CHIPs: It’s a remake, a comedy and an action film and yet it doesn’t quite measure up to any of those descriptors. It’s a remake in the sense that writer-director-star Dax Shepard has lifted the title, character names and general situation from the classic TV show but they are simply pegs to hang his crude jokes on.
The Circle: While it is a pleasure to see Bill Paxton in his last big screen performance, “The Circle” often feels like an Exposition-A-Thon, a message in search of a story.
The Fate of the Furious: Preposterous is not a word most filmmakers would like to have applied to their work but in the case of the “Fast and Furious” franchise I think it is what they are going for. Somewhere along the way the down-‘n’-dirty car chase flicks veered from sublimely silly to simply silly. “The Fate of the Furious” is fast, furious but it’s not much fun. It’s an unholy mash-up of James Bond and the Marvel Universe, a movie bogged down by outrageous stunts and too many characters. Someone really should tell Vin Diesel and Company that more is not always more.
Fifty Shades Darker: Depending on your point of view “Fifty Shades of Grey” either made you want to gag or want to wear a gag. It’s a softcore look at hardcore BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) that spanked the competition on its opening weekend in 2015. Question is, will audiences still care about Grey’s proclivities and Ana’s misgivings or is it time to use our collective safeword? “Fifty Shades Darker” is a cold shower of a movie. “It’s all wrong,” Ana says at one point. “All of this is wrong.” Truer words have never been spoken.
The Mountain Between Us: Mountain survival movies usually end up with someone eating someone else to stay alive. “The Mountain Between Us” features the usual mountain survival tropes—there’s a plane crash, a showdown with a cougar and broken bones—but luckily for fans of stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet cannibalism is not on the menu. Days pass and then weeks pass and soon they begin their trek to safety. “Where are we going?” she asks. “We’re alive,” he says. “That’s where were going.” There will be no spoilers here but I will say the crash and story of survival changes them in ways that couldn’t imagine… but ways the audience will see coming 100 miles away. It’s all a bit silly—three weeks in and unwashed they still are a fetching couple—but at least there’s no cannibalism and no, they don’t eat the dog.
The Mummy: As a horror film it’s a meh action film. As an action film it’s little more than a formulaic excuse to trot out some brand names in the kind of film Hollywood mistakenly thinks is a crowd pleaser.
The Shack: Bad things in life may be God’s will but I lay the blame for this bad movie directly on the shoulders of director Stuart Hazeldine who infuses this story with all the depth and insight of a “Davey and Goliath” cartoon.
The Snowman: We’ve seen this Nordic Noir before and better. Mix 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.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: Movies like the high gloss crime thriller “La Femme Nikita,” the assassin mentor flick “Léon: The Professional” and outré sci fi opera “The Fifth Element” have come to define director Luc Besson’s outrageous style. Kinetic blasts of energy, his films are turbo charged fantasies that make eyeballs dance even if they don’t always engage the brain. His latest, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” not only has one of the longest titles of the year but is also one of the most over-the-top, retina-frying movies of the year. Your eyes will beg for mercy.
Wonder Wheel: At the beginning of the film Mickey (Justin Timberlake) warns us that what we are about to see will be filtered through his playwright’s point of view. Keeping that promise, writer, director Woody Allen uses every amount of artifice at his disposal—including cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s admittedly sumptuous photography—to create a film that is not only unreal but also unpleasant. “Oh God,” Ginny (Kate Winslet) cries out at one point. “Spare me the bad drama.” Amen to that.
Song to Song: I think it’s time Terrence Malick and I called it quits. I used to look forward to his infrequent visits. Sure, sometimes he was a little obtuse and over stayed his welcome, but more often than not he was alluringly enigmatic. Then he started coming around more often and, well, maybe the old saying about familiarity breeding contempt is true. In “Song to Song” there’s a quick shot of a tattoo that sums up my feelings toward my relationship with Malick. Written in flowery script, the words “Empty Promises” fill the screen, reminding us of the promise of the director’s early work and amplifying the disappointment we feel today. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back, the Terrence Malick movie that put me off Terrence Malick movies. I’ll be nice though and say, it’s not him, it’s me.
