Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

thor ragnarok

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is locked up in a cage by Sartur (Clancy Brow) a demon who claims to have initiated Ragnarok, a prophesy where Sartur will destroy Asgard.  Thor thinks he’s already stopped the prophesy, but flies to Asgard to talk to his father, Odin.  (Anthony Hopkins)  Instead of Odin, Thor finds Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who seems to have replaced Odin on Asgard.  With a little help from Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) Thor finds Odin, only to find that he’s dying, and Hela (Cate Banchett) who is Goddess of Death and also Odin’s first born, and also Thor and Loki’s sister, plans to take over the family legacy.When Odin passes away, Hela will have infinite power.  Odin passes away shortly thereafter, and the race is on to get to Asgard.  But Thor and Loki get sidetracked to planet Sakaar, which is ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who wants to pit Thor against his champion in a gladiatorial battle.  It turns out Thor already knows the champion of Sakaar, it’s the Hulk, but will beating the Hulk be as easy as Thor thinks and can Thor get back to Asgard before Hela takes it over?

Thor Ragnarok did something that I didn’t think was possible, it made me like a Thor movie.  The previous two Thor movies took themselves so damn seriously, this was a refreshing tongue in cheek take on the Thor story that this trilogy needed in the worst way.  The story is simple, which is crucial to a superhero movie, don’t overcomplicate things.  The backstory with Hela is equally as good, and those two elements alone make this movie worth watching.  There are drawbacks however, the whole Hulk fight scene is unnecessary, in fact Hulk is unnecessary, as is Dr. Strange.  Writers have yet to find a way to integrate Hulk into any avengers movie much less make a decent Hulk movie, in this one the Hulk is little more than comedy relief.  The ending is predictable, and when Hollywood runs out of plot, it pours on the fight scenes and special effects.  Thor Ragnarok is no exception, but Ragnarok is a welcome relief from a character and trilogy that was rapidly losing relevance, in the Marvel universe.

The performances are very good.  Chris Hemsworth is a funny guy, anyone who’s seen him in the Ghostbusters remake, admittedly not that many saw this, but those who did knows he has great comic timing.  Tom Hiddleston is also great as Loki, as he plays up the sibling rivalry again, this time for laughs.  But the best performance in this film undoubtedly belongs to Cate Blanchett, yes she is evil, but she underplays the evil so well that it’s subtle, and she has a reason for being angry, and that makes her performance all the more intriguing.  There are also good performances by Idris Elba Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson and of course Anthony Hopkins. These performances make a well-written movie even better.

The direction is good, the scenes burst with color, yes there’s a lot of CGI, but the film I is not overwhelmed by it.  The pacing is good, the movie moves along at a brisk pace for a movie that’s over 2 hours long, and the director gets a lot of good performances from a very talented cast.

Thor Ragnarok  Rock on!

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thelma and louise

Louise (Susan Sarandon) is bored with her life, and with her boyfriend Jimmy, (Michael Madsen)  so she decides to call up her friend, Thelma (Geena Davis) who is sick of her domineering husband, Darryl (Christopher McDonald) and so they decide to drive to Mexico.  Thelma ominously brings her husband’s gun along, in case there’s any trouble.  They go to a bar, and right away, Thelma gets too drunk and too flirtatious with a guy named Harlan. (Timothy Carhart) Harlan takes Thelma to the parking lot of the bar and tries to rape her.  Luckily, Louise gets to the parking lot just in time and shoots Harlan.  They are now fugitives from the law, on the run.

Louise calls Jimmy and asks him to wire her own savings to her; Louise also picks up an attractive, young hitchhiker named J.D., (Brad Pitt) at Thelma’s urging.  When Louise goes to pick up the money, Jimmy is waiting for her.  He asks Louise to marry her.  Does she accept?  Is J.D. is innocent and carefree as he appears?    What of Hal, (Harvey Keitel) the cop who doing the leg work to find Thelma and Louise, does he track them down, or do they escape to Mexico?

