Film Review: THE LION KING (USA 2019) ***

The Lion King Poster
After the murder of his father, a young lion prince flees his kingdom only to learn the true meaning of responsibility and bravery.

Director:

Jon Favreau

Writers:

Jeff Nathanson (screenplay by), Brenda Chapman(story) | 3 more credits »

Not only a large portion of moviegoers familiar with the story of THE LION KING (from not only the original animated feature but from the hit musical) but the songs as well.  Disney needs something fresh.  So with the new live-action animated version, new songs have also been added, written by Sir Elton John and sung by Beyonce.

As in the original animated feature, THE LION KING 2019 is set in Africa where a pride of lions rule over the animal kingdom of Pride Rock.  When the film opens, King Mufasa’s (James Earl Jones) and Queen Sarabi’s (Alfre Woodard) newborn son, Simba (Danny Glover), is presented to the gathering animals by Rafiki (John Kani) the mandrill, the kingdom’s shaman and advisor. Mufasa shows Simba the Pride Lands and explains to him the responsibilities of kingship and the “circle of life”, which connects all living things.  This is, of course, the cue for the “Circle of life” song reminding audiences that they are watching Disney.

As far as animal eats animal in the wild, the violence of the jungle is toned down several notches.  The only animals that get eaten on screen are the disgusting maggots and worms, being at the bottom of the food chain.  Plants are victims too.

THE LION KING is a magnificent looking CGI feature with all the animals and background looking so real that one can hardly tell that it is special effects.  Simba can be made cute as a cub and fierce like a lion king with all the details like face frowns, fur movements and tail wags.  But its is almost a compete copy from the hit animated feature of the same title. It is fortunate that quite a few years have lapsed since, so that audiences can only vaguely remember all the scenes from the original.  Still, entertaining and stunning that the CGI LION KING is and looks, originality is clearly absent.  Racism is present in the form of hyenas who are looked down by the lions and seen with no redeeming qualities.  All this is hidden by Disney’s seemingly innocent portrayal of nature as evident in the film’s initial scenes – a morning sunrise in the African continent; a flight of birds rising from the trees and a horde of elephants making their path through the plains.

Regarding voice characterizations, James Earl Jones with his signature deep voice is the obvious choice for King Mufasa while Chiwetel Ejiofor does a menacing villain, Scar.  Comic relief is provided by Seth Rogen who steals the show as the common slow-witted warthog.  Yes, and there are fart jokes from him.  Pop star Beyonce provides the voice of Nala, Simba’s love interest.

Despite the familiarity of the material, Disney’s hard work shows and proves that old material can still be entertaining given a a few fresh twists.  And this is the strength of Disney.  Disney always uses tested formula in their film projects.  Expect record box-office takings in the opening weekend.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TavVZMewpY

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Film Review: SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (USA 2017) ***

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spiderman homecomingFollowing the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016), Peter Parker attempts to balance his life in high school with his career as the web-slinging superhero Spider-Man.

Director: Jon Watts
Writers: Jonathan Goldstein (screenplay), John Francis Daley (screenplay)
Stars: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow

Review by Gilbert Seah

The second re-boot of SPIDER-MAN arrives with all the hype and with it fear that the new look would result in a film as disastrous as the D.C. extended universe films MAN OF STEEL, BATMAN V. SUPERMAN or SUICIDE SQUAD. Thankfully, the new Marvel Cinematic Universe SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING is not so bad and promises a much better sequel in the making.

The film opens with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) arriving with all his super spider powers intact. Instead of learning to control his new found powers, Parker has to learn how to be Spider-Man. He has arrived several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, and subject to the help of his mentor Tony Stark aka IRONMAN (Robert Downey Jr.), learns to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City with fighting crime.
The villain of the piece is introduced at the start of the film as an enterprising business man, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton). Forced out of his business by the big boys, Toomes ends up taking revenge on the city by turning himself into the Vulture that eventually battles Spidey. Keaton is exceptionally cynical in his role, the only problem arising is that Toomes is so victimized that one cannot help but root for this poor victim. At one point in the film, Toomes is so convincing in naming Stark Enterprises as the villain that one cannot help but almost believe him. The Vulture’s costume looks too much like Keaton’s Birdman’s outfit, as if reminding the audience of his Best Actor Oscar nominated role.

The climatic battle between the Vulture and Spidey looks too one sided, on the side of the Vulture who seems imminent to win the battle but of course wouldn’t. When Toomes finally ends up beaten, it seems quite unbelievable.

