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How Fans Reacted to “Beauty and the Beast”

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beauty-and-the-beast-disney

It’s safe to say that “Beauty and the Beast” has been a huge success, both critically and commercially. According to the latest box office figures, “Beauty and the Beast” pulled in $63.7 million on its first day alone and nearly $170 million on its first three-day weekend. And that was just the domestic box office – it also pulled in record numbers internationally. This live-action musical from Disney has been a box office smash, but how did the fans react?

The hardcore Disney fans loved it

The people that Disney had to win over were the “hard-core fans” – the types of people who took their daughters dressed up in yellow Belle dresses to the film’s premiere. And, judging from the online reviews written by these self-identified “die-hard” reviewers, the film more than lived up to its advance hype.

The sentiment was nearly universal that Disney absolutely got everything right (and almost nothing wrong) with the new film. Super-fans were calling it “the best remake I’ve seen in my life.” Most were just ecstatic, calling it “perfect and beautiful.”

The adults savored the nostalgia

In many ways, this live-action remake of the acclaimed 1991 animated version was for the adults as much as the kids. And, as might be expected, “Beauty and the Beast” resulted in a wave of adult nostalgia. Adults talked about how many times they cried during the movie, remembering so many different moments from their childhood. Some – referencing the lovely enchanted objects in the castle – even said that “furniture made me cry.” Nearly every adult reviewer of the film included a line like, “The film took me back to my childhood.”

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Emma Watson was better than people expected

It’s not speculating too much to say that most Disney fans are probably also big “Harry Potter” fans, And for that reason, there was quite a bit of anticipation for the young and beautiful Emma Watson in the role of Belle. Would she really be able to pull it off?

By all accounts, Emma Watson was much better than people expected. Some may have been less ecstatic about her singing roles in the film, but in general, they loved the nuances that she brought to Belle’s character.

In the original animated version, Belle was much more fun-loving and spontaneous and unconventional. In the film version, Emma Watson brought her own take on the character: Belle becomes a little less fun-loving (no more sliding around on library ladders!), a little more conventional (she loves “Romeo and Juliet”), and a little more self-conscious of how the townspeople view her.

People endlessly made comparisons with the animated classic

It’s only natural that fans spent much of their time hunting down all the differences and similarities with the 1991 animated classic. They focused on a few big themes. One, of course, was how the character of Belle changed in the live-action version.

Another was Belle’s romance with the Beast. Here, fans seemed to think that the new film version did a better job of explaining their relationship, and making it more believable. In the animated version, the relationship seemed to be based around things like feeding birds together. In the film version, we see Belle and the Beast reading literature together, having conversations and even flirting with each other. In short, the romance became “more real” according to fans.

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Fans replayed their favorite scenes to see how they stacked up

As part of making comparisons with the 1991 original, fans also dissected key scenes from the movie to see how they stacked up. One scene that got a lot of attention was the musical number “Be Our Guest.” Most agreed that it was almost impossible to capture the magic of the animated original, but that the new version of the enchanted objects dancing and singing came as close as possible to recapturing the old Disney magic.

Another scene that came under a lot of scrutiny was the Beast’s transformation into the Prince (played by Dan Stevens). In general, it seems like fans were a bit disappointed. It was almost better when he was a CGI beast. When we saw what Dan Stevens looked like in real life, he wasn’t a big, broad-shouldered prince, but just a slim, handsome guy. Still very nice for a prince, but not quite as much as fans were hoping for.

Fans applauded the star-studded cast — even Gaston

While Emma Watson (as Belle) and Dan Stevens (as the Beast) obviously stole the show and captured most of the attention of fans, there was still plenty of praise to go around for the other actors – especially Josh Gad as LeFou, Kevin Kline as Maurice and Luke Evans as Gaston – as well as for all the other actors and actresses who provided their voices for the film, like Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts) and Ewan McGregor (Lumiere).

All in all, this was just a lovely, star-studded spectacle of a movie. It thrilled and enchanted Disney fans everywhere, and created a new generation of fans who will treasure Emma Watson as the new Belle they can aspire to be one day. Anytime you’re remaking a classic, there are risks. But Disney is Disney – and this film was just magical. They know how to make a real fairy tale adventure. It’s no wonder it’s breaking box office records.

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“When We Rise” Sheds Light on Important Issues

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when-we-rise-ABC

When the ABC mini-series “When We Rise” premiered on February 27, TV fans everywhere knew they were getting a thought-provoking look at some of the most important civil rights issues of the past 40 years, with a special focus on the hard-fought battle for full LGBT rights.

