Beauty and the Beast (2017)

September 3, 2017

beauty

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews.

From the fairy tale by Charles Perrault.

In order to save her father, Belle agrees to go live at the Beast’s castle, and of course they fall in love and his curse is lifted.

There are SPOILERS ahead. Just go on and read this anyway, it’ll save you from having to see it.

Hey, Disney! I have a great idea! Why don’t you take one of the BEST MOVIES EVER, the 1991 animated version, with good writing, an innovative story, lyrics by Howard Ashman, and some of the most romantic scenes ever…and do a COMPLETELY SCREWED UP REMAKE?

<facepalm> Why, oh why did they do this? There are SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH IT…let’s count them, shall we?

  1. Live action. Now, this might have been okay, and in fact I was looking forward to it, if they had just remade the original, exactly as it was, but changing the animation to real people and settings; that would have made it different enough to be interesting, but kept the parts that made it good.
  2. Emma Watson. I really like her, and she looked good…but she can’t really sing. She was in there trying, and hit all the notes, but in my head, I was comparing her with the memorized voice of Paige O’Hara, and Ms. Watson just didn’t cut it.
  3. Gaston. Luke Evans was in there trying, but he just wasn’t convincing. And one of the best parts of the original is that Gaston is purely and simply self-centered chauvinistic evil, so you can really get behind hating him. It seemed to me that they tried to soften his badness and give him more of a personality. Didn’t work.
  4. All the furor over Disney’s first ‘openly gay’ character. Whatever. Firstly, it’s 2017, guys, that shouldn’t even have been an issue. Especially that he is their first. Secondly, he’s the villain’s stupid sidekick. Way to be inclusive, Disney. Great step forward, there.
  5. Kevin Kline. Sigh. How the mighty have fallen. Was he out of money or something?
  6. TIM RICE. Oh my god, I will never forgive them for this. The original has about five, maybe six songs, some of them repeated with other words or used as a theme for a certain character. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were an amazing duo, and I am still sad about Ashman’s death; he was THE BEST LYRICIST at Disney, and losing him was awful. So when Mr. Otter and I were watching this, and I was still at the point where I expected it to follow the brilliant original pretty closely, suddenly there was a song. I don’t remember which one, maybe Kevin Kline sang it…and I said to Mr. Otter, WTF? This isn’t one of the original songs, they added it.  In fact, they added several, and (I said to Mr. O) they sounded like bad Anthony Newley songs…and I wasn’t far wrong. They hired TIM RICE to do three songs. Menken said, We wanted to add material where it felt organic (what does that even MEAN?). The new songs are awful and kind of boring.
  7. TIME TRAVEL. No joking. I am actually going to include the plot synopsis from IMDB because I can’t even make myself type the words: The Beast later shows Belle an enchanted book that allows anyone to travel anywhere they want to go if they can visualize it. Belle places her hand in the book and they are transported to an old house in Paris. It was once home to Maurice and his wife when Belle was a baby. The Beast finds a doctor’s mask, indicating that Belle’s mother was killed by the plague. A flashback shows Maurice tending to his wife as she is dying. She tells him to protect Belle, and all that was left behind was a glass rose, which Belle finds. Why? Why on earth is there any need for this? If you look up the word GRATUITOUS in the dictionary, there will be a reference to this sequence. By this point, Mr. Otter and I were hooting at the screen.
  8. The ending. Not only does a bridge crumble in the nick of time to send Gaston to his doom (granted, in the original he slipped, couldn’t get a handhold and fell off the tower, but at least it was satisfying) but THE BEAST DIES. Yup, stone dead, and everyone and everything in the castle feels the curse falling on them forever, they’re turning into the objects that they have been animating, and it’s all over. But no! It’s Benji-peril! Disney has the sorceress who originally cursed the prince and the castle COME IN AND SAVE THEM ALL. Not Belle kissing the Beast just in time. No. She failed, he failed, they all failed and if the sorceress hadn’t decided to come in and do her magic, it would all have been for nothing. This is on a par with Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, where the fairies actually defeat the dragon for the prince but he gets the credit for it.
  9. No, that’s enough, my whole brain is curdling just thinking about this movie.

This was a bad idea, badly done, badly executed, badly rewritten and DISNEY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.

I’m going to re-watch the good one to get the bad taste out of my brain. Want to join me? we could have a sing-along….

 

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The Night They Raided Minsky’s

September 2, 2017

From the novel of the same name by Rowland Barber

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A burlesque theater in New York is being threatened with closure by a member of the Society for Decency, and an Amish girl who has run away from home shows up looking for a job doing Biblical-themed dance. The theater owner and the star performer hatch a plot to advertise her as a sexy French singer and dancer, then have her do her Bible dance to fool the prudes.

What could possibly go wrong?

Mr. Otter picked this up in a bargain bin, and we watched it with Music Mike. It was a fun evening, with a movie Mr. Otter and I had heard about for many years but never seen. Mike the Builder hadn’t heard of it but enjoyed it nonetheless.

This is a real artifact from its time, well written and funny. The list of actors is also great: Jason Robards, Britt Ekland, Elliott Gould, Forrest Tucker, Denholm Elliott, Jack Burns and Bert Lahr, among others.

The buildup is slow (looking backwards from the frantic pace of modern movies) but steady. The character development is the most important thing, and of course setting the scene for the big denouement that is obviously coming, given the title.

A pretty good blast from the past!


Sing

August 31, 2017

sing

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An agent tries to revitalize his failing theater by having a talent show. Shenanigans!

