Beauty and the Beast Review: Enchanting and absolutely wonderful

Adapted from the animated Disney film of the same name, Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a young prince (Dan Stevens) who after an encounter with an Enchantress, gets imprisoned in the form of a Beast. Alongside his caretakers and staff, who have all been transformed into household items; they all await the day that they can be freed from the curse by true love. An only opportunity arises when Belle (Emma Watson) visits the castle in search of her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline).

Okay, despite naysayers, haters and fence keepers of the film, I must say that I absolutely loved it. I watched this film twice (once in IMAX) and still couldn’t get enough! Though a remake with several differences, the plot was still closely similar to the animated film and the songs were so much fun to sing along to.

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“You can’t read that, can you?” ©Walt Disney Pictures

The casting team should give themselves a pat on the back because everyone was perfect for their roles. Bear with me as I’m about to go into the reasons why for the main four.

I know of some who would disagree with Watson playing Belle but given the age of the character, there really isn’t anyone else. And though I know her voice sounded flat at times, I thought it wasn’t too bad. With the question about Belle’s Stockholm Syndrome in the air before the film opened in cinemas, I’m happy to see that Watson took on the character in a different way. Her version of Belle seemed a lot more tomboy-ish and despite her wardrobe being slightly underwhelming, it still had elements from the animation while still staying practical for everyday use. In terms of her personality, she stands up for herself and decides to make her stay here as unpleasant for the Beast as possible. This actually helps to make her relationship with the Beast more believable as compared to the animated film.

Charming audiences as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey, Stevens returns to charm audiences as the Beast. I particularly enjoyed the song they had composed for the Beast to sing, solely because we’ve never heard how he felt about Belle before. It was both moving and sweet – which kinda showed how much Belle had changed him. This also felt like a tailor-made role for Stevens as he does have some dreamy baby blues.

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“You’re either with me, or against me.” ©Walt Disney Pictures

There is no one who could have taken on the role of Gaston as flawlessly as Luke Evans. Besides being able to sing (quite similarly) like the animated Gaston, Evans embodies that arrogant swagger without breaking a sweat. During the scene where he incites the mob, it was almost hard to remember that this horrible man doesn’t exist. Evans’ effortless attempt at being bad really made it so easy to think that he probably is Gaston in real life. But of course, that’s not true. He’s a sweetheart – did you see that instagram post with his mom?

An already Disney familiar, Josh Gad takes on a new character in the Disney Universe as LeFou. Although there had been several negative responses to LeFou being gay, I actually thought it didn’t matter as much as people thought it would. There wasn’t any scenes that would have been deemed unfriendly for children and let’s be honest – this new aspect of LeFou helped to make scenes witty and enjoyable. Gad’s ability to steal scenes with his expressions definitely made him the easiest to cast and I liked that he added a bit of conscience into his character, especially when faced with Gaston’s decisions.

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“Trade you these flowers for your book?” ©Walt Disney Pictures

As a huge fan of musicals, I really liked that they added in new original songs for the film. It helped to tell the story a little especially when the words depict the emotions in the scene or moment in the film. Though I felt Ewan McGregor’s rendition of Be Our Guest was a little flat, the visual made up for it especially with Cogsworth in a turban.

This is by far one of my favorite movies of 2017 and it’ll probably be my next obsession once the film comes out in DVD. Excuse me while I replay Gaston for the hundredth time.

Rating:

starstarstarstarstar

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Kong Skull Island Review: Man, what a roller-coaster ride!

On an expedition to explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, a diverse group of scientists, soldiers and adventurers come face-to-face with the largest inhabitant of the island, Kong. Almost immediately depleting their numbers in group by more than half, their exciting adventure into the unknown suddenly becomes a survival of the fittest.

As an action-packed film, it is safe to say that Kong Skull Island didn’t have much plot. While that in itself is not a detrimental factor, it did leave quite a few plot holes which I had hoped were filled by the end of the film.

The star of this film was definitely Kong himself, who through the wonderful effort of CGI artists, became a creature that looked so realistic that I got jealous when Brie Larson’s character touched his face. The creation of Kong’s foe was also quite intricately done though I can’t say I’m a fan of the regurgitating bit. Because of the amazing CGI done, the fight scene between these two creatures was definitely the highlight of the film.

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“Game face on everyone.” ©Warner Bros.

I actually liked that the film generally didn’t care much for it’s human characters and who played them. I was quite surprise to see the quick demise of characters played by veteran actors, whom I had assumed would have survived till the end of the film. It was no surprise that Samuel L Jackson reprises yet another character that doesn’t take crap from nobody – even if it is a 100 foot ape. Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston didn’t really create much of an impression for me as I kinda see them as playing themselves. I did particularly enjoy John C.Reilly’s portrayal of World War II vet, Hank Marlow. Though some would view him as the comic relief, his character was easy to warm up to and became quite endearing after a while.

