A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the mind bending Jennifer Lawrence movie “mother!” and the Michael Keaton thriller “American Assassin.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Jenifer Burke to have a look at the Jenifer Lawrence freak-out “mother!,’ the most confounding studio movie to hit theatres in years and the generic thrills of “American Assassin.”
In this weekend’s American Assassin a Cold War veteran trains undercover executioners. Movies like “The Mechanic” and “The Professional” have breathed similar air, but the new movie updates the tale, adding in a terrorism subplot.
Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Vince Flynn, the film stars Dylan O’Brien as Mitch Rapp, a student whose life is changed forever when his girlfriend Katrina (Charlotte Vega) is killed by terrorists while on vacation. Stricken with grief and hungry for revenge he trains himself in the art of counter terrorism to the point where he is able to go undercover and infiltrate an Islamic terrorist cell.
Turns out, however, he’s not as undercover as he thought. The CIA, have their eye on him, impressed by his MMA skills and general hatred of terrorism. To fine-tune his kill skills he is teamed with black ops expert Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). Why did they bring him on? “To kill people who need to be killed.”
Hurley teaches his student the fine art of slicing and dicing for fun and profit, prepping him for a giant mission involving a nuclear device and an ex-American Navy officer (Taylor Kitsch) turned bad and looking for revenge on his fellow service members.
The opening scene is harrowing. The full-scale attack on a beach is so tense because we’ve seen footage like this in real life in recent years. It kicks the movie off with a realistic bang. Too bad everything that follows barely rises to the level of cartoon cliché that borrows heavily from everything from “The Karate Kid” to the JBs—Jason Bourne and James Bond.
In as generic and unmemorable a role as Keaton has ever played—and that includes a bit of cannibalism—he redefines tough guys, spewing platitudes word for word from the 1984 edition of the Macho Man Handbook. O’Brien is stoic, yet reckless in the most profoundly uninteresting of ways. There’s sullen and then there’s this guy.
The action scenes have a bit a snap to them, but would have benefitted from the “John Wick” treatment; fess frenetic editing, more focus on the handiwork involved.
“American Assassin” has one too many revenge plots but not enough thrills.
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.”
“The Great Wall” is not the story of Donald Trump’s relations with Mexico. It’s a $150 million historical epic from Chinese director Zhang Yimou that garnered a lot of criticism for the controversial casting of Matt Damon in a major role.
Detractors called the choice an example of a “white saviour” from the West appropriating Chinese culture and stepping in to save the day. Constance Wu of “Fresh Off the Boat” voiced her disapproval, accusing the film of “perpetuating the racist myth that only a white man can save the world,” adding, “our heroes don’t look like Matt Damon.”
Zhang fought back. “Damon is not playing a role that was originally conceived for a Chinese actor.”
“As the director of over 20 Chinese language films and the Beijing Olympics,” he said in a statement, “I have not and will not cast a film in a way that was untrue to my artistic vision.”
More on that later, but having seen the film, a more blatant criticism would be the generic, formulaic filmmaking.
On the run, mercenary soldiers William Garin (Damon) and Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal) are captured at a Great Wall outpost by a band of Chinese soldiers called the Nameless Order, led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau). The interlopers are due to be disposed of until they offer up a claw Garin separated from a mysterious beast days before.
Turns out, the creature is a Tao Tie, a nasty breed of beast that attacks the Imperial Court every sixty years. The walleyed creatures look like a smooth green werewolf- Komodo Dragon hybrid and are very difficult to kill. When the Tao Tie attack days earlier than expected Tovar and Garin’s bravery earn them privileged spots in the battalion—“We’re honoured to be honoured,” says Garin.—but the pair are secretly only interested in the local “black powder.” “It turns the air into fire!” they gasp. If they can smuggle the gunpowder out of the battalion it will make them rich men in the West.
It’s a great plan until Garin opts to leave his mercenary ways behind join forces with General Lin (Jing Tian), the only female English-speaking commander at the outpost. Her bravery turns his head, reminding him of why he became a soldier in the first place. “Let me fight with you,” he says. “If this is where you choose to die, good luck to you,” scoffs Tovar. If the Tao Tie breach the wall, we’re told several times, nothing can stop them.
“The Great Wall” uses every epic monster film trick in the book. Cameras sweep and swirl, flames lick the screen, there’s slow-mo galore and loads of Zhang’s unique wuxia style action but despite the grandeur and the lushness of the cinematography and costume details it is all rather dull. It’s “Lord of the Rings” without the engaging fantasy and “Game of Thrones” sans the lusty carnality that keeps people watching between dragon conquest scenes.
There is some humour between the battle scenes. Garin and Tovar are awfully quippy for a pair of Song dynasty soldiers. “I’m the one saving you,” Tovar jokes on the battlefield, “so I can kill you myself.” It’s “Hope and Crosby on the Road to the Imperial Court!”
As for Garin as the Saviour from the West, I have to agree with Wu. There are several heroes in this movie but Garin eats up the most screen time and in the end is instrumental in (SPOILER ALERT) keeping the nasty beasties from having their way with the Emperor. Damon is an agreeable actor, although here he dons a flat and ever-changing accent that simply amplifies how completely out of place he seems in ancient China.
“The Great Wall” feels more like an exercise in marketing than it does a movie. The size and spectacle of it appear geared to appeal to an audience used to avenging superheroes, while the casting of a white American star at the heart of another culture’s tale looks to be a blatant attempt at creating a tentpole film for a world audience. What they forgot about was including compelling characters and story.
Welcome to the House of Crouse. C’mon on in, settle into a comfy chair by the fireplace and meet Cobie Smulders and director Uwe Boll. Cobie has been in action movies a plenty, but she’s rarely part of the action. That changes in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. She talks about it hear. Then Uwe tells us why, after making thirty movies, the critics won’t have him to kick around anymore. Join us. It’s more fun in here than it is out there!
Richard and CP24 anchor Stephanie Smythe have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the up-close-and-personal action of “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” the supernatural thrills of “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” the spy comedy “Keeping Up with the Joneses” and the new Canadian indie “Mean Dreams.”
Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the up-close-and-personal action of “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” the supernatural thrills of “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” the spy comedy “Keeping Up with the Joneses” and the new Canadian indie “Mean Dreams.”