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Metro In Focus: Shattering stereotypes — a new breed of Disney princess

screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-6-40-17-amBy Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

Once upon a time a movie princess was a damsel in distress, swathed in pink and jewels, waiting for Prince Charming to come to the rescue.

Lately, however, the movies have given us a different kind of princess, one who is more into grrrl-power than girly-girl. This weekend Disney helps redefine their traditional princess in their 56th animated feature film, Moana,

The thirteenth official Disney princess is inspired by Polynesian mythology. Sixteen-year-old Moana (voiced by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho) is a natural born navigator with a mystical connection to the ocean and all its creatures who goes on a sea quest to find a mysterious island. She’s high-spirited and adventurous, but as Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), reminds her, “You’re the daughter of a chief and you’re wearing a dress: you’re a princess.”

Moana isn’t the first movie to shatter the stereotype of the pretty pink princess.

“All these Disney heroines, the princesses, they’re a product of their time,” Maleficent screenwriter Linda Wolverton told the Associated Press. “The princesses created in the 1940s and ’50s, were the best of what a woman should be then: You’re the good girl. You took abuse and through it all, you sang and were nice. But we’re not like that anymore. We kick ass now.”

According to Roger Ebert, Ariel, the teenage mermaid princess of The Little Mermaid, “is a fully realized female character who thinks and acts independently, even rebelliously, instead of hanging around passively while the fates decide her destiny.”

In other words, she still marries her prince charming, but for the first time a Disney princess gave a lesson in independence and had a hand (or fin) in deciding her fate.

The success of that movie led to a new batch of princesses who were empowered and could look after themselves and others.

Jasmine, the daughter of the wealthy Sultan of Agrabah and the princess at the heart of Aladdin, didn’t fight off invaders but did do something that made her unique in the Disney princess world.

Tired of life in the royal palace, instead of waiting for rescue, the independently minded aristocrat made her own way, even deciding to marry a commoner rather than a prince.

Mark Andrews, the co-director of Brave, the story of a Celtic princess who rebels against her mother and escapes from castle life, calls the movie’s lead character “an anti-princess.” The Princess and the Frog’s Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose), the first ever African-American princess lead in a Disney film, is also an ambitious character in a way that would have been unthinkable in Snow White’s day.

More recently the phenomenally successful Frozen was the story of two royal sisters, the Princesses of Arendelle, Anna, a spirited adventurer, played by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel’s Elsa, a cryokinetic queen with the awesome power to manifest ice and snow. Like Carrie, but colder. Both are powerful, determined women, but the real twist here is in the definition of the true meaning of love. There’s a male hero, but the real love on display here is between the two sisters.

When you thinks about movie princesses a few names come immediately to mind: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora and Belle. This fab four have come to define what being a movie princess is all about. Or at least they used to.


Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 7.35.37 AMRichard and CP24 anchor Nneka Elliot talk about the weekend’s big releases, Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt in “The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” the Tom Hanks dramedy “A Hologram for The King” and Sally Field in “Hello, My Name is Doris.”

Watch the whole ting HERE!


Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 10.22.06 AMRichard and “Canada AM” host Marci Ien talk about the weekend’s big releases, the pomp and circumstance of “The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” the Tom Hanks dramedy “A Hologram for The King,” Sally Field in “Hello, My Name is Doris” and the sexy sax sounds of “The Devil’s Horn.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!

Metro In Focus: In defence of Charlize Theron: GQ gaffe out of character

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 12.11.17 PMBy Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

In polite society no one would dare ask a stranger about his or her father’s violent death, but celebrity culture is not polite society.

Over the years I’ve heard interviewers ask questions ranging from the innocuous — “What are you wearing?” — to the silly — “How do you keep your bum in such great shape?” — but rarely have I heard anything as unnecessarily meddling as the query aimed at Charlize Theron during a press conference I hosted several years ago.

