Skip to main content

Movie reviews: 'Blackberry' vividly recreates the story of friendship, betrayal and hubris that began our obsession with phones


It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when we were not tethered to our smart phones. A new film, "BlackBerry," starring Jay Baruchel, Glenn Howerton, and Matt Johnson, and now playing in theatres, vividly recreates the scrappy story of friendship, betrayal and hubris that began our obsession with our phones.

Baruchel and Johnson play Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, founders of small tech company Research in Motion (RIM). When we first meet them it's 1996 and they are about to pitch a new kind of pager to hotheaded executive Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton). He's the kind of Art of War-style boss who snaps at an assistant who reaches for a bottle of water.

"Thirst is a display of weakness."

Too busy trying to backstab his way to the top of the corporate ladder to give the tech nerds his attention, he dismisses the awkward pitch before they even get to the end. But when his latest grab at a promotion gets him fired from his cushy corporate job, he reaches out to RIM with an offer.

Under his aggressive leadership, coupled with Lazaridis' uncompromising search for perfection and Fregin's clever engineering and heart, the Waterloo, Ontario storefront start-up soon debuts "the world's largest pager." Or is it "the world's smallest email terminal?" Either way, it is a handheld game changer that combines a phone with the capabilities of a computer.

The odd little phone, with a QWERTY keyboard, encrypted messaging and low data cost, becomes a status symbol, used by some of the world's most powerful people. In the hands of everyone from President Barack Obama and Justin Timberlake to Katy Perry and Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, the phones helped the world communicate in a whole new way.

The halcyon days of BlackBerry lasted a few years until shady business dealings, ambition and lack of vision relegated RIM's products to the scrap heap; the "phone people had before they bought an iPhone."

"BlackBerry" isn't just a business story or the story of innovation. Instead, it is an underdog tale that emphasizes the human foibles that led to RIM's downfall, not just the financial ones.

Baruchel and Howerton, as the characters who provide the story's yin and yang, hand in strong performances.

Baruchel, topped with a shock of white hair, goes deep to play Lazaridis as a socially awkward man with a rich inner life, a perfectionist who can't help himself from fixing a buzz on the office intercom in Balsillie's office on the day of their big pitch.

As Balsillie, Howerton is all bluster, a thin-skinned man who covers his weaknesses with a thick veneer of bellicosity. From attempting to buy a hockey team after a rival slights the game to his wanton manipulation of RIM to suit his own ambitions, he is simultaneously the best and worst thing that ever happened to Lazaridis and Fregin.

As director and writer (as well as co-star), Johnson concentrates on the human side of the story, amping up the anxiety with a terrific sense of pacing and claustrophobic close-ups of his cast as their lives and business unwind.

"BlackBerry" is an interesting slice of recent history, made all the more interesting by the study of hubris that makes this tech story so human.


The world is a different place for Diane, Vivian, Sharon and Carol, the avid readers and best friends played by Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen since we first met them in 2018's "Book Club."

Pre-pandemic, they used the racy novel "Fifty Shades of Grey" as a textbook to reinvigorate their relationships. Now, in "Book Club: The Next Chapter," currently playing in theatres, the foursome have weathered the pandemic's economic downturn, retirement, the loss of a beloved pet and health issues.

"Life is like a really great novel," says Diane. "You never know what the next chapter will bring."

The bulk of the action takes place abroad when Vivian finally allows a break in her emotional armor and announces she and longtime beau Arthur (Don Johnson) are planning to get married.

"You know what that means? Bachelorette," says Carol. "I think we should all go to Italy."

Once there, commitment-phobe Vivian grapples with her decision, while the others embark on unexpected adventures.

"Life is unpredictable," says Vivian, "and it is the surprises that make it worth living."

Among those surprises is a romance for Sharon, a retired judge with a dead cat and a zest for life, and a reckoning on the past for the recently widowed Diane.

