Richard speaks to “CTV News at Six” anchor Andria Case about television and movies to watch this weekend, including the screen adaptation of “Hamilton,” the semi-biographical “Shirley,” starring Elisabeth Moss and “American Woman,” a new take on the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst.
Richard and CP24 anchor Leena Latafat have a look at the new movies coming to VOD and streaming services including the much anticipated small screen version of the big Broadway hit “Hamilton,” the semi-fictional psychological drama of “Shirley” and “American Woman,” loosely based on the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst.
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with host Todd Van Der Heyden to have a look at the new movies coming to VOD and streaming services including the small screen version of the big Broadway hit “Hamilton,” the semi-fictional psychological drama of “Shirley” and “American Woman,” loosely based on the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst.
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to VOD and streaming services including the Disney+ presentation of “Hamilton,” the most popular musicals of recent years, the psychological drama of “Shirley” and the crime thrillers “American Woman” and “Strange But True.”
When reclusive author Shirley Jackson died in 1965 she left behind a body of work, including “The Haunting of Hill House,” a supernatural horror novel sometimes called one of the best ghost stories ever written. An influence on two generations of speculative fiction writers like Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Sarah Waters and Richard Matheson, she is brought to vivid life in a new fictionalized drama, now on VOD, starring Elisabeth Moss.
Set just after the publication of “The Lottery,” a controversial short story about the ritual sacrifice of a town citizen to ensure good crops, published in a 1948 issue of The New Yorker, the film sees Shirley (Moss) paralyzed by the expectations that hang heavy over “Hangsaman,” a novel she is struggling to complete. Prickly and quick with a line, she is less than pleased when Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg), her college professor husband, arranges for his new assistant Fred Nemser (Logan Lerman) and his pregnant wife Rose (Odessa Young) to live in their house while the young couple searches for a place of their own.
As the days and weeks stretch into months the relationship between the two couples becomes a blend of art and reality, a claustrophobic rabbit hole where Rose becomes the model for Shirley’s new main character, a college student who went walking on Vermont’s Long Trail hiking route and never returned.
“Shirley” uses elements of Jackson’s life but places them in context of one of her novels. The result is a psychological drama; a haunting look at a person driven to agoraphobia by the weight of her success and a domineering, philandering husband.
Moss is fascinating as the title character. Her take on Shirley is that of a woman who has lived under years of oppression by her bullying husband, a man whose misogyny has left her embittered, desperate and anxious. “To our suffering,” Stanley says as a toast to his wife. “There’s not enough Scotch in the world for that,” Shirley snorts, in a line that could have been borrowed from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” She’s vulnerable and filled with rage, compassionate and spiteful, often in the same scene.
Shirley and Stanley, as compelling as they are as characters, do not comprise the film’s defining relationship. Director Josephine Decker feeds on the psychological aspects of Jackson’s work to tease out a story of Shirley and Rose, two women drawn together by frustration, talent and obsession over the missing woman at the heart of the new novel. “Let’s pray for a boy,” Shirley says to the pregnant Rose, “The world is too cruel for girls.” Their time on screen together is complicated, occasionally unsettling as reality and imagination meld. It’s fascinating work in a film that is a slow burn.
“Shirley” takes its time to get where it is going, building an atmosphere of oppression slowly and carefully. Decker’s distorted dream-like visual approach is often beautiful, as though we’re watching the film through a psychological prism. It creates atmosphere but doesn’t provide the thrills that Jackson herself might have been able to infuse into the telling of this tale.
Richard has a look at Jack “o’-lantern” Black in “The House With A Clock In Its Walls,” the birth of Trump in “Fahrenheit 11/9,” and the tear-inducing (but not for the reason you think) “Life Itself” and the fist-in-your-face stylings of “Assassination Nation” with the CFRA Morning Rush host Bill Carroll.
You can’t say you weren’t warned. “Assassination Nation,” the new film from writer-director Sam Levinson, comes complete with a long list of trigger warnings. Fragile Male Egos. Torture. Swearing. The list goes on. All, and more, are contained within this lurid look at life in a small town vexed by a computer hacker.
When Salem, Massachusetts high school seniors Lily (Odessa Young), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), Bex (Hari Nef) and Em (Abra) aren’t in class they spend their time partying, chasing boys, sexting and sending thousands of Facebook, Instagram and twitter posts. When a computer hacker reveals the sexual peccadilloes of their town’s mayor and school principal it wakes up the sleepy suburb’s townsfolk. When the hacking continues, uncovering Lily’s cyber affair with an older man, and the deepest darkest secrets of many others, the town’s men band together to find the hacker. “The media is complicit,” they say. “People are laughing at us. We can no longer be helpless. If the government can’t save our law and order, we will do it ourselves!”
Most every hot button woes of modern life are either literally or metaphorically covered in “Assassination Nation.” Toxic masculinity, privacy concerns, desensitization to violence, mob rule, homophobia and racism for a start. It’s a Pandora’s Box of social ills, told through the prism of a satire that feels both exploitative and timely.
As the story goes on, shifting from edgy teen sex comedy to a manifesto of female empowerment it echoes back to the events of 300 years previous when rumours led to the demise of twenty of the town’s women. Blamed for their sexuality and treated as objects, the four women at the center of the story react against the righteousness and hypocrisy they say has become their town’s sickness.
“Assassination Nation” is in-your-face stuff, a movie that is part slasher flick, part call for revolution. “You may kill us,” says Lily after all hell has broken loose, “but you can’t kill us all.” It’s not always pleasant but it is never less than interesting.
Welcome to the House of Crouse. This week the director and star of the terrific neo-noir “Sweet Virginia,” Jamie M. Dagg and Christopher Abbott swing by to ask, How do you have a soft spot for a murderous psychopath? Then Shirley Gnome, “the Queen troubadour of intelligent black-comic sex balladry,” stops by to talk carnal cabaret, hecklers and her new album Take It Up The Notch. It’s good stuff! Stop by and sit a spell!
Centred around a motel in a small Alaskan town, Sweet Virginia is a story of people and a place gripped by greed, frustration and murder.
“I’m originally from a small town,” says the Timmins, Ont.-born director Jamie M. Dagg, “so I’m really fascinated by how the lack of anonymity in small communities changes the dynamics and how people relate to one another where everyone is incestuously interwoven into the fabric of the community. Keeping secrets is really difficult.”
In the film, opening Friday, Christopher Abbott is Elwood, a dead-eyed psychopath who comes to town to do a job. He’s been contracted to kill a man. He does the hit, callously killing two innocent bystanders in the process. Waiting for his money, he checks into the motel run by Sam (Jon Bernthal, star of The Punisher on Netflix), a former rodeo star now sidelined by injuries. The two men strike up a friendship as Elwood grows edgy and unpredictable waiting for the person who hired him to cough up his fee… READ THE WHOLE THING HERE!