Movie reviews: 'Beauty and the Beast' lacks dreamlike quality of 1991 film
Published Friday, March 17, 2017 6:30AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 17, 2017 6:46AM EDT
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: 3 STARS
Poet Paul Éluard said that to understand Jean Cocteau’s 1946 version of “La Belle et la Bête”—“Beauty and the Beast”—you must love your dog more than your car. It’s a good line that suggests Cocteau’s adaptation values the organic elements of the film — even the special effects are handmade—while refusing to allow the technical aspects of the film to interfere with the humanity of the story.
The same can’t be said of the new, big-budget, live-action Disney version of the story. Inspired by their classic 1991 animated story of belle and beast, the remake relies too heavily on computer-generated splendour and too little on the innate charms of the story.
Emma Watson plays the bright and beautiful Belle, the independent-minded daughter of eccentric inventor Maurice (Kevin Kline). She is, as the townsfolk warble, “strange but special, A most peculiar mad'moiselle!” She has caught the eye of dim-witted war hero Gaston (Luke Evans) who unsuccessfully tries to win her hand.
Taking one of his new gizmos to market, Maurice picks a rose as a present for Belle but runs afoul of the Beast (Dan Stevens). Once a self-centred prince, he was changed into a part-man, part-wolf, part-Chewbacca creature by a witch as punishment for his hedonistic life. The only way to break the spell, she cackles, is to find someone to love him before the last petal falls off an enchanted rose.
“Who could love a beast?” he asks.
On the hunt for her father, she makes her way to the Beast’s remote castle only to find Maurice locked up for rose theft. She pleads with her hairy host for a moment with her father, and while giving him a hug, pushes him out of the cell, slamming the door behind her. Trading her freedom for his, she is now the Beast’s prisoner. The staff—once human, now transformed into the enchanted candlestick Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth the clock (Ian McKellen), a teapot Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) and wardrobe (Audra McDonald) although it feels like a missed opportunity to not have Daniel Craig play a eavesdropping microwave—see Belle as just the person to look past his ghastly appearance and see the true princely beauty within and lift his curse and theirs.
Director Bill Condon has made a classic big screen musical with state-of-the-art special effects. Up front is a perfectly cast Emma Watson, who brings more tenacity to the character than we’ve seen in past versions as well as a considerable amount of charm. She is the movie’s beating heart, the human presence in the midst of a considerable amount of pomp and circumstance.
Condon decorates the screen, over-dressing almost every scene with layers of pageantry and CGI. It entertains the eye, particularly in the Busby Berkeley style “Be Our Guest” sequence but overwhelms the film’s humanity. This is a movie that loves its car more than its dog.
“Beauty and the Beast” is a handsome, straightforward movie that adds little to the animated classic. Some of the details have changed. Belle and Beast mourn their deceased mothers and Gaston’s minion Le Fou (Josh Gad) is now gay but the dreamlike quality of the 1991 version is lacking. The story just seems less magical when built from a collection of pixels.
T2 TRAINSPOTTING: 4 STARS
Twenty-one years on from the full on frontal assault that was "Trainspotting," the old gang is back together, but the only things that truly binds them is a shared past. “You're a tourist in your own youth,” says Sick Boy/Simon (Jonny Lee Miller).
At the center of it all is Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor). The last time we saw him, he was a wastrel and double-crosser who cheated his friends out of £16,000 in a drug deal. After hightailing it to Amsterdam, he's now a fitness freak who spends more time running in a treadmill than running from the law.
His former friends, now all in their 40's, are in various states of personal disrepair. “The wave of gentrification has yet to wash over us,” Simon quips.
Sick Boy/Simon is still a dodgy dude with a King Kong-size coke problem, who makes ends meet by blackmailing the wealthy customers of his prostitute business partner Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova).
Spud/Daniel (Ewen Bremner), still an impressive mash-up of ears, teeth and gangly limbs, is now a pathetic creature that chooses heroin addiction over a life with his wife (Shirley Henderson) and child.
The fourth member of the group, Begbie (Robert Carlyle), he of the bad attitude and broken pint glasses to the face, is indisposed, locked up but with a way out and a gut full of hate for Renton.
