Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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My Review of Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast, rated PG

Despite some well-publicized content concerns, Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast is a treat overall.
Following the success of their recent animation to live action remakes of some of their classic films – Alice in Wonderland (2010), Cinderella (2015) and The Jungle Book (2016), Disney returns with a new version of Beauty and the Beast. The 1991 animated version received five Oscar nominations, winning two. The new film is directed by Oscar winner Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters), and written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos. It had an estimated budget of $160 million, but is expected to earn that back and more, with a projected worldwide opening this weekend of $215-245 million. The film features an outstanding cast and is visually stunning.
The film is set in the town of Villeneuve in France. Belle, played by Emma Watson (Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films) is a happy, independent, book-loving inventor who loves her father Maurice, played by Oscar winner Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda). Throughout the film Belle is pursued constantly by Gaston (Luke Evans, The Girl on the Train), who wants to marry her, but Belle has no interest in him. The one who does have interest in Gaston is the homosexual character LeFou, played by Josh Gad, who voiced Olaf in Disney’s Frozen.  The song “Gaston” has new lyrics that were written by the late Howard Ashman, but did not make it into the 1991 film as they were not considered appropriate for a children’s film.
As Maurice leaves on a trip, he promises to bring Belle back a rose. The rose he tries to bring her is growing on the land of the Beast, played by Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey). Maurice is then captured and put in a jail cell in the castle of the Beast. If you are familiar with the story, the Beast must find someone to love him before the final petal of a red rose kept under glass falls off. If he doesn’t, he is doomed to remain a beast forever, and the members of his household will remain clocks, cups, etc. forever.
As I mentioned, the film features a strong cast. In addition to Watson and Kline, Ewan McGregor portrays the candlestick Lumiere, two-time Oscar nominee Ian McKellen plays the mantle clock Cogsworth, two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility and Howard’s End) plays the teapot Mrs. Potts, and Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci plays Maestro Cadenza.
Alan Menken, who wrote the music for the 1991 film, returns to do the music for this film, which includes new recordings of his original songs such as “Be Our Guest”, along with new songs written by Menken and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice (The Lion King, Aladdin, and Evita).  I loved the music and the costumes in the film. The computer generated imagery (CGI) – the castle, wolves, the face of the Beast, etc. were all well done.    My wife thought that the “Be Our Guest” scene was almost over done – maybe they were trying to have it be like a scene from Fantasia?
We attended the film on opening night; the theatre was filled with very small children. However, unlike the animated version, this is not a children’s film. It is dark and the scenes with wolves may well be too frightening for small children.
Leading up to the film there was controversy when the director made news in speaking about the film’s “exclusively gay moment”, which takes place near the end of the film. However, we saw LaFou’s homosexuality played out throughout the film, along with other things thrown in to make this film, as Condon has stated, as diverse as possible. He stated that “By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural…” Chances are, small children will not even notice what Condon and Disney have put in this film, but discerning Christians will and they will find it in conflict with the Scripture (Romans 1:26-27). It’s not enough, in my opinion, to keep you from seeing the film, but it did impact our enjoyment and our overall rating of the film.  On the flip side, sacrificial love is portrayed well.


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Movie Review ~ Mr. Holmes

Mr. HolmesMr. Holmes, rated PG
*** ½

This version of the Sherlock Holmes story (one critic references 254 appearances as of 2012, stating that Sherlock Holmes is the most-portrayed fictional character of all time), is directed by Academy Award winning Bill Condon, and stars the 76 year-old Academy Award nominee Ian McKellen (Magneto from the X-Men films and Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films) as the 93 year-old Holmes. McKellen’s last collaboration with director Bill Condon was 1998’s Gods and Monsters. The new film is based on Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind.

The film is set in 1947 and Holmes has been retired for 35 years. He lives in a seaside English cottage on the Dover coast with his widowed housekeeper Mrs. Munro, whose husband died in the war (Academy Award nominee Laura Linney), and her young son Roger (Milo Parker). Mr. Holmes a beekeeper, and is interested in exotic herbal medicines to help him with his fading memory. We hear several references from Holmes about how his stories were embellished by his friend Dr. Watson. We see Holmes in a movie theatre watching The Lady in Grey in which he is played by Nicholas Rowe, who really did portray Holmes in the 1985 film Young Sherlock Holmes.

We feel a deep sadness in Holmes, but with his fading memory he can’t remember the exact reasons for his despair. He does recall it has something to do with his final case some 35 years earlier (we see several flashbacks), and thus he tries to piece the story together sharing it with young Roger, who also takes an interest in beekeeping. Holmes in some ways becomes the father that Roger was too young to remember.   This movie does a good job of portraying opening your heart to new relationships after walling it off from hurt for many years.

A side story involves a trip to Japan to meet Tamiki Umezaki  (Hiroyuki Sanada) and to find a plant (prickly ash) that Holmes hopes will help him with his memory loss.

I really enjoyed this film, but found it much sadder than I had expected. The acting performances are superb from McKellen, Linney and the young Parker. I wouldn’t be surprised if McKellen receives a “Best Actor” nomination. The movie is beautifully filmed and captures the seaside cottage location wonderfully, and the costumes are meticulous.