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SPOTLIGHT

25 Mar 2017

ell

us criminals. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people's minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that she has been lied to: her life was not saved, it was stolen. She will stop at nothing to recover her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others. Based on the internationally acclaimed Japanese Manga, "The Ghost in the Shell."

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18 Mar 2017

Beast

won, quite rightly, for Alan Menken’s score and one of the three nominated songs--- It’s the music that makes it particularly special, and appreciating that is entirely the point of the live-action remake. It’s hard to imagine a case for this film’s existence without the songs – without, say, that five-note “Tale as Old as Time” motif, which rivals the one from Close Encounters of the Third Kind as a call-sign for a entire shared past of filmgoing--- What’s changed? A running time that’s 45 minutes longer than before allows scope for expansion, including three new Menken songs, which hit character beats and fill in backstory elegantly enough: he’s not trying to bowl us over with these. A prologue now tells us of the Prince (a powdered Dan Stevens, formerly of Downton Abbey), the curse, and the red rose with its dropping petals; there’s more later on Belle’s dead mama, and a deeper relationship with her dad (Kevin Kline), too.--- But the core of the story is blissfully intact. It’s fitting, for a tale about gradually discovering inner beauty, that the Beast is tricky to know at first: withheld from our sympathy, hard to recognise as Stevens through the digital fur.--- Scene by scene, the film takes its time with him, and we get the hang of the character at the same pace that Belle does. Once he’s belting out baritone laments from the blackened eyries of his home, we’ve understood his soul.--- Emma Watson isn’t a flawless Belle. However overawed the character should be by her surroundings, there’s a lack of confidence in her gait – she sometimes seems to be hitting marks obediently rather than owning each moment. But she’s good: that girl-next-door winsomeness and a sweet, clear singing voice see her through.--- She’s ideal in close-up, a charming reactor in that trickiest aspect of her craft – feigning delight at dancing crockery. Perhaps Harry Potter gave her an inside track at doing this so well.

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11 Mar 2017

nd

“Kong: Skull Island.” Once again, a lot of the noise and action involve guns, monsters and crashing jungle chases, but the most promising moments involve King Kong and the really little lady he unexpectedly meets. “Skull Island” pretty much exhumes the same story. This time, the adventurers include a group of government-backed scientists run by Bill Randa (John Goodman), who has his glinting eyes on a mysterious, seemingly unexplored island. Mysteries were made for solving, and this island, Randa reasons, may contain all manner of wonders, or perhaps something beyond human imagining. So, with a military unit led by Lt. Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), the scientists ship out, accompanied by Mason, a no-nonsense war photographer who’s soon trading barbs and looks with the world’s prettiest mercenary, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston). “Skull Island” has momentum, polish and behemoths that slither and thunder. The sets and creature designs are often beautifully filigreed, but the larger picture remains murky. Backed by government and guns, the scientists prove to be colonialists by another name, an idea that the filmmakers bat around a bit, including in allusions to Joseph Conrad’s novella “Heart of Darkness.” These references pad “Skull Island,” giving audiences (and critics) something to chew on and help explain the repeated, near-fetishistic nods to “Apocalypse Now,” Kong looks as big as a mountain here. Supersizing is a default mode of the contemporary blockbuster, but in this case a pumped-up Kong may have something to do with his role in an evolving studio franchise featuring monsters (a.k.a. MonsterVerse) that kicked off with the 2014 “Godzilla.”----THE NEW YORK TIMES

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