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The Lion King 3D: Relive the Disney Classic in All its Majesty
Full disclosure: This reviewer is a huge Disney fan, especially when it comes to their classic musicals.
Before going to see the film, this reviewer was irked at Disney. Releasing The Lion King in 3D was almost tantamount to a confession that they were incapable of making any more films that were of a Disney classics calibre.
Now let’s be straight here. The 3D in The Lion King 3D was wholly unnecessary. It just adds a subtle sense of depth to the images, which are completely spectacular in regular 2D. The only sequence that might have actually benefitted from the 3D was Scar’s ‘Be Prepared’, one of the more underappreciated songs in the Disney canon. Forever eclipsed by ‘I Just Can’t Wait to Be King’, ‘Hakuna Matata’ and ‘The Circle Of Life’, ‘Be Prepared’ shines especially brightly here, adding to Scar’s already highly menacing presence.
The big draw here is seeing The Lion King in a form befitting its majesty; on the silver screen in the middle of a hulk of like-minded fans. The vast majority of the cinema audience grew up being charmed by Disney’s classics on video, watching them on repeat and singing along. On a huge screen with the sound engulfing you, this charm is magnified into grandeur. Sharing this with others only adds to the experience.
And while the animation is universally lauded, you come away with a new appreciation for the magnificent voice work, in particular Rowan Atkinson’s prissy Zazu and Jeremy Iron’s deceitful Scar. Many of the characters in this film tread the line between comic and campy perfectly, in particular the Hyenas and Timon and Pumba. One absolutely golden scene that this reviewer had forgotten was Timon dressed in drag and hula dancing, backed up by Pumba in a ploy to distract the hyenas so that Simba could get past them to Scar. This scene in particular had us in stitches.
This is truly what you’d deem a classic. It’s timeless and hasn’t aged a bit despite everyone knowing every scene by heart. The story is every bit as relatable today and the jokes are still thigh-slappingly funny even if you find yourself supplying the punchline before the characters do. Mufasa’s death is still as traumatic as the first time we watched him get murdered and Simba’s reclamation of his throne is euphoric. Go see The Lion King 3D and take with you one of those kids that were born in the wrong millennium.
Those going in expecting an action-packed sci-fi adventure, complete with explosions, flying space-ship battles and a full-on war between humans and their extraterrestrial visitors, will be severely disappointed with Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival. Taking on a more philosophical approach to things, Arrival is an intelligent and a thought-provoking alien-invasion thriller which revels in its own complexity and manages strike all of the right chords, but for a few missteps.
Based on Ted Chiang’s short story titled Story of your Life, the film begins with the arrival of twelve mysterious alien spacecrafts which position themselves at twelve different locations around the globe, igniting fear and paranoia amongst the residents of Earth.
Recruited by Colonel Weber (Whittaker), linguist Louise Banks (Adams) – along with mathematician Ian Donnelly (Renner) – is brought to Montana to help deal with the possible threat by making contact with the aliens in order find out who they are and what their intentions may be.
However, establishing communication with the visitors is not as easy as one would have hoped with Louise soon discovering that the aliens have their own language which uses symbols to communicate. Deciphering their tongue into a language they can understand is no easy task and with the threat of a global war between humans and aliens on the verge of a breakout, Louise must work hard to suppress her own personal demons in order to get the breakthrough she, and everyone else on the planet, needs.
Following his success with a character-driven drama like Prisoners and intense drug-thriller, Sicario, Villeneuve turns to sci-fi this time and manages to deliver yet another impressive – and by far the most ambitious – piece of work. Tackling some rather big questions about life, time and what makes us human, the script - written by Eric Heisserer - works as both a character-focused drama and a sweeping sci-fi adventure. Drenched in an enigmatic aura of the unknown, the pacing is slow and purposeful with Villeneuve unraveling the story’s mysteries steadily but thoroughly, keeping the tension and momentum high, while composer Johann Johansson’s original score, infuses the story with plenty of atmosphere and mood.
Delivering yet another powerful performance, it’s not a stretch to say that Amy Adams is the true star of the show; embracing her character’s strength and vulnerability with plenty of presence and grace, Adams delivers on all fronts, while Renner, although not used as much, is quietly effective.
All in all, Arrival is a winner and although it does struggle a little bit with trying not getting too lost in its own complex ideas, it’s one of the most thought-provoking, touching and moving sci-fi films you will see this year.
As an exploration of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the military, Dito Montiel’s Man Down is a muddled story that’s pretty challenging to sit through. Though on paper there’s plenty of potential depth in this particular effect of war – and a solid cast at its disposable – the film descends into military-movie clichés, while not really keeping up with its complex set-up.
The movie to take place over four separate time periods and opens with U.S Marine Gabriel Drummer (LeBeouf) and his military buddy, Devin Roberts (Courtney), making their way through a vast and seemingly wasted American landscape which appears to have been destroyed by a chemical attack. On the look-out for survivors, the pair is hoping to find Drummer’s son, Jonathan (Shotwell), whom he believes has been kidnapped.
Before the audience gets a chance to find out what is really going in, the story flashes back to another time period where a seemingly distraught Drummer is being interviewed by Counselor Peyton (Oldman) about an ‘incident’ that occurred on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Moving on to yet to another period, we also get to see the story of Drummer and Roberts during their Marine Corps training at Camp Lejeune before, eventually, cutting to the story of Drummer’s life at home with wife, Natalie (Mara) and their son.
Taking on several narrative threads without really knowing where to take them, let alone how to put them back together, is one of Man Down’s major issues. Used to give some kind of visual interpretation of PTSD, the movie’s choppy editing is ineffective and comes across as a messy, superficial tool.
Clocking in at precisely ninety minutes, Man Down is a relatively short film but, thanks to the overworked script and slow pace, it takes forever for any of the stories to build into something bigger.
Working its way through a series of military clichés, the story works best when it is focused on digging into Drummer’s fractured mind, with the conversation between him and his counsellor – played by the seemingly wasted talent of one Gary Oldman – serving to be one of the movie’s best elements. LeBeouf is convincing as a troubled soldier desperately trying not to sink deeper into madness and his commitment to the role is commendable, making it all that more frustrating to see that the script itself is so lacking.