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BEAUTIFUL CREATURES: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) longs to escape his small Southern town. He meets a mysterious new girl, Lena (Alice Englert). Together, they uncover dark secrets about their respective families, their history and their town.

Review by Louise Keller:
A girl with magical powers and a boy whose only power is love are the central focus of this entertaining, striking film that promises to fill the void left by the Twilight franchise. With its compelling mix of elements, Beautiful Creatures is a tale of forbidden love and the battle between good and evil. It has HIT written all over it and showing great affinity with the subject matter, director Richard LaGravenese has adapted the novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl to bring a spectacular tale that combines supernatural elements with an appealing quirkiness and humour. It's fun, funny in a ham-fisted way and devilishly entertaining, if you'll pardon the pun.

When Alice (Lena Duchannes) tells Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) that her family is different, she explains their magical powers are the equivalent to that of another family being musical or having money. By this stage the windows in the classroom have already exploded in unexplained circumstances and Ethan has met Alice's uncle Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), who first appears in a full length cream brocade coat and tinkles the ivories on the grand piano in the otherwise stark entrance foyer of his incongruous mansion. Irons is perfectly cast, nicely incorporating a delightful eccentricity.

The chemistry between Alice and Ethan begins even before they meet - in their dreams, and we warm to both of them immediately. Ehrenreich is instantly likeable, while Duchannes exudes vulnerability, contrary to the powers she is learning to control. (The scene in which she makes it rain - but only on Ethan - is very funny.)

There is a storm coming and scheduled to hit very soon, on Alice's 16th birthday, when her nature - be it light or dark - will be revealed. It seems that the witches (or 'casters' as they like to be called) do not have control over this part of their fate.

Watch out for the dinner scene, when 'the family' come to visit for the weekend, and Ridley (scrumptiously played by Emmy Rossum) spins the table at dizzying speed under the chandelier, while poor Ethan has been immobilised. I almost expected an eccentrically dressed Helena Bonham Carter to pop in. Emma Thompson is a riot as Mrs Lincoln, the pious exemplary mother with a dark secret and Viola Davis is solid as Amma, whose role is slowly revealed. The film has a string of revelations which include secrets as well as a curse, which threatens.... well, that would be telling.

The film looks as wonderful as the creatures in it, and like Twilight, plays out in fine form to its tween audience.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Lena (Alice Englert) is 15, new town and different; she comes with baggage and is immediately an outsider. Only one of her classmates, Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) sees her as a fresh new force, intelligent - and strangely, mysteriously appealing. But when he pops into her family mansion unannounced but curious, he has a glimpse into a world far removed from little Gatlin, South Carolina ... very, very far removed. He meets Lena's uncle (Jeremy Irons) and realises the whole family is weird. Lina calls them casters (as in casters of spells, derisorily known as witches in lower circles).

And soon the story's central plot point emerges: when Lena reaches her 16th birthday on December 21, she will be automatically 'claimed' by either the 'light' or the 'dark' forces - as determined by her real nature. The entire film is spent waiting for that bewitching birthday ... and how to solve the problem of her loving a mortal - in the shape of Ethan.

All kinds of family ghosts are exhumed, many turn up as shape shifting casters, notably Emma Thompson as Lena's mother from hell. Almost literally. The lovers must find a way around this ancient rule, break some spells and stare down a community of narrow minded god-worshipping rednecks.

With both leads working well to make teen romancing both fun and a serious matter, the film is also blessed with the wonderful talents of Viola Davis, who can emote over a dropped hat. She has a key role as a 'keeper' - the librarian to not only the folk in Gatlin (who ban books but don't read them) but also to the casters whose entire history is shelved behind a large secret door that guards a vast network of tunnelled rooms under Gatlin ... the whole country, in fact. Irons and Thompson - nothwithstanding their British acting gravitas - chew the scenery for their own amusement and turbo charge what is meant to be Southern accents.

The visual effects are often striking and will keep teens entertained, but the whole scenario is a bit ridiculous and drawn out. With its Romeo and Juliet genesis, Beautiful Creatures promises a sweet new mortal & supernatural romance, but doesn't quite get there. Too much cheese in the recipe ...

Published June 26, 2013

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES: DVD (M)
(US, 2013)

CAST: Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, Emmy Rossum, Thomas Mann, Eileen Atkins, Margo Martindale

PRODUCER: Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Molly Smith, Erwin Stoff

DIRECTOR: Richard LaGravenese

SCRIPT: Richard LaGravenese (novel by Margaret Stohl & Kami Garcia)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Philippe Rousselot

EDITOR: David Moritz

MUSIC: Thenewo2

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Richard Sherman

RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 21, 2013

PRESENTATION: 16:9

SPECIAL FEATURES: .

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: June 26, 2013







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