Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with news anchor Marcia MacMillan have a look at the weekend’s big releases including “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” the indie drama “Mouthpiece” and the rockumentary “Echo in the Canyon.”
A weekly feature from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” and the indie drama “Mouthpiece.”
Richard has a look at the new movies coming to theatres, including the housebroken sequel “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” the cosmic bonfire of CGI flames “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” and the nostalgic 60s doc “Echoes in the Canyon” with CFRA Morning Rush host Bill Carroll.
You get three stories for the price of one in the 100% Louis CK-free “The Secret Life of Pets 2.” The episodic sequel to the 2016 animated hit front loads a lot of plot into its snappy 87 minutes but doesn’t forget to blend in life messages for kids on finding inner courage. “The first step in not being afraid,” says wily old sheepdog Rooster (Harrison Ford), “is acting like you are not afraid.”
Jack Russell Terrier Max, previously voiced by CK, now sounds like Patton Oswalt. He and his odd couple pal, the shaggy Newfoundland mix Duke (Eric Stonestreet), now must now share their Brooklyn home with a new roommate, their owner’s (Ellie Kemper) new baby Liam. The toddler’s presence raises Max anxiety level—”He is perfect,” Max says fretfully, “and I will keep him safe.”—until the family takes a trip to the country and he meets Rooster, a Yoda-like character who teaches him to be himself and not be an overprotective helicopter parent for Liam.
Meanwhile Max’s girlfriend, a vivacious Pomeranian named Gidget (Jenny Slate), must take lessons in how to act like a tabby from her catnip-loving feline friend Chloe (Lake Bell) to rescue Max’s favorite squeaky toy from an apartment overrun by cats.
Then, when Molly (Kiely Renaud) starts dressing bunny and former flushed pet Snowball (Kevin Hart) in cute superhero pajamas he believes the hype and behave like a movie crime fighter. His skills are tested when a brave Shih Tzu named Daisy (Tiffany Haddish) asks him to assist on a dangerous mission. “I don’t mean to sound dramatic,” she says, “but a poor defenseless animal needs saving.”
Themes of inner courage and facing fears are woven through each story and come together the last twenty minutes or so as the pets all join forces.
The Gidget and Snowball storylines have the kind of playfulness you expect from Illumination, the company that gave us the anarchic jellybean-shaped Minions. Max’s life-altering adventures on the farm, which take up a great deal of the scant running time, feels borrowed from other, better kid-friendly fare like the “Toy Story” franchise.
The voice work is a mixed bag. Ford is a howl as the gruff old timer who imparts life-changing advice. If they do another of these “Pets” movies he should graduate to main character status. Slate is a hyperactive bundle of energy and Hart and Haddish are a fun duo that add much spark to their segment. Oswalt, so distinctive in “Ratatouille,” doesn’t teach Max any new tricks.
“The Secret Life of Pets 2” feels like three episodes of a “Pets” television show banged together to (almost) feature length. Pet lovers may recognize and enjoy some of the behavior—a cat coughing up a hairball on her sleeping owner and the protective nature of Max and Rooster—but it won’t beat spending the day with your real-life, cuddly pet.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with guest host Ken Connors to talk the new movies coming to theatres including the housebroken sequel “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” the cosmic bonfire of CGI flames “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” and the nostalgic 60s doc “Echoes in the Canyon.”
Richard joins CP24 anchor Nick Dixon to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including “Skyscraper,” the animated Adam Sandler flick “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation,” the documentary “Whitney,” the biopic “Mary Shelley,” “Sorry to Bother You” starring LaKeith Stanfield and the comedy “The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger.”
“Sorry to Bother You” is set in an alternative reality version of present day but feels like a throwback to the politically charged satires of the 1980s and 90s. Echoes of “Repo Man” and the like reverberate throughout but nonetheless director Boots Riley is never less than original in his telling of the tale of a telemarketer who trades part of his identity for success.
