Movie Review – Jungle Book, The (2016)

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Director :   Jon Favreau
Year Of Release :   2016
Principal Cast :   Neel Sethi, Voices of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, GIancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Garry Shandling, Brighton Rose.
Approx Running Time :   105 Minutes
Synopsis:  After a threat from the tiger Shere Khan forces him to flee the jungle, a man-cub named Mowgli embarks on a journey of self discovery with the help of panther, Bagheera, and free spirited bear, Baloo.

****

I wrote in my review of 2016’s other jungle-themed film, The Legend of Tarzan, that the character was one of those long-running franchises that I have little time for, largely due to apathy and party due to overexposure and a cloying sense than I was “meant” to consider the property far more iconic than it has a legitimate claim to. Similar thoughts followed me into The Jungle Book, the umpteenth adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic story of a young human boy orphaned in the deep jungle, raised by wolves and sent on a journey to find his kind after Shere Kahn, the ubiquitous tiger villain of the piece, threatens harm. The original 1967 Disney animated film was my entry point to the story, and while we’ve had recurrences since – Jason Scott Lee’s 1994 version among them – none have hit with the resonance I’d have expected from such an iconic fable.

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Movie Review – Legend Of Tarzan, The

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Director :   David Yates
Year Of Release :   2016
Principal Cast :  Alexander Skarsgaard, Margot Robbie, Samuel L Jackson, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent, Christoph Waltz, Casper Crump, Hadley Frazer, Genevieve O’Reilly.
Approx Running Time :   110 Minutes
Synopsis:   Tarzan, having acclimated to life in London, is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate the activities at a mining encampment.

*****

I’m a funny kind of film critic. Not the funny-ha-ha kind, mind, but the funny-weird; sometimes, I just don’t “get” what all the fuss is about with some long running franchises. Take, for example, the fascination with Shakespeare, a writer I’ve very little time for but, for some reason, is constantly re-filmed, re-filmed, filmed again and then re-filmed. Now, I’m not sure why people are fascinated with him – let’s face it, he hasn’t written any new material in a very long time, so it’s all ancient history as far as I’m concerned – but all joking aside he’s one IP I’ve struggled to “enjoy” like so many others. In much the same way, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ most famous literary creation, Tarzan, has enjoyed continued cinematic popularity since the character’s magazine debut in 1912, yet I find the franchise to be an elusive appreciation at best. Sure, there’s genuinely brilliant tellings of the story – Disney’s Tarzan stands tall in my opinion – and some outright dogshit – anybody remember the version with Casper Dan Dien and Jane March from the late 90’s? – to some remarkably brave failures; the character’s storied history on film is as wild and uneven as his literary ventures, which makes sinking into my seat for The Legend Of Tarzan more a desperate plea for quality than an oversimplified action-fest.

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Movie Review – Long Kiss Goodnight, The

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Director : Renny Harlin
Year Of Release :   1996
Principal Cast :  Geena Davis, Samuel L Jackson, Patrick Malahide, Craig Bierko, Brian Cox, David Morse, GD Spradlin, Tom Amandes, Yvonne Zima, Melina Kanakaredes.
Approx Running Time :   120 Minutes
Synopsis:  A woman suffering from amnesia begins to recover her memories after trouble from her past finds her again.

*****

The 90’s were a solid time to be an action movie fan. Not least among the classics of the era came Renny Harlin’s 1996 thriller The Long Kiss Goodnight, teaming the Die Hard 2 director with then-wife Geena Davis (they’d ruined Carolco Pictures a year earlier with Cutthroat Island, a film I and about six other people actually enjoyed). In a strange way, Goodnight was a sort-of precursor to the Jason Bourne franchise (right down to the inclusion of Brian Cox, of all people), thanks to its central theme of lost memory and the abilities of a lethal assassin combining to form a covert, fugitive subplot in which brains, brawn and explosives formed a formidable trio of destruction. In and of itself, The Long Kiss Goodnight’s sure-fire 90’s aesthetic and delirious sense of escapism, not to mention committed performances by both Davis and co-star Samuel L Jackson (whose career had exploded following Tarantino’s cinematic monster, Pulp Fiction), result in a popcorn-chewing good ol’ time viewing, the perfect representation of the era, the muscular refinement of a genre still pulsating with Die Hard’s revolutionary legacy, and an absolute bottled-lighting mix of director, actor, story and characters.

