Movie Review: Beauty and The Beast (2017)

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Plot: An adaptation of the fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love.

Of all the sentimental attachments I have to Disney classics, my attachment to Beauty and The Beast is the strongest. As a young girl Belle was like this guiding light – she liked to read, she was interested in a greater life and she was the author of her own story. She finds love because she’s brave and can see past the exterior, not because she needed rescuing. Belle rocks man. So it was with an uneasy mix of excitement and trepidation that I handled the news of a live animation adaption. Would they ruin it? Would they, GASP, try and be original? I am pretty happy with the original work and I would not have appreciated a new take where Gaston is the hero and the Beast is just a Beast – I’m looking at you, Maleficent.

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However, I loved it. Emma Watson is most certainly not the world’s most accomplished actress, but she’s been unfairly criticized for her work as Belle. I was expecting much worse, both in terms of acting and of singing. People are reporting her as weak and unconvincing. She wasn’t. She is at times slightly wooden but not offensively so. Is her voice auto tuned? Maybe, but since I’m no Adele I am not going around judging people for their singing. Whether her haters like it or not, she’s a face of gender rights at the moment and that, combined with her serious personality and Harry Potter legacy made her a spot on choice for Belle. That yellow dress sure is pretty and springing and she seems to have good chemistry with Dan Stevens – who wouldn’t? – And eventually looks more comfortable with the role.

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A standout performance is that of Luke Evans as Gaston. He’s the boorish, muscled and mean spirited villain with such style that it is obvious he had the time of his life being Gaston. He also has hands down the best singing voice of the cast. My favorite musical of this film is Gaston, he was perfect in every way and the musical is brilliantly executed.

Josh Gad as Lafou provided the required quota of comic relief. He was just a bit over the top. I also didn’t really understand the issue with him being Gay. Goodness me, I guess I’m just that peculiar that I really couldn’t care about someone’s sexual orientation as long as they are decent human beings, and my experience with the gay community has me convinced they are, in actual fact, more often better people than their straighter counterparts. On further thought Lafou wasn’t particularly straight in the original work, so I just don’t get the fuss. I found the third musketeer’s reaction to his wardrobe change hilarious and spot on.

My only issue with Dan Stevens as the Beast is that I didn’t get to see more of his lovely face. It is a pity. He has a gorgeous voice. Considering most of his work was under CGI (mores the pity), I can’t truly comment on his acting in here.

Maurice (Kevin Kline) was much less of a cartoonish fool and a man dealing with grief and guilt. I quite liked this impression of him, and made the character much more lovable. Also great voice work from Emma Thompson, Ian McKellan and Ewan McGregor.

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It is true that Bill Condon provides an extravagant affair. He clearly had Disney’s massive financial backing because his sets are elaborate and finely carved. The only one lacking was Mrs. Potts. She definitely got the bums rush from the development crew. Everything else is so ornate and rich to look at. I enjoyed the castle crumbling as physical evidence of the Beast’s chances of finding his human form beginning to wane all the more.

I know the original work well enough that I can parrot the songs, so I picked up on the changed words. I don’t get why they did it though. It wasn’t necessary for the original works are close to perfect. My only serious complaint is the rendition of Beauty and the Beast. Neither the song in the movie or its’ rendition by Ariana Grande and John Legend comes close to the original Celine Dion cover. The new songs were dangerous experimentations. I liked all of them, but someone sure had balls to create new scores for such a beloved classic.

A lot of political commentary going on and naturally I was on board – women reading, doing their own thing, and specifically Belle stating that she’s not ready to have children yet to the complete bewilderment of her community is a priceless moment. We feel you, Belle.

I actually really loved this adaption. Disney has a knack of producing great live animations. It is somewhat lazy work with about half the creativity than an original production would require – just do good casting and great graphics and depend on the fans that are hit with a wave of nostalgia. It remains quite wonderful work however and I can’t wait to buy the DVD!

Rating: 8.5/10

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Marvelous Mondays: X-Men: The Last Stand by FilmTruths blog

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Today we have the lovely Melissa of  Filmtruthsblog who is going to tell us all about her impression of Last Stand. Thanks for taking part, Melissa! (PS: Go follow her blog here if you haven’t yet!)

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The third film in what was part of the original trilogy of the franchise tells the story of a threat for mutant kind. A newly discovered ‘cure’ that can rid them of their genetic disposition they see as ‘not normal’. This leads to a collision of opinions from both sides, and more pressure is put on mutants whose abilities affects them physically. It forces them to choose between giving up their unique abilities to settle for being ordinary, and pledging allegiance to the human race, who see them as a threat to mankind or continue to be victimised for being different. When you summarise the story like this, the plot actually sounds pretty good. Especially considering the success of the first two installments, I think I speak for a lot of Marvel fans, who expected this one to be the icing on the cake to a great franchise. However, something always felt lacking with this one and I wasn’t 100% pleased with how things turned out.

