Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Prime Video), “Over the Moon” (Netflix), “American Utopia” (Crave), “The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw” (VOD), “Rebecca” (Netflix) and “The Haunting of The Mary Celeste (VOD).
What the new remake of Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca,” starring Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kristin Scott Thomas and now streaming on Netflix, lacks in gothic thrills it makes up for in eye candy.
Taking over as handsome widower Maxim de Winter, the role Laurence Olivier made famous in Alfred Hitchcock’s Oscar winning 1940 film, is Armie Hammer. Max is a charmer, a trust fund aristocrat with a beautiful estate, called Manderley, and a dead wife, named Rebecca.
On vacation in Monte Carlo a young woman (Lily James) catches his eye when she is refused service on the balcony of a fancy hotel restaurant. She is not a guest, she’s told, but an employee of a guest and therefore must eat elsewhere, anywhere but among the wealthy tourists enjoying their canapes and champagne. He invites her to join him and a whirlwind romance ensues. When her boss decides it’s time to travel to New York for debutant season, Max asks her to stay with a marriage proposal.
They move to Manderley, his family home on the windswept English coast. The sprawling home has been in his family for generations and is so grandly appointed it makes Downton Abbey look like an outhouse. At Manderlay the romance, which blossomed quickly, fades as the specter of Rebecca, the late lady of the estate, hangs heavy over the house and on Max’s mind.
Keeping Rebecca alive in heart and in mind is Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), Manderley’s baleful housekeeper. She is not impressed by Max’s naïve new bride who she thinks is trying to take Rebecca’s place.
Cue the dirty tricks, withering glances and gothic tomfoolery.
“Rebecca,” directed by Ben Wheatley, is undeniably beautiful looking. From its good-looking stars to the sumptuous production design is by Sarah Greenwood, it will make your eyeballs dance. The set decoration at Manderley alone is “Architectural Digest: Baroque Edition” worthy, but this is a movie that wants to appeal to more than just your eye and that’s where it disappoints.
The bones of the story seem perfect for a 2020 revisit. du Maurier’s exploration of the power imbalance between a wealthy man and a woman who must fight to find her own sovereignty is timely but undone by a story that never takes hold.
Hammer’s take on Max misses the essential coldness of the character. He’s short tempered, snippy and brusque but the icy core necessary to freeze out the new Mrs. de Winter is missing. Without that character element his reactions to events don’t bring the friction needed to engage the audience. At the pivotal ballroom scene, where the new bride is (MILD SPOILER ALERT) tricked into making a serious error in judgement, Max seems irked, pouty but the wound that is unintentionally opened doesn’t seem particularly deep. If Max doesn’t care that much, why should we?
From that moment on Wheatley drifts through the story with none of his patented risk taking—think his daring adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s “High-Rise” or his edge-of-your-seat “Kill List”—relying Clint Mansell’s score to provide the emotional highs and lows.
Like the story’s female protagonist the new version of “Rebecca” is haunted, this time by the ghosts of the story’s previous incarnations.
“The Limehouse Golem” is a slice of Victorian Grand-Guignol gaslight horror that owes a debt to Jack the Ripper and to the great Hammer films of he 1960s.
London’s fog-drenched Limehouse district is in the spell of a serial killer who leaves behind mutilated bodies and cryptic messages written in his victim’s blood. The ritualistic killings are so savage, so inhuman the press presume they could only be the work of an ancient evil, the Golem.
Stumped, Scotland Yard assigns Inspector Kildare (Bill Nighy) to the case. Brilliant but troubled, the veteran policeman immediately starts putting clues together even though he knows his superiors think the case is unsolvable. His first break comes with the discovery of a diary of the Golem’s crimes, written in his own hand, kept in the reading room of a library. On the day of the last entry, September 24, only four men where in the reading room, music hall comedian Dan Leno (Douglas Booth), German philosopher Karl Marx, novelist George Gissing and playwright John Cree (Sam Reid).
They each become suspects but high on his list is Cree, a pompous failed playwright poisoned by his wife Elizabeth (Olivia Cooke) on the night of the last Golem murder. The Inspector is convinced she knew he was the killer and poisoned him to stop the carnage. Now he must go full Sherlock to prove that, solve the case and save Elizabeth from the gallows.
“The Limehouse Golem” is a lurid piece of work. Handsomely decked out with fine period details and sumptuous production design, it lures you in with “Masterpiece Theatre” style only to make a sharp U-turn into Hammer Horror territory. Victims are sawn into pieces, beheaded and generally ripped to pieces in ways that would make Jack the Ripper envious. It’s gory and gruesome but what it isn’t is a thriller. Despite a labyrinthine story structure—there’s more flashbacks than you can throw a dismembered head at—the good Inspector seems to be the only one who doesn’t know who the killer is.
On the plus side “The Limehouse Golem” has great performances—does Nighy ever disappoint?—and paints a vivid picture of Victorian music hall, onstage and off. The bawdy nature of the shows nicely compliments the theatrical nature of the killings, helping to create an otherworldly, weird atmosphere.