Without a doubt, the highly talented cast of “When We Rise” – including Austin P. McKenzie as the young Cleve Jones, Guy Pearce as the older Cleve Jones, Mary-Louise Parker (as Roma Guy), Rachel Griffiths (as Diane Jones) and Michael Kenneth Williams (as Ken Jones) – helps to shed some light on some important issues.

LGBT rights

Most importantly, “When We Rise” explores the evolution of LGBTQ rights from the period of the Stonewall riots at the end of the 1960s to the modern era. It’s based on the memoir by Cleve Jones, “When We Rise,” which tells the story of this legendary LGBT activist.

All told, the series covers the lives and stories of 23 different LGBT pioneers. We meet so many of the gay, lesbian, transgender and queer activists who have made recent achievements like same-sex marriage a reality and get a better understanding at why this movement occurred at its unique historical moment in time.

Marriage equality

Forty years ago, at the peak of the Stonewall riots in 1969, few could have predicted that same-sex marriage would later become a reality. In the ABC mini-series, we learn how the initial ideas and conceptions for the marriage equality movement took root in a series of rallies, marches and actions. We also learn how marriage equality was at times a fringe concern of the LGBT movement, and at other times, a core concern of the movement’s organizers.

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The relationship between lesbians and gay men

Looking back at this pioneering LGBT movement, it’s easy to assume that lesbians and gay men have always had the same interests in moving forward their part of the U.S. civil rights movement. But as “When We Rise” makes clear, the movement of lesbians and gay men has only sometimes intersected. The liberation of gay men was the first issue that took hold, but it’s hard to say that the interests of the two groups have really ever been divergent.

One key scene is when the young Cleve first meets the young Roma (played by Emily Skeggs). Roma is organizing for a rally to stop violence against women, and asks Cleve if he would like to get involved. At first, however, she is hesitant – as she tells Cleve, men usually don’t show up for these rallies. Moreover, women don’t want them there. As if to cement that point, that first meeting between Cleve and Roma ends with Roma’s female companion giving a disapproving look at Cleve.

The racial tensions within the LGBT movement

Similar to the divide between lesbians and gay men, there’s also a tension between white and black people in the LGBT community. Cleve Jones, of course, is a white gay man. But then there’s also Ken Jones, an HIV-positive gay black man. We learn how gayness is viewed within the black community, with gay black men sometimes excluded both from the black community and the straight community. Masculinity has traditionally been such an important part of the black community, such that gayness among black men has not always been tolerated.

Moreover, there’s sometimes a sense that the LGBT movement was trying to appropriate the U.S. civil rights movement for its own purpose, trading on the struggles and challenges that the nation’s African-American population had to experience before they were treated as equal citizens. In that way, some members of the African-American population were always somewhat skeptical about the true ambitions of the LGBT movement, especially when it comes to controversial ideas like lesbian separatism (which advocates for the rejection of heterosexuality).

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The AIDS crisis of the 1990s

The sweeping range and scope of “When We Rise” also exposes us to one of the most important periods in the LGBT movement — the AIDS crisis of the 1990s. We learn how some of the practices and ideas that were commonplace in the 1970s were now leading to a massive health epidemic. Since it was primarily gay men who were getting AIDS, there was a very real risk that being HIV-positive would become a literal death sentence for living a certain lifestyle.

We also learn how many of the young gay men of the 1970s and early 1980s faced major decisions of how to lead their lives later. Would they need to go back into the closet in order to get ahead in the corporate world? What happens when other fields – not just the arts – begin to embrace the LGBT community?

Equality in America today

“When We Rise” is certainly an ambitious gay rights drama. And, as many reviewers have pointed out, it may try too hard to show every issue, every key figure of the LGBT movement, and every key event that led to full LGBTQ rights. It doesn’t help, of course, that four different directors – Gus Van Sant, Dee Rees, Thomas Schlamme and Dustin Black (who is also the creator and writer of the mini-series) – were involved in the 8 hours of filming.

Yet, each of them brings a new and unique perspective on the LGBT civil rights movement, and that’s important for shining a light on the most important issues. Flash forward to the current period, and it’s unclear what the Trump administration has planned for the LGBTQ community. Despite promises and assurances that rights will be respected, the push for “state’s rights” when it comes to determining issues could be used as a wedge to rollback same-sex marriages in some states. We’ve already seen a foreshadowing of this legal strategy with the whole debate over transgender bathrooms, in which the Trump administration is looking to get involved in the debate over rights for transgender people.

That’s why all the characters who make their presence felt in “When We Rise” – the gay men, the lesbian women, the transgender activists, and the drag queens – are all important in showing how rich and diverse are the experiences, interests and ideas of these people.

