Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review

Beauty and the Beast (2017) movie posterSynopsis
Belle (Emma Watson) takes her father’s place as the prisoner for the Beast (Dan Stevens).  The Beast hopes to win Belle’s heart and break the spell that has been placed on him, his castle, and its inhabitants.

Review
Disney is currently going through a phase of remaking its animated films as live action films.  There have been a few of their lesser (although no less loved) classics already made and now they are stepping up to remake one of their most popular films, one that even holds the honor of being the first animated film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.  Disney’s previous live action remakes have gone in several different directions.  Maleficent retold Sleeping Beauty’s tale from the titular fairy’s point of view, whereas last year’s The Jungle Book, told a similar story to their 1967 classic while incorporating more of the original book’s source material, making it feel new yet familiar.  Where does Beauty and The Beast stand? Well, knowing that their Disney Renaissance film is such a well known and well loved film, it follows very closely to the original. Maybe a little too close.

Beauty and the Beast‘s biggest strength comes from its cast.  Emma Watson, to no surprise, is an absolute gem.  Her Belle is every bit as gentle yet strong as her animated predecessor.  Watson mentioned many times in interviews that Belle means a lot to her on a personal level and that love for the character really shines through.  Not only that, she has great chemistry with Dan Stevens, who plays Beast, which seems like a silly thing to say since Beast is a CGI character. However, Stevens’ emotion is still felt through the computer animation, leading to several touching moments throughout the film.

Besides Watson as Belle and Stevens as Beast, I thought the other characters were well cast also.  Luke Evans’ experience in theater made him a perfect fit as Gaston.  He brings the same charisma we’ve come to expect from his animated counterpart.  Josh Gad’s short and stout stature fit the character of LeFou perfectly, and I’m sure his experience as Frozen’s Olaf helped with the musical numbers as well. Kevin Kline was a more composed, less village-crazy-man incarnation of Maurice, Belle’s father, than the 1991 version.  Ian McKellen embodied the character of Cogsworth flawlessly. While Ewan McGregor’s French accent is a little dodgy, it never bothered me too much and he was still fun.

What surprised me the most about this film was how humorous it was! The original had plenty of laughs, sure, but I don’t remember it for its comedy.  This time, however, there were multiple times the entire theater would burst out laughing.  It definitely kept the mood light.

The set and costume design for this movie undeniably gorgeous. The majority of this film takes place within Beast’s castle and the ornate designs and decorations give it a breathtaking appearance. Everything is extremely detailed and well thought out and designed. It all deserves some recognition, from the castle’s furniture and stone towers, to the characters’ 18th century outfits, even character designs for the living objects, such as Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts.

My biggest flaw with Beauty and the Beast is that it doesn’t expand on, or do anything new with, the 1991 classic. Instead, what it does do is fill in and clean up the story.  For example, Gaston is painted in more of a villainous light, Belle’s family is given more of a background, the movie’s timeline is tightened, and more is revealed about the Enchantress’ spell. Disney’s other live-action remakes they have done so far have each told their own story using characters we were acquainted with, albeit with varying success.  This film, on the other hand, hits the exact same beats and the characters go through the same motions as before.  In essence, all this film is what the 1991 Beauty and the Beast would look like with live actors.

I thought Beauty and the Beast was GOOD 🙂 If you are a fan of the Disney Renaissance classic, you will more than likely enjoy this remake since it follows it very closely.  However, that is also its biggest weakness, in that it simply fills in some story points but never does anything wholly original.  It does make up for it though, with fantastic casting all around and great chemistry between Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Bill Condon – Director
Stephen Chbosky – Screenplay
Evan Spiliotopoulos – Screenplay
Alan Menkin – Composer

Emma Watson – Belle
Dan Stevens – Beast
Luke Evans – Gaston
Josh Gad – LeFou
Kevin Kline – Maurice
Ewan McGregor – Lumiere
Ian McKellen – Cogsworth
Emma Thompson – Mrs. Potts
Nathan Mack – Chip
Audra McDonald – Madame Garderobe
Stanley Tucci – Maestro Cadenza
Gugu Mbatha- Raw – Plumette
Rita Davies – Old Woman
Hattie Morahan – Agathe / Enchantress

Wild Wild West Review

This review was originally posted for the Ultimate 90s Blogathon, hosted by Tranquil Dreams and me.

