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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is back in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. He finds himself on a reluctant quest to find the Trident of Poseidon. His journey is complicated by his nemesis Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush) and the ghostly Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem).

Release Date: May 26, 2017
Writer: Jeff Nathanson
Director: Joachim Ranning, Espen Sandberg
Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario

Full Disclosure: I have only seen the first two Pirate movies. I am unaware the events up to Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales suffers from too many plots and subplots. The movie really doesn’t take off until the plots find convergence in the second half of the film. Let’s go over the plots. First, Pirates opens on a young Henry Turner (Lewis McGowen) as he summons the cursed Flying Dutchman. This is the ship that is crewed by his cursed father, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom). Henry dedicated his future to finding the Trident of Poseidon, believing that this Trident that controls the seas can release his father from his curse.

Then there is Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), who is accused of being a witch by the local townsfolk. Carina is not a witch, but a self-taught astronomer. She was abandoned as a child by her father leaving only a journal with a star chart to the Trident of Poseidon. As an astronomer, she is a woman of science and does not believe in ghosts and curses. She is also attractive and the same age as Henry Turner.

Jump ahead nine years and Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) jumps from ship to ship to find clues and a crew to take him to the Trident of Poseidon. While on a British Naval ship, the ship is overtaken by the ghostly shark-like ship helmed by the legendary Captain Salazar.

Captain Salazar was once a captain in the Spanish Navy. His goal in life was to destroy all pirates. He defeated them all, except one. That’s right–Captain Jack Sparrow. Let me just say that Disney has been using CGI to bring a youthful version of their aging stars to life—Michael Douglas, Robert Downey, Jr., Kurt Rusell, Carrie Fisher and now Johnny Depp. The technology walks that fine line of cool and creepy. Back to Salazar, his ghostly goal in life is kill pirates and kill Captain Jack.

More subplots? Yes, Captain Barbosa has a treasure to find thanks to a mystical compass. Captain Jack on the other hand really has not a subplot, Ugh, too much going on. Fortunately, all the subplots and their exposition happen in the front half of the movie. It does feel labored but it’s survivable.

Where Pirates shines is the second half. There’s a lot of action. The battle between naval, pirate and ghost ships are well animated and easy to follow. Disney also does swashbuckling action as good as any studio can. It seems that pirates are actually interesting when they do pirate things.

There is one reveal in the film, that I can’t say anything about, snuck up on me. This final subplot pulled me into the story of two characters, I thought would not connect until it happened.

The main problem that Pirates of the Caribbean suffers from is its own mythology. Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter had the luxury of a prolific author, who built the world and its mythology. Thought went into this mythology over the length of its run. The mythology was honed, refined and reflected human nature, so readers could relate to it.

Pirates of the Caribbean is a theme park ride. I don’t believe Walt Disney ever had the world of the pirate in mind when creating the ride. He just wanted to tell a simple story. Finally, when the first Pirate movie came out, it was the first film to be based on Disney rides. My guess is that they just wanted the first film to be successful. The studio was not thinking it would be a five (maybe six) film series, so the world of Pirates is now created on the fly as new films are needed.

Why is this important? Audiences just don’t have an emotional connection to the pirate world, like they do with The Hobbit or Harry Potter. We have no stake in the life path of Captain Jack Sparrow. This reduces the whole series into one action film after the other.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is light fare. It has amazing action sequences but suffers because there just is not enough time to develop any existing or new characters properly.

6 out of 10 stars

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

The Guardians of the Galaxy return to the big screen to prove they are more than just misfits prepared to save the galaxy. In Volume 2, the Guardians prove that they need to be a family to save the galaxy.

Release Date: May 5, 2017
Writer: James Gunn
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Elizabeth Debicki

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 starts a few months after the events of the first film. Our brood of heroes, Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) are hired as the Guardians to protect a power set of batteries from an inter-dimensional monster. The batteries power the race of conceited aliens known as the Sovereign.

