Baby Driver: Although it contains more music than most tuneful of movies “Baby Driver,” the new film from director Edgar Wright, isn’t a musical in the “West Side Story,” “Sound of Music” sense. Wallpapered with 35 rock ‘n roll songs on the soundtrack it’s a hard driving heist flick that can best be called an action musical.
The Big Sick: Even when “The Big Sick” is making jokes about terrorism and the “X-Files” it is all heart, a crowd-pleaser that still feels personal and intimate.
Call Me By Your Name: This is a movie of small details that speak to larger truths. Director Luca Guadagnino keeps the story simple relying on the minutiae to add depth and beauty to the story. The idyllic countryside, the quaint town, the music of the Psychedelic Furs and the languid pace of a long Italian summer combine to create the sensual backdrop against which the romance between the two blossoms. Guadagnino’s camera captures it all, avoiding the pitfalls of melodrama to present a story that is pure emotion. It feels real and raw, haunted by the ghosts of loves gone by.
Darkest Hour: This is a historical drama with all the trappings of “Masterpiece Theatre.” You can expect photography, costumes and period details are sumptuous. What you may not expect is the light-hearted tone of much of the goings on. While this isn’t “Carry On Churchill,” it has a lighter touch that might be expected. Gary Oldman, not an actor known for his comedic flourishes, embraces the sly humour. When Churchill becomes Prime Minister his wife, Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas) makes an impassioned speech about the importance of the work he is about to take on. He raises a glass and, cutting through the emotion of the moment, says, “Here’s to not buggering it up!” It shows a side of Churchill not often revealed in wartime biopics.
The Disaster Artist: The key to pulling off “The Disaster Artist” is not recreating “The Room” beat for beat, although they do that, it’s actually about treating Wiseau as a person and not an object of fun. He’s an outrageous character and Franco commits to it 100%. From the marble-mouthed speech pattern that’s part Valley Girl and part Beaker from The Muppets to the wild clothes and stringy hair, he’s equal parts creepy and lovable but underneath his bravado are real human frailties. Depending on your point of view he’s either delusional or aspirational but in Franco’s hands he’s never also never less than memorable. It’s a broad, strange performance but it may also be one of the actor’s best.
Dunkirk: This is an intense movie but it is not an overly emotional one. The cumulative effect of the vivid images and sounds will stir the soul but despite great performances the movie doesn’t necessarily make you feel for one character or another. Instead its strength is in how it displays the overwhelming sense of scope of the Dunkirk mission. With 400,000 men on the ground with more in the air and at sea, the sheer scope of the operation overpowers individuality, turning the focus on the collective. Director Christopher Nolan’s sweeping camera takes it all in, epic and intimate moments alike.
The Florida Project: This is, hands down, one of the best films of the year. Low-budget and naturalistic, it packs more punch than any superhero. Director Sean Baker defies expectations. He’s made a film about kids for adults that finds joy in rocky places. What could have been a bleak experience or an earnest message movie is brought to vivid life by characters that feel real. It’s a story about poverty that neither celebrates or condemns its characters. Mooney’s exploits are entertaining and yet an air of jeopardy hangs heavy over every minute of the movie. Baker knows that Halley and Moonie’s well being hangs by a thread but he also understands they exist in the real world and never allows their story to fall into cliché.
Get Out: This is the weirdest and most original mainstream psychodrama to come along since “The Babadook.” The basic premise harkens back to the Sidney Poitier’s classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” In that film parents, played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, have their attitudes challenged when their daughter introduces them to her African American fiancé. The uncomfortable situation of meeting in-laws for the first time is universal. It’s the added layers of paranoia and skewered white liberalism that propels the main character’s (Daniel Kaluuya) situation into full-fledged horror. In this setting he is the other, the stranger and as his anxiety grows the social commentary regarding attitudes about race in America grows sharper and more focussed.
Lady Bird: Greta Gerwig’s skilful handling of the story of Lady Bird’s busy senior year works not just because it’s unvarnished and honest in its look at becoming an adult but also, in a large degree, to Saoirse Ronan’s performance. I have long called her ‘Lil Meryl. She’s an actor of unusual depth, a young person (born in 1994) with an old soul. Lady Bird is almost crushed by the weight of uncertainty that greets her with every turn—will her parents divorce, will there be money for school, will Kyle be the boy of her dreams, will she ever make enough cash to repay her parents for her upbringing?—but Ronan keeps her nimble, sidestepping teen ennui with a complicated mix of snappy one liners, hard earned wisdom and a well of emotion. It’s tremendous, Academy Award worthy work.
The Post: Steven Spielberg film is a fist-pump-in-the-air look at the integrity and importance of a free press. It’s a little heavy-handed but these are heavy-handed times. Director Spielberg and stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep are entertainers first and foremost, and they do entertain here, but they also shine a light on a historical era whose reverberations are being felt today stronger than ever.
The Shape of Water: A dreamy slice of pure cinema. Director Guillermo del Toro uses the stark Cold War as a canvas to draw warm and vivid portraits of his characters. It’s a beautiful creature feature ripe with romance, thrills and, above all, empathy for everyone. This is the kind of movie that reminds us of why we fell in love with movies in the first place.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: The story of a mother’s unconventional war with the world is simple enough, it’s the complexity of the characters that elevates the it to the level of great art.
