Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

The Lion King (1994)

the-lion-king
Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures

The Lion King – Film Review

Cast:  Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Moira Kelly, Niketa Calame, Ernie Sabella, Nathan Lane, Robert Guillaume, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg

Directors: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff

Synopsis: A young cub is being prepared by his father, the king of a pride of lions, to become the future king, while the King’s brother secretly plots to seize the throne for himself.

Review: If ever there was a studio that could perfectly demonstrate the enduring power and appeal of animated films that are almost universally adored for their brilliant characters, gorgeous animation and emotional scenes that really threaten to tug at your heartstrings to such an extent you become a big blubbering mess of happy and sad emotions, then Walt Disney Animation Studios and their extraordinary collection of films could be just the studio you were looking for. Yet, if there was one film that does all of the aforementioned things, and a film that has stood the test of time with flying colours, and has built itself an enduring legacy, loved universally by all generations, 1994’s The Lion King certainly ticks all of those boxes, in an emphatic manner.

A soaring and stirring musical number opens proceedings, and for the next ninety minutes or so, you are taken on an enthralling journey set in the heart of Africa, specifically on a pride of Lions, ruled over by Mufasa and his wife Sarabi, and their young cub Simba. The young cub is taught all about life, and more specifically the great Circle of Life, via one of many absolutely brilliant and powerful songs, of which there are aplenty to be found here. Of course, life has its ups and downs and as Simba finds out, sometimes things can take a significant turn for the worse. With little choice, he goes on a journey that anyone watching can and will relate to in some way.

The screenplay, inspired by the works of Shakespeare and more specifically Hamlet, packs plenty of powerful and emotive themes into it. It is profound and deeply moving, that will almost certainly leave a lasting impression on the viewer. the characters have a great many layers to them, perhaps none more so than Simba. Initially a brash, cocky cub, through time he becomes this wise, powerful Lion just like his father Mufasa, voiced by the one and only James Earl Jones. Like most animations, these days, there are more than a few scenes that get the audience emotional, and if you have seen this film, you certainly know what scene in particular here will ensure the audience will be looking for something to wipe away the tears. The voice cast is excellent from Matthew Broderick as Adult Simba, to Rowan Atkinson as Zazu, to Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella as Timone and Pumba. Jeremy Irons as the villainous Scar was another excellent casting choice. Last but not least is Robert Guillaume as the hilarious Rafiki (friend in Swahili).

Disney animations have certainly become known for their great and extremely effective use of music in scenes. From the soaring opening number, to the more jovial tunes like Hakuna Matata, to the powerful Can You Feel the Love Tonight, the great songs are aplenty and they’re all extremely memorable. The great songs are exquisitely matched by the score from Hans Zimmer, which as usual, is near enough perfect. Disney has for a while been what some may argue as the champion of animation in cinema, and for an animation that came out over two decades ago, the animation has stood the test of time, and still remains absolutely excellent and breath taking to watch.

The Lion King has ensured it will remain a staple of animated entertainment for a great many years to come. Having generated a very popular  production that has also been on for several years now. It is safe to say that through all of their spectacular and brilliant animated features, there may not be a film that has stood the test of time and left its mark on numerous aspects of popular culture to such an extent, like the Lion King has. Disney has made many movies since, and although their greatness is undoubted, it is worth considering if any since have reached the remarkable heights that have been set by The Lion King. Hakuna Matata indeed!

Beautifully animated, with rich and complex characters, with incredible music and a wonderful score, this is truly one of Disney’s most undisputed masterpieces.

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Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

shawshank
Image is property of Castle Rock Entertainment and Columbia Pictures

The Shawshank Redemption – Film Review

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Tim Robbins, Bob Gunton, William Sadler

Director:  Frank Darabont

Synopsis: When a banker (Robbins) is sent to prison for two brutal murders of his wife and new lover, he learns the true meaning of redemption whilst bonding with a fellow inmate (Freeman)

Review: When having a discussion about the greatest film of all time, you will undoubtedly have many outstanding pieces of entertainment thrown into the conversation. Masterpieces such as The Godfather, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction and Lord of the Rings may come to mind. Yet for many lovers of film, one title that is almost always mentioned is the adaption of the Stephen King novel Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, appropriately named: The Shawshank Redemption.  

Written and directed by Frank Darabont in what was his first major motion picture, upon its release in 1994, the film suffered at the Box Office, returning only $28 million from a budget of $25.3 million. The year of 1994 was one that was stacked with great films like Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump, and when it came to the Academy Awards, it won a grand total of no awards. The low box office numbers is a subject that could well be covered by an undergraduate dissertation and yet it is a mystery that is more than likely never going to be solved. But what has been solved, and is very clear to millions of people, is the brilliance of this film has not been lost in the two decades since its release, in fact it has over time firmly established itself as a classic.

The film charts the journey of banker Andy Dufresne who is sent to the harsh environment of the Shawshank Penitentiary after he is convicted of the double murder of his somewhat unfaithful wife and her mystery new lover. He remains adamant he is innocent of the crime is convicted of, something that the other inmates all scorn at. “Send you here for life, and that’s exactly what they take,” utters one melancholic inmate. A brutal hell on Earth that can easily break a man at the first sign of wilting and weakness. Whilst inside he befriends the prison’s smuggler Ellis “Red” Redding (Freeman) whom procures a number of items for Andy whilst they serve their respective jail sentences.

Through their time together, they form a close and unbreakable friendship that teaches both men the real value of friendship. Throughout his time, Dufresne clings on to the notion of hope, hope that they will escape the hell on earth that they’re living in. “Fear can hold you prisoner, but hope can set you free” reads the tagline on the poster. The key theme of the movie is hope and while Red dismisses this notion as dangerous, it does not faze Andy who harbours an unbreakable determination to escape the doldrums of Shawshank.

Any number of superlatives may be used to describe the performances of the leading men, and just about any and every one would be appropriate. Both of their performances are tremendously powerful. You feel their emotions with every word that comes out of their mouths and for Dufresene in particular, no matter how many years of his life are lost in the pit of hell that is Shawshank prison, he WILL get out eventually. Freeman, with his usual sooth, calming voice that’s perfect for narration, guides the viewer from his perspective.

The story itself, while it does have its sad parts, is on the whole extremely inspiring and moving throughout. Any one who sits down to watch this masterpiece, be it for their very first time, tenth time, hundredth time or however many times, should always be uplifted whenever the movie stops playing. The film provides one of the most satisfying and heart warming endings ever put to screen and reminds the viewer that no matter what your circumstances in life, hope is something you must always cling on to and never let go.

Uplifting, wonderfully acted with an excellent screenplay, outstanding direction and two terrific leading performances, The Shawshank Redemption has rightfully sealed its place in film history and despite its shocking lack of Oscars, it is without question one of the best films ever made.

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