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 Nneka Elliot talk about the weekend’s big releases, “X-Men Apocalypse,” starring Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence, Johnny Depp in “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “Mr. Right,” starring Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell.
Alice Through The Looking Glass, the six-years-in-the-making sequel to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, takes place in a world where chess pieces come to life and the Cheshire Cat’s grin is as toothy as ever. It’s a flight of fantasy, based on a story published by Lewis Carroll in 1871, but grounded by the very human character of Alice Kingsley.
Mia Wasikowska has played Alice since the 2010 film, signing on to the first movie when she was just 18 years old.
“There is always a little bit of trepidation especially when you’re dealing with a character who is so iconic and so beloved by so many people and so many generations,” she told me on the release of the first film.
“But there is also a certain amount of realism to it because you know you can’t please everyone and not everyone is going to be pleased so it is more just making the character your own and feeling comfortable in the decisions you make.”
Originally imagined by Carroll in 1865, the little girl who found a world of wonder down the rabbit hole has become one of literature and film’s more enduring and malleable characters.
She was the insane character of America McGee’s video game Alice and the martial arts instructor of a Syfy channel adaptation. In 2010 Wasikowska said she thinks the stories have lasted because people relate to the strange characters and situations.
“I don’t believe in normal,” she said. “Nobody is normal. Everyone is crazy in his or her own way. So although these are extreme characters I think that just makes them more identifiable.
People want to see these characters, understand these characters, love these characters, feel comfortable with these characters because they are like everybody in this world who are kind of crazy. Everyone has felt like an outsider at some time in their life so it is a very identifiable story.”
Alice first got the big screen treatment in 1903 in a 12-minute silent version starring Mabel Clark, who was also employed on the set as a “help-out girl,” making costumes and running errands.
In 1966 director Jonathan Miller cast Anne-Marie Mallik as the lead in Alice, a mad-as-a-hatter made-for-BBC movie. Miller called Mallik, who auditioned by reciting a poem, a “rather extraordinary, solemn child.”
Not everyone agreed. Peter Cook’s biographer described the teenager’s take on Alice as “sullen, pouting, pubescent with no sense of bewilderment.” Mallik later said she wasn’t impressed with her illustrious co-stars — John Gielgud as the Mock Turtle and Peter Sellers as the King of Hearts — because she had grown up surrounded by the very accomplished friends of her “much older” parents.
After production wrapped she “retired” from acting and afterward the BBC had trouble paying her a royalty because they couldn’t find her.
It’s hard to know what Alice Liddell, the young girl who inspired the character would have thought of any of the wild and wacky versions of the story, but we do know she enjoyed the 1933 Paramount version.
“I am delighted with the film and am now convinced that only through the medium of the talking picture art could this delicious fantasy be faithfully interpreted,” she told the New York Times. “Alice is a picture which represents a revolution in cinema history!”
“Alice Through The Looking Glass,” the six years in the making sequel to Tim Burton’s $1 billion grossing “Alice in Wonderland,” takes place in a world where butterflies speak and the Red Queen applies her lipstick in a heart-shaped motif, but what should be a flight of fancy is grounded by a dull story.
The topsy-turvy world of Underland is more or less intact since the last time Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) visited. Chess pieces still come to life, Tweedledee and Tweedledumb (Matt Lucas) continue to speak in rhyme and the Cheshire Cat’s (Stephen Fry) grin is as toothy as it ever was.
One thing is different, however. The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), Alice’s greatest friend and ally in the otherworld, is having some problems. Call him the Sad Hatter. “He’s just not the same anymore.” Thinking of his family’s demise courtesy of the fiery breath of the Jabberwocky has thrown him into a depression. To help the Mad Hatter out of his funk Alice steals a time travel device from Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) himself (“I am time,” he says, “the infinite, the immortal, the measurable… unless you have a clock.”) ignores warnings about changing the past and careens across the ocean of time to find out what happened to Hatter’s folks. “Do try not to break the past, present or future,” purrs the Cheshire Cat.
“Looking Glass” is an epic fantasy artfully directed by James Bobin but lacking the effortlessly odd feel of Tim Burton’s work on the first film. It’s a trippy story that transverses time and space and should invite the viewer to turn on, tune in and drop out but the true weirdness of the story, the unhinged voyages of imagination, are absent. Instead we’re thrown into a world that feels like we’ve seen it all before: familiar and not nearly whimsical enough. It’s a sea of CGI with a story cut adrift inside it.
It’s lovely to hear Alan Rickman’s voice, if only briefly, as Absolem the Caterpillar on screen again and Baron Cohen does his best to breath life into his character, but no one, not even the Mad Hatter—who should more rightly be called the Quirky Hatter—is interesting enough to merit the movie’s hour-and-forty minute running time. There is a high level of craft evident in the computer-generated images, the costumes and set decoration, everywhere, in fact, except the story that seems to value “time” puns over actual plot.
Perhaps in six years or so, if they decide to add another film to this franchise, they’ll take heed of a bit of “Looking Glass’s” theme about learning something from the past and give the next movie the excitement and story Lewis Carroll’s creation deserves.
I wonder if Tim Burton has a monkey butler at home. I ask this because I think anyone who can come up with the kind of flights of fancy he puts on screen probably has a monkey butler and other strange and wonderful things kicking around the house to feed his imagination. His latest film, a retelling of “Alice in Wonderland,” benefits from his rich visual style.
Using the original Lewis Carroll stories as a stepping stone, in this reimagined version of the classic tale Alice Kingsley (Mia Wasikowska) is 19 years old. She’s a dreamer in a world of pragmatists who, on the advice of her late father, tries to imagine six impossible things before breakfast each day. This sets her at odds with almost everyone, including her family who think marrying her off to the churlish and haughty Lord Hamish will settle her down. At their engagement party she flees his very public proposal, disappearing into the garden and falling down a rabbit hole into Underland. It’s her second trip to the place she calls Wonderland. Ten years previous she been there but has no memory of it. On this visit she meets an odd assortment of characters including the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), Absolem, the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman) and the strangest one of all, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). They convince her she needs to help them overthrow the evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) by slaying the terrifying Jabberwock (Christopher Lee).
Burton has always made films about outsiders—think Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood Jr. and Willy Wonka—and in Alice he has found another one to focus his camera on. As a headstrong young woman who doesn’t quite fit the mold of Victorian England she a perfect character for Burton. Like his most famous characters she lives in a world of dreams but unlike his best realized characters she isn’t nearly as interesting. As a result, despite the beautiful visuals and the eye popping 3-D, “Alice in Wonderland” is a bit of a flat line.
Sadly much of the problem lies with Wasikowska. She is delicately beautiful in a way that would very likely leave Lewis Carroll weak in the knees and after her stint on the television show “In Treatment,” we know she can act, but she rarely looks really engaged with the character. Perhaps it is that she spent the entire time acting against a green screen and didn’t get to actually interact with her co-stars very often, but she’s a little too low key to be at the center of a large, fanciful film.
It’s not a complete wash, however. Burton overloads the screen with eccentric and interesting visuals and has succeeded in creating a dream-like version of “Alice in Wonderland.” Unfortunately, like most dreams, when it’s over it’s quickly forgotten.