[REVIEW] ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’

If you have been following this blog for any amount of time you know I am a tough critic when it comes to the Disney live action remakes. A few I like (Pete’s Dragon, Cinderella) but most are bland at best. However, there’s a special level of hatred in my heart for 2014’s supposed reinterpretation of Sleeping Beauty called Maleficent. I hated pretty much every decision that film made, so you can imagine my hesitancy when they announced a sequel for this year, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. But I pride myself on keeping an open mind for EVERY film. So, I went to see it today, and left with surprisingly mixed feelings.

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First, let’s talk about the positives. Maleficent: The Mistress of Evil is not a cash grab. It is obvious the creators tried their best to improve upon the original film in almost every way. To begin with, the production design is far better. The original felt like a bland CGI world I’ve seen a million times. In contrast, this film has beautiful cinematography and world building, which felt fresh and original. I particularly loved a long sequence in a nest where everything was monochromatic: filled with beautiful grays and whites woven as background for the bat-like Maleficent. Also, all of the costumes and make-up were stunning. Some of the best I’ve seen all year.

For the first act of the movie I was actually digging the film. It starts out as a fantasy version of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, which was weird and different. As opposed to the original, which felt like an apology and bastardization of Sleeping Beauty (especially the fairies! How dare they!), this film felt alive with its own lore and story. The acting was also much better especially from Michelle Pfeiffer and Elle Fanning who is actually given something to do as Aurora.

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Unfortunately this is where my positives stop. Once we have our basic setup of Maleficent vs Pfeiffer the movie begins to falter. Where the dinner scene was surreal and strange, most of the remaining second half is a bland fantasy war movie. It reminded me of the war scene in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which I hate, except it went on much longer. Despite being pretty, the story dragged, and Maleficent becomes a character who is acted upon more than she acts. Most of the time she is moping around waiting for other people to do things, so she can either sulk or acquiesce to their ideas.

I also was puzzled by the tone and audience Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (the title is so dumb by the way) is going for? The battle gets intense including a scene that is gas chamber-like for our heroes. I don’t think kids will find this entertaining nor are adults invested enough in the lore to be engrossed. I never watched Game of Thrones, but I know enough about it to spot the many times Hollywood has tried to capture the themes and aesthetics of that series, and this is definitely one of those films (there is even a long sequence with a dragon…)

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It’s a real bummer because if they had kept the strange tone of the early scenes I could have had a surprise hit. I don’t even see why the war plotline is necessary? Why not have a movie about Aurora trying to plan a wedding with Maleficent and Pfeiffer bickering the whole time? That would have been amazing. As it is, we got a impressive looking war movie that loses its guts midway through.

I wanted to go fresh because I do appreciate the obvious attempt to improve upon the ‘Maleficent turning into the victim of a man’ nonsense of the original film, but that second half was too dull and derivative for me to recommend. Maybe give it a rental if curious? Otherwise, I’d say pass on this fairy story.

Frown Worthy

4.5 out of 10

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‘Dora and the Lost City of Gold’ REVIEW

When I first heard about the idea of a live action film adaptation of the animated series Dora the Explorer I was skeptical. This is partly due to the poor history of live action adaptations like Smurfs and Yogi Bear (Paddington being the exception to the rule) but also because it was announced originally as a Michael Bay produced project. I am not a fan of Bay’s Transformers or TMNT produced films so that was more than enough to make me nervous. Then I heard they were aging Dora up to be teenager, and I was even more skeptical. However, I always try to keep an open mind when I see a film and to my surprise I found Dora and the Lost City of Gold to be a delightful adventure for the whole family.

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I will say I still think it was a mistake to age up Dora. Actress Isabela Moner is good in the role but it adds a layer of awkwardness that isn’t necessary or helpful to the film. There’s an innocence to her character that works with a little girl but feels uncomfortable for a teenager and it looses some of the whimsy the story would otherwise have. That said, the rest of the film works so well, I was able to accept the choice and still enjoy all the good it had to offer.

In retrospect, I should have had more confidence in the project because director James Bobin has done a great job in the past blending live action and fictional characters in subversive ways with The Muppets in 2011 (less said about Alice Through the Looking Glass the better). Also writer Nicholas Stoller has proven himself in witty, creative family films like Storks, Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie, and The Muppets.

