Archive for the ‘Film Review’ Category

BREATHE: 3 STARS. “the bubbliest movie about polio ever made.”

In “Breathe” Andrew Garfield plays Robin Cavendish, one of the longest-lived responauts in Britain history. It is, among other things, undoubtedly the bubbliest movie about polio ever made.

The opening moments of breeze are so unrelentingly chipper that as an audience member you just know the party will soon and in some sort of tragedy will happen. When we first meet Cavendish it’s 1958. He’s a young, vital man who falls in love at first sight with Diana Blacker (Claire Foy), a beautiful, rich woman he meets at a cricket match. It’s all sunshine and roses as they quickly fall in love, get married, get pregnant and move to Kenya to pursue Robin’s career as a tea merchant.

It’s a picture perfect romance until Robin’s health begins to falter. He’s short of breath, his limb ache. Soon he can barely stand. By the time he is diagnosed with polio he is paralyzed from the neck down. “The result is you become like a ragdoll,” Diana is told by the doctor. “He can’t breath for himself. The paralysis is irreversible.”

Grim news for the newlyweds. Given just three months to live Robin asks to be allowed to die but his doctors and Diana will hear nothing of it. Hooked up to a ventilator he lays motionless and despondent in a hospital ward waiting for the inevitable. Unable to find any joy in life he tries to push Diana away but she perseveres, visiting everyday.

Then the jaunty music reappears on the soundtrack and a smile returns to Robin’s face. The couple hatch a plan to move home so Robin can live out his final moments surrounded by the creature comforts of home. “No one, anywhere in the world with your husband’s degree of disability exists outside a hospital,” warns the doctor. Except that he does. In fact he thrives, living for decades, becoming an activist for disabled people and helping to design mobile life support machines to untether patients from their beds. “Do you see a creature who is barely alive,” he asks, “or a man who escaped the confines of a hospital board? I don’t want to just survive I want to truly live.”

“Breathe” breathes the same air as other indomitable spirit movies like “My Left Foot” and “The Theory of Everything.” The big difference is that this is a relentlessly upbeat film. “Are we plucky or pitiful” asks Diana. The answer is obvious but eventually there is something endearing, winning even, about its uncompromisingly buoyant tone. Perhaps that’s because director Andy Serkis paints the story as a love story rather than a medical drama or maybe it’s because of the winning performances from Garfield and Foy.

Garfield is ostensibly the lead but it is Foy who impresses. “The Crown” actress is the heart and soul of the story, providing a rock solid foundation for Garfield’s character.

“Breathe” doesn’t have the gravitas of “The Theory of Everything”—it spends too much time trying to wring all the emotion out of the story like tears from a sponge—but it does have compassion and heart.

THE SNOWMAN: 1 STAR. “a movie that left me as cold as the snowman‘s grin.”

Adapted from the best-selling book of the same name by Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø “The Snowman” is a Scandinavian whodunit with a frosty storyline.

Someone is killing women in Oslo, leaving behind their dismembered bodies and creepy looking snowmen with grimaces made of coffee beans at the crime scenes. All the victims are mothers seemingly “punished” by the snowy sicko for extra martial affairs and terminated pregnancies. To add a macabre purity metaphor to the proceedings, each of their deaths happens during a new snowfall.

Into this grim situation comes alliteratively named detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender). “I need a case,” he wheezes at his boss. “I apologize for Oslo’s low-murder rate,” comes the reply.

When Hole is not drinking, chain-smoking or finding new ways to alienate the other members of the Oslo Crime Squad he’s reserving whatever humanity is tucked away inside for his ex Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her teenage son.

Teamed with newbie Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) he plods through a sea of red herrings to uncover the identity of Norway’s icy serial killer. “We studied your cases at the Academy,” she says. “You’re up there with the legends.”

We’ve seen this Nordic Noir before and better.

“The Snowman” ticks off all the cop movie clichés. There’s a detective bedevilled by seeing too much death, a protagonist with a personal stake in the case, a serial murderer with a deeply rooted reason for killing and senior cops too quick to try and close cases.

Fassbender’s Hole is a caricature, a once brilliant detective reduced to a bleary-eyed, brooding drunk. His scenes with Ferguson are underplayed to the point of flat lining the drama. Not that there is much drama.

Director Tomas Alfredson—whose films “Let the Right One In” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” are both four star movies—manages moments of tension but doesn’t sustain them. He continuously breaks up the tension with flashbacks and dour staring contests between the serious faced actors.

