Movie reviews: 'A Madea Family Funeral' puts Tyler Perry's most famous character to rest
Film critic and 'Pop Life' host Richard Crouse reviews four new movies this week:
'A Madea Family Funeral,' 'Ruben Brandt, Collector,' 'Goalie' and 'Apollo 11.'
A MADEA FAMILY FUNERAL: 1 ½ STARS
With the release of "A Madea Family Funeral" Tyler Perry is putting to rest his most famous character. The actor-director has been playing the elderly, sharp-tongued Mabel "Madea" Simmons on screen since 2005's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" but now says, "I just don't want to be her age, playing her."
Is the titular funeral for Madea? There will be no spoilers here but I can tell you Perry gives "Krump's"-era Eddie Murphy a run for his money, not just playing four characters in "A Madea Family Funeral," but also writing, directing and producing. For all we know, he also did the catering and best boy duties.
The set up for the action revolves around a family reunion in rural Georgia. The family, including Madea, Joe, Brian (all played by Perry) and Madea's brother, a Vietnam war vet Heathrow (Perry again). When tragedy strikes the family must arrange a funeral (NO SPOILERS HERE!) "If I'm not in the will I tell you that funeral will be messed up," says Joe. There's more at stake than the money in the will, however. Personal secrets threaten to tear the once tight knit family apart.
If you are not already a fan of Madea's rough-and-tumble humour, "A Madea Family Funeral" is unlikely to convert you. Perry's trademarked mix of slapstick, social commentary, soap opera melodrama and sentimentality is sloppily applied with scenes that recklessly veer from smiles to schmaltz at the speed of light.
The film's funniest scene is also its most disturbing. On the way to the reunion Brian and family are stopped by an over-enthusiastic cop whose escalating behaviour seems bound for a violent outcome. Using humour to portray an all too familiar powder keg situation, it's the movie's only concession to current events. The rest feels as though Madea's sitcom and a soap opera had a baby and named it "A Madea Family Funeral."
RUBEN BRANDT, COLLECTOR: 4 STARS
Like the title suggests, Hungarian animator Milorad Krstić's first feature film "Ruben Brandt, Collector" springs from a collection of inspirations. From Dalí to art deco and Eisenstein to The Pink Panther, the director draws on various forms of visual art to create a beguiling heist film.
Psychotherapist Ruben Brandt (voice of Iván Kamarás) is troubled by bad dreams of famous artworks come life. Warhol's Double Elvis takes pot shots at him and Botticelli's Venus becomes a Lovecraftian horror. "My nightmares are getting stronger and stronger," he says.
Meanwhile, a daring cat burglar named Mimi (Gabriella Hámori) is on the run after a daring robbery. Crossing paths with Brandt, she learns of the doctor's troubles by listening in on his Dictaphone. To help ease his troubled mind Mimi relies on the advice the doctor has often given to others,
"Possess your problems to conquer them." To this end she recruits four of his shadiest patients, all thieves, to steal the thirteen paintings that plague his thoughts. Cue the capers as they raid the Louvre, Tate, Uffizi, Hermitage and Museum of Modern Art. Trouble is, the police put a $100 million price on "the collector's" head.
"Ruben Brandt, Collector" is so rich with visual imagery it feels like flipping through a thick copy of "Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine." Even the name Ruben Brandt is a sly reference, culled from the names Rubens and Rembrandt but this isn't just style over substance, it's style as substance. It's a loving pop culture pastiche that is as reverential as it is action-packed. There are car chases and heist scenes that owe as much to cubism as they do to William Friedkin.
You'll want to watch "Ruben Brandt, Collector" more than once just to catch all the references. The imagery will seem familiar — who hasn't at least glimpsed Picasso's cubist paintings? — but like "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" this movie takes familiar images and tropes and forms them into something fresh and exciting.
GOALIE: 3 STARS
Winnipeg born Terry Sawchuk is one of the legends of the NHL, an Original Six era player and leader in wins by goaltenders. A new film, "Goalie," starring Mark O'Brien, gives a blow-by-blow account of his rise to fame, literally. It begins with an autopsy detailing each and every war wound and how he earned them.
