Tag Archives: James Earl Jones

The Lion King (2019) Movie Review By The Moviie Couple

The Lion King ReviewThe story is nearly a beat for beat, scene for scene remake, even more so than Aladdin earlier this year. Like Aladdin, Lion King makes a few (much smaller) changes from the animated original, but here they are often either not enough or not for the better (as with Aladdin).  It is so similar in fact, that halfway through I asked myself why was this even made?

Director: Jon Favreau
Writers: Jeff Nathanson (screenplay by), Brenda Chapman (story)
Stars: Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen

Moviie Couple here!   We went to see The Lion King this weekend!!  Remember we are just a married couple that loves movies!  We’re here to tell you if we liked it.  Film experts we are not!  Just a quick reminder of our rating system.   Mrs. Moviie Couple and I, rate films on whether they are worth the cash spent on a night out.  we use a 1-6 Dollar Bill system.  1-2 Bills equal a waste of both our time and money!  3-4 Bills equal Meh to Pretty Good, money well spent!  5-6 Bills equal Wow!  Well worth the price of dinner, movie and sitter!  Please take our money again!

OK, C’mon, everyone knows The Lion King, right?  If you do not, I’m sure you’ve read Hamlet or maybe you are familiar with Japan’s Kimba the White Lion…..Oh wait … never mind.  Forget I brought that up.  We’re talking about Disney’s very own, totally original, The Lion King!  Hakuna Matata and all that?  You all at least remember the 90’s smash animated hit!  We’ll this is that, only with very realistic CGI animals!  Got it?  Good.  Directed by Jon Favreau, who directed the other CGI Disney update, with great box office  results, in the Jungle Book.  The voice cast are as follows: James Earl Jones returns as Mufasa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Donald Glover as Simba, Beyonce as Nala, Billy Eichner as Timon, Seth Rogan as Pumbaa and a lot more, but that covers the most popular roles.  So how does this live action (does it count as live action if it’s all CGI?) version hold up?  Does it stand on its own paws?  Let’s break open the nearest log, grab some grubs, tune up our singing voices, leap from smiling giraffe to smiling giraffe and find out!

So here we go!

Mr. Moviie Couple:  I am a big fan of the Lion King.  My kids loved it growing up and I often told both my sons as they grew ever older and bolder  “Mufasas not dead yet boys, go clean your room.” or something to that effect many times over the years.  Needless to say, we are intimately familiar with the animated film.   So I am a tough audience for this one.  First let me say this is a visually stunning film.  Like wow!  All the credit to the camera work and direction.  This movie is gorgeous to look at.  The CGI animals are amazing!  They are so lifelike that you nearly forget they are CGI despite the talking.  And therein lies the rub,  it is almost too realistic for its own good.  In its efforts to look like real animals, the characters lose nearly (not all) of their expressions and much of the personalities from the original seem less as a result.

The story is nearly a beat for beat, scene for scene remake, even more so than Aladdin earlier this year. Like Aladdin, Lion King makes a few (much smaller) changes from the animated original, but here they are often either not enough or not for the better (as with Aladdin).  It is so similar in fact, that halfway through I asked myself why was this even made?

The songs do not hold a candle to the original version.  It seemed as if they slowed down all of the songs. Maybe they were attempting to tone it down to match the realism, but it pales in comparison to the original or the Broadway smash version that many are familiar with. Be Prepared suffers the most, by drastic changes (to make the Hyenas less goofy and more dangerous, which I get) but the song becomes nearly a spoken word version and a short one at that!  Only, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, holds up, but hey it has Beyonce singing and it was slow to begin with.

Jones, Glover, and Ejiofor are fine, but my biggest surprise was Eichner and Rogan.  I was absolutely NOT on board with them as Timon and Pumbaa when casted, but I humbly apologize.  They are amazing as The No Worries duo!  They are very Meta in many of their jokes and they give us a Disney easter egg that brings the house down in place of the old drag/hula dancing scene that is replaced from the original.  No spoilers, but very funny.  They probably took on the toughest jobs as far as filling shoes made famous in the original and they nailed it!

So…A beautiful film with some great voice work, but it feels longer than it should have been and in a film nearly the entire world knows scene by scene, it just doesn’t give me anything new to be excited about.  It just seemed unnecessary.  We have the perfect version of this movie available to us already.  The same could be said for Aladdin, but the new version of Aladdin gave us a new viewpoint to see Jasmine through and a great end of the story for Genie.  Lion King does nothing new story wise and other than being an achievement in visual effects, brings nothing else to the table. In conclusion, It’s a decent, if unspectacular (other than visuals) movie.  The Lion King is known for its music and here the new version fails hard and that is a cardinal sin in a musical.  I’m going to give The Lion King 2019 3.5 Bills.  It’s better than Meh, but not quite Pretty Good.  Nothing new to get excited about.   I’d catch it on Disney + sometime soon.

