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romance

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

DIRECTOR: Bill Condon

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

REVIEW:

Following in the footsteps of Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast is the latest (and arguably most ambitious yet) entry in Disney’s recent dubious fixation with throwing a lot of money around remaking its classic animated films as live-action versions.  For those who decry virtually shot-for-shot remakes of Disney classics that didn’t need to be remade (especially with “new” versions that are content to slavishly follow the source material rather than doing any different or innovative on their own), Beauty and the Beast is unlikely to convert them into the fold.  It’s technically well-made, handsomely-filmed, served up with a loving dose of nostalgia as a lavish love letter to the 1991 original, but despite sumptuous sets and flashy special effects, it lacks the heart and charm of the original.  There’s a sense of a by-the-numbers hollowness to the proceedings, like a competent but uninspired cover of a classic song.  Fans may enjoy themselves out of nostalgia, but it never escapes the shadow of its forefather (nor does it try). Continue reading

Passengers (2016)

passengersDIRECTOR: Morten Tyldum

CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL DISCUSS AN IMPORTANT PLOT POINT

Passengers is somewhat tricky to categorize; it’s firmly within the sci-fi genre, but without the action of Star Wars or Star Trek (at least until the third act), and it’s a love story but one steeped in moral ambiguity.  Some will find it too slow-paced, while others accuse it of romanticizing the unsavory circumstances under which its romance begins (which I do not, for the most part, agree with).  Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its controversial premise and somewhat indecisive tone, it’s already set to be an expensive flop, which is a bit of a shame.  The movie has flaws, but they’re not insurmountable, and the premise and themes are substantial enough to be compelling. Continue reading

Allied (2016)

allied2DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis

CAST: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard

REVIEW:

Robert Zemeckis is no stranger to period films (Forrest Gump travels through decades of historical events), and now he’s turned his attention to crafting an old-fashioned wartime romance and potboiler of the like that Hollywood churned out in the 1940s.  Unsurprisingly for someone of his much-lauded technical craftsmanship, Zemeckis has succeeded on a superficial level, but while engaging enough to be worth a look for a fan of this sort of thing, Allied, a bit like Steven Soderbergh’s The Good Germanfocuses more on pretty pictures and capturing a certain style than on its pedestrian and undistinguished narrative.  It’s not a bad film, but while it pays homage to them, it’s not likely to become an enduring classic. Continue reading

The Great Gatsby (2013)

carey-mulligan-600DIRECTOR: Baz Luhrmann

CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Amitabh Bachchan, Jack Thompson

REVIEW:

 

I’ll get this out of the way right upfront: I have never read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, now considered a staple of American literature (though it was received poorly at the time, perhaps partly due to its social commentary on 1920s excess), so this review will not include comparisons to the book or any previous film adaptation (the most prominent of which came out in 1974 and starred Robert Redford in the title role), merely review this as a stand-alone film.  Continue reading

Warm Bodies (2013)

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Levine

CAST: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, Dave Franco, Analeigh Tipton, Cory Hardrict, John Malkovich

REVIEW:

An adaptation of Isaac Marion’s novel, Warm Bodies combines two genres you might have reasonably expected to never see combined—romantic comedy and zombies. Continue reading

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011)

DIRECTOR: Bill Condon

CAST:

Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Elizabeth Reaser, Sarah Clarke, Gil Birmingham, Michael Sheen

REVIEW:

As Warner Bros. Did with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Summit Entertainment has split the final chapter of its young adult phenomenon the Twilight “saga” into two films. It’s easy to be cynical about both decisions as blatant maximizing of profits, especially in Twilight’s case, as while Deathly Hallows‘ density justified unfolding it over two films, it’s debatable whether any Twilight entry, including Breaking Dawn, really has enough that actually happens to warrant being stretched out over two movies. Regardless, Oscar-nominated director Bill Condon has done a respectable job with what he was given, helming a faithful but not obsessively word-for-word adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s novel, but as with every other Twilight entry, the content makes a mixed bag. Continue reading

Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)

DIRECTOR: David Slade

CAST:

Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz, Elizabeth Reaser, Gil Birmingham, Bryce Dallas Howard, Dakota Fanning, Xavier Samuel

REVIEW:

It took three movies, but they’ve finally gotten it right, or as right as it’s going to be. Continue reading

Letters to Juliet (2010)

DIRECTOR: Gary Winick

CAST:

Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Egan, Gael Garcia Bernal, Franco Nero, Oliver Platt

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW DISCUSSES “SPOILERS” OF THE FILM’S PLOT

Letters to Juliet is a pleasant, unchallenging little story that doesn’t offer any plot turns that aren’t possible to see coming a hundred miles away but serves up enough sweetness to be an adequate morsel for those seeking something to whet the appetite of their inner romantic. Continue reading

Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)

DIRECTOR: Chris Weitz

CAST:

Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz, Elizabeth Reaser, Gil Birmingham, Graham Greene, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Rachelle Lefevre, Edi Gathegi, Christopher Heyerdahl, Jamie Campbell-Bower

REVIEW:

After the explosion of Twilight mania, with a more established director and an expanded budget, New Moon is a better-looking film, but does not escape problems- mostly related more to Stephenie Meyer’s source material than Chris Weitz’s adaptation- that still make it a mixed bag. Continue reading

500 Days of Summer (2009)

500DIRECTOR: Marc Webb

CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Chloe Grace Moretz, Geoffrey Arend, Matthew Gray Gubler, Clark Gregg, Minka Kelly

REVIEW:

While it contains its share of romance, 500 Days of Summer is not a romantic comedy, at least not in the conventional sense.  As the narration informs us from the get-go, “this is not a love story”, and it acknowledges that every romance isn’t “happily ever after”.  Using a non-linear narrative structure, it’s a deconstruction of the beginning, middle, and end of a relationship that follows its protagonist, not always in chronological order, as he runs the gamut from exhilarated joy to crushing heartbreak, and all the little moments in between.  In a way, it’s not about the boy getting the girl, but the boy learning to get over the girl and living his life instead of desperately clinging to a relationship that may not have ever been as compatible as he thought it was.  That 500 Days of Summer manages to do all this without being a total downer is a tribute to the smart and witty screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the sophisticated and visually inventive direction by first-time filmmaker Marc Webb, and the charm of star Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Despite the inherent bittersweet poignancy of the premise, this is–for the most part–a breezy, entertaining, enjoyable comedy-drama that manages in the end to be optimistic and life-affirming rather than bitter or depressing.  Among “breakup movies”, this is as “feel good” an example as you’re likely to find. Continue reading

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