EXTRA! EXTRRA! MOST COUNFOUNDING
mother!: Your interest in seeing “mother!,” the psychological thriller from “Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky, may be judged on your keenness to watch American sweetheart Jenifer Lawrence flush a beating heart down a toilet. Aronofsky’s story of uninvited guests disrupting the serene lives of a poet and his wife refuses to cater to audience expectations. “mother!” is an uncomfortable watch, an off-kilter experience that revels in its own madness. As the weight of the weirdness and religious symbolism begins to feel crushing, you may wonder what the hell is going on. Are these people guilty of being the worst houseguests ever or is there something bigger, something biblical going on?
Aronofsky is generous with the biblical allusions—the house is a paradise, the stranger’s sons are clearly echoes of Cain and Abel, and there is a long sequence that can only be described as the Home-style Revelation—and builds toward a crescendo of wild action that has to be seen to be believed, but his characters are ciphers. Charismatic and appealing to a member, they feel like puppets in the director’s apocalyptic roadshow rather than characters we care about. Visually and thematically he doesn’t push button so much as he pokes the audience daring them to take the trip with him, it’s just too bad we didn’t have better company for the journey.
“mother!” is a deliberately opaque movie. Like looking into a self-reflective mirror you will take away whatever you put into it. The only thing sure about it is that it is most confounding studio movie of the year.
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the drug addled biopic “American Made,” the real-life-royal dramedy “Victoria & Abdul” and Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in the late-in-life love story “Our Souls at Night.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Jennifer Burke to have a look at the Tom Cruise War on Drugs movie “American Made,” the real-life-royal dramedy “Victoria & Abdul” and Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in the late-in-life love story “Our Souls at Night.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Morning Show with host Bill Carroll to talk about the drug addled biopic “American Made,” the real-life-royal dramedy “Victoria & Abdul” and Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in the late-in-life love story “Our Souls at Night.”
A new 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 Tom Cruise War on Drugs movie “American Made,” the real-life-royal dramedy “Victoria & Abdul” and Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in the late-in-life love story “Our Souls at Night.”
The “war on drugs” is one of the longest battles in American history. In 1971 President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse “public enemy number one,” vowing combat against drug producers and dealers.
Forty years and many billions of dollars later the Global Commission on Drug Policy stated, “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”
Last year, writing in the New York Times, Mexican journalist José Luis Pardo Veiras echoed those sentiments. “Drugs continue to stream north to the United States, the great user, and firearms enter Mexico in return, where they kill thousands.”
The fight has been a failure for everyone except Hollywood, which has consistently mined the war on drugs for stories and colourful characters. This weekend Tom Cruise stars in the latest tale from the war on drugs, American Made, the real-life story of Barry Seal, adrenaline junkie and TWA pilot.
The story begins with Seal being hired by the CIA to take reconnaissance photos of Soviet-backed insurgents in South America. His life quickly spirals out of control as he becomes a courier between the CIA and Panamanian CIA informant General Manuel Noriega while also working as a cocaine smuggler for the Medellin Cartel.
Drug cartel stories are tailor made for the movies. Populated by bigger-than-life characters like the wealthiest criminal in history, the so-called “The King of Cocaine,” Pablo Escobar, the stories have it all: glamour, drama, moral ambiguity and the primal clash of good and evil. Here are three films with three very different approaches to the war on drugs.
One critic described Sicario as a “French Connection for the drug-fuelled Mexico-US border war.” Starring Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin, it’s a drama about an idealistic FBI agent working with an elite task force to stem the flow of drugs between Mexico and the United States. It’s gritty and certainly not a feel-good movie about winning the war on drugs. Instead, it’s a powerful look at a seemingly unwinnable battle and the toll it takes on its soldiers.
