Richard speaks to “CTV News at Six” anchor Andria Case about the best movies and television to watch this weekend including Golden Globe winners “The Mauritanian” and “The United States Vs. Billie Holiday” and a new coming-of-age movie on VOD “My Salinger Year.”
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 Disney’s animated action flick “Raya and the Last Dragon” (Disney+ with Premier Access and theatres), the long awaited sequel “Coming 2 America” (Amazon Prime Video), the biopic “The United States Vs. Billie Holiday” (VOD), the legal drama “The Mauritanian” (premium digital and on-demand), the coming-of-age story “My Salinger Year” (VOD) and the look at the war on drugs “Crisis” (on digital and demand).
“The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” the new film about the turbulent life of jazz singer Billie Holiday from director Lee Daniels and now on digital, is a showcase for its star Andra Day.
Day, in her first leading role, plays Holiday not just as a jazz and swing icon, but also as a
Civil Rights symbol, a woman persecuted by a racist federal government. “Strange Fruit,” her signature song, and musical protest of the lynching of Black Americans, was called a “musical starting gun for this so-called civil rights movement,” by a government office determined to silence her.
Using a framing device of a late career radio interview, hosted by a casually racist journalist (Leslie Jordan), the story quickly moves to flashback to reveal a campaign of terror launched against Lady Day because the feds were uncomfortable with the lyrics to “Strange Fruit.” The song, according to the g-men, is incendiary, a declaration of war, unamerican. “This jazz music is the devil’s work,” says Harry Anslinger (Garrett Hedlund), commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. “That’s why this Holiday’s woman got to be stopped.”
The film follows the dirty tricks used to harass and harness the singer. Her popularity made it near impossible for the government to prevent her from singing, but well aware of her reliance on opioids, Anslinger focus on her drug use.
Based in part on the book “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs” by Johann Hari, “United States Vs. Billie Holiday” isn’t simply a show business biopic. The details of Holiday’s life are well documented and presented, from the troubled relationships and fluid sexuality to the drug use and soul searching that seemed to fuel her transcendent talent. But this is a dual story. Daniels dovetails the story of a troubled life with the governmental interference that made Holiday one of the first victims of the war on drugs.
But of all the relationships seen in the movie, it’s the bond Holiday had with her music that is most revealing. She understood the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics to destroy her went far beyond putting her body in jail, they were trying to take something far more precious from her. “They want me to stop singing what’s in my soul,” she says. Muzzling her voice wasn’t about keeping her quiet, it was about taking what she meant to herself and others away. That “Strange Fruit” is still sung to this day, long after the war on drugs has been declared a failure is a triumph of Holiday’s spirit, even though that may be cold comfort to her fans and community. “Your grandkids will be singing ‘Strange Fruit,’” she says to the agents who harassed her on her deathbed.
Uniformly nice performances support Day in her striking lead debut. Vocally she’s a ringer for the late singer but the performance goes beyond mimicry to unveil the hurt that fueled Holiday’s personal and professional life.
“The United States vs. Billie Holiday” is an ambitious movie that delivers more than a standard biopic.
Welcome to the House of Crouse. In this episode actor Geoff Stults talks about the fib he told to land the role of a Green Beret in “12 Strong” while “Forever My Girl” star Jessica Rothe gushes about her favourite movie… and no, it’s not the one we were supposed to be talking about! It’s fun stuff so c’mon in and sit a spell.
Richard and CP24 anchorGeorge Lagogianes have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the new Chris Hemsworth war flick “12 Horses,” Christian Bale’s period piece “Hostiles,” Gerard Butler’s cop drama “Den of Thieves” and Jessica Rothe in “Forever My Girl.”
A weekly 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 new Chris Hemsworth war flick “12 Horses,” Christian Bale’s period piece “Hostiles,” and the Gerard Butler’s cop drama “Den of Thieves.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the new Chris Hemsworth war flick “12 Horses,” Christian Bale’s period piece “Hostiles,” Gerard Butler’s cop drama “Den of Thieves” and Jessica Rothe in “Forever My Girl.”
“It’s nice to know there are still some heroes out there making sacrifices so I can go play dress up,” says Geoff Stults, “and I loved playing dress up on this one.”
