Friday, April 29, 2016

The Invitation: Really Real Reality (Kinda)

-Written by guest reviewer Keith Beshwate

“The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.” 
 -       Susan Sontag

If films are on a spectrum, from one end being the most honest depiction of reality (documentaries/home videos) to the other being the most fantastical (creations of worlds and languages that extended beyond what is on camera), I would say my viewing pleasure lies somewhere in absurd reality, marked by hyper-concentrated scenarios of good, evil, love, and anger that more than likely exist in the world, sometimes even in my own neighborhood. Director Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation combines all of these elements in a reality thriller I imagine would require me to have stranger neighbors with much more time on their hands.

Along with the previous tag, I am also an absolute sucker for an oddly specific type of film: one that (for the majority of the runtime) takes place in a single location. This is more than likely why I have such a penchant for horror/thriller films, often one-night-in-a-house stories that attempt to make creative use of the space given. In The Invitation, location is everything, as it represents past, present, and future in unfortunate symbiosis unveiling truth.

The film opens with Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) driving to Will’s former home with ex-wife Eden (played by a frustratingly bipolar Tammy Blanchard), where they will reconnect with Will’s old friends, as well as meet Eden’s new husband, David (Michel Huisman). Strange feelings abound, Will senses early on that this encounter will be troubling, as it’s the first time in two years he’s not only seen Eden, but that he’s returned to the home where we come to learn their son died. He’s not wrong.

Kira (and the audience) meet the former cohort (played by a convincing ensemble cast of veritable likeness and personality), as well as Eden and David’s newest “friends,” Sadie and Pruitt. The tension builds throughout the night between Will and David, as Will notices locked doors, anti-depressants, and a stirring in the neighborhood. It’s after this lengthy meet-and-greet of characters (admittedly the biggest drawback of the film) that we are introduced to the reason everyone has been gathered: as an “invitation” to free themselves of the pressures of fear and depression, in which time David presents a video of a New Age leader explaining the “spiritual psychology” of the process of letting go of past provocations.

Basically, it’s a cult. You think it, they think, everyone thinks it.

For the majority of the rest of the evening, we find these friends grappling with their own insecurities and desires, and their attempt to express themselves in support of or argument against this ideology, all with the strained civility of maintain friendships. They play a confessional game, some laugh through it, others leave in haste; all the while, Will is wandering the property, coping with his struggles both in remembering his lost son, and Eden’s seeming lack of awareness for the weight of their reconnection.

I’d be quite the a-hole if I went any further, but the devil’s in the details here. It goes where you expect it to go, yet leaves you with so many questions, not all connected with Will and Eden’s past, and everything to do with the severity of their situation. Writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi have created a unique spin on a fairly standard thriller trope, where the audience is not entirely trying to figure out what just happened here, in this house, but what’s happened. Period. The ending is truly engaging by very subtle image-play care of Kusama and cinematographer Bobby Shore. It’s a rare feat to conclude on the tensest note, so terrifying that its reality is still hitting you as the credits roll.

And that is exactly what the film is about: confronting reality. While our group addresses their past indiscretions (drug addiction, abuse, sexual desire, and even murder), Will realizes he can no longer ignore the sadness he feels for the loss of his son, culminating in a scene in which he finally enters his son’s old bedroom. It is after his awakening that reality gets real-er, then really real-er, then really really really real-er.

I’m gonna go watch Slumber Party Massacre now.

The Invitation is in select theaters, and available to rent on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, and more.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Upcoming Best and Worst of Summer 2016



Captain America: Civil War


Yes, you've heard me bitch and moan about being sick of superhero movies... and I am. But, with such a huge misfire with Batman vs. Superman and the track record of Marvel movies, you know this one is going to be fantastic. Yeah, I'm tired of watching them, but Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans are by far the most entertaining of the Avengers.  I just hope Marvel has the balls to finally kill someone off. These movies have been coming out for over a decade and not one hero has fallen. Get some nuts Marvel and you'll have a better film than any Marvel film before. 