Despite being an action film, the film’s best moments are the interrogation scenes – one where Toomes questions Parker in the car and reveals that he is aware of Parker’s secret identity. The other is Spider-Man questioning one of the crooks regarding Toomes’ activities. Both segments expertly balance humour and surprise while displaying good dialogue expected from the team of the film’s 6 writers.

HOMECOMING is the lightest and goofiest of all the SPIDER-MAN films. But one will eventually get annoyed at Spider-Man’s inability to fight his opponents properly before gaining control of his suit. Instead of learning to use his super powers, Spidey has to learn to use Stark Enterprises’ new Spider-Man suit. In one action set-up, Spider-Man is constantly bungling and falling around learning how to use his suit in extended power mode.

The film features an eclectic cast that carries it out a bit too far. Spidey’s love interest Liz is played by African American, Laura Harrier. His school principal is played by Korean Kenneth Choi and his best friend, Ned by Filipino Jacob Batalon. Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson: Peter’s rival and classmate is latino. The script invests a bit too much time in Ned’s character, his repeated remarks on Spider-Man often ending up more annoying than funny. He is at least given something to do (computer hacking) in the story. The film feels like a teen movie with the humour and high school setting. But one can notice that all the high school kids are performed by actors over 21, Holland included (at 22 playing a 15-year old). The film is not without teen dick jokes (Flash’s song as a d.j.) and the ending song with the lyrics sounding like the ‘f’ word.

It is surprising that director Watts has ended up making more an action comedy than an action hero movie. Watts made two serious films, the thriller COP CAR and the horror chiller CLOWN prior to this. But better funny than too serious. Look what happened to the James Bond and the Planet of the Apes films?

With all the goofiness and Spidey’s learning curve out of the way in this re-boot, the sequel should promise a more mature Spider-Man and hopefully a more mature action film as well – with a better balance between action and humour.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0D3AOldjMU

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Happy Birthday: Jon Favreau

jonfavreau.jpgJon Favreau

Born: October 19, 1966 in Queens, New York City, New York, USA

Married to:
Joya Tillem (24 November 2000 – present) (3 children)

(on briefly working in banking): I gave two weeks’ notice a week before Black Monday. But it was very strange because I thought I would be working on Wall Street my whole life. It was the go-go ’80s; there were yellow ties. It was just an exciting moment. And although I wasn’t involved in the trading side of things, I was still around that culture, and I ultimately decided it just wasn’t for me. As a matter of fact, I wanted to be a New York City firefighter. I didn’t make it in, though.

Batman Forever
1995
dir. Schumacher
Starring
Val Kilmer
Jim Carrey
SwingersSwingers
1996
dir. by Doug Liman
starring
Favreau
Vince Vaughn
Iron Man 2 Movie PosterIron Man 2
dir. Jon Favreau
Stars
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Mickey Rourke
WIMBLETONWimbleton
2004
dir. Richard Loncraine
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Paul Bettany
The Replacements
2000
dir. Howard Deutch
Starring
Keanu Reeves
Gene Hackman
MOVIE POSTERCOWBOYS & ALIENS
dir. Jon Favreau
Stars:
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Harrison Ford
Iron ManIron Man
2008
dir. Favreau
Starring
Robert Downey Jr.
Gwyneth Paltrow
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2009
dir. Hoyt Yeatman
Starring
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Penélope Cruz
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dir. Seth Gordon
Starring
Vince Vaughn
Reece Witherspoon
COUPLES RETREAT Movie PosterCouples Retreat
dir. Peter Billingsley
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Favreau
Vince Vaughn
MOVIE POSTERIDENTITY THIEF
2013
dir. Seth Gordon
Stars:
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Melissa McCarthy
MOVIE POSTERIRON MAN 3
2013
dir. Shane Black
Stars:
Robert Downey Jr.
Guy Pearce
MOVIE POSTERCHEF
2014
dir. Jon Favreau
Stars:
Robert Downey Jr.
Scarlett Johansson
MOVIE POSTERTHE BREAK-UP
2006
dir. Peyton Reed
Stars:
Jennifer Aniston
Vince Vaughn
movie reviewsZATHURA: A SPACE ADVENTURE
2005
dir. Jon Favreau
Stars:
Jonah Bobo
Josh Hutcherson
MOVIE POSTERTHE WOLF OF WALL STREET
2013
dir. Martin Scorsese
Stars:
Leonardo DiCaprio
PJ Byrne
MOVIE POSTEROPEN SEASON
2006
dir. Roger Allers
Jill Culton
Stars:
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MOVIE POSTERELF
2003
dir. Jon Favreau
Stars:
Will Ferrell
James Caan
movie posterRUDY
1993
dir. David Anspaugh
Stars:
Sean Astin
Jon Favreau
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