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Review: ‘The Jungle Book’ Is A Visually Stunning New Classic

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The Jungle Book Mowgli Baloo MovieSpoon.com

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]isney’s live-action stabs at rebooting their properties are usually hit or miss, but Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book is a home run. Similar to 2015’s Cinderella, this latest interpretation of Rudyard Kipling’s iconic novel series respects both the source material and the more familiar Disney animated movie.

The Jungle Book Mowgli Bagheera MovieSpoon.com

‘The Jungle Book’ gives a new look to a classic story.

Wonderfully nostalgic yet uniquely distinct, there’s an unmistakable magic in this flawless adventure picture that is destined to be a classic. I hope it will achieve such a status to wipe the lesser 1994 live-action version off the map into obscurity.

The story never tries too hard to appeal to audiences young or old. It’s easy to be invested in the character of Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a human boy raised by wolves that desires to be a part of the jungle society. He can understand the colorful characters that make up this world from the parental panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) to the easygoing bear Baloo (Bill Murray) to the sinister snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) to the behemoth orangutan King Louie (Christopher Walken) to the darkly-conspiring tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba).

Though he can read their language, Mowgli struggles to read their motives. Some want to protect him, some want to kill him and others just want to use him for the powers of fire. All the while Mowgli finds himself questioning where he belongs in nature and if he should leave the jungle.

Jungle Book Bagheera MovieSpoon.com

Mowgli’s interactions with the digital animals like Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) in ‘The Jungle Book’ are pulled off perfectly.

With the majority of the cast being animal characters, the key for such a picture lies in the visual effects. If you can’t buy that Mowgli is interacting with real bears and panthers, the illusion is broken. At the same time, you don’t want the animals to be too realistic as they have to speak and eventually sing a song or two.

I’m proud to report that the stellar visual effects artists behind this picture have managed to create that perfect depiction of Kipling’s fantastic world. The jungle and its creatures exist in an almost dreamlike state of wonder as though you could step into its world to rest on Baloo’s chest or dash across trees alongside wolves.

Inspiration for the style of the picture comes from many sources, but the original animated movie is acknowledged in this version. Two of the songs are carried over: Baloo’s “Bear Necessities” and King Louie’s “I Wanna Be Like You.” More surprising than how well these songs mesh into the tone of the story is how brilliantly they’re sung by Bill Murray and Christopher Walken. With such recognizable comedic voices, the mere mention of them singing most likely conjures up smirks with the expectation of them hamming up the numbers. Yes, believe it or not, Walken does a stellar job at singing “I Wanna Be Like You” without the expected pauses of his speech mannerisms.

The Jungle Book King Louie MovieSpoon.com

Christopher Walken voices the threatening King Louie in ‘The Jungle Book.’

The collective cast of animal-voicing actors doesn’t feel out of place in that they are presented with a great deal of wonder and detail. You may not take King Louie seriously as a threat if he were a regular-sized orangutan, but appearing as a giant that eats handfuls of bananas like peanuts in the darkness of a temple makes him a little more terrifying. Mowgli’s escape from Louie’s kingdom is an incredibly exciting feat as he dashes through tight tunnels with Louie’s large hands reaching through the cracks to snatch him.

While escaping the clutches of Shere Khan, Mowgli zips through a field with a following pack of beasts nearly stomping over him. Even the opening scene of Mowgli practicing his agility with Bagheera quickly dazzles the eyes and makes the heart race. For a movie with an abundance of chase scenes, they rarely feel repetitive or tired in how they’re shot. While the script respects the books, the cinematography is practically an ode to the energy and visuals of Tarzan.

 

The 1961 animated adaptation still holds a special place in my heart for being one of the last animated films under Walt Disney’s eye and containing its own special charm. But Favreau’s version represents something more – a sense of grand adventure and deeper themes to go along with its musical fun. I found myself so amazed by its visual effects, straight storytelling and spot-on casting. If a grown man such as I was on the edge of my seat, I can only imagine how kids are going to react to such a picture.

It’ll be very interesting to see in a few decades how this generation looks back on such a picture. My hope is that it’ll be regarded with the same resonance as Star Wars or E.T. – something truly special that can and should be shared with generations to come.

[author title=”About The Author” image=”http://popstermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/mark_mcpherson-300×221-150×150.jpg”]Movie nut Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.[/author]

Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Have you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. 😉

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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