The Circle Of Disney Live-Action Remakes

Written by Megan Williams

Disney currently seems to be going through a phase of remaking their classic animated films and turning them into CGI/Live-Action features. So far, they’ve remade Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, The Jungle Book and a sequel to the 1964 film Mary Poppins is due to be released in December. And they aim to continue this phase with a remake of the 1994 film The Lion King, to be released next year.

The Lion King was essentially a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, except it was set in Africa and featured animals. The film has so far grossed over $100 million worldwide, making it Disney’s 3rd highest grossing animated film ever, next to Zootopia and Frozen.

So, I’ve probably just answered my own question but: WHY IS THIS BEING REMADE?!

The Lion King is my favourite Disney film; I would even go so far as to say it’s a perfect film: it has the right level of emotional depth to make viewers care for the characters, a simple but brilliant story, a fantastic soundtrack and score and the hand-drawn animation is gorgeous.

The teaser made the smart move of replicating the original film’s teaser, by showing viewers the iconic opening scene. This time, the scene is recreated with CGI animation and, while the photo-realistic visuals are impressive, it looks very bland. What I loved about the animation in the 1994 film was how colourful and vibrant the setting and characters looked. By recreating the film to make it look realistic, it seems to have lost the charm that the source material had.

However, there are a couple of aspects that I do like about the remake: James Earl Jones is returning as the voice of Mufasa, and Hans Zimmer is returning as the composer. As well as this, the voice cast is impressive: John Oliver as Zazu, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, Donald Glover as adult Simba, Beyonce as adult Nala and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar. If there’s one thing that can be praised at the moment, it’s the brilliant casting choices.

Disney have also revealed the official poster:

It’s simple yet effective, and it conveys the theme of the film beautifully by not saying much at all: Simba will need to take his place in the great circle of life as King of the Pridelands.

While there are a couple of things I like about this remake, it is not enough to actually convince me to go and see it. I give the original film extremely high praise and I don’t think this should be given the remake treatment. However, given Disney’s recent box office earnings, this will still probably be successful.

Oh well: Hakuna Matata!

 

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BFI COMEDY GENIUS: Pineapple Express (2008)

Written by Thom Marsh

So, let me tell you a little about The Showroom; a simply delightful independent cinema in Sheffield, where you can get a large Vimto (that’s right, Vimto) and a large popcorn, and still have change from a tenner for the bus home. I mean, that alone is an experience in itself. Now, I must point out as a born and raised Sheffield lad I’ll always have a soft spot for our city’s independent venues, but the experience The Showroom provides is second to none. It may not have the largest screens in the world, and there are no cup holders for your Vimto, but it’s a real hub of culture, and its cosy theatres provide the most relaxed viewing experience you’ll ever have. It’s a venue I frequent regularly, for new releases, old classics and Q+A sessions – I caught a brilliant screening of Planet Of The Apes there just a couple of weeks ago as part of a philosophy season. I couldn’t think of any other cinema I’d rather find myself in for a season of ‘Comedy Genius’.

Which is exactly what I found myself doing on Tuesday evening as The Showroom kicked off the season with their first of four strands: “Stoner and Cult Comedy”. First up was a screening of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s cult hit, Pineapple Express, a film celebrating its 10th birthday this year. I’d love to call this film a classic, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. In an age where attitudes towards cannabis are relaxing, and the negative connotations often related to cannabis are slowly fading, this film really hasn’t aged well at all. In fact, whilst I’m at it, I just want to point out how much I hate the label “Stoner Comedy”. It immediately dictates what you’re going to see in the film; you’re gonna see some friends smoking cannabis, one or all of them is going to do or say something stupid and the “adventure” unravels from there. From Half Baked to Harold and Kumar Get the Munchies (which is set to close the stoner side of things at The Showroom on Saturday 10th November), I just find the entire genre relies far too heavily on negative stereotypes, and the worst thing is, it’s perpetrated by the cannabis smoking community itself.

James Franco said it best when he told Seth: “that’s why your films get nominated for Stoneys and mine get nominated for Oscars”. It’s true, although there are certainly outliers to this. Think Kevin Smith’s Clerks (and the sequel, for that matter). It may not be labelled as “stoner comedy” outright, but for me, is the epitome of what the sub-genre should aspire to be. These films should make us think deep psychological questions, like whether or not the guys working on the Death Star would have let personal politics come in to play when taking on the contract. What I mean to say is, we should expect more than lazy outdated stereotypes.

Whilst parts of this article may feel like an attack aimed at Seth Rogen’s work, I assure you it’s not. In fact, the 2011 film 50/50, starring Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is absolutely fantastic and shows cannabis use in a more positive light. All in all, I feel if I’d have been asked to write this ten years ago, I’d have written a gushing article about how funny and “with the times” it was – 5 stars, no doubt. However, as a fully matured adult (no one can prove otherwise), I’d have to give it a 2.5, maybe a 3. If I was really high watching it.