The Lobster


Not a blockbuster or probably even a wide release, I encourage anyone who likes quirky indie films, especially those with Colin Farrell to check out the trailer for this movie.  It was already released in Europe to a smattering of praise and it looks like that quiet little under-the-radar film that's a breath of fresh air among all the CGI and explosions and sequels that will be plaguing theaters this summer.

The Nice Guys


No hyperbole, this is the movie I am the most excited for this summer. You've seen the previews on TV and they look decent... but not best of the summer good, right? The Nice Guys comes from my favorite writer of my generation, and now one of my favorite directors: Shane Black.  Not yet a household name he's written some of the best action-comedies of all time (Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight) as well as directed some of my all-time favorite movies (Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang).  I don't care what movie he's working on I will see it. He has yet to make a bad film.  He's the most clever and witty writer I've ever seen and I will be seeing this as soon as it is released.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Yes, it's an unnecessary sequel.  But, Seth Rogen's track record speaks more than the way this movie looks like a regurgitation of the first movie, but with chicks, dude. No matter how good the movie is, there's one thing for sure: there will be solid moments of comedy. Rogen and company have a knack of taking mediocre material and rising above because of a very funny moment or two... or three... It may not be the best movie of the summer, or even that good of one... but mark my words... it will be funny.

X-Men: Apocalypse


So, I am decently excited for Captain America: Civil War... however, this is one that I am not excited about. I'm over the X-Men crossover films.  They were cool at first and it was neat to see Michael Fassbender play young Ian McClellan... but now it's just getting a little ridiculous.  So, why am I putting this on upcoming best? Because even though I'm exhausted by Marvel... these new X-Men films haven't been bad.  Plus, one of my favorite new actors is playing the villain: Oscar Isaac.  So... you know... we'll see.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping


While I may not be that big of a fan as Andy Samburg as an actor and I'm really not a fan of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I am a huge fan of The Lonely Island. All of their albums as well as all of their digital shorts... it wasn't long before they were going to make a movie.  Not only is it a movie, but it's an R-rated faux-documentary film with tons of cameos and tons of comedy. Check out the restricted trailer and you'll see why I'm very excited about this film.

The Conjuring 2


I'm normally hesitant when it comes to horror sequels, but this one has the director and writer from the original film attached to it.  James Wan, pioneer of such films as Saw, Insidious, and the first Conjuring film is a master of horror.  He knows how to scare the bejesus out of an audience without resorting to graphic violence and cheap scares. The first Conjuring was terrifying and while this one doesn't look quite as good, I'm confident after Wan's success with Fast and Furious 8 that he was able to settle down and make the horror sequel he wanted to make. 

Finding Dory


Another unnecessary sequel, yes. But, ladies and gentlemen, it's Pixar. And it's one of the most beloved Pixar movies of all time. There's no doubt in my mind that Finding Dory will be nothing short of emotionally fantastic.  I mean, come on, did any of us think that Toy Story 3 was going to be THAT good?

Central Intelligence

I have a genuine hate distaste of Kevin Hart films.  I don't even really understand why he's so beloved as a comedian. He's not funny. His films don't make anyone genuinely laugh. But, this one looks hilarious. Mostly because The Rock is fantastic and is capable of saving any film, but that the script for this one appears to be solid.  Director Rawson Thurber is 2 for 2 with Dodgeball and We're The Millers and with a track record like that... I'll accept that Kevin Hart might have actually made a decent career decision and is about to finally make a funny film.

Swiss Army Man

You've definitely never heard of this film. You have no idea what this is.  You'll look at the trailer and probably either be immediately turned off or morbidly curious. Trust me... it's hit all the film festivals and has gotten nothing short of rave reviews. This is the only piece of information I will provide you with: Paul Dano is stuck on an island with nothing but Daniel Radcliffe... a farting corpse that he fashions into a life raft. Yeah.  I'm excited.

Independence Day: Resurgence


Ladies and Gentlemen, I know that I said I'm the most excited for The Nice Guys this summer... and I am. But we all know that was bullshit. I am the most excited for the sequel to one of my top ten favorite movies of all time. Sure, it kinda sucks that Will Smith decided to be the ONLY cast member to return, but my God, they got Jeff Goldblum.  Sure, we have to sit through whiny mcbitchface Hemsworth, but they got Judd Hirsh! It's probably going to suck... but I can't wait to see how much.



