Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Beauty Gets Her Beast -and Bankability Assurance!

'Beauty And The Beast' Review

Beauty and The Beast, the recent big budget live action film from Disney is what I expected it to be -your typical over-lavish production with little depth besides the occasional moment of inspiration which is quickly extinguished. That's modern day Hollywood for you: all promise, little keep.

Most everyone knows the story of Disney's 1990's animated cartoon version of the classic fairy tale of Beauty and The Beast. But in case you have forgotten it here's a synopsis: Attractive girl which every woman thinks represents herself needs a husband but is so selfish and introverted she winds up falling for a loser prince who has been transformed into a beast by a pernicious (hows that for a Google visit?) witch / sorceress / enchantress -whatever because in her eyes his own narcissistic ways are offensive to her senses of how men (in general) should behave. The only thing that can cure this guy of his new Beasty-looks is the true love of a beautiful woman (strained irony if there ever was any). Which actually shouldn't be that difficult if you take a casual walk around your small town or large city. Gorgeous or attractive women can be found with all sort of ugly guys (beast). So much for that punishment!

Or course I'm being silly about the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale because the whole story is downright silly but awfully revealing about the psyches of some women (most?). They often reject braggart men / accomplished men / even rich men  for more prosaic men who don't challenge their own self's intellectual capabilities or good looks. In short women choose loser or weak men over smart / attractive ones --even if they got big bucks (doesn't mean you get their love, right? Right!)

Now that explains why this story is so damn enduring, doesn't it? And why Disney continues to milk the hell out of it. It's all part of Disney and Hollywood's nostalgia exploiting era that we are all unfortunate to be siting through. How many old TV shows have become awful films in these last 2 decades (since the 1990s)? Too many. And few of them worth remembering; many of them that should be forgotten forever ('Star Wars: The Force Awakens'). Which is [unlike] the 90's Disney Beauty and the Beast. It was really a very good animated film!

So here we are again, in the age of nostalgia exploitation viewing Beauty and The Beast.. It's a too-big for itself film to some degree. The characters actually feel subservient to the landscape / castle that the they live in. It's as if the production team got the go-ahead to design the film without a finished script. So that they would be able to tailor their designs to the specific beats of the film. Keeping backgrounds humble in emotional scenes and going crazy with them in more horrific or troublesome ones. I guess that's part of the Hollywood 'factory film'. Script last, money-grabbing concept first. Hire the artists now, never mind what they design! We'll fit the story to the visuals! Not how good visual storytelling is done, folks. One should make the visuals subservient to the scripts' needs. This 'rule' (because their really are no rules in visual storytelling, only appropriateness) is broken relative to the tempo of this live-action version of the classic fairy tale.

The acting in this film is rather uninspired (showing you that the script is surprisingly dry of any character development). Hiring Emma Watson for the role of Belle is a stroke of genius (and I use that term as hyperbole here). This is her first significant role since she played the intellectual-feminist sorceress-in-training Hermoine in Harry Potter. Now I have to admit that I'm a fan of hers from the start and am glad to see her career advance by leaps and bounds. But I can say in an unbiased fashion that she is perfect for this 'intellectual feminist' version of Belle, for in this version of Beauty and the Beast (this 'version' because everyt ime someone tells this story they either add to it or subtract from it) the character IS a dedicated bookworm and a budding woman's rights activist (she's ridiculed for her reading skills and is berated for her desire to teach a young girl how to read by the stogdy and evil villagers she has to deal with daily). Emma turns in a suitable performance and of course is the real reason to see this 'Beauty and The Beast'. The gentleman that plays the Beast, actor Dan Stevens, is perfect for his role as well. We neither love or hate his beast -so when Belle does fall in love with him we can see that's just the fate for any woman that happens to stumble upon the tragic character and is forced to get to know him (as Belle is when she takes her father's place in the Beasts' dungeon). Another interesting performance is that of Luke Evans. He plays Gaston, the soldier who wants to make Belle into his wife. In feminine psychology he is the REAL BEAST of the story. For his undying 'love' or lust for Belle is seen by Belle and no doubt every other female in the audience as his desire to CONTROL Belle. And most experienced men know that women desire control over their romantic fates more than anything else in life. We are left to laugh at Gaston / Luke Evan's attempts at 'getting' Belle. All the while knowing that it's the strong and silent type who will actually win the heart of the girl (the guy who's had the tragedy in his life, in this tale it's the Prince turned into a hideous monster!).

