Tag Archives: Emma Thompson

The Love Punch

When Richard’s company gets bought out by a bigger company, he and his colleagues see their retirement fund disappear overnight. With the prospect of not being able to support his daughter just off to college, Richard (Pierce Brosnan) and his ex-wife, Kate (Emma Thompson) appeal to the young new director who – surprise! – doesn’t give a shit. So they hatch a little plan to steal their money back in the form of the very large diamond lately dangling from his fiancee’s neck.

the_love_punchRichard and Kate, who haven’t spoken much in years, now find themselves travelling to France together to the perfect cover to their crime: the high-society wedding between the director and his blushing bride. Kate gets relegated to some hen party high-jinks while Richard naps, but her intel is good: a foursome from Texas, business partners the director has not yet met in person, are expected to attend. All they need are two more accomplices. So they call up their good suburban neighbours Pen (Celia Imrie) and Jerry (Timothy Spall) who are for some reason pretty game to join in this merry heist.

Then follow the obligatory jokes about retirement-aged folks planning the perfect crime: weak bladders, low endurance, the need for naps, har har har. If you’ve always wanted to see Emma Thompson in Dallas-era hair and a twangy accent, this is your chance. A couple of James Bond references make the movie a little cheeky and the talent between the four leads means an awful lot of charisma. Emma Thompson shines in everything. But this material is beneath her, beneath them all and they can’t save a clunky, predictable scrip that is frankly a little insulting to anyone over the age of 60. And that’s too bad because I really enjoyed director Joel Hopkins’ Last Chance Harvey, also starring Thompson and Dustin Hoffman who enjoy a late-in-life romance. Watch that one instead.

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Beauty & The Beast

One word: underwhelming.

This movie is production-designed within an inch of its life. Like, literally it’s clogged with lustre and decadence. I find no fault with how it looks; a good faith effort was made to pay tribute to the original, to remind us of the classic animated movie from 1991, while still forging its own little identity, diverging enough from the already-trodden path to inject it with a life of its own.

Unfortunately, none of the new material really lands. Is this just me, loyal to the film of my childhood? Sadly not. But it does pale in comparison. No matter what Bill Condon does, this film inevitably fails to capture the magic of the first.  This is hardly surprising since it beautyandthebeast-beast-windoweschews the magic of animation. Well, traditional animation. The truth is, “live action” or not, Belle is the only human being in that castle. Yes, Ewan McGregor danced around in a motion capture suit to play Lumiere, and Dan Stevens waltzed in steel-toed 10-inch stilts for the ballroom scene, but they’re both playing CGI characters. Why hire greats like Emma Thompson, Ian McKellan, and Audra McDonald, only to hide them behind computer graphics, appearing “live” only in the last 20 seconds of the film? It seems a waste. I rather liked the live action remake of Cinderella, but then, that was always a story about humans, wasn’t it? Jungle Book  (which already has been) and Lion King (which is about to be) turned into “live action” films have little to no humans in them, so what’s the point? They were MADE for animation. Let’s leave them be.

Emma Watson, as Belle, is brilliant casting. She was originally cast in La La Land but left the project to do this instead. I think it was the right choice for her. Her voice is lovely and pure, and she reminds us that Belle isn’t just beautiful, but also smart and brave. Ryan Gosling was originally cast as the Beast and left this movie to do La La Land, and I think that was the right choice for him. Dan Stevens took over the role of the beast, and he’s okay. Director Bill Condon had hoped to create a beast look out of prosthetics, and he did film it that way, but in the end he was overruled and a CGI beast face was superimposed. Kevin Kline as Belle’s father, Maurice, is a wise choice. He’s older and less of a buffoon than in the animated film, but they don’t quite make sense of the character despite adding some back story. Luke Evans has the pleasure of playing everyone’s favourite cartoon narcissist, Gaston. No longer roughly the size of a barn, he’s still the cocky, selfsure Gaston we remember. It’s his sidekick who’s less recognizable.

The animated Le Fou is nothing more than a clown. In the 2017 version, Disney is proud to proclaim him their first openly-gay character, to which I say: hmm? This was maybe the movie’s biggest let down. Le Fou does not strike me as gay. He’s the kind of closeted gay that you only know about because it was issued in a Disney press release. What little humanity he shows already makes him too good for Gaston, but no real motivation is ever ascribed to him. It’s a Disney movie, so of course there is no real sexual tension, but nor is there even the slightest hint of romance or passion. There are more lingering glances between a young girl and a horned beast than there are between these two men. Nice try, Disney, but I’m not buying it. And it’s probably not the greatest idea to tout your first and only “gay character” as this bumbling idiot who languishes with an unrequited crush on a real prick, whom he helps to hook up with women. That’s pretty condescending.