The film was directed by Brett Ratner who stepped in for Bryan Singer. If I had to judge this film alone without the previous films already ingrained into my mind, then this film is decent – yet somehow feels more silly. I think its because of some of the mutants involved, we saw Vinnie Jones as the Juggernaut : with his only memorable line being “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch”. The film itself is filled with action packed scenes where more focus was on the use of mutant powers, it may not have led to an in depth story development, but the thrills and excitement that comes from watching the mutants was entertaining . 

What we have to remember is that at the time, we had no clue the X Men universe would be expanded, to two Wolverine films and now a prequel franchise of the mutants in their youth. Therefore, X Men: The Last Stand was supposed to be the climax to the trilogy, yet annoyingly it failed to reach the pinnacle point of satisfaction. It irks me that I can’t quite decide why it is I didn’t fully enjoy this film, but it has to be the fact that the story was very two dimensional and predictable. With a superhero film like this, there should have been twists and turns until the final moment, keeping the audience on the edge of their seat.

It’s by no means a bad thing to have an entertaining film, but in this instance the arrival of new characters after the loss of original members such as Nighcrawler, made it difficult for me to appreciate the new arrivals. However there were amazing visual effects, especially the scene with the Golden Gate Bridge – that was pretty spectacular the first time I saw it. Another highlight, was the return of Jean as the Phoenix. I’m not going to pretend it didn’t sting little, when she sacrificed herself at the end of the second film in order to protect her mutant comrades. When she returned that was the best and only twist of the film.

 However, I was less than enthused with how the Jean Grey storyline played out. If your going to bring back a character of such significance, then make her be the most bad-ass character, don’t just sit her on the sidelines watching. I think that was a complete mis – step and lost opportunity to add something more to the story.

 It’s evident that this installment is merely a shell of of its predecessors, who managed to pull of something brilliant, but the true potential was never fully realised. What’s even more annoying is that since the expansion of the X Men universe, its made the narrative irrelevant thereby making this film completely obsolete.

Thanks for taking part, Melissa! You are a star!

Marvelous Mondays: X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

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Professor X: “So many battles waged over the years… and yet, none like this. Are we destined to destroy each other, or can we change each other and unite? Is the future truly set?”

Plot: The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants. (IMDb)

Rating: 8.5/10

As the first Marvelous Mondays post for 2015, I am actually bringing a post to the table. Yep, me! Zoë has already reviewed this movie here, and I am happy to agree with her that it was an excellent movie.

X-Men: Days of Future Past wasn’t a movie I was rushing to see or anything. I chose to watch it on a long road trip to make the time pass, and man, am I happy that I did it! I can’t recall seeing any of the other X-Men movies, and I was thus very surprised that I could follow appropriately. I do think if you have more knowledge of what went down in the other movies it would enhance the impact of this one, but there is enough information in to make sure you are able to understand the Mutants have lost basically everything.

It is a rare thing of beauty to witness two of the greatest actors of our time together on screen: Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan. They have so much class and I really enjoyed how their characters can’t help but convey a sense of smugness when recalling their youth.

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As if the two legends mentioned above are not enough, you get the unbelievable talent that is James McAvoy on screen as the young Professor. I have always been slightly indifferent to him even though rumours of his brilliance have always been rampant. He was so good and multi layered and real that I now desperately need to watch more things with him in it. He is definitely my pleasant surprise of last year!

I loved the graphics in here. The portals right at the beginning is just too cool and I wasn’t overwhelmed with CGI (hem, hem, HOBBIT). That scene with Quicksilver where he puts on his earphones was really a wowzer, I won’t lie. I also found the concept behind the Sentinels very sinister and really well thought out (yes, I know that they come from comic books but remember that I’ve never touched on the X-Men franchise before)

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Even with my limited knowledge I found the entire cast well capable of their roles and well chosen. I really do like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and found those bone claws just intense looking overall. I thought Michael Fassbender was excellent as well as Magneto, at once very charming but it was also obvious that he was very dangerous and that it wouldn’t be a good idea to mess with him.

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I think I can admit that I really don’t get the hype around Jennifer Lawrence, but I do find her a very good actress. She wasn’t my favorite in the movie but I liked what they delivered on her past and how she had to realize her decisions would ultimately make or break the Mutants’ future.

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It was a lot of fun seeing Peter Dinklage as Trask. I do think that he was underused and it would have been very powerful to see why he hated the Mutants so intensely, whether he was just a complete racist (because that is how I perceived him in here), or if he had a possible reason for doing what he did.

I guess you can all see that I was very impressed with this movie, and that I think you should watch it if you haven’t already.