Though very much a film riddled with unanswered questions, Kong Skull Island is very much like a ride at Universal Studios; especially if you catch it in IMAX 3D. Just remember to stay till the end of the credits for a surprise link to another beloved creature that we’re all pretty familiar with.

Hint: His name starts with a G.

Rating:

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Logan review: This is how you say good-bye

In 2029, Mutants are near extinct and Logan (Hugh Jackman) takes it upon himself to assimilate into an ordinary life in order to keep Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) hidden and safe. His life is turned upside down when Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez), a Transigen nurse who turns up calling him by his mutant name seeking his help for a little girl named Laura (Dafne Keen). Despite being able to shake the nurse off, he is approached by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), the head of security at Transigen, who suspects Logan’s involvement. An unexpected incident following the meet with Pierce thrusts Logan reluctantly into helping Laura get to safety.

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“There’s still plenty of other opportunities out there after this!” ©Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

I’d have to say that this is hands-down the best Wolverine-centered film to date. It not only brought the character of Wolverine to a whole new level; it ended the Jackman era of Logan perfectly.

The plot for Logan was fast-paced and pulled no punches when it came to being brutal and gory. I winced every time he put his claws through someone’s skull, and pulls them out blood-stained. It definitely had bits of Western flavor in it but that didn’t affect the movie in anyway. Though Logan had been action-packed like the other films in the franchise, I felt that it had more heart as there were more dramatic scenes that helped Logan confront his fears and hesitations.

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“That’s for calling me small, you buttface!” ©Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

For a young actress like Keen, it was an impressive role that she played. As most of her scenes didn’t have her engaging in a dialogue, it was crucial for her expressions and behavior to be expressed at the right timing. It was great to see her balancing the toughness of the mutant side of her character as well as the innocent side of the child her character was. Gone are the days where Stewart and Jackman had prim and proper looks. Having aged the characters, it was strangely endearing to see Charles Xavier as a 90-year old grandpa. His quirky mannerisms and smart comebacks even reminded me of McAvoy’s Xavier in several scenes. As for Jackman’s aged Logan – it was truly hard for me to see the unbeatable Wolverine suddenly
become lesser of the man and mutant he used to be. What I really liked about this side of Logan was the raw emotion he seemed to experience as he slowly breaks the shell he’s built around him. Having played this role for 16 years, Jackman definitely did justice as he took the screens as Wolverine for the final time.

All in all, Logan was an enjoyable last installment to Wolverine’s franchise though I’m pretty sure a reboot is currently up for discussions. I won’t be surprised if this isn’t the last time we see the group of kids from Transigen either, since their escape to Canada as they’re basically a new group of X-Men.

So what’s next, 20th Century Fox?

Rating:

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Resident Evil: The Final Chapter Review: It can’t really be the final, right?

Having escaped from the Hive, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is contacted by the Red Queen (Eva Anderson) to return to the Hive for the Anti-Virus that will kill all creatures infected with the T-Virus. Only given 48 hours until the last human outpost falls, she makes her way back to Raccoon City where she crosses paths with several other survivors. With Dr Issacs (Iain Glen) hot on her heels and hell bent on destruction of all human life, Alice teams up with the survivors to deter Issacs as they make their way back to the Hive before its too late.

As with most endings to a franchise, there were times when I was worried the film might have been put together haphazardly. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, though not the best, still managed to have a proper start to finish with all the much-loved action packed in. Reprising her role 6 years after, Jovovich still kicks ass. Like before, her stunt routine hasn’t faltered and she still makes me feel like I’d never survive a zombie apocalypse if I’m not her. Glen’s reprisal of Doctor Issacs was not only impressive but super annoying. I often found myself wishing for his quick demise even though he was the main antagonist.

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“Why do I get the feeling that aside from Claire, I’ve got the wrong squad with me?” © Capcom Entertainment, Constantin Film, Screen Gems

Though I enjoyed the film thoroughly, I did have a few problems with it.

New characters: It’s always nice to introduce new characters into a franchise for the continuity of the universe. However, I strongly feel that every character should have at least a fair amount of screen time and introduction before they meet their untimely demise. I felt like I didn’t get to know several of the new characters before POOF – they died or disappeared. I know that characters, especially in an apocalyptic world like Resident Evil, are all expandable and I should expect that to happen but it just seemed a little much to include new characters in the last film of the franchise.