But what they all have in common is a hope for a future where everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, can be treated as an equal and their rights respected. If that future ever happens in America, we can all look back and thank the early pioneers like Cleve Jones.

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Why Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” is a Masterpiece

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You have heard of horror movies. You probably have heard of horror comedies. But have you ever heard of a horror comedy dealing with the topic of racism? Yeah, we thought so. And that is just scraping the surface of what “Get Out” promises and delivers spectacularly. Talk about being different.

Get Out is not only about a fresh take, but also about impeccable direction, impressive writing, and praiseworthy acting. Let’s get into the details of how and why this movie has created such a buzz and why you should absolutely not miss it.

Get Out is Jordan Peele’s maiden project and he has worked really hard to make the movie happen. Through the many years that he has pitched the script to the producers, the only thing constant was people telling him that such a movie can never be made. But, the man marched on and this is the fruit of all his efforts. But, why would Hollywood’s elite not sign up an amazing talent like Pele? You will get the answer to your question when you watch the movie. The movie is as much a horror flick as it is a satirical comedy. And the theme it circles around is one of the most sensitive topics in America – race and racism.

The movie begins with Chris and Rose planning to visit the girl’s parents to take their relationship to the next level. However, there is just one elephant in the room – Chris is black and Rose is white. Anyone reminded of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”? Chris is a mature man and does not hide his concerns on the issue, but Rose assures him that her parents are not racists and that there is no real problem.

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Mrs. Missy and Mr. Dean Armitage, Rose’s parents, don’t turn out to be half bad either. But, they are one of those idealist liberals who are trying very hard to put it across to Chris that they are not racists. They even share that they would vote for Obama the third time, if it was possible. Yup, that’s how “non-racist” they are. They do have a black maid and a gardener, and Dean cannot explain enough that they were employed to help Rose’s grandparents, who were no longer with them. In a nutshell, they say everything possible to make it clear that they are happy with Rose and her black boyfriend (with a big emphasis on BLACK).

But, there are obvious awkward moments in the movie where racial differences do surface. But, this is nothing compared to what Chris will have to deal with later. The movie has insane twists and turns. There is a horror movie in there, and it starts revealing as you get further along with the movie. The anticipation is as exciting as the revelation. But, no spoilers here. So, relax.

Let’s talk about the actors in the movie. Daniel Kaluuya is playing the role of adult Chris, while Zailand Adams is portraying the younger version of Chris, also a part of the movie. He is the black guy in the movie and it is around him that the movie revolves. Daniel has done justice to his role in every way possible. He conveys Chris’ emotions brilliantly and helps the audience connect with him better. Rose Armitage is played by Allison Williams, who is sensational in her role. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener are completely believable in their roles as the liberal white Mr. and Mrs. Armitage. It is an absolute delight to watch them.

Peele has made sure that the movie hits you in parts. Bad things are happening and all the nice people he thought were harmless and lame are, in fact, a threat. Get Out is a brilliant satire. But, the idea of making it into a horror movie adds a flavor to it that is unlike any other. This genre allows Peele to include high tension social issues in the movie. Not only is he able to put forth his two cents on the topic of racial problems running rampant in America, but is also able to do it without offending anyone. Chris becomes paranoid, and this, combined with tongue-in cheek dialogues, lend the movie a comedic touch. Did you ever think that you would be discussing slavery, race relations between black and whites, and what not against the backdrop of a horror comedy? You know what? In all probability, no one but Peele did.

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The best thing about the movie is that it does not talk about in-your-face racism. It brings to light the subtle form of the problem that is prevalent in our society today. It is about pseudo-liberals. In the movie, no character verbally attacks Chris directly. But, their dialogues are borderline racist. They are being nice, but Chris gets their stereotyping. They make him feel ‘different’ and almost unwelcome. The way the movie captures the ‘almost’ is without a doubt a work of a genius.

It is not too long before the so-called well-meaning folks show their true colors. But, we will let the movie do the rest of the talking.

It is evident from the final shape of the movie that Peele had a crystal clear vision of what he wanted. Not only that, he also has a keen understanding of how the society works and knows that the devil is in the details. Yes, horror comedy does not essentially sound like a genre that you go to expecting being wowed by the cinematic brilliance. But, this movie will change that for you. Granted, Peele is a first time director. But, if this is the caliber of the work he can deliver, then his newfound fans will keenly wait for his next project to hit the screens.

Get Out has been showered with praises and rightfully so. It is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece. It’s not every day that you come across something magical on the screen. But, when it happens, it leaves a lasting impression that you cherish for a long time. Jordan Peele’s Get Out is that magical gem of a movie.

