This week, Jeffrey and I are chatting about the live action version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, as well as live musicals on TV. Beauty and the Beast is up first, and both of us have good things to say about this remake. The source material, the Beauty and the Beast animated feature from 1991, is often cited as the high mark of the Disney renaissance, and for good reason. This remake may not hit that iconic high, but it’s still interesting.
The cast is pretty darn fantastic, and I would happily watch Hermione Granger (the great Emma Watson) do Belle cosplay for as long as she wants to. High marks also to Josh Gad for his crazy LeFou face and energy. We agree the additional backstory for both the Beast and Maurice fills out those characters, and that Professor Trelawney (Emma Thompson) brings significant heart and warmth to Mrs. Potts.
The music in this movie had a lot to live up to. We agree that Audra McDonald nailed it (no big surprise there), and that Emma Watson did a very passable job with her songs. We weren’t sure about Dan Stevens singing his little Beast heart out, but Oscars must be sought after, I guess. Emma Thompson does as well as anyone can do while trying to fill the shoes of the GREAT Angela Lansbury. Fun facto (maybe for me only): Emma Thompson is friends with Angela Lansbury and calls her Angie. Can I please be in your friend group, ladies? PLEASE.
We talk very briefly about the “gay moment” that occurs on screen for a fleeting few seconds. We’re glad that a gay character was shown interacting with a member of the same sex here, but that’s a laughably low bar to clear, so we don’t want to overpraise it. It is a step in the right direction from a really massive company that has huge cultural influence, if still the smallest step they could have taken.
The future of live action movies at Disney looks bright, with these already on the horizon:
The Little Mermaid
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
The Lion King with Jon Favreau as the director
Cruella De Vil starring Emma Stone
Aladdin with Guy Ritchie as the director
Tinker Bell starring Reese Witherspoon
Winnie the Pooh
In our second segment, we talk about live musicals on TV. This is hardly a new concept, but lately we’ve had a resurgence of this tradition. NBC has lead the charge to bring back these live musical events starting with The Sound of Music Live! in 2013. We talk about all of the recent musicals on TV. Neither of us watched The Sound of Music Live!, but it has a crazy cast so I’m going to find it and report back. Peter Pan Live! was a critical flop and a tonal mishmash, but Jeffrey has strong feelings of affection for that story, even if it’s weird.
The Wiz Live! followed in 2015, and showcased the singing talent of its cast (notably Shanice Williams, Ne-Yo, Mary J. Blige, Amber Riley, and Queen Latifah). The lack of audience for The Wiz Live! made some of the built-for-the-stage jokes seem flat, and some of the transitions out of big (great) numbers utterly lifeless. On the whole, though, The Wiz Live! was a success and looks like a turning point for the genre.
Grease Live! came next in early 2016, and it felt comparatively huge and expansive. Stand outs in this cast included Keke Palmer as Marty Maraschino, Vanessa Hudgens, and Carly Rae Jepsen. The integration of a live audience gave this production a big lift.
The most recent live musical is Hairspray Live!, which just aired in December of 2016. There is some significant major Broadway cred in this cast with Kristin Chenoweth, Harvey Fierstein, and Jennifer Hudson. Hairspray Live! featured really stellar group dance numbers, and strong vocal performances as well. I enjoyed when Jennifer Hudson blew Ariana Grande out of the water when they sang a duet together. It’s the little things.
Pop Culture Kool-aid Picks
Pop Culture Kool-aid Pick for Jeff this week is Atlanta, Donald Glover’s project on FX. He was pleasantly surprised at how the stories were told on this show. He also saw Get Out and HIGHLY recommends it.
I’m basking in the glory that is Viola Davis winning an Oscar. It made my month, for sure. I’m enjoying the opportunity we all have to watch her in the not-great but still very good show, How to Get Away With Murder. She is a Great Actor, and watching her work is a joy, always. The show’s supporting cast is getting stronger as time goes on, and the younger women (Laurel, played by Karla Souza and Michaela, played by Aja Naomi King) are having quite the season. How to Get Away With Murder gets pushed out on Netflix in Canada, and it’s definitely worthy of a binge watch with a big glass of red wine (or a regular sized glass of vodka, if you prefer).
Thanks so much for joining us this week! Don’t want to miss an episode? Go ahead and subscribe on iTunes or on Google Play! We’d love to hear from you! If you want to get in touch, Jeff is @jlabryan, and I’m @laurencheal.