Beauty and the Beast

The more I think about it, the more I realize just how much I love the original Beauty and the Beast. The 1991 classic animated film has my favorite Disney princess Belle, but only recently have I begun to regard it as possibly my favorite Disney film. Which is why when they first announced the live action remake almost two maybe three years ago, I was absolutely thrilled. I marked March 2017 in my calendar and waited years for this film which has now finally arrived. So much waiting may have heightened my expectations just a bit as I began to feel a bit apprehensive about seeing the film and feeling underwhelmed. I have to say though, I had a magical and fun time watching Beauty and the Beast and I am sure audience everywhere will too.

Adapted from the 1991 animated film, Beauty and the Beast tells the story of intelligent and beautiful Belle (Emma Watson) who is taken prisoner in the enchanted castle of a fearsome Beast (Dan Stevens). Though at first at odds, Belle learns to look beyond the Beast’s monstrous exterior and into the kind heart and soul of the prince inside.

Beauty and the Beast was able to achieve a delicate balance between old and new. While many of the scenes and even lines are directly from the animated film, Beauty and the Beast also incorporated new elements into the story. I personally did not have a problem with the heavy reliance from the source material as I feel the live action remake was made to be faithful to the story and paid excellent homage to the original film. While a bit jarring at times, the new additions to the story brought nice depth to the characters in a novel yet familiar way.

The casting is what this film got right from the very beginning and as a result the performances were all fantastic. Emma Watson was the perfect Belle! I cannot imagine anyone else in the role as she harnessed both the inner beauty and the strength needed to play her character. My only disappointment is that I feel Watson could have brought more emotion to the table during some scenes, especially during the magical “Be Our Guest” number. This girl was just casually smiling like it was another Tuesday! Nevertheless she was great and I found her singing to be refreshing as well. Dan Stevens surprised me as the beast! He remarkably was able to let his character’s tormented yet loving emotions shine through all the CGI. His passion for Belle was absolutely palpable and electric during the Beast’s new and original ballad “Evermore”, a highlight of the film for me personally.

The supporting cast was flawless as well. Luke Evans simply was Gaston! I loved his confident performance as well his on-screen partnership with Josh Gad’s LeFou. While it sometimes felt like I was just watching Josh Gad, well be Josh Gad, he nevertheless brought great humor and surprising heart to his role. I cannot praise the enchanted castle objects enough as well! Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Sir Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, all wonderful performances that stuck true to their characters.

One of my main concerns for the film before I watched it was the CGI aspect. I had no idea how to visualize all the enchanted characters in a live-action form and was worried the film would come off as coated or even fake. However, I found the CGI to be well done with the Beast and the castle’s many enchanted objects. The sets and visuals in the film were gorgeous! There were times when I felt the film to have an almost awkward feel but I honestly believe it was just trying to get its footing. It is no easy task to bring such a beloved story to the big screen in such a grand way.

Fans of the original animated film may not embrace the new look to the film as well as the additions to the story, but I urge them to keep in mind that it is a remake. It stays faithful but also offers something new to audiences. I went in simply wanting to have a good time and I did! Many times I found myself smiling from ear to ear. From Belle singing on the French country hillside, to the fabulous “Be Our Guest” number, to Belle and the Beast’s first dance, the film reminded me of why I loved the original Beauty and the Beast so much. Children and adults alike are sure to enjoy the film with its blend of romance, adventure, magic, and heart. I bid you to give into the charms of Beauty and the Beast and of course, be our guest!

ALL IN ALL: While staying true to the story and offering new elements and depth, Beauty and the Beast is an enjoyable and magical film with great performances and visuals sure to delight audiences.

Beauty and the Beast 4.5/5 Ticket Stubs

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Kevin Kline

Run Time: 2hr 10 min, rated PG

Year: 2017

 

 

Hidden Figures

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This Ticket Stub Love review was originally posted on the site Chasing Dreams as part of their Film Friday segment.