The directing of this film by Bill Condon is rather uneventful. Nothing really stands out and it appears to me that this may be his first big film for it feels like he may have gotten himself into a 'more than I can chew' situation. Errors in character, plotting, or pacing in the film that can be saved by a clever director go unchanged in this film. But I must digress. I was rather tired when I viewed this film and it is a testimony to the director's skill that I did stay interested in it even though my body was screaming to go to sleep! I didn't snooze during it and what I experienced during my less than tired moments was skilled enough directing to keep me from saying to myself, "Who the hell directed this crap?". So to be fair the film is directed competently and satisfies one of the most important values in visual storytelling which is to hide the hand of the director. It's well hidden and so the story does flow from one logic point to another and that's that. But again, I feel as though the characters took a backseat to the CGI special effects and what-not. [I just Googled this director and confirmed my suspicions. This was his first big budget (i.e. big special effects) film to date. He's an experienced drama director but not fantasy one. Even the 'Twilight' franchise films he directed don't compare to the effects laden film such as this Beauty and The Beast.

All in all this film wasn't too bad. It's a good diversion for an adult or the kiddies. But nothing new will come out of it. The only real winner besides the Disney shareholders is Emma Watson's bankability. She should become the leading lady in future films more often because of this. So good for her!! I am a fan, you know...

Copyright 2017 by George Alan Booker -all rights reserved!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Lucas' Legacy

Everyone interested in visual storytelling needs to make sure that he or she survives until 2021, that's the year that Big George's Museum of Narrative Art is slated to open up. In fact, try to stick around until about 2025 in case a bunch of lazy construction workers blow the Grand Opening date.

For all you Star Wars fanatics out there the museum will be in Los Angeles' Exposition Park. So you can head there right now with at least 5 to 8 years worth of supplies and camp out! Just think, you'll be first to enter one of the greatest art museums in history!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Suspension Of Disbelief

I started thinking about Thor 2 which I watched a few days ago and was surprised to realize that I never doubted the special effects that I sat through. Usually when you watch these super hero flicks your mind will pick up on things that don't look real (realistic), which will break your mind away from the spell (focus) contrived by the hundreds or even thousands of people who work on these flicks. This 'spell' is known as the suspension of disbelief.

The suspension of disbelief has been steadily stretched by the introduction of computerized special effects. In the past, there are only a few films that managed to attain this most sought after quality without the extensive aid of computers -films like Star Wars, Superman (1977), and 2001: A Space Odyssey come to mind. And that was done through very laborous processes such as model building and careful lighting, selective camera angles, and ponderous filming techniques. But all of that went straight out the window when faster processing and affordable computers came along. And since even that occured more than 30 years ago the level of realism in special effects is quite astounding currently-so amazing that they may be in danger of being thought of as being taken for granted. But this is what filmmakers actually hope for! Why? Because when you take a thing for granted it also means you fail to notice it  sometimes-and the best special effect is the one you don't notice!

   So as I watched Thor 2 I never really thought about the special effects- they properly fell into the background of the pretty decent narrative that was woven by the filmmakers. There wasn't a moment in it where I consciously said to myself, "Aha! That looks fake!" or as sometimes is the case FEELS fake. No, this film was pretty darn fun and exciting to look at and listen to --and it's about time; considering the cost of watching a movie nowadays. With this movie I got my money's worth.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thor Ditto -The Movie

Thor 2 is out there playing somewhere, people (Europe only right now?). Word on the streets is that it is good. Thank goodness for that! Hollywood or any other film production society or company can't afford to be putting out crap anymore and charge over $10 for a damn ticket. I go to the movies once a month because of this very fact. Pay attention to quality not quantity and certainly not exploitation of the film loving marketplace ( you producers know who you are). But the biggest challenge of any trilogy or series of films is to keep script and production quality continously high throughout it's life. This is what hurt the Star Wars series and other trilogies like the Indiana Jones series. When one team of exceptional creators leave a series, then, whoever owns the thing, should make it their mission in life to hire equal or better creators to continue it. If not then the whole series begins to feel uneven. With geniuses guiding the ship one day, then the next day a bunch of clowns are at the helm headed straight for the rocks