Wild Wild West movie posterSynopsis
Army Captain James West (Will Smith) is tasked by President Grant (Kevin Kline) to work together with US Marshal Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) to find the ex-Confederate scientist Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) before he can take over the United States government.

Review
Wild Wild West was a go-to movie for my friend and I back when we were growing up. Between the two of us, we could (and still can!) quote the movie in its entirety. Having watched this many times over the years, I acknowledge that the nostalgia factor might affect my enjoyment of the film, as I have found several flaws since watching it as a young lad. However, that doesn’t mean it still can’t be enjoyed on its own merits.

Right out the gate, this movie is goofy. Not funny, although it is that too, but goofy. Artemis Gordon’s inventions feel a little too perfect for the situations they get Gordon and Jim West out of. Arliss Loveless’ beard rivals Crane’s beard from The Hunger Games for most intricate movie beard, acting as the proverbial “I’m the bad guy” sign. Loveless’ invention to bring the “US government to its knees” is a giant, steam-punk tarantula. Everything about this movie screams “Saturday morning cartoon.” Nevertheless, it has a sense of fun that many film miss, which is why it still works for even as I’ve grown older. Wild Wild West never takes itself seriously, making it fun for both the actors and the audience.

The humor can be seen as a little juvenile, like the scene below, but that kind of humor is what I like. Will Smith and John Kline are enjoyable to watch together. This film came out relatively early in Smith’s film career. It is fun to see how he has brought the same energy and personality to his characters throughout all of his movies, whether they were in the 90s, when he started film acting, or today. I’ll admit I haven’t seen many of Kline’s films to compare Artemis Gordon to his other roles but his comedy here is more subtle than Smith’s which works because having two boisterous comedians would be too much.

Besides the two leads, the other two big supporting actors, Salma Hayek and Kenneth Branagh are clearly having a good time too. The often scantily clad Hayek is obviously there for the eye candy and to give West and Gordon someone to compete for, but it doesn’t appear to bother her and she gives a memorable performance. Branagh gets fully into the maniacal villain role. It’s cartoonish and over the top but he steals his every scene he’s in.

I thought Wild Wild West was GOOD 🙂 It isn’t afraid to be silly and have fun with itself, which might turn off other viewers but I really enjoyed that. Everyone, from Will Smith and Kevin Kline to Salma Hayek and Kennith Branagh, feel like they are enjoying themselves. I grew up watching this film regularly and although its imperfections have become more apparent over the years, it still is every bit the fun, adventurous romp I remember it to be.

Favorite Scene

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Barry Sonnenfeld – Director
Jim Thomas – Story
John Thomas – Story
SS Wilson – Screenplay
Brent Maddock – Screenplay
Jefferey Price – Screenplay
Peter S Seaman – Screenplay
Elmer Bernstein – Composer

Will Smith – James West
Kevin Kline – Artemis Gordon / President Ulysses S Grant
Kenneth Branagh – Dr. Arliss Loveless
Salma Hayek – Rita Escobar
M. Emmet Walsh – Coleman
Ted Levine – General “Bloodbath” McGrath
Frederique van der Wal – Amazonia
Musetta Vander – Munitia
Sofia Eng – Miss Lippenrieder
Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon – Belle
Bai Ling – Miss East

Ultimate 90s Blogathon Kickoff: Encino Man

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Welcome! Welcome, one and all to the Ultimate 90s Blogathon! For the next several weeks my co-host Kim, the mastermind behind Tranquil Dreams, and I will celebrate films of the rad 90s with our fellow bloggers.  There is quite a mix of movies reviewed so I’m excited for you to see what is in store.  Kim kicked off the blogathon on her site as well with reviews of several of her favorite Robin Williams movies. She is also keeping a page of all the blogathon entries, which you can see here, that way you can get them all at one easy-to-find location.  Now let’s get this party started!