The first time I saw this movie, I thought it was an acceptable escapist feminist revenge fantasy.  I see it now and I can’t stand this movie.  The only character who’s got any redeeming characteristics is Louise.  Thelma does one stupid thing after another that gets them deeper and deeper into a hole. So much for being a feminist’s dream movie. J.D. is not what he appears to be, Darryl is the king of the jerks, Jimmy who appears decent has a dark side, and Hal the cop chasing them seems to be the only man who has any empathy at all.  Even the waitresses and superficial and empty headed.  Bar patrons are rapists, and truckers are harassing stalkers.  Khali Khouri who was lauded in the book I just read, wrote a screenplay full of one dimensional, superficial characters in my opinion.  Thelma is supposed to show some growth but her dramatic arc from stupid to wise happens too quickly to be believable.

The acting is adequate.  Susan Sarandon really stands out in this movie, as she does in most movies, and gives a hellacoius performance.  She’s gotta stay one step ahead of the law, and one eye on her friend, and her performance illustrates the frustration she must endure, and also the joy of being free from the things that are shackling her.  I don’t think Geena Davis should have been Oscar nominated, she’s playing the ditzy airhead she always played and wasn’t convincing when her transformation takes place.  Brad Pitt was just asked to be a pretty boy, take his shirt off, and flex his muscles and that’s what he did.  Michael Madsen was very good as Jimmy, he gives the character depth, and a quiet strength. Harvey Keitel with a Southern accent is unintentionally funny, and the accent makes it difficult to take the performance seriously.

The direction is only so-so, while there are some stunning visuals of the American Southwest, but the pacing is inexcusable, it is so painfully slow that it’s painful to watch.  I kept watching hoping the story would move and it didn’t move fast enough, not even remotely fast enough for me. There was so much about what a great director Ridley Scott is in the Over The Cliff book, and he is a good director for science fiction, this story is not his milieu, so he was right in not wanting to direct it.  He shouldn’t have.  He got some good performances, and some not so good ones.

Thelma and Louise.  Don’t Louise sleep over this one.

Blade Runner 2049

In 2049, in Los Angeles, there’s an uneasy peace between the humans and the replicants, who the humans built to serve them and pleasure them.  There’s a rumor going around that a replicant gave birth to a half human child and that rumor is enough to set off fireworks in the tinderbox that Los Angeles has become.  Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) orders officer K, (Ryan Gosling) a current Blade Runner, to find out if there is a child ‘retire’ the child, and to report back to her.  The key to finding the child seems to be finding former Blade Runner Rick Deckert (Harrison Ford) and verifying if the child really exists.  K finds the remains of a replicant, and takes them to the Wallace Corporation where the replicant is identified as Rachel. (Sean Young)

Nander Wallace (Jared Leto) is himself a replicant and has a stake in finding the replicant baby.  If replicants can reproduce, Nander can raise a replicant army to overthrow human rulers forever .  He sends a homicidal replicant named Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) to follow K, and find the child.   K is plagued by a persistent memory of a toy wooden horse that he had a child.  Is this a real memory, or has it been implanted?  Is this memory related to the replicant child?  Is there a replicant baby?  What does Deckart have to do with the baby?  Can K find Deckart?  Can he find the child, who’s now an adult?

I like the story of Blade Runner 2049, it’s simple and straightforward, which is more than I can say for the original Blade Runner film. But beneath its glossy surface, however, there are many flaws in the film, in character development, and plot development.  For example, Las Vegas seems to be utterly devastated and have only one resident, while nearby Los Angeles is relatively teeming with people.  The female characters appear to be decorative, except the one who is a homicidal android.  Why is she like that?  Why are strong women portrayed as murderous lunatics with no remorse?  Why are submissive women portrayed as desirable?  The black characters fare worse, one runs a sweatshop, and another is a clerk.  At a time when our demographic future will be much different than our current reality, Hollywood again chooses to largely whitewash.  The ending is left open for yet another sequel, perhaps featuring a reanimated version of cryogenically preserved Harrison Ford.  If producers wait another 35 years, that may be the only option left.

