I appear on “CTV News at 6” with anchor Andria Case to talk about TIFF and the best movies and television to watch this weekend. This week I have a look at the best of the fest and “The Woman King,” playing in theatres.
I joined CP24 to have a look at new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres. Today we talk about the Viola Davis action movie “The Woman King,” immersive David Bowie film “Moonage Daydream,” the Jon Hamm reboort “Confess, Fletch” and the creepy FOMO flick “Pearl.”
I sit in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with guest host Graham Richardson to talk the new movies coming to theatres including the Viola Davis action movie “The Woman King,” immersive David Bowie film “Moonage Daydream” and the Jon Hamm reboort “Confess, Fletch.”
“The Woman King,” is a ripped-from-the-history books story of fierce camaraderie, discipline and determination, starring Oscar®-winner Viola Davis as a general in charge of all-female unit of warriors called the Agojie, who served as the inspiration for the “Black Panther’s” Dora Milaje warriors.
Set in the 1823 West African kingdom of Dahomey, the story begins as menace from white slave trader Santo Ferreira (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) and nearby Oyo Empire, led by the ruthless Oda (Jimmy Odukoya), threaten the reign of King Ghezo (John Boyega). He can no longer rule by diplomacy and cleverness alone. “An evil is coming that threatens our kingdom, our freedom,” says the King, “But we have a weapon they are not prepared for.”
That weapon is the Agojie, a.k.a. the Dahomey Amazons. They are a generations-old fighting force led by a brilliant tactician and general Nanisca (Davis), with right-hands Amenza (Sheila Atim) and Izogie (Lashana Lynch). “We fear no one,” Nanisca says. “We fear no pain.”
Armed with blades, spears and unlimited fearlessness, the Agojie fight against the heavily armed Oyo, for their land, freedom and King. Any Oyo prisoners are sold off to the Europeans in return for weapons. Nanisca knows her King is complicit in the slave trade, and tries to convince him to stop human trafficking and replace the cash flow with the sale of palm oil. “The slave trade is the reason we prosper,” she says, “but it is a poison.”
Until then the change, they must train a new batch of recruits, including the 19-year-old Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), a rebellious woman offered to King Ghezo by her father. Brought into the Agojie by Izogie, the teenager finds a sisterhood with the group she has never known in her life.
“The Woman King” breathes the same air as 90s era action epics like “Braveheart” and “Gladiator.” Crowd-pleasers that mixed interesting characters with history, some humor, a bit of melodrama and fierce fight scenes. That may feel like a dash of déjà vu, but director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s story comes steeped in Black history, specifically female Black history, and characters that bring it to vivid life.
As the battle-scarred general Nanisca, Davis commands attention, balancing the character’s authority, resilience and battle prowess with a hidden vulnerability.
As Nawi, Thuso Mbedu steals every scene she is in with a combustible charisma that keeps her coming-of-age story compelling.
“The Woman King” is a character driven epic, one that tempers the rousing action scenes—the audience I saw this with cheered for the Agojie—with powerful interpersonal relationships to keep us engaged. It feels like an old-fashioned action movie, but with a fresh and fascinating update.
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 dynastic family drama “House of Gucci,” the new animated Disney film “Encanto,” the coming of age story “C’mon C’mon,” Peter Jackson’s 468 minute epic “The Beatles: Get Back” a.k.a. “Lord of the Ringos,” the videogame horrors of “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” and Halle Berry’s “Bruised.”
Richard joins NewsTalk 1010 host Jim Richards on the coast-to-coast-to-coast late night “Showgram” to play the game “Did Richard Crouse like these movies?” This week we talk about the star studded family drama “House of Gucci,” the new animated Disney film “Encanto” and Halle Berry’s directorial debut “Bruised.”
Then, we talk about the decision to scrap gendered awards, Ridley Scott and the flop of “The Last Duel” and Richard’s new podcast “Last Call.”
“Bruised,” a new MMA drama directed by and starring Halle Berry, and now streaming on Netflix, punches through the usual sports cliches and training montages to tell a redemption story of a woman whose rage dominated her life.
Berry is Jackie Justice, a disgraced UFC mixed martial arts star who left the sport in disgrace when she vaulted out of the cage during a match. Four years later her hair trigger temper gets her fired from a job as a nanny and booze helps her cope with abusive boyfriend/manager Desi (Adan Canto). It was his push to take on bigger fights that sent her over the brink at the height of her fame, and now he wants her back in the ring, making money.
“I don’t want to fight,” she says, “I’m happy.” Trouble is, she doesn’t appear to be happy.
When she is spotted by fight league promoter Immaculate (Shamier Anderson), who promises to set her up with top flight trainer Buddhakan (Sheila Atim), her career looks to be back on track until the 6-year-old son (Danny Boyd, Jr.) she abandoned years ago suddenly comes back into her life.
“Bruised” is a slickly produced sports flick that takes us into a little explored world, women’s MMA. Berry doesn’t shy away from the brutal nature of the fight game, both in and out of the ring. It paints a vivid portrait of the physical and mental toll paid by Jackie as she seeks personal and professional redemption, but often veers into melodrama. Plots lines crisscross as we follow Jackie’s relationships with her mother (Adriane Lenox), her trainer, Desi and Manny. Each thread clutters the plot with storylines that are not only predictable, but also take away from the movie’s main thrust, how Jackie’s life has been shaped by trauma and rage.
When “Bruised” focusses on the fighting, it succeeds. It is interesting to see that world from a female point of view and about a woman older than might be expected in the punishing sport. Even Jackie’s trainer calls her “Betty White.”
But as Jackie’s road to redemption meanders through a laundry list of misery, the two-hour, 15-minute movie becomes weighed down by the sheer volume of story.