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Beauty and the Beast Goes Big And Then Goes Home

Jeremiah

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Bill Condon is the only person who could direct a live-action adaptation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. He is drawn to stories about outsiders such as Gods And Monsters or Mr. Holmes. Condon is also no stranger to the fantastical Candyman: Farewell to The Flesh or Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts 1 & 2I haven’t even mentioned Dreamgirls, the Beyonce musical and winner of five Academy Awards. If you’re looking for a man who could bring the classic and beloved tale of Belle and the Beast to life, Bill Condon is uniquely qualified.

When the movie goes all out, larger than life, this is a musical with a capital ‘M”. It’s a joy. The movie starts out roaring out of the gate. It’s the mandatory prologue telling us about the selfish prince and the hag who curses him to a life of bestial purgatory. The movie adds a bit about how the village is cursed so as to have forgotten about the prince, which neatly closes a plot hole from the animated film.

It’s a terrific scene. The Prince is throwing a ball for some reason or other, but Condon and his cinematographer Tobias Schliessler really allow us to experience the opulence and decadence of the Prince’s lifestyle. There’s a lushness to the scenes that lend an air grandiosity to the whole enterprise. 

We then meet Belle (Emma Watson) in a rousing classical old school MGM musical number “Belle”. The only real flaw in the number is Watson. She’s not terrible. She’s not great either. In the end, she’s good enough. The townspeople tell us about how Belle is such an odd duck because she reads and has opinions.

We also meet Gaston (Luke Evans) and LeFou (Josh Gad), and we realize holy crap these two can sing. Evans and Gad have terrific chemistry together as they sing and ham their way through the movie. Everybody is good. They’re too damn talented not to be. You have Kevin Kline, Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Audra Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Dan Stevens.

Beauty and the Beast is filled with little moments by great actors working with a great director and landing a solid emotional punch. The problem is it’s all peaks and valleys. For example “Be Our Guest” is so much fun you almost think the movie has found it’s groove. It’s a visual spectacle worth of Disney and Condon. But then there’s a never-ending scene where the Beast has a solo. It’s drab and monotonous. The melody and the lyrics are ill-suited for each other. There’s a rousing orchestral moment during the ‘feel sad now’ moment, and the whole thing just feels forced.

The main problem is Belle and the Beast. Watson is an immensely talented actress, but she’s not given much to do here. Stevens, who I fucking loved in The Guest is usually magnetic and intense. Here the two seem to miss each other even while sharing the same screen.

Part of it is the special effects. Stevens as the Beast is… off. His look is almost more man than beast. The way the Beast is rendered, while visually striking, lends the character an air of not really existing with any kind of weight. There were times in Kong: Skull Island where the giant ape felt real, even though I knew he wasn’t. He seemed to exist in his space. In Beauty and the Beast, Belle and Beast often share the same space without feeling like they are.

It doesn’t help that Belle and the Beast hardly talk to each other. Sure they have scenes together, but rare is the scene where the two actually converse. Most of Watson’s scenes are with the servants in the mansion: Cogsworth, Lumiere, and company. These scenes mire Watson in exposition and give her little chance to do any acting.

But holy Jeebus does this movie look gorgeous. Does it feel like a giant mega-budget Broadway musical that someone adapted to film? Yes, but with three great songs and a few original, oddly tempoed songs thrown in just to keep the movie from being good.

Honestly, Beauty and the Beast is kind of a mess. It’s rote and boring for long stretches of time. There are expected emotional payoffs that come up empty because the movie hasn’t done the leg work to make us feel it. There’s added backstory about Belle’s mother, but it really doesn’t add anything other than information. Whatever emotional payoff it tries to wrangle out of it comes up wanting.

The changes made to the original 1991 animated movie feel more like padding than organic changes to flesh out characters or story arcs. I did like the diversity in casting, though. It was nice to see PoC play characters that didn’t require them to be PoC. (Though, show of hands, who would have loved to see Mbatha-Raw as Belle?) As for all the hullabaloo about Gad’s LeFou and his gay moment? I’d say if you blink you’ll miss it, only I didn’t blink and I still missed it. It was only as the credits rolled that I realized the moment that caused all the ruckus.

Disney has been re-imaging their classic animated movies into live action adaptations for a few years now. With each one, they’ve tried to update the story or look at it through a non-patriarchal lens. In other words, they were updates, reboots, remakes, whatever you want to call them. They were stories that tried to do something different than the original.

Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast added thirty minutes to its runtime and little else. This is a kid-friendly movie for the whole family. It’s also a toothless bore throughout most of its run. This shouldn’t be. The people behind the camera, as well as the people in front, are too damned talented for something this mediocre.


Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Jeremiah lives in Los Angeles and divides his time between living in a movie theatre and writing mysteries. There might also be some ghostbusting being performed in his spare time.

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Watch the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Trailer and You’ve Basically Seen the Movie

Bo

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Everyone knows the tendency for trailers to give away the entire plot to a movie. This final trailer for the new Jurassic World not only gives away too much of the plot, it basically gives away the entire plot. As a Reddit user commented this morning, you’ve seen about 3 different movies from these trailers at this point. I suppose that’s not a huge issue. I doubt many people expect huge surprises from this movie.