Encino Man movie poster

Synopsis
Dave (Sean Astin) just wants him and his best friend Stoney (Pauly Shore) to be one of the cool kids at high school. When they find a frozen caveman (Brendan Fraser) in Dave’s backyard, Dave tries to use their discovery to get in with the popular crowd.

Review
For this blogathon, all the entrants looked at “Ultimate 90s” as their favorite film from the 1990s. Well I’m going to look at it from a different point-of-view. I’m interpreting it as what movie I think best encapsulates the 1990s. Before I get to my review, here are a few reasons why I picked Encino Man as my Ultimate 90s movie:

  1. The Vocabulary. A good way to figure out what era a given movie is from is by listening to what slang is used. The 90s were littered with terms like “dope,” an excessive use of the word “babe,” and creating custom words by adding “-age” to the end of words. Let’s not forget the ever popular “as if.” Encino Man has all of the above and then some, which very easily lets the viewer know it very clearly takes place during the 90s.
  2. The Fashion. 90s fashion was defined by bright colors and crazy patterns. Oh, and jean jackets and leftover 80s aerobics outfits. All three of the main characters check these fashion crazes. Plus the girls’ hairstyles are exactly what you remember from the 90s.
    encinoman-hair
  3. Pauly Shore. Pauly Shore hit his heyday with his MTV show Totally Pauly. After Encino Man, he began to work on more movies, which lasted through most of the 90s then slowed down significantly in the early 2000s. So really, the Pauly Shore era is primarily the 90s.
  4. MTV. Speaking of MTV, believe it or not, this TV station actually PLAYED MUSIC at one time in history. Unlike today where it is filled with reality shows. I know this isn’t exactly a great way to tell that a movie takes place in the 90s but at one point in the movie, there is a glimpse of MTV playing music with the MTV logo from the 90s.
    mtv-90s-logo
  5. Freeze frame before credits. It was very common for movies and even television series in the 90s to do a freeze freeze before fading to credits. Encino Man is no exception.

Encino Man is far from the best film of the 90s, and it hasn’t aged extraordinarily well because it is so very clearly 90s but that is why I still enjoy it. This film is a snapshot of the 90s. As a child of the 90s, it takes me back in time. The lighthearted story keeps the movie from becoming too serious but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like there is much of a conflict either. Although I guess that isn’t the worst thing for a comedy. The plot is not the most original, an unpopular kid want to be popular and try to win the girl of his dreams, and filled to the brim with cliches but Sean Astin, Pauly Shore, Brandan Fraser bring an undeniable charm to the film. All members of the cast feel like they are enjoying themselves, which comes across and makes a better experience for the audience. It is very easy to turn this film on, sit back, relax and have an enjoyable ninety minutes.

I thought Encino Man was GOOD 🙂 It may not be the most exciting or the most genre-defining teen movie but it still has a certain appeal to it. This could have easily been a terrible film to try to ride the rising popularity of Pauly Shore. Instead, Shore’s trademark personality and Fraser’s antics create a fairly pleasant experience that acts as a time capsule of being a teenager in the 90s.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Les Mayfield – Director
Shawn Schepps – Story / Screenplay
George Zaloom – Screenplay
J. Peter Robinson – Composer

Sean Astin – Dave Morgan
Pauly Shore – Stoney Brown
Brendan Fraser – Link
Megan Ward – Robyn Sweeney
Robin Tunney – Ella
Michael DeLuise – Matt Wilson
Patrick Van Horn – Phil
Dalton James – Will
Rick DuCommun – Mr. Brush
Mariette Hartley – Mrs. Morgan
Richard Masur – Mr. Morgan
Ellen Blain – Teena Morgan

The Lego Batman Movie Review

The LEGO Batman Movie movie posterSynopsis
Batman (Will Arnett (voice)) is the hero of Gotham City and has everything he could want except for one thing: a family. When the Joker (Zach Galifianakis (voice)) enacts a his largest, most villainous plan yet, Batman must lean to work with a team to stop the Joker’s diabolical scheme.

