7/21/17

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2014) - REVIEW


Two years before Disney attempted remaking their own version of the classic fairy tale, there was a live-action Beauty And The Beast movie made in France. Since this is a French fairy-tale, this movie had the potential to show the Mouse House how it's done and tell the definitive story.

That said, improving on Jean Cocteau's classic while attracting the Disney audience was always going to be tough but with Léa Seydoux and Vincent Cassel as Belle and The Beast along with inventive director Christophe Gans leading the way, there was a good chance we would get something at least worth seeing. Indeed, this take on the timeless tale is the most visually impressive out there: the art direction, production design and cinematography are beautiful throughout and even the CGI is pretty effective. This is, in short, a fantastic-looking movie and it's certainly worth a look for that alone. A good amount of time is spent introducing us to Belle's family, showing how their money troubles led them to move to the countryside. Unfortunately, this isn't really necessary as Belle's brothers and sisters don't really have much of an impact on the story and this is time that should have been used elsewhere, developing the Belle/Beast romance, for example.

We are finally introduced to Vincent Cassel's Beast when Belle agrees to become his prisoner instead of her father and, at night, Belle is shown his backstory in her dreams. It turns out that he did have a wife back when he was human but he accidentally killed her which prompted "nature" to curse him and his castle because she was, in fact, a forest nymph. There are stone giants, weird-looking CGI beagles and a magic grave in this version so it's a different take on things, to say the least. The main problem with the film is how rushed and uneven the storytelling can be: Belle falls in love with the Beast seemingly off-camera since they basically share no screen-time together and the Beast goes from wild and creepy to caring in a heartbeat. We're given some of his backstory but, after some time, the film stops giving us explanations so we just have to accept random things happening. Because of that, we just don't buy the Beast's kindness or the more surreal aspects of the film.

This Beauty And The Beast is probably the most beautiful in terms of visuals but it lacks coherence when tackling key parts of the story. Apart from that, this is a welcome alternative to the popular musical versions even if I would still recommend Cocteau's superior original instead.

Slick yet flawed retelling.

7/20/17

THE NEW SPIDER-MAN MOVIES - REVIEW OVERVIEW


I talk about The Amazing Spider-Man, its sequel and Spider-Man: Homecoming.

SANDY WEXLER - REVIEW


Happy Madison returns with Sandy Wexler, another Netflix-exclusive release starring Adam Sandler. This time, it's a biopic of the titular talent manager, who managed Sandler among many others. The film focuses on Wexler's discovery of a talented unknown singer he also falls in love with.

While this is a rare genre for Sandler to tackle, we're very much in familiar territory here between his usual team's countless cameos (Schneider, Vanilla Ice, Lovitz etc.), the actor himself doing a silly voice and reliably goofy humour throughout. Essentially, this is your typical agent-finds-talent/talent-outgrows-agent story in the vein of Broadway Danny Rose, except with a corny love story at its heart and a cartoonish tone. Jennifer Hudson portrays Courtney Clarke, the singer Sandy first meets performing in a duck costume for kids in a Six Flags amusement park and she's easily the most likeable aspect of this movie. She's obviously talented and never becomes the diva you expect her to become even when she's super popular. Some of Sandy's other clients include Kevin James' ventriloquist, Terry Crews' wrestler and Nick Swardson's Evel Knievel-style stuntman. They're all pretty ridiculous but help keep the film fun throughout.

Then there's Adam Sandler, who portrays Sandy Wexler as a bit of a goofball, to say the least: he's a messy eater, feeds his clients white lies constantly, has an obnoxious fake laugh, often has poor instincts and speaks like Little Nicky and The Waterboy's love child. The film walks the line between straight-up biopic, cruel roast and pure farce so the tone is equally inconsistent. Ultimately, this is a standard, decently made comedy biopic but with Sandler giving such a broad, unconvincing performance, it distracts from situations we're meant to care about more often than not. Admittedly, there are some funny moments in the film including Sandy exploding a raccoon with a baseball bat, Kevin James' bizarre relationship with his own ventriloquist puppets, Nick Swardson's repeated failed stunt attempts and a random but welcome Beavis & Butt-Head cameo. The idea of having some of Wexler's more famous clients like David Spade, Jimmy Kimmel, Pauly Shore and Weird Al appear in the film is a good one but their documentary-style interviews are purely expositional.

Overall, this is once again a very average Sandler effort that should leave most Netflix viewers feeling indifferent. It's well made, Jennifer Hudson brings some charm and talent to the mix and parts of the film are funny but Sandler's lead performance is so annoying, it almost kills the film.

Not bad but uneven.

TASTIN'... FIREWORK OREO



I try the Limited Edition Firework Oreo because...

I mean, why wouldn't I?

7/17/17

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING - REVIEW


With the last Spider-Man reboot still fresh in our minds, Marvel and Sony's new collaboration needed to break the mould and try a different approach to keep everyone interested. Tom Holland's new incarnation of the iconic web-slinger being one of the most popular aspects of Captain America: Civil War, this one looked like a promising re-imagining.

