Beauty and the Beast (2017 Movie)

movie_poster_beautybeast2017_95e8117fBe Our Guest.

I saw it last night, guys.  You ready for this?

(I’m not even going to give you a synopsis of this movie because I truly hope that no one needs an explanation of what this movie is about.  That would just be so sad.)

Let’s start by talking about the story itself.  Obviously, probably about 85-90% of this movie is the same as the original.  (Some of the dialogue is word for word the same as well, a fact that I know because I have the original animated movie completely memorized.)  Your basics are all there: Belle goes to the castle, Gaston is the bad guy, “Be Our Guest” is a huge production, etc.  The plot is essentially the same.

However, there are some differences to the story, and I won’t go too far into specifics because the discover of it was just so much fun as I was watching it.  Some of the differences have been well-publicized, like Belle being the inventor rather than her father, or Le Fou’s gay scene.  (We’ll talk about that later.)  Belle definitely feels like more of a stronger heroine than the original does, and that’s thanks in large part of Emma Watson’s insistence that Belle not be a damsel in distress.  I liked that she was more willing to be part of the fight rather than just watching it happen.

I was happy with other differences as well.  Disney did a nice job trying to fix some of those plot holes from the original (like the much talked about age of the Beast, since the rose would bloom until his 21st year, etc.).  But we also get backstories on Gaston, Belle, the Beast.  It was great.  And more interactions with the enchanted people in the castle!  You’re going to enjoy Stanley Tucci’s new character.

Oh!  And I almost forgot.  For those of you very familiar with the original tales of Beauty and the Beast from about 200 years ago (or the Robin McKinley retellings), you’ll be pleased with a few changes to the story.

I was also very happy with the music.  Obviously, most of the songs you know well are in this movie again.  (I noticed one or two were cut, but they were reprises or additions to the anniversary edition of the movie.)  The singing voices for the main characters were a little bit different than I was expecting, like how Emma’s voice is a bit airy, but I liked the way it sounded.  And I’m a huge fan of Josh Gad, so his singing is always phenomenal.

There are a few new songs added to the movie, but you’ll be pleased to know Alan Menken returns for this and the additional lyrics were written by Tim Rice, who is a longtime lyricist for Disney.  (Howard Ashman, who wrote the original lyrics, died from AIDS before the 1991 movie was released.)  Some of Ashman’s original lyrics, which were cut from the 1991 film, were added back in for this movie.  So even the new songs and verses feel like classic Disney songs.

Now for the acting.  I thought that Emma Watson did a wonderful job as Belle (partly because Emma is Belle in so many way).  Dan Stevens plays the Beast in a way that makes him seem tough but also soft at times.  As I already mentioned, I love Josh Gad for his humor and vocals, and this did not disappoint.  Gad is hilarious as Le Fou.

But you know who the surprises were?  Luke Evans as Gaston and Kevin Kline as Maurice.  I had heard that Evans wanted to play Gaston in more of a way that made him seem like a human before doing a bait-and-switch style shift in his character.  Of course, Gaston is still a complete narcissist, but he’s not as conceited as he is in the original.  And his shift into a monster is more unsettling for that reason.  And Kline gives Maurice more of a backbone (and more intelligence).  One of my issues with the original Maurice is how flighty and helpless he seems, but Kline did a nice job of still keeping Maurice a bit absent-minded but still respectable.  I understood him more.

Of course, I can’t leave out the enchanted cast either.  Audra McDonald is always a favorite of mine, so insert glowing praise here.  Ewan McGregor is fun as Lumiere, Ian McKellen is great as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson does fantastic justice to Mrs. Potts, and the ensemble of Plumette and Chip are scene-stealers.

I was well-impressed with this movie.  Sure, when you know what’s going to happen next, it takes out a little of the excitement and suspense, but it was still a lot of fun to see it all on the big screen.