As payment, the Guardians take custody of Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), but as their leaving Rocket steals the very batteries that they were hired to protect. Here starts a series of plots and sub-plots, the main one being the meeting of Peter Quill’s father played by Kurt Russell, who brings Peter, Gamora and Drax to his home planet. For comic book fans, this planet is Ego, the living planet. They also meet Mantis (Elizabeth Debicki), who serves Ego. She has empathic powers.

The other subplots include Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his gang of Ravagers. Yondu has been kicked out of the Ravagers because he betrayed the other clans in the first film. Yondu is then hired by the Sovereign to hunt down the Guardians and return the batteries, but Yondu also had a mutiny on his hands when one of his officers Tazer Face (Pom Klementieff) no longer believes Yondu can effectively act as leader.

While in custody, Nebula plots to get the upper hand on Gamora and ultimately kill her and then her father, Thanos. Rocket continues his own brand of self-destructive and self-loathing behavior and then there’s Baby Groot, who wants to grow up and become a warrior, but he’s only a baby.

There is a lot going on in Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2. You can already see there is literally a shipload of old and new characters. There are about four storylines going on at the same time. Writer/Director James Gunn masterfully manages to keep the storylines interesting and followable which could have easily unraveled at any point.

The main story between Quill and Ego is not the strongest of stories and unfortunately, it is the main spine of the movie. Their relationship feels more like a morality episode of Star Trek. It feels very over-and-done by the end of the movie.

As much as this is a large galactic action movie, the best moments in Guardians are the moments the main characters spend together. Clearly, there is a Sam-and-Diane relationship brewing between Quill and Gamora. So-much-so that Quill calls it out as a Cheers-inspired romance. Drax and Mantis have an opposite relationship, which will make your head spin. Maybe, the sisterly conflict between Gamora and Nebula feels a little forced.

The tone of Guardians of the Galaxy is light, a little gruesome and stands outside the seriousness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Earth. But this movie is funny and the rollercoaster of action you expect it to be. For a long movie, the pacing is fast and because it is packed with so much plot, characters and action, you leave wanting more. Finally, please stay to the end of the credits.

9 out of 10 stars

Manchester By The Sea

Manchester By The Sea is absolutely one of the most depressing movies you’ll this year. It will drag you through tragedy, depression while sprinkling a few glimmers of hope.

Release Date: December 16, 2016
Writer: Kenneth Lonergan
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol, Lucas Hedges

Manchester By The Sea tells the story of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a loner living in Boston. Lee is forced to move back to his hometown to attend to the death of his estranged brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler). Lee is the only adult relative of Joe and it is up Lee to not only plan all of the arrangements of the funeral, but also act as temporary guardian to his teenage nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Lee is not the social type and he finds it almost impossible to maintain any kind of a relationship because of his drinking and his past.

Manchester By The Sea follows Lee as he figures out what to do with his nephew. Lee is adamant about not being his guardian and just as adamant about Patrick not going back to his birth mother, Elise (Gretchen Mol). The history of the Chandler family is told in flashbacks.

Clearly, the goal of this film is to rip your heart out. Casey Affleck is perfect as the loner, who’s past has shut himself off from the world. He plays guilt and self-loathing with ease. Lucas Hedges has great range having to play the angst-ridden teen, who has no relative left other than his non-communicative uncle.

There’s no better way to put it than Manchester By The Sea is a film that punches you in the face, in the guts and just keeps on punching. It’s clear in this movie about tragedy, that over the course of the film, you will find out why Lee Chandler is a loner with no hope for a future and what happened to his happy life and his three super cute and adorable children.

Let’s also not forget that the tragic flashbacks overlay the films central story, which is the death of Patrick’s father and the current whereabouts of his mother, Elise. More sadness for you, the viewer.

Manchester By the Sea is a good movie. But at the same time, writer/director Kenneth Lonergan presents to his audience an emotionally draining movie. There are times, you wish the actors were not so talented and did not play their characters well, because then you would have a moment to detach from the movie and breath. Ultimately, we do connect with the grief and sadness of the main characters, which I guess is the main goal of the film. This is a film you need to prepare yourself to watch.

