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 Jennifer Lawrence spy thriller “Red Sparrow,” the 1970s retread “Death Wish” with Bruce Willis and the deliciously venomous “The Party” starring Patricia Clarkson.
Richard and CP24 anchor Nathan Downer have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the Jennifer Lawrence spy thriller “Red Sparrow,” the 1970s retread “Death Wish” with Bruce Willis and the deliciously venomous “The Party” starring Patricia Clarkson.
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, the Jennifer Lawrence spy thriller “Red Sparrow,” the 1970s retread “Death Wish” with Bruce Willis and the deliciously venomous “The Party” starring Patricia Clarkson.
Jennifer Lawrence says she’s taking the next year off from acting.
Instead of prancing in front of a camera she’ll join forces with Represent.Us to help get “young people engaged politically on a local level.” This weekend, before she leaves Hollywood in the rearview mirror, she gifts us with a movie Variety critic Owen Gleiberman says “shows you what true screen stardom is all about.”
In the spy thriller Red Sparrow she delivers one last blast of unadulterated star power in the form of former Russian prima ballerina Dominika Egorova. Based on a novel by former Central Intelligence Agency operative Jason Matthews, it tells Egorova’s story after an injury forces her to leave the stage.
Sent to the Sparrow School, a facility where intelligence agents are trained to seduce and manipulate, she becomes the institute’s best and deadliest student ever. “Your body belongs to the state,” says Charlotte Rampling as the school’s sadistic headmistress.
The new film is garnering raves for the star, but she’s used to that. Critics have lobbed praise at her since her breakout performance in Winter’s Bone, a bleak 2010 Ozark Mountains drama about a young woman who tries to keep her family from falling apart. Peter Travers, writing in Rolling Stone, enthused, “Her performance is more than acting, it’s a gathering storm.”
Winter’s Bone made her a critical darling but it was the Hunger Games movies that made her a superstar.
Based on the bestselling novels by Suzanne Collins, the Hunger Games films could have been run-of-the-mill young adult movies a la Divergent or The Maze Runner. The thing that elevates them is Lawrence’s character work.
Set in Panem, a dystopian world ruled by a fascistic leader played by Donald Sutherland, the movies chronicle a state-sanctioned battle to the death between 24 players, two from each of the country’s districts.
These televised games are equal parts Miss Universe, American Idol and Death Race. The story also follows two “tributes” from District 12: Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), two reluctant warriors whose survival is at stake.
Jennifer Lawrence imbues Katniss Everdeen with a rich inner life in The Hunger Games films, writes Richard Crouse.
As fans of the books know, the focus of the story is the characters. They may be thrown into a wild situation. But knowing and caring about Katniss and Peeta is as important to this story’s success as the action scenes or dystopian premise.
Lawrence imbues Katniss with a rich inner life. You can see the machinations of this character churning behind her eyes. That depth played a big part in the series’ success. She took a role that could have been buried under layers of teen ennui or simple steely-eyed determination and gave Katniss real depth.
She starred as Katniss in four blockbuster Hunger Games outings, but took time to make smaller, riskier films that paid off with critical raves and an Oscar for best performance by an actress in a leading role for Silver Linings Playbook.
Now she’s taking a break from the big screen and from her now-legendary talk show appearances. Time calls her a “late night MVP” for her outspoken and often outrageous spots with the Jimmys — Kimmel, Fallon — but perhaps there was more than a kernel of truth in her recent sit-down with Stephen Colbert. Asked why she was taking a year off she replied, “Because I’m miserable.” She laughed off the remark but given the level of intensity of her performances perhaps it’s time for her to sit back and recharge her batteries. Her fans will be there in a year when she’s ready to come back.
The trailers for “Red Sparrow,” a new thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence, promise an action packed movie experience that could rest comfortably alongside the action-packed “Atomic Blonde.” But like its main character, all is not what it seems. This isn’t “Atomic Blonde: Electric Boogaloo,” it’s an austere, cold film, and not just in its bleak Russian backdrop.
Based on a novel by former Central Intelligence Agency operative Jason Matthews, it tells the story of Russian prima ballerina Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) after a career ending injury forces her into early retirement. With a sick mother at home and an apartment paid for by the Bolshoi Ballet, her now former employer, she is in desperate need of money. “I can make sure your mother is looked after,” says her uncle Vanya Egorov (Matthias Schoenaerts), who also happens to be the deputy director of the Service of the Russian Federation. “That you can stay in your apartment but only if you can be of use to the state. Do it for your mother.”
When she survives her first “job”—seducing a wealthy Russian tycoon—Uncle sends her to the Sparrow School, a facility where, “selected for their beauty, strength and ability,” candidates are trained to be, “weapons in a global struggle for power.” The syllabus includes courses on seduction and manipulation, exploiting weakness, how to love on command and trigger sexual desires. Most importantly, they are taught to harden themselves against the sentimental.
