adaptation

Review – Beauty and the Beast

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Review – Beauty and the Beast

By guest columnist my_year_in_movies.

Beauty and the Beast had a near impossible job on its hand: How do you remake arguably the most beloved animated movie of all time? Take the easy route and not change a thing and the critics will ask what the point is (hell, some grumps are gonna ask that no matter what happens). Change too much and the villagers will be after you with pitchforks.

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Ghost in the Shell- Tokyo Premiere

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Ghost in the Shell- Tokyo Premiere

Pixelated Geek is really excited for this movie! Make sure to check back next week to see our review.

See GHOST IN THE SHELL in theaters nationwide on March 31, 2017 in REALD 3D and IMAX 3D

Directed by: Rupert Sanders

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, Michael Carmen Pitt, Pilou Asbæk, Chin Han and Juliette Binoche

TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 16:  Casts attend the Japan Premiere of the Paramount Pictures release "Ghost In The Shell' at TOHO Cinemas Shinjuku on March 16, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan.  (Photo by Jun Sato/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

TOKYO, JAPAN – MARCH 16: Casts attend the Japan Premiere of the Paramount Pictures release “Ghost In The Shell’ at TOHO Cinemas Shinjuku on March 16, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

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Beauty and the Beast: Final Trailer

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Beauty and the Beast: Final Trailer

The new trailer for Disney’s live-action adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” debuted during ABC’s broadcast of “The Bachelor” featuring new footage and Ariana Grande and John Legend’s duet of the iconic song Beauty and the Beast. Directed by Bill Condon, the film brings the story and characters audiences know and love to life in a stunning, cinematic event. Be sure to check it out, and don’t forget to see “Beauty and the Beast” on March 17 when the film hits theaters nationwide.

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Movie Issues: Cinderella

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Movie Issues: Cinderella

Disney has made a career of taking fairy tales from around the world and turning them into giant buckets of money. Well, get ready Disney fans because they are about to do it once more with the release of their live-action film, Cinderella. Directed by Kenneth Branagh and based on the 1950 animated masterpiece, Disney’s Cinderella. Which, of course, is based on the many versions of the story that have been told since 1634. Each version of the story changes for every new generation it touches, and like so many other versions of this classic story, this new adaptation will go down as being just as beautiful as its animated predecessor.

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Thor

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Thor

I am certain no two people in the theatre were more ignorant of the Marvel comic title Thor than my companion and I. We gamely let the film unfold before us with zero preconceptions and (to be honest) pretty low expectations. The fans around is seemed to feel pretty good about it as a whole, and we both found it entertaining and pretty well self-contained.

The story takes place in two worlds: ours, and the far-off realm of Asgard, where the personages of Thor (Chris Hemsworth(, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Frigga (Rene Russo), and Heimdall (Idris Elba) live. The presence of these space gods in our Norse folklore is explained as long-ago visits to Earth where their advanced science seemed magical. Naturally, back in New Mexico, we have Stellan SkarsgÃ¥rd as a Swede who knows the stories, though a children’s book is still needed to explain the extra bits.

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Water for Elephants

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Water for Elephants

When I finished Sara Gruen’s novel, I hugged it before I put it down.  I just loved the feel of it, the story, the characters, and I was sorry when it was over.  When they announced the film, I was pleased — until they announced that Robert Pattinson would be playing Jacob, the lead.  The last time I did not want to punch Pattinson in the face was when Voldemort cut him down in a cemetery in Little Hangleton.  Even with Reese Witherspoon and the two-for-two Christoph Waltz, I was nervous that the main character would not be the lovely man I had loved on the page.  Then Hal Holbrook plays elderly him in the framing narrative, and all was well in the world.  Of course Waltz is as always a freaking genius.  Pattinson and Witherspoon do look strange together, but it’s no matter — the story flows smoothly around them; it’s less about any love among these people than love for the world of the circus, anyway.