8 out of 10 stars


What’s the first thing you do when confronted with an unknown alien threat? Try to communicate with the aliens, of course. Arrival is this year’s science fiction entrant in the Oscar race stars Amy Adams as the nation’s top linguist charged with the mission of communicating with an alien race.

Release Date: November 11, 2016
Writer: Eric Heisserer, Ted Chiang
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Arrival starts with the arrival of 12 large alien pods scattered throughout the world. The US pod is located in Montana, while others are found in Russia, China, England, et al. The film’s main storyline follows Louise Banks and physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) as they interact with the seven-legged aliens they call “heptapods.”

The most fascinating part of Arrival is the process of deciphering language. Each pod has an access hatch where Banks and Donnelly can interact with the heptapods. The heptapod language is a unintelligible sounds of some sort, but their language consists of complicated circular symbols. Banks uses her name as a starting point. The heptapods respond in kind and now they are off to the races trying to find words and phrases that can be translated, such as eat and walk.

As fascinating as linguistics are, there’s a bigger picture. Why are the aliens here and what do they want? Are they a threat or are they friendly? The entire operation is lead by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) representing the military and Agent Halpern (Michael Stuhlberg) representing the US government. At the same time, all of the other countries with pods are also trying to communicate with the heptapods and coming to different conclusions about the aliens’ intent.

Here you have the typical military tale of staying ahead of the possible alien threat and the lack of time the team needs to answer questions. Let’s also note that the world is falling apart wondering if these is the start of an alien invasion.

The story though is about Louise. Flashbacks abound as we look into the loner lifestyle of this college professor. We see that she is divorced and the parent of a child who recently passed from a terminal illness.

It’s hard not to liken Arrival with an episode of Star Trek. As with most alien films, there’s a lesson that we need to learn about ourselves individually and as a member of the global family of humans. The film also manages to tie the story of Louise, her past and future, together in a way that intertwines her life with the current mission.

Arrival has your riveted from beginning to end. You’ll marvel at the science of language and you’ll feel the sense of discovery as the alien language is slowly revealed. There is also the sense of urgency and frustration as our heroes must appease and outmaneuver the government with very little patience.

The best part of Arrival is its ending that sneaks up on you out of nowhere and begins to answer the question, you’re asking from the very beginning. Arrival is a complex story that never gets confusing and ends in a nice tidy package. The ending is so strong, you’ll almost instantly need to see the movie again to catch things you missed.

10 out of 10 stars


Lion is based on the true story of Saroo Brierley and tells the story of a young 5-year-old, who gets lost and must survive in the streets of Malaysia and find a way to reunite with his family

Release Date: November 25, 2016
Writer: Saroo Brierley, Luke Davies
Director: Garth Davis
Cast: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Sunny Pawar, David Wenham

At five years old, Saroo (Sunny Pawar) and his brother, Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) venture to the railyard, looking for work to support his family. One night, Guddu looks for work during the graveyard shift and Saroo insists on going with his brother. After a long days travel, Saroo falls asleep and wakes on an empty train taking Saroo 1,200 kilometers from home in faraway Calcutta, India.

Lost on the streets of Calcutta, Saroo is unable to speak Malaysian, unable to pronounce the name of his town and only knows the name of his mother as “mum.” Alone, Saroo must survive on the streets, runs from human traffickers and find his way home. Moments of hope turn into dangerous pathways, on his last leg, Saroo is found by a kind stranger who brings him to the local orphanage.

After several months, Indian social services is unable to locate Saroo’s family. Saroo is then adopted by a Tasmanian couple, John and Sue Brierley (David Wenham and Nicole Kidman). The Brierley’s bring Saroo to Australia where he becomes an adult with this adopted brother, Shonedeep.

