Movies – Beauty and the Beast Review (or “A Visual Feast, Not An Audible One”)

April 7, 2017

Seeing as pretty much everyone who goes to see Beauty and the Beast has probably already seen the cartoon version, the onus of any review should not be on whether or not it’s a good story, but rather if it manages to successfully bring the cartoon to life.

It does and it doesn’t.

From the very beginning you can see that unlike the Jungle Book – which played it straighter with almost none of the songs from the original present – this was planned as a shot for shot remake. Yes, it adds a bit here, removes a bit there and expands upon/offers a new interpretation on some elements from the cartoon, but it’s essentially the same thing.

And it looks spectacular, it really does. This movie is without question a feast for the eyes.

Unfortunately it’s not a feast for the ears.

Because here’s the problem; it’s a musical and many of the actors hired to play the parts can’t sing to the standard you’d expect.

Take Emma Watson for example; there’s no question that she looks the part for the role and although she’s not the best actress by any stretch of the imagination, she manages to get by.

But she really can’t sing.

She talks through most of her lyrics and every word seems to be auto-tuned to the max. It’s quite difficult to listen to, especially considering how good the songs are from the original.

You can almost excuse it though because the role of Belle really had to be filled with an actress of some repute.

What I don’t get is why they had to cast big-name actors who can’t sing for characters who are CGI teapots and candles for 99% of the movie. One of the big draws from the original was Angela Lansbury’s Beauty & The Beast song which gets absolutely murdered by Emma Thompson. The same applies to Ewan McGregor’s destruction of Be Our Guest.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I doubt many people go to see a movie based upon which actors are doing voice parts so why not just hire people who are maybe not so well-known but could have done a better job?

It’s not all bad though on that front. I thought the casting of The Beast (Dan Stevens) and especially Gaston (Luke Evans) was bang on. The latter managed to both look like the cartoon version and was actually able to sing.

And one of those songs brought up a significant aspect of the movie; Disney’s first openly LBGTQ character.

This has caused a lot of silly and unnecessary controversy from backward thinking countries/regions who are appalled at the thought of two men dancing but are strangely ok with a young girl falling in love with a giant horned animal.

I get the significance, but – and I say this as a straight, white male and thus not the demographic that this will be as important to – I can’t help but feel that making that first character the bumbling, stupid sidekick of the villain was a poor choice. And the writing and performance – especially in the Gaston song – seemed rather worryingly to be based on the relationship between Craig and Anthony in Big Brother 6. Anyone remember that?

Anyway, on the whole it was enjoyable but if you were to ask me if I’d rather watch this one or the original, I’d definitely pick the cartoon. The songs are just too central to what makes the movie what it is, and that’s where the live version is let down.

So it brings it visually to life, just not audibly.

 

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Movies – Finding Dory Review (or ‘Enjoyable Without Making Waves’)

August 12, 2016

If I didn’t criticise Finding Dory for the scene where an Octopus drives a lorry into the ocean, I’d be a hypocrite. After all, that was one of my main points of order in my review of the decidedly bland Secret Life of Pets.

The way I see it, you can only suspend your disbelief so far, as churlish as that sounds. For all the misadventures these various forms of sea-life got up to, that was one step too far.dory

Still, that aside, I thought Finding Dory was enjoyable.

Unlike the aforementioned pet movie, this was actually funny, heartwarming and had a solid narrative from beginning to end.

In particular, I liked the bits with the seals and when Nemo and Marlin were stuck in the tank with the clam.

The voice acting was also very good, with Modern Family’s Ty Burrell standing out as Bailey.

Of course, it does follow exactly the story you’d expect from a Disney film seeing as they now all essentially have the same plot of someone getting lost and then finding their way home, but you gets what you pays for.

It’s good, but not especially so.

And that’s pretty much all that needs to be said.

The only thing I’ll add – and it’s par for the course for my reviews of Disney movies – is that the pre-movie short was once again superb. In this case it’s a short animation called Piper about a sandpiper bird encouraged by its mother to go out to feed itself on the beach for the first time.

Without hyperbole, it’s the best quality animation I have ever seen in my life. It looks real. It’s utterly incredible.

The story is heartwarming too, but wow, if that’s the future of animation I’m blown away.

