Posts Tagged ‘Steve Zahn’

BLAZE: 3 ½ STARS. “a study of creativity, relationships and struggle.”

Early on in their relationship Blaze Foley’s (Ben Dickey) girlfriend and muse Sybil Rosen (Alia Shawkat) asks, “Are you going to be a big country star, like Roger Miller?” The singer-songwriter replies, “I don’t want to be a star. I want to be a legend.”

Texas singer, songwriter Foley did indeed lead a legendary life. The “Let Me Ride in Your Big Cadillac” singer, who died at in obscurity age 39, wore duct tape on the toes of his boots to mock wannabe cowboys with silver-tipped cowboy boots. Later, the master tapes from his first studio album were confiscated by the DEA. Lucinda Williams dedicated the tune “Drunken Angel” to him and Ethan Hawke was inspired to co-write and direct the movie “Blaze” based on the novel “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze” by Rosen.

“Blaze” is as non-traditional as its subject. Non-chronological and bold, it’s a study of creativity, relationships and struggle. The backbone of the story is a radio interview with Foley’s friend, musician Townes Van Zandt (Charlie Sexton). Chain-smoking, he details the events of Foley’s life as a musician and companion to Sybil. As mythmaking takes over Van Zandt’s storytelling another friend, Zee (Josh Hamilton), jumps in, bringing the story back to earth. Zee’s influence grounds the story. Far from justifying the usual bad behaviour essayed in music bios, “Blaze” looks to examine why Foley acted out.

Playing Foley in the flashback scenes is newcomer Dickey. The heavyset Dickey captures Foley’s lost soul status in a performance that is equal parts charisma and kindness. Because the singer died in virtual obscurity for most audiences there is no deeply etched idea of who Foley was. That gives Dickey the opportunity to take all the elements that formed Foley—creativity, a vein of self-destruction tempered by sweetness and talent—and bundle them into a portrait that captures what the singer was all about. It’s a lovely, edgy performance that is the soul of the film.

Like the man himself, there is nothing standard about “Blaze,” the story of his life. Hawke takes chances narratively and stylistically, fracturing the timeline of Foley’s life to make a film that proves, once and for all, that music biopics don’t just have to be about famous people.


A new feature from from! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “War for the Planet of the Apes,” “Mermaids” and “The Little Hours.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies the ape-tastic “War for the Planet of the Apes,” the fin-tastic “Mermaids” and the sin-tastic situation comedy “The Little Hours.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies including the rebooted prequel “War for the Planet of the Apes,” the fin-tastic “Mermaids” and the updated 14th century situation comedy “The Little Hours.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!

Metro In Focus: Going ape over Andy Serkis’ latest motion capture performance

By Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

Despite critical raves and big box-office success, Roddy McDowell wasn’t nominated for his work as the sympathetic chimpanzee Cornelius in the original Planet of the Apes. Unless things change radically in the next few months Andy Serkis, star of War for the Planet of the Apes, won’t be either. He’s getting the best reviews of his career for playing chimpanzee Caesar, leader to a tribe of genetically enhanced apes in the new film, but the Academy refuses to recognize his style of acting.

Unlike Serkis, McDowell wore a rubber mask that took hours to apply, even for quick promotional appearances like his 1974 spot on the Carol Burnett Show.

Burnett introduced McDowell as “one of Hollywood’s most familiar faces,” then feigned shock as the actor came onstage in a tuxedo, but in full Planet of the Apes facial makeup. They launch into a spirited version of the love ballad They Didn’t Believe Me. By the end of the tune the audience roars as Burnett warbles, “When I told them how wonderful you are, They didn’t believe me,” as she mimes picking a bug off his lapel.

Later she thanked Roddy for undergoing the three-and-a-half hours it took to put on the makeup for that bit of funny business.

It’s not likely you’ll see Andy Serkis partaking in the same kind of promotional monkey business.

Times have changed since McDowell had to endure untold hours in the makeup chair, then smoke using an extra long cigarette holder so as not to light his faux fur on fire. “It’s about a foot long and makes me look like the weirdest monkey you ever did see,” McDowell told Newsday.

These days Serkis, who is best known for his motion capture performances of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films and The Force Awakens’ Supreme Leader Snoke, performs on a soundstage in front of multiple cameras that film his performance from every angle. He wears a body suit dotted with spots that allow the computers to register even the slightest movement. Serkis calls this “a magic suit” that “allows you to play anything regardless of your size, your sex, your colour, whatever you are.” Later, in post production the “digital makeup” adds in the costume and character details.

It saves hours in the makeup chair, but is no less a performance than McDowell’s more organic approach. “I’ve never drawn a distinction between live-action acting and performance-capture acting,” Serkis says. “It is purely a technology. It’s a bunch of cameras that can record the actor’s performance in a different way.”

Which raises the question of why the Academy refuses to acknowledge the work of Serkis and others who specialize in motion capture? The Independent calls him one of the greatest actors of this generation and the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films recognize his work but the Oscars have steadfastly ignored his specialty. It’s a slap in Serkis’ face that The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers won an Oscar for Visual Effects in part because of the genius of his performance.

Whether included in the Best Actor category or another, new grouping for Best MoCap Performance, it’s time Serkis and others were recognized for their work.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES: 4 ½ STARS. “an intimate epic with food for thought.”

The latest “Planet of the Apes” movie has all the earmarks of what is wrong in Hollywood. It’s one of those dreaded hyphenate reboot-prequel movies, there’s a child sidekick and more than half the characters are computer generated. That should be three strikes you’re out, but “War for the Planet of the Apes” transcends all that monkey business as an expertly made popcorn flick.

