Tag Archives: Dan Stevens

Beauty and the Beast – A Movie Review


Related Content from And There Came A Day



Beauty and the BeastLavish, breathtaking, stunning and engaging, Beauty and the Beast is more than a frame-by-frame, live action rehashing of the animated 1991 Disney classic. A lot more. Try to ignore the haters.

While the movie does, retell that same story with much of the same music, it does so with great charm. Bill Condon was an inspired choice to direct as he insert just enough edginess into the film so that it rises above being a simple adaptation of its source material and becomes a movie that stands on its own. The eye that he has for staging grand spectacle is matched almost entirely by his inspired choices in casting.

At this point, it can be argued that the most talented (and most successful) of the three actors who grew up on screen before our eyes in the Harry Potter movies is Emma Watson. She does nothing to counter that notion here. Commanding in performance and enchanting in song, her Belle is another in what is becoming a welcome line of so-called “Disney Princesses” who are not damsels waiting for male characters to rescue them or needing male characters to define them. Watson’s Belle is interesting from the moment we first see her on screen (one of the plot changes from the original that assists here is making Belle, not her father, the intellectual powerhouse inventor of the piece). Emma Watson handles all aspects of the role extremely well, including the musical requirements. She has a very good voice and shows it to great effect here.

Though his voice may not be quite up to par with his co-star, Dan Stevens does an excellent job as the Beast. With his face entirely covered (and, later, CGI-ed) by his beast costume, Stevens is left to other devices in his performance and he uses them very well. His beast is less menace and more grumpy, perhaps, than the animated version, but that plays very well in the context of this film. Resigned to his fate, the Beast seems as surprised as Belle when he begins to feel love for her. Though Watson is a better singer than Stevens, he does hold his own here, too.

The rest of the cast is truly delightful and it is real fun to see them (spoiler alert for those of you who have, you know, never seen a version of this movie!) revert to human form at the end of the movie. This is a powerhouse and incredibly talented cast. Emma Thompson, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Luke Evans, Gu Gu Mabatha Raw, Josh Gad and Ian McKellan – all of them are wonderful.

Much has been made of Josh Gad’s performance as LeFou, the first openly gay Disney character. Unfortunately, many reactions have been much more about the issue than the performance. To the issue: anyone who did not realize the animated LeFou is gay was not paying attention and the fact that Disney has committed to this character being gay is a good thing. A very good thing. The performance, too, is terrific. Bravo to Gad and Disney.

The set pieces are wonderful and the music soars. When Be Our Guest stops the show and this number, in-and-of itself, feels worth the price of admission. The addition of a couple new compositions do not seem out of place, nor do they stand out as such. This is a musical and the music works. The cast is up to the challenge.

If there is anything that annoys about the movie, frankly, it is just how talented the cast is. Hey, you are some of the best actors on the planet! Do you have to be terrific singers and dancers, too?

Beauty and the Beast is a splendid movie that should leave audiences smiling. If all of the proposed live action remakes of animated Disney classics are as sweet as this movie, I say bring them on.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST receives FOUR AND A HALF BE OUR GUESTS out of a possible FIVE.

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Deaths in Fiction… Spoilers Ahead

Spoiler Alert… Spoiler Alert… Spoiler Alert…Spoiler Alert… Spoiler Alert… Spoiler Alert…Spoiler Alert… Spoiler Alert… Spoiler Alert…Spoiler Alert… Spoiler Alert… Spoiler Alert…Spoiler Alert… Spoiler Alert… Spoiler Alert…Spoiler Alert… Spoiler Alert… Spoiler Alert…Spoiler Alert… Spoiler Alert… Spoiler Alert…

if you’re The Cinnamon Girl, you don’t care about the Spoiler Alert- she loves her some spoilers.

Spoilers coming for Batman Comic Books (of course)

M*A*S*H,

ER,

The West Wing,

Downton Abbey,

A Prayer for Owen Meany,

 

I was 18.

I was a comic book fan.

I was unprepared.

DC Comics, having introduced in Jason Todd a new Robin to partner with Batman (original Robin Dick Grayson had left the partnership to become the hero Nightwing) responded to growing fan unrest and dissatisfaction with the character in the coldest, cruelest manner possible. In a storyline called “A Death in the Family,” Batman’s arch nemesis, the Joker, beat the young Robin with a crowbar and left him for dead. For good measure, the Joker left explosives in the building in which he’d beaten Robin and the last panel of the issue in which all this occurred was a splash page showing the building blowing up. Spectacularly.

Such is the stuff of comics. Heroes survive this kind of circumstance all the time. Surely the Jason Todd Robin, reviled by fanboys though he was, would come through with a minimum of damage and a panel or two of convalescence before emerging to fight crime again.

