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The Lion King (2019) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

 

The Lion King Review

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

Did The Lion King need to be remade? Of course not, but you can say that about any movie.

However, this one isn’t simply a remake. As nearly everyone already knows by now, it’s almost the exact same film, right down to the songs, music score, title card, jokes, dialogue and iconic scenes (many of which are shot at identical angles or perspectives). James Earl Jones even returns to voice Mufasa. The only significant difference is the animation…CGI and motion-capture that makes everything (mostly) look like live action.

My initial reaction was that this version might be as redundant as Gus Van Sant’s misguided scene-for-scene remake of Psycho. Why crank out the same thing when the original was not-only groundbreaking, it remains culturally relevant decades later? Even though I’m a middle-aged curmudgeon who remembers – and often misses – the days of traditional hand-drawn animation, I certainly understand the aesthetic appeal of computer animation…as long as it still looks like animation.

The family dog notwithstanding, animals ain’t all that expressive, so by designing the characters in the new Lion King to be as realistic as their counterparts in the wild, their personalities are severely muted, as is our emotional investment in them. That also makes it pretty tough for the exact same dialogue, jokes and songs to go over as effectively as they did 25 years ago, despite an impressive cast (though Seth Rogan, voicing Pumba, comes close).

A few new wrinkles are sprinkled-in here and there. How Rafiki learns Simba’s still alive is creatively amusing (like anything involving dung beetles) and the hyenas have a few more chuckleworthy scenes. But most of the added material is inconsequential. Other than that, this is the shiny penny version of The Lion King you grew up with.

But people like shiny things, and in that respect, The Lion King admittedly hits a home run (and is therefore not as redundant as Psycho). The animation is meticulous, an astounding amount of detail poured into every shot. It’s a technological wonder and the imagery alone makes it worth checking out at least once. Director Jon Favreau and his crew of computer nerds may not have added anything significant to the narrative, but visually, they’ve certainly taken what they learned from The Jungle Book and amplified it tenfold.

For a lot of viewers – kids especially – the eye candy may be enough, perhaps even preferable to the barbaric methods used to animate critters back in the ancient ‘90s. Since the story itself is bereft of any surprises whatsoever, The Lion King is obviously intended for those who enjoy paying to have their cars detailed: It’s still the same old vehicle, but for a brief time, you feel like you’re driving a shiny new set o’ wheels.

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!

Steve Jobs (2015) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

STEVE JOBS

Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Walter Isaacson (book)
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels

Steve Jobs (Fassbender) takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac. Going into this movie and having already reviewed 2013’s “Jobs” portrayed by Ashton Kutcher,  I promised myself that I wouldn’t compare both films. I also deliberately avoided checking both ratings of the movies as I didn’t want to be influenced in my judgement (although that’s what I do in every case anyway)

To me “Steve Jobs” is some of Fassbender’s best work and Director Danny Boyle’s as well. I felt this was a clever slant on what I assumed would be biographical and going into the personal life of Jobs. Don’t get me wrong we do get that though a series of situations involving those who where closest to him and not in the traditional day to day in the home of the man. Boyle’s style and decision making to centre the storyline around three major moments in his profession life and that of the digital revolution was a terrific decision. Fassbender’s investment in studying Job’s little quirks and ticks (feet washing in the toilet bowl) is appreciated and allows the audience to understand the uniqueness of him.

His complex relationship with his daughter Lisa (who he named one of his early systems after) adds the emotional anchor to the film and is used at the correct times without it overshadowing the other personal issues with Steve Wozniak, Joanna Hoffman, John Sculley, Andy Hertzfeld and the mother of his child Chrisann Brennan. I have to commend the casting  by Francine Maisler in particular with the three stages of Lisa played by Makenzie Moss (Lisa aged 5), Ripley Sobo (Lisa aged 9) and Perla Haney-Jardine (Lisa aged 19) who I assumed must have been related as the likeness of all three is uncanny.

Staying on the cast, I was particularly impressed by Kate Winslet’s Joanna Hoffman who was Jobs able and strong confident. Winslet’s role I presumed would be a low-key bit part turned out to be one of the best things in the movie thanks to her performance and delivery managing to be one of the few who could reach inside Steve Jobs head and stand up to him.