A reporter asked the actress about seeing her mother shoot her abusive, alcoholic father dead when she was a teenager. But instead of breaking down Theron said, “I’m not talking about that,” with an icy finality that made everyone freeze.

I admired her for not over sharing, not spilling the intimate details of her life à la the Kardashian Klan. She’s careful what she says to the press, avoids scandal and damage controls the ones that inevitably pop up in every celeb’s life. For instance, recently she said, short and sweetly, “We both decided to separate,” when accused of “ghosting” on her romance with Sean Penn.

She understands some things should only be spoken about when and where she chooses and not at the behest of an aggressive reporter looking to dredge up painful memories for the sake of “good television.” Theron is media savvy so I was surprised a few weeks ago when she caused a media hurly burly with comments about the burden of being beautiful.

Chatting up her new film The Huntsman: Winter’s War with British GQ she said, “How many roles are out there for the gorgeous, BLEEPINGing, gown-wearing eight-foot model? When meaty roles come through, I’ve been in the room and pretty people get turned away first.”

She is a beautiful woman, that is as clear as the perfectly positioned nose on her face, but is she intimating that being beautiful has harmed her career?

Turns out she wasn’t, or so she claims. Alleging a misquote, she later apologized, saying that playing “deconstructed characters” appeals because, “how many characters really are there out there for a woman wearing a gown? You have to play real people.

The mea culpa was unnecessary. She works in a business where beauty is a commodity.

The problem with her earlier statement is that publicly acknowledging one’s own looks carries with it a hint of arrogance, a suggestion that winning the genetic lottery somehow makes you superior, but she simply said something others already have.

Keira Knightley claims she almost lost the role in Pride and Prejudice because the director thought she was too pretty and Jessica Biel says being Esquire’s 2005 Sexiest Woman cost her work.

Theron may have missed out on a job or two because of her looks, but it’s also an element of what made her a star.

That and talent, and just as you wouldn’t apologize for skin colour or having red hair or being tall or short, she doesn’t need to say sorry for being beautiful.

THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR: 1 STAR. “let’s call this movie a ‘sprequel.’”

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 12.06.04 PMOnce upon a time there was a movie called “Snow White and the Huntsman.” Starring Hollywood princesses Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron, it was a dark reimagining of the classic story that played like the love child of the Brothers Grimm and “The Hobbit” with two compelling characters, warrior Snow White and the villainous Ravenna.

Another film was inevitable, but how do you make a sequel when KStew busy making art films and Ravenna didn’t make it to the end credits? Easy, you rehire Theron, play mix and match “Frozen” and “Game of Thrones” and hope for the best.

“The Huntsman: Winter’s War“ begins its confusing journey as a prequel. Ravenna (Theron) is alive and well, a Grand Guiginol vision of a fairy tale Queen. Despite her best efforts sister Freya (Emily Blunt) refuses to embrace their evil birthright, choosing instead to start a family. When tragedy strikes the formerly good-natured princess finds her wicked power, morphing into the Winter Queen, whose icy glare can freeze kingdoms. The only things missing are Olaf and a show tune or two.

In her frigid northern empire she raises a child army of orphans called the Huntsmen (even though they’re not all boys or men). Elsa’s… er… Freya’s warriors are forbidden to love. They must let it go. “In my kingdom there is one rule do not love,” she says. “It is in a sin I will not forgive.” When Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) fall hard for one another and plan to elope, Freya goes to extraordinary and cruel lengths to ensure they live happily never after.

Cut to seven years later. The movie is now into sequel territory. Snow White (who is glimpsed only briefly) has defeated Ravenna and now needs Eric to locate the Magic Mirror and ensure it is never used for evil. Cue the goblins, a few hi ho hi ho’s provided by Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach and more CGI than you can throw an enchanted mirror at.

