A weekly feature from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Hellboy” starring David Harbour as Big Red, the stop-motion animated “Missing Link,” the Ethan Hawke bank heist “Stockholm.”
Richard has a look at the new movies coming to theatres, including the reboot of “Hellboy” starring David Harbour as Big Red, the stop-motion animated “Missing Link,” the Ethan Hawke bank heist “Stockholm” and the kid-friendly “Mia and the White Lion” with CFRA Morning Rush host Bill Carroll.
The new animated film from Laika, the folks behind beautiful stop motion movies like “Coraline,” “Paranorman” and “Kubo and the Two Strings,” is an odd couple, historical adventure that brings to mind “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Planes, Trains & Automobiles.”
Hugh Jackman voices Victorian-era explorer Sir Lionel Frost. Dressed head to toe in houndstooth, he’s an anthropologist of sorts, scouring the world in search of mythical beasts. He tries to lure the Loch Ness Monster with bagpipes. “They do say music soothes the savage beast.“
Despite his adventurous spirit his peers at London’s Optimates Club don’t take him seriously. Desperate to secure his legacy, he follows the lead of an anonymous letter about Bigfoot sightings in America. “He’s neither ape nor man,” he says, “but something in between.” If he can track down the elusive beast he hopes the snobby Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry) will be won over and offer membership into the exclusive club. Trouble is, Piggot-Dunceby is an old racist who doesn’t actually want progress in the form of new biological discoveries or anything else. “We have brought good table manners to savages of the world over,” he says proudly, “Now, they all tinker with changing the world and soon there will be no room left for me.” He’s so dead set against Frost’s mission he hires Stenk (Timothy Olyphant), an assassin to make sure the missing link goes unfound.
Meanwhile, it turns out the elusive Sasquatch (Zach Galifianakis) isn’t so elusive. The 8-foot-tall beast introduces himself almost as soon as Frost arrives in the Pacific Northwest. Mr. Link, as Frost calls him, can speak, has opposable thumbs and, most poignantly, is lonely. “Your world gets bigger every day as mine gets taken away.” He wrote the letter in hopes that Frost would “discover” him and escort him to his ancestral homeland, the Himalayan mountains, where he hopes to meet others like him, his long-long Yeti cousins. “I need someone who knows the wild places of the world,” he says. “Who won’t shoot me.” Together, along with Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), the widow of Frost’s ex-partner, they set off to Phileas Fogg-it around the world,
In search of adventure and Mr. Link’s long-lost relatives.
“Missing Link” is beautiful looking with the special animated feel that only comes with the stop motion technique. The visuals feel organic, handmade in a way that slicker, computer generated movies simply don’t. In fact, the visuals held my attention even when the story didn’t.
Woven into the script are timely messages about British colonialism, sometimes earnest—“The world,” says The Elder (Emma Thompson) to Frost, “is something to be claimed as a symbol of their worth.”—sometimes funny—they find Shangri-La or in the Yeti language, “Keep out, we hate you.”—that are timely and make a good argument for personal evolution. “Do we shape the world,” asks Frost, “or does the world shape us?”
It’s good stuff and Galifianakis’s Mr. Links is also a treat. An innocent with an imposing physical presence is a classic cartoon trope and with equal amounts of slapstick and poignancy, he livens up the proceedings. Galifianakis does great, understated voice work from the heartbroken—”I don’t want to have to spend the rest of my life alone. Won’t you take me there?”—to the hilarious—”Your utopia sucks!” It’s a wonderful performance that provides the movie with a great deal of heart.
Galifianakis aside, “Missing Link’s” over-all story misses the mark. Fight scenes make up much of the running time but (BIGTIME SPOILER ALERT) it’s Mr. Link’s assimilation into the human world that seems to run counter to the story’s overall anti-colonialist subtext. It puts a pretty bow on the tale and even sets it up for a sequel but makes absolutely no sense given the spirit of the film. Add to that a supporting role for a woman that isn’t quite as evolved as I‘m sure the filmmakers assumed and you have a film that will engage the eyes—it’s beautiful looking—but not the brain.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk the new movies coming to theatres including the reboot of “Hellboy” starring David Harbour as Big Red, the stop-motion animated “Missing Link,” the Ethan Hawke bank heist “Stockholm” and the kid-friendly animal flick “Mia and the White Lion.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Karman Wong talk about the weekend’s big releases, including the remake of “Ben-Hur,” the neo-western with Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster “Hell or High Water,” “War Dogs,” starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller and the stop motion animated “Kubo and the Two Strings.”
Richard sits in with Todd van der Hayden to have a look Jonah Hill as a twenty-something arms dealer in “War Dogs,” the magical stop-motion animation of “Kubo and the Two Strings,” the neo-western “Hell or High Water” with Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges and the pointless remake of “Ben-Hur.”
“If you must blink, do it now!” So says Kubo (voice of Art Parkinson), a young street performer in his village. He doesn’t want anyone to miss a moment of his show, but he might have been talking to the theatre audience watching “Kubo and the Two Strings.” The fourth feature from stop motion animators Laika the others are is a marvellously engaging tale that sits comfortably on the shelf beside their other films “Coraline,” “ParaNorman” and “The Boxtrolls.”
An original fantasy masquerading as an ancient Japanese myth “Kubo and the Two Strings” centers on Kubo, a one-eyed boy who lives with his mother in a cave. By day he performs in the local fishing village, spinning fantastical musical stories about a samurai warrior, but, whether the tale is done or not, when night falls he must hurry home so as not to reveal his location to his grandfather, the mystic and evil Moon King (Ralph Fiennes, once again playing a supernatural baddie) who has pursued the boy from birth.
Running late one evening he gives away his position. To protect himself and friends he goes on a Joseph Campbell-esque mission to assemble a magical suit of armour. The suit has been dispersed because, as legend has it, “any man who finds the magic armour would be too powerful.” With the help of Monkey (Charlize Theron), a wooden toy come to life, and a goofy bug warrior named Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), he goes on a quest and discovers his true nature. “Do you ever say anything encouraging?” Kubo asks the irascible Monkey. “I encourage you not to die,” she says.
“Kubo and the Two Strings” is a mix of the sublime, the surreal and the silly. The beautiful stop motion animation (with some computer generated images) perfectly compliments the film’s fanciful elements—like a giant skeleton monster—while bringing with it a handmade, organic feel that compliments the film’s use of exotic, DIY origami creations as characters. It’s a wonderful blend of form and subject that allows director Travis Knight to indulge in wonderful visual artistry. It’ll make your eyeballs dance, but some scenes may be too intense for very young viewers.
Big lug Beetle is the film with comic relief, mainly providing the silly when things get intense.
This story of magic, monsters and memories works on two levels. Visually it will engage and impress, but it doesn’t skimp on the emotional content. Kubo’s journey is ripe with primal energy. Betrayal, melancholy, greed and evil are touched on in a new story that already feels like a classic.