I was a big fan of this book when I was a lad and if they MUST make a movie about it, then Spielberg I guess is the best way to get me to just agree to see it.  There's only a teaser trailer out now, but really the aforementioned info is all that I need to believe that this movie will be a decent summer addition. 

The Secret Life of Pets


I wasn't a huge fan of Despicable Me or really even the Minions solo movie, so I'm going to assume that this movie is just going to be mediocre.  But with the voice cast and essentially the same plot of Toy Story but with pets... it's ripe for some good, family comedy.  If we're not overwhelmed with emotion and a good plot, we'll be pleasantly surprised with the amount of cute shit they have cute animated dogs do.  

Star Trek: Beyond


I will fully admit that whoever put together the trailer for this film should be fired. The trailer makes Star Trek look like a Fast and Furious movie. Die hard fans, or even fans of the first two films in general know that this isn't Star Trek.  However, even though JJ Abrams is gone and the trailer looked bad... I have a good feeling this movie is still going to be solid.  Here's why: it was written by the one and only Simon Pegg. Dude is a nerd who can write a film.  It's in capable hands and I'm holding the faith.

Jason Bourne


After Jeremy Renner's abysmal turn trying to take on the Bourne franchise, they've gone back to their roots.  Matt Damon takes back the titular role and bulks up for a new Bourne film that looks like it could be the one that gives Bourne the credit it deserves.  The original trilogy got better with each movie... there's no reason to doubt this isn't the case now.

Suicide Squad

Of course Warner doesn't have the balls to go rated R with this one, which we all know would make a much better film. This movie needs to go bat-shit insane with its criminals and its Joker. But, it's going to go as insane as it can within the realm of what anyone 13 years of age can handle. Pussies. It's still gonna be decent though... right?



The Angry Birds Movie

I don't care how great the cast is for this rushed waste of quick-cash-grabbing Hollywood has decided to make this.  It's based off of a cheap, shitty app that literally no one plays anymore. It is incredibly irrelevant and the studios made this movie as fast as they possibly could. Jason Sudekis and Bill Hader aren't going to be enough to save what I assume is a terrible script.


Alice Through The Looking Glass


In the hands of a capable director, like let's say, oh... Tim Burton... it was still a piece of shit. It looked... weird... and the movie played out like the script read: Let Tim make something cool looking and say whatever you remember from the original Disney movie. It was weird, it was terrible, and the sequel by some unknown director isn't going to turn very many heads. It's going to be worse.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows


You want to talk bad original movies as well as irrelevancy? Let's talk TMNT.  Let's put aside the fact that it's the longest damn title of the entire summer.  Seriously, who decides to add a four word sequel to an already four word title of a movie? The first one of this series of TMNT was God-awful.  The turtles themselves looked like creepy rape-lizards and to top it off... they kinda acted creepy too. It was poorly acted, poorly animated, poorly directed... and the sequel looks worse.  Also... HOW DID THIS GET MADE SO FAST???




If my claim that The Nice Guys will be the best movie of the summer... then this is its complete opposite. Not only is the trailer for this film, the literal worst trailer I've ever seen in my entire life... but what in the heavenly fuck? Did [formerly capable] director Duncan Jones just insert live action human beings into actual computer game play? Because the CGI could not look worse if you were watching Van Helsing or The Rock at the end of The Mummy Returns.  This movie will be big among nerds and FLOP! Mark my words.


The Purge: Election Year


The same thing happens every damn year.  A preview for the new Purge movie comes out and it looks pretty damn cool.  It looks really good.  And every damn year, like a freakin Alzheimer's patient, I forget how bad the last one was.  This one... looks cool.  It's going to be terrible.  It's going to continue to completely bastardize an idea that is awesome but has never been effectively utilized.

