Tag Archives: ben kingsley

Disney’s The Jungle Book

17 Apr


Disney’s The Jungle Book.  First off it is safe to say this movie is less about Disney’s Jungle Book the animated version (1967) as much as it pays more attention to Rudyard Kiplings book.

The new version is live action with amazing CGI that brings you right in to the Jungle world of man-cub Mowgli, played well by new comer, Neel Sethi. The film has a PG rating and some scenes might be a bit too realistic for the very young. The casting is superb, Ben Kingsly as Bagheera the panther who found Mowgli as an infant and gave him to the wolves to raise as their own, Lupito Nyong’o plays the Raksha Mowgli’s wolf mother, Idris Elba as Shere Khan the tiger who wants Mowgli dead, Scarlette Johansson as the snake Kaa, Christopher Walken as King Louis the King of the apes, and the wonderful Bill Murray as Baloo the bear.
The only resemblance to the animated version is three songs lifted from that film:
1: Bill Murray as Baloo in an effort to befreind Mowgli after enlisting him into retreaving honey for him from live bees nests, sings the song Bear Neccesities with Mowgli. Rather than a disconnected musical number, Murray plays it as way to understand Baloo’s character and give dimension to his relationship with Mowgli. Not only is it pure Murray but it is a joy to watch, like a peacful float down a river.
2. When we first meet Christopher Walken as King Louis sitting on a throne in an ancient jungle temple, he comes across as The Godfather with a hidden agenda. He sings I Want To Be Like You so incidiously ,telling of his plot to get the red flower (FIRE), from the man-cub so he can take power and control the jungle, you can only think what a perfect choice he was to play the part. He sings it in a way that let’s you see inside him and understand just how power hungry and crazy he is. Not unlike any dictator he uses his underlings to capture the man-cub so they can negotiate face to face.
3. Lastly stay for the end credits, because there is a lot going on, a reprise of I want To Be Like You and the third song, Trust In Me sung by Kaa.
The film is a winner all around and incidently it is also Gary Shandlings last film he plays a minor character Ikki the Porcupine. (Very well too I might add.)
I saw it in 3D and the world you are drawn into like Avatar before it is complete and all consuming. Go and enjoy.

Iron Man 3

3 May


Synopsis: Marvel’s “Iron Man 3″ pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible.


Robert Downey Jr……………………….Tony Stark/Iron Man

Gwyneth Paltrow……………………………………. Pepper Potts

Don Cheadle…………………………………. Col. James Rhodes

Guy Pearce…………………………………………… Aldrich Killian

Rebecca Hall…………………………………….Dr. Maya Hansen

Stephanie Szostak………………………………………Ellen Brandt

James Badge Dale………………………………………….Eric Savin

Jon Favreau ……………………………………………..Happy Hogan

Ben Kingsley……………………………………………the Mandarin

Ty Simpkins…………………………………………………………Harley


Review:  Iron Man 3 ushers in the official start to summer blockbuster season, and what a good way to kick things off.  There are three things to think about, other than the fact that this is the third installment:

1)      How solid the storyline is and how it has action, pathos and heart.

2)      How terrific the acting is with this top notch cast.

3)      Was the showing of  bomb blast that hurt the people Tony Stark loves, too soon after the Boston bombings. (More on this later)

Marvel media has been miles ahead of the competition in the Super Hero film genre, this film is another example of  their good story telling. I will start with the cast:

Robert Downey Jr. is perfect for the role of Tony Stark. He once again proves his charm and witticism as he narrates the story in flashback. In this film Tony moves away from being the playboy, millionaire, narcissist and starts to grow-up. The entire story centers on the demons he has created through the years, through his scientific research and his shallow callousness. Downey does this perfectly well; let’s just say he was born to play the part. Throughout the film you can see that Stark is fighting his own demons, he has been having PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) since the end of the Avengers and this is where the film picks-up his story. Stark is questioning his past as well what’s ahead.

