Posts Tagged ‘Moulin Rouge’


Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 4.56.39 PMCP24 film critic Richard Crouse reviews “Still Alice,” “Cake,” “Strange Magic,” “The Boy Next Door” and “Mordecai.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!

Alan Cumming: Kids can deal with more darkness than we think

strange-magic-07-636-380By Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

Strange Magic, a new animated jukebox musical fantasy from George Lucas, follows in the footsteps of Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. All are musicals, all are for kids and all feature a villain geared to make young pulses race.

“I do think we underestimate how much darkness kids can deal with,” says Alan Cumming, who plays the film’s chief baddie, the Bog King,

Inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Strange Magic is set in a fairy world where you can never judge a book by its cover.

Cumming’s character, with his glowing eyes and a skeleton that is more exo than endo, certainly embodies the movie’s message that beauty is only skin deep.

“All these kinds of films are based on a tradition that goes way, way back to the Grimm Brothers,” says Cumming.

“In a way, the reason these stories are told is to teach kids some sort of moral lesson. You have to scare people but ultimately show that he has a nicer side to him.”

Lucas, who has a ‘story by’ and producer credit on the film says, “with the Bog King we did tone him down a bit because it is a delicate balance. We’ve shown it to a lot of kids and most of them aren’t affected by it at all. My daughter, who is only 18 months, saw the trailer with the Bog King in it on a screen, not on a TV and she wasn’t moved by it at all. But of course 18-month-olds aren’t afraid of anything yet.

“Kids are not as fragile as you think they are. All the stuff, that it warps their brains, I’m not sure about that,” he said.

“There is a certain reality to imitative violence, which is monkey see, monkey do, and that is dangerous, but at the same time a well brought up kid doesn’t fall into that.”

Lucas, who has been working on this project on and off for 15 years — “I liked to do it in between working on Star Wars and writing scripts and things”— says there are only three moments in the movie that are “bothersome.”

“It has been my experience with my kids that if you sense something coming up you just put your hand over their eyes and usually they’re faster at doing it than you are.”


Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 10.27.23 AMRichard’s “Canada AM” reviews for “Still Alice,” “Cake,” “Strange Magic,” “The Boy Next Door” and “Mordecai.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!

STRANGE MAGIC: 3 ½ STARS. “an animated jukebox musical set in a fairy world.”

strange-magic-01-636-380Everyone knows the children of George Lucas, Han, Luke and Leia, will be closing out the year with the December release of “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.” What is perhaps less well known is that another Lucas fantasy kicks off 2015.

Lucas was inspired by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to create the story for “Strange Magic,” an animated jukebox musical set in a fairy world where you can never judge a book by its cover.

Evan Rachel Wood stars as the voice of Marianne, a tough Pat Benatar-type fairy with colourful wings, leather lungs and an attitude. She wasn’t always like that, once she was a gentle fairy princess engaged to the handsome Roland (Sam Palladio) but his unfaithfulness broke her belief in love and now she is alone.

Over in the Dark Forest the Bog King (Alan Cumming), a bad-tempered cockroach looking creatures whose skeleton is more exo than endo, has also lost faith in love. “Love destroys order,” he says, “and without order there is chaos.” To make sure love does not taint his kingdom he imprisons the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth), maker of love potions.

The fairy and dark forests collide when a bootleg batch of Sugar Plum’s potion leads to kidnapping and a showdown—and sing-off—between Marianne, the Bog King and their followers.

“Strange Magic’s” story is old fashioned. It’s “Beauty and the Beast” banged together with some Shakespearean farce and even a hint of “The Dark Crystal,” but there is nothing old fashioned about the presentation. The lush animation will blow the retinas off your eyeballs. The creature design owes a debt to Jim Henson and movies like “Labyrinth,” but they are marvelously realized with state of the art CGI and inventive voice work.

Director Gary Rydstrom fills the screen with memorable images, from Marianne splayed across a bed made of a rose bud to the wild kaleidoscope psychedelia of the film’s finale.

Your eyeballs will dance, and with a wall-to-wall musical score made of pop hits from the past fifty years, you might expect your feet to follow, but it’s here the movie doesn’t always deliver. It’s all well and good to transform “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” into a Broadway style belter but the abominable Muzak version of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” would have been better left in the vault. The soundtrack plays like a K-Tel album of love songs—everyone from Elvis and Bob Marley to Heart and Lady Gaga are represented—has a Moulin Rouge-ish feel but isn’t quite as effective as Baz Luhrmann’s megamix.

“Strange Magic” takes some simple ideas—beauty is only skin deep and love conquers all—and sprinkles them with fairy dust to create a musical that plays like “Moulin Rouge” for kids.


425.kidman.jackman.australia.082808Australia, the new film from Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann is big. It’s an epic with an ambitious running time of 165 minutes that covers a lot of ground; it’s part romance, part western, part thriller, part war drama and part civil rights story. Luhrmann has superimposed the best bits of The African Queen, Gone with the Wind and Giant against the majestic backdrop of the Australian Outback.

Set in World War II era Australia the story begins when plucky English aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) impulsively decides to leave her pampered life in the UK to travel to Australia to check up on her husband who has been managing a large cattle ranch deep in the Outback. What was planned as a quick trip soon changes into a life altering journey as she finds she is a widow about to inherit a failing cattle business on a million acre ranch. With the help of Drover (Hugh Jackman), a rough-and-tumble Outback cowboy, she drives 1,500 head of cattle across the brutal Outback landscape to the trading town of Darwin. That would be enough story for most movies, but not an ambitious one like Australia. Once in Darwin Sarah and Drover must contend with their deepening feelings for one another, racism, their responsibility for a young farm worker of mixed race—a “creamy” the locals call him—named Nullah (Brandon Walters) and on top of it all, World War II.

It takes a big movie to introduce a wild bombing scene, complete with aerial acrobatics, in the last hour and not have it overshadow what has come before. When the Japanese bomb the town of Darwin Luhrmann’s camera dances through the sequence and it’s a show stopper but it doesn’t bring the movie to a halt because Luhrmann has carefully set up the story to be about the people and their relationships rather than the bombast of the bigger set pieces.

As I said, it’s big, but the intimate aspects of the story shine through—that’s Sarah Ashley’s feelings for both Drover and Nullah, her unofficially adopted son; Drover’s realization that he can’t live in the past and Nullah’s need to reconcile his heritage with his new life are the focus of the story. The rest is set dressing.

Kidman does a nice job transforming her character from prissy English aristocrat to plucky Australian cowgirl, and actually earns a few laughs along the way. She’s more naturally funny here than she ever has been in the alleged comedies she’s made in the past. Jackman, who has clearly been spending some time in the gym, plays a convincing cowboy. The most magnetic performance comes from newcomer Brandon Walters as Nullah. It’s a tricky role, one that requires the young actor to portray a mix of realism and the mysticism so crucial to his Aborigine culture.

It’s not all sunshine and light however. Nullah’s Jar Jar Binks-esque patois grates after a while and sparks don’t exactly fly between the two leads but overall Australia is a stylish film with old-fashioned storytelling that should lend itself to multiple viewings. (Also note: No dingos were harmed in the making of this motion picture.)