*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

Advertisements

*NEW* THE COBBLER REVIEW *NEW*

The-Cobbler-Movie-Poster-2

What a load of cobblers. And that’s coming from a Sandler fan. Just when I thought he couldn’t sink any lower.

A cobbler (Adam Sandler), bored of his every-day life, stumbles upon a magical heirloom that allows him to become other people and see the world in a different way.

I have to agree with the fan who said that this was terrible. Even for a Sandler movie. Too many ideas. Failure to pick a tone and poor execution makes this one messy movie.

A dull and highly unfunny opener did nothing to get things going. It took a good 20 minutes before Sandler’s mopey shoe cobbler found the magical ‘stitcher’ that would put him on his journey to . . . God only knows what?

A film that grossed only $24,000 dollars at the US box office? You could blame poor distribution. BUT this was pretty bad.

Laughable for all the wrong reasons. I watched it to the end so it wasn’t as horrific as people made out. I was hardly pent up with rage or proclaiming the death of the film industry. So by that analogy . . .

The concept was intriguing on paper. To walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. BUT how could it go so wrong? It took too long to get to the shoe swapping and when it finally did, they really shouldn’t have bothered.

A scene that should have been an endearing moment between Max (Sandler) and his mother (Lynn Cohen – Hunger Games: Catching Fire) came off a little awkward, to say the least. Transforming into his father and taking her on one last “date”. Yikes. A little cringe-inducing. I could see what they were trying to do BUT the cuddling and closeness was just weird.

The same could be said for when he transformed into Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens. Close to pulling his girlfriend in the shower until he realised he had to keep the shoes on. The moral implications if Max had succeeded would have made this a different film altogether.

The only supporting character that stood out was Method Man as the typecast street thug. That really isn’t saying much. Steve Buscemi did his best with the role of the buddy barber next door BUT it was such a weak character. A revelation about him in the closing act came as no surprise. Or interest, for that matter.

With all the possible gags and directions this could have gone down, it still failed to reach any level of expectation. Sandler changes into a transsexual, a dead decaying customer and an overweight kid. Trust me, I’m making it sound better than it sounds (Or not). A hammy and uninteresting subplot with Melonie Diaz’s (Be Kind Rewind) protester brought nothing to the mix.

And when the shoe swapping and face changing finally got going, it was done so badly and clumsily. In a ploy to stop Ellen Barkin’s dreadful Russian Mafiosi disposing of unwanted tenants for property development, I struggled to keep up with who was who BUT most importantly by the end, I didn’t really care.

Dustin Hoffman delivered more charm and charisma in his highly unnecessary and disappointing cameo than Sandler did in the whole film. The last act showed a little of what I had expected from the get go. BUT alas, it was NOT to be.

Sandler’s works were never going to win plaudits BUT were generally easy going and funny affairs. His latest offerings have been lazy, sloppy and dreadful. Ironic that he picks a project penned by somebody else and it’s even worse.

A couple of chuckles and an intriguing premise. BUT a mish mesh of ideas with NO tone, direction or gags, well . . .  Sandler better put his best foot forward and move on from this mess. God have mercy on the writer’s soles.

1.5/5

TOP 20 BEST FILMS OF 2014 * PART TWO

SO HERE WE ARE . . . AT LAST. The second month into 2015.

I know, terrible. For those who are still interested, we have the SECOND PART of my best films of 2014. The top 11-20!

Feel free to search through my posts for my top 10. If you want, I can provide them.

The best (or better) ones of that mediocre movie year. My criteria mainly focused on the ones that surprised, intrigued and entertained me. And boy, it was tough. Many have been watchable. Okay at best. What was harder was condensing my 20 WORST films of 2014 (Which will be following shortly).

BUT there were diamonds in the rough sea of bilge that polluted the movie screens last year.

I have had to endure endless entries of mindless drivel regurgitating the same old plot, clichéd characters (even in their 3D wrapped foils) and excruciating acting or dreadful dialogue and to be honest, it’s killed my enthusiasm a little bit.

Now some entries you may question and unfortunately release dates are always different. My argument was films I saw in that year at the cinema. Some may have been released at the end of 2013 but I didn’t see them until early January 2014.

BUT that sums up my argument if they are in here.

I won’t go on too much about each film. That’s what the other posts are for but a quick two cents if you like. Some I hope you will nod in approval. Others you may scroll back and forth hoping that this is a joke. BUT my criteria is based on surprise, entertainment and engagement. So God knows what lies in store.

11. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-CD

Now I am actually reading the book. This film lost marks for stretching out its source material to the max. However, Jackson still manages to deliver the goods by harvesting a special effects extravaganza of a movie. This slicker, darker installment made up for the lumbering opener that was An Unexpected Journey. The pace may still have been a little long at the tooth BUT was certainly the best in Jackson’s second trilogy.

12. Captain America: Winter Soldier

captain-america-the-winter-soldier-poster-cast-2

A Marvel sequel that wasn’t needed but surprised me in surpassing the stuttery original. I felt the first Captain America was rushed to introduce the Cap in time for the Avengers and didn’t really cover as much of the WW2 elements as I had hoped. A superhero fighting in the war had a lot more promise for me. BUT the sequel had a decent story, good action pieces and added depth to the ‘Cap. Plus it gave a lot more screen time to the Black Widow and the legendary Nick Fury (At last!)

13. The Raid 2

the_raid_2_0

Fast and furious . . . after an hour of droll exposition. BUT it was still the most intense action film I saw that year. The final 45 minutes surpassed the original in suspense and action. Worth the wait. It may not have beat the original overall BUT other films need to use this as the next “How To Make An Action Movie” textbook.

14. St Vincent

St-Vincent-Movie-Poster

Bill Murray at his best in this easy going indie dramedy. It was funny, well acted with some cracking one liners and an impressive debut from young wunderkid Jaeden Lieberher.

15. Before I Go To Sleep

Before-I-Go-To-Sleep-Poster-Crop

A tense, slowburning but well crafted psychological thriller. Memento meets While You Were Sleeping. Even if I had sussed the big twist. The unveiling still took me by surprise. I thought the cast were fantastic. Kidman was on fine form and the last 15 minutes were brilliant.

16. The Maze Runner

maze-runner-poster

You read that, right? We had numerous teen book bestseller franchises flooding the screens. Divergent, Hunger Games, The Giver and . . . The Maze Runner. I went in, really expecting the worst and for the majority of the film, I was hooked. It’s hardly original but it zipped along and stopped me grumbling.

17. Nightcrawler

iBzw3pl

A superb performance from Gyllenhaal. Deservedly earning a BAFTA nomination. Somehow managing to out-Bale Bale in this dark take on the American dream. Satirical, grim and engrossing. If a little predictable with an abrupt ending BUT still worth a gander.

18. The Guest

THE GUEST

Mr Crawley has left the Abbey and he’s kicking ass and taking names. A cracking and charismatic performance in this strange but riveting indie action flick. It felt like a film of two halves. Some may not like how it pans out BUT it certainly took me by surprise. Badass film of 2014? Hell yeah!

19. What If

what_if_movie_poster

What if Harry Potter did an indie chick flick? It would be an easygoing and entertaining affair. That’s what. Radcliffe and Kazan had great chemistry and were a normal and believable couple. I actually cared what happened to them unlike the other umpteen romantic comedies that have wasted my time.

20. Blended

blended-movie-logo-y4taiyut

I told you that I was going to think outside the box. I said surprised or entertained me. It has been a while since I have enjoyed a Sandler movie. And this says a lot from a die hard fan. Hardly die hard BUT I’ve endured them all. Blended certainly isn’t perfect but it felt like a return of sorts. It was certainly a return for Drew Barrymore. The plot is stupid and some gags fall flat on their backside.

BUT when it was funny, it had me in stitches. The family dynamic was dealt with well. The handling with the grief issues was done nicely and was unexpected. I enjoyed it. There’s still hope for the Sandler. I went in expecting nothing and was rewarded with something more. A good comedy. Hallelujah. Has the Mad Movie Ranter lost his marbles?

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB REVIEW

night_at_the_museum_secret_of_the_tomb_new_poster

One last time? Probably for the best.

The first one I’ve actually seen all the way through and thankfully the last.

The others I’ve always caught bits. They seemed a little silly but fun. All you can hope for with the influx of films filling the big screen.

So what happens in this one? Larry (Ben Stiller) spans the globe (Well . . . London), uniting favorite and new characters while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever.

In a word, meh. Not bad but not great either.

A bizarre Indiana Jones-esque opening didn’t really get things going. Some predictable Egyptian mumbo jumbo about a curse surrounding the magic tablet felt a little unnecessary.

However, we are soon back at the Smithsonian with the gang doing their thing. BUT alas, the tablet is corroding and the statues are acting weird. Causing havoc on the public and pulling strange faces.

It was a shame knowing that this was Robin Williams’ last film. Especially when his character Teddy Roosevelt was a little lacklustre and flat. His farewell speeches did hit home a little harder. BUT it felt like a blip on an extensive film career from a comedy actor that was gone too soon.

