Ever Just The Same, Ever A Surprise

Beauty And The Beast

Beauty And The Beast is not my favorite Disney movie. I love it a lot, and I still think it’s one of the greatest examples of a film musical. (Right behind Singin In The Rain and The Sound Of Music.)  So I had similar if not the same expectations as everyone going into the movie last weekend.

I wasn’t disappointed. Baffled, unsure, and impressed, for sure, but never disappointed.

The basics of Beauty And The Beast remain as they always have been, but the new film manages to add wrinkles and twists to the story you know that are surprising enough to make watching the film engrossing. The characters we know and love are given turns in their paths and depths revealed in their wake.

If I sound a little too poetic I’m sorry, but I was very happy with this movie. I’m obsessed with this cast, with the decision made in it’s screen play, and I could babble on for days about the visual, but I guess I have to focus on one thing at a time.

Let’s start with the cast. Emma Watson is delightful as Belle. There’s none of Hermione’s intensity or bossiness in her quiet thoughtful French village girl, and that’s something of a relief. Watson’s voice is noticeably autotuned in spots, but when it isn’t has a lovely sing song quality that I think suits the piece quite well. Dan Stevens brings a mournful heartbreak to the Beast and “For Evermore” is an excellent addition to the canon of Howard Ashman penned Disney songs. These two were also wonderful together. Kevin Kline. I wish Kevin Kline were in more movies. The only reason I can think that he isn’t is that he is not inclined to be, because he’s ALWAYS SO GOOD! Ian McKellan is wonderful if underused. There’s a lot of comedy to Cogsworth that I think got lost in the more serious tone taken on the overall film, but both he and Emma Thomspson do exceedingly well with their limited scope. I would watch Audra McDonald read the phone book as long as she got to hit a few above the staff notes and the movie grants her that and then some. Ewan McGregor acquits himself well with Lumiere, the one of the servants who I think gets to maintain their original charm. This is probably because Lumiere is the most *ahem* flamboyant, (pun  not intended) his light (Damn, keep walking into those) is harder to dampen.

Luke Evans and Josh Gad are flawless and I want more of them doing musical theater. I hope this movie shows the mainstream what theater people have known about Gad for a long time. There’s more to him than Olaf, not that mainstream comedy has the kind of roles that really suit Gad, but he’s really great here, and Evans makes Gaston’s particular brand of masculine menace chilling.

The screenplays new wrinkles would constitute spoilers if I talked about them too deeply, but I will talk about the deepening characterizations, starting with Gaston and LeFou! The codifying of LeFou’s queerness is interesting, especially as it dawns on him that his adoration of Gaston is both troubling and misplaced, giving a comic sidekick an actual arc is something that I always support and it’s executed well here. Gaston is shown here as a soldier and returning golden boy who finds the provincial town dull after the horror and glory of war. Which is way more interesting than a blustering hunter and a good deal more frightening. He’s enamored of Belle not just because she’s beautiful (though that helps) but because she’s, well, disinterested. There’s an undercurrent of “yes, you and I are above this place” to his attempts to woo her, and that’s fascinating to me.

Maurice also gets a makeover, made less of a buffoon and more of an eccentric and it works. Belle and The Beast, both become wounded motherless children, searching for a connection anywhere they can find it, and it makes their romance deeper, sweeter and sadder all at once.

I didn’t love all of the changes. It seemed strange to turn the village from a quiet, sleepy, slightly backward hamlet to some kind of patriarchal hellscape a la The Republic of Gilead where women aren’t allowed to learn to read and if they’re unmarried or without a father’s protection they’re thrown out into the streets to beg. This seems extreme for a fairytale that’s about seeing past first impressions and I did feel the loss of some of the comedy.

But there’s something deeply instinctual about fairy tales, and Disney’s take on these stories that have been with us forever is so deep in the company’s roots, I’m not surprised that they’re able to execute things well.

Safety Lights Are For Dudes

ghostbusters-2016-cast-proton-packs-images

I was going to like Ghostbusters if it killed me.

OK, that’s not precisely true, but the only other movies I’ve gone into so aggressively hoping to like them were the Star Wars prequels and The Force Awakens, and Batman V Superman. Obviously, this does not always work out the way I hope it would.

But I did actually like Ghostbusters. I didn’t fall head over heels for it, but it’s charming, funny, makes excellent use of 3-D, and is definitely my favorite Paul Fieg movie. (I’m not crazy about Bridesmaids, I know, I KNOW OK?)

