Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra MacDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson

Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos

129 mins. Rated PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images.

 

It’s a tale as old as time but now Disney has turned it into a twice-told tale, but is it any good the second time around?

Belle (Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, The Circle) is a bookworm and inventor living with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda, Dean) in the small village of Villeneuve. Belle deals daily with the advances of the slimy and arrogant Gaston (Luke Evans, Dracula Untold, The Fate of the Furious) and his sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad, Frozen, A Dog’s Purpose) as well as the looks from the townspeople who find the young woman rather odd. When Maurice is lost in the woods, he comes across a castle inhabited by a terrible Beast (Dan Stevens, TV’s Downton Abbey, Colossal) who trades Maurice for Belle. Then, Belle and the Beast find themselves falling for one another in the best adaptation of an animated Buffalo-Human Romance film ever to grace the silver screen.

But how about the actual film?

Well, in the world of adaptations, I found that this 2017 iteration from director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Mr. Holmes) has some improvements on the original and some elements that didn’t work. Mostly, though, it’s the same film. And in a lot of ways, that lessens it. There are very few liberties taken here, and overall it gives the film a very tame feeling which never really drew me in.

Let’s start with what works. The amount of respect given to the French location of the film is strong. Most of the accents work and even little touches like French subtitles in the end credits give flair. There’s also a sense of theatricality to the film due to Condon’s decision to treat this like a tale you’ve seen before. I highly suggest watching the film with the overture as it harkens back to the classic tale from decades back. I thought the treatment of Disney’s first gay character LeFou was respectful. I thought the tightening up of plot points in the prince’s age and in his ability to read (a major change to the character from the 1991 film) work well here. I also really liked a lot of the personalities and performances from the various living pieces of furniture, most notably Lumiere (Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting, American Pastoral), Cogsworth (Ian McKellan, TV’s Vicious, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility, Bridget Jones’s Baby). I am very thankful, however, that the director decided to cut the character known as Monsieur Toilette, played by Stephen Merchant, who would have been, you guessed it, a toilet.

And of course, the film looks gorgeous. There are a number of images I’d love to have on my wall from this film. Everything here looks astounding with a tremendous attention to detail.

Now, the issues with the film are glaring. I thought “Be Our Guest” was grossly over-animated and looked terrible. I felt like the film’s forcefulness to sticking to the source material made the film feel like it was dragging on forever. The musical numbers felt very autotuned and unrealistic and none of them really enhanced the original pieces. The issues amount to very simply not improving the original. This film is essentially a shot-for-shot remake in a lot of ways, and we’ve seen how that works out a number of times, most notably with Psycho and The Omen. It never seems to work, and it only reminds you how superior the original is.

Overall, I enjoyed Beauty and the Beast much more than I thought I would. Disney continues to create enjoyable experience rehashing old tales. The biggest problem with Beauty and the Beast is that I don’t see why anyone would choose to watch it again if they have the original film to go to. It just feels forgettable for all of its 129 minutes. There’s just a better version already out.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Noah (2014)

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Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins

Screenplay: Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel

138 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggest content.

 

When I heard that Academy Award nominated director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) would be taking on the biblical tale of Noah, I knew two things. One: this film was going to divide audiences and potentially upset a lot of people. Two: I knew I had to see it. I knew the director, who also directed such genre-busting films as Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, was going to have a specific view of the source material and he was going to create a unique vision that we hadn’t seen before. He did.

The film is the story of Noah (Oscar-winner Russell Crowe, Gladiator) and his family, including wife Naameh (Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind), adoptive daughter Ila (Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, This is the End), and son Ham (Logan Lerman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters). Noah receives a message from The Creator and then further proof of his destined path from The Watchers, a group of rocklike creatures with unimaginable strength of body and mind. He begins work on an ark after receiving further guidance from his grandfather Methuselah (Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs). As the ark is constructed, it attracts some unwanted attention from Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone, The Departed, Snow White and the Huntsman) and his group, who want the ark for themselves.

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The special effects work from ILM is astounding here. They created slightly tweaked versions of animals along the evolutionary line. They also created The Watchers, a very interesting addition to this tale. They appear to be fallen Seraphim angels, who had six wings. That would explain why the creatures have six limbs.

I also happened to find the film’s ambiguous time period both confusing and interesting. It could be in the past, and it could be in the future. It turns the whole tale into a kind of cautionary tale about the direction mankind may be heading.

Russell Crowe gives one of the most powerful performances of his career as Noah, and he and Connelly’s chemistry is strong given this as the second film they have appeared in as romantically-linked characters.

I completely got why the film would be controversial. Any time you have an adaptation of a biblical tale, you have controversy. This film harkens back to the controversy behind Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, or even Ron Howard’s The DaVinci Code. So many parts of this film are so anti-biblical in their biblical portrayal. Crowe’s version of Noah as an angry, alcoholic, and unyielding servant to his creator is bound to spark arguments. Paramount Pictures had to actually create a disclaimer for the film stating that liberties were taken. Honestly, how could they not be? The entire story of Noah takes up all of two chapters of the bible. Not a lot of detail.

This is the point where I make a stand. People, it’s a movie. It isn’t some antichrist-made archaic devil-worshiping creation. It is a movie. So calm down. None of the stuff in this movie is all that far off. Yes, Aronofsky’s Noah suffers from survivor’s guilt. His Noah has evolution in it. His Noah had fallen angels and darkness and suffering. His Noah is some of the saddest and also inspiring work I’ve seen. It actually changed the way I see the story, and not in a bad way. It is an interpretation, and if you didn’t like it, I’m sorry, but Aronofsky wasn’t making a film to appease the masses. He was making a story the way he saw it. Everybody needs to take a chill pill.

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I’m a Christian and I liked Noah. That’s all I feel I need to say. I thought it was one of the best films I have ever seen. When I finished it the first, I felt like I needed to see it again immediately. The only flaw, if it is one, is that it is a much more simple story than Aronofsky’s other work with Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, and The Fountain. Go see this movie. I can’t say that you will love it like I did, but I feel like it needs to be seen, no matter if you have religious background or not.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah? Did it sink or swim? Let me know!

 

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