Wonder Woman: Equal parts Amazon sword and sandal epic, mad scientist flick, war movie and rom com, it’s a crowd pleaser that places the popular character front and centre. As played by Gal Gadot, Diana is charismatic and kick ass, a superhero who is both truly super and heroic. Like Superman she is firmly on the side of good, not a tortured soul à la Batman. Naïve to the ways of the world, she runs headfirst into trouble. Whether she’s throwing a German tank across a battlefield, defying gravity to leap to the top of a bell tower, tolerating Trevor’s occasional mansplaining or deflecting bullets with her indestructible Bracelets of Submission, she proves in scene after scene to be both a formidable warrior and a genuine, profoundly empathic character.
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 “Wonder Woman” with Gal Gadot, Kevin Hart in the animated “Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie” and “Drone,” staring Sean Bean.
Richard and CP24 anchor Nathan Downer have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Wonder Woman” with Gal Gadot, Kevin Hart in the animated “Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie” and “Drone,” staring Sean Bean.
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Erin Paul to discuss whether “Wonder Woman” is all that wonderful, if “Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie” is crappy or not and if “Drone” lives up to its name.
At this point in history the superhero “origin story” is about as welcome as head lice or burning your tongue on hot coffee. From the turgid “Suicide Squad” to “Green Lantern’s” uninspired story and the below average “The Fantastic Four,” just to name a few, comic book movies have offered up enough colourful folklore to make Greek mythology seem positively uneventful by comparison. Trouble is, they are often bogged down by their own mythology, crushed under the weight of dead parents, mysterious cosmic rays, fateful choices and magical benefactors.
The odd one gets it right. “Batman Begins,” “Deadpool,” “Iron Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” all kicked off their franchises with style and I’m happy to add “Wonder Woman” to that short list.
The story of Diana, the Amazonian princess who becomes Wonder Woman, actually began at the end of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” She was a woman who “walked away from mankind” only to be drawn back into the saving-of-humanity business.
The new film, directed by Patty Jenkins, recounts Diana’s (played by Lilly Aspell and Emily Carey as a preteen and teen) childhood on the secluded paradise island of Themyscira. Inhabited by Amazons, a race of women who helped Zeus fight off a coup by his treacherous son, the war god Ares, the isle is a retreat from the horrors of the world. Led by Diana’s mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), the all-female society trains in all manner of hand-to-hand combat, preparing for the return of Ares. “It’s our sacred duty to protect the world,” she says.
Meanwhile, in the outside world, World War I rages on. The Amazon’s worst fears are realised when the planet’s unrest comes to Themyscira in the form of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a US military pilot who crashes a plane into the waters just offshore of Diana’s (played as an adult by Gal Gadot) home. Rescued by the warrior princess—he’s the first man she’s ever seen—the fallen pilot tells Diana about the war and a new chemical weapon being developed by the Germans. Convinced the conflict is the work of Ares, Diana decamps from the only home she’s ever known to London, then the heart of the action, the Western Front. “Be careful in the world of men Diana,” says Hippolyta, “they do not deserve you.”
“Wonder Woman” is the first major studio superhero film directed by a woman and the first female lead superhero movie since Jennifer Garner’s “Electra” twelve years ago. The success of director Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman,” both artistically and financially (at the time of this writing the film is tracking to make $175 million globally) should guarantee we won’t have to wait until another Bush is president until we see another one.
Equal parts Amazon sword and sandal epic, mad scientist flick, war movie and rom com, it’s a crowd pleaser that places the popular character front and centre. As played by Gadot, Diana is charismatic and kick ass, a superhero who is both truly super and heroic. Like Superman she is firmly on the side of good, not a tortured soul à la Batman. Naïve to the ways of the world, she runs headfirst into trouble. Whether she’s throwing a German tank across a battlefield, defying gravity to leap to the top of a bell tower, tolerating Trevor’s occasional mansplaining or deflecting bullets with her indestructible Bracelets of Submission, she proves in scene after scene to be both a formidable warrior and a genuine, profoundly empathic character.
The action scenes are cool. The Lasso of Truth sequences look like a glow-in-the-dark Cirque du Soleil scarf dance and the iconic Wonder Woman battle poses placed against the terrible beauty of World War I frontlines are stunners, but it’s ultimately her strength of character that keeps the movie interesting. Even the prerequisite CGI overkill at the end is made palatable by her potent message that only love can save the world. It’s a welcome and refreshing change from the deep, dark pit the DC movies seem to have fallen into of late.
“Wonder Woman” works because it maintains a human core in a fantastical good vs. evil story. As Diana’s understanding of heroism and mankind deepens, so does the movie. As she questions authority and man’s capacity for cruelty there are several very funny moments—her “How can a woman possibly fight in this?” routine at Selfridge’s clothing department is very funny—and action galore, but Jenkins wisely and wonderfully keeps the character true to her self confident, mythic comic book roots.