Guest Review: Beauty and The Beast (2017)

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Directed By: Bill Condon
Written By: Stephen Chbosky & Evan Spiliotopoulos
Runtime: 2 hours 9 minutes

I cannot begin to explain how excited I was to get to review this movie. If I hadn’t been in a theater with about twenty-five other reviewers, I might have burst into tears as soon as the title appeared on screen. Beauty and the Beast was the first movie I ever saw in theaters, and it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s still one of my favorite movies. It’s a beautiful film, has some of the most memorable songs of all time, and features a princess whose defining characteristic is her love of reading. When I heard about the live-action remake, I was both excited and nervous. I’m not the kind of person who worries that a bad adaptation of a beloved classic will destroy my childhood, but I still wanted to like the new version. Luckily for me, I was not disappointed.

If you’ve been living under a rock your entire life and don’t know the story, Beauty and the Beast is about a beautiful bookworm named Belle (Emma Watson), who lives in a small French village with her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), where her bookish ways are misunderstood by the other townspeople, including Belle’s brawny, brutish suitor, Gaston (Luke Evans). One night, when a traveling Maurice unwittingly trespasses in a castle in the middle of the forest, he is taken prisoner by the beast (Dan Stevens), a prince who was cursed (along with his servants, who were all turned into household objects) by an enchantress. The only way to break the curse is for the beast to find true love, and to be loved in return. Belle bravely offers to trade places with her father, and, over time, begins to see what kind of man the beast can be past his appearance.

As someone who is very sentimental about the original, I can safely say this is an incredibly faithful adaptation. Much of the dialogue from the original is included verbatim in the remake, and there are lots of little moments and details from the animated version that are featured in this one, making me feel wonderfully nostalgic. At the same time, the remake offers some much-needed updates. For example, Belle is a better-developed character in this version. Besides just being a bookworm mostly interested in fairy tales, she helps her father with his creations and shows her own innovation. She’s also more relatable, showing her self-consciousness about how the other villagers view her as “odd.” The romance between Belle and the Beast is better handled as well. The movie shows how their friendship develops first, which makes the transition to romance more believable. The fact that Emma Watson and Dan Stevens have excellent chemistry helps sell it as well.

Besides the actors behind the titular characters, the rest of the cast give wonderful performances as well. Luke Evans and Josh Gad were born to play Gaston and Le Fou. Kevin Kline is a less scatterbrained (but still dreamy) Maurice, and the chemistry between him and Emma is heartwarming. The household staff all gave solid performances, and Ewan McGregor as Lumiere and Ian McKellen as Cogsworth were especially entertaining.

Besides the adaptation in general, I was mostly nervous about how the singing would be. Emma Watson is a fantastic actress, but I wasn’t sure how she’d do as a singer, and she had some pretty big shoes to fill. Fortunately, she did not disappoint. Watson has a lovely, bright-toned voice, and while it’s not as full-sounding as Paige O’Hara’s was in the original, it was still an excellent fit for the character. Luke Evans gives a decent performance as well; while there isn’t as much bravado in his voice during Gaston as I would like, he really shines in Kill the Beast. Ewan McGregor nails Be Our Guest with his warm, sparkling voice, although something about the number overall feels kind of underwhelming; I’m not sure if the tempo is a little slower, or if the phrasing could be tighter, or there isn’t as much background chorus as there was in the original, but it doesn’t pack the same punch the Oscar-winning number did in the animated version, although it is still enjoyable. Emma Thompson’s rendition of Mrs. Potts’s titular song holds its own against Angela Lansbury’s, which is no small feat. Naturally, Broadway royalty Audra McDonald as Garderobe is the best singer out of the cast, and while her song at the beginning isn’t particularly memorable, she still makes it sound amazing; seriously, she could sing the dictionary and make it sound good. My last music-related critique is that the orchestra is pretty overpowering and tends to drown out the singing a bit.

