The Lion King (2019) Review

The Lion King was first released as Hamlet in 1609 whereupon it became a fixture of pretty much every English schoolchild’s education from that point on. (Not me, I got lumbered with The Scottish Play.) 400 years later, the Disney corporation got their grubby mitts on it and (allegedly without borrowing from or even hearing of  Kimba The White Lion) released a film which, even today sits very comfortably inside IMDB’s top 250 films of all time at number 44.

This is despite it’s lead character being voiced by Matthew Broderick.

And, yet, despite that insane drawback, watching this film again this weekend I blown away by this absolute masterpiece, at how well it’s held up as arguably the best animated film that Disney ever made and defiantly it’s last great animated masterpiece.

I laughed, my nephew cried and I reaffirmed my truth that animated films don’t age.

Now, it’s time to take that masterpiece where if you rewind a certain scene Mufasa gets up and everything is right with the world. But life changing revelations aside we’re going to take this masterpiece, put it in a box and never reference it again for the duration of this review because you don’t need me to tell you to go see The Lion King (1994) and comparing that to the 2019 version is like comparing a 5* restaurant to the dinner I served last night- both count as ‘food’ but you and I both know which one you’d come back to again- (Mine, my cocktails are out of this world).

And look, lets get one thing straight- this film is the best looking CGI film I think I’ve ever seen. Apparently the director included a single live action scene to see in anyone could spot and I certainly couldn’t. This film genuinely  looks like they flew to Africa, trained a bunch of animals to act and then just let the cameras roll. I’m certain that one day it’s going to look as fake as a £7 note but I spent half of the film marveling at the way it looks.

Which is both the main strength and weakness of this film. Because otherwise there’s not much else to talk about. It’s The Lion king, 985% (scriptguy, is this a real statistic? Seems a bit low) of the cinema going public know the plot and this film has beat for beat and almost frame for frame remakes of scenes with one clear difference. The whole thing is a photo- realistic film about a bunch of lions. And lions, well, their not really known for their acting skills. The animators probably did what they can but when some seriously realistic looking lions start singing (and to be honest pretty much all of the songs appear to have been forced in against the directors will as he try’s to get them over with as quickly as possible) the whole thing just seems slightly bizarre. The films shot so realistically that there’s no chance for any dynamic lighting or shading or any of the dynamic numbers surviving the change. It might have been a better idea to just strip out the songs entirely and letting the story stand by itself.

After all, it did pretty well without songs for some 400 odd years.

But, back to the cast and with the exception of Seth Rogan, who instantly needs half of his lines cut as they serve no purpose and are simply there because films have recently become terrified of silence for some as yet unknown but agonizing reason. The rest do what they can and their pretty good. Some actual voice actors would have been great but why hire someone that the public have never heard of when an alleged budget of 260 million dollars means that you can hire Beyonce, Donald Glover and James Earl Jones?

The film did do one or two things that I found cool, we actually see what happens at Pride Rock when we didn’t previously, some characters get some slightly different motivations which means that their more developed than had previously been  the case but the trouble is, well, the animals just can’t emote that well. Scenes that should elicit an emotion from me just didn’t.

This film feels like… a product. Like the other two live action remakes that came onto cinemas this year, it doesn’t feel like it exists because Disney wanted an exciting new take on a classic story or their circling the drain and desperately need some hits to keep the wolves from the door because DISNEY OWNS EVERYTHING. It feels like they wanted to show off their shiny new tech and The Lion King was the obvious choice. The trouble is, CGI is cold and uninvolving, the animals looked so realistic that I felt like I was watching some kind of demented documentary but if I want to watch a documentary about Lions or the Serengeti then I’ve got BBC documentaries for days about this very topic.

I mean there’s nothing wrong with this film but once the graphics inevitably age, there’s nothing to come back too. There’s padding where there doesn’t need to be any, celebrities where there should be voice actors, realism where there should be fantasy. This film is a product, designed to make a billion dollars in ticket sales, double that in merch and then be forgotten about in time for the next product that’s designed to make a billion dollars, shift toys and then be forgotten about. Because films aren’t designed to be treasured any more, their just disposable products. It’s true that this is an advancement in CGI but that’s all it is. It won’t be remembered 20 years, hell I wont remember it in 20 minutes. Which is exactly how I’ve felt about pretty much every big film this year. Apart from Hellboy. That film is scarred into my retinas.

