*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* LA LA LAND REVIEW *NEW*

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Over-hyped drivel.

Well, that’s what I thought I was going to say.

Overrated, maybe? But as much as I tried to resist the crazy hype train, I still couldn’t help but fall for this highly watchable and entertaining romp.

A jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) falls for an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) in Los Angeles.

The opening sequence did nothing to win me over. Despite director Damien Chazelle’s opening credit titles and Cinemascope capture mimicking the days of old; it was too much.

People jumping out of their cars, free-runners . . . free-running, the word ‘chaotic’ doesn’t come close. I couldn’t even hear the lyrics being sung.

All that was missing was a truck with some bongo players in the back . . . Oh, wait, no. There they are.

The soundtrack was a little disappointing. The first two or three songs were highly unmemorable.

Chazelle’s disorienting camera work and ever-growing ensembles combined with his incredibly mad and colourful palette felt like a shot of insulin being given to a caffeine addict. Overkill.

However . . .

I will admit. I’m not the biggest fan of Gosling and Stone. There’s just something about them that grate against me. The Help and The Nice Guys being exceptions.

BUT once the couple were finally brought to the fold, my grumbling was subdued.

Both caught up in their own testing life struggles from Mia’s awkward cringe-inducing auditions to Seb accomplishing his dreams of running a jazz bar.

The concept was hardly original. The focal point of the piece was just like any other musical. A love story.

BUT despite its predictable nature, Chazelle managed to cross exam a relationship from its crazy highs to its downbeat lows. All aided by fantastic chemistry between two brilliant leads and a good script.

I didn’t realise Gosling could play the piano. He was fantastic. City of Stars was probably the only song that I (annoyingly) can’t stop whistling. That blasted piano rift!

I thought the pair’s singing was very good. Considering they aren’t professionals, they sung very well. Stone’s rendition of Audition was excellent.

In all fairness, I would have been happier to watch more of their dancing. A Lovely Night was a bit of a weak song BUT with Justin Hurwitz’s score and the duo’s late night toe tapping dance in the dusk, I was entranced.

The whole thing had a slight air of Astaire and Rogers about it.

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That was until their beautifully shot ballroom dance in the Griffin Observatory. Dancing in the stars. Cheesy but a nice touch with a fitting nod to A Rebel Without A Cause.

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I knew the Whiplash director would sneak jazz into the mix. The only problem was that I’m NOT the biggest fan. I’m sure Seb would have a few choice words to say about that. For those who’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean.

There were some good songs BUT it all felt a little samey to me and the pace was starting to test. If it wasn’t for Gosling’s (and Chazelle’s) enthusiasm, I would have found all the jazz trivia a little dull.

BUT I was engaged in the couple. We watched their romance blossom over the seasons as their paths crossed time and time again. Fate playing its little game.

Laughing as they inevitably fell in love and wincing as the strain of their busy lifestyles took its toll. We could all relate to moments that the pair experienced.

The epilogue was unexpected. Just when I thought I had the film pegged, Chazelle managed to surprise. And not even the Twitter references and endless memes spoiled what was a wonderfully captured and fitting swansong.

The set design, the layout, the choreography. Fantastic.

The hype may have hindered. From all the astounding comments you’d think people hadn’t seen a musical before?!

I’m not saying I’m the biggest musical fan. BUT I don’t hate them either. West Side Story, On The Town, Chicago, Singin’ In The Rain, Moulin Rouge are classics I could watch again and again (Bet you weren’t expecting me to name those titles).

As much as I enjoyed this, I wouldn’t rush to make a special trip to see it again.

La La Land certainly celebrated the much missed presence of an absent genre. I tried to compile a list of musicals in the last decade. Not many came to mind; Frozen, Sing Street (A must watch) and . . . shudder . . . High School Musical.

As much as I felt this may have been over-hyped by awards buzz, it was still an entertaining watch from two underrated actors.

Unless you’re completely anti-musical. If so then why you are here?

3.5/5 (Just)

*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

INTO THE WOODS REVIEW

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Into the scrap heap? There’s only one way to find out.

This mixed bag of a macabre musical will certainly split audiences but I actually didn’t mind it.

