Posted in 2010-2019

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Image is property of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Film Review

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci,

Director: Bill Condon

Synopsis: A live action retelling of the story of a young woman who becomes the prisoner of a terrifying beast in a frightening castle, who’s running out of time to lift a terrible curse placed upon him…

Review:  When as a studio you have made an extremely successful bunch of animated films, many of which truly are timeless classics, where do you go from there? The answer is simple really, bring said classics back to the big screen by retelling them via the magic of live action movie making. For Disney Studios, that certainly is the plan and they’re certainly going full steam ahead. First came Maleficent,  then CinderellaThe Jungle Book, and now the tale as old as time has received the live action treatment. Disney’s 1991 animated classic is beloved by just about everyone with a pulse (probably) so the challenge facing the filmmakers cannot have been an easy one, but it is one that they rose to in magnifique style!

Given how beloved the animated version is, there’s much here that they have wisely decided not to alter with things too much. The story is essentially the same as the beautiful Belle, who’s not much liked by the other people in her sleepy little French village, except for Gaston (Evans) of course,  who lusts after her. However Belle’s feelings for Gaston are not mutual, understandable given he’s an extremely pompous idiot. But when Belle’s father ends up imprisoned by the Beast, she offers to take his place, and of course they fall in love in true Disney fashion. The script written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos does follow its predecessor for the most part, but does make the brave but inspired choice to add some new material, which adds just that little bit more depth to the story.

Watson really fits the role of Belle perfectly, she’s sweet, beautiful and certainly isn’t afraid to speak her mind when she has to. Dan Stevens also puts in a really solid performance as the eponymous Beast. His beastly appearance is achieved via motion capture and though is a little jarring to look at first, it is overall very well done, and when he needs to be scary, he certainly is scary, which may frighten some of the younger viewers. The leading duo certainly have the chemistry that is needed to ensure that this remake didn’t end up being a monstrosity of hideous proportions. The rest of the supporting cast is impeccably cast, Evans is tremendous as Gaston, with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts, and Ewan McGregor as the scene stealing Lumiere, and the CG for these guys is for the most part, really well done. The controversy surrounding Josh Gad’s LeFou has certainly generated a lot of attention, and though his character is obviously that way inclined, its not in-your-face in the slightest.

It wouldn’t be a Disney film without the music, and though there are a few new additions in terms of musical numbers, the standout (again) is Lumiere’s rendition of Be Our Guest. Watson too is able to hold her own on the musical side of things and though her versions of songs like Something There don’t quite match up to the versions performed in the animated predecessor, indeed all of the songs from said version are much better, but the tunes are more than pleasant to listen to. What is recaptured tremendously well is the magical nature of the story, which is no small part down to the gorgeous production design and set decoration by Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer. Jacqueline Durran’s costumes too are just beautifully recreated and extremely award worthy. Sales of yellow dresses are likely to go through the roof!

Whatever inspired Disney and their mission to recreate their animated masterpieces into live action we may never know, but what we do know is they’re pulling it out of the bag time after time. The key job of a remake is to take a story that audiences are familiar with and breathe new life into said story, and while the animated feature is and will always be an animated masterpiece, this re-imagining of the tale as old as time, is certainly worth your time.

A charming and beautifully made retelling of a true animated classic that recaptures that magical fairytale feel to it, whilst breathing new life into these characters.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

All image rights belong to New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films
Image is property of New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – Film Review

Cast:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen , Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen , Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett , John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Billy Boyd , Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom , Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Bernard Hill ,Miranda Otto, Karl Urban

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: While Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli lead the charge against Sauron and his armies of Mordor, Frodo and Sam continue their quest to destroy the ring and banish evil from Middle Earth, once and for all.

THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS, SO BE AWARE MY PRECIOUSSSSSS….