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Going into Dora and the Lost City of Gold I felt a good adaptation of the show would include its creative, 4th wall breaking aspect. In the television show Dora will ask the audience where the map is or what Swiper is doing and kids watching will yell back at the screen. To my delight Bobin and team actually integrate these elements into the feature film making something really unique and engaging. Dora talks to the audience and explains her worldview to us and to the other characters she’s with (this is why it would have been better if she had been a little girl)and it’s charming.

The movie takes other risks like incorporating animation in a very creative scene and little jingles Dora sings to accompany the smallest of tasks. It makes for a funny, positive, engaging script that continually surprised me. These subversive elements should entertain older teens and adults while still being sweet and charming enough for small kids.

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The adventure Dora and her friends (Nicholas Coombe, Madeleine Madden, and Jeff Wahlberg) go on is also a lot of fun with booby traps that test their heart and intellect and shenanigans escaping bad guys and finding treasure. The supporting cast of adults is a bit underused but still charming with Eugenio Derbez, Michael Pena, Eva Longoria and Adrianna Barraza all giving good performances.

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The marketing for Dora and the Lost City of Gold hasn’t done a good job portraying how weird and nutty it is. They are making it look generic and bland but my party, including my friend’s 9 year old niece, all thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a funny, odd, sweet adventure the whole family will like. It felt like a throwback to adventure movies we got in the 80s and 90s like Goonies, The Wild Thornberrys, Flight of the Navigator, Time Bandits, Adventures in Babysitting or Honey I Shrunk the Kids.  The hardest part will probably be getting audiences to give it a chance but once they do I bet they will be entertained.

What do you think about Dora and the Lost City of Gold? Did you watch the show growing up? Will you give this movie a chance?

7.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews

It’s time for another edition of my Current Mini Reviews where I give shortened reviews of recently released films. If you are new to the site you are going to think I’m a super big grumpy pants because I didn’t like any of the movies being covered. Sometimes that’s the way the movie Gods see fit to provide, and it’s a good thing because it makes me grateful for the great films! So here goes:

The Sun is Also a Star

First up is The Sun is Also a Star. This is a romantic YA drama based on the book by Nicola Yoon. I actually read the book and enjoyed it. I thought both Natasha and Daniel were well developed and interesting characters and that helped me care about the instalove gimmick. Unfortunately as you can see in my youtube review the movie did not work. The director used too many gimmicks with spinning cameras and heavy-handed narration that got in the way of the characters. Without their development the romance felt very corny. The two leads are pretty people but the script didn’t work for me.

Frown Worthy

3.5 out of 10

A Dog’s Journey

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Don’t worry this is not a sequel to A Dog’s Way Home, which came out in January, and I gave a marginal recommendation to. No, this is a sequel to the 2017 film A Dog’s Purpose, which I didn’t enjoy, but this manages to be even worse. This is a PG family film, and we get multiple dog deaths, human deaths, parental abuse, alcoholism, a toxic teenage relationship, car crashes and cancer. Good grief! The only thing I liked about the movie aside from the cute doggies was the relationship between Kathryn Prescott and Henry Lau. I’d watch them in another movie- maybe a light-hearted romantic comedy and not this massive downer…It makes Old Yeller look like a laugh-fest.

Frown Worthy

2 out of 10

The Dead Don’t Die-

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Last year I loved the delightful indie zombie Christmas musical Anna and the Apocalypse. It was creative, funny and sweet. It even made Best Films of 2018. So when I saw a trailer for The Dead Don’t Die I got very excited. The trailer was hilarious, and I love the cast. My hope was it was going to be a Wes Anderson meets Zombieland film. Unfortunately I was very disappointed. The Dead Don’t Die was an unfunny, self-indulgent, frustrating experience. The cast is woefully wasted, and they strain for the few laughs the script offers. The metaphors are also rammed in to the ground by narrators and characters breaking the 4th wall. It is my first film from director Jim Jarmusch but the critics at Cannes and other places don’t seem to be enjoying it either, so it appears to be a just a big miss. It’s frustrating because it had so much potential and it all falls flat.