“The Limehouse Golem” isn’t much of a penny dreadful thriller—there’s too many red-herrings for that—but it does spill enough of the red stuff to satisfy fans of Victorian horror.
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 Billie Jean King and retired pro Bobby Riggs in “Battle of the Sexes,” Taron Egerton’s stylish spy thriller “Kingsman: the Secret Circle” and the Jake Gyllenhaal real life drama “Stronger.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at about Billie Jean King and retired pro Bobby Riggs in “Battle of the Sexes,” Taron Egerton’s stylish spy thriller “Kingsman: the Secret Circle” and the Jake Gyllenhaal real life drama “Stronger.”
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art trained actor Taron Egerton is best known as Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin, the rebellious teenager turned super spy of Kingsman: The Secret Service.
That film plays like a violent My Fair Lady, taking a guy from the wrong side of the tracks and transforming him into a Kingsman Tailor, a super spy with manners that would make Henry Higgins proud and gadgets that James Bond would envy.
The Kingsman Tailors are the modern day knights; their finely tailored suits their armour. In the first movie Eggsy made it through “the most dangerous job interview in the world.” This weekend he returns to the glamorous and dangerous 007ish world of intrigue in a sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
It may be the role that made him a star, but don’t expect Egerton to revisit Eggsy time-after-time. “I’m trying to play parts which are a little more out there,” he says, “but I want variety.”
His IMDB page reveals the width and breadth of the variety he seeks in his movie career. From Legend’s psychopathic English gangster “Mad” Teddy Smith and Johnny, the soulful singing gorilla of Sing to American Ponzi schemer Dean Karny in the upcoming Billionaire Boy’s Club and the title role in Robin Hood, it’s obvious he’s trying to shake things up.
“I want to have fun,” he says. “I’m not interested in being a serious actor, because I think it’s boring, and I think we’ve got plenty of them.”
Here are a couple of his performances you may have missed that showcase what a serious actor he really is.
In Testament of Youth he co-stars opposite Alicia Vikander in a retelling of the classic World War I memoir by Vera Brittain. She plays Brittain, a tenacious young woman whose schooling is interrupted when WWI breaks out and brother Edward (Egerton), her fiancé Roland (Kit Game of Thrones Harington) and friends Victor (Colin Morgan) and Geoffrey (Jonathan Bailey) are sent to fight at the front lines. Vera opts to join them, leaving school to enrol as a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment.
Egerton‘s role is small but important. As Edward he convinces their father to allow Vera to sit for the entrance exam and later, when he is killed on the Italian Front, his passing teaches his sister about personal loss and the futility of war. It’s a sensitive and spirited performance that showcases his on screen charisma.
Egerton is looser-limbed as the title character in Eddie the Eagle. He plays the English skier whose ambitions to compete in the Olympics made him a worldwide star. Like his character, the film sets its sights high. It’s not content to simply be a feel good film, it’s aspiring to be a feel GREAT movie.
Egerton, hams it up, handing in a performance that makes Benny Hill look nuanced. With thick, ill-fitting glasses, he’s all doe eyes and determination, a stiff-upper-lipper who wants to be part of the Olympics to prove everyone who told him he wasn’t good enough wrong. It’s an underdog story of such epic proportions it makes The Bad News Bears and all other underdogs look jaded by comparison.
“I don’t want to look back at my career and see a string of incredibly commercial projects that don’t have much heart,” he says. “I’m looking for things that have soul.”
The first “Kingsman” movie, “The Secret Service,” was like a violent “Pygmalion,” taking a guy from the wrong side of the tracks and transforming him into a Kingsman Tailor, a super spy with manners that would make Henry Higgins proud and gadgets that James Bond would envy.
The Kingsman Tailors are the modern day knights; their finely tailored suits their armour. In the first movie rebellious teenager turned super spy Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) made it through “the most dangerous job interview in the world” to earn a place in the exclusive group. This weekend he returns to the glamorous and treacherous 007ish world of intrigue in a sequel, “The Golden Circle.”
The job of keeping the world safe is the international intelligence agency Kingman’s top priority. That, and looking sharp while doing it. On the eve of Eggsy’s big date with girlfriend Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström) he is attacked by Charlie Hesketh (Edward Holcroft), a rejected Kingsman applicant turned bad. One of the only survivors of the exploding head caper of the last film, Hesketh only has one arm. The other is a mechanical unit called Armageddon—Get it?—equipped with all manner of gadgets, including a hacking device that taps into Eggsy’s Kingsman database.
Turns out, Charlie is working with the Golden Circle, the world’s biggest drug cartel. CEO—and possible cannibal—Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) is not content to have a global monopoly on the drug trade. She wants recognition for her achievements. To this end she plans to hold the world hostage by shipping millions of pounds of drugs poisoned with a chemical that will cause the Blue Rash. First symptom? Blue spider veins. Next? Mania, then paralysis followed by exploding organs. She wants the war on drugs to end immediately or she will let all the folks who have used her tainted drugs die horrible deaths. Her slogan? “Save Lives! Legalize!”
