Walt Disney Pictures via Everett Collection
With Frozen still raking in cash months after it first hit theaters and Maleficent dominating last week’s box office, it seems like Disney princesses are once again an unstoppable force. The studio is hoping to extend its current hot streak by bringing Beauty and the Beast, one of their most beloved properties back to the big screen in a live action movie. Variety reports that Dreamgirls director Bill Condon has been tapped to helm the feature film, which is just one of several live-action adaptations that Disney has in production.
Thus far, no details have been released about what direction they’re planning for the film, although hiring Condon does seem to imply that they might be interesting in making a full-scale musical. However, Condon has a handful of non-musical blockbusters on his resume – including the final installments of the Twilight Saga – so there are plenty of creative options open. In the interest of helping Disney and Condon narrow things down a bit, we’ve outlined the things we think Disney and Condon should keep in mind while putting together their live-action Beauty and the Beast. Although if we're honest, as long as there's an adorable talking teacup involved, we'll be fine.
DO: Throw in a Few of the Old Musical Numbers We’re not saying that Condon has to turn this film into a gigantic, musical spectacular, but if you went to see a Disney interpretation of Beauty and the Beast and didn’t hear even a few notes of that classic theme song, wouldn’t you feel disappointed? Throw a few songs in there, make the silverware dance around a little bit, either way, this film needs a little musical magic – although, feel free to drop “Something There” if there’s no room for it. It won’t be missed.
DON'T: Give It a Modern Setting Look, we like a modern re-working of a classic tale as much as anybody, but Disney should stick to what it does best: ball gowns, castles, and long, sweeping shots of stunning vistas. If people are looking for a metaphorical, city-set version of the tale, they can watch the CW. We prefer our Disney movies to feel like a fairy tale from a storybook.
DO: Add More Fairy Tale Magic For an animated film about a fairy tale princess, Beauty and the Beast featured surprisingly little magic. There was the dancing silverware, of course, and the dramatic transformation from Beast back into the prince at the end, but the film could have used a bit more pixie dust. For the live-action version, we’re hoping Condon pulls out all of the CGI tricks he learned on the Twilight films and sprinkles a little magic on this story. After all, it seems a shame to kick off a film with a drastic, dark transformation and then never show any actual witchcraft.
DON’T: Downplay the Beast’s Beastliness Giving your hero a few scars on his face has got to be cheaper and easier than turning him into a full-scale beast, but that doesn’t make it feel like any less of a cop-out. The films and shows that use tattoos and a “beastly attitude” instead of movie magic have had a good run, but we’re hoping Condon will ensure that this time around, our cursed prince gets a full-scale transformation this time around. Besides, everyone knows that Disney’s Beast looked better before he turned back into a prince.
DO: Work in Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts The best part of the animated Beauty and the Beast isn’t the love story between Belle and the Beast or the elaborate, catchy musical numbers. It’s the hilarious banter between the permanently-at-odds Lumiere and Cogsworth and the sensible, motherly Mrs. Potts, which is why we don’t understand why these characters – or their modern-day equivalents – are constantly left out of adaptations of this story. Every fairy tale needs a wise-cracking sidekick or three, Disney. Don’t deny Belle and the Beast theirs.
DON’T... FORGET: Gaston Every fairy tale needs a villain, and nobody’s better, meaner, scarier or more ruthless than Gaston. There’s a whole song about it, if you don’t believe us.
Spike Jonze doesn't waste any time introducing us to the technology at the center of Her. "An operating system that can mimic human sentience?" a dangerously lonely Joaquin Phoenix wonders after catching glimpse of an ad in a transit station. "Don't mind if I do!" (He doesn't actually say that, don't worry.) But by the time we're meant to believe that such a world can seamlessly integrate characters like Scarlett Johansson's automated voice Samantha into the lives of living, breathing men and women like Phoenix's Theodore, we're already established residents of this arresting, icy, quivering world the filmmaker has built. We meet Theodore midway through his recitation of a "handwritten letter" he penned on behalf of a woman to her husband of many years. That's his job — tapping into his own unique sensititivies to play ghostwriter for people hoping to adorn their spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and children with personal notes of personal affection. Theodore is no independent contractor; he's part of a thriving company, and we almost get the feeling that the folks on the receiving end of these letters are in the know. Before we ever encounter Samantha, we're embedded in the central conceit of the movie: emotional surrogacy is an industry on the rise.
What makes Jonze's world so palatable is that, beneath its marvelously eerie aesthetic, this idea is barely science-fiction. Theodore, humbled and scarred by a recent divorce from lifelong love Catherine (Rooney Mara, who contrasts Johansson by giving a performance that, for a large sum of the movie, is all body and no voice), accesses the will to go on through interractions with video game characters and phone-sex hotlines. But the ante is upped with Samantha, the self-named operating system that Theodore purchases to stave off loneliness, deeming choice a far less contorting one than spending time with old pals like Amy (Amy Adams)... at first.