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What to Expect from “Big Little Lies”

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big-little-lies-trailer

Fans have been patiently waiting for HBO’s adaptation of the bestselling book “Big Little Lies” by Australian writer Liane Moriarty, and it looks like the new comedy-drama miniseries is going to be must-watch television starting on February 19. The seven episodes feature a star-studded cast, some gorgeous cinematography of California, plenty of twists and thrills and one big unsolved mystery. So here’s what you can expect from “Big Little Lies.”

#1: An unsolved mystery

The major premise of the new HBO show is that a lot of “little lies” have led to something “big” – what appears to be an unsolved murder at a California school. But here’s the thing  – we don’t know who’s actually dead until the very end of the series. Episode 1 (“Somebody’s Dead”) leads off with a police investigation into a suspected murder that has taken place at an elementary school fundraiser in Monterey, California. But we’re not shown any of the evidence, there are no clues, no police officers showing up at houses, and there is no moment when the murder is discovered.

All we’re given are segments of police interviews with parents from the school. As viewers, we need to determine who’s trustworthy and who’s not, and what pieces of information are really central to discovering the truth behind the mystery. As HBO has told us, “it’s the little lies that are the most lethal.”

From the trailer that HBO has released for “Big Little Lies,” it looks like there is a gun involved, a very mysterious 40-something woman (played by Nicole Kidman), a dangerously abusive husband (played by Alexander Skarsgard) and lots of hyper-competitive, wealthy parents who are using their young kids to climb the social ladder. Again, HBO teases us: Is this a murder, an accident or just parents behaving badly?

#2: An amazing, first-rate cast

The big selling point of HBO’s new “limited dramatic series” are all the big-name actresses involved: Reese Witherspoon (as Madeline Martha Mackenzie), Nicole Kidman (as Celeste Wright), Shailene Woodley (as Jane Chapman), Laura Dern (as Renata Klein), and Zoe Kravitz (as Bonnie Carlson).

The show is really the story of how all these moms interconnect and get along (or don’t get along) together. Reese Witherspoon plays a Type A mom who takes a new mom at the school, Shailene Woodley, under her wing. Nicole Kidman plays a woman full of secrets who may or may not be the victim of domestic abuse by her husband. And Laura Dern plays a high-powered Silicon Valley executive who seems to be in control of everything – except her daughter.

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#3: A narrative featuring lots of twists and thrills

The storyline at the heart of the police investigation directly involves two of the moms – Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley. We’re told that Woodley’s son Ziggy (played by Iain Armitage) has been bullying the daughter of Laura Dern. That bullying eventually led to her being choked in school. But can we believe this narrative? There’s a social dimension involved here – Shailene Woodley is a new mom who seems to be quietly observing everything that’s happening around her. Laura Dern, in contrast, is more of a high-powered hotshot (on the board of a major tech company) who absolutely won’t stand for the fact that her daughter is being bullied.

By taking a closer look at the trailer video for the show, it’s possible to piece together some of the key moments of the seven episodes – there’s going to be a (literal) cliffhanger (as a young woman out for a run suddenly veers off a cliff), a gun, a sexy costume party, biting jokes about the age of certain moms, and plenty of mystery and intrigue about the Nicole Kidman role (it’s impossible to tell if she’s happy, sad or somewhere in between with her life).

#4: The perfect life that’s not so perfect

In the original bestselling novel, the action took place in Australia. In the HBO miniseries, though, all the action takes place in Monterey, California. As a result, we’re shown amazing ocean side homes, beautiful people, great schools and lots of “lifestyle porn.” Everything just looks so amazing. This is the way you’d imagine living a super-wealthy life in sunny California. It’s perfect enough for a postcard.

But that’s where all the twists and turns are involved. Some reviewers have called this HBO show “twisted and dark” – and for good reason. The most obvious example is the character played by Alexander Skarsgard (Perry Wright) – he’s handsome and young, but he’s also violent and a little scary. And it’s clear that almost all the moms at the school are not opposed to telling a few “little lies” if it helps them move up the social ladder.

#5: Relationships on the edge

Some have tried comparing “Big Little Lies” to “Desperate Housewives,” and while there are some similarities, the new HBO show is really more of a sexy mystery-melodrama that’s targeted to women over 35. As a result, the show includes insights into all the problems faced by women in this age range – trying to raise young kids at the same time as they are trying to move a career forward; dealing with marriages on the brink of failure; and trying to find meaning and mission in a life that seems to have no clear direction.