Review: The journey to bring The Lord of the Rings to the big screen was one that started all the way back in 1995, and that reached its conclusion in 2003 with this closing chapter of this masterful trilogy. You just did not want it to end, but all good things must come to an end, and there isn’t a better way to close the book on this epic masterpiece than to go and make what is without doubt, one of the best films ever made, and quite possibly the best film of the 2000s. New Line Cinema rolled the dice with Peter Jackson and this adaptation and this gamble paid off big time, with three tremendous movies making one of the best trilogies of all time.

With Saruman and his armies now vanquished, the Iron Fist of Mordor and Sauron’s flaming eye is now firmly focused on Gondor as he bids to topple the world of men once for all. Yet in his path stand the rest of the Fellowship with Pippin and Merry following their victory over Isengard, who briefly rejoin the rest of the Fellowship to celebrate, but that joy is short-lived as the enemy prepares to strike. Gandalf and Pippin depart for Minas Tirith to help Gondor prepare for the imminent war and the rest of the Fellowship to mobilise Rohan and its armies for the grave and massive incoming army that is about to descend on the world of men. Sauron moves to conquer all and only it is in the hands of Frodo and Sam, aided by Gollum who all the while is growing ever more deceitful and treacherous, to stop Sauron consuming Middle Earth in darkness.

Throughout the near ten hour run time of the entire trilogy (not counting the extended editions) Peter Jackson threw some terrific action sequences upon the audience. You thought the Battle of Helm’s Deep was outstanding and a wonder in terms of film-making, the battle of Pelennor Fields is somehow almost on another level. Trolls, Catapults of severed human heads flung at the walls of Minas Tirith, Nazgul, Oliphants, this battle has just about everything, and it’s a cinematic battle of immense quality that could and should certainly stake its claim as one of the finest ever put to screen, featuring among other things, Legolas take on an enormous oliphant all by himself, which leads to one of the best one liners ever said by the great Gimli son of Gloin.

Given the stakes in the movie, the tone is considerably darker here, and this is noticeable from the very beginning with a rather twisted tale of how Smeagol was transformed into the creature otherwise known as Gollum. This dark tone is a recurring one throughout the film’s run time as Sauron’s power seems to be unstoppable for the Fellowship to contain. All the while, the Ring is taking a heavy toll on Frodo as he and Sam move closer to Mount Doom. All the while Gollum, purporting to lead them to Mount Doom, is scheming to try and take the ring back again. The script weaves between the different story lines as brilliantly as it can. Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh again wrote the screenplay and it was this screenplay that won the trio a well deserved Oscar for their efforts. Indeed the film swept the board at the 2004 Oscars, winning all of the ELEVEN Oscars it was nominated for, setting a record in process, jointly tying with Titanic and Ben-Hur for the most Oscars ever won.

Although no one was nominated in any of the acting categories, everyone on screen gives utterly tremendous performances, right from those who were introduced to us in Fellowship and Two Towers, to those who were introduced in this concluding chapter. Of the new cast, John Noble’s Denethor, the father of the late Boromir and Faramir (David Wenham) certainly makes an impression, and quickly becomes a very dis-likeable man due to his mistreatment of Faramir, who he views in a considerably lesser light than his brother. The extended edition of Two Towers introduces the audience to Denethor but it’s here where he shows his utter contempt for Faramir. Viggo Mortensen shone as Aragorn in the previous movies, but here he really steps up to the plate as he accepts his true destiny, to become King. Also deserving of praise is Miranda Otto as Eowyn. “I can fight,” she says in Two Towers before the Wolves of Isengard attacked, and boy was she right. She certainly showed a woman can fight and own a battle scene just the same as a man. Sean Astin and Elijah Wood are also tremendous but Astin in particular really shone as Sam battles to support Frodo who is becoming corrupted by Gollum’s influence.

There really is no shortage of superlatives that can describe The Lord of the Rings trilogy in all of its magnificence, but Peter Jackson could and should remain immensely proud of what he and his team brought to the big screen. If Tolkien could see what Jackson did with his beloved book, he would surely be thrilled that his masterpiece was brought to life in such spectacular fashion. If you count the extended edition, these movies are just over eleven hours of pure cinematic joy, spectacle, drama and emotion with so many wonderful and brilliant characters. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has cemented its status as one of the best that has ever been put to screen with three perfect movies that have secured their well deserved place in the record books, and will hopefully be adored for generations and generations to come.

