BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (PG, 129 mins) Musical/Fantasy/Romance/Comedy. Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Sir Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Nathan Mack. Director: Bill Condon.
Released: March 17 (UK & Ireland)
If it's not Baroque, don't fix it.
Those immortal words, uttered in jest by Cogsworth the talking clock in the 1991 animated Beauty And The Beast during a guided tour of his master's castle, are largely heeded by director Bill Condon for this ravishing live action remake.
The charm, sweetness, heart-tugging romance, infectious songs and rumbustious humour of the original - Disney's finest hand-drawn animation - have been lovingly polished by screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos.
They embellish perfection with original flourishes to set this handsomely mounted tale as old as time apart from its predecessor, including melancholic flashbacks and a curious interlude of time travel that confirms the grim fate of Belle's mother.
A few favourite moments, which work beautifully in animated form, but might seem outlandish in the flesh, have been lost in translation, including Gaston's virtuoso egg juggling and Belle's serenade to a flock of hungry sheep.
Verses of the Oscar-winning songbook composed by Alan Menken with lyrics by Howard Ashman have been nipped and tucked, then heightened with lush orchestration.
Three sparkling new ballads, courtesy of Menken and lyricist Tim Rice, sit handsomely in this exalted musical company including a soaring lament of longing for the Beast entitled Evermore that swoons, "I let her steal into my melancholy heart/It's more than I can bear."
Strong-willed bookworm Belle (Emma Watson) continues to rebuff the amorous advances of preening Gaston (Luke Evans), who wonders how he'll know when he is in love.
"You'll feel nauseous!" retorts manservant Le Fou (Josh Gad).
Before Gaston can find out, Belle trades places with her inventor father Maurice (Kevin Kline) as eternal prisoner of an accursed Beast (Dan Stevens) in his crumbling stronghold.
The gloom of incarceration is lifted by the kindness of enchanted servants including tightly wound clock Cogsworth (Sir Ian McKellen), flirtatious candlestick Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), and clinking teapot Mrs Potts (Emma Thompson) and her teacup son, Chip (Nathan Mack).
As petals of an enchanted rose fall, Belle glimpses beneath the fur of her tormented host and acknowledges that "there may be something there that wasn't there before".
Distinguished by stunning production design, this Beauty And The Beast doesn't quite scale the dizzy heights of its animated predecessor, but comes delightfully close.
Watson is a spirited heroine and is blessed with a sweet singing voice, and Stevens teases out the humanity of his fallen prince.
Both cede the limelight to the twin comic tornadoes of Evans and Gad, who elevate their homoerotic bromance and bring the tavern down with the lyrically wicked sing-along Gaston.
Lumiere's eye-popping Busby Berkeley-esque Be Our Guest is still a showstopper, augmented with shimmering digital effects, and the title song performed by Thompson brings a lump to the throat.
Not once but twice upon a time, Condon's film promises and delivers a deliriously happy every after.
:: NO SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 8.5/10
GET OUT (15, 104 mins) Horror/Thriller/Romance. Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Lil Rel Howery, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel. Director: Jordan Peele.
Released: March 17 (UK & Ireland)
Inspired by the creeping dread of The Stepford Wives, Jordan Peele's slickly engineered horror is a razor-sharp satire, which takes a scalpel to simmering racial tensions in present day America.
Get Out prescribes shocking violence and laughter in equal measures, carefully exposing the ignorance that simmers beneath the surface of polite middle-class liberalism.
When the script bares its polished teeth, it draws plenty of blood from the nail-biting battle of wits between a gifted black twentysomething artist and his white future in-laws, who believe voting for an African American president is a badge of honour.
Peele takes this clash of cultures to the unsettling extreme, engineering a series of hairpin twists that reveal the sick and twisted design behind his suburban nightmare.
In early scenes, including a horrific encounter with a deer, Get Out revels in our discomfort, creating a prickle of impending doom like an infuriating itch you can't quite reach.
Once the Machiavellian masterplan is revealed, some of that tension dissipates and Peele's film falls back on familiar tropes to resolve the stand-off.
London-born actor Daniel Kaluuya delivers a stellar performance as the unsuspecting lamb to the slaughter.