But there was something different with this event. Following the last page of story, there was a full page ad with two 1-900 numbers to call. The text on the page instructed readers to dial one number if they wanted Robin to survive, another if they wanted him dead. It would cost you .50 but you could call as many times as you wanted!

Really.

As the story goes (and you can read about it HERE), the Jason Todd Robin lost by some 200 votes and died.

Cold blooded, don’t you think?

This moment became a watershed event in the life of Batman and influenced the character for years to come. That the Jason Todd Robin has since been resurrected (a very, very common event in comic books and, BONUS SPOILER ALERT, if you were saddened by Bucky’s “death” in Captain America: The First Avenger, don’t fret. It didn’t take, either) is immaterial. His death had major consequences in terms of story. It changed the Batman. Forever. That’s good, fictional, stuff.

It had import.

Events repeated themselves in this week’s issue of Batman Incorporated when Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s 11-year-old son with Talia A Ghul was killed. By. His. Own. Mother.

Now that’s cold.

Damian was a Robin as well – the first Robin blood related to Batman himself – and was introduced over five years ago by an author who always had the intention of killing the character off. Comic books being what they are, the death was spoiled in media no less than USAToday (that counts as “media,” right?) with a headline. The internet was buzzing with the news of Robin’s death days before the issue hit the stands. There are no surprises in comics anymore.

We’re promised this death is permanent. I am not holding my breath.

But, I must admit, Damian Wayne’s death was deftly handled and I had an emotional response to it.

What I’ve been thinking about this week, though, are all the deaths in fiction that have surprised or shocked me or affected me on an emotional level. More broadly, I have been thinking about when I care, why I care and what that means about the stories in which these events occur.

I was young when Radar O’Reilly burst, unmasked as I recall, into the operating room on that fateful episode of M*A*S*H and announced “Lt. Col. Henry Blake’s plane was shot down… it spun in… there were no survivors.” (That I think people like McLean Stevenson, Shelley Long [Cheers] and, yes, Dan Stevens [Downton Abbey] are MORONS for leaving the hit shows on which they appear, thinking, apparently, that they are better than them is a subject for a different blog) I remember being floored by the moment. It was final and cold. It put an end to a character I liked and opened up a bevy of narrative possibilities for the writers of the show. If Henry Blake could die, so could any other major character. It might be worth noting that none of the other, major characters ever did, but it was a powerful moment. I was too young to really be upset about the death or to think about many ramifications. But I do remember the moment.

I was older and could have been more deeply effected when Mark Greene, Anthony Edwards’ character on ER, died. The victim of cancer, Greene’s death would have, perhaps, been more powerful if the writers on ER hadn’t mishandled his arc in the seasons leading up to it. Remember mean and evil Dr. Greene? Yeah, those weren’t good times. In the end, Greene’s death was a bit of an anti-climax because the character had been played out to such an extent that there was nothing else to do but kill him off. The writers put him out of his, and our, misery.

When fan favorite character – my favorite character – Mrs. Landingham was struck and killed by a drunk driver on The West Wing, I was upset. Very upset. Her death was so well handled, so shockingly mounted, that it had its intended effect. It shook up the audience. It made the audience feel. It had dramatic import and carried true weight. Someone audiences had come to know, respect and, yes, love had been taken from us. Mercilessly. It felt real. It felt like life. This was the genius of Aaron Sorkin and his work on The West Wing. He made audiences care. He made me care. I cared when Mrs. Landingham died. Her death meant something.

Like Lady Sybil. Julian Fellows made her death count, too. I was taken far aback by it. It had implications, ramifications, impact. Again, like real life, events happen without clear explanation or expectation on Downton Abbey and, while there has been some backlash against the ultra popular show at the end of this season particularly for killing off Matthew (an event inspired by the actor’s desire to leave the show, not by narrative plan), isn’t that one of the reasons we watch television or read books or go to the movies or plays?

That’s the thing for me and it’s what draws me to narrative. I want to be immersed in someone else’s story, someone else’s life, and watch them live it. I want to learn from it and I do so when the writers make me feel. To be clear, I have friends in whose lives I want to be immersed as well – we call that community – and it really is real. But I don’t wish on them terrible events. I don’t want to see them struck by tragedy. I want to see them happy.

For the fictional characters in whom I invest my time and energy, whatever happens to them happens. If well done, I will react to these events. I will have an emotional response. I will not be destroyed.

I may wish more stories with them – I will miss Damian Wayne like I missed Mrs. Landingham; they mattered to me – but I don’t have to go to their funerals.

But, if when these things are well done, when they matter, I feel like Johnny Wheelwright when he speaks about the death of his best friend Owen Meany in John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany: “Oh God, please give him back to me. I shall keep asking You.”

 

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