Jeff Daniels never fails to amaze me. Such a versatile actor and in this movie is the friend, the enemy and a much like father figure to Jobs playing John Sculley who helped push the Apple machine along in its earlier days. The scenes behind the stage at all three events are interesting and have their fair share of intensity. His physical appearance throughout the timeline is subtle but cleverly done to show his age. Another thing I have to commend Boyle on is the way he interlaced the flashback scenes that parallel in the current scenes. In particular the “firing” of Jobs from Apple is heartbreaking for both of them.

Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak you say? I have to admit that this role was the one I took great interest in. Although limited in his screen time I was afraid Rogen May ham it up a little in his performance as the legendary engineer. His performance was just right. His final scenes and confrontation with Jobs confirmed this and he manages to pull at the heartstrings with his performance and you really do feel bad for Wozniak by the end of the movie.

Another surprise was Michael Stuhlbarg’s Andy Hertzfeld. Just like Wozniak in this film he had key scenes in these events but wasn’t on screen that long. Long enough though for Stuhlbarg to leave an impression on his part and for the audience member to realise that although treated very badly by Jobs admired him and considered him a friend regardless of what they went through together. Hertzfeld is also portrayed as a genuine person with a caring side towards Lisa who he felt was missing a strong male influence in her life and inadvertently made Jobs realise the years he had lost with his daughter.

The cinematography in the movie is simple and uses an almost documentary style technique, although not as rough. The music and the soundtrack isn’t exactly memorable and it isn’t until the end credits we get to hear some Dylan. In summary this movie impressed me and in particular Fassbender’s dedication to the man. Just running in at over two hours, a minute isn’t wasted and if you are interested in learning more about the man then I would give this movie a go. Highly recommended.

The Night Before (2015) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

THE NIGHT BEFORE

Director: Jonathan Levine
Writers: Jonathan Levine (screenplay), Kyle Hunter (screenplay)
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, Jillian Bell, Michael Shannon, Lizzy Caplan, Heléne Yorke

“The Night Before” is set on Christmas eve with three lifelong friends Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackiespend) spending the night in New York City looking for the Holy Grail of Christmas parties. Unfortunately for Ethan, as time has gone on, both Isaac and Chris although possibly not maturing have lives of their own. Chris has become a very famous athlete living most of his personal life on live broadcasting via social media and Isaac is now married and him and his wife are expecting their first born. Ethan on the other hand is living on nostalgia and hides away from commitment and responsibility and is determined to have the night of their lives on their final Christmas eve.

The film is about the changes in people’s lives as they get older and hanging onto nostalgia can hold you back from living your life. This is mostly the case with Ethan played by the brilliant and charismatic Joseph Gordon-Levitt who as a young boy lost both his parents around the Christmas holidays and through his best friends Isaac and Chris became their own little family watching out for each other in their younger days. Every Christmas Eve they would play out their ritual of very funny antics.

Although technically a Christmas movie “The Night Before” is a comedy film in the same mold as Pineapple Express (2008) some folk might say a “Stoner Comedy” but I feel that term doesn’t complement the storyline. The plot itself is about these three friends all living different lives and have their insecurities about their futures. Although Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Ethan is supposed to be the main focus, I felt Isaac (Rogen) was the show stealer and in two particulars scenes involving a “talking” baby in a church and the nativity set outside the church. Gordon-Levitt is given top billing and the storyline focuses around his character that serves mostly as a master of ceremonies.

Ethan has issues committing to his ex girlfriend that he realises needs more than he thought. Isaac appears to be very straight laced at the beginning of the movie which surprised me with Seth Rogen restraining himself from his usual outrageous performances. Nevertheless, we don’t have to wait long to see this character unfold after his wife gives him a box of pick n mix assorted drugs as a one night only gift. Unfortunately although hysterical, the character overshadows the other two and in more ways Chris played by Anthony Mackiespend. Don’t get me wrong Mackiespend is fantastic as the more successful of the three but underlines the insecurities that come with his found fame.

I can’t let this review go without mentioning the brilliant Michael Shannon as Mr. Green. I’ve never seen a character who is unsettling but at the same time soothing. He is of course the guy you go to for some weed but although playing the stoner there is also something quite philosophical about his character and although used perfectly in his role. I still wanted to see more of this madman.

As far as “The Night Before” goes, it’s more than just a comedy. The sentimental element is there that is traditional with the holiday season. Perhaps it doesn’t have those memorable lines or scenes that other holiday movies have. It’s an enjoyable but strange little movie that I think everyone should give a try. For me I only had one niggle with the film and that was Christmas Eve felt a lot longer than 24 hours. We’re a good hour into this film and a lot of events have happened in this time leading to the party of a lifetime when suddenly they are all at Chris’ Mum’s house having dinner. This is after a few bars and a few bizarre incidents have happened in chasing down a thief and meeting Mr. Green. Apart from that the movie moves along okay and you will have a laugh or six along the way. Watchable and Recommendable.

