Tag Archives: Idris Elba

Jungle Book – Movie Review

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.

Zootopia – Movie Review

In the long tradition of Disney animated features, a question is answered that overthinking fans have been asking, how did animals learn to talk and why do they wear clothes.

Release Date: March 4, 2016
Writer: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Jenny Slate, Idris Elba

The most remarkable thing about Zootopia is that it appeals to both boys and girls. No princesses. No robots in space. One would think that a world of animals that act like humans would appeal mostly to boys, but then Zootopia writers Jared Bush and Phil Johnston pulled the genius move and made the main character a girl.

Disney also has a tradition of movies that star animals acting in human roles. Robin Hood being the most notable example. Zootopia manages to explain how and why these animals speak a common language, walk on hind legs and dress in clothes. Which brings us to the world of Zootopia, the world where animals who are predators and prey are able to co-exist in one world.

The world of Zootopia is not by any means a utopia. There are problems. Zootopia addresses these problems in a brilliant way. Disney is using the story of animals acting as humans to teach children about tolerance and diversity.

Zootopia is the story of Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), who as a rabbit wants to grow up and become a police officer. The problem is the police force is completely staffed naturally by predators. Somehow predators are a natural fit for the role due to their strength, speed and cunning. Against animal common sense, Judy hears from everyone there is no place for a meek rabbit on the police force.

Thanks to Zootopia forward thinking, Judy proves that she has what it takes to be a police officer. Judy finds that gaining the respect of her predator co-workers and the public is not going to be an easy task. She has to work hard to prove she belongs on the force.

In Zootopia, there is an epidemic of predators reverting back to their natural predator-state. For example, a tiger devolving into a feral tiger and hunting its natural prey. The police are called to solve the mystery. Of course, Judy has ideas and theories about what is happening, but no one takes her seriously. In comes the sly con-fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), who comes to Judy’s help but being a fox, no one can seem to trust him.

As with any good Disney film, it is littered with fun cameos and supporting roles. Idris Elba played the police captain Bogo. J.K. Simmons is Mayor Lionheart and his assistant Mayor Bellwether is voiced perfectly by Jenny Slate. A little Easter egg in the film is that Alan Tudyk plays the same character in this film that he does in Frozen, Duke Weaselton. He’s actually a weasel in this one.

Zootopia presents the ideas of cultural diversity head on. Tigers are ferocious creatures, because they are tigers. Rabbits are farmers, because they are rabbits. Bears are dangerous because they are bears. The story my daughter learned is she can be whatever she wants, but she has to want it bad enough and work hard to get it.

Disney has finally reached the level of Pixar in the world of storytelling and most importantly…merchandising. Zootopia is great fun for the whole family and merits repeat viewings.