*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 GIRL ON THE TRAIN REVIEW *NEW*

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I’ll think I’ll wait for the next train.

A slow burning thriller that (with a little perseverance) delivered a decent pay-off.

A divorcee (Emily Blunt) becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shock waves throughout her life.

Based on the bestselling novel . . . How many more times are Hollywood going to scrape the barrel? I haven’t had the pleasure of reading the Paula Hawkins novel BUT have been told on good authority (by my Mum and Aunt who may or may not be scouting through this review) that it stayed pretty close to its source material.

The slow burning pace and flicking about subdued my griping. The fractured time frame spanning from six months to the present kept things interesting. Mainly because I had no idea what was going on.

BUT that was the main appeal for me as we were told tidbits of a disjointed story through an unreliable narrator; struggling alcoholic Rachel. Emily Blunt was brilliant as the plastered protagonist. You really felt for the broken beauty. Her fascination with a house, that the line stops by every day, soon borderlines on obsession.

It felt like a noir flick with all the shady characters; Rachel drinking to forget, the alluring but flawed Haley Bennett’s (The Magnificent Seven remake) fooling around and manipulating men to her own devices and Rebecca Ferguson’s (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) depressed housewife not quite living the perfect life.

The different viewpoints from the three ladies left me trying to decipher whose story to believe. You could feel your empathy changing towards each character as we delved further into their pasts. BUT things reached boiling point when Rachel woke up (from another drunk train ride) covered in blood with no recollection of the night before.

If anything, The Girl on the Train was very much in the same vein as Before I Go To Sleep (Another recommended thriller) with Rachel’s drunken blackouts and inability to piece anything together plummeting her into a dangerous pursuit for the truth. Unwittingly setting herself up as the prime suspect in a murder case.

That’s not to say there weren’t enough red herrings. The small supporting cast played the parts perfectly. It was good to see Luke Evans play something other than a panto villain in a horror flick or Fast and Furious movie. He played Megan’s brooding and possessive husband well.

I was also impressed to see Alison Janney play a straight role as Detective Riley. Especially after her turn in that terrible sitcom Mom. Laura Prepon (Orange is The New Black) didn’t do a bad turn as Rachel’s supportive friend Cathy. Justin Theroux (The Leftovers) was a solid lead as Rachel’s ex Tom. Reluctant to completely shut Rachel out from his life.

I was disappointed that Phoebe from Friends (Lisa Kudrow) had such a small and dismal role. Anyone could played her. The same could be said for Bodhi from Point Break (Edgar Ramirez) as the sulky therapist who desperately tried to evade Megan’s flirtatious advances.

The unravelling was intriguing enough BUT the pace did tend to meander along, killing a good portion of the momentum, and the endless flashbacks soon became very repetitive. Especially the memory flashes to that blasted tunnel! We kept being shown the same images with no new information or progress.

However, once things began to piece together, the final 20 minutes was compelling and nail biting. Some will argue that with only a small number of characters; there are only so many possible outcomes. BUT I can honestly say I didn’t call the twist and even if people sussed it early, the aftermath was still pretty damn tense with a couple of revelations along the way.

Whether that rule will apply for fans of the book is another story. The Da Vinci Code did everything to the letter and I was bored to tears watching the film adaptation. Only because I knew everything that was going to happen. BUT the first two Harry Potter films on the other hand 👌🏻

I didn’t go in expecting much and came out pleasantly surprised.

A good cast, aided with some great suspense, did just enough to drudge through the lengthy pace and stuttering flashbacks to make this one to watch.

3/5

*NEW* FAST AND FURIOUS 7 REVIEW *NEW*

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The action may have been fast and the plot may have made me furious BUT somehow I was still entertained with the SEVENTH offering of the Fast franchise.

Maybe they should just . . . STOP! BUT the first billion dollar grossing film for Universal Studios means one thing! More indecipherable grumblings from Vin Diesel, more stunning cars and more ludicrous set piece that defy the laws of physics.

So what’s this one about? Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family for his comatose brother (Luke Evans).

It’s strange watching this monstrous franchise continue to evolve. To think the original was about an undercover cop infiltrating a bootlegging ring. Even funnier when you realise the items they were stealing were TV/VCR combos.

BUT now? Well . . .

James Wan didn’t mess about. We open to a trail of carnage at a hospital ward as the Stath visits his little bro. He chewed up every scene and pumped up each naff line with a bit of machismo. Dark, brutal and utterly bonkers. A teaser of things to come.

I think it’s safe to say that the Fast films are guilty pleasures. One of those “leave your brain at the door” popcorn movies. The first half hour was zippy and quite watchable.

Until the Tank, I mean, the Rock flew out of a building and used his body as a human shield to protect his partner. Okay, the ol’ WWF fan in me had a moment of nostalgia when the Brahma Bull “rock bottomed” The Stath into a coffee table. BUT it was ridiculous! And that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Jordana Brewster had the easiest job going. She was very much pushed to the background. After an explosive opener, The Rock didn’t really pop back up until the finale. BUT that didn’t stop Wan adding more characters to the ever-expanding cast.

Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones) made a memorable impression as the alluring but geeky computer hacker Ramsey. Kurt Russell was superb as the appropriately titled Mr Nobody. He was having fun and made the implausible waffle almost believable. Plus he delivered the best spot of advertising for Corona I’ve ever seen.

The gang are recruited to retrieve a super computer program that can hack into any social network, CCTV and phone. A technology so powerful that Bin Laden could have been found in two hours not a decade. If they obtain it, they can find the Stath. Before he finds them :O

Two hours, too long. The pace dipped in and out. Reprieved by frantic action sequences. Letty’s amnesia subplot was far too corny and soapy for my liking. I cringed every time Michelle Rodriguez and Diesel were on screen together.

