In separate interviews for the CTV NewsChannel Richard sits down with the cast of “Frozen 2,” Josh Gad who plays the snowman, and Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel, as sisters Princess Anna of Arendelle and Queen Elsa of Arendelle. They talk about keeping the plot secret during the three year production and why the original film resonated with audiences.
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with news anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases including “Frozen 2,” “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “Marriage Story” and “Waves.”
A weekly feature from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest and most interesting movies! This week Richard looks at “Frozen 2,” Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” and Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson in “Marriage Story.”
Richard has a look at the new movies coming to theatres, including the icy charms of “Frozen 2,” Tom Hanks as television icon Mister Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” two films from Adam Driver, “Marriage Story” and “The Report” and one of the year’s very best films, “Waves” with CFRA morning show host Bill Carroll.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk the new movies coming to theatres including “Frozen 2,” the highly icy sequel to one of Disney’s biggest animated hits, Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” and two films from Adam Driver, “Marriage Story” and “The Report.”
If, somehow, you missed the 2013 megahit “Frozen,” and are unsure if you’ll be able to understand its sequel, worry no longer. In one of the new film’s best scenes Olaf the motor-mouthed snowman (Josh Gad) recaps the events of the original movie in a madcap and extremely high energy sequence that fills in all the gaps for the uninitiated.
The new film opens with Anna and Elsa (voiced as kids by Hadley Gannaway and Mattea Conforti), princesses of Arendelle and heiresses to the throne, hearing the story of how their father Agnarr (Alfred Molina) became king. It’s a grim fairy tale about an unprovoked attack by the Northuldra people, a battle that resulted in the death of their grandfather. Agnarr escaped but the enchanted forest, home to the Northuldra, became enshrouded by a magical mist, sealing it off from the rest of the world.
Cut to years later. Elsa, (Idina Menzel) is now Queen, a cryokinetic with the awesome power to manifest ice and snow. From her perch in Arendelle’s castle she hears a mysterious signal coming from the enchanted forest. Convinced she has woken the spirits that live within, she hightails it to the magical land to find the source of the voice. Along for the ride are Anna (Kristen Bell), her beau Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven and the chatty snowman Olaf. “Did you know and enchanted forest is a place of transformation?” says Olaf. “I don’t know what that means but I can’t wait to see what it does to each one of us.”
On the journey into the woods Elsa and Anna not only meet the forest’s denizens—Earth Giants, fire toads and a tribe of people who have been trapped in the timberland since the terrible battle—but also learn the truth about their shared family history. When they aren’t warbling a raft of new power pop ballads by the Oscar-winning Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the sisters must make a decision that could affect the lives of everyone in Arendelle.
“Frozen 2” doesn’t have the same kind of icy wonder the original gave audiences but even as a warmed-over sequel it impresses. Advances in CGI animation allow for an even more cinematic approach than the original. Elsa riding an ice horse is into a raging sea is a stand-out image in a movie filled with fantasy sequences and fun character realization. It is pure eye candy that should entrance young viewers. Adults may get a laugh out of “Lost in the Woods,” a duet between Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and Sven that mimics 1980s power pop music videos.
The plot, an overly complicated story involving primeval forces, stymied marriage proposals and family secrets, feels over-stuffed and occasionally meandering but it does contain good messages for kids. In their travels to the north country Elsa and Anna learn the importance of the primal forcers of air, fire, water and earth in a subplot laden with ideas of respecting indigenous people, environmentalism and doing what is right for everyone.
Ultimately the success of “Frozen 2” boils down to the characters and the songs. Olaf has the most fun with his outing “When I Am Older,” but it’s Menzel’s powerhouse vocals on “Into the Unknown” that provide the film’s emotional high point. It’s also the closest thing to a “Let it Go” style number on the soundtrack.
Olaf, Sven and Kristoff are solid supporting characters but it’s Elsa and Anna who make the biggest impression. Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee maintain and double down on the first film’s sense of empowerment. These are women who can look after themselves, who are self-sufficient and that re-modelling of the Disney princess tradition is a big part of the franchise’s appeal.
“Frozen 2” is a worthy follow-up to the original even if it feels simultaneously bursting at the seams with plot and visuals and less ambitious.
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, the epic “Avengers: Infinity War,” and the only two films brave enough to open against it “A Swingers Weekend, ” “Adventures in Public School” and the eco doc “Panda.”
The title of “pandas,” a forty-minute documentary pretty much says it all. There’s some scientific content, a heroic biologist or two, a whimsical score by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh and narration by Kristen Bell but mostly there are pandas in IMAX and in 3D. That is both all you need to know and essentially my review.
Pandas are, Bell tells us, the King Kongs of cute who “inspire a frenzy of adoration around the world.” Beyond the cute, however, is a serious problem. Lack of genetic diversity, fragmented habitats and isolated panda groups could lead to extinction of pandas in the wild. To remedy this a group of scientists at Chengdu Panda Base in China, inspired by a black bear breeding program in New Hampshire, are cultivating giant pandas with an eye toward introducing cubs to the wild. The film follows Qian Qian a panda born in captivity destined for the wild.
To a soundtrack populated by Baby-Boomer hits from ZZ Top and The Ramones, we watch as connections are made between people, cultures and animals, all united to save the wild panda. The photography, in beautiful full screen IMAX, is breathtaking, the message is intriguing but it is the cute that lingers. You will never enjoyed anything as much as Qian Qian enjoys eating bamboo shoots and if oversized pictures of him snacking is what it takes to alert you to the crisis facing his species, so be it.
Come for the pandas, their soulful eyes and playful nature, stay for the ecological message.
Panda is confirmed to open in Toronto on April 28th, 2018 at Ontario Science Centre.
