Richard joins Ryan Doyle and guest host Tamara Cherry of the NewsTalk 1010 afternoon show to talk about Squirt soda and the origin of the tequila-based cocktail the Paloma, and some movies to watch on the weekend, including “Black Widow” and “No Sudden Move.”
Richard speaks to “CTV News at Six” anchor Andria Case about the best movies and television to watch this weekend including “Black Widow” (on Disney+ with premium access), the all-star Crave film “No Sudden Move” and the Netflix slasher flick “Fear Street Part 2: 1978.”
Richard joins CP24 to have a look at new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including “Black Widow” (on Disney+ with premium access), the all-star Crave film “No Sudden Move” and the Netflix slasher flick “Fear Street Part 2: 1978.”
Richard and CTV NewsChannel morning show host Marcia MacMillan chat up the weekend’s big releases including “Black Widow” (on Disney+ with premium access), the all-star Crave film “No Sudden Move” and the Netflix slasher flick “Fear Street Part 2: 1978.”
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 “Black Widow” (on Disney+ with premium access), the all-star Crave film “No Sudden Move” and the Netflix slasher flick “Fear Street Part 2: 1978.”
Richard joins NewsTalk 1010’s Jim Richards on the coast-to-coast-to-coast late night “Showgram” to play the game “Did Richard Crouse like these movies?” This week we talk about the Marvel family drama “Black Widow” (on Disney+ with premium access), the all-star Crave film “No Sudden Move” and the Netflix slasher flick “Fear Street Part 2: 1978.”
If you were to make a Venn diagram of “Black Widow,” now on Disney+ with premium access, and the recent animated film “The Boss Baby: Family Business,” you’d be surprised by the overlap. Both movies are about estranged families coming together and siblings finding a path forward after years of bitter feelings. One is much louder than the other, but underneath it all they are both all about family. “I chose to go west and become an Avenger,” Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) says. “They treated me like family.”
The story begins with a flashback.
It’s 1995 and sisters Natasha (played as a child by Ever Anderson) and Yelena (Violet McGraw) are separated from their Soviet sleeper cell family in Ohio. Removed from their undercover agent parents, scientist mother Melina (Rachel Weisz) and super-soldier father Alexei (David Harbour), they are placed under the supervision of evil Soviet General Dreykov (Ray Winston) in a training camp called the Red Room where they are brainwashed and taught the deadly ways of the Widows.
Jump forward twenty-one years to the gap between the events of “Captain America: Civil War” and “Infinity War.” Natasha (Johansson) is cut loose from her Avengers pals after breaking the Sokovia Accords. The superhero clan have gotten “divorced,” and Natasha is hiding out in Norway. When she is attacked by Dreykov’s bodyguard, the mysterious Taskmaster, she reunites with her estranged “family” to take on the Russian general.
“Black Widow,” the first Marvel Cinematic Universe solo outing for Johansson’s character, has spent a year bouncing around the pandemic release schedule and brings with it high expectations from fans.
Directed by Cate Shortland, Romanoff’s convoluted backstory is handled in a fairly straightforward way, part Marvel, part “The Americans.” The movie does offer up a fair amount of fan service but still provides eye-scorching action and basic, relatable themes of the importance of family and responsibility for the casual viewer.
Despite the wild CGI action and Jason Bourne style one-on-one combat, the film feels more grounded than most other Marvel movies. Perhaps it’s because Natasha and Yelena (Florence Pugh) don’t have super powers (although they are VERY resilient) or perhaps it’s because the story details the dysfunctional, tragic past that put Natasha on the road to becoming an assassin or maybe it’s because the villain Dreykov barely makes an impression, but the usual stakes—saving the world—take a backseat to more personal concerns.
“Black Widow” is a swansong for Natasha. The character jumped off a cliff in “Avengers: Endgame,” sacrificing herself so her superhero buddies could acquire the Soul Stone and help defeat genocidal warlord Thanos. Johansson sends her off with a suitably steely yet vulnerable performance, and when she isn’t running, jumping, punching or shooting, she brings some real humanity to the quieter scenes.