The Legend of Tarzan

So, tell me, how many of you out there are seriously just jonesin for a new Tarzan movie? Like hasn't it been too long since the last one?  Hasn't it been too long since a Hollywood pretty boy wannabe has taken his shirt off and swung through the jungle and into our hearts? No one cares about Tarzan anymore. Sure Christoph Waltz is the villain... he was also the villain in The Green Hornet, doesn't make the movie any less shitty.  This will be a major flop as well.


Ice Age: Collision Course


I'm sorry to continuously shit on all these terrible looking kids movies, but seriously? We're talking about the fourth sequel (fifth movie) to a franchise that lost what was good about it after the first movie. If you can tell me (without looking it up) what the title of the fourth movie was called and what it was about... I will pay for your entire family to see this movie with popcorn and refreshments. Otherwise, just agree with me that it's garbage.


Nine Lives


Kevin Spacey gets turned into a cat.  Do I need to say more? Does anyone remember The Shaggy Dog? Fuck this movie. Fuck America.



Money Monster


The cast is what really makes me want to believe this is going to be a great film. Clooney and Roberts and directed by Jodie Foster.  However, it does look like instead of telling an engaging and thrilling tale of a hostage takeover at a news station-esque type show... that's it's going to be an indictment of our politicians and economy.  I want a movie with a message... just not something preached at me.  We'll see.


Now You See Me 2


The first one was the very definition of mediocre.  Yeah, magicians pulling heists is a cool idea, but you REALLY have to suspend your disbelief because it's REAL magic.  Not magician magic.  And I just couldn't really get into it that much.  Yo, but that card trick in the beginning is pretty sweet.  This one will be just as mediocre.... if not worse.


The Shallows


I mean, you say shark movie and I say 'down'. I'm always ready for the next shark movie (and the next shark movie is called Meg and stars Jason Statham, but I digress...).  However, you say shark movie that stars ONLY Blake Lively... I get a little worried.  The plot sounds pretty intense, but her carrying the film by herself... I have little faith.


Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates


Adam Devine is nothing short of hilarious and Zac Efron is making a comedy resurgence, but there's just something about this movie that makes me worry.  I think the trailer looks funny and the plot idea (though standard) could be hilarious... I'm just weary.  We've seen ideas like this in the past that looks decently funny and it winds up being a paint-by-numbers fall down gross out comedy that tries too hard and illicit zero laughs.  I'm excited... but cautiously so.




I really want to say that it's going to be good based on the stellar female cast and the track record that Melissa McCarthy has with director Paul Feig... however... and this has nothing to do with the fact that they made them all ladies... Ghostbusters should really be untouchable.  When I though this was a sequel I was more on board, but now that it's kind of a reboot of sorts... I don't know. Why do we have to keep messing with greatness.  This better be damn funny.


Lights Out


A few years ago there was a short film on youtube called 'Lights Out' and it was terrifying. Especially for a youtube film. Like, I'm talking it had the power to haunt nightmares and it was less than two minutes long. So, good for the person who made it... he got a movie deal out of it to make a full length film out of a two minute short. And while I loved all two minutes of the short... we know what happens when we try to extend shorts into full length films.  Do I have to remind everyone of It's Pat: The Movie? It looks like it'll either be the next Insidious or the next jump-scare bullshit that no one remembers ten minutes after leaving the theater.  I hope for the former.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Most Magnificent Trailer of the Year

I rarely post trailers on here, just because it's hard to gauge a trailer and make an accurate prediction about the movie. There are a few movies coming out this year that have excellent trailers (The Conjuring 2, Central Intelligence, Independence Day: Resurgence, Suicide Squad) but don't necessarily mean that the movies will be all that great.  It's true that I'll probably see all of the aformentioned films, but I can't confidently tell you that they will be great movies.  There are, however, some trailers already this year that are awful that will accurately depict how TERRIBLE these movies will be (The Huntsman: Winter's War, Mother's Day, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Warcraft).  However, this is the first trailer I've seen this year that looks FANTASTIC and that I can say, with the utmost confidence, that this movie will be stellar.