The story centers around slacker Cassius Green (LaKeith Stanfield), a young man who lives in his Uncle Sergio’s (Terry Crews) garage. “I’m just out here surviving,” he tells his performance artist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson). In need of money—he’s four months behind in rent—he goes to a telemarketing job interview armed with a phoney resume and some fake “Employee of the Month” awards. Lies notwithstanding he gets the gig. “This is Tele marketing,” says his new boss (Robert Longstreet). “We’re not mapping the human genome here. You will call as many numbers as possible. You will stick to the script we give you and you will leave here happy.”
After a rough start Cassius gets some advice that changes everything. “If you want to make some money here use your white voice,” says the guy in the next cubicle (Danny Glover). “I’m talking about sounding like you don’t have to care. Like you don’t really need this money. It’s what they wish they sounded like.” The technique works (David Cross provides Cassius’s white voice) and on the eve of a strike in the telemarking office Cassius is promoted, bumped upstairs to the elite Power Callers floor. “Welcome to the Power Caller suite,” says his new boss (Omari Hardwick). “Use your white voice at all times here.”
The new job involves selling power—fire power and manpower, specifically the services of WorryFree, a service that offers lifetime work contracts to desperate people. Run by mogul Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), the company has been accused of selling slave labour, and now Cassius is their number one salesperson. His success comes at a cost, however. His girlfriend doesn’t approve and his striking friends call him a scab. The new job may be on the wrong side of the ethical divide but, at first at least, Cassius grins and bears it. “I’m doing something and I’m really good at it. I’m important.”
From here the story goes places that will not be spoiled here. Suffice to say Riley takes “Sorry to Bother You’s” viewers on a journey unlike any other. The film is an audacious capitalist nightmare, heavy on anti-corporate, pro-union rhetoric filtered through a kaleidoscopic lens. It’s risky and witty, edgy and inventive and unrestrained in a way that makes it utterly unique. Scathing commentary on the state of the world—“If you are shown a problem,” says Squeeze (Steven Yeun), “and can’t do anything about the problem you get used to the problem.”—is coupled with creative, confrontational filmmaking.
In “Sorry to Bother You” Riley has created an apocalyptic world that looks like ours but tilted 180°. He’s populated it with offbeat characters who forward the story but bring humanity to the strange world they inhabit. Their take on race relations, employment and relationships feels real even though nothing else in the movie does. It’s the peak of satire to heighten the situation but still make real, humanistic points. Riley does both in a way that is both experimental and entertaining.
CHIPs: It’s a remake, a comedy and an action film and yet it doesn’t quite measure up to any of those descriptors. It’s a remake in the sense that writer-director-star Dax Shepard has lifted the title, character names and general situation from the classic TV show but they are simply pegs to hang his crude jokes on.
The Circle: While it is a pleasure to see Bill Paxton in his last big screen performance, “The Circle” often feels like an Exposition-A-Thon, a message in search of a story.
The Fate of the Furious: Preposterous is not a word most filmmakers would like to have applied to their work but in the case of the “Fast and Furious” franchise I think it is what they are going for. Somewhere along the way the down-‘n’-dirty car chase flicks veered from sublimely silly to simply silly. “The Fate of the Furious” is fast, furious but it’s not much fun. It’s an unholy mash-up of James Bond and the Marvel Universe, a movie bogged down by outrageous stunts and too many characters. Someone really should tell Vin Diesel and Company that more is not always more.
Fifty Shades Darker: Depending on your point of view “Fifty Shades of Grey” either made you want to gag or want to wear a gag. It’s a softcore look at hardcore BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) that spanked the competition on its opening weekend in 2015. Question is, will audiences still care about Grey’s proclivities and Ana’s misgivings or is it time to use our collective safeword? “Fifty Shades Darker” is a cold shower of a movie. “It’s all wrong,” Ana says at one point. “All of this is wrong.” Truer words have never been spoken.