He plays gifted photographer Chris Washington, who is nervous about a road trip to meet the parents of his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams).
"Don't go to a white girl's parents' house," advises Chris' wise-cracking best friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery), who proudly protects the public as an officer of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Ignoring his pal's warning, Chris drives with Rose to her parents' pristine community, where he is warmly welcomed by Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford) and his psychiatrist wife, Missy (Catherine Keener).
Dean gives Chris a tour of the house, avoiding the basement - "We had to seal it up - black mould down there" - and attempts to put the young man's concerns to rest by confessing his political allegiances.
"I would have voted for Obama for a third term if I could. Best president in my lifetime," proudly declares Dean.
However, something about the neighbourhood feels out of kilter and Chris is unnerved by the passive behaviour of the Armitages' black groundkeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson) and maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel).
When Missy discovers Chris is struggling to give up smoking and offers to use hypnosis to cure his filthy habit, meeting the parents becomes a bruising battle for survival.
Get Out is a smart and sophisticated descent into psychological hell, punctuated by giggles courtesy of Howery's buddy, whose paranoid delusions might be rooted in reality.
Whitford and Keener relish their dark, ambiguous roles as parents who are determined to create an American dream, by fair means or foul.
Writer-director Peele sustains dramatic momentum and drip feeds us teasing clues until he is ready to begin the blood-letting in lip-smacking earnest.
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 7.5/10
PERSONAL SHOPPER (15, 105 mins) Drama. Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Nora von Waldstatten, Sigrid Bouaziz. Director: Olivier Assayas.
Released: March 17 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)
The super-rich and the supernatural collide head-on in Olivier Assayas' tantalizing character study, which charts the emotional breakdown of a celebrity gopher, who moonlights as a medium.
Personal Shopper unfolds in a world of red carpet couture and social media self-promotion, and is blessed with a mesmerizing lead performance from Kristen Stewart, who won a Cesar - the French equivalent of the Oscar - for her role opposite Juliette Binoche in Assayas' previous film, Clouds Of Sils Maria.
Stewart is equally compelling here, teasing back the layers of her emotionally brittle protagonist, who slaloms through bustling streets on her moped, collecting dresses and parcels for her largely unseen boss.
It's an unshowy yet powerful portrayal of a young woman, unhinged by grief, who is desperately waiting for a sign from beyond the grave that life does perpetuate after the end credits roll.
Literal and metaphorical ghosts haunt the shadowy frames of Assayas' perplexing mystery, and he allows them to materialize courtesy of unobtrusive special effects to hint at the direction of his menacing narrative.
Nothing can prepare you, however, for the spiralling madness of the picture's final 20 minutes, including a bemusing epilogue on the Arabian Peninsula that could - and arguably should - have been exorcised in its entirety.
Stewart plays Maureen Cartwright, personal slave to a celebrity called Kyra (Nora von Waldstatten), who needs an underling to manage her diary and collect an endless array of loaned gowns from design houses around the world.
Maureen has a similar build and frame to her employer, but she is forbidden from trying on the dresses.
While she carries out her duties, Maureen has the onerous task of listening to the woes of Lyra's clingy boyfriend Ingo (Lars Eidinger), who is convinced that he is about to be dumped.
As she caters to various whims, Maureen finds time to indulge her fascination with the supernatural.
Before her twin brother Lewis died, he vowed to make contact with Maureen from the other side and she waits expectantly for a tangible sign of his protective spirit.
Spookily, she begins to receive text messages from someone who refuses to reveal their identity.
"Tell me something you find unsettling," instructs the texter.
"Horror movies," types Maureen.
These cryptic communications shepherd Maureen towards unexpected tragedy and - possibly - proof of life after death.
Personal Shopper refuses to abide by well-worn conventions, avoiding jump-out-of-the-seat shocks in favour of slow-burning suspense.
Stewart emits a haunting glow, even when the lights go out on plausibility in Assayas' script, performing for extended periods with just her smartphone.
She compels us to believe in Maureen's haphazard journey of spiritual discovery.
Even though her final destination is perplexing, her route holds us largely spellbound.
:: SWEARING :: SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10