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 Matt Damon film “Suburbicon,” the dreamy “Wonderstruck” and one of the year’s best films, “The Florida Project.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the Matt Damon film “Suburbicon,” the dreamy “Wonderstruck” and one of the year’s best films, “The Florida Project.”
In “Suburbicon” director George Clooney pays tribute to the great melodramatic thrillers of the past with a timely story about two families, one in a quagmire of their own making, another harassed by outside forces. It’s a morality—or should that be a-morality—play that is as grim as it
Set in Suburbicon, a picture perfect suburb, new, sparkling with all the amenities, we first meet Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) and his family, wife Rose (Julianne Moore), son Nicky (Noah Jupe) and sister-in-law Margaret (also Julianne Moore). It’s a “Leave it to Beaver” life until a home invasion shatters the American Dream idyll. “Nothing like that ever happened here,” a neighbour says. “This was a safe place.”
Meanwhile an African-American family moves in next door and immediately becomes the target of racial intolerance from the townsfolk. Based on the real-life harassment of the Myers family, husband William (Leith M. Burke), wife Daisy (Karimah Westbrook) and son Andy (Tony Espinosa) in Levittown, Pennsylvania in 1957, the citizens of Suburbicon create a twenty-four-hour-a-day disturbance outside their home, making normal life almost impossible inside.
As the police investigate the invasion and the murder of Rose, uncomfortable questions arise. When an insurance inspector (Oscar Isaac) starts poking around it little Nicky begins to suspect his father might not be the man he thought he was.
On one fateful night tensions come to boil at both the Lodge and Myers households.
There will be no spoilers here, just know that “Suburbicon” plays like the leering devil child of Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch or the evil godchild of the Coen Brothers, who wrote the original script before Clooney and long time collaborator Grant Heslov did a rewrite. It’s a beautifully nasty film, nicely made but marching to the beat of a very dark heart.
Against a seemingly wholesome backdrop Clooney paints a picture of greed, murder, racism and infidelity. There are laughs—like the ridiculous sight of Damon riding a kid’s bicycle away from a crime scene—but make no mistake this is not “Ocean’s Eleven.” He builds the story block-by-block, carefully creating character facades only to shatter them. Hardly anyone is who they seem. Only Nicky is pure-of-heart and if this was real life Nicky would need some serious therapy. It’s gripping and grim stuff about the American Dream gone wrong.
Murder and infidelity are, I guess, the timeless aspects of the story. The racism, particularly in light of recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, brings a timely and urgent facet. The portrayal of the racism levelled at the Myers family is ugly and, sadly, all too believable. The “decent” folks of Suburbicon are all too quick to grab a Confederate flag when an African-American family moves in next door. It’s a strong anti-segregation message that contrasts the craven behaviour of the Lodge family.
Damon doles out the creepy vibe sparingly, bring the character to a slow simmer, only to have it boil when things go sideways. Moore is a dim-witted femme fatale with a mean streak. Isaac inserts some smarmy energy mid-movie, but it is Jupe as little Nicky who grounds things. We see Suburbicon’s carefully constructed world fall apart through his eyes, taking the ride with him. He’s a Hitchcockian figure in short pants, the boy who knew too much, and he’s an effective mirror of the dangers of conformity.
“Suburbicon” is a horror film, but the monster is us.
Richard hosted the TIFF press conference for “Downsizing” with director Alexander Payne, stars Matt Damon, Hong Chau, Christoph Waltz, screenwriter Jim Taylor and producer Mark Johnson.
The script by Payne and Jim Taylor opens with a Norwegian scientist making a breakthrough he thinks will save humanity: a technique that can shrink people to 5 inches (12 centimeters) tall. That means they use a tiny fraction of the resources they once did — and need to pay less, allowing people of modest means to grow instantly rich by becoming small.
Richard and CP24 anchor George Lagogianes have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the Ice Cube high school comedy “Fist Fight,” the Matt Damon white saviour flick “The Great Wall,” Dane DeHaan in the incomprehensible “The Cure for Wellness” and “My Scientology Movie.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Erin Paul to have a look at the big weekend movies, the Ice Cube high school comedy “Fist Fight,” the Matt Damon white saviour flick “The Great Wall,” Dane DeHaan in the incomprehensible “The Cure for Wellness” and “My Scientology Movie.”
“The Great Wall” is not the story of Donald Trump’s relations with Mexico. It’s a $150 million historical epic from Chinese director Zhang Yimou that garnered a lot of criticism for the controversial casting of Matt Damon in a major role.
Detractors called the choice an example of a “white saviour” from the West appropriating Chinese culture and stepping in to save the day. Constance Wu of “Fresh Off the Boat” voiced her disapproval, accusing the film of “perpetuating the racist myth that only a white man can save the world,” adding, “our heroes don’t look like Matt Damon.”
Zhang fought back. “Damon is not playing a role that was originally conceived for a Chinese actor.”
“As the director of over 20 Chinese language films and the Beijing Olympics,” he said in a statement, “I have not and will not cast a film in a way that was untrue to my artistic vision.”
More on that later, but having seen the film, a more blatant criticism would be the generic, formulaic filmmaking.
On the run, mercenary soldiers William Garin (Damon) and Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal) are captured at a Great Wall outpost by a band of Chinese soldiers called the Nameless Order, led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau). The interlopers are due to be disposed of until they offer up a claw Garin separated from a mysterious beast days before.
Turns out, the creature is a Tao Tie, a nasty breed of beast that attacks the Imperial Court every sixty years. The walleyed creatures look like a smooth green werewolf- Komodo Dragon hybrid and are very difficult to kill. When the Tao Tie attack days earlier than expected Tovar and Garin’s bravery earn them privileged spots in the battalion—“We’re honoured to be honoured,” says Garin.—but the pair are secretly only interested in the local “black powder.” “It turns the air into fire!” they gasp. If they can smuggle the gunpowder out of the battalion it will make them rich men in the West.
It’s a great plan until Garin opts to leave his mercenary ways behind join forces with General Lin (Jing Tian), the only female English-speaking commander at the outpost. Her bravery turns his head, reminding him of why he became a soldier in the first place. “Let me fight with you,” he says. “If this is where you choose to die, good luck to you,” scoffs Tovar. If the Tao Tie breach the wall, we’re told several times, nothing can stop them.
“The Great Wall” uses every epic monster film trick in the book. Cameras sweep and swirl, flames lick the screen, there’s slow-mo galore and loads of Zhang’s unique wuxia style action but despite the grandeur and the lushness of the cinematography and costume details it is all rather dull. It’s “Lord of the Rings” without the engaging fantasy and “Game of Thrones” sans the lusty carnality that keeps people watching between dragon conquest scenes.
There is some humour between the battle scenes. Garin and Tovar are awfully quippy for a pair of Song dynasty soldiers. “I’m the one saving you,” Tovar jokes on the battlefield, “so I can kill you myself.” It’s “Hope and Crosby on the Road to the Imperial Court!”
As for Garin as the Saviour from the West, I have to agree with Wu. There are several heroes in this movie but Garin eats up the most screen time and in the end is instrumental in (SPOILER ALERT) keeping the nasty beasties from having their way with the Emperor. Damon is an agreeable actor, although here he dons a flat and ever-changing accent that simply amplifies how completely out of place he seems in ancient China.
“The Great Wall” feels more like an exercise in marketing than it does a movie. The size and spectacle of it appear geared to appeal to an audience used to avenging superheroes, while the casting of a white American star at the heart of another culture’s tale looks to be a blatant attempt at creating a tentpole film for a world audience. What they forgot about was including compelling characters and story.