Tag Archives: christopher walken

The Jungle Book – Review

23 Apr

My childhood, along with most I would assume, was spent watching classic Disney movies on VHS. I’m sure you can remember the ones that opened like a book and had the white lining. Ahhh, the sweet smell of nostalgia. I’m all for a good, heaping dose of nostalgia from time to time, but I feel like we’ve become a generation where a large percent of the box office leans on that very same idea of hearkening back to our childhood. That’s why I was skeptical of Disney’s live action remake of The Jungle Book. It may be one of the most beloved children’s cartoons of all time, which made me think this was just another cash grab. When I say I couldn’t have been more wrong, I mean that it may be the wrongest I’ve ever been in my life. So far, I’m considering The Jungle Book one of the best movies of 2016.

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Deep in the jungle, a young boy named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is raised by a pack of noble wolves while also being trained in the ways of the jungle by the wise black panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley). During a time of peace, the vengeful tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) discovers Mowgli living with the wolves and vows that when the time of peace is over he will kill the young man cub in retaliation for the burns he received to his face by man. This forces the wolves, Bagheera, and Mowgli to decide it would be safest for Mowgli to leave the jungle and return to the human village. While on their journey Mowgli meets a lovable, but scheming bear named Baloo (Bill Murray), who joins the quest to bring Mowgli to the village. Dangers lurk around every corner though as Mowgli is threatened by elements such as the snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), the megalomaniacal King Louie (Christopher Walken), and the ever lurking presence of Shere Khan.

While The Jungle Book tells a classic story that has been told time and time again, this version, directed by the great Jon Favreau, focuses mainly on retelling the 1967 animated Disney film. That makes sense, really, since this is also made by Disney. This version of the film, however, immerses you into the story, the characters, and the environment like no other telling. The CGI in this movie is mind blowing which makes it hard for me to say that this isn’t a live action movie. It feels so much like watching a completely live action film, even though 95% of it was shot over a green screen and edited into the movie. The jungle in this movie lives and breathes and becomes an essential character all its own. Meanwhile, characters we’ve known since our childhood come to life like they never have before.

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While the CGI is fantastic and the characters all look great, they wouldn’t be nearly as life like if it wasn’t for the excellent voice work. Ben Kingsley as Bagheera and Bill Murray as Baloo are so accurately casted and work very well together as two opposites working very hard towards the same goal. They have great banter and read the lines very well. The scene stealer, unsurprisingly, is Idris Elba as the terrifying Shere Khan. There were a few kids in my theater who didn’t last ten minutes once Shere Khan went onscreen, and I can’t really blame them. Elba is just fantastic. Neel Sethi is a great find to play Mowgli, and Christopher Walken sounds like he’s having the time of his life playing King Louie. The only person who I feel was underutilized was Scarlett Johansson as Kaa. She only had one scene to really do anything, and while she played the part very well she just wasn’t in it enough.

What really drives The Jungle Book into the realm of greatness is the feeling of adventure that’s present throughout the entire film. This is a story of growth and learning, heroes and villains, and most importantly it’s a whole lot of fun. There wasn’t a frame in this movie that bored me. Even if the story was slowing down a little bit, there was always something gorgeous to look at onscreen. It’s important to note that while this is a festival of CGI, the film uses the effects to tell the story instead of making the movie about the effects.

The Jungle Book is the first movie of 2016 that made me just feel really excited. This is one of those movies that reminded me why I love film so much in the first place. The effects are out of this world, and speaking of out of this world, so is the cast of voice actors. I never thought in a million years I would love this movie as much as I did, but as of right now it’s my favorite movie of 2016. Do not miss this one.

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Seven Psychopaths – Review

23 Nov

In 2008, writer and director Martin McDonagh graced the world with one of the most original and hilarious dark comedies ever to be produced, In Bruges. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for its writing, and rightly so. The question was: Could McDonagh’s next movie support itself under the weight of In Bruges? The answer to that question came in 2012 with Seven Psychopaths. I’m not going to say that this movie surpasses or comes to close to the material that he struck gold with before, but it is a worthy and still darkly hilarious piece of work that’s jam packed with gallows humor, in jokes, and violence. How could I not like this movie?

