Category Archives: Movies

Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review

Disney has struck gold with their recent string of live-action remakes to their classic canon of animated features. Though their earlier efforts such as 2010’s Alice in Wonderland and 2014’s Maleficent weren’t very good, they still brought in enough box office revenue to ensure Disney would continue with their sub-genre of live-action remakes. 2015 saw Cinderella receive the same treatment, and though it wasn’t great, it was an improvement over the preceding features. It was with 2016’s The Jungle Book where the concept of Disney animations turned live-action really hit a home-run. The Jungle Book was not only a technical marvel, but it was an improvement over the animated original in terms of story and character development. So it seems Disney has now managed to make these live-action remakes worthy of their beloved animated counterparts by this point.

However, there was a large amount of skepticism in regards to what was to come after The Jungle Book, as Disney planned to remake Beauty and the Beast as their next live-action adaptation. This was a risky move for two big reasons.

The first is that, although Beauty and the Beast is twenty-six years old as of 2017, it’s still a much more recent feature than the other animated films Disney has chosen to remake so far, meaning it’s a much larger target for millennial cynicisms and dismissals.

The other reason is that Beauty and the Beast is quite likely the most acclaimed Disney animated feature in history. The other animated movies Disney remade were enjoyable to varying extents, but there was definitely room for improvement (even if the live-action remakes didn’t always achieve that). Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand, is so charming, sweet and entertaining, it didn’t really need a remake. I would even say it was my favorite non-Pixar Disney animation up until Frozen was released twenty-two years later. Disney was taking a big gamble with this one.

I’m happy to say that I ultimately feel this new version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is a highly enjoyable movie. Though it never reaches the same heights as the animated original, it’s a more than worthy retelling that does justice in reimagining the film so many of us have grown to love.

The story is nearly identical to the original. A young prince (Dan Stevens) is vain and selfish, and is punished for his ways by an enchantress, who places a spell on the prince that transforms him into a beast, and the staff of his castle become anthropomorphic objects. The only way for the prince to break the spell on himself and his staff is to learn to love another, and to earn their love in return.

Some years later, in a small village not-so-far removed from the castle, a young woman named Belle (Emma Watson) lives with her tinkerer father Maurice (Kevin Kline). Belle doesn’t fit in with the rest of the village, being a well-educated bookworm in a town filled with more simple-minded people, such as the brutish Gaston (Luke Evans) an accomplished hunter and the most respected man in town due to his good looks, who is obsessed with making Belle his wife (due solely for the fact that she’s the most beautiful woman in the village).

One day, Maurice gets lost in the forest on his way to the market, and ends up becoming the prisoner of the castle ruled by the prince-turned-Beast. Belle goes to rescue her father, and ends up taking his place as the Beast’s prisoner. From there, Belle befriends a number of the castle’s staff, such as Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) who has been transformed into a candlestick, Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), who has become a clock, and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson), who has become a teapot. The castle’s staff believes Belle could be the one to break their curse, but winning the Beast’s affections is easier said than done.

So the story is lifted almost directly from the animated film. That’s probably for the best (why fix what isn’t broken?), but there are some slight changes to certain scenes in an attempt to add more to them or make them fit more into the ever-so-slightly different tone. Some of these changes are fine (Gaston is more immediately villainous here, as opposed to the comical buffoon who slowly degrades into a monster by the third act). Others, however, can feel a little bit like padding, with the most notable example being a largely out-of-place flashback to Belle’s childhood, which details the tragic events involving her mother, and why Maurice has raised her alone.

I don’t want to sound too hard on the scene, because in terms of emotion, it does a solid job, and actually adds a bit to this version’s take on Maurice’s character. But it also happens at kind of a random moment, and the method in which the film gets us there feels kind of shoehorned.

With that said, the film – as a whole – does retain much of the animated original’s charms. The iconic musical numbers such as Belle, Gaston, Be Our Guest, the titular Beauty and the Beast, and The Mob Song are all here, with most of the cast providing solid recreations of these classics (though with all due respect to Emma Thompson, the kindly vocals of Angela Lansbury just can’t be recreated). Emma Watson does sound a little auto-tuned (at least during her character’s self-titled musical number), which is a little distracting as she’s the main character, but the songs are so great it’s hard to be too critical.

