Let’s start this week’s review chronologically as I watched them. I have to say that the week started off very slowly.
It was only recently that I managed to watch The Big Lebowski. I am glad that I saw it, as it had some funny moments with irreverent humour. Marble-mouthed Jeff Bridges was pretty understandable as Dude. John Turturro played a fairly minor role as Jesus Quintana, a tough talking bowler. Turturro decided to write and then direct a sequel (well, a loose sequel) called Jesus Rolls. In a word: terrible. I am still unsure what the premise is here. Jesus just gets out of jail and is picked by his friend. They apparently do everything together, share everything together. That is everything. Jesus apparently is comfortable with both men and women. A good cast joined into this project including Susan Sarandon, Audrey Tautou (from Amelie), Jonn Hamm and Christopher Walken. How they were convinced to join in this mess I am at a loss. I won’t delve into it further, since I am trying to forget it quickly. So I would suggest avoiding.
Next I watched Slumdog Millionaire (2008) which was a worthy Best Picture back in the day. The story was well done and well told, with quality acting. This is one of the older films I saw before my reviews seemingly got into full swing. In short this is worth your time. It tells the story of an Indian street rat, who ends up the game show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, and is being questioned as to how he can possibly know the answers to random questions given his station. The story moves from giving answers in the show to the backstory. It all makes sense. Dev Patel plays the young boy. He manages to stay alive in his slums with his brother and this other young girl, who then grow and find new places in life. The young actors are very good. It all ties very well together and is a feel good story. If you actually do the conversion, 20 million rupees is $360,000 CDN. This isn’t retirement for a teenager (at least not in this country) but is obviously more than this young man would have ever seen. If you haven’t watched before, there are worse places to spend your time, if only to see the living conditions in these cities far away from here.
Next, despite my own hesitation I decided to venture to Disney + and watch Captain Marvel. Brie Larson stars, as an Oscar Award winning actress from Room. There aren’t many superhero movies that capture my attention. The Nolan Batman trilogies do, because they were really good movies on their own merit. Wonder Woman was well done. Even Man of Steel had its moments (like its soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, who also did Batman). But Iron Man, the various Spider Mans etc are all just Meh for me. Eventually I may see them, on an airplane or streaming, but not in the theatre. I like Larson. I don’t understand why she signs up for this, other than the financial security that comes with being a character in the Marvel universe who will then become an Avenger (I think). It guarantees money, but won’t push her acting ability, like it hasn’t for Jennifer Lawrence or Scarlett Johannson or Jessica Chastain. Annette Bening, Jude Law and other quality actors join in here too. There is the “with great power comes great responsibility” mantra from Spiderman. But it is a disjointed as the Marvel figures out, like Jason Bourne who she is, and where and what time she came from. The green shape-shifting orc characters are very futuristic, and from a time that I can’t fully place. But then there is a flashback to what seems to be the 80s with F-15 fighter jets, nothing like the space craft and suits, with Samuel L Jackson trying very hard to look and act younger. In short she seems to be a Steve Austin-like pilot put back together for a reason with some powers. Okay. She needs to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad ones. The cat in this film is just silly. Full stop. So add this superhero movie the pile of other predecessors who didn’t capture my attention. I won’t out to see any Avengers movie. Can we see any vulnerability in this character at all? With Superman he at least had Kryptonite. Not sure how Brie gets hurt. But in the words of Arnold in Predator “if it bleeds, then it can be killed”. So maybe. I just don’t care enough to find out.
Finally I stayed with Disney + to catch the “live action”, extended version of The Lion King, directed by Jon Favreau who had much success re-imagining The Jungle Book. Extended because they took a 90 minute original animated film and made it 2 hours. I will admit that the added time doesn’t really add anything to the enjoyment of this version. There is a new song from Beyonce (ugh!! Have I mentioned that I don’t like Beyonce and her screaching. Well I don’t). The others are filler. They brought back some of the original voices, like James Earl Jones, which is a really good thing, but failed to bring back a voice like Jeremy Irons for Scar. Which was too bad. I also didn’t like that they changed the turning point scene with Simba in the watering hole with Rafiki where he sees his reflection and his dead father then appears. For me, it is crucial that he says in the original “Simba you have forgotten me”, to which the son denies it. The Lion King really is a re-telling of Hamlet, and Simba is that frustrating young person unable to take proper revenge for the death of his father. Nathan Lane and his voice was missed. Seth Rogan cannot sing. It sounds like a bunch of negatives, in a movie that has some remarkable, lifelike images of animals in Africa. For me, the live, real life safaris that I watch from Wild Earth in South Africa colour my viewing of this. Yes I see the realistic movement. I also know that hyenas are nowhere like they are portrayed and I miss a real lion roar (Disney decided to use a Tiger roar instead). I mean, really??!! The lion roar isn’t intimidating enough? Was this entire enterprise necessary? Not really. It very much mirrors the original, which is the attraction but also a distraction. In the back of my mind I was replaying the original, noticing the differences and realizing that I still preferred the original. So Disney puts out more retelling of classic stories and stays away from new and original content.
As an aside, I watched Disney + for an interview with the cast of Hamilton in HAMILTON: HISTORY HAS ITS EYES ON YOU where Robin Roberts interviews much of the cast in recent days. Hamilton was filmed back in 2015, and much has changed in the world since that time. The pandemic and more importantly the racial issue becoming highlighted. Hamilton was a play created by a Puerto Rican man (Miranda) and a mostly person of colour cast, each of whom is excellent. It is a good discussion about how this plays out in these times. I think an excellent point made, as they had a Harvard History professor on, was to point out that this play wasn’t meant to be historically accurate, but it was meant to raise questions and allow the viewer to do more digging for answers by themselves. I didn’t know the Alexander Hamilton story at all. I am tempted to revisit some of his writings. If I among many people do that, then this art has succeeded. More still, if everyone who watches Hamilton on Disney + (likely more the first weekend than all those combined who saw the show on Broadway) finds a way to register and vote in November 2020, then it also will have accomplished its goal. I can’t imagine that anyone interested in American history and the Revolution wouldn’t want to better understand the man who was by George Washington’s side. Check it out.