A remake and sequels released this week. “The Lion King” remake in home video is a technological marvel. The sequels are in theaters with “Zombieland 2: Double Tap” and an evil fairy in in “Maleficent: The Mistress of Evil.”
It’s Viewing the Videos.
The latest version of “The Lion King” was almost entirely created with spectacular computer creations of extremely life-like African animals. It was a new take on the 1994 conventional animation version.
Guest reviewer and Gazette Senior Graphic Designer Jesse Lopez had these observations on the new “Lion King”:
If you love the original Lion King I 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.
Lopez gave “The Lion King” Two Palm Trees, which means it’s okay if it’s for free. He urged viewers to wait for it on Disney+, the new video service launching next month, watch 15 minutes and switch over to the original 1994 classic.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is a magnificent contemporary take on a classic fairy tale of queens and spells, of fairies and talking animals.
As a sequel to the 2014 “Maleficent,” it might not be as good as the original, but it’s quite enjoyable.
It’s a movie that is dramatic enough to be scary for children but not too childish for adults, featuring the imperious Angelina Jolie as Maleficent.
Set five years after the first movie, Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) is ruling as Queen of the Moors. Prince Philip proposes marriage and she accepts. But at dinner including Maleficent (who raised Aurora) and Phillip’s parents Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) and King John (Robert Lindsay), Maleficent puts a curse on the king.
Fairy Tale fantasy movies can be pretentious and ponderous, but director Jochim Ronnig (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”) keeps things moving along. He does stumble a bit when making the scenes involving Maleficent mostly bleak and dull. He’s doing this on purpose to enhance the evil mood of Maleficent, but it slows things down.
Michelle Pfeiffer turns in a strong performance as Queen Ingrith. Standing up to Jolie’s Maleficent and her computer enhanced sharp-edged cheekbones requires considerable skill and Pfeiffer is up to the challenge. We quickly learn that Queen Ingrith might not be as good as we think she is, as Pfeiffer bring numerous levels to the portrayal.
Special effects are, well, very special. Especially the Moors, ruled over by Aurora. It’s an absolute explosion of sparking colors, talking plants and animals. Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville return as three flighty fairies (or fays as they are known), with their faces inserted by computer onto tiny flying bodies.
The plot is complex, with an underground culture of Dark Feys, that were almost exterminated by humans. Maleficent is one of the last remaining Feys, who believe she can lead them to end the conflict with humans.
Solid entertainment by a group of total professionals.
Three Palm Trees.
Zombieland: Double Tap
Another quality sequel hits the theater this week. “Zombieland: Double Tap” is a follow-up to the 2009 film, where a nerdy college kid meets up with three strangers fleeing the zombie apocalypse.
The new “Zombieland” hits the ground running and doesn’t let up for its ideal (for a comedy movie) running time of 99 minutes. Unlike “Maleficent,” this is definitely for adults in terms of language and really graphic violence. There’s an almost endless succession of deaths by decapitations, deaths by shotguns, deaths by axes — there’s quite a few.
The violence and foul language is not gratuitous. It seems totally understandable as the “family” that formed at the end of the first movie lives in the abandoned White House for a while before deciding to embark on a trip to visit the Graceland home of Elvis Presley.
The family (all returning from the first movie) is:
Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), narrator and author of a number of rules about dealing with zombies.
Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee, kind of the father figure, but hardcore when it comes to dealing with zombies.
Emma Stone, as Wichita, a love interest for Tallahassee and tough herself.
And Abigail Breslin is Little Rock who was a kid in the first film, but now is much more of an adult, with desires appropriate to a person her age, but not afraid to waste a zombie or three when necessary.
On the way, they are joined by Madison, who has been living in the freezer of a Pinkberry and gives new dimension and humor to the usually mundane role of a ditzy blonde.
Zoey Deutch is Madison, and it’s not a big role, but she takes things over, not an easy thing to do in the company of actors like Harrelson, Stone and Eisenberg.
Part of the appeal of this movie is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The actors are all believable (or as believable as they can be in a zombie movie), but they let the audience know they’re in on the joke without looking down on that audience.
Things move along briskly with the family traveling for a while in a luxury RV that survives multiple gunshots, which cause the family to christen The T-800 in honor of the Terminator movies.
After Graceland in Memphis, the family heads to a commune with a no-guns policy, which proves to be a problem when the zombies attack.
Fear not, as Tallahassee has a plan that includes fireworks, an exploding tank of biofuel and more axes.
“Zombieland: Double Tap” is a high-energy jolt of entertainment for adults.
Three Palm Trees.
FROM THE VAULT
The Social List
Jesse Eisenberg is our new renaissance man. He writes and appears in Broadway plays and writes articles for “The New Yorker.” He wields shotguns and other weapons of mayhem against Zombies in movies and he starred in “The Social List,” Aaron Sorkin’s engrossing story of the creation of Facebook.
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.