James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Clay//Film Critic
THE LION KING
Rated PG, 1 hour 58 minutes
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Starring: James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Beyoncé, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Billy Eichner, Seth Rogen, Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key, John Kani, Alfre Woodard, Eric André, John Oliver
Odds are if you’re reading this article, you got around to seeing the “live-action” remake of THE LION KING. It’s a film that never really found success creatively or a reason to stand on its own against the 1994 classic. However, there is a technical marvel to behold, but to what end? Well, the 4K Blu ray sure does look and sound incredible.
Director Jon Favreau is one of those filmmakers, much like Ang Lee and Robert Zemekis, who seems to be more interested in the technical boundary-pushing of his films, rather than telling either an original or compelling story. If you really want to take a deep dive into our thoughts on the retelling of THE LION KING, check out our Critic’s Notebook regarding the strange brand of karaoke the film adopts.
All in all, it’s impossible to take this film at face value. There’s so much baggage that comes along with such a beloved movie and adds on top of it a completely new filmmaking medium, an updated voice cast, which includes Seth Rogen, Donald Glover, and Beyonce of all people.
However, the special features on the Blu-ray tell a much different story. On a pure filmmaking level, they are incredibly informative. Favreau doesn’t just give us a peek behind the curtain; he pulls the whole damn thing down to show you the nuts and bolts of his production.
Journey to The Lion King Documentary
Music: Hans Zimmer’s score put against those iconic Elton John songs are impossible to live up to, and by and large, they weren’t able to achieve the same magic. But the process took on a whole life of its own. In this feature, you see Zimmer creating the tunes alongside a 100-plus piece orchestra. It truly took an entire village to achieve a sound that felt bigger and more modern than the original. We are also taken into the recording booth with the world’s most huggable human being, Seth Rogen, as he talks about the rewards and difficulties of trying to become a singer on the spot.
The Magic: It’s hard to think what a director of an animated film does, but in this segment, we get a full hands-on experience of what it takes to create this world, and the results are mind-blowing.
How it works is there a massive virtual reality world created by the visual team that Favreau, his cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and his assistant directors begin to explore. Much like a video game, they wander around this digital space essentially location scouting just like you would in a live-action feature. In these studio spaces, there are sensors located everywhere to simulate a camera, and they can create the visual language of the film. It’s something you have to see to believe.
The Timeless Tale: Favreau takes us on a tour of how the voice-over work in the film brought a new life to the characters. Despite the casting, the voice acting isn’t without criticism. It largely felt stilted in many ways that lack the same musicology of the original. It’s still possible to be very critical of the film and find enjoyment out of watching this film come to life.
Additional Features: Sing a long versions in French, Spanish and Portuguese. Shot-by-shot comparisons of storyboards to live-action.
CHARLIE’S ANGELS/ CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE
The McG-directed movies are quintessential to the early 2000s. It’s no surprise that they adopt a music video style with strange montages that somehow amount into a film. It would be a mistake to write these films off completely. They are certainly a product of their time in a way that’s a bit cringeworthy and oddly refreshing. McG took these films in the sensationalized version of the campy 70s TV show. This duo of films is getting a new Blu-ray/4K treatment in honor of the new movie, starring Kristen Stewart and Naomi Scott, hitting theaters this November.
These films aren’t interested in the story as much as they are allowing their cast (Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu) to act supremely silly in a big-budget action-comedy. And luckily, Sony is packing these releases with loads of special features that will make any collector of physical media jump for joy.
The year was 2000 when CHARLIE’S ANGELS hit theaters. We had just made it through Y2K, and Nickelback had yet to hit the charts with their hit “How You Remind Me.” While the filmmaking isn’t very impressive, this reboot was a bit ahead of its time by having a group of women kicking ass in a movie that was completely sold on the star power of its leads… with a little help from Bill Murray and Sam Rockwell. Loose on plot, heavy on sketches and set pieces, this film hits its climax early on with a well-choreographed fight between the Angels and the Thin Man (played by Crispin Glover) scored to “Smack My B*tch Up” by Prodigy, which screams the year 2000 with gaudy glee.
CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE does just that. It’s a go-for-broke sequel that is bonkers to watch in retrospect. Bill Murray was replaced by Bernie Mac and things only get crazier from there fast. Make no mistake, this movie is an absolute mess, but it sure does hit a sweet spot as a baffling big-budget piece of entertainment. There is a crazy list of cameos that range from Luke Wilson to Matt LeBlanc, recording artist Pink, Shia LeBeouf and Justin Theroux, all in the first thirty minutes of the movie. This is one film you really have to see to believe.
Special features: Commentary by director McG, Angel-Vision commentary track, bloopers, deleted scenes, music videos (of course). Full Throttle: The Cars of Charlie’s Angels, Dream Duds: Costuming an Angel and the list goes on.
THE LION KING and CHARLIE’S ANGELS/ CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE are now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital HD.