Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast 2017

3.5 stars (out of 4)

Released 2017

It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen the classic animated film from 1991, but this new live-action remake seems to be an extremely faithful adaptation. Some parts of it are scene-for-scene, word-for-word the same, if memory serves.

All the familiar songs are included (yes, it’s a musical), along with a few new pieces. Emma Watson and the rest of the cast turn in excellent vocal performances.

One thing this version absolutely does do right is expand on the Beast’s personality and give more insight into the mindset of his staff. I had an issue with his lack of chemistry with Belle in the original. The added content here definitely improves the believability of their relationship.

Lefou, Gaston’s sidekick, is also more developed and nuanced than in the animation, I believe.

I do wish they could have done one more thing, though, and that’s give the Beast an actual name. Oh well, can’t have everything.

Cinderella

3 stars (out of 4)

Released 2015

Cinderella 2015 is the live-action remake of Disney’s animated film from 1950. However, it was because the images in the trailer reminded me of another movie, Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998), that I was intrigued to go out and watch this new film.

First of all, I do have some criticisms. Ella had a mantra that was taught to her by her mother, and it was plain overused. Even though I could agree with the sentiment, it lost its significance from the excessive repetition.

Cate Blanchett was grand as the stepmother. I was somewhat less convinced at the portrayal of Ella’s stepsisters, though. If they had acted like entitled selfish bitches, I could’ve bought that; but I found it hard to believe that they would be as uncultured and gaudy as they were, given their seemingly high-class upbringing.

And nitpicking, but I was a bit disappointed that they decided to keep the name Lucifer for the cat. It’s a real stretch that these women would give such a moniker to a beloved pet. But then, who knows? Maybe it was the girls’ late father who came up with the name.

In spite of my complaints, this Cinderella represented a vast improvement over what I remember of the original animated feature. The scenery and costumes were gorgeous; and the stunning ballroom dance scene alone was worthwhile to be seen in theatre.

I also thought it was a nice touch to include 2 of the songs from the original movie in the closing credits, performed by the new Cinderella and Fairy Godmother.

All that being said, I can’t help but feel it paled in comparison to Ever After in, well, just about every way. Which is no different from what I was expecting, since few movies can hold a candle to Ever After, in my estimation, Cinderella story or no.

FROZEN

3.5 stars (out of 4)

Released 2013

It seriously took me this long to go see this movie. It’s even out on DVD now. I’d been talking about and making plans to see it all these months and things just never fell into place.

For the record, I recall liking “Tangled” quite a bit, but “Brave” didn't really do anything for me. Obviously, I’d heard positive things about “FROZEN”. And I enjoyed it! The computer animation was predictably stunning. The story featured a bit of fantasy, a bit of romance, some politics, some humour, some tragedy, and more than a little sisterly love.

Of course there was music too. In general, I’d say it was nicely incorporated (Disney’s usually pretty good at that) and it didn’t feel awkward that they were suddenly breaking out in song or anything.

Two events in the movie were so heartbreaking, I could have cried.

The weakest parts were the resolution and a certain plot twist, which both happened rather suddenly and conveniently, but I suppose that was necessary in order for things to not drag on too long; children are part of the intended audience, after all.

I recommend watching the credits to the end. Well, the final animated bit is disposable, but the little disclaimer beforehand, in which The Walt Disney Company attempts to distance itself from one of Kristoff’s earlier inflammatory statements, is gold.

In-flight movies – quick review

Recently travelled overseas. On the way there, I watched a Japanese film starring Hiroshi Abe (Thermae Romae) and a princess-themed Hollywood movie (Snow White and the Huntsman). On the flight back, I watched another Japanese film starring Hiroshi Abe (Cheers from Heaven) and another Hollywood princess movie (Brave).

Thermae Romae (2012)

  • 3 stars (out of 4)
  • An ancient Roman bathhouse architect gets magically and repeatedly transported to modern-day Japan; and a somewhat parallel story about a manga artist he encounters there.
  • Best parts were the fish-out-of-water scenes. Great camera work and expressions on Hiroshi Abe. Makes you appreciate the wonder of modern devices, but also pokes fun at the silliness of some of them. Hilarious!
  • Waaay too much censorship in the modified version that I saw; even a nude painting was censored!
  • Some parts at the end may have dragged on a little longer than necessary, but I might have just been starting to get tired at that point.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

  • 3 stars (out of 4)
  • Thankfully, not really about romance at all. Really about Snow White’s plight to free her people from the tyrannical rule of her stepmother, the queen.
  • Elements from the original fairy tale were mainly cursory. For example, there didn’t need to be seven dwarfs, but hey, this is “Snow White”, after all.
  • Small airplane monitor didn’t do justice to the special effects.
  • Great nuanced performance by Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna
  • Great costuming on Snow White. Even though Kristen Stewart spent the movie grimy and tattered, her clothes looked really good!

Cheers from Heaven (2011)

  • 3 stars (out of 4)
  • Based on a true story.
  • Bento caterer suddenly decides to build a music studio for the local high school kids, borrowing money and volunteering his own time and effort. Basically, one hell of a random act of kindness.
  • Well, there are no special effects, so it isn’t necessary to see this on a theatre screen, but it is well-executed, with solid scripting and acting and an uplifting message to boot.

Brave (2012)

  • 2 stars (out of 4)
  • Some superficial similarity to La storia della Arcana Famiglia anime – a princess wants to participate in the contest for her own hand in marriage.
  • The original marriage issue resolved relatively easily, though. This film turned out to not really be about romance either! Like Snow White, it’s actually about the conflict between mother and daughter; except, of course, in Brave they are learning to understand each other, not trying to kill each other…
  • Many scenes in the second half were so dark that I couldn’t see anything on the small airplane monitor. Admittedly, that might have contributed unfairly to my low opinion of the movie.
  • Maybe I expected too much from Pixar, but I found the whole film to be mainly a yawn. Merida was a pretty good heroine, but there was nothing particularly original or amusing here.