Archive for September, 2014

Richard’s “Canada AM” interview with the stars of CTV’s “Forever”!

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.52.20 AMRichard sits down with Alana De La Garza and Judd Hirsch of the new CTV show “Forever.” Here’s a synopsis from IMDB: A 200-year-old man works in the New York City Morgue trying to find a key to unlock the curse of his immortality.

Watch the whole thing HERE!

PRIDE: 3 STARS. “Relentlessly upbeat, it favors broad comedy.”

ogykq0qs“Pride,” a new British film that mixes gay rights, a miner’s strike and the Bronski Beat, isn’t so much a movie as it is an anthem, à la Tom Robinson’s foot stomping tune “Glad to Be Gay.”

It’s the true story of an unlikely alliance, a bond between a group of Camden Town lesbian and gay activists and the miners of a village in Wales. The catalyst for the story is Mark (Ben Schnetzer), a young gay man who feels the government is bullying The National Union of Mineworkers just as homophobic Londoners had pushed him around. As the union is at the cusp of a strike that would become a year-long battle against widespread pit closures, he rallies his friends to raise money. Dubbed the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, they work the streets, collecting hundreds of pounds. Trouble is the miners don’t want the money. At least at first.

Afraid to be associated with a gay group The National Union of Mineworkers won’t even return Mark’s phone calls. When he directly contacts Dai (Paddy Considine), a union rep in a Welsh village, he finally finds someone who understands the meaning of solidarity.

“Pride” tells an interesting and important story, and does so with terrific performances. Considine brings dignity and intellect to Dai, Dominic West is colorful and compassionate as LGSM member Jonathan and Bill Nighy, as Cliff, the seemingly uptight Welsh town father, displays the effortless charm and grace that makes him the go-to for eccentric English characters.

When it works, it works terrifically well. A near silent scene between Nighy and Imelda Staunton, lifelong friends and workers for the union cause, is wonderfully under-played. It’s touching, joyful and perfect.

The rest of “Pride” is pitched somewhere in tone between the industrial comedies of “Kinky Boots” and “The Full Monty.” Relentlessly upbeat, it favors broad comedy and is occasionally earnest but it doesn’t skimp on the social history. Despite its sense of fun it delves into the lives of each of these groups. The story might be painted in broad strokes, but it isn’t afraid to tackle topics like homophobia, AIDS and intolerance.

“THE RICHARD CROUSE SHOW” ON NEWSTALK 1010 SATURDAY AT 4 PM!

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 2.07.09 PMThis weekend tune into the Richard Crouse Show on NewsTalk 1010 (4 – 5 pm on NewsTalk 1010; check local listings for a time in your area) as Richard and the panel–Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank, Olympian and World Kayak champion Adam von Koeverden and NewsTalk 1010 Brand Manager Mike Bendixon–discuss the important stuff–TedxToronto, why we love bad movies, whether virtual reality journalism is coming our way and much more.

Here’s some info on The Richard Crouse Show!: Each week on The Richard Crouse Show, Canada’s most recognized movie critic brings together some of the most interesting and opinionated people from the movies, television and music to put a fresh spin on news from the world of lifestyle and pop-culture. Tune into this show to find out what’s going on behind the scenes of your favorite shows and movies and get a new take on current trends. Richard also lets you know what movies you’ll want to run to see and which movies you’ll want to wait for DVD release. Click HERE to catch up on shows you might have missed!

RICHARD’S REVIEWS FOR SEPT 26, 2014 W “CANADA AM” HOST BEVERLY THOMSON.

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 9.43.13 AM“Canada AM” film critic Richard Crouse reviews “The Equalizer,” “The Boxtrolls” and “Hector and the Search for Happiness.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!

 

 

 

 

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THE EQUALIZER: 3 ½ STARS. “the old man gotta be the old man.”

img_18927_600At the beginning of “The Equalizer,” a remake of the cult 1980s television show, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) pontificates on “The Old Man and the Sea,” summing up Hemingway’s take on human nature.

“The old man gotta be the old man,” he says. “The fish gotta be the fish. Got to be who you are in this world no matter what.”

Of course this is a movie, so he’s actually talking about himself and not Ernest’s adversarial fisherman.

