celebrity testimonials, “Who watches the best picture from a decade ago? But people are still watching ‘The Room.’”
Richard’s “Canada AM” reviews for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, Saoirse Ronan in “Brooklyn,” the Seth Rogen Christmas comedy “The Night Before” and the Julia Roberts thriller “Secret in Their Eyes.”
In my line of work, hype and celebrity are occupational hazards. Every day my inbox is stuffed with news releases touting the Next! Big! Thing! You get numb to it after a while, but every now and again someone will come along you know is destined for something big.
Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t a star the first time I met her but you could tell it would only be a matter of time until she was. It was 2010, years before she would win an Academy Award or be known internationally as Katniss Everdeen. She was a struggling newbie with just a handful of credits, but a great big buzz surrounding her performance in Winter’s Bone. Her steely but vulnerable take on an Ozark girl who will do anything to keep her family together was garnering good reviews and the usual phrases like “breakout performance” were being thrown around, but this time it felt different. Real.
I was asked to host a question-and-answer period with her after a screening of the film at a theatre in Toronto, but first we planned a quick dinner with a publicist at a nearby hotel. I’ve eaten with a lot actors who order a piece of steamed fish, no butter, no oil and then, rather than actually put it in their mouth, simply move it around the plate until the waiter takes it away.
Not Jennifer Lawrence. She ordered a steak dinner with sides and ate it all while showing us a cell phone snap of her costume for the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo audition. As she chatted, laughed and enjoyed dinner, it was apparent what she wasn’t. She wasn’t precious or overwhelmed at being on the cusp of something big. She was doing something rare in this business — being herself and enjoying the ride. In other words the woman you now see photo-bombing Taylor Swift on red carpets or starring in this weekend’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is the real deal, someone completely at ease with herself in a business that doesn’t usually allow for that.
Later, on the way to the theatre, she opted not to take the provided limo. Instead we walked down Bloor Street. It was on the chilly side, so she draped my suit jacket over her shoulders. Along the way her high heel caught in a crack in the pavement and snapped off. Rather than hobble down the street, she kicked off both shoes and walked barefoot the rest of the way, her broken designer shoes in hand.
At the theatre I don’t remember what we talked about on stage. When I think back on the night I reflect on the sweet spot she was in, career-wise. She was about to become one of the youngest Oscar nominees ever for best actress in a leading role and yet there wasn’t an ounce of pretension about her. Charisma? Yes. Talent? In spades.
I don’t claim to have some sort of celebrity ESP, but that night I knew in my gut I had met a star, a feeling reaffirmed when I saw her carry the Hunger Games movies on her back and become a leading voice in the fight for pay equality for women in Hollywood.
Want to see a superstar? Watch the last scene of the Joy trailer. Shot on an iPhone as test footage it’s a close-up of Lawrence’s face as she fires off two shotgun rounds. “My name’s Joy, by the way,” she says. It’s a simple image but a magnetic one. It’s a movie star moment from the rare actor who commands our attention every time she’s on screen. Sometimes you just know.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” the final part in Jennifer Lawrence’s quintet of blockbusters based on Suzanne Collins’s novels, begins seconds after the last movie ended. There’s no “previously on The Hunger Games.” It’s as if no time has passed since the last movie. It may leave newbies to the series a bit baffled but fans should appreciate getting right down to business.
The broad strokes of the story are easy to get even if you haven’t seen the other movies. Know that Katniss Everdeen is the Mockingjay, a symbol of hope in a country torn apart by Civil War. She’s also a butt-kicking warrior with a conscience. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), her ex boyfriend-turned-propaganda-tool for the government, now suffers from PTSD but has re-joined the efforts to bring down the evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
Publicly Snow calls Everdeen, “A poor unstable girl with nothing more than a talent with a bow and arrow,” but really he understands her value as a symbol to the revolution against him. For her part she is done with making speeches and propaganda videos and sees her job as eliminating Snow. “He needs to look into my eyes when I do it,” she says.
She sets off to the Capitol to hunt down Snow and faces her greatest challenges yet.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” is a cut above other young adult action movies. It skilfully blends politically charged action with elements of horror—how about those pasty white subterranean creatures?—romance and, it must be said a dollop of mush. It’s dark and dangerous, unafraid to explore the gritty side of the story.
It’s strongest asset, however, is its star, Jennifer Lawrence. She brings the complex character alive, displaying equal parts heroism, vulnerability and determination. She is the glue that binds all the elements together and is, far and away, the most interesting YA heroine in recent years.
Julianne Moore, Sutherland, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (who died before shooting was complete) round out the cast to create an interesting ensemble, but this is Lawrence’s movie.
“The Hunger Games” franchise has taken what is essentially a fancied up Civil War story and created a complete world, ripe with detail and intrigue. “Part 2” adds in a city that is basically a giant booby trap and some crazy creatures but stays true to the core of Everdeen’s story of survival.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” will satisfy fans and please newcomers to the franchise. The long coda that wraps up the franchise is probably only for hardcore fans hungry for details about Katniss and Peeta, but felt like padding to me. On the upside, there might be a great drinking game in here. Do a shot every time Katniss is knocked out and fights to regain consciousness and my guess is you’ll be just a shell-shocked as she is by the end of the movie.