Nonetheless, it was a fantastic evening and a fitting celebration for a film which remains solid entertainment. I’ll be covering the rest of this strand of the comedy season, with Friday next up on Saturday 3rd November (yep, Friday on Saturday), followed by Dazed and Confused (Wednesday 7th November) and Harold and Kumar on Saturday 10th November.  

For more information, and details of the various workshops and Q+A sessions ongoing throughout the comedy season, click here.

Like Father

Year: 2018
Directed by: Lauren Miller
Starring: Kristen Bell, Kelsey Grammer, Seth Rogen

WRITTEN BY COREY HUGHES

Actor-turned-director Lauren Miller, notably known for her comedic roles in Superbad and Sausage Party, makes her feature-length debut with the Netflix backed drama Like Father, a take on the ‘estranged father’ sub-genre that shouldn’t be confused with Father of the Year; another Netflix original film that is, shall we say, an insult to cinema.

Like Father tells the story of Rachel (Kristen Bell), who is introduced in the opening scene taking a business call in her wedding dress. It’s her wedding day, her future husband stands at the altar awaiting his bride; looking worried as she’s later than expected. Unbeknownst to Rachel, her estranged father sits in the crowd on her big day, learning about his daughter for the first time as her boss officiates her wedding – telling stories about Rachel’s character. But when Rachel’s phone slips out of her dress and falls to the ground, her husband leaves her stranded at the altar; frustrated at his fiancé’s life-intruding work ethic. As she spots her long-lost father in the crowd, Rachel’s day can’t seem to get much worse…

At the film’s most warming and tender scene, Rachel and Harry spend a night drinking Manhattan’s and discussing theoretical principles on how to eat pizza on a park bench in the hope of rejuvenating their fractured relationship. Sadly for Rachel, drunken decisions lead to the pair waking up sore-headed on a cruise across the Caribbean; both stranded at sea and forced to rekindle the extinguished flame that is their relationship.

The strongest aspect of Miller’s debut is her encouraging depiction of Rachel, a strong-willed woman in an esteemed position at an advertising firm in New York; a positive role model for all female viewers. Yet that also leads to the main problem of the movie, in the way that Miller obliviously contradicts her achievement in bringing a headstrong, independent woman to the fore by promoting her relentless work-ethic as a discouraging trait; a trait that leads her to being the butt of a bad joke between her fellow cruise attendees. There’s an argument that Rachel’s constant phone-checking is a metaphor (albeit on-the-nose) for our obsession with digital media consumption, but when this message is being banged over our heads for the entire duration of the movie, it undermines the sincerity of bringing a successful female protagonist to the centre of the narrative.

Even if you disassociate the politics from the story, the film also fails on a tonal level. Miller has a hard time juggling between the heavy melodrama of childhood trauma and the comedic levity, the latter relying on cliched humour such as fat people falling and awkward first encounters for laughs. The comedy isn’t that funny, and the more dramatic moments fail to penetrate beneath the surface; as if the movie wants to be more of a Caribbean cruise commercial rather than an emotionally provocative comedic drama about estranged parenthood.

Ultimately, Like Father adds to Netlfix’s collection of unspectacular and forgettable flicks. There’s nothing new to be seen here, but I have faith that debutant Miller has much more to show in her career.

COREY’S RATING:

2-5

The Disaster Artist

Year: 2017
Directed by: James Franco
Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Alison Brie, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron. 

Written by Sarah Buddery

The concept for ‘The Disaster Artist’ isn’t exactly the easiest to explain, especially to those with no prior knowledge of the source material which inspired it, the best bad movie of all time, ‘The Room’. I count myself as one of the millions of diehard fans of ‘The Room’, being as vocal as I can be about how much I love it at every given opportunity. The short story is ‘The Disaster Artist’ is a film based on the book of the same name written by Greg Sestero, who starred in the “the ‘Citizen Kane of bad movies”, ‘The Room’, and who knows the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau better than anyone; Wiseau of course being the producer, director and star of ‘The Room’, brought to life in this film by James Franco.

Complicated spiel aside, it is worth mentioning that it is impossible to tackle this review without talking at least a little bit about what ‘The Room’ means to me; I am after all, the person who with all sincerity had this film higher than ‘The Last Jedi’ in terms of most anticipated!

The very fact that this film exists is a miracle. Considering ‘The Room’ made approximately $1800 on its opening weekend, and had it not been for the rabid group of fans who turned it into a genuine cult hit, it would’ve faded into nothingness. In many ways this feels like the culmination of everything Wiseau had wanted when he made his film. That money Tommy spent on keeping it in theatres long enough to qualify for the Academy Awards, might finally be about to pay off, in the weirdest, most wonderfully meta way possible; rather fitting for the incomparable Wiseau.

Pinpointing the moment in which ‘The Room’ went from woeful obscurity to genuine cult phenomenon isn’t easy, and it’s overwhelming popularity will undoubtedly baffle many. In fact, the reviews on Letterboxd are almost entirely an equal split between 1 stars and 5 stars, and I don’t doubt ‘The Disaster Artist’ will be divisive, although perhaps not so extreme.

