A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the Tom Cruise action flick “Mission Impossible – Fallout,” the surreal and surprising “Blindspot” and the political drama “Shock and Awe.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, the Tom Cruise smash-’em-up “Mission Impossible – Fallout,” the surreal and surprising “Blindspot” and the political drama “Shock and Awe.”
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk about the epic action of “Mission Impossible – Fallout,” the epic emotions of “Blindspotting” and the not-so-epic “Shock and Awe.”
With news organizations under fire from all sides these days along comes a movie about journalists who spoke truth to power. “Shock and Awe,” the new film from director Rob Reiner, details the efforts of the Knight Ridder journalists who questioned the reasoning behind the 2003 Iraq War.
The main thrust of the narrative begins on September 11, 2001. As the press struggle to find the real story behind the terrorist attack, George W. Bush’s White House begins a campaign of misinformation, shifting the blame from Islamic extremist Osama bin Laden to secular leader Saddam Hussein. Knight Ridder reporters Warren Strobel (James Marsden) and Jonathan Landay (Woody Harrelson) sense something is not quite right with the story, even though many of their colleagues eat up the Bush administration story of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Their insiders suggest the White House is deliberately trying to start a war with Iraq, forging a connection between Hussein and Al-Qaeda.
When Knight Ridder papers like The Philadelphia Inquirer decline to publish their reporting editor John Walcott (Reiner) reaches out to a big gun, Bronze Star-winning war correspondent Joe Galloway (Tommy Lee Jones), for help. “We don’t write for people who send other people’s kids off to war,” says Walcott. “We write for people whose kids get sent to war. You only have one thing to ask: Is it true?” With Galloway’s support Landay and Strobel burn shoe leather to support their “Donald Rumsfeld is lying” angle.
There is not much either shocking or awesome in “Shock and Awe.” The story should be edge of your seat stuff but feels muted. Part of the trouble is the amount of exposition particularly a speech from Strobel’s love interest Lisa (Jessica Biel) that sums up 4000 years of Iraq history in just under two minutes. It doesn’t make for good drama, despite the explosive nature of the true events.
Perhaps the movie’s indignation about politicians and media not valuing the truth feels blunted in this time of Fake News. Or perhaps it is lost in the film’s breezy nature. Either way, the result is a movie that has its heart in the right place but isn’t angry or intrepid enough.
“And so it goes,” sang Nick Lowe in the chorus of his first hit, “and where it’s going, no one knows.” If only the same could be said for “And So It Goes,” a new comedy starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton. Predictable as joint pain after an Active Aging workout, you’ll know exactly where it’s going.
Douglas plays Oren, a widowed Connecticut real estate agent with more than a few personality tics. He’s a broke Gordon Gekko, relying on one last real estate score to secure his retirement. His next-door neighbor is Leah (Keaton), a lounge singer who bursts into tears at the mere thought of her late husband. They are polar opposites brought together when a granddaughter (Sterling Jerins) Oren didn’t know about turns up on their shared doorstep. Cue the Geritol inspired giggles (“I’ve sold houses older than you,” says Oren to Leah, “and in worse condition!”).
Douglas and Keaton aren’t straying far from their collective wheelhouses here. Both have played these kind of characters before—he in “Wonder Boys,” she in “Something’s Gotta Give”—and while both are skilled, the material lets them down. There are sweet moments and a few funny scenes, but virtually every plot point is telegraphed in extra large print so everyone can see them coming a mile away.
Director Rob Reiner lets the leads do what they do best—win the audience over with sheer strength of will—and had the good sense to hire Frances Sternhagen as Oren’s quick-witted associate. Her performance, full of wit and charm and even a bit of edge, exposes the movie’s main problem. If Reiner had allowed his other characters to have as much fun as Sternhagen it might not feel so fuddy duddy.
