Tag: James Earl Jones

Coming 2 America

I know we have had an influx of “sequels a decade or two later” over the last few years, really starting with Dumb and Dumber To, but this one I think has to be the longest gap in the trend?

Coming to America graced our lives with humor and witticism in 1988, before a young Gorgon Reviewer could even be born. And now, 33 years later, its sequel is ready to go (although sure, it meant to come out last year).

Now this one is a much bigger sequel than the others because it had a much bigger original cast that was important to the story, and hell, everyone if they are alive that matters to the story is returning. So it has that going for it. I will say however I hate that they did call it Coming 2 America, because in real life it is impossible to say the difference without hand gestures or extra words, but in text life I guess it is fine.

Can they bring back the previous rains of Africa with this film? Will it matter in today’s world?

60% of the time it is good to be the king, all the time.
And we are back to Zamunda, where decades ago a young Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) returned with his bride (Shari Headley) from Queens, New York.  He has since fathered three girls, and his oldest, Meeka (KiKi Layne) is a wonderful and powerful woman, but the Zamunda laws require a male heir. Akeem is worried about that, given the imminent death of his father (James Earl Jones) and fully taking over the King hood.

The problem is, Nextdoria is now being run by a powerful and charismatic ruler, General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) who wants to marry his son into the royal line. But Akeem believes in true love! And if he says no, Izzi might kill him and take over!

Well, according to his good friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall), one night in Queens long ago, he tried to hook up Akeem with a bride right away! Akeem does not remember this situation due to drugs. Well, sure enough she (Leslie Jones) had a baby, who is an adult male (Jermaine Fowler) and might be the answer to his countries woes! Especially if he will agree to marry Izzi’s daughter.

Also starring basically everyone, including many from the original cast, if they were still alive: John Amos, Louie Anderson, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Clint Smith, Paul Bates, Nomzamo Mbatha, Bella Murphy, Akiley Love, Rotimi, Teyana Taylor, and Tracy Morgan.

fancy outfits
Nextdoria got mighty prosperous and powerful in a few decades.
Out of sequels a few decades later, I think Coming 2 America has to be considered the best to try it, because it really did deliver. Whether it is as funny as the original or will be seen as timeless as the original that is hard to say, but it is still clearly filled with the same heart and soul (glow) that made the first one work. It isn’t just references to the last movie (of which there is quite a few) or meta jokes about sequels (in which there is one). It is a continuation of a story and a reflection over the decades, asking our characters to better themselves and fulfill promises they claimed they would give us.

I laughed out loud several times, and I was watching it alone by myself, so that says a few things. My favorite new character was General Izzi. He came in and commanded the screen like a real life, slightly more aggressive Prince Ali. They brought the music in and the dances and it was a sight to behold. It is amusing that just two years ago we were noting how strange it was that Wesley Snipes and Eddie Murphy had never been in a movie together with Dolemite Is My Name, and we all realized that chemistry worked and needed to be expanded.

All of the classic character return and give us growth and familiarity. Big shout out also to Paul Bates as Oha with a surprising vocal range.

It is also full of musical guests to increase the nostalgia factor, each one surprised me and added to the extravagance. The last one had me in stitches though near the end, that is for certain.

Coming 2 America is funny and familiar and fits like an old glove (assuming you didn’t gain the Pandemic 50). I was doubtful it would work given all of the ones that failed before it, and damn was I wrong. The bar is now set very high for the next old late sequel, which I think is Sister Act 3. But the first two Sister Acts weren’t as good as Coming to America, so it might already be a losing battle.

3 out of 4.

The Lion King

It’s the circle of life, and fifteen years after The Lion King graced our screens, we are now given a new The Lion King. But there is so much different between the two! You see, the one twenty-five years ago was animated, while this one is…animated differently!

Only one scene had some live action components, and that was in the opening montage of animals, some of the backgrounds were real. That is it. Everything else you couldn’t even call a green screen, because it is 100% made on computers.

We just really want you to make sure you don’t call this the Live Action version, like a lot of their recent remakes. It is not, it is still animated, and nothing is real anymore anyways.

hakuna my tatas
Hakuna my tatas, life is a lie.