CHIPs: It’s a remake, a comedy and an action film and yet it doesn’t quite measure up to any of those descriptors. It’s a remake in the sense that writer-director-star Dax Shepard has lifted the title, character names and general situation from the classic TV show but they are simply pegs to hang his crude jokes on.
The Circle: While it is a pleasure to see Bill Paxton in his last big screen performance, “The Circle” often feels like an Exposition-A-Thon, a message in search of a story.
The Fate of the Furious: Preposterous is not a word most filmmakers would like to have applied to their work but in the case of the “Fast and Furious” franchise I think it is what they are going for. Somewhere along the way the down-‘n’-dirty car chase flicks veered from sublimely silly to simply silly. “The Fate of the Furious” is fast, furious but it’s not much fun. It’s an unholy mash-up of James Bond and the Marvel Universe, a movie bogged down by outrageous stunts and too many characters. Someone really should tell Vin Diesel and Company that more is not always more.
Fifty Shades Darker: Depending on your point of view “Fifty Shades of Grey” either made you want to gag or want to wear a gag. It’s a softcore look at hardcore BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) that spanked the competition on its opening weekend in 2015. Question is, will audiences still care about Grey’s proclivities and Ana’s misgivings or is it time to use our collective safeword? “Fifty Shades Darker” is a cold shower of a movie. “It’s all wrong,” Ana says at one point. “All of this is wrong.” Truer words have never been spoken.
The Mountain Between Us: Mountain survival movies usually end up with someone eating someone else to stay alive. “The Mountain Between Us” features the usual mountain survival tropes—there’s a plane crash, a showdown with a cougar and broken bones—but luckily for fans of stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet cannibalism is not on the menu. Days pass and then weeks pass and soon they begin their trek to safety. “Where are we going?” she asks. “We’re alive,” he says. “That’s where were going.” There will be no spoilers here but I will say the crash and story of survival changes them in ways that couldn’t imagine… but ways the audience will see coming 100 miles away. It’s all a bit silly—three weeks in and unwashed they still are a fetching couple—but at least there’s no cannibalism and no, they don’t eat the dog.
The Mummy: As a horror film it’s a meh action film. As an action film it’s little more than a formulaic excuse to trot out some brand names in the kind of film Hollywood mistakenly thinks is a crowd pleaser.
The Shack: Bad things in life may be God’s will but I lay the blame for this bad movie directly on the shoulders of director Stuart Hazeldine who infuses this story with all the depth and insight of a “Davey and Goliath” cartoon.
The Snowman: We’ve seen this Nordic Noir before and better. Mix a curious lack of Oslo accents—the real mystery here is why these Norwegians speak as though they just graduated RADA—Val Kilmer in a Razzie worthy performance and you’re left with a movie that left me as cold as the snowman‘s grin.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: Movies like the high gloss crime thriller “La Femme Nikita,” the assassin mentor flick “Léon: The Professional” and outré sci fi opera “The Fifth Element” have come to define director Luc Besson’s outrageous style. Kinetic blasts of energy, his films are turbo charged fantasies that make eyeballs dance even if they don’t always engage the brain. His latest, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” not only has one of the longest titles of the year but is also one of the most over-the-top, retina-frying movies of the year. Your eyes will beg for mercy.
Wonder Wheel: At the beginning of the film Mickey (Justin Timberlake) warns us that what we are about to see will be filtered through his playwright’s point of view. Keeping that promise, writer, director Woody Allen uses every amount of artifice at his disposal—including cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s admittedly sumptuous photography—to create a film that is not only unreal but also unpleasant. “Oh God,” Ginny (Kate Winslet) cries out at one point. “Spare me the bad drama.” Amen to that.
Song to Song: I think it’s time Terrence Malick and I called it quits. I used to look forward to his infrequent visits. Sure, sometimes he was a little obtuse and over stayed his welcome, but more often than not he was alluringly enigmatic. Then he started coming around more often and, well, maybe the old saying about familiarity breeding contempt is true. In “Song to Song” there’s a quick shot of a tattoo that sums up my feelings toward my relationship with Malick. Written in flowery script, the words “Empty Promises” fill the screen, reminding us of the promise of the director’s early work and amplifying the disappointment we feel today. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back, the Terrence Malick movie that put me off Terrence Malick movies. I’ll be nice though and say, it’s not him, it’s me.
EXTRA! EXTRRA! MOST COUNFOUNDING
mother!: Your interest in seeing “mother!,” the psychological thriller from “Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky, may be judged on your keenness to watch American sweetheart Jenifer Lawrence flush a beating heart down a toilet. Aronofsky’s story of uninvited guests disrupting the serene lives of a poet and his wife refuses to cater to audience expectations. “mother!” is an uncomfortable watch, an off-kilter experience that revels in its own madness. As the weight of the weirdness and religious symbolism begins to feel crushing, you may wonder what the hell is going on. Are these people guilty of being the worst houseguests ever or is there something bigger, something biblical going on?
Aronofsky is generous with the biblical allusions—the house is a paradise, the stranger’s sons are clearly echoes of Cain and Abel, and there is a long sequence that can only be described as the Home-style Revelation—and builds toward a crescendo of wild action that has to be seen to be believed, but his characters are ciphers. Charismatic and appealing to a member, they feel like puppets in the director’s apocalyptic roadshow rather than characters we care about. Visually and thematically he doesn’t push button so much as he pokes the audience daring them to take the trip with him, it’s just too bad we didn’t have better company for the journey.
“mother!” is a deliberately opaque movie. Like looking into a self-reflective mirror you will take away whatever you put into it. The only thing sure about it is that it is most confounding studio movie of the year.