After the new Jurassic World park failed (shocker, I know), the dinosaurs left there face extinction four years later because of an impending volcanic eruption. Our heroes team up with a totally not shady company to help evacuate the dinosaurs. Surprise, surprise, the company is actually shady and looks like they’re going to use the evacuated dinosaurs for profit. Profit involving selling them, experimenting on them, you know the deal. And if you watch the trailer, you’ll see exactly how the heroes will stop them.

Here’s hoping there’s a twist at the end. Maybe the dinosaurs can actually take over? They kind of deserve it with how stupid humanity acts in these movies. How many times does messing around with dinosaurs have to blow up in their faces before they learn their lesson?

I know we’ve mentioned this problem with previous movie trailers, but this one honestly strikes me as a bit more ridiculous than usual. What exactly have we not seen of this movie now? We’ve seen the threat to the dinosaurs and how they are rescued. We’ve seen the bad guy betrayal. The actual motive, the hero’s plan, probably every cool scene, we’ve seen it all. Maybe people love trailers like this and I’m out of touch? I can’t imagine why. Who wants to go into a movie knowing every cool scene before it happens?

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom arrives in theaters on June 22. You know, if you want to watch the unabridged version of this trailer.


Video and Images Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

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Will Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey Cure the Testosterone-Poisoned DCEU?

Dan

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Are men canceled? The jury is still out. But it may be that their once assured grip on all things comics has finally slipped. And one can look no further than what has happened at Warner Bros. and DC with the DC cinematic universe. The dark and gloomy film nerd pandering schlock of Zach Snyder seems to have finally run out of steam after the failure of Justice League, and not even the outdated comic geek quips of Joss Whedon couldn’t save them. Finally taking cues from the success of Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman, DC has added, of all things, women to their creative teams. First, Ava DuVernay was placed in charge of Jack Kirby’s New Gods, then Batgirl replaced Whedon with Christine Hodson. Now, Deadline has announced that Cathy Yan will be directing the upcoming Harley Quinn vehicle Birds of Prey. Not only will she be the second female director in the DCEU (Birds of Prey will precede New Gods) but will be the first Asian woman to direct a superhero movie.

Yan is a relative newcomer to the film world, but she’s not unaccomplished.  Born in China and raised in Hong Kong and the US, Yan has studied at Princeton and NYU, where she got an MFA from the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts. Before getting into film-making, she wrote for the Wall Street Journal. She wrote and directed multiple shorts before making her debut with Dead Pigs, which received rave reviews at Sundance.

Birds of Prey, which will use Christine Hodson’s script, has been a long-awaited addition to the DC canon. Long tied closely to writer Gail Simone, who made her name writing for it in 2003, Birds of Prey has stood out as a mostly-female team of heroes operating adjacent to the hyper-masculine Batman family of books. Its membership has revolved around Oracle (Barbara Gordon), who finally found her footing post-Killing Joke as a hyper-competent hacker and information broker, and Black Canary, who gets a break from Oliver Queen by acting as Oracle’s main operative. Other major members include former “mafia princess”  Huntress and the time-displaced Blackhawk, who acts as the team’s pilot. Many of the biggest female heroes in the DCU have passed through the ranks of the Birds of Prey, including Big Barda, Vixen, and Katana (her katana traps the souls of its victims.)

Margot Robbie’s production company LuckyChap is co-producing the film as a feature for Margot’s Harley Quinn. While Harley herself has never been a member of the Birds, her girlfriend Poison Ivy has (albeit as a ploy), and the team acts as a foil to Quinn and Ivy’s Gotham City Sirens as women in the Bat-universe.

This won’t be the first foray onto the screen for the Birds of Prey. It comes after a short-lived WB series starring Dina Meyer, and a disappointing (as always) attempt by Arrow to base an episode on the series. The film adaptation will be produced by Robbie, Sue Kroll, and Brian Unkeles and their respective production companies. Robbie was instrumental in Yan’s selection, as she was firm in her conviction that woman should direct the film. Other Quinn-centric films in the pipeline include an Ayer-free sequel to Suicide Squad, some unfortunate “rom-com” called Harley vs. The Joker, and Gotham City Sirens. Birds of Prey will enter production this year, as soon as Robbie finishes work on Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.


Image via DC Comics

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Simon Pegg Confirms Star Trek Sequel, Downplays Tarantino Involvement

Bo

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News recently made the rounds about Quentin Tarantino possibly directing the next Star Trek film, to obviously mixed reactions. Fan reaction grew even more hesitant at the possibility of the film being rated R. Don’t get me wrong, Tarantino has made some terrific movies over the years. Star Trek, though? Let’s just say he may not be the right guy for the job. His style is pretty far from what draws fans to this franchise.

Simon Pegg, who stars as Montgomery Scott in 2009’s Star Trek and its two sequels, has said the chances of Tarantino directing the next Star Trek are unlikely.

“I don’t think Quentin is going to direct it, because he’s got his California movie [Once Upon a Time in Hollywood] to do and then I think [he’s] only doing one more film after that.

In the same article, he also confirms there will be another Star Trek sequel, though he feels continuing after the tragic death of co-star Anton Yelchin will be tough. Yelchin starred alongside Pegg as Pavel Chekov.

So what do you think? Were you excited about the possibilities of a Tarantino Star Trek? Or are you massively relieved? Whatever the case, it looks like there will be a fourth film coming.


Image courtesy of Paramount and CBS

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