Richard joins CP24 to have a look at new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres. Today we talk about the Crave airing of “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain,” the Victorian Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston drama “The Essex Serpent” on Apple TV+, and Crave’s romantic series “The Time Traveler’s Wife.”
Against all odds “Brigsby Bear,” a new film starring “Saturday Night Live’s” Kyle Mooney, manages to be an inspirational story about child abduction.
Mooney is James, a man-child with a head of curly hair and 173 episodes of his favourite show, “The Adventures of Brigsby Bear” on VHS. Sort of like Paddington in outer space, the adventure series stars a man in a bear mascot suit saving the universe for the evil SunSnatcher and doling out advice like, “Prophecy is meaningless, only trust your familial units.”
“Brigsby” super fan James lives with his parents Ted and April Mitchum (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams) in an underground bunker, shut off from the rest of the world save for a weekly delivery of a new “Brigsby” tape and a dodgy internet connection. His parents have kept him separated from the world, a world, he was told, where the air was toxic. He’s never been off the property or outside without a gas mask.
One night the FBI raids the bunker arresting Ted and April for abducting James when he was a baby before returning James to his real parents Louise and Greg (Michaela Watkins and Matt Walsh) and sister Aubrey (Ryan Simpkins). Leaving Ted, April and Brigsby behind is a tough adjustment for the naïve man. “Everybody says they’re trying to help me,” he says, “but nobody can get me the new episode of Brigsby Bear.”
Turns out Ted had been making Brigsby episodes like, “Making Friends with the Wizzels,” for an audience of one, James. Filled with good life lessons the shows taught James about loyalty, fairness and perseverance. With no new episodes to study and learn from James, and his new acquaintances Aubrey, Meredith (Alexa Demie, Spencer (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) and Detective Vogel (Greg Kinnear)—comes up with a plan to share his favourite character with the world. “Brigsby never gives up and I won’t either,” he says.
James is a Chance the Gardener type character. Like the famous “Being There” he is sweetly unsophisticated with knowledge derived mostly from television. Mooney could have played James as an alien, a fish out of water for whom everything is new—first party, first time with a girl, first bad drug trip—but, Like Peter Sellers’ Chance, he keeps it real, imbuing the odd character with real humanity. “It’s a different reality than I thought,” he says of world outside the bunker and he has trouble fitting into it but he never falls into caricature.
I kept waiting for “Brigsby Bear” to develop an edge or to get ugly or to collapse under the weight of its quirkiness, but it doesn’t. It’s a sweetheart of a film about loyalty, the power of art as a coping device and a source of inspiration, the line between passion and obsession, but most importantly, it’s about accepting people for who they are.
Stardust, a new movie starring Claire Danes and Robert De Niro evokes the fantasy films of the 1980s. Movies with titles like Labyrinth and The Princess Bride were sweeping whimsical epics that combined flights of the imagination with, as Peter Falk says in the latter, “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” Stardust, based on a graphic novel by fantasy superstar Neil Gaiman, breathes the same air and is a welcome blast of originality in a summer of remakes and sequels.
The story begins with a young man named Tristran (Charlie Cox) who sets out to win the heart of the beautiful, but shallow Victoria (Sienna Miller). He promises to fetch her a fallen star as a sign of the lengths to which he will go to prove his love. To do so he must cross The Wall, a barrier separating his sleepy village from the strange, supernatural land that lies beyond. To his shock he discovers that the fallen star has assumed human form. Named Yvaine (Claire Danes) she is beautiful, feisty and completely unaware of the trouble she is in.
She is sought after by not only the King’s (Peter O’Toole) ruthless sons, who need her secret power to secure the throne, but also by a powerful witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) who needs the star’s youthful vitality to restore her beauty and achieve eternal youth.
When Yvaine’s cosmic countenance takes a more earthly turn she falls in love with Tristan and as their adventures deepen and become more perilous—they meet a flamboyant pirate captain (Robert De Niro) and shifty merchant (Ricky Gervais)—the young man and former heavenly body discover the true meaning of love and their real destiny.
Usually this kind of thing puts me to sleep before the opening credits have finished. The first mention of forbidden lands or evil witches and I’m out, but Stardust has more going for it than the run-of-the-mill fantasy. It’s quite funny, a welcome change from a genre that often takes itself a little too seriously and has a top-flight cast that includes superstars Ian McKellen, De Niro, O’Toole, Pfeiffer and Gervais in concert with up-and-comers like Claire Danes and Charlie Cox.
Each play to their strengths but it is De Niro who really makes an impression as a cross-dressing pirate. That’s right, he wears a dress and minces across the screen in a way that we have never seen before from the tough-guy actor. He’s made comedies before, but usually playing a riff on his well-established heavy characters. This time out he shakes it up and it is great to see him have some fun on screen in a role that is a polar opposite from the kind of thing he usually does.
Stardust is a beautifully realized fantasy that takes many of the standard features of the genre, dying Kings, a quest to find true love and evil witches and throws them together in a way that avoids cliché. It’s magical and fun, and best of all, it ain’t Rush Hour 3.
In recent years Steve Martin has made a career of playing father figures. Usually he has a whole brood of wacky kids who help him scoop up all the money that his family comedies earn at the box office. In Shopgirl—based on the novella of the same name by Martin—he plays a different kind of character—he’s still a father figure but this time he’s dating a woman young enough to be his daughter.
Claire Danes plays the title character, a young woman torn between an older rich man who lavishes his riches, but not his undivided attention on her, and the younger Jason Swartzman who resembles a puppy dog—always happy to see her, but also kind of hyper and annoying.
This is Martin’s first role in some time in which he actually acts. His performance here is a throwback to the days of films like The Spanish Prisoner and Novocaine, when his characters didn’t simply react to the antics of his film family but actually had some substance.
Like Kirsten Dunst’s recent bravura performance in Elizabethtown, Claire Danes breaks through here as a really compelling screen actress. With her willowy good looks and slightly melancholic air she is perfect for the role of the damaged but optimistic Mirabelle.
Shopgirl isn’t a typical romantic comedy. Martin is too smart for that. The story has whimsical elements, but both as a screenwriter and actor Martin brings a quiet melancholy to the movie that speaks volumes about heartbreak and love lost.
If only it had been just a tad shorter and the schmaltzy music a tad bit less overbearing, Shopgirl, could have been one of the best films of the year.