Wisely bypassing the familiar origin story to give us a brand new take on things, Spider-Man: Homecoming is arguably the least faithful adaptation of the Spider-Man comics out there and yet what it introduces is so cleverly weaved into the new Marvel Universe that it would take a rather stern purist to crucify it for the liberties it takes. Set soon after the events of Civil War, the film first introduces us to Michael Keaton's villain Adrian Toomes who was part of the clean-up crew post-Avengers until Tony Stark made his job obsolete. Toomes vows to come up with a new way to cash-in on the alien technology left behind and so The Vulture is born. Meanwhile, Peter Parker is bugging Stark for another mission, waiting anxiously to officially become an Avenger full-time while having to deal with High School. Tony Stark himself (Robert Downey Jr.) and his faithful driver/bodyguard "Happy" (Jon Favreau) pop up from time to time to guide, scold or ignore Peter.

Casting a younger actor in the lead role was always going to help sell the High School part of the story and Tom Holland, indeed, fits the part perfectly. Both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield did a good job overall as both Spider-Man and Peter Parker but the former gradually lost his charm and the latter was just not convincing as a High School student. Holland is likeable as both sides of Spider-Man's personality plus he makes sense as a student so he certainly has the potential to be the best incarnation of the character. As for Michael Keaton, his Vulture is the best Spider-Man villain since Doc Ock as he manages to be intimidating and unhinged while staying very much human. The same can't be said for the underused Shocker. This is a reverse-coming-of-age superhero story in which a kid with tons of promise as a crime-fighter is thrown into a massive challenge but is then forced to consider his options and perhaps take a more humble route.

The trailer gives away most of the film's main action beats but that shouldn't make you enjoy those few exciting sequences any less. This isn't a big, bombastic superhero movie like most of Marvel's recent output but that gives it its own personality as more time is spent with Peter Parker interacting with his friends and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) or practicing with his cool new spider suit than with Spider-Man fighting bad guys. The supporting cast is solid, Zendaya and Jacob Batalon are likeable as Peter's friends but comic-book fans might have some complaints about changing familiar characters' personalities completely for the sake of another reboot: Flash Thompson is about as threatening as a puppy and MJ is, surprisingly, emo. This is basically Ferris Bueller's Day Off if Bueller had super-powers, Iron Man on speed-dial and was being chased by a murderous Michael Keaton instead of some grumpy Dean. The John Hughes vibe is obvious but it somehow works quite well in this Spider-Man movie, giving it bucket-loads of charm throughout.

Die-hard comic-book fans will have valid concerns, for sure, but as an alternative, MCU-friendly take on Spidey it's hard to deny just how much fun this movie is. Perfect lead, terrific villain, cool action scenes, lots of High School nostalgia, nifty cameos and the most versatile Spider-Man suit to date, this is another ridiculously enjoyable Marvel flick offering Spidey a promising future.

Get off the "web" and go see it.

7/14/17

SUPER MARIO BROS. - REVIEW


Once upon a time, Hollywood studios made an attempt at bringing Nintendo's most iconic video game character to life in live-action form. Super Mario Bros. starred Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario and Luigi respectively and it was a commercial and critical failure.

Adapting a game franchise as surreal as Super Mario Bros. was always going to be a challenge, especially for a Hollywood studio in the early 90's. So, instead of attempting to recreate the colourful, imaginative world depicted in the games, the directors decided to ground the characters in a more realistic, yet still bizarre, setting. The plot, which sees the two plumbers having to cross over to another dimension in order to rescue a princess, is relatively simple with Dennis Hopper's evil reptilian dictator King Koopa looking to open up a portal that would allow him to rule both his dimension and ours being the main challenge for our heroes. Not translating the games directly for the big screen was a mistake as many fans expected a more faithful adaptation but some imagination did go into turning an incongruous 8-bit world into something more tangible, at least. The result was a futuristic metropolis not unlike Mega-City One in Judge Dredd with a dinosaur theme.

The look of the film is dark and moody but its tone is completely childish with an awful whimsical score "goofing-up" the entire thing and a script packed with silly lines and puns. You can tell there was a cool sci-fi film in there somewhere but certainly not anything to do with Super Mario Bros. The cast feels mostly confused about what they're meant to be doing or saying with Dennis Hopper giving arguably his most quotably (and enjoyably) ridiculous performance, Bob Hoskins trying his most cartoonish New York accent, John Leguizamo struggling with some of the worst lines in the script and everyone else either over-acting like hell or under-acting. Countless references to the games are slipped in (Bob-ombs, Big Bertha, Yoshi, Toad) without much rhyme or reason. This is an expensive mess of a project you can tell was misguided from the start with conflicting visions troubling the production, no clear tone throughout and little understanding of the source material.

A Super Mario Bros. live-action film could have been a lot of fun and, for the most part, this attempt is entertaining even if it is destined for cult enjoyment. It's a chaotic, confused film but it's an easy watch with enough charm and action to keep especially younger viewers amused.

Guilty pleasure.

TOP 10 SILLIEST KOOPA LINES


I list 10 of the silliest lines from the Super Mario Bros. movie.

Courtesy of Dennis Hopper's King Koopa.

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