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 “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Prime Video), “Over the Moon” (Netflix), “American Utopia” (Crave), “The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw” (VOD), “Rebecca” (Netflix) and “The Haunting of The Mary Celeste (VOD).
What the new remake of Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca,” starring Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kristin Scott Thomas and now streaming on Netflix, lacks in gothic thrills it makes up for in eye candy.
Taking over as handsome widower Maxim de Winter, the role Laurence Olivier made famous in Alfred Hitchcock’s Oscar winning 1940 film, is Armie Hammer. Max is a charmer, a trust fund aristocrat with a beautiful estate, called Manderley, and a dead wife, named Rebecca.
On vacation in Monte Carlo a young woman (Lily James) catches his eye when she is refused service on the balcony of a fancy hotel restaurant. She is not a guest, she’s told, but an employee of a guest and therefore must eat elsewhere, anywhere but among the wealthy tourists enjoying their canapes and champagne. He invites her to join him and a whirlwind romance ensues. When her boss decides it’s time to travel to New York for debutant season, Max asks her to stay with a marriage proposal.
They move to Manderley, his family home on the windswept English coast. The sprawling home has been in his family for generations and is so grandly appointed it makes Downton Abbey look like an outhouse. At Manderlay the romance, which blossomed quickly, fades as the specter of Rebecca, the late lady of the estate, hangs heavy over the house and on Max’s mind.
Keeping Rebecca alive in heart and in mind is Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), Manderley’s baleful housekeeper. She is not impressed by Max’s naïve new bride who she thinks is trying to take Rebecca’s place.
Cue the dirty tricks, withering glances and gothic tomfoolery.
“Rebecca,” directed by Ben Wheatley, is undeniably beautiful looking. From its good-looking stars to the sumptuous production design is by Sarah Greenwood, it will make your eyeballs dance. The set decoration at Manderley alone is “Architectural Digest: Baroque Edition” worthy, but this is a movie that wants to appeal to more than just your eye and that’s where it disappoints.
The bones of the story seem perfect for a 2020 revisit. du Maurier’s exploration of the power imbalance between a wealthy man and a woman who must fight to find her own sovereignty is timely but undone by a story that never takes hold.
Hammer’s take on Max misses the essential coldness of the character. He’s short tempered, snippy and brusque but the icy core necessary to freeze out the new Mrs. de Winter is missing. Without that character element his reactions to events don’t bring the friction needed to engage the audience. At the pivotal ballroom scene, where the new bride is (MILD SPOILER ALERT) tricked into making a serious error in judgement, Max seems irked, pouty but the wound that is unintentionally opened doesn’t seem particularly deep. If Max doesn’t care that much, why should we?
From that moment on Wheatley drifts through the story with none of his patented risk taking—think his daring adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s “High-Rise” or his edge-of-your-seat “Kill List”—relying Clint Mansell’s score to provide the emotional highs and lows.
Like the story’s female protagonist the new version of “Rebecca” is haunted, this time by the ghosts of the story’s previous incarnations.
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 “Joker,” the family heist film “Robbery” and the dramedy “Sometimes Always Never.”
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with news anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases including “Joker,” Meryl Streep’s ”The Laundromat,” the family heist film “Robbery” and the dramedy “Sometimes Always Never.”
Richard has a look at the new movies coming to theatres, including controversial DC Comics flick, “Joker” and Meryl Streep heading an all-star cast in ”The Laundromat,” the family heist film “Robbery” and the dramedy “Sometimes Always Never” with CFRA morning show host Bill Carroll.
“Sometimes Always Never,” a new dramedy starring Bill Nighy and Sam Riley, applies a light touch to some heavy topics.
Adapted from Frank Cottrell Boyce’s short story Triple Word Score, the film sees Nighy play Alan, a widowed tailor with a fractured family. He has a strained relationship with his ice cream van painter son Peter (Riley) stemming from an incident decades before when his son Michael disappeared after an argument over a game of Scrabble. Alan is still a Scrabble fanatic—he’s a walking dictionary of obscure, high-scoring words like scopone and muzhik—but these days he mostly plays on-line. It’s there he comes across a competitor whose word choice and style of play reminds him of his AWOL son. Could it be Michael? “The only thing I am scared of is ding before I sort this thing out,” he says.