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Movie Review – Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle

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Director :   Danny Leiner
Year Of Release :   2004
Principal Cast :  John Cho, Kal Penn, Paula Garces, Neil Patrick Harris, David Krumholtz, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Brooke D’Orsay, Kate Kelton, Christopher Meloni, Sandy Bevans, Ryan Reynolds, Malin Ackerman.
Approx Running Time :   98 Minutes
Synopsis:   Two stoners go on a mind-bending road trip looking for a White Castle after getting high.

*****

Sometimes, when you’re in the mood for a laugh, you want to watch something that elicits intellectual chuckles with smart, well-written dialogue. Maybe even some clever ensemble work that doubles as highbrow farce. And sometimes, all you want is to watch two dudes get high, go driving and see some titties. Harold & Kumar’s opening adventure (apparently there’s like a half dozen of these things or something) is a ribald, somewhat on-point stoner comedy that goes lowbrow as often and as hard as it can, and comes up trumps. Yeah, it’s stupid as f@ck, but holy shit if I didn’t laugh my ass off.

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Movie Review – Independence Day: Resurgence

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Director :   Roland Emmerich
Year Of Release :   2016
Principal Cast :  Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Jessie Usher, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward, Travis Hope, William Fichtner, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Patrick St Esprit, Vivica A Fox, Angelababy, Charlotte Gainsbourgh, Deobia Oparei, Robert Loggia.
Approx Running Time :   129 Minutes
Synopsis:   The aliens are back. Are we ready for them?

*******

Any sequel to Independence Day was always going to be problematic; moreso with the distance of time. The original film, a film that re-legitimised the term “crowd-pleaser” for the 90’s, has grown a cult status for its cheesy B-grade tone and home-run effects – a mixture of CG and practical model-work – and remains an enduring classic that overcomes the problems inherent in its story. Any sequel, particularly one which exists in an era of entire films constructed inside a computer, armies and armadas depicted every other week on the big-screen, and knock-’em-dead CG, was always pushing its pulp movie aesthetic up a very steep hill: in losing key members of its original cast, or recasting actors in known roles, Resurgence’s tapping into our collective feeling of nostalgia ran a fine line between homage and retread, and, I’m afraid, too often tips into retread to be much beyond a hype-train failure. Not for lack of trying, mind you. Sadly, the era of Independence Day’s cavalier bravado and muscular patriotism now resides at a time of cynicism and division – something no amount of flag-waving sci-fi fantasy can overcome.

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Movie Review – X-Men: Apocalypse

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Director :  Bryan Singer
Year Of Release :   2016
Principal Cast :  James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alexandra Shipp, Lucas Till, Josh Helman, Ben Hardy, Lana Condor.
Approx Running Time :   144 Minutes
Synopsis:  After the re-emergence of the world’s first mutant, world-destroyer Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan.

*****

It’s amazing to think that Fox’s X-Men franchise, bought from Marvel back when the comic book giant needed to stave off bankruptcy, has been going for 16 years at the time Apocalypse was released. The 9th official in-canon film (including 2016’s other entry, Deadpool), and a direct sequel to X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days Of Future Past (the latter directed by Bryan Singer after a significant absence from the saga), Apocalypse reunites the beloved mutant gang in the 1980’s, as Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), the future Cyclops, is introduced to Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his School For Gifted Children. The “apocalypse” of the title refers to a dual narrative; the character Apocalypse, played here by rising superstar Oscar Isaac, and the fact that the actions of the world’s first mutant (Patient Zero, if you will) will possibly bring about the extinction of humanity. With a staggering A-list cast and engorged action antics with which to play, Singer’s Apocalypse is exactly the tent-pole blockbuster deliverance fanboys and casual audiences will relish in years to come.

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