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

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The Desolation of Smaug starts at the Prancing Pony, in Bree, where Gandalf (Ian McKellan) finds Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and tells him about the Arkenstone, the secret passage into the mountain, and that it is Thorin’s duty to reunite the Dwarves. Gandalf suggest that a stealthy burglar might be the best way to steal the Arkenstone back from the dragon Smaug.

Fast-forwarding a year later, Thorin and his company are still being hunted by Azog and his misfits. The Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), now the company’s contracted burglar, tells them that they are also being followed by a giant black bear. Gandalf rushes them to the house of skin-changer Beorn (Mikael Persbrand), who changes into the black bear when he wills. Beorn isn’t an overly friendly fellow and he isn’t fond of dwarves, but his hatred for Orcs eventually makes him lend horses to the company. The company heads towards Mirkwood, a forest over which a strange and unknown curse lies. Gandalf leaves them there, insisting that he has urgent matters to take care of.

Azog is meanwhile summoned to Dol Guldur, an ancient evil stronghold, and is promoted to lead the armies against Middle-Earth. Azog instructs his son Bolg to start hunting Thorin whilst he is busy with his new job. Gandalf arrives at Dol Guldur, and is taken captive by Azog and the Necromancer reveals himself, who is actually the Dark Lord Sauron.

In the forest of Mirkwood the Dwarves and Hobbit quickly stumbles off the path and gets lost. They are caught by giant spiders, but Bilbo saves them once again. The Elves arrives and takes the Dwarves captive to their King Thranduil (Lee Pace), and after Thorin gives him lip they are imprisoned. A strange relationship starts between dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner) and the Elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lily) Bilbo, who sneaked in unseen thanks to his Ring, once again saves the dwarves by getting them out of prison and escaping by hiding in barrels that are washing downstream. The elves are alerted of their escape, but they are all attacked by Orcs and Kili is shot in the leg by a black arrow, poisoned by Mordor. When Tauriel hears that Kili is set to die a horrible death because of it, she sets out after the party to save him, and is followed by her friend Legolas (Orlando Bloom)

While washing downstream, the party meets Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans). He smuggles them into the Lake-town where the descendants of Dale lives. Thorin promises the Master of the Lake-town a share of the gold under the Mountain, and the party is treated like heroes. Thorin decides to leave the desperately sick Kili behind, although it is also his greatest dream to see the ancient Dwarf realm. Fili, Oin and Bofur choose to stay with him and try to help him. The town is soon filled with Orcs, but Tauriel and Legolas hunts them and they flee. Tauriel saves Kili by healing him with the weed Athelas.

Thorin and his remaining party reach the Lonely Mountain, where Bilbo discovers the secret passage. He heads in to steal the Arkenstone, and awakens Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). When they hear the dragon’s awakening, Bard attempts to bring the black arrow, the only weapon that can kill a dragon, to the town’s launcher, but he is arrested. He leaves the arrow with his son to hide. Back in the mountain, Bilbo and the dwarves trick the dragon into reigniting the forges, and they attempt to kill him by drowning him in molten gold. Smaug re-emerges, furious, and heads to the Lake-town to hunt the people that helped the Dwarves. Bilbo watches in horror as Smaug leaves the Mountain to the village, knowing that he helped unleash the horrors that await the Town.

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Smaug

Rating: 6/10

What I liked:

The scenery. I have always thought the entire franchise did a fantastic job capturing the beauty of Middle-Earth.

Ian McKellen as Gandalf. He is probably the greatest casting choice in the movies. I think he does a superb job as catching the kind hearted but powerful wizard who was so responsible for saving Middle Earth.

The Dragon is really cool.

Thorin: He is played well by Richard Armitage (except for my favorite Hobbit peeve that the dwarves are too attractive), and his descent into greed and madness is shown here in a few scenes where the movie goer starts to see that the quest is changing him.

Azog: While not a central character in the book per se; he is terrifying in the movie.

Mirkwood, and the clarity of how different the Elves there are to their kin in Rivendell.

The splendor and riches of Erebor.

What I didn’t like

The appendices were written in. Most of the extra shizz in the movie is authentic Tolkien – from the back of the extended Lord of the Rings books set I have at home. The necessity of including Gandalf’s imprisonment in Dol Guldur is questionable, as is the plenty of screen time given to Radagast and Galadriel. The Hobbit is essentially about Bilbo Baggins and his adventure with the dwarves. A book as thin as the Hobbit needed at the most two movies – now with three it is stretched out.

Legolas: First, he is too butch to be an elf. What happened to the light and fast guy from LOTR? He seems like he will break the tree’s branches. Secondly, he has this huge story in this movie (and I can be wrong) but he isn’t even in the book.

Love story: I love a good love story, but Tolkien’s world is exciting enough to be portrayed without additional relationships between elves and dwarves.

Conclusion:

Although not worth going to the movies for, there are some great scenes and fantastic fights. The Desolation of Smaug is not on the level of The Lord of the Rings, but if you ignore the dire deviations from the novel, it is watchable.