Gwyneth Paltro as Stark’s girlfriend, Pepper Potts, who now runs Stark Industries, also changes but is steadfast in her love for Tony. She falls victim to a terrorist organization headed by The Manderin and the chase begins. Pepper is strong in many ways, she stands by Tony and puts up with his boyish behavior, worries about how the PTSD is effecting him and suffers through watching the Stark Mansion get blown to bits.

Don Cheadle plays Col. James Rhodes,former Stark employee, now working for the defense department. He still marvels at Tony and the two of them  ultimately are forced to work together due to circumstances. Tony always has the upper hand  as Rhodes watches in awe. Their on screen chemistry is great together.

Guy Pierce as scientist geek, Aldrich Killian, is spurned by Tony in a flashback from 1999. His experiments in genetic engineering are blown off by Tony and he spends the next 13 years, through research, plotting his revenge. How does this tie-in with The Manderin, played by Ben Kingsley, the answer  is told in the film, no spoilers here.

Ben Kingsley plays The Manderin, a terrorist who is hell-bent on teaching America and the President a lesson. The mystery lies in his bombing attacks that leave no evidence of a bomb or bomb parts at the scene of the attacks. Kingsley has many secrets and his acting as always is right on the money. He gets to play both serious and comedic and he navigates this brilliantly. He looks like he was having a good time.

This brings me to the question of the Boston bombing, was watching bombs go off  critically hurting Stark’s friend and former bodyguard Happy, a little too soon for most audiences?  Many people were critically wounded in the Boston tragedy and to see Stark seeking revenge for his friend, Happy, may be too uncomfortable for some. The filmmakers did not know in advance of the Boston events, it wasn’t anyone’s fault really that this film came out so close to the Marathon tragedy. I hope people will go to see it and just lose themselves into a good story.

On a lighter note, Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee does his Hitchcock cameo in this film. Can you spot him?…..

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The Dictator

25 May

Synopsis: The heroic story of a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.  This fish out of water story tells the tale of Haffaz Alladeen who has been the dictator of the oil-rich African nation of Wadiya for 40 years. Alladeen is as egotistical and ruthless as dictators come, executing anyone who disagrees with him by using his signature “head chop” signal. Alladeen is summoned by the UN to address their concerns about his nuclear program. A subplot involves him being kidnapped by Clayton  a hitman hired by his traitorous uncle Tamir . Tamir then replaces Aladeen with a decoy named Efawadh, who he can manipulate into signing a document democratizing Wadiya and opening the oil rich country for business. Aladeen escapes, but his beard has been shaved off by Clayton, making him practically unrecognizable. He encounters activist Zoey who offers him a job at her alternative lifestyle co-op. Aladeen refuses the offer and travels to New York’s “Little Wadiya”, populated by refugees from his country, where he encounters Nadal , the former chief of Wadiya’s nuclear weapons program, whom Aladeen thought he had previously had executed. Peppered with caustic and controversial humor the film follows Aladeen as he tries to regain power.


Sasha Baron Cohen: as Admiral General Aladeen and his impostor Efawadh

Ben Kingsley: as Tamir, Aladeen’s uncle

Jason Manzoukas: as nadal

Ann Faris: as Zoey

John C. Reilly:  as Clayton

B.J. Novack

Chris Elliot as Mr. Ogden

Fred Armisen as Death to Aladeen Restaurant waiter


Megan Fox: as herself

Edward Norton: as himself

J.B. Smoove: as Funeral Usher

Chris Parnell: as ABN News anchor

Asif Mandvi: as Wadiyan doctor

Rizwan Manji: as Wadiyan patient

Horatio Sanz: as aide on balcony.

Review: Sacha Baron Cohen has once again teamed up with director Larry Charles (Borat/Bruno) and both have delivered a funny and controversial albeit more mainstream story to tell. Inspired by the book Zabibah and the King by Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein, Cohen takes on a journey through the world of a narcissistic, mad Islamic dictator, Admiral, General Aladeen of the pseudo middle eastern country of  Wadiya. He does things like have sex with Megan Fox, who sleeps with him as a booty call but won’t commit to a real relationship, crowns himself best actor/film-star in the country and wins all the country’s sporting events by shooting the competition, what a guy. It is Cohen’s commitment to character that makes this movie so hilarious. Cohen tends to find his characters from the inside out and makes them so real you believe this chameleon is the genuine article. Cohen is so committed to his character in fact you might remember the stunt he pulled at the 2012 Academy awards spilling the ashes of Dictator Kim Jong ii onto Ryan Seacrest.

