Showing posts with label lily james. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lily james. Show all posts

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

2009 took a turn for the unexpected for books: a mash-up of classic literature and the supernatural sprang up in publishing. Author Seth Grahame-Smith mixed Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice with zombies, which was followed by Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Back then when I saw the parody novels in bookstores, I didn't know what to think - was it a joke? were classics so uninteresting they had to be remade? Fast forward five years I couldn't wait for this movie, and now I'm jumping on the book as soon as possible.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Hollywood has done its fair share of Pride and Prejudice adaptations. In its most recent version the Regency era is an alternative world where England is coming under siege by zombies. A class system breaks out between the wealthy who can afford to learn defense skills, and those who cannot, as well as humans and zombies. Out in the open countryside where families and villages are overrun with the undead, Mr. Bennet ensures his daughters survival by having them trained in the fine art of war agianst zombies. Meanwhile Mrs. Bennet is up to her usual match-making, ensuring marriage and a safety net for her eldest daughters. Col. Mr. Darcy makes it his number one priority to rid the earth of the undead, especially when his heart is captured by Elizabeth Bennet.

When a movie like this has been done so many times before, it's difficult to not compare new versions to the others - like the 1995 made-for-television version with Colin Firth, or the beloved 2005 version with Keira Knightley. However, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies does a consistent job of not forcing the newer story and its performances into the past.
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With Lily James as the helm as Elizabeth, she is such a ferocious and exciting new star. Her emergence in the live-action tale of Disney's Cinderella, a heroine who was delicate as a flower and taught to be kind to all, put her on the map as a soft and charming actress with plenty of potential waiting to unfold. As Elizabeth, she completely turns heads with not only her characters' sword skills but also stubbornness, passion, and charm. When matched with the Sam Riley as the intense Col. Mr. Darcy, her spirited nature is not confined to a knight-in-shining-armor. One second she's reluctant to speak out, and the next she's striding into action on a white horse. It's kick-ass.

Like James who will surely be another favorite to long list of actresses who have portrayed Elizabeth, Sam Riley's Darcy is rugged and dashing. The loving and quiet nature of the most recent Darcy played by Matthew McFayden still lingers, but Riley exudes his rigid exterior a bit more strongly. His Darcy is a militant skilled and focused to slay. Burdened with heavier measures than what his heart desires, he's rugged and carries a gentle nature a bit more quietly. Instead restricted by their pride and prejudice as know them to be, but turned on by each others' agency to kill, they become another lively, memorable reiteration of this timeless couple.

Given more ample liveliness to the classic romance between Darcy and Bennet is other awesome and impressive list of characters: lady boss Lena Heady as Lady Catherine, one of the best trained zombie killers with a crew of ninjas, the charismatic Jack Huston as the dubious yet charismatic Mr. Wickham holding a grudge against Mr. Darcy, the innocent-yet-not-to-be-underestimated Bella Heathcote as Jane Bennet, and handsome Douglas Booth as the shy, clumsy Mr. Bingley. And, there's a special mention for Matt Smith whose transformation as Mr. Collins brings humor and quirkiness as the misplaced and unwanted pastor with his sights marrying one of the Bennets.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a great mix of Austen's story we all know so well, just with an extra splash of blood and guts. Director and writer Burr Steers handles what Austen fans love of her famous work and brings a modern twist. Though it might feel strange at first that these two genres have been paired together, Steers doesn't go for the campy route or a straight-up parody; he gives both male and female characters agency to their own destinies, to defend themselves and their loved ones. The action and zombie kills moves seamlessly in the middle of the romance and comedy. As the Bennets and Mr. Darcy manage the threat of zombies at every turn, we're put right into the middle of their relationship and the action. It feels like we're right on the battleground with them; we're allowed to watch some kick-assery unfold as well as a timely courtship. It's one wild ride I can't wait and hope to see again!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Cinderella (2015) kindly reimagines a classic fairytale

Cinderella movie review
Photo Credit: Cinderella / Walt Disney Studios
Cinderella has been reinvented numerous times. A story of a young girl whose parents passed away and is left to serve her wicked step-family. Banished from attending a grand ball held by the prince, a fairy godmother makes her dreams come true. Once again, the Disney company re-imagines their classic animated film into a live-action delight.

As the titular character, 25-year-old Lily James glides into center stage as Ella giving a wondrously charming performance. Being cast a role in a Disney film for a character of such an iconic reputation is like winning the Hollywood lottery. She's innocent and charming, but also a grounded fresh face offering delicate charisma. Holding onto her morals as the heroine, the British native brings a truthful, inner peace rare as the main character whose animated version has left a signature influence.

In trying not to compare the original Evil Stepmother to her version, it was hard to shake the former's chilling influence. Despite a lack of screentime in the 1951 classic, one gaze from that animated was mesmerizing and menacing.  In contrast to the wholehearted virtuous Ella, a contemptible heel can be feared with Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett). Abandoned with two brutish, spoiled daughters and a void of love by her deceased husbands, Blanchett becomes a spiteful and jealous villain. Tremaine is not evil just for evil's sake, but she did leave me wanting more wickedness.

Many movie-goers may be attracted to princess's stories because of our belief and hope in true love. The romance shared between Ella and Prince Charming (Richard Madden) is not superficial, like a two-second glance that escalates into rosy, perfect relationship to end all relationships. Instead, their courtship is rooted in his admiration and intrigue by her goodness and even a bit of her spunk. There is no rescuing by him from her tormented home life, but a doting bond which ends up with a heavenly finale.

This 2015 take gives a broader story not only on the young girls' upbringing but her counterparts in Charming and Tremaine. Left with a hopeful imprint by her mother to have courage and be kind, the story has depth as well as sincerity. It is easily a quality that could have been too sentimental to remain believable, but with the right director, the film is not too saccharine to be cheesy.

Director Kenneth Branagh creates a fine live-action adaption. For those who are a passionate fan of 1951 original, there's enough to make this one stand on its own as well as pay a respectful homage. His production is vibrant bringing to life the characters and story many of us have grown up with. Even if we've all experienced happily ever afters before through film, here's another joyous escape into the world that is ultimately kind, courageous and utilizes a fair bit of magic to pull off.

Rating: ★★★
Have you seen Cinderella? What are your thoughts?