“Beauty and the Beast” Feels Like A Wasted Opportunity

It feels like Disney’s live-action remakes of their animated classics have all been leading to this moment. Though everyone is sure to have a different favorite, Beauty and the Beast is the most iconic of their catalog, next to The Little Mermaid (which is next to receive the remake treatment). The original was the first animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture, and even managed nominations in Sound Mixing and three for Original Song. Alice in WonderlandSleeping BeautyCinderella and The Jungle Book have all been remade with varying degrees of critical success and huge, record breaking returns at the box office. Beauty and the Beast is bound to be their biggest endeavor yet.

And yet, for all of the hype, star power and magic, Beauty and the Beast winds up being just a straight and very soft pitch down the middle, never slipping into train wreck territory but never achieving the moments of grandeur and greatness that it so clearly desires. 

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“La La Land” Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

La La Land was one of my most anticipated films of the year. From the moment that excellent first trailer arrived, I was hooked. First of all, I’m a huge sucker for musicals. And while I wasn’t a huge fan of director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, he seemed to be aiming towards evoking the nostalgia of the great Hollywood musicals of the past, with a modern spin which I was totally down with. I’ve also been a huge fan of Emma Stone’s since her brilliant star making performance in Easy A, and this seemed like the perfect project for her talents. And she had such great chemistry with Ryan Gosling in CrazyStupid Love so what could go wrong, right?

Since then, La La Land has gone on to become the Best Picture frontrunner. It’s racked up wins from the New York Film Critic’s Circle, the coveted People’s Choice Award from TIFF, a bunch of Critic’s Choice wins and a bunch of Golden Globe and Screen Actor’s Guild nominations. It’s been written to death about how La La Land is the perfect antidote for our flaming garbage pile of a year, because after 2016, what we need is a breezy, delightful musical.

But La La Land simply doesn’t live up to the premise or hype bestowed upon it. And while it has some charming moments, they can’t hide the flawed and flimsy plot beneath all of the glitz and nostalgia.

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“Manchester By The Sea” is By Far the Year’s Most Frustratingly Overrated Film

For months I’ve been hearing nonstop talk about Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea, which seemed to be the only film out of Sundance that could, at the time, find any coverage outside of Nate Parker’s Birth Of A Nation. As the year has gone on, Manchester has chugged along and slowly been building steam as one of the three Oscar heavyweights. It was named Best Picture by the National Board of Review, with lead actor Casey Affleck winning Best Actor honors from both the Gotham Independent Awards and New York Film Critic’s circle.

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Natalie Portman is Exceptional in the Transcendent “Jackie”

There’s a scene in Jackie which sees the titular First Lady (played by Natalie Portman) preparing to walk out of the private jet carrying her, husband John and their entourage in Dallas, Texas. She’s rehearsing her speech while applying her makeup. Wearing the now iconic pink Chanel suit, she adds the finishing touch: the matching pillbox hat. She stares ahead never meeting his gaze, with a blank expression on her face.

“Ready?” John asks her.

“Of course,” she says with the slightest grin.

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Emily Blunt is Fantastic in the Otherwise Average “The Girl On the Train”

Ever since The Girl On the Train was released last year, it was hailed as “the next Gone Girl.” Such a comparison was probably a little unfair, despite both novels’ reliance on the untrustworthy narrator device, the switching between POV’s throughout the story and the fact they were shocking thrillers.

And so when it was announced that the film adaption of The Girl On the Train would be announced in October, just days shy of Gone Girl’s (the film) two year anniversary, the comparisons grew. Many wondered if Emily Blunt, starring as the main character Rachel, would secure the first Oscar nomination that has (unfairly) eluded her throughout her career like Rosamund Pike did for Gone Girl. The film would no doubt be a smashing success (it’s already being projected to be the #1 film this weekend with close to $30 million. Not Gone Girl level numbers, but pretty respectable nonetheless). It just needed to be good enough for Oscar consideration, right?

Unfortunately, critics have not been kind to The Girl On the Train. Metacritic has it at a middling 48, with many mentioning or flat out comparing it to Gone Girl.

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Lupita Nyong’o is transcendent in the outstanding “Queen of Katwe”

Inspirational, “feel good” movies oftentimes break a sweat trying to earn the audience’s emotions. Through the use of saccharine music, stereotypical character troupes and cliché dialogue, not to mention formulaic plot points. Queen of Katwe, a film that very easily could have fallen into those trap holes manages to avoid all of them while holding onto its uplifting message, hitting you like a shot in the heart.

