Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Jungle Book or Surprising Amazing Uncanny Valley Movie


Ah, 2016.  A movie enthusiasts dream.  You’ve got your original pictures like Money Monster, Midnight Special, and Zootopia.  Then of course the finest sequels studios could put out: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, Independence Day: Resurgence, and Star Trek: Beyond.  And what’s a year in film without a few remakes: Ben-Hur, Ghostbusters, The Jungle Book, and of…wait…The Jungle Book?

“Wait, wait, wait…slow down now I say.”  Why in the name of Stephen Spielberg remake The Jungle Book.  And just to sate curiosity, they actually do mean a remake of the beloved animated film from 1967. This is Disney after all and they have been making it a bit of their MO recently: remake old animated features into live action adaptations, some good:

It's all about the shoes and dress...
It’s all about the shoes and dress…

And some not so good:

Well...the horns are cool...
Well…the horns are cool…

So, it’s come to this Disney.  You took the remake/reboot wagon to new heights and then made it skydive.  Well, I have one thing to say to you about your precious new Jungle Book live action film: how did you make it so good?

First of all, I’m all for remakes.  I don’t care, if I loved the film before, and Hollywood remakes it now, I either get to laugh at it and remember how good the original still is or I get to see it through new eyes and be surprised by the unique take a director or actor has done to my loved film.  Of course the bottom line is that Hollywood is out of ideas so they’re just hoping all the people that saw the film originally in theaters are dead now.  I mean, after almost 80 years, I think it’s okay to retread a little bit of ground:

Not sacred ground...
Not sacred ground…

But, now that I think of it…

"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
“Louis, I think we’re going to kick some Nazi ass all Inglorious Basterds style”

Okay, so Disney is taking their classics and remaking them with today’s technology.  In the case of The Jungle Book, director Jon Favreau (the guy that pretty much made the Marvel Cinematic Universe possible) used cutting edge animation to make the most believable CGI characters I’ve ever seen.  There is even a question of if the film will compete as an animated feature instead of the typical “live action” films in Award Season.  I’m reasonably tech savvy myself, but what those artists and Weta did is something unlike I’ve ever seen.  Right there, it’s worth the price of admission.

After you’re done gawking at the realistic animals actually talking to the new actor, Neel Sethi (Mowgli), you then have to listen to who is talking. Voice work is where it get’s a little sticky for me.  For a while, animation voice work was done by relative nobody actors or some that just had a natural talent at voice work and eventually became completely iconic:

"If you can't hear that voice in your head right're dead to me."
“If you can’t hear that voice in your head right now…you’re dead to me.”

But then Dreamworks had success with Shrek in 2001 with Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy headlining the film.  First time I can remember that an animated feature actually billed the actors playing a role.  Well, that’s not quite true:

I am really trying not to cry now. And credit to the artist on this beautiful image.
I am really trying not to cry now. And credit to the artist on this beautiful image.

Nevertheless, once Myers and Murphy headlined Shrek, every animated feature had to have Hollywood stars doing voice work, whether they could or not.  This was not a problem in the least for The Jungle Book. Being told the tale by the amazing Ben Kingsley as Bagheera the panther, laughing it up with Bill “Freaking” Murray as the lovable lazy bear Baloo, or just being plain freaked out and comforted by Scarlett Johansson’s boa constrictor Kaa.  These actors didn’t just phone in a lazy script.  They made their mark on the characters, and yes, I thought of the animals just as real as Mowgli.  Usually you can hear the voice and see the actor’s face, but Favreau went to great lengths to gather a cast of professional actors to bring more life into his CGI world.

I skipped two names up there.  The first one, Idris Elba as the vicious tiger Shere Khan, who basically took an entire jungle hostage for the sake of revenge, was terrifying.  Not one moment did he not sound menacing, in charge, and lethal.  I’m now convinced that Elba should be available at all times so parents can have him call unruly children and calmly speak until their pants are full.