Frown Worthy

3.5 out of 10

Wine Country

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In recent years Hollywood has produced several popular comedic films starring and geared towards women. Whether it is the Bad Moms movies, Girl’s Trip or Bridesmaids these films have an audience. Unfortunately the successes for that audience are few and far between. In the latest from Netflix, Wine Country, a lot of funny women are brought together for little to no laughs. It boggles my mind that so many talented people like Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer and more could all get together and produce so few jokes. It felt like an R rated version of a sitcom episode stretched into nearly 2 hours. I also am so tired of the trope that women doing raunchy or outlandish things is inherently more funny than when a man does the same things. It’s so lazy and that’s how I would describe Wine Country. Buyer beware!

Frown Worthy

2 out of 10

So there you have it. 4 pretty terrible films all in the same month! I bet you’re not so jealous of my job now! If you get to see any of these movies let me know what you think. Thanks

‘Aladdin’ 2019 Review

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If you have been following this blog for a long time than you know I’m not the biggest fan of these Disney live action remakes. A few I have enjoyed (Mary Poppins Returns, Pete’s Dragon, Cinderella) but even when I enjoy them the overall movement away from animation is not my favorite. Plus, when it goes bad it goes really bad (Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast). So naturally when I heard about a remake of the Disney classic Aladdin I was pretty skeptical. I was made more skeptical when they hired director Guy Ritchie, who I have not been a fan of, to helm the project. Then the casting looked questionable (how do you replace Robin Williams, one of the great vocal performances ever?) and the trailers were uneven at best.

Nevertheless, I always try to set all that baggage aside and go into a movie with an open mind (otherwise why bother?). So what was the result of this live action Aladdin? I’d say it is a decidedly mixed bag. It’s not awful and it’s not a classic like the original. It’s squarely middle of the road entertainment. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Let’s start with the positives. The best part about the film is the performances of Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine. They are not only good charismatic actors but they had great chemistry and are pretty decent singers. I really enjoyed the ‘One Jump’ sequence from Massoud and Scott has a power ballad called ‘Speechless’ that felt a little out of place musically but was still a pretty good, well sung piece (written by La La Land’s Pasek and Paul). I also thought they nailed the ‘A Whole New World’ because of their chemistry and good singing. It was everything I could have wanted in that sequence.

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I also enjoyed Will Smith when he wasn’t the blue Genie that we know and love. My friend Jen, who attended the screening with me, said she thought he was playing the part of Hitch, acting as matchmaker between a nervous Aladdin and confident Jasmine. These scenes are funny and well produced. They even have Genie getting some of his own plotlines, which I surprisingly didn’t hate.

The trailers are also misleading on how devoted to the original the remake is. It is not a shot-for-shot remake, which many were afraid of, but instead, tries its own thing. The pacing could be a little tighter in spots but overall the story and script worked. Plus the Alan Menken music is always a treat.

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Unfortunately I also had problems with this new version of Aladdin. The biggest fall in 2 camps: blue Genie sequences and the portrayal of Jafar.

Like I said, I enjoyed the scenes of Will Smith playing matchmaker and mentoring Aladdin as a normal looking version of himself. However, I did not like him as the blue Genie. First of all, he looked ridiculous with cgi that was only slightly better than the first trailer. That said, my biggest problem was they took all the funny out of these scenes. I wonder if they were afraid of fans comparing him to Robin Williams? Unfortunately their solution was to make ‘Friend Like Me’ and ‘Prince Ali’ flat and bland with hardly any jokes or energy to them. It felt like glitzy cruise ship renditions more concerned with checking off boxes instead of digging into a deep manic energy to make us laugh and smile. Also Will Smith doesn’t have a broadway style singing voice, so they should have embraced his more hip-hop style rather than produce weak versions of these iconic tunes.

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My other problem with Aladdin is the portrayal of Jafar by Marwan Kenzari. He had a lot of the trappings of Jafar but the performance was very annoying and whiny. I’ve always thought of Jafar as a pretty bold but sniveling villain and this was just irritating. It also didn’t help that Iago as a live action character was window dressing instead of the comic relief that makes the animated Jafar so full of dry menacing wit.

