MOVIE BUFF-ET: Beauty and the Beast joins Kong and Logan in a beastly box-office battle

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Hollywood is waging its own form of March Madness in theaters around the country, although Beast Wars might be a better moniker for the box-office battle between Fox, Warner Bros. and Disney studios.

Disney’s live-action adaption of its 1991 Academy-award nominated animated classic “Beauty and the Beast” joins Fox’s “Logan” and WB’s “Kong: Skull Island” in theaters today, making the decision of what to see a decidedly hairy one.

New In Local Theaters

  • Beauty and the Beast (PG) 2 hr. 9 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)
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  • The Belko Experiment (R) 1 hr. 28 min.
    (Malco Razorback, Malco Rogers Towne)
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In the past such fantastical films would have opened in the summer or around the Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season, but in recent years, March has become prime real estate for studios that want to get a jump on the summer movie season.

“Logan,” (review here) featuring Hugh Jackman in his ninth and reportedly last film as the Marvel super-hero Wolverine opened on March 3 and garnered the largest opening-week box-office take for an R-rated film in history with an $85.3 million take domestically. “Kong: Skull Island” burst into the fray March 10 to knock “Logan” out of the top spot with a respectable box-office total of $60 million.

However, box-office tracking experts expect “Beauty and the Beast” to view for an all-time, first-weekend box office records for March. “Variety” projects the film to make between $120 to $150 million domestically this weekend and for its global take to be well over $200 million, perhaps as much as $250 million.

“Beauty and the Beast” is garnering mostly positive reviews; particularly for star Emma Watson, best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter film series. The movie is playing locally at the Malco Razorback and AMC Fiesta Square in Fayetteville and the Malco Pinnacle in Rogers.

Kong: Skull Island

In “Kong: Skull Island,” the great gorilla doesn’t scale the Empire State Building or even step foot in New York City.

The movie’s not a love story, and while Brie Larson is easy on the eyes, beauty in no way kills the beast in director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ movie that re-introduces Kong and serves as connective tissue for what will be a shared-continuity, giant monster universe.

What Kong does do is stride triumphantly across the big screen and savagely protect his home island from invaders from above — the soldiers — and below — giant reptile like monsters dubbed skull crawlers.

The film, set in 1975, boasts a great cast including Samuel L. Jackson as Lt. Col. Preston Packard, the commander of the Sky Devils helicopter squadron, which heads straight from Vietnam to escort an expedition to the uncharted Skull Island.

Located in the Pacific Ocean and perpetually surrounded by a hurricane-like storm system, Skull Island is a mystery World War II veteran and scientist Bill Randa (John Goodman) plans to figure out at all costs.

Randa hires former British Special Services Capt. James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) to aid the expedition, and Larson’s character photojournalist Mason Weaver tags along to document whatever it is that Randa hopes to find on the island.

Jackson and Goodman’s charisma is present, but their stereotypical roles somewhat waste their talent. While Larson, an Academy Award winner for “The Room” and Hiddleston, best known for playing Loki in the Marvel films, are talented, they come off as rather bland because the script gives them little to do other than to look pretty for the camera.

John C. Riley steals every scene he is in as Hank Riley, an American pilot who survives 28 years on the island after crashing there as a young man toward the end of World War II. He’s eccentric for sure and maybe even a bit crazy, but he knows the island better than anyone other Kong. Riley’s comedic performance brings a much-needed energy to the film, which is failed by its dialogue.

But, who goes to see a giant monster movie to hear human talk, anyway?

Kong is great anytime he is on screen, and so are the other giant creatures and monsters that reside with him on the island. You’ve never seen a giant ape swat helicopters and wrestle icky monster as fantastically as you do in this movie.

Vogt-Roberts fills the movie with allusions to Joseph Conrad’s novella “Heart of Darkness” and Francis For Coppola’s 1979 film “Apocalypse Now” that might be fun for some to spot.

The movie also reminded me a good bit of the schlocky 1975 movie, “The Land that Time Forgot,” which was adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs’1924 novel.

By no means is the movie a masterpiece, but it is a whole lot of fun. Most of all, it delivers good Kong, and that’ll do.

There is a post-credit scene that will undoubtedly excite fans of giant movie monsters.
Grade: B

Classic Corner

The Quiet Man
John Ford’s “The Quiet Man” isn’t about Saint Patrick’s Day, but if there ever was a movie to leave Irish eyes smiling, then 1952 romantic dramedy has to be it.

Nothing says Saint Patrick’s Day more than a film that features an epic fist fight that takes a break in the middle so the two combatants can down a couple of beers in a pub before they start whaling on each other again.

The two combatants are John Wayne as Sean Thornton and Victor McLaglen as Squire “Red” Will Danaher who are at odds over Danaher’s refusal to hand over the dowry of his fiery sister Mary Kate, (Maureen O’Hara).

The fight scene that sprawls across the countryside near the town of Inisfree is gorgeously shot in Technicolor by cinematographer Winton Hoch, whose work earned him an Academy Award. The film won Ford his fourth Best Director Oscar in 1953.

The film is truly a moving picture-postcard for the lush Irish countryside, which offers the perfect setting for the love story that features some of the finest and most subtle work by Wayne as an Irish-American who returns to his birthplace to reclaim his family farm.

Technicolor was made for actresses like O’Hara, whose natural beauty is stunningly caught by the color process that yields vibrant reds and lush greens. O’Hara’s auburn locks never looked more lovely than when filmed against the verdant hills of the film’s setting.

Thornton ends up on loudmouth Danaher’s bad side because the gentrified bully covets Thornton’s family farm for himself. Complicating matters is the fact that Sean and Mary Kate fall in love with each other almost at first sight.

Wayne and O’Hara, who starred in five films together, share one of the greatest onscreen kisses in Hollywood history midway through the film.

O’Hara wrote in her autobiography that she and Wayne loved each other like brother and sister. That may be so, but wow, is there chemistry between the two in this movie.

Thornton is a man with a past who attempts to avoid violence for a good reason, but his reluctance to fight Danaher for Mary Kate’s dowry troubles their marriage. Finally, Sean’s will breaks and the melee ensues.

O’Hara wrote that “The Quiet Man” is her favorite performance and included her best work. While she is excellent in many of the 60 films she made, I think she is right.

Wayne is also strong in the movie, which highlights a deft comedic touch that is often overlooked. I’d personally rate his performance third among his many roles, only behind his work in “The Searchers” and “Red River.” However, “The Quiet Man” is unquestionably his best performance as a romantic lead.

Wayne and O’Hara are aided and abetted by an outstanding supporting cast. McLaglen is a terrific foil for them as Danaher, but Barry Fitzgerald and Ward Bond turn in winning performances, too, that give the movie something extra.

Ford is one of the greatest directors of all time, and so many of his films are so strong that it’s hard to name an absolute best or even a favorite. But for me “The Quiet Man” is near the top. It features Ford still at the top of his game with his greatest leading lady teamed with his greatest leading man.

Turner Classic Movies airs “The Quiet Man” at 9 p.m. Friday.