(Said the guy who reviewed the Annie remake a few weeks ago)

I’m not a big musical fan BUT I’ve dabbled in the odd one or two. The classics; The King and I, The Sound of Music (Man points dropping with each title), Moulin Rouge (What?) and now Into The Woods.

I didn’t realise that this was adapted from a successful Broadway musical. So unfortunately I won’t be able to make comparisons.

Rob Marshall, the man who brought us the excellent Chicago and . . .  Nine, takes on another musical. With mixed results.

So what’s it all about? A witch (Meryl Streep) tasks a childless baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree.

The cast, bar one exception, were excellent. All perfectly chosen for their roles.

Meryl Streep proves once again why she is the best actress going, earning yet another Oscar nomination (and rightly so). I had forgotten what a great voice she had. I know! She was in Mamma Mia! But let’s be honest, that was a mess. Fun but a mess.

The sound of Pierce Brosnan’s “singing” voice will haunt my dreams forever. BUT that’s another story.

Anyway, Streep was superb and no uncontrollable arm waving this time.

She played The Witch with aplomb. Stealing every scene and singing some belters. Not enough of her.

Her closing song, “Last Midnight” was brilliantly done but her dramatic exit was a little unexpected and a bit abrupt. Which pretty sums up the last 20 minutes of the film.

After his turn in Horrible Bosses 2, I knew Chris Pine would be up for a laugh. His performance as Prince Charming was very good.

Especially during the “Agony” song. Pine and Billy Magnusson’s sing-off poked fun at the Disney prince archetype. Pine ripping his shirt off to show his muscles, Magnusson hitting the higher notes while trying to puff out his chest and flex. Hilarious.

Anna Kendrick was (to be expected) very good as Cinders. I knew she could sing after her performance in Pitch Perfect.

The opening prologue certainly got things going and introduced all the characters perfectly.

Daniel Huttlestone irritated the hell out of me in Les Miserables. A french peasant with a ridiculous cockney accent. You what? However he surprised me as Jack. Still a Cockney but it worked this time round.

Tracey Ullman (Where has she been?) was funny as Jack’s mother. Slapping him round the head in worry, hugging him the next.

Emily Blunt was fantastic (And what a voice!) as the Baker’s wife. James Corden was also brilliant. They had great chemistry and made a loveable couple.

The Baker couple were part of an original story line. It was clever how they reworked and incorporated some of the most popular fairy tales with their story line using the woods as the meeting point.

It didn’t cover too much of the same ground with the fairy tales we all love and know.

It merely showed each character returning to the woods after a pivotal moment in their story line i.e. Jack coming down the beanstalk with the gold egg, Cinderella running away from the prince, etc.

The Rapunzel story line didn’t really amount to anything. If not for Streep and Magnusson, it would have been completely unnecessary.

A revelation quite early on in the film involving her story line had so much potential but wasn’t never mentioned again or resolved. A missed opportunity. Mackeznie Mauzy certainly looked fantastic but didn’t really do much. I don’t think she even sang.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for Tangled, there would have been some serious plot holes for people not familiar with her story. (Man points gone!)

Johnny Depp had the easiest role going as the Wolf. He played it to perfection with his Bowie-esque voice.

But the song he sang. Hmmm . . . “Hey Little Girl” really made him sound quite lechy. If it wasn’t the fact that it was the Wolf singing about eating Little Red Riding Hood, it would have been a little unsettling.

Lilla Crawford had a fantastic little voice but I found her really irritating as Little Red. I mean I think Sondheim was deliberately portraying her as a little brat but she really did grate against me.

The film zipped along and kept things going but an hour and 30 minutes in, I wondered how much further this could go and with another 40-odd minutes, I could feel my attention wavering.

The songs were starting to go on a little bit and were not quite as gripping or as memorable. Don’t get me wrong, they were sang to perfection but hardly “The Hills Are Alive”.

What baffled and surprised me was how the film’s final act took such an unexpected turn. It flips everything up in the air with the stories veering away from their intended happy endings. The woods again being the brewing pot.

There were a few surprises to be had and I respected it’s attempt. It was actually a bit darker than I expected for Disney.

BUT it also left things a little too unresolved and ended abruptly with people disappearing with no explanation or a passing comment.

For all the bad press, I actually didn’t mind it. Not the best musical I’ve seen but a nice relief after the barrage of bilge I’ve had to endure this week.

3/5