Don't make me pick up that phone again, you remember what he said the last time...
“If your shorts aren’t up to your armpits on the count of three, Mr. Elba will call again…”

Hell, I bet it would even work on adults:

"He only said he was disappointed in me!" *Sobs uncontrollably*
“He only said he was disappointed in me!” *Sobs uncontrollably*

The other name I left off was someone that absolutely stole the show every second his character was on screen.  Christopher Walken portrayed the devious (and humongous) King Louie the Orangutan, and oh yeah, they let him sing.  Walken’s  “I Wan’na Be Like You” started off as a discussion with Mowgli and soon took off like a bullet from a gun.  His talents were absolutely perfect.  Dancing, singing, and totally creeping everyone out.  I have no doubt in my mind that Walken didn’t audition for the part, he simply came in took it over.  There is not enough words of joy to describe his performance.

Now that he's retired, I'm pretty sure Walken has already commondeered the Dous Eccious factory until he is the replacement.
Now that he’s retired, I’m pretty sure Walken has already commandeered the Dos Equis factory until he is the replacement spokesperson.

The only downfall in Favreau’s The Jungle Book is that it is a remake and thus no surprises in the story.  It’s not even a “The original was better” argument, it was just the same.  Sure, they added more adult dialog and changed a couple scenes up, but it was still the same Jungle Book I remember from when I was a kid.  That’s the trap you have with a remake or a reboot: if you don’t make it different enough while still using the same framework, you’ve pretty much already lost.  We’ve seen it happen with multiple films, and unfortunately the best example of a remake/reboot giving better life to the source material would be 2010’s True Grit.  While tons of people will argue that there is no one better than John Wayne in a Western Film, seeing “The Dude” bring Rooster Cogburn to whole new levels and satisfactorily bringing in crowds for a Western film…in 2010!  So, yeah, it sucks, but unless you’re Jeff Bridges getting drunk, you can’t escape this aspect of a remake.

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

The Jungle Book took almost every fear away from being it being a remake.  It was truly an adaptation.  Showcasing probably the best CGI I have seen to date which allows a talented director and a myriad of stellar actors to move and breathe just as if it was all real.  No surprise in the story, but it won’t matter when you here this:


Hardcore Henry or Best Video Game Film EVER

Hardcore Henry Poster

Going into this film, I knew that it was going to be insane.  The previews had me giddy with anticipation and Sharlto Copley has easily become one of my favorite actors since he stared in District 9.  And that’s not even mentioning the fact it was produced by Timur “The Action GENIUS” Bekmambetov.  You may not know the name, but you likely have seen his work.  He did a little film called Wanted a few years back.

When he said "Mutha****er" at the end of this movie, it was like seeing a Priest ACTUALLY invite the alter boy into his office
When he said “Mutha****er” at the end of this movie, was like seeing a Priest ACTUALLY invite the alter boy into his office

If you have never seen Wanted, then just imagine the dorkiest guy getting trained to become an elite assassin by Morgan Freeman with the most amazing fight choreography seen to that date.  Not to mention it was funny as hell.  Anyway, Timur took what he learned from all of his films (including some incredible Russian Horror/Action films: Night Watch & Day Watch) and shoved it into the relative fledgling director: Ilya Naishuller‘s brain and let him loose with a GoPro and some cocaine. And when I say “relative fledgling” I mean this was his first film outside of some music videos he did with his band.

"Post Production" crew
“Post Production” crew

Well, being jazzed up, afraid a little bit that I might get motion sickness and make a mess at my local AMC, but thankfully that never became a problem.  Probably the easiest way for me to describe my feelings for this movie is this: From the moment the film began to its perfect, yet simple, ending, I have not had that much FUN in a movie since I can remember.

Not this kind of fun...and oh, make sure you have safe search on when you Google "Adult Theater Images"
Not this kind of fun…and oh, make sure you have safe search on when you Google “Adult Theater Images”

I knew what to expect from the action and choreography, but had no idea what the full content would look like.  First of all, I think the amount of gore and violence would make the Deadpool film blush.  I’m not kidding, from the beginning credits on, it was pretty much the most mature and bloodiest film I’ve seen since Deadpool, and considering nothing had been on that level for years, that says a lot about what I was watching.  I’d love to say that it was all completely necessary, but I just can’t quite get there.  I will say that using the first person perspective did lend a little more credence to the gratuitous amount of gore, but not by much.