It’s a tough learning curve and the stakes are high. “If you cannot be of use to the State I will put a bullet through your head,” says the school’s sadistic headmistress (Charlotte Rampling). After a rough start Dominika dodges the bullet to become one of the Krushtov era program’s best students.
Her first assignment sees her sent to Budapest to seduce American operative Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) and uncover the name of his Russian double agent working for the CIA.
“Red Sparrow” plays like a typical spy movie with less action and more kink. There’s barely a car chase, very few bullets are loosed and most of the violence happens off screen. Instead, director Francis Lawrence calibrates the violence for maximum shock effect. Ugly, skin-crawling torture scenes are hard to watch and the camera lingers on a particularly nasty throat cutting situation that manages to say more about the hardening of Dominika’s spirit than any lines of dialogue could.
Lawrence is in virtually every frame of the film, creating a portrait of a woman willing to do whatever it takes to survive. She wisely avoids doing a Boris and Natasha accent, favouring a convincing but mild Russian cadence that sounds more authentic than her more seasoned co-stars. I’m looking at you Jeremy Irons and Ciarán Hinds. As Dominika she is indomitable, keeping us guessing where her allegiances lie until the very end.
By the end credits “Red Sparrow” feels overlong as the twists and turns pile up like empty vodka bottles outside the Kremlin bar. It is unsentimental; a hard-as-stone—although occasionally ludicrous—neo-Cold War thriller that goes heavy on the espionage before succumbing to the obvious, wrapping up the story with a neat bow. For a film that lives in the darkened corners of life outside the law it goes too far out of its way to illuminate the story’s inner workings, taking on the feel of a John le Carré reject.
Richard and CP24 anchor George Lagogianes have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the Ice Cube high school comedy “Fist Fight,” the Matt Damon white saviour flick “The Great Wall,” Dane DeHaan in the incomprehensible “The Cure for Wellness” and “My Scientology Movie.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Erin Paul to have a look at the big weekend movies, the Ice Cube high school comedy “Fist Fight,” the Matt Damon white saviour flick “The Great Wall,” Dane DeHaan in the incomprehensible “The Cure for Wellness” and “My Scientology Movie.”
You’ve never been on an office retreat like this one. “A Cure for Wellness” sounds like it could be a self help guide on leading a happier, healthier life but is in fact a mystery thriller about a cure that may be worse than the illness.
Dane DeHaan stars as financial whiz Mr. Lockhart, an ambitious executive in an American company. His boss, the company’s CEO Roland Pembroke, has disappeared at a European wellness spa in the Swiss Alps. The big wig came to the facility to take advantage of the healing waters that run underneath the spa’s castle but later sent a note back to Wall Street. “One cannot willingly return to the darkness when he has the gift of the light. I will not return do not contact me again.”
With the CEO unwilling to return on his own Lockhart’s partners send him to retrieve the AWOL boss so they can unload the company at a huge profit. “The merger cannot go through without Pembrook signing off on certain legal matters.”
One 4000-mile journey later, Lockhart arrives at the castle, missing visiting hours by just five minutes. Without a working phone or WIFI he travels to the nearest village, only to be badly injured and left, stranded at the castle as a patient. As he recuperates it becomes clear the sanatorium is like the Hotel California, you can check in anytime you like but you can never leave!
As the line between real and unreal blur, his search for information on Pembroke takes on the air of a gothic horror story, embroidered with equal patches of history and mystery. It seems there might be a connection to the genetic experiments conducted by a Baron who lived in the castle 200 years previously.
“A Cure for Wellness” has an on-going sense of Gothic unease that builds with every sideways glance and dark and shadowy corner. Director Gore Verbinski aims to find a similar off kilter feel to “The Shining” where every day objects and places take on sinister feel. He spends endless time establishing the atmosphere, time that might have been better spent crafting an interesting story. Many times throughout I didn’t think ‘How will this end?’ but ‘Will it ever end?’
It drones on for two-and-a-half hours, a running time that equals an audience endurance test, throwing characters and ideas at the screen, hoping for one to take hold. It all leads up to a pretty good ‘n twisted climax, one that Vincent Price would approve of, but it takes for too long to get there. Verbinski is known for his unrestrained running times, but please someone explain to him that less really is more.
DeHaan does deserve credit for submitting to some very uncomfortable situations but one has to wonder how he kept a straight face while head doctor and creepy guy Volmer (Jason Isaacs) intones gobbly goop about the cure for the human condition being disease because only then is the hope for a cure. Perhaps if this were a bit campier, played with a sense of how ridiculous it is, it may have been tolerable, but as it stands “A Cure for Wellness” is a Seatbelt Movie, a film so misguided I needed a seatbelt to prevent me from bolting from the theatre.