THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) is Jon Favreau’s new take on Kipling, wherein the fury of Shere Khan (Idris Elba) drives Mowgli away from his pack to enjoy hakuna matata with Bill Murray’s Baloo until Ben Kingsley’s Bagheera makes the boy realize there’s no running away from the fight. The F/X for this deserve the credit they’ve received (outside of Mowgli, it’s all CGI animals for characters)and the story is entertaining; however while I can accept Baloo singing “Bare Necessities,” having Louie (here a hulking gigantopithecus) belt out into song too didn’t fit the film. “The strength of the pack is the wolf—and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
BATMAN: Year One (2011) is an uninspired adaptation of Frank Miller’s origin story, starring the unimpressive voice of Ben Mackenzie as Bruce Wayne, who slowly realizes how he can make the underworld afraid … This is forgettable, partly because the original was so cinematic, there’s not much animating this can add (they do take out all the smoking, though). Cover by David Mazzucchelli, all rights with current holder. “Wayne’s been skiing in Switzerland for the last six weeks.”
RICKI AND THE FLASH (2015) is a comedy starring Meryl Streep as a substance-abuse mangled rocker attempting to re-enter her adult children’s lives and finding the kids don’t particularly want her. Better than filler but not great; Kevin Kline plays Streep’s ex and Rick Springfield is a bandmate who may represent her future.
PAINTING THE LIGHT was an extra on the Black Narcissus DVD, an excerpt from a documentary about Narcissus cinematographer Jack Cardiff, revealing almost the entire film was shot in studio (I’d assumed it was on location), discussing dictatorial Technicolor reps could be (“White shirts had to be one of five shades to contrast with the colors best.”) and the endless details (the nun’s habits made their plain lips look lipsticked, so Cardiff suggested making up their mouths with flesh colors). If I come across the source documentary, I’ll check out the whole thing.
ONE WONDERFUL SUNDAY (1946) is the early Kurosawa film in which an impoverished, depressed veteran and his optimistic girlfriend struggle to have a fun day together despite limited funds, petty hoods, chiseling restaurateurs (“Look, cafe au lait is 10 yen, not 5!”)! and ticket scalpers. Not up to the best of Kurosawa’s contemporary work, remarkably similar to a lot of Depression-era Hollywood films. “That wasn’t coffee, it was brown water!”
THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY (2007) adapts the autobiography of a paralytic dictated before his death by him using his blinking left eye to communicate. The story is a well-done mix of medical drama, flashbacks and fantasy, but it can’t quite escape the Cinema of Isolation cliches (all he had to do was overcome his self-pity and he could perform miracles!). “The diving bell is dragging me to the bottom of the ocean.”