Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Lion King (2019)

Image is property of Disney

The Lion King (2019) – Film Review

Cast: Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, James Earl Jones, Florence Kasumba, Eric Andre, Keegan-Michael Key

Director: Jon Favreau

Synopsis: A live action retelling of the story of the king of a pride of lions, who prepares his son to become the future king, while the King’s brother plots to usurp the throne for himself.

Review: It is unquestionably, one of the most iconic openings to a film ever. The sun rises, and the unmistakable intro to The Circle of Life starts playing. The 1994 version of The Lion King remains to this day, one of the finest animated films ever made. Hence with Disney seemingly intent on remaking its entire animated back catalogue, Jon Favreau, after going into one Jungle with his live action reinterpretation of The Jungle Book, this time goes into the mighty jungle, where the lions sleep tonight.

After working wonders with Jungle Book, Favreau once again produces some visual magic with the recreation of these animals and the habitats in which they dwell. It all looks and feels as though the film was shot somewhere on the blessed plains of Africa. There’s not much deviation in terms of the story, as it sticks closely to its animated predecessor, as young Simba (JD McCrary) is being prepared by his father Mufasa (voiced by the one and only James Earl Jones) to rule the Pride Lands one day. However, in the shadows, the King’s dastardly brother Scar (Ejiofor) is secretly scheming, with his hyena chums, to depose Mufasa and seize the throne for himself.

Given that the animated film ran at just shy of 90 minutes, Favreau and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson, have tweaked certain elements of the story to make it a couple of hours. There are some alterations to some of the dialogue, and some extra scenes have been added. However, it is by and large, the story you know and love. Much of the original’s music and songs have been recreated, but the results are decidedly mixed. Most regrettably though is the fact that there’s a serious dearth of emotion with the film’s more emotional, heart-breaking moments (if you have seen the original, you know the ones). It just goes to show that while something may well work in animation, it doesn’t always translate perfectly to “live action.”

Apart from James Earl Jones, no one else from the animated film reprise their roles, which does help the film stand on its own four paws, to a certain extent. The standouts of the new additions are Seth Rogen’s Pumba and Billy Eichner’s Timon who, as they did in the animated film, give the film an injection of much needed humour. Though they have strong support in that department from John Oliver’s Zazu, who gives his own snarky, hilarious interpretation of the little Hornbill. Donald Glover and Beyoncé give solid leading performances as Simba and Nala, but disappointingly, no one really outshines anyone from the animated film. Though Chiwetel Ejiofor comes close with his very intimidating interpretation of the villainous Scar.

The trouble with these films is that no matter what they do, they are always going to be compared with their animated counterparts. This can be a problem for this film when its animated counterpart is cinematic perfection. Yet, even if one has (somehow) never seen the 1994 flick, there’s still enjoyment to be had, even if it all feels a bit hollow. For those who were born in the 1990s and grew up loving the animated film, they probably won’t feel the love for this re-telling. In that case, Hakuna Matata, because the original animated film, is and always will be, a classic.

Visually stunning, but even with a super talented voice cast, a lack of emotional connection to these photo-realistic characters prevents this re-imagining from roaring to those great heights set by its predecessor.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Long Shot (2019)

Image is property of Lionsgate, Good Universe and Point Grey Pictures

Long Shot – Film Review

Cast: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgård

Director: Jonathan Levine

Synopsis: As she is preparing her bid for President of the United States, Charlotte Fields (Theron), recruits childhood acquaintance Fred Flarksy (Rogen), an outspoken journalist, as her speechwriter…

Review: In these very politically charged times, to make a film that is very politically orientated is an extremely brave decision to make. It is even more bold to take a genre that you wouldn’t normally associate with politics, like rom-com, and to add a bit of political spice into the mix. The final outcome is an interesting hodgepodge of genres, and while it is not quite a landslide victory, it isn’t too far away.

Fred Flarksy is an outspoken journalist who is down on his luck having just lost his job. As he bids to get back on his feet, he runs into Charlotte Fields, who he once knew as a child. While his life is somewhat in limbo, she is flying high in US politics as the Secretary of State. However, she has her eyes on a much bigger prize and is poised to officially announce her bid for the Presidency. A chance meeting reunites them both, and sensing she can use Fred’s writing skills to pep up her speeches, and boost her ratings, she offers him a job on her official campaign as her speechwriter. Of course, though they don’t seem like the most ideal couple, that doesn’t stop them falling for one another, and an unlikely romance starts to brew between them.

As with any romantic comedy, its primary objectives are to be both romantic and funny, and this film puts an X in both these boxes. Rogen’s background in comedy certainly helps with the comedic aspect as there are plenty of laughs to be found.  As she has proved throughout her career, Theron, is effortlessly watchable as she brings class and sophistication to her performance, a polar opposite to the brash, loudmouth nature of Fred’s personality. However, when the situation requires it, she can also be extremely hilarious as she engages in some amusing shenanigans.

As a pairing, Rogen and Theron certainly seem far from a match made in political heaven, but the chemistry between the two of them is very strong and as the film wears on you completely buy them as a couple and hope to see, in spite of the difficulties of the situation, to make it work between them. Of all the excellent supporting cast, O’Shea Jackson Jr is by far the best of the bunch as Fred’s extremely entertaining, supportive long time best friend. Though it is for the most part extremely entertaining, not all of the jokes hit their targets, as some of them can be extremely cringey.

The world of politics is a very fraught arena right now, and the screenplay from Liz Hannah and Dan Sterling uses that to its advantage. It takes some not-so-subtle digs at certain news organisations, and their CEOs. In addition, it puts the current US political climate under a microscope, analysing a plethora of topics most notably, the intense scrutiny that political candidates, especially female ones can find themselves under. Though it does have plenty of things to say about numerous topics. However, the pacing is not perfect as it does lose its way about half way through the film. There are some familiar rom com tropes, yet the performances of the leading duo ensure that the film has charm and sets it on its way to success in the polls.

 A blend of romance, comedy and politics is an unlikely mesh, but with the backing of the great performances of its leads, Long Shot gets the votes it needs to set it on its way to success.