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

Logan (2017)

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant

Screenplay: James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green

137 mins. Rated R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity.

IMDb Top 250: #130 (as of 6/15/2017)

 

The year is 2029. Mutants all around the world are gone. All that remains is an aged Logan (Hugh Jackman, The Prestige, Eddie the Eagle) caring for an ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation, Green Room). They are hidden from the world, and Logan makes his money driving a limo to raise enough cash to leave it all behind. But Logan’s health is failing. He longer heals the way he once did. Even with the aid of mutant tracker Caliban (Stephen Merchant, Table 19, Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie), the two elderly mutants are barely getting by. But when a mysterious girl with powers similar to Logan turns up, he and Charles are sent on one last mission to protect her from Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook, Gone Girl, Morgan) and his team of reavers. In order to survive and get the young child to safety, Logan will be forced to face the enemy he has been fighting his entire life.

Wow. This film is incredible. What a stunning finale to the Hugh Jackman Wolverine saga. Director James Mangold (Walk the Line, Knight and Day) has sought to create a wholly unique “superhero” film that stands as one of the best ever made. Logan is equal parts dystopian fantasy and western-style action encased in a comic book movie, and from a lot of what I’ve read, it really comes down to the working relationship between Mangold and Jackman. Mangold thinks on his toes and he tries new things, and it’s on full display here.

The decision to make the film R-rated was explained quite perfectly by the director who proclaimed that by aiming for an R-rating, you decide your audience, and with that, you are given the creative freedom to build the story you want. I highly suggest you hunt down the interview where Mangold described his feelings about the rating.

Do not try to forget though that this is Jackman’s movie. He commands the screen in every scene paired against terrific performances from Stewart and newcomer Dafne Keen (TV’s The Refugees) who plays Laura, the young mutant with more in common with Logan than he expected.

This is also likely to be Patrick Stewart’s retirement from Professor X, and he gives it his all. I was as interested in the shadowed past given to his character as I was with the mystery surrounding Logan’s weakening abilities. Charles Xavier’s arc is one of the more beautiful, tender, and tragic to ever come from a superhero flick.

Dafne Keen holds her own as well, suprising plenty with her first major film role. I never doubted for a second that she was capable of the action she displayed in this film.

There’s a lot of questions about where this film fits into the larger X-Men context, so let me give my opinion. Clearly, Logan cannot fit into the first timeline established in the original X-Men film due to the time-traveling that happens before 2029. Therefore, it must be in the second timeline and this also helps to give some context of several canon events from previous films with callbacks here to several previous films, including conversations from X2, the Samurai Sword from The Wolverine, and a quick reference to Bolt aka Christopher Bradley.

All in all, Logan is everything it should have been. My only complaints stemmed from pacing in the second act and I was also unimpressed with the villains, but upon repeat viewings, the latter didn’t bother me at all. If you haven’t seen this film yet, I highly suggest you run out now and experience it. Seriously. Right now.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle Goethe

 

 

 

So what did you think? Have you seen Logan yet? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

For my review of Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X2: X-Men United, click here.

For my review of Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand, click here.

For my review of James Mangold’s The Wolverine, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse, click here.

For my review of Tim Miller’s Deadpool, click here.

Simon Kinberg to Direct X-Men: Dark Phoenix; Jessica Chastain in Talks to Play Villain

Simon Kinberg will finally get his opportunity to sit in the director’s chair on a new installment of the X-Men Universe. X-Men: Dark Phoenix will reunite Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Sophie Turner, Nicholas Hoult, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Tye Sheridan, all from X-Men: Apocalypse.

The film will of course adapt the beloved Dark Phoenix saga focused around Jean Grey. For fans, this is both exciting and also a touchy subject, as many still hold the wounds of X-Men: The Last Stand, co-written by Kinberg himself, the botched first attempt to adapt the material. Thanks to the events of altering the timeline in X-Men: Days of Future Past, we now have an opportunity to right the wrongs.

And not only that! The amazing and truly talented Jessica Chastain is in talks to play a villain! I absolutely adore Chastain (and yes, I have a boy crush, deal with it) and the work she puts out is consistenly incredible, but she isn’t known for her franchise or genre work, so I’m very excited to see Chastain join the iconic ranks of incredible actors playing X-Men villains (Ian McKellan, Brian Cox, Kevin Bacon, Peter Dinklage, and Oscar Isaac).

