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.

But This One Goes To Eleven

Movie Post Season Round 6:

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping inspires This Is Spinal Tap

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This Is Spinal Tap looms so large in comedy consciousness, in the careers of the men who made it (except maybe Rob Reiner, who I kind of forgot about in the equation), and of course in the mind of anyone who enjoyed the best comedy of 2016 Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, that I was a little nervous to sit down and watch it.

Spinal Tap started the comedy style of Christopher Guest, and his brilliant mockumentaries, and while I don’t think it’s the best of the genre, (WAITING FOR GUFFMAN!) being the first gets it some latitude.

However, the point of this review is mainly to compare it to Popstar, and in that vein, aside from being about the music business in all of it’s weirdness, is about something falling apart and then coming back together. The tensions of Spinal Tap are not identical to those of Connor4Real, but the end result is the same. The band is far less coddled, so their increasing reaction to the chaos provides a different sort of feel from Connor’s willful obliviousness.

As Spinal Tap’s gigs fall in prominence, and their guitarist quits and then returns, it’s not impossible to believe that this is a real band, which was, I think the point in making it. But to apply to much logic or linear storytelling to Spinal Tap would be a waste of energy, since anytime you started to get anywhere, one of the many genius gags would smack you in the face.

Whether it’s the fact that they can’t get an album cover they like approved, the classic, “but this goes to eleven” amp scene, or the tiny stone henge (which is my favorite). The main thing that I’d forgotten, or perhaps never noticed, about it, is that the band seems deeply aware of the fact that what’s going on around them is completely nuts, and their team seems to want to smooth it over. It’s a different takeaway than I anticipated (I’m fairly sure I haven’t watched this movie since middle school) and I kind of comedy that I’m always fond of.

While, as I said, it’s not my favorite for Guest, (Stool boom, stool boom…) nor Reiner, (The Princess Bride exists…and When Harry Met Sally…and A Few Good Men. My GOD that man has made some good movies…ooh, also Stand By Me!) it’s a solid beginning for two really great artists, so that’s something!

Impressive, Most Impressive

Movie Post Season: Round 5

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story inspires Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

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I barely had to pay attention, I have watched this movie so many times. But what to focus on, when comparing it to it’s new younger brother. (Which, I now hold as like, my fifth favorite Star Wars movie.) And while there are lots of things in Empire that I think could directly correlate with Rogue One, I think that main one is the legacy of fathers and children.

Both Luke and Jyn are out to outrun and live up to their father’s legacies simultaneously, and both wind up learning about something that they didn’t expect about said father. A) That he’s alive, and B) that he’s not on the side that they initially thought he was.

In Rogue One, Jyn has convinced herself that her father is dead, but in fact he’s alive and working for the empire, but then, twist! Turns out he’s trying his best to be a good guy. Luke, has always believed his father was a great hero, a powerful Jedi, and of course, that he’s dead. His father, like Jyn’s, not dead, and is in fact the villain to end all villains.

While Jyn gets half the movie to deal with this information, Luke gets, well, a whole movie, but it’s not this one. Both are huge bombshells that matter in not only the hero’s relationship with their father, but in their entire identity. Jyn becomes a hero because her father wanted to save the universe for her. Luke, on the other hand, considers himself the son of Anakin Skywalker, the hero, the greatest Jedi to ever live, or whatever, and instead, he learns that his father is Darth Vader and that his mentor lied to him.

That’s a lot of disillusionment for one little farm boy and one badass space pirate? (What was her deal exactly? Seriously, I was less into that movie than others…) But either way.

It Has To Mean Something

Movie Postseason Round 4:

Arrival Inspires Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

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With the exception of the remakes, this is probably the most obvious connection between two of the movies I chose. This is also a movie about humanity connecting with visitors from another world. It’s also primarily the small personal story of one character rather than a sweeping epic.

So there you go.

Here are some other things about Close Encounters that every one forgets when they’re talking about the majesty of that final scene and the communication of music and the awesome special effects:

  1. Richard Dreyfus is really good in this movie even though it’s all about him leaving his family
  2. This movie is FREAKING TERRIFYING
  3. This movie is really, really weird.

So let’s deal the performance of Mr. Dreyfus, shall we? He’s exceptional in this, his laser focus on the mountain, what it means and being sure that he belongs there. His confusion and certainity at the same time are really really good, and it’s jut all really exceptional. Much how Arrival hinges on Amy Adams. (I’m telling you it’s really easy for me to connect these two movies, just absurdly simple. I did good with selection this time around!)

As for how terrifying this movie is? Maybe it was because I was alone in the house and exhausted while I was watching, but the scene where all of that kid’s toys come to life? Or when he gets abducted? Or the scene where the alien is seen for the first time as the saucer opens. FUCKING TERRIFYING MAN!!!

