Tag Archives: Helena Bonham Carter

Movie reviews: ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass,’ ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’

Disney

By Tim Lammers

“Alice Through the Looking Glass” (PG) 3 stars (out of 4)

Wonderland is as buoyant, beautiful and bright as ever in “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” a satisfying prequel/sequel to the 2010 billion-dollar blockbuster. Despite a thin storyline, the film is once again bolstered by a lovable cast, spectacular visual effects and stunning production design and costumes. Fans will likely favor the original “Alice” to this follow-up, but it’s an entertaining film nonetheless.

Mia Wasikowska returns as Alice, who after three years of adventures at sea and exploring new lands with her late father’s ship returns home and is beckoned to Underland by Absolem (voice of Alan Rickman, in his final film role), the blue caterpillar-turned-butterfly. Turns out that Alice’s old, dear friend the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is dying of a broken heart, since he happened upon a remnant that reminded him of the tragic loss of his family to the Jabberwocky years before.

After pleas from the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and company to find a way to save Hatter, Mia sets out to snatch from the personification of Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) the Chronosphere – the power source that runs the Grand Clock. It will enable Alice to travel back in time and right the wrongs of the past – that is if her enemy, the banished Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), doesn’t get the device first in a bid to get her crown back.

While Wasikowska and Depp are as strong as they were in “Alice in Wonderland,” Bonham Carter once again steals the show with her big head, bombastic personality, wild chants and maniacal laughs. Her performance alone makes “Through the Looking Glass” worth peering into, even though the time travel narrative falls far short of the events that sparked “Wonderland.” Baron Cohen (along with some CGI mechanical minions) proves to be a grand addition to the “Alice” film family as Time, a touchy taskmaster whose ticker is weakened by the Red Queen and her wicked wiles.

While “Alice Through the Looking Glass” has its share of flaws, the film’s spectacular visual effects make up for the shortcomings. Director James Bobin smartly crafted several jaw-dropping sequences, including trips across the Oceans of Time (which allows the film to cross over into prequel territory). The film also boasts stunning costumes and breathtakingly beautiful settings, both real and virtual. They’re wondrous visions to behold.

Tim Burton Book 2
Click book cover for info on how to buy!

“X-Men: Apocalypse” (PG-13) 2 stars (out of four)

X misses the spot in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” a lackluster follow-up to 2014’s brilliant “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” With a tedious 2 hour 20 minute runtime, an overload of visual effects and a plot spread far too thin across too many characters, director Bryan Singer’s fourth “X-Men” film is without question his weakest. It’s a shame because the talent is all there, but ultimately, they’re trounced by the overambitious storyline.

Picking up 10 years after the events of the 1970s (and the rewriting of X-Men history) with “Days of Future Past,” “Apocalypse” picks up in 1983 with the unearthing of the titular character, the all-powerful mutant taking the form in an armored, blue-skinned Oscar Isaac. Once entombed in Egypt, Apocalypse’s followers figure out the key to unleash the mutant, who is hell-bent (along with his four horsemen) on imposing his powers on the citizens of Earth because they’ve lost their way.

Having the wherewithal to even tap into the immense mind powers of Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Apocalypse seems unstoppable, that is until Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and a new band of mutant recruits (Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers/Cyclops, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler) spring into action to recover their kidnapped mentor and desperately attempt to defeat a seemingly undefeatable enemy.

As passionate as Singer has been about the “X-Men” movie universe since the first film in 2000, you can’t fault him for trying to make the most out of his latest opportunity to tell another tale about the Marvel movie mutants. Yet at the same time, it feels like he’s trying too hard to one-up what transpired in “Days of Future Past” both in terms of the film’s overwhelming special effects and about a dozen mutants, causing the film to lose its focus.

By the time “X-Men Apocalypse” limps to the end, you get the sense that this current iteration of the “X-Men” movie saga is up as its next generation is trained to take on its next foes. It’s too bad, considering the prequel films that came before it started off with such promise, only to end in such an underwhelming fashion. It’s a real disappointment.

Interview: Helena Bonham Carter talks ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’

Walt Disney

In U.S. online exclusive for D23.com, Tim Lammers talked with Helena Bonham Carter about reprising her scene-stealing role of The Red Queen for “Alice Through the Looking Glass.”

Read the entire D23 Q&A HERE.

Here’s a sample:

Tim Lammers: Was there a certain amount of reconditioning, vocally, since you screamed “Off with their heads!” quite a bit in “Alice in Wonderland”?

