Beauty and the Beast, 2017

Directed by: Bill Condon 

Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens 

IMDb

Beauty and the Beast (2017) is a passable film, but a disappointing remake.
Unlike previous Disney animated-to-live-action remakes, Beauty and the Beast opts to change practically nothing about its narrative or characters. What they opt to change instead, is to add the forgettable songs from the theatrical version, add in approximately one minute of Belle’s back-story and contemporise one character. These changes don’t justify this film’s existence, the animated version is pretty much as perfect an animated fairytale can be, so remaking it comes off as no more than a cash grab. And considering it’s already the highest grossing musical ever, consider the cash grabbed.
The most insulting thing to me about Beauty and the Beast is that it does nothing better than the original. For instance, the musical numbers; in the opening number “Belle”, the townsfolk lack (excuse the pun) animation, they all just sort of stand there and sing their lines a bit awkwardly. Thankfully, this is the only number that does this, but all of the new songs are boring, and are treated as second rate by the film, never really opting for any interesting visuals to accompany them. The big numbers like “Be Our Guest” and “Beauty and the Beast” are pretty great, but still do not eclipse the excellence of the animated version. If you go back and watch the original, you’ll see that the animation really is very impressive.
Despite my thus far heavy criticism, there were things I liked in the film. The casting is spot on, Emma Watson and Dan Stevens both do a fantastic job as the leads, I really liked Ewen McGregor and Ian McKellen as Lumiere and Cogsworth. Emma Thompson was great as Mrs Potts and Luke Evans was perfect as Gaston. And Josh Gad, ever the controversy, was a fan favourite as LeFou, pulling the most laughs out of the audience. The changes they made to his character, however, are pretty skin-deep, never amounting to much more than jokes about how gay he is.
The set design, costuming and special effects were all fantastic as well. I just wish I was seeing a new movie to accompany them. Something I noticed is that during the screening a surprising amount of the audience was talking over the film. I wondered why, until I likened it to how people talk over movies that they’ve already watched a million times before. That’s what Beauty and the Beast (2017) is, a movie you’ve already seen a million times.
Go re-watch the Best Picture Nominated version instead.
Advertisements

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, 2016

Directed by: David Yates

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol

IMDb

Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them filled me with a wild eyed childish wonder that I wasn’t quite expecting it to. It reminds of the first few Harry Potter films before they got overly dark and broody, only I liked this one even better.

Those close to me would have likely heard my vocality on adaptations and medium many times, but to everyone else; a story is always going to be best told when it is told in the medium it was written for. This is why the Harry Potter books are revered as better than the movies that followed. The practice of cramming a story meant to be read over days into a two hour time slot isn’t practical, and hurts the quality of the overall product. To be fair, the Harry Potter films did make quite a few changes in order to fit the medium better (I recommend the series “What’s the Difference?” by Cinefix on Youtube for some examples), but I see them as merely half measures. Fantastic beasts gives us an entirely new story written for film and it flows much much more naturally and pleasingly, in my humble opinion. HP is notorious for its die hard fans, so I don’t expect everyone to agree, but I truly enjoyed Fantastic Beasts more, and think it is a better story for the film medium. It isn’t perfect, some story beats are a tad predictable, but my opinion stands nonetheless.

Anyway, with that rant out of the way; Fantastic Beasts was really fun. Lighthearted funny moments spread all the way through, shared with memorable and really likeable characters. It also very pleasingly allows us to slowly explore the wizarding world of New York, in addition to being somewhat of a period piece, being set in prohibition. The creature designs are really terrific and I liked their implementation. My biggest critique of the film lies in the visual effects, unfortunately. The film relies on CGI very heavily, and a lot of it is simply quite unconvincing. The worst was this goblin acting as entertainment in an underground bar, which I didn’t believe for a second. Golem was animated in 2002, CGI is better than this now. I would plead to the producers to up the animation budget for the sequels, or employ more practical effects. Preferably both.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, 2016

Directed by: Tim Burton

Starring:  Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson

IMDb http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1935859/?ref_=nv_sr_1

I walked into Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children without any real expectations, I never read the books or anything like that. For what I got though, I was pretty thoroughly entertained.

It has a lot of a similar kind of whimsy and world-building that makes the first couple of Harry Potter movies appealing, while incorporating enough of Tim Burton’s distinguished style to make it stand out. It also had a very iconic performance from Eva Green as Miss Peregrine and decent performances from the rest of the cast, plus a hilarious over-the-top performance by Samuel L Jackson as the villain.

The special effects were definitely something of note. All of them were at least good, with moments of greatness sprinkled in, as Burton opted to do some bits in stop motion and other old-school techniques. In the CG scenes, however, a lot of the actors seemed to not really be interacting with the CG objects and characters, it’s odd, but nothing to get too upset over.

Something all YA book adaptations seem to have, is an insistence of keeping as many of the characters from the book as possible. This film is no exception, although I would argue that some of the characters could have either been left out or put even more in the background, as there were some who just had nothing to do for the whole film, but got screen time anyway. Again, nothing to get upset over, just something that bothers me. Overall I was actually quite impressed how un-crowded the film felt, especially while comparing to A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), which had a similar tone and feel, but was ruined by trying to cram 3 books into a single film.

Overall it’s a good time for old ages. Would recommend 👍🏻, especially for fans of Harry Potter, Narnia, A Series of Unfortunate events and Tim Burton Fans. (Books and Movies)

The Hunt for The Wilderpeople, 2016

Directed by: Taika Waititi

Starring:  Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata

IMDb 

Hunt For the Wilderpeople was a very fun time. It’s a New Zealand film starring Sam Neill (from Jurassic Park fame) and the young Julian Dennison. The two end up in the NZ bush for an extended period of time, which leads the authorities to believe Neill has kidnapped Dennison, and the two decide to remain in the bush to escape persecution, generating a ginormous manhunt. It’s pretty awesome, very funny and super charming,

The film impressed me most in two ways; Dennison provides one of the most convincing child performances I’ve ever seen, and every character in the film, including the supporting cast, is extremely memorable and likeable. Lots of care has been put into the writing, direction, and performances for these characters, and I feel that’s why it has generated the response it has (it currently has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes). Not to mention, the humour is great, almost every joke hit a bullseye and the audience I was with couldn’t stop laughing.

Highly Recommend. Support extra-Hollywood filmmaking and go see it in theatres.

The Jungle Book, 2016

Directed by: Jon Favreau

Starring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley 

IMDb

The Jungle Book was awesome.

Fantastic animation, fantastic voice acting (mostly), and some surprisingly great cinematography. I really loved the voice work, the performances were simply iconic (my favourites being too hard to pick between Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Christopher Walken as King Louie, Bill Murray as Baloo and Ben Kingsley as Bagheera). Scarlett Johansson was the odd one out: I didn’t hear Kaa speaking, I heard Scarlet Johansson, though her scene was one of the most visually interesting in the film.

I heard a rumour that the casting crew went through one thousand kids before being satisfied with an actor for Mowgli. If it’s true, then it totally payed off, as the kid was totally convincing, and written a lot like an actual kid, which is a rare feat. Also, he’s acting entirely against a cast of animated creatures and makes it believable. Serious props.

The animation was good enough that I was able to buy these photorealistic animals speak. Seriously, check out this clip it’s super impressive.

Check it out.