Mrs. Moviie Couple:  OK, I’m back again!  It’s me.  I’ll give Hubby a break typing and hit you up with my bullet style review!

-We are huge fans of the original at our house!  We have very fond memories of multiple viewings and many Disney sing a longs!  I’m sorry to say this one missed the mark for me.  “Be Prepared” to not be wowed!

-CGI effects were good, but could have displayed a bit more expression.  Trying to appear real is one thing, but they are talking animals afterall, a bit more expressiveness couldn’t hurt.

-The movie seemed overall very flat to me. Not nearly as energetic or colorful as the original and the music seemed dull in comparison.  Nothing seemed as lively or fun as the original and fair or not, this will always be judged alongside the first film.
-Outside of the original voice of Mufasa returning, the voices were all forgettable with the exception of Timon and Pumbaa, I’ll get to them later.  For instance Beyonce, Forgettable!  How often do you use the name Beyonce and Forgettable in the same sentence?  Never!  Until now! No new songs were added for her and if I didn’t know going in I would never have known it was even her!

-The humor was nearly all gone!  Only Timon and Pumbaa added any, and barely any at that!  The Hyenas were played for scares here and weren’t funny at all.
-Rafiki had nearly zero dialogue and never had his “staple” staff until the very end.
-Timon and Pumbaa were the best of the voice actors, but even they seemed a bit slower and were missing the fast pace timing of the original buddies.

I gave this movie 3 Bills, only out of respect for the original I am such a fan of.  Without my sentimentality, it would have been even lower!  I found the attempts at realism to stink!  Give me more smiles and gestures!  I know that doesn’t happen in nature, but neither does talking, singing or monarchies!

On the way home, We talked about the original Lion King and how even the Jungle Book’s CGI version was far better.  We boiled it down to this,  Jungle Book changed more than a few things from the original where Lion King’s changes were minimal.  If they had done the same with Lion King, they may have succeeded a bit more.  To make it so much like the original and then change only what people liked (lively music, color, expressions) a lot gets lost despite it being a shot for shot remake.   Thanks to my 3.5 Bills and the Mrs. 3 Bills, The Lion King ends up with an average of 3 Bills!  So Meh.  Not quite a Lion King, maybe a Lion Duke or something.

So until next time, remember Hakuna Matata my friends, you win some you lose some.  No worries, I’m sure Disney will get it right by the time they finish Mulan and Little Mermaid, at least we hope so!  Be sure to check out our Twitter or Facebook for a clue to our next movie review.  Mr. & Mrs. Moviie Couple out!

Coming to America (1988) Movie Retro Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Coming to America

Director: John Landis
Writers: Eddie Murphy (story), David Sheffield (screenplay)
Stars: Eddie Murphy, Shari Headley,  James Earl Jones, Madge Sinclair, Arsenio Hall, Paul Bates, John Amos, Eriq La Salle

There was a time when a Comedy Film from Eddie Murphy was a guaranteed laugh a minute whether that be in an Action / Adventure Comedy or a Romantic Comedy. Through Eddie playing multiple characters and yes, it was funny. I am talking about a time before “The Klumps” in a Romatic Comedy film by John Landis (Director) named “Coming to America” from 1988. The film is about an extremely pampered African Prince named Akeem who travels to Queens, New York, and goes undercover to find a wife whom he can respect for her intelligence and will.

48 Hrs (great), Trading Places (Amazingly Funny), Beverly Hills Cop I & II (one of the best franchises of the 1980s) and The Golden Child (fantastic) all came before this movie I am about to review. It’s fair to say (even stating the obvious) that Eddie Murphy could do no wrong in the 1980’s and I mean from 1982 right through. He was a guaranteed box office success for studios and along with his successful stand up material he was at the height of his comedic powers. Moving into the 1990’s is another story for another day that I’ll get round to when I’m talking about the likes of Murphy, Chase, Martin and some other comedy actors of that time that just didn’t fit in anymore at the turn of that decade.

Here Murphy plays Prince Akeem and after running out on his arranged marriage, sets his sights on finding his bride to be in America (Queens, New York to be precise). To accompany him on his journey is his trusty sidekick Semmi (Arsenio Hall) in a tale about two early 20’s guys who have been pampered all of their lives trying to adapt and fit into a regular life in New York. It really is a tale about a fish out of water, who doesn’t want anyone to know of his Royal secret in his quest to find someone who will love him for being him and not for what he has. Now if you where a kid of the 1980’s you may not have been allowed to watch this for its obscenities and it’s adult theme in verbal abuse. I however was one of the fortunate ones who saw this when I was 13 or 14 around 1990 and loved it the first time around and anytime I see it on TV I just happen to start watching it and remind myself how funny the film is. Don’t get me wrong writers Murphy and Sheffield don’t really go for offensive humour as the main theme. Those moments are justified in Akeem and Semmi’s environment in a rough part of Queens in which they stand out like sore thumbs (even when they try to blend in its obvious) No instead the writers have a cleverly written and layered story. In particular some of the scenes have a rewatchability value that lead back to some of Murphy’s previous work.

