Tag Archives: Sigourney Weaver

You Rang?

‘A Monster Calls’ scares away terrors of childhood

A MONSTER CALLS

A Monster Calls
Starring Lucas MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver & the voice of Liam Neeson
Directed by J.A. Bayona
PG-13

J.A. Bayona knows that childhood can be a scary, perilous time.

The Spanish director’s first major movie, The Orphanage (2007), was a poignant, unnerving haunted-house horror tale about ghosts of the deep past. His second, The Impossible (2012), swept a couple (Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor) and their three children away in the great Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004.

Now A Monster Calls finds a 12-year-old boy, Conor (Lucas MacDougall), visited in the night by a giant “tree monster” who tells him a series of stories to help him cope with the inevitable consequences of his mother’s incurable cancer and the bullying of his schoolmates.

_MG_5478.CR2Is the monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) a fantasy creature from Conor’s dreams, a figment of his fertile imagination, or one of his pencil drawings come magically to life?

Like the ancient, towering tree that “becomes” the monster every night, just past midnight at exactly 12:07 a.m., there’s a lot going on both above the surface and beneath it in this beautiful-looking film of great depth, heart and soul. It’s a coming-of-age tale of a boy and his mom (Felicity Jones, who’s terrific), and how he gets tangled up by his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) and his estranged father (Toby Kebbell), who’s now remarried and living stateside.

Not to mention those bullies, who tease and threaten him, push him around, ambush him in the schoolyard and debase his artwork.

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Felicity Jones plays Conor’s mom.

Conor is haunted by a recurring nightmare about being on the maw of a dark, seemingly bottomless pit, where he’s holding on for dear life to the hand of his mother, who’s fallen over the edge. Curled up one evening on the couch with her, watching King Kong on late-night TV, it’s no wonder Conor can relate to the great beast, dogged by biplanes peppering him with gunfire until he can no longer hold on to the top of the Empire State Building. The mighty Kong loses his grip and falls to his death.

Conor’s eyes fill with tears and he asks his mom why Kong had to die. Why did people hate him? Why did they kill him? “People don’t like what they don’t understand,” she tells him.

A MONSTER CALLSYoung people will certainly be able to relate to Conor and his plight, an adolescent symphony of anger, resentment and righteous rage that will ring true in a variety of circumstances. Grownups will appreciate the movie’s craftwork and gorgeous artistry, especially when the monster tells Conor his stories; each one is a mini-parable with a lesson, illustrated and animated differently.

Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. If they more of them were as cool as a storytelling tree that sounded like Liam Neeson, maybe the world might not seem like such a scary place.

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Just Keep Swimming

The forgetful little blue fish from ‘Nemo’ makes a splash of her own

(Pictured) DORY. ©2013 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Finding Dory

Starring the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell & Idris Elba

Directed by Andrew Stanton & Angus MacLane

PG

“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming,” said Dory, the little blue tang in Finding Nemo, the 2003 Disney/Pixar hit about a father clownfish’s across-the-ocean search for his abducted son.

And keep swimming she has—Dory now splashes right into her own movie, a sea-worthy spin-off about her own search for the loving parents she barely even remembers.

In Finding Dory, which takes place one year after the events of Finding Nemo, Dory—still coping with her lifelong inability to remember anything—suddenly recalls a memory fragment of her mother and father (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy). Overjoyed that she has a family, she sets out on a quest to locate them, bringing along young Nemo and Marlin, his reluctant dad.

Ellen DeGeneres once again provides the voice of Dory, with a perfect grasp of the delicate emotional shadings of comedy, drama and trauma in her struggle to piece together the shards of her past as she leaves her colorful coral reef and heads to the dark, debris-clogged shores of California. Albert Brooks reprises his role as Marlin, and newcomer Hayden Rolence is Nemo.

FINDING DORYThe new movie does a great job, just like Nemo, of creating a world teeming with aquatic creatures—although we meet most of them not under the sea, but inside a marine institute, which is where Dory, Nemo and Marlin eventually come to the surface. Two sea lions (The Wire’s Idris Elba and Dominic West) fiercely guard their rock from interlopers. Ed O’Neill is a hoot as Hank, the misanthropic camouflaging “septopus” (an octopus with only seven tentacles) who longs to remain in captivity rather than return to the wilds of the ocean. Modern Family’s Ty Burrell cracked me up as Bailey the beluga whale, so proud of his abilities of echolocation, the sonar-like location of objects by reflected sound. Paired with Destiny (Kaitlin Olsen from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), a nearsighted whale shark, they’re quite a team.

FINDING DORYThere’s a road full of adorable otters, a loveably dorky ocean loon, Becky, who doesn’t say a word, and a great running joke about real-life actress Sigourney Weaver, who’s heard but never seen.

From the opening Pixar short (Piper, about a little sandpiper) to the credits (when Hank the octopus gets one last time in the spotlight), it’s all great fun, rollicking adventure and quite heartwarming. Director Andrew Stanton, who also steered WALL-E and Finding Nemo, and co-director Angus MacLane keep the pace lively, the jokes funny and the message clear: Friends are family, too.

There may be tears, and little ones, especially, may be more affected than grownups about Dory’s wrenching separation from her parents and her unflappable hopes that she will find them. This is, after all, the House of Mouse, the company that gave us Bambi, Pinocchio and Dumbo—not to mention Old Yeller, The Lion King and that flashback scene in Up.

But remember what Dory says: Just keep swimming, just keep swimming. You’ll make it.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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