The Jungle Book, 2016 is Fun Action/Adventure for the Whole Family

by Kailee Maeda

The_Jungle_Book_(2016)One of the most highly anticipated films of the year was none other than Disney’s The Jungle Book.  Directed by the very well known, Jon Favreau (Swingers, Iron Man), The Jungle Book takes the audience along side the man cub, Mowgli, as he ventures through the jungle attempting to find safety.  With a cast filled with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, the audience is granted a unique experience as each actor comes to life on screen through the computer generated characters.  This film, based on Rudyard Kipling’s story and Disney’s classic animated version, is a thrilling live-action adventure that includes amazing technological advances, creating a truly remarkable visual experience.

102727_030The Jungle Book sticks fairly close to the original plot, although, it includes a much darker feel compared to the animated version.  There are lives lost, and much more realistically violent battle scenes.  However, these are balanced with the familiarity of the original musical compositions.  During the film the audience follows the adventures of Mowgli, a man cub who has been raised by a family of wolves.  However, when a dangerous and powerful tiger known as, Shere Khan, begins to see him as a threat, Mowgli must find sanctuary elsewhere.  The cast for this film is very impressive.  It includes GOlden Globe winner Idris Elba as the voice of Shere Khan, Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley as the voice of Bagheera, comedian Bill Murray as the voice of Baloo, screen beauty Scarlett Johansson as the voice of Kaa, cult icon Christopher Walken as the voice of King Louie, Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o as the voice of Raksha, and character actor Giancarlo Esposito as the voice of Akela.  

3056512-poster-p-1-want-to-vacation-like-mowgli-in-jungle-book-airbnb-has-treehouses-at-the-readyThe only actor that is human on screen is newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli the man cub; the rest are represented through photorealistic computer generated animals.  The visual aspects of this film are absolutely jaw dropping; I felt as if I was submerged into the jungle right beside Mowgli.  The vibrant colors of the scenery, as well as the photorealistic computer generated animals truly give the audience a one of a kind movie going experience.  I was also amazed to discover that the entire film was shot on a set, rather than on location.  The blend of the photorealism of the CGI technology with the action in this film is so perfect that the audience is misguided into thinking the setting is an actual jungle.  The Jungle Book combines advanced cinema technology and storytelling with live-action adventure, creating a truly amazing film.

TJB-Footage-6This film was most definitely a cinematic success in my eyes.  Perhaps, most of this is due to the expensive technology that was used to create the extravagant visuals. Nonetheless, this revamped version of Rudyard Kipling’s, The Jungle Book, is one of the many true successes of Disney.  A 3D version of this film was offered as well, however, I decided to watch the normal version because as a rule I do not like 3D films.  It was absolutely captivating.  I found myself whisked back to my childhood.  Hearing the original songs played through the amazing theatre speakers only helped to enhance my experience.  The sound production also had an immense impact on the film’s overall success.  Everything from atmosphere sounds to the roars of the many animals in the jungle were vibrant and full of life.  And the action sequences were made all the more realistic through the careful production of sound effects.  As an audience member I was able to hear every single detail of the fights; sharp claws, snarls, screams, etc.  In one particular scene there is a fire in the jungle, and I swear the crackling of the flames appear to be licking at your ear lobes.  Other sound effects that particularly impressed me were, the sounds of the water in the river, the rain, and the precise difference in footsteps for each character, whether they be paws, hooves, or whatever.  Overall, this film definitely thrived on sound and photorealistic technology.

MV5BMTkyNTUxMDczMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTUzNDA4NjE@._V1_CR39,0,1842,1036_AL_UY268_CR10,0,477,268_AL_If you’re a fan of all things Disney or Rudyard Kipling’s creations, I would strongly recommend seeing this film.  If you’re not particularly a fan of either, but you enjoy action films, I would still highly recommend giving this film a chance.  The Jungle Book is a perfect combination of an action-based adventure, with a true family feel to it.  In my opinion, The Jungle Book is enjoyable for all ages and it’s rated PG.  Overall, there is no question that this film will take its place among Disney’s many classics.

Zootopia: a Film for Animation Fans of All Ages

by Chad Osborne

movie_poster_zootopia_866a1bf2Like many animated films, we get a childlike adventure seeing several different characters come to life in the unusual world of Zootopia.  This world, however, is not very different from ours, except for the fact it’s filled with animals.  Zootopia is a story about a small rabbit trying to keep up with the larger animals around her (I challenge anyone not to see this as a metaphor for the Western World’s way of life).  In this case an eager young Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), struggles to pursue her dream of becoming the first “rabbit” cop in the great city of Zootopia. Along the way she soon finds out that the job is more challenging than it seems, and in more ways than she cold ever have imagined.

images-3Visually, this film pleases the eye with the impressive art design, especially in the depiction of the variety of biodiversity settings, each relative to the many species of animals that live in the city of Zootopia.  Although the narrative does follow the style of “the hero’s journey”, it does not portray a story that seems in any way generic.  Not at all.  Quite the contrary, the plot adds several twists, keeping you involved every step of the way as Judy learns one lessons after another about the realities of the world in which she lives.

