The Jungle Book - Huntsman: Winter's War - Green Room - Keanu
Last week my top 50 films of the last five years list occupied my super important time and energy, but now I'm back with my normal reviews (it's a Cinco de Mayo miracle!). However, whenever I wait several weeks to post an actual review here, it ends up being multiple short reviews, because my movie watching happens more frequently than my movie writing. I hope you weren't desperate to read 1500 words on the gritty Snow White prequel... If so, I apologize.
THE JUNGLE BOOK
Explain it to me: Jon Favreau (Gutter from PCU) (oh, and also director of many things) decided to remake the classic story of Mowgli, a young Indian boy living in a jungle full of animals that all don't seem entirely climate appropriate to live there. The 1942 version was live action, the 1967 version was a cartoon, and the 2016 version is nearly impossible to distinguish between those two things. I mean, I understand that the wolf is animated, but what about the rock that it's sitting on? Think about that.
Was there anything to like about it? Yeah, it was very entertaining. It's a good kids movie, even if it's a little bit scary. I'll admit, the tiger scenes and the big snake scene were kind of legit terrifying, and I'm an adult. I think it's safe to say I wouldn't want to be in the same room as that tiger, or that 500 foot boa constrictor, but that's just me. Hmmm... The story moves. It's visually exciting. There's an oversized orangutan played by Christopher Walken. What more can I say, really? It's definitely The Jungle Book.
But there's probably something to hate about it too...? I know it's heavily based on the '67 movie, and also it was originally adapted from three separate stories in an anthology from over 100 years ago, but I felt it to be very episodic and disjointed. And when are we going to stop hiring celebrities to voice *every* single character? I like Giancarlo Esposito a lot, but his voice acting sucked in this movie. Can't they hire people like Billy West to do voices anymore? Oh, and one last thing, you'll get that dumb monkey song stuck in your head for two days. Not cool.
Reduce all of this to a simple letter that people can skip to: B
HUNTSMAN: WINTER'S WAR
Explain it to me: What was the worst part of Snow White and the Huntsman? Haha, I'm only kidding, you probably didn't see Snow White and the Huntsman. But what do you assume was the worst part of Snow White and the Huntsman? Correct; Kristen Stewart. So the studio took that note, and wrote her out of this new movie; but then they proceeded to still do every other bad Hollywood gritty fairy tale cliché they could think of.
Was there anything to like about it? I guess I liked the goblin scene? Even though they were just gorillas? But gorillas with gold blood! Some of the production design is interesting. I want to say that I liked the star-studded cast, but I felt like every single one of them is above being in this movie. Academy Award nominated actress Jessica Chastain doesn't need to be showing PG-13 sideboob as a glorified sidekick in a sequel to a movie no one asked for. If they all didn't get paid depressing amounts of money, I'd feel bad for all of them. At least barely anyone actually went to go see it.
But there's probably something to hate about it too...? Plenty to hate about it. It's so long. Well, it's only two hours, but it seemed like it was four hours. I felt dead inside by the end. For a movie with such a simple, predictable plot; why feel the need to make this so long? And man, I hate those dwarves. I hate how they look, I hate their dumb jokes, and I hate how they get forced into every situation. As far as having an open sandbox for a fantasy movie goes, they really did a bland approach to this whole thing. Listen, I wanted to go see that Elvis & Nixon movie, but I missed the showtime. Thus, I regrettably saw Huntsman 2.
Reduce all of this to a simple letter that people can skip to: D-
Explain it to me: The followup to Jeremy Saulnier's pretty good movie Blue Ruin, about in inept revenge murderer who sucks at the realities of trying to murder people; Green Room is about a struggling punk band's ineptitude to defend themselves against a gang of skinhead's ineptitude to kill all of them. Imogen Poots is in this, with a terrible haircut, and I always enjoy laughing at her funny name.
Was there anything to like about it? As I mentioned above, the realistic clumsiness on both sides of the fight is rather endearing. For every effort the punks fail to succeed at, there's a skinhead doing something just as stupid. I think unless you're fighting a real life James Bond, or a team of Navy Seals; people kind of suck at intentionally murdering one another. In general, the whole movie keeps you on the edge of your toes. It's thrilling to know that no character is safe from harm (or death). The gore makeup effects are awesome, as supervised by former movie makeup artist Saulnier. A lot of the movie actually goes the opposite of what you'd expect to happen, which is refreshing. And all of the realities of being in an unsuccessful punk band seemed super authentic, too. IT'S WELL MADE.
But there's probably something to hate about it too...? I think this movie is made for a very small group of people who will really enjoy it (I'm in that group), and everyone else will be pretty grossed out and turned off by it. If you watch the trailer and say "That's probably not for me..." I guarantee you're right. It's definitely not a feel good movie. And while all the acting is pretty good from the ensemble, Patrick Stewart (of all people) is just kind of disappointingly OK.
Reduce all of this to a simple letter that people can skip to: B+
Explain it to me: Suburbanites get their cat Keanu stolen by a street gang, and they pretend to fit in with the gang in order to get it back. This is Key & Peele's first big movie together. You either watched their show on Comedy Central, have seen the East/West bowl clip on YouTube, or have no idea who I'm talking about.
Was there anything to like about it? A lot of this movie banks on you enjoying looking at an adorable kitten run around in action scenes. And trust me, that kitten is world-class cute... But the movie is, ya know, pretty funny. Plenty of hearty laughs. I can't remember the last time I laughed that loud in a movie theater as when Peele answers his phone depressingly in the second scene of the movie. I think if you're a fan of Key & Peele's comedy style, you will (for the most part) enjoy this movie. I don't see how you couldn't. The best moments are legitimately funny. Overall, it gets a steady stream of earned chuckles.
But there's probably something to hate about it too...? Not necessarily the movie's fault, but I was out all day with my wife walking around for hours before we eventually saw this movie, so I was pretty physically tired by the time we got to the theater. I might have started to get drowsy by the end. You could blame some ineffective action scenes in the third act for not keeping my tired body fully awake. I don't know? But I don't think they helped. Aside from that, like most comedy movies, some of the jokes didn't work as good as others.
Reduce all of this to a simple letter that people can skip to: B-
Saw the Jungle Book last night with the wife, it started with an introduction by Favreau, profusely thanking the audience for attending and seeing it in the theatre. I mean, he was almost tearful... I looked around, and there were only ten people in the showing besides the wife and I.
Saw the 3-d version, and it was okay, great in a few spots. Would be better on a larger screen.
After a slow start, the film moves really well. Bill Murray as Baloo was a hoot, and it was amazing how much of his face they were able to blend into the bear's face. Mocap brought Murray's trademark head bobs and nods, and when he's singing "The Bear Necessities", he's really doing Nick The Lounge Singer from SNL, you can tell.
Walken as King Louie did a hysterical reference to Brando in Apocalypse Now during his introduction, which only parents will get. Walken infuses King Louie with a lot of menace, and it's fascinating just to watch him talk and react.
I felt Kaa the snake was under-utilized, being in just one scene: Scarlett Johansen voices the giant snake, and the song you know from the animation: "Trust in ME" was moved to the end title sequence, where it reads more like a Bond Movie Intro. I like Scarjo a lot, but didn't really go wild for her torch song take on the song.
Ben Kingsley is of course perfect as Bagheera. Idris Elba imbues Shere Khan with deadly menace and a hint of Brixton alleyway thug.
The CGI was really good in almost every scene; especially the monkeys. Overall, I'd give it a B-plus/A-minus. Good kids' movie, if they are old enough not to freak out and have nightmares about being eaten by a tiger.