*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* RICKI AND THE FLASH REVIEW *NEW*

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Meryl Streep sings and struts her way through this easygoing BUT tragically mediocre melodrama.

A musician (Streep) who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom returns home, looking to make things right with her family.

Penned by Diablo Cody. A somewhat mixed reaction for me. At her best, Juno. Her worst? Jennifer’s Body. This effort luckily fares somewhere in between.

We join Ricki as she performs at her local venue. A battered up pub with her regulars; half a dozen bar flies. I am a huge fan of the Streep. You know that with any film she will give 100%. It was a perfect showcase to see Streep do her best Stevie Nix impression. Anyone who has seen Mamma Mia and Into The Woods will know that she has a cracking voice.

The songs that were written for the film weren’t that bad. It was easygoing and chugged along. BUT things took a more interesting turn as Ricki has to return home to tend to her daughter (real life daughter Mamie Gummer) who is reeling from a bad divorce.

It was great seeing Streep act with her own daughter. Gummer gave as good as she got. As soon as she made her introduction and stormed into the room with her messy hair and dressing gown, I knew Streep had met her match. The fractious relationship between Ricki and Julie made for good viewing as the pair tried to reconcile their differences.

It may have been 33 years since Sophie’s Choice but Kevin Kline and Streep finally reunite once again. They worked well together and Kline played the role of the ex-husband Pete brilliantly. Desperate for the family to be together again. If anything, I was a little disappointed that he wasn’t in it enough.

And that was the main problem for me. There wasn’t enough drama. It didn’t kick off as much as I had hoped and was resolved far too quickly. A heated reunion at a restaurant was a perfect boiling point for Ricki’s sons to vent their anger at their mother who chose fame over family.

Audra McDonald’s Maureen and Streep’s Ricki sparred brilliantly together. It made for a compelling scene as we finally delve a little more into Ricki’s past. I just wish more was made of it. A few passing comments and snipey remarks wasn’t enough. You certainly felt for Ricki but you could also understand Maureen’s frustration after taking over as mum for all those years.

The problem was that after the hour marker, the film fizzed out. All the interesting family drama was put on the back burner and we were left moping over a silly little love subplot with Rick Springfield’s Greg.

Springfield played the love interest well enough. He was a likeable character BUT it was obvious that the pair would get together. To be honest from their on-stage banter and flirty exchanges, I thought they already were.

There were still some good scenes as Ricki desperately tries to hide her feelings and question why Greg would love someone like her. Awww. BUT it shied away from the real story for me.

And yes, I did clock Diablo Cody as one of the bar regulars. Ben Platt (Ol’ Benji from Pitch Perfect) still managed to annoy the hell out of me. Even in a small bartender role.

The closing quarter was far too schmaltzy for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, there were some nice moments as the family seem to accept her and she suddenly receives a wedding invitation. BUT there was a suggestion that Pete still had feelings for Ricki which was never really explored or bothered with.

It ended far too quickly and was dreadfully corny and OTT. A good old song and dance to make up for 35 years of neglect and anger? Okay. Obviously, Ricki is a singer and that was all she could offer. BUT come on! Streep may have nailed Bruce Springsteen’s ‘My Love Will Not Let You Down’ BUT, no disrespect to The Boss, I don’t think everyone would be raving to it at a wedding.

Predictable and a little too hammy for me. Streep was superb and the cast did their best. If it wasn’t for them, this could have been a very dull affair.

2.5/5

LAST VEGAS REVIEW

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At last! We may have all seen it all before but at least it was easygoing, watchable and fun!

It’s great to see a talented cast letting their guards down and having a laugh. Kevin Kline, welcome back. Where you been?!

In a nutshell, four old school friends reunite for a stag party in Vegas. The rest is gold.

The opening was very corny and predictable as we see the gang as young whippersnappers in the fifties. Unfortunately, the little uns’ acting leaves a little to be desired. Except for RJ Fattori playing the young Paddy (Robert De Niro). Where he lacked in conviction (look at me, judging it like it was an Oscar nominated movie), he nailed with De Niro’s mannerisms. Spot on. Noah Harden as the young Billy (Michael Douglas), however . . . Sorry bud.

But this is all quickly pushed aside and flash forwards 58 years later focusing on each individual as they battle depression, repression and sheer bloody boredom. Kline’s Sam was the scene stealer for me. Checking that one of his elderly cardio pals was still alive in the swimming pool was so wrong but hilarious.

Morgan Freeman’s Archie had potential with a subplot on his ailing health. BUT it was never going to be that type of film. Molly-coddled by his overprotective son who won’t even let him hold his granddaughter in fear of triggering a stroke. The poor pensioner is desperate to escape.

De Niro as Paddy, the miserable robe wearing wiser, may have been a role we’ve seen him do before (Cough. Meet the Parents. Cough) BUT it was still funny. However, his moaning and complaining soon got old really quick.

And, Mr Douglas. Firstly, what is going on with the teeth? Are you Rylan in disguise? For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with last year’s UK X Factor, google Rylan Clark. You’ll get the idea. And the tan?! However, this is all for the taking for Freeman and Kline, delivering some cracking lines. Douglas’ Billy is fed up and scared of how old he is. He has everything and nothing. But in a moment of crazy euphoria, he proposes to his 32 year old “infant” girlfriend, at a funeral. A little OTT for my liking, I know. But at it’s core, it shows an exaggerated fear of getting old.

This movie isn’t perfect by any means. It’s predictable, corny, OTT but at it’s core is a tale of friendship, loss and proving that being old isn’t the end. Where is this rule that you have to stop living and stop being a fool?

The cast work well together. BUT Freeman and Kline were the masters for me. Once Freeman is unleashed in Vegas; he bosses the dance floor and proves that an old dog can learn new tricks. Kline was on fire with his comic deadpan delivery. While, the more serious drama is left to Douglas and DeNiro as old grudges rear their ugly heads.

It’s funny, at times, hysterical. The best moment for me was Redfoo from LMFAO thrusting his cod piece in De Niro’s stunned face. Some might see it as step down, but hey it was funny . . . and he knows it (What?!).

Las Vegas is beautifully captured in all its glitzy, neon glory. And there were some decent supporting turns from Romany Malco (40 Year Old Virgin) and Mary Steenburgen (Step Brothers). Also, look out for a brilliant cameo from a certain rapper.

Steenburgen’s introduction as the lounge singer felt a little unnecessary and corny BUT it was the perfect trigger to unearth Billy and Paddy’s strained friendship. Revelations and twists predictably on the cards.

BUT all in all, LAST VEGAS was like a overdone lasagne. A little too much cheese spread over it but it was still good to look at and tasty enough to enjoy.

3.5/5