Oh well, at least it’s the worst Cats related film ‘ll see all year.

Ah.

My Score- If Nothing Else 

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Beauty and the Beast Review

And so, in the year 2017, in the most expensive musical ever made with a budget of 160 million dollars, starring Emma Watson and… some guy off of Downtown Abbey,  all the debate surrounding the classic tale of a young girl coming to grips with her inner furry via the time honored medium of Stockholm Syndrome has been about the character of LeFou who is the first ever officially gay character in a Disney film.

And I do mean all the debate, In Russia,Duma member Vitaly Milonov (who has previously compared homosexuality to bestiality) agitated the culture minister for banning of the film, but instead it was given a 16+ rating (children under the age of 16 can only be admitted to see it in theaters with accompanying adults). Additionally, a theater in Henagar, Alabama will not screen the film because of the subplot In Malaysia, the Film Censorship Board insisted the “gay moment” scene be cut, prompting an indefinite postponement of its release by Disney, followed by their decision to withdraw it completely if it could not be released uncensored. The studio moved the release date to March 30, to allow more time for Malaysia’s censor board to make a decision on whether or not to release the film without changes and will be released on the said date with a PG-13 rating but with no cuts. In the end, the Malaysian Censorship Board decided not to ban the film.

But what shocked me the most though, was that China who usually have a ‘no gays ever, under any circumstances’  policy on films . And that’s probably because there’s not really anything there. I mean I wasn’t exactly expecting him to stomp around the set waving a rainbow flag and I did find him a bit too Smithers’y for my taste but there was no line or moment that I haven’t seen before in a Disney film. The charterer of Hades from Hercules comes to mind.

But in a way i’m glad for this pointless controversy because what else is there to say? Have you seen the original? Good, stop there and save yourself the hassle because you have seen this film. And the singing is better. And it’s a mere 81 minutes instead of a bloated 129 minutes and the servants actually look kind of cute instead of horrifying nightmare fuel.

I did like that a plot aspect from the Broadway show – that the servants are becoming more mechanical with every petal that falls, the songs that apparently come with it? Not so much. Just because a song works within the limitations of a stage doesn’t mean it’s going to work in a film adaptation!

Beauty and the Beast is the latest in the baffling live-action adaptation faze that Disney seems to be going through. It passed the time well enough but it’s bland, forgettable and in dire need of the editors scissors.

My Score- If Nothing Else 

Does Elsa ‘Need’ A Girlfriend?

I’ve never managed to see Frozen, the one time I tried to watch it my laptop insisted that I watch a rather good 2010 survival horror film of the same name instead.

However, it must have done something right- it it the highest grossing animated film  of all time after all.

And now, inevitably it’s getting a sequel which is due to be released in 2018 and there’s a campaign to make  the lead character Elsa come out as gay and acquire a girlfriend.

Now I’m going to sidestep the potential Elsa is a strong independent woman and therefore must be a lesbian debate.’ Much as i’m going to sidestep that Frozen to make has always looked like a bit of an X-Men rip-off to me. Instead i’m going to focus on LGBT representation in Disney products.

Because there isn’t any.

Not in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Marvel is owned by Disney)

Nor in the Star Wars universe (Ditto)

Nor (as far as I am aware) in any of the millions of films Disney has released, stretching all the way back to Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs 

And that’s ridiculous.

I understand that to make Elsa (or indeed any other character) gay would cause some controversy, but we live in a world in which Zootopia was released and if Disney can released something as ‘adult’ as that, how can making a character gay hurt?

Indeed, the people that would be upset about this ‘revelation’ have already tried to make this controversial and failed completely. And I honestly feel that it wouldn’t affect ticket sales in a negative fashion. Most people have gay friends/family and the world hasn’t ended. And it would be good for children struggling with their sexuality and feeling isolated to know that they are not alone and that there are other people out there like them.