The third chapter in a trilogy can so often be a huge let down. Not a chance of that happening here, this is pure cinematic perfection and glorious entertainment, the trilogy took its well deserved crown. One trilogy to rule them all!

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

Image is property of New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films
Image is property of New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – Film Review

Cast:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen , Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen , Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett , John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Billy Boyd , Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom , Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Bernard Hill ,Miranda Otto, Karl Urban

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: Continuing the journey as the Fellowship breaks apart, as Frodo and Sam continue their journey to Mordor to destroy the Ring. The trio of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli make a stand against Sauron’s puppet Saruman and his armies who seek to destroy the world of men.

THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING SPOILERS! YE BE WARNED!!!!

 

 

 

Review: The middle mark of a trilogy, sometimes one  that tops its predecessor in glorious fashion, improving every element and every aspect. Or a miserable failure that is often lost in the movie wilderness, never to be spoken about again. Okay there might be middle ground between these two, but in the case of the second chapter in the trilogy of Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings, neither really applies. The first film was a masterpiece in fantasy storytelling, with wonderful characters and a superb adventure that kept the audience glued to the screen for three and a half hours, and that trend continues on into The Two Towers.

The story picks up immediately after the end of the Fellowship of the Ring. The Fellowship itself has disbanded, with the death of the heroic Boromir and after Gandalf fell into shadow. Frodo and Sam continue onto Mordor to destroy the One Ring. Merry and Pippin are captured by Urak Hai and the remaining trio of Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn set out to rescue them. With three strands of the story line, the trilogy continues to thrill in all of its spectacle and brilliance as our journey into the wonder and yes indeed terror of Middle Earth continues as we explore new parts, in particular the land of Rohan and their battle to stop the treacherous White Wizard, Saruman from exterminating the world of Men.

Fellowship introduced us , for the most part, to our key characters. However, this chapter adds some new and important characters into the picture. Namely, Theoden (Bernard Hill) his niece Eowyn (Miranda Otto), Faramir (David Wenham) and of course, the creepy and sinister Gollum (Andy Serkis). All of these new characters are key additions to the story and all are portrayed excellently, with Eowyn giving the series a strong and very capable female warrior, a rarity in Middle Earth sadly. but the most stand out of all of these is Andy Serkis’ motion capture portrayal of Gollum. Gollum is one damaged and wounded creature, and Serkis generated quite the buzz with his performance, with there being talk of a potential Oscar for his work. Gollum’s arrival splits Frodo and Sam’s relationship in half, as Sam harbours strong suspicions of Gollum’s true motive. All the while, the burden of the Ring is really eating away at Frodo and taking a severe toll, thus meaning Sam needs to come to the fore, and he does so brilliantly. The acting from Astin and Wood goes up a gear here, but Serkis absolutely steals the show for his work as Gollum.

On the other side of the world, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimili, aided by a rejuvenated Gandalf the White, are preparing for the fight to stop the villainous Saruman to wipe out Rohan via a considerable army of Urak-Hai. They’re a very unlikely trio but they have great chemistry between them. Through this we are eventually led to the Battle of Helm’s Deep, and what simply is one of the best and most epic battle scenes ever put on the big screen, though some great action scenes do come before it. Whilst at the same time packing humour aplenty with the increasingly amusing relationship between Legolas and Gimli which culminates in a battle within a battle, to get the most kills. It is uproariously entertaining whilst at the same time very gripping, edge-of-your-seat action.  Yet for all those epic battle scenes the scenes with Merry and Pippin and Treebeard, their Ent, tree like companion, can feel very slow and tedious at times. , However while it maybe slow to sit through these scenes, the pay off is certainly worth it.