Helena Bonham Carter: It turned out to be very exhausting on the first day of production. I thought to myself, ‘I remember how to play this,’ and by lunchtime I didn’t have any voice left because I had been screaming for an hour (laughs). It was fun for a bit, then I realized, “I can’t do anymore and now I’m mute.”

TL: And was it exhausting, physically?

HBC: It was much more exhausting. The Red Queen is an exhausting character to play. I had a lot more to do and I think my part is actually bigger in this film. And, she’s unhappier. Can you believe it? And she’s even angrier.

“Alice Through the Looking Glass” opens in theaters nationwide Friday.

Tim Burton Book 2
Click book cover for info on how to buy!

Reviews: ‘Cinderella,’ ‘Frozen Fever,’ ‘Run All Night’

Lily James and Cate Blanchett in Cinderella

By Tim Lammers

“Cinderella” (PG) 4 stars (out of four)

Filmmaker Kenneth Branagh masterfully directs an instant classic with “Cinderella,” Walt Disney Pictures’ latest animated great-turned live-action fairy tale. Preceded by the 2010 blockbuster “Alice in Wonderland” and the 2014  summer hit “Maleficent” (the “Sleeping Beauty” tale told from the villainess’ point-of-view), “Cinderella” emerges as the best of the three re-imagined tales so far – mainly by  sticking with the narrative fairy tale fans know and love while making subtle yet strong changes where it counts the most.

Lily James stars as Ella, who as a child loses her mother (Hayley Atwell) and gains a cruel stepmother (the deliciously evil Cate Blanchett) and two stepsisters (Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera) when her father (Ben Chaplin) remarries. Trapped as a servant to her stepmother and stepsisters after her father dies, Ella – who is dubbed “Cinderella” by one of the stepsisters – sees a glimmer of hope through a chance meeting with the handsome Kit (Richard Madden), who keeps secret from the young woman that he’s really a prince who will soon inherit a kingdom.

Interview: Helena Bonham Carter (U.S. exclusive)

Interview: Kenneth Branagh

“Cinderella” works on every level, from using real landscape complimented by lavish castle set pieces and costumes; to stellar acting, a mystical atmosphere, Patrick Doyle’s moving score and the perfect mix of humor and heart.

The movie is also very emotional, especially in times of loss, but not necessarily depressing. It effectively helps build the character of Cinderella, who while taught by her dying mother to “have courage and be kind” – shuttering the damsel in the distress characterization from earlier interpretations of the tale.  Cinderella is now a strong and independent young woman who is an

equal, essentially, to the prince, even while their social status couldn’t be any further apart.

Naturally, “Cinderella” wouldn’t be “Cinderella” with all of its classic elements: there’s the pumpkin that turns into the carriage, the mice that transform into horses and of course, the iconic glass slippers; but even those elements feel fresh and vibrant thanks to the wondrous performance of Helena Bonham Carter as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother.

And while Bonham Carter is only in the film for about 10 minutes (first, as an unrecognizable beggar lady who tests Cinderella’s will to be kind, only to transform into the giddy, Bibbidi-Bobbidi white-gowned magician who creates the girl’s transportation to the beautifully staged Castle Ball) – she makes the most out of every second she’s on-screen. Thankfully, Branagh puts his talented star to good use by making her the narrator of the film, and even has her sing the iconic song “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” during the end credits.

Despite the smattering of talent that surrounds her, James’ glowing performance as Cinderella helps the “Downtown Abbey” star carry the film with relative ease on her delicate shoulders. She’s the perfect choice to play the time-honored character with a sweet smile, an air of innocence and steady charisma and charm that makes you root for her from start to finish. True, we all know how the tale ends, but what an exciting, freshly mowed path through the gorgeous forestland “Cinderella” takes us on to get there. It’s a brilliant movie suited for girls and boys, and women and men of all ages.

Playing before “Cinderella” is the new “Frozen” short film “Frozen Fever,” a delightful seven-minute tale about a sniffling Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), who’s trying to arrange a birthday party for her sister, Anna (Kristen Bell) despite a nasty cold. Elsa’s under-the-weather for the entire short, but her condition helps produce clever additions to the world of “Frozen” and the loveable goofball snowman Olaf (Josh Gad).

Most importantly, parents may find their children letting go of the Oscar-winning “Frozen” song “Let it Go,” as “Frozen Fever” debuts a memorable new song, “Making Today a Perfect Day.” It’s a perfect song for a perfect mini-sequel of sorts, since it takes place after the events of the first film.

