Director: Bill Condon
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gadd, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald
In 1991, New York Times theatre critic Frank Rich declared that the best Broadway musical score of the year actually belonged to a movie. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was a sensation. It became the first animated feature film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, spawned a long-running Broadway show, and arguably represents the high watermark for Disney’s animated musicals. All of which means that the latest in Disney’s run of live-action remakes of their animation back catalogue probably has the highest stakes.
The opening prologue, which is here dramatised rather than simply narrated, transports us back to provincial France where an arrogant prince (Dan Stevens) is transformed into a hideous beast, and all his staff into crockery and furniture, as punishment for his cruelty, and doomed to stay that way unless he can learn to love and earn someone’s love in return. That someone is Belle (Emma Watson), a bookish but courageous girl from a nearby town who becomes prisoner in the beast’s palace before working her way into the hearts of the staff and, ultimately, their master (leading some to cynically refer to the film as ‘Stockholm Syndrome: The Musical’). Continue reading
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Starring: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen
Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline. Between them they boast five Academy Awards and a further nine nominations. With Last Vegas the stars have aligned, enabling these four greats of the screen to come together and do the least ambitious work of their career. One can only assume that the lure of an easy pay cheque for a few weeks of not particularly demanding work with some old friends in Las Vegas was too good for them to turn down. However, just because they might have had fun making the film doesn’t mean that you are going to have fun watching it.
Billy, Paddy, Archie and Sam have been the best of friends since they were kids, but as they hit their twilight years, life has got a bit tougher. Paddy’s wife has passed, Archie has had a stroke, Sam has lost his spark. When Billy, the eternal bachelor, announces that he is engaged to a woman young enough to be his daughter, Archie and Sam decide that a bachelor party in Las Vegas is just what the group needs to put a bit of a spring back into their step. But such an event means bringing together Billy and Paddy, who have had a falling out.
Obviously trying to tap into the success of The Hangover (at least the first one) and Bridesmaids – two films which in their best moments were quite subversive – this tale of old men behaving badly sets the bar pretty low. Last Vegas is exactly what you imagine it is going to be and nothing more. You get bombarded with cheap laughs about bad hips, medication, poor hearing, obliviousness to popular culture and, of course, Viagra.
Douglas, De Niro and Freeman are all playing to type; Douglas as the sleaze, De Niro as the curmudgeon and Freeman as the irreverent old guy with a bit of perspective on life. It is only Kline who succeeds in creating a vibrant and engaging character, which is problematic as the lion’s share of screen time goes to the less interesting dramatic conflict between Douglas’s Billy and De Niro’s Paddy. Mary Steenburgen, as lounge singer who catches the eye of both Billy and Paddy, is quite charming and proves herself to have quite a voice.
You can’t help but feel the whole film is summed up in one particularly low moment which sees Robert De Niro, one of the absolute legends of the American cinema, sit uncomfortably while LMFAO singer and X-Factor Australia judge Redfoo thrusts his speedo clad crotch into his face. In the end the goodwill engendered by the quality cast only goes so far in disguising what is otherwise an entirely unremarkable piece of fluff.
Rating – ★★
Review by Duncan McLean