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The Jungle Book Spectacular Revival Of Disney’s Family Favourite

The Jungle Book Spectacular Revival Of Disney’s Family Favourite

Hyperborean digital animation meets old-fashioned storytelling in this faithful remake, which loses the songs but brings new, ingenious twists on the original.

What on earth is the point of remaking Walt Disney’s great and possibly greatest masterpiece, the glorious animated musical from 1967, based on Kipling’s tales, all about the “man cub” Mowgli, brought up by wolves in the Indian jungle – famously the last film to get Disney’s personal touch? A remake which furthermore leaves old-fashioned animation behind, departing for the live-action uncanny valley of hypertext CGI, which hermetically loses most of the songs and which also abandons the original’s last, unforgettably exotic glimpse of a real-life human girl?Well, no point really … other than simply to create a terrifically enjoyable piece of old-fashioned storytelling and a beautiful-looking film: spectacular, exciting, funny and fun.

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Jungle Book Cast Portraits

Jungle Book Cast Portraits read more

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Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens Review

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens Review

“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” is the film that J.J. Abrams was put on Earth to make, as evidenced by the “Star Wars” echoes in his hit series “Lost,” and the way he kept trying to turn “Star Trek” into “Star Wars.” These tendencies could seem cutesy or irritating elsewhere, but they make sense in an according-to-Hoyle “Star Wars” movie. This new one, set 30 years after the events of “Return of the Jedi,” is funny, touching, and surprisingly light-footed. It boasts a lot of familiar elements, including Skywalker family mythology and another Death Star-type weapon, as well as self-aware lines about how things work in this series. The film ultimately runs up against the limitations of its own nature: like the James Bond films, the “Star Wars” movies are pretty much obligated to revisit certain elements, to the point where they might feel played out even if they hadn’t been raided by other films, TV shows and books (including Harry Potter). But it’s still an exhilarating ride, filled with archetypal characters with plausible psychologies, melodramatic confrontations fueled by soaring emotions, and performances that can be described as good, period, rather than “good, for ‘Star Wars.'”

And it’s a treat to see beloved older characters placed beside new ones in situations that respect Lucas’ myth-making but correct his flaws as a storyteller, including the default whiteness of his casts.

Not only have Abrams and his co-writers, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, centered the story on a young woman and a man of color (played respectively by Daisy Ridley and John Boyega), they’ve made them so compelling and quirky that the film never seems to be putting an up-to-date wrapping on moldy clichés.

Like all of the new characters, they seem to live and breathe. When they earn the respect of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) by improvising a solution to a technical problem, or grab a lightsaber and start swinging, the result is not merely a crowd-pleasing display of heroics; it’s an affirmation that a good movie with a good heart can serve as everyone’s mirror.

Decades after Darth Vader threw his master down an elevator shaft, the galaxy is still wracked by war. The Republic is still the Republic, but now they’re not-too-secretly financing the rebellion against the remnants of the Empire, which has been supplanted by something called the First Order. The Empire went into retreat in “Jedi” when Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) turned his father back toward the light side of The Force. But the Empire’s remnants were tenacious. Now that Luke has gone into hiding following a disastrous attempt to train a new class of Jedi, they’ve gained strength and audacity, and built a variation of the Death Star that’s embedded in a living planet—basically an artillery cannon with intergalactic range. The re-branded Imperials look and sound even more Nazi-like than the villains from the first trilogy. One of the only scenes where Abrams completely overdoes it (which is hard to do in a “Star Wars” movie) is the rally prior to the super weapon’s inaugural blast: the supreme commander of the First Order (Domnhall Gleeson) addresses tens of thousands of troops arranged in Leni Riefenstahl patterns, jamming his pasty face into the camera and practically spitting into the lens. read more

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