Lastly, the movie is visually stunning, as anyone who has seen the trailers has probably already gathered. The big group scenes are beautifully shot and reminiscent of the original. The sets are lovely, and the castle is especially breathtaking. The CGI for the beast and the other enchanted characters is very impressive. Most memorable, though, are the costumes; they remain faithful to the animated version while still adding incredible detail. While Belle’s trademark yellow ball gown is gorgeous, my favorite is the one she wears in the final scene of the movie; if I ever get married, I will walk down the aisle in a replica of that dress. 
 While I’m sure I will continue to be skeptical of this wave of live-action remakes Disney has been churning out, Beauty and the Beast is excellent, both as an adaptation of an animated film and as a movie on its own. Whether you’re a hardcore, nostalgic Disney fan like I am or a casual movie-goer, I have no doubt you will enjoy this.

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Have you seen ‘Beauty & The Beast’? Well, what did you think? 

MSPIFF14 Reviews: The Double & The Last of Robin Hood

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Review by Josh P.

The-Double-PosterThe Double follows Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg, who plays against type and is award-worthy superb), a meek man unrecognizable to his co-workers, one of whom is the girl of his dreams, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska, terrific). Early in the film, Simon’s bleak life takes two unhappy turns. First, he witnesses a suicide, and then his doppelgänger, James Simon (also Eisenberg, this time playing to type), begins working at the same company, doing a similar job. James is more likable and confident than Simon, meaning he is more successful, despite being less qualified. 

Writer/director Richard Ayoade’s film isn’t exactly scary, and might not even qualify as creepy. Nor is it commonly laugh out loud funny or emotionally impacting. Plus, it is at least somewhat derivative, obviously resembling Brazil (1985), amongst other movies. At times, as when Simon says things like, ‘But I used to exist. I mean I exist. I’m standing right here,’ it is even reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s best work. By rights, then, The Double, should fail to register, should fade from memory, should be just another conceptually interesting science fiction movie unable to maximize its potential. 

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Thankfully, it is more than that, owing mostly to Ayoade’s fantastic production design. The film’s thematic and narrative content is dark, and so is The Double’s color palette. Here we see mostly browns and grays, with some whites mixed in; the retro computers; the televisions; the characters’ costumes; interior and exterior doors; most walls; tables; desks; and so forth. Because much of the imagery is borderline dull, the few times we see bright color (consider James’ unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt), we know something significant will soon happen. Or, at the very least, that the image is meaningful to Simon.

The movie’s retro technology and set pieces are as effective as its color palette. From the box televisions, to the copy machines with dial controls, to the small screen computers, the technology helps solidify The Double’s setting and enhance its atmosphere. Its set pieces do the same: apartments are very small, and bigger rooms are mostly filled by complicated piping connected to aforementioned machines. Before long we begin to understand Simon’s world, to feel his claustrophobia and lack of entertainment, not to mention his social disconnectedness.

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Ayoade, in other words, effectively immerses us in Simon’s reality, thereby making us care about the character and causing dread when the protagonist’s life goes horribly wrong. It doesn’t matter, in other words, that the director keeps us at psychological and emotional distance from Simon. We empathize with the character anyway. 

Which is why The Double is thematically resonant and intellectually intriguing, the sort of movie that will keep viewers thinking, even days after seeing it. What does this picture say about an individuals’ place in society? About confidence? Identity? Relationships? And more? 

Thematic power is not The Double’s only strength. The cast is terrific. Moreover, the central characters are developed well, and Ayoade and co-writer Avi Korine’s dialogue is witty. Finally, the film is funny enough to always entertain. Simply put, The Double is very good.

4.5 out of 5 reels

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The Last of Robin Hood

Review by Ruth M.

TheLastOfRobinHoodposterThough the title refers to the role Errol Flynn’s best known for, this film is more about his last girlfriend, Beverly Aadland. She was only 15 years old when the legendary swashbuckler and reputable lothario made his conquest. He saw her going into Warner Bros studios, looking much older than what she actually was in her form-fitting red dress. The wide-eyed teen starlet inevitably and immediately fell for the Australian actor, but she really didn’t have much choice in the matter, given Flynn’s persistence and her own mother practically pimping her in order to *assist* her career. I can’t remember if the film said something about Flynn still being married to Patrice Wymore, but I found that out after the film.

