Archive for category Family Films

Film News: Emma Watson Will Star in Live-Action ‘Beauty and the Beast’

This morning, TheWrap.com reported that Emma Watson will be taking the role of Belle in Disney’s live-action adaption of “Beauty and the Beast.” Watson shared her excitement about her role on her Facebook page today:

Facebook announcement today, January 26th. Screen shot by author.

Facebook announcement today, January 26th. Screen shot by author.

Disney is really lining up the adaptations of its classics, making this venture the fourth one in a recent string. Thus far, we’ve had “Maleficent” and this year we’re getting “Cinderella” and “Jungle Book.” You might also include “Frozen” in that list, if you count the appearance of the beloved Disney characters in the fourth season of “Once Upon a Time.” The fairy tale trend can be expanded further with the popularity of “Into the Woods,” another Disney project.

Live-action adaptations of stories (whether from fairy tale or general storybooks) have been around for a long time, but newer and better special effects do much to raise the hype for these productions, something that is not singular to Disney. Just look at the recent success of “Paddington” from StudioCanal, with a very convincing but computer generated bear.

The question now is whether the new “Beauty and the Beast” can match or even surpass the flair and magic of the original animated film. For a time, Guillermo del Toro was going to make his own version, which would have starred Emma Watson. While it’s interesting to consider how his might have turned out, it’s probably a relief to know that Disney will be at the helm this time and that so far casting is in good hands.

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Review: ‘Paddington’ is a Truly Endearing and Poignant Family Film

According to box office estimates, “Paddington” took third place behind “American Sniper” and “The Wedding Ringer” this weekend with a pull of nearly $19.3 million. One hopes that the figures will only continue to rise for the family film, which already set records in the UK for distributor StudioCanal last month.

The film tells the story of Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw), a loveable and naive bear from Darkest Peru, whose family encountered and befriended an explorer (Tim Downie) years ago. The bear’s aunt and uncle (Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon), who can also talk, learned a lot about etiquette and jolly old England before the explorer departed for home. Skip forward years later, when disaster befalls the bears, forcing Paddington’s Aunt Lucy to send him to a new life in London. He’s equipped with only a suitcase of marmalade and a tag on around his neck asking for someone to care for him.

At Paddington station (inspiration for his human name), he’s taken in temporarily by the Brown family until they can find him a permanent home. Or perhaps until Mr. Henry Brown (Hugh Bonneville) can convince his wife, Mary (Sally Hawkins), to take Paddington to the authorities and the not-orphanage. Also comprising the family unit is their son Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), daughter Judy (Madeleine Harris), and housekeeper Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters). However, lurking around is an evil taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) set on adding Paddington to her collection, with initial assistance from the Brown’s neighbor, Mr. Curry (Peter Capaldi).

Surprisingly, that is the gist of the main plot for “Paddington:” a storyline that is so simple yet doesn’t fail to capture your heart by the end. Paddington is a very clumsy bear, which does much to provide misadventures as the Browns help him look for the truth about the expedition to Darkest Peru. However, none of these antics seem as overly silly, as is wont to happen in kid’s movies. For once, we also have a family movie where the family generally gets along. Often a feud between parents or children and parents is emphasized far too much at the expense of the story. Instead, most of the little episodes are packed with meaningful and hilarious moments that also serve to impart little lessons along the way.

“Paddington” is a beautifully executed family film for many reasons. First, the casting is quite seamless with the likes of Bonneville, Kidman, and Capaldi. “Downton” fans in the U.S. probably relish the opportunity to see Bonneville in a purely comedic role, as he vaults straight off of the likes of the “Downton” spoof and “Galavant.” Both Kidman and Capaldi play characters that could easily strike one as over-the-top, but they expertly navigate that tightrope (Mr. Curry’s crush on Millicent) in their serious portrayals. Other talented actors like Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton, and Geoffrey Palmer do much to add to this magical atmosphere despite their short screen (or voice) time.

I would be remiss to mention that “Harry Potter” and “Gravity” producer David Heyman was also on the team for “Paddington,” which perhaps explains a lot. There’s such a good flow to the film, which is full of so many little details. Take for instance the train set that carries the tea and cakes to the table. It transitions right away to Mr. Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) backstory as Paddington is still gazing at the little train. Sometimes the CGI appears as though it could be slightly better, but it’s quite impressive just how real Paddington the bear looks in his surroundings.

Additionally, “Paddington” is a decidedly British film, sparing little when it pokes fun at English sensibilities and elements of the culture. It does so without descending into jokes or language that Americans wouldn’t be able to understand, which is quite a relief. The comedic moments are refreshingly funny to both adults and children, a characteristic that has been lacking in many family flicks as of late. Therefore, “Paddington” is also a very universal film that will delight international audiences with Paddington’s journey to find a home and acceptance. So gather the whole family and head out to see “Paddington” for a memorable experience.