Old characters: Chris, Ada, Leon, Luther, K-Mart, Jill? Where for art thou old characters? Last I remembered these characters were alive and kicking so where are they? Being the supposed last film in the franchise, shouldn’t these characters be included? I find it slightly annoying that the original game characters had been omitted from the mix since they are the ones gamers identify with. It was seriously strange to see only Alice pop up from the debris and fight off the monsters when the last film had the others with her. Terrible continuity problem that should have been addressed.

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“YIKES! IT’S THE MOVIE REVIEWERS!” © Capcom Entertainment, Constantin Film, Screen Gems

Wesker: What was supposedly the lean, mean fighting machine of the Umbrella Corporation suddenly became a whiskey-drinking model in the office. Instead of giving Wesker the time to show off his fighting prowess, the audience is shown scenes of him giving instruction to the Red Queen while mixing a drink and eyeing the screens. His character felt like a contradiction to every word he says in this film. I found it pretty annoying when he said ‘he’d handle security’ only to let something else do the work for him. Perhaps he meant handle security manually with the buttons and all, but shouldn’t he be fighting physically instead? Not to mention the weird transition where Wesker brings Claire in without any injury. It was like she had waited for Wesker to pick her up instead of fighting him since well, I don’t know – HE’S THE ENEMY?! This wasn’t a good use of the character and frankly felt a little like a pacifier to fans of the franchise.

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“Think we’ll see another Resident Evil film?” © Capcom Entertainment, Constantin Film, Screen Gems

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is a pretty good addition to the franchise though I do not enjoy it as the final film. There are many loopholes and questions left unanswered which should be addressed. I won’t be surprise if a sequel is currently in discussion but if this is truly the end for Resident Evil, I am not satisfied.

Rating:

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Passengers Review: An intergalactic awry love story

The spaceship, Starship Avalon, is on its 120-year journey through space to a colony planet when the ship starts to malfunction. As a result, two hibernation pods open 90 years too early, awaking its inhabitants Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence). As Jim and Aurora begins adjusting to living the rest of their lives aboard the ship, they fall in love. But their blissful lives are put on hold when the malfunctioning ship begins to act up, threatening the lives of everyone on board.

To be honest, it was a little difficult crafting the summary for this film especially when a crucial plot twist had to be left out. This plot twist takes up a pretty huge role in the film and actually erases everything you believed in before sitting down to watch the film. In short, when you finally see the reveal of this plot twist, you’ll realize that there isn’t much of a story to it.

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“Oh damn. Critics are going to have field day with this one.” Source: Columbia Pictures

There are no villains in the film and the action only comes in during the second half. The malfunction comes in a simple form though I would have preferred someone hijacking the system. Though the audience is given a chance to learn more about Aurora’s character, there isn’t much background given on Jim – which makes it all the more strange. It would have been a nice balance to understand the two characters individually instead of knowing a lot about one and nothing about the other.

The visual effects are pretty great in this film, akin to other space films like Gravity and Interstellar. The chemistry between the characters, on the other hand, felt a little awkward at times. Instead of seeing Lawrence and Pratt as a couple, I was seeing more of a sibling chemistry between the two.

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“Your hair is so soft. You have to tell how you maintain it in this stale space air!” Source: Columbia Pictures

The story definitely had a lot of room to grow and I would have preferred to see a little more hurdles that challenged the characters. But, I can also see how it had been watered down to concentrate on the growing relationship between these two characters.
Instead of harping on the ‘what could have been’, sometimes, it’s enough to enjoy the moments you are given. In the case of Aurora who has been planning her life and trying to live up to her father’s name, she needed to learn to let go and dive head-first into the unknown. And, Jim was her way to achieving that.

Though I did enjoy the human aspect of the plot, I really did hope for some evil villain to pop out and say ‘huzzah, your ship is going down because I want it to!’. But, when it came down to it, the action-filled portion of the film felt like a defining moment in the film to progress the relationship between Aurora and Jim. Instead of being a climatic point of the film, it has suddenly become a filler for the plot.

I’d love to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Passengers but it was rather difficult when I’m left with questions despite a proper conclusion to Aurora and Jim’s lives.

Rating: 

starstar

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review: This is the film you’ve been waiting for

Having to survive without her parents since a young age, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) has been longing to find her father Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) and seek revenge against Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) and the Empire. Her chance arises when she is rescued by the Rebel Alliance. Learning that her father had built the Death Star with a way to destroy it, Jyn joins forces with Cassian Endor (Diego Luna) and other rebels to steal the space station’s plans for the Rebel Alliance.

This film was truly what all Star Wars fans have been waiting for. I had been a little bit wary of this story, wondering how it was going to tie in to the others since most of the lead characters looked new. Well, I must say it was dumb to worry about that when it is being handled so perfectly. From start to finish, I was on the edge of my seat. Even when I’m watching it in IMAX 3D, I couldn’t even tell what was 3D and what wasn’t. I was so focused on the story since the film started that I ignored everything else.