Her first step is to use the information from Charlie’s arm to locate all ten Kingsman offices worldwide and blow them all to kingdom come. Only Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) survive the coordinated blasts. Stiff upper lipped, they continue on and, following Kingsman protocol, will later shed a single tear in private for their fallen comrades. With their ranks decimated the duo turns to their American counterparts. Camouflaged as a whiskey manufacturer in Kentucky the Statesman are run by a colourful character known as Agent Champagne (Jeff Bridges).
Former rodeo clown Agents Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) are six-shooter toting modern cowboys, stereotypical slices of Americana for a new generation while Agent Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) provides high tech guidance. Along with the new partners Merlin and Eggsy also discover their old friend Harry Hart (Colin Firth), a legendary Kingsman left for dead on an old mission. Unbeknownst to them he was rescued by the Statesman but now suffers from retrograde amnesia. Can Harry’s old friends help reboot his Kingsman memories? Will the surviving Kingsman and Statesmen be able to put aside their cultural differences in time to bring law and order back to the world?
There is a fun ninety-minute movie contained within “The Golden Circle,” but unfortunately it is buffered with an additional fifty minutes of talking. Sure, there are gadgets galore, wild chases and plenty of fight scenes but it suffers from a Pierce Brosnan era James Bond love of gadgetry and silly action set pieces. If the clichés don’t get you—“The Kingsmen need you,” Eggsy emotes, hoping to jog Harry’s memories. “The world needs you. I need you to.”—the sluggish pacing will. Despite the frenetic piece of the action sequences most other scenes drag, elongated with needless nattering. Even a riff on the first film’s most famous scene, the pub fight, feels overdone and uninspired.
The joie de vivre that made the first film so startling and fun is missing. Even the soundtrack has a been there, heard it before flavour. A case in point? The use of John Denver’s “Country Road” in a major scene despite the song already being used this year in “Free Fire,” “Alien: Covenant,” “Okja” and “Logan Lucky.”
“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is star studded but is so enamoured of its own style it doesn’t give anyone a chance to be interesting. Any movie whose most memorable performance comes from Elton John—who is clearly a better piano player than actor—is in trouble. The clothes are nice but style isn’t enough to dress up this poor excuse for a caper film.
Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the true-to-life thrills of “Deepwater Horizon,” Tim Burton’s X-Men-esque “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,” the thriller “Imperium” and the ripped-from-the-headlines documentary “The Lovers and the Despot.”
From director Tim Burton comes “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,” another story of outsiders trying to find place in the world where they belong. Or in this case a place in time.
Teen years are for making friends and having fun but for Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield) they are a hardship. He’s the weird kid in class, friendless except for his grandfather Abraham (Terence Stamp) who keeps the boy entertained with wild stories about a life spent travelling the world and the Home for Peculiar Children where he was raised. He grew up side-by-side with a boy made of bees, a teacher who could turn into a bird, and a balloon girl, lighter than air who had to wear lead shoes so as not to float away.
When his Abe is attacked Jake arrives in time to catch his last, strange words. “I know you think I’m crazy but the bird will explain everything,” he says before urging the youngster to venture off to find out who, what, he really is. “I should have told you years ago. I thought I could protect you.”
Thus begins Jake’s adventure, a journey that leads him to a small island where Miss Alma LeFay Perigrine (Eva Green) a.k.a. The Bird Lady, attends to her brood of peculiar child. She has created a time loop, reset every day, to keep her peculiar safe and protect them from growing old. Every day is September 3, 1943 all day. An attack by Hollows (Samuel L. Jackson and others), evil creatures who steal the eyeballs of peculiar children, upsets Perigrine’s orderly time loop and gives Jake a chance to learn why he was sent to the island.
The first hour of “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” is pure Tim Burton. He creates a fanciful world—imagine quirkier “X-Men”—with all his trademarks—mid-century kitsch, topiary sculptures, weird creatures and characters straight out of the outer regions of the imagination—and a mythology all its own. World building is a fantasy director’s strongest asset, and Burton paints a pretty picture, it’s just too bad he gets bogged down in the story in the second half.
The mushy second half erases the charm of the first sixty minutes as fanciful dreaminess and unique stop motion effects give way to CGI overload. The film’s long climax seems to go on forever—as though the audience is in one of Miss. Perigrine’s endless time loops—in an orgy of digital trickery that betrays the feel of the piece. An army of skeletons is a cool homage to Ray Harryhausen and setting its macabre sequence to weird amusement park dance music is a nice Burton touch, but it pales by comparison to the smaller, more intimate touches that give the movie much of its personality.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” has some beautiful images—like Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell), tethered to Jake like a balloon as he walks and she floats through an amusement park—but like many of Burton’s recent films the story feels like an afterthought.