The story picks up two years after “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and brings us one step closer to the events of the very first “Apes” film from 1968. Human civilization has crumbled after a simian-flu wiped out most of humanity while empowering the apes. The primates, led by aging hero ape Caesar (Andy Serkis), have created a comfortable forest world for themselves along the California/Oregon border.

It’s a peaceful place until a human commando team, under the orders of a ruthless Colonel Kurtzian leader named McCullough (Woody Harrelson), stage a brutal raid. “We must abandon our humanity to save humanity,” he says. Instead of Born to Kill written on their helmets these soldiers have slogans like Bedtime for Bonzo emblazoned up top.

Later, when McCullough kills Cesar’s wife and son he seeks out the Colonel. His search for revenge leads him to an ape prison camp, kick starting the film’s “Ape-pocalypse Now” section. It’s guerrilla warfare, but this time it’s personal.

“If we lose,” McCullough says, “it will be a planet of apes.” Duh. Isn’t that kind of the point of these movies?

“War for the Planet of the Apes” is a summer tentpole movie that fits into the franchise but can be enjoyed as a standalone. Director Matt Reeves creates exciting action sequences but there’s more to the movie event explosions and gunfire. A brief recap brings us up to speed, then we’re thrown into the world. Cesar wants to be left alone but the murder of his family ignites within him complex, contradictory emotions, the desire to protect his ape herd while getting revenge. Those feelings are the engine that drives the movie but they are wrapped around a blockbuster that doesn’t feel like a blockbuster. It’s quiet—most of the apes speak in sign language—with a philosophical edge not usually found in big summer releases.

Much of that is due to a brilliant MoCap performance from Andy Serkis. In a genre not known for subtlety he brings a range of emotion to Cesar. Selfless, melancholic and compassionate, his take on the ape character is layered and made all the more remarkable given the computer generated process that goes into creating it.

Serkis is aided by Karin Konoval as orangutan Maurice, who complex emotions with little to no dialogue. Less welcome, although not fatal, is Steve Zahn’s Jar Jar Binks-esque Bad Ape. He’s the film’s comic relief but his goofy gags and slapstick often feel slightly out of place in a movie that is otherwise concerned with classic themes like fear of the other and revenge.

Like all good speculative fiction “War for the Planet of the Apes” isn’t just a movie about the wild idea of apes vs. humans. With deeply rooted ideas about the nature of compassion and community, it also contains timely ideas for a troubled world. In one tense scene child sidekick Nova (Amiah Miller) risks everything to bring food and water to Cesar, subtly suggesting that even in the darkest times kindness can still exist. It’s a rare movie, an intimate epic brimming with food for thought while simultaneously satisfying the need to watch apes on horseback.


Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 2.28.29 PMRichard and CP24 anchor Nneka Elliot talk about the weekend’s four big releases, “Ghostbusters,” the new Kristen Stewart sci fi flick “Equals,” “Captain Fantastic,” starring Viggo Mortensen and the new Canadian horror film “The Dark Stranger.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC: 3 STARS. “luckily Mortensen is there to keep it interesting.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 4.45.21 PMIt’s hard to know whether “Captain Fantastic,” a new drama starring Viggo Mortensen as a task master father raising a brood of philosopher kings in a forested paradise right out of Plato’s Republic, is a condemnation of the American Dream or parody of hippie ideals or both. By the time the unconventional family celebrates Noam Chomsky Day instead of Christmas it’s hard to know whether to giggle at the absurdity of the situation or cry at the earnestness of the film’s intent.

Mortensen is Ben, father of six, husband of Leslie (Trin Miller). They have made their home deep in the forest of the Pacific Northwest. As Leslie lies dying in a faraway hospital, Ben puts his kids through a boot camp of rigorous physical and intellectual training. They rock climb, participate in coming of age rituals, learn about quantum entanglement and at night sit around a campfire eating the days kill and reading books like “The Brothers Karamazov.”

They are a tight unit untouched by the outside world. Home schooled and trained the kids each speak six languages and are all, even the youngest ones, self sufficient, but is Ben helping or hurting the kids? Does his unwillingness to bend in his extreme opinions make him a caring father or a fascist who has not prepared his kids to be out in the world?

The answer to that question comes, sort of, when he makes an announcement. “Last night mommy killed herself. She finally did it. Your mother is dead and nothing is going to change.” A cross-country trip to Leslie’s funeral, a place where Ben is not welcome, makes him confront his ideas on parenting.

The most fantastic thing about “Captain Fantastic” is Mortensen’s performance. As Ben he is a plain spoken, rough-hewn man so convinced of his correctness he is willing to risk the lives of his children. Underneath the bluster, however, is a man who cares deeply about his family and his late wife. He’s a man of extremes—both in beliefs and actions—but his love and his grief are heartfelt, even if they are run through Ben’s unforgiving filter. Mortensen makes an unlikeable character likeable and that goes a long way to making the film enjoyable.

Otherwise the journey to Leslie’s final resting place is an occasionally bumpy ride. The feral kids speak Esperanto, pontificate on the US Constitution and sit, gobsmacked, at the sight of their first videogame and it is in these moments that parody seems to nudge its way into the storytelling. The hippie heaven Ben builds for his kids is less a nirvana than a cage to protect them from what he sees as the evils of the world. He teaches them to survive in the wild, but it seems unlikely any of them could survive a solo subway ride.

“Captain Fantastic” loses more steam in a rushed final act, but luckily Mortensen is there to keep it interesting.


Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 2.31.17 PMRichard’s CP24 reviews forhe “Rocky” reboot “Creed” and Pixar’s latest child-in-peril movie “The Good Dinosaur.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!