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Film Review: The Lion King

“One Day The Sun Will Set On My Time Here, And Will Rise With You As The New King. Remember…”

As per the norm of contemporary blockbuster cinema, the magnificent movie monopoliser that is Disney Studios once again returns to the big screen this week with yet another big-screen re-hash of one of, if not, the, definitive animation story in the form of The Lion King. Following on from the gush of non-existent, if slightly colourful, air of Guy Ritchie’s middling stab at Aladdin, Disney’s decision to remake a film which positively affected an entire generation of children, parents and extended families, is arguably the biggest stab in the dark yet, begging the immortal question once again of, “what’s the bloody point?” With 2016’s similarly revived version of The Jungle Book placing director Jon Favreau in the holy graces of Disney forevermore, with a healthy balance of critical and commercial success always a banker for career enhancements, the Iron Man and Marvel Universe star returns to helm a strangely lifeless, annoyingly pointless big screen regurgitation, a movie which is the Disney equivalent of the criminally overrated, Gravity, with it being a movie which yes, looks absolutely stunning on a visual and technical level, but fails to tickle, let alone pull with any force at all, at the heartstrings and leaves you with a violent urge to remove it from your memory as soon as possible.

With a central narrative which as everyone knows has a strong basis in William Shakespeare’s, Hamlet, the 1994 original version of The Lion King was undoubtedly Disney at its’ storytelling best, a child’s movie which managed to blend Bambi-esque levels of heartbreak with notions of power, greed, redemption and of course, the “circle of life”, and with the new version adding thirty more unnecessary minutes to proceedings, the storytelling this time around is much more arduous then it needs to be, and whilst I’m all for development of character in any film, the fact remains that it is extremely hard to bond with animated characters who show simply zero range of expression or emotion, resulting in you viewing the movie in a fashion akin to popping down to your local zoo and deciding to sneer at caged animals whilst doing made-up voices within your own head. With the film on a technical level absolutely breathtaking at times to behold, with the photorealistic computer animation making every single living creature look one hundred percent conscious and breathing, the visual splendour is effective for a period but still at the end of the day, animation, no matter how much nonsense Disney can spread about this version being “live-action”, and when a movie’s only good parts are the ones simply nabbed from the original, Disney’s latest movie is absolute sacrilege, but at least a technically proficient work of sacrilege.

Overall Score: 5/10

Film Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

“Can’t You Just Be A Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man..?”

As we all are well aware, with great power comes great responsibility, and although it only seems like yesterday when the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire led Spider-Man films graced the big screen, here we are this week with the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, the sixteenth film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starring Tom Holland in a leading role which swiftly follows on from the likes of Maguire and Andrew Garfield after his cameo appearance within the superbly entertaining Captain America: Civil War. Perhaps not holding as much expectation as other MCU entries, Homecoming’s main reason for existence arguably rests on the shoulders of young Holland, with his own feature film giving him utmost freedom to exact his own take on the character of Peter Parker to a larger extent than was offered back in Civil War, and with the rather unknown figure of director Jon Watts at the helm, Homecoming could be regarded as a much more experimental MCU than one might first expect. With a charming lead performance from Tom Holland, an excellent villainous turn from Michael Keaton and enough jokes to poke fun at so many so-called contemporary comedies, I’m happy to report that Homecoming is a crowd-pleasing success, if suffering from a slight linger of cliche and a strain of superhero fatigue.

Forgetting any means of backstory and heading straight into a mildly trained Peter Parker, Homecoming mixes the 80’s sensibility of movies such as The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, with the latter making a brief appearance halfway through the action, with the flashy, sharp-witted action that has come to encompass many Marvel releases, and with Tom Holland, his youth and puppy-esque, wide-eyed curiosity is arguably the most definitive version of Peter Parker to date. Although sometimes the performance does become slightly grating, with the Aaron Sorkin-esque way in which his lines are spoken come across too fast at times to keep up, the innocence of youth is effectively balanced by the faux leather wearing Vulture, a villain who not only is one of the more memorable of the entire MCU, actually has a deep sense of characterisation and is welded effectively into the narrative enough to feel for for both his actions and the actions of the titular hero. Whilst the overall narrative is somewhat disposable and highly obvious at times, the array of side-splitting jokes and flashy secondary characters keep the film entertaining enough to just deserve its’ two hour plus runtime and with a sequel destined to arrive in the near future, Homecoming is indeed an effective reboot of the Spider-Man franchise.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: The Jungle Book

“I Am Mowgli, And This Is My Home..!”