The Mountain Between Us: Mountain survival movies usually end up with someone eating someone else to stay alive. “The Mountain Between Us” features the usual mountain survival tropes—there’s a plane crash, a showdown with a cougar and broken bones—but luckily for fans of stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet cannibalism is not on the menu. Days pass and then weeks pass and soon they begin their trek to safety. “Where are we going?” she asks. “We’re alive,” he says. “That’s where were going.” There will be no spoilers here but I will say the crash and story of survival changes them in ways that couldn’t imagine… but ways the audience will see coming 100 miles away. It’s all a bit silly—three weeks in and unwashed they still are a fetching couple—but at least there’s no cannibalism and no, they don’t eat the dog.
The Mummy: As a horror film it’s a meh action film. As an action film it’s little more than a formulaic excuse to trot out some brand names in the kind of film Hollywood mistakenly thinks is a crowd pleaser.
The Shack: Bad things in life may be God’s will but I lay the blame for this bad movie directly on the shoulders of director Stuart Hazeldine who infuses this story with all the depth and insight of a “Davey and Goliath” cartoon.
The Snowman: We’ve seen this Nordic Noir before and better. Mix a curious lack of Oslo accents—the real mystery here is why these Norwegians speak as though they just graduated RADA—Val Kilmer in a Razzie worthy performance and you’re left with a movie that left me as cold as the snowman‘s grin.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: Movies like the high gloss crime thriller “La Femme Nikita,” the assassin mentor flick “Léon: The Professional” and outré sci fi opera “The Fifth Element” have come to define director Luc Besson’s outrageous style. Kinetic blasts of energy, his films are turbo charged fantasies that make eyeballs dance even if they don’t always engage the brain. His latest, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” not only has one of the longest titles of the year but is also one of the most over-the-top, retina-frying movies of the year. Your eyes will beg for mercy.
Wonder Wheel: At the beginning of the film Mickey (Justin Timberlake) warns us that what we are about to see will be filtered through his playwright’s point of view. Keeping that promise, writer, director Woody Allen uses every amount of artifice at his disposal—including cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s admittedly sumptuous photography—to create a film that is not only unreal but also unpleasant. “Oh God,” Ginny (Kate Winslet) cries out at one point. “Spare me the bad drama.” Amen to that.
Song to Song: I think it’s time Terrence Malick and I called it quits. I used to look forward to his infrequent visits. Sure, sometimes he was a little obtuse and over stayed his welcome, but more often than not he was alluringly enigmatic. Then he started coming around more often and, well, maybe the old saying about familiarity breeding contempt is true. In “Song to Song” there’s a quick shot of a tattoo that sums up my feelings toward my relationship with Malick. Written in flowery script, the words “Empty Promises” fill the screen, reminding us of the promise of the director’s early work and amplifying the disappointment we feel today. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back, the Terrence Malick movie that put me off Terrence Malick movies. I’ll be nice though and say, it’s not him, it’s me.
EXTRA! EXTRRA! MOST COUNFOUNDING
mother!: Your interest in seeing “mother!,” the psychological thriller from “Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky, may be judged on your keenness to watch American sweetheart Jenifer Lawrence flush a beating heart down a toilet. Aronofsky’s story of uninvited guests disrupting the serene lives of a poet and his wife refuses to cater to audience expectations. “mother!” is an uncomfortable watch, an off-kilter experience that revels in its own madness. As the weight of the weirdness and religious symbolism begins to feel crushing, you may wonder what the hell is going on. Are these people guilty of being the worst houseguests ever or is there something bigger, something biblical going on?
Aronofsky is generous with the biblical allusions—the house is a paradise, the stranger’s sons are clearly echoes of Cain and Abel, and there is a long sequence that can only be described as the Home-style Revelation—and builds toward a crescendo of wild action that has to be seen to be believed, but his characters are ciphers. Charismatic and appealing to a member, they feel like puppets in the director’s apocalyptic roadshow rather than characters we care about. Visually and thematically he doesn’t push button so much as he pokes the audience daring them to take the trip with him, it’s just too bad we didn’t have better company for the journey.
“mother!” is a deliberately opaque movie. Like looking into a self-reflective mirror you will take away whatever you put into it. The only thing sure about it is that it is most confounding studio movie of the year.