I enjoyed myself while watching this movie.  And my boyfriend (who not only came to see this with little complaining AND bought me a replica of Belle’s necklace in the ballroom scene) enjoyed himself too, even if he denies it.  From a male perspective, he enjoyed Gaston’s character a lot and the inclusion of “X-Men and Hobbits” in this movie.  (He caught McKellen’s voice immediately and recognized Luke Evans, but it took him until the credits to identify McGregor.)  He was rooting for Gaston nearly the entire time.

Have fun going to see this yourself, friends!  Let me know what you thought!

Annie (1999)

The Music.  The Memories.  The Magic.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Annie.  It was the first show I ever saw performed on stage, when I was 10.  I love the songs and the story.  And I always wanted to play Annie on stage, but I’m a little too old for that now.  I’d settle for Grace, Miss Hannigan, or Lily St. Regis.

This version is Disney’s TV movie and it’s by far my favorite.  Though I’ve never see the original, so I have virtually nothing to compare it to.

If you don’t happen to know the story, Annie is an 11 year old orphan in New York City.  Oliver Warbucks, the richest man in the world, needs some good publicity and invites an orphan to stay with him for Christmas.  His secretary, Grace, picks Annie.  Annie’s honored, but she wants to find her real parents.  Miss Hannigan, the woman who runs the orphanage Annie’s been staying at, and Rooster Hannigan come up with a devious plot to get the reward money offered to Annie’s real parents.

I love this cast!  I always have.  There’s Kathy Bates (Mama in The Water Boy), Victor Garber (Thomas Andrews from Titanic), Alan Cumming (Eli Gold in The Good Wife), Kristen Chenowith (played the original Galinda on Broadway in Wicked), and the original Annie, Andrea McArdle, makes a cameo appearance.

The soundtrack for this is killer.  I found the original Broadway soundtrack once, and this is just better.  It cuts out the superfluous songs and adds in multiple reprises to songs like “Maybe” and “NYC” (which happen to be my favorites).  I spend hours singing along to it.

It’s just a fun, talented cast.  It always puts me in a good mood.  I put it on while I was packing my things for college move-in in a few days.  It’s a movie I can quote easily, without even thinking about it.  So, honestly, I’ve barely watched it.  But I enjoy it.

Mulan

This time, the princess saves the prince.

Who doesn’t love Mulan?  She’s probably the most kick-butt princess Disney has ever come out with.  And as the tagline says, she totally saved Shang instead of the other way around.  Who doesn’t love that?

Probably Unnecessary Summary: Mulan is a young girl who just can’t seem to fit in or do anything to honor her family.  When her father is summoned to join the army to protect China, Mulan leaves in the middle of the night to take his place and save his life.  But if she’s discovered to be a woman, she will be killed.

Like so many others, there’s so much about this movie I love.  Mulan knows how to stand up for herself and she’s determined to do it.  There’s all kinds of humor, from really obvious jokes to more subtle ones (one I just got for the first time when I watched it last night).  Also, just an amazing cast of characters from those that fight with Mulan in the army to her family and Mushu.

I was telling on of my friends last night, jokingly, that I think the moral of this story is that men should listen to women.  Mulan does, mostly singlehandedly, take out the Hun army, save Shang, warn Shang and the others that Shan-Yu wasn’t dead, break into the palace, save Shang (again), and kill Shan-Yu.  Talk about being a beast.  There wasn’t anything this girl couldn’t do…you know, besides impress the Matchmaker.

I think Mulan is one of the more fascinating “princesses” for this reason.  She doesn’t just sit around and wait for her life to begin.  She goes out and makes it happen.  And her persistence is admirable.  Shang tells her to pack up and go home, so what does she do?  Climb the pole and throw the arrow down at his feet.  Talk about boo-yah.

This is also one of the most emotional ones for me.  While most of us can’t imagine what it would be like to be yelled at by a matchmaker and told we’ll never bring our family honor, we can all probably relate to seeing a reflection that doesn’t match what we see in ourselves.  Whenever I used to be upset, this was the movie I turned on.  “Reflection” nearly makes me cry every time I watch it.  So I spent almost the entire movie cuddling my stuffed beagle, Lily.