Pugh and Harbour bring some much-welcomed levity, the former as the eye-rolling sarcastic younger sister, the latter as the insecure wannabe super soldier who is just a bit too concerned about his legacy. Their bickering and subtle character touches help add life to the family vibe so important to the story the movie is trying to tell.
Like so many of the Marvel films, near the end “Black Widow” succumbs to overkill, noise and frenetic CGI action scenes. The family is united, à la “The Boss Baby” but the onscreen fireworks overwhelm the compelling family story that lies at the heart of Natasha’s journey.
“Must have freaked you out, coming back after the defrosting.” If that bit of dialogue, spoken by war veteran Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” makes sense then you already have all the backstory you need to enjoy the movie.
For those who don’t, here’s the scoop. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) was a ninety-pound über patriot, too scrawny to enlist in World War II. Not to be deterred he allowed himself to be a guinea pig in the top-secret “super-soldier” experiment. Transformed into a ripped, heroic warrior he (and his trusty shield) took on risky missions and kept the world safe from the terrorist organization HYDRA. On one operation he crash landed in the Arctic and spent decades frozen in a block of ice in a state of suspended animation.
Thawed out in modern day, the MIA soldier is pressed into service by the folks at S.H.I.E.L.D. to protect freedom and the American way.
When we meet up with him in the new film he’s still catching up with the modern world. The extremely well preserved 95 year old is making a list of all the things he missed out on in seven decades of suspended animation. He likely won’t have time to get up to date—take in “Rocky” or listen to Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” for instance—before having to deal with the chrome-armed Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), a villain from Cap’s long distant past and battle against a threat from deep inside S.H.I.E.L.D., his own spy network.
With his new world collapsing around him the good Captain must determine who can be trusted. Will it be S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the flirty but deadly Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) or World Security Council bigwig Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford)? The decisions he makes could save his life and the lives of 20 million civilians.
Movie by movie Marvel has created an interconnected universe. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle the comic book company has pieced together something quite unprecedented; a series of films that aren’t sequels to one another but when combined form a loud, brash whole.
Captain America was a latecomer to the party, and while the first film was a solid introduction, it didn’t have the sparkle of say, the first “Iron Man” movie. The character seemed a bit beige; a do-gooder with no rough edges. “The Winter Soldier” addresses those concerns, fleshing out the character and providing some very good action sequences.
Evans has grown into the character. Physically he’s one big rippling muscle, but it is his personality and attitude that make him interesting. This time around he’s still a do-gooder but one who questions his missions. “You’re holding a gun to everyone on Earth and calling it protection,” he says after learning of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s violent plan to bring peace to the world. “This isn’t freedom, this is fear.”
It’s an edgy message from a Greatest Generation type to a world where drones have become common and Edward Snowden rides the line between patriot and traitor. The message permeates the plot, which is ripe with twists and turns and some genuinely thrilling moments.
Adding to the intrigue is some high powered star wattage. Robert Redford, who, if this was 1973 might have played the title role, brings credibility to Pierce. He’s an enigma, a man who turned down the Nobel Peace Prize, but also helped create a world so chaotic that he believes people are willing to give up freedom for peace. He brings some old school gravitas to the part and his very presence in the movie made me want to re-watch “Three Days of the Condor.”
Johansson is mad, bad and dangerous to know as Romanoff, and kicks so high it’s only a matter of time until she gets her own Avenger’s movie.
Of course, this is a comic book movie so for all the high-minded subtext there are still big action scenes every ten minutes or so, each one larger and louder than the last. The biggest and brashest is saved for the climax, which is where “The Winter Soldier” packs the inventiveness of its first two acts away and becomes a standard Marvel action movie. Up until that point, however, it is a funny (pay attention for a good “Pulp Fiction” gag involving Jackson), fast paced movie that is a cut above the usual super hero fare.