I feel that the tagline for Hidden Figures perfectly encapsulates the film. “Meet the women you don’t know, behind the mission you do.” Many of us know or are somewhat aware of the events surrounding Project Mercury, the first human spaceflight program of the United States. What many people don’t realize is that the project would not have been successful without the help of countless engineers and mathematicians, in particular Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson.

Based on a true story, Hidden Figures centers on a team of African-American women, including Johnson (portrayed by Taraji P. Henson), Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Jackson (Janelle Monáe), who aided NASA by calculating the flight trajectories and mathematical data needed to launch the nation’s first successful space missions.

Hidden Figures is an excellent movie. Truly awe-inspiring, its story of these three powerful and intelligent women who overcame so much racism, sexism, and prejudice in the much divided 1960’s will strike a chord with audience members. Personally, and I know I am not alone in this, I was not aware of the tremendous strides and work these women did for NASA and for our nation. It was not only eye-opening but also inspirational to learn about this true story.

The cast performances were excellent. Taraji P. Henson blew me away as Katherine G. Johnson, her performance possessing such emotion and depth that needs to be more recognized and lauded. Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe were excellent as well. Both women brought a palpable strength and a firm grasp on the roles they respectively played.

Pharell Williams, Hans Zimmer, and Benjamin Wallfisch co-composed a great score for the film. The music added a needed boost at times that co-aligned well with the action on screen. In addition, Hidden Figures‘ story is well written and effectively immerses the viewer.

Hidden Figures has a lot of heart. I would fully recommend watching Hidden Figures, though it is not a film that requires a theater experience. People of any age will benefit from watching Hidden Figures and learning about an often overlooked but vital piece of our nation’s history. Even young children, especially girls, can most definitely look to Hidden Figures for a source of new role models as well. Hidden Figures has the heart and will touch yours.

ALL IN ALL: With its inspiring story and talented cast performances, Hidden Figures is sure to stay in the hearts of movie-goers alike for generations to come.

Hidden Figures 4.5 out of 5 ticket stubs.

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Director: Theodore Melfi

Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Jim Parson, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali

Run Time: 2 hrs 7 min, PG

Year: 2016

image from: http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/hidden-figures

 

 

La La Land

Every year, there’s a select number of films that are predicted to sweep the awards and earn critical acclaim. One of those predicted very early on was La La Land. This film has been at the top of my watch list for a while so I was thrilled when I received the opportunity to finally view the 7 Golden Globe winning (record-breaking) musical La La Land for myself.  I went in with pretty high expectations and I am so pleased to report that they were fully met!

La La Land tells the story of a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) who meet and fall in love in Los Angeles.

I loved La La Land, I really did. It is a truly magical experience and a wonderful film to see. Everything about it was perfect; from the cinematography, to the production design, costumes, choreography, performances, music, La La Land scored high. The music is great and will make you walk out of the theater humming and playing the soundtrack on repeat all the way home. The film really does make you wish your life is a musical!

The performances in particular were strong. Both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone brought depth to their multi-faceted characters, infusing both drama and comedy into their performances. Needless to say, their chemistry was great. Gosling’s performance in particular stood out as he easily delivered some of the best lines in the film, providing a surprising number of laughs and proving again his versatility as an actor. He also learned how to play many of his piano pieces which is impressive enough. The film really showcases some of the surprising musical talents of both actors. Though the character development for Mia and Sebastian could have been stronger, in particular with Mia, the two characters still manage to effectively captivate the audience with their love and personal story.

Visually La La Land is simply gorgeous. A classic musical, there were many homages to the old Hollywood style musicals mixed in with the contemporary LA setting. From the dance numbers (Who can forget that beginning freeway scene?) to the elaborate stage sets, the film was able to achieve an impressive mixture of classical and modern film elements. While I am not aiming to name La La Land as the first ever modern musical of its time, I do think the film is worthy of praise for rejuvenating a genre that has become somewhat rare nowadays.