This is really a sad story, not to mention creepy. Kevin Kline who played Flynn was 67 and Dakota Fanning as Beverly was 19 when they made the film, so the age gap between them is even bigger (47 years apart as opposed to 33). But what’s even creepier is how Beverly’s mother Florence (Susan Sarandon) not only encouraged the affair, but also willingly became the third wheel as they travel together. Her own marriage crumbled as her husband vehemently disagreed with what Florence did to their own daughter, and sensibly, he didn’t think Beverly really had talents for showbiz anyway.

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And so, the 90-min film pretty much follow the three of them travel from L.A., New York, Africa, even Cuba where Flynn made a pro-Castro propaganda movie starring Beverly. It’s amusing to get a glimpse how Old Hollywood operated back then, well specifically, how a notorious Golden Age movie star lived. There’s a brief scene where Flynn tried to convince Stanley Kubrick (Max Casella) to cast her alongside him in Lolita. But they soon realize that the affair didn’t really do much for Beverly’s career. The film paints a devastating picture of the ruthless desire for fame and the price people pay to achieve it. It’s not an in-depth biopic, nor a particularly emotional one either, as I barely connect with any of the characters.

All three main characters are such tragic figures in their own right, though I don’t quite have an emotional connection with any of them. I feel for Beverly the most, yet she isn’t exactly blameless in all of this. Though it seemed that Flynn genuinely cared for her, their relationship wasn’t always smooth. It lasted for merely two years when the alcoholic Flynn died suddenly of a heart attack. Seemed that beneath the devil-may-care facade, even Flynn knew that death was looming.

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The real Erroll Flynn & Kline in the role

I feel like this story is perhaps more suited for a TV movie or something in terms of its production quality. I think the performances are good, both Kline and Fanning are pretty committed to the role, and Kline’s resemblance to the older Flynn is pretty uncanny. Sarandon plays the ruthless and fame-hungry Florence convincingly, up until the end she still sought attention when she spoke to the tabloid about the whole affair. Despite Beverly’s insistence that she dropped the book deal, her book was still published.

If you’re a big fan of Errol Flynn this should be an interesting movie to rent. Even if you aren’t [like me, as I haven’t seen any of his movies], surely you have heard of him. It’s a pretty stylish film by Richard GlatzerWash Westmoreland, I think they managed to capture the era quite well. Just don’t expect anything profound or poignant, it’s merely amusing for me, but falls short from being a truly engaging biopic.

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What do you think of these two films? 

FlixChatter Review: Last Vegas

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Hollywood seems to love making movies about bachelor party and here we have another one. Instead of having a bunch of young actors going to Vegas and behaving badly, this time we have a bunch of older actors going to Vegas and behaving like their younger selves. Four men in their late 60s who’ve been friends since childhood decided to go to Sin City and have a crazy bachelor party. After a brief flashback scene introducing to each of the characters, the film fast forwards to present day where each of them are now way past their prime.

Sam (Kevin Kline) is now retired and living in Florida with his wife of 40 years; Archie (Morgan Freeman) is living with his son and daughter in law and he’d just had a stroke; Paddy (Robert De Niro) is living alone, still mourning the death of his late wife. One day Billy (Michael Douglas), who’s still a bachelor even though he’s almost 70 years old, called them up and said he’s going to get married to his very young girlfriend, she’s in her early 30s. Billy it seems is the most successful of the bunch, he lives in a beach house in Malibu and is a head some big investing firm and oh yeah he also dates a woman young enough to be his granddaughter. Seems to me Douglas was playing the older version of Gordon Gekko but a nicer version of Gordon. Archie and Sam suggested they throw him a bachelor party and meet in Vegas. Billy agrees but he wants everyone to go, apparently he and Paddy have lost touch and haven’t spoken to one another in years. Archie and Sam said they’ll talk to Paddy and convince him to go.

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Once they arrived in Vegas, they ran into a pretty lounge singer Diana (Mary Steenburgen), who works at a crappy casino. Right away she caught the attention of the men, Billy and Paddy seems to be quite fond of her. There’s a little love triangle plotline that involves these three characters that I won’t discuss here but I thought it worked out well and wasn’t as clichéd as I predicted. They also ran into a young punk at the casino (Jerry Ferrara, Turtle from Entourage), at first you think he’s the antagonist but later in the movie, he became sort of a sidekick to these men.

