Lion King – New Live Action Benchmark

Lion King (2019)

Reviewer: Autar Kaw

Grade: B

Genre: Animation, Adventure, Drama, Family, Musical

Rating: PG

Running Time: 118 minutes

I had high hopes for Lion King as I watched the animation version 25 years aso with my kids who were still in single digits in age, and Britton 8 used to be a cinema theater on Dale Mabry.

The CGI is out of this world and Glover, Beyonce, James Earl Jones, Seth Rogan earn their paycheck and more. The movie is surely a technical marvel, and numerical methods abound in its making.

I am assuming that the future is not too far when if an actor throws a tantrum or does not show up for a shoot, they can just replace him with CGI. I hate those over-the-shoulder shots because they cannot get two actors together on the same day. The chemistry is surely missing in such scenes.

What was not that good was the lack of expression on the faces of the lions. I heard the director wanted to depict true expressions of lions, but real lions do not sing and talk either. Maybe they do.

All the songs except “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” sounded like karaoke and they did not have that oomph which Carmen Twille, Elton John and Jeremy Iron put in the songs of the original.  Also, my favorite character Rafiki’s role was truncated, if not chopped. He did not say – “It’sh time” and he did not slap Simba on the head and say, “It’s in the pasht”.

It is still worth it, if you have not seen the animation version on the big screen, and if you believe in pure nostalgia of a 25-year revival.

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Rogue One

Rogue One (2016)
ReviewerAutar Kaw
Grade: B
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 133 minutes

It was good to go and see Rogue One during the preview showing as fellow nerds, young and old, were there and laughing at jokes which only we could get.  Rogue One is the “filler movie” before the eighth episode shows up in all its glory in 2017.

The movie is not a Star Wars extravaganza as it is a spin-off, but without saying too much, it fits very well in the series puzzle in the beginning and at the end of the movie.  It took a while to figure out what was going on at the beginning of the movie but it compensates for with its climactic war that seems to go on forever.  The war is filmed in daylight and hence the attention to detail does not go unnoticed.

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You will be pleased with a few cameos from the franchise, some so short that you will have to forego blinking, while others are main characters in the film.  The droid has the best lines and he will make you chuckle at your own responses.

I am hoping that Disney will not treat the franchise like the “goose who lays the golden egg” but I am not sure as every year in the near future we will see a spin-off or an episode. I do not blame Disney as a $4 billion deal is quite a sum to recoup.

 

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION

Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
Reviewer: Autar Kaw
Grade: A
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 131 minutes

Ya, the summer session is over and I have become a somewhat lenient grader. That is not true. I was just leaning toward an A-.

Tom Cruise makes 55-year-olds like me look like a mission possible. He is helping us relive the good old and sorely missed James Bond style action with a flair for stunts that are only semi-CGI and seat-edge worthy.

Two hours fly by nicely after 20 minutes of commercials which I do not mind. Some good thoughtful movies (think Oscar) are coming in October.

There is the usual comic relief from Simon Pegg with a dose of Alec Baldwin and Jeremy Renner two liners to keep the movie in Cruise control, while disabling the control during a motorcycle chase, airplane hanging, water hole jumping, and a knife fight. Who can forget to mention the grumpy Ving Rhames acting just like as if he is in the ADT commercials.

Rebecca Ferguson is the female lead who holds her own in acting chops (is that a pre-requisite), plot twists and screentime, and the directors were sensible in her having the last word in a well-choreographed knife fight.