I’m not sure what to call “The Huntsman: Winter’s War.“ It’s not a sequel or a prequel and yet it is both. Officially I suppose we’re supposed to call it a “sprequel”; I call it bloated, confusing and worst of all, dull. You would think that any movie featuring Emily Blunt riding a polar bear would be great fun but you’d be wrong. From the half hour of narration that opens the story to the cavalcade of CGI and bad accents—Hemsworth and Chastain easily beat Kevin Costner for worst-ever cinematic British Isles burrs—to sloppy storytelling, this is a grim, not Brothers Grimm tale.

Bad accent aside Hemsworth brings some swagger to the role of Eric, Chastain tries to keep a straight face and sidekicks Frost, Brydon, Smith and Roach create a badly needed sense of fun to the proceedings. Blunt isn’t given much to do, aside from her rather stunning entrance in the polar bear but Theron actually disappoints. In the first film she’s a hoot, a bundle of bad intentions gathered up in one pretty package. Here she’s not the same figure of malicious amusement but oddly disconnected and not nearly as much fun.

Over long “The Huntsman: Winter’s War“ drones on for almost two hours until the narrator (Liam Neeson) reappears. As his dulcet tones close the movie with something to the effect of the story may be over “but fairy talks never end,” it doesn’t seem so much like an ending as it does a threat that they might make a sequel to this mess.

Metro Canada: Zootopia: Talking to the Ottawa native behind the mammals.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 9.06.55 AMBy Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

Disney animator Trent Correy may be an Ottawa native, but three years of living and working in Burbank, Calif., have changed him.

“I get home about once or twice a year now,” he says. “It’s hard to go in the winter, my body has adapted to here. I tend to send my parents photos of me on the beach in February when it is -42 C back home. I have flip flops on now while we’re talking just to turn the knife a little bit.”

Ironically the sun worshipper’s breakout was helping to animate the snowman Olaf in Frozen. You’ve also seen his handiwork in Big Hero 6 and this weekend he’s back with the furry and funny film Zootopia.

Disney animator Trent Correy may be an Ottawa native, but three years of living and working in Burbank, Calif., have changed him.

“I get home about once or twice a year now,” he says. “It’s hard to go in the winter, my body has adapted to here. I tend to send my parents photos of me on the beach in February when it is -42 C back home. I have flip flops on now while we’re talking just to turn the knife a little bit.”

Ironically the sun worshipper’s breakout was helping to animate the snowman Olaf in Frozen. You’ve also seen his handiwork in Big Hero 6 and this weekend he’s back with the furry and funny film Zootopia.

“The nice part of Zootopia was working with a number of different characters,” says the Algonquin College graduate. “I worked with everything from a mouse to a sloth to an elephant. It kept the job very interesting.”

Set in an alternate universe where animals, both predator and prey, live harmoniously in a city called Zootopia, the movie’s funniest sequence involves a slow moving sloth named Flash. It was the first scene Correy helped animate. “There are a lot of challenges animating a sloth moving at that speed,” he says, “and a lot of other challenges animating a mouse or an elephant with their different weights and animal attributes.”

The 28-year-old is a rising star at Disney — he’s currently working on the mythological epic Moana — so it might come as a surprise that he didn’t take art in high school.

“I failed art,” he admits. “It was totally my fault. I wasn’t into the art history stuff at the time and I was really interested in drawing cartoons. That was looked upon as not real art so the teacher and myself had disagreements. I ended up having to take drama, and that’s fun too.

“I did always love to draw. I have to thank my mom, who is an artist, who encouraged me to draw and keep going.”

He rediscovered his passion for art after high school and now joins the rather long and impressive list of Canadians who are helping to shape the future of animation. I ask him why Canadians are so in demand as animators.

“There is a rich history of animation in Canada with the NFB and a lot of TV work in the ’80s and ’90s,” he says. “I think a lot of it has to do with work ethic. I tend to see a lot of people who come from TV animation who are faster. They have to be because they get paid per frame in a lot of places in Canada, whereas here it’s salary. So to make your money you have to be fast, you have to be efficient and you have to be economical in your choices.

“Our whole crew here is very international, we have people from all over the world. I think there is a bit of, ‘I’m coming from a different country and I’m trying to prove myself in this big place.’ It feels so far away from Ottawa.”