The acting is good in this film, probably better than this script deserves.  Ryan Gosling made a name for himself playing laconic humorless characters, so he should feel very comfortable playing K, and he is.  He’s more comfortable playing these emotionless characters like the driver in Driver, than he is playing a jobless jazzman in Lala Land.  Harrison Ford is also good at playing an irascible old crank, he does it in every role of late, and will continue to do it for as long as he can.  Robin Wright makes a brief but forceful appearance as K’s boss.  She is the strong feminine presence that this movie needed more of. Jared Leto overacts voraciously, as is his habit lately.

The direction is good, the pacing is quick and the action moves quickly, for a nearly 3 hour film.  The movie is visually striking, thanks to cinematography by Roger Deakins, who has done movies like The Shawshank Redemption, and Skyfall.  The direction is done by Denis Villeneuve, who has done excellent movies like Arrival or not so good movies like Prisoners.  He does well here, I don’t think this group needs any help with their acting skills, but he took a long and multifaceted story and laid it out very clearly.

Blade Runner 2049:  Cutting edge visuals with 1950’s plot.

luke cage

Luke Cage (Mike Colter) works as a sweeper in Pop’s Barber Shop in Harlem.  One night after sweeping up, Luke sees his co-worker Chico (Brian Mac) rush out to a car with his friend Shameek.  (Jermel Howard) Chico and Shameek want to take money from Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, (Mahershala Ali)  owner of a club called Harlem’s Paradise, and infamous gangster.  Luke also works at the club, and Cottonmouth offers him a job, but Luke has a quiet life, does he want to get mixed up in saving Chico from gangsters or being Cottonmoth’s bodyguard?

I like this episode of Luke Cage it has the requisite amount of mystery surrounding Luke.  It has some primarily African American references like the iconic if somewhat hackneyed black barbershop.  Luke has some interesting interactions with the ladies, some interesting black cultural references, Luke is reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. For all the good writing and the social consciousness, there’s a lot of the n-word flying around, I found it excessive.  I know the writers are trying to keep it “real” but Harlem is the epicenter of the black renaissance, let’s try to treat the characters with some respect.

The acting is great.   Mike Colter is very good as the laconic Luke Cage.  Mahershala Ali is a simmering cauldron of rage as Cottonmouth, and Alfre Woodard is also good as a corrupt politician who is all sweetness and light in public, but something else entirely when the cameras aren’t rolling.

Episode 2:  The Code of The Streets

Pop (Frankie Faison) asks Luke to find Chico, but Cottonmouth wants to locate Chico too. The police, headed by Detective Misty Knight (Simone Missick) also want to find Chico.  Who gets to Chico first?

There is so much in this episode.  The viewers get a backstory about Pop.  There’s an interesting subplot between Misty and Luke.  There is real and largely unspoken tension between Luke and Cottonmouth.  There are the cultural touchpoints, Luke is reading Walter Mosely in this episode, and this episode finally provides the impetus for Luke to get off the sidelines.  The acting is superb, especially between Ali, and Colter, who holds his own in the scenes between him and Ali. There’s also some good chemistry between Colter and Simone Missick.

Episode 3:  Who’s Going to Take The Weight

Luke decides not to go after Cottonmouth directly, but let him suffer death by a thousand cuts.  Cottonmouth and his cousin Mariah (Alfre Woodard) discuss their differing visions of Harlem. Misty sees that Luke is in the middle of what’s going on lately in Harlem, but she can’t put her finger on what he’s doing. Misty’s partner Detective Rafael Scarfe (Frank Whaley) talks to Chico, he’s ready to turn on Cottonmouth.

This is more an action episode, and not an introspective episode, which is too bad, because I liked the quiet, introspective Cage, and not the action oriented Cage, anyone who watches the series will know why. Domingo Colon is introduced as head of a rival Latino gang, but there’s not much character development thee yet.  There’s a plot twist, but it’s badly written.  If I told you why, I’d spoil the plot. Good acting again by the principles, especially Mahershala Ali, Alfre Woodard, Mike Colter, and Frank Whaley. The acting saves a somewhat shaky script in this episode.  The episode is named after an old school rap tune.