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“Great. Just when I thought we were going to finally win against the Empire.” Source: Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The story line of Rogue One definitely helped bridge the missing time between Episode III and Episode IV in a way. Though the CGI effects surpassed all Episodes (especially with General Tarkin and the young Princess Leia), it is not impossible to dismiss that as just a technicality. With a simple plot that made for a heart-racing adventure, this was truly on par with the Star Wars film.

The characters created were a great diverse addition to the Star Wars universe, especially with the creation of Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), a blind character that utilized Yen’s martial arts background. His witty lines and hilarious mantra ‘I’m One With The Force, The Force Is With Me’, easily made Chirrut a likeable character. Though supposedly the dashing Captain of the story, Luna managed to give his character a flawed disposition – a truly different kind of hero.

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“Gather round kids. We will now begin chanting our mantra.” Source: Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Following in the footsteps of a self-made rebel like Rey, Jones’ Jyn Erso is the definition of a woman saving the day. Gone are the days where female characters require a man to step in. Despite Jones’ small stature, she is still able to command presence in every scene that she shares with her co-stars. Her no nonsense expression gives way to the real meaning of a resting bitch face, which I only wish I could master.

Unlike the adorable BB-8, R2-D2 or the rather testing C-3PO, we are introduced to the sassy and witty K-2SO. A rather refreshing take on a new android, this is truly the android we’ve been looking for. With the ability to sass his counterpart and even operate weapons, K-2SO in my opinion, is quite literally the best of the androids. Voiced by the awesome Alan Tudyk, K-2SO has just replaced BB-8 & R2-D2 in my heart.

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“I’m small but I can beat you anytime.” Source: Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The chemistry between the characters made for a cast that complemented each other. No one felt odd or out of place and it was my new definition of squad goals. The electric chemistry between Cassian and Jyn could have made for an easy romantic moment to happen but fortunately, it didn’t happen. In forgoing their romance, there was room for more content and more action.

With the addition of the Darth Vader scene which was so bad-ass (he’s a multi-tasker!), the bridging of the ending of Rogue One to the beginning of Episode IV felt almost seamless to me. I liked that they tied up all loose ends in Rogue One, leaving no room for ‘what ifs’ which would otherwise make Episode IV to VII have a problem with continuity. Though, being an ever-growing galaxy of stories, it is still quite possible to sneak in one or two familiar faces from Rogue One but the chances are quite slim – especially after that freaking heartbreaking ending.

I’ve never been so blown away by a Star Wars film before and though I might get shunned for saying this, Rogue One has easily become one of my favorite Star Wars films.

Rating: 

starstarstarstarhalfstar

La La Land Review: A Bittersweet Love Story

Mia (Emma Stone), is an aspiring actress who works at a cafe situated in a studio lot. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), is a jazz musician who aspires to open his own jazz club but scrapes by playing at restaurants and parties. The two meet, hitting it off and becoming one another’s pillar of support as they work toward their dreams. But, as each start to gain momentum and success, their fragile relationship takes a hit. They are eventually left with decisions that change their lives forever.

Over the course of the years that Mia and Sebastian were together, they experienced all the highs of a couple in love. But when their dreams slowly take shape, they begin to experience tough decisions that start to sour the relationship. The foundation of the support begins to disintegrate, becoming hard to accomodate one another. In short, it is a simple love story that combines dancing and singing. But at the heart of it are two kindred souls that fell in love because of the passion they saw in one another for their craft.

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The highs of a romance. Source: Black Label Media, Gilbert Films, Impostor Pictures

A remarkable film that shows the vulnerability of love between two people – La La Land is a bittersweet look at how two people can forget each other so easily when given an opportunity they’ve longed for. Though many would argue that they just didn’t love each other enough, I felt that they did love each other but just not to the point where they can see themselves giving up on their dreams. They loved each other in a different sense – one that gave each other support. They both knew mutually that somehow, their love for one another thrived on the passion they each had. Mia’s love grew whenever she sees Sebastian play the piano. And his love for her grew whenever he sees her planning for her one-woman play. When Sebastian starts to waver in his belief for true jazz authenticity, Mia’s love began to wane.

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“Our careers are so beautiful, huh?” Source: Black Label Media, Gilbert Films, Impostor Pictures

It was sad for me at the end of the film though I understood the decision that arrived at that conclusion. I honestly would have preferred the ending in that dance sequence but it would have meant one of them giving up on their aspirations.

La La Land has the making of a perfect Broadway show and it is only a matter of time until it happens. The dancing, tapping and singing made for an enjoyable film that truly brought back a nostalgic feel. I’m hoping this is the start to more films like this – a rare gem of 2016.

Rating:

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