Each of the actors got their fair shares of screen time, Kline and Freeman looked like they had a blast in their respective roles. The movie focuses mostly on the friction between Billy and Paddy and I thought Douglas and De Niro did a great job of playing those roles. With a movie like this, you’d think these actors would just show up and earn an easy paycheck but they looked like they’re having a great time and we the audience believe that they’re friends for real.

Director Jon Turteltaub whose last three movies were big-budget action spectacles, the always fun National Treasure films and the awful looking The Sorcerer’s Apprentice; went back to his comedic comfort zone and crafted a fun film. Nothing was over the top in the movie and he kept the pace moving fast. There’s not a laugh out loud moment in my opinion but there’s enough humor in the movie that kept me entertained for 90 minutes.

If you’re a fan of any of these talented actors then I think you’ll enjoy this movie, think of it as a PG version of The Hangover and the fun vibe of the Ocean’s movies. It has some clichéd moments but they’re well-executed.

3 out of 5 reels


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What do you think of Last Vegas and/or the cast here?

Five Memorable American Movie Presidents

Happy President’s Day, folks!

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In celebration of American presidents in the past 234 years, here are five actors who’ve played the role of U.S. Commander in Chief in the past couple of decades:

Michael Douglas – Andrew Shepherd in The American President (1995)

This movie is full of great scenes between Douglas and his love interest played brilliantly by Annette Benning, but this telephone banter that ends up with the prez asking her out is absolutely endearing. Of course there’s also the rousing speech that’s arguably one of the best movie speeches ever, and one that’s worthy to be in one of my top 20 favorite scenes list.

Morgan Freeman – Tom Beck in Deep Impact (1998)

Cool and collected even in a major crisis. With a regal stature and deep, soothing voice, Mr. Beck is the kind of leader we all wish to have suppose a giant meteor threatens to wipe out the entire humanity. ‘We will prevail. Life will go on,’ he said in the movie, and as implausible and absurd as the circumstances seemed to be, we’re somehow inclined to believe him.


Kevin Kline – William Harrison Mitchell in Dave (1993)

One minute Dave Kovic is just a regular guy who does uncanny impersonation, the next he’s in the same bedroom in the White house with the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver). Kline’s brand of mischievous humor is perfect for this role, and this scene where he sings the entire chorus of Anne in the middle of a traffic stop is a real hoot! Equally memorable in this flix is Frank Langella as Chief of Staff Bob Alexander. A decade and a half later, he scored an Oscar nomination playing a historical president Nixon in Frost/Nixon.

Apparently isn’t the only time he plays the prez, he played the role of the 18th US President Ulysses S. Grant in the Western action-comedy Wild Wild West with Will Smith.
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Bill Pullman – Thomas J. Whitmore in Independence Day (1996)

Whitmore’s freedom speech is unabashedly mawkish, sure, but hey, if some giant aliens were about to annihilate the entire earth population, I think one’s allowed to get just a tad sentimental, no?
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Donald Moffat – President Bennett in Clear and Present Danger (1994)

The confrontation between President Bennett and an infuriated Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) in the Oval Office remains one of my fave scenes of the movie.
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The President:
How dare you come in here and lecture me!
Jack Ryan:
How dare *you*, sir!
The President:
How dare you come into this office and bark at me like some little junkyard dog? I am the President of the United States!
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I couldn’t find the exact scene, but it’s embedded in the trailer below:
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Of course my favorite line comes from the heroic CIA analyst himself after Bennett’s spiel on who gets punished for ‘Reciprocity’ (from IMDb quotes page): “I’m sorry, Mr. President, I don’t dance.” Bennett’s expression as Ryan walked out is priceless! The 80-year-old Brit has played a US president twice, the other time as historical prez Lyndon B. Johnson in The Right Stuff.


Hmmm, I just realized all of them on this list are from the 90s. It’s pure coincidence really, I guess I can’t really remember one memorable movie prez of the last decade. They all seem to be the daft caricatures: the doofus version Dennis Quaid played in American Dreamz, the sleazeball one in Love, Actually (Billy Bob Thornton), and Tim Robbins in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Any other movie president(s) stick out to you?