A new 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 mind bending Jennifer Lawrence movie “mother!” and the Michael Keaton thriller “American Assassin.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Jenifer Burke to have a look at the Jenifer Lawrence freak-out “mother!,’ the most confounding studio movie to hit theatres in years and the generic thrills of “American Assassin.”
In this weekend’s American Assassin a Cold War veteran trains undercover executioners. Movies like “The Mechanic” and “The Professional” have breathed similar air, but the new movie updates the tale, adding in a terrorism subplot.
Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Vince Flynn, the film stars Dylan O’Brien as Mitch Rapp, a student whose life is changed forever when his girlfriend Katrina (Charlotte Vega) is killed by terrorists while on vacation. Stricken with grief and hungry for revenge he trains himself in the art of counter terrorism to the point where he is able to go undercover and infiltrate an Islamic terrorist cell.
Turns out, however, he’s not as undercover as he thought. The CIA, have their eye on him, impressed by his MMA skills and general hatred of terrorism. To fine-tune his kill skills he is teamed with black ops expert Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). Why did they bring him on? “To kill people who need to be killed.”
Hurley teaches his student the fine art of slicing and dicing for fun and profit, prepping him for a giant mission involving a nuclear device and an ex-American Navy officer (Taylor Kitsch) turned bad and looking for revenge on his fellow service members.
The opening scene is harrowing. The full-scale attack on a beach is so tense because we’ve seen footage like this in real life in recent years. It kicks the movie off with a realistic bang. Too bad everything that follows barely rises to the level of cartoon cliché that borrows heavily from everything from “The Karate Kid” to the JBs—Jason Bourne and James Bond.
In as generic and unmemorable a role as Keaton has ever played—and that includes a bit of cannibalism—he redefines tough guys, spewing platitudes word for word from the 1984 edition of the Macho Man Handbook. O’Brien is stoic, yet reckless in the most profoundly uninteresting of ways. There’s sullen and then there’s this guy.
The action scenes have a bit a snap to them, but would have benefitted from the “John Wick” treatment; fess frenetic editing, more focus on the handiwork involved.
“American Assassin” has one too many revenge plots but not enough thrills.
“We’ve been looking for a doctor eight years,” says the mayor of Tickle Head, Newfoundland in the new Don McKellar comedy “The Grand Seduction.”
“Well,” replies Murray (Brendan Gleeson), with perfect logic, “let’s stop looking and start finding.”
And that’s just what they do, using every underhanded and dirty trick in the book. These are decent people who try and do the right thing, but they also understand that sometimes you have to bend the rules to get what you want.
Tickle Head, “a small harbor with a big heart,” has had more of its share of hardship since the bottom fell out of the fishery. Unemployment is high and the only jobs are “in town” in St. John’s, a ferry ride away.
The town fathers have a bid on a petrochemical byproduct repurposing plant that makes… well, it doesn’t matter, as they say in the film, it makes jobs. That’s what’s important. One key element is missing, a doctor. The factory deal won’t go through unless there is a local doctor.
When Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch), a city slicker plastic surgeon, lands in the harbour for a month long residency, the entire place (population 121) bands together to convince him to stay… by any means necessary.
Not everyone in town is on board. Kathleen (Liane Balaban) doesn’t want an oil company to set up shop in her harbor and certainly doesn’t want to be used as bait to attract the new doctor.
A remake of the French-Canadian hit “La Grande Seduction” is a comedy with a poignant edge. The set-up is outrageous—they spy on Dr. Lewis, tap his phone and even stage a tournament of cricket, his favorite game—but this is a story of a town fighting for survival of their town and their way of life.
There are plenty of laughs along the way—Gordon Pinsent is particularly effective as the deadpan Simon, who has never left Tickle Head—but the heart and soul of the film is in its fondness for the people and their harbor.
The Grand Seduction premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, but the movie’s star was more concerned about an audience a little east of there.
“I felt they would let us know if they didn’t like it,” says Brendan Gleeson.
The film is set in a small Newfoundland harbour named Tickle Head where the town fathers have a bid on a petrochemical byproduct repurposing plant that makes … well, it doesn’t matter, as they say in the movie, it makes jobs.
One key element that’s missing, however, is a local doctor.
When Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch), a city slicker plastic surgeon, lands in the harbour for a month-long residency, the entire place (population: 121) bands together to convince him to stay — by any means necessary.
“I really wanted to be at the premier in St. John’s,” said Gleeson, who is best known as Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody in the Harry Potter series, “because to me, if the movie worked there, I could let it go.
“That’s all I cared about, really. It needed to have the imprimatur of the Newfoundlanders on it for me. Their reaction was quiet until they felt the reassurance that it was OK, that they could trust it a little bit more.”
The production spent seven weeks shooting on The Rock.
“The land and the sea in Newfoundland has a way of worming itself into your heart where you don’t feel quite complete without it,” said Gleeson.
Co-star Kitsch concurs. “It’s a very simple (way of life),” he says, “and obviously the pace is a lot slower, but once you get into that, you don’t want to leave it.
“They are very in the moment when you’re talking to them.
“You feel like they are incredibly genuine and grounded and there’s no ulterior motive,” he said. “Maybe I’m a bit jaded because of the business, but it is refreshing. It is kind of what it means to be a Canadian.”
Kitsch spent his off hours training for Lone Survivor, a Mark Wahlberg war film he shot immediately after wrapping on The Grand Seduction but he took some time to enjoy a great Newfoundland pastime — fishing.
“My best friend is an avid fisherman,” he says, “so he’d be figuring out what was going on with the moon and what the best tide is and when we should go and would get genuinely upset if we weren’t there at exactly 6:12 a.m. dropping lures into the water.”
The Kelowna, B.C.-born Kitsch is an in-demand actor these days and can currently be seen in the HBO movie The Normal Heart, but says he’d love to do more work in Canada. “I absolutely loved being in Canada,” he says, “working on home soil with a bunch of Canadians. “If the opportunity presents itself and it’s right, I’m in.”