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Josh Reviews The Old Guard

Netflix’s new film The Old Guard is an adaptation of the terrific comic book series of the same name by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández.  Charlize Theron stars as Andy (short for Andromache), a warrior who is thousands of years old.  She and a small group of fellow immortals have found one another and now work together as an elite combat unit who take on impossible missions when no one else can help.  But in the twenty-first century, it’s become increasingly difficult for these immortals to hide their existence from the world…

The Old Guard is a fun action-adventure film.  I love the concept, and the film has been very faithfully adapted from the first mini-series of the comic.  (This makes sense as The Old Guard’s creator and author Greg Rucka is also the sole credited screenwriter on the movie!)  The film was directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees).  It’s awesome to see a woman of color given the helm of a comic book adaptation.  I think Ms. Prince-Bythewood does a great job with the adaptation; the film has terrific action but is also nicely centered on the characters.

The cast is top-notch.  Charlize Theron is perfectly cast as the immortal warrior Andy.  I’ll probably never love Ms. Theron more in an action role than I did her spectacular work in Mad Max: Fury Road, but it’s not really her fault that every other action role she takes can’t quite live up to Furiosa.  Ms. Theron is great here!  She nails the physicality of the role — she’s fantastic in all the action sequences (And I’m so glad that they gave Andy her very-specific weapon from the comics) — and more importantly, she’s able to bring Andy’s crushing world-weariness to life.  She plays the “I’m gettin’ too old for this shit” attitude perfectly, giving weight to the burden Andy carries without becoming too dour (which would have sunk the film).

KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk) is fantastic as Nile, a U.S. marine in Afghanistan who — after getting killed on patrol and then coming back to life — is sucked into Andy & co.’s crazy world.  Nile is the audience surrogate character, as it’s through her that we discover this story.  This could have been a boring, flat character in less capable hands, but Ms. Layne makes Nile the beating heart of the story; even more than Charlize Theron’s Andy.  Ms. Layne is terrific in exploring the shock and horror that Nile feels at discovering that she has forever lost her old “normal” life.  If future sequels lean even more heavily on Nile, I’d be delighted.

Matthias Schoenaerts … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Jon Favreau’s remake of The Lion King

It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that I was writing about the live-action remake of Aladdin, and stating that I don’t see any creatively interesting rationale behind Disney’s current predilection for remaking so many of their classic animated films in live-action. (There’s clearly a financial reason, as these films seem like a good way to make money off of pre-existing, beloved properties.)  The original animated films Aladdin and The Lion King are magnificent, among Disney’s very best.  So what is to be gained from remaking them in live action?

I don’t have an answer to that (again, other than money in Disney’s coffers), but while I don’t think either of these new remade films have much of a reason to exist, I enjoyed Join Favreau’s new version of The Lion King even more than I enjoyed Guy Ritchie’s remake of Aladdin!

Mr. Favreau first dipped his toes into these waters with his CGI-remake of The Jungle Book, which I thought was a visual marvel.  Mr. Favreau has gone even further with The Lion King, pushing the boundaries of technology and visual effects.

It’s a mistake to call this a live-action remake of The Lion King, because this new version doesn’t feature any human beings.  (The Jungle Book was mostly CGI, but the boy playing Mowgli was real.)  This new film has been created with astonishing, cutting-edge motion-capture and CGI work.  The result is incredible.  The film looks entirely photo-real, despite the fact that it features an ensemble cast of talking animals.  The world of The Lion King has been brought to astounding, beautiful life.  You easily believe that these talking animals are real.  It’s astonishing… and very cool to see the iconic animated locations of the original film (such as Pride Rock) brought to the screen in a way that makes it look like those places really exist.

The original Lion King features some iconic and memorable vocal performances.  Recasting this film could not have been easy… but Mr. Favreau and his team made all the right choices.  JD McCrary plays young Simba, while Donald Glover plays adult Simba… and Shahadi Wright Joseph plays young Nala, while Beyoncé Knowles-Carter plays adult Nala.  All four actors are perfect.  They give different interpretations of these characters than the original actors did, and yet at the same time they all sounded absolutely perfect for Simba and Nala to me.

I thought the hardest voices to recast would be Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella as Timon and Pumbaa.  And yet Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen might be my favorite performers in the new film!  They make Timon and Pumbaa entirely their own, while still allowing the … [continued]