Maleficent Disney Sixth Scale Figure

“Run All Night” (R) 3 stars (out of four)

Liam Neeson is back with a particular set of skills – although time does appear to be catching up with him, finally – with “Run All Night,” a gritty, fast-paced crime thriller that boasts a terrific cast to help the film rise above its convoluted storyline.

Neeson stars as Jimmy Conlon, a broken-down former hit man for his longtime friend/powerful New York City mob boss Sean Maguire (Ed Harris). In an unfortunate set of circumstances, Jimmy shoots and kills Sean’s only son, Danny (Boyd Holbrook) who was a hair-trigger away from his shooting Jimmy’s son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman), for witnessing a murder.

Despite their long history together, Sean orders a hit on Mike so Jimmy can suffer the same pain of losing a child. But Jimmy’s not going to give in easy, and devises a plan to stay on the run throughout the night with his estranged son, in an effort to try to make things right with his former crime confidant.

Neeson seems only to be playing a variation of the “Taken”-like character that’s dominated the action crime genre in the past few years, and it appears now that he’s just on this side of being unbelievable. Neeson’s a big man at 6 feet 4 inches and is no doubt fit for a man of 62, but given the physical and mental toll his life of crime has taken on him (he’s executed dozens of people, with some of the hits closer to home than he’d like to remember), and it’s a wonder how he disarms and beats people (or shoots them with skilled precision) for a guy who walks with a limp and was falling-down drunk just hours before.

Harris, meanwhile, is chilling as the ruthless crime boss, while Kinnaman – who rose to prominence in the brilliant AMC-turned-Netflix-series “The Killing,” is excellent as the moral compass of the film. He’s about the only main character that you can root for, given Jimmy’s and Sean’s menacing pasts. Vincent D’Onofrio also shines as the film’s only straight cop in a city otherwise owned by Sean’s power, while Common is wicked as a hit man hired to complete the job that his crew can’t seem to get done.

In the end, fans of shoot ’em ups with high body counts will no doubt be satisfied by “Run All Night,” despite the film’s obvious faults. And while “Run All Night” leaves more to be desired, it’s at least a major improvement over Neeson’s lackluster third film in the “Taken” franchise.

Loki Marvel Sixth Scale Figure

U.S. exclusive: Helena Bonham Carter talks ‘Cinderella’

Helena Bonham Carter in 'Cinderella'

By Tim Lammers

When Helena Bonham Carter was cast in the pivotal role of the Fairy Godmother in director Kenneth Branagh’s new live-action version of “Cinderella,” there were some rumblings of surprise on the Internet, where various journalists questioned whether she was better suited to play the wicked stepmother instead.

Given her past as deliciously evil Bellatrix Lestrange in the last four “Harry Potter” films and the delightfully funny but unforgiving Red Queen (“Off with their heads!”) in “Alice in Wonderland,” some thought that despite her experience with a wand, the magical staff that the Fairy Godmother was better suited for somebody not known for playing such dark characters.

Of course, those same people tend to forget just how versatile the two-time Oscar nominated actress really is. Whether it’s good or bad character, Bonham Carter has proven throughout her illustrious, 32-year screen career that she wherewithal to play them all.  Still, Bonham told me in an exclusive U.S. interview, that she was taken aback when asked to play the character associated with the iconic phrase, “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.”

“I was surprised not to be asked to be Cinderella, because I’m in some time-warp denial,” Bonham Carter told me, laughing, in a recent phone call from London.

Always funny and lively in her interviews, Bonham Carter told me she had fun bringing the effervescent Fairy Godmother to life during the making of “Cinderella,” yet inside she took the role very seriously. After all, “Cinderella” is a legendary tale that has been told countless times in different variations on screen and the stage over the years — chief among them the 1950 Walt Disney animated classic — so Disney, which also produced the new live-action incarnation, knew this new version had to work on all levels.

As it related directly to Bonham Carter, she knew her role would be under the burning spotlight, because the Fairy Godmother, who apart from Cinderella, is perhaps the first character people associate with the classic fairy tale.

“It was really flattering and nice to asked to play the role, but having said that, it was a quite a responsibility, and I was apprehensive about it,” said Bonham Carter, who also narrates the film. “My first reaction was, ‘What great fun! This can’t be a losing situation,’ but on close inspection, I got somewhat freaked out. The Fairy Godmother is iconic as an idea — there’s no real image of her apart from the character in the animated version — there isn’t really an obvious image and I didn’t want to replicate what’s in the cartoon.”