Because now that I think about it, I really can’t think of any gay characters in films or TV aged at children.

Can you?

The Jungle Book Review

Review- Take a fairly well remembered musical from the sixties, cover it in all the CGI 175 million dollars can buy, strip out the songs, color and humor, add in a child actor, then make sure that your film is going to traumatize everyone under 7, not forgetting the completely necessary 3d- and voila! 2016’s The Jungle Book.

I’m not joking either, ‘mild threat’ my right foot! At certain points popcorn was going everywhere as most of my audience (including a certain critics long suffering girlfriend) flew out of their seats.

That’s if you can see whats going on. At times I was wondering if Christopher Nolan had been allowed near the script, so devoid was the film of light and color. And the film was so fixated on asking ‘how many lives is this one man-cubs worth?’ that I began to think it was a ‘child-friendly’ remake of Eye In The Sky. 

Most of the voice cast does passable work, although the question of why use famous actors when there are so many amazing voice actors out there was asked and answered by the top of the films posters. (Note: Can someone please get Christopher Walken to release a spoken world album of Disney classics?)

One casting question that wasn’t answered was why Mowgli (played by Neel Sethi) was played by an actual human when literally everything else was CGI. And I mean everything, the locations, props and animals were all CGI which was distracting when Neel (already lumbered by the fact that he is a child actor and therefore only tolerable about 25% of the time) was on screen. Making the film full CGI would have made for a more immersive experience.

Also, the film feels forced to reference the 1961 version, and i’m not just talking about a few notes on the soundtrack and repeated lines- they actually tried to do the songs, and whilst there are many things Bill Murray can do- singing isn’t one of them.

There are already rumblings of a sequel and the film has broken record in India, but walking out of The Jungle Book, I felt pretty much the same as I did when i was walking out of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Migraines-  It  was dark, grey, should have been a 12 and I have no desire to ever see it ever again.

My Score: If Nothing Else

Zootopia/ Zootropolis Review

Cast-

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ginnifer Goodwin Ginnifer Goodwin
Judy Hopps (voice)
Jason Bateman Jason Bateman
Nick Wilde (voice)
Idris Elba Idris Elba
Chief Bogo (voice)
Jenny Slate Jenny Slate
Bellwether (voice)
Nate Torrence Nate Torrence
Clawhauser (voice)
Bonnie Hunt Bonnie Hunt
Bonnie Hopps (voice)
Don Lake Don Lake
Stu Hopps (voice)
Tommy Chong Tommy Chong
Yax (voice)
J.K. Simmons J.K. Simmons
Mayor Lionheart (voice)
Octavia Spencer Octavia Spencer
Mrs. Otterton (voice)
Alan Tudyk Alan Tudyk
Duke Weaselton (voice)
Shakira Shakira
Gazelle (voice)

Plot- In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy.

Review- Just because a film has gotten rave reviews across the pond doesn’t mean i’m going to give it 5 stars.

And so what if its in IMDB’s top 250, so was Snakes in a Plane for a short time. (Don’t judge us, it was a different time.)

No, what makes this an amazing time is the sheer amount of time, effort and ingenuity that has gone into this.

Seriously. Not only is this pretty much the only original big-budget film that’s due out this year, its funny, adventurous, exciting, touching and has an incredibly timely moral. The film follows a rookie bunny cop (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) who teams up with a smooth-talking fox (voiced by Jason Bateman) in order to solve a rash of kidnappings.

What follows is a slightly deeper film than you would normally expect for this genre and at times is almost ‘babys first film-noir’ whilst moving fast enough to ensure that the darker moments shouldn’t upset any of younger viewers.

I came out elated, excited, desperate for a sequel/tv series and with one burning question

What exactly do the predators eat in this city?

No, seriously, in this world where all of the different species (all with their own customized living are which makes for some amazing visual gags and moments, are all sentient, what exactly do the predators eat? Have they all gone vegetarian? Do they eat reptiles and fish?

Anybody?

I’m just going to have to see it again then.

My Score- SEE IT NOW