The second act of Lion features Dev Patel as adult Saroo. It is now that we find Saroo as an adult attending hotel management classes. He quickly falls for his fellow student, Lucy (Rooney Mara). Soon life hits Saroo. He is confronted with the fact that he has a family that has no idea if he is still alive and a brother, who feels guilty for losing his brother. Using Google Earth, Saroo attempts to find his village and his family.

In general, Lion is one of those movies that can push a parent of small children over the edge. We like movies that grab you by the heart and make you feel. Only a fantastic story and great acting can this be accomplished. Any film is lucky to find a child who can act. Sunny Pawar plays Young Saroo and immediately you fall in love with this small child, who loves his family. He makes you feel his isolation of loneliness and root for this ability to survive homelessness and the threat of the Indian street gangs.

As the older Saroo, Dev Patel now plays an adult in deep conflict. He makes you feel the anguish of an adult hiding the guilt of living a privileged life as an upper-class citizen. Saroo is incredibly empathic. He feels deeply about the sense of loss and guilt of his mother and brother feel. He is also hyper-aware of the love, he has received from his adoptive mother, Sue and his girlfriend, Lucy, with whom he creates a complicated relationship all by himself.

There is another aspect to Lion and it is Sue played by Nicole Kidman. Kidman may not have a lot of screen time, but every moment she has, she makes an impact. In just one scene, Kidman explains clearly and deeply why Saroo and Shonedeep are a treasured part of her life.

From beginning to end, Lion grabs you by the neck and drags you through the emotional journey of Saroo. The skilled director Garth Davis masterfully maintains the emotional tone necessary to tell this story effectively.

10 out of 10 stars

Disney’s Newsies Live

Fathom Events, known for bringing national wide access to special events, does it again with the theatrical broadcast of Disney’s Newsies. Disney Theatrical Productions presents Disney’s Newsies based on the Disney musical film, Newsies, based on the events of the “Newsboy Strike of 1899” against publishing titans, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolf Hearst.

Release Date: February 16, 2017
Writer: Harvey Fiersten
Composer: Alan Menken and Jack Feldman
Director: Jeff Calhoun
Cast: Jeremy Jordan, Kara Lindsay, Ben Fanhauser, Andrew Keenan-Bolger

There are two elements to address with the screening: the play and the film. Let’s start with the play. Full disclosure: I have never seen the Newsies film or the play on stage, so I’m coming in fresh with a fresh viewpoint.

The musical, Newsies, follows the lead character Jack Kelly (Jeremy Jordan), who is the reluctant leader and in many cases father figure to the newsboys of Brooklyn. He lives on the street with Crutchie (Andrew Keenan-Bolger) and survives with the money he earns selling newspapers to the fine people of Brooklyn. Every morning newsboys buy papers from the newspapers company at wholesale and sells them for twice the money. Newsboys keep the profits.

Concerned with the lowering readership and the increase in expense, news titan Joseph Pulitzer (Steve Blanchard) raises the wholesale price the newsies have to pay, thus making it harder for them to make a profit. Angered by the rise in price, Jack attempts to rally the newsboys to go on strike and encourage the other boroughs of New York to do the same.

Faced with the certain beatings of the paper’s strikebreakers, the uncertainty of survival without income and competition from paid scabs, Jack must find it within himself to inspire not only the boys around him but inspire himself at the same time. Jack and the boys are aided by an entertainment columnist, Katherine Plummer (Kara Lindsay) to cover the plight of the young boys. Of course, all of this is set to music and dance.

Other elements of the story include the Refuge, a juvenile detention center for delinquent boys. The living conditions are bleak with little food, sunlight and three-to-a-bed sleeping situation. The real refuge is found in a vaudeville-style theatre owned by Medda Larken (Aisha de Haas), who allows the boys to hold their first union meeting there. Then there is Davey (Ben Fankhauser) and his young brother Les, who become the providers of their family due to an on-the-job accident that disables their father. It is Davey that understands the inner working of unions and provides wise counsel to Jack.

