REVIEW: The Jungle Book

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Chris Luckett

Less than a decade ago, “live-action Disney” meant The Game Plan, College Road Trip, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Then the success of 2010’s Alice in Wonderland taught the studio they could dust off an animated classic, give it the live-action treatment modern CGI afforded, and rake it the big bucks. The six years since have brought about live-action adaptations of Fantasia, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and now, 1967’s The Jungle Book.

Of course, long before The Jungle Book was Disney’s nineteenth “Animated Classic,” it was a cherished collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling. To its credit, Jon Favreau’s take on Kipling’s tales mostly goes the latter as its source whenever a choice is called for, resulting in a tale with a more suitably dark tone. Unfortunately, rather than be allowed to become its own creation, The Jungle Book too often gets needlessly muffled by paying tribute to its animated forebear. Continue reading

REVIEW: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Chris Luckett

One of the most fascinating characters on the J.J. Abrams-produced series Lost was Desmond Hume, a man who had spent a 3-year portion of his life living underground in a bunker filled with ‘60s technology, hoodwinked by a man who convinced Desmond he’d saved him from a epidemic and that to leave would be to expose himself to a deadly plague. The two-hour episode that showed his whole ordeal in flashback is considered by many to be not just one of the best episodes of the show but of modern broadcast television.

The fact that J.J. Abrams wasn’t involved in the creation of 10 Cloverfield Lane (which was originally titled The Cellar, until Abrams changed the title to juxtapose it with his 2008 monster movie, Cloverfield) makes this a fascinating case of full-circle art, as the movie is, for the most part, that very same two-hour episode of Lost. But while Lost had to keep itself open to more seasons of possibilities, 10 Cloverfield Lane is free to aim for the sky and reach as high as they dare. Continue reading

REVIEW: Premium Rush

Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing

Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing

Chris Luckett

The best male performance last year was Michael Shannon’s lead role in the criminally under-seen Take Shelter. Shannon is at the stage of his career when he’s recognizable by most but identifiable by few. His performance in Take Shelter was finely nuanced, a poignant and mysterious look at a man who is either becoming prophetic or schizophrenic. It was a brilliant piece of acting, earning him numerous accolades and awards. Shannon firmly proved he is one of the most gifted actors of our time.

This is not that performance. Shannon throws all subtlety out the window in Premium Rush. This is a movie built for one purpose and one purpose only — fun — and Shannon takes full advantage of the carefree environment to ham it up and chew the scenery harder than anyone probably has since Kevin Spacey in Superman Returns.

Premium Rush is an action movie that doesn’t try to be anything more what it is. It’s not concerned with labyrinthine twists or evocative emotion; it just wants to entertain you. Continue reading