50/50 (2011) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

50 50

Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Will Reiser
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt,  Seth Rogen,  Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Matt Frewer, Philip Baker Hall

I recently revisited the movie 50 / 50 starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam a  27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease. Now for anyone who hasn’t watched this yet, this may sound like a depressing drama full of patronising clichés. In fact, “50/50” is a comedy of sorts and handles the subject with the right balance of enlightenment, inspiration, hope and care.

It’s always going to be difficult for any writer to angle for a comedic side to a story based on a cancer diagnosis, but Will Reiser who wrote “50/50” handles the topic with care and believe me the funny parts are funny and along the way there are some beautiful and surprisingly tender scenes between the characters.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has this knack of being a very likeable guy no matter what role he plays. Adam is a good guy who writes for a living for a local radio program and lives with his girlfriend Rachael (Dallas Howard). We find through conversation that the relationship is faltering and it’s really only when Adam is diagnosed that the couple become a bit closer to each other although it is short lived when Adam’s friend Kyle (Rogen) discovers Rachael is being unfaithful to Adam and captures this on his Cellphone. Bryce Dallas Howard although has limited time in the movie adapts very well as the girlfriend who bails on her Boyfriend when the tough gets going.

Gordon-Levitt portrays the role of Adam as a very subdued and content guy but as the story unfolds his temperament begins to unravel slightly when he begins to learn of his illness and dealing with the breakdown in his relationship. Gordon-Levitt is very subtle in his anxieties of his struggles and you only get to realise this more so in his therapy sessions that he has been attending with Katherine (Kendrick) these scenes at first are portrayed awkwardly and both actors really play off each other well in the situation.

Anna Kendrick as Katherine is a great choice of casting and plays the role perfectly as an inexperienced therapist (Adam is only her third patient) But by the time the movie concludes, she really comes into her own and all those little quirks she has early on are away as she begins to develop a closeness with Adam and understands him more.

Angelica Huston plays Adams mother Diane. We are introduced to Dianne when Adam decides to let his mother know of his condition and although she comes off as a little controlling and dominant to a degree we learn that her husband and Adams father Richard (Serge Houde) is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Diane is really just trying to hold things together. Huston although is in very limited scenes is very powerful in them and no more so in the scene when she reveals she has been seeking counselling herself to deal with her Son’s illness. It’s a very touching scene and this is where the writers find the balance and trust the audience will accept the seriousness of the situation in a “comedy”. I always believe there is a fine line between comedy and tragedy and it is really evident in “50/50”

Although Serge Houde as Adam’s father doesn’t have much to do it really is handled well between the relationship with Diane and his son Adam. Even more so when Adam is about to go into theatre as a last ditch chance to save his life. I’m telling you, get the hankies ready as Houde portrays a man who might not see his son again and looks lost and sad not knowing what is going on. I’m not really selling this movie as a comedy am I?

Seth Rogen for me is hit or miss. I always felt this with certain comedic actors that sometimes too much is…… too much. Hey I felt that way about John Candy sometimes so don’t judge me! Rogen in “50/50” does what he does best. He portrays the bumbling drunken friend that although comes across as trying to consume Adam’s life and giving him bad advice is at heart a good guy. Probably for about 85% of screen time Kyle is a pain in the ass and downright irritating but Rogen manages to even make that screen time funny and the payoff to his character is in the last third of the movie as we discover his insecurities, anxieties and a caring side to him and Adam’s conditions really has effected him.

Writer Reiser should be commended for these really fleshed out characters and Levine (Director) keeping the flow of the movie interesting and the pacing consistent. This is  evident in most scenes where the dialogue is consuming the screen and Adam’s hospital visits introduce us to two cancer patients in Mitch and Alan portrayed by the brilliant pairing of Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall. The chemistry between the three actors is balanced and adds light to the difficult storyline.

“50/50″ is a well written and directed film that has a strong cast and a great chemistry between them. Although released over 6 years ago the story and the characters is what makes the film rewatchable and enjoyable to revisit every few years. I recommend this movie to anyone who hasn’t watched it as I feel the right blend of comedy and drama will keep you interested. Highly Recommended.