In many ways, the children of the moms are “proxies” for solving these problems. They enable the moms to deal with various aspects of their work, family and social lives that need to be fixed. The only question is: How far will they go in fixing their lives?

Already, the buzz around “Big Little Lies” has been very positive. The show has picked up a rating of 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. Since this is HBO, it’s a safe bet that this show will turn out to be as addictive and fun to watch as all the other HBO shows that have debuted on a Sunday night. It seems to have all the right elements to make it a success – lots of top talent, a great screenplay based on a bestselling book, wonderful scenes of California, and plenty of dark, twisted thrills. We can’t wait to see how it all turns out in the end.

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Why Fans Love “Shameless”

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It’s hard to believe that we’ve already had 7 seasons and 84 episodes of the comedy-drama “Shameless.” In that long period of time, we’ve had plenty of time to fall in love with the characters and understand what makes the Gallagher family so unique. By almost any measure – like an 8.7/10.0 rating on IMDb – the show has more than its share of committed and loyal fans. So what are some of the reasons why fans love the Showtime TV show “Shameless” so much?

#1: William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher

The show has always revolved around the Oscar-nominated William H. Macy, who has introduced the world to Frank Gallagher, a single father of six who spends much of his time drunk (or plotting new ways to get money to get drunk). He’s largely distant from any real parenting duties, and is responsible for his kids growing up poor and struggling with life on Chicago’s South Side.

On the surface, that’s hardly the recipe for a sympathetic character. In fact, you might even call Frank Gallagher more of an “anti-hero” than a “hero” – he’s someone that you don’t want your kids to emulate. He’s a deadbeat, an addict and someone who only schemes and steals to get ahead in life. Yet, there’s something very captivating about him. He is a polarizing character, but someone that binds his family closer to him merely by the fact of being such an absentee father.

#2: Emmy Rossum as Fiona Gallagher

It’s William H. Macy, in fact, who makes us appreciate the beautiful and talented Emmy Rossum so much. She’s everything that he’s not – she’s attractive, intelligent and resilient. She’s someone who cares for the family and puts all of their interests first, not hers.

And, yet, she’s not a perfect angel either. She doesn’t even have a high school graduation, and has a weakness for men who steal cars and drink. And, yet, you feel that she’s just looking for someone to fix her life and tell her that she’s doing OK. She’s been called “one of the most real characters on TV,” and for good reason. She has plenty of positive features, but also plenty of flaws. But don’t we all?

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#3: All the messy romances

Throughout all the daily grievances, addictions and pettiness, there’s always the romance. And that can be wonderfully uplifting (or at least, sustaining) when confronted with a grim view of the world. We have the wonderful and talented Joan Cusack (as Sheila, one of Frank’s potential love interests, as well as the always scene-stealing Svetlana. We have Justin Chatwin (playing Jimmy Lishmann), as someone who steals for a living but who desires Fiona. And, of course, we have the budding gay relationship between Ian Gallagher and Mickey Milkovich. It’s all the messiness of being young and in love, and having so many confusing feelings.

#4: The great Gallagher kids

Fiona (Emmy Rossum) may get most of the attention – and deservedly so – but the other Gallagher kids also play a huge role in making the show so much fun. One of the best characters is Phillip “Lip” Gallagher. He’s smart but self-destructive. You get the feeling that he could be one of the smartest kids in his class, but driven by circumstances, he’s selling pot out of the back of an ice cream truck. And so it goes with the rest of the family – they all seem to be resilient, if a bit damaged.

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#5: The attitude of the “So here’s what you missed” segment

The opening of every episode always starts with a “so here’s what you missed” segment, and it’s a real winner. This is more than just the traditional “Previously on…” segment that’s now become such a cliché on TV. Instead, “Shameless” delivers this segment with a bit of attitude and character. (It’s almost as if the characters voicing the segment have a total disdain for the viewers, who were just too ignorant or drunk to have missed the last episode.)

#6: The shamelessness of keeping it real

In life, you have to “own” what you have become. And to do so, you often have to be shameless. And that’s why, at the end of the day, we really love and respect “Shameless” – the show could have sold out and showed us some sickly, sentimental view of what it means to be poor and working class. But this is life as it’s being lived in America today.

As one fan has pointed out, this show just wouldn’t mean as much if it was filmed in a trailer park – that would have turned all the characters into just stereotypes. Instead, these characters feel like real, three-dimensional characters who might live a few blocks down from us.

For much of its first 7 seasons, “Shameless” has been primarily a social media phenomenon, an entertainment favorite that’s shared via word-of-mouth, Twitter and Tumblr. The critics may have been missing out on the show, but fans have not. You can watch “Shameless” on Showtime as well as Netflix.

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