Loosely based on author Irvine Welsh's "Trainspotting" follow-up novel "Porno," the new film from Danny Boyle asks if it is ever possible to go home again—in this case Edinburgh—especially if home involves a dangerous psychopath with a grudge and an ex-BFF who wants revenge.
“T2 Trainspotting” does something quite remarkable. It places nostalgia in the rear-view mirror while at the same time celebrating bygone days. To see Mark confront his past complete with the emotional attachments and entanglements that come along with it feels like a universal reckoning, a reminder that the world changes even if we don’t.
That’s the beating heart of the film; the rest is window dressing. It’s fun to hang out with these almost lovable villains for a couple more hours, to catch up on old times, immerse ourselves in their down-and-dirty lives and even get a new Choose Life riff but a heavy air of regret hangs over the proceedings. It reinforces the idea that we can’t relive the glory days no matter how hard we try. It’s a middle-age truism brought to vivid life by Boyle and cast.
In revisiting the past, the director does, however, put an intimate spin on the story with clever visual integration of past memories—present day characters mournfully share the screen with their younger counterparts—and a melancholy sense that no matter how hard we try to move forward, ultimately our lives are simply a continuation of everything that came before. As Renton says, “choose history repeating itself.” It’s not a thunderbolt revelation but revisiting these characters—particularly the tragicomic Spud—puts a face to those anchored in the nostalgia.
For fans of the original film “T2 Trainspotting” will be an enjoyable ride. It is as good a sequel to a classic film as you could hope for. It’s a shame the returning female characters played by Kelly MacDonald and Shirley Henderson are relegated to cameos and the original’s sense of infectious anarchy has been dulled somewhat but the film’s mix of redemption and regret are ample replacements.
GOON: LAST OF THE ENFORCERS: 3 STARS
“Goon: Last of the Enforcers” is about as subtle as one of Doug the Thug’s brutal uppercuts to the jaw. A foul-mouthed celebration of hockey rink sluggers directed by Jay Baruchel, it paints the ice with so much blood, it makes the raunchy classic “Slapshot” look positively Victorian in comparison.
Six years since the original “Goon,” Seann William Scott returns as Doug Glatt, enforcer for the Halifax Highlanders. Imagine the love-child of Tie Domi and Lloyd Christmas: a hockey bruiser with a heart of gold. The pro teams have been locked out and all eyes are on the Highlanders. As Captain and enforcer Doug is the team’s ticket to the playoffs until he comes out on the wrong end of an on-ice brawl with rival Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell). Beaten and bloody, Doug is forced into early retirement and Cain is recruited to take his place.
As Cain bashes heads. on-ice and off, Doug provides for his pregnant girlfriend Eva (Alison Pill) as an insurance salesman. But as the season wears on, Doug finds himself drawn back to the rink. “I don't think the insurance bug has truly laid its eggs inside me,” he says. At first he sneaks in ice time behind Eva’s back but when he finally comes clean, she is cool with him returning to the ice as long as he doesn't fight. Question is, will it be possible for Doug lace up and hit the ice without raising his fists?
The final showdown between the two bruisers boils down to the simple fact that Doug loves the game while Cain only loves to win.
“Goon: Last of the Enforcers” replaces the enforcer-as-gladiator subtext of the first film with easier to digest philosophical messages about loyalty, doing the right thing and how understanding your purpose and place makes for a happy life. That it splatters those messages with gallons of blood, jokes about autoerotic asphyxiation and, well, just about every bodily function known to man. It is rough and rowdy, like a scrappy booze-fuelled minor league game.
Scott brings his goofy charm to Doug, a sweetheart of a guy with an iron fist and a bum shoulder. He teammates are likeable misfits, each a little quirkier than the last. Locker room talk—some that would make the Hanson Brothers blush—abounds between them, but their real bond is a shared love of the game.
As Darth Vader on skates, Wyatt Russell is welcome addition to the team. He gets the off kilter rhythm of the dialogue and is as villainous as Doug is soft-hearted.
At its dirty little heart, “Goon: The Last of the Enforcers” is a sweet movie about love, Doug’s dual loves for Eva and the game.
