Richard joins Ryan Doyle of the NewsTalk 1010 afternoon show The Rush for Booze and Reviews! Today he talks about the world’s most expensive cocktails–listen in if you’re thirsty with a bulging wallet–and reviews “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and Amazon Prime’s updated version of “Cinderella” with Camila Cabello.
Richard joins CP24 to have a look at new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including Simu Liu as Marvel’s first Asian superhero in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Amazon Prime’s updated version of “Cinderella” with Camila Cabello and Riz Ahmed in the surreal “Mogul Mowgli.”
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 Simu Liu as Marvel’s first Asian superhero in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Amazon Prime’s updated version of “Cinderella” with Camila Cabello and Riz Ahmed in the surreal “Mogul Mowgli.”
Richard joins NewsTalk 1010 host Jim Richards on the coast-to-coast-to-coast late night “Showgram” to play the game “Did Richard Crouse like these movies?” This week we talk about to talk about Marvel’s first Asian superhero in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Amazon Prime’s updated version of “Cinderella” and Riz Ahmed in the surreal “Mogul Mowgli.”
The new “Cinderella,” starring pop singer Camila Cabello and now streaming on Amazon Prime, begins with a sweeping crane shot of the title character’s rustic village that could have been lifted from any one of the dozens of adaptations of the famous story. But by the time the villagers begin dancing to Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation,” tossing pitchforks of hay in the air and doing the Robot in time with the music, you realize this isn’t your fairy godmother’s version of the oft told tale.
The story’s bones are roughly the same as the Brothers Grimm folk tale. Orphan Ella, nicknamed Cinderella (Cabello) by her jealous stepsisters (Maddie Baillio and Charlotte Spencer) because her skin is often besmirched by cinders, dreams of one day travelling the world as a famous designer. For now, though, she lives in the dingy basement of her cruel and imperious step-mother Vivian’s (Idina Menzel) home, where she waits on them hand and foot, only to be called “worthless” and dismissed by a wave of Vivian’s hand.
The Royal Ball is imminent, and Prince Robert’s (Nicholas Galitzine) father King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan) thinks it is the perfect chance for his son to find a wife and settle down. When the prince catches an eyeful of Cinderella he is smitten before she disappears into the crowd. “I’ll play your silly game,” he tells the King, “but only if every girl in the kingdom is invited to the ball regardless of wealth or stature.” The king reluctantly agrees, and everyone is invited, even Cinderella. Except that she’s not interested. “The whole thing is weird and antiquated,” she says. “Not my thing.”
She changes her mind when the Prince, in disguise, convinces her that there will be interesting people there, and she might even drum up some business as a designer. But she doesn’t believe anything romantic will come out of it. “I’m dirty,” she says. “I smell like a basement and my best friends are mice.”
She whips up a frilly pink dress for the big night, but Vivian puts her foot down, and throws ink on the outfit, ruining it and Cinderella’s chances for going to the ball. She is despondent until Fab G (Billy Porter), her Fairy Godparent, enters her life in the most red-carpet-ready way possible.
“Hush, it’s magic time,” Fab G says as a sequined dress, glass slippers and a fancy carriage materialize. There are rules. No one, except the Prince, will be able to recognize her while she’s in the gown and the magic will wear off at midnight, so she must run home as the clock strikes.
Sparks fly between the Prince and Cinderella. He professes his love for her and says he intends on making her his princess. She’ll be royalty. “Royalty?” she says, channeling her inner Meghan, “What about my work?” As she is announced as the future Queen, the clock strikes and she flees, leaving behind one glass slipper.
“Cinderella” is a big Broadway style jukebox musical of the familiar tale given a thoroughly modern makeover. Written and directed by former “30 Rock” writer Kay Cannon, who also created the “Pitch Perfect” franchise, updates the story to emphasize female empowerment, the autonomy of fathers and sons, the freedom to choose one’s life and she evens softens up the traditionally evil step family. It is still a classic love story, but here Cinderella is no Disney Princess. She’s Girlboss Cinderella, in charge of her life, love and future.
The modifications are presented with sincerity and no small amount of humour—there’s even a pretty funny reference to Brosnan’s legendarily terrible singing voice, first noticed by, well, everyone in “Mama Mia”—but the changes also make it fairly simple to predict what’s going to happen, even if Cannon tries to distract you with big production numbers.
Gone are the old school Disney songs like “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.” They’ve been replaced with reinterpreted pop and rock songs like “Material Girl” and “Somebody to Love.” Think “A Knight’s Tale,” the 2001 fantasy that mixed-and-matched modern music and dancing with a medieval setting.
“Cinderella” is a frothy, enjoyable confection that often resembles a music video. Cabello’s take on the character breathes the same air as Moana, “Brave’s” feisty Merida, and Elsa and Anna from “Frozen.” Purists may miss the old songs or traditional blue dress, but stories about women as active participants in their lives should become the new tradition.
Hollywood is in the habit of remaking everything these days, relying on brand recognition to sell their movies, so it’s hard to understand why this remake of “The Bodyguard” is called “Beyond the Lights.” Sure, the character names are different, it was written by different people, Kevin Costner is nowhere to be seen and it’s an “original” story but a sense of déjà vu hangs heavy over the movie’s every frame.
When we first meet Noni Jean she’s a young girl with a set of pipes to revival any American Idol contestant. Her mother and manager—her momanger—Macy Jean (Minnie Driver) is a determined presence with her eye set on superstardom for her daughter. Cut to a few years later, Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is now a hip hop star à la Rihanna. She’s on the cusp of fame, has a rapper boyfriend and a record about to come out that is guaranteed to be a hit. One night, just days before a big performance at the Billboard Awards, the pressure gets to be too much and Noni tries to jump off the balcony of her hotel room. She is rescued by Kaz (Nate Parker), a handsome police officer working on her security detail who grabs her hand just as she is about to tumble in to the tabloid headlines.
A romance blossoms between the two, despite the protests of their parents. Kaz’s father (Danny Glover), a retired police officer is grooming his charismatic son for a career in politics while Macy Jean simply wants sever any ties to the suicide story. Noni and Kaz, however, have a special bond, one born out of an understanding of what it’s like to have pushy parents and wanting to do your own thing.
Director Gina Prince-Bythewood trowels the melodrama on thick in this sensationalistic show-biz fable but that doesn’t stop her from commenting on the downside of notoriety in a way that hasn’t been done since “A Star Is Born” chronicled the decline of singer John Norman Howard (Kris Kristofferson). It’s an occasionally scorching look at the world of fame, but defaults to soap opera theatrics to keep the plot moving forward.
None of this would register if Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker weren’t such compelling performers. Mbatha-Raw wowed in last year’s “Belle” and shines here playing both sides of Noni’s personality, the onstage diva and conflicted offstage woman. If anyone sees “Beyond the Lights” a star may be born. Her chemistry with Parker is undeniable and together they overcome the film’s unnecessary plot theatrics.
“Stage Fright” feels like a classic Canadian tax dodge film. From the imported lead actors propping up the unknown Canadian cast to the slightly vulgar tone, the movie feels like it might have earned a dentist or some other wealthy person a massive write down on lines 205 to 485 of this year’s tax form, which, I suspect, is part of the joke.
Camilla Swanson (Allie MacDonald) is the daughter of murdered opera singer Kylie (Minnie Driver), a diva who was killed on the opening night of her greatest triumph The Haunting of the Opera. The young girl was raised by her step-father Roger (Meat “Bat out of Hell” Loaf) and now works at his performing arts summer camp as a cook. She puts down the ladle when Roger decides to mount a new production of his ex-wife’s big show at the camp.
She wins the lead role, but soon bodies start piling up—“The show must carry on,” they sing after the death of one character—and she wonders if the show is cursed.
Like the bold musical reimagining of “The Vagina Monologues” they mention in the movie, “Stage Fright” is an audacious idea; a slasher musical. That it doesn’t quite work as either an operetta or horror film doesn’t take away from the brashness of the concept but it does beg unfavorable comparisons with other movies containing scares and songs. From “Phantom of the Paradise” to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and ”Sweeney Todd,” tunes and terror have frequently co-existed, but rarely has anyone tried to mix-and-match the down-and-dirty scares of movies like “Sleepaway Camp” with “Glee.”
This isn’t new territory for director / writer Jerome Sable. His short film short film, a horror musical called “The Legend of Beaver Dam,” debuted at Midnight Madness at the Toronto International Film Festival and won awards all over the world. Perhaps “Stage Fright” is an idea that might have worked better as a short film. That way he might have found a better balance between the music and the mayhem.
The opening, with Driver, is a grabber, but thirty tune-filled minutes pass before anything gory happens and even then the second kill isn’t particularly gory or even interesting. I’m not sure that the bloodhounds will be interested in the songs, so the gruesome stuff has to be wild to get them onside. As it is “Stage Fright” feels like they tried to please both horror fans and musical aficionados. As it is, it falls somewhere in the murky middle.
The lyrics to the closing credit song has a couple of lines that musically question what the audience is still doing there, asks why they are watching the credits, and urges them not to pirate the movie. If the rest of the movie had been that clever in its presentation of the material “Stage Fright” might have delivered more on the promise of its premise.