*NEW* BEAUTY AND THE BEAST REVIEW *NEW*

And the remakes keep on coming . . .

BUT if they can keep up this standard then be my guest (I couldn’t resist).

An adaptation of the fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince (Dan Stevens) and a young woman (Emma Watson) who fall in love.

After complaining for the last five years about reboots and remakes, I was livid that even Disney were revisiting their backlog. I mean is that hard to find original stories? If you are going to remake movies, can you at least tackle the bad ones? Leave the classics alone!

However, I was pleasantly surprised with Kenneth Branagh’s rendition of Cinderella. The less we say about the Alice in Wonderland movies, the better. While The Jungle Book fell short of the classic by a country mile.

So my feelings about watching the new Beauty and the Beast were mixed, to say the least. Especially when I discovered that there was an extra 45 minutes on the running length to the 1991 animated hit!

BUT after all my griping, I finally gave it a go and you know what? It wasn’t too bad at all.

The opening surprised me from the get go. Expanding on the origin story of the curse. The overture fell a little flat but the lavish set designs, costumes and Tobias A. Schliessler’s beautiful cinematography took my attention away from that bum note.

The Belle sequence was literally a shot for shot live action re-enactment. Emma Watson was the physical embodiment of Belle. Her singing wasn’t the strongest but a lovely voice all the same.

Luke Evans and Josh Gad were fantastic. Evans played Gaston with aplomb. He was Gaston, nailing the shallow womanizer perfectly.

Who better than Olaf from Frozen to take on Gaston’s long suffering, and incredibly flamboyant, partner in crime LeFou. Gad was equally as entertaining. Prancing and pouting about the place.

The controversy about the gay subtext was misplaced. If there was one, I didn’t notice and it didn’t ruin the story in any capacity.

Belle was always a strong feminist character that wanted more from the world and her role. Her confrontation with a villager over teaching a young girl to read was a little heavy handed.

I was disappointed with Kevin Kline’s performance as Maurice. He was far too deadpan for the role. Belle’s father was always the quirky crackpot.

A shame considering you had the best man for the job. I mean, he was in A Fish Called Wanda?! He didn’t even have Rex Everhart’s delivery. Too stern and frail.

The pace kept things moving along and the film was easy-going and highly watchable.

From the trailers and teasers, I thought the effects on the Beast looked dreadful BUT once Belle entered that haunting Gothic castle, I was impressed.

The special effects and CGI were brilliant. The Beast actually looked quite good. Stevens did well and I could understand his gravelly voice. Not quite Lance Henriksen’s gravitas BUT he still delivered a sterling performance.

I think what helped (and had to) was that the pair had great chemistry. The extra running time fleshed out the pair’s blossoming romance and made it a little more believable that this stubborn and unloving beast would take some time to get over his hurt ego and learn to love again.

The supporting cast had tough acts to follow BUT what a cast?!

Ewan McGregor and Sir Ian McKellen played Lumiere and Cogsworth perfectly. They were a great duo and kept things entertaining.

Even if I couldn’t help but laugh at McGregor’s ‘Allo Allo accent. The Moulin Rouge maestro excelled with his rendition of Be Our Guest.

Stanley Tucci was wasted in his small role as Maestro Cadenza. While Emma Thompson was so-so for me as Mrs. Potts.

Her mockney accent grated against me in parts. She was always going to have a tough act following in Angela Lansbury’s footsteps. BUT as soon as Beauty and the Beast came on, and Belle strolled down those labyrinthine stairs for that infamous dance, it still worked a treat and Thompson excelled.

Composer Alan Menken thankfully kept the original soundtrack and added new entries.  The only problem was that they weren’t really that memorable. Days in the Sun wasn’t a bad song BUT the others have . . . already slipped my mind.

The story was still the same BUT the extra fleshing out wasn’t a bad approach. Especially when they played on the magic of the Rose and the flashback to Belle’s childhood. It was different. Just a shame that it led to the same old result BUT why stray away from a winning formula?