Stults co-stars with Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon and Michael Peña in 12 Strong, the tale of one of the most successful missions in military history. In just three weeks, 12 Green Berets, with the help of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, battled the Taliban to take back the occupied city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Based on Doug Stanton’s non-fiction book Horse Soldiers, 12 Strong is both conventional and unconventional in its approach. Structured like a traditional war film, it’s also the first time in memory we’ve seen modern warfare on horseback on the big screen. Once in Afghanistan, the Green Berets discover the best method of transport through the rocky and treacherous terrain is on the back of a horse.
“I grew up part-time in Colorado so I grew up with trail rides,” Stults says. “Certainly hadn’t been on a horse in years. The first day of getting on this horse was interesting.
“The wranglers would throw marks on the ground and we would have to ride up and stop and hit our marks-ish. The good news is the horses were trained better than the actors were trained. They knew what they were doing but they’re temperamental animals. Sometimes they didn’t want to stand there on a weird angle, on a weird hill, for 10 takes in a row while the actors got their lines right. Harder than riding was getting the horses to stay still. Between takes, just to keep the horses chill, we’d be moving them around.”
As the first American soldiers to take on the Taliban on their home turf after 9-11, the soldiers portrayed in 12 Strong endured impossible odds, outgunned and outnumbered 5,000 to 1.
“These guys were already in service and said, ‘What are we going to do to make sure nothing like this ever happens again?’ It’s a story about 12 guys who were willing to make what could have been the ultimate sacrifice.”
Stults is quick to mention that the movie is not only an American story.
“9-11 happened on American soil,” he says, “this is an American skewing story but it wasn’t an isolated American experience. It changed all our lives.
“It is also about the people of Afghanistan and their heroics. This couldn’t have happened without them and Gen. Dostum’s partnership. These people have been occupied, oppressed, dealing with the Taliban coming in and out of their villages.”
“12 Strong” tells the tale of one of the most successful missions in military history. In just three weeks twelve Green Berets with the help of General Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Northern Alliance battled the Taliban and inhospitable terrain to take back the occupied city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Chris Hemsworth leaves the mighty hammer of Thor on Planet Asgard to play the earth bound hero and Green Beret Captain Mitch Nelson. On leave when 9/11 happened he immediately reported for duty, asking that his team be reinstated to fight the Taliban. “You break his team up,” says Chief Warrant Officer Cal Spencer (Michael Shannon), “and you cut the head off your most venomous snake.” Named Task Force Dagger, they are shipped off to Afghanistan with orders to team with Northern Alliance General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban). Outgunned and outnumbered 5000 to 1 this uneasy partnership must endure impossible odds to defeat the Taliban on their own turf.
Based on Doug Stanton’s non-fiction book “Horse Soldiers,” “12 Strong” is both conventional and unconventional in its approach. Structured like a traditional war film, it’s also the first time (to my memory) we’ve seen modern warfare on horseback on the big screen. Once in Afghanistan the Green Berets discover the best method of transport through the rocky and treacherous terrain is on the back of a horse. In a clash of old and new, the cavalry battle tanks and rocket launchers and it makes for some striking images.
Like so many war flicks before it, in it’s opening minutes we see Nelson, Spencer and Sergeant First Class Sam Diller (Michael Peña) with their loving families before they are sent to battle. It’s standard shorthand to create empathy for the characters. They are family men driven by a sense of duty to their country. All well and good. We’ve seen it before but actors like Hemsworth, Shannon and Peña rise above the cliché to bring some heartfelt moments to those scenes. But what about the other nine guys in the troupe? We never learn much about them and, as a result, they are just bodies on a screen instead of fully rounded characters.
Having said that, for every war cliché—“Let’s get this war started,” howls Nelson at one point—there is another scene that offers insight into the difficult and confounding task the men have ahead of them. There is much talk of the struggle of fighting an ideological war against people who believe their great reward is in the afterlife. “There’s no playbook for this mission,” says Nelson. “We have to make it up as we go along.” As the first American soldiers to take on the Taliban after 9/11 they face a steep learning curve, finally coming to understand that this will be a war of small victories with no clear endpoint. They may win the battle but still need to fight the war. The confounding nature of this situation will be familiar to anyone who has followed the news coverage of the war in real time but is concisely summed up by Dostum. “There are no right choices here. This is Afghanistan. The grave of many empires.”