It's a striking way to kick off the story of a man who was scarred physically and mentally from his many years in the net. We first meet him as a shy child with a beloved brother and abusive father. His brother's death at seventeen carved a hole in his heart that was never filled, despite being married to Pat (Georgina Reilly) and fathering seven children. Booze ("I'm not drunk. I just forgot to eat," he slurs.), hockey and the reflected glow of being in the NHL kept him going but the lifestyle — he earned 400 stitches on his face alone — took a toll and depression and erratic behaviour became his norm.
Sawchuk saw his share of triumph and trouble, but "Goalie" is not a hagiography of one of the legends of the game. Instead it is more an elegy for a man who spent much of his career earning $25 a game, occasionally playing with broken bones for fear of being traded.
O'Brien does a nice job of portraying Sawchuk's duality. From a young man full of hope and promise to the battle-scarred veteran of the ice who let the pressure of performance weigh him down, O'Brien subtly portrays his descent.
Not so subtle is Kevin Pollak as Detroit general manager Jack Adams. He's a sports manager straight out of Central Casting, given to saying things like, "We both know the game is played between those blood red poles!"
His flowery language aside, director Adriana Maggs manages to insert some real poetry into the film. Interspersed into the action are snippets of "Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems" by the director's father Randall Maggs. His words add to the elegiac feel of the film and are a nice antidote when the film falls into the occasional "ice is thicker than blood" cliché.
Like all good sports movies "Goalie" isn't about scores or stats, it's about what drives the players to push themselves, to be warriors or be worthless.
APOLLO 11: 4 STARS
You've seen the moon landing before but you have never seen it like this. To create the eye-popping new documentary "Apollo 11" director Todd Douglas Miller, along with a team of folks from NASA and the National Archives, catalogued and restored 11,000 hours of film that had been languishing in dusty archives since 1969. Just in time for the mission's fiftieth anniversary comes a new look at an old subject.
Walter Cronkite, Richard Nixon and a handful of others provide context via archival footage, but director Miller doesn't clutter things with experts or historians. Instead he lets the pictures do the talking. From blast-off to the welcome home parade and astronaut quarantine "Apollo 11" brings the history alive in a way we've never seen before. The restored film allows for new angles on old events and a crisp look that is truly out of this world. The footage, much of it shot by camera people who must have had a sense they were capturing images for the ages, is truly cinematic.
It is a technical feat for sure, but the restored footage also reveals much of the mission's humanity. The cleaned-up audio both inside Mission Control and the capsule gives insight to the fellowship and tension that fuelled the ambitious operation. "You've got a bunch of guys about to turn blue," says a NASA staffer to the crew upon re-entry. "We're breathing again." It's an often-overlooked aspect of the Apollo 11 mission and one crucial to the understanding of how a mission this complicated came off without a hitch five decades ago.
"Apollo 11" ignores the Cold War politics of beating the Russians to the moon. Instead it celebrates the achievement, leaving the viewer with a sense of awe at the precise work that created one of the most dramatic events in (out of this) world history.
Read another take: In 'Apollo 11,' the thrill of landing on the moon
Richard Crouse shares a toast with celebrity guests and pundits on the talk show Pop Life on CTV NewsChannel and CTV. Catch up on all the entertainment news, reviews and interviews at the Pop Life website.
Read more of Richard Crouse's recent movie reviews:
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- 'Alita: Battle Angel' is a CGI spectacle with a synthetic heart
- 'Lego Movie 2' zips along, but not as awesome as original
- 'Miss Bala' potboiler rarely gets above a simmer
- 'The Kid Who Would Be King' brims with good messages
- 'Glass' twist-o-rama proves more is not more
- 'Destroyer' is Kidman in full-blown anti-heroine mode
- 'Vice' is a damning and timely portrait of the corruption of power
- 'Mary Poppins Returns' is a spoonful of sugar in bitter times
- 'Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse' is a wild and woolly pop art explosion
- 'The Favourite' is strange, beautiful and wickedly nasty