Richard speaks to “CTV News at 11:30” anchor Andria Case about movies on VOD and in theatres to watch this weekend including Amazon Prime’s “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” the Netflix animated movie “Over the Moon) and Crave’s joyful concert film “American Utopia.”
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with host Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Prime Video), “Over the Moon” (Netflix) and “American Utopia” (Crave).
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 “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Prime Video), “Over the Moon” (Netflix), “American Utopia” (Crave), “The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw” (VOD), “Rebecca” (Netflix) and “The Haunting of The Mary Celeste (VOD).
Jonathan Demme’s “Stop Making Sense,” his movie of an iconic a 1983 Talking Heads live show is considered one of, if not the greatest concert films of all time. Elegant and exciting, it made everything before it seem old fashioned and everything that came after feel like an imitation.
What “Stop Making Sense” was to the 1980s a new concert film, also starring Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, is to these uncertain times. “American Utopia,” directed by Spike Lee and now playing on HBO Max, is a joyful film about everything from protesting injustice and police brutality to optimism and the celebration of life.
It’s got a good message and you can dance to it.
Filmed during the show’s 2019 Broadway run at New York’s Hudson Theatre, the film captures the cerebral but exuberant concert that features Byrne, alongside eleven musicians, all dressed alike in skinny grey suits, and all unfettered from amplifiers and the like. With wireless guitars, keyboards and all manner of other instruments on an empty stage with no other gear or risers, Byrne and Company fill the space with intricate choreography, eclectic songs, new and old, and an uplifting social message of fellowship and faith in humanity. Byrne’s enthusiasm is infectious and Spike Lee, using a combination of you-are-there camera angles, including a beautiful overhead shot, captures the jubilant postmodernist performance in glorious fashion.
It is so much more than a Talking Heads greatest hits package. There are familiar songs like “Burning Down the House,” “This Must Be the Place” and “Once in a Lifetime,” but they seamlessly blend with Byrne’s originals, written for his 2018 solo album of the same name.
Highlights, and there are many, include “Everybody’s Coming to My House,” Byrne’s ode to inclusivity and a potent cover of “Hell You Talmbout,” Janelle Monae’s protest song about police brutality. The latter song, a call and response featuring names the names of African Americans killed by police, is given extra clout by the addition of Spike Lee’s graphics that update the names mentioned in the song to include dozens of others. It is a powerful moment and an urgent call for change.
“American Utopia” is a gem. A concert film that, like “Stop Making Sense” redefines what live performance can be.
Sean Penn is back on the big screen this weekend in The Gunman, his first leading role in almost four years. It can’t rightly be called a comeback because he never really went away. Supporting roles in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Gangster Squad have generated column inches, but in the last five years he has devoted more energy to raising money for earthquake relief in Haiti than to being a movie star.
In the film he plays Special Forces military contractor Jim Terrier. By day he protects foreign workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo but he moonlights as a hired gunman for big corporations. His assassination of the Congolese Mining Minister forces him to flee the country and changes the course of his entire life.
It’s what Penn jokingly calls “geriaction,” an action movie starring a middle-aged actor. Other than that, don’t expect to hear him speak a great deal about his new film. “Honestly within a week after I’ve finished shooting a film I’ve almost forgotten it,” he said recently.
In February he was honoured with an honorary Cesar Award for “choosing his films with sensitivity and commitment.” At the ceremony the “legend in his lifetime” watched a clip reel spanning the width and breadth of his career, including excerpts from Dead Men Walking, Mystic River and Milk.
Later the actor said, “I remember playing none of those scenes. I remembered the movies [but] I saw myself in scenes with actors I didn’t even know I’d ever worked with!”
To jog Mr. Penn’s memory here’s a “compenndium” of some of his memorable roles:
1. In Milk Penn won a Best Actor Oscar playing the real-life Harvey Milk, a native New Yorker who became America’s first openly gay man to be elected to public office. Penn fully embraces Milk, from the thick New York accent that characterized his speech to the goofy grin that endeared the real-life activist to his supporters, both gay and straight.
2. This Must be the Place is a rare thing. I speak of that elusive beast Pennigma Seanun comoedia—the Sean Penn comedy. He plays a retired and world-weary American rock star living with his wife (Frances McDormand) in Ireland. This is Sean Penn like we’ve never seen him before. With poufy hair, black toenail polish and affected vocal cadence—like Andy Warhol on Quaaludes—he creates an intriguing, strange character.
3. In Hollywood dramedy Hurly Burly Penn played against type as Eddie, the hyperactive casting agent. It’s an emotionally raw performance—witness Eddie try and use cocaine to snort away his troubles—but one without the studied glumness that he frequently brings to the screen.
4. Fair Game could be re-titled One Hundred Minutes of Sean Penn Yelling ‘If We Don’t Tell the Truth No One Will!’ He’s Joseph Wilson the real-life whistleblower who claimed the Bush administration falsified information about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Penn is passionate, crafting a performance so big it has it’s own gravitational pull.
5. Finally there’s All the King’s Men, a movie memorable for all the wrong reasons. Penn is a fine actor, but as Willie Stark, (loosely based on Louisiana governor Huey P. Long) he is so over-the-top it’s as if he’s acting in a different movie than the rest of the cast. It’s a vein-popping, arm-waving performance that suggests that maybe he should lay-off the Red Bull.
“This Must be the Place,” a new film about a rock star on a family mission, is a rare thing. Rarer even than a mint condition copy of Amazing Spider-Man #1 or an honest politician. So rare it only comes around once every decade or so. I speak of that elusive beast Pennigma Seanun comoedia—the Sean Penn comedy.
Penn plays Cheyenne, a retired and world weary American rock star living with his firefighter wife Jane (Frances McDormand) in Ireland. “I wrote dreary songs because they were all the rage,” he says. “They made tons of money. Depressed songs for depressed kids.”
Still clinging to the goth look that made his famous in the 1980s—imagine a cross between The Cure’s Robert Smith and Bozo the Clown—he leads a quiet, reclusive life until his father passes away. His father tried and failed to find and get revenge on the Nazi guard who humiliated him at Auschwitz. In light of his father’s death Cheyenne takes up the search, embarking on a road trip that brings him closer to his father and gives his life new meaning.
This is Sean Penn like we’ve never seen him before. With poufy hair, black toenail polish and affected vocal cadence—like Andy Warhol on Quaaludes—he creates an intriguing, strange character.
Once Cheyenne hits the road the movie is episodic and surreal in its storytelling and becomes more of a character study than a traditional narrative. We learn more why Cheyenne is so damaged and yet so compelling. He may be one a mission of revenge of sorts, but he is an innocent, completely free of hate and guile and it is that childlike quality that drives the film.
Couple that with beautiful cinematography and a great score by Talking Head David Byrne (who also makes a cameo appearance) and you have an occasionally self-indulgent art house flick that will win you over with the childlike charm of its main character.