I suppose it's not all that strange that in this world of constant remakes, reboots, prequels, sequels and cinematic universes that Disney would be reimagining their classic animated catalog as (more or less) live-action films. No that seems perfectly normal to me. What is sort-of amazing to my mind is just how many terrific people they are getting to perform in them, and in the case of The Jungle Book, just how rather good the final product is.
This new version of The Jungle Book was directed by Jon Favreau and stars Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, and Scarlett Johansson. Calling it "live action" is a bit of a stretch as the boy Mogwi (Neel Sethi) is the only thing in the film that’s not computer generated. That I would not have guessed that to be true had I not heard it on a podcast before watching the film is a testament to just how far computer-generated animation has come.
It is not a great film by any means and certainly doesn’t live up to the original, (read our review of that film's Diamond Edition Blu-ray here) but it is fun, family entertainment. I saw it with my daughter and wife in the theatre and we all had a great time.
The recent remake of Pete’s Dragon has scored some good reviews and I’m super excited by the upcoming Emma Watson retelling of Beauty and the Beast, all of which turns my initial skepticism of Disney remaking all their old classics into something more akin to hopefulness. That’s enough to make The Jungle Book my pick of the week. [Read Steve Geise's review.]
Also out this week that looks interesting:
Chimes at Midnight (Criterion Collection): Orson Welles wrote, starred in and directed this 1965 film about the relationship between Fallstaff and Prince Hal, two characters created by William Shakespeare. Like so many of Welles' films, this one had a lot of trouble getting made, was not initially liked upon first release, but has since grown in favor. It has been unavailable for legal viewing for years but now Criterion is giving it its due.
Arrow: The Complete Fourth Season: Try as I might, I just can’t get into this show. Which is disappointing because I really rather like The Flash and they do a lot of crossover episodes with Arrow characters but Arrow just doesn’t have the same buoyancy as The Flash and it just leaves me flat.
Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two: An animated series which depicts the events of the formation of the Rebel Alliance and its various missions several years before the events of A New Hope. I’m a little on the fence with these animated Star Wars series, but this one has gotten good reviews.
Shameless: The Complete Sixth Season: Based on a British show, this Showtime series is about a dysfunctional family lead by an alcoholic dad (played by the wonderful William H. Macy). I caught a few episodes back in the day and while it had its charms its never tempted me to come back.
Me Before You: Emilia Clarke stars in this drama about a small-town girl who forms a bond with the paralyzed man she’s taking care of. It's gotten terrible reviews but it also stars Jenna Coleman so my nerd self wants to watch just for those two ladies.
The Night Manager: Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman, and Tom Hiddleston star in this adaptation of a John Le Carré novel about a hotel manager being recruited by intelligence agents to infiltrate an arms-dealing network.
Destiny: Fritz Lang’s tale of destiny and death gets a Blu-ray release. For more details, read the press release.
The Immortal Story (Criterion Collection): Another Orson Welles film gets the Criterion treatment. This one, based upon a Isak Dinesen story was originally aired on French television and later played in theaters, stars Welles as a wealthy merchant who becomes obsessed with an old story about a rich man who pays a sailor to impregnate his wife. Davy calls the film "a marvel of deep emotion and haunting spareness."