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I really struggled whether to go smile or frown worthy on this Aladdin. I’m about split down the middle on it but it so pales in comparison to the original animated classic that I’m not going fresh on this one. It’s not awful and has its charms, but I’d still say stay home and watch the original. Tough call but:

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Overall Grade 5 out of 10

If you want to hear Stanford and I talk all about the original Aladdin check out our Talking Disney podcast episode:

The Beguiled Review

Yesterday I had the chance to see one of the most buzz worthy films of the summer: The Beguiled, directed by Sophia Coppola. Heavily praised out of Cannes Film Festival and by many critics I went into it with some enthusiasm. I even watched the original 1971 film for Hit Me With Your Best Shot to get ready.  Coming out of the film I wasn’t all that thrilled with it. The Beguiled is ok but not as good as the original and Coppola makes a lot of weird choices I didn’t understand that made it more languid and removed much of the tension. This was a thriller without any thrills.

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Let’s start with the positives. First of all, The Beguiled is a gorgeous film and it is worth seeing for the stunning cinematography, lighting, production design and costumes alone. All of these aspects are significant improvements upon the original. I love how it felt like candlelight and it reminded me of The Others (a favorite of mine) in the way it used light and shadow to create mood.  If it isn’t nominated for best costumes at the Oscars that will be a real travesty.

I also think the acting is all good. It’s what Coppola does with the performances that is the problem. All of the ladies do a decent job with what they are given. I have issues with Colin Farrell’s character but it isn’t really his fault. Again, he does a good job with what he is given.

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Now to talk about the problems…and unfortunately that begins with the way Farrell’s character is written. In the 1971 film Corporal John McBurney is an obvious predator that fixates quickly on the most plain girl in the house, Edwina (more on her in a minute). He does this at the same time the more striking Alicia is throwing herself at him. This builds tension so much more than the over-all nice guy this version shows. I didn’t really buy most of the decisions he makes here as they seemingly came out of nowhere.

For example, one scene that is missing from the original is where McBurney tries to seduce the house slave. She is the only one who is in on his game and will have nothing to do with him. It makes it clear this is not a nice man, which makes the tone feel scary as you worry about the women of the house. In this version, Coppola decided to eliminate the slave character completely. I understand why she did it for PC reasons, but I think it hurt McBurney’s character development and made all the girls feel similar since there was no contrasting presence.

beguiled3Now getting to the girls. The character development for them is sadly also lacking. Edwina is supposed to be very plain and Kirsten Dunst is far too pretty to play this part. The plain appearance is important because like I said it makes McBurney’s advances more creepy and his seductions more alluring to the homely Edwina. Here her decisions don’t seem to match with the rest of her character or personality and her stunning dresses don’t help in making her feel mousy either!

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It goes the same with the other women. Alicia is not developed at all when in the original she is a real vixen tempting McBurney. The school matron Martha played by Nicole Kidman is also written very flatly. In the original she is a sexual deviant with a strange twisted past. Here she is a nice Southern lady trying to protect her girls. It just doesn’t have the same tension or thrills because their choices are way more predictable and obvious.

I appreciate that Coppola wanted to make a story about women but why not write them as complex characters with interesting backstories and motivations? Or if you aren’t going that route make the situations the stock characters are in scary and fun. Neither is the case here. I wonder if she felt afraid to make her characters more flawed, as the original does, for fear of it not being seen as empowering or a feminist film? Who knows but I don’t get it?

It’s hard without spoilers but there is also a scene where Martha is forced to make a decision and in the original film it is clear she does not need to make that choice. However, here it is the opposite. It is portrayed that if she does not make the choice McBurney will die. This does not work because McBurney’s anger at these ‘crazy women’ seems unjustified when in the original it is definitely not. According to this film they’ve just saved his life but he turns into an insane person. It’s a scene (and final 3rd of the film) that should have been full of tension but it’s not  because all the ambiguity has been lost.

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This will sound weird but this version is oddly more pg13ish than the original. More often than not, it plays it safe and doesn’t explore darker themes or twisted character motivations like it could have. It makes it kind of boring and predictable.

All that said, it’s not an awful movie. It is pretty and worth watching for the visuals alone but I just can’t figure out why Coppola made choices that seemed to neuter her gothic thriller? Watch this film and then watch the original, and I think you will see what I mean. This is a nice looking film but a thriller it is not.