The cinematography, visual effects and score remain as brilliant as they were in the first movie. The respective story lines do have some satisfying conclusions and the film closes at a perfect point to set it up for the concluding chapter to this magnificent trilogy. The prospect that Lord of the Rings could have been only two films is one that does not bear thinking about, as who knows what would have been butchered from the story to make it into two films. Luckily for us all it did not come to pass and we got our trilogy. For some, Two Towers marks the low point of the trilogy, but it does not bring the movie down at all from being the awesome and thrilling adventure that it is. There are some great pay offs in the respective arcs, but there is enough hanging in the balance to draw the viewer back. Jackson pulled it out of the bag again, and in spectacular fashion my precioussssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.

Though not as action packed as Fellowship wasit provides more character development, more heart, and with one of the best battle sequences ever put on the big screen, the journey continues in majestic and magnificent fashion.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

 

fotr
Image is property of New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Film Review

Cast:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd , Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm,

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: When a young hobbit Frodo Baggins receives the One Ring of Power. He along with eight unlikely companions set off on a quest, to journey to the heart of Middle Earth and Mordor and destroy the Ring.

Review: When discussions about films and more specifically film trilogies rage across film schools, and fans of films in general, several trilogies may get mentioned and debated vehemently. Yet, the name of one trilogy that could and should always be mentioned is Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.  A project that Jackson considered way back in 1995, but through various deals falling through, and tough negotiations that reached an impasse, with talk of it being two films instead of three. It was a tough challenge and despite the production impasses, it pulled through and the final end product is what many believe to be one of the finest trilogies in the history of cinema. and thank goodness it was three films and not two!

Thanks to the brilliance of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the mastermind behind this incredible world of Middle Earth, came into being, and his trilogy of novels, and it was Peter Jackson who took up the challenge to adapt it for the big screen. With a screenplay by Jackson, his wife Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens, the land of Middle Earth is beautifully realised and the world is established in all of its glory. On top of that, we are provided with some sweet action sequences within the first 20 minutes. Yet there is much to be built up, events to be established in order to bring those who will have not read Tolkien’s works up to speed. Build up can be a slow tedious process, but not here. The world of Middle Earth is so enthralling, it’s just gripping to watch as the audience is introduced to this vast world and all of its key characters, of which there are many.

The cast is quite extensive, but every single performance on show shines and shines brightly. However, it is the main ensemble of the Fellowship all lead the way with sublime performances from each and everyone one of them. However, there are however some stand out performances among the wealth of great acting on show. Elijah Wood as Frodo, who is the one tasked with the seemingly impossible challenge of destroying the ring. Viggo Mortensen as the fearless and strong warrior Aragorn, who is a key piece of the puzzle, and Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey likewise. With the late and great Sir Christopher Lee also showing his tremendous ability and deep booming voice as Saruman the White. Sean Bean also gives a very memorable performance as Boromir the warrior of Gondor. All of the aforementioned give superb performances and the acting from all is of such a top quality, that you do not see the actors any more, you see the characters, and that’s a credit to everyone involved.

The cinematography is beautiful from start to finish. The film is packed with some breath taking shots of Middle Earth AKA New Zealand scenery.   There are plenty of superb swooping shots that to leave the audience breathless. In addition, there is some awe-inspiring visual effects such as the with the battle scenes are also sublime but in terms of battle scenes, the best is saved for later in the trilogy. This isn’t to say that there are some terrific battle scenes here, The score composed by Howard Shore is equally epic in every sense. From the jovial tune that we hear in the Shire to the sinister notes we hear when entering  Isengard. Every scene is accompanied by a beautifully composed tune that captures each scene perfectly. Out of the thirteen nominations received, the film bagged four Oscars for Cinematography, Score, Visual Effects and Make-up, and all were very well deserved.

Fellowship of the Ring was the perfect start for this trilogy and it set the benchmark. There are some great themes packed throughout this film. Friendship, honour, sacrifice and loyalty. It is just simply a joy to behold. Every element of this film hits the spot, and it hits it perfectly. Some may say its too long (not counting the extended edition!) While it is long, it is impossible to deny the sheer brilliance of what Jackson brought to the big screen. We will never know what Tolkien would have made of Jackson’s vision of his beloved trilogy, but one would hope that he would have loved what he saw, as audiences around the world certainly did!