In a time when the western is making a helluva resurgence with films like Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight and Bone Tomahawk... this movie will be badass.  I urge you to take two minutes out of your day and watch this epic trailer for the upcoming remake of The Magnificent Seven.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Boss: I Still Can't Figure Out Why This Was An Actual Movie

I'm a big Melissa McCarthy fan. I think when she's working with someone else's material like Judd Apatow or Paul Feig and she's able to improvise as much as she wants, she can give an audience comedy gold. She's had much success, especially under Feig in comedies that have capable writers (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy). But, it's been the couple of films that she's taken her own initiative to either write herself or with her husband that have been kind of duds.  Tammy, a few years ago was one, and now the other is The Boss.  I watched The Boss hoping for a few good laughs dispersed throughout a decent story, but that's not exactly what I got.

The Boss, written by McCarthy, husband, and friend is about a female titan of industry, Michelle Darnell, who is sent to prison for insider trading and all of her assets are auctioned off or sold. So, once she's released from prison, she has nothing and is forced to live with her former assistant, Claire (Kristen Bell). From there, she spends her time wallowing in self-pity and looking for a way to climb back to the top. She takes Claire's daughter to an off-brand Girl Scout meeting and decides that's her way. She takes Claire's delicious brownie recipe and begins her own troops who sell these brownies. She climbs back to the top and yada yada yada.

The good: Well, I can say that it's definitely not a terrible movie. I didn't ever want to walk out and demand my money back.  There are a few separate instances, too, when McCarthy goes off on a hateful, profanity-laden rant toward someone that seriously provides a significant amount of chuckles. There's also Kristen Bell who is absolutely adorable (which is the case in almost everything she's in), though she's a bit under-used. The feud between Michelle and the mother of a scout is also another element that's ripe with comedy.

The bad: Pretty much everything else. I wasn't so much upset that I watched the film, I was more confused as to why it was even a film. McCarthy and co. wrote the movie meaning that it came from an idea that wasn't immediately scrapped. One of the three had the idea and loved it so much they spent countless amounts of time and money writing it, casting it, filming it, promoting it and everything else that goes into making a movie. But, the story is so blah that I just can't believe anyone went for it. There was no real message. There was no real purpose. It's just a bland idea that without the attachment of McCarthy would've been hucked into the wastebasket of some intern reading for a mid-level production company.  Had I written the same script back in college and submitted it for peer review, it would've been torn up.

I think what happened that made it such a mess is that, other than the entire concept for the story that is more vanilla that fat-free yogurt, is that there were a lot of comedic misfires. Peter Dinklage is cast as Darnell's rival and ex-lover and it's supposed to be just funny that he's small and used to bang Michelle and that he's into karate. But, it's not funny. It's sloppy.  Dinklage can be very funny, but people need to start writing him better comedic roles than he's been given (I'm looking at you hard Pixels). Then, there's also the rivalry of the regular off-brand girl scouts with Darnell's off-off-brand girl scouts that just screams lazy writing.  And there's even a scene with Kathy Bates as Darnell's mentor that looks like it could've been a laugh riot, but was edited down for time and essentially just disregarded as a moment of comedy.

I still like McCarthy and I have big hopes for Ghostbusters, but The Boss was definitely a misfire that I think most movie-goers could kind of tell from the trailer. It doesn't set me back as a fan of her work, because she truly is one of the greats of our time, but they all can't be winners. A lot of comedians who write their own work do very well (Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen, Steve Carrell, etc.) and there's comedians who do better when someone else has written the work for them (Jim Carrey, Ben Stiller, and now, it seems Melissa McCarthy).


Sunday, April 17, 2016

London Has Fallen: Yipee Ki-Yay Guv'na

There's something very underrated about R-rated action movies. They're very few and far between but they don't get the love they deserve.  In an age where action means PG-13 Marvel, it's the CGI that's impressive, not necessarily the action. While it's kind of difficult to plug violence in film, in R-rated action the creativity lies in the kills. Look at Die Hard and The Matrix and Bad Boys and True Lies and Crank and Dredd and any number of 90s Nic Cage movies (Face/Off, The Rock, Con Air) and the fun lies in the balls-to-the-wall action sequences and inventive kills. Right now, with studios wanting to cash in as much as they can with a wider audience, PG-13 is the most bankable. And instead of writing cool action death scenes, they're figuring out "creative" ways to make the violence seem more real without shedding a drop of blood. This, to be honest, is not something one should intentionally seek out, but fans of good action do appreciate a nice kill with a snappy one-liner. Olympus Has Fallen had that... and London Has Fallen has done it even better.

