The much-anticipated “Lion King” opened in theaters last Friday. It’s so big we brought in a guest reviewer to help.
A couple of big-budget busts arrive in home video: “Alita: Battle Angel” and “Hellboy.”
It’s Viewing the Videos.
Art Theatre Specials
Long Beach’s Art Theatre offers up several unique showings this week.
Thursday night, the Jack Curtis Ensemble will accompany the silent film “The Black Pirate” from 1926. I saw this group accompany another silent movie earlier this year and it is a unique and enjoyable experience. 7 p.m. Thursday, July 25.
“Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blanché” screens this weekend. It’s the story of the first female filmmaker, her 20-year career in the late 1800s and early 1900s and her subsequent almost complete removal from cinema history. Showing at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The Art Theatre is at 2025 E. Fourth St. and their website is www.artheate.longbeach.org
Alita: Battle Angel
You expect great deal from a movie that‘s 20 years in the making, has $20 million budget, is directed by Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City” and “Spy Kids”) and co-written by James Cameron (“Titanic” and “Avatar.”)
It’s big disappointment.
Alita (Rosa Salazar) has her human brain inserted into a cyborg body by scientist Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz),
The movie can’t decide if it’s a Frankenstein movie (recreating life in a new body), a sci-fi fiction movie about a young freedom fighter (the Battle Angel) or a young adult romance.
Trying to do all these things, it succeeds at nothing.
The viewers opinions of “Alita: Battle Angel” depend on your expectations.
If your expectations are relatively low, “Alita: Battle Angel” is a fun, action-packed version of a MANGA comic book.
“Hellboy" is another big budget disappointment.
Without doubt, “Hellboy” is the worst movie of 2019.
Hellboy is a half-demon summoned to earth by the Nazis. He eventually developed into a very tall, red-skinned adult with horns on his forehead, which he files down to stumps, a tail, hooves for feet and a large right hand made of stone.
Instead of the creativity of Guillermo del Toro who directed two earlier versions of “Hellboy,“ the audience is subjected an almost unending stream of mythical nonsense about secret societies, King Arthur, Nazis, British Intelligence, zombies and Hellboy’s hero, Lobster Johnson.
Missing Link (Animated)
A magical combination of stop-motion photography and conventional animation, “Missing Link” is the story of a Sasquatch (or Mr. Link) and the adventurer who helps him find his real home in the Himalayas.
Mr. Link (voiced by Zack Galifianakis) is more tender and emotional than the usual Sasquatch/Abominable Snowman/Yeti.
Explorer Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) pursues the Missing Link in hopes of getting into a Victorian England explorer’s society.
Traveling across the world, Frost and Mr. Link end up in Shangri-La, presided over by a less than welcoming Queen (Emma Thompson), which provides an interesting and unexpected conclusion to this great adventure.
“Missing Link” is special in both story and visual presentation.
I’m stepping aside this week for a guest reviewer.
Jesse Lopez is Digital Creative Specialist at the Grunion and as you will see, knowledgeable movie fan and especially a fan of all things Disney.
He has plenty to say about the new version of “The Lion King” and I think you’ll find it entertaining and informative.
The Lion King
Let me start by getting one thing out of the way.
I grew up with the original “Lion King” (1994) and I, like so many other Disneyphiles my age, hold this animated masterpiece very near and dear to my heart.
So, when Disney announced that the “Lion King” was its next live-action release, I was incredibly excited. Disney has (in my opinion) been on a successful streak of sorts with the recent release of live-action remakes such as “Dumbo,” “Alice in Wonderland” and most recently, “Aladdin.” Add in the pedigree of talent attached to the “Lion King” remake from stars Donald Glover, Beyoncé, James Earl Jones and the directorial skills of Jon Favreau, and you’ve got yourself all the ingredients for another remake blockbuster … or at least that was the hope.
This is the part where I’d normally talk about the story and give you a synopsis of it. But to do this would be pointless.
This incarnation of the “Lion King” is essentially a shot-for-shot remake that, unlike its predecessor, is somehow 30 minutes longer (chalk that up to a new song by Queen Bey and a gratuitous amount of additional shots of that scream “look, look, look how real this all is”). And when I say shot-for-shot, I mean SHOT-FOR-SHOT.