At the end, Newsies is a fantastic, but not perfect musical. The set pieces are large and impressive. It’s tall scaffolding and projection system makes you feel like you’re on a New York set. The actors are good. Jeremy Jordon is charismatic as Jack Kelley and he makes you feel the broad range of emotions of Jack as the inspiration of the movement along with the heavyweight he bears for the safety and welfare of his crew. The choreography is fun and whimsical. I’m not much of a dance expert so I’ll end there.

The music is the highlight of Newsies. Disney Hall of Famer Alan Menken does no wrong. Often a musical greatness is a collaboration of music, lyrics, staging and acting, but the music shines above the production. Celebration, dreaming, love and determination is felt throughout the entire score. The only downfall of the music is lyrics. It is plan hard to understand what is being sung, specifically in the group number. It appears when everything sings together at the same time, you lose clarity. For example, the big opener, “Carrying the Banner” is a great song to watch. It has fantastic choreography and the music is hummable, but I could not understand a single line being sung. “King of New York” is a fantastic song with an even better hook, yet, I can hardly repeat any line from the song, except “King of New York”

It’s the quite moments that brought me back to enjoying the visual feast of Newsies, “Something to Believe In” is the love song and works to bring the Jack and Katherine together.

I walked away from Newsies feeling inspired by this post-modern turn-of-the-century David and Goliath story. It takes you back to a time, when Americans had to fight for real things, like survival.

Let’s talk about the movie. When you film a staged musical, the goal is to capture the quintessential performance of its run. Filmed in 2016, this film brought back most of the original cast from its Broadway opening night. The performances are clean and flawless and the veteran cast performs as a veteran cast should. It’s clear that the film blends footage from its live performance with a pack audience with a separate performance for close-up cameras.

Newsies Live manages to give us the feel of the stage production, especially during the big dance numbers. Although, sometimes the overuse of close-ups can pull you out of the theater and drop you in a live broadcast on television. The theater audience has the opportunity to look around the stage for the action, but then the close-up cameras force you to see what the film director wants you to see. This is just a small criticism, with what otherwise is the quintessential capture of the Broadway show.

The last small annoying thing about Newsies Live is the audience. Clearly, they are there because they are theater geeks, who are a little too over-enthusiastic about the experience. But fortunately, the performance itself is able to stand on its own and garner the admiration it deserves.

If you love big Broadway musicals, Disney musicals and a good ole feel-good show, Newsies Live is worth checking out.

8 out of 10 stars

The Bronze

Hope is a local celebrity in Amherst, Ohio. She won the bronze medal in the Summer Olympics and after a career ending accident, Hope continues to live off her fame as long as she can.

Release Date: March 18, 2016
Writer: Melissa Rauch, Winston Rauch
Director: Bryan Buckley
Cast: Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole, Haley Lu Richardson, Sebastian Stan, Thomas Middleditch

The Bronze is a tough tale to tell, especially when the main character is so unlikable at the beginning of the movie. It also doesn’t help that she’s in every scene in the movie too. Writers Melissa and Winston Rauch are up for the task. The path of the film is easy, how to make an unlikable character likable in a way that feels real and is not heavy on the schmaltz.

Melissa Rausch does an excellent job fleshing out the character of Hope. She starts as a self-centered, manipulative person, who feels entitled from the small town that continues to perpetuate her fame. Hope lies, cheats and steals to get whatever she wants. The only person, who loves her is her father (Gary Cole), who believe that he is the reason Hope is the way she is.

Hope’s comfortable lifestyle is close to an end. Her father does not have the money to support her lifestyle. Hope has no motivation to grow-up both emotionally and mentally. Soon, the other shoe is about to drop, when a promising new gymnastics star is about to eclipse Hope’s Olympic accomplishments. This gymnast is Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson) and she is being trained by Hope’s former coach, Coach Pavleck (Christine Abrahamson).

Things change when Coach Pavleck commits suicide and sends her suicide note to Hope. The note states that Hope will receive $500,000, if she can take over the training of Maggie and, win or lose, complete her training.