I can’t praise some of Feig’s instincts enough is this film. From focusing on Kate McKinnon, (she’s genius here) to figuring out a new way to use Leslie Jones’s schtick, to finally, finally showcasing the Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig as straight-women, to once again, the use of 3-D.

Rather than just using the technology to make the ghosts pop or add depth the world, Feig made the decision to use it as a gag. When a ghost ecto-vomits onto Wiig’s Erin Gilbert, it goes right at the audience. As the team fights a supernatural vortex, things fly at us. It’s goofy, old fashioned, and perfect.

The cast all acquit themselves well, but man is this a starmaking turn for McKinnon. Between this and the fact the she plays the Democratic Nominee on SNL, comedy nerds will look back on this as “the year of McKinnon.” (For The Record: I’m obsessed with her Hilary.) But the other three women in this cast should not be counted out, nor should their director, or their hunky, hunky costar. (This movie gives me DANCING HEMSWORTH, and it’s a delight.)

The original Ghostbusters shook the earth. This doesn’t, but it builds something new on those foundations. And I really appreciate that. I also really appreciate anything that gives funny women a shot.

Rankings!

  1. The Nice Guys
  2. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  3. Ghostbusters
  4. Captain America: Civil War
  5. X-Men: Apocalypse
  6. The Legend Of Tarzan
  7. Finding Dory
  8. Independence Day: Resurgence
  9. Alice Through The Looking Glass

Comedy is kicking the butts of the superheroes this year. An interesting trend…

Trailers

Jason Bourne…again.

Nerve – I’ve seen this trailer a few times and always seem to forget about it before I write up. I think this movie looks vaguely interesting, and I’m always here for the Dave Franco. Less so for the Emma Roberts, but she’s good too.

 

As Long As You Love Them

Show em

One of the best parts of the summer (for me) is that with my TV schedule being greatly reduced, (Even if it is clogged with teen super hero cartoons and revisits to Westeros), I have time to explore some of the more obscure and less on the Comic Con beaten path pop culture elements that have obsessed me over my life.

I’ve talked about my deep and abiding love of boy bands many times. And I’ve noted that I consider The Backstreet Boys  and in particular the vocal stylings of AJ McLean to be in the upper echelon of pop music, and that they’re consistently passed over as the late 90’s and early 2000s fade into nostalgia.

I often feel like I’m alone in this, and then I talk to other women my age about it, for whom listening to Millennium on bedroom floors and voting for “The One” on TRL were also seminal moments of tween-dom, and it’s certainly what the documentary Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of is predicated on.

While I’d hardly call the two hour in depth documentary a “warts and all” look at the guys, it’s definitely not as vain and golden colored as it could be. Exploring both the group’s rise to fame and their prep of a new album and 2014 20th anniversary world tour I was reminded of all the reasons I always preferred BSB to their glossy, perfectly choreographed doppelgangers NSYNC.

Not surprisingly to anyone who’s followed the band for 20 years…ie me and a small army of other 20 something women, the movie pretty much hinges on Kevin Richardson’s choice to leave and then return to the group and Nick Carter’s penchant for hissy fit throwing, but other elements shouldn’t be ignored. AJ’s sobriety is mostly taken for granted, and Nick’s not explored at all. Brian Littrell’s vocal problems could have been compelling all on their own, but instead lead to a confrontation between him and Nick, who feels no one is talking about how Brian isn’t up to snuff anymore. Howie Durough initially intended to be the group’s lead singer is sidelined almost entirely, except when he talks about how he was supposed to be the lead singer…it’s not a terribly compelling narrative.

But in the end the movie illustrates two points that are made in it’s first few minutes, “What do you do when you’re a man in a boy band?” which AJ asks the camera, and “We had some great pop songs and we sang the shit out of them.” Which is Kevin just perfectly encapsulating the thing that’s great about The Backstreet Boys.

Here’s The Sitch: Kim Possible Season 3 Episodes 5 & 6

This week has been weird. In a lot of ways. But I did manage to get Kim Possible in after all.

Which is great.

Kim Ron Rufus

Season 3: Episode 5: “Showdown At The Crooked D”

Ah, the obligatory Dude Ranch episode, the staple of children’s and family television. Kim, Mr. Dr. P, Ron and the tweebs head to Montana to see Dr. Possible’s brother Slim and his daughter Joss at the Lazy C ranch. Joss is wildly obsessed with her cousin Kim and her adventures. (Who wouldn’t be?) and while Kim is initially flatter she eventually finds the younger girls idolatry kind of difficult to swallow.