Ah good. Simba (Donald Glover) exists. Maybe this time his Uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) wont trick him into thinking that he killed his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones). Oh… Think again!

No, but this time it is different. We have more animals! Like, we got this spiritual one, Rafiki (John Kani) who likes to wait around and draw on his walls. We got Nala (Beyoncé) who likes to wrestle, we got super mad Zazu (John Oliver) just trying to give advice, we got Sarabi (Alfre Woodard), mad that her husband had to go and get dead. Okay a lot of that is the same.

Uhhhh, we got Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), and they like to relax, but this time more animals in the oasis have words too!

Oh, oh, oh, the real difference. None of our hyenas are unable to speak! Yeah that’s it. Nailed it.

Also featuring the voices of Chance the Rapper, Eric André, Florence Kasumba, JD McCray, Keegan-Michael Key, Penny Johnson Jerald, and Shahadi Wright Joseph.

circle of life
“Shit, I was brought into this world just for this?” – Simba, probably.

Let’s take something people like, bring it back again, and make it worse, while also technically improving it. Because sure, the animals looked very realistic, which is what they were going for. Technology sure is wonderful.

And the realistic animals is also the cause of all of the other problems in this movie.

Because they are so realistic, having them talk looks awkward. And more awkward than talking animal films like Homeward Bound, because in Homeward Bound, they didn’t try to match words to their mouth movement, they just put voice overs. Watching the animals talk is distracting and downright wrong. The animals don’t have emotions on their faces either, so when the voice actors ATTEMPT to give emotion, then it is seemingly lost and wasted.

I do say attempt, because honestly, most of the voice acting was phoned in. People coming from the movie usually talk about Eichner and Rogen being the stars, because at least they are funny. Everyone else is super serious all the time. Sure, there are dark moments, but many characters provide laughs in the original.

However, even Rogen falls short for me, because his singing is terrible. I can’t enjoy Hakuna Matata when Rogen is bringing it down. Poor Eichner, actually singing well. Speaking of songs, whatever they did to Be Prepared will forever be seen as one of the biggest mistakes int his films history.

Now, what I am most disappointed about is this movie added almost 30 minutes of material, so I figured we’d get expanded characters. All we really got expanded was Sarabi, and that is barely. We still have a whole trove of lionesses that are just background, and still only three hyenas. No new animals to speak of and introduce as characters.

The only little bit of reprieve we get is in the oasis, where finally some random animals are also talking and adding in words, especially during the grub scene. How do we not have more of that?! It is so easy to do, and plus, more goddamn toys to sell.

Instead we got a movie with worse music, worse voice acting, technically better animation, but a lot less heart.

1 out of 4.

Guest Review: The Lion King (Chris Smith)

1994’s The Lion King is one of my favorite movies of all time. Anyone who knew me as a child will tell you I watched it constantly. I remember having to buy a second VHS copy due to wearing the first one out. Because of this, I of course had high expectations for Disney’s remake.

These “live-action” remakes Disney has been making recently have varied wildly in quality. Some have been quite good (The Jungle Book). Some have been awful (Beauty and the Beast or Alice in Wonderland). Some have been bizarre (Maleficent). I regret to say that The Lion King is unfortunately one of the bad ones.

Simba can restore the pride lands, but he cannot restore this dumpster fire.

First let’s start with the positives, because there are a few. Timon and Pumbaa are delightful, maybe even more entertaining than in the original. Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen nearly break their backs carrying the film from the minute they come on screen. Some of the other supporting characters are also fun. John Oliver is great as Zazu, while Alfre Woodard does a lot with little to work with as Sarabi. The hyena characters were expanded upon and given a truly sinister edge that I liked a lot.

The music (with some glaring exceptions) is also very good, capturing the same spirit of the original film, but with a cool spin. “Hakuna Matata” and the new expanded version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” were especially good.

Scar was also a highlight. He carries the appropriate amount of menace and I enjoyed the added bits of backstory give to him. Chiwetel Ejiofor is clearly going for a more Shakespearean bent to the character and I think it works well.