I was at the Red Cross ready for apheresis, which involves three hours of time and needles in both arms, so I wanted something amusing. I saw this in the Netflix folder they have, and thought it might be fun…and indeed it was!

Matthew McConaughey (an Otter Family Favorite Actor) is the voice of a koala theater owner, in a city populated by all different kinds of animals dressed as, and acting like, humans. There is no explanation of this and there doesn’t need to be…it just is, and is actually peripheral to the story, which involves several different performers and groups all trying to win the competition as we get to know them.

This was well written, engaging and fun. Not deep, not meaningful, just good fun. Watch it, you’ll be glad you did.


Lust in the Dust

August 31, 2017

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A dancehall girl, lost in the desert, ends up in a saloon in a small town among a bunch of questionable characters, all searching for the same thing…

Mr. Otter and I are fans of John Waters’ oeuvre, and we had not seen this, so when Craiggers (whom we were visiting) suggested watching it, we were glad to join in.

And we were not disappointed. This is typical John Waters- a parody of a well-known genre with his own broad humor and quirks thrown in. Divine is the peripatetic dance-hall girl, Lainie Kazan is the saloon owner and her rival, Tab Hunter is the handsome stranger, and Otter Family Favorite Actor Woody Strode even had a small part.

Not a great movie, but a good one, fun and with a satisfying denouement. If you have never seen a John Waters movie, this is not a bad one to start with (but Hairspray is the best)…just remember to be sure the kids are out of the room.


How to Stuff a Wild Bikini

August 28, 2017

Internet Movie Database         Movie Reviews

We were visiting Craiggers in his lair, and (among other fun and games) we had an evening to watch a movie in. Mr. Otter and Craiggers share a dark secret: they both love Annette Funicello/Beach Blanket type movies from the 60s. We have watched several before with our friend, and it was time for another one!

This was the last of these movies that Funicello made, and in fact, because of her contract with Disney, she couldn’t wear a bikini (unlike pretty much every other woman there…). She had long pants and long sleeves every time she was on camera, even on the beach (she was bookish, and we all know that THOSE PEOPLE never have any fun!)

There was a frame story about her boyfriend being in the South Pacific with the Naval Reserve, and he hires a witch doctor (Buster Keaton) to magically keep an eye on her. There is an animated bikini filled with an invisible ghostly presence floating around for extra laughs, and hijinks ensue.

This was better than some; there were some funny scenes, and it didn’t take itself seriously at all. A good evening’s silliness, especially with alcohol involved…!


A Knight’s Tale

August 28, 2017

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A squire pretends to be a knight and wins tournaments and his lady’s heart.

So there I was at the Red Cross, about to start apheresis, which takes about 2 1/2 hours. I wanted something amusing that would make the time pass quickly, and was looking over the shelves of dvds, nearly all of which I’ve either seen or don’t want to see…and saw this.

Now, I had picked up this movie AT LEAST THREE OTHER TIMES at my library or here or other places, looked at it, and thought, meh, another King Arthur retelling, even with Heath Ledger, not interested.

But this time? This time I actually turned the dvd over, and found myself looking at the back…and there a name leapt out at me:

ALAN TUDYK.

Alan Tudyk, for those of you who have not been fortunate enough to see it, was one of the cast of Firefly. And if you haven’t seen that series and movie, run right out and do it, I’ll wait for you.

Okay. So he’s one of our favorite actors, chez Otter.

Oooh, I said, even if it’s crap, I’ll watch it for Alan Tudyk.

And I watched it. And COMPLETELY LOVED IT. As soon as I got home I ordered it from Amazon and showed it to Mr. Otter as soon as he arrived, and HE loved it.

And I asked Maid of Awesome and Craftygirl and Ottersis WHY THE HELL HADN’T THEY TOLD ME TO WATCH IT?

Oh, they all said, I just assumed you had, EVERYONE has seen it, it’s awesome!

Sigh.

Heath Ledger and Alan Tudyk are two of the three squires of a knight (Mark Addy is the third). The knight dies suddenly, and William (Ledger) decides to take on his identity, win jousting contests and make them some money.

And of course shenanigans happen. When they showed the first joust, with the accompanying musical track, I fell totally in love with this witty and charming movie.

And that’s all I’m going to say. I won’t tell you THE BEST PART (Hint: Paul Bettany) because it’s hilarious how it happens. Honey Rufus Sewell is the bad guy, and James Purefoy (whom we like very much chez Otter) has a good part too.

This was absolutely a joy to watch, and I would be happy to do so again. Want to come over and enjoy it with me?


Manchester by the Sea

August 28, 2017

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A loner finds out when his brother dies that he has been named as his 16 year old nephew’s guardian.

This is one of those movies that looks really, really good in previews, mostly because of really, really good editing.

We chez Otter really, really like Casey Affleck. (Okay, I’ll stop the really, really thing. Really.) He is a fine actor and has been in a lot of (didn’t say it) very good movies.

This movie felt like it was trying to be deeper than it was, but it never really got off the ground. Taking this kid in makes Affleck’s character face a horrible mistake he made in the past, and they all work through it, and it’s all better in the end. Hope that wasn’t a spoiler, because that was seriously the whole movie.

Lucas Hedges was excellent as the teenager. The writing was good. The story could have been good, but it was like hearing someone tell you a really great story in a mumbling monotone…there are good bits, but they get lost in the telling.

I was underwhelmed by this, although I wanted to like it.