Thankfully, there was enough heart, charm and cheese to make this an entertaining affair that complimented the original Disney classic and just about stood on its own two feet.

3/5

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*NEW* PAN REVIEW *NEW*

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I fear this one might get panned.

Even with a talented cast and impressive special effects, this latest offering on the Pan myth should still walk the plank.

12-year-old orphan Peter (Levi Miller) is spirited away to the magical world of Neverland, where he finds both fun and dangers, and ultimately discovers his destiny to become the hero who will be forever known as Peter Pan.

The opening zipped along. It was easygoing and got straight to business. We watch Peter endure life at the Dickensian orphanage. Battling the ever cantankerous Mother Barnabas. Played to perfection by Kathy Burke. Not enough of her if I’m honest.

Levi Miller delivered an impressive debut for a young lad. There was the odd moment where certain lines and a couple of the scenes hindered with his delivery BUT nothing that can’t be fixed with a few more movies.

And it wasn’t long before our young hero was plucked out of his bed and taken to Neverland. This part of the story I’d seen before in Once Upon A Time and it did feel like a retread for me. I was disappointed that the war time setting wasn’t used to its full potential.

It did allow for a fantastic chase sequence with The Ranger pirate ship being pursued by the Royal Air Force. It was all a little too OTT for my liking BUT the pace and effects kept me subdued. For now.

It was great to see Nonso Anozie finally getting more screen time. It was just a shame that after a memorable introduction as Bishop that he was pushed into the background.

For the first half hour, I was pleasantly surprised. BUT the problems really popped up when Peter arrived in Neverland. The strange musical number in the mines didn’t set the right tone for me.

A bunch of miners bellowing Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and The Ramone’s Blitzkrieg Bop felt like something that should have been in Moulin Rouge. Things improved slightly with the introduction of Jackman’s Blackbeard. But that soon spiralled downhill.

He lapped it up and was incredibly camp. A perfect panto villain. BUT that was also the problem. He came off far too comical. His bi-polar mood swings and OTT delivery soon killed what little tension there was around the iconic villain. I understand that it’s a family movie BUT I was more afraid of the CGI’d Sid from Toy Story than this chap.

Speaking of iconic villains, Garrett Hedlund as James Hook was terrible. Don’t get me wrong, Hedlund delivered one of his most liveliest performances. He looked the part with that shark toothed smile. BUT he got on my nerves. He just shouted his lines (which were weak) and every time he appeared on the screen, I instantly wished him gone.

Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions) was perfectly cast as Smee. He fell short of ol’ Bob Hoskins from Hook BUT he gave it a go and delivered the odd chuckle. Rooney Mara did her best with the role of Tiger Lily, the native chief’s daughter.

The only problem with Mara’s character was that it was spoiled by an incredibly hammy love subplot with Hook. It was cringe-inducing. Hedlund even shouted during those bits and all!

I know I said the animation was fantastic. And for the majority of the film, it was. Not quite sure whether it was worth the 3D investment. BUT there were a couple of things that didn’t look right. The Neverbirds looked terribly cartoony. They looked like something that should have been on the cover of a cereal box.

The lovely Cara Delevigne popped up in a badly CGI’d cameo as a mermaid. I don’t know why they just didn’t have her swimming about in a mermaid costume instead (What?).

Amanda Seyfried had the easiest job going as Peter’s mother. Anyone could have played her. The final twenty minutes were entertaining enough as Tiger Lily takes on Blackbeard BUT it was so rushed that it ended quite abruptly.

It was a fresh take to see Hook and Pan start out as friends BUT we didn’t see any real conflict and by the end of the film, there wasn’t any indication of their rivalry brewing. Just a nauseating exchange that they will be friends forever. Awww . . . Yuck.

Things were inevitably left open for another. BUT if I’m honest, it’s going to take a lot of convincing to get me to check out that one. It’s was too corny, frantic and didn’t even explore the mystery of Neverland.

