#Movies: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST + 4 more! (#amwatching #goodstuff)

I know I hinted about a possible Key West post, but this was actually easier to put together. Below, are my thoughts on some things I’ve seen in the last month or so, including Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast.

Victoria: Masterpiece’s dramatization of Queen Victoria’s life. I love Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes together. Truth be told, I’d never heard of them before. Because Netflix’s The Crown aired around the same time, it seemed as if everyone was comparing the two with Victoria coming up short. (How do I know this? Well, nothing concrete, that’s for sure. It’s just my take based on a quick perusal of reviews and talking to people at the library). But I liked Victoria and will definitely tune in for the next season. I did try one episode of The Crown — and liked it — but Victoria feels more fun. The costumes and sets are beautiful, the chemistry between the leads is great, and I like that the story takes place further back in time. (The Crown is based on Queen Elizabeth II’s early life. Geesh. She’s probably not watching, but that’s gotta be weird.)

Who would I recommend this to? Anyone who gave up on Reign because it was too ridiculous.

High Strung: In a nutshell, this is “student bunhead meets fiddler busker,” which is exactly why I wanted to watch it. I love dance movies (I have no dance background, but my younger daughter dances and I love a good performance). Some of you might also remember that I have a mini-thing for fiddlers. (I used to play the violin — badly; I talked a little bit about that in a podcast I did for Functional Nerds years ago — again, badly… They’d invited me on the show to talk about The Fifth String by John Philip Sousa and I totally botched it.) Anywho, when I saw High Strung was about a spirited ballerina and a young violinist — whose neighbor happens to be part of a hip hop dance crew — I was in. The New York Times wasn’t impressed, but I’m sure the reviewer is way more cultured than I am and she at least admitted that the choreography was great. The story is very predictable, but let’s face it: people don’t watch movies like this to be surprised. We watch to get what we paid for — an entertaining performance. I would have paid far more than the rental fee to see the final “String & Dance” number performed live.

Who would I recommend this to? Fans of Strictly Ballroom.

Passengers: Oh my. Where to start? Before I knew what the movie was about, this was on my Must See list. And then I heard some of the scuttlebutt and I was less enthusiastic. I finally rented it and watched it with Penny and E, which meant we had an interesting discussion about Jim’s Big Choice, why he did it, and whether it was forgivable. Confused? This movie opens in the distant future. Planets have been terraformed and colonized, but FTL travel still eludes us. The grand spaceship Avalon, which resembles a high-tech, spacefaring cruise ship, is on its way to one of those other-earths. The trip takes 130 years. 5,000+ passengers are in deep sleep. Their pods are set for them to wake up when they are four months from their destination. Due to an unforeseen meteor strike on the ship, however, Jim’s pod opens early. As in, 90 years too early. And he can’t put himself back to sleep. So he’s looking at a very lonely, boring existence until he spies a fellow passenger sleeping prettily in her pod. Her name is Aurora, which should tell you what happens next and why the movie only has a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (Hint: he doesn’t wake her up with a kiss.)

Who would I recommend this to? Anyone who likes science fiction and/or debating whether and how redemption is possible for someone who commits an arguably unforgivable act.

Hidden Figures: Ah, now we’re getting to the good stuff. This was nominated for Best Picture and, after the whole Oscars contretemps, it’s nice to get back to just talking about the films. This is the story of three brilliant, but unrecognized African-American women, who worked for NASA and helped launch astronaut John Glenn into space: physicist/mathematician Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Hensen); “human computer” Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer); and aerospace engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae). The movie did a great job of portraying the bullshit these women had to put up with. Penny, E, and I were aghast, pissed off, and then finally, thankfully, elated and inspired. (Of course, bullshit, i.e. discrimination, still happens, but I liked that the movie ended on an up note).

Who would I recommend this movie to? Anyone who likes bio pics, historical fiction, and/or movies featuring strong women.

Beauty and the Beast: Like many, I’m a fan of the original animated movie and Belle is one of my favorite Disney characters. The fact that the source material is one of the oldest fairy tales ever is fascinating to me. So I went in with incredibly high expectations. And Disney partially delivered. I’d rate this redo alongside their live action Cinderella, but beneath Enchanted. Enchanted, for me, continues to be the Gold Standard. That movie’s combination of animation and live action, the story, the humor, its self-awareness and affectionate mockery of itself, the songs, the dance numbers, the juggling act between whimsy, romance, and quirk, not to mention Amy Adams’ simply sublime performance. Well, I very much enjoyed the new B&B, and it’s enchanting at times, but it’s no Enchanted. What did I like? The big dance numbers with Gaston, Josh Gad as LeFou (he was Olaf from Frozen), and the fact that the filmmakers answered a question I’ve long had: why was the Beast a beast before he was cursed? (In others words, why was he such a cad that he refused to help an old woman?) Worth noting that everyone else in my family unequivocally loved the film.

Who would I recommend it to? Hahaha. You know who you are. If the idea of a live action Beauty and the Beast sounds appealing to you, then this movie is a must see.

So, how about you? Have you seen any of the above? What did you think?