The Lion King (2019)

or “One Step Closer to a Live-Action Aristocats”

Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Beyonce Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones

Screenplay: Jeff Nathanson

118 mins. Rated PG for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements.

 

Well, it’s finally here, everyone! The Lion King is finally in theaters! Wait, I should preface that The Lion King hit theaters in 1994. This Lion King is the remake! The live-action remake! Wait, I should also preface that it’s not a live-action film.

But, damn, it does look like it.

You know the story, but I’ll refresh you. Simba (Donald Glover, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Guava Island) is destined to inherit Pride Rock when his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones, The Hunt for Red October, Coming to America) passes. When the king  is murdered, though, and Simba feels responsible, his uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind) convinces him to run away and never come back. The young lion prince flees his kingdom, embarking on a journey to discover the responsibility that lie before him.

There’s very little change in the story of The Lion King, and this remake is pretty close to a shot-for-shot translation of the original film, something I do not agree with. With all the technology being thrown at the film, I feel it would benefit the finished film to take some story risks and changes to set itself apart from what is considered by many to be the greatest animated film of all time, or at least in the conversation. I just think that by making it so similar to the original film, you are inviting comparison, and that’s not a good idea when the film you are comparing to is the considered one of the Greatest of anything.

That all being said, wow, the animation is incredible here. It looks so real, so intense, and so breathtaking. Just like with The Jungle Book, I’m shocked to find that so much of this film was done in a computer, even down to all the backgrounds (I believe only one shot in the whole film is real footage, and I don’t even know what it is). It’s gorgeously animated. My one problem with the realism is that there is a slight disconnect in some of the voice work. I think some actual motion-capture would have helped in the animating process to keep some of the facial expressions more effective, if only for behind-the-scenes video of these performers crawling around on all-fours.

The voicework is quite strong in the film, specifically from Donald Glover, Seth Rogen (This is the End, Long Shot) as Pumbaa, and Billy Eichener (The Angry Birds Movie, TV’s Friends From College) as Timon. The only voice work I would have thought differently about was Beyonce Knowles-Carter (Dreamgirls, Epic), who kind of missed the mark. I know the reason for casting her was to get a new song in the movie, but I just think she missed it.

Overall, The Lion King is a perfectly fine movie, a breathtaking visual achievement, but also a little unneeded. I would venture the question of who is picking this film off their Bluray shelf in a year to watch it if they already have the original film. That is its problem, that it cannot hold a candle to the original. Any other Disney live-action film would avoid that problem by adding something new to the film, but The Lion King doesn’t really do that.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Chef, click here.

Eddie Murphy to Appear in Grumpy Old Men-Inspired Film Directed by Tim Story?

Deadline is reporting that Eddie Murphy is set to star in a new film based on the Walter Matthau-Jack Lemmon film Grumpy Old Men, to be directed by Tim Story and produced by John Davis.

The film remains untitled, and no one has been attached to play opposite Murphy at this point. Director Story recently wrapped Shaft and has also helmed the Ride Along films.

The original film featured Matthau and Lemmon as two elderly rivals who find themselves further torn apart when an attractive new neighbor moves in on their block.

My only question is whether this film will have any connection to the originals. If not, then I’m fine. I happen to love the original two films and watch them yearly around Christmas. Being a Minnesota native, they hold a special place in my heart.

In all fairness, though, I just don’t want this to be connected to a film I love so dearly because it sounds like a dud from the start. Eddie Murphy hasn’t had a great track record in a long time and, outside of his work with Shrek and Dreamgirls, he has been a part of mostly garbage. As far as Tim Story goes, I’ve never been interested or impressed by him. His work on Fantastic 4 continues to age poorly and his comedies have not interested me.

Maybe it just depends on who rounds out this cast. If they make some truly inspired casting choices for the other grumpy old man and the neighbor, I may change my mind. There’s also the question of how close this film will be to Grumpy Old Men. Will Eddie Murphy’s character have an even older senile father? A lot of questions to be answered, but right now, I couldn’t care less about this project…for now.

