Tag Archives: Disney

Disney’s The Jungle Book

17 Apr

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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.
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The Muppets Most Wanted

26 Mar

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Synopsis: While on tour in Europe, directly after the last movie ends, the Muppets find themselves involved in an international crime spree headed by Kermit look alike, the world’s # 1 criminal Constantine.

CAST
Kermit the Frog (Himself), Ricky Gervais (Dominic, a.k.a. Number Two), Miss Piggy (Herself), Ty Burrell (Jean Pierre Napoleon), Tina Fey (Nadya), Constantine (Himself) and Sam Eagle (Himself).

REVIEW: The Muppets return in The Muppets Most Wanted. This film is the most fun I have had the movies in a long time. They’re all there, Kermit, Fozzy, Miss Piggy, Rolf the Dog, The Swedish Chef, Dr. Teeth and Company, Animal , Gonzo etc. etc. . From the opening musical number to the end credits, this is Muppet mayhem that Jim Henson would be proud of.
The plot centers on the Muppets not sure what to do after the end of the last film, hire tour manager (Ricky Gervais) Dominic Badguy (pronounced badgee, it’s French). They prepare for a world tour when the worlds number 1 criminal, Constantine, a dead ringer for Kermit, except for a black mole on his face, escapes a Siberian Gulag. In cahoots with world’s number 2 criminal, Dominic Badguy, of course, they kidnap Kermit in Berlin, Germany, while the rest of the Muppets are rehearsing their show. Kermit is mistaken for Constantine, after a black mole is secretly attached to his face, is taken to the Siberia gulag, while Constantine tries to pass as Kermit. Constantine’s constant struggles with perfecting both Kermit’s unique voice and style are hilarious. Apparently only Animal thinks Constantine is, “Bad Kermit!, Bad Kermit!”, no one else suspects. The newest addition to the Muppets Waldo , so awed by Kermit, suspects something is wrong, but lacks the confidence to tell anyone. Waldo has heart and determination and comes through, with the help of Fozzy and Animal of course.
Tina Fey plays Nadia, a guard at the gulag; she is a big fan of Kermit and secretly loves him. Fey gives a bravura performance; she is hilarious, charismatic and steals every scene she is in. I can’t say enough about how she builds everything she says and does to comic delight. Considering we are in a time in history when Russian leader Vladimir Putin has just invaded Crimea, the timing of this movie is in fact just the tonic the world needs to see how insidious Russian politics can be. The Siberian Gulag is depicted as bleak as in any movie. I think Mel Brooks couldn’t have satirized the Russians any better than the Muppets did.

On the trail of Constantine is Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell), a French Interpol detective who works together with Muppet, Sam Eagle. Napoleon is very much like Inspector Clouseau with outrages French accent and bumbling.
With any good Muppet feature there come a slew of famous cameos, they include, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Zack Galafinakis, Josh Groban as a maximum security prisoner at the gulag, Frank Langella, Christoph Waltz, doing a waltz with Sweetums, Salma Hayeck, Danny Tucci as a gulag guard, and Usher as what else a theater usher and Ray Liotta. Celine Dion plays Miss Piggy’s fairy Godmother in a duet together that will have you in tears with laughter. There 24 cameos, half the fun is seeing who you can spot.
The music is spot on; at times the songs are filled with humor and fun. There is enough music, laughs and excitement to hold the attention of any child, and more than enough irreverent references and gags to delight the adults as well. Even the end credits complete with budgetary references is worth watch. This one of the few times the sequel is better than the reboot. They even joke about the reboot and they are very self aware of being in a sequel. To quote Animal: “See movie, see movie, see movie!”
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The Lone Ranger