I cannot praise La La Land enough. While its aspirations may seem lofty at times despite some flaws, the film still has so much emotion and heart that cannot be overlooked. After every musical number, I simply wanted to re-watch the whole scene again. The film is deeply satisfying and the love story,while sweet, is more focused on the journey of two people trying to achieve their dreams in the romantically painted town of Los Angeles, which I really found beautiful. I wholly recommend La La Land, and even try to see it in theaters if you can. La La Land provides a magical movie-going experience.

ALL IN ALL: La La Land is a beautifully done and visually gorgeous film, with excellent performances and music that captivates and warms the heart of audiences alike.

LA LA LAND 4.5/5 Ticket Stubs

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Director: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend

Run time: 128 minutes, PG-13

Year: 2016

image from: http://www.lalaland.movie/gallery/12

Passengers

Two strangers alone on a spaceship. Make that Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence alone on a space ship. Sounds intriguing right? I mean I would want to see that movie. Passengers has all the ingredients for a solid movie. An interesting premise, cool sets and effects, two of the hottest actors in Hollywood. All it really needed was a well crafted story. What a story it lacks though.

On a spacecraft transporting thousands of people to a distant colony planet, two passengers (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) wake up from induced hibernation 90 years too early.

Okay just read that premise. Again does it not sound interesting? That is the movie the trailers were advertising. That is the movie that I went in thinking I would see. Sadly it is not. Here is my main issue with Passengers and what I gather has been many people’s: Passengers is misleading. It really is. However I am going to refrain from giving anything away. The film was marketed in a way that was not fair to its actual material and to the people paying money to see it, and I personally found that frustrating. It also makes it very hard to overlook the true premise, which is a little more difficult to accept.

Not only was the film misleading, but the story itself was pretty lackluster once you get past the revelations not given away in the promos. The film felt sort of like Titanic, Gravity, and a bit of The Martian all rolled up into one. The action was severely anticlimactic and the character development poor. Good chunks of the movie were solely devoted to showing off how hot the main actors are. It only goes to show my theory that if one of the two characters was not as attractive, then none of the events in the film would have happened. It all felt vain at times and I found myself with many questions at the end.

All this is not to say there are no positive aspects of Passengers because there are! Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence’s performances were great, as was their chemistry. They were not given the best material to work with though. Michael Sheen was actually a bright standout in the film as the robot bartender Arthur. His character was charming and his performance was simply refreshing. The costumes and sets had a nice aesthetic to them and while more could have been done with the visual effects, I found them overall satisfying.

To put it simply, Passengers made me frustrated. Not only was I upset with how the story developed but I also felt that there was so much missed opportunity with the film. Again all the key ingredients were there. It just needed a better story. That being said, I enjoyed Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in the film. While I might not recommend seeing Passengers in theaters, I feel like some may still enjoy watching the film.

ALL IN ALL: Even with great chemistry from its two leads, Passengers still comes up short with a misleading and lackluster story.

Also, introducing our new ticket stub rating system (thanks Aimee J)!

PASSENGERS 2.5/5 Ticket Stubs

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I love getting into the swing of blogging again! I just saw the new spin-off/prequel film in the Harry Potter film series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Now I am a big Harry Potter fan. I read all the books and I have seen all of the movies multiple times. Harry Potter has been a huge part of my childhood and for countless other people too. So I can definitely understand any weariness Harry Potter fans may have about this new film series. Let me tell you this though and forgive my pun, Fantastic Beasts is pretty fantastic!

In the year 1926, seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book at Hogwarts, writer Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in New York City with a suitcase that contains dozens of magical creatures. Chaos ensues when some of the creatures escape, causing trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj (muggle or non-magic) worlds.

