Richard and CP24 anchor Travis Dhanraj talk about the weekend’s big releases, including Seth Rogen’s smarter-than-you-think “Sausage Party,” “Pete’s Dragon,” a new look at Disney’s most famous dragon and Meryl Streep as the world’s worst singer in “Florence Foster Jenkins.”
Richard and CJAD Montreal afternoon show host Barry Morgan talk about the weekend’s six big releases including Seth Rogen’s buffet of bawdiness, “Sausage Party,” “Pete’s Dragon,” a new look at Disney’s most famous dragon, Meryl Streep as the world’s worst singer in “Florence Foster Jenkins,” Bryan Cranston back in the underworld in “The Infiltrator,” “Anthropoid’s” World War II drama and Anna Gunn’s Wall Street thriller “Equity.”
Richard sits in with Marcia McMillan to have a look at the family friendly “Pete’s Dragon,” the un-family smörgåsbordof swears and smut that is “Sausage Party” and the marvellously off key “Florence Foster Jenkins. ”
According to a new biopic Florence Foster Jenkins left the world with these words on her lips, “People may say I couldn’t sing but no one can say I didn’t sing.” Meryl Streep plays the eccentric New York City songbird as a woman with a passion for music but an ear of tin.
The delightful story of a society hostess with a song in her heart but no ability to translate that into something tuneful, is twenty five minutes into its running time before Jenkins (Streep) lets loose with her atonal caterwauling. She’s a wealthy woman who has devoted herself to the musical life of her city. She’s a patron of the arts, giving money to legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini and others, a founder of clubs, a fixture of mid-twentieth century New York life.
When she attends a Lily Pons (Aida Garifullina) recital the fire to sing is ignited. “Can you imagine what that must feel like,” she says, “to hold 3000 people in the cup of your hand?” With the help of her husband St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) she hires pianist Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg) and Maestro Carlo Edwards, assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, to whip her into stage shape in exchange for handsome paydays. Trouble is her vocalizing sounds like two cats in heat fighting in an alleyway. So wrapped up in the music, she has no idea of the terrible sounds coming out of her mouth. “There is no one quite like you,” the Metropolitan maestro says delicately.
Her performances are both remarkable and delusional. “A few wrong notes can be forgiven,” says Bayfield, “but singing without passion cannot.” Her husband, who loves her but has a younger girlfriend (Rebecca Ferguson) living in his downtown apartment, carefully manages who comes to her vanity performances, ensuring the audiences is stacked with well wishers. When Florence books Carnegie Hall for a charity concert for US servicemen, Bayfield does everything he can to protect her from the “mockers and scoffers.” When tickets to the show sell out faster than for Sinatra—megastars Cole Porter and Tallulah Bankhead even show up—the show becomes Manhattan’s social event of the year but is it a display of vainglorious egotism or passion?
“Florence Foster Jenkins” is one of those true-to-life bios that seems to prove the cliché that fact is stranger than fiction. In real life Jenkins’s awful singing sold out concert halls and the records she made were the biggest sellers Melotone Recording Studios ever had and have become collector’s items. She is the center of the action, the reason we are here, and Streep plays her with gusto. Like Jenkins who won audiences over with her enthusiasm, Streep wins us over with her passion to present her character as a real person and not a caricature of a talentless hack unaware that she was being laughed at. Afflicted with syphilis contracted on her wedding night, she fought to stay alive for 50 years, taking each day as it comes, inspired by her love of music to go on. Streep, as usual, finds the real humanity of her character and brings that to life.
But for once, Streep is not the star of the show. In a movie filled to the brim with great performances from Streep, Nina Arianda as a Judy Holliday-type with a loud mouth and Ferguson as Bayfield’s second fiddle, it is Grant who shines the brightest.
