*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

*NEW* THE JUNGLE BOOK REVIEW *NEW*

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Ooh-bee-do, oh-bee-do I wouldn’t see this if I were you-ooooo.

Okay, it wasn’t as bad as that feeble pun. BUT now I have your attention. Disney take a trip back to the jungle with mixed results.

After a threat from the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) forces him to flee the jungle, a man-cub named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) embarks on a journey of self discovery with the help of panther, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and free spirited bear, Baloo (Bill Murray).

I was hardly surprised when I heard that Disney were going to reboot the classics. A sign of the times that even the best were running out of ideas. However, I really enjoyed Kenneth Branagh’s lavish adaptation of Cinderella (What?). If the rest of the classics could deliver the same standard then my doubts would happily be washed away.

BUT not even this perfectly cast and visually stunning little reboot could take on the king of the jungle that was the original. It was certainly watchable and (at times) even enjoyable BUT something somewhere along the line was missing.

The rapid and incredibly disorienting opening didn’t get things going for me as Sethi jumped from one badly CGI’d tree to another. Desperately praying for the sequence to stop.

Sethi delivered an impressive debut and captured Mowgli perfectly. He couldn’t look any more like his Disney counterpart if he tried. His whining and insufferable commentary did grate against me in parts BUT that always did with the original.

I liked how writer Justin Marks shook up the story structure. It was a breath of fresh air. NOT all of it worked BUT a change nonetheless. A lot more time was spent with Mowgli and the wolf pack. It gave more depth and allowed a better connection between Mowgli and his “mother” Raksha (Lupita Nyong-o/Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

BUT maybe a little too much time was spent on that dynamic. Things perked up when the feral feline Sher Khan appeared. I was on the fence with Elba’s initial introduction BUT he killed it by the fiery finale. His gravelly undertones bringing the sinister CGI monster to life.

The animation and detail on the animals were superb. The jungle was captured in all its colourful glory. The watering hole sequence was a sight to behold.

The rest of the story pretty much followed along the same lines as the classic. It’s easy for me to make comparisons between Disney movies when I never read the original source material from Rudyard Kipling.

Kingsley was everything I expected. A perfect Baghera. He wasn’t in it enough. Scarlett Johansson nailed Kaar. Her strangely alluring and seductive voice doing justice to the role. She even managed to keep the “Trust in Me” rift. Didn’t quite go into the song which was a shame.

It was always going to be a tough act to follow the iconic Phil Harris. The voice that heralded several Disney favourites; O’Malley the alley cat, Little John and (of course) Baloo the bear. I couldn’t think of anybody better than Bill Murray to give it a crack. He was hilarious. Even if his grumbling may have reminded me of another another animated favourite. A certain fur-bag that loved lasagna.

The pace did test in times and the whole thing was a little too cheesy for my liking. BUT what did I expect from a family film? And even more so, a Disney one? As much as I got a little smile out of hearing Murray sing ‘Bare Necessities’, it almost didn’t fit in with the tone of the film.

I couldn’t believe that Christopher Walken was voicing the King-Kong sized King Louie. The monkey mafioso angle was a different touch. His singing was a little hooo-oooo-ooooorrendous. BUT fair play to the chap for giving it a go.

It was easygoing fun BUT for every little change, I felt a little piece of the charm that made the original such a classic melt away. There were no Beatle-esque vultures. No elephant soldier marches. Just a load of pretentious guff about the elephants being the Gods of the jungle. Really?

The man village angle barely scraped the surface. If anything, it wasn’t needed. It was only brought into the mix for “the red flower”. Sher Khan’s real agenda. The power to make fire. It certainly delivered a strong environmental message about the damage of wildfires and the woes of man on nature BUT it just wasn’t enough.

To be honest, I had the same gripes with the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake. When I have little sprogs of my own, I wouldn’t want them to watch the Michael Jacko/Johnny Depp reboot, I’d grab the Gene Wilder classic any day of the week. If you asked me the same question about the Jungle Book, I’d still be reaching for that animated 1967 classic.

Don’t get me wrong. It killed the time. There was fun to be had and you will certainly keep the little ‘uns at bay. Depending on big a Disney fan you are will probably determine how much you’ll love this.

BUT for a me, it’s a 3/5

*NEW* MACBETH REVIEW *NEW*

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I think I’d rather fill my mind with scorpions than sit through this again.

Despite a powerhouse performance by Fassbender, Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of the renowned Shakespearean play didn’t quite do it for me.

Macbeth (Michael Fassbender), the Thane of Glamis, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland (David Thewlis). Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife (Marion Cotillard), Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.

Fassbender (Steve Jobs) was brilliant. I couldn’t think of anybody better to take on the iconic role of the demented King. This adaptation brought back school boy nostalgia. Unfortunately NOT in a good way. Macbeth is certainly not the best Shakespearean play to break into for a newbie. This only reminded me of what an arduous chore it was to analyse and decipher the soliloquies back in GCSE English just to get the gist of what was going on.

Adam Arkapaw’s cinematography was sublime. It really made the murky Scottish back drop a sight to see. After a strong and graphic opening with the Thane claiming victory on the battlefield, the film soon set off on a snail’s pace. The elongated panning shots. The long stares. I could feel my eyes drooping.

