Posts Tagged ‘Neil Burger’

THE UPSIDE: 2 ½ STARS. “values melodrama and manipulation over real emotion.”

Remake happy Hollywood goes intercontinental, casting its eyes to France for the new Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart film. “The Upside’s” based-on-a-true-story” odd couple story of a wealthy quadriplegic and his ex-con caretaker is lifted from “The Intouchables,” a movie so popular it was voted France’s cultural event of 2011.

Cranston plays Phillip Lacosse, an author, who, through clever investments is “richer than Jay-Z.” A hand-gliding accident has left him paralyzes, a prisoner in his fancy Park Avenue apartment. When parolee Dell Scott (Hart) shows up on his doorstep looking for a job Phillip hires him, even though he has no qualifications whatsoever. As an ex-con Dell will, Phillip figures, enforce his Do Not Resuscitate order. “Is that why you asked me instead of those other guys?” Dell asks. “‘Cuz you thought I would DNR your ass?”

Also in the mix are Dell’s ex wife Latrice (Aja Naomi King) their son Anthony (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) and Phillip’s devoted assistant Yvonne (Nicole Kidman).

Despite the fatalistic Phillip’s disinterest in life he gradually comes to life, spewing a series of dad jokes and doling out practical advice. The two men bond, learning from one another. Dell learns an appreciation of his boss’s open mind—both in curiosity and acceptance—while Phillip is exposed to Aretha Franklin, weed (for medical purposes) and New York City hot dog stands. Each is enriched as Phil rediscovers his lust for life and Dell becomes a better father and husband.

What “The Upside” lacks in originality—every plot point is telegraphed to point where anyone, even if they had never seen a movie before, will see where this is going—it almost makes up in committed performances from its leads.

Hart is unusually restrained, heaping on the earnestness and the occasional bit of slapstick. He earns a few laughs although a “funny” catheter scene isn’t going to bolster Hart’s bruised rep in the LGBTQ community.

Cranston does wonders with a performance that comes completely from the shoulders up. His expressive face conveys a range of emotions from utter joy to frustration to unbridled rage it’s a performance that subtly brings us into Phillips thought processes.

Only Kidman is wasted in a role that asks very little of her except to nod, do a little dance and add some heft to the marquee.

Despite strong performances “The Upside” is a slight feel good movie that values melodramatic and manipulation over real emotion.


Richard joins CP24 anchor Nathan Downer to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including Nicole Kidman times two – in the gritty cop drama “Destroyer” and the dramedy “The Upside,” where she co-stars with Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart –  Carey Mulligan in “Wildlife” and the psychological thriller “Escape Room.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases including the Nicole Kidman cop drama “Destroyer,” the Bryan Cranston-Kevin Hart dramedy “The Upside” and “Wildlife” with Carey Mulligan.

Watch the whole thing HERE!


A weekly feature from from! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at two Nicole Kidman movies, the gritty cop drama “Destroyer” and the dramedy “The Upside,” where she co-stars with Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart. Then it’s on to Carey Mulligan in “Wildlife.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


Richard and CFRA Ottawa morning show host Bill Carroll have a look at Nicole Kidman in the gritty cop drama “Destroyer” and the dramedy “The Upside,” where she co-stars with Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart. Then it’s on to Carey Mulligan in “Wildlife” and the psychological thriller “Escape Room.”

Listen to the whole thing HERE!

NEWSTALK 1010: Do we boycott a movie because of who produced it?

Do we boycott what looks to be a good movie because originally it was produced by Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Hart is in it? Richard and NewsTalk 1010 host Jerry Agar discuss.

Listen to the whole thing HERE!

DIVERGENT: 3 STARS. “a state of affairs passing itself off as an idea.”

DIVERGENTA new young adult film based on a best selling series of books is set in a world where diversity is frowned upon; sort of like Arizona without the dry heat.

In “Divergent” a Big Brother style government has divided the post-apocalyptic Chicago into five factions: the altruistic Abnegation sect, the peace loving Amity, the “I cannot tell a lie” Candor group, the militaristic arm Dauntless and the smarty-pants Erudites.

At age sixteen all citizens must submit to a personality test that will help them decide which faction they will join. “The future belongs to those who know where they belong,” is the Orwellian motto.

Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) is from an Abnegation family, but chooses to join Dauntless, the warrior faction charged with protecting the city. During the grueling training “Tris” meets future love interest Four (Theo James) who helps her disguise the fact that she is “divergent,” a person who cannot be pigeonholed into just one designation. “If you don’t fit into a category they can’t control you,” she is told.

“Divergent” feels like a greatest hits version of recent young adult stories. Mixing and matching “Hunger Games” with a taste of “Harry Potter” and a splash of “Twilight,” results in a new story that feels familiar, like a sequel to a movie that doesn’t exist.

The film does take pains in the first hour to establish a world, with a unique set of rules—like once you choose a faction you can’t go back—and then promptly proceeds to break their own guidelines. The disregard for the rubrics blunts the power of the story, changing it from a high concept sci fi idea to simply a shifting situation for the characters to exist in. It’s a state of affairs passing itself off as an idea.

That won’t matter to the film’s core audience, teens, who will be more interested in Tris’s grrrl power, the dynamic of the Dauntless recruits and Four, the movie’s heart throb. Director Neil Burger aptly juggles all these elements well, and despite the plot lapses and some bloodless action—a zip line aerial scene that should be visually spectacular doesn’t make the eyeballs dance like it could—but the film is a little darker and grittier than you’d expect from a blockbuster-to-be. It would have been interesting to see what a director with true futuristic vision, like Terry Gilliam, could have done with the material, but ultimately it’s not about dystopia.

The young adult story thrives off subtext and in this case it is more about family, being yourself and facing fears, all subjects that will resonate with the target audience louder than any sci fi premise.

“Divergent” is “Hunger Games” light, but Woodley and James bring some heat to the leads and it’s fun watching Kate Winslet sneering her way through a villainous role.