His Bayfield is courtly but tough, a maître d’ for Jenkins’s life. He protects her from the harsh realities of life, making sure their “happy world” stays that way. It’s the kind of effortless performance that made him a star but it isn’t all surface charm and wit. Under his furrowed brow is a real love for Florence that extends beyond the perks of being married to one of the city’s richest women. He genuinely loves her and that comes across every time he glances in her direction. If it’s not a career best performance for Grant, it’s very close.
“Florence Foster Jenkins” is a story of devotion, passion and off key singing that, unlike its subject, hits all the right notes.
Richard and CJAD Montreal morning show host Andrew Carter kick around the weekend’s big releases including Seth Rogen’s smarter-than-you-think “Sausage Party,” “Pete’s Dragon,” a new look at Disney’s most famous dragon, Meryl Streep as the world’s worst singer in “Florence Foster Jenkins” and quick hits on “The Infiltrator” and “Anthropoid.” (Starts at 33:19)
Lately I have been very hard on that reliable old standby, the romantic comedy. I’ve said that the recent crop of them are neither romantic or funny and I even went so far as to suggest that The Holiday is misogynist. Today we’re talking about a different kind of romantic comedy, the trademarked Drew Barrymore Rom Com®. This genre contains some of the laughs missing from Because I Said So, the romance absent from Catch and Release and none of the woman bashing. What it does have are stories so formulaic I experience déjà vu while watching them.
The breakdown for a Drew Barrymore romance fest is simple. Act One sees the quirky couple—in this case she’s a substitute plant caregiver, he’s a faded 80s pop star—meet. Sparks fly. Act Two has the pair falling in love under unlikely circumstances. Things go great until the ugly confrontation that leads to separation and general unhappiness. Act Three contains the Grand Gesture. He or she, depending on the movie, moves heaven and earth to win the other back. Insert happy ending.
That’s the basic plot of all of her romantic opuses from 50 First Dates to Fever Pitch and beyond. Only the faces change. Barrymore is a warm, engaging screen presence and often that is enough to carry one of these movies, but Music and Lyrics falls flat. Her co-star, rom com vet Hugh Grant, seems off his game, and I didn’t sense a great deal of chemistry between the two.
On paper Grant’s casting as an 80s has-been pop idol seems inspired. He has the looks (and nails the 80s era mullet) and just the right self-depreciating attitude, but his comic timing seems askew and perhaps he’s a bit long in the tooth to continue playing his brand name bumbling Englishman role.
Music and Lyrics is predictable—here’s a spoiler: they get together at the end. Big Surprise!—but so are most romantic comedies. There are some laughs here, but with little chemistry between the leads it’s as though we’re laughing at them rather than with them.
It’s not every kid’s flick that features Queen Victoria, the Elephant Man and Charles Darwin. “Pirates! Band of Misfits,” however, isn’t like most kid’s movies. The latest film from Aardman, the British animators behind “Chicken Run” and the “Wallace and Gromit” movies, is splendid sidesplitting swashbuckling fun.
The story begins with Pirate Captain (voice of Hugh Grant) filling out a form to enter the Pirate of the Year Award. He’s lost 21 times in a row—he’s such a lame pirate, the reward for his capture is only 12 doubloons and a free pen—but feels like this might be his year. Marking down “lustrous beard” as one of his strong points, he’s up against former winners Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven), who makes a spectacular entrance on a whale’s tongue, and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek). The goal is to gather as much pirate booty as possible. Pirate Captain is far behind, and a plundering spree doesn’t do much to enhance his chances, until he boards the ship of Charles Darwin (David Tennant). There’s no gold aboard Darwin’s ship, but when the evolutionary scientist notices Pirate Captain’s bird isn’t a “big-boned parrot” as they all assumed, but a thought-to-be-extinct Dodo bird, the Captain sees a way to get the money he needs to win the top pirate contest. First he must get past Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) who has a real hate for pirates.
“Pirates! Band of Misfits” mixes gentle family friendly humor, with some absurdist Monty Python style gags and Aardman’s usual whimsy. There is so much going on here you may want to see this more than once to catch all the sight gags and throw-a-way lines on offer. The humor is layered, both vocally and visually, and should appeal to every member of the family.