Episode 4:  Step In The Arena

As Luke tries to extricate himself and his landlady Connie Lin (Jade Wu) from a precarious position, Luke thinks about a turning point in his life.

This is mostly a flashback episode that fleshes out some of the details referred to in the first episode.  It’s interesting, although it has similarities to other Marvel origin stories. The acting is very good, and the script is interesting, as it leaves many things unexplained.  This episode is named after a Gang Starr album.

Episode 5: Just to Get a Rep

As Cottonmouth extorts small businesses in Harlem, Luke tries to clean up the streets of Harlem.  Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) comes back to Harlem, why is she here?  Cottonmouth and Luke both show up to an important event in Harlem.

This episode had some interesting things going on, a new character, Cottonmouth always plotting, an evolving relationship between Misty and Luke, and lots of lectures from Luke about Harlem’s legacy.

Episode 6: Suckas Need Bodyguards

Detective Scarfe is shot and wounded by Cottonmouth, he escapes.  Now everyone is trying to find Scarfe, Misty is looking for her partner, Cottonmouth is looking is looking to finish the job, and Luke is looking for someone to protect.  Where does Scarfe go?

This is similar to the where’s Chico episode, everyone looking for Scarfe, but who finds him first.  Not sure what Claire Temple’s function is, but she’s immediately Luke’s sidekick.  I’m usually not a fan of Rosario Dawson’s acting, but she and Mike Colter have some easygoing banter.

Episode 7:  Manifest

As Cottonmouth plays the keyboard, he reflects on life with Mama Mabel, (Latanya Richardson Jackson) Uncle Pete (Curtis Cook) and little Maraih. (Megan Miller)  He wonders what could have been, but settles into what is.  Cottonmouth thinks he has a surprise for Luke, but Mariah really has a surprise for Cottonmouth.

Most of this episode was backstory on Cottonmouth and his dysfunctional family.  Let me tell you, they put the diss, in dysfunctional.  And boy oh boy  there is more than one twist in this episode, one that I never saw coming.  And this one was well-written, and well camouflaged.  The scenes with Luke and Cottonmouth sizzle with tension  as the actors try to outdo each other. Alfre Woodard is also very good in this episode.

Episode 8:  Blowin’ Up the Spot

Something happens to Cottonmouth, and Mariah blames Luke.  Misty wants to talk to Luke, but Claire is hiding him.  Luke has a new enemy, Willis “Diamondback” Stryker. (Erik Le Ray)  What’s his problem with Luke?

For a show that started out with such high minded ideals, this show has devolved into a show with lots of shooting, killing and violence.  They’ve turned Alfre Woodard into some kind of character from Empire.  Claire doesn’t really have a well-defined role, again, the viewer has to guess what she does and where she fits in.  I’m disappointed because this show had great potential, and it seems to be jumping the shark with five episodes to go in season 1.

Episode 9:  DWYCK

Claire takes Luke to visit an old acquaintance.  Misty gets interrogated by a department psychologist.  Diamondback consolidates Cottonmouth’s empire, with Mariah’s help.

I actually like the Misty interrogation, but the Claire Luke storyline is getting utterly ridiculous, and the intensity and quality of the acting has gone way down.  The writers are featuring Diamondback, Shades and Mariah, now and Luke and Claire, but Luke and Misty have the best chemistry.  The writers should pair Misty and Luke in more episodes, but I fear the series is too far gone.

Episode 10:  Take it Personal

Diamondback and Mariah plan to get a new ammunition to cops.  Luke learns more about Reva’s past.  He also learns more about Diamondback’s past.  Police get rough in their search for Luke, who is framed for killing a cop.  Misty is in danger as she enters Harlem’s Paradise.

I liked  the backstory on Reva and Diamondback, but the actor playing Diamondback is no Maharshela Ali.

Episode 11:  Now You’re Mine

Diamondback takes hostages inside Harlem’s Paradise, including Misty, Claire, and Candace (Deborah Ayoridnde) who may have evidence to clear Luke of one of the crimes he’s accused of.  Does Luke save the day?  Or will police capture him?