Some of my favorite moments of the film were the multi-character fight scenes.  There are two reasons for this: first, everyone attacked at once. There was none of this “one guy at a time” fight choreography. Sometimes that did get a little overwhelming, especially since the point of view, but honestly, when you have a full on gang rush you, they’re not going to take turns getting the crap beat out of them.

"No sir, I insist that you take your turn. I will follow afterwards."
“No sir, I insist that you take your turn. I will follow afterwards.”

And secondly, the music was just pitch perfect.  The trailer set it up, but delivering Queens “Can’t Stop Me Now” during the pentacle fight scene was just brilliant.  If you felt that the movie was moving fast before, and believe me the non-stop action kept the pace lightning quick, then you have no idea what speed can be.

I could dote on the action and the innovation for a long time, but sadly a film can’t be judged on that alone.  For all intents and purposes, Henry (or you) are the main character of this film, at least that’s what they’re going for.  But  Sharlto Copley is the one who steals the show.  Using a clever method (which would spoil the film, so I won’t give it away), they’re able to shove as much Copley in this film as they can.  And not just the first one you see on screen.  Copley plays at least over ten characters throughout the movie that assist Henry.  I loved that at first there was absolutely no explanation and once they did explain it, the explanation was one of the best bits of the film.

Honestly, who can't get enough of this face?
Honestly, who can’t get enough of this face?

Aside from Copley, there really isn’t another presence that gives this film a fully fleshed out performance.  Actor Danila Kozlovsky, gets the opportunity to play “Generic Russian Villain #420” and the writers don’t give him much to do.  I will give the make-up and effects team some serious props for making him pretty damn creepy looking and seemingly untouchable.  For those of you looking for the video game parallels, he’s the endgame boss you meet multiple times who kicks your ass due to a power you seemingly can’t get past (in this case, it’s telekinesis).

Honestly the plot, story, and dialogue will seem immediately familiar to any video gamer.  Much like the multiple Copleys, this film is broken into multiple “missions” which just break down to changes of the location and level of insanity.  One particular scene shows Copley as a coked out hippie who fights alongside Henry with a frantic pace and screaming non-sense.  All of this takes place in a bordello and in the first person point-of-view, the entire experience is, how do I say…quite realistic.

Duke Nukem: Closest facsimile I could show without giving you a few grand and sending you to Nevada...
Duke Nukem: Closest facsimile I could show without giving you a few grand and sending you to Nevada…

Clearly the writers (ones that actually wrote for the game “Payday 2”) and director were not looking for Best Picture in 2017 here, but I would be highly surprised if they didn’t get nominated for visual effects.  All in all, they knew what they were creating.  A fast paced, action packed, tiny plotted and limply acted video game film.    I just can’t endorse it other than a frantic action film.  Now it’s extremely innovative with both their filming method and a few good surprises along the way, but the longest lasting legacy of Hardcore Henry will be using crowdfunding to complete it (make sure to go there, it showcases some behind-the-scenes stuff as well as the team doing the film), and likely spawning a whole host of copycat films.  Yeah, I’m guessing Hardcore Henry will come in the top five films at the box office this week, even opening in a relatively weak 2700 screens nationwide.

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

I pretty much did this part the paragraph above, but it’s pretty simple: if you enjoyed Deadpool or play first person style shooters and are desensitized extreme gore and violence, you’ll really enjoy Hardcore Henry.  I mean, it has a really low threshold in terms of enjoyment, but I guarantee if you’re this film’s target audience, you will have an absolute blast watching it.


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Teaser Trailer or Music Really Does Give You Goosebumps

“This is a rebellion, isn’t it? I rebel.”

After months and well over a year of anticipation, the first trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is here and the above line of dialog sets the tone for the movie itself.