Of all the Live-Action Disney remakes that have graced our screens over the course of the past few years or so, the latest from Iron Man’s Jon Favreau could easily be regarded as perhaps the best of the lot, with Kenneth Branagh’s take on Cinderella last year arguably being the closest Disney re-imagining that manages to at least rival and in some areas, better, the latest take on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, a film featuring an impressive foray of CGI inflicted animals, each with their own personalities, aided by a stellar voice cast featuring the likes of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley and of course, Idris Elba as the terrifying figure of Shere Kan, an enemy completely parallel to the one featured in the 1967 Disney animated classic, highlighting the darker and scarier direction Favreau’s film has decided to go in. The real question still remains though; does the latest incarnation of Mowgli and Baloo’s story give justice to both Kipling and the 1967 animation? It does indeed, although, perhaps inevitably, probably won’t be as endearing as the latter has been in terms of longevity and legacy.

Of the film’s many successes, the CGI animals throughout the entirety of the film are a sheer wonder to behold, with flawless design and an incredibly voice cast accomplishing the incredible feat of forgetting the animals’ fictionalised reality and entirely believing in them from the outset. A dour joke at the beginning that fell flat on its’ face aside, the CGI through the course of the film is easily the best use of the technology in recent memory, perfectly realising the characters of Kipling, particularly that of the stand-out trio in Bill Murray’s charismatic Baloo, Idris Elba’s sinister Shere Kan and finally, Christopher Walken’s King Louie, harbouring a comical updated version of “I Wan’na Be Like You”. Letting the team down rather comprehensively however is Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa, a involvement way too short to have any impact whatsoever. Of course, being the only real-life actor within the film, Neel Sethi’s portrayal of Mowgli is one of depth and interest, a testament to the young acting abilities of Sethi, a previously unheard actor. Not any more I would think. Disney does it again, congratulations, The Jungle Book is a easy-going family treat, one that will please everyone that intends to see it. With a sequel already in the works, it is safe to say the story of Mowgli has a very strong future indeed. Any news on Star Wars now?

Overall Score: 7/10

Chef – The Delectably Fresh Food Extrazaganza – Review & SPOILER WARNING

Chef 1If you’re looking for a new movie to get your teeth into, Chef is going to be your cup of tea. Just be sure to bring plenty of snacks as you’re going to come out with the cravings of a pregnant mother to be. If it’s not clear, Chef is about a Chef called Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) whose known as one of the best cooks in one of the best restaurants in LA. With world renounced Food blogger; Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) ridiculing him and his work, the job becomes too much for him and he embarks on a journey from Miami to LA in an old Taco truck selling the most delectable Cuban sandwiches with the help of his friend Martin (John Leguizamo) and son Percy (Emjay Anthony) in a bid to bring back the meaning to his life and become the father he wants to be with the aid of social media.

So you’re probably wondering where the various big names come into play. Inez (Sofía Vergara) is Carl’s ex-wife and Percy’s mum. Inez’s previous husband; Martin, played byRobert Downey Jr. is a character that is irrelevant. Merely a seat filler whose only role in the movie is to hand over the taco van to our protagonist with a little comedic scene thrown in for good measure. Much the same can be said about Scarlett Johansson and her role as Molly the head greater and waitress who has had a relationship with Casper and then disappears of the face of the earth when the story develops. The loss of the characters and possibly story avenues left me questioning what could have developed and how heavily they were played upon by sexualising both of them simply to fill seats and bring a few of Favreau’s friends along to play. With the overpriced cameos, the acting was alright. I don’t feel that there was any exemplary cases especially considering that I’ve seen little of Favreau’s other acting projects to really decide if he was any good. My strong annoyance with many movies are young kid this is due to the fact that the children are typically terribly annoying characters and actors. Now, Percy was a little different. At times he was annoying as both a character and an actor yet the majority of the film he was fairly good.

Billed as a comedy, I was expecting a lot more from it in that department. What humour existed was light hearted and genuinely funny and was portrayed through interactions rather than the typical slapstick that we are usually inundated with so it’s refreshing to see something that isn’t trying to polish a turd. I’m looking at you James Franco. However, at points Chef doesn’t feel like a comedy. Drama seems to dark and adventure to extreme. Perhaps a family adventure summarises it best, much like Walter Mitty but with less daydreaming and world travel. The ambiguity of the genre is nothing in the grand scheme but perhaps its variation has allowed it to become individual.

The overall outcome of the movie works together brilliantly. With some gorgeously bright scenes and a huge variety of shots of the mouth-watering food with a blend of music that is catchy and aids in livening up the travel scenes. Then the additional social networking shots that include the Twitter bird flying off into the sky was a great extra! It’s genuine individuality and charming story alone is enough to warrant a watch and the comedy just increases that potential. Chef is a fantastic movie and deserves 8/10.

What did you think of Chef?

Chef