But I take it back: Le Fou is not the most disappointing thing about the movie. In my little batb-02422r-2-a7172c76-a61b-423e-a41b-5965b3fef116girl heart, the biggest disappointment was The Dress. To me it looked cheap. And I’m sure it wasn’t: I’m sure that a dozen people toiled over its construction. I’ve heard it used 3,000 feet of thread, 2160 Swarovski crystals, and took over 12,000 designer hours to complete. Not worth it. The dress is disenchanting. In the original version, the dress is luminous, we believe it is not merely yellow, but spun gold. The one Emma Watson wears seems like a poor knock-off. It feels flat. And what’s with her shitty jewelry? In the cartoon, Belle’s ht_belle_beauty_beast_kb_150126_4x3_992neck is unadorned; why ruin a perfect neckline with even the most impressive of baubles? But Emma Watson’s Belle accessorizes her ballgown with a shitty pendant on a string. I can only assume this is blatant product placement and this cheap trinket will be sold en masse in a shopping mall near you, but it’s so incongruous it’s a distraction. For shame.

 

And for all the little changes this movie makes, tweaks to the back stories and the plausibility, one glaring detail remains pretty much the same. In the 1991 movie, the wicked witch condemns the prince to live as a beast until he can love and be loved in return; if he fails to do so before the last petal falls from the enchanted rose, he will remain a beast forever, and his household staff will remain household objects. In the animated classic, we know that the beast has until his 21st birthday to make this happen, and that this has been a period of 10 years. Therefore, the curse bestowed upon him befalls him at age 11, and for what? Because he didn’t let a stranger inside the house while his parents were away? He’s ELEVEN! And his servants are blameless. It always struck me as an extremely cruel not to mention unfair punishment. In this recent film, the role of the witch is expanded, but this only makes her motivations murkier. We see how harshly she has condemned a young prince, but she seems to overlook much worse transgressions. If this is hard for me to swallow, I imagine it must be even more unsettling for children who need to know that rules and punishments are meted out fairly, at least.

I could not have skipped this movie, the pull was too great. But there was no childhood here to be relived, just a fraudulent imitation that had lost its sparkle.

Bridget Jones’s Baby

My biggest problem with the Bridget Jones series has always been with Bridget herself. I find her a bit insufferable. She’s whiny and vacuous and quite self-absorbed. I think she’s supposed to be relatable, but I always find her an insult to women everywhere. However, with both of my dreamboats Colin Firth and Hugh Grant on board, I couldn’t help but succumb to Bridget and her wanton ways.

In this newest incarnation, Hugh Grant is dead, and his cavernously-bridget-jones-gallery-01inadequate replacement is Patrick Dumpsey. I am very firmly NOT aboard the McDreamy train. I am on the station platform, eyebrow cocked, arms crossed, unamused ember in my eye, willing it to just get on with it already. Good riddance. The only thing I’ve known him from is Can’t Buy Me Love, and I’ve not been induced to rectify that. Still, I was unprepared for how astoundingly bad Dumpsey is in Bridget Jones’s Baby. Dear god. He’s really, really bad.

Bridget Jones, luckily, is a little more tolerable. Older now, she’s less obsessive about her weight (though this might be attributed to Renee Zellweger’s refusal to gain weight for the role), and accordingly more focused on her age. But 15-bridget-jones-baby_w529_h352she’s also got a nice social life and a good job, so she feels more well-rounded and less pathetic. Well done, feminism! And she isn’t whining and pining over two men, either. This time she’s chosen both, laid them both, and wound up pregnant. Who’s the daddy?

In a way it doesn’t matter. Bridget is 43 now, and more mature. She’s not man-hunting, she’s content to be by herself, to parent by herself. This message isn’t exactly served by the love fantasy it constantly alludes to. Firth’s character, actually called “Mr. Darcy” is every bit the prototypical Pride & Prejudice hero. Dumpsey gets a Cinderella storyline and does his best Prince Charming impression. Austen vs Disney: who would you choose? Bridget is as maddeningly flip-floppy as ever, but never mind. The real love story here is between Bridget and her baby, which is possibly the first thing this trilogy really gets right.

 

Whistler, Day 4

Born To Be Blue: Ethan Hawke plays Chet Baker during a period of born-to-be-blue-pstr01time in the 1960s when he was approached to make a movie about his troubled life as part of a comeback effort. It’s inspired by Baker, but not a true biopic, so Hawke has plenty of room to spread his wings and make the character his own, in what is probably one the best performances of his career. His charming junkie act lends a little humour to the proceedings, surprisingly, so it’s not as bleak as you might think. His co-star, Carmen Ejogo, plays a composite character representing Baker’s “women” and is stunning, not just because she’s beautiful but because she gives a delicate and refreshing performance, a real break out, and fearless alongside such a seasoned professional. Canadian actor Callum Keith Rennie rounds out the cast as Baker’s long-suffering agent, and he attended the screening to tell us all about painting fake palm trees born-to-be-blue01to make Sudbury pass for California, and squeezing in the shots before the first snowfall of the year. This movie was a real passion project for Hawke and it took a long time, and funding from both Canada and the UK, to get the thing off the ground. It’s a real treat for jazz fans because the music permeates this film, as it should. It’s filmed in a kind of jazzy way too, a little offbeat maybe, but with plenty of sparkle. So if you can get over Hawke’s terrible Chet Baker teeth (or lackthereof), you should find lots to enjoy in this fantastic, tragic film.
 