There are also a few additional songs added in this version, and though they’re unlikely to become as immortal as the returning songs, they still make for some great musical sequences. The best of the new batch are probably Days in the Sun and Evermore, the latter of which rectifies one of the few questionable omissions from the original by giving the Beast his own solo number.

The film also follows in the footsteps of The Jungle Book by being an absolute marvel to look at. The CG used to create the Beast and his transformed staff is impressive, and the art direction, set designs and costumes do a great job at bringing the animated source material to life. It’s just a really pretty film to look at.

As enjoyable as the film is, Beauty and the Beast just can’t quite recapture the same magic and excellence of the animated film. Some of that is simply the differences in mediums, with certain elements just not being able to translate as perfectly as you’d wish they could.

For example, in the animated film, when Maurice first meets the talking candlesticks, clocks and teacups of the castle, he’s more curious and delighted by the occurrence than anything, and there’s something charming about that innocence. Sadly, that just wouldn’t translate into live-action, so when Maurice finds a talking teacup, he does what someone would do in real life, and out of fright, tries to get the hell out of there. It makes sense in this version, but obviously that’s a bit of the original’s charm that simply can’t be recaptured in a live-action setting and feel natural.

Another small example (strangely also involving Maurice), comes when we are first introduced to the tinkerer. In the animated version, Belle – after hearing the entire town sing about how she doesn’t fit in – asks her father if he thinks she’s “odd.” He replies – after emerging from under one of his contraptions wearing a goofy helmet and comically large goggles – “My daughter, odd? Where in the world would you get an idea like that?” In this version, Belle asks him the same question, and Maurice’s response remains identical, only this time with a much calmer voice, and he simply continues work on one of his inventions, without the ironic visual gag to go with it.

These kinds of things aren’t too big of deals, and are certainly no deal-breakers. But I do see them as simple reminders that the animated film was perfect as it was, and that there are some elements that simply work in animation, and lose a little something when brought to the realms of live-action.

With all that said, this Beauty and the Beast is a worthwhile retelling of the beloved animated film, which ultimately does a terrific job at bringing its source material into a new medium. All while providing a solid cast (also including Josh Gad as Gaston’s sycophantic lackey LeFou). Emma Watson certainly looks the part of a Disney princess, just as Luke Evans is a perfect match for the vain Gaston. Meanwhile, Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen are highlights of the film through their banterings as Lumiere and Cogsworth. Throw in some wonderful music both new and old, and some shiny new visuals, and you have a worthy modernization of one of Disney’s most timeless films. Even if it didn’t necessarily require one.

 

8.5

Power Rangers (2017) Review

I enjoyed the new Power Rangers movie. So sue me. Obviously, you don’t go into a movie called Power Rangers expecting anything resembling a deep story, you go in expecting to have a fun (if maybe a bit insane) time. And I ultimately felt Power Rangers delivered on that, even if it takes an excruciatingly long time to get there.

Back in the 90s, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was the biggest thing on children’s television. The show was a unique specimen in that it took stock footage from the long-running Japanese series Super Sentai – a super hero show in which a multi-colored team of heroes battled monsters with giant, dinosaur robots – and not only dubbed it, but also filled in the non-super hero-y parts with a teenage sitcom with American actors.

In retrospect, it sounds like the most insane concept ever, and in many ways it was. But it worked. Spinoffs of both Super Sentai and Power Rangers continue to this day in their respective countries. And during the 90s, it was the centerpiece of children’s popular culture much like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before it, or Pokemon after it.

I should know, I was about four-years old when Power Rangers came into existence, and like so many children, I was hooked. Again, this is a series that had super heroes, dinosaurs, robots and monsters, and then threw in the stories of a group of teenagers that actually aimed to be relatable (if campy) around it all. What kid wouldn’t like this?

Now, like so many other 90s franchises, Power Rangers has received the nostalgia-fueled Hollywood blockbuster treatment. And while I will certainly say it’s a greatly flawed film, by the end of it I was having a good time. While many such reboots just don’t work, Power Rangers does manage to tap into the nature of its ridiculous source material and give you what you came for.

Suffice to say the story is the best kind of nonsense. As the film’s mythology goes, every planet that houses life has a “Zeo Crystal” hidden somewhere within it, which can grant ultimate power. 65 million years ago, the Power Rangers were a band of aliens trying to protect the Earth, after one of their own, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) went rogue and tried to steal Earth’s Zeo Crystal. The dying leader of the Rangers, Zordon (Bryan Cranston), then called down a meteorite to stop Rita from gaining the crystal, and to ensure life would be allowed to continue on Earth.