But what do you think? Are you excited at the prospect of Eddie Murphy in a Grumpy Old Men-like film? Who should play opposite of him. Let me know with a comment below, and don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra MacDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson

Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos

129 mins. Rated PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images.

 

It’s a tale as old as time but now Disney has turned it into a twice-told tale, but is it any good the second time around?

Belle (Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, The Circle) is a bookworm and inventor living with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda, Dean) in the small village of Villeneuve. Belle deals daily with the advances of the slimy and arrogant Gaston (Luke Evans, Dracula Untold, The Fate of the Furious) and his sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad, Frozen, A Dog’s Purpose) as well as the looks from the townspeople who find the young woman rather odd. When Maurice is lost in the woods, he comes across a castle inhabited by a terrible Beast (Dan Stevens, TV’s Downton Abbey, Colossal) who trades Maurice for Belle. Then, Belle and the Beast find themselves falling for one another in the best adaptation of an animated Buffalo-Human Romance film ever to grace the silver screen.

But how about the actual film?

Well, in the world of adaptations, I found that this 2017 iteration from director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Mr. Holmes) has some improvements on the original and some elements that didn’t work. Mostly, though, it’s the same film. And in a lot of ways, that lessens it. There are very few liberties taken here, and overall it gives the film a very tame feeling which never really drew me in.

Let’s start with what works. The amount of respect given to the French location of the film is strong. Most of the accents work and even little touches like French subtitles in the end credits give flair. There’s also a sense of theatricality to the film due to Condon’s decision to treat this like a tale you’ve seen before. I highly suggest watching the film with the overture as it harkens back to the classic tale from decades back. I thought the treatment of Disney’s first gay character LeFou was respectful. I thought the tightening up of plot points in the prince’s age and in his ability to read (a major change to the character from the 1991 film) work well here. I also really liked a lot of the personalities and performances from the various living pieces of furniture, most notably Lumiere (Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting, American Pastoral), Cogsworth (Ian McKellan, TV’s Vicious, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility, Bridget Jones’s Baby). I am very thankful, however, that the director decided to cut the character known as Monsieur Toilette, played by Stephen Merchant, who would have been, you guessed it, a toilet.

And of course, the film looks gorgeous. There are a number of images I’d love to have on my wall from this film. Everything here looks astounding with a tremendous attention to detail.

Now, the issues with the film are glaring. I thought “Be Our Guest” was grossly over-animated and looked terrible. I felt like the film’s forcefulness to sticking to the source material made the film feel like it was dragging on forever. The musical numbers felt very autotuned and unrealistic and none of them really enhanced the original pieces. The issues amount to very simply not improving the original. This film is essentially a shot-for-shot remake in a lot of ways, and we’ve seen how that works out a number of times, most notably with Psycho and The Omen. It never seems to work, and it only reminds you how superior the original is.

Overall, I enjoyed Beauty and the Beast much more than I thought I would. Disney continues to create enjoyable experience rehashing old tales. The biggest problem with Beauty and the Beast is that I don’t see why anyone would choose to watch it again if they have the original film to go to. It just feels forgettable for all of its 129 minutes. There’s just a better version already out.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the First Day… The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

thenightmarebeforechristmas1993a

Director: Henry Selick

Cast: Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, Ed Ivory, Ken Page

Screenplay: Caroline Thompson

76 mins. Rated PG for some scary images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Effects, Visual Effects

 

Welcome to the 12 Days of Christmas, a celebration of Christmas and winter-themed films of all shapes and sizes.

