Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the true-to-life thrills of “Deepwater Horizon,” Tim Burton’s X-Men-esque “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,” the thriller “Imperium” and the ripped-from-the-headlines documentary “The Lovers and the Despot.”
Director Peter Berg makes manly-men movies about tough guys willing to sacrifice all in the service of others. Films like “The Kingdom,” based on the 1996 bombing of the Khobar housing complex and “Lone Survivor,” his look at the unsuccessful United States Navy SEALs counter-insurgent mission Operation Red Wings, are loud action movies bound together by testosterone and sentiment.
His latest, “Deepwater Horizon,” based on the worst oil spill in US history, fits comfortably alongside “The Kingdom” and “Lone Survivor.” All three are true life tales, ripped from recent headlines, and each of them are loud, in-your-face movies that feel more motivated by muscle than brains.
Mark Wahlberg is Mike Williams, husband to Felicia (Kate Hudson), father to an adorable little girl and the chief engineer of the offshore oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon. In April 2010 he left for a routine twenty-one day stint aboard the rig that turned disastrous when an uncontrollable gusher of crude oil caused an explosion that ultimately left 11 of the 126 crew members dead.
It takes an hour of getting to know everyone, like British Petroleum executive Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich), no-nonsense crew chief Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) and rig mechanic Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), before disaster strikes, both literally and narratively. When the rig blows it takes with it any semblance of storyline, replacing with plot with forty minutes of relentless, fiery action.
Berg doesn’t just want to show you the hellish circumstances that destroyed Deepwater Horizon, he wants you to leave the theatre feeling as though you were there. Fireballs light up the screen as the sound of twisted, breaking metal fills your ears. It’s effective, if a little repetitive after thirty minutes or so. The characters get a little lost in the commotion and are frequently hard to see through the plumes of smoke that decorate the screen.
As an action movie and a story of resilience “Deepwater Horizon” is a visceral experience. As a tribute to the men who lost their lives in the blast it feels less thought through. The In Memoriam roll honours those lost, but feels tacked on after the bombast that precedes it.
Also strange by its absence is any comment on the devastating ecological consequences of the event.
“Deepwater Horizon” is a showcase for Berg’s muscular filmmaking but could have used a little more nuance.
Richard and CP24 anchor Nneka Elliot talk about the weekend’s big releases, the comedy of “Keanu,” the maudlin humour of “Mother’s Day,” the kid’s sci fi of “Ratchet & Clank,” the punk rock fury of “Green Room” and the b-movie action of “Precious Cargo.”
Richard and “Canada AM” host Beverly Thomson kick around the weekend’s big releases. They find out if “Keanu,” the kitten caper movie from Key & Peele is worth a look, if “Mother’s Day” is more than a Hallmark card come to the screen and if “Ratchet & Clank’s” good messages for kids make it a good movie.
Julia Roberts is one of the biggest female movie stars of all time. With a career box office north of $2 billion she, and her megawatt smile, were the stuff of blockbusters throughout the 90s and early 2000s. She was everywhere, and then, somewhere around the time Jennifer Lawrence was celebrating her thirteenth birthday Roberts stepped away. Not completely, but she jumped off the Hollywood treadmill, doing what movie stars who have nothing left to prove do.
That is, whatever she wanted. She stayed out of view, voicing a couple of animated movies and popping up in the occasional film, some high profile—like the ensemble of Ocean’s Twelve—some not—like Fireflies in the Garden—but the days of solo Pretty Woman-esque success were, by her own choosing, behind her. By and large her choices became a bit more eclectic as she relied less on the famous smile and more on flexing her acting muscles. Since 2004’s Closer her filmography has been splintered between crowd pleasers like Eat Pray Love, dramas like August: Osage County and misfires like Secret in Their Eyes.
This weekend she’s back working with the director who helped make her famous starring in Mother’s Day, her fourth collaboration with filmmaker Garry Marshall. The pair make a movie roughly every ten years, from 1990’s Pretty Woman to Runaway Bride in 1999 to 2010’s Valentine’s Day to this year’s entry, and their combo usually delivers big box office.
In between her the commercial films she makes with Marshall, Roberts makes a movie a year and while they haven’t always connected with audiences many are worth a look.
Duplicity is a romantic comedy about espionage. Imagine if Rock Hudson and Doris Day starred in Mission Impossible. Instead you have Roberts as an experienced CIA officer looking for a change and Clive Owen as a charming MI6 agent. Both left the world of international intrigue for the infinitely more profitable task of corporate security. Together they launch an elaborate plan of corporate dirty tricks to steal a top-secret formula that will revolutionize the cosmetics industry. Roberts and Owen are witty and charming and Duplicity, with its entertaining performances and stylish look, is a bit of fun despite its convoluted story.
August: Osage County, an all-star remounting of Tracey Letts’s hit Broadway play, gives Roberts her juiciest role in years. As Barbara she’s a bit of an enigma. She’s a jumble of mixed, complicated emotions, capable of both great kindness and compassion but able only to express herself through tough love. When she explodes she lets loose a lifetime of rage stemming from her mother’s (played by Meryl Streep) mistreatment. When they go head-to-head it is the clash of the titans and an unforgettable scene.