Add to that a curious lack of Oslo accents—the real mystery here is why these Norwegians speak as though they just graduated RADA—Val Kilmer in a Razzie worthy performance and you’re left with a movie that left me as cold as the snowman‘s grin.

UNA: 3 ½ STARS. “a controversial, painful story that offers no easy answers.”

Based on the play “Blackbird” by Scottish playwright David Harrower, “Una” is an uncomfortable look into an uncomfortable subject.

Rooney Mara is the title character, a twenty-something who takes action after seeing a picture of Ray (Ben Mendelsohn) in a magazine. The two have a past. Fifteen years earlier, when she was thirteen and Ray was a middle-aged man, he seduced her, a crime he paid for with four years in prison. “You wanted to be treated like an adult,” Ray says. “That’s what children say.”

Convinced his actions put her in a downward spiral, she goes to his place of work to confront him. He’s re-established himself with a new name, wife and job. She demands to know why he did what he did, and why he abandoned her when they were about to make a run for it and leave England to start a new life together.

What might have been a straightforward story of a search for answers defies preconceived audience expectations with the ethical landmines Harrower (who also wrote the script) plants along the way. In its most startling turn “Una” asks the audience to consider the interaction between Ray and Una, the abuser and the abused, as some kind of love story. Rooney and Mendelsohn, both very good in difficult roles, explore the thin lines the story draws between abuse and love, between right and wrong, between desire and guilt. It’s complicated and messy as Ray is forced to confront a past he’d rather subvert while Una looks for answers. “I don’t know anything about you except you abused me,” she says.

“Una” lurches headlong into controversial territory, unflinchingly presenting a painful story that offers no easy answers.


Laird Hamilton describes himself as “full of testosterone and just obnoxious.” That may have been true during his 1980s heyday as the world’s best big wave surfer, but these days he has channelled those qualities into an obsession with the ocean that drives him to grow and evolve, personally and professionally, with the sport.

In surfing circles Hamilton is a household. Less so on dry land. A new documentary from Rory Kennedy, “Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton,” aims to rectify that. Laird didn’t make his name the way other professional surfers did; he made his name by being innovative, moving away from mainstream surfing into the early days of wind surfing and acrobatic surf moves. “We all thought he was crazy,” says big wave surfer Terry Chung.

He did things no one else thought of. He put Velcro on his board, which allowed him to go airborne. He invented foil-boarding, a technique that allows him to glide above the water, as if he’s flying over the waves. It’s beautiful to behold but we get it, he’s an innovator. We don’t need to be told over and over.

There’s something that feels a bit too authorized about “Take Every Wave.” It feels like an exercise in legend building more than an in depth portrait of Hamilton. His early years as a troubled youth are detailed but once he hits the water the movie turns into a hagiography. Hamilton is a likeable subject, if a bit egomaniacal, but instead of digging deep and showing the consequence of his actions we’re given a Biography Channel level glimpse into his psyche.

On the upside the photography—both from director Kennedy and Hamilton’s Strapped Crew—is breathtaking. The primal power of the sea juxtaposed with one man’s notions of how to conquer it make for impressive visuals.

Also entertaining is the colourful lingo. “The ride after the ride,” is what happens when you wipe out and plummet to the bottom. Even better is the self-explanatory “wave of heaviest consequence.”

“Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton” has a few moments of intrigue, mostly from the first person tales of waves gone wrong. Other than that it’s a visually pleasing collection of Sport Illustrated style photography that offers little insight into Hamilton or the sport.


Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk about the Nordic Noir “The Snowman,” the romantic medical drama “Breathe” and the controversial “Una.”

Listen to the whole thing HERE!


A new feature from from! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the killer birthday blues of “Happy Death Day,” Jackie Chan’s return to adult drama “The Foreigner” and Liam Neeson in the self explanatory “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the birthday blues of “Happy Death Day,” Jackie Chan’s return to adult drama “The Foreigner” and Liam Neeson in the self explanatory “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the birthday blues of “Happy Death Day,” Jackie Chan’s return to adult drama “The Foreigner” and Liam Neeson in the self explanatory “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


Richard sits in on the CFRA Morning Show with host Bill Carroll to talk about the time loop terror of “Happy Death Day,” Jackie Chan’s return to adult drama “The Foreigner” and Liam Neeson in the self explanatory “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House.”

Listen to the whole thing HERE!