This movie is really, really weird. Most people talk about this movie, they remember the last 20 minutes, which, frankly, is what I remembered too. (I’m also pretty sure this is the first time I sat and watched the whole thing) but the two hours before that is really just Dreyfus running around acting like a goddamn lunatic, some weird stuff in Africa, some weirder stuff with a French scientist and something sort of involving the army. It’s strange and slow and hard to follow. The payoff is worth it, but I feel the need to warn anyone else who wants to watch this movie that it’s kind of strange.

Overall, I’m proud of this pairing in a way that I’m not of any of the others. It’s just such a perfect match.

Badly is An Adverb

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Movie Post Season Round 3:

The Nice Guys Inspires Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

The Nice Guys held on to the number one spot in this seasons movie season for an almost unreasonably long amount of time, and I maintain that is by far one of the best action movies ever made, far eclipsing Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, which is in many ways, it’s big brother. You know, because of Shane Black, and casting actors against type and all of that.

But there are two things that Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang has that The Nice Guys lacks, and that’s the performances by Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. Ryan Gosling and Russel Crowe are very good, but they’re not a match for these two. Plus I love the genre and writing play in this movie.

Basically, like all good film noirs, it’s starts with a guy and girl. The guy is Harry and the girl is Harmony. They were friends in high school, and now they’re both in LA trying to be actors. Well, Harmony is. Harry is actually a petty theif who accidentally winds up auditioning for a movie. But, Harmony’s sister turns up dead, and with the help of a PI named Perry, who’s consulting on Harry’s movie, and is very gay.

The movie itself moves very quickly, the characters are fun. (Although the content, particularly Harry’s attitude towards both Perry and Harmony is problematic at best. If I didn’t know Black’s work as well as I do, and know his satiric bent, I might be offended by some of it.)

Overall, I was really glad to revisit the movie though. I recall watching it in high school, but didn’t have much to remember it by, except for loving Robert Downey Jr. And he really is incredible in this movie, which tends to get forgotten in his career resurrection in favor of Iron Man, Black took a chance on him when no one else would and American cinema is richer for it. And Val Kilmer is also amazing, but he usually is. At the very least, he tends to make interesting acting choices.

I was happy to revisit this movie, and I really hadn’t remembered many of the details about it, and I do think that The Nice Guys is a better execution of the kind of thing that Shane Black likes to do, but this has the stronger performances.

It’s very clear, Our Love Is Here To Stay

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Movie Post Season 2017: Round One

La La Land inspires An American In Paris

Ok, so, An American In Paris is one of those movies that I love immensely without remembering many of the details of, so I was excited to return to it. I mean, aside from the fact that it’s a Gene Kelly musical featuring songs by the Gershwins, if that’s not enough to catapult it into “classic” teritory, well, I don’t know what is.

Oh wait, yes I do. A poignant and small love story about ex-pats living in Paris after World War II, about art, and love and complications, and whether it’s worth hurting others to go after what your heart wants.

Plus, just, so much tap dancing.

Our hero, Jerry, is a struggling artist who stayed in Paris after the war to pursue said art. He has a friend named Adam who’s a cranky pianist, who really doesn’t do much of anything in the movie. Adam has a friend Henri, who’s a successful nightclub singer. The three of them often sing Gershwin songs together. Jerry also teaches batches of French children to speak English with “I’ve Got Rhythm,” and tap dancing.

Jerry is discovered by an artistic patron, the beautiful and sophisticated Milo Roberts, who’s also pretty in love with him. It’s too bad that Jerry’s in love with the beautiful and mysterious Lise, who is of course engaged to Henri!

WHAT A MESS!

But what I like about An American in Paris, is that this doesn’t devolve into farce and no one has to be a bad guy. Lise and Jerry spend time together and are in love, but neither is confident the relationship can go anywhere. Milo knows Jerry doesn’t return her feelings and is pretty well set on being his friend and patron regardless. Only Henri is really in trouble, he cares deeply for Lise but takes her love a bit for granted, even though she also has feelings for him.

I definitely misremembered the ending, which, is as I recalled, a twenty two minute long dream ballet through the city of Paris, where Jerry imagines what life would be like if he and Lise could be together, but they can’t because she’s marrying Henri and moving to America. But the last shot is Lise getting out of the car she and Henri had drove off in, and going to Jerry.

I like the happy ending, and I love that it happened without too many hurt feelings and no broken hearts. (Although poor Henri! Unlike many a third wheel in musicals, he’s no cad, just a bit preoccupied!) There’s something very adult happening in this movie that I think matters a whole lot more than many people quite realize!

Movie Season 2016 Part 2: The Old Movies

I hope everyone had a good Christmas!!!

So, I’ve been having some trouble putting my finger on how to move forward. New job and other life stuff is just changing the way I consume and when and how I write. It’s not a big deal, but it’s a thing that I have to deal with a little bit.