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“Blair Witch” Review

When The Blair Witch Project was released in theaters back in 1999 it became a phenomenon. There was nothing else quite like it; a scrappy little film made for next to nothing, featuring no big name stars or a high-profile director attached to it. And yet it went on to gross over $240 million, and inspired a long line of films trying to recreate its magic (the Paranormal Activity films).

Enter the sequel, aptly named Blair Witch. Originally disguised as a film called The Woods featuring a cryptic teaser trailer, the film comes over a decade after the first film (and a much maligned sequel that’s generally ignored here). It seems a little weird that this sequel would come so far after the first film, especially given the original being a product of its time. Much of The Blair Witch Project‘s success is attributed to its marketing campaign, which was revolutionary at the time. An online website was created specifically for the movie, with false “legends” and stories about the fictional Blair Witch being spread far across the internet.

In today’s world, online marketing campaigns are seen as a necessity for a lot of films, especially a film like The Blair Witch; a lot of that magic has disappeared due to to the rise of the internet and social media. Even  watching the original film isn’t as magical as it was back in the pre-internet age. Blair Witch doesn’t just set out to continue the legacy of the first film, but recreate some of that magic for a new generation.

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Best Movies of 2016 (So Far)

It feels like at this time every year, everyone is always discussing how disappointing it’s been for film, though this year is the first time it really feels like it.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been any good movies. On the contrary, the high points this year have been exceptionally high. But I’ve seen a lot that’s ranged from just ‘ok’ to flat out awful. Despite a really interesting premise, Lights Out proved to be extremely disappointing, while I’m still not sure we needed to wait all this time for Finding Dory when we had something as special as Zootopia. I did enjoy Deadpool, though it wasn’t a film I walked out of the theater loving. Though I prefer it a thousand times over whatever Batman Vs Superman or Suicide Squad were going for, and The Neon Demon challenges those films for the title of Worst Movie of the Year.

Still, this was the same year that brought us gifts like The WitchLove & Friendship and The Meddler, so I suppose I can’t be too mad.

So, let’s get to it. My favorite films of the year (so far).

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“Suicide Squad” Review: Is It As Bad As You’ve Heard?

The reception to Suicide Squad has been pretty unrelenting; since the official premiere earlier this week, it seems every single critic has come out of the woodwork with their own takedown of the film. A lot of the reviews I’ve read have said that the film is somehow even worse than Batman Vs. Superman and the ill-fated Fantastic Four reboot, which is a pretty big claim considering how awful those movies were. Now, fans of the film have written an online petition to shut down Rotten Tomatoes over the bad reviews, clearly not regarding that Rotten Tomatoes simply aggregates these reviews, and has no part in writing them.

As someone who is pretty disconnected from superhero movies altogether (except Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the original Spiderman films and the very first Iron Man), I didn’t really have much of a personal stake in this fight. I had a feeling that Suicide Squad wasn’t going to be the best film of the year from the moment it was announced the film was undergoing reshoots following the disastrous release of Batman Vs. Superman, and the unbearable press tour that followed Jared Leto taking the role of The Joker. Nevertheless, I couldn’t believe that there was a film worse than Batman Vs. Superman, and so I decided to see the film for myself.

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“Ghostbusters” Is Very Good, Sorry (Not Sorry) Haters

When Paul Feig announced his all female led Ghostbusters reboot the last thing I imagined the film would receive was backlash. Then again, I forgot that the internet is filled with sexist fan boys living in their parents’ basement with absolutely nothing better to do than organize campaigns to lower a film’s IMDB score (all before even seeing the movie mind you) so I guess I shouldn’t have been too shocked. The mere thought that four women would fill the roles originally inhabited by men in the 80’s classic was enough to send these nerds into a whirlwind of chaos. That’s sad huh?

“Controversy” aside, Feig and his Ghostbusters (returning vets Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and newcomers Kate Mckinnon and Leslie Jones) aren’t out to duplicate the original film. On the contrary, they use the familiar premise as a templet; Feig has provided his group of actresses their wackiest and zaniest playground yet, and while the hi-jinks aren’t as laugh out loud funny as previous efforts like The Heat or Bridesmaids, they still make for some of the most entertaining moments in film this year.

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