Review
I am a huge, huge fan of The Lego Movie. It had all the right elements to make it fun for both the younger and older audiences. Also being a superhero fan, I went into the theater hoping that I would see that cleverness and self-awareness return but pointed at the superhero genre that has exploded over the last 10-15 years. The Lego Batman Movie may not hit the high that The Lego Movie did, but it sure comes close.

Batman has had a very wild and varied history, a fact the movie brings up several times. Although this is wrapped in the aesthetic of a children’s toy, I would qualify this a good Batman movie. It looks at the Dark Knight from a different perspective, but it keeps much of what makes Batman Batman. Although this is a very different kind of Batman (arrogant, obnoxious, self-centered), he still feels like Batman. This should please long-time fans of the character while still not being too inclusive for those who aren’t as familiar with the character.

The photo-realistic look from The Lego Movie was astonishing and one of the things I liked best about that film. There is not much difference in the look and feel of between that and this film and that’s perfectly fine with me. It still looks like real Lego bricks and figures on the screen. Nothing is not made out of Legos. I can’t get enough of it!

So far, these theatrical Lego movies have brought together the perfect voice casts. Will Arnett returns as Batman and kills it. Michael Cera, Arnett’s co-star on Arrested Development, fantastically plays the innocent Dick Grayson. His Grayson is much younger than any Robin seen in any Batman film so far and Cera gleefully brings a childlike naivety to the role. Other stars of note are Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, the no-stranger-to-superheroes Rosario Dawson as Barbra Gordon, and Zach Galifianakis, who is clearly having too much fun as the Joker.

Going into a Lego movie like this, you should expect some zany action sequences. With everything being composed of Legos, the possibilities are endless and this film takes full advantage of that. Every scene is explosive, insane, and batshit crazy. The constant intensity keeps the story moving quickly. However, it still takes the time to have the softer moments. One thing’s for sure, you won’t get bored during this movie.

Although this is an animated film that might be geared more towards a younger audience, this movie incorporates enough to appeal to many ages and groups. There are plenty of references to previous Batmans (Batmen?), such as the recent Ben Affleck Batman, Christopher Nolan’s version of the Dark Knight, and even “that weird one in 1966.”  There are also references to other superhero properties, like Suicide Squad, which are sure to please comic fans, as well as other franchises like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings to hit a wider audience. If you’re a little bit older, there are jokes and pop-culture references that you’ll catch. Then the colorful action will surely keep the attention of the young ones.

I thought The Lego Batman Movie was GOOD 🙂 The goofiness and cleverness that made The Lego Movie so much fun returns. Although this Batman may be very different than any Batman seen so far, I had a blast as a fan of the character. Whether you are a lifelong fan of Batman like myself or just know who he is, chances are you will find something to enjoy in this film and end up having a good time.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Chris McKay – Director
Seth Grahame-Smith – Story / Screenplay
Chris McKenna – Screenplay
Erik Sommers – Screenplay
Jared Stern – Screenplay
John Whittington – Screenplay
Lorne Balfe – Composer

Will Arnett – Batman / Bruce Wayne (voice)
Michael Cera – Robin / Dick Grayson (voice)
Ralph Fiennes – Alfred Pennyworth (voice)
Rosario Dawson – Batgirl / Barbara Gordon (voice)
Hector Elizondo – Jim Gordon (voice)
Zach Galifianakis – Joker (voice)
Jenny Slate – Harley Quinn (voice)
Jason Mantzoukas – Scarecrow (voice)
Conan O’Brien – The Riddler (voice)
Doug Benson – Bane (voice)
Billy Dee Williams – Two-Face (voice)
Zoe Kravitz – Catwoman (voice)
Eddie Izzard – Voldemort (voice)
Seth Green – King Kong (voice)
Jemaine Clement – Sauron (voice)