After last year’s unbelievable success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many of us didn’t know where the franchise could take us next or even have a reasonable follow-up until Episode VIII.  This morning, Disney answered our queries with a trailer for the prequel to A New Hope.

And no, I don't think this is what they had in mind for a prequel. Unless there is a funeral scene...that would be funny.
And no, I don’t think this is what they had in mind for a prequel. Unless there is a funeral scene…that would be worth watching.

Rogue One is the first of many canonical movie tie-ins that Disney has dubbed “Star Wars Stories“.  I’m fairly certain they had that already and it was called the Expanded Universe, but those ass-clowns went ahead an tossed that all out.  I’m not bitter at all.

This is the story of Jyn Erso (portrayed by the English actress Felicity Jones).  You might have seen her in the Stephen Hawking documentary film The Theory of Everything.  Other than being an excellent Mrs. Hawking, Miss Jones has mainly done things across the pond.

Sadly not in this across the pond show
Sadly not in this across the pond show…

Jyn Erso seems to be a likable criminal.  And what do likable criminals do best in film?  Steal stuff!  And like every good heist film, the stakes have to be unimaginably high.  In this case, we already know what she’s looking for: the plans for the Death Star.  This is a heavy subject and one quest fans have been wanting to see for a long time.

I can be relatively sure that no one asked for this...
I can be relatively sure that no one asked for this…

Under the hood of this film are some interesting choices for director- Gareth Edwards, best known for the low budget film Monsters (2010) and rebooting the Godzilla (2014) franchise.  I’m completely down with someone new and fresh getting the reins of a Star Wars film, I just don’t know what Disney realize he was the man for the job while watching giant kaiju destroy cities.

"Well, it's gotta be better than this guy. Bring on the Godzilla guy."
“Well, it’s gotta be better than this guy. Bring in the Godzilla guy.”

Also of interest is bringing on a giant in the world of visual effects, John Knoll as a writer.  Knoll has been the Visual Effects Supervisor for amazingly gorgeous films like Pacific Rim, Avatar, and even Star Trek: First Contact.  He also worked on the Prequel Trilogy, but those films still looked good at least.  I wonder how his talents will be utilized as a writer.  Will it be more ambitious or will he have written much more manageable effects?  We’ll see.

There is a wild card in the cast.  Not only do we have Hoban Washburne or “Wash” (Alan Tudyk) and King of Important Plot Development- Forest Whitaker, but we have one of the most mysterious men in cinema: Mads Mikkelsen.  After facing off with Daniel Craig’s James Bond in Casino Royale, he decided to face off against Laurence Fishburne in the critically acclaimed, and down right disturbing, TV show Hannibal.

Please tell me that's Bantha meat. Image and worthwile article curtosy of Vulture
Please tell me that’s Bantha meat. Image and worthwhile article courtesy of Vulture

Seriously, I don’t know who he’s playing, and frankly, I just don’t want to think of him at all.  It’s safer that way.

Oh god it just got worse...
Oh god it just got worse…

Finally, we have the music.  Taking over for John Williams this time is Alexandre Desplat, the composer from the Harry Potter films, to Argo and Zero Dark Thirty.  He also worked with Edwards on 2014’s Godzilla, so it seems the two kept each other’s business cards at least.

What I have to point out is that the iconic works from A New Hope take on such a brilliant and beautiful life here that it instantly breathes that “Star Wars Feeling” into your earholes.  And of course Desplat’s own take of the Imperial March sounds absolutely haunting.  I didn’t even think that was possible.  Also, what’s up with movie trailers using piano to pay homage to the original score?

The rest of the trailer keeps some beautiful sights, combat, and all out war in the open and in the trenches for everyone to see and it’s really something.  Now I’m not shaking with excitement like I did with 2014’s The Force Awakens teaser, but I am really interested in Disney’s “Star Wars Stories” films.  Could be shameless money grab, or allowing more of the Galaxy Far Far Away to showcase more than just Jedi…

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters December 18th and remember, when they debut the actual trailer for this one in September/October- BUY YOUR TICKETS THEN.