Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

December 17, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Rohan Chand, Matthew Rhys, Freida Pinto
Directed by: Andy Serkis (“Breathe”)
Written by: Callie Kloves (debut)

Although Warner Bros. waited patiently for two years to release “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle,” so that it wouldn’t have to compete with Walt Disney’s highly enjoyable 2016 live-action take on “The Jungle Book,” the subsequent fantasy adventure based on English author Rudyard Kipling’s collection of stories feels needlessly glum and irrelevant.

The narrative framework is basically the same. “Mancub” Mowgli (Rohan Chand) is raised by wolves and must find his place in the pack before tiger villain Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) makes a meal out of him.

It’s obvious actor-turned-filmmaker Andy Serkis (“Breathe”) is working from a darker script than director Jon Favreau did during production of his 2016 movie. Favreau’s film was closer in tone to the original 1967 Disney animation, but Serkis seems more concerned with providing “Mowgli” an ominous atmosphere than he does with building on the classic tale’s message of friendship and zest for life.

Even when Serkis and first-time screenwriter Callie Kloves try to spin the story in their own direction, the decision to stray away from a kid-friendly movie poses some problems. Primarily, who is Mowgli’s intended audience? Now that Netflix has bought the rights, one might assume the answer is everybody with access to a Netflix account, but Mowgli is too cruel for kindergarteners and, at best, a curiosity for adults who will probably just end up comparing it to superior versions.

If you do decide to plop the little ones in front of the screen, know that “Mowgli” isn’t a musical, so there are no new renditions of “Bare Necessities” or “I Wanna Be Like You.” In fact, King Louie, who Christopher Walken voiced phenomenally in Favreau’s contribution, is completely cut out of this newest adaptation. Baloo is still included, although he’s more of a drill sergeant than a happy-go-lucky, honey-smacking bear. And main antagonist Shere Khan is designed to look like a devil-cat who at one point in the film describes tasting the blood of Mowgli’s mother.

Mowgli also shows its title character living among other humans when he is banished from the jungle. He meets a hunter (Matthew Rhys) contracted to kill Shere Kahn and a young woman (Freida Pinto) who cares for him during his stay. Neither of these storylines offer any emotional impact to the film, and the fact that Mowgli can speak to the animals in the jungle but not to the villagers makes about as much sense as picking a prickly pear by the paw.

Slumdog Millionaire

December 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor, Freida Pinto
Directed by: Danny Boyle (“Sunshine”)
Written by: Simon Beaufoy (“The Full Monty”)

Deep from the slums of Mumbai, India, “Slumdog Millionaire” is a captivating story about life, love and predestination told in one of the most unique narratives of the year.

The film follows Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a poor orphan who has found himself only one question away from winning the grand prize of $20 million rupees on the Hindi version of the TV show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

Jamal, however, is not participating in the game show to win money. He is there for a more important reason – true love.  Jamal believes that the longer he manages to stay on the show, the more likely his long-lost love Latika (Freida Pinto) will see him.

But growing up in the slums with no education isn’t going to help Jamal answer the questions posed to him during the competition. Instead, he relies on fate to guide him through each query. The better Jamal does during the show, the more skeptical a police inspector (Irfan Khan) becomes. “What the hell can a slumdog possibly know?” he asks when they begin to interrogate Jamal and attempt to get him to confess to somehow cheating on the show.

But there is an inexplicable power helping Jamal through his quest to find Latika. As we watch him sit across from the show’s host Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor) answering questions, we begin to understand the profoundness of the event happening before our eyes through beautifully detailed flashbacks of Jamal and his brother Salim raising themselves after their mother is killed.

Each question Jamal is asked transports us to meaningful and sometimes tragic times in his life that he can’t shake from his mind. With those deep-seated memories, Jamal is hopeful fate will continue direct him until he is able to find the girl he has always loved.

British filmmaker Danny Boyle has created a powerful story about destiny and the ability of the human heart to continue to love despite life’s hardships. Shooting on location in Mumbai, Boyle encapsulates the ambiance and energy of the city through sweeping cinematography and one of the most stimulating soundtracks this year. Boyle has proven in the past that he can take on any type of genre (“28 Days Later,” “Sunshine”), and do it with enthusiasm. In “Millioniare,” the project at times seems bigger than the the players but Boyle is able to take control of all its components and deliver an authentic piece of filmmaking full of exhilaration.