Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.
So, here is what I watched this past week:
Beauty and the Beast
Taking one of the most cherished animated features in history and turning into a live-action spectacle comes with a degree of risks. It must not only pay tribute to the original, it must branch out and expand the universe in ways that are both unexpected and uncontroversial. Beauty and the Beast, the first animated feature ever nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards was Disney’s latest attempt to capitalize on its existing properties in a long series of animation-to-live-action adaptations that have tackled everything from Cinderella to The Jungle Book so far.
The film was never exactly a difficult prospect for adaptation. Disney had already turned it into a highly successful stage musical adaptation, which added songs to the production that, unfortunately, don’t make it into the new big screen version. Instead, Disney has commissioned the original film’s composer, Alan Menken, and longtime Menken-Disney collaborator Tim Rice to craft four new tunes for the production. While it’s clear Rice was never the wordsmith that the late original lyricist Howard Ashman was, he does create one new song that equals the great tracks in the original film: “Evermore.” Beast’s lamentation is a profound meditation on the beast’s isolation and heartache, giving the character a tune that suits him well and counterbalances the production’s lack of musical voice for the character.
As a production, director Bill Condon should probably instruct his production designer and costume designer to prepare Oscar speeches as the whole affair is sumptuous, richly detailed, and brilliant. The cast is largely up to the task with Luke Evans the surprising star of the whole affair with his leering, cold, calculating Gaston. Emma Watson may not quite have been up to the challenge, but she has a lovely voice and she does a satisfying job in a role that the brilliant vocals of Paige O’Hara are a challenge to overcome. Dan Stevens as the beast is a fine performer, as are the poorly used Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette. As is always the case, it’s impossible to replace the great Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts, but Emma Thompson does an adequate job.
Condon proves he was the right man for the job. Having worked previously on the big screen musical adaptation of Dreamgirls, Condon understands that in order to succeed as an adaptation of a stage musical, you must expand and broaden the material, something that’s even more crucial when the prior adaptation is also of an existing feature film. There are new details, changes to plot elements, and the construction of a larger, more beautiful, more expansive worlds that must be accomplished in order to differentiate the production from past endeavors. Condon’s efforts are tremendous and while the sweeping cameras that dominate several scenes are a bit unnecessary at times, the bountiful, jaunty score is given its sufficient and rewarding due.
Before Chris Hemsworth picked up Thor’s hammer Mjolnir for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he was toiling away in rubbish heist films, Ca$h being a most egregious slight.
Co-starring a twinned Sean Bean and a woefully out of her depth Victoria Profeta, Hemsworth plays a man who has a briefcase dropped unceremoniously onto his car in his drive to work. When he brings the container home to his wife after showering his loan officer with cash to pay off their debt, they begin working out how to spend the money without running afoul of the law with woefully little discussion being made into the origin of the money and why they should keep it.
Bean plays a meditating villain who moves into the couple’s house as he works to get all of the more than $600,000 his brother had stolen back, forcing the couple to give up their principled ways and return the money. They can’t get it all back as they’ve spent it, so beyond returning the car at a loss, they must engage in other illicit activities in the hopes of getting this man out of their lives and surviving long enough to enjoy their eroding relationship.
Everything about this film reeks of desperation and not just for the characters. The hackneyed screenplay tries desperately to establish itself as something different, taking to task other heist films and their unrealistic elements while delving into its own. Hemsworth puts forth some effort, but Profeta is an expressionless vacuum while Bean shows off his malignant ways in expected and sneering fashion. The direction is limited, predictable, and unimpressive. This all merges to create a film that’s as big a waste of time as it is a lumbering bore.