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Headed to the Movies This Weekend? Be Our Guest!

Hope Madden Hope Madden Headed to the Movies This Weekend? Be Our Guest!
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There’s this new reboot out – Beauty and the Beast. Have you heard of it? So there’s that. The Wex also has a dreamlike new French film, writer James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) teams up with director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) for some office space mayhem.

And if you missed Kong, you can catch him King Sized at Gateway – they have one of only ten 70mm prints, screening this weekend.

Did you see a big monkey?

Beauty and the Beast

Word is, the early plan for Disney’s live-action remake of their 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast did not involve a musical production.

Um, that’s crazy.

Bill Condon’s directing his first musical since the excellent Dreamgirls, and he hasn’t lost the instinct for staging a show-stopper or two. His camera pans and zooms during “Gaston,” revealing a village full of buoyant choreography, while the title song gets an intimate, classic treatment that builds upon a possible decades-long investment in these characters.

Emma Watson delivers a spunky Belle who’s more industrious than the animated version, yet at times bland next to the gregarious Gaston (a scene-stealing Luke Evans) and the often distracting face of the Beast (Dan Stevens). Even as wondrous visuals fill frame after frame (see the 3-D IMAX version if you can), CGI facial features can’t quite keep up, and choosing this tract over makeup artistry feels like an ambitious misstep.

The supporting cast, including Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellan, Kevin Kline, Audra McDonald and Josh Gad, is delightful at every turn, and shows more welcome diversity from Disney. The brouhaha over the sexuality of LeFou (Gad) proves as inane as expected, though it does add some sly gravity to Gaston’s campaign against the Beast. As he rallies the villagers by exclaiming there is “a threat to our very existence!” Gaston leans in to LeFou and asks, “Do you want to be next?” Well played.

Devotees of the original Beauty and the Beast will have their nostalgia rewarded, but Condon’s vision has the flair and substance to earn its own keep. Though not quite as magical, there is something here that wasn’t here before.

Call it maturity, call it pizzazz…or just ask the dishes.

Grade: B+

Staying Vertical

Screening this weekend only at the Wexner Center for the Arts.
In Alain Guiraudie’s meditation on manhood Staying Vertical, we wander the French countryside with Léo (Damien Bonnard). Our wide-eyed protagonist is a screenwriter in search of a story. He meanders from one situation to the next, his open curiosity his guide as well as his frequent undoing.

His rambling leads him to town, where he tries to connect with a homeless man under a bridge. Then we’re on to a ramshackle house and into the lives of a young man and his ambiguously-defined father figure, into a bizarre plant therapy situation, back to his shepardess/lover Marie and out again.

Between the loose structure and Bonnard’s guileless performance, Guiraudie creates a fascinatingly male world of disconnection, longing and hope. Léo is – as are we, by extension – an interloper, regardless of his attempts to situate himself.

The filmmaker knows how to arrest your attention despite the meandering nature of the plot. The frank and often jarring sexual imagery (seriously, there’s a scene set to a Pink Floyd riff that will floor you) manages to question preconceived notions in truly fresh ways.

Guiraudie’s metaphors are frequent and interesting, but never stronger than in the closing scene. Though the crossing storylines don’t always work, the characters that populate this harsh but lovely environment pique your interest as Léo’s journey captures your imagination.

Grade: A-

The Belko Experiment

Back in 2005, Aussie director Greg McLean made a name for himself with the brutal but brilliant Wolf Creek. A year later, writer James Gunn would make his feature debut behind the camera with the underseen and wonderful creature feature Slither. (You may know him better for a little something called Guardians of the Galaxy.)

Regardless of whether you do or do not know these two, the fact that they worked together on the new horror The Belko Experiment meant one thing to me: hoo-effing-ray!

There’s the ripe premise: office workers hear over a loud speaker that they have a few minutes to kill two people or the unseen speaker (a royal we) will kill 4. Things escalate. People go a little nuts. It’s Darwinism at its most microcosmic.

Plus McLean and Gunn have assembled a fine cast full of excellent character actors: Tony Goldwyn, John C. McKinley, James Gallagher, Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry, among others.

So what went so blandly, forgettably wrong?

The biggest surprise in The Belko Experiment is the utter absence of surprises. Each actor plays exactly who you’d expect him or her to play. Their Stanford Prison Experiment meets Lord of the Flies exercise turns people into exactly what you’d expect them to turn into.

There’s not even a single inventive death scene to distract you from the fact that you had really high expectations because you totally love these filmmakers and now you’re just wasting yet another lovely evening a darkened movie theater.

Sigh.

Grade: C-

Also opening in Columbus:

  • American Fable (PG-13)
  • Kiki (NR)
  • The Sense of an Ending (PG-13)

Reviews with help from George Wolf.

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF and listen to her bi-weekly horror movie podcast, FRIGHT CLUB.

Looking for more film events in Columbus? CLICK HERE to visit our Events Calendar.

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