“They may not be the Super Human Samurai Cyber Squad, but they’ll do.”

Fast-forward to the present day, and the Zeo Crystal’s location is now buried deep under the city of Angel Grove, where five teenagers, Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott), Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler), Trini Kwan (Becky G) and Zack Taylor (Ludi Lin), inadvertently uncover five mystical tokens during one of Billy’s exploits to an abandoned mine, which he does to continue in his deceased archeologist father’s footsteps.

“I don’t know, a simple poster might be a better wall decoration…”

Upon finding the tokens, the teenagers are given newfound strength and superhuman abilities, and eventually uncover a hidden spaceship in the location they found the coins. The spaceship is tended to by Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader), an ancient robot who “uploaded Zordon’s essence into the ship’s matrix.” Zordon then informs the teens that by finding the tokens, they are destined to become the new Power Rangers, with Jason becoming the leading Red Ranger, Kimberly the Pink Ranger, Billy the Blue Ranger, Trini the Yellow Ranger and Zack the Black Ranger. With their new roles as Power Rangers, they must prepare for the return of Rita Repulsa, who plans on constructing a golden goliath named Goldar in order to find the Zeo Crystal (which just so happens to be buried deep beneath a Krispy Kreme).

Yeah, it’s insane.

Honestly, once we actually get to the Power Ranger-y bits, it’s a lot of fun. The grave problem with the film, however, is that it just takes way too long to get there.

The build-up to the teenagers becoming the Power Rangers takes up the majority of the film. This might not be so big of a problem, if this extra time were spent on things like character development. Instead, it all just seems like build-up for the sake of build-up, and a good deal of awkward dialogue doesn’t help things, either.

Now, in its defense, the film does try to give a little bit of attention to its characters’ backstories: Zack has an ailing mother, for example, and Billy is probably the most interesting character, having a form of high-functioning autism that gives him an incredible memory at the expense of basic socializing skills. The problem is that these character moments are very short-lived (especially for Zack and Trini, whose introductions in the film feel incredibly sporadic).

You could compare the situation to the 2014 Godzilla film, in which the whole reason audiences came to see the movie (in that case, Godzilla) doesn’t get nearly the amount of screen time you’d hope for. Though Power Rangers is probably more guilty. At least in Godzilla’s case, its titular monster had origins in a serious drama (let’s not forget Godzilla was originally an allegory for the atom bomb). But Power Rangers was always so ridiculous, that there’s really no reason to try to take things so seriously and hold off on the Rangers, Zords, and giant monster battles.

With all that said, once it all picks up, and the Rangers (finally) don their costumes, ride in their dinosaur-shaped Zords, and have the inevitably ridiculous showdown with Rita Repulsa, it’s a whole lot of fun.

“65 million years never looked so good.”

Speaking of Rita Repulsa, Elizabeth Banks has to be the film’s best singular asset. She seems to be having an exceptionally fun time hamming it up as the evil witch, and just brings a whole lot of energy and humor to the film.

In the end, Power Rangers was never going to be a cinematic classic, nor is it as ridiculously fun as it could have been, since it staves off the good stuff for far too long. But thankfully, the payoff at the end, coupled with Elizabeth Banks’ over-the-top performance, makes it all worth it in the end. And in a time when entertainment is becoming insanely preachy and self-righteous, it’s kind of nice to see a movie that’s okay with just being insane.

 

6.5

Kong: Skull Island Review

Though the giant monster genre may not exactly be a critical darling, there are at least two giant monsters in cinema with legacies so strong that even the more prudish film-lovers show them a degree of respect. One of them is Godzilla, who has seen a recent return to form in both his native Japan with the acclaimed Shin Godzilla, as well as making a splash with western audiences with his 2014 American reboot. The other iconic giant monster is King Kong.

While the original 1933 King Kong may not wow today’s audiences with its special effects, it remains heralded for how much it pushed filmmaking techniques forward, as well as its genuine storytelling prowess. It’s still entertaining, and is held in such high regard that its remakes in the 1970s and 2000s were seen as big deals, with the filmmakers behind those remakes (particularly Peter Jackson and his enjoyable-but-overly-long 2005 film) showing a great deal of respect to the source material.