Lastly, the effects are gorgeous. The vast majority of the film is photorealistic and looks as if they just took a film crew to Sub-Saharan Africa to film. However, this is a double edged sword, and leads me to the negatives.

Clearly the best moment and all down hill after this.

Hoo boy where to begin? So let’s start with some nitpicks and go from there. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” is set during the day. That might not sound like a big deal, but it took me completely out of the movie. The whole time the song was playing (and the recording itself is great) I couldn’t stop saying to myself “But it’s broad daylight…” It’s the title of the song! One of the most famous love songs in Disney history! How do you make that decision?

Be Prepared” is just completely butchered. It’s very clear that when people heard it was being left out and people complained, they hastily put it in last minute. The tune is bad. The rendition is bad. The whole sequence is really bad and is the exact point in the film where I started to turn on the film completely.

There is also an original song here from Beyonce. I like Beyonce as an artist, but this song just completely sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s also not that good, especially by her standards.

I won’t get completely into plot details, but some changes made here and there are very odd and take some emotional power away in key scenes.

Lastly, but most importantly, the truly fatal flaw of this movie is also one of its strengths: the effects. Somewhere in pre-production, a decision was made by someone to make this movie truly photorealistic in every way, including the animal faces, so that at times it appears you’re looking at a nature documentary. For some scenes, such as the iconic (and still great) “Circle of Life” scene, this works amazingly well. However, the minute any dialogue scene occurs, especially ones requiring a lot of emotion, this decision literally kills the movie dead. Now I know it’s possible to animate realistic animal faces to show emotion. Disney themselves did it in their Jungle Book remake a few years ago. Here, the lack of expressiveness, especially with the lion characters, is definitely a purposeful decision.

The problem is that because the lions aren’t shown being that emotional, the voice actors are clearly having to tone down their performances to match. This is most clearly heard with James Earl Jones, where the difference in emotion between this film and the 1994 film is just staggering. Some of the actors still manage ok. Jones is still Jones so he’s not bad. Ejiofor manages a lot with subtle voice inflection. Donald Glover does a decent job. But for the most part, the lion characters fail to properly convey the weight of what we’re watching. The big test for me is the film’s ending. The original Lion King’s ending never fails to give me goosebumps. With this one, I felt nothing. That is nothing short of failure.

In short, go rewatch the original film this weekend instead. You’ll have a far better time.

2 out of 5.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I wrote a shit ton for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Like, 1300 words or so. I had to explain my history with Star Wars, my avoidance of hype, and the film itself, so it was a lot to say. Overall, I enjoyed it, but it had its issues. I won’t reharp on any of that here.

I will instead just talk about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and spin-offs. When they announced the new episodes and the spin-offs, I was honestly more excited about spin-offs. Finally, stand alone stories that don’t involve a Skywalker. Of course then they announced a Han Solo prequel, which eh, whatever I guess. And I will sound hypocritical when I say I sincerely hope one of these movies ends up being a solo Obi-Wan Kenobi film, because I loved Ewan McGregor in that role.

The first spin-off makes sense. It is something giving us a whole lot of new characters, while also keeping it relevant to the main story line. It is a safe beginning, while also allowing them to show new characters for merchandising. Erm, for diversity. That is what I meant to say.

Oh please tell me I can have a Donnie Yen action figure now?!

Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is a brilliant scientist, and unfortunately with that, great at building weapons. He was working for the Empire, but felt pretty bad, went off grid to live with his wife and daughter as a farmer. But then, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) finds them and forces Galen to head back to the Empire to work on this Death Star thingy. This leaves his daughter alone, parentless, and pissed off.

Now older, Jyn (Felicity Jones) is a bit of a rebel. Not a Rebel, just a rebel. And then she gets taken up by some Rebels, including Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his sarcastic strategy robot, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). She gets pushed into a plan by the Rebel Alliance, wanting to use her to get to her father, Galen, before the Death Star is completed to put a dent into those dirty Empire scums.

