Richard speaks to “CTV News at Six” anchor Andria Case about the best movies and television to watch this weekend including Golden Globe winners “The Mauritanian” and “The United States Vs. Billie Holiday” and a new coming-of-age movie on VOD “My Salinger Year.”
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 Disney’s animated action flick “Raya and the Last Dragon” (Disney+ with Premier Access and theatres), the long awaited sequel “Coming 2 America” (Amazon Prime Video), the biopic “The United States Vs. Billie Holiday” (VOD), the legal drama “The Mauritanian” (premium digital and on-demand), the coming-of-age story “My Salinger Year” (VOD) and the look at the war on drugs “Crisis” (on digital and demand).
“The Last King of Scotland” director Kevin Macdonald makes good use of his background in documentary film for his latest release “The Mauritanian,” now on premium digital and on-demand. The story of a 9/11 suspect held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay despite never being officially charged, is a drama based on true events, but uses documentary style devices to convey the nuts and bolts of the case.
Jodie Foster is Nancy Hollander, an attorney who takes on the pro bono case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim), a Mauritanian national accused of acts of terrorism related to 9/11. While he is housed at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp without charge and, as a high-value detainee, subjected to torture, Hollander begins her investigation. “I’m not just defending him,” she says. “I’m defending you and me. The constitution doesn’t have an asterisk at the end that says, ‘Terms and Conditions apply.’”
On the prosecution is Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch), a straight arrow with a personal connection to the case. “He recruited the SOBs who flew your friend into the south tower,” he is told. Couch lost a good friend in 9/11 and is seeking the death penalty for Slahi. “If we miss something,” he says to his team, “this guy goes home. Let’s get to it.”
As the trial looms Couch learns federal agents, including his friend and former classmate Neil Buckland (Zachary Levi), are withholding crucial documents. Powerful people want a quick and decisive conviction and are willing to bury an evidence that may get in the way of that. “Your job is to bring charges,” he is told. Couch fights back, believing the only path to an unequivocal verdict, one without the possibility of appeal, lies in having all the facts. “I’ve never been part of a conspiracy,” he says, “but I’m starting to think this is what it must feel like to be on the outside.”
“The Mauritanian” is an uneven film with several standout elements. As a procedural it is fairly straightforward, but within the story are complex legal questions. At what point does fear circumvent the law? How can human rights violations be condoned under any circumstances? How can habeas corpus, the right to appear before a judge, to know why you’ve been arrested and detained, ever be denied?
Each question is a conversation starter and Hollander wasted no words clarifying her stance on these questions. “I’m not just defending him,” she says. “I’m defending the rule of law.” It’s a powerful reminder that ethics and rules matter. “You built this place and you abandoned all your principles and all of your laws,” Hollander says. “What if you were wrong?”
Adding humanity to the story’s tale of inhuman behaviour is Rahim who hands in a layered, interesting performance in a film that isn’t quite as complex as his work.
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 “Skyscraper,” the animated Adam Sandler flick “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” and the documentary “Whitney.”
Richard joins CP24 anchor Nick Dixon to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including “Skyscraper,” the animated Adam Sandler flick “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation,” the documentary “Whitney,” the biopic “Mary Shelley,” “Sorry to Bother You” starring LaKeith Stanfield and the comedy “The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger.”
Like the recent Amy Winehouse documentary, which tells the story of a prodigiously talented woman lost in life to a lifestyle that she couldn’t or didn’t want to control, “Whitney” is a study of a very public downfall.
Director Kevin Macdonald is tasked with telling the all-too-common story of the rise-and-fall of an icon. The details will be familiar to anyone alive and reading the tabloids when Whitney Houston, the preeminent singer of her era, flamed out in spectacular fashion, dying at age 48 after years of well-documented erratic behaviour.
“Whitney” tells the story, from good to bad to worse, with a dose of empathy. From her youth, the daughter of musical legend Cissy Houston and a dodgy official in the Newark government, as a bullied girl with a beautiful voice to a superstar who became the only artist to have seven consecutive U.S. number one singles, Macdonald sets the stage with dozens of interviews with the singer’s family, friends and associates. He emphasizes the chasm between Houston’s public girl-next-door image with her considerably more wild private life.
Career highlights are showcased, including her stirring version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XXV in 1991 and her blockbuster version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” which remains the best-selling single by a female artist in music history, but it is the personal side that intrigues. Interviews reveal blockbuster allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of cousin Dee Dee Warwick, early drug use with brother Michael and half-brother Gary Garland and a troubled financial history with her father. It’s the kind of toxic stew that tabloid stories are made of but instead of exploiting Houston, Macdonald digs deep to tell the story, presenting both a biography and a cautionary tale of excess.
Saoirse Ronan is just movie away from being a superstar. I’m convinced that with the right choices this talented young Irish actor could be a Kristen Stewart level a-lister.
Trouble is, of late she’s been the best thing in a series of movies that people didn’t see. “Violet and Daisy,” “Byzantium” and “The Host”—which was positioned as the start of a “Twilight” style franchise before audiences ran the other way—all underperformed, adding little luster to her star.
In “How I Live Today” she hands in another great performance, made all the more impressive as she wrings it out of a movie that is beautiful to look at, but low on any real substance.
In “How I Live Now” she plays Daisy, an anxiety-ridden New York teen sent to live with her aunt and cousin in the English countryside by her disinterested dad and his new wife. She wears her lack of self esteem like a badge. “I’m a curse,” she says, “everywhere I go bad [things] happen.”
Just as she starts to bond with her young cousins Piper (Harley Bird) and Isaac (Tom Holland) and REALLY bond (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) with hunky Eddie (George MacKay), something bad does happen. Their bucolic life is torn apart after terrorists ignite a nuclear bomb in London, killing tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands.
The country falls under military law and soon the cousins are separated by gender and sent to work camps. As they are being torn apart Eddie and daisy make a deal to meet back at the country house, no mater what it takes to get there.
Surrounded by terror and uncertainty Daisy digs deep into “Dr. Phil” style pop psychology—“Take the bad,” she says, “put it in a box and focus on the good.”—to morph from angst ridden teen to Survivorwoman to find her way back “home” and reunite her new family.
When she is not pouting or in Eddie’s capable arms, Ronan spends most of her onscreen time on a dangerous trek with preteen Piper. It’s here her character gets interesting thanks to Ronan’s subtle but intriguing performance, but director Kevin “The Last King of Scotland” Macdonald’s reliance on musical montages to move the action forward, while beautiful, get in the way of the actors creating really memorable moments.
The actors are all good looking, as is the movie, but the visuals aren’t of the show-me-don’t-tell-me type, they’re more like cinematic wallpaper. It’s a treat for the eyes, but rings hollow in the story and character department.
For example, Daisy is a classic teen over thinker. We know this because McDonald adds in the ghostly voice of her inner mind on the soundtrack, and yet, (SPOILER ALERT) after she shoots two men dead there’s barely a second thought given to the murders.
Ronan is gifted, and will one day find the role to make her a star, unfortunately for all it’s visual panache, “How I Live Now” isn’t it.