Overall Grade- C+


As far as content there is a little bit of blood and brief sensuality but I’m not even sure why it is rated R to be honest. It seemed about the same as My Cousin Rachel and that is a pg-13. The original is way more R rated.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Parent Trap (1961)

This week for Hit Me With Your Best Shot Nathaniel over at the Film Experience has selected a film right up my alley- The Parent Trap (1961).  This is the original version of the movie. Not the superb remake starring Lindsay Lohan in 1998 (that’s how you do a remake right!).  I’m excited to talk about this film because I really do adore it.  It is one of my favorite live action Disney films.

The premise is simple enough. 2 girls meet at camp and surprise! They happen to look just like each other. It turns out they are twins separated at birth. Now they start up a scheme to switch places and bring their parents back together again. It’s not the most original story in the world but it is what they do with it that works so well. And most of the credit goes to the charismatic and wonderful cast. Hayley Mills is amazing as the twins. She gives them each individual personalities and manners of talking. Even when they have the same haircut and clothing I still know clearly who is Susan and who is Sharon.

I also love Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith as the parents. They have terrific chemistry together and you buy these two people have always been in love with each other but have let their passionate natures keep them apart. I even love it when she ends up slugging him in the eye in one spirited argument. It feels believable for their characters that it might happen. Under all that fiestiness is of course passion and love for each other. It is classic!

The movie is also really funny. I love Maureen O’hara when she flirts it up with the local Reverend (Leo Carroll) come to go over wedding plans for Mitch and his fiance Vicky (Joanna Barnes). She is hilarious as she drives her ex crazy in front of the Reverend in a bath robe!

Vicky is a very stock gold digging horrible girlfriend you often see in romantic comedies. They can’t have her be too great or we won’t want him to get together with Maggie very much. However, here the trope works because they get a lot of humor out of it. I love when the girls submarine her on the camping trip because I could be equally spooked in the great outdoors. I hate camping and if bear cubs were licking my feet I would have words just like Vicky!

The beginning scenes at camp are also hilarious with the most epic sabotage in movies. I think every kid dreams of pulling those kind of pranks off at camp or with their friends. (I was never big into being pranked but I thought the idea of it was hilarious). It never becomes dour or depressing but is light and fun.

Now to my best shot. I realize this movie caused some controversy upon its release because many kids felt they could get their divorced parents back together. This is perhaps a strange testament to the effectiveness of the picture, but I think these complaints miss a key point of the film. Parent Trap isn’t saying all parents should get back together. Of course not. It is just saying THESE TWO PEOPLE should get back together.

As I said, Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith have palatable chemistry together. They belong together. It’s as clear as day. The final scene when they talk and embrace is really well written, and I love when Mitch tells Maggie all the silly things he misses about her, and she tells him to wash the stew off of his shirt. It’s just great romantic comedy writing.

So, I picked this picture of the two smiling at each other.  This is why the movie works and why I love it.

BEST SHOT:

What do you think of Parent Trap 1961 or do you prefer the remake? Put in the comments section and what would be your best shot? Please share!

Overall Grade- A

Beauty and the Beast 2017 Review

It’s an interesting predicament I find myself in with this latest live action remake from Disney, Beauty and the Beast. Because I detested the marketing, some think I have a vendetta against the film and would never like it. On the other hand,  the animation fandom cries “traitor” if I like anything about it. Oh well! Looks like I will just have to be honest with my response as I always am. So here goes…

So far these Disney live action remakes have been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I loved Cinderella and Pete’s Dragon because they felt small and intimate and gave a new vision to the story without bastardizing the original as Maleficent did. Jungle Book I thought was solid and entertaining and the 2 Alice films I didn’t care for. Maleficent I hated with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. Where does this Beauty and the Beast lie? Well, I’d say like the remakes as a whole it is a bit of a mixed bag. The average moviegoer looking to be entertained will be but that doesn’t take from some problems I had with the film.

Let’s talk about strengths first. My favorite thing about the film was the strong production design and the large musical set pieces. I can’t think of a musical in a long time that had such satisfyingly staged musical sequences. Be Our Guest, Belle, and Gaston were the particular highlights. The costumes, scope, dancing and ensemble singing were first rate. It was easy to get swept away in the moments and that’s what you want in a musical.