It was also farewell to another comedy icon, the late Mickey Rooney in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo.

The cast do their best but the gags seem few and far between. And the premise to get them all together for one last hurrah was lazy and a little tame.

Ben Stiller was entertaining (as usual). The discovery of his neanderthal counterpart Laaa shouldn’t have worked BUT somehow his stupid face pulling got a chuckle out of me.

BUT some of the gags were old hat. I mean the scene in which he must explain why Laaa must stay behind (Only to then follow him or mimic him) was predictable and done to death.

Dick van Dyke has still got the moves but I felt his appearance wasn’t needed. A feeble attempt to get all the gang back in the movie.

Ricky Gervais always did irritate me (in these films). And from the opening, he still did. However, the more rubbish he spouted and the flimsier his floundering became, I found my face cracking.

Things did seem to get going when Stiller finally got to London to stop the curse.

I thought Rebel Wilson was going to poke fun at the British stereotype a lot more and annoy me but no! She was just being Rebel Wilson. When she got to improvise it wasn’t bad. BUT she did go on a little too much.

Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) was brilliant as the newest addition, Sir Lancelot. He made a hilarious entrance and took it up a notch. However, once he started suffering from a little Buzz Lightyear syndrome, my interest waned.

The whole “I’m a knight not a statue” routine did go on. BUT that was only because there wasn’t much else on offer.

Even Larry’s subplot with his son seemed rushed and put together poorly to try and fill the void. The corny “Choose your own path and don’t drop out of high school” spiel just felt predictable and run of the mill.

The special effects were brilliant and I think they missed a trick by not shooting it in 3D. However, the overuse of CGI on Dexter the monkey did spoil things. BUT then you’re not going to get Crystal the Monkey to disco dance. Or hang off a trapeze for crying out loud!

For every good gag, they seem to repeat it or milk it dry. Tut tut tut.

Steve Coogan and Owen Wilson had two good gags that were heavily flogged in the trailers. One involving a giant Roman catapult to operate a keyboard to post a humourous comment and another involving a fire and a monkey that used the only liquid available at his disposal.

Yeah . . . You get the picture.

The pair were hilarious in the other two films but this time round, they weren’t in it enough and when they were; they just didn’t hit it off or make you laugh as much as you hoped. Which is pretty much my summary of the film.

And the big secret to help save the tablet was laughable. No, really! All those hit and miss shenanigans for a terrible conclusion.

There were some fantastic cameos that I didn’t expect from the legendary Sir Ben Kingsley, Alice Eve and a certain Marvel icon. I won’t say much more. It didn’t have me howling with laughter but he certainly got the odd titter.

A running gag with said mystery actor went on far too long.

The closing moments were nicely done but then it seemed to end so abruptly and flatly that was a bit anti-climactic. It made sense but I haven’t felt so baffled and disappointed with an ending since Lost.

If you want to distract the little ‘uns for 90 minutes, it does the trick but there are better family films out there. *Cough* Shaun the Sheep *Cough*

2.5/5

A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES REVIEW

a-walk-among-the-tombstones-poster-2

Or Taken To The Grave? Liam Neeson uses his particular set of skills. No, wait! His acting skills (Remember them?) and his gravelly gravitas for the hardened private eye thrown into the seedy underworld of a 90s New York City.

A return to form for the reformed action hero in a suspenseful, if drawn out, gritty neo-noir. If you’re expecting another Taken, then you may be left disappointed.

Now I loved Taken (the first one) and it was great to see Neeson back in the limelight. But I was afraid that he was going to be typecast in the action role indefinitely. Non-Stop (Taken on a Plane) proves my point. BUT I’ll always commend Neeson for Schindler’s List and Rob Roy.

However, Neeson plays the part to perfection. A grisly Philip Marlowe. To be honest, the 90s setting didn’t really provide anything additional to the film. Other than the fact he uses old computers in libraries and payphones. I don’t really believe in the whole “Based on True Events” spiel. Not since Fargo and every horror film for the last decade.

So what’s it about? Private investigator Matthew Scudder (Neeson) is hired by a drug kingpin (Dan Stevens) to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife.

Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) is really starting to make a name for himself and plays the part well. But to be honest, his character was a little weak and didn’t really do much until the closing moments.

Astro (Earth to Echo) played Neeson’s homeless sidekick well and the pair worked well together. Some will find his character incredibly irritating and their “bonding” conversations completely unnecessary and unsuited to Scudder’s loner.

At least we won’t be as annoyed as Ruth Wilson (Luther) whose part was completely removed from the film to make Scudder more of a loner. All she has attached to her name is a credit. And yet Astro made the cut? Strange.