Washington plays a home improvement store worker by day, righter of wrongs by night. He’s a former black ops commando trying to leave his violent ways in the past but just when he thought that part of his life was over, the Russian mob leans on him because he tried to protect a young woman (Chloë Grace Moretz) from her violent pimp.

When he singlehandedly wipes out the east coast wing of the Russian mob Teddy (Marton Csokas), an enforcer from Moscow arrives to put an end to McCall’s one man search for justice.

“The Equalizer” is more elegant than Liam Neeson’s recent action movies but less viscerally satisfying. All the elements of Neeson’s Euro-trash thrillers are in place—tattooed bad guys and the “seasoned” hero with a “special set of skills”—but the pace is much slower.

The point of the story is that McCall equalizes situations, using his talents to help the down trodden but it takes about thirty minutes before any settling of scores happens. We meet McCall, learn about his orderly life—his shirts are immaculately pressed, he likes to read the classics and is particular about the placement of cutlery at his local diner—but we don’t learn anything about his past. He’s Denzel and ergo, a badass, but the first thirty minutes of this movie could have snapped things up a bit by illuminating his past.

The slow burn does build some tension, and by the time McCall unleashes hell on the Russia mobsters it comes as a bit of a catharsis. Now the movie is rolling! Except that it isn’t. It takes ages for McCall to open another can of whoop ass. Instead director Antoine Fuqua has elected to gradually build up to a wild showdown in a massive hardware store. Who knew those places were so dangerous? The climax is tense and inventive, apparently there is no home improvement device that cannot be turned into a WMD, but it is a more standard blockbuster-movie ending than you might expect from a movie so stingy with the action in the first hour.

It’s a good movie and Denzel is, as always, charismatic and interesting, but if “the old man gotta be the old man,” then “The Equalizer” gotta be more of an action movie to be completely satisfying.

THE BOXTROLLS: 4 STARS. “most original film for young’uns to come out this year.”

Boxtrolls_trailerNot many children’s movies would feature someone voicing the fear that the title characters would “kidnap me and slurp up my intestines like noodles,” but then again, “The Boxtrolls” is not like most other kid flicks.

Based on Alan Snow’s illustrated novel “Here Be Monsters!,” and from the folks who brought us the dark visions of “Coraline” and “ParaNorman,” “The Boxtrolls” is the most original film for young’uns to come out this year.

According to town father Lord Portley-Rind (voice of Jared Harris) of the Victorian-age town of Cheesebridge, the Boxtrolls are evil beasts that steal children, eat their faces and live underground among mountains of bones and rivers of blood. They’re so hideous there are even popular songs written about their dastardly deeds. To rid the community of these vile creatures Rind brings in a social-climbing exterminator named Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), who guarantees the complete annihilation of the trolls in return for a coveted White Hat and a place at the town’s exclusive cheese table.

The Boxtrolls, of course, aren’t evil. They are good-natured, green-skinned trolls who use cardboard boxes as camouflage, speak gibberish and get into mischief, like smelly Minions. Sure, they eat live bugs and live underground in a Rube Goldberg-esque steampunk world of machines made from parts salvaged from the garbage but they also love music and have raised a human child, Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright), as one of their own. If the Boxtrolls are to survive, Eggs will have to go head-to-head with Snatcher and his henchmen Mr. Pickles (Richard Ayoade), Mr. Trout (Nick Frost) and Mr. Gristle (Tracy Morgan).

Combining the atmosphere of Hammer horror films with slapstick humour, a deranged story, a “be who you are” message and morbidly marvelous attention to every stop-motion detail, “The Boxtrolls” is a trick and a treat.

Unabashedly weird and wonderful, the movie may be too scary for the little ones, but any child who has spent time with the “Goosebumps” series or “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” shouldn’t be kept up at night by either the story or the visuals.

 

Instead they’ll likely be drawn in by the beautiful set decoration, the ingenious character design—the baddies all have the worst teeth since Austin Powers—and fun voice work. As the lactose intolerant Snatcher Kingsley has the most fun. It’s a flamboyant performance, inventive and eccentric, that will entertain kids and their parents.

 

“The Boxtrolls” is Pixar on drugs, a wild ride that isn’t afraid to mix a scare or two in with the kid stuff.

HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS: 3 STARS. “a man in existential crisis.”

hr_Hector_and_the_Search_for_Happiness_4A good alternate title for the new Simon Pegg motivational movie would be “Hector and the Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Both movies feature a man in existential crisis, on a journey to find the missing puzzle piece that will improve their lives. Both stories are thick slices of pop psychology, but appealing casts buoy both.

Hector (Pegg) is a psychologist with a tidy uneventful existence. He shares his predictable and safe life with Clara (Rosamund Pike), an ad agency writer who creates names for pharmaceuticals. They chug along happily until one day Hector snaps and berates one of his patients for not being satisfied with her comfortable life. He set out on an archeological dig of sorts, to discover what happiness means to people. Leaving Clara behind he hits the road as the Indiana Jones of Happiness. First stop China.

Echoes of “Eat Pray Love” reverberate in each of Hector’s layovers. From China to Africa to Los Angeles he collects people and theories of happiness—“My secret of happiness is never asking myself if I’m happy,” says a millionaire (Stellan Skarsgård) in China—making notes in his diary along the way.

The movie screams WHIMSY in capital letters from its opening scene of Hector and a dog soaring above the earth in a World War II RAF bi-plane, to the title font to Hector’s diary drawings that come to life to illustrate the story. The presence of Pegg doesn’t dismiss fears of oppressive whimsy either, as he embraces the story’s quirky tone with a performance that feels like the acting 101 textbook definition of repressed British man, all shy glances and apologetic fumbling.

But then, despite the movie’s somewhat smug tone regarding Hector’s ability to fly around the world and expropriate ideology from people he then leaves behind, and the outdated notion that Clara can’t be happy until she has a child, the movie shifts from twee to a slightly less awkward form of twee. When it drops the pop psychology and focuses on Hector and Clara, it works. He’s still an over privileged prat stumbling around the world in search of an elusive concept, but when the movie switches from magic realism to just plain old realism and the floodgates open for him it is hard not to forgive him the journey.

“Hector and the Search for Happiness” feels like Michel Gondry Lite, but when it and Pegg let the whimsy go, it can be an affecting story.

THE SKELETON TWINS: 3 ½ STARS. “features breakthrough performances from its leads”

theskeletontwins1The offspring of “Saturday Night Live” have provided highs and lows in terms of the movie going experience. On the upside there is “Wayne’s World,” a very funny comedy about a suburban headbanger and his best friend. Less successful was Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin as Beldar and Prymaat Clorhone in “Coneheads.”

Then there is another category of “SNL” movies. The ones like “The Skeleton Twins,” films that just happen to feature former stars of the show.

Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are Maggie and Milo, twins who haven’t spoken in ten years. The product of a troubled upbringing, she still lives in their upstate New York hometown, he in Los Angeles where he pursues a career in acting while waiting tables at a Hollywood tourist trap.

When Milo survives a suicide attempt Maggie invites him to recuperate at her home. Her husband Lance (Luke Wilson) welcomes him, but Milo’s presence in town brings up old, disturbing feelings for his ex-boyfriend Rich (Ty Burrell) and Maggie who is still troubled by the past.

Unlike Aykroyd and Curtain in “Coneheads,” Wiig and Hader are revelations in “The Skeleton Twins.” The movie is a parade of dysfunction, but the performances from these two actors are nuanced and delicate. Both are famous for making people laugh—Wiig has several dramas on her resume like “Girl Most Likely,” but is best known on the big screen for “Bridesmaids”—but both stretch here, becoming dramatic actors who know how to deliver a funny line.

Despite its downbeat tone the script (co-written by Mark Heyman and director Craig Johnson) is packed with laughs, most of which are situational and massaged out of the material by Wiig and Hader.

Luke Wilson and Joanna Gleason are also noteworthy. He’s the sweet but dim-witted “big Labrador Retriever” of a man, and brings some down-to-earth humanity to a movie about people searching to find their humanity. Gleason is terrific as the world’s worst mother, a self-centered woman who presence dredges up old, bad memories.

“The Skeleton Twins” is an interesting and funny character study for much of its 93 minute running time, but the ending feels almost as if the production ran out of money and shut down before they figured out a satisfactory conclusion. Its as if someone simply flicked off the story switch before the narrative was quite done.

Despite a rushed ending, “The Skeleton Twins” features breakthrough performances from its leads that are worth a look.