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Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.

Beauty and the Beast
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, and Ewan McGreggor
Synopsis: “Beauty and The Beast” was a unique accomplishment when it was released in 1991. The animated film – which introduced audiences to Belle – has endured as one of the most popular animated films, and it was also the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards total, and took home Oscars for its score and Best Original Song. For Disney, what was old is new again. Beginning a few years ago, the company began transforming its classic animated films into live action films. “Cinderella” got the live action treatment in 2015, though it dropped its classic musical numbers. “The Jungle Book” roared into theaters last spring, albeit with just a couple of its classical music numbers. But for the adaptation of “Beauty and The Beast,” it only makes sense that music has to be a critical part of the presentation. And this new, live-action version features an incredible cast and all the incredible musical numbers audiences have come to know and love. And audiences responded. The film earned more than $170 million in the United States opening weekend, making it the biggest March release of all time. And it’s a film that lives up to the hype. Everyone is familiar with this classic tale, which has been told and re-told many times. But this classic live-action film from director Bill Condon seeks to follow the narrative from the animated film – including the musical numbers – while adding some flare all its own. And it’s wildly successful. This is a film that looks beautiful and has a very stage musical quality at times. And I mean that in the best sense. You can see the care that was taken in creating the elaborate set pieces, which were built specifically for this film. The sets, costumes and production design really help set the scene and give the film a beautiful and engrossing quality. The performances are also great. Watson – best known for her role in the “Harry Potter” franchise – is enchanting as Belle. She’s great in all the scenes, and does a beautiful job with the demanding musical role. Stevens, best known from “Downton Abbey,” is also great, and the CGI used to make his Beast come to life works well. The rest of the supporting cast – including Evans, Gad, Kline and voice work from Ewan McGreggor, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson, among others – all do well. There are some incredible and lavish musical numbers that are beautifully done and a joy to watch. I particularly loved “Be Out Guest,” one of the most famous pieces from the film, which seemed like a lavish ride at a Disney theme park in the best of ways. There was a lot of hype and expectation for this film, and it hit the mark. This was the best film I’ve seen so far in 2017, and I imagine it’s a film that will be remembered for any number of reasons come awards season in the fall. It’s a must-see film for fans of the original and anyone who loves a story beautifully told.
Rating: PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images.
Verdict: Four stars out of four.

Upcoming Releases:
Friday, March 24 — "Life," "Power Rangers," "CHiPS"
Friday, March 31 — "The Zookeeper's Wife," "The Boss Baby," "The Ghost in the Shell"


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