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remake

The Lion King (2019)

DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau

CAST: voices of Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Chiwetel Ejiofor, James Earl Jones, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, John Oliver, John Kani, Alfre Woodard, Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key, Eric André, J.D. McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph

REVIEW:

Considering Disney’s recent noxious trend of remaking its own animated classics with less-than-classic scene-by-scene regurgitations, it was virtually inevitable that The Lion King would be included. The Lion King is generally considered the “king” of the Magic Kingdom’s fleet of animated movies, arguably only rivaled by Beauty and the Beast, and now, following Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast, and Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin, the lion roars again, this time in CGI rather than hand-drawn animation form. Of all these remakes, The Lion King is probably the best, partly simply because it’s a remake of the one that had the best story in the first place, partly because it is visually splendorous. However, a surfeit of eye candy can’t entirely overcome a slightly hollow feeling, like a competent but uninspired cover of a classic song.

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Aladdin (2019)

DIRECTOR: Guy Ritchie

CAST: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Numan Acar, Alan Tudyk (voice)

REVIEW:

Hasn’t the novelty worn off yet for Disney throwing a lot of money around on scene-by-scene live-action regurgitations of its own animated classics? Probably not, at least until Jon Favreau’s upcoming The Lion King (probably the most anticipated of them all), but Guy Ritchie’s remake of the 1992 animated musical Aladdin has done nothing to increase my enthusiasm for this latest fad. Everything that was true of Bill Condon’s 2017 Beauty and the Beast is equally true here, if not more so, a rote and uninspired retread of a previous movie that can be revisited on DVD any time its fans desire that offers nothing except the “novelty” of seeing it underwhelmingly reenacted in live-action (and losing most of its pizzazz along the way). Unfortunately, nostalgia is a powerful thing, and Disney’s string of cannibalized remakes are almost guaranteed to continue to be a reliably profitable, if terminally lazy, cynical, and creatively bankrupt enterprise. This rehash might boast live action, Will Smith, and expensive sets, costuming, and CGI, but it’s missing the magic.

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Dumbo (2019)

DIRECTOR: Tim Burton

CAST: Colin Farrell, Eva Green, Danny DeVito, Michael Keaton, Alan Arkin, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins

REVIEW:

Dumbo began life as a children’s story published in 1939, written by the husband-and-wife duo of Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl. In 1941, Walt Disney, looking for something that could be slapped together quickly and cheaply to shove out into theaters to help offset mounting costs of his expensive flop Fantasia, bought the rights and the Dumbo animated film debuted in theaters, running a slim 64-minutes. While remembered fondly, it was arguably the most simplistic and juvenile of the Disney animated features of the time, so while this remake (of sorts) is the latest in Disney’s line-up of live-action recreations of its animated classics (following Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast and soon to include Jon Favreau’s The Lion King and Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin), the brevity of the source material required Tim Burton and screenwriter Ehren Kruger to do a lot of padding. The result, as one might expect from a padded-out reimagining of a simplistic and juvenile cartoon, is a middling affair that contains enough special effects and lively sequences to entertain children but whose generic and uninspired narrative has less to offer for their parents. Adults accompanying their children may be sufficiently engaged to not be suffering in silence for their children’s sake (which alone bumps Dumbo up above some other theatrical options for family movie night), but adults attending alone may be less enthralled.

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Beauty and the Beast (2017)

DIRECTOR: Bill Condon

CAST: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Audra McDonald

REVIEW:

Following in the footsteps of Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast is the latest (and arguably most ambitious yet) entry in Disney’s recent dubious fixation with throwing a lot of money around remaking its classic animated films as live-action versions.  For those who decry virtually shot-for-shot remakes of Disney classics that didn’t need to be remade (especially with “new” versions that are content to slavishly follow the source material rather than doing any different or innovative on their own), Beauty and the Beast is unlikely to convert them into the fold.  It’s technically well-made, handsomely-filmed, served up with a loving dose of nostalgia as a lavish love letter to the 1991 original, but despite sumptuous sets and flashy special effects, it lacks the heart and charm of the original.  There’s a sense of a by-the-numbers hollowness to the proceedings, like a competent but uninspired cover of a classic song.  Fans may enjoy themselves out of nostalgia, but it never escapes the shadow of its forefather (nor does it try). Continue reading

Clash of the Titans (2010)

DIRECTOR: Louis Letterier

CAST:

Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Alexa Davalos, Mads Mikkelsen, Jason Flemyng, Liam Cunningham, Hans Matheson, Nicholas Hoult, Pete Postlethwaite

REVIEW:

I don’t look back on the original Clash of the Titans through rose-tinted nostalgic glasses. I probably watched it a hundred times when I was a kid, and thought it was great, but in hindsight, it’s campy and hokey, with laughably wooden acting, led by a poofy-haired Harry Hamlin and Laurence Olivier on autopilot, and Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation was state-of-the-art in its heyday in the ‘50s and ‘60s but compared to 1977’s Star Wars made the 1981 Titans look significantly older than it was.  While unnecessary remakes abound in Hollywood, this is the kind of movie that could actually benefit from a remake with better acting and updated visual effects. Continue reading

Shaft (2000)

DIRECTOR: John Singleton

CAST:

Samuel L. Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Christian Bale, Jeffrey Wright, Toni Collette, Richard Roundtree, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Dan Hedaya, Busta Rhymes, Daniel von Bargen, Pat Hingle, Josef Sommer, Philip Bosco, Mekhi Phifer

REVIEW:

Shaft originally hit the screens in 1971, at the height of the ‘Blaxploitation’ era, with Richard Roundtree starring as ‘the black private dick who’s a sex machine to all the chicks’. Almost thirty years later, John Shaft made a return to the screen- sort of. Continue reading

My Father, The Hero (1994)

DIRECTOR: Steve Miner

CAST: Gerard Depardieu, Katherine Heigl, Dalton James, Faith Prince, Lauren Hutton, Stephen Tobolowsky, Emma Thompson

REVIEW:

My Father, the Hero is an English-language remake of a 1991 French comedy Mon père, ce héros (“My Father, The Hero”), even recasting Gerard Depardieu in the titular role, though surrounded with an American cast.  I can’t comment on the original, but My Father, The Hero is a forgettable piece of fluff with a few mildly amusing moments but never rising above the level of the television sitcom it often feels like. Continue reading

Narrow Margin (1990)

DIRECTOR: Peter Hyams

CAST: Gene Hackman, Anne Archer, James B. Sikking, Nigel Bennett, Susan Hogan, J.T. Walsh, M. Emmet Walsh, Harris Yulin

REVIEW:

A loose remake of 1952’s The Narrow Margin, Narrow Margin is a nicely old-school, no-frills, lean and taut thriller that relies more on good old-fashioned cat-and-mouse suspense than flashy action sequences or special effects, with a brisk 99 minute runtime that gets in, gets the job done efficiently, and doesn’t overstay its welcome.  It might not be the deepest or most substantial experience, but for those simply seeking a good old-fashioned Hitchcockian suspense thriller, it’s a solidly diverting time. Continue reading

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