I love this movie.  Again, songs are supreme here.  “Reflection”, as I already mentioned, along with “I’ll Make A Man Out of You” (which is completely ironic, since Mulan is, in fact, a woman) and “A Girl Worth Fighting For” (again, ironic).  The songs are meant to be extensions of a joke and they work very well.

The Emperor’s New Groove

Again, I find this to be one of the more fascinating Disney movies because it’s so different.  Plus, I practically worshipped this movie, so there may be a bit of bias in there…But I swear, last night was the first time I’d seen it in probably 5 years or more.  Sadly, I could still quote it.

Kuzco is a self-centered emperor who sees himself as a victim when his adviser and her idiotic sidekick accidentally turn him into a llama.  A peasant named Pacha reluctantly helps Kuzco try to get back to the palace so he can be turned back into a man.

This movie is absolutely hysterical.  It breaks your idea of a normal movie by having Kuzco stop what’s happening to draw on the film or whatnot.  “Unexplainable” things happen all the time, which makes it all the funnier, especially when they realize it’s completely silly.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the voice of Kuzco was David Spade, a man I think it a comic genius.  I didn’t know it until I started watching it last night.  Also, Kronk (the idiot sidekick) is voice by Patrick Warburton, who stars with Spade in Rules of Engagement.  I love coincidences.

You’re not supposed to take this movie seriously.  It’s utter silliness.  There’s really not a lot of music in it (David Spade isn’t exactly known for having an amazing singing voice), but it’s just all around funny.  If you need a good laugh, I recommend this.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Let me set the scene, because this is pretty funny.  My bedroom has one of two VCRs left in my house (though mine is the only one that ever gets used).  We taped The Hunchback years back when things like PB&J Otter and Bear In The Big Blue House were still on the Disney Channel (no joke.  Commercials are on before the movie).

Sadly, I couldn’t even finish the movie because the tape quit working.  Sad face.  I made it to the end of the Court of Miracles scene when it just wouldn’t work anymore.  So I’m now crossing my fingers for it on DVD.  The ending isn’t on youtube, or if it is I can’t find it to watch it.  And I really wanted to see Quasimodo go ninja on those guys again.

If you don’t know the story (which, I would hope by now you knew, to some extent), Quasimodo is a hunchback living in Notre Dame as the bellringer.  While attending a peasant festival, The Feast of Fools, he meets Esmerelda, who ends up saving him from the crowd.  Phoebus, captain of the guards, takes an instant liking to Esmerelda and does whatever he has to to play by the rules, yet keep her safe.  When Frollo, Quasimodo’s master, begins a massive hunt for Esmerelda that could leave Paris in ruins, Quasimodo and Phoebus have to join forces to save Esmerelda and the other gypsies.

I think this is definitely one of the more interesting Disney movies.  It’s one of the only ones (only?) to be based off a book (and a rather bad one, in my opinion).  This instantly leads to differences between it and Disney princess movies.  Like how Quasimodo, our hero, doesn’t get the girl.

I also think Frollo is one of the most interesting villains because he’s so dimensional.  He’s one of the few I can think of that actually thinks he’s the good guy.  He’s completely delusional when it comes to his guilt.  It’s Esmerelda’s fault that he finds her so enchanting.  It’s Quasimodo’s mother’s fault she died because she ran.  He’s just so fascinatingly…nuts.  Absolutely bonkers.  I love it.

I bashed the songs from Tangled for a reason.  When you compare them to songs like “God Help the Outcasts” and “Out There”, these just win.  Plus, there are very clever little things hidden in the song “A Guy Like You.”  Tangled (and other more modern Disney movies) just don’t have that.  I listen to all three of these songs quite often.

I also just love the humor in this.  It’s usually between Quasi and Phoebus, since they can’t stand each other.  One of my favorites is, “Is this the Court of Miracles?” [Quasi]  “Offhand, I’d say it’s the Court of Ankle Deep Sewage.” [Phoebus]  Just classic humor.  Awesome.

Lastly, I’d like to say that if anyone knows where I can watch the end of the movie for free online, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!  If I can’t get this tape to work again, I’m out of luck until possibly my birthday (which is in less than 2 weeks).