Now we have another reboot of the King Kong franchise in the form of Kong: Skull Island. Though unlike the previous films, this is not a remake of the 1933 movie. Instead, it’s a reimagining of the Kong mythology that serves as a means to not only reintroduce Kong, but also to combine his world with that of the 2014 Godzilla, to create a shared cinematic universe between the behemoths.

Of course, this isn’t the first time cinema’s two most famous giants coexisted. Toho once made their own King Kong Versus Godzilla in the 1960s, which delighted the Hell out of me when I was very young. Of course, today, King Kong Versus Godzilla can only be enjoyed in an ironic sense, as the film’s special effects were laughably bad even in their day, and it’s not exactly a movie that had a strong narrative to fall back on.

Still, King Kong Versus Godzilla established my love of giant monsters from an early age, and now I’m ecstatic that the two legendary monsters have the chance to have an epic encounter worthy of their names.

The good news is that Kong: Skull Island doesn’t just serve as a means to prep Kong up for his inevitable encounter with Godzilla (though it does that, too), but also makes for a highly entertaining film in its own right.

“The film features numerous awesome creatures besides Kong.”

What struck me as kind of funny is how different the tone is in Skull Island than it was in the 2014 Godzilla film. In the 2014 movie, the film really tried to treat Godzilla with nothing but reverence (sometimes to its detriment, as Godzilla only had a handful of minutes of screen time). It was a serious, dramatic film, and a mostly good one (albeit with some great flaws). But here, Kong is only treated with reverence in select moments. For the most part, Skull Island just wants us to have fun and to show how badass King Kong is. The plot has serious elements, but the tone of the movie is a lot more focused on action, comedy, and fun than Godzilla was.

Personally, I don’t mind that. So many blockbusters these days try to be so dark and edgy, that a genuine good time seems increasingly rare. Though I respect Godzilla’s efforts for trying to present things as serious as possible to respect its titular lizard, Kong: Skull Island serves as a nice counterbalance to it. This is a movie all about having a fun time, and it succeeds.

“Tom Hiddleston seems to be cosplaying as Nathan Drake for the majority of the film.”

Kong: Skull Island takes place shortly after the Vietnam War (making it a prequel to Godzilla). Bill Randa (John Goodman) is a leading member of the government organization Monarch, and is leading an exhibition to the mysterious Skull Island, under the pretense of mapping out the island. He recruits a tracker in James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), a photographer in Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), and Lieutenant Colonal Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) along with his with entire squadron, who are to escort the mission.

Naturally, it’s anything but an easy ride, as Skull Island is surrounded by perpetual storms, and shortly after arriving, many of their helicopters are downed by the giant ape known as Kong. The surviving members of the group (namely the main characters) then meet up with Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), a cooky and eccentric US soldier who’s been stranded on Skull Island since World War II.  The group then plans a way to escape from the island, all while surviving the many dangers it entails, the most prominent of which being vicious, reptilian monsters dubbed “Skullcrawlers.”

It’s silly and simple, yes. But it’s also a lot of fun. The special effects are great, the action scenes are exciting, and the film is a lot more generous with its giant monster fights than the 2014 Godzilla film. Not to mention John C. Reilly gets some terrific comedic moments and one-liners.

“Confirmed: John Goodman makes any movie better.”

Admittedly, the film has its flaws. Namely, the characters are all pretty stock, and pretty much fit into their generic adventure movie roles. It’s a shame, because the film features some great actors, but they only have so much to work with in regards to their characters. John Goodman especially seems underutilized, much like Bryan Cranston was in Godzilla (though admittedly Goodman has a better showing than that).

It’s as if both the 2014 Godzilla and this film showcase the good and bad of both of their approaches to the material. While Godzilla focused too much of its time on the humans at the expense of the giant monsters we all wanted to see, Kong: Skull Island spends so much time on its action that its characters are never allowed to become anything more than archetypes. Hopefully future films in this crossover franchise will learn to find a good balance between entertainment and depth.

Still, Kong: Skull Island is tremendous fun. It delivers solid blockbuster entertainment, and serves as a fitting introduction for King Kong’s placement in this new shared Monsterverse (King Kong is much larger than he’s ever been, with the film making a point to mention that he’s “still growing,” as to make him a worthy opponent to Godzilla). The wait for future giant monster showdowns is looking promising, and hopefully the inevitable encounter between King Kong and Godzilla will be one for the ages.