But is Kinberg the right move here? I’m not really sure. As I said before, the franchise has already ruined this story arc before, from a script partially written by Kinberg. Granted, we all know there was studio interference and also Brett Ratner behind the lens, but has Kinberg shown capabilities to prove he’s worth the risk? At this point, I don’t think so.

That being said, I’m all for the addition of Chastain to the franchise.

So what do you think? Is Simon Kinberg the right choice to direct X-Men: Dark Phoenix? And what do you think about the possible addition of Jessica Chastain? Let me know/Drop a comment below.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix rises in cinemas in 2018.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Dark Universe Scores Big Hit in China with The Mummy Winning the Weekend

I was really busy this last weekend. I didn’t get the chance to see The Mummy, one of my most-anticipated films of 2017. Reviews are mixed but skewing more toward the rotten side of things, and the domestic box office displayed a win for Wonder Woman over the first film in the Dark Universe.

But over in China, The Mummy is making some bank, scoring almost $52 million in the opening weekend, accounting for more than 50% of all the film revenue at the Chinese box office.

In its opening weekend, The Mummy managed to outperform other American hits like Logan, Beauty and the Beast, and Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2.

The Mummy, from first-time feature director Alex Kurtzman, underperformed at the domestic box office but was expected to rake in heavily internationally and it stands as one of Tom Cruise’s biggest hits due to this.

It’s disappointing to me that The Mummy didn’t get more of a take domestically as I love anything that could possibly harken back to the classic Universal Monsters franchise and while I think it was a mistake to play so heavily to the Dark Universe aspect in all the promotional material, I’m still very excited to see the film.

So what do you think? Did you see The Mummy this weekend? Did you enjoy it? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Connie Nielsen Set to Appear in Justice League

Not a particularly surprising piece of news today as the ever-expanding cast of Justice League gets one more tapped in. Connie Nielsen, who played Queen Hippolyta in this year’s Wonder Woman, will is set to reprise the role in Justice League, alongside Robin Wright who played her sister, General Antiope.

I feel like I either already read this somewhere months ago or that I just kind of figured it would happen. Nielsen’s portrayal of the queen was a big win in the excellent Wonder Woman, and given the rave reviews as the first DCEU film to be Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, it stands to reason that Wonder Woman‘s supporting players are more likely to pop up. If there was ever a chance of Hippolyta being cut from the film, it certainly is doubtful now.

I like that the DCEU appears to be embracing all their wins for the upcoming Justice League film. One can only hope that the franchise and the company behind it, Warner Bros., is capable of learning from past mistakes in order to move forward with this cinematic universe. I also hope that Justice League is a contained culmination less focused on leaving threads for future films than, say, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

So what do you think? Are you excited for Justice League? Which secondary character are you most excited to see? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

Justice League unites in theaters November 17th.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Murder on the Orient Express is Here – Again – With First Trailer!

Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie novel Murder on the Orient Express just dropped its first trailer. The star-studded cast is displayed with each “suspect” given at least a face introduction as is Branagh himself as the famous detective Hercule Poirot.

I had some initial excitement from this film as I enjoyed Branagh’s recent endeavors Cinderella and Thor (not so much Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and I was curious to see what the filmmaker would create here.

I loved this trailer. It did a great job of setting up the initial mystery and the principal characters but didn’t give a single thing away. I liked the visual flourishes which I felt harkened back to Branagh’s famous adaptations of Shakespeare. I think the cast is engaging and fun, and I think the story could be a lot of fun. This book has been adapted to death but at the same time it has been a little while and hopefully this will bring in a nice audience reception to a solid film. Maybe more will actually read the book too.

So what do you think? Are you excited for Murder on the Orient Express? Did you read the original novel? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Sense8 Has Been Cancelled and I Hate Everything Right Now

Well, folks, it happened again. The Wachowskis created a great property with Sense8 and nobody watched it. Netflix has cancelled the series after 2 seasons. Netflix tweeted:

Now, I’m not happy about this. I personally have loved pretty much everything the Wachowskis have done in recent years. I loved Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas. I even kind of liked Jupiter Ascending but I can understand why you didn’t. But Sense8, though…

We are in the best generation of television ever but some things just do not catch on. Sense8, though, should’ve caught on.

The series followed a cluster of human beings from around the world who have a connection, emotionally and mentally as they are hunted by a mysterious man and each deal within their society.

I loved the show and how it subverted all of my expectations being equal parts fresh and interesting and an intriguing mythology. I’m upset that you didn’t watch it.

So what do you think? Did you watch Sense8? Will you now? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe