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 ~ Spotlight

SpotlightSpotlight, rated R
****

This powerful film is directed by Tom McCarthy and co-written by Josh Singer and McCarthy (who has an Oscar nomination for writing Up), and is about the Spotlight team from the Boston Globe. They are an investigative reporting arm of the Globe who won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Roman Catholic Church’s cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by priests in Boston. The film opens with a brief scene from 1976 where we see a priest being whisked away in a long black car. The film then fast forwards to 2001 when Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), who is Jewish, becomes the new editor of the Globe in the predominantly Catholic city. He asks Water “Robby” Robinson” (Michael Keaton, in his follow-up to his Oscar nominated performance in 2014’s Birdman), the editor of the Spotlight team, to look into the archdiocese’s handling of child abuse cases.

Robinson’s excellent Spotlight team consists of Michael Rezendes (two-time Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo in another Oscar worthy performance), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James). They are fully committed to this story, to the point that they don’t really have any personal lives. But this story is not just about a few priests, or even 87 priests who have abused children, but an entire church organization/system led by Cardinal Law (Len Cariou). That’s why Baron pushes Globe Managing Deputy Editor Ben Bradley Jr. (John Slattery), Robinson and the Spotlight team – to pursue and prove Cardinal Law’s knowledge and cover-up of the abuse.

Along the way we meet a few of the abuse victims and their recollections which are at times graphic and always heartbreaking. We also meet attorneys on both sides of the issue Eric Macleish (Billy Crudup) and Mitchell Garabedian (Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci) who are aware of what has been going on. Jim Sullivan (Jamey Sheridan) and Pete Conley (Paul Guilfoyle) are part of the church machine that strongly encourages Robinson to look the other way. We are told of the significant power the Catholic Church has in Boston including the close relationship the church has with the legal, law enforcement and media, highlighted by an uncomfortable “meet and greet” Cardinal Law has with Baron.

What makes this film significant is the story – the cover-up that the Globe successfully exposed in more than 600 stories. What makes the film great are the strong acting performances, led by Ruffalo. McCarthy’s direction and the excellent script from McCarthy and Singer keeps things moving and I found myself emotionally pulled into the story and injustice that had been allowed to go on. Along the way we see what the abuse and cover-up does to the Catholic faith of Rezendes and Pfeiffer.

The film ends with a list of the cities in the world in which significant abuse has been uncovered, including one 45 minutes from my home.

The film is rated “R” for adult language and the subject matter of sexual abuse of children. It is quite simply one of the best films of 2015.