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Marty Farnanan (Colin Farrell) is a struggling screenwriter and full time alcoholic who can’t seem to get any inspiration for his newest screenplay titled Seven Psychopaths. His best friend Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell), who runs dog-napping operation, thinks he can help by placing an ad in the newspaper, asking “psychopaths” to contact Marty and tell him their stories. Meanwhile, Billy and his partner Hans (Christopher Walken) end up biting off more than they can chew when they dognap a Shih Tzu that belongs to the notoriously violent criminal, Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson), who begins gunning down anyone who gets in the way of him retrieving his precious puppy. Marty, Billy, and Hans have to team up to protect themselves from Charlie’s rampage, while possibly getting some inspiration for Marty’s screenplay.

At its core, Seven Psychopaths succeeds at taking the cliches of the action/crime genre, and totally flipping the conventions on their heads while at the same time honoring them as timely traditions. The line that really hammers this home is when Billy points out that an area they are driving by is the “perfect place for the final shootout.” It’s no surprise that this area comes back again at a pivotal point of the film. Now, calling this film “meta” wouldn’t be completely accurate, but it kinda sorta is. Billy is just such a fascinating character because he’s the only person in the movie that seems to be in on the joke, almost as if he’s aware that he’s just a player in someone else’s movie and he wants to follow the proper steps to the proper climactic scene. It’s a brilliant way to write a character, and may be one of the best characterizations I’ve seen in a long time.

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So as hilarious as this movie is, there is still a big problem that I have with it that makes it come up short in terms of achieving the success that In Bruges did. Now, it’s pretty awesome that Tom Waits has a part in this movie. He is a legend in the music world after all and has a really hardcore following. Believe me, I know some people that can’t stop talking about him. That being said, he doesn’t need to be in this movie. It really doesn’t make sense that he is. The scene that he’s in, as smartly written as it is, is pointless and ridiculously long. His character is really of no importance to the story, so why spend so much time on him? Was it just to have him in the movie. This isn’t the only time the movie goes off an a ridiculous tangent, but it is the most overdone and pointless ones in the movie. If this scene was cut altogether, the movie probably would have felt a lot smoother than it did.

But still, this movie is a refreshing breath of noxious fumes. There’s no doubt that Seven Psychopaths is a comedy, but I’d be damned if i didn’t say this movie didn’t try to offend, and I write that with a smile on my face. The language is as cut throat as the violence is, but the way the violence and language is presented fills me with glee. It’s excessive in that way that only the most potent dark comedies are, made by people that really understand the point of gallows humor. This isn’t a tame movie in the least, and it even gets pretty dramatic at times, but the comedy is consistent in a way that the movie’s narrative is not, so at least we have loads of laughs to get us through the unnecessary scenes.

Seven Psychopaths is a riot in every sense of the word. It’s violent, kinetic, hilarious, and oddly sentimental. It’s one of those movies that pays its respects to other movies, while remaining original in just about every aspect. Think of it as a really clever inside joke that doesn’t get old. While the humor may be a bit dark for some people’s standards, it is still a well acted, well written, and well produced film. It doesn’t quite reach the level of greatness as Martin McDonagh’s first film, but it makes me excited for whatever work he releases in the future.

King of New York – Review

24 Oct

Abel Ferrara is one of those anything goes kind of directors. He has a knack to show gritty urban scenes and not hold back the violence or any other sin or vice that goes along with that lifestyle. He’s also really proficient at turning the black and whites of morality and turning them into one big gray area. A prime example would be his film from 1990, King of New York, a kind of Robin Hood tale if Robin Hood lived in New York City in the early nineties and was a figurehead in the criminal underworld.

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Frank White (Christopher Walken) is a very powerful and very wealthy player in the criminal underworld of New York City who has just gotten released from Sing Sing prison. Upon his return, he meets with an old associate, Jimmy Jump (Laurence Fishburne), and his gang to get back to business. This time, Frank believes he is reformed and begins robbing and killing criminals because he doesn’t like how they do their business, with the prime goal of helping to fund the construction of a hospital. Some police officers (played by Victor Argo, David Caruso, and Wesley Snipes) don’t like Frank’s tactics and wage an illegal war against him since traditional legal methods have proven unsuccessful in bringing Frank down.