And along the way they meet the blind Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) who loves him some force, his friend Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) who looks like Mickey Rourke in Iron Man 2 sort of, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) a pilot who wants some redemption. Also featuring Forest Whitaker, Alistair Petrie, Genevieve O’Reilly, and returning Jimmy Smits and James Earl Jones.

Oh yeah, and a strong female lead above this giant group of male characters.

Despite an over 2 hour run time, Rogue One flew by like a sweet, enjoyable breeze. The new characters were all three dimensional and most importantly, I cared about them. Even the one who ended up being sort of a recurring dick.

Jyn was a complex character and not just someone who seemed naturally good at every situation. I loved, loved, loved, Yen as Chirrut and happy to see him included in such a big movie. And K-2SO was a robot for my own heart. He wasn’t as amazing as HK-47 from KOTOR, but gosh darn it, he must be my favorite droid after him.

Despite knowing how the film has to end (right into Episode IV‘s lap), the journey becomes a thing of beauty. There is danger at every turn and there is a real feel that at any point, a character might not make it. If this dealt with any character from the original trilogy, then you would know they can make it through to tell their story. But these are new people, unknowns, they are expendable. And it was refreshing to see.

There are a lot of call backs to the original movies of course. This film is almost like a giant wink to those extreme fan boys out there, and I admit that I wrote down the parts where people laughed and clapped that I didn’t understand. Don’t worry, I asked them afterwards for each reference.

Rouge One is certainly a step in the right direction and will be a wonder for Star Wars fans and regular movie goers alike. But at the end of the day, this film doesn’t offer a lot of completely new elements to the franchise just yet. Like I already said, it was a good safe story to tell, keeping us in familiar territory. Once Star Wars gets away from the Skywalkers, Solos, and Death Stars, when it can tell a truly original story set in their universe, then it might truly reach a new greatness.

But until then, this is a good great stepping stone between the trilogies, with strong characters, and a film many will enjoy.

3 out of 4.

Gimme Shelter

I just now realized that the title Gimme Shelter is spelled wrong. What the hell, movie makers. I demand another i.

Besides that, this song didn’t use the The Rolling Stones song either. All I knew about this movie is that I heard some good things about it, and that it of course never came to my area when it was out in theaters. Typical, typical lame area.

Oh well, DVD releases wouldn’t be exciting if I always saw the stuff before they came out, right?

Spoiler – The Shelter is a church.

Agnes/Apple (Vanessa Hudgens) is your typical troubled teen girl. Her mom (Rosario Dawson) is a crack whore, they live in the slums, with lots of drugs and gross stuff. And she is pregnant from a boy she met, who wants nothing to do with her now. So she has had it, cuts her hair, and runs away from home.

Where to? Maybe her dad’s house! Who she has never met before, because he was a kid in college when he met the mom for basically a very short relationship. He didn’t find out about her existence until years later, and felt bad, but didn’t come and save her from her life either. Either way, he (Brendan Fraser) is now a rich dude with a family, some wall street shit. She wants to stay with him, but his wife doesn’t appreciate the fact that she is pregnant and doesn’t want to raise the baby for her. She wants Apple to get an abortion!

Well, Apple doesn’t like that either. So she goes back on the streets. Then she gets eventually put into a home for teenage girls who are pregnant. Yay shelter.

Starring also James Earl Jones as a preacher, which may be his first time in a role like that, and Ann Dowd as the troubled teen home owner.

Give it up for the make up department for grossing us out with Dawson’s teeth.

I am pretty sure during this movie I saw a fade to black. One of those things to signal an end of scene or commercial break or whatever. Is this secretly a made for TV movie that instead went to theaters? Because that is what it felt like. It felt like a Hallmark after school special or something. A movie about why abortions are bad and your family might not be your real family.

Here is a positive. I can say this wasn’t an expected role for Vanessa Hudgens. There was no singing, no dancing, she wasn’t sexy, just a teen with a lot of emotions and not many people she could trust.

But the movie felt like a giant lecture. The ending too was kind of odd. That is when I found out it was just based on another fucking true story, that they thought was good enough for a movie, but in reality it wasn’t. Yeah. This review I guess will be shorter than a normal one, because I am already done.

1 out of 4.