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As the most biased person in the world, ‘The Disaster Artist’ is an absolute masterpiece; captivating and hilarious in the most unexpected of ways, and with a warmth and honesty that was not anticipated. Arguably as divisive a person as the man he is portraying, James Franco is the perfect person for this film, both in playing Tommy and in mirroring the “triple threat” of actor/producer/director. In real life, Franco’s recent films and projects have been experimental, and generally not too critically well-received. He is a man who plays by his own rules, and this is everything that Wiseau embodies as well.

The fact that Franco’s performance as Tommy is a thing of total and complete perfection, is really just the icing on the cake. The way Franco entirely disappears into the character is astonishing to watch; nailing Wiseau’s untraceable accent, and especially his monotone laugh, the transformation is eerily accurate. Whilst aided by some prosthetics, the physical transformation is just incredible; everything down to Tommy’s slightly squinted left eye is completely perfect. As someone who has met Tommy (an experience in itself!), the only person who could’ve been more Tommy, is Tommy himself and this is a real testament to Franco’s performance. What he manages in this film is nothing short of remarkable and it would be an incredibly unjust world if he didn’t see some awards attention.

Whilst he might not be in the conversation to receive the same accolades, Dave Franco also deserves praise for his performance as Greg Sestero; Tommy’s co-star in ‘The Room’, best friend, and of course the author of the ‘Disaster Artist’ book. He might not be the most physically accurate Greg Sestero, but he has the “babyface” charm and the undeniable chemistry with Wiseau that is essential for making the central relationship work. Undoubtedly helped by being brothers in real life, the pair light up the screen together and are a total joy to watch. Having read (and obsessed over) Greg’s book, some adjustments have been made, but the strongest theme from the book is more than evident in the film. At its core, this is a story about friendship, about aiming big, and striving to achieve your goals no matter how many people tell you “no”, and ‘The Disaster Artist’ manages to put this across in a way that is as charming as it is hilarious.  

It would be easy to make Tommy a figure for mockery and ridicule, but the film manages to capture that naivety that makes him so genuinely endearing, which ensures we’re almost constantly laughing with him and not at him. It is admirable also that the film doesn’t shy away from the complicated facets of Tommy’s personality. In a film where there is obvious and genuine admiration for the source material, it would have been natural to place him on some kind of pedestal, but whilst Tommy does come off well in the end, it equally doesn’t hide from the crazy and downright outrageous behaviour, and the notoriety Wiseau gained from his cast and crew in the disastrous filming of ‘The Room’.

Of course, it would be a catastrophic failure if this film wasn’t also totally hilarious, but the laughs come thick, fast and consistently, particularly as the film shifts into the actual making of ‘The Room’. The painstakingly accurate recreations of its well-loved scenes and moments are especially entertaining, and it is also in these moments that the supporting cast really shine. Seth Rogen and Paul Scheer are particularly excellent as the suffering crew members dealing with Tommy, and Zac Efron arguably steals the entire show as bit-part Chris R.

The phenomenon of ‘The Room’ might still be a mystery to many, and whilst ‘The Disaster Artist’ probably won’t change that viewpoint, it is still the most perfect and unexpected surprise in this unbelievable Hollywood fairytale. This is in so many ways everything that Tommy had wanted. He was the man with the big dreams, who made a terrible movie, which then captured the hearts of millions and was deemed a story incredible enough to become its own book and subsequent movie. Now genuinely poised for awards success, and with Wiseau and Sestero slowly becoming household names, the dream is coming true. The power of ‘The Room’ lives on, against all odds, and the story of a film considered a masterpiece of bad-filmmaking, is a masterpiece all on its own.

Oh hai Oscars.

SARAH’S RATING: 10/10

(and be sure to check out Sarah’s review of Tommy and Greg’s latest film ‘Best F(r)iends‘)

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Witness The Birth Of ‘The Room’ In The First Trailer For ‘The Disaster Artist’

“Based on Greg Sestero’s best-selling tell-all about the making of Tommy Wiseau’s cult-classic disasterpiece The Room (“The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made”). THE DISASTER ARTIST, starring James Franco, Dave Franco, and Seth Rogen. In Theaters December 1.”

Directed By: James Franco
Cast: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Dave Franco, Zac Efron, Bryan Cranston, Adam Scott, Kristen Bell, Kate Upton, Alison Brie
Release Date: December 1st 2017

Where’s Wally Movie In The Pipeline?

Way back in 2011, plans were announced for a live-action film based on the concept of ‘Where’s Wally?’, but the project has been stuck in production limbo ever since. That is, until last week, when Seth Rogen and his buddy Evan Goldberg were said to be taking over to get the project moving.

Rogen and Goldberg, who have worked together on ‘Superbad’, ‘This Is The End’ and many more, are set to produce the ‘Where’s Wally?’ (or Waldo for you Yanks) movie and any writing duties are yet to be confirmed. Do we want, or need, this movie? Probably not, but Rogen and Goldberg have a knack for getting projects over the finishing line, so expect to see the stripy fella on the big screen in the next couple of years.

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes