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 “Paddington 2,” one of the most entertaining movies of the year, the train terror movie “The Commuter” and the family drama “Happy End.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at “Paddington 2, a movie Richard is already calling one of the best of the year, Liam Neeson’s long journey home in “The Commuter” and the ironically titled family drama “Happy Ending.”
Last year Liam Neeson announced his retirement from action films. “Guys I’m sixty-f******-five.’ Audiences are eventually going to go: ‘Come on!'” Then, just months later, he had a change of heart. ““It’s not true, look at me! You’re talking in the past tense. I’m going to be doing action movies until they bury me in the ground. I’m unretired.”
At an age when most action stars are staying home soaking in vats of Voltaren Neeson continues his tough guy ways in this weekend’s action thriller The Commuter. He plays an everyman caught up in a race-against-the-clock criminal conspiracy on his train trip home from work. Expect a mix of blue-collar action and Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train.
It’s a perfect companion to the movies Neeson has made since his actionman breakout role. It all began with Taken in 2008. He played Brian Mills a former “preventer” for the US government who contained volatile situations before they got out of control. Now retired, when his seventeen-year-old daughter is kidnapped by a child slavery ring he has only 96 hours to use his “particular set of skills” to get her back.
He admits to being, “a tiny bit embarrassed by it,” but his burly build and trademarked steely glare made him an action star.
“Believe it or not, I have even had Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis calling my agent saying, ‘How do I get these scripts?’” he said on his sixtieth birthday.
Audiences ate up his rough and tumble work. His habit of paying the rent with chest-beaters like the Taken films, Battleship, Unknown and The A-Team led one macho movie fan to post this on Facebook:
“After watching the movie The Grey, I can only come to the (very logical) conclusion that Liam Neeson should be King of the Earth. Who’s better than Liam Neeson? Nobody. That’s who. Nobody.”
But there was a time when a kinder, gentler Neeson graced the screen.
His first film, 1977s Pilgrim’s Progress, was so low budget he played several characters. He’s credited as the Evangelist, a main character in John Bunyan’s Christian allegory, but can also be seen subbing in as the crucified Jesus Christ.
It was another supporting role in a movie called Shining Through that led to his breakthrough. In it he plays a Nazi party official opposite Michael Douglas. The performance so impressed Steven Spielberg he cast Neeson as Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List, which turned him into an Oscar-nominated star.
He parlayed that fame into starring roles in period pieces like Rob Roy, Michael Collins (at the age of 43 Neeson was 12 years older than the real-life Michael Collins when he died) and Les Misérables. Then comedies Breakfast on Pluto and High Spirits showcased his more amiable side.
High on the list of his mild-mannered roles are two films with Laura Linney. He’s worked with her so often on stage and in the movies they joke they feel like “an old married couple.” They’re part of the ensemble cast of Love Actually and play husband and wife in Kinsey, about America’s leading sexologist Alfred Kinsey.
Neeson, it seems, can portray almost anything on screen but claims he doesn’t give acting much thought. “I don’t analyse it too much. It’s like a dog smelling where it’s going to do its toilet in the morning.”
In the last decade when Liam Neeson hasn’t been making “Taken” movies chances are good he’s been working with director Jaume Collet-Serra. In the past they’ve teamed for action b-movies “Run All Night,” “Unknown” and “Non-Stop.” This weekend they return to theatres with “The Commuter,” a terror-in-the-tube tale that is a mix of blue-collar action and Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train.”
Neeson plays retired NYPD detective turned recently downsized insurance agent Michael MacCauley. “Karen and me,” he says, “we live hand to mouth. We’ve got nothing to fall back on.” With debts mounting, a second mortgage and a son heading off to an expensive school in the fall, MacCauley is presented with an unusual proposition on his commuter train ride home from Manhattan to upstate New York. Mysterious stranger Joanna (Vera Farmiga) offers him $100,000 to do a simple job—find the new passenger on the train from the sea of faces he’s travelled with for the last decade and place a GPS on them. No strings attached. He doesn’t know the person nor will he ever know what happened to the person. “What kind of person are you?” she asks. If he says yes, his financial worries are over. Say no, however, and he risks the safety of everyone on the train and his family.
A better question would be, “What kind of movie is this?“ It’s not exactly fair to call it a thriller because there is very little in the way of actual thrills. After an effective opening montage that shows the drudgery of the 9 to 5 commuter’s life the film settles into very predictable beats as Neeson paces from car to car, desperation growing at every station stop. There’s a twist but as twists go it’s more of a straight line than a real bend in the plot.
This movie should have been called “Stereotypes on a Train.” Who could be the target? Is it the obnoxious businessman? The grizzled commuter? The teen doing an illegal errand for her boyfriend? I didn’t care and you probably won’t either. Things happen, bullets are fired and fists flung but the overly elaborate set-up—why didn’t the evil mastermind, who has absolute control over the situation, plant the GPS herself?—and clichéd dialogue doesn’t leave much room for interesting action.
Neeson certainly knows how to play the everyman with a special set of skills but he’s done it before and better in other movies. Formulaic in the extreme, “The Commuter” is as interesting as taking the same route home day after days for ten years.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk about “Paddington 2, a movie Richard is already calling one of the best of the year, Liam Neeson’s long journey home in “The Commuter” and the ironically titled family drama “Happy Ending.”
Long before Sergio García, Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer became the people most associated with the game of golf a father and son team were the most famous names on the fairway. A new film, “Tommy’s Honour,” lionizes Tom Morris (known as Old Tom and played by Peter Mullan) and Tommy Morris (Young Tom, played by Jack Lowden) as the founders of the modern game.
Based on the book “Tommy’s Honour: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf’s Founding Father and Son” and brought to the screen by Jason Connery, the film takes place against a backdrop of nineteenth century class struggle. Old Tom is the greenskeeper of Scotland’s St. Andrews Links, the largest golf complex in Europe. He is a traditionalist, a man accepting of his place in society. Not so his oldest son Tommy. A golf prodigy, he has a healthy disregard for authority and an eye toward doing things his way. He refuses to accept his lot in life—become a caddy and then one day, perhaps, work his way up to greenskeeper. His talent and arrogance win out, however, and even though championship play was reserved for the wealthy he went on to become (and still remains), at age 17, the youngest ever winner of what is now known as the British Open.
Flushed with success he demands a larger share of his winnings, butting heads with upper crust types like St. Andrews club captain Alexander Boothby (Sam Neill). Personally he defies his religious mother by dating Meg Drinnen (Ophelia Lovibond), an older woman with a scandalous past.
Showdowns, both personal and professional, follow as “Tommy’s Honour” explores the sport and societal norms of the time.
The best sports movies are never really about the sport and “Tommy’s Honour” is no different. Golf supplies the backdrop for an examination of the social shift of the game, from a gentleman’s past time to a game for (almost) everyone. It’s a class study with plenty of melodrama and father-and-son clashes that should supply some level of interest to non-golf fans.
Director Connery is workmanlike in his presentation of the story, preferring to simply document the performances rather than clutter the screen with fancy editing or swooping crane shots of St. Andrews. It’s a stately, traditionally made film about a radical change to the game.
Mullan hits a hole in one as Old Tom, bringing gravitas and fire to the role. Lowden is a fresh-faced find, a charismatic actor who carries the movie.
“Tommy’s Honour” succeeds because of its subtext, the underlying investigation of social mores of the day told through one family’s story and their influence on the game of golf.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with Andrew Carter to discuss the weekend’s big releases, “Snatched” with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn, “Bon Cop, Bad Cop 2” with Patrick Huard and Colm Feore, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” and the golf movie “Tommy’s Honour.”
A new Australian drama titled “The Daughter” tackles a variety of topics. Everything from a small town decimated by the closing of a lumber mill to infidelity, the nature of parent’s relationships to their kids, young love, addiction and class divides are explored but despite the busy schedule of events the film is very focussed.
Loosely based on Henrik Ibsen’s 1884 tragedy “The Wild Duck,” the movie is set in a dying Australian logging town. Christian (Paul Schneider), son of the town’s lumber magnate (Geoffrey Rush), hasn’t been home in years. On the occasion of his father’s wedding to a much younger woman (Anna Torv) Christian brings his swirling mass of daddy issues and personal problems home for the first time since his mother committed suicide.
He reconnects with his best chum from university, Oliver (Ewen Leslie) and jovial but unemployed lumber worker, husband to Charlotte (Miranda Otto) and father to teenager Hedvig, played by Odessa Young. Over the course of the wedding weekend some dangerous truths are revealed, family secrets that threaten to blow families apart and destroy an innocent life.
To be any more specific would do a disservice to director Simon Stone’s storytelling. He skilfully brings together a small group of characters, overlapping their lives to bring them to a devastating conclusion. You won’t leave the theatre with a smile on your face but you’ll exit having seen an uncompromising but engaging look at personal dysfunction.
Naturalistic performances from a who’s who of Australian actors, Rush, Leslie, Otto and Sam Neill—who now plays old cranky grandfather parts—draw the viewer in but it is newcomer Young as Hedwig who is at the center of the action. Leslie has the showiest part but Young’s work gives us a reason to care about the personal politics.
“The Daughter” is a gem, an emotionally affecting film that transcends melodrama to cut to the core of how people react and regret in the face of fidelity and betrayal.