I also really liked what they did with Gaston. Luke Evans was hilarious in the role and while he may not be the size of a barge it didn’t matter. He worked for the part. They made him a bit more sympathetic without completely changing his character like they did with Maleficent. He’s still the cocky guy we know and love but he seemed to actually be in love with Belle, which I appreciated. Also Lefou was a well done character. I liked his story arc through the film and Josh Gad did a good job in the role. He isn’t just a literal punching bag that he is in the animated film.  By the way, the whole “gay moment” is nothing that should offend anyone in any way. His character arc is satisfying not because of his sexuality but because of how he deals with questions of loyalty and friendship.

They also work in a lot of humor into the script, which I enjoyed. I found myself laughing quite a bit especially with Lumiere and Cogsworth but a lot of the characters were funny.

But that’s about where my positives end and some problems start. My biggest problem with the film is in the character design. All of the household objects were difficult to connect with emotionally. Lumiere and Cogsworth were designed in a way that made it difficult to see their faces and expressions. Mrs Potts was literally flat so you had no sense of movement or personality to her.  It is all left to the voice cast to sell the emotion and they just couldn’t do it. The Beast looked like Krampus and his face was flat and dull. And Harry Potter fans will hate me for saying this but I also found Emma Watson to be flat and wooden in her performance as Belle. There wasn’t much chemistry between the two of them because they were uninteresting and bland, which is a big problem selling this story.

I also had some problems with the new additions to the story. For the most part they didn’t add anything that wasn’t super obvious or predictable. It just made scenes feel stretched out and kind of boring. They should have picked one or two backstories to focus on, but instead they did a lot and none of them feel very developed or satisfyingly fleshed out. For example, we learn something about Mrs Potts’ marriage but it feels very tagged on and not emotional like it should.

The best of the additions is the new peril the household objects face with the curse but I didn’t really like that they are somehow blamed for the Beast’s behavior and the curse. This seemed like a major stretch. I can see blaming parents for the behaviors of a child but servants in a castle? That is tough to believe. It’s certainly a very harsh enchantress.  That’s for sure.

Other new story involving Belle’s mother and the Beast’s backstory just did nothing for me. Also the new songs were very forgettable and flat. They aren’t bad songs but the only reason I remember one of them is because Josh Groban sang it in the credits and I’m a huge fan of his.

Speaking of music, the other major problem I had with the movie was in the singing. Emma Watson’s singing was frankly awful. She not only sounds autotuned but her vocals don’t mesh with the rest of the strong ensemble vocals. It’s one thing for a terrible vocalist to be in Mama Mia or Phantom of the Opera but most of the singing sucked in those movies. Here the ensemble is great and classic Broadway sound, so to have an electronic sound as the lead didn’t work at all. It was such a bummer because if she had been dubbed I think I would have LOVED those songs. If I was Emma Watson I would be very mad with Disney because it is their job to make their star sound good and they didn’t.

Most people will go see Beauty and the Beast and have a great time, and so I have to give Disney credit on that level. There is entertainment to be had here and I think as a whole it is a harmless movie. Does it live up to the 1991 original film? Of course not but it’s certainly not awful. I thought the musical set pieces and Gaston/Lefou were fun enough to recommend the film despite some of my problems and issues. In a way it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity because elements  were there to make it truly great but oh well. It’s not an atrocity like Maleficent so I’m grateful for that.

Overall Grade- C

Here is my youtube review. I would really appreciate it if you gave it a watch and a thumbs up if you have a minute.  Thanks!

Beauty and the Beast 2014 Review

So love it or hate it the new Beauty and the Beast is coming out whether we like it or not. To get ready for the release I thought it would be fun to take a look at the 2014 French version of our classic story entitled La Belle et la Bete.

This film is directed by Christophe Gans and stars Lea Seydoux as Belle and Vincent Cassel as The Beast. In all honestly, it is not a strong film but as a piece of soap opera in fairytale form it is entertaining.

The best thing about this version of Beauty and the Beast is the sumptuous costumes and sets. I’ll be honest Seydoux’s dresses show up anything I’ve seen them put on Emma Watson in the publicity for the new film. The attention to detail from hair all the way down to feet is just beautiful.

There are definite moments where the backgrounds look green screened in and the production looks cheap but there are also sets that look as lush and regal as anything you will see in the new version.

As far as the rest of the movie it is extremely silly. It’s the kind of heaving bodice period piece that you see lampooned on shows like Saturday Night Live where everyone has sexy looks about them and the melodrama is strong.

