(*homocinematically inclined)

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

2019, A Film Odyssey: The Recycle of Life

King of the Bungle

This year's hits you may have missed, flops that you should avoid, hidden gems to discover and more, plus where to watch 'em...

Disney remakes, reimaginings and sequels, oh my:

The Lion King (now available on DVD and Blu-ray, available to stream on Disney+ on January 28):
Jon Favreau’s “photorealistic” update to the 1994 classic leans hard into the realistic part, blindly missing the fact that these characters have to express emotions and, you know, belt out show tunes on the African savanna. The magic is literally erased, i.e.: “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” is stripped of its colorful stylization, while the ghost of Mufasa filling the heavens is replaced with… an empty sky? The overly star-studded voice cast is filled with actors who can’t sing (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and singers who can’t act (BeyoncĂ©), and every funny line from the original is excised for some lame meta ad-lib from Billy Eichner and Seth Rogan. The pioneering virtual reality filming techniques and state of the art computer animation do create some stunning imagery, but this Lion King feels too much like an experimental technological stunt than a worthy heir to the throne. (4/10)

Lady and the Tramp (now streaming on Disney+):
Surprisingly faring better than all of this year’s previous Disney “live action” remakes is this lower stakes streaming offering that puts a fresh spin on the beloved 1955 original, albeit with a few somewhat jarring encroachments from our modern age. A pair of lovable, real dogs (with mouths animated for the speaking voices of Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux) take on this canine Romeo and Juliet tale that all but the most jaded will find a charming, family-friendly outing (granted, on a Disney Channel budget). Alas, this is 2019, so the infamous Siamese cats have been axed, yet in their place is a far more disturbing pair of computer generated felines. But don’t worry, the iconic moonlit spaghetti dinner remains, meatballs and all. (6/10)

Toy Story 4 (now available on DVD and Blu-ray, available to stream on Disney+ February 5):
With friends both old — the terrific Annie Potts as Bo Peep, reimagined as an action heroine — and new — Forky (Tony Hale), a spork with a serious identity crisis; the Evel Knievel-ish Duke Caboom (a perfectly cast Keanu Reeves); and Ducky and Bunny (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), two carnival toys with attitude — join Buzz and Woody and the gang when a family road trip — and a vengeful second-hand store baby doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) — threaten to separate them all for good. You would not be alone if you thought that the adventures of Andy’s toys ended just fine with Pixar’s Oscar-winning Toy Story 3 nine years ago. However, amazingly, this fourth outing justifies its existence as a bittersweet epilogue to that sublime swan song. (8/10)

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

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