Ben Kingsley portrays his Uncle Tamir who wants to democratize Wadiya and sell its’ oil for profit. He does a wonderful job as does a terrific supporting cast. Ann Faris plays Zoey the love interest and holds up well as the foil for all the anti-women slurs Aladeen throws at her. The entire film is a reflection of the world situation and Cohen who also wrote the screenplay deserves kudos for having the nerve to dish up this Islamic, Terrorist Dictator with humor and intelligence.

The cameos are well done and add an element of who will show up next. This is certainly worthy of Sacha Baron Cohen’s inspired lunacy.


Recent and new on DVD

1 Apr


REVIEW: What do you get when a film produced by Martin Scorsese and Johnny Depp, directed by Scorsese with a world class cast of character actors in the backdrop of 1930’s Paris?  You get HUGO what is in my estimation the finest film I’ve seen this year.

Hugo played by young actor Asa Butterfield, is the story about a young boy as the film title suggest is named Hugo. He lives inside the walls of a train station in Paris in the 1930’s. His father dies, leaving behind a mysterious automaton that, when fixed, can write. Hugo makes it his mission to fix it, believing that it will reveal a message from his father. With the help of an eccentric girl named Isabelle,played beautifully by Chloë Grace Moretz, he tries to uncover a magical mystery about the old man at the toy booth (Isabelle’s godfather) and enchanting early films.

Hugo is pursued by the station inspector played to the hilt by Sasha Baron Cohen, Christopher Lee plays a wise, kindly seller of books who inadvertently helps Hugo and Isabelle uncover their mystery. Ben Kingsley plays Isabelle’s godfather George Méliès the once famous film director (think  “A Trip To The Moon” with rocket in the moon’s eye) who the mystery is centered around.

Other cameo stars you will recognize include

Richard Griffiths as Monsieur Frick (better known for his portrayals as Uncle Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films)

Helen McCrory as Mamma Jeanne (better known as Narcissa Malfoy of the Harry Potter Films)

Emily Mortimer as Lisette ( better known as Holley Shiftwell from Cars 2)

Just to name a few Martin Scorsese himself does a cameo as a photographer.

At the heart of the story is the message of finding who you are in the world and the importance of love and family.  I can’t imagine that this film will at the very least not be nominated for best picture it is a masterwork and Scorsese’s love-letter to the art and magic of the movies.


The Essential laurel & Hardy:

Stanley: You can lead a horse too water but a pencil’s made of lead!

This ten disc set is the one L&H fans have been waiting for a long time. Included are all the classic Hal Roach Laurel and Hardy Sound shorts and features from the 20’s and 30’s.

“Eternal pals and eternal antagonists, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are the great partnership of movie slapstick. They finally get their DVD due with Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection, a 10-disc orgy of pratfalls, slow burns, and slap fights–in short, a collection that truly qualifies as a must-have for connoisseurs of comedy. The collection contains the sound films that Laurel and Hardy made for producer Hal Roach, the man who teamed the simpering English vaudeville player and the rotund American actor in the first place (although their laughs are evenly divided, Laurel was the creative force and chief gag-inventor of the duo). Their track record is proof that it isn’t merely the jokes that make for comic success; it’s the personalities of the comedians. Thus, Stan’s dimwitted innocence and Ollie’s perpetually exasperated reactions (raised to an exquisite art by Hardy’s comprehensive glances at the camera, assuring the audience’s complicity in his misery) are the essence of their success. Some films are great, some merely passable, but all stick blissfully to character. This is on glorious display through these Roach pictures, whether it’s the boys sharing one small train berth in Berth Marks, executing their famous synchronized dance in Way Out West, or laboring to get that piano up a very steep flight of stairs in the Oscar-winning The Music Box.