Meanwhile, Drakken is dejected after being turned down again from a genius society he applied for and has decided to take out all of the other geniuses by inviting them to a dude ranch…for some reason. The plan isn’t exactly logical but does provide us with where Kim gets her competitive streak from, as Dr. Possible is very put out he wasn’t invited. Of course, the whole thing was just to get the scientists to wear “Silly Hats” which make them act like idiots.

Anyway, in the end, the Possibles (and Ron) save the say, by working together and Joss learns that being herself is way better than being Kim. Also, that Ron is a better hero for her, for reasons.

Season 3: Episode 6: “Dimension Twist”

I love “Dimension Twist” but it’s a very dated episode. Drakken steals the Pan Dimensional Vortex Inducer (again) and gets himself, Shego, Kim and Ron sucked into the TV and they participate in various show parodies. Some of them are classic, an anonymous medical drama, a Friends send up, and Star Trek. Others, such as “Evil Eye for The Bad Guy,” and “That 1670’s Show” are really only funny to the early 00’s audience.

That said, it’s a very fun episode where we get some great action, and a good deal of hilarious voice acting. So there’s that.

Boo-Yas And Nacos

  • This is a big week for call backs, which is great, but bringing back the pan dimensional vortex inducer really is a stroke of genius.
  • There aren’t a lot of extras in “Crooked D” the Tweebs get some fun animation though, mostly in the background, and Joss is voiced by Tara Strong, because, duh.
  • To be fair to the pure dated notion of sending up Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, that show was everywhere at the time, even if now looking back, there was no way that was a thing that was going to last, and if you were to watch it today it would seem super mega offensive. (That said, I’m pretty sure I watched every episode)
  • The Friends parody, “Chums” is unbearable to Shego, she is particularly perturbed by the laugh track.
  • The best TV bit is when Ron is hosting a talk show interviewing Drakken about his book, “Well, I quite like me.”
  • Ron and Drakken also get stuck in “The Fearless Ferret” credits. CALLBACKS!
  • You’ve got to admire the fact that with so few episodes left the gang went for something this absurdly silly. And doubled down on Drakken and Shego, when they probably could have been checking in elsewhere. Cool Stuff.

It’s A Relationship

Schedule Shift! (Mostly For Sleep Reasons)

Jurassic-World-The-Game

I was seven years old when Jurassic Park came out, which is a little on the young side, but it’s stayed with me as a tried and true favorite for all of those 20 long years.

I made a conscious choice to not watch Jurassic Park before heading to Jurassic World, because I knew, no matter how much good, scary, actiony fun contained there in, it would suffer in comparison to Jurassic Park.

It does.

But, there’s still plenty of good scary actiony fun. Plus Chris Pratt (who sadly, remains fully clothes the whole time.) and Bryce Dallas Howard, who are also the right age to remember that Jurassic Park once ruled everyone’s collective world and seem to be having a real ball.

Jurassic World takes place on Isla Nublar (Which, thank god, I thought we might be subjected to a third location, after the previously unknown “second facicility” popped up in Jurassic Park III) 20 years since “the incident” of the first film. Now a fully functioning resort and theme park, it’s hard not to giggle at the corporate pandering in Jurassic World. Claire (Howard) runs the park with peak efficiency, and is treating her young nephews to a weekend away from home as their parents prepare to begin divorce proceedings. She’s also getting ready to reveal a new genetically engineered super dino known as Idominus Rex

Meanwhile, Owen Grady, a former naval officer has shown a talent for training and wrangling Jurassic World’s velociraptors.

Things go wrong. This is a Jurassic movie, there are certain beats that need to get met.

But let’s talk about the raptors. There’s a lot of internet talk about “90’s kids,” but I’d like to see a buzzfeed article that covers the nightmare factory that is the Jurassic Park raptors. And that 20 years and four movies later I’m surprised and terrified when one of those mofos pops out of the tall grass or opens a door or dodges a bullet speaks volumes.

T-Rex saves the day in the end and it’s a pretty great reveal when Claire realizes it’s the only way out. The techs are played by Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus and they’re great. The “corporate greedy guy” is Vincent D’Onofrio, and BD Wong is back as the main Jurassic Doctor! (Remember that time that Star Lord let a raptor eat The King Pin?)

It’s a fun, dumb, movie

Rankings!

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Tomorrowland
  3. Jurassic World
  4. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  5. Pitch Perfect: 2

Trailers!

The Martian looks impossibly good.

Mockingjay Part 2 did NOT make me weepy, unlike the trailers for it’s predecessor. To be fair, this is the more actiony, revengy part of the story.

