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.
Richard and “CP24 Breakfast” host Pooja Handa have a look at some special streaming opportunities and television shows to watch over the weekend including the nature documentary series “Tiny World” on Apple TV+, the Aaron Sorkin written and directed drama “The Trail of the Chicago 7,” and Rihanna’s music and fashion hybrid “Savage “X” Fenty Show Vol. 2″ on Amazon Prime Video.
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 timely period piece “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” “On the Rocks,” the re-teaming of Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola, the cerebral sci fi of “Possessor Uncut” and the unusual Gloria Steinem biopic “The Glorias.”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” now playing in theatres, sees Aaron Sorkin return to the courtroom twenty-eight years after he put the words “You can’t handle the truth,” into Jack Nicholson’s mouth. This time around he’s re-enacting one of the most famous trials of the 1960s, using transcripts from the actual proceedings as a basis for the script. There is no one moment as powerful of Nicholson’s “truth” declaration but there is no denying the timeliness of the film’s fifty-two-year-old story.
Here’s the basic story for anyone too young to know the difference between Yippies and Yuppies.
The trial, which was originally the Chicago Eight until Black Panther leader Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) had his case severed from the others, saw 60s counterculture icons Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong) of the Youth International Party (the aforementioned Yippies), and assorted radicals David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), John Froines (Daniel Flaherty), and Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins) charged with conspiracy and inciting to riot stemming from their actions at the anti-Vietnam War protests in Chicago, Illinois, during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
Behind the prosecution desk is the young and meticulous Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) acting as assistant to the truculent chief prosecutor Tom Foran (J. C. MacKenzie). On the defense is lawyer William Kunstler (Mark Rylance), a boldfaced name in civil rights litigation. On the bench is Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella), a conservative judge who once presided over an obscenity case against Lenny Bruce.
Those are the players and to a person they deliver solid performances, making the most of Sorkin’s snappy, rapid-fire dialogue. Of the ensemble cast Baron Cohen stands out, handing in a straight dramatic role; there’s no Mankini in sight. He’s too old by half to play the character who once famously urged kids to, “Never trust anyone over thirty,” but maintains the edge that make his comedic characters so memorable.
Sorkin, who also directs, has made a period piece that reverberates for today. A bridge that spans the five decades from the actual events, it’s a bit of history that comments on contemporary hot button topics like protest, civil rights and police brutality. The sight of Seale, the lone African American defendant, bound and gagged at the judge’s order, is a potent reminder of racial injustice in the penal system. Re-enactments of police brutality during the riots and the consequent discussion of who is to blame for the violence, the protestors or the bill club swinging cops could be ripped from today’s headlines.
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” isn’t perfect. Gordon-Levitt’s character is a cypher, a prosecutor who breaks with his colleagues at a crucial moment and Hoffman is played as a pantomime villain, but as a reminder of how history is repeated, it is a compelling watch.
Richard joins CP24 to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the “Little Women,” the war epic “1917,” the courtroom drama “Just Mercy,” the animated spy flick “Spies in Disguise” and Adam Sandler’s surprising work in “Uncut Gems.”
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel to have a look at the weekend’s big releases including the latest remake of “Little Women,” the war epic “1917,” the courtroom drama “Just Mercy” and Adam Sandler’s surprising work in “Uncut Gems.”
When we first meet Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), known to friends and family as Johnny D, he’s in his element, in the woods chopping down a tree as part of his pulping business. The calm and serenity of his life is soon uprooted by Alabama lawman Sheriff Tate (Michael Harding). What at first seems to be a routine stop takes a turn when Tate snarls, “You wanna make a break for it? ‘Cuz after what you did I’m happy to end this now.”
Those words kick off the action in “Just Mercy,” a based-on-life-events legal drama starring Foxx and Michael B. Jordan. Johnny D is sent to death row even before he is tried and convicted of the murder of an eighteen-year-old local girl. “You don’t know what it’s like down here when you are guilty since you were born,” he says.
After languishing in a tiny cell near the prison’s “death room” for several years Johnny D is visited by Harvard-trained civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson (Jordan). The former church pianist is an idealistic young man, new to the profession but fueled by a passion to fight injustice. “I wanted to become a lawyer to help people,” he says. Moving to Monroeville, Alabama—where Harper Lee wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird”—he sets up the Equal Justice Initiative with the aid of Eva Ansley (Brie Larson) with an eye toward undoing wrongs.
It’s a daunting task. On his first visit to the prison he is illegally strip searched by a leering guard on his way in. Worse, the community sees him as someone who wants to put convicted killers back on the street. He deals with death threats, witness intimidation and racism but the biggest hurdle comes down to one cold, hard fact. “You know how many people been freed from Alabama death row?” asks Johnny D. “None.”
Working against the odds Stevenson begins a campaign to expose the corruption that landed his innocent client in jail. “Whatever you did your life is still meaningful,” he says, “and I’m going to do everything I can to stop them from taking it.”
“Just Mercy” does a good job in setting up the obstacles Stevenson encounters on his search for the truth. The film could be criticized for director Destin Daniel Cretton’s traditional, linear approach but the entrenched racism and systemic resistance to change Stevenson deals with are undeniably powerful indictments of a legal system that favors the establishment over everyone else.
Bringing the tale of injustice to life are formidable but understated performances from the core cast. Jordan and Foxx keep the theatrics to a minimum. As Stevenson, Jordan is all business, driven by personal passion but bound by his professional attitude. Foxx is stoic, a man who has lost all hope. When his case takes a turn the change in his body language is a subtle reminder that his attitude has shifted.
Equally as strong are the supporting players. As death row inmate Herbert Richardson, Rob Morgan brings vulnerability to the kind of character who is so often portrayed as a one-dimensional stereotype.
The film’s showiest performance comes from Tim Blake Nelson as a man tormented by his role in Johnny D’s wrongful conviction. His face contorted and scarred he gives the character an arc within his relatively short time on screen.
What “Just Mercy” lacks in flashy storytelling it makes up for in its earnest examination of injustice and discrimination.