5:00 PM, 3rd June, 2017
‘Tale as old as time’ may be the opening lyric of Beauty and the Beast’s title song, but it must surely also be the current mantra of Disney’s live action division. Seemingly content with mining their animated classics for inspiration, they’ve announced plans to remake everything from Aladdin to The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Peter Pan, Dumbo and beyond. Even 101 Dalmatians villainess Cruella de Vil will be receiving the Maleficent treatment and getting an origin film starring Emma Stone!
But who can blame them when the end result has been a string of pretty solid films in their own right? That said, the real test is yet to come: while the original Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Jungle Book and Pete’s Dragon were all well and good, they are nowhere near as beloved as this one.
Arguably the best film to come out of Disney’s ’90s renaissance, Beauty and the Beast is widely regarded as one of the greatest animated films ever made. Accordingly, Disney have wisely chosen not to mess with perfection and opted for a near-straight remake – with many of the same songs, characters, dialogue and even costumes intact, but a few new additions thrown in for good measure. They’ve handed the reigns to an ace director of movie musicals (Bill Condon of Chicago and Dreamgirls fame) and recruited a top cast of acting talent (led by Harry Potter’s Emma Watson as Belle) and voice talent (incluidng Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci) to bring it all to life.
So whether you grew up with the original or simply enjoy sweeping fairy tale romances, be our guest and see this film.
7:30 PM, 3rd June, 2017
PRESENTED IN PARTNERHIP WITH THE HIGH COMMISSION OF THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA
In one respect this could be a standard Disney underdog sports movie: think The Mighty Ducks, or Cool Runnings – and, like the latter, based on a true story. There’s a young girl (Nalwanga) in Katwe, the poorest part of Kampala, Uganda who reveals herself to have an unexpected talent for chess; and a struggling amateur chess coach (Oyelowo) who makes it his business to see her succeed. Scoff all you like, but if you don’t actually have a heart of stone you’ll be cheering her along by the end (and your cheering will be rewarded).
But that aside, one thing that sets this film apart from the (pleasantly) clichéd genre to which it belongs, is that it fully commits to its setting. It really was filmed in the slums of Katwe, which shows in every shot: some things cannot be faked, and this is clearly no fake. (The director, Mira Nair, first made her name with the highly-regarded 1988 film Salaam Bombay!, also showing actual locations – and actual street children – in the poorer parts of a large city.) Yet, without any sugar coating (or none that I could detect), the result is not a grim excursion of duty into a place we’d rather not go – not a ‘look how squalid everything is’ misery piece. We see the slums as slums, but also, for a brief time, as home to these characters.