I could actually understand Iggy Azealia in the 15 second blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo. And it wasn’t as corny as Rita Ora’s. Tyrese Gibson delivered the laughs where he could BUT he did test my patience. His banter with Ludacris wasn’t that good either. Even he looked fed up with the exchanges.

Ronda Rousey’s acting left little to be desired. I know she was supposed to be a bodyguard BUT if she’s going to appear in more movies, she needs to up her game. The feisty punch up with Rodriguez was pretty decent though. Tony Jaa was relentless. Dispatching his trade mark free running fighting style. Shame that he was reduced to dispatching such terrible one liners.

BUT nothing compared to Diesel and Stath’s street fight. Both going at it (Steady now) with wrenches and car bumpers (You read that right).

The last 30 minutes really took the biscuit. It was laughable. The Rock shooting up half of LA with a machine gun. Driving super cars through both of the Al Bahar Towers in Abu Dhabi. Driving out of planes with parachutes! Paul Walker running up the back of a bus as it falls off a cliff. Come on!

I can’t believe I’m saying this but it might help to have a little knowledge of the other movies. I have to commend Wan and writer Chris Morgan for wrapping up something that had been niggling at me ever since Tokyo Drift. No spoilers here.

However, for it’s all silliness, it did deliver a fitting farewell to Walker that left a little lump in the throat. A talented actor that left us far too soon. The CGI on Paul Walker was impressive. You really couldn’t tell which scenes were altered. There were quite a few references through out the film that hit home. A racer yells to Toretto, “Ride or die, right?”. Toretto puts his head down and simply says, “Let’s just ride this time”.

They really should quit while they’re ahead. A surprisingly watchable, if incredibly overlong, OTT blockbuster of stupendous proportions.

3(Just)/5

DRACULA UNTOLD REVIEW

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Dracula Now Told! And it’s still the same old predictable guff. Ah ah ah I’ll get my coat. But one thing is established. Luke Evans is ready to take on the big dogs.

Yet another Dracula reboot descends upon the silver screen. Why, oh, why? Have Hollywood ran out of ideas that they must revisit and rehash (emphasis on hash) old classics.

NOW credit where’s it due. Director Gary Shore certainly makes an ambitious debut and despite its endless flaws, I did find it highly watchable and not the worst way to kill 90 minutes. Dracula Untold was also the perfect platform for two up and coming stars.

We’ve seen Dracula as a baddie. Now we have the revisionist phase in which ol’ Drac is now the good guy. Wait? What? It kinda worked with Maleficent. Why not? Did Shore not watch the short-lived TV series that was on this year with Jonathan Rhys Meyers? (A shame because JRM was actually pretty good).

So what’s it all about? As his kingdom is being threatened by the Turks, young prince Vlad Tepes (Evans) must become a monster feared by his own kingdom in order to obtain the power needed to protect his own family, and the families of his kingdom.

Luke Evans has making waves for some time and has proven that he can make incredibly tame and flat characters quite memorable. His turns in Fast and Furious 6 and the Hobbit trilogy proved that. Now he has a bigger platform and a role to sink his teeth into (What? I couldn’t resist).

His charisma and conviction certainly makes the predictably bland Drac stand out. He most certainly carries the film. Something you want from a leading actor.

Evans always had a tough act to follow with Christopher Lee and Bella Lugosi taking on the historic role before him. (Gary Oldman didn’t do too bad a job of it). However, he certainly held his own. I expect to see more of him.

Charles Dance brings his creepy demeanor to the fold and makes a memorable impression. “Let the games begin” was a cheeky Game of Thrones nod. Cheeky. The first time. The second and third time after was just plain lazy. His make up was brilliant. I only recognized him by his iconic sinister voice.

The special effects are very good but the overuse of CGI makes it all a little too cartoony after some cracking visual battle sequences. I think they missed a treat by not shooting this in 3D. I know 3D hasn’t really hit it off. Well, did it ever hit it off? But this is one film that could have nailed it. When Evans first evaporates in a dark cloud of bats, it was pretty damn cool.

But after that, it’s get old really quickly. Once he’s dispatched an army here. And an army there. Exploding into bats and walking like a bad ass. There isn’t much else. The story line is ridiculously predictable and so flat. There are no twists or turns and the concluding moments were rushed into a frenetic finale that was so abrupt and open that it left me feeling a little miffed. Putting it mildly.

It didn’t help that despite having a talented supporting cast, the characters were highly unmemorable and undeveloped. Dominic Cooper was wasted as the maniacal Memed. Left to merely pout and frown and get a two minute scrap. A real shame.

I couldn’t take Paul Kaye seriously as Brother Lucian. I couldn’t tell if he was meant to be that laughable or was just written that way. I guess it don’t help seeing him in Spaced and Blackball. I couldn’t take him seriously in Game of Thrones either, to be honest.

The alluring Sarah Gadon has already stolen my heart after her appearance in Belle. She has some good chemistry with Evans and for a brief moment, I actually cared what happened to the pair. I expect to see more of her. No, not in that way. Come on.

The two leads will come out of this relatively unscathed and Shore will also be one to watch. Once someone gives him a fresh, original idea. But his reworking of a constantly revisited icon was not the worst one I’ve seen by a long shot. (Dracula 2000, anyone? Sorry Gerard Butler).

If you are a fan of Dracula, then invest. If you like your action fast and constant, then again invest. But if you were expecting a little more and something a little different then you may feel a little drained. (I know not my best).

Certainly a lot more watchable than I anticipated.

2.5/5 for me.