Savages is an over-the-top Oliver Stone movie that sees Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch as drug dealers and two thirds of a love triangle with a California cutie played by Blake Lively. Their product, a potent strain of legal medical-grade marijuana, earns the attention of a Mexican Baja drug Cartel boss (Salma Hayek) who’ll do anything to create a “joint” venture, including kidnapping and murder.
Savages, at its black-hearted best, is a preposterous popcorn movie that sees Stone leave behind the restraint of movies like W and World Trade Center and kick into full bore, unhinged Natural Born Killers mode. It’s a wild, down ’n dirty look into the business of drugs and revenge.
Smaller in scale is End of Watch. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña play patrol cops in Los Angeles’s tough South Central neighbourhood. A routine traffic stop turns into something bigger when they confiscate money and guns from a cartel member. “Be careful,” they’re warned by a senior officer, “You just tugged on the tail of a snake that’s going to turn around and bite you.”
These movies and others, like Code of the West and The House I Live In, prove the winners of the war on drugs are filmmakers.
The War on Drugs is one of the longest battles in American history. In 1971 President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse “public enemy number one, “ vowing combat against drug producers and dealers. Forty years and many billions of dollars later the Global Commission on Drug Policy stated, “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”
The only winners in the drug wars appear to be filmmakers who have mined a rich vein of stories from the decades long battle.
This weekend Tom Cruise stars in the latest tale from the War on Drugs, “American Made,” the real-life story of Barry Seal, adrenaline junkie and TWA pilot. The story begins in 1978 with Seal mentally on autopilot and looking for thrills. Caught smuggling cigars into the United States, the CIA senses his potential and hires him to take reconnaissance photos of Soviet-backed insurgents in South America.
“The work is covert,” says his recruiter, Agent Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson). “If anyone finds out about it, family, friends, your wife, that would be a problem.”
What begins as a safe and profitable adventure takes a dangerous turn when he becomes a courier between the CIA and Panamanian CIA informant General Manuel Noriega. Next he signs onto an even more dangerous assignment, running arms to the contras in Nicaragua in their battle against the communist Sandinistas.
“Is this legal?” he asks. ”It is if you do it for the good guys,” says his Agent Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson).
Seduced by the money and the excitement he also takes gigs as a cocaine smuggler for the Medellin Cartel. “I’m working for the CIA, the DEA and Pablo Escobar,” he boasts. He sees himself as “just gringo who always delivers,” but his convoluted work life and allegiances make him a person of interest not only to everyone from Pablo “The King of Cocaine” Escobar to the DEA, the FBI and even the White House.
Drug cartel stories are tailor made for the movies. Populated by bigger-than-life characters like the wealthiest criminals in history like the Medellin Cartel members, the stories have it all—glamour, drama, moral ambiguity and the primal clash of good and evil. “American Made” has all that, although played in a lower key than movies like “Blow” or “Cocaine Cowboys.” It has a lighter touch—it’s not too violent and, oddly for a drug dealer movie, has no scenes where anyone actually samples the goods—which keeps things moving along at quite a clip but sheds next to no light on its characters, its go-go 80s setting or the political mess that turned into the Iran-Contra affair.
Echoes of “Top Gun” hang heavy over Cruise as the cockpit king Seals. He’s all teeth and grins, a charmer who can talk his way through almost any situation. He has nerves of steel and high-flying greed, a combo that should give us a compelling anti-hero but instead Cruise plays him as a decent guy who “didn’t ask enough questions.” Didn’t ask enough questions about the personal toll his work running guns and drugs for a cartel. Didn’t ask enough questions about human trafficking. He didn’t ask questions because he was greedy. He liked the suitcases of cash and fancy cars his job provided. If the movie had allowed Cruise (or vice versa) to actually explore Barry’s dark side the film might have delivered more of a punch.
There’s more character work in any episode of “Breaking Bad” or “Narcos” than “American Made’s” entire 115 minute running time but Cruise’s movie does have a sense of humour about itself that makes for an amiable, if not memorable, watch.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk about the Tom Cruise War on Drugs movie “American Made,” the real-life-royal dramedy “Victoria & Abdul” and Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in the late-in-life love story “Our Souls at Night.”