Since you never saw Olympus Has Fallen, it might be a wonder how the film even warranted a sequel (it didn't). The first film saw a terrorist takeover of the white house and John McClane Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) crawling through the rafters taking out the terrorist one by one bloody kill at a time to rescue the President (Aaron Eckhart). London Has Fallen takes place three years later when the Prime Minister of London has died of complications from surgery and all the world leaders show up for the funeral. Only, the funeral has been sabotaged by terrorists seeking to take out all the world leaders. The only one they haven't gotten to is... yup... the President (Aaron Eckhart) who sticks closely by his number one Secret Service Agent John McClane Mike Banning (Gerard Butler).

It's your typical sequel that stages a plot very similar to the original. However, I like what they did with this one.  In the first film, the President was held hostage the entire film and Agent Banning was maneuvering his way through the White House to save him. In this one, the President isn't captured, but the only leader left alive forced to fight next to his former/present savior. Butler is a very good choice for this role and is charismatic as all hell, even channeling his inner Bruce Willis. His kills are creative and brutal and most of his quippy one liners after he's wasted a baddie are on point. It's a shame that he's just not a bankable actor as of yet. The role honestly would've been perfect for a 90s Willis, or Schwarzenegger, or even a current Liam Neeson. But, Butler has yet to establish himself as someone you're willing to drop the bucks on since 300.

What I liked about the film is that it knows exactly what it wants to be.  It's an homage to the great 80s and 90s action films and doesn't take itself seriously at all. I mean, hell, within the film Butler utters BOTH LINES "I'll be back" AND "Get to the chopper". It's a beautiful call back to the action films of yore. If it's only been like twenty years can I say yore? It's very self-aware and the action is unrelenting that transcends guilty pleasure. It's also just a fun, dumb, action film that forces the audience to recall B-movie basic cable 80s Charles Bronson flick that its target audience will love.

The downside to the film is there is a huge misfire in its somewhat ridiculous political agenda.  The film comes off as racist and extremely xenophobic, but if one turns one's brain off for the film then it won't bother you as much as it should. The preposterous ending and backwards message (where America is the best country in the world, yet they're trigger happy xenophobes that don't learn any lesson no matter how much the evidence is staring them in the face #MERICA) may hold back viewers from having a decent time. And, there's also the unbelievably horrendous digital effects. Like, clearly, this film didn't have a massive budget and everything they spent the money on was actors and bullets, so the few explosions in the film are so bad they wouldn't even pass off as a video game cut screen (the first one had this problem also).  But, that's not what the film relies on. It relies on good ole' Banning with his gun an his knife, offing foreign henchmen and spewing out (probably half-unintentionally) hilarious one-liners.

I can only hope that if they make one more Die Hard, it's as much fun as this movie.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Jungle Book: A Lot More Than Just The Bare Necessities

Okay, so I get that we're very swiftly starting to eliminate any and all original ideas being made into feature films. It's been coming for a few years now.  First everything was based off a book... which was okay because nobody reads anymore. Then, it was starting to be based off of comic books... which was okay because it was cool to see how these hand-drawn animated characters played out in real life on the screen.  Then it was sequels to comic book movies.  Then it was more and more sequels to the original ideas and/or the based off a book ideas.  Then it was remakes of older movies. Remakes of newer movies. Reboots of remakes of older and newer movies that were either based off a book or a comic book or a book sequel or a comic book prequel reboot. Whatever. It's exhausting complaining about it so much. Disney has come up with its own plan (other than bankrupt the rest of the world by owning the Star Wars franchise now).  They're taking their old cartoons that were so successful and turning them live action (Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Maleficent).  The Jungle Book is the next entry of a long line of live-action old Disney cartoons that will be coming out (Pete's Dragon, Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, Mulan, Winnie the Pooh, The Sword in the Stone, Peter Pan).  There's no more originality even at Disney anymore, folks. However, I can say this... if any of these future films are as great and beautiful as The Jungle Book... it may cease my complaining all together.