But, after watching La La Land , I decided that I’m going to pair up each movie season movie with an older movie that I think it should be paired up with. I’ll watch and review those movies.

This will be the Monday spot until Once Upon A Time comes back and then I’ll push it back.

We good?

  • La La Land – An American in Paris
    • To explain: Everything about La La Land made me want to watch Gene Kelly movies, and if we’re going to get right down to it, it doesn’t get better than An American In Paris. (I will accept your arguments for Singin’ In The Rain, which is a great deal more watchable.) It is so artistically perfect that the entire third act is a dream ballet. Also Gershwin. It’s a weird ass movie that could never get made today, but damnit did La La Land get close.
  • Moana – The Little Mermaid
    • This was a gut choice, but it mostly comes because it shares directors. There’s a lot about Moana that I think could fit with just about any 90’s Disney movie in discussion, but the paralell between “Part Of Your World” and “How Far I’ll Go” is what really pushed me to this choice.
  • The Nice Guys – Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
    • Shane Black at his best both times and both play with the “buddy cop” genre in great ways. So, that’s going to happen.
  • Arrival – Close Encounters of The Third Kind
    • Peaceful, thinky, alien encounter movies, featuring actors in lead roles who carry the weird concept emotionally.
  • Don’t Think Twice
    • I don’t have anything for this, I’m still working on it. I intend to watch something though. I have a few suggestions to wade through
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
    • It had to be a Star Wars and it had to be Empire. The best verses the new. The darkest contrasted with the second darkest.
  • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping – This is Spinal Tap
    • A few of these are going to be really obvious. This is one of them.
  • Queen of Katwe – Searching For Bobby Fisher
    • They’re both about chess, and specifically about young chess prodigies. Also, I have never seen Searching For Bobby Fisher but as I understand it, it’s quite good.
  • Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them – Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire
    • These two aren’t particularly close to eachother, beyond being Wizarding World, but Goblet of Fire is my favorite one, so that’s the one I feel like watching again.
  • Pete’s Dragon – Pete’s Dragon
    • Again, obvious.
  • Ghostbusters – Ghostbusters
    • I’ll save your precious childhoods the indignity of murder and watch the original again. (This is not a chore, by the way, I love Ghostbusters, in pretty much all iterations.
  • Captain America: Civil War – Enemy of The State
    • This one I have to give credit to Beth for. I was at a loss for what to do for Civil War but, the story of a good guy on the run from his former allies seems like the right pick for pairing with my favorite superhero movie of the year. Bonus: Will Smith.
  • Kubo And The Two Strings – Spirited Away
    • I went Myazaki to pair with Kubo, and I like Spirited Away a lot, so that’s why I picked this one.
  • Star Trek Beyond – Star Trek: The Motion Picture
    • Credit for the pick to Melvin, but no other Trek people I know contridicted it. I will try to make it through this mercilessly boring movie again.
  • The Magnificent 7 -Seven Samurai
    • Again, with the duh. Might as well go back to the original source. I did think about making this a triple, with the Bronson Magnificent Seven in there as well.
  • Doctor Strange -The Matrix
    • Mind bendy special effects and a hero who learns he has power in the world that he never even knew existed. Plus an excuse to watch The Matrix and see if it holds up.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse – Monster Squad
    • Another credit to Melvin, his explanation will do better than mine: “both movies start with historical flashbacks, an ancient evil reawakens and is defeated by young people.”  Also, Monster Squad is the shit, and should be watched a lot. 
  • The Legend Of Tarzan – Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes
    • I don’t know a lot about Tarzan, but my friend John sure does and he picked this movie.So if I don’t like it, I’ll be sure to blame it all on him.
  • Suicide Squad – Batman
    • Both stylish. Both very of their moment. Both featuring strong possibly iconic performances. One a masterpiece. The other a dumpster fire. But for some reason, I feel like they’re a matching set.
  • Finding Dory – Toy Story
    • Finding Nemo is my favorite Pixar movie, and I would normally take any excuse to watch it again. But, in considering it, I realized that Dory’s quest to find her parents far more closely mirrors Woody and Buzz and their quest to get back to Andy than Marlin and Dory’s initital journey to Nemo.
  • Independence Day: Resurgence – Aliens
    • I name checked Aliens in my review od Resurgence, because it reminded me of Aliens. Not that it is anything like Aliens, which is a masterpiece, but it also switched genres, deals with legacy and takes place many years after the original. I also considered T2 but I just watched that last year for
  • Alice Through The Looking Glass – Alice In Wonderland
    • I kind of just wanted an excuse to watch this movie again. I haven’t seen it in years.

I think this will be good because movies are easier to watch than TV shows a lot of the time, and certainly easier to write up, at least for me. Also, I used to watch a lot of movies, like all the time, and that’s sort of gone from my life. I mean, I still go to the movies a lot but, I don’t just sit and watch older movies much anymore.