Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including Viggo Mortensen’s father-and-son drama “Falling” (select theatres, rent or buy on the Apple TV app and other VOD platforms), the trippy “A Glitch in the Matrix” documentary (VOD), the unfiltered Netflix romantic drama “Malcolm & Marie” (Netflix) and the Australian sheep story “Rams” (Vortex Media, VOD/Digital).
“Rams,” the new ovine comedy starring Sam Neill and Michael Caton and now available on VOD, isn’t just a wild ‘n woolly sheep’s tale. The Western Australia-set tale, a remake of an Icelandic film of the same name, is a study in changing time, loneliness and masculinity.
Stubborn, estranged brothers Colin (Neill) and Les (Caton) haven’t spoken in more than twenty years. Their farms butt up against one another, their sheep from the family bloodline, but, despite everything that bonds them, the siblings are virtual strangers.
Their lives intersect when one of Les’s rams is diagnosed with a deadly and highly communicable disease. Erring on the side of caution, authorities order a purge. All the sheep in the area must be put down. That would end the spread of the disease but it would also end the prized family bloodline and their way of life. Les gives up hope but Colin hangs on to a few of his sheep, who he calls “my girls,” hiding them in his house. “They’re not infected,” he says. They’re fine.”
Will blood, or in this case, the bloodline, be thicker than water?
“Rams” feels like it might be a riff on a down-under riff on a British feel-good flick, but there’s more to it than that. Although gently paced, the humor is acerbic and the action unpredictable.
It is buoyed by strong-silent-type performances from Neill and Caton that ground the story in its time and place, bringing a sense of connection to the men who inhabit the story. The story is specific in its setting but universal in its look at family, masculinity and legacy.
“Rams” is a feel-good movie, but it is a thoughtful one that doesn’t stoop to sheep… er…. ah… cheap theatrics to get its message across.
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with host Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including “The Nest,” Jude Law’s story of avarice and privilege, the mind-bending Janelle Monáe drama “Antebellum,” Susan Sarandon’s end of life story “Blackbird” and the documentary “The Way I See It.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the twisty-turny Janelle Monáe drama “Antebellum,” “The Nest,” Jude Law’s story of greed, the documentary “The Way I See It” and Susan Sarandon’s end of life story “Blackbird.”
“Blackbird,” the new Susan Sarandon end-of-life drama now on VOD, is a remake of the 2014 Danish film “Silent Heart.” Equal parts heartbreaking and humorous, it’s a movie whose humanity is first and foremost.
Sarandon is Lily, a vey sick woman whose body has betrayed her. Her long battle with ALS has taken the use of one of her arms and she struggles to maintain her dignity in the face of ever declining health. A self-diagnosed A-type personality, Lily has made the decision to end her life on her own terms. With her husband Paul (Sam Neill) she has arranged one last weekend with the family, a celebration of life complete with holiday traditions.
In attendance are daughters Jennifer (Kate Winslet) and Anna (Mia Wasikowska), their significant others, husband Michael (Rainn Wilson) and girlfriend Chris (Bex Taylor-Klaus), grandson Jonathan (Anson Boon) and Lily’s lifelong friend Liz (Lindsay Duncan).
Lily has found a sense of comfort in her decision, but as the fateful time nears, unresolved issues arise as the children reveal they may not be accepting of her choice.
“Blackbird” is an end-of-life drama, bold in its presentation of delicate matters, that never dips into soap-opera sentimentality. With sensitivity and unexpected humor director Roger Michell transcends the disease-of-the-week genre, staging intricate scenes that allow for drama and discourse.
A Christmas dinner scene, for example, begins as a lighthearted gathering. It’s funny, warm, even romantic but deepens into something else as Lily gifts some of her prized possessions to family members. “I haven’t taken this bracelet off in 22 years,” she says, passing it along to her daughter. “I’ve never taken this wedding ring off.” It could have dipped into melodrama but Sarandon, in a tremendous performance, never allows the scene to become maudlin. It’s incredibly sad and for the members of her family, and for the viewer, it’s the moment when Lily’s decision to say goodbye becomes heartbreakingly real.
All the action in “Blackbird” happens inside Lily and Paul’s beautiful home, a powerful architectural presence that almost becomes a character on its own. On the downside the limited setting gives the movie a stagey feeling, as though we’re watching an elaborate play instead of a movie.