THE SENSE OF AN ENDING: 4 STARS
“Our life is not our life,” says Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent), “it’s just a story we’ve told to others.” Such is the theme of “The Sense of An Ending,” a gentle retelling of Julian Barnes’ Man Booker Prize-winning 2011 novel about human nature and the vagaries of memory.
Webster’s life is uneventful. An alarm wakes him at the same time every day. After a light breakfast he heads to his camera repair shop, puts in his hours and returns home. Occasionally he attends a birthing class with his pregnant-soon-to-be-single-mom daughter (Michelle Dockery) or enjoys a quick phone call with his cagey ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter).
A solicitor’s letter disrupts his quiet semi-retirement. Out of the blue he discovers the mother of his long ago ex-girlfriend Veronica (Freya Mavor) has died and left him something in the will. It is the diary of Adrian (Joe Alwyn) an old friend and classmate at Cambridge. Trouble is, Veronica (played in later life by Charlotte Rampling) doesn’t want to hand it over. Obsessed with getting what is rightfully his, Tony launches an investigation into Veronica and, ultimately, his own unsettled past.
Flip flopping between the present day and 1960s England, “The Sense of An Ending,” is an engaging look at what happens when the debris of a life lived enters into Tony’s well-ordered old age. The story is compelling—although the “as told to” nature of the flashbacks, complete with Margaret’s “so what happened nexts” seem a bit contrived—but the performances are bang on.
Broadbent is a careful mix of curmudgeon and charmer, a self-effacing man forced to confront and rediscover what is important to him. It’s subtle, effortless work and draws us deep into Tony’s tale.
He is supported by strong work from the women in Tony’s life, Walter, Dockery and Rampling. Each are key to the story and each help Tony on his journey of self discovery while never losing themselves or being relegated to stereotypical roles. Also worth a mention is a short but storing performance from Emily Mortimer as Veronica’s mother.
“The Sense of An Ending” is occasionally light and breezy when it should hunker down and dig a little deeper, but Broadbent and Co ensure it is never less than involving.
WEIRDOS: 4 STARS
To me, the stillshot of two teens, one wearing an Edward Bear t-shirt, hitchhiking on a two-lane highway, is a powerfully nostalgic Canadian image. I grew up in 1970s-era Nova Scotia where hundreds of kids (me included) hitchhiked on roads big and small. The image is iconic, a sentimental picture of a simpler time brought to vivid life in “Weirdos,” Bruce McDonald and Daniel MacIvor's sweet new coming of age story.
Set in 1976, “Weirdos” puts McDonald back on the road. The “Hard Core Logo” director has a way with road movies and here he keeps the story of Kit (Dylan Authors), a bored Antigonish 15-year-old in constant motion. Kit wants a different life, one far, far away from the small town existence offered by his dad (Allan Hawco) and grandmother (Cathy Jones).
With girlfriend Alice (Julia Sara Stone) in tow, Kit hangs out his thumb, hitchhiking toward a change. As the pair make their way to Kit’s artistic mother Laura (Molly Parker)—she knows Andy Warhol!—the nature of the teen’s relationship is challenged as the young man grapples with his sexuality.
With some melancholy and much humour “Weirdos” expertly strings together the small moments that make up Kit’s life. Warm, affectionate and wallpapered with a K-Tel soundtrack of 70’s Cancon, it follows his journey to self-discovery. Authors and Stone do most of the heavy lifting here, handing in naturalistic, understated performances but it’s Parker and Hawko who provide the emotional sparks.
As absent mother Laura, Parker has the film’s flashiest role. She’s a dysfunctional grand dame with an imagined connection to Warhol and a headful of dreams. Her screen time amounts to little more than an extended cameo but Parker’s work is so vivid, so alive, it feels as though we’ve known her for years.
“The Republic of Doyle’s” Hawko is quieter, but poignant as the father who must explain himself in one of the film’s best scenes.
“Weirdos” is the story of outsiders, but as there are more people outside the circle than in, it really is a universal story of self-examination, one that can be enjoyed even if you’ve never hitchhiked or worn an Edward Bear t-shirt.