Visually breath-taking, with a riveting and terrific story, some superb action sequences, a fantastic score and a tremendous ensemble cast, the first instalment of this trilogy set in motion one of the best trilogies of all time.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

X Men- Days of Future Past (2014)

DOFP
Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment and Bad Hat Harry Productions

X Men Days of Future Past Film Review 

Cast:  James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Nicholas Hoult,  Ellen Page, Evan Peters.

Director: Bryan Singer

Synopsis: In an apocalyptic future, with humanity enslaved and the X Men on the brink of extinction. Wolverine is sent back into the past in an attempt to change the future and prevent the extermination of all mutant kind.

Review: With the original trilogy of X Men films that came out in the 2000s, and the 2011 prequel X Men First Class, as well as the two Wolverine stand alone films. There were two different  timelines of this popular franchise with different casts.  Two loose ends that needed tying up. They were tied up and the end result is an enthralling combination of both of these timelines as past and future collide in epic proportions with the triumphant return of the man who launched this universe way back in 2000.

That man, Mr Bryan Singer has pulled out of the bag the best X Men movie that has been put to screen, whilst at the same time erasing the wrongdoings that went down in his absence (cough, The Last Stand). The amalgamation of both the First Class storyline and the present day X Men storyline is a master-stroke, and full credit for that must go to screenplay writer Simon Kinberg. Under Singer’s direction these two sets of actors, both of which are all exceptionally talented, go all out .Every one of them give excellent performances from the veterans like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, to new recruits such as Fan BingBing as Blink.

The mutant race is facing a dire threat in the form of the Sentinels who are coming to eradicate them. The mutants, past and future alike must stand together to avoid the extinction of all mutant kind. The real scene stealers come from The First Class cast, but the original cast are by no means out of their depth. One of the stand out performances comes from James McAvoy as the young Xavier. He is at his lowest low after his fall out with Magneto and must be urged to come to the fore once again. First Class really humanised the wise Professor X, and with Days of Future Past, that carries on.

Similarly as the young Magneto, Michael Fassbender, has similar grievances with Xavier and once again these two men clash. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine has had a tendency to stand out in previous X Men movies and while he is central to this story, and he is still a really cool character, he’s outshone on this occasion by the younger versions of Magneto and Professor X.  Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique is another character who takes it up a gear. Her role in this movie requires here to be a lot more of a badass when compared to her role previously, and she pulls it off well.

With the old cast, they are not in the movie as much as their First Class counterparts, they feel somewhat underused, and some only make fleeting appearances. Likewise with the new selection of mutants, there are some exciting action scenes with these new characters, but they are almost over before they really get going. Yet with the central action of the film being focused on the events surrounding the First Class cast, it is understandable why the original cast have comparatively little screen time. With one scene involving one new character that you WILL remember once you have left the cinema.

The main antagonist in the form of Bolivar Trask, the man who created the Sentinels and brilliantly played by Peter Dinklage. While his motives are not completely clear, he nevertheless he gives an excellent performance. The action here is not quite as intense as First Class. The battle is not being waged right in the middle of the Cuban Missile crisis, but it gives it a great run for its money with a superb final showdown taking place in Washington DC.

Time travel films can be horrifically inconsistent if they are done badly, and plot holes can be found in abundance. Luckily with this film that is just simply not the case. The story is solid and it is very well done with excellent directing and great execution. It makes you care about all the characters and they all provide memorable performances. It breathes new life back into the old franchise that suffered a regretful fate following X Men 3. Furthermore, the franchise returned with a bang following First Class and with Days of Future Past, it is clear that this particular line of comic book superheroes still has a lot of Xciting things going for it!

With such a large cast of old and new, it means some characters do not have a large amount of screen time. However with Singer’s return, the amalgamation of these two franchises results in the best X Men film that has ever been made. 

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