This was an interesting episode, for the first time in a long time, I cared about what happened to these characters.  Claire and Misty are developing a rivalry and that is also interesting.

Episode 12: Soliloquy of Chaos

After Misty survives being shot inside Harlem’s Paradise, police arrest Luke.  He escapes and tries to find Diamondback.  Domingo, (Jacob Vargas) head of the Latin gang, is looking for Diamondback, to take back control of gun running from him.  Shades is bailed out by Diamondback, only to have his life threatened by Diamondback, so he and Mariah contact Luke with an offer to take out Diamondback, but before they can act, Diamondback shows up to Pop’s and challenges Luke mano a mano.

Here is the episode leading up to the climactic finale, I like that it was pretty much a Claire free episode, Misty is a much more interesting character, and I’m glad they’re getting her involved right in the middle of things.  Diamondback is not the villain I preferred, but he’s the villain I was given, so here goes nothing.  Let’s see what happens.

Episode 13:  You Know My Steez

The epic showdown between Luke and Diamondback ensues, but what happens next?

The epic showdown wasn’t so epic, and the other main characters squeeze through enough loopholes to ensure a second season. One of those loopholes is especially badly written, and at times this episode is edited like a Best Of Luke Cage episode.  Disappointing.

 

Overall, I’d say for the first 7 episodes, Luke Cage was a very sharp, well-written, intelligent series.  The acting is vibrant filled with intensity Mahershela Ali is the best actor in this cast and he brought everyone’s skill level up with him.  The scenes with him and Mike Colter crackle with excitement.  The writing was good filled with references about black writers, and lifting Harlem up.

After episode 7, the acting suffered, after an initial good impression, Rosario Dawson became nothing more than a love interest, and good actors like Frank Whaley are limited in their roles.  Even a great actress like Alfre Woodard was hamstrung by writing that turned up the violence, and turned Woodard into an Empire esque character.  I liked Simone Missick, who plays Misty Knight, but they de-emphasized her role to bring in Claire Temple, bad move.  Missick and Colter had great chemistry.  And the writers of the comic book gave Misty a lousy power, I can’t even figure out what her power is by watching the show.

The writers also forgot all the cultural touchpoints of Harlem, and Luke Cage just became another conventional show.  Too bad, it had so much potential to be a groundbreaking show and it took the easy way out. The finale was the final chance for this show to redeem itself, and it did not.

Luke Cage:  Boxed itself in.

 

kongs kull island

In 1973,Bill Randa (John Goodman) works for a government agency called Monarch, Randa and his assistant Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) convince a Senator not to defund Monarch by showing him a picture of Skull Island, a heretofore undiscovered island.  Brooks says the U.S. must explore the island before the Soviets do, and that convinces the Senator to fund the trip, complete with a military escort. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) leads the military escort, and brings along a tracker from the Royal Air Force, James Conrad, (Tom Hiddleston) who is paid handsomely for his duties.  The military escort also carries with it a photographer, Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) who wants to find out what the secrecy behind Monarch is all about.

The group flies through a storm and find Skull Island, they also find what Randa and Brooks are looking for, Kong, a giant ape who rules the island, and doesn’t care much for helicopters.  Kong slaps down the helicopters like flies, but miraculously, not only do Conrad, Brooks, Randa, Packard, and Weaver survive, they meet a group of natives, and Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) another American soldier, who has been stranded on the island since WWII. There are two schools of thought among the Monarch survivors, one led by Packard, wants to hunt and kill Kong for killing his men, the other, led by Marlow, wants to save Kong, because there are worse monsters on Skull Island.  Which side wins the argument?

The viewer has to suspend a lot of belief to find this movie the least bit believable.  First of all, suspend belief that the big hairy ape grounds all the helicopters and all the passengers don’t die instantaneously from impact or the conflagration that follows impact.  All sci-fi asks viewers to suspend reality to some degree, but this movie does so more than most.  The characters have no depth, even the main characters are one dimensional.  The story really adds nothing to the Kong mythology, Kong is still the protector of people, but yet he kills some people.  Kong also still has a soft spot for the ladies, a tired holdover from the Fay Wray era. And the shift in location and time period from Japan to an island off Vietnam, only sets off a faux debate on the merits of the Vietnam war.  This is hardly a topic to be discussed with sound bites in a science fiction movie about a giant ape.

