A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Paddington 2,” one of the most entertaining movies of the year, the train terror movie “The Commuter” and the family drama “Happy End.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at “Paddington 2, a movie Richard is already calling one of the best of the year, Liam Neeson’s long journey home in “The Commuter” and the ironically titled family drama “Happy Ending.”
The last time we saw Paddington, the cuddly, orphaned teddy bear voiced by Ben Whishaw, left Peru armed only with a “worrying marmalade problem” and his distinctive red hat. Arriving at Paddington Station in London he was adopted by the Brown family after an uncomfortably close scrap with a crazed taxidermist.
“Paddington 2” finds the bear settled in to a comfortable life with the Browns—Mary (Sally Hawkins), Henry (Hugh Bonneville) and kids Judy (Madeline Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin)—and trying to save money to buy his Aunt Lucy (voice of Imelda Staunton) an antique pop up book of London for her birthday. When the book is stolen from Samuel Gruber’s antique shop Paddington is accused of the crime, wrongfully convicted and jailed. While the bear languishes in prison the Browns attempt to prove Paddington’s innocence. “Paddington wouldn’t hesitate if any of us needed help,” says Henry. “He looks for the good in all of us.” One jailbreak later Paddington is also on the case, convinced he knows who took the book but can he solve the case before Aunt Lucy’s centenary celebration?
With his red hat and blue duffle coat Paddington is almost un-bear-ably cute. Gentle and good-natured, he’s at the very heart of the movie. Instead, it’s a good old-fashioned romp with larger-than-life characters supplied by Hugh Grant, in a fun pantomime performance and Brendan Gleeson as Knuckles McGinty, a hardened criminal whose bluster disguises his warm heart.
Mostly though, it about the bear. With soulful eyes, good manners and large doses of slapstick—he’s a furry little Charlie Chaplin, excelling in physical humour with lots of heart—he’s a joyful presence. Without an ounce of cynicism “Paddington 2” transmits messages of tolerance, friendship and loyalty but never at the expense of the story. Those characteristics are so central to Paddington’s character that the movie positively drips with not only the sticky sweet smell of delicious marmalade (the bear’s favourite snack) but emotional depth as well.
Add to that a delightful ode to Chaplin’s trip through a factory machine’s cogs in “Modern Times,” some expertly delivered belly laughs and you have one of the most entertaining films likely to be released this year.
“Paddington 2” isn’t just a kid’s flick, it’s a film for the whole family; it’s one of those rare movies for children it doesn’t just feel like an excuse to sell toys. #paddingtonpower
“Our life is not our life,” says Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent), “it’s just a story we’ve told to others.” Such is the theme of “The Sense of An Ending,” a gentle retelling of Julian Barnes’ Man Booker Prize-winning 2011 novel about human nature and the vagaries of memory.
Webster’s life is uneventful. An alarm wakes him at the same time every day. After a light breakfast he heads to his camera repair shop, puts in his hours and returns home. Occasionally he attends a birthing class with his pregnant-soon-to-be-single-mom daughter (Michelle Dockery) or enjoys a quick phone call with his cagey ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter).
A solicitor’s letter disrupts his quiet semi-retirement. Out of the blue he discovers the mother of his long ago ex-girlfriend Veronica (Freya Mavor) has died and left him something in the will. It is the diary of Adrian (Joe Alwyn) an old friend and classmate at Cambridge. Trouble is, Veronica (played in later life by Charlotte Rampling) doesn’t want to hand it over. Obsessed with getting what is rightfully his, Tony launches an investigation into Veronica and, ultimately, his own unsettled past.
Flip flopping between the present day and 1960s England, “The Sense of An Ending,” is an engaging look at what happens when the debris of a life lived enters into Tony’s well-ordered old age. The story is compelling—although the “as told to” nature of the flashbacks, complete with Margaret’s “so what happened nexts” seem a bit contrived—but the performances are bang on.
Broadbent is a careful mix of curmudgeon and charmer, a self-effacing man forced to confront and rediscover what is important to him. It’s subtle, effortless work and draws us deep into Tony’s tale.
He is supported by strong work from the women in Tony’s life, Walter, Dockery and Rampling. Each are key to the story and each help Tony on his journey of self discovery while never losing themselves or being relegated to stereotypical roles. Also worth a mention is a short but storing performance from Emily Mortimer as Veronica’s mother.
“The Sense of An Ending” is occasionally light and breezy when it should hunker down and dig a little deeper, but Broadbent and Co ensure it is never less than involving.
“Another Year,” the new kitchen-sink drama from British director Mike Leigh should more accurately be titled “Look at All the Lonely People.” A nicely rendered portrait of forlorn folks, it’s as if Leigh tried to make a film as dour as his last movie, “Happy-Go-Lucky,” was effervescent.
Much of the action in “Another Year” revolves around the home of Tom and Gerri (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen), a happy couple just a few years shy of retirement. With open arms and open hearts they welcome a diverse cast of characters — people as unstable as they are stable — into their home, including Gerri’s desperately unhappy co-worker Mary (Lesley Manville) and Tom’s old friend Ken (Peter Wight). Stirred into the mix are the couple’s geeky son (Oliver Maltman), his girlfriend (Karina Fernandez) and Tom’s recently widowed brother (“Harry Potter’s” David Bradley).
As the title suggests, “Another Year” takes place over the course of a year, divided into four sections, each representing a season. Presented as a slice-of-life look at this group of people — very light on plot but heavy on character — it has little to do with the passing of time, except to imply that time doesn’t really heal all wounds, but the loose structure gives form to the otherwise shapeless, although entertaining, story.
Performances rich in nuance abound — Broadbent is his usually effortless self and Sheen is warm and watchable — but it is Lesley Manville who steals the show. Her take on Mary is the personification of dissatisfaction and distress and dominates the movie.
“Another Year” isn’t a traditional narrative but like the best of Leigh’s films it is unflinching in its portrayal of real — not reel — life.