Posts Tagged ‘The Velvet Underground’


Goodbye 2021. Hello 2022. Another weird year in the books.

I got asked two questions over and over this year. Every day someone asks me, “May I see your vaccine passport?” Every other day someone asks, “Do you think movies theatres will ever go back to normal?”

The answer is always an unabashed, “yes.” Theatres are open but audiences haven’t flooded back to fill seats, but I think they will.


It’s not just the lure of the popcorn or the Twizzlers. It’s an age-old ritual.

During the pandemic we’ve gotten used to watching movies at home or on our phones, but no matter what set-up you have in your living room, the thing missing is the ancient practice of sharing entertainment with a large group of strangers.

It’s a primal thing, hard-wired into our DNA, that dates back to when tribes of cave dwellers would sit around fires and tell stories through to the Globe Theatre, vaudeville, the talkies and right up to today’s IMAX and AUX screenings.

People have gathered to be entertained since there were tales to be told because there is no better way to enjoy the storytelling experience than surrounded by strangers who are laughing, crying, gasping— whatever — in response to a shared event.

In our double and tripled vaxxed era, no matter how large your TV or comfortable your sofa, home viewing misses the magical element of community. And these days we need as much of that as we can get. In the theatre you’re getting the sound and the picture the director intended, but more than that, the experience brings people together, inspires conversation, respect and triggers actual physical interaction with others. Try that as you stream a movie on your iPhone.

In the wake of Omicron, the variant with the name of a supervillain, and whatever comes next, we may be hesitant to flock back to theatres but, when it is safe, I believe we will. I like the way English novelist Angela Carter described watching a film in a theatre. She called it “dreaming the same dream in unison” and that, for me, will never go out of style.

So, without further ado, here, in alphabetical order, is my “Nice” list of the films that made going to the movies in 2021, a pleasurable communal experience.

The search for identity is not a new concept in coming-of-age films but the First Nations context here, combined with Kiawentiio’s breakout performance, make Beans important, vital cinema.

Every frame in Belfast radiates with the warmth of the connection Buddy shares with his family, and his family’s relationship to their home and country. But set against a time of upheaval, this is a family drama, but not a political one.

King Richard may be the most inspiration movie of the year. Maybe ever. There is uplift in almost every frame.

Licorice Pizza is kind of flipping through a diary. Some details are vivid, some glossed over, but everything is relevant to the experience being written about. Like diary entries, the movie is episodic. Each passing episode allows us to get to know Gary and Alana a bit better, and just as importantly, remind us what it means to be young and in love.

Like the people it documents, Lift Like a Girl is dynamic and scrappy, but still wears its heart on its pumped-up sleeve.

Mass is raw and real, devastating, nuanced and somber, a beautifully acted study in misery that allows for a flicker of hope

Mogul Mowgli occasionally bites off more than it can chew, but as uncomfortable as it can get, it is never less than compelling.

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain provides an emotionally raw portrait of a gifted, charismatic man who travelled the world but never quite figured out where he needed to be.

Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm is an exercise in nostalgia, but it’s an entertaining one. A look back at rock ‘n roll’s first residential studio, it’s a guided tour through several generations of British rock’s guitar.

Despite a rather joyous finale, Spencer has more to do with a psychological horror film than a traditional biopic.

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street is a loving portrait, painted with clips that are sure to trigger happy memories for those who grew up watching the show, or even watching kids as they watched the show.

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) brims with excitement, pain, hope and, of course, dynamic performances and great music.

Tick, Tick… Boom! is a celebration of the creative process and the following of dreams. Director Lin-Manuel Miranda brings Rent composer Jonathan Larson’s story to life with equal parts reverence and joy.

The Tragedy of Macbeth is accessible without ever playing down to the audience. Masterful filmmaking mixes and matches the text with compelling images and wonderful performances to create a new take on the Scottish Play that is both respectful and fearlessly fresh.

The storytelling is linear in The Velvet Underground documentary, but the visuals are an idiosyncratic eyeful that match the ambitious nature of the music.

West Side Story is Spielberg’s most compelling film in years. It reinvents, reimagines and re-contextualizes a classic story with energy, respect and lots of finger snapping.

It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops, however. Here’s the “Naughty” list of movies that didn’t quite cut it for me in 2021. 

An IMDB search reveals the name Above Suspicion has been used at least twelve times, dating back to 1943. This most recent addition to the ever-growing list of Above Suspicion titled movies is about as generic as the common name would imply.

The Addams Family 2 is goofy, not ooky, with none of the eccentric charm of the 1960s TV show.

The Comeback Trail sings the praises of the power of the movies to inspire and transform lives. Film fans may enjoy the sentiment but they likely won’t be as impressed by the slack pacing and obvious telegraphing of joke after joke.

The most Wes Anderson-y film in the Wes Anderson playbook. If you forced a bot to watch 1000 hours of Anderson’s films and then asked it to write a movie on its own, The French Dispatch would be the result.

The first half of Halloween Kills offers up some fun when Myers is onscreen, lumbering his way toward another victim. Unfortunately, it’s less fun when the vigilante mob endlessly chants ‘evil dies tonight.’

The first movie was an over-the-top mish mash of exotic locations, violence, jokes and romance. The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard contains all those elements, but is somehow less than the sum of its parts.

The drama in The Ice Road quickly melts away like ice before a fire, leaving behind a residue of clichés, long, drawn out action & fight scenes and dialogue borrowed from a hundred other, better action movies. A long and winding road to nowhere.

The lo-fi story of Let Us In relies on throwback practical effects, dark contact lenses and loads of alabastrine make-up, but the hair on the back of your neck will never stand up.

