Richard speaks to “CTV News at Six” anchor Andria Case about the best movies to watch this weekend including the inspired-by-true-events drama “One Night In Miami” (Amazon Prime Video), the Netflix action flick “Outside the Wire” (Netflix) and the young adult drama “Words On Bathroom Walls” (EST, VOD, DVD, Blu-ray).
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 inspired-by-true-events drama “One Night In Miami” (Amazon Prime Video), the Netflix action flick “Outside the Wire” (Netflix) and the young adult drama “Words On Bathroom Walls” (EST, VOD, DVD, Blu-ray).
Based on Julia Walton’s 2017 young adult novel of the same name, “Words on Bathroom Walls,” now on EST, VOD, DVD and Blu-ray, follows a teenager, diagnosed with schizophrenia, navigating mental illness and life in a new school. “How hard could it be to hide my burgeoning insanity from the unforgiving ecosystem that is high school?” says Adam Petrazelli (Charlie Plummer) in the film’s opening moments.
Adam is a foodie with dreams of being a chef but when he accidentally injures a classmate during a psychotic break in lab class his future is jeopardized. A diagnosis of treatment resistant schizophrenia leaves him ostracized from his former friends. They taunt him in the halls—“Where’s the straightjacket?” and call him “freak” as he confronts the voices in his head, the new-agey Rebecca (AnnaSophia Robb), the Bodyguard (Lobo Sebastian) and troublemaker Joaquin (Devon Bostick), a varied group he calls “my inescapable roommates.”
A new drug trial offers hope, as does a switch to a new Catholic school. For the first time in ages he feels like he has autonomy over his life. “I woke up to complete silence. No whispers. No banter. No visions. Just pure, unfiltered, beautiful quiet.” His friendship with valedictorian Maya (Taylor Russell) blossoms, but as the medication slowly affects his ability to cook he struggles to hide the side effects from mother (Molly Parker) and step dad (Walton Goggins).
“Words on a Bathroom Wall” is a coming-of-age story with a difference. Adam’s journey with schizophrenia is sensitively handled, with director Thor Freudenthal finding inventive ways to put the viewer into the main character’s shoes. The voices and hallucinations are brought to life without sensationalism or exploitation. Instead, they show us what is happening in Adam’s mind as he navigates the minefield of high school and first love. Far from demonizing his disease, as has been the case in other less humane cinematic depictions of schizophrenia, they add dimension to the story.
Plummer hands in a break out performance as Adam. He’s an awkward teen, a dutiful son who learns how to cook to comfort his mother and a teen struggling with an illness. His subtle performance goes a long way to creating a character in three-dimensions who is both strong and vulnerable. He shares good chemistry with Russell who brings depth to an underwritten Maya.
“Words on a Bathroom Wall” hits hard before settling into more familiar, optimistic territory but the respectful tone established early on makes up for the sappiness that bogs down the film’s final moments.
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with news anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases including “Frozen 2,” “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “Marriage Story” and “Waves.”
Richard has a look at the new movies coming to theatres, including the icy charms of “Frozen 2,” Tom Hanks as television icon Mister Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” two films from Adam Driver, “Marriage Story” and “The Report” and one of the year’s very best films, “Waves” with CFRA morning show host Bill Carroll.
“Waves” feels like two movies in one. The first a story of teen angst writ large with a tragic outcome. The second is a tale of reconciliation and compassion. They dovetail to form one of the year’s best films.
Set in South Florida, “Waves” begins as a slice-of-life drama. We meet high-school wrestler Tyler (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) as he and girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie) flirt during school hours. We then witness the young athlete’s home life with empathetic mother Catharine (Renée Elise Goldsberry), quiet sister Emily (Taylor Russell) and domineering father Ronald (Sterling K. Brown). “We are not afforded the luxury of being average,” says Ronald. “We have to be 10 times better.”
Tyler is driven, a good student and star wrestler who seems bound for scholarships and the Ivy League. A closer look, however, reveals a troubling undercurrent that suggests he is slowly being crushed by the burden of expectations. He self-medicates for a shoulder injury that could end his wrestling career and when his relationship with Alexis takes a bad turn, so does his personality.
The second half focusses on Emily’s coming of age as she begins a relationship with Luke (Lucas Hedges), a sweet-tempered boy dealing with his own family drama.
No spoilers here. The beauty of writer-director Trey Edward Shults’s film is the discovery of it, being drawn into the story and the characters. Shults doles out emotional moment after emotional moment and yet there isn’t a melodramatic second to be seen. That’s partially due to the uniformly wonderful, naturalistic performances but also from a story that feels grounded in real life.
Shults camera is intimate, up-close-and-personal, allowing the viewer to be drawn in. His inventive visual sense and beautiful direction is the very definition of show-me-don’t-tell-me and provides for much introspection. This is a movie that speaks just as loudly when it is in silence as when its characters are talking. The real action in “Waves” happens behind the eyes of its characters.
Stylistically he uses ingenious methods to feed his scenes. In one sequence an annoying seatbelt chime adds tension to an already tense situation and a text conversation that devolves into an all-caps shouting match has a sense of urgency that is very compelling. It is exhilarating filmmaking that takes chances and, coming hot on the heels of his other films “Krisha” and “It Comes at Night,” cements Shults’s place as one of the most exciting filmmakers working today.
Fueled by a soundtrack by from Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, “Waves” details the hardships that come with difficult decisions but also the redemption that can come with forgiveness. Highly recommended.
In “Escape Room,” the new psychological thriller starring “True Blood’s” Deborah Ann Woll, the young characters don’t have time to mull over the past. They’re too busy thinking of the future and whether or not they will survive long enough to actually have one.
The story centers around six good-looking people (Woll, along with Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis and Nik Dodani) trapped in a series of immersive escape rooms. The twist? Whoever leaves last is necessarily the winner.
Each have been lured to the game—and possibly their doom—by a mysterious puzzle box delivered in the mail. They’re invited to test out a new, immersive escape room and, if they keep their wits about them and find their way out, they’ll be rewarded with $10,000. “They’re basically like real life videogames,” enthuses Danny (Dodani), an escape room geek the others nickname Gamer Boy.
Seems like an easy payday until they realize the puzzles are terrifying manifestations of each and every one of their deepest fears or trauma. One room turns into an oven (“We gotta find a way out of this Easy Bake Oven!”), another is an upside down hellscape and if that wasn’t enough, there’s even a Victorian drawing room that gets a little too close for comfort. “I can’t figure this out!” shouts truck driver Mike (Labine). “Who would do this?”
Like the less Kafkaesque (and less gory) offspring of “Cube” and “Saw,” “Escape Room” also borrows from the “Final Destination” flickers. The thing it is missing is the sense of grim fun that seeped into those other films. The rooms themselves are elaborate and yet all pretty much all the same. Find a key, unlock a door. There is suspense along the way and the stakes rise as the number of survivors lowers but we never get to know enough about each character to be invested in them. Sketchy background details fill in some blanks but it’s not enough to make you mourn the loss of any of them. Even when they do start to fall away it is with a casualness that sucks some of the drama out of the scenario. It’s as if all the effort went into the planning of the methods of executions and not the killings themselves.
Add to that some psychoanalysis and morality à la “Saw” and you have a movie that is more psychological drama than horror and even then it’s psychology-lite. The sequel ready ending promises more of the same should they ever get around to making “Escape Room 2: Breakout Boogaloo.”
“Escape Room” won’t exactly make you want to escape the theatre but it doesn’t really give you a great reason to be there in the first place.