 

7.5

Ghostbusters (2016) Review

*Some minor, vague spoilers included*

Ghostbusters

The original 1984 Ghostbusters is an icon of 80s culture. With its smart sense of humor, innovative concept, and visual effects that, somehow, still hold up, it’s no wonder that Ghostbusters became the highest-grossing comedy of the 1980s. There was one sequel which, while pretty inventive in regards to plot, lacked much of the humor found in the original, leaving many fans dissatisfied. Though a third film in the series was often planned, it was a project that was ultimately not to be, as it fell through one time after another after another after another.

Now we finally have a third Ghostbusters film, though not a third in the same series. Like many franchises that have laid dormant for an extended period of time, this 2016 film is a reboot, with an all-new cast of characters starting from scratch. This has, of course, lead to many fans of the original films feeling disheartened that they never got the third film they waited so long for, but this new Ghostbusters does manage to hold its own, even if the ghosts of its past prevent it from reaching the same heights of the originator.

The new film reimagines the Ghostbusters as a team of female paranormal patrol officers. The two at the center of the story are Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), while the two other members of the quartet are Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones).

Yates and Gilbert were once best friends and colleagues. Both of them believed in the supernatural and became scientists on the subject. Somewhere along the line, Gilbert left paranormal research behind her. Though that didn’t stop Yates from releasing the book they both wrote on the subject some time later. Gilbert is immediately discredited upon the book’s release, and confronts Yates about her actions. This leads Gilbert to becoming an inadvertent tagalong with Yates and her new colleague Holtzmann, as they investigate a supernatural happening. They successfully document the presence of an apparition, reaffirming Gilbert’s belief in the supernatural, which leads to her being fired as a university professor. So she decides to join Yates and Holtzmann on their new ghostbusting endeavors.

The group is later joined by Tolan, the everywoman of the team, and hire a handsome but impossibly buffoonish receptionist in Kevin Beckman (Chris Hemsworth). The four women have fluctuating success at capturing ghosts as they develop new equipment for the job, but a much larger threat looms over the city of New York as a madman is developing a means to intensify paranormal activity across the city, in hopes of opening a portal and unleashing an army of ghosts on New York.

Ghostbusters

The plot is a bit basic, but it has some fun with its nature as a reboot and focuses a lot more on the Ghostbusters getting to know their craft than the original film did. Perhaps the best addition to the reboot is the cast itself, with McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon and Jones all having strong chemistry, helping keep the film afloat even in its shakier moments.

On the downside of things, the writing is largely inconsistent. Though some scenes are definitely funny, others don’t quite hit the mark. The film goes from hysterical to mediocre all too often, and this is only magnified by the film’s rocky pacing as a whole.

Too many unimportant scenes feel dragged out, while a number of key plot and character moments go by all too quickly. The central relationship of the film is the friendship between Yates and Gilbert, but it often feels like that central element is lost in favor of the aforementioned inconsistent jokes.

Yet another aspect of the film that’s full of highs and lows are the callbacks to the original 1984 Ghostbusters film. There are some moments in the film that purposefully mimic the events of the first film, and that’s understandable for the most part, but the film’s third act maybe feels a little too familiar to anyone who’s seen the original film.

These callbacks also take the form of cameos by most of the cast of the 1984 film, who play new roles in bit parts. While the cameos of Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts are small enough as to be fun and not distracting, Bill Murray’s small-but-relatively-larger role comes off as a disappointment. Murray’s character’s first scene works well enough, but the film later brings him back for a second go, almost hyping him to be an important character in the story, before unceremoniously writing him off. It may have actually been interesting to see Murray in an important role in this reboot that’s wildly different from his main character of the original, so the fact that nothing comes of it makes the character’s return appearance feel misleading and entirely pointless. It just deviates from the plot when his first appearance would have sufficed for a cameo.

Another disappointing aspect of the film are the visual effects. Now, the effects aren’t exactly ugly to look at, but much of the CG looks a little bit behind the times. The final, big bad ghost works well enough. But many of the standard ghosts the titular busters face don’t exactly look like what you would expect from a big budget movie like this in 2016. There is a brief visual created with traditional, hand drawn animation in one instance, which is probably the effect that stood out most for me (interpret that how you will).

