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.
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Logan,” the latest (and greatest) Wolverine flick, the time travel teen angst movie “Before I Fall,” the animated “Ballerina,” the quirky “Table 19” with Anna Kendrick and the controversial Christian movie “The Shack.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, “Logan,” the latest (and greatest) Wolverine flick, the time travel teen angst movie “Before I Fall” and the controversial Christian movie “The Shack.”
“The Shack” is Canadian author William Paul Young’s look at healing from a Christian point of view. Praised and condemned equally upon its 2007 release, it became a bestseller which begat a film of the same name starring Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer. Some loved the book’s depiction of how God works in our lives; others called it heresy. The movie is likely to ignite similar theological conversations but my complaints are of a more cinematically secular nature.
Worthington is Mack Phillips, God-fearing family man. Loving husband to Nan (Radha Mitchell) and dad to Kate (Megan Charpentier), Josh (Gage Munroe) and the precocious Missy (Amelie Eve); he goes to church, works hard and spends as much time with his family as possible. A weekend trip with the kids is a wholesome good time—there are endless choruses of the campfire classic “I Met a Bear” and loads of roasted marshmallows—until little Missy goes missing, presumed of abducted by a fugitive from justice. When her little red dress is found marinating in a puddle of blood in a shack in the woods all hope is lost. Missy is gone and she won’t be back.
Her disappearance changes everything. Mack has a crisis of faith and feelings of guilt and remorse haunt the family. When Mack finds a note in his mailbox reading, “Meet me at the shack,” he becomes upset and confused. There were no footprints in the snow to and from the box, and, more mysteriously, it was signed “Papa,” Missy’s nickname for God.
Borrowing his best friend’s (Tim McGraw) four wheel drive Mack heads for the shack. “I gotta do something,” he grunts, “and this is all I got.” There he finds the rundown shack where his daughter’s dress was found, a desolate building almost buried in snow but just around the corner is something else, something otherworldly. Steps away is an Eden, a sunny, warm and welcoming place with a shack. Inside the humble home are Jesus and Sarayu (Aviv Alush, Sumire Matsubara), led by a woman named Papa (Octavia Spencer). Is it a dream? Has he died and gone to heaven? “Why did you bring me back here?” he asks. “Because here’s where you got stuck,” replies Papa.
Here he begins the most painful journey of his life, the road to forgiveness.
“The Shack” is the very definition of a church basement movie, a film programmed with a very specific audience in mind. Aimed at a Christian audience willing to embrace its message of love and forgiveness while overlooking some of the controversial parts, i.e. the depiction of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. It is a sermon come to life but with too much off screen narration, really heavy-handed imagery and clunky dialogue like Papa’s declaration that, “God is especially fond of Neil Young.”
“The Shack” is very earnest, a movie that tackles one of humanity’s great questions, “Why does God let bad things happen?” without adding much to the argument. Bad things happen, we’re told, simply because it is God’s will. It is eternal wisdom wrapped in a movie that never met a point it couldn’t belabour or a scene it couldn’t overplay.
Worthington and Spencer are good actors but the precious material sucks any kind of grit out of their performances. We’re left with Worthington’s one-note portrayal of the stages of grief coupled with Spencer’s calm to the point of dull work as the all-knowing and slightly sassy deity.
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.
Richard and CP24 anchor George Lagogianes have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Doctor Strange,” the fourteenth film in the Marvel Universe, “Trolls,” the return of a 1970s pop culture phenomenon, Andrew Garfield as real-life WWII hero and pacifist Desmond Doss in “Hacksaw Ridge” and the Iggy and the Stooges documentary “Gimme Danger.”
Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, Benedict Cumberbatch in “Doctor Strange,” the fourteenth film in the Marvel Universe, “Trolls,” the return of a 1970s pop culture phenomenon with Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick, Andrew Garfield as real-life WWII hero and pacifist Desmond Doss in “Hacksaw Ridge” and the Iggy and the Stooges documentary “Gimme Danger.”
“Hacksaw Ridge,” a new war film from director Mel Gibson, is much like the man himself; blustery, loud, occasionally profane and with a muddled moral core.
The film opens with grim imagery, soldiers with their faces blown off, engulfed in flames, before jumping back in time sixteen years to tell the tale of real-life pacifist Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield). Growing up in podunk Virginia Desmond is a high spirited boy who almost kills his brother during a play fight spun out of control. When his mother (Rachel Griffiths) tells him the most egregious sin of all is the taking of another person’s life, he allows the potent words to sink in and take root.
Later, after a whirlwind romance of the, “Today I met the girl I’m going to marry,” type he enlists in the army, despite the protests of his WWI vet father (Hugo Weaving and his fiancée (Teresa Palmer). A conscientious objector, Desmond refuses any kind of weapons training, insisting instead to go into battle as a medic. In boot camp his fellow cadets treat him like a pariah while his superiors (Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington) threaten him with a court martial. “I’m not off up above,” he says pointing to his head. “I just believe what I believe.”
“Hacksaw Ridge” is the kind of movie that presents the main character as an underdog, but you know by the end of the film someone will say, “That crazy SOB was the bravest man I ever met,” or words to the effect. And so it goes. On Hacksaw Ridge, an impossibly tall cliff on the Japanese island of Okinawa, his mettle is tested when his platoon is attacked and overwhelmed. Without firing a shot, or even touching a gun, Desmond dodges death in the form of Japanese soldiers, bullets and grenades to bring aid to his colleagues.
This is a morality tale about a man whose noble intentions are misunderstood by everyone. Based on real events, it nonetheless has the feel of Hollywood fiction. Perhaps it’s because of our cynical times, but stories of the indomitable spirit seem to take on a corny edge no matter how much gruesome stuff—legs turn in the hamburger meat, rats eating corpses—the director uses to paint the screen.
That may be unfair, but there is an undeniable aw-shucks vibe that permeates the air. Gibson clearly respects the moral high ground his main character takes, but allows Garfield to play Doss as a hokey cliché, with one hand on the bible and a goofy grin plastered on his face. It’s amiable enough work but when the “hellfire of combat” kicks in he tends to get lost amid the action.
And there is a lot of action. By the time the movie shifts location to the titular warzone Gibson goes full tilt with skilfully shot, hardcore battle scenes. For a film about pacifism he doesn’t hold back, bringing his usual subtlety (think “Braveheart,” “The Passion of the Christ” or “Apocalypto”) to scenes of dismemberment and even a glimpse of ritual Seppuku. It’s wild and woolly and often very effective. A slow speed chase sequence in one of the cliff’s tunnels has tension and a couple of good jump scares. It’s solid filmmaking, if just a little safe. There’s nothing here as oddball or challenging as the use of arcane languages in his last two films or “Passion’s” female Satan. Instead he’s made a conventional, if somewhat gory inspirational biopic that suggests, come for the old time religion, stay for the blood and guts.
It’s hard to separate Mel Gibson from his films. “Hacksaw Ridge,” despite its lack of his usual eccentric flourishes, still feels like it could only be made by a man torn between deeply held faith and a wild side that sometimes runs free.