imagesAs the pursuit progresses across the city’s many districts the changing biodiversity challenges each character to adapt (or not) to the worlds of Zootopia.  It is literally a survival of the fittest as the mysteries continue to pile up for Judy and her sidekick Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly fox whose street-wise personality contrasts perfectly with Judy’s fresh optimism.  The film virtually jumps off the screen with exploding movements and quick action that pulls you through the streets of the city, taking you to the next level of crime solving mystery as the two unlikely companions try to unravel the case.

zootopia3Beyond its visual appeal, the film does a very good job getting the audience to relate to the adorable animated characters through the everyday life situations they undertake.  The lead character undergoes several stages of struggle, which shows her growing process as to how she finds out who she really is.  It leaves us with the lesson – it does not matter how small you are, you still can do great things.  This is definitely a film that does not leave you thinking of it as a child’s movie, but rather I feel as though all ages will relate to it.

images-1While all the elements of this film meet their goals, the one particular element that really stands out is sound.  Although this is true about most animated features, Zootopia really out does the minimum requirement by adding extra effects when needed.  After all, Judy is a speedy rabbit, full of ambition and courage, creating a lot of movement with every action.  As Judy Hopps struggles to complete her training she is surrounded by larger animals who gather in a pack, stomping loudly around her.  But this does not stop her from zipping around them or through the streets of Zootopia, past loud cars and through the commotion of people.  The audible bustling of the city life of Zootopia brings a plethora of different sounds that enhance the excitement of the story.  This adds to the greatness that Zootopia has to offer audiences.  It’s not just another “kid film” with a simple story.  I encourage you to take the time to watch a corny rabbit, a sly fox and some hysterical slow-moving sloths all in a large world of an animal running society and you will see what I am talking about and become a fan of yet another Disney family blockbuster.

Don’t Think Twice: The Spotlight’s Not For Everyone, and Neither is This Movie

by Carrie Specht   

dont-think-twiceI had absolutely no interest in seeing a film about improv artists.  Especially one cast with a bunch of virtual no-names led by a some-what known Keegan-Michael Key. I find the man very likable, but I have an aversion to improv – only because it’s usually very painful to watch. Email after email appeared in my in box about various screening opportunities and I still had no interest.  In fact, it wasn’t until I received notice of a press luncheon that involved a beer and wine tasting that I reconsidered my position on improv.  Needless to say, I was suddenly very interested.  I’ll admit it was the promise of free food and alcohol that got me to make the trek from Riverside to Hollywood, but I’m glad I did.  Now, it’s not as if I discovered some amazing film that spoke to the creative spirit in all of us.  No.  You’d have to be a struggling artist of some type to really get the significance of this film.  But Don’t Think Twice is entertaining as long as you don’t set your expectations too high.  It offers an amusing inside look at the struggles of those scraping to survive at the fringes of the entertainment industry, even if it does offer an all too convenient ending.

thumbnail_24450Set in New York City, Don’t Think Twice portrays a group of six improv players as fun loving friends who have been working together so long and know each other so well that even making fun of a members dying father’s speech impediment is not off limits (the moment is actually quite funny and extremely well delivered by Tami Sagher).  The main dramatic question for these lovable imps seems to be whether or not any of them will “make it” and be successful.  Initially, success means landing a coveted spot on the long running TV comedy sketch show, “Weekend Live” (I guess they couldn’t get permission to use the name Saturday Night Live).  The improv group is very good at what they do, and have a full audience at every one of their immensely popular shows, but is that enough?  Should it be enough?  Or should they want more?  And is more a true barometer of success? These questions are placed at the forefront when two of the friends (Key and Gillian Jacobs) are chosen to audition for the revered television show.  The “aging” thirty-somethings suddenly begin to question their talents and the validity of their pursuits, ultimately coming to terms with what success means to each of them.

1280x720-6D7Sounds nice.  And it is nice. The performances are nice, and the film leaves you with an overall nice feeling. However, the niceness leaves little room for any real conflict.  There’s a passing mention of losing the theater space they’ve been in for years, but there doesn’t seem to be any concern wasted on it.  There’s animosity toward the two who have been chosen to audition by the other four, but that’s simple petty, professional jealousy.  And there’s resentment from the group toward the member who is independently wealthy, but other than accusing her of having nothing at stake it goes nowhere (come to think of it, why didn’t she save their theater space?). But other than a peevish moment outside of a club where harsh words are exchanged, there’s nothing really at risk in the story, and ultimately everything is resolved all to cleanly. I’m not looking for Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman or Chekov’s Uncle Vanya, but a closer look at the real struggles of these characters would have been for more interesting, even in a comedy.  What little time is spent on the awkward, insecurity of two characters (Kate Micucci and Chris Gethard) is really intriguing.  I would have liked more of that, and less of the all too pleasant break of the two involved characters.

dontthinktwice1It all comes down to the inexperience of writer/director, Mike Birbiglia, whose own character as it happens was the only one fully fleshed out.  He seems to have been too nice in his writing and way too nice in his directing.  Comedy needs some drama.  Without it, you’ve got something more suited for a family friendly cable station (not that’s anything wrong with that) and not a movie theater.