For all the fine, A-list actors in this movie, the acting is only so-so.  Samuel  L. Jackson is clearly having fun playing an alpha-male bad guy, and it shows. Tom Hiddleston plays a mercenary with a heart of gold.  Has anyone ever heard of a nice guy mercenary?  Me neither, therein lies the problem.  Brie Larson won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Room, but why would Larson  go from playing such a weighty role to a do-nothing character like Mason Weaver is mystifying. Larson essentially takes still pictures for the whole movie, like a glorified tourist.  John Goodman is convincing as a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, whose conspiracy turns out to be true. John C. Reilly provides a lot of the comedy relief as an American pilot who takes a decidedly Zen approach to Kong.  If Jackson, Goodman, and Reilly were in this movie alone, Kong Skull Island would have been a lot more fun.  Hiddleston and Larson play their roles a lot more seriously than they should, and that wrecks the campy nature of the film.

In a movie with a weak script, and somewhat lackluster acting, the direction is something that stands out for being quite good. The cinematography is spectacular, and the high altitude shots of Vietnam are spectacular, I’ve seen pictures of those mountains and it was very well represented in the movie.  The CGI, which usually interferes with my enjoyment of a movie, was really well done.  Kong looked very real and moved in a realistic way, some CGI just looks like a bad video game, but this CGI seemed natural for some very unnatural creatures, and the creatures were well integrated with their backgrounds, everything seemed well-matched.  The pacing was good, for a long movie, and  director Jordan Vogt Roberts got mostly good performances from everyone involved, although this cast didn’t need much help. Vogt Roberts is mostly a TV director, so this was an extremely ambitious big screen project to take on.

Kong Skull Island:  Kong doesn’t monkey around, but the film has limited a-peel.

life

A group of six astronauts from the international space station recover an alien species from a Mars probe, and try to bring it back to earth for further study. The single-celled organism, which the crew nicknames Calvin, lies dormant for a while, until one of the astronauts, Hugh Derry (Aryion Bakare) tries to bring the organism back to life, with electric shock.  The treatment works and the organism begins to grow, but will Hugh Derry and the rest of the crew regret their decision to bring this alien life form back to life?

This is a movie that tries to combine The Martian, Gravity, and the Aliens movies into one movie.  But it’s not as smart and funny as The Martian, it’s not as scary as any of the Aliens movies, and it’s very predictable.  The viewer knows what’s going to take place in this movie from the first minute of this movie to the last.  The movie tries to build some relationships early on in the film, but they don’t do enough character development to make the viewer care about any of these characters.  The scenes are also very redundant, the astronauts never seem to learn from their mistakes, while the alien is learning constantly. The science is junk science too, why should an alien creature respond to an electric shock to revive it?  Humans respond to electric shocks to stimulate their hearts but why should alien organisms react in the same way?  Also, later in the movie, the viewer learns that the alien needs oxygen to survive.  There is .1 percent of oxygen on Mars, how could it survive on Mars, if it needs oxygen to survive? The writers try to add a twist ending to the movie, but I had stopped caring long before this movie ended.

The acting is subpar, Jake Gyllenhaal, who is the best actor in the movie seems genuinely disinterested in giving his character any personality whatsoever.  He acts like he’s playing a supporting role through most of the movie, and when the lead role is thrust on him, it’s far too late to care. Ryan Reynolds plays the same fast-talking wise guy that he played in Deadpool.  Unfortunately, the snarkiness of this character does not play well as an astronaut.  Astronauts are serious people who need to know a lot of science or else very bad things happen.  Reynolds lack of seriousness in this role shows bad form, thankfully, it’s a small role.  Rebecca Ferguson is the poor-woman’s Emily Blunt, she also sleepwalks through the role.  Olga Dykhovichnaya  plays a generic Russian role, whose character is also a love interest for Ryan  Reynolds character. Aryon Bakare does his best Chiwetel Ejifor impression, but Bakare’s role is not as well-written as Ejiofor’s in The Martian.

