Posts Tagged ‘Quvenzhané Wallis’


Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 3.02.42 PMCP24 film critic Richard Crouse reviews “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” “Annie” and “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 10.49.12 AM“Canada AM” film critic Richard Crouse reviews “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” “Annie” and “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!





ANNIE: 2 STARS. “an attempt to recreate an icon for a new age.”é Wallis, the eleven-year-old Academy Award nominee, kicks the old “Annie” to the curb in the opening minutes of the reimagined story of a spunky little orphan and her foster father.

The movie begins with a curly haired red head making a presentation in class. With a flourish, she finishes her show-and-tell with a few snappy tap dance moves. Next up is Annie (Wallis) who erases the old image of the Broadway waif with a spirited “Stomp” style opening number.

It doesn’t all work, but the update does make the old “Annie” seem as au courant as “Downton Abbey.”

Set in modern day New York City, “Annie” drops the “orphan” in favor of “foster child.” Abandoned by her parents, her only connection to them is a note scribbled on the back of a restaurant bill. That scrap of paper and her scrappy attitude sustain her as she lives with a group of plucky kids at failed singer Miss Hannigan’s (Cameron Diaz) Dickensian Harlem apartment.

Her ticket out of Hannigan’s hell hole comes in the form of a viral video shot by a citizen journalist. Chasing a stray dog down the street Annie is rescued by the city’s richest citizen and mayoral candidate Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx). Unscrupulous campaign manager Guy (Bobby Cannavale) sees an opportunity to humanize his candidate and asks Annie over for a photo op.

“It’s good PR for my campaign to be seen with you,” Stacks explains to the little girl.

“If I came to live with you, you could become president,” she shoots back.

And thus Annie is invited to live in Stacks’s deluxe apartment in the sky. They form a bond and… blah, blah, blah. You can guess the rest.

Aside from a handful of songs, an overload of cute and shards of a storyline, the new “Annie” has little in common with the original musical. Director and co-screenwriter Will Gluck takes pains to make an “Annie” for a new generation but loses the spirit that made Broadway “Annie” so iconic.

“People love musicals,” he has Miss Hannigan say at one point. “Bursting into song for no apparent reason.” Except in good musicals there is always a reason for characters to burst into song. Annie doesn’t miss any opportunity to sing and dance—it even manages to turn taking out the recycling into a percussive event—but Gluck handles the transitions from dialogue to verse awkwardly. “Are you going to sing to me?” Hannigan asks Guy. “Is this happening?”

Worse, the music isn’t particularly memorable and bland, beat-heavy new school arrangements obscure the lyrics. The music is big, but the voices aren’t. Wallis has a much more natural singing style than he Broadway trained predecessors and gets lost in the mix. Ethel Merman she ain’t. The show was filled with showstoppers—“It’s the Hard-Knock Life” and “Tomorrow” among others—that are reduced in the film to aural wallpaper with choreography that could charitably be described as curious.

Wallis does plucky very well, but is rather one note, not just musically but personality wise as well. Foxx can sing but is saddled with the film’s second worst number, “I Don’t Need Anything But You,” (the “winner” is Diaz’s “Little Girls”) and Cannavale appears to be acting in a Christmas pantomime nobody told the rest of the cast about.

“Annie” is an attempt to recreate an icon for a new age but falls flatter than Miss Hannigan’s high notes.


Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 9.37.38 AMFilm critic Richard Crouse sounds off on this week’s movie releases: ‘Carrie,’ ‘Fifth Estate,’ ‘Escape Plan’ and ’12 Years a Slave.’

Watch the whole thing HERE!

12 YEARS A SLAVE: 4 ½ STARS. “uncompromising story about will, suffering and injustice.”

12-Years-A-SlaveThere’s a key line near the beginning of “12 Years a Slave, “ the new drama from “Shame” director Steve McQueen. Shortly after being shanghaied from his comfortable life as a freeman into a life of slavery Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) declares, “I don’t want to survive. I want to live.”

Based on Northup’s 1853 memoir the movie is an uncompromising story about will, suffering and injustice.

The film begins in 1841 in Saratoga, New York. Northup is a respected member of the community, an educated family man and talented musician. His journey into hell begins when he accepts a gig to provide music for a traveling magic show. While on the road he is sold into slavery by two unscrupulous men and shipped from the safety of the northern states into the south’s servitude.

Torn from his wife (Ashley Dyke) and two kids (Quvenzhané Wallis and Cameron Zeigler) he is sold from plantation to plantation, all the while hiding his education and literacy in an effort to deflect the attentions of his overseers and owners.

No matter how bad his situation, and it is dire, he never gives up his will to live and his dream of making his way back to the north and his family.

Unflinching in its portrayal of brutality, “12 Years a Slave,” is a grim document of man’s inhumanity and twisted justification—“A man can do whatever he wants with his property,” spits Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender)—that serves as a primer of pain and cruelty suffered by those pressed into slavery.

Powerful situations and performances abound.

An excruciating lynching scene is all the more powerful because of McQueen’s quiet, unblinking camera. As Northup struggles with a rope around his neck McQueen pulls back, showing the complete diorama, with people going about their day, children playing and white owners gazing passively at the man as he fights for breath. It’s an unforgettable sequence that hammers home the horror of how commonplace this unspeakable behavior was.

The movie is ripe with such scenes that bring the true terror and pain felt by Northup. Its not easy viewing but it is effective, brought alive by interesting work from Paul Giamatti as a slave trader who says his sentiment for those he buys and sells, “extends the length of a coin,” Benedict Cumberbatch, Northup’s first and kindest master and Fassbender, the personification of cruel and unusual.

Paul Dano, Brad Pitt and Lupita Nyong’o also add much, but the core of the movie is Ejiofor’s passionate work as a man forced into unimaginable circumstances. Simultaneously vulnerable and defiant he delivers a deeply layered performance that is sure to earn him the notice he has deserved for years given his work in movies like “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Children of Men.”

“12 Years a Slave” is a harrowing, stark movie that is equal parts educational and devastating.