7 Jul

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Cast

Johnny Depp-Tonto

Armie Hammer-John Reid, a k a the Lone Ranger

Tom Wilkinson-Latham Cole

William Fichtner-Butch Cavendish

Barry Pepper-Capt. Fuller

James Badge Dale-Dan Reid

Ruth Wilson-Rebecca Reid

Helena Bonham Carter-Red Harrington

Saginaw Grant-Chief Big Bear

Review: Being a confirmed baby boomer I remember the legend of The Lone Ranger and Tonto, with a mighty hi-ho silver away and the William Tell overture bringing nostalgic memories of television shows past. Before the The Lone Ranger was part of the television landscape his stories came on the heels of the great depression, and at the time was a popular adventure radio broadcast. The series in both cases were rife with cowboy and Indian stereotypes, despicable villains and reflected a time that many people today would consider politically incorrect. The question then remains how do you bring the archaic to modern audiences in a way that can be appreciated by today’s young demographic and please those of us who grew up with the legend? Perhaps the answer comes in the form of one Johnny Depp, in his role of Tonto, an aging Indian, with a dead crow on his head, telling a child at a western carnival side show the true origin of The Lone Ranger. The carnival is in San Francisco in the year 1933, not coincidently I presume, the year the radio show was first broadcast.

As the boy wonders into the tent to see western history come alive, he wanders passed the stuffed bears and animals and comes to a statue of a native American, the plaque on the front of the window reads The Noble Savage in his native habitat. Underneath the wrinkly prosthetics is Johnny Depp as Tonto, not unlike Dustin Hoffman’s old man in the film, Little Big Man. The boy hangs on Tonto’s every word as the story begins in flashback.

The story centers around the building of the Trans-Continental railway through the old west. There are corrupt officials, Tom Wilkinson as Latham Cole, bad guys such as the Butch Cavendish gang, warring Indian tribes, Cavalry officers, explosions, love interest, Ruth Wilson as Rebecca Reid, golden hearted prostitutes on the side of good, Helen Bohnham Carter as Red Harrington, Tonto as a crazy Indian excommunicated from his tribe who becomes a crazy mentor to John Reid a.k.a. he Lone Ranger.

Gore Verbinski directed from a script by, Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. The film mixes witty verbiage, cliché’ bashing, the William Tell Overture beautifully interpolated into the score at appropriate times, spot gags and plenty of eye candy. The film pays homage to such directors as John Ford in its use of Monument Valley for location shooting, Buster Keaton’s the General and of course to the mythos behind The Ranger’s physics defying horse Silver.

The film comes across as extremely entertaining but is in truth a mixed bag. With all the attempt to give the past versions of the myth a modern twist neither is really served. There were times that the film’s homage worked so well you can’t help but smile and say yes, but alas those moments are brief and the amount of well edited bloodshed mixed with witty banter distracts rather than invites.

In the end the film is a worthy attempt, and with all the Pirates Of the Caribbean movie sequels it is nice to watch Depp having the time of his life playing yet another eccentric outcast. So if the old question was “Who was that masked man?” the new question as written into the script is, “What’s with the mask?”

FYI: There is a scene of a child being hit across the face, it is well edited but still may be intense for younger children, be warned

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The Odd Life Of Timothy Green

19 Apr

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Synopsis: A small-town couple, Jim and Cindy, grieving over their inability to conceive, write the attributes of their dream child on scraps of paper that they bury in a box in their garden. That night, during a violent storm, a shift in the wind and a little mystery, their dreams are transformed into reality.

CAST

Jennifer Garner……………………………..Cindy Green

Joel Edgerton…………………………………..Jim Green

Dianne Wiest…………………………Bernice Crudstaff

C J Adams……………………………..….Timothy Green

Rosemarie DeWitt…………………………Brenda Best

Ron Livingston…………………….Franklin Crudstaff

M. Emmet Walsh…………………………….Uncle Bub

Odeya Rush………………………………….Joni Jerome

Lin-Manuel Miranda……………………Reggie Marks

Lois Smith…………………………………………Aunt Mel

David Morse……………………………James Green Sr.

Common…………………………………………..Coach Cal

Review: This charming Disney fantasy, centers around a young couple, Jim and Cindy Green. The story begins at an adoption agency, and is told in flashback, as they try to convince the two adoption agents that are fit parents. When asked what experience they had as parents, they tale their remarkable tale.