The direction started off visually interesting, but soon devolved into special effects and explosions in typical Hollywood fashion.  The pacing is bad, and the director doesn’t get good performances out of his actors.  The director also did Safe House, which wasn’t that good of a thriller, and Child 44, which I have not seen.

Life:  Life-less.

beauty and the beast live

A headstrong, well-read French village girl named Belle (Emma Watson) is tired of life in her small village and can’t help but think that life has more to offer than her small town gives her.  She is relentlessly pursued by town hunk and resident harasser, Gaston, (Luke Evans) who she cleverly avoids. Belle is very close to her father, Maurice, (Kevin Kline) who raised her after Belle’s mom passed away.  When she visits Maurice, Belle asks her dad for a rose, and he promises to get her one. On a snowy night, Maurice loses his way and gets captured by a Beast (Dan Stevens) who has been cursed  by an Enchantress (Hattie Morahan) for his superficiality.  Belle hears that his father has been captured and rides off to save him.  She switches places with Maurice, and traps herself with the Beast.

Gaston sees an opportunity to be the hero, and rides off to save Belle with Maurice.  But Maurice refuses to let him marry Belle, and Gaston accuses Maurice of being crazy and wants to send him to an asylum.  In the castle, Belle and the Beast are becoming closer.  Lumiere, (Ewan McGregor) the candelabra Cogsworth ( Ian McKellan) the clock, Mrs. Potts, the teapot, and Madame Garderobe (Audra McDonald) the wardrobe, are doing all they can to make the mood as romantic as possible.  They hope Bellle professes her love for the beast, because that will break the Enchantress’ spell on them too.  Things are going swimmingly until Belle checks on her father in a magic mirror, and sees that he is being taken away.  What does she do?  What happens to the Beast and his enchanted staff?

I was disappointed by Beauty and The Beast.  How could I not like a delightful movie such as this, you ask?  Easy, it was too much like its animated namesake, the live action movie followed the story of the animated movie, line for line shot for shot and scene for scene.  When Disney made a live action Jungle Book movie, they created a whole new story that was in every way better than the animated film.  That made me want to watch The Jungle Book, because I didn’t know what was coming with the next scene.  Since I had seen the animated Beauty before, not only did I know the scenes, I knew the songs, I knew the ending, I knew everything.  The few jokes that were added  for Josh Gad’s character weren’t that funny, and didn’t add much to the film.  Why is almost every actor speaking in a British accent, if the film is set in France?  Why does the Beast have blue eyes, is that important? The writers could have done a flashback and embellished the Beast’s character before the curse, and what made him such a superficial person, in the first place something to make it distinctive, anything.

The acting was good.  Emma Watson does the best she can with quite a limiting role, she is supposed to be an independent woman, headstrong, yet falling in love with a cursed Prince.  There is an inherent  contradiction in the role, but Watson is pleasant enough, and sings well enough to make Belle somewhat interesting.  Dan Stevens is pretty dull as the Beast, he doesn’t really bring much to the role.  Kevin Kline plays his role as comedy relief. Luke Evans is actually very good as Gaston, funny and evil at the same time, he put some real life into his role.  Of the Best’s household staff, only Ewan McGregor s Lumiere stands out, he infuses the role with humor and joy and a little sadness, he is truly a great actor.  Audra McDonald has a great operatic voice, I wish they gave her more songs to sing.

The direction is a mixed bag.  The visuals on some of the exteriors are visually appealing.  One of the opening scenes reminded  me very much of The Sound of Music, it was unintentionally humorous.  While the visuals were intriguing, the pacing is extremely slow, two hours seemed  more like four, and the performances were somewhat mixed.  The songs were great, just like the animated film,  but the CGI was overdone.

Beauty and The Beast:  It didn’t ring my Belle.