 
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River: An American volunteer doctor in Laos becomes a fugitive when he intervenes in the rape of a young woman and her assailant’s body is later pulled from the Mekong River. It’s one of those spiralling, out of control situations, and we’re right in the heart of it thanks to writer-director (and Canadian!) Jamie M. Dagg. Fuelled by fear, the doctor makes an attempt for the US embassy. The editing has energy that propels the story forward, but it’s more than just a thrilling escape attempt. This movie leaves you wondering about the ethics of visiting or living abroad – obeying laws that may clash with your own ethics, and who pays the price when the two disagree. Sean’s got a great review of the movie here.
 
 

The Legend of Barney Thomson: Robert Carlyle directs himself in the eponymous role, an awkward and shy Glaswegian barber who just so happens to take up a new hobby: killing. An inept local thomsondetective (Ray Winstone) is on to him, and it becomes a battle of the bumbling fools to see whose luck will run out first. One thing Barney’s got going for him: his mother, played uproariously by the ever-wonderful Emma Thompson, who goes balls to the wall with her delivery. Kitted out with a prosthetic neck, her accent is through the roof and it’s the most fun I’ve seen her have with a role, maybe ever. The movie is FUNNY. The accents are a little thick to my Canadian ears, but the jokes land so quickly that I never struggled for long. It’s like the Scottish Fargo – an absurd farce that’s just a whole lot of fun. Carlyle was very humble at this, the North Emma-Thompson-On-Set-Movie-Legend-Barney-Thomson-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLO-4American premiere of his movie (sidebar: this one too was funded with Canadian dollars!). He called his character’s suited look a tribute to his father – “My dad was a tie man his whole life.” He acknowledged several other personal touches, including shooting on locations where he’d grown up. He credited Danny Boyle with being a particular influence – “he just creates the right atmosphere” and taught him “not to interfere.” He also called a certain scene a “definite nod to David Lynch” (his Blue Velvet, in fact), but I won’t spoil it for you because it’s sure to make you smile. This movie was entertaining and well-executed, so I was surprised how emphatically Carlyle responded to an audience member who asked “Do you want to direct more films?”, the answer being “No!”

 

Love Actually

I’ve actually started packing away my copy of Love Actually with my Christmas decorations every year, which limits my viewing of it to just once, annually. This is a necessary precaution because it’s way too easy for me to get swept away in this movie.Love_Actually_movie

It feels like the ultimate romantic movie, possibly because in this movie Hugh Grant AND Colin Firth both get the girl. But for every frenzied makeout session, there’s also a cold, awkward peck on the cheek. Your heart breaks as much as it soars. There’s grand gestures, and well thought-out lingerie, slow dancing cheek to cheek, and enough first kisses to charm even the more cynical hearts.

But for me, this movie excels not in its romantic tropes, but in the darker corners. You don’t need this movie to tell you that Emma Thompson is superb, but it does confirm it. The scene when she’s in the bedroom, having just unwrapped Joni Mitchell instead of jewelry, is moving and real. Only a few moments (and even fewer tears) are devoted to her broken heart and we watch her pull herself back together to give her children a smiling, overbright Christmas. Only an extended hug for brother David belies just how much she’s hurting. This movie happens to take place in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and while the magic of the season seems to heighten the romantic aspects, and give courage to those who need it, it also highlights the loneliness, the forced joviality, the false cheer.

There’s probably some sort of personality test about which couple your root for in this movie, but I must confess, I also adore the non-romantic-couple bits: the sweet and silly bromance between Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) and his fat manager, the sacrifice of Sarah (Laura Linney) for her institutionalized brother, the shared grief and renewed bond between Daniel (Liam Neeson) and his young stepson.

I’ve been watching this movie for a decade and I still squeal at all my favourite parts: the papier-mache lobster head, the Rowan Atkinson gift wrapping, the Beatles sendoff, Hugh Grant dancing unselfconsciously, the falling in love by subtitles between Jamie and Aurelia, Martin Freeman warming up his hands for “the nipples,” Rick Grimes taking a break from zombies. This movie has it all, and I’ve certainly heard it criticized for being over-stuffed, but personally I wouldn’t know which subplot to cut. Sure it’s self-indulgent, but watching this movie every year is a gift I give myself.

 

 

The assholes will be reviewing their favourite holiday movies all December long, so stay tuned!