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Jane Eyre (2011)

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Jane Eyre (2011)

As many long-suffering high schoolers did, I read Jane Eyre in 9th grade and hated it.  Later, of course, I reread it and loved it!  Even as I warmed to Charlotte Bronte’s surprisingly astute judge of the psychological damage inflicted by the callous societal attitudes of the day, I never really got why Jane went for Mr. Rochester.  Simple as that.  In a culture of withholding and cruelty, his “charms” could best be described as “as expected” rather than alluring on any level.

In this adaptation, screenwriter Moira Buffini and director Cary Fukunaga finally helped me get it.  From Rochester’s hysterical secret to Jane’s default setting of undeservingness, Buffini takes them both to a place of mutual respect and understanding.  It may not necessarily be true to the text as such (it has been quite a while) but it’s true to the spirit of Jane.

Casting Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) as the glowering antihero was equally as inspired a choice as using Colin Firth in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice:  both of them are unconventionally handsome and gentle actors thrust into roles that radiate unpleasantness and are difficult to warm to.  Rochester’s irrational grumps and rages feel more human coming out of Fassbender, not unlike Firth’s cold and cutting remarks.  It’s the only way to insert humanity into them onscreen in the truncated time span of a film.

Mia Wasikowska’s Jane is stoic and unselfconsciously beautiful, frail-looking but strong as bamboo when tried.  We can see all her internal scars, feel the effects of her abusive upbringing, even as the movie is forced to rush through the extent of it.  From such a barren life grows a fierce weed, almost mannish her lack of guile or vanity — and from thence her appeal.  It’s funny how literary and contemporary men always decry women for leaving their feminine place, but are yet always drawn to the outspoken, independent, fearless women they decry.

This version of Jane Eyre is light on Rochester being cruel to her himself, and in that fails the story just a little — but I confess I enjoyed it more for that.  I also liked the sense of Rochester being in the world when Jane has not been.  Not only in terms of his bastard ward, but just his whole clearly grown-up-ness and jaded weariness — yet still he is weaker than this beaten down servant girl.

My one quibble is a sort of narrative device that confused me — and likely might have done for anyone who hadn’t read the book at all.  The whole episode with St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell) and his sisters, I had forgotten happened at all.  So when we’re shown the flight across the — moors? heath? — by Jane, twice, it’s not immediately evident where it falls in the timeline, both times.  It can be worked out and it’s not vital, but it rendered a scene a little contextually confusing, implying through editing that Rivers helped her find her job at Thornfield, the Rochester house.  It’s only a quibble.  I enjoyed this film very much.  I hope you will too.

MPAA Rating PG-13

Release date 3/11/11

Time in minutes 120

Director Cary Fukunaga

Studio Focus Features

The Adjustment Bureau

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The Adjustment Bureau

The previews for the Adjustment Bureau make it seem like a psychological thriller, but one with vaguely Matrix-y overtones.  In reality, this film is a romance in metaphysical thriller drag, and an interesting take on the notion of predetermination.  Based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Adjustment Team,” which I have not read, this film veers away from Dick’s more nihilistic tones (see: Blade Runner) and into ones of overt sweetness, which I imagine are not present in the original story, but were pleasant to witness.

While watching the film play out, our winsome leads Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are compelling and lovely and the machinations of the titular bureau are interesting to watch.  As a work of filmmaking, Adjustment Bureau is sexy and solid and entertaining.  Damon is a credible young politician, driven and charismatic.  Blunt is a graceful but relatable dancer, the Perfect Girl embodied but with aspirations of her own.

The visual tricks that help convey the behind-the-scenes machinations of the Adjusters are simple and effective.  Thomas Newman’s score is reliably lovely to hear and John Toll’s photography is typically gorgeous.  I was amused by the mid-century-yet-timeless feel of the Bureau members and witnessing their petty bureaucratic hierarchies.  The messages of love and possession and release were all good, and the story kept me interested.