However, the real scene stealer and adversary to Neeson’s Marlowe was David Harbour (End of Watch) as the maniacal killer. He was brilliant and sinister as hell. His creepy voice delivery was memorable enough. Olafur Darri Olafsson (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) also made a memorable role as the strange but morally torn middle man.

My main quip with A Walk Among The Tombstones was the length. A zippy opening with Neeson doing what he does best was soon put on a slow boil. The story tries its best to keep you hooked but there isn’t enough to justify the running time.

The story barely scrapes the surface of the sordid underbelly that these dark antagonists lurk from. There are creepy and suspenseful moments and Neeson certainly carries the film but despite all its promise; Mihai Malaimare Jr’s grainy noir-esque cinematography, Neeson’s snappy one liners and Harbour’s menace, it falls short of your expectations.

The story line meanders along with the surprise abduction and punch-em-up from Neeson but it’s all a little by the book. Endless red herrings with leads that go nowhere slowing down and killing what mystery and suspense was brewing.

The finale was certainly tense and made up for the meandering middle act but it was all so predictable. I was little disappointed that it had to go for a big fist fight and shoot em up to keep in and bank on Neeson’s resurged action hero fame.

The first hour was engaging, tense and slow burning but we got to see Neeson do what he does best . . . Act. Don’t get me wrong, there were some decent punch em up moments that Sam Spade would be proud of but it seemed to run out of ideas, go on a bit too long and then end with a big action number to stop bums fidgeting in seats.

If you want Taken, watch . . . Taken. But if you want to see a return (of sorts) for a talented actor and have a taste for noir, then it’s worth a gander.

3/5

THE GUEST REVIEW

THE GUEST

This is one house guest you won’t want staying around. Crawley is back and kicking ass. Dan Stevens has definitely escaped from the dusty confines of Downton Abbey and boy . . . what a film to break the mould.

Stevens is incredibly charismatic and proves that he can handle the leading role with ease. He was one to watch after his turn as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey, but this performance will certainly put him on the map. However, it appears Hollywood have already clocked him with a supporting role in the new release of the Neeson crime showpiece, A Walk Among The Tombstones.

Now brought to you by the people who did You’re Next. When I read that, I dreaded what laid in store. I hated You’re Next. It completely flipped what I thought would be a solid slasher flick and turned it into a ridiculous farce. As soon as the opening credits of The Guest began with the highly elaborate overture that usually belonged to the 80s B-movie flicks, I was anxious. However, once Stevens flashed the pearly whites and unleashed that perfect American drawl, the anxiety dropped and a slow burning, suspenseful tension soon had me hooked as we try and decipher the intentions of the all too helpful lodger.

What’s it about? A soldier (Stevens) introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. After the young man is welcomed into their home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence.

A hint of A Shadow of a Doubt hovers over this indie action hit. In one moment, Stevens’ David works the charm offensive off every one in the screen, in the next he’s ready to destroy them. His unpredictability certainly makes for good viewing. However, one person isn’t buying it and that is Maika Monroe’s bizarrely dressed Anna Peterson. I don’t really pay attention to what people wear in movies but Monroe’s waitress stripper look was just strange and unattractive. The electro-infused soundtrack certainly made for interesting listening. Hypnotic at times but also balls-out random, which pretty sums up the movie and the finale in a nutshell.

The small cast play their parts well. Leland Orser’s (ER) frustrated feeble father, Joel David Moore’s pathetic pothead (Bones) and, scene stealer, Brendan Meyer’s Luke. Meyers delivered some of the better encounters with David. A tense encounter in a bar with some school bullies allows for cracking one liners and funny exchanges. Once Monroe seems to get over her sulking phases of having David in the house, she soon becomes a more interesting character. Especially with the fractious sexual tension inevitably blossoming between her and Stevens.

A little too much time is spent on the exchanges and glances that it slows the pace of the film down. However, the final 15 to 20 minutes came out of nowhere. The film goes in a completely different direction when Lance Reddick’s straight faced  (Fringe/The Wire) secret soldier creeps out of the woodwork. Now I think it will be down to the change in tide that will either make or break the film for people. For me, it made it so much better. For others, they may have preferred another route. Normally I am the latter. I’m staying cryptic because I want people to see this but it’s rapid, violent and balls-out (a lot of balls-out this time) reckless.

3.5/5 for me. Action packed, dark, funny, if a little long at the tooth in parts with an all out shoot em up and slightly abrupt finale. But not bad, not bad at all. Films aren’t testing me today.