The Walk looks great, I will not be able to see it the theaters, or maybe I’ll just hold my breath and do it. Because it looks wonderful.

And hey! The six minute preview finally got me psyched for Ant-Man, having a sense of what the story is going to look like helped a whole lot.

Sailor Moon Check In: Where Do We Go From Here?

This is a big Sailor Moon week, as all “Three weeks between Crystal episode” weeks are. Because there are more classic episodes to watch and reminding myself what happened before stuff and all kinds of other issues. (But watching 3 episodes of S and an episode of Crystal while chilling in my hotel room in NYC this weekend was so delightfully lovely.)

Sailor Moon

Manga

LOLZ…considered buying it at the Midtown Comics Booth this weekend. Realized I’d already spent WAYYY too much money. Did buy a Kindle Fire this week though (I’m trying to minimize crap, thus having a portable device for reading graphic work = GOOD)

The Best Cartoon Ever Sorry Korra

OK, so before I watch this week’s episode I just want to talk about that finale, and Uranus and Neptune A)realizing that they were in love with each other. B) No one recognizing Pluto…except Chibi-Usa because BFFL transcends space time and super hero secret identity suspension of disbelief. B)THEY ALL HAVE PURE HEART TALISMANS (talismen?) and it’s so beautiful and now we have the holy grail.

After an episode or two of everyone just sort of pushing through not trusting one another it was a really, really nice resolution to that arc.

And the new arc started. And we met Hotaru. (YAY!) And we found out her father was the professor. (Which I knew, due to having read the Manga!) And Usagi is now Sailor Super Moon, and that costume is awesome. I love this incarnation of the show so much!

Crystal

Sigh, filler. I mean, it’s a little bit not. But we literally had five minutes of transformation sequences. I’ve forgiven most of Crystals pacing problems because you know, shiny, but this was ridiculous. Also Dark Lady, who’s kind of really, really gross, but I’m considering cosplaying her. (I actually have a dress that would work, though I don’t know how it would fit these days, and actually my black canary vest over it would work…this idea is coming together now…)

Look, the episode was basically made by Diana assuring King Endymion that everything was going to be fine, because that is the most adorable thing in the world. The cats so often make everything better. Also, Saphir has definitely caught on that, like Wise Man is not a good dude. Or at least, not the level of bad dude that they want.

Other Stuff

I was at a con! I saw some cosplayers. As brainstormed above I might start cosplaying some things. We’ll see. I also resisted buying roughly all of the Sailor Moon art I saw, but I did by a Sailor Chibi Moon Bookmark.

Like A Sinner Before The Gates of Heaven

Last week, while I was taking my daily walk on my lunch break, (Lest I turn into an actual slug) I stepped into Dunkin Donuts. (If I’m walking, I am rewarding myself with an iced coffee.) I took out my earbuds, and was delighted when I heard Meat Loaf’s, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” on the speakers.

I really love Meat Loaf, because honestly, if you can’t get into a ten minute long rock operas about motorcycles, you probably just don’t like fun or joy.

So getting back to my office I went on Spotify and pulled up Bat Out of Hell.

Do you know what will make your afternoon of boring data entry feel ridiculously epic? Why yes, the answer is listening to Bat Out Of Hell.

I’ve been listening to it a lot lately, and as it absorbs into my regular music routine, I’m grateful to have found it again. Bat Out Of Hell was one of those pieces of work that’s loomed large in the background of my life, and that in recent years, I’ve sort of scoffed at with a degree of irony.

Oh sure, I’ll sing “Paradise by The Dashboard Light” with a guy I’m flirting with at a karaoke bar.

I’ll snicker at the little skit that precedes “Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth,” but admit that I actually like Meat Loaf. That the final burst of “Bat Out Of Hell” gives me shivers.

Please.

But I’m trying to lose that irony coat. It’s impossible to totally lose it. I’ll always be just a little bit sarcastic, and love something in a campy way. But life’s too short, and there’s too much stuff I actually like, to watch, listen to and read things because they’re “awesomely bad.”

Bat Out Of Hell is amazing. It’s camptastic joy and sheer rock and roll badassery and Meat Loaf’s voice has an otherworldly power that’s unmatched. (Seriously, “Bat Out of Hell” is like a late era Elvis song, if Elvis could belt high notes for 8 bars.)

Anyway, I think people should listen to it. Or some other artifact from your life that you’re not sure still speaks to you. (I’ve had a similar experience lately with Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick…Boom. But that’s another story for another day)