There’s more. Alan cheats a couple out of £200 bending the rules to his favor, and hips his grandson to the joys of Scrabble over first-person-shooter games but the heart of the movie has little to do with the word game. It’s a father and son story about a tormented man who is a master of words but could never find the right thing to say to either of his sons.
“Sometimes Always Never” plays on director Carl Hunter’s background in graphic design—he has designed record sleeves for The Clash and his own band The Farm—to create the movie’s stylized, quirky look. Visual echoes of Aki Kaurismaki and Wes Anderson resonate throughout, lending a kind of magic realism to a story that is grounded in basic humanity—a search for the missing piece of the family’s puzzle.
This is another of Nighy’s gently eccentric characters, a man touched with sadness but hopeful enough to pursue an answer to the mystery that has plagued him for years. Nighy is always immensely watchable but here he brings an easy, elegant charm to Alan despite the character’s emotional handicap.
“Sometimes Always Never” is a small film about big topics that balances an overarching feel of sorrow with heavy doses of whimsy. Eloquent both visually and emotionally, it speaks volumes about heartbreak even when the characters can’t quite find the words to do so themselves.
Imagine “The Walking Dead” as seen through the lens of “Masterpiece Theatre.” Slashterpiece Theatre. Or maybe the love child of Jane Austen and George A. Romero. Either way, you get the high concept idea of the new Lily James film “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” It’s such a whack-a-doodle idea it’s either going to be great or the worst thing ever.
Set in 19th century England, the movie shares some character names and situations with the novel but in this new, fanciful version a plague has turned much of the population into “ravishing unmentionables.” These zombies are different than the “Night of the Living Dead” style droolers. If these ever-civilised British stenches never consume human brains, they will never fully transform. Still, enough of them have changed to warrant building a Trump-style anti-undead wall around London and for regular folk to become zombie-killing ninjas. Literally.
In this story upper crust English families send their children to Japan or China to learn the secrets of martial arts. One such clan are the Bennets. All five daughters are deadly—with knives hidden in their petticoats—but second oldest Elizabeth (Lily James) is a Shaolin monk trained fighter who can disembowel a zombie before you can say “Mr. Darcy.”
Speaking of Mr. Darcy, he’s a Colonel with a bloodlust for brain-eaters and a romantic lust for Elizabeth. His rival for Elizabeth’s affections is Mr. Wickham (Jack Huston), a handsome lieutenant who wants to try and find a way to coexist with the unwanted invaders. “Soon the dead will outnumber the living,” he says. “Nine months to make a baby, 16 years to turn them into a soldier… but just two seconds to make a zombie.”
As the zombie menace intensifies so do things between Wickham, Darcy and Lizzie. A final showdown brings them all together, alongside their pride, prejudice and yes, zombies.
The idea of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” may be koo koo bananas but it works. When they aren’t trying to make Blighty an undead free zone, or high kicking and karate chopping, for the most part they play it straight. As Darcy watches Lizzie slice-and-dice her way through a crowd of zombies he looks on in admiration, reciting a quote from the book about her face being rendered, “uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes.” The situation is ridiculous but the actors play it straight, heightening the absurdity.
It’s not all Austen, however. Darcy’s use of carrion flies to identify people who have been bitten but not yet turned into zombies—they’re attracted to dead flesh—is far beyond the English novelist’s sense or sensibility. Instead of Austen trademarked biting irony, there’s just a lot of biting.
As for gore, I’m sure the film would horrify Austen, but there’s more actual blood-and-guts in the first 10 minutes of most “Walking Dead” episodes than in this entire movie.
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” makes the best of its one joke, the mashup of Austen romantic fiction with zombie realism, deftly (and ridiculously) blending the sublime with the ultraviolent.