As a whole, the 2016 Ghostbuster reboot is a little bit of a mixed bag. It isn’t bad per se, as the cast proves capable of carrying the franchise – should it be allowed to continue – and when it is funny, it works. But the writing and pacing aren’t always there, the visual effects leave a lot to be desired, and the ghost of the original is constantly looming overhead, and not always for the better. Still, this is far from a franchise tarnishing disaster in the vein of Transformers, and it does have the potential to go somewhere better, should it be given the chance.

 

5.0

Top 5 Pixar Soundtracks

Though Pixar’s films tend to lack the big musical numbers that make the soundtracks of Disney’s animated films so iconic, they’ve still provided audiences with some fantastic and largely underrated soundtracks. Even without the Broadway-style songs, Pixar films have featured soundtracks that rank up there with Disney’s and Studio Ghibli’s as some of the best music in animated films.

This begs the question as to which Pixar soundtracks are the best of the lot? While everyone is sure to have their own say-so, the following are what I consider to be Pixar’s best soundtracks. So if you’re a fan of film scores, I highly recommend giving each of them a purchase and repeated, obsessive replays.

One more thing, this list represents Pixar soundtracks as a whole, not individual pieces of music. Though I will highlight some of my favorites from each soundtrack. With that out of the way, let’s get to the top five! Continue reading

Disliking the New Ghostbusters Movie is NOT Sexism…At All!

It has come to my attention that popular internet personality James Rolfe (known for his “Angry Video Game Nerd” series) recently released a video explaining why he has no desire to see the upcoming Ghostbusters film. This has lead to severe backlash towards Rolfe, who has been accused of sexism and misogyny, due to the new Ghostbusters’ all-female cast.

This is complete and utter crap. Especially considering many of Rolfe’s recent critics openly claim to not actually watching the video, and basing their claims on the title of the video alone, assuming the context within is about how the new Ghostbusters must be terrible because it stars women. Because surely there’s no other reason why someone might not be interested in the movie.

Again. Crap.

For those actually willing to give the few short minutes required to watch Mr. Rolfe’s video, here it is, and all of its not-sexism.

 

The only mention of the upcoming film’s female cast comes at around the 3:10 mark, in which Rolfe makes no negative claims about the female cast, but rather is making a remark of how people have been referring to it as “the female Ghostbusters” as a means to differentiate it from the 1984 original film, due to the 2016 film having an identical title. His complaint is not about the female cast itself. That should be obvious to anyone who actually takes the time to watch the video.

Notably, that whole spiel takes up a very short portion of the video. The majority of Rolfe’s complaints are about how he’s disheartened about the nature of the upcoming film being a reboot, with no direct connections to the iconic series’ existing installments. Rolfe simply argues that the film, in his opinion, should have been a continuation, with the remaining classic Ghostbusters passing the torch to the newcomers, similar to how The Force Awakens did when it established its new stars while continuing the legacies of their predecessors.

If anything, James Rolfe’s only “crime” in his critiques may be that he’s basing his feelings too strongly on nostalgia. His complaints are that the new film has little, if anything, to do with the original Ghostbusters films other than the identical title. It is still possible the film could have some merits of its own, so perhaps his stance of not seeing the film at all, as a means to remember Ghostbusters as it was, is a misguided nostalgia thing. But it most certainly isn’t a sexist thing.

Should we expect any critic who ends up giving the new Ghostbusters a bad review to be labelled as a sexist as well? Are we all just expected to blindly love the new Ghostbusters solely because it stars women? And anyone who doesn’t like it clearly feels that way because they’re some he-man women-hater?

This is all just a sad reminder of the overly politically correct culture we live in today. People simply want to make an issue out of everything these days. I’m not sure if it’s because it makes them feel important, or they simply want to find reasons to belittle others (probably both), but either way we are living in a time where our insistence on being politically correct is reaching dangerous levels. People seem unable to have opinions on anything these days, lest one tiny thing they say be purposefully contorted and misconstrued into something hateful and prejudice so mobs of social justice warriors can give them what for.

Political correctness is getting to the point where it’s actually affecting free speech. If someone can’t dislike a movie that happens to have a female cast without being dubbed a sexist, we have more than a little bit of a problem here.

I’ve seen some people say that Rolfe’s opinion on the movie is “part of a bigger issue dealing with prejudices against women.” Like Hell it is! The man just has an opinion on a movie, and nothing about said opinion even remotely suggests sexism of any degree. What if the new Ghostbusters ends up having terrible dialogue and writing (judging from the trailers, that may very well be the case)? What if it ends up being poorly edited, or more stupid than funny? Are we all just supposed to lavish it with praise anyway just because of the female cast? That’s not female empowerment, that’s just forcing people to think a specific way, or else they’ll face consequences. Last I checked, that’s the kind of mindset practiced by fascism and communism, and one of the big reasons why such things are (rightfully) frowned upon.