From the opening musical number “Circle Of Life” to its climactic fight to the death between young Simba and his evil uncle Scar, “Lion King 2019” is essentially an HD version of the original.
What They Did Right
As you can probably tell by now, I’m not a fan of this movie, but that’s not to say there are no redeeming qualities. I think it would be impossible to have so many talented people involved in a project of this scope and not get some tiny nuggets of good out of it.
The two standouts in my opinion have to be the performances of Billy Eichner and Seth Rogan as the characters Timon and Pumbaa. The other is the incredible, life-like CGI-animation of the animals and environments — but more on those in a moment.
Eichner and Rogan give the film a much-needed boost of comedic energy that is so enjoyable that at times rivals if not surpasses the incredible performances of Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella in the original “Lion King.” Perhaps because of the nature of the characters and their comedic intentions, Timon and Pumbaa reflect the only liberties the filmmakers decided to take. Unfortunately this only highlights how incredibly dull and unoriginal the rest of the movie feels.
The CGI was another highlight of the film but not in the way you’d expect. The vistas are incredible, a sight to behold on the largest of screens. The level of realism achieved in “Lion King 2019” is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The earth, the water and the air are all rendered to such detail that at times you forget everything you’re seeing onscreen isn’t real.
And the animals are incredible! From the tiny field mouse at the beginning of the film to the epic Mufasha — every hair, every muscle is on screen for all to admire.
What They Got Wrong
Speaking of epic CGI, yes, the animals looked amazingly lifelike — but maybe a little too “lifelike.” The “Lion King 2019” looks and feels like a National Geographic documentary with talking animals (which works, but as this film proves, you need more than moving mouths to give a great performance).
The animals of “Lion King 2019,” with all of their realism, feel incredibly hollow in their performance.
Maybe it’s nostalgia or my brief foray with intro acting classes in college, but if you can’t act with your eyes, then you can’t act, and that’s a huge problem for this movie. There are parts of the film where you hear the characters but you can’t tell who’s talking.
And then there are the eyes. Those big, expressive, signature Disney eyes are now gone in favor of dark and lifeless eyes that, although realistic, make the animals look like, well … animals and not characters in a movie that needs to belt out musical numbers and show nuances that help tell this Shakespearean story.
Just as important to the retelling of the “Lion King” is its music. And although all of the original film’s musical sequences are featured once again, the performances leave much to be desired.
Like so many other elements in this film, the music feels phoned in and without much feeling. The new song by Beyoncé feels out of place and unnecessary. And again, the only redeeming aspect of its soundtrack is the performance of Timon and Pumbaa’s (Eichner and Rogan) “Hakunka Matata.”
Should I Go See It?
Should you go see this movie? It depends. If you love the original “Lion King,” then I would suggest skipping this incarnation of the beloved classic. For all its pros, "Lion King 2019" is a reminder of the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Watching this CGI remake as a fan of the original was incredibly frustrating.
You see things you want to like, things you remember but you just can’t quite get there.
But if you’re looking for basic (and I mean BASIC) entertainment that will keep you cool at the movies in these hot summer months, then “Lion King” is here for your viewing pleasure unless “Spider-Man: Far From Home” still has seats. Then go see that instead.
Two Palm Trees. Wait for it on Disney+, the new pay Disney Channel coming this fall, watch 15 minutes and switch over to the original 1994 classic.
FROM THE VAULT
Director Jon Favreau (“The Lion King”) is a master filmmaker helming massive movies like “Iron Man” and “Jungle Book.” In 2014, he wrote, directed and starred in a much smaller, but warm and emotional story of a head chef who quits his restaurant job and begins a cross-country trip with a food truck to reclaim his personal and professional lives.
HOW WE RATE THE FILMS
Home videos are simply rated recommended or not recommended.
New Releases are rated as follows:
Five Palm Trees: Must see
Four Palm Trees: Worth seeing on the big screen
Three Palm Trees: Recommended for home viewing or on the big screen
Two Palm Trees: OK if you’re not paying
One Palm Tree: Skip it. Save your money and your time.