It's been 25 years since Disney released one of their most popular masterpieces, Beauty and The Beast. The 1991 animation picture was a retelling of a 1700's French fairytale written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont and featured one of Disney's most loved musical accompaniments. The story follows the story of a beautiful yet rebellious girl named Belle and a beast who has been enchanted by a sorceress and lives in a large castle in the middle of the woods.
Belle lives with her father in a small village, most of the townsfolk dislike Belle as she doesn't conform to their usual traditions but Belle doesn't care about what they think; her father loves her and that's good enough for her. Belle's other admirer is Gaston, the town's most popular citizen. Women adore him and men admire and want to be him but the only woman he can't woo is the one he wants.
Belle becomes worried for her father when he fails to return from market, she sets off on her own to find him. Belle traces his footsteps and finally sees the enchanted castle where her father is being held by the Beast. Wishing for nothing more than her father's safety, Belle makes a deal with the Beast which sees her father leave and Belle take his place.
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That's pretty much the story, with rising star Robert De Niro strangely inserted into the movie to take advantage of his upcoming celebrity (he's a bicycle racer that falls for the gang leader's (Jerry Orbach) kid sister (Leigh Taylor-Young, completely lost here). The bulk of the film has Orbach and co. scheming endlessly to off Stander's Baccala, and over and over it fails to amuse us, even when a live lion is thrown into the mix. That's the film. If it weren't for Villechaize, there'd be nary a laugh in the whole movie, and even that kind of comedy is hardly highbrow.
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However, after watching the movie recently, the key to the movie's limitless charm is revealed to be due to the presence of Jennifer Grey. Without her performance, the movie is a flop, Bill Medley isn't cool again and, well, Swayze and Grey drift into irrelevance a year or two earlier.
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Although McKay - whose irritating narration, the usual guff about moving to New York from Indiana and just how exciting it all was, brackets the film - never really posits what exactly he's on about with "The Golden Age," two things quickly become clear: The time period he and his subjects want to talk about is Broadway theater from the 1930s to the 1950s, and that period really would have been something to behold. The cavalcade of interviewees all point to not just the embarrassment of riches that were around then in terms of both the material (Lerner & Lowe and Rodgers & Hammerstein were like musical hit factories, not to mention the new dramatic work being produced by the likes of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller) and the talent, but another very simple factor: It was cheap. In a time of $480 The Producers tickets, it's partially nice but mostly infuriating to know that not so long ago it could cost less to go to a Broadway show than the movies.
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What money is that? Oh, just $30 million, left to Montgomery Brewster (Richard Pryor) by his sole relative. The catch? The real inheritance is $300 million -- and if Monty wants it, he has to spend the $30 million in 30 days, and at the end of that time he can't have any assets to show for it. Oh, and he can't tell anyone what's going on, either.
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Though it's still good, pop this Special Edition DVD into your player and you're instantly greeted with a crash of noise. Beauty lets you know right from the start that it is not a subtle film, full of bluster and fire and singing and talking everything. (And everything talking at the top of its lungs.)
Continue reading: Beauty And The Beast (1991) Review
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