Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the drama “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Theatres), the psychological thriller “St. Maud” (digital and on-demand), Robin Wright’s directorial debut “Land” (in theatres), the cheesy action flick “Skyfire” (VOD) and the dark comedy “Breaking News In Yuba County” (VOD).
Like Rodney Dangerfield, Sue Buttons (Alison Janney) gets no respect. In the new dark comedy “Breaking News in Yuba County,” now available on VOD, she discovers that with respect and unwanted attention comer hand in hand.
A help-desk operator, Sue is verbally abused by random callers, her half-sister Nancy (Mila Kunis) doesn’t remember her birthday and even shopkeepers talk down to her. “You’re important. You’re strong. You matter,” she says into the mirror, despite all the evidence to the contrary. When her husband Karl (Matthew Modine), who has been laundering money for crime boss Mina (Awkwafina), goes missing after a tryst with his mistress (on Sue’s birthday no less), people begin to take notice of Sue. Elevated to local celebrity status, Sue weaves a web of lies to keep policewoman (Regina Hall), deadbeat brother-in-law (Jimmi Simpson) and reporter Nancy from discovering what really happened to Karl.
“Breaking News in Yuba County” is part suburban satire, part character study. As a satire it aims to peel back the soft underbelly of big box stores, small town attitudes and middle-age angst.
As a character study, it follows Sue as she blossoms from wallflower into the anxious center of attention.
In a well-oiled machine, these two elements would sit comfortably side-by-side but here the satire doesn’t cut and the characters don’t compel.
The performances, particularly from Janney, tap every ounce of interest from the script, but the underwritten story from Amanda Idoko doesn’t dig deep enough for the satire. Mean spirited instead of insightful, it attempts the kind of juggling act Joel and Ethan Coen perform in films like “Fargo,” where crime, character and satire blend to unveil a more universal truth. Here, Sue’s search for acknowledgement and fame is as uninspired as her oft-repeated mantra, “You’re important. You’re strong. You matter.”
Richard and CTV NewsChannel anchor Andrea Bain talk about the latest movies coming to VOD and streaming services, including the Dakota Johnson-Tracee Ellis Ross musical drama “The High Note,” the Midnight Madness ready “Dreamland,” the rom com riff of “All About Who You Know” and the implausible twists and turns of “Inheritance.”
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 Dakota Johnson-Tracee Ellis Ross musical drama “The High Note,” the Midnight Madness ready “Dreamland,” the rom com riff of “All About Who You Know” and the implausible twists and turns of “Inheritance.”
“Dreamland,” Bruce McDonald’s eleventh film now on VOD, is a chaotic vision that mixes and matches contract killers, doppelgängers, human trafficking and a vampire wedding in a surreal stew of midnight madness ingredients.
The film’s strange tone is established early, with Stephen McHattie cast in two roles, Johnny Deadeyes, a hitman with a heart of gold and The Maestro, an amoral, junkie jazz trumpet player. The action begins when Johnny’s boss, gangster Hercules (Henry Rollins), upset by a personal slight, orders him to cut one of Maestro’s fingers off before a gig at a wedding thrown by crime doyenne The Countess (Juliette Lewis) and her vampire sibling The Count (Tómas Lemarquis). It seems The Count is to wed the daughter of one of Johnny’s neighbors, a young girl supplied courtesy of Hercules’ human trafficking business. The situation gives Johnny pause, and one attempted double-cross later, (MILD SPOILER AHEAD) the wedding erupts into the kind of violence that would give “Games of Thrones’” Red Wedding a run for its bloody money.
As the title would suggest “Dreamland” operates on its own indefinable wavelength. It is wonderfully weird, a movie that exists in some sort of twilight zone where logic doesn’t matter. McDonald, no stranger to genre flicks, embraces the weirdness, creating a world where the mundane and the absurd go hand in hand. Keeping it from spinning out of control is McHattie who grounds his two world-weary characters with primal thoughts regarding their mortality. They fall on either side of the will-to-survive divide, but that little bit of humanity plays nicely against the loud-n-proud performances from Lewis and Rollins. Both are fun and energetic and both feel like they stepped out of a comic book compared to McHattie’s work, which, while still outrageous, feels more anchored to reality.
It makes sense that one of “Dreamland’s” lead characters is a jazz trumpet player because McDonald has made a Bebop movie, a deconstructed genre flick with a fast tempo and unexpected story angles with only occasional references to the expected genre tropes. This quote from cornetist, pianist, and composer Bix Beiderbecke about the music he loved could also apply to “Dreamland.” “One thing I like about jazz, kid,” he said, “is that I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Do you?” One thing is for sure about “Dreamland.” You won’t know what comes next.
Richard sits in with Marcia McMillan to have a look at the the rollercoaster action of “Jason Bourne,” the heartwarming (and slightly raunchy) comedy of “Bad Moms,” “Cafe Society’s” period piece humour and the online intrigue of “Nerve.”
If you thought Pokémon Go, with reports of people being ambushed and robbed while searching for those elusive Digletts and Rhyhorns, was risky along comes a new movie with an even deadlier game. “Nerve,” a new thriller starring Emma Roberts, Dave Franco and Juliette Lewis, introduces an on-line truth or dare game… minus the truth.
Roberts stars as Venus Delmonico—Vee for short—a Staten island high school senior who rarely strays outside her comfort zone. “Life is passing you by,” her friend Sydney (Emily Meade) says. “You need to take a few risks every once and a while. You’re playing Nerve.”
The on-line game is fairly simple, or so it seems. Players are given a series of stunts to perform—like hanging moons, getting a tattoo, eating gross stuff or singing in public. Basically it takes advantage of its player’s poor impulse control and bad decision-making. “Watchers pay to watch, players play to win. Cash or glory? Are you a watcher or a player?” The game that uses your personal online info to tailor dares that play on your fears and deposit cash in your account for every challenge completed. The wilder the stunt the bigger the payday.
Vee becomes a player and when dared to kiss a stranger for five seconds she lip locks with Ian (Dave Franco), a random guy at a diner. The game partners them–“Apparently the watchers like us together,” he says.—and soon Vee is on a wild adventure across New York Bay in the Big Apple. What began as a simple kiss quickly escalates. It’s all fun and games until Vee begins to realize the game controls her life. She’s not playing to win, she’s playing to survive.
“Nerve” is a stylishly made teen flick with an interesting premise and likeable characters and actors. It follows the age-old adolescent formula—there’s unrequited crushes, underage drinking and two-faced BFFs—with one major change. It used to be teen movies always had an athletic character who could be counted on for muscle when the going got tough. Now it’s a hacker, which comes in very handy for Vee as the story takes a dangerous turn. A dangerous turn for Vee and the viewer. What begins as an appealingly made juvenile thriller—complete with comments on how much importance millennials place not on social standing but on social media standing and how the anonymity of the Internet allows people to use cyberspace to do things they never consider in real life—dissolves into typical teen fare by the time the end credits roll. What could have been an edgy analysis on the responsibility of social media is, instead, reduced to an actioner with an upbeat ending.
“Nerve” is almost really good. Too bad co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman didn’t have the nerve to continue with the dark tone all the way to the end credits.