Tango & Cash Review

Tango & Cash movie posterSynopsis
Raymond Tango (Sylvester Stallone) and Gabriel Cash (Kurt Russell) are Los Angeles’ two top cops. When they are convicted of a crime they didn’t commit, they must work together to clear their names.

Review
Sylvester Stallone and Curt Russell are two of the biggest action stars from the 1980s. It was only a matter of time before they would team-up for their own film. Tango & Cash takes the best of cheesy 80s action flicks, mixes them together and turns it up to 11.

What is the best way to get a feel for the main characters? Put them in a chase scene of course! Both Stallone and Russell get their own individual car chase scene to start off the film. This accomplishes two things: 1) it offers an exciting note to begin the film, grabbing the audience’s attention, and 2) shows how different the characters are. The exhilarating start is needed because the next few scenes are spent setting up the movie’s conflict and it isn’t for a little while before there is another action scene. More importantly, it showed how the characters contrasted, that they have two very different styles of doing their job as a police officer.

Like any buddy cop film, Tango & Cash lives or dies from the chemistry between the two lead actors. Stallone and Russell, even in 1989, are experienced action stars and they put that experience to good use. They are so much fun together that it’s a shame they have only made one film like this together. The way they hurl one-liners off each other is nothing short of amusing. Almost every scene had me smiling at the interactions between two of them, even drawing out a good chuckle every now and then.

Music isn’t normally something I have found to be too noteworthy in a cheesy action flick such as Tango & Cash, so I was surprised when this film’s soundtrack really stood out to me. It is very noticeably 80s and really captures the sound of that era. The movie’s theme in particular had me jamming out.

As I said, this film takes some of the best parts of 80s action movies and puts them all together. There is very clear inspiration from other movies, particularly Stallone’s and Russell’s other action films. As a result, Tango & Cash doesn’t offer any kind of experience you wouldn’t find in a dozen other action films. Thankfully, the team-up of Stallone and Russell at least keeps it fun, preventing it from becoming dull or stale.

I thought Tango & Cash was GOOD 🙂 It has a lot in common with Sylvester Stallone’s and Kurt Russell’s other action films from the 1980s but the duo are so entertaining on screen that you forget about that and have fun anyway. You couldn’t ask for more from a simple popcorn flick.

Favorite Quote
Officer 1: Who in the fuck do you think you are!?
Officer 2: He thinks he’s Rambo.
Tango: Rambo is a pussy.

Trivia
Tango & Cash was released in US theaters on December 22, 1989, making it the last film theatrically released in the 1980s.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Andrei Konchalovsky – Director
Randy Feldman – Writer
Harold Faltermeyer – Composer

Sylvester Stallone – Lt. Raymond Tango
Kurt Russell – Lt. Gabriel Cash
Teri Hatcher – Katherine ‘Kiki’ Tango
Jack Palance – Yves Perret
Brion James – Requin
James Alaimo – Lopez
Michael J. Pollard – Owen
Robert Z’Dar – Face
Edward Bunker – Capt. Holmes
Geoffrey Lewis – Capt. Schroeder
Michael Jeter – Skinner

If you are interested in participating in the Ultimate 90s Blogathon, hosted by Kim from Tranquil Dreams and myself, there is still time to join in. You can find all the information here.

Tron: Legacy Review

Tron: Legacy movie posterSynopsis
Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), computer programmer and president of Encom, disappeared twenty years ago. When his son Sam (Gerret Hedlund) receives a mysterious message from his father’s old arcade, he finds himself transported to the Grid, a world inside the computer. With the help of Quorra (Olivia Wilde), Sam goes on a search for his father and a way to escape back into the real world.

