From the expo floor of San Diego Comic Con, the Ghostbusters are miniaturized for public consumption.
In the 2016 Disney adaptation of Jungle Book, director Jon Favreau brings stunning beauty and realism to the 1967 classic.
Release Date: April 15, 2016
Writer: Justin Marks
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken
Jungle Book is more a remake of the classic animated feature rather than the writings of Rudyard Kipling. What a writer, like Justin Marks, does is take the animated feature and fill in the missing gaps of story logic and adds more meat to the story.
For example, in the animated feature Shir Khan is a villain from a far off place. He comes to the jungle to kill Mowgli. In this film, the jungle is experiencing an extreme drought and the only source of water is the peace rock. As long as the peace rock exists and the water is scare, no animal will kill another around the watering hole. Shir Khan (Idris Elba) uses this location to demonstrate his fierceness and threaten all the animal kingdom not to allow a human to live amongst them.
As the story of the Jungle Book unfolds, you can’t help but think, that make sense and so does that. Why do the wolves take in Mowgli (Neel Sethi) as their cub? Why are they so willing to defend him? How did Mowgli come to the jungle in the first place? It is clear that story and story logic are important to the overall story.
Where to movie falls short of perfection is the moment it becomes a musical. I loved the original songs from the Sherman Brothers, but half way through the film, no one sings and as viewers we’re immersed in the world and story of the Jungle Book. The first song, Bare Necessities, I can forgive. Baloo (Bill Murray) and Mowgli recreated the iconic lazy river journey and in a moment of peace, Baloo hums Bare Necessities. This is a nice homage to the original. But when Mowgli is face-to-face with King Louie (Christopher Walken), the encounter becomes an elaborate musical number. It literally takes you out of the movie and feels out of place. They should have kept the story dramatic.
The Jungle Book is also a visually-stunning movie. The sets feel real as if they leap off the animation cells of the original. There have been numerous talking animal movies in the past, and Jungle Book feels the most real. Animal mouth movements are real for that specific species as well as emotions from facial expressions.
The Jungle Book is also available in 3-D and I have talked a lot about how 3-D is a waste of money and should be avoided. The Jungle Book is that rare exception. Objects are crisp and clean. This is especially true for the ending credits. Individual scenes from the movie are presented as a pop-up book. Movies watched in 3-D should have added value, because you pay extra for it. Only in The Jungle Book does the 3-D truly immerse you in the landscape of the story.
The real star of the movie is Neel Sethi as Mowgli. The way a film is made should have nothing to do with how a movie is reviewed critically, but this kid is literally the entire movie. Sethi is perfect in the role and comes across as a real boy, who is a child of the Jungle. I can not think of many children who can pull off not only being in every scene of the film but also act entirely on a sound stage with green screen and also have to act with imaginary actors. Sethi was the solid choice of the film and he along made it work.
Why are my favorite comedians making amazing dramatic movies? I want them to make me laugh, not cry. St. Vincent is a fantastic story starring Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy and Noami Watt. It also features the screen debut of child actor, Jaeden Lieberher.
Release Date: October 10, 2014
Director/Writer: Theodore Melfi
Cast: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy
Running Time: 1 hour 43 minutes
St. Vincent is the story of Vincent (Bill Murray). His life as a gambler and drunk is turned upside down when Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) move into the home next door. Their relationship starts off rocky, to say the least as the moving van knocks a branch off Vincent’s tree and lands on his car.
Maggie is a loving mother who works long hours, in hopes of living independent of her philandering husband, David (Scott Adsit) and Oliver becomes a latch-key kid. At his first day at school, Oliver’s clothes, keys, and cellphone are stolen during gym by the school bullies. Unable to get into his house, Oliver asked Vincent if he can use his phone. Vincent takes him in and agrees to babysit on a regular basis for Oliver.
At his new school, Oliver’s teacher Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dawd) encourages the students to consider what makes a saint and who are modern day saints. You know where this is going.
The movie centers on the relationship between the rough, abrasive Vincent and the bullied, new kid, Oliver. As we see Vincent softening and becoming a friend to Oliver, we also see the rest of his life becoming more complicated. These complications include his pregnant call-girlfriend (Naomi Watts), the love/hate relationship with this local bartender and the loan shark he’s indebted to. Oliver is also forced to tag along in Vincent’s day-to-day life including frequent trips to the race track, trips to his local watering hole and the senior center where his visits a particular patient every week.
Maggie, on the other hand, struggles to raise her son as a single parent, working long her and her life is complicated when her ex-husband wants full custody of her son.
The movie moves toward the inevitable as Vincent, Maggie and Oliver’s lives ultimately collapses under the weight of everything wrong in their lives. That’s what needs to happen in a well-told story.
St. Vincent is the classic tale of old guy and kid, who manage to form a friendship. Uncle Buck is the best one that comes to mind. The boy teaches the old man to confront the pain of his past as the boy learns to grow and confront the problems of his present tribulations. Writer/Director Theodore Melfi manages to take a tried-and-true plot and make a masterful movie that will leave you sobbing in the end.
Melfi does an admirable job taking borderline over-the-top characters and grounds them in reality. For example, Melissa McCarthy plays an overworked mother to perfection. She has no jokes per se, but shows us that she can act and be believable. Chris O’Dawd plays the priest/teacher with grounded humor and likability, you almost feel his comedic talents are wasted if, not for the fact that he can act.
Newcomer, Jaeden Lieberher does what I want to see in all child actors. I wish all child actors would play their age. Lieberher plays his age well. At no point, do you think he’s just reading lines from a script and he is acting as any 12-year-old should act. He’s not smarter than twelve, he is twelve.
Let’s face it, we all came to see Bill Murray. The guy you see on screen is Bill Murray. The very Bill Murray and we love and admire. Sure, he is sporting a very non-West Coast accent. He plays rough and gruff very well. The story though throws a few curveballs to the character that forces very radical changes. This is where Murray shines and you see the character change over the course of the film.
St. Vincent has been described as a chick-flick. There are certainly elements of that: Vincent’s defense of his friends, Oliver’s quest to argue Vincent’s sainthood and Maggie being pushed to her emotional and physical extreme to save her son. See this film for what it is…Bill Murray continuing quest to prove to everyone he can touch our hearts and our funny bones.