Welcome to your movie-geek roundup of what’s new and worth your attention on the big screen and streaming at home. Let us know in the comments what you’re going to be watching!
Beauty and the Beast (Now Playing)
There may be something there that wasn’t there before, but it’s certainly not something that was needed. Director Bill Condon does deserve some credit for essentially replicating all the familiar songs, characters, and story beats of the original animated movie, but he does it with all the mindless faithful flair of Gus Van Sant’s Psycho. It’s the same tale as old as time with the adventure-hungry Belle (Emma Watson) falling for the snarling Beast (Dan Stevens) and the devilish Gaston (Luke Evans) gunning for Belle’s hand in marriage. All the old side characters are present as well, from Gaston’s yes-man lacky LeFou (Josh Gad) to the servants trapped in household items, but with additions that don’t enhance them much or change the story.
But I found it most peculiar how there was a certain magic missing from this adaptation. Not only is the story presented in a routine fashion without the grunt work of establishing the romantic chemistry, but there are certain new aspects that actually hurt the story. How can you feel sorry for the Beast’s loneliness when he can travel anywhere in the world with a magic atlas? How can you enjoy Belle’s charming romance when we have to be shown the pathos of her dying mother halfway through? Did we need to see this? Is the supposed to enhance the story? As it stands, this Beauty and the Beast plays more as a redux with deleted scenes I wish remained deleted.
Kong: Skull Island (Now Playing)
In a stark contrast to 2014’s Godzilla, this latest reboot of a classic monster movie doesn’t shy away from its star attraction. If you want Kong, you’ll be glad to know you’re going to get a lot of Kong. There’s no hiding in the shadows for this ape as he barrels straight into the action in broad daylight, defending Skull Island from the human invaders. He smacks helicopters, battles monsters, and roars mightily as he pounds his chest. This is indeed the King Kong movie I’ve been waiting for.
That being said, Skull Island adheres too closely to the old B-movies in that it embraces all of their negatives as well as their positives. The human characters are multiple and forgettable, delivering the very definition of throwaway dialogue despite some strong efforts by Tom Hiddleston, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, and Samuel L. Jackson. We are made aware early on not to become too invested in these characters because most of them will be killed on Skull Island. The script even goes so far as to wink toward the audience whenever someone is murdered, having the characters move on with little care. But if you can forgive the lacking human element, it’s easy enough to enjoy the campy thrills of Kong slurping up a squid and John C. Reilly slicing pterodactyls with a katana.
Pete’s Dragon (Now Streaming)
I never found myself all that enraptured with 1977’s Pete’s Dragon, but this 2016 version from director David Lowery is an entirely different story. Following the adventurous tale of Pete being raised in the forest by a giant, green, fluffy dragon named Elliot, the two are soon discovered by a logging company from a small town nearby. The question arises of what to do about Pete and Elliot; social services wants to place the kid in a foster home while the logging company wants to capture the dragon for the glory. This is a surprisingly gentle film for all its excitement a feral boy wandering the streets and a big dragon breathing fire into traffic. The characters are sweet and intelligent, with the likes of Robert Redford, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Karl Urban bringing a great deal of charm and heart to this tale. The movie also has a rustic quality with its approach to a small logging town with its myths of dragons in the woods. It’s perfect for curling up with the family in that it take every age seriously with the right amount of wit, sentimentality, and thrills. Live-action Disney pictures don’t get much better than this.
10 Cloverfield Lane (Now Streaming)
Call it a spin-off, call it a spiritual successor, call it a bait and switch. It doesn’t matter. 10 Cloverfield Lane is an astonishingly intense thriller despite having little to no relation to the giant monster genre of 2008’s Cloverfield. John Goodman is at his best as a psychotically uneasy survivalist who allows Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. to bunk in his underground shelter for the remainder of an alien attack. Ninety percent of the movie takes place entirely within the shelter without a single glimpse of the attacking aliens—and that’s fine by me considering how terrifying John Goodman can be as a man who snap so easily at the mere hint of mutiny in the air. With its moments of horror and comedy, 10 Cloverfield Lane is an absolute blast if you go in expecting more of a human tale than a giant monster epic. Yeah, its title may lie, but it’s a lie I’m more than comfortable with.
Lady Snowblood (Now Streaming)
Remember that scene from Kill Bill: Volume 1 when the Bride slaughters O-Ren and that somberly bad-ass Japanese song plays? Not only did that song originate as the theme of Lady Snowblood, but that movie was one of the key inspirations for Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece. The titular female warrior was born in prison to a wronged woman, specifically to take revenge for her dead mother and the peaceful life she was denied. Her tale is a wild, blood-soaked journey of gruesome and epic revenge. It has that unparalleled charm of a 1970s action picture that features a plethora of crazy editing techniques as much as it does a killer soundtrack. It’s easily one of the most bombastic and giddily violent of samurai pictures that should be seen—if not for the origins of Kill Bill, then for the style it oozes from every frame.
What will you be watching?