Review
Tron is a cult favorite from the 1980s. It comes as no surprise that with the trend of bringing back old and favorite franchises, particularly over the last decade or so, that Tron would get its own sequel, nearly thirty years later. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original but I still understood its significance in cinema. In 2010, Tron: Legacy takes audiences back inside the computer with an updated look to match the updated times.

My biggest issue with Tron was the characters. There wasn’t much to them, or the story even, so I didn’t care much about Flynn, Tron, or Crom. This time around, I would say the characters are the strongest part about this film. From the beginning, we learn about Sam’s close relationship with his father and he how distraught he is when his father disappears. As the film goes on, we learn more about their relationship and them individually. Their relationship is fleshed out. By the end of the film, I cared more about either them than I did any of the characters from the previous film.

The costumes from Tron were pretty interesting, with lines running along the outfits differently and in random patterns for each character. This design element is brought back for Tron: Legacy but better realized than it was before. The rotoscopic techniques used in Tron to add the color were distracting and not very crisp. With today’s computer imaging technology, the lines are sharp, creating an effect that is probably more in-line of what Lisberger imagined in 1982. Although the scenes set inside the computer are in color as opposed to the black-and-white of Tron, they do have a gray tone to them that gives it a similar feel without becoming distracting.

When Sam first enters the Grid, he is taken immediately to the Games, an arena reminiscent of what was seen in the previous film. This creates a lot of confusion for both Sam and the audience. I liked this feeling because I didn’t get all the information right away. I was trying to figure things out, just as I’m sure Sam was, and it had me excited. The film gave a burst of excitement before getting to the characterization scenes between Sam and his father. And it gave a glimpse that this was the same world as before but updated, just like an actual computer would be.

For a film called Tron, there is an obvious lack of the character in the film. Hints are dropped throughout the movie as to where he is (and eagle-eyed fans might figure it out based on some visual clues). However, when Tron is finally revealed, it felt anticlimactic. Given his history with Kevin Flynn, I was expecting more. I’ll just leave it at that because going into it any more would wonder into spoiler territory.

De-aging in film has been happening longer than I have realized. I knew it has been used to some effect before, such as in films like X3: The Last Stand and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button but I didn’t think it wasn’t until more recently that it was used to the degree it was used here. A de-aged Jeff Bridges is used for Clu (since most programs in the Tron universe resemble their programmer) back in 2010. Flash forward six years and the process is used again to resurrect Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I mentioned in my review of that that the effect looks great except for when Tarkin talks. Now knowing this de-aging effect has been around since at least 2010, it is a little more disappointing that this is a problem in Rogue One because that is the same flaw in this film. There is something off with Bridges’ mouth as Clu when he speaks and it removed me from the film.

I thought Tron: Legacy was GOOD 🙂 It fixes the biggest reason I didn’t like the previous film: the characters. They actually get some development this time. There are plenty of Easter eggs and homages to the original classic. Although it doesn’t push the boundaries of CGI and animation as much as Tron did in the early eighties, it looks visually remarkable and has some impressive de-aging, albeit with some imperfections. Tron: Legacy is a worthy legacy of such a popular cult classic as Tron.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Joseph Kosinski – Director
Edward Kitsis – Screenplay / Story
Adam Horowitz – Screenplay / Story
Brian Klugman – Story
Lee Sternthal – Story
Daft Punk – Music

Garret Hedlund – Sam Flynn
Jeff Bridges – Kevin Flynn / Clu
Olivia Wilde – Quorra
Bruce Boxleitner – Alan Bradley / Tron
James Frain – Jarvis
Beau Garrett – Gem
Michael Sheen – Castor / Zuse
Anis Cheurfa – Rinzler

If you are interested in participating in the Ultimate 90s Blogathon, hosted by Kim from Tranquil Dreams and myself, you can find all the information here.