There are many moments throughout The Bronze that I doubted Hope could change in a way that did not seem forced or cheeseball. The Bronze manages to pull through. Hope never loses her gruff, self-absorbed personality, but she does manages to change in small incremental moments. Haley Lu Richardson is perfect at the naïve and overly peppy student and even the quiet owner of the gym, Ben (Thomas Middleditch), comes off at the end as the strong hero to Hope.

If there is one complaint is that The Bronze is a solid story of redemption for Hope. Young girls will love the gymnastics angle and endear themselves to both Hope and her student, Maggie. The problem is the raunchy language littered throughout the movie and an incredibly hot and funny sex scene gave The Bronze a deserved R-rating. I don’t mean to be a prude but some scenes and language could have been toned down for a PG-13 rating and open the film to a broader audience.

The Bronze is a good story with funny moments. Melissa Rauch’s portrayal of Hope’s change throughout the film is perfect and the final moments will leave you feeling a little emotional.

7 out of 10 Stars

The Tiger Hunter

The Tiger Hunter is the directorial debut of filmmaker Lena Kahn. Its world premiere was at the 2016 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. The story follows Sami Malik (Danny Pudi), who moves to the United States to become successful in hopes of winning the heart of his love, Ruby (Karen David).

2016 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Writer: Sameer Gardezi, Lena Khan
Director: Lena Khan
Cast: Danny Pudi, Jon Heder, Karen David

The Tiger Hunter takes place in 1979 in a small village in India. Young Sami Malik is the son of the village’s hero, the legendary Tiger Hunter. But titles don’t make you rich and his childhood sweetheart, Ruby, is going to America with her father, General Iqbal (Iqbal Theba) to find a suitable husband. Seeing this as his only chance to prove he is worthy to be husband to his love, the village pulls its resources together to send Sami to America, where he has an engineering job waiting for him.

Unfortunately, Sami’s arrival to the United States is fraught with problems. Sami is mugged the moment he leaves the airport. The job he was promised is no longer available, so Sami takes a temporary job in the mail room. With no place to live, Sami bunks up with a friendly stranger, Babu (Rizwan Manji), who lets him stay at his apartment where he literally shares a bed with 8 other roommates.

Sami now has only a few weeks to become a successful engineer, live in a mansion and earn a salary worthy of the respect of his love’s father. On his way, Sami befriends his co-worker Alex (Jon Heder) who helps him navigate New York.

The Tiger Hunter is a visually stunning tale of romance. Although the Aladdin-like story for Sami and Ruby is familiar, writer/director Lena Khan tells the tale through the eyes of the Indian culture. The backdrop of the 70’s paints a tale of foreign immigrants, who were doctors, engineers and upper-middle class in their homeland, who are now busboys and mailroom clerks in the new America.

Dani Pudi is sweet and funny as Sami. Sami is hard-working and determined to succeed with the odds against him. The cast of the Tiger Hunter is filled with many South Asian actors who have made a name for themselves in film and television including Rizwan Manji, Iqbal Theba and Parvesh Cheena. They bring their comedic sensibilities to the film making The Tiger Hunter a well-packaged love story.

The Tiger Hunter is definitely one of the highlights of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, garnering the coveted Opening Night feature. The mainstream comedy of love will appeal to broad audiences and will stand as a proud representation of the Indian culture in America.

7 out of 10 stars

Jungle Book

In the 2016 Disney adaptation of Jungle Book, director Jon Favreau brings stunning beauty and realism to the 1967 classic.

Release Date: April 15, 2016
Writer: Justin Marks
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken

Jungle Book is more a remake of the classic animated feature rather than the writings of Rudyard Kipling. What a writer, like Justin Marks, does is take the animated feature and fill in the missing gaps of story logic and adds more meat to the story.

For example, in the animated feature Shir Khan is a villain from a far off place. He comes to the jungle to kill Mowgli. In this film, the jungle is experiencing an extreme drought and the only source of water is the peace rock. As long as the peace rock exists and the water is scare, no animal will kill another around the watering hole. Shir Khan (Idris Elba) uses this location to demonstrate his fierceness and threaten all the animal kingdom not to allow a human to live amongst them.