Nicolas Cage brings his patented oddball performance style along for the ride but even that isn’t enough to give Primal‘s bland storytelling and lazy action some zip.

The Seventh Day seeks to reinvent the exorcism movie via the buddy cop genre but succeeds only in combing the most hackneyed bits of each.

A strange mix of heartfelt drama and slapstick comedy, The Starling relies on very likeable actors to try and bring a sense of balance to the material but not even Melissa McCarthy, Kevin Kline and Chris O’Dowd can bend this mishmash of tones into a cohesive whole.


Richard joins Ryan Doyle and Jay Michaels of the NewsTalk 1010 afternoon show The Rush for Booze and Reviews! Today he talks about the Death in the Afternoon, a drink that sprung from Ernest Hemingway’s legendary liver, the Death in the Afternoon, the new “Velvet Underground” documentary, the latest from Michael Myers “Halloween Kills” and the reason Andrew Lloyd Weber bought a comfort dog.

Listen to the whole thing HERE!


Richard joins CP24 to have a look at new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including the lumbering return of Michael Myers in “Halloween Kills,” the emotional family drama “Mass” and the rock ‘n’ roll documentary “The Velvet Underground.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


Richard and CTV NewsChannel morning show host Jennifer Burke chat up the weekend’s big releases including the relentless return of Michael Myers in “Halloween Kills,” the emotional family drama “Mass” and the rock ‘n’ roll documentary “The Velvet Underground.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


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 lumbering return of Michael Myers in “Halloween Kills,” the emotional family drama “Mass” and the rock ‘n’ roll documentary “The Velvet Underground.”

Listen to the whole thing HERE!


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 to talk about the return of Michael Myers in “Halloween Kills,” the emotional family drama “Mass” and the rock ‘n’ roll documentary “The Velvet Underground.”

Listen to the whole thing HERE!

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: 4 STARS. “That love and peace crap, we hated that.”

Fans of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones may disagree, but The Velvet Underground are arguably the most influential band of the late 1960s and early 1970s. “The Velvet Underground didn’t sell many records,” said Brian Eno, “but everyone who bought one went out and started a band.”

They pointed the direction for everyone from David Bowie and Patti Smith to U2 and The Black Angels, and “The Velvet Underground,” a striking new documentary from director Todd Haynes, and now playing on Apple TV+, aims to bring people up to date on one of the most ahead-of-their-times bands of the 20th century.

Narrated by interviews with friends, family, colleagues, and, most importantly of all, the band, guitarist and singer Lou Reed, guitarist Sterling Morrison, bassist and violist John Cale, singer Nico, and drummer Maureen “Moe” Tucker, the film is a trippy look at the tumultuous time in New York City’s art world that gave birth to the band. “That love and peace crap,” says Tucker, “we hated that.”

Using split screens, montages and plenty of archival footage, Haynes paints an impressionistic portrait of the influences—early rock n’ roll, doo-wop, gay life in New York, drugs, Andy Warhol and more—that go a long way to reconcile how Cale’s experimental “drone” work—the “hum of Western civilization,” he calls it—blended with Reed’s more melodic sense to form a renegade sound nobody had heard before. Add to that, lyrics that essayed heroin addiction, death, sado-masochism and other topics not usually sung about in three-minute pop songs and the result is aggressively radio unfriendly rock whose echoes are still felt today. “We didn’t put things in,” Reed said, “we took things out.”

Haynes meticulously walks us through the band’s history, the rise, fall and ugly dissolution, wallpapering the movie with a visual onslaught of images that suggests the multi-media presentation Andy Warhol created for the band’s live performances. The pop artist saw those shows as a “chance to combine music, art and films,” and the documentary continues that spirit to capture the excitement of the story. The storytelling is rather conventional, linear, but the visuals are an idiosyncratic eyeful that match the ambitious nature of the music.

“The Velvet Underground” focusses on the band’s classic line-up heyday, giving later incarnations a bit of a short shrift. Nonetheless, the doc captures the mood and the spirit of a band music journalists have struggled to pigeonhole for decades.

NICO, 1988: 3 STARS. “a gloomy film about the power of art as a survival tactic.”

Memory and regret hang heavy over “Nico, 1988,” an uncompromising biopic detailing the last years of 1960’s Velvet Underground icon Christa Päffgen a.k.a Nico (Trine Dyrholm).

Long removed from the New York City scene and band that made her a legend, Nico, who now prefers to be called by her real name Christa, is touring across Europe with an uninspired band and her drug-addicted son (Sandor Funtek).

Voice ravaged by hard living and heroin, she is unpredictable and unhappy. Her efforts to forge a new phase of her career are sidelined by an overwhelming interest in her legendary career. “Didn’t she sleep with one of the Rolling Stones? Which one was it? The one that drowned?” What about her work with The Velvet Underground? The ghosts of her past haunt her.

“Nico, 1988” is a gloomy film about the power of art as a survival tactic. Her life in shambles, Christa persists because she has something left to say, even if there aren’t many people interested in listening. As such, the movie works best in the moments when it allows her the chance to express herself. Not the diva behaviour, disrupting a restaurant in search of drugs or berating those around her, but letting her true spirit soar. To watch her sing “My Heart is Empty” in front of an Iron Curtain audience who risked arrest to see her perform is a galvanising moment in the film. Pure rock and roll passion filtered through anger, hurt and a desire to be heard. It’s the movie’s best scene, a sequence of catharsis that brings this portrait of a seemingly cool, detached woman roaring to life.


Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with guest host Ken Connors to talk about the first Hollywood movie in 25 years to star an all-Asian cast, “Crazy Rich Asians,” the mystery thriller “Never Saw it Coming” and the rock ‘n roll biopic “Nico, 1988.”

Listen to the whole thing HERE!