Oh, and there’s already talk of a sequel.

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Film Review: ‘Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb’ is More of the Same

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

What appears to be the final chapter in the “Night of the Museum” series was a bit of a mixed bag as Larry (Ben Stiller) and the gang headed off to London. The tablet that keeps the exhibits alive is losing its juice, making everyone act differently. It seems only Ahkmenrah’s father (Ben Kingsley) can reveal the answers for this problem. We still have Teddy (Robin Williams), Octavius (Steve Coogan), Jedediah (Owen Wilson), Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck), and Dexter the monkey in for this adventure. Joining them in London is Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) and the night guard Tilly (Rebel Wilson).

Meanwhile, Larry has to wrestle with familial woes. First, his son Nick doesn’t want to go to college (Skyler Gisondo). The more surprising and hilarious front is Laaa (also played by Stiller), the new Neanderthal. Laaa is taken with his new “Dada” and imitates and follows him whenever he can.

In some ways, “Secret of the Tomb” is disappointing in choosing not to develop some points more. Rebel Wilson and Ben Kingsley seem terribly underused. There’s not much on the plot either, as the solution for fixing the tablet is overly simple. The film can leave you feeling a little sad because of the recent passing of both Robin Williams and Mickey Rooney. It’s difficult to imagine another “Night at the Museum” without Williams, who was definitely a highlight of the series as Teddy Roosevelt.

There are still some moments that are very amusing, if rather brief. Larry takes on a dragon or a demon with an AED. Unlikely friends Jedediah and Octavius leave a comment on a Youtube video. Later, they unknowingly fall into the city of Pompei and then take a selfie. Overall, the film will keep families entertained. As Teddy himself remarks, the point of the exhibits is to inspire children to learn and do great things.

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Film News: ‘Frozen Fever’ Opens in March 2015 Before ‘Cinderella’

The beloved characters of “Frozen” will be returning next year in a special animated short, to be screened right before “Cinderella.” The special is aptly named “Frozen Fever” because unless you’ve been off the network, you’re well aware of the popularity of the 2013 film that started it all. It’s a surge that brought the “Frozen Sing-Along” only months later and to this day, still has adults and kids singing “Let It Go.” The good news broke today on Disney Insider, which hints that Elsa’s powers may wreak havoc at Anna’s birthday party.

One wonders if the move by Disney is a means of attracting more people to “Cinderella.” The live-action project is directed by Kenneth Branagh and stars Downton Abbey’s Lily James in the iconic lead role. The Downton connection may be a good enough draw here for some. On the other hand, marketing “Cinderella” and “Frozen Fever” together is a tactic that might prove more effective. I’m always wary when the movie trailer exceeds two minutes (this one clocks in at a whopping 2:41). The events in the preview also seem to flow chronologically for the most part, practically giving the entire film away. Compare that to last year’s “Maleficent,” which hits a minute and a half and two minutes respectively for its trailers, yet it still left a lot of room for guesses. A mere difference in length of thirty seconds to a minute is enough to leave you wondering (even just briefly) whether you should just wait for the film to come out on DVD or Blu-ray.

Let’s get back to the more exciting news of the day. Just this past Sunday, the waves lit up when Idina Menzel said that a Frozen sequel and musical “were in the works.” However, she’s since clarified that she “assumed” the projects were going on, reflecting her confidence in the popular franchise. For now, we all know we’ve got a case of “Frozen Fever,” so hang on for the remedy, which arrives in theaters on March 13, 2015!

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Film Review: ‘Penguins of Madagascar’ is Fun, But Hardly Innovative

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

It seems to be a week full of fowl creatures gastronomically (for the carnivores) and cinematically. The birds in question are the turkey, mockingjay, and penguin. (“Birdman” could be applied to the second category, too.) It’s expected that “Mockingjay Part 1” will score the top spot at the box office once again, facing little competition from “Penguins of Madagascar.” The latter film was just released by DreamWorks Animation as a spin-off from the “Madagascar” series.

The story begins by showing Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon), and Private (Christopher Knights) in the early days when they first met. Right from their start as a group, these hilarious penguins wanted to be different and embrace the adventurous side of life. Adults will probably be amused by the animated cameo by Werner Herzog, working on documentary about penguins. There’s a joke in there about authenticity and keeping things interesting as the crew pushes our little heroes off a cliff, sending them on their journey to the world of zoos and circuses. Read the rest of this entry »

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