Eddie Murphy is not only funny as Akeem but his multiple characters such as the barber shop clients of Clarence and Saul (a white man, yes that’s right a white man) are hilariously funny and Murphy’s observations into such characters can’t go unnoticed. The one that probably stands out the most and is arguably the show stealer is Randy Watson. A terrible lounge singer who has somehow muscled his way into a fund raising rally for a kids charity. Akeem and Semmi attend this rally in search of finding an honest and decent young lady for Akeem to meet but instead are subjected to “The Greatest Love Of All” by Randy Watson and his backing band Sexual Chocolate. The first time I witnessed this scene I was in tears of laughter. Not one member of the audience initially applauded the efforts of Watson at the end of his rendition and when the character stamps his feet to his outburst “Sexual Chocolate” it is a moment of desperation for the terrible singer who probably only begins to realise how tone deaf he really is. Murphy plays multiple character in the movie but at no point is it distracting or takes you out of the movie. Clarence is opinionated and offensive, Saul is a quieter funny man and they are only in a couple of scenes to guide Akeem on his way to the rally. It is here Akeem meets Lisa McDowell who is co owner of the burger chain “McDowells” (not to be confused with McDonalds) and is one of the main contributors and organisers to the cause. It is here Akeem first claps eyes on the young lady and it’s fair to say it is love at first sight for the young Prince.

Arsenio Hall is a terrific and very funny man who is probably more famous in the US than over here in the UK. I admit that I didn’t know who he was until I saw this movie and to me he is as funny as Murphy in Coming to America. Unlike Akeem, Semii is more devious and self centred, only interested in himself and using his position of power to indulge in life’s luxuries. He is against “squatting” in Queens when he knows they could live in the Plaza or somewhere else that they are accustomed to and resents Akeems decision to blend in this much, Hall plays this petulantly but at the same time in a lovable way. More like a spoilt kid who doesn’t want to change his ways and struggles with manual work and living a normal life.

The supporting cast of Shari Headley, James Earl Jones, Madge Sinclair, Paul Bates, John Amos and Eriq La Salle is strong and wisely chosen. I think it’s fair to say that they all bring the same humour to the story and watch out for a little cameo from Samuel L Jackson that is really funny and shows us what we could look forward to in his career going forward. Having James Earl Jones as the father and King Jaffe Joffer was a master stroke. At this point I only knew him as the voice of Darth Vader but along with Madge Sinclair as the Queen Aoleon and Akeem’s mother, both would go on to become somewhat a King and Queen of another variety in 1994’s The Lion King as Mufasa (Jones) and Sarabi (Sinclair)

Landis as Director was a great decision. His early work in Animal House and The Blues Brothers was obvious on why they went with the man, but the deal clincher for Murphy would have been working with Landis previously on Trading Places. A Benchmark in 1980’s comedy films. They would of course work again in the mid 1990’s in the mostly disappointing third instalment to the Beverley Hill Cop series but Landis throughout his career has had more hits than flops. Coming to America was certainly a hit. In recent times, both Director and Actor have been linked with a possible sequel to the 1988 movie and I hope that it remains just a rumour. There is no reason to revisit these characters as the story was concluded in a satisfying way and for the life of me cannot get my head around in which direction these characters could go today without it souring the originals ending. Landis’ talents made him one of the hottest properties in the 1980’s. Harold Ramis wanted him so desperately for Meatballs and he was also asked to direct National Lampoon’s Vacation which Ramis did himself in the end due to Landis working on “An American Werewolf In London”

Overall Coming to America is a timeless comedy that is a must see and at a time Eddie Murphy was at the height of his comedy fame. The story is an age old one about finding love for all the right reasons and going against tradition and family pressures. The Film isn’t meant to be an all out comedy but has some of the funniest work by Eddie Murphy. His films had a knack of doing this. Beverly Hills Cop was more Action / Adventure but Murphy knew when to add the comedy and here it works without taking you out of the story. I still enjoy watching this if it pops up on the television and the movie is now 30 years old and I have lost count on how many times I have watched this and it still holds up to this day. If you haven’t watched this film yet then I recommend if you are looking for a comedy film that has meaning then this is the one for you. I’m off now to McDowells for a ‘Big Mick and Fries”.