Before you can sing "Mambo Italiano," they see the sights, make wisecracks—"What’s the protocol here?" asks Vivian, surrounded by nude male statues. "Where do I stuff the dollar bills?"—and find ways to take control of their own destinies.

"Book Club: The Next Chapter" gets the job done with a collection of mom jokes, bubbly chemistry between the leads, a fashion show, a sprinkling of romance and some inspirational late-in-life lessons.

There is no conflict to speak of, no real dramatic arc, but the quartet of stars elevates the material. Bergen is the MPV, displaying the razor-sharp comic timing she honed for a decade on "Murphy Brown," and earns the bulk of the movie's laughs.

"Book Club: The Next Chapter" is not groundbreaking or terribly original—the "Golden Girls" did it first and better—but for its target market, it's an amiable enough time waster after few mimosas at a Mother's Day brunch.


Just in time for Mother's Day comes the new Jennifer Lopez Netflix movie "The Mother." A twist on the 1994 thriller "The Professional," it is the story of a cold-blooded assassin whose heart is warmed by a young innocent caught up in a dangerous situation.

When we first meet The Mother (Lopez) she is a pregnant ex-assassin making a deal with the FBI to turn on her former crime partners, gun runners Adrian Lovell (Joseph Fiennes) and Hector Álvarez (Gael García Bernal). Their business began when she was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, but soon spun out-of-control and now, even the morally compromised Mother wants out.

Trouble is, Lovell and Álvarez will do almost anything to keep her quiet.

"You burned down our entire world," says Lovell.

One barrage of bullets later, Mother is hospitalized. In recovery, she has the baby, but is told by a stern FBI agent (Edie Falco) that not only is she in danger, but the threat from Lovell and Álvarez extends to the newborn.

"What you are to that child is a death sentence."

Mother reluctantly agrees to put the child in foster care while she goes into hiding in the Alaskan wilderness.

"You put her with good people," she says. "Keep her safe. If there's trouble, let me know."

Cut to twelve years later. Mother gets word that her daughter Zoe (Lucy Paez), who has grown up in a quiet, leafy suburb unaffected and unaware of her biological mother's past, is once again in danger.

"They're using her to get to me," Mother says.

Working with FBI agent William Cruise (Omari Hardwick), Mother comes out of hiding to protect the daughter she has never met.

"I'm a killer," she says, "but I'm also a mother and I will die protecting her."

Hiding out in the wilderness, Mother homeschools Zoe in the ways of tough love and warfare.

"Do you hate me?" Mother asks. "Good. Use it. You’re going to work harder than you ever thought you could work. Then you are going to run out your reserve tank and find out you have more. And then you'll run that out too."

"The Mother" has echoes of "The Professional" and "Hannah," but pales by comparison.

New Zealand director Niki Caro kicks things off with a far-fetched, but promising set-up, only to allow it to flounder as the running time increases. A compelling twist on a mother/daughter relationship is wasted by a script with paper thin characterizations, a pair of lackluster villains and no real twists after the first fifteen minutes.

Lopez brings a steely, studied deep freeze to the deadly character, punctuated by moments of familial concern. Lopez is no stranger to action or intrigue, and the "Bourne" style up-close-and-personal fight scenes have some punch to them, but the clichéd dialogue feels left over from a 1990s direct-to-DVD flick.

"I'm whatever I need to be to keep her safe," could have been said by any number of B movie heroes, and here, as the words spill out of her mouth, it feels like an echo from another, better movie.

Big points, though, to costume designers Bina Daigeler and Jeriana San Juan, whose fur-trimmed looks for the on-the-run Mother, are runway ready.

Even worse is Fiennes as the blandest bad guy to come down the pike since the forgettable Max Lord in "Wonder Woman 1984." We know Lovell is evil because he does terrible things, but Fiennes plays him as a vessel for some heavy prosthetic make-up and nothing more.

"The Mother" is serviceable, a big action movie that fits the small screen. Top Stories

Stay Connected