TALE AS OLD AS TIME: BEAUTIES AND THEIR BEASTS
It's a tale as old as 1740, but for most fans, Beauty and the Beast is an animated Disney musical from 1991. • This weekend's live-action remake starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens isn't likely to change that perception. It's largely a shot-for-shot CGI replication of the animated Beauty and the Beast, practically begging to be compared. (Read a review at tampbay.com/movies.) • Once upon a time, Belle didn't sing. The cursed prince needing a shave didn't trip the candlelight fantastic. His castle's furnishings didn't speak. • Be our guest in returning to those dramatic, at times erotic, days. Our four choices range from a cinematic milestone to schlock and a high school reboot starring a Spring Breaker. We'll cheat like Gaston by including a TV series. Not all are winners but, hey, if it's Baroque, don't nix it.
La Belle et la Bete (1946): Jean Cocteau's hypnotic pacing and elegant surrealism are an enduring influence on filmmakers. Jean Marais' beast established a standard of haunted romanticism still duplicated today. Told largely in pantomime, the French dialogue is sparse so viewers averse to subtitles needn't worry.
Beauty and the Beast (TV, 1987-1990): Until Disney showed up, this CBS series served as pop culture's B&B standard. Set in and underneath modern New York, Linda Hamilton's tough D.A. was personally transformed by the beast's inner beauty. Ron Perlman's leonine beast rivaled Fabio as the era's top hair for running fingers through.
Beauty and the Beast (2014): Barely released in the United States, this version available on Netflix intrigues with its sexy casting. Vincent Cassel's lean, lustful face could get by as a beast with only a beard. Léa Seydoux (Blue Is the Warmest Color) is a sensual cipher. Director Christophe Gans worked wonders with the werewolf legend on 2001's Brotherhood of the Wolf.
Beastly (2011): Vanessa Hudgens holds up her end of the B&B billing but Alex Pettyfer's beast sheds all hair to resemble a bald, tattooed burn victim. He's cursed by Mary-Kate Olsen as so many were during Full House's run. Neil Patrick Harris keeps a straight face as the teen beast's blind tutor; you know he can really see that bad makeup.
INDIE FLICKS: THE SENSE OF AN ENDING
Jim Broadbent's warm portrait of a louse lifts The Sense of an Ending (PG-13) beyond its overdone premise of a past leaked in flashbacks being altered by the present. Director Ritesh Batra works in a similarly low-key fashion as his 2013 debut The Lunchbox without the emotional payoff.
Broadbent plays the modern-day version of Tony Webster, an everyday irritant of his attentive ex-wife (Harriet Walter) and pregnant daughter (Michelle Dockery). Tony's ordinary life is interrupted by news that the mother of his college girlfriend Veronica (Charlotte Rampling) has bequeathed him a personal artifact.
Veronica won't surrender it, for reasons that author Julian Barnes' Man Booker Prize-winning novel defined more straightforwardly than Batra, working from Nick Payne's adaptation. The Sense of An Ending hopscotches in time attempting to convey mystery that Barnes told chronologically, using Tony's inner monologues to sort clues from evolving memory.
The early sequences feature Billy Howle as young Tony, Freya Mavor as young Veronica and Joe Alwyn (Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk) as a classmate forging a love triangle among them. Responsibility for a youthful transgression must be accepted in mannered fashion, playing out as unexciting as this sentence reads.
Broadbent carries the movie with signature ease, making Tony easy to dislike while wishing him an overdue peace. Despite its time-flip fixation, The Sense of an Ending finds emotional focus in Broadbent's wilting gaze and discoveries in character with the simplest line deliveries. C+
In theaters: our Top 5
Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:
1 Logan: Requiem for a Marvel mutant (Hugh Jackman). Best comic book flick since The Dark Knight.
2 Get Out: Jordan Peele makes race relations scarier than ever with bold horror satire.
3 The LEGO Batman Movie: Taking apart the Caped Crusader's legacy, interlocking piece by piece.
4 John Wick Chapter 2: Keanu Reeves is a 21st century Chuck Norris.
5 Moonlight: Taking a post-Oscars victory lap in theaters. Don't miss it this time around.
(Dates subject to change)
March 24: Power Rangers; CHiPs; Life
March 31: Ghost in the Shell; The Boss Baby; The Zookeeper's Wife; Step Sisters
April 7: Going in Style; Smurfs: The Lost Village
April 14: The Fate of the Furious
April 21: Free Fire; The Lost City of Z; Unforgettable
April 28: The Circle; How to Be a Latin Lover
May 5: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
May 12: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword; Snatched; Low Riders