“And So It Goes” is clearly made for an older audience but panders to easy sentiment rather than offering the over fifty crowd any kind of refined look at romance and family. It’s about as interesting as a Blue Plate Special when it could be, considering the talent involved, as richly textured as a fine, aged wine.
Diane Keaton’s latest film, the romance And So It Goes, brings the star back to her roots.
As a beginner, long before she won an Academy Award for Annie Hall, or starred in the controversial Looking for Mr. Goodbar or inspired romantic rivalry between her Reds leading men, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, Keaton dreamed of being a singer.
“I had a fantasy of being a nightclub singer that I carried through even into my early 20s,” she says.
“I sang a couple of gigs, as they call them, but I was not very good. I began to understand that I was not going to be a singer. I’ve always loved to sing but I’m aware of the limitations of my voice. It was always a disappointing voice. I took singing lessons for years, but it was a very small voice. It’s worse than it ever was. It’s smaller than ever. But I have this love of it. I love music. I love singing ballads and sad songs, it’s just so much fun.”
And sing she does in the new film, a romance co-starring Michael Douglas — “He couldn’t be any more charming,” she says — about Leah, a woman who gets a second chance at a career and love.
“I never thought I’d ever sing again. I had some songs intermittently in some movies but to have it come up again and have the possibility of singing four songs and one song all the way through was a dream come true.”
Keaton describes Leah, a lounge singer who bursts into tears at the mere thought of her late husband, as a woman, “who has had a lovely life but has lost the love of her life. She’s my age, in her late 60s.”
The 68-year-old Oscar winner says playing Leah was “a joy,” but adds, “getting old is a great levelling experience. You really do see the truth, which is that your expression and your goals don’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things.
“With that in mind you start seeing life in a different way. You don’t see it so much as the goals for the future; it’s just now. You live in the moment, in the present. This is what you have.
“So I really feel you’re more grateful, you’re more filled with awe, you’re more amazed because it is a huge, giant question mark this life we live in.
“It’s a huge gift and you need to see yourself for what you are and appreciate what you have while you have it now.”
In 1986 Rob Reiner made one of the all time great movies about being a kid. “Stand By Me” was an exercise in dark edged nostalgia. Twenty years later he’s revisiting the Eisenhower and Kennedy years but leaves the dark stuff behind. “Flipped” is coming-of-age “Rashômon” filtered through “Leave it to Beaver” with a dash of “The Wonder Years” thrown in for good measure.
Set in 1960 the story begins when Bryce and his upwardly mobile family move in across the street from the Bakers and their daughter Juli (Madeline Carroll). It’s love at first sight for six-year-old Julie, who flips for Bryce’s “dazzling eyes.” Of course Bryce wants nothing to do with her; she is, after all, a girl. Juli won’t give up, however, pursuing—some might say stalking—him straight through till grade seven. Bryce does everything he can to dissuade her, until she finally gets the hint, and then, of course he develops a big time crush on her.
Told in a he-said-she-said structure, Juli and Bryce detail the day-to-day developments in their lives from their very different points of view. Much of the film’s humor comes from the discrepancies in the way each of them perceive the way their relationship is going. The back-and-forth is a trick that should get old but somehow, because of the writing but more than that, because of the charm of the young cast.
Reiner has cast extremely well, particularly in the case of Madeline Carroll who plays Juli. It’s a tough role, one that requires the audience to believe that she is wise and articulate beyond her years. We’ve all seen precocious kids on screen before, but the thing that separates her performance from other annoying kid’s performances is the work she does behind her eyes. You can see her working through the complexities of life, trying to figure out relationships and the way the world works. It’s a remarkable and endearing performance that carries much of the movie.
The rest of the cast—Anthony Edwards, Penelope Ann Miller, John Mahoney, Aidan Quinn and Rebecca De Mornay—are effective but none feel irreplaceable in the way that Carroll does.
The he-said-she-said format won’t be for everyone, but the characters, the gentle humor of the script, the performances and the soft nostalgic glow that Reiner dabs on every frame is very appealing.