Canada AM: Fun holiday gift ideas for the movie buff in your life

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 12.37.28 PMRichard stops by “Canada AM” with a gaggle of gifts for the movie lover? Do you have a “Star Wars” fan on your list? How about a Lego First Order Special Forces Fighter or a Crochet Chewbacca? Do you need to buy for a “Pulp Fiction” fan? Why not pick up a Samuel L. Jackson gnome?

See all of Richard’s suggestions HERE!



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THE WEDDING RINGER: 1 STAR. ” leaves the jokes at the altar.”

wedding-ringer-this-one-618x400Have you ever wondered what happens to old, unfunny Vince Vaughn scripts? They become new unfunny Kevin Hart movies.

“The Wedding Ringer,” the story of a well-to-do but socially awkward guy (“Frozen’s” Josh Gad) who hires a professional best man (Hart) to fool his bride-to-be, is a decade-and-a-half old idea originally intended for “The Wedding Crasher” star.

That script was mercifully abandoned around the time of Y2K only to be resurrected, “Walking Dead” style in 2015 with a new star, but no new laughs.

Gad is Doug Harris. He’s a loner who never had any luck with women until he met Gretchen (“Big Bang Theory’s” Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), a beautiful woman who loves his bank account as much as she loves him. They plan a big wedding, but as his parents are dead and he has no siblings, his side of the wedding party is nonexistent. With just a week before the big day he hires Jimmy Callahan (Hart) to pretend to be his best man and supply seven groomsmen.

“This is strictly a business relationship,” says Jimmy, “you’re not buying a best friend, you’re buying a best man.”

Of course, this is a bromance, so Doug is actually buying a best friend. As the odd couple careens toward learning the value of real friendship they have many adventures, including lighting Gretchen’s grandmother on fire and indulging in a little bestiality at an out-of-control bachelor party.

“The Wedding Ringer” is an R-rated comedy so lowbrow it makes Adam Sandler’s oeuvre look like Noel Coward. Gad, who became a star on Broadway in “The Book of Mormon” and a hero to kids as Olaf in “Frozen,” and Hart, who’s a gifted stand-up and comic actor, are better than this. In fact, everybody is better than this.

Gad pulls faces, does funny voices and falls through the furniture while Hart does double-speak and slapstick, but “The Wedding Ringer” is a Laugh Free Zone.

I know it’s meant to be a screwball comedy but in order for it to be truly funny as it works its way to the inevitable sentimental climax, it has to have at least one foot planted in reality. A dollop of real human behavior or a tangential link to some earthbound experience would have made these characters human, and relatable, and not simply cardboard cutouts with loud voices and bad judgment.

“The Wedding Ringer” leaves the jokes at the altar.

NewsTalk 1010 ENTERTAINMENT NEWS: No Frozen 2… at least, not yet

There is no denying, Frozen has been a smash hit for Disney, but could a sequel already be in the works?Not likely.Idina Menzel, the actor who voices Elsa in the movie, said in a recent interview that a Frozen 2 was already in the works.She’s since backtracked a little, saying only, “I just assume that because it’s so successful that that’s what they’re up to.”

Newstalk1010’s Film Critic Richard Crouse says Disney wouldn’t be smart, if they left this as a one movie wonder.

“A movie like Frozen doesn’t make as much money has it has in theatres, on DVDs and with the dolls and stuff like that, without a sequel at least being planned.”

The film has grossed more than 1.2 billion dollars at the worldwide box office and the dolls are out-selling Barbie this holiday season.

But Crouse says you’ll probably have to wait a little while longer before you see a sequel hit the theatres.

“My guess is they are going to wait until they’ve made every dime they can out of that movie, and then they’ll spring another one on us and start that whole cycle again.”

Menzel had also hinted that there could be a stage adaptation to the film in the near future. While Crouse suggests that it would be a fit on stage, that too, would likely be years away.