The lack of backgrounds, however, helps focus on the issue at hand. “Blackbird” doesn’t debate the ethics of assisted suicide or wallow in any sort of moral quandary. Instead, it celebrates life in all its multi-faceted and messy glory as the characters approach Lily’s end of life in their own, unique ways.
In its examination of the end-of-life “Blackbird” packs an emotional punch, illuminating not only Lily’s end but the entirety of a precious life well lived.
Richard hosted the TIFF press conference for the Susan Sarandon drama “Blackbird.” The story of a dying mother assembles her family to spend a final weekend together before she ends her life was directed by Roger Michell and co-stars Sam Neill, Rainn Wilson and was produced by Sherryl Clark.
“It’s an individual choice and it should be legal and controlled, and there are very, very strict perimeters around… talking to doctors,” Sarandon said at the press conference. “It’s not just ending your life but being able to end your life with dignity and without pain, and I think anybody that has had a family member that has really suffered is very, very much interested and pro having that choice.”
From left to right: Producer Sherryl Clark, Rainn Wilson, Susan Sarandon, Sam Neill and director Roger Michell.
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 “Paddington 2,” one of the most entertaining movies of the year, the train terror movie “The Commuter” and the family drama “Happy End.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at “Paddington 2, a movie Richard is already calling one of the best of the year, Liam Neeson’s long journey home in “The Commuter” and the ironically titled family drama “Happy Ending.”
Last year Liam Neeson announced his retirement from action films. “Guys I’m sixty-f******-five.’ Audiences are eventually going to go: ‘Come on!'” Then, just months later, he had a change of heart. ““It’s not true, look at me! You’re talking in the past tense. I’m going to be doing action movies until they bury me in the ground. I’m unretired.”
At an age when most action stars are staying home soaking in vats of Voltaren Neeson continues his tough guy ways in this weekend’s action thriller The Commuter. He plays an everyman caught up in a race-against-the-clock criminal conspiracy on his train trip home from work. Expect a mix of blue-collar action and Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train.
It’s a perfect companion to the movies Neeson has made since his actionman breakout role. It all began with Taken in 2008. He played Brian Mills a former “preventer” for the US government who contained volatile situations before they got out of control. Now retired, when his seventeen-year-old daughter is kidnapped by a child slavery ring he has only 96 hours to use his “particular set of skills” to get her back.
He admits to being, “a tiny bit embarrassed by it,” but his burly build and trademarked steely glare made him an action star.
“Believe it or not, I have even had Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis calling my agent saying, ‘How do I get these scripts?’” he said on his sixtieth birthday.
Audiences ate up his rough and tumble work. His habit of paying the rent with chest-beaters like the Taken films, Battleship, Unknown and The A-Team led one macho movie fan to post this on Facebook:
“After watching the movie The Grey, I can only come to the (very logical) conclusion that Liam Neeson should be King of the Earth. Who’s better than Liam Neeson? Nobody. That’s who. Nobody.”
But there was a time when a kinder, gentler Neeson graced the screen.
His first film, 1977s Pilgrim’s Progress, was so low budget he played several characters. He’s credited as the Evangelist, a main character in John Bunyan’s Christian allegory, but can also be seen subbing in as the crucified Jesus Christ.
It was another supporting role in a movie called Shining Through that led to his breakthrough. In it he plays a Nazi party official opposite Michael Douglas. The performance so impressed Steven Spielberg he cast Neeson as Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List, which turned him into an Oscar-nominated star.
He parlayed that fame into starring roles in period pieces like Rob Roy, Michael Collins (at the age of 43 Neeson was 12 years older than the real-life Michael Collins when he died) and Les Misérables. Then comedies Breakfast on Pluto and High Spirits showcased his more amiable side.
High on the list of his mild-mannered roles are two films with Laura Linney. He’s worked with her so often on stage and in the movies they joke they feel like “an old married couple.” They’re part of the ensemble cast of Love Actually and play husband and wife in Kinsey, about America’s leading sexologist Alfred Kinsey.
Neeson, it seems, can portray almost anything on screen but claims he doesn’t give acting much thought. “I don’t analyse it too much. It’s like a dog smelling where it’s going to do its toilet in the morning.”