“LION KING” ANIMATES A NEW LOOK; “POINT BLANK” ON TV
A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley
“THE LION KING” (Rated PG) Searching for commercial success by tapping into its extensive library of animated classics, the Walt Disney Studios has turned this year into a string of live-action reboots that kicked off first with “Dumbo” and then “Aladdin.”
A quarter-century after its traditional animated release, “The Lion King” seemed a natural for the same treatment in what can be described as a photo realistic computer-animated remake that dazzles as a technical marvel.
On Broadway, “The Lion King” musical is now the third-longest running show in history, though it has far to go to catch up to “The Phantom of the Opera.” While theater tickets are far more expensive, the breathtaking stage production would be worth the price of admission.
The Jon Favreau-directed remake takes no discernable license with the source material, relying instead on the visual feast of digital wizardry to make the lion cub Simba so adorably cute that one forgets the animal is not real.
Of course, Simba (voiced as an adult by Donald Glover), heir to the throne of Pride Rock, is born to the regal Mufasa (James Earl Jones), ruler of the African wilderness, and Sarabi (Alfre Woodard), the loving queen mother.
The basic premise remains a Shakespearean-like tragedy in the vein of “Hamlet.” Mufasa’s treacherous brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), aided by a pack of vicious hyenas, conspires for the untimely death of the king to abet his ambition.
Tricked into believing responsibility for the unfortunate demise of his father, the traumatized Simba leaves the kingdom and wanders into exile in the desert where he is befriended by the meerkat Timon (Billy Eichner) and the warthog Pumbaa (Seth Rogen).
Scar takes over the rule of the kingdom and has his designs on Mufasa’s widow. While Simba may have found a carefree life in expatriation, the past is not easily forgotten as the memory of Mufasa’s wisdom never fades away.
The stretch for Simba spent adrift from what should have been his royal duties allows for plenty of good times with Pumbaa and Timon, the welcome source of the film’s comic relief, who practice the no worries mantra of “Hakuna Matata.”
Inevitably, the days of exile come to an end when Simba’s childhood friend Nala (Beyonce) shows up to make the case that he must claim his rightful position to snatch the crown from Scar and his gang of thuggish hyenas.
While “The Lion King” does not drift far afield of the original animated story, the longer running time of this remake is filled partly by expanded music. It’s reassuring that Elton John’s “The Circle of Life” remains a stirring opening number.
The good fortune of James Earl Jones reprising the role of Mufasa is evident in the fact that there is hardly any voice more authoritative than his. Chiwetel Ejiofor does justice to the conceit of the believable villain stealing the show.
Lamenting Disney’s self-assured rehash of the original 1994 animated version could be a pointless exercise. The studio is under no delusion that box office success is at hand for “The Lion King” as the visual achievements, at a minimum, should engender great interest.
“POINT BLANK” ON NETFLIX
Movie buffs might recall that “Point Blank” was the innovative 1967 crime story starring Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson. On the other hand, Netflix’s “Point Blank” reaches back to the 2010 French film of the same title for a remake of the same premise.
The Americanized version running on the streaming service sticks to the basic story of a male nurse, forced by the kidnapping of his wife as a hostage, to save the life of a criminal and effectuate an escape from hospital confinement.
“Point Blank” starts off with propulsive action promise. A man fleeing the crime scene of a murder is chased by gun-toting henchmen in a fast-paced adrenaline rush that is abruptly interrupted by a vehicular hit-and-run.
This is how career criminal Abe (Paul Grillo), badly injured and also wounded by gunfire, ends up in the care of the ER nurse Paul (Anthony Mackie), who hopes to become a doctor but is, for the moment, preoccupied by impending fatherhood.
Abe’s younger brother Mateo (Christian Cooke), a jittery bundle of nerves, kidnaps Paul’s very pregnant wife Taryn (Teyonah Parris) as collateral for the nurse’s unwilling cooperation to elude the authorities.
With Abe guarded by a police officer and shackled to a hospital bed, Paul’s reluctant collaboration for escape is the only play that seems reasonably feasible if Abe has any chance to prove he’s being framed as the prime suspect in the murder of the assistant district attorney.
A missing flash drive has incriminating evidence of police corruption, and hardnosed Lieutenant Regina Lewis (Marcia Gay Harden) has self-serving reasons for being so anxious to retrieve it.
“Point Blank,” a derivative B-movie full of gun fights, car chases and explosive thrills, is a serviceable entertainment that deviates from its quick pace with moments of humor courtesy of a pint-sized gangster’s obsession with classic cinema.