The films look as good as movies from 1929 to 1940 can reasonably be expected to look. Included in the boxed set are seven foreign-language films (six in Spanish, one in French), shot in order to keep the duo popular in overseas markets, before dubbing made that goal easier. Fascinatingly, these films often extend the English-language films they are ostensibly adapted from, with different gags and plot turns–and it’s fun to hear Stan and Ollie speaking in another language. Special features include a ho-hum 40-minute tribute with testimonials from fellow comedians (especially talkative are Dick Van Dyke and Jerry Lewis); an “”Interactive Map”” with Los Angeles location sites from their movies; three Roach shorts in which L&H pop up in cameos; and a 1942 short produced for the Department of Agriculture (another L&H cameo). A few (not many) films have commentaries that include the informed Laurel and Hardy buff Richard W. Bann; Sons of the Desert has a track with Tim Conway and Chuck McCann, who don’t seem to know how a commentary track works but have a nice time watching the movie. –Robert Horton

When you think of all films that pass as comedies to a modern audience you must look upon Laurel and Hardy as the giants whose shoulders today’s comedians stand upon. Although the quality varies from film to film L&H are masters of mirth. This must have set is available at Amazon/Barnes and Noble etc.


Johnny English Reborn:


Rowan Atkinson returns to the role of the improbable secret agent who doesn’t know fear or danger in the comedy spy-thriller Johnny English Reborn. In his latest adventure, the most unlikely intelligence officer in Her Majesty’s Secret Service must stop a group of international assassins before they eliminate a world leader and cause global chaos.

In the years since MI7’s top spy vanished off the grid, he has been honing his unique skills in a remote region of Asia. But when his agency superiors learn of an attempt against the Chinese premier’s life, they must hunt down the highly unorthodox agent. Now that the world needs him once again, Johnny English is back in action.

With one shot at redemption, he must employ the latest in hi-tech gadgets to unravel a web of conspiracy that runs throughout the KGB, CIA and even MI7. With mere days until a heads of state conference, one man must use every trick in his playbook to protect us all. For Johnny English, disaster may be an option, but failure never is.

Review:   by Randy Bucknoff

Rowan Atkinson aka Johnny English in this brilliant James Bond send-up proves once and for all a ” little intelligence goes a long away”. (Double – entendre’ intended). Rowan Atkinson star of Mr. Bean and of course the Black Adder series is a bumbling MI7 agent reminiscent of Clouseau in The Pink Panther films. Like Clouseau the fun takes place in the details, touching a button on a chair in a meeting with the head of MI7 played by Gillian Anderson and the British prime minister, causing the chair to rise and descend at inappropriate moments.

Many gadgets abound including a voice activated Rolls Royce, voice changing throat lozenges, an agent in distress signaling device and a rocket launching umbrella all misused at one time or another by English.

The Rolls-Royce (updated from “Goldfinger”)  responds to the name Royce by speaking in a sultry woman’s voice . When instructed to “come” (double-entendre intended), the miraculous vehicle obeys by unleashing laser beams and cutting a hole in the wall.

Johnny, a snob and a racist, is teamed up with Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya), a smart, black junior agent who good-humoredly endures Johnny’s outrageous condescension as they pursue three assassins known as Vortex. Think Clouseau and Kato.

English manages to burst the bubble of pomposity of many people including The British Prime Minister, The Chinese Premier and The Queen of England.  The sad fact is that Mr. Atkinson’s brand of British lunacy, in which the humor breaks through a pose of stiff-upper-lip propriety, is too contained to excite the jaded American audience for gross-out pranks. Mr. Atkinson is never ferocious or lewd. He is however laugh out loud hilarious and reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy with a little Chaplin thrown in. Go see this movie, watching Atkinson is worth the price of the ticket. Also check out the killer cleaning lady. 😉

Johnny English Reborn

Directed by Oliver Parker; written by Hamish McColl, based on a story by William Davies


Rowan Atkinson (Johnny English), Gillian Anderson (Pamela Thornton), Dominic West (Simon Ambrose), Rosamund Pike (Kate Sumner), Daniel Kaluuya (Agent Tucker), Richard Schiff (Fisher) and Pik-Sen Lim (Killer Cleaner).