Samantha evolves rather quickly from an articulate Siri into a curious companion, who is fed and engaged by Theodore just as much as she feeds and engages him. Jonze paces his construction of what, exactly, Samantha is so carefully that we won't even catch the individual steps in her change — along with Theodore, we slowly grow more and more enamored and mystified by his computer/assistant/friend/lover before we can recognize that we're dealing with a different being altogether from the one we met at that inceptive self-aware "H-hello?" But Jonze lays tremendous groundwork to let us know this story is all for something: all the while, as the attractions build and the hearts beat faster for Samantha, we foster an unmistakable sense of doom. We can't help but dread the very same perils that instituted one infamous admission: "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."
But Jonze's sci-fi constructs are so cohesively intertwined with his love story that our dread doesn't exactly translate to an anticipation of HAL's hostile takeover. Her wedges us so tightly between Theodore and Samantha that our fears of the inevitable clash between man and machine apprehend a smaller, more intimate ruin. As Samantha's growth become more surprising and challenging to Theodore, to herself, and to us, the omens build for each.
And although all three parties know better, we cannot help but affix ourselves to the chemistry between Theodore and Samantha, and to the possibility that we're building toward something supreme. A good faction of this is due to the unbelievable performances of Phoenix — representing the cautious excitement that we all know so painfully well — and Johansson, who twists her disembodied voice so empathetically that we find ourselves, like Theodore, forgetting that we have yet to actually meet her. The one castigation that we can attach to the casting of Johansson is that such a recognizable face will, inevitably, work its way into our heads when we're listening to her performance. It almost feels like a cheat, although we can guarantee that a performance this good would render a figure just as vivid even if delivered by an unknown.
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In this way, Her is as effective a comment on the healthiest human relationships as it is on those that rope in third parties — be they of the living, automated, or greeting card variety. In fact, the movie has so many things to say that it occasionally steps on its own feet, opening up ideas so grand (and coloring them so brightly) that it sometimes has trouble capping them coherently. Admittedly, if Spike Jonze had an answer to some of the questions he's asking here, he'd probably be suspected of himself being a super-intelligent computer. But in telling the story of a man struggling to understand what it means to be in love, to an operating system or not, Jonze invites us to dissect all of the manic and trying and wonderful and terrifying and incomprehensible elements therein. Just like Samantha, Her doesn't always know what to do with all of its brilliance. But that might be part of why we're so crazy over the both of them.
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ABC is throwing its hat way into the fairy tale ring. First, they offered up the hit series Once Upon a Time, which will touch on every last one of Grimms' fairy tales if it's the last thing it does. Now, they look to try their hands at a television adaptation of just one classic tale, Beauty and the Beast. The alphabet network just ordered the pilot episode. The funny thing is, the CW just ordered its own Beauty and the Beast pilot a week ago. Perhaps our small screen giants were jealous of the double Snow White film adaptations getting all the glory (Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman), so they decided to drum up a little fairy duel of their own?
The CW's series is an updated version of the 80s TV version of the tale, but ABC's pilot has a description that boasts the word "dangerous" and a "beautiful and tough Princess." So basically, they're doing to Belle what Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror, Mirror, and Once Upon a Time have done to Snow White: she's an independant, kick-ass princess who's still hopelessly in love with a hunk (or in the beast's case, a cursed hunk who's just going through an awkward period) - but she'll probably make him work for it. (We'll leave the definition of "it" up to you, though in the case of the CW version, you know what we're talking about.) And all this is an adjustment to make her more relevant to the modern woman, of course.
With Game of Thrones, Once, and Grimm all making their marks on the television landscape is there even room for more fantasy in our lives? Let alone two adaptations of the same story? Can a dainty lady and snarling beast really arrest our attention when we're so used to spending out time with vampires and those other snarling man-beasts, werewolves, over on The Vampire Diaries or True Blood? Are these networks nuts or could these fantastical series be a stroke of scheduling genius?
Don’t have enough Beauty and the Beast? Not entirely satisfied with your older Beauty and the Beast on Blu-ray? Wish it was just a little better in 3D? Well, your incredibly specific desires have been answered! The Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition 3D comes out October 4t and features the movie in just about every format imaginable: 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download.
Why? Because one format isn’t enough these days. It’ll also include all the bells and whistles you’ve come to expect like extended versions of the film, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes features, and a bunch of stuff about the soundtrack like music videos, sing-a-longs, and alternate versions. It’s quite honestly about all the media ever created for Beauty and the Beast in five discs. Be sure to hurry and get it before it goes back in the vault (remember when they said that the last time? They’re super serious this time).