Some of the goings-on, however, may be lost on younger kids. The Elephant Man cameo, for instance, is strictly for adults, but kids will enjoy many of the characters—particularly Darwin’s monkey butler— and perhaps even pick up on the moral that by doing the right thing Pirate Captain was able to become what he always wanted to be—a bad guy.
SYNOPSIS: Words like audacious and ambitious will be used to describe the sprawling three hour saga from co-directors Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer. Based on a novel by British author David Mitchell, the story careens through history like a time machine with a broken steering wheel. Jumping from the Pacific Islands circa 1849 to 1973 San Francisco, to Cambridge and London in the 1930s and present day to Neo Seoul in 2144 to a time known as 106 years after the Big Fall it’s a non-linear epic that connects six characters—make that souls—throughout different times in history.
Richard: 3 ½ (Interconnected) Stars
Mark: 4 Stars
Richard: Mark, the movie’s structure seems random at first, but as the running time ticks on connections begin to assert themselves and through lines emerge. Each story has a distinct look and feel but share a common cast. Each actor plays many characters—so to stop your mind from wandering you may find yourself playing a Where’s Waldo game, trying to identify the actors in their various guises. Did you find it confusing?
Mark: All part of the game, Richard, all part of the game. And the Wachowskis are nothing if not game players. There are some people who will think this is the best movie of the year. I don’t know about that but it is the MOST movie of the year-eight movies by my count. Usually after I see a film I want to go for coffee- after Cloud Atlas I felt I needed a vacation. But you can’t fault its ambition. What you can question is its spiritual balderdash of We Are All Connected. If so, why won’t Spielberg return my calls?
RC: I hear you, it is a whole lotta movie. I also get what you mean about he idea that we are all connected. While spiritually satisfying, is the most simplistic of the movie’s concepts. We get it in the first hour, it’s reinforced in the second and by the end of the third act you want to scream, “I know! I know! We’re all connected!” What did you think about each actor taking on six roles?
MB: Part of the fun, and an Oscar shoo-in for whoever did the makeup. There is another theme to the movie which I found less trite which is humanity’s pursuit of freedom and free will over the ages. Some of the stories make this point better than others; I was most engrossed in the Seoul 2144 plot and least impressed with the nursing home geezers, although Jim Broadbent was terrific, as always. But I found it kind of depressing to find that in the far, far future, we all talk like Ozark hillbillies.
RC: I liked the nursing home story! But then again Benny Hill always made me laugh. The action scenes, however, let me down. Surprisingly for directors who redefined movie action in their Matrix trilogy, the anticipated Wachowskis touch is missing in the bigger set pieces.
MB: I think if the action scenes were any bigger they might have overwhelmed the rest of the movie. But even if the film had one plot too many and one idea too few, it still made me feel the grandeur of what cinema can be.
Two stars who had huge hits in the 90s have set about to rehabilitate their somewhat treacly public personas. Robin Williams is leaving Mrs. Doubtfire behind to concentrate on more challenging dramatic roles in films like Insomnia and One Hour Photo. The other actor is Hugh Grant who created a stereotype for himself in 1994 as Charles the bumbling, clever English guy in Four Weddings and a Funeral. It’s an image he’s tried hard to shake, and he just might have done it with About A Boy. Oh, he’s still clever, and he’s still English, but now he is a trust-fund baby, who treats women miserably and hasn’t worked a day in his life. As Will, Grant brings to life one of the screen’s most unabashedly self absorbed characters. His redemption – you know he can’t stay bad forever – has the perfume of cliché to it, but Grant is so good, and the script so witty the viewer can accept the inevitable Hollywood ending. Special mention goes to Nicholas Hoult who plays the twelve-year old that finally teaches Grant that life has some meaning, and to Toni Collette who suicidal hippie mother routine is poignant without being syrupy.