Cindy retreats into gardening and Jim retreats into his work at the local pencil factory. It seems the factory may shut down and Jim is involved in all the meetings with his fellow workers to discuss their future. The pair becomes depressed as their life together seems unfulfilled. One night Jim had enough of and convinces Cindy they can have a child. For luck they write down all the attributes their child will have, he/she will be musical, have a sense of humor like Uncle Bob,  artistic , perhaps a young Picasso, have heart and compassion…etc.  They take the writings and place it in a wood box which they bury in their garden. After they are asleep a freak storm, over their house, wakes then up and also spreads some magic on the garden.

Jim hears something in the house when he sees the back door open; he notices a whole in the ground where the box was buried. After, a mysterious chase ensues, with flashlights and shadows, we discover the intruder is a boy named Timothy. He is covered in dirt and wet from the rain. After Cindy cleans him up, she notices something unusual. Timothy has leaves growing out of both his legs. When they ask him his name he replies Timothy Green and he refers to the couple as mom and dad. Could this be their dreams coming true.

As time goes by and Timothy is accepted by friends and family and this when the story becomes bitter sweet.  There are many twists and turns in the plot as Timothy falls in love with a young girl, Joni who discovers his secret and bonds with him as she shares a secret of her own.

During the course of the story as Timothy achieves each written attribute, he changes the community in subtle and wonderful ways. He also starts to lose his leaves one by one, as his parents struggle comically to become good parents, they are unaware that Timothy is changing, but Timothy understands what is happening and the story becomes bittersweet.

This is a  wonderful family film that deals with the issues of childhood, parenting, love and adoption. The film will warm your heart.  C.J. Adams is perfect as Timothy and Odeya Rush did a wonderful job as Joni. The rest of the cast was terrific with a stand-out performance by Dianne Weist as the curmudgeonly, matron of the local Pencil Museum.

The film, written and directed by Peter Hedges, is available at Amazon, your local Red-Box and Netflix.

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BRAVE

22 Jun

Synopsis:  Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.

Voice – Cast:

Kelly McDonald…………………………………….Merida

Billy Connolly………………………………………..Fergus

Emma Thompson…………………………………….Elinor

Julie Walters………………………………………The Witch

Robbie Coltrane……………………………..Lord Dingwall

Kevin McKidd……………Lord MacGuffin/Young & Old

Craig Furgeson………………………………Lord Macintosh

Review:  Pixar/Disney’s new animated adventure Brave is upon us, as all Pixar’s films, it is breathtaking in it’s artistry.  Is it is as groundbreaking as say Toy Story, Wall E or Up were in story telling, no, however that said it is a solid story with Celtic mysticism and strong female role models.  The story takes it’s nod from Disney’s princess stories and turns them on their head. Princess Merida is shown at first as a young child, on her birthday her father Fergus gives her a bow and arrows and she becomes determined to be the best archer she can be. She is strong willed and as her mother Queen Elinor tries to give her lessons on how a Princess is supposed to act Merida will have none of it.

The day comes when Merida is old enough to get married and her mother arranges a competition between the sons of the other three Scottish clans to win Merida’s hand. Merida reluctantly goes along with it, protesting along the way.  Merida now a master archer decides which contest the three first born (following tradition) son’s will have to win, she chooses archery. When it becomes clear all three sons are not worth her time Merida decides to break tradition and she hits the bulls-eye and decides to go her own way. King Fergus is sort of a Celtic Tevya (Fiddler on the Roof) and the situation is reminiscent of Tevya’s daughter Tzeitle wanting to marry her true love not be forced into an arranged marriage.

Fabulous imagery abounds in the Celtic woods, the Willow-the -Wisps stand out as an obvious nod to the sprites and spirits of the films of Japanese Master animator Hayao Miyazaki, think Spirited Away. The story of bonding , mending relationships and finding your own fate also are Miyazaki themes.

This is a story about mother-daughter conflict, love, bonding and resolve. Like Disney Princess films there are funny gags, secondary characters for comedy relief and a selfish prince who was transformed into a angry bear. Merida wanting to change her fate and not follow in her mother’s path that has been set before her, runs away into the woods and meets a witch who givers her a spell that will change her mother. Too late Merida finds out the spell is the same Bear spell she cast upon the prince. Only mending the broken bond between Merida and her Mother before the second sunrise will break the spell and restore harmony in the family.

