BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
A live action re-telling of the animated classic starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast.
2017| USA| Disney| 129 mins| Fantasy/Musical| PG
Release date: 17/03/2017
Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans
A great Disney, live-action revamp of its 1991animation based on Jean Cocteau’s La belle et la bête.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, (but it has been slightly revamped by Bill Condon) – Belle, is a pretty young girl who lives in a small French village and is unhappy with ‘provincial life’. Under Bill Condon’s guidance, she has metamorphosed into a feminist. Her nose is forever stuck in books and the village people make fun of her yearning to learn. Her father, Maurice, (Kevin Kline) is a watchmaker who, on his travels, whilst trying to pick a rose (for his diva-like daughter) picks the wrong rose, from the wrong garden. The Beast, captures and imprisons him. But this is no ordinary Beast, he is actually a Prince who (equally Diva-ish) has been put under a spell by an enchantress, until someone comes along and loves him for who he is, rather than what he was – if you get my drift.
Long story short, when her father fails to return, Belle rides out of the village to look for him and brave little thing that she is, confronts the Beast (Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens) head-on. She wants to remain imprisoned in place of her father and her wish comes true, with her father’s promises to come back and free her, ringing in her shell-like ears.
Back at the village, her father tries to summon help but no-one believes there is a Beast and those that do, don’t want to know. Gaston, (Luke Evans) the local Romeo, who salivates at the very mention of Belle’s name, steps forward and declares his intention to save her – much to the consternation of his sidekick, LeFou (brilliantly played by Josh Gad). Between them, they manage to steal the show, somewhat.
Emma Watson as Belle, does demure and doll-like, extremely well and who knew she could sing? Still, I can’t help looking at her and thinking of Hermione in dress-up. She isn’t ‘real’ leading lady material, yet; however, she doesn’t have to be for this role.
There is one rather odd scene at the beginning of the film where Belle goes wandering out into the countryside (more Austrian than French), looking for all the world like Maria, from the Sound of Music. In fact, I half expected her to burst into a rendition of, “the hills are alive ….”, but she stopped short of spinning on the spot with arms outstretched.
Dan Stevens as the cantankerous Beast gives a good performance, although I did think it was rather an anti-climax when he is transformed back to the handsome Prince. He is not ugly by any means, but his face is boring – perhaps a little too ‘English’ since, after all, the Beast is the spawn of French stock – I think Luke Evans would have made a better choice – although a tad too ‘old’.
Beautifully directed by Bill Condon and the production design and costumes are stunning and you cannot help but come away feeling very impressed with spirits lifted.
Luckily for me, I saw this film the day after Free Fall and where that was bereft of entertainment factor, this film certainly made up for it. It will not disappointment. There are very few films that I will watch over and over again, but I have a feeling that this will join my small repertoire of ‘repeat performance’ films.
Twitch Factor: Sub, Sub Zero
A young man finds himself living a nightmare when he visits his girlfriend’s mysterious family.
Release date: 17/03/2017
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener
From the dark opening scene accompanied by Flanagan and Allen’s ‘Run Rabbit Run’ (last used to great effect in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016), you know that this is no ordinary film.
Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is a black man in a relationship with a white, middle class girl, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) who wants to introduce him to her parents. Quite rightly, he is a little reticent, asking her if she has told them that he is black. She explains that there is no need for her to forewarn them since they are very liberal and won’t bat an eyelid.
They arrive at her parents’ home and he is immediately besieged with questions, much to Rose’s apparent embarrassment. It doesn’t take long before Chris notices that all is not as it seems in the Armitage household. The staff appear to be robotic and have no sense of empathy, whilst her parents appear to be trying too hard to be ‘normal’.
The Stepford Wives was definitely an inspiration for this film, but to very good effect. Peele has managed to make a film about racial issues in America – with a vein of horror wending its way through it – that is both entertaining and fun. You see, here’s one director who believes in the ‘entertainment factor’ and why not? Apart from the social issues it forces the audience to confront, it is a reversal of the usual white man’s fear of blacks. Here you have a black man in fear of his life in an affluent white neighbourhood …
The leads and supporting actors are well cast and the script is very well written, with a great soundtrack, to boot. Directed and written by basically, a cult comedian, Jordan Peele has made an amazing debut film – it took $ 30million in its first weekend in the US – no mean feat when you take into consideration that this is Peele’s first film and there are no big names.
I’m hoping that we will see more from Peele and that he keeps up the momentum, which is sometimes easier said than done.
Twitch Factor: Sub, Sub Zero
A Korean tale of seduction, desire and deceit.