Finally, there’s Larry Crowne, a boomer comedy aimed at audiences with memories long enough to remember when gas only cost 54 cents a litre, none of your neighbours had foreclosure signs on their front lawns and Tom Hanks and Roberts ruled the box office. It’s an uplifting comedy about middle age, brave enough to tackle modern problems like downsizing and foreclosure, but non-challenging enough to weave all the bad stuff into a pseudo romantic comedy. Hanks and Roberts cut through the material like hot knives through butter and Julia treats audiences to one of her trademarked laughing scenes.
Does Garry Marshall work for Hallmark or does he just love holidays? In the last few years he has turned his lens toward “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve,” movies that bundle stars of dubious box office power in big, glittery packages to celebrate the holidays with all the joy and emotional resonance of a Budweiser Clydesdale commercial.
This weekend he casts his maudlin eye toward “Mother’s Day,” a look at mother’s and daughters featuring a Holiday Parade Womb Float.
Marshall continues with the scattershot story telling of his other holiday movies, presenting the story montage style. It’s as though he’s surfing the net, jumping from site to site, looking for something interesting to rest on. Three stories randomly dovetail together with contemporary motherhood as the glue that binds them.
Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) is a divorced mother of two whose kids like her ex’s much younger wife (Shay Mitchell). Sandy’s gym is run by widower Bradley (Jason Sudeikis), a guy with kids of his own who dreads Mother’s Day. Then there’s Kristin (Britt Robertson), a young woman searching for biological mom, Home Shopping Network star Miranda (Julia Roberts). The final flower in the Mother’s Day bouquet is Jesse (Kate Hudson), an overstressed mom who, along with her doctor husband Russell (Aasif Mandvi), is trying to deal with an unexpected visit from her squabbling, judgemental parents (Margo Martindale and Robert Pine).
There’s more—it’s a Gary Marshall All-Star-Holiday-Extravaganza so there’s always more—like Jesse’s gay sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke), Timothy Olyphant as Sandy’s former flame and a Jennifer Garner cameo—which I suppose is appropriate because the holidays are supposed to bring everyone together are they not?
“Mother’s Day” is filled to over flowing with faux heart warming moments, like a Lifetime movie on steroids. It hits all the emotional hot buttons—a dead wife who also happens to be a veteran, abandonment, first love, an awkward dad, kids growing up too fast—and tops off the whole thing with two, count ‘em two, dewy-eyed American sweethearts, Roberts and Aniston. To avoid troubling the audience with actual human emotions Marshall runs the whole thing through The Sitcomizer™ to ensure maximum blandness and erase the possibility that viewers will see something they haven’t already witnessed a hundred times before.
None of that would matter much if the movie was funny but real laughs are scarcer than last minute Mother’s Day brunch reservations. A likeable cast is wasted on a movie that panders to greeting card sentiment and slapstick.
The best part of “Mother’s Day” is that it puts Marshall one closer to running out of holidays to cinematically celebrate. What’s next? Hug Your Cat Day starring Courteney Cox and Luke Perry?
Richard sits in with CP24 anchor Nneka Elliott to review the “legendary adventures of awesomeness” of “Kung Fu Panda 3,” the watery historical drama “The Finest Hours” and “JeruZalem’s” found footage thrills.
Richard and “Canada AM” host Marci Ien chat about the found footage thrills of “JeruZalem,” the “legendary adventures of awesomeness” of “Kung Fu Panda 3” and the watery historical drama “The Finest Hours.”
When I ask Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3 director Jennifer Yuh Nelson how she feels about being one of the highest grossing female directors of all time, she demurs and gives all the credit to her star.
“I think it is a testament to how much people like Po and like these films. There is such a huge fan base it is really flattering to have been helming something that huge.”
Alessandro Carloni, her directing partner on Kung Fu Panda 3, adds, “I think it will be fair to assume this will be the highest grossing movie ever to be directed by a Korean woman and an Italian man.”
For the uninitiated, Po is the clumsy giant panda that became an improbable hero, dumpling-eating champion and kung fu master in the first two movies. Voiced by Jack Black, in the new film he is reunited with his biological father Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) who takes his son back to the Panda Village so the youngster can learn about himself, become a Chi master and do battle with Kai, a supernatural bull villain played by Oscar winner J.K. Simmons.
Both directors have great affection for Po and understand why audiences have fallen in love with the character.
“We love how enthusiastic he is, how geeky he is, how much passion he has,” says Alessandro. “One thing I have heard someone say is often there are movies where the side cast steals the show because they are the most fun while the central character is the straight guy. But we made a movie around a goofball and everybody else are the straight characters. He is the one who steals the show. When Po is on screen you will love him.”
“He has got so much enthusiasm and is basically wishing for something that is bigger than him,” says Yuh. “Something he is not able to achieve and yet he perseveres. That’s why we root for him because we’ve been there. Everyone has been there where there is something you wish you could do but don’t have the means to do it and yet you keep on going. You have to root for that.”
The pair have been with Po for a long time. Yuh was head of story and the action sequence supervisor on Kung Fu Panda before taking over the reins for the second film. Carloni worked on the first film as animation supervisor and story artist on part two.
Their almost 10-year journey with Po has been shared with Jack Black, who was the model for the character.
“He’s very unique in that he’s so funny but underneath the funny he’s got so much heart,” says Yuh of Black.
“He’s not somebody you laugh at, you laugh with him. You root for him and that is very rare. Usually you have these more jaded guys that are funny and you laugh at them when they fall on their face. But you feel bad for this guy when he falls on his face. I think that just leaks out of his performance.”