This silliness includes a running set of dream sequences of a prized deer who is shot through the heart with a golden arrow. LOL. These scenes must be seen to be believed and they may have some of the worst CGI I’ve seen in a live action film. It is hilarious.

That’s not to say this movie is ‘so bad it’s good’ because it doesn’t quite get to that level of unintentional laughs. It’s more like a telenovella that’s so over-the-top and dishy that it is kind of fun. I honestly think the people involved in this project know it is silly and they play along.

So your enjoyment of Beauty and the Beast 2014 depends entirely on your tolerance for campy theatrics. If that sounds like your thing than give it a watch. If not than stay away. You will hate it!

Overall Grade- C-

Hidden Gem- Something Wicked This Way Comes

something-wickedOver on my youtube channel I have been doing a Disney Scares month for Family Movie Night. With October being a 5 Monday month I decided on Black Hole, Watcher in the Woods, Frankenweenie, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Dragonslayer. It’s been particularly fun to watch these films from the 80s that hardly seem like Disney films at all. Watcher in the Woods has some questionable acting but the rest of the production is fantastic. Black Hole ended up being more of a sci-fi movie than horror but I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of a good episode of Star Trek more than a horror movie like I was expecting. But this Sunday I will post my review of Something Wicked This Way Comes and spoiler alert I LOVED IT!

Rarely do I watch a movie that excites me as much as Something Wicked This Way Comes did. If you like Stranger Things than rent this film. I think you will really love it. It’s not hokey fun like Watcher in the Woods but just chilling and thoughtful and extremely well acted.

something-wicked5Something Wicked This Way Comes is based on a novel by Ray Bradbury and it focuses on 2 boys named Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade from a small isolated town where everyone knows each other. The boys are a bit rebellious but there is also an innocence to them. They are instantly likable without being too adorable child-actorish. Will is particularly interesting because his father is an older man (Jason Robards) who worries he can’t play ball and be there for his child the way he wants. To me it was interesting to have a parent more insecure about his child than the child. Usually in most movies it’s the unaware, workaholic parent and the damaged child.

something-wicked3The movie does a great job setting up insecurities of many of the townspeople. The school teacher who was once beautiful. The storekeeper who lost limbs in the war but was once the town football star. These aren’t just cliches but characters we grow to care about in their brief screen time. They all have this mixture of innocence and darker desires that the movie explores.

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Then one day a carnival comes into town- something wicked you might say! This is ran by a man named Mr Dark who is played brilliantly by Jonathan Pryce. This is the kind of role that Tim Burton would muck up with exposition and a tragic backstory. Not here. We get very little about him, which makes him unpredictable and scary.

something-wicked-this-way-comesThe carnival at first seems like an innocent diversion but it of course is not. I don’t want to give away too much but it was so surprising. Each step of the carnival was both a temptation and curse. Some things like a carousel which can change your age appear very appealing but as always is the case there is a price to be paid. The trailer says “never whisper your dreams” and that is such a good tagline for this film. Dreams are where we are often most vulnerable.

something-wicked-2What was so great is not everything was explained and I’m sure someone could point out plotholes and inconsistencies but we are dealing with dark magic here. It really worked. There are some incredibly chilling scenes with everything from psychological scares to creatures in the night. Some scares were even quite devastating like when Will’s Dad is confronted with his insecurities as a father or the school teacher in her lost youth. I cried which is saying something in a scary movie.

Everything works in this film. The cinematography by Stephen H Burum is perfect mixture of Americana and Burtonesque carnival scenes. The music by James Horner is quiet when it needs to be. The sets and special effects held up and were scary and the acting is top rate. Jason Robards, Jonathan Price, Diane Ladd, Pam Grier, and all the small roles including the boys Vidal Peterson and Shawn Carson are all fantastic.

I loved this movie. I mean loved it. It builds tension so well and draws you into the story and characters. I just wanted to give you guys a heads up if you are looking for family appropriate Halloween fare to check this out. It is definitely one of Disney’s most hidden gems.

I will go into more detail on my youtube review on Sunday but trust me on this one. It is a fantastic film. Have any of you seen it? Were you as impressed as I was? Let me know in the comments. Thanks