2017| South Korea| Curzon Artificial Eye| 145 mins| Drama, Crime, Mystery| 18
Release date: 14/04/2017
Director: Park Chan-Wook
Cast: Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Jin-woong Jo, Tae-ri Kim, Hae-suk Kim, So-ri Moon
Ladies, you may be forgiven for thinking that the film’s prime intention is to titillate … it is true that The Handmaiden depicts plenty of sapphic lust and desire, but the film is much more than that. You don’t need to be a lesbian to enjoy this beautiful film – I’m not, it’s enough to cope with men’s ‘dangly bits’ let alone women’s frilly bits.
Whereas Sarah Parks’ successful novel, Fingersmith, was set in Victorian England, the story has now been transposed to 1930s Korea which is under Japanese Colonial rule. A female ‘Artful Dodger’, Sook-hee (Tae-ri Kim) is enlisted by a well-dressed conman, ‘Count’ Fujiwara (Jung-woo Ha) to serve at the home of Japanese heiress, Lady Hideko (Min-hee Kim). Her task is to make sure that the naïve Hideko falls in love with Fujiwara, so that he can elope with her before committing her to an asylum. But first of all, they need to lure her away from her uncle, Kouzuki, who is also hoping to lay his hands on her money. His sexual proclivities seem to know no bounds and we get a glimpse into his Sadean world in the basement.
Slowly but surely, Sook-hee gains her employer’s trust, whilst at the same time, showing her ‘the ways of the world.’ Under her guidance and tutelage, Hideko becomes a sexual being who is gradually falling in love – but with the wrong person.
In one of the more memorable, sexually charged scenes, Hideko, under the direction of her uncle, reads from a work of erotic literature, to an audience of men who can be seen frantically fanning themselves (yes, I did say fanning) leaving them squirming awkwardly in their seats.
Min-hee Kim as Hideko is not only stunning to look at, but she can also act. Hideko’s naivety is played to perfection, whilst her ‘blossoming’ is a revelation.
Whilst at first glance, Tae-ri Kim’s rounded, peasant-like features are perfect for her role as the scheming handmaiden with the caustic tongue, there is beauty there. She flits from scene to scene, ensuring that her snare is set, but eventually wavering in her task as she sees the effect she is having on Hideko.
It could not have been an easy ride (no pun intended) for the actresses to appear naked and cavort on screen – unless you were a porn star in a previous life – which to my knowledge, neither actress has been.
Despite the film’s lengthy running time, I was never bored, instead embracing Chung Chung-hoon’s stunning cinematography, and the film’s whole aesthetic. A truly breathless, cinematic experience.
Not to be missed …
Twitch Factor: Sub, Sub, Sub Zero
In 1970s Boston, an arms deal gone wrong between two gangs, turns into an intense shootout.
2017| UK| Studio Canal| 91 mins| Drama, Crime, Action| 15
Release date: 31/03/2017
Director: Ben Wheatley
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Michael Smiley, Sam Riley, Noah Taylor
The film is set in the 1970s and basically never moves out of a warehouse where two IRA affiliates, Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) show up to buy automatic weapons from Vernon (Sharlto Copley), a nutcase entrepreneur from Rhodesia, as it was then called (now known as the Republic of Zimbabwe). Moving on, he is joined by his ex-Panther associate, Martin, (Babou Ceesay) and an American intermediary, by the name of Ord (Armie Hammer). Along for the ride, or whatever, is Justine (Brie Larson) who has set the whole deal up for the Irish lads. However, she may be a woman (and this is the 70s remember) but the men have obviously underestimated her …
I have to say, I did expect more from the director who gave us High Rise – this was like watching a very bad impersonation of a Tarantino film – without his trademark touches – even he can manage a storyline and therein lies most of the problem.
When I watch a film, for the most part, I want to be entertained. Or let me rephrase that, dependent on the subject matter, I hope to be entertained. This is, to me, a complete waste of time, but thank the Lord, my suffering was over in 90mins. I could and should have walked out, but, unfortunately, there is always an element of guilt doing this when viewing films.
Nevertheless, there are two small glimmers of light on the horizon, in the shape of Sharlto Copley whom you may remember from the excellent film, District 9 and the John Denver-heavy soundtrack. Otherwise, I hated this film and have no idea why Brie Larsson would want to associate herself with such an enterprise. I cannot believe that this was one of her better offers after her portrayal of ‘Ma’ in ‘Room’ (2015).
I think the film will appeal to the alpha males in the audience, whilst the women can only count the minutes to the end – as I did. In fact, I just wanted to get up and shoot them all and put them out of their misery – but that’s me. I take no prisoners … and to think I turned down an invitation ‘to party’ in order to attend this screening … life is much too short.
Twitch Factor: Total waste of time (for me)