I enjoyed Fantastic Beasts, I really did. It is a genuinely fun movie to see. Harry Potter fans need not worry as well. Let’s make this clear, Fantastic Beasts is no Harry Potter, but that is the point. It is not trying to. In fact the film needs to be different, which it is. No one is really expecting Fantastic Beasts to be the same, which in my opinion is what makes the film more enjoyable and fun. You see, Fantastic Beasts is based on a book of the same name by J.K. Rowling but that book really did not have much of a story apart from the descriptions of the many magical creatures found in the wizarding world. J.K. Rowling herself wrote the screenplay for the film so I found it really unique to be going into this film blind. The audience really does not have much prior source material to go off on, unlike the Harry Potter films.

Eddie Redmayne was great in Fantastic Beasts as Newt Scamander. He is honestly adorable and I could not think of a better actor to fill the role. I personally was not a huge fan of Katherine Waterson’s character Porpentina Goldstein as I found her character to not be very likeable at all especially when compared to the other supporting characters played by Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol. They both actually stole the show for me, especially Fogler. He provided some great comic relief and his character was my favorite by far.

I have to admit seeing the WB logo with the Harry Potter theme playing at the start of the movie got me. It was so nice actually to be back in this familiar world, to recognize the spells and learn more about characters that were previously left untouched. With great effects and an entertaining story, Fantastic Beasts is a film anyone can enjoy, even those who are not so familiar with the Harry Potter wold. The film was actually a bit darker at times than I would have expected, but it still goes to show the pure thrill of this magical world that has been brought back to the big screen.

ALL IN ALL: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an enjoyable film for all that will please Harry Potter fans and delight those not so familiar to the wizarding world.

Director: David Yates

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol

Run time: 133 minutes, PG-13

Year: 2016

image from: http://www.joblo.com/timthumb.php?src=/posters/images/full/fantastic_beasts_and_where_to_find_them_ver4_xxlg.jpg&h=600&q=100

 

Arrival

After a long slump (truly sorry my last review was in June), I have finally seen a film that has motivated me to write again: Arrival. I really enjoyed this film. In fact, I loved it. It exceeded my expectations and left me speechless. I can easily name it as my favorite movie this year (so far). However it may not be for everyone.

After 12 mysterious spacecrafts touch down in different locations across the globe, the military enlists the aid of linguist professor Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to try to translate the alien communications before a global war breaks out.

Arrival was not the movie I expected. From first glance it may seem like a typical alien invasion type film but do not be fooled. I prefer to describe Arrival as a film that simply has aliens in it. Truth be told, while the alien aspect of the film does play a very large and central role to the plot, the film is revealed to be much larger and introspective. This reason alone is why I do not feel the movie may meet everyone’s expectations. Certainly some sci-fi fans who go in solely expecting an alien invasion movie will be somewhat disappointed. Arrival is not a simple popcorn flick. It is an intelligent film that makes one think, so much that even I cannot stop going over the film in my head.

Arrival is full of emotion. Right from the beginning, it grabs your heart and your mind and does not let go until the very end, where truth be told I found myself in tears. It is simply a beautiful film. With strong performances from Amy Adams and a gorgeous score by Jóhann Jóhannsson (whose previous work includes films such as The Theory of Everything), the film takes the viewer away into a parallel world. The story line of the film is also so smart and intricately constructed. Both beautiful and heartbreaking, the plot of Arrival forgoes conventional storytelling and constantly reels in one’s concentration. Seriously the film made me gasp.

I wholeheartedly recommend this film and I also suggest going in as blind as possible. Arrival may not be what it is pictured as, but nevertheless, it is a powerful and moving film that grows into so much more. The overarching themes and decisions the plot presents resonate with the viewer even after the credits roll. Arrival definitely is a sci-fi film, but it is more so a film about life-about endings and beginnings. Arrival is a well done film and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

ALL IN ALL: While not the typical alien movie, Arrival unveils itself as a beautiful and poignant film with themes of life that resonate deep.

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Year: 2016