Maybe I wasn’t as much of a fan as I thought. I preferred Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Hamlet. An overtly lavish and grandiose affair BUT at least it was riveting and mesmerizing. For a story of betrayal, greed and madness, not a lot happened. A lot of the gruesome stuff was told in the horribly droll speeches and never shown. That’s not to say I need gore to keep my attention BUT it was incredibly hard going, dull and drawn out.

As much as Fassbender’s performance kept things watchable, I felt Roman Polanski’s 1971 version tackled the subject matter a lot better and was much more engaging and accessible. The screenwriters tried to make little changes BUT it just didn’t work. The witches’ coven, for example. I always remember there being three. Instead we have an ensemble of women and children. BUT what was the relevance? None, apparently. Even more ironic when only three of them spoke.

Paddy Considine (Dead Man’s Shoes) wasn’t in this enough as Banquo. His absence was sorely missed in this lifeless affair. David Thewlis (Seven Years in Tibet) had the easiest job going as Duncan. He didn’t do a bad job for the two scenes he featured in.

Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) was the perfect choice for Lady Macbeth. A role I hoped she would sink her teeth into BUT she was far too passive and weak. I always perceived Lady Macbeth as this devious and influential mastermind. BUT in this adaptation, she did absolutely nothing. A shame. I’m not sure whether it was the writers or Cotillard’s interpretation of the role BUT it didn’t work and she didn’t deliver the lines with enough conviction.

It was strange to see Sean Harris (Prometheus) as a good guy. BUT his demeanour and performance as MacDuff made me root for Macbeth more. By the end of the play, I knew Macbeth had lost it. BUT whether it was down to a lack of chemistry from Harris or too much charisma from Fassbender, the drawn out combat sequence was a real challenge as my loyalty was already decided NOT torn.

I don’t think I’m going to be able to wash my hands clean of this mess. Tough viewing. Any newbies thinking of trying to approach Shakespeare on the big screen may want to steer clear. This is one for the die hards.

2.5/5

*JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT REVIEWED AND REVISITED*

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New recruit. Same problems. Hardly the best Ryan outing but it wasn’t a complete misfire.

Jack Ryan (Chris Pine), as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.

Jack Ryan has been brought back numerous times and always (shamefully) fails to stick around as a continuing franchise, much like the Alex Cross series. There have been some great installments with Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck taking the helm. Clear and Present Danger being a personal favourite.

Pine (Star Trek) was an engaging and very likeable Ryan. His charisma carried the film when the pace slackened. Something that happened far too often.

We flashed through Ryan’s origins (A nice change) as he became a “shadow recruit”. Working for the CIA on an unofficial capacity (In a nutshell). Harrowing images of 9/11 spurring our protagonist to drop his economics degree and join the Marines.

You could argue that it wasn’t needed as Ryan’s commitment and patriotism were established early on BUT it did present a post 9/11 reboot of the travelled Clancy icon.

All the training montages zipped along nicely and breezed through the usual cliches. BUT that was soon thrown out of the window when Ryan fell for his doctor in training, the beautiful Keira Knightley (who delivered a convincing American accent).

Kevin Costner’s (The Untouchables) mysterious Colonel Harper was heavily underused. Not nearly in it enough. It took a good half hour before the film really picked up as we drudged through economic gobbledygook as Ryan gathered Intel at Wall Street.

I didn’t need a retread of The Big Short. All that complicated jargon to explain that a bunch of Russian terrorists were funding their next attack through their corporations. I had to laugh at the irony when said attack was on the US economy.

Thankfully as soon as Ryan reached Russia, I got a bit more of what I expected. A bizarre hotel ambush fight sequence was a much needed catalyst and my griping soon subsided.

Kenneth Branagh (Valkyrie) was perfect as the maniacal Viktor Cherevin. Tattooed up and looking bad ass. Every time he shared the screen with Pine, there was suspense and tension. The pair worked brilliantly together.

A nail biting sequence in which Ryan infiltrated Cherevin’s office had me on tenterhooks. Tragically, it was bogged down with hammy dialogue and more of Knightley (Pirates of The Caribbean) and Pine’s cheesy romance.

As much as the couple had good chemistry; it was the same old guff. Juggling ‘the girl over the job nonsense’ with Knightley inevitably roped into the chaos.

It was a little disappointing as the plot suggested something darker with sleeper terrorists hiding in the US but that was soon cast aside with a predictable twist and endless punch ups and explosions.

Don’t get me wrong. It was fast and furious with an all out frenzy of a finale. All be it a rushed one BUT Branagh wasn’t even in it. Ryan ended up fighting a generic underling in a rapid city chase. Disappointed, to say the least.

A mixed bag. Watchable if flawed to bits. I mean these actioners are supposed to be good fun but this was adapted from a Tom Clancy novel. Novels that could deliver action as well as engaging suspense-filled political story lines.

This felt like a taster of things to come. It set out some good groundwork BUT why didn’t it hit the ground running? A little more effort, a meatier story line and a super villain that could actually be involved in the finale would certainly make for a decent sequel BUT, as things stand, I don’t think that will be happening any time soon.

Pine was a solid lead BUT the plot, tone and pace made this a missed opportunity to reboot a character that should be on the silver screen. Maybe a TV outing have been better?

Don’t get me wrong, it killed the time and was a fun enough ride. Just not one that you’ll remember long after.

3/5 (just)