King of New York is an entertaining movie, but definitely not perfect by any means. In fact, it’s pretty far from perfect. What makes this movie memorable is its strong headed style to show all of the drugs, violence, and sex that happen within the course of the story in graphic detail. A lot of film makers would opt to censor this, or at least tone it down, but Ferrara and his writer, Nicholas St. John, are perfectly comfortable showing the brutality of these criminals.

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The main problem with this movie is that it doesn’t really know what it wants to be. There are scenes where I felt like I really needed to take the content seriously, but the way it plays out seems like it exists mainly for pulp entertainment. The lighting, the set design, and even the characters all seem very over the top, but the themes of drug use and gang violence are all played as very serious things. This makes the movie very uneven. The film also moves at such a break neck pace that I can’t really fully understand and feel for the complex characters that make this film what it is. Everyone is very complex, and I really want to appreciate their characters, but I didn’t feel like I had the time.

Back to the positives, however, I dare someone to watch this film and not completely love Walken’s performance. He has this way of really enveloping himself in his character to the point where you as the viewer are convinced that you are no longer watching Christopher Walken. Just look at The Deer Hunter. While i did complain about the contrast between the realism and the complete disregard for realism both in the same movie, I will say the over the top scenes are really entertaining. The gun battles and big car chase are really fun to watch, and the strange, almost Argento-ish, kind of lighting in some scenes is real eye candy.

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King of New York is completely uneven and an absolute mess when it comes to character development and a strong plot. What makes this movie interesting are the thematic content, brutality, and the performances by Walken and Fishburne. I can’t see this movie being taken very seriously, but I would be so bold to put it in a cult classic category after doing some research on it. I’d definitely watch King of New York again, and I’d even go so far as to say it is an inspiration for some of the projects that I am working on.

Kill the Irishman – Review

11 Oct

The Mafia is not a group of people you want to have pissed off at you. We see the Mafia get pissed in the best gangster movies, and subsequently see them kill whomever they need to without error. What I have recently found out is that it’s equally as entertaining to see them fail over and over and over again. This is the backbone of the story seen in Kill the Irishman.

 

In the mid 1970s, Cleveland became a war zone as over 30 bombs went off in a gang war that almost engulfed the city. Who was the target? Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson). Danny Greene is the man who pissed off the Italian mafia more than they have ever been before and is partly responsible for the decline of organized crime in Cleveland, and more importantly, throughout America.

This was a very interesting and entertaining gangster flick, that was made all the better by it being a true story. The film makers made good use of its history by putting in actual news reports about Danny Greene and all of the trouble he was causing throughout the movie. To me, this really helped me concentrate on the history of the story and was a good reminder that this may be fictionalized, but it was true. It’s a pretty incredible story.

 

 

I’ve seen a lot of negativity surrounding this movie because of its low budget and some of the poor effects. Yes, this movie was made on a low budget so they couldn’t afford to actually blow everything up and some of the fire is fake. I agree that it looks pretty bad and might be kind of distracting when you first notice it, but should that get in the way of you enjoying the story and the characters? Everything else about this film is good. The acting is exactly what it should be and the as I’ve already said, I love the story.

I did have a bit of an issue with the lighting in some scenes, so I guess not everything was great. It’s not that it was particularly bad, it just wasn’t very interesting. Some of the scenes looked pretty flat. This doesn’t have to do with the low key lighting, which this film definitely was shot in, but the separation. If you don’t separate the characters from the background then the whole scene looks two dimensional. I got that feeling at certain points during the movie.

 

Despite these problems, I was completely invested in Kill the Irishman. I love the way it was told and I loved the characters. The cast was great with people like Christopher Walken, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Val Kilmer to name a few. All of the actors were completely into their characters which made the story flow a lot nicer.

I do have a bit of a soft spot for rise and fall movies, and this one is no exception. Even though it wasn’t filmed with the best equipment, had the biggest stars, or had the grandest budget, I still loved it all the same. The characters and the story are captivating and make you want to keep watching. A warning to the jaded Hollywood worshipers, some of the effects look pretty bad, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the history lesson that is Kill the Irishman.