Opening in theaters and on IMAX screens nationwide on Friday, “Cinderella” tells the time-honored tale in a familiar, historical setting, yet gives the title character (Lily James) a strong sense of independence. Bonham Carter plays the Fairy Godmother as a character with some bits of uncertainty: a giddy magician not quite aware of the full extent of her powers.

“I thought I had to re-invent the wheel a bit, so people would genuinely believe the character with some sort of credibility,” Bonham Carter said, recalling how she prepared for the role by examining the mind of the Fairy Godmother. “I thought, ‘Why a pumpkin?’ because it’s not immediately obvious that you would choose a pumpkin as your source material to turn into a carriage; and ‘Why glass?’ because glass isn’t immediately obvious to make a slipper with.’ Also, I wondered why the magic was running out at midnight.

“All of these choices she made sort of led me to believe that she was this accidental magician, or her magic wasn’t quite up to scratch,” Bonham Carter added. “Accidents happen, and often in history, the greatest things have been born of the greatest accidents. I thought it was funny that things that have ended up being iconic, like the glass slipper and the pumpkin, were all improvised in the first place.”

Interview: Kenneth Branagh talks “Cinderella”

Branagh, who has worked with Bonham Carter before, told me in a separate interview that he was absolutely enchanted by the direction the actress took with the character.

“The Fairy Godmother may have great plans of how these transformations may go, but not always the skills, and I think Helena does that beautifully,” Branagh said. “She also adds this sort of poignant touch, when she follows Cinderella’s coach for just a step and says, ‘Goosey, off you go.’ There’s a really wonderful maternal, protective look on her face that lets you know she loves this kid. She feels for her in addition to all the fun she’s had with her.”

Plus, the director said, Bonham Carter has impeccable comedic sensibilities.

“Helena brings a joyful, delightful and silly sort of lunatic kindness to the character, which is a variation of the sorts of the kindness theme that is central to the film,” Branagh said. “The beautiful sort of dotty, ditsy, dizzy comic brilliance she brings is a lovely kind of literal fairy dust to sprinkle into the middle of the movie.”

The theme of kindness is important because it’s essentially what grounds “Cinderella.”  We first hear the phrase, “Have courage and be kind,” uttered to a young Cinderella by her dying mother, and Cinderella lives by those words despite the fact that she’s trapped as a servant to a cruel stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her two daughters after her father dies.

Bonham Carter, much like Branagh, hopes viewers take those words to heart.

“I think they’re terribly important words, particularly in this day and age with social media,” Bonham Carter said. “People think there’s an anonymity and a lack of responsibility whenever they write something, because they’re not necessarily held to it. So many people are suffering because of bitchy comments about not being liked or whatever.”

Maleficent Disney Sixth Scale Figure

Helena, Mom face-off

Bonham Carter’s “beggar lady” is the first character Cinderella sees before she transforms into the Fairy Godmother, and the actress says she was thrilled to get to have extensive prosthetic work done to play the small, but very important role. The beggar lady sets up a key moment in the film, because she tests Cinderella’s will of kindness and observation of others less fortunate than her, even though her heart has just been crushed by her evil stepmother.

“Sadly, it took me less long to become the character described in the script as ‘1,000 years old’ than it took to become the Fairy Godmother. It took me only four hours to age 1,000 years,” Bonham Carter, 48, said, laughing. “When the designers approached me and asked me, ‘What do you think you’re going to look like when you’re 80?’ I said, well, my Mom’s around, so they took a face mask of her. Having said that, Mom doesn’t look 80, so they had to add wrinkles on top of the mask. It did look a bit bizarre, and God knows what some psychotherapist would say about me wearing my own mother’s face.”

And while the end product didn’t exactly resemble her mother, there were still some features of the face that to be resolved.

“In the end, I had to post-sync all of her lines because her upper lip is bigger than mine, so apparently I was completely inaudible,” Bonham Carter said. “Still, I always love being in prosthetics. I don’t like process of putting it on or getting it off, but being in it is all fun.”

As of our conversation, Bonham Carter’s mother still hadn’t seen the film, but the actress warned her mother not to be shocked by the makeup when she gets around to it.

“Having seen the film myself, you don’t recognize her. So I told her, ‘Forget that it’s you, Mom, because it’s not the most flattering,'” Bonham Carter said with a laugh. “Mom is still really beautiful.”

Loki Marvel Sixth Scale Figure