That said, once I left the theatre the whole façade fell apart.  I often have this problem with adaptations of Dick stories because for some reason the big ideas never really grow into anything with any solidity for me, which is why I suspect this story veers as above.   When your deus ex machine actually has a deus in it, you know you’ve painted yourself into a corner.

The idea of small moments causing huge ripples in the universe is not a new one.  The idea that there is a Plan, specifically on that undergoes constant revision, is the most compelling thing about the story. The fact that the interfering minions aren’t privy to the Plan was a fun running theme. The notion that the Plan changes but leaves echoes of itself behind (so that what was once meant to be later becomes not so) vexed me, but is integral to the story. An omnipotent, omniscient being running things through discreet micromanaging (a spill of coffee, a dropped phone call) seems both reasonable and ridiculous.

What is the point of all this meddling and greater good power if it is so easily thwarted or redesigned?  It confounded the cool idea that our free will is an illusion, that every time we as a species are left in charge of our destinies, we screw it up — so why respond to our stubbornness by updating the plan?  The film seemed too contradictory to really hold up.

That said, the chemistry and inevitability of Damon and Blunt was sweet to witness and the action as it unfolds is enjoyable to watch.  Rent at your leisure.

MPAA Rating PG-13

Release date 3/4/11

Time in minutes 106

Director George Nolfi

Studio Universal Pictures

Green Hornet, The

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Green Hornet, The

The first ten minutes of The Green Hornet contained a surprising mashup of Oscar-caliber actors, which made me think perhaps this movie might be a worthwhile piece of entertainment after all. Then most of them vanish never to reappear again, and we settled into the lower-rent rest of the movie.

I am not so much enamored of the Green Hornet premise, and while I do like Seth Rogen in the right part, I was never convinced that indeed he was in the right part here. Rogen plays a gadabout Peter Pan syndrome-afflicted rich playboy.  His Seth Rogenness could only be offset for his ample harem of lady friends by his steaming bags of cash and cocky confidence. Who would I cast in his place? Someone funny and cute yet still believably slackerrific like his Freaks and Geeks costar who makes a too-short appearance in this film, James Franco.

So, the rich ginger ends up dependent on a former household servant, Kato (Jay Chou) who is of course the meat and potatoes of their ad hoc crime-fighting partnership. Everyone’s motives but Rogen’s are flimsy at best. Kato’s superhuman capacity for awesomeness repeatedly and annoyingly begs the question: why does he put up with Rogen at all? Even if Bruce Wayne acted like a complete putz, he still has good motives and does his own stunts.

It almost goes without saying that seeing this movie in 3-D adds nothing to the experience. The most in-your-face thing about the movie is the crippling insecurity of all the main players, which rendered it painfully difficult to care about them. The action is excitingly filmed and the car, the Black Beauty, is retro-cool and sexy. Kato’s fight scenes are fast and impressive but invalidated by director Michel Gondry’s GUI explanation of how the master warrior actually manages his badassery in his head.

Truly the reason to watch Green Hornet at all, besides Chou, is Christoph Waltz. As the mildly neurotic head of a petty local crime syndicate, Waltz brings his Inglourious Basterds’ character’s oily charm and a hefty dose of comedic potential. He juggles the responsibilities of simultaneously playing the heavy and the sole comic relief (strangely so in a Rogen vehicle), a difficult task to pull off with such aplomb, but there’s a reason he has so many trophies at home for acting. It was hard to root for the unlikeable antihero with such a deliciously enjoyable villain on the docket. The best film would have had Kato finally murdering Rogen’s character over something hilarious and joining forces with Waltz to open a nightclub.

Watch the Green Hornet on HBO for Waltz and Chou, and pray someone writes Waltz a funny starring vehicle and Chou a dramatic action franchise, soon.

MPAA Rating PG-13

Release date 1/14/11

Time in minutes 108

Director Michel Gondry

Studio Sony Pictures