Archive for Ian McKellan

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: The Wolverine

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2013 by Tom Austin-Morgan

the_wolverine_poster

Do not be confused, there was a Wolverine film a few years back, 2009 in fact, it was called X-Men Origins: Wolverine and it was a little bit disappointing. So, when The Wolverine was released this week I went a little reluctantly.

It does give a different arc to Logan’s (Hugh Jackman) story that isn’t covered in the origin, though as he is an immortal character – in the films, at least – it doesn’t really matter all that much. But you would have expected being a prisoner of war in a Japanese concentration camp in Nagasaki when the atomic bomb was dropped might have been worth a mention in the previous film. Whatever, this is where the film begins and the bomb scene is fantastic! He saves a young Japanese soldier, who refused to kill himself before the explosion, by covering him with a heavy metal door.

Fast forward to the present day and Logan is living rough in the mountains in Canada where he is found by a feisty Japanese girl called Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who claims to be the granddaughter of the man he saved all those years ago who is now dying and wants to say goodbye to his saviour before he passes on. And so the film moves back to Japan, where it stays for the duration, which is a novel place for a massive Summer blockbuster to be set – let alone a comic book adaptation.

As ever, there is a slight complication in that the old ex-soldier, Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), who has gone on to be the head of a giant technology company is really after the source of Logan’s immortality. In return the Wolverine would become mortal and become able to live a normal life and die a normal death. The problem is that Logan is reluctant to give it away even though he is haunted by nightmares from his past including being visited by Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) whom he had to kill at the end of X-Men: Last Stand. These scenes can be a bit distracting in that Janssens boob seems to be a hair’s breadth away from escaping from her nightie every time she’s on screen!

There follows a lot of plot about the power struggle within Yashida’s family and tension between the people in charge of the business and the Yakusa. There are a couple of great fight scenes here; one at a funeral where Wolverine realises something is slowing down his healing ability and a physics-defying encounter on top of a bullet  train travelling at 300mph, which is the best fight scenes in the whole movie.

There is another great action set-piece later on in the film involving ninjas taking out an entire compound of armed guards to capture Yashida’s other granddaughter, and heir to the company, Mariko (Tao Okamoto) – who also turns into the love interest that frees Logan from his guilt around trapping Jean Grey in limbo… in her nightie.

There are other central characters, like Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) who is a mutant immune to toxins but can naturally synthesise deadly ones to take out her enemies. The only problem with her was that she slowly turns into Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy from Batman and Robin. Though the effects when she sheds her skin are amazing! There is also a character who sides with Viper to protect Mariko from the Yakusa until he realises Viper is evil is the leader of the ninjas, Harada (Will Yun Lee) Who is a master with a bow as well as a katana.

Unfortunately there is the obligatory fight between the hero and a giant robot, which we’ve seen in almost all the Marvel films since Iron Man. This is a shame because the X-Men are always set against other mutants. So this lets the film down somewhat, especially as Viper is despatched fairly easily, if not brutally, by Yukio, whose only mutant power seems to be that she can see how people die… kind of.

This is a dark movie with an unbelievable body count (especially if you count the nuclear blast at the beginning of the movie!), Wolverine is as angry as hell at the beginning of the film and is remorseless against anyone he feels has acted with injustice. He tempers this and manages to focus himself enough that by the end he is ready to return to normality, with Yukio in tow. But there is also a good deal of comedy included to counter-balance this (another example of how Zak Snyder dropped the ball with the tone of Man of Steel).

Most of this comes from the fact that Jackman is such a great screen presence. He is a great actor who makes you sympathetic towards a character who really shouldn’t elicit that emotion from you, but he can also be malevolent and comedic in the same scene. Jackman is a charm magnet who spends most of the film stripped to the waist, and you know what? I didn’t mind in the slightest. He is ripped… and hairy, which is brilliant. There have been too many men in films recently who have waxed all the hair from their bodies. Wolverine films could be made from now ’til the end of time and I’d still go to see them just for the performance, as long as he is played by Hugh Jackman.

Oh, and stick around a few minutes into the credits for a scene that will set up the next X-Men films. *Spoilers are in the tags again!*