It was worth the admission fee alone.


Movies: Frozen Review (or “Who’d Have Thought Kristen Bell Was Such A Good Singer?”)

December 6, 2013

So having just said in my review of Saving Mr Banks that I don’t go out of my way to see Disney films, today I went out of my way to see the first showing of the entertainment giant’s latest effort, Frozen.

Nothing like consistency then, eh?

Frozen Review: What’s It About?

Frozen – the 53rd feature-length presentation from the Disney Animation Studios –  tells the story of a fearless princess who sets off on an epic journey alongside a rugged mountain man, his loyal pet reindeer with whom he has a rather odd relationship with (some might say he’s mentally ill but I doubt that’s what they were going for) and a hapless snowman to find her estranged sister, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter.

Frozen Review: Who’s In It?

Frozen features the voice talents of the likes of Kristen Bell and…er…some other people I’ve never heard of.

Frozen Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

Pretty highly. It gets 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, 8.1 on imdb from just under 10,000 votes and it’s getting universal praise in the press.

Frozen Review: My Thoughts

I was going to say that it’s been some time since I’d seen a film from the Walt Disney Animation Studios (i.e. not Pixar), but then I realised that I actually went along to see the 52nd one – Wreck It Ralph – earlier this year.FROZN_014M_G_ENG-GB_70x100.indd

Certainly it’s the first musical one I’ve seen from Disney at the cinema in a hell of a long time. We’re talking The Lion King almost 20 years ago.

So it was an interesting change.

I mean, sure, the plots of these Disney films are straight out of a cookie-cutter mould, with the basic format being “Protagonist goes on adventure with some kind of loveable/wacky sidekick”, and this was no different.

But that’s ok; I enjoyed it. The plot moved along at a reasonably brisk pace, the characters were all likeable and there were plenty of funny moments, with jokes for both the adults and children in the audience to enjoy. I actually found myself chuckling quite a lot through it – thanks in particular to Olaf the Snowman – which was a nice surprise.

And of course it had the usual soppy ending that you’d have to have a heart of stone not to enjoy.

It did have issues, in particular with the left-field reveal of the villain out of nowhere, but these can be forgiven.

Plot and dialogue aside though, there was also plenty more to enjoy.

For example, the songs were all pretty catchy and I was bowled over by how good a singer Kristen Bell actually is. During the film I felt the need to look up online whether it was her singing or whether Disney had replaced her for the songs with one of their Mousewitz slaves, but it was her, and she was excellent.

I did find it amusing though that a wholesome Disney flick featured a song about how it’s ok to break up a couple who are engaged to be married because they haven’t made their relationship official yet. That seemed to tip over the edge of immortality in a way you wouldn’t expect.

The other aspect I would go out of my way to praise is the animation, which was stunning. I’ve never seen ice drawn in such a realistic way. Honestly, you have to see it to believe how good it is; comfortably the most advanced animation I’ve ever seen. My brother loves water and ice effects in video games as they are often the hardest parts to do well; he’d be in heaven watching this.

Anyway, Frozen also comes with a fantastic support act in the form of a new Mickey Mouse animated short at the start called “Get A Horse”.

What starts off as a very old-fashioned black & white Mickey Mouse cartoon from the Steamboat Willie age – it’s presented in 4:3 ratio and even has Walt Disney doing the voice – comes with a twist. What is the twist? Well I wouldn’t want to spoil it for those who plan on going along to see it, because it’s a nice little surprise. And it makes great use of the 3D in which Frozen is presented.

It’s a bit strange that Disney have put this Mickey Mouse cartoon on first with no fanfare at all – I read earlier that it’s the equivalent of going to a Michael Buble concert and finding out Dean Martin is the support act – but that’s the decision Disney made. I imagine some people would pay to see Frozen just so they could see Get a Horse.

I’ve attached a preview clip below.

Frozen Review: Final Thoughts

Combining the best 3D animation of the present day with the traditional feel of a Disney Musical rarely seen since the 1990s, I found Frozen to be a surprisingly enjoyable film.

It’s not the best film I’ve seen all year by any means, but for its genre it was impressive.

Definitely one to see if you have the time, or have kids that need entertained for a couple of hours.