It was watchable BUT memorable? If anything this made me want to dig out my VHS (What are those?! Showing my age now) of Hook.

Enough to keep the little ‘uns at bay for a couple of hours BUT it falls short of any of the other versions.

2.5/5

MALEFICENT REVIEW

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A rehashing and re-working of a timeless Disney classic that delivers fantastic special effects, great acting but somehow misses the mark.

Perhaps the cynic in me reared his ugly head. This doesn’t normally happen with a Disney movie.

Jolie was perfectly cast as Maleficent. Her presence, her voice, the looks – brilliant. With those facial Lady Gaga implants, she looked creepily thin.

The film zipped along quite well. I certainly didn’t feel like I had sat there for 90 minutes.

The opening was sickly sweet. A little too corny and cheesy as a young fairy Maleficent soars around the woodlands. Beautifully animated and shot well. The 3D being used to its full capabilities. You felt like you were flying around the screen.

The water flicking out. The creatures jumping out of the screen. The very potential of 3D finally being used.
If you were expecting a full in-depth look into the origins of Maleficent, you may be disappointed. It is soon established by the narrator that she was a fairy. An abnormally big one. A human sized one, in fact.

All the other fairies are pixie sized or have to use an enchantment but not Maleficent. But then again, it’s magic. My main niggle was that apart from some nicely acted moments and some cracking CGI set pieces, there isn’t really a lot going on which gave my cynical mind time to wander and pick at this loosely joined plot.

I mean, come on, it’s a fairy tale. They are all ridiculous within their right by those grounds. BUT if you ever wondered what a villain was doing while the hero or, in this case, heroine lived their lives. I can tell you. Bugger all, really.

Jolie’s Maleficent literally sits on a tree and watches the young Aurora grow up. I mean the idea of her waiting to strike sounds menacing but it’s all done so light heartedly. I mean, duh, it’s Disney but the trailers (that horrible phrase) made the movie appear to be so much darker.

I mean all Jolie does is sit and fester or throw the odd prank on the pixies to keep her entertained. But this went on for 16 years? I mean, I understand that 16 was the age when Maleficent was scorned by her lover. And also if the curse said 16; why did Aurora’s father send her away for all those years?

Maleficent would have had plenty of time to find her. Especially when the pixies were right near her terrain.

Speaking of which the overly used CGI pixies (Imelda Staunton – Harry Potter, Juno Temple – The Dark Knight Rises and Lesley Manville – Vera Drake) were incredibly irritating and annoying.
Even their animated predecessors weren’t that bad. It was interesting to see Sam Riley in a normal role. Well, I say, normal. If you can call his anamorphic crow hybrid protagonist Diaval normal.

I mean for those who are still questioning why there is a spin off prequel to Sleeping Beauty, imagine what Disney could do with Maleficent and yeah you got it on the head. It is that predictable BUT also very watchable and doesn’t bore.

It was an interesting concept to provide a different dimension to a character that was just pure evil and had no redeemable features. However, the only problem this time around, Jolie’s Maleficent is not really that evil at all and you soon feel sorry for her.

BUT at the same time, it’s the same old scorned love story. Some moments surprised and near the end, I was cockily sitting there saying this is going to happen but was proved wrong. But it all ended the same way, near enough.

Sharlto Copley (District 9) was more menacing when given the screen time as the demented King Stefan. However, when given the screen time, all he was doing was sitting, grimacing and barking orders.

Elle Fanning was delightful as the dreadfully naïve Aurora. She worked well with Jolie. It was quite funny to see Jolie acting with her own daughter who played a younger Aurora for a brief scene. Jolie glaring and hissing, “I don’t like children. Go away.” Corny but nicely done.

It zips along, it’s good to look at. The cast are fantastic. The special effects are brilliant. But something about it just doesn’t sparkle, merely flickers for me.

3/5