We begin this yuletide tradition with The Nightmare Before Christmas, Henry Selick’s feature film adaptation of Tim Burton’s original poem.

thenightmarebeforechristmas1993c

First off, before we start any of this thing up, I want to make a note. I refuse to call this film a Tim Burton film as Tim Burton really didn’t have all that much to do with the production. He was a producer and that is it. So no, I will be referring to this film, if in any capacity, as Henry Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. But I digress…

After another successful holiday in Halloween Town, pumpkin king Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon, The Princess Bride, Safe) is tired of the tradition. He wants to experience something new. He gets the chance when he comes across a mystical forest with a tree that transports him to Christmas Town where he falls in love with a new holiday, though he doesn’t quite understand it. Jack takes it upon himself to bring Christmas to Halloween Town, including impersonating Santa (Ed Ivory, Nine Months) and giving out gifts to the residents of his home world.

I have grown to love this movie. It has everything that a new and engaging film should have. It has a unique story idea that seems wholly goofy yet fully realized. It has an enchanting screenplay by Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands, City of Ember) that makes the magic real. It has terrific voicework from leads Sarandon and Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone, A.C.O.D.) as well as secondary performers Glenn Shadix and Paul Reubens. Let’s not forget Ken Page (Dreamgirls, Cats) as the sadistic and demented Oogie Boogie. Henry Selick (Coraline, Monkeybone) understands the stop-motion medium and knows just what is enough.

The music here as well is catchy, simple, and engaging to even the musically-declined. Each song is more like a taste and doesn’t wear out its welcome, making the film tight and finely-tuned allowing for multiple viewings.

thenightmarebeforechristmas1993b

Now Jack’s story perhaps could have been trimmed a bit more and the secondary characters could have had a bit more to do, but as a completed work, The Nightmare Before Christmas has entombed (see what I did there?) itself as a Christmas classic and a Halloween classic, a feat damn near impossible to pull off.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 5th Birthday!] The Princess and the Frog (2009)

theprincessandthefrog2009a

Director: Ron Clements, John Musker

Cast: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jennifer Cody, Jim Cummings, Peter Bartlett, Jennifer Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, John Goodman

Screenplay: Ron Clements, John Musker, Rob Edwards

97 mins. Rated G.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (“Almost There” by Randy Newman)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (“Down in New Orleans” by Randy Newman)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

 

Disney has been known for years to be the leading developer and creator in 2D animation. So even after they had essentially made the change to CG animation, it was a shock to see Disney reverting back to 2D for their next release in 2009’s The Princess and the Frog. It was a definite risk as most moviegoers had made themselves comfortable with the newest form of animating.

theprincessandthefrog2009c

Tiana (Anika Noni Rose, Dreamgirls, Bag of Bones) wants, more than anything, to own a restaurant. It was a passion she shared with her father (Terrence Howard, Iron Man, Sabotage) until he passed away. Now, after years of all working and no playing, Tiana is a dull girl but has forged enough dough to buy her restaurant. It seems like everything is going her way finally, until a talking frog claiming to be the rich Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos, Mimic 2) convinces her to kiss him to turn him human. That kiss backfires, changing Tiana herself into a frog. Now, the two, along with some new friends, must find Mama Odie (Jennifer Lewis, Cars, Think Like a Man Too) in order to turn back to humans.

I happen to find The Princess and the Frog to be one of the more unique entries in the Disney Animated catalog. It also falls into one of the safer entries in that same catalog. I enjoyed the film and the stylistic choices made for the music and the characters, but I don’t feel like The Princess and the Frog takes any steps to be less generic. I feel like the Disney execs were so worried about not offending anyone by showing the first black Disney princess in an imperfect light that they turned the film rather bland, which is too bad for a film with so much flavor. It jumps back and forth in the belief that it will be approved by everyone and in that sense it doesn’t leave the audience with much. Likable? Somewhat. Memorable? Less so.

The voice work is fine, with extra praise to Keith David (TV’s Enlisted, Platoon) for his portrayal of Dr. Facilier and Oprah Winfrey (The Color Purple, The Butler) as Tiana’s mom.

The film deserves attention for the music by Randy Newman, usually known for a specific style which is wholly unlike what he gives us here.

theprincessandthefrog2009b

Is The Princess and the Frog worth a Best Animated Feature Oscar? Probably not, but it is a fun romp which kids should enjoy and adults should be able to sit through.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