Yet all of this begs the question -why the big focus on sequels in our time? The answer is simple when you remember when and where all this sequel mania began. That would be with film director George Lucas and his Star Wars and Indiana Jones films. Lucas was raised in a time where movie producers new the value of serialized motion picture storytelling. Every now and then ( in Lucas' day) you could expect your favorite movie characters return to the theater in a new and exciting adventure. That was a continuous stream of guaranteed revenue for production houses. Now, having 'rediscovered' the basics of serialized movie production, Hollywood doesn't seem to remember the value of it. The first movie is usually good, but the 2nd and 3rd -TYPICALLY LAME. Waking up to this on a mass level could seriously help the movie theater distrubution market compete with the Netflixes and Redboxes out there. After all, seeing the movies on the big screen -nothing can compete with that. Only by being continuously arrogant and greedy regarding the quality of films will keep H-wood's theater distribution market share in the less than optimum state it's in. Copyright © 2013 John Maxter, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

To Carrie Or Not To Carrie, That Is The Question

Should I or shouldn't I go see Chloe Moretz's take on horror master Stephen King's class horror tale, 'Carrie'? Ordinarily I wouldn't be debating whether or not I should watch anything with young wonder Moretz in it. She's one of those actresses that keeps my attention no matter what she does. Who is she? She's the spunky, hyper-violent tween from the 'Kick-Ass' vigilante super hero film series. I think she's great future Academy Award material. Anyway, as I was saying, I wouldn't be debating this except for the fact that my local stadium seating theater JUST RAISED THEIR MATINE PRICES!!! They only went up a couple of bucks ($9.50 to $10.50) but damn, when you add on the already skyrocketing cost of living - those extra bucks matter! What? Should I have to choose between eating dog food this week or seeing a blockbuster? I mean, come on! I love the big screen but if the prices keep climbing I'm going go take a pair of Coca Cola bottles and strap them to my eyeballs and slap a DVD into the ol' TV set and hope to Oscar that the bottles magnify my tiny TV screen to big screen levels!! Shoot! The things you got to do nowadays to stay in the game.

Monday, July 1, 2013

White House Down -Mini Review

White House Down is the White House under attack film that we've been unconsciously waiting for (action fans). Ever since the producers of this film were beaten to the punch by the folks who brought us the so-so version of this concept, 'Olympus Has Fallen'. 'White House Down' easily beats it in character development (quite a lot for an action thriller!), action sequences, and script imagination. The film has very good pacing at the beginning, a good, detailed action-oriented second act, and a very satisfying climax. It slows down only by what can be perceived as casting flaws. Jamie Fox doesn't convince anyone (I think) that he's capable of winning the White House. He lacks the suave coolness of the real President Obama. It feels like he's playing some other role, like 'Black Men Can't Jump' or something. Channing Tatum shines as the underdog wannabe presidential CIA agent and has really improved his overall acting skills (which include more facial expressions than just a blank stare). He looks and feels convincing as the successor to Stallone and / or Schwarzenegger as America's next big hunk with more than just an attitude-he can fight and save your ass!

Of course this is a Roland Emmerich film --the man who brought us 'Independence Day' and '2012', but he manages to pull off a non-egotistical film (slightly! There's one name drop / plug about 'Independence Day' during the film but it's context-suitable). He's mastering the techniques of the classic 1970's disaster films such as 'The Towering Inferno' and 'The Poseidon Adventure' by being able to deftly merge character development with explosions and assorted necessary special effects. Script-wise, the whole thing feels like a no-brainer. It's very informative (the script, highlights are the real-life facts given about the White House by a comedy-relief tour guide), and brief. Nothing feels excessive here (dialog wise). Another highlight of the film is the performance by classic character actor James Woods as the mastermind behind the attack on our nation's 'Presidential Palace'. He emotes damn well and his rage as a disgruntled American comes through quite effectively.

All in all a good way to spend a late night / early morning! Can't wait for the  next Emmerich disaster adventure tale I must say.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Conan The Barbarian (2012)

Did this film come out in 2012 or 2011? I don't remember. But it entered and exited the theater's fast because it was up against another big film if I remember correctly. Anyhoo the film had some terrific production values and I especially enjoyed the director's usage of wide establishing shots of the fictional ancient land known as 'Hyborea' I think (I'm kinda rusty on my Conan lingo). Too many directors underestimate the power of an extreme wide shot to establish a scene (putting the scene firmly into the minds' of it's audience which increases the emotional value of what happens there.) If you haven't seen this film yet (on DVD), then go ahead and give it a try. Don't expect an awe inspiring story thought, and it's got a bunch of logic errors in the very story premise itself. Just watch it for the visuals this time around.