This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to give the story a photo-realistic sheen. The addition of more songs makes it feel much more like a big movie musical. And the use of real actors adds quite a lot of detail and subtext in the character interaction. But basically, this is still the same romantic fairy tale: lovely to look as it makes the audience swoon and sigh.
It's set in a French village, where Belle (Emma Watson) is looked at with suspicion by her neighbours for her empowered-female ways, reading books, expressing her opinions and running the farm where she lives with her single dad Maurice (Kevin Kline). It's no wonder that the vain soldier Gaston (Luke Evans) pursues her, since she's the only girl who isn't chasing him. Then one day Maurice and Belle have a fateful encounter with a castle hidden in a deep woods under a curse. Imprisoned by its beastly master (Dan Stevens), Belle befriends the staff, who have been transformed into household objects like a lampstand (Ewan McGregor), clock (Ian McKellen), teapot (Emma Thompson), harpsichord (Stanley Tucci) and feather duster (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). All of them conspire to help Belle fall in love with the Beast, which would break the spell.
Director Bill Condon (who made Dreamgirls and the final Twilight movies) makes the most of the live-action cast, allowing them to stir all kinds of undercurrents into their roles, which adds weight and interest to the rather predictable storyline. The film still looks largely animated thanks to an extensive use of digital backgrounds and characters, but the actors add an earthy tone that breaks the surface, bringing in some more textured emotions and sharper humour. The whole cast is excellent, with particular scene-stealing energy coming from Evans and Josh Gad (as his super-faithful sidekick LeFou), who are both funny and villainous at the same time. And Kline is also a standout for a surprisingly thoughtful performance.
Continue reading: Beauty And The Beast Review
Aside from success at the box office, there was nothing about 2012's rather uneven fantasy Snow White and the Huntsman that screamed out for a sequel. And indeed, this prequel/sequel hybrid doesn't quite make sense, muddling its premise by straining to keep Snow White herself out of the story (she's always just off screen) while spinning a tale that feels so derivative that we feel like we've seen it all before. The powerhouse cast does what it can, aided by some fabulous costumes, but it's impossible to escape the feeling that there's nothing to it.
Decades before her encounter with Snow White, Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) was just beginning her violent march toward power when her sister Freya (Emily Blunt) suffered a terrible tragedy. Believing that love itself betrayed her, Freya moves to another kingdom and inflicts a frozen winter on her subjects, raiding the surrounding lands for children she will raise to fight, with love between them forbidden. When her two top fighters, Eric and Sara (Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain), can't help but fall for each other, they are severely punished. Years later, after Eric's adventure with Ravenna and Snow White, he sets out to get rid of Ravenna's pesky magic mirror, accompanied by four frisky dwarfs (Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach). And this puts them all on a collision course with the icy Freya.
The script feels like it was written by a committee desperate to get something, anything on-screen. The first half of the film is essentially the backstory, and the second half is a Hobbit-style quest with moments of random Game of Thrones-style action thrown in simply to give the special effects team a workout. This isn't too surprising considering that the movie is the directing debut of effects expert Cedric Nicolas-Troyan. So if it makes little logical sense, at least it looks achingly cool, especially when the duelling divas are clad in spectacular frocks by Colleen Atwood.
Continue reading: The Huntsman: Winter's War Review
Far more entertaining than it has any right to be, this is a big, messy blockbuster retelling of the Greek myth that thankfully has a sharp sense of humour and some surprising twists up its sleeve. The cast is also packed with veteran performers who know how to make the most of some eyebrow-raising innuendo, generating intrigue while keeping the audience laughing with them rather than at them.
The premise takes a revisionist approach, grounding the legend of the demigod Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) in real stories that have been exaggerated by his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), who travels with him as a kind of toga-era marketing expert. Their team of mercenaries includes wryly fatalistic seer Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), quick-witted blade-thrower Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), bow-wielding amazon Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and loyal mute warrior Tydeus (Aksel Hennie). When they're offered a fortune by Lord Cotys (John Hurt) to quell a rebellion, they find themselves in the middle of a massive battle that doesn't go the way they expected. And as events take unforeseen turns, Hercules and his gang have to dig deep to turn the tide in their favour.
Johnson is a natural in the role, so massively pumped up that he looks like he could be popped with a pin. His hulking physique and just enough back-story give the character's reputation some weight, both literally and figuratively, so even if he's not half-god his achievements are still pretty impressive. (There are also plenty of hints that he may turn out to be a god after all.) And the surrounding characters add to this with cleverly written roles that are expertly played by British scene-stealers Hurt, McShane, Sewell, Mullan and Fiennes. McShane is so good that he essentially walks off with the whole movie. But relative newcomers Ritchie, Hennie and Berdal more than hold their own.
Continue reading: Hercules Review
In this rendition, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are janitors who lobby for jobs as musketeers in the service of the princess (no idea where the king and queen might be) of France (well, animated, animal-populated France), and it isn't long before they get their wish. The mini-film (about 65 minutes long) gets just about every other traditional Disney character into the film in some odd role or another -- most notably the Beagle Boys as the villains of the film and Minnie Mouse as the princess. It isn't long before Mickey and Minnie are making goo-goo eyes, while the heroes have to foil Peg-Leg Pete's plot to steal the throne for himself, with the aid of the precious Beagles.
Continue reading: The Three Musketeers (2004) Review
This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...
Aside from success at the box office, there was nothing about 2012's rather uneven fantasy...