Archive for Emma Thompson

Review: Beauty and the Beast

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2017 by Tom Austin-Morgan

What is there to say about Disney’s latest live action remake, other than it’s basically very very faithful to the original 1991 animated classic. And that makes it, disappointingly ordinary for such a magical film.

Don’t get me wrong, This film is a solid gold hit – the box office numbers prove that. But unlike The Jungle Book, which based its plot slightly more on the Rudyard Kipling stories and striped away all but two songs to make it stand apart, Beauty and the Beast doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself, much like Cindarella.

It’s quite possible that a child who has never seen the animated version will adore this version and I’m of a generation that can’t un-see the 1991 original – I was six years old when it came out, prime Disney age – because there’s an awful lot to like.

The  Beast (Dan Stevens) is scary, and in this case has been given a proper back story that makes you understand the curse put upon him and his household, although the facial design is somewhat ‘off’.

Emma Watson turns in a fine performance as Belle, although she has more of a girl-next-door vibe about her, rather than a classic Disney Princess. Also, the autotuning of her voice detracts from her musical numbers somewhat, especially the iconic ‘Provincial Life’.

The supporting cast is incredibly strong, especially Kevin Kline as Belle’s father, Maurice. The voice talents of Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Haydn Gwynne and the unrecognisable Stanley Tucci are perfect as are the animations of each character.

The absolute show-stealers though are Luke Evans and Josh Gadd as Gaston and LeFou. Originally the casting of Evans was a little underwhelming, but he really throws himself into the role of this brash, alpha male ad although much was made in the media about LeFou being Disney’s first overtly gay character, there was only very subtle evidence of this on-screen. Gadd’s comedic chops more than make up for this however. Their slightly-more-than-bromance is a delight to watch.

The songs are largely indestructible and feel required rather than shoe-horned in and the updated compositions and minor changes to some of the lyrics are brilliant, especially the additions to Gaston’s song. Even the added song that the Beast sings is a good addition, as are the scenes added to give a bit more depth to the characters. It all largely works. The problem is that nothing feels like it’s added overall.

If the original didn’t already exist this would be brilliant, but because it does and this adds nothing of substance it just feels ordinary. Still very much worth a watch though.

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Review: Brave

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2012 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Brave is the newest film by Pixar and isn’t exactly what you would expect from them. Instead of the modern, cutting edge story-telling of Wall-E or Up this is much more traditional fairytale, akin to classic Disney. There’s even a very simple, clear moral message that runs right through it like a stick of rock: Be careful what you wish for.

There are magical wisps, witches, warriors and, of course, a tempestuous princess. Even the animation seems more traditional and less complex than recent films. But look closer and you might just find that what it lacks in spectacle it more than makes up for in depth and detail. The backgrounds are astonishing, but my favourite part of the small detail was the movement in Princess Merida’s curly auburn locks.

As you would expect, however, there is a standard that is a mark above most other digital animation studios. The humour still works on two levels, there are gags in there for the parents woven into the broad, slapstick moments that kids will enjoy.

The story is a classic plot about a child being forced to do things she doesn’t want to do by her parents and rebelling against it. In this case Merida (Kelly MacDonald) is a princess who has been raised to be the future queen by her mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson). Though her father, the larger than life King Fergus (voiced by the equally larger than life, inimitable Billy Connolly), has always undermined this by teaching her to shoot arrows and fight. Which Merida she takes to with relish.

After a fight with her Mum she runs away and follows some ‘Willow the Wisps’ to a witches house where she buys a spell to change her mother and from here things go rapidly downhill.This leads to the mother and daughter to work together to overcome what has befallen them and while it all looks hopeless, not to mention dangerous, they grow closer to each other and start to see the error of their ways. Much more than this would give too much away about the plot and I feel it’s better not to spoil things, sometimes.

Something else that adds to the atmosphere of the film is the soundtrack, Patrick Doyle has called upon traditional folk musician and singer Julie Fowlis as well as the more well know, but no less folky, Mumford & Sons. It really gives a  fittingly ethereal feel to the fantastical Scottish landscape Pixar’s animators have created.

As with everything Pixar produce, this is a finely crafted, magical film that will probably stand the test of time along with the rest of their canon. Though it may not be the most brightly coloured and showy film, it has the quality  of design and script that would rival any fairytale Disney have released.