Brave is a mix between Pixar story themes and Disney Princess themes and sometimes things get a little lost, solid entertainment none the less. The film does make up for the awful Cars 2 and the flowing hair of Merida is amazing.

Two footnotes: There was a terrific Pixar short subject called La Luna, it was clever and beautifully animated. There was also a trailer for Monster University that makes me worry if Pixar is going to dilute their product by adding so-so sequels to their cannon.

Recommended:

John Carter

21 Mar

Story: A Civil-War vet, John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) while searching the ancient markings in a cave in the Arizona desert is transported from our world to Barsoom- aka Mars, which is being ravaged by an evil warlo rd named Sab Than (Dominic West) who’s under the control of a race of ancient, all-powerful beings, led by Matai Shang (Mark Strong). Carter allies himself with a warlike race, called the Tarks, which are eight-foot tall green creatures with four arms, ruled by Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) in order to find a way home, but he must also contend with a headstrong princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) who’s trying to escape her forced marriage to Than, and believes he’s the man to save her and her people.

Review: I first was introduced to the John Carter series written by Edgar Rice Burrows in high school. The Ballentine paperbacks cost about 75 cents and had lavish covers by the great Frank Frazetta. His images of the inhabitants of Barsoom have obviously influenced the art direction of the film.

The screenplay based on the novel a Princess of Mars was written by Mark Andrews, Michael Chabon and the film’s director Pixar’s Andrew Stanton. The movie begins with John Carter’s cousin Edgar Rice Burrows arriving at Carter’s estate after Carter has passed away. Carter bequests his entire estate to Burrows whom he told bedtime stories of his Barsoom adventures because 1) Burrows believed them to be true and 2) Burrows was his favorite cousin. Burrows is given Carter’s journal where the entire story is done in flashback as Burrows starts to read.

The movie is solid entertainment, great CGI, involving plot lines that keep you interested and a beautiful strong female role model in Princess Dejah Thoris. The story is about relationships and allies Carter develops with the Tarks and the Princess as he discovers himself and his sense of purpose after his Jarsoom aka Earth family died in the Civil War. There are some interesting moments as Carter discovers he can jump over mountains because of the weight differences between Mars and Earth and his increased strength as he can hurdle rocks long distances and kill with one punch.

Princess Thoris about to lose her home city of Helium is forced by her father to marry evil warlord named Sab Than in order to save her race from certain doom. Sab is being controlled by a race of beings that are not unlike say the Q in the Star Trek series. There job it seems is to manage the death of planets and their inhabitants to keep order amongst the chaos of war. The Republican metaphor for war at all costs and corporate take over and planetary Eco destruction was not lost on me after all Stanton did direct Pixar’s Wall-E.

My only minor complaint is that Taylor Kitsch’s voice wasn’t what you would expect to hear out of a blockbuster movie hero. He sounded too normal not authoritarian enough. If say Charlton Heston’s voice or even say a voice like Patrick Stewart’s were dubbed in ….ah well it is what it is.

Will Sab marry the Princess? Will John Carter be Barsoom’s savior? Will the race of super beings’ plot to bring down the Barsoomian inhabits in order to protect their secret be followed through? (Yes they do have a secret that controls the energy allowing them to shape shift into anyone or thing) The answer to these and many other questions will be answered when you go see John Carter.

Burrows books where known as the John Carter of Mars series for some reason Disney Marketing felt just the name John Carter will be bring the fans in who know the books. Big mistake on their part because people never heard the name John Carter without the following two words “of Mars” sadly the Harry Potter and Twilight generation has no clue who the pre-release trailer was talking about. I hope good word of mouth will get people to go see it.

The John Carter Series has been in development for decades. back in the 1930’s Bob Clampett of Warner Bros. cartoon fame (Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny) did some preliminary animation for a possible cartoon series. The books were written in the Early 20th century and have become cult classics of Science Fiction. Well worth reading and can still be bought on Amazon.

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