As the story of the Jungle Book unfolds, you can’t help but think, that make sense and so does that. Why do the wolves take in Mowgli (Neel Sethi) as their cub? Why are they so willing to defend him? How did Mowgli come to the jungle in the first place? It is clear that story and story logic are important to the overall story.

Where to movie falls short of perfection is the moment it becomes a musical. I loved the original songs from the Sherman Brothers, but half way through the film, no one sings and as viewers we’re immersed in the world and story of the Jungle Book. The first song, Bare Necessities, I can forgive. Baloo (Bill Murray) and Mowgli recreated the iconic lazy river journey and in a moment of peace, Baloo hums Bare Necessities. This is a nice homage to the original. But when Mowgli is face-to-face with King Louie (Christopher Walken), the encounter becomes an elaborate musical number. It literally takes you out of the movie and feels out of place. They should have kept the story dramatic.

The Jungle Book is also a visually-stunning movie. The sets feel real as if they leap off the animation cells of the original. There have been numerous talking animal movies in the past, and Jungle Book feels the most real. Animal mouth movements are real for that specific species as well as emotions from facial expressions.

The Jungle Book is also available in 3-D and I have talked a lot about how 3-D is a waste of money and should be avoided. The Jungle Book is that rare exception. Objects are crisp and clean. This is especially true for the ending credits. Individual scenes from the movie are presented as a pop-up book. Movies watched in 3-D should have added value, because you pay extra for it. Only in The Jungle Book does the 3-D truly immerse you in the landscape of the story.

The real star of the movie is Neel Sethi as Mowgli. The way a film is made should have nothing to do with how a movie is reviewed critically, but this kid is literally the entire movie. Sethi is perfect in the role and comes across as a real boy, who is a child of the Jungle. I can not think of many children who can pull off not only being in every scene of the film but also act entirely on a sound stage with green screen and also have to act with imaginary actors. Sethi was the solid choice of the film and he along made it work.

8 out of 10 stars

10 Cloverfield Lane

It’s not a sequel nor is it a reboot. In 2010, J.J. Abrams produced the movie, Cloverfield. It was about an alien attack on America. Is it possible that his new movie 10 Cloverfield Lane is attached somehow to the original? 10 Cloverfield Lane is a mystery, thriller story.

Release Date: March 11, 2016
Writer: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.

10 Cloverfield Lane is one of those movies that is best no talked (or written) about in depth. The less you know that better. The movie works best as a mysterious story that gets better as it unfolds. At the same time, it reduces its repeat value.

After getting into an accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakens in an underground bomb shelter. Her wounds have been bandaged by the mysterious Norman (John Goodman). Also in the bunker is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), Norman’s neighbor who helped build the bunker. Michelle is told that the earth has come under an attack and condition above ground are toxic.

The film is about the mysterious circumstances. Is Norman telling the truth about the earth? Is he really just trying to be a hospitable host? Who is Emmett and why does he trust Norman?

The film is essentially told from Michelle’s point of view. She knows nothing of her situation and her predicament. Information is slowly revealed and the pieces of the puzzle are assembled at the right time and the right pace. What makes this a good thriller is that you are along for the ride from beginning to end and you are on the edge of your seat.

John Goodman is fantastic as Norman. You never really trust him, but he somehow manages to come off as authentic. John Gallagher Jr. brings the just needed levity in an incredibly tense situation. It will keep you guessing from beginning to end. As the heroine, Michelle, Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays the average person and you, as the viewer, easily slip into her role. You can’t help but wonder what you would do next and who do you really trust. Then to finally ask yourself, what the hell is going on.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a mystery, thriller from writers Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle. Director Dan Trachtenberg sets the right tone and pacing to keep the mystery alive considering most of the movie takes placed in a small confined space.

7 out of 10