The more people continue to force “social issues” onto everything, the more they’re just devaluing the issues they claim to be standing up for. If someone doesn’t like the new Ghostbusters, it’s not part of some “bigger picture.” People are allowed to not like the new Ghostbusters, the female cast is entirely irrelevant.

Not liking a movie is not liking a movie. Trying to force that into something bigger doesn’t make people bigshots standing up for social justice, it just trivializes the social issues themselves. If you really want people to be treated equally, then people should be allowed to judge a movie with a female cast just as they would a movie with a male cast. They shouldn’t be forced to like it just because. That’s just another problem entirely.

Not liking the new Ghostbusters movie does not make you sexist. It just means you don’t like the new Ghostbusters movie. I’ll probably go see it myself to see if it’s any good, though I can’t exactly say I’m expecting much. It could end up being great for all I know. But if I end up hating it, would that make me a horrible, sexist, misogynist pig? No, it wouldn’t. It would just mean I don’t like the new Ghostbusters movie. And that’s okay.

The Jungle Book (2016) Review

The Jungle Book

Disney’s 2016 adaptation of The Jungle Book serves as a faithful tribute to both Disney’s 1967 animated version and the original Rudyard Kipling stories. The end result does both of its inspirations justice, with the end result being arguably the best film adaptation of The Jungle Book stories, not to mention a feast for the eyes.

Though The Jungle Book is the most recent in a string of Disney animation-to-live-action adaptations, there’s actually very little live-action in the film. Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is the only live actor seen on-screen. Everyone else is a motion-captured animal, and even the environments are created through computers.

Turning The Jungle Book into a visual effects-heavy movie turned out to be a wise choice on Disney and director Jon Favreau’s part, as this is one of the most visually arresting films of recent years. The CG animals are some of the most believable to be put on screen, and you’d certainly be forgiven for thinking the film was shot in the jungles of India and not a studio in Los Angeles.

Perhaps the best thing about this Jungle Book is that, despite the stunning visuals, it also tells its story better than past adaptations. The story remains that Mowgli is a young human boy who was orphaned as an infant, and after being found by the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), he was raised by a pack of wolves in the deep of the jungle, with a wolf named Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) serving as his mother.

The Jungle BookThough the wolves accept Mowgli as one of their own, and Bagheera becomes something of a protector to the boy, not every animal in the jungle embraces a human living among them. A tiger named Shere Khan (Idris Elba), who is feared by all other animals in the jungle, bears a deep hatred of humans. Shere Khan threatens the animals of the jungle that unless the boy is handed over to him, he will continue to kill. The wolves, not wanting to see anyone get hurt, reluctantly agree to send Mowgli to the nearest human village, which is the only place he’ll be safe from Shere Khan. Bagheera is assigned to escort Mowgli to the village, and along the way, they are accompanied by the lovable bear Baloo (Bill Murray).

It’s certainly familiar to anyone accustomed to the Kipling stories or the Disney animated feature, but the film is consistently entertaining, and the characters are given enough emotional depth to help it stand on its own. This is all the more emphasized by the performances of the actors.

The Jungle BookBen Kingsley, Bill Murray, and Idris Elba are all highlights of the film, and help bring a new sense of life to these classic characters. Smaller (but no less memorable) roles come in the forms of Kaa the snake (Scarlett Johansson) and King Louie (Christopher Walken), who has been reimagined from an orangutan to a not-so-extinct gigantopithecus.

Between the fun and sometimes heartwarming story, and the performances, The Jungle Book becomes more than just a fancy visual effects movie, and instead is a story that is equal to the visuals that bring it to life. Just for good measure, we even get two songs from the Disney animated film brought back for good measure (“Baer Necessities” and “I Wanna be Like You”), with a third (“Trust in Me”) showing up in the credits.

Though it may not boast many surprises, The Jungle Book is nonetheless a winning feature that’s as fun as it is beautiful to look at. It’s also the first of Disney’s recent sub-genre of animation turned live-action to live up to its potential (though it may not be a coincidence that, aside from Mowgli, the film is primarily animated). It’s one of the best films of 2016.

 

8.5