The Jungle Book is a sight to see. It's almost like when everyone lost their minds for Avatar (even though now we can all admit, no one has watched it again since theaters and no one gives remotely even one shit about the just-announced four sequels to it). An entire world was created that we'd never before seen on screen.  It was entirely computer generated and it was one of the most gorgeous spectacles of my movie-going days.  It was, however, used as a bit of a crutch in order to distract from the very mundane plot and lifeless acting. The Jungle Book took away what was great from Avatar and succeeded in every way that Avatar failed. Granted, the source material was a lot stronger, but this movie also had a lot more to live up to. The Jungle Book is a beloved Disney cartoon and there was a very fine line director Jon Favreau had to walk between appeasing his audience and improving upon the cartoon. And mostly, all of the decisions made in the film were improvements. The Jungle Book did almost everything right.

So, just like the cartoon we begin with Mowgli, a man cub, raised by wolves and mentored by panther, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley).  Except this time, there's the added conflict of a dry jungle where the animals must set aside their differences and instinct of murderous animal rage, in order to adhere to a water truce (a truce set in place whenever the water levels are so low, the animals must share it in harmony or face extinction). There, is where tiger Shere Kahn (Idris Elba) discovers the man cub and swears once the rains return to end his life. This forces Mowgli's wolf parents Akela (Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o) to decide if he should be returned to the man village or not. Mowgli, fearing for the lives of his wolf family, decides on his own to go.  Bagheera accompanies him. This, however, does not stop Shere Kahn from seeking out the boy in order to kill him. Along the way to the man village, Mowgli meets Jungle Book fan favorite Baloo (Bill Murray), a trickster snake Kaa (Scarlette Johannson) and a gigantic ape, King Louie (Christopher Walken) each of whom have their own selfish motivations on how to use the boy.

Each segment of the film is more awe-inducing than the last. You'll sit there and chuckle at the silly animal characters that each have their own quirk, but forget that what you're watching is entirely computer generated. Obviously, the most fun in the film is when Mowgli meets up with Baloo and they form a sort-of strange, but exciting friendship.  And really, my only true criticism with the film is that Baloo felt underused. He's introduced a little later than the original, and his time with Mowgli feels a lot more rushed than the original. (I can also complain that they didn't have the 'so what we gonna do today' vultures in this one... but I'll let it slide). Bill Murray was the absolute perfect choice for Baloo, as he's the film's comic relief and Murray does an excellent job of playing Baloo, not so much as a bear, but as a sloth in a bear suit.

Newcomer Neel Sethi plays Mowgli.  He's good. He is good, so let's get that out there. But, he's still a kid actor.  There have been films where I've been blown away by the acting chops of a little kid, and this wasn't really one of them.  He still rushes some of his lines and there are moments when you realize you're watching a kid actor instead of a character.  However, for being legitimately the only human person on screen the entire movie, he's able to do a decent job with it. Christopher Walken was a perfect choice for King Louie as was everyone else cast as their designated animal. Shere Kahn has never been more terrifying.

Almost all of the old favorite moments from the original film have been reproduced here in a way that it feels earned and not just a callback to make you smile (again, you could've had the damn vultures). The best songs from the original come into play as well.  However, there are a few specific and notable changes to the story.  It was definitely a little risky on Favreau's part to change the story in these ways, but lucky for him, he had a good writer working with him and they were able to improve up on the story. The ending of this film is a different from the cartoon, and I actually appreciated this ending a lot more.

The Jungle Book is one of those movies (and since we're getting closer to summer, I'm going to probably be saying this a lot) that you need to get to the big screen to see.  I didn't see it in 3D because screw that I will not see anything in 3D anymore.  However, I've heard from a few credible sources that the 3D is worth it.  I didn't see it in 3D and I enjoyed it fine.  Whatever medium you choose to watch it in... just see it in theaters.  The theater I was in had screaming babies, loudly-talking children, and tiny feet kicking the back of my uncomfortable chair... and it still didn't ruin the experience for this film  It's fantastic.