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« Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (S1.E13-14) | Main | All Oscar Charts Updated »
Friday
Sep022016

Quickie Reviews: The Light Between Oceans and The Jungle Book

by Nathaniel R

Apologies that there's no big review this weekend but I do hope you'll check out the Fassbender & Vikander flick. Here are two quick takes on movie options this weekend.

IN THEATERS

The Light Between Oceans (Derek Cianfrance)
Story: A war veteran (Michael Fassbender) takes a position as a lighthouse keeper where he falls in love with a local girl (Alicia Vikander). Their lives change irrevocably when they discover an orphaned baby in a boat.
Review: A pop quiz. Which is more ravishing?

  • Real life romantic chemistry that translates intact to movie screens.
  • Romantic dramas that don't stop at sexy but get across how comforting and life-changing love and companionship can be.
  • Picturesque rocky islands and lighthouses softened at their edges by grassy tenderness and the windswept beauty of two definitely cinematic brunettes.

Trick question -- they're all super ravishing! I've heard the complaints that The Light Between Oceans is "dull" or "has no edge" and it's definitely soggier and lacking in the instantaneously memorable moments of Cianfrance's previous outings Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines. But I kind of loved it while I was watching it. At least the first half. It loses its way a little in the third act as the tragedy stretches out and the film shifts to Rachel Weisz but it's uncommonly gorgeous to gaze upon and cry through. 
Grade: B+ (maybe B towards the end)
Oscar Chances: Perhaps it's not potent enough to hold on for months to win acting nominations -- though Fassbender & Vikander are both excellent -- but I'm crossing my fingers for Best Cinematography. Take a bow, Adam Arkapaw. (His previous credits include Macbeth, Lore, and Animal Kingdom). It also feels like a possibility for Score (Alexandre Desplat) though that's a little overbearing. 

JUST OUT ON DVD / BLURAY

The Jungle Book (Jon Favreau)
Story: You know this one already. A boy is raised by animals in the jungle. No, not that white one with the apes. The little Indian boy raised by wolves and panthers and bears, oh my. The problem: a tiger wants him dead.
Review: Can you believe we never reviewed this? Though it's somewhat ravishing to look at as a technical achievement, in truth I was not particularly fond of it and found it difficult to write about. The problem was that it doesn't have an identity of its own to discuss. Favreau trusts that fond memories of the Disney animated classic it apes (pun not intended) will win your love. He and his team trust in this so completely that they even graft on two and a half highly uncomfortable musical numbers despite the fact that this Jungle Book definitely does not self-identify as a musical, it's one characteristic that immediately sets its apart from the original. Until it doesn't.  Great voice work by Idris Elba as Shere Khan. 
Oscar Chances: Most definitely. At least a visual effects nomination. Perhaps sound as well?
Grade: C/C+   

P.S. If you liked it more, I'd love to hear why. Its long legs at the box office indicate that it wasn't just brand recognition but actual audience love that made it an enormous hit.

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Reader Comments (10)

I loved the book quite a lot... it was a slow but beautful written novel .. you just became engrossed with the story..

the movie is very beautifully filmed .. it is a slow moving experience but I found it adhered to the book very well... the actors were beautifully cast ... Weisz, whom I usually love, did not do it for me ...but that is a small quibble... I do not think the movie will do well unless you have read the book....

September 2, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Gosh, The Jungle Book was such a shrug. Maybe it's just because we've seen the story so many times in various forms that it felt like little more than a very impressive visual effects demonstration. I don't even have the energy to engage with people who loved it, I just don't think there's *anything* there worth talking about. It's not badly made. Not at all. If anything it's too well made. Like... it's the exact movie I expected it to be without a single surprise.

September 2, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

I think your love of Michael Fassbender clouds your judgment because "dull" is exactly how I would describe watching him in anything. He's the Jai Courtney of the art house scene - inexplicably in everything with an overzealous PR team.

September 2, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRahul

I think people buy into the novelty of technology very easily. Take away all the pretty animals in Life of Pi and what your left with is a young, boring actor stuck in a long, boring story. I haven't seen the Jungle Book, but it sounds like a similar case.

September 3, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterkris

Kris - a very very similar case with that description!

September 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

So everyone here was bored by The Jungle Book and confused by the acclaim? I feel so at home.

September 3, 2016 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Yeah, I kind of loved The Jungle Book. The whole vibe clicked with me, with a world that had almost live-action, Studio Ghibli vibe at its best.

September 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Zitzelman

Yeah, I was mystified by the pass Jungle Book seemed to get from critics. The visual effects are spectacular and some of the voice-work is nice (if obvious), but you're right that it has no identity of its own. It's a shame, since Cinderella at least offered the suggestion that Disney were interested in doing more than just making live-action remakes of their animated classics, but that had one really great performance plus memorable score/costuming, which I guess I just find easier to latch onto than the 'ravishing' visual effects of The Jungle Book.

September 3, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterben1283

The only thing I liked about The Jungle Book is that its box office success finally ended my five year quest to convince the summer camp I work for to let me teach Jungle Book Kids. Theater enrollment was the highest it's been in years and everyone loved the shorter, musical version of the story. The film was ok, but I can't forgive that gunning for a sequel ending at all.

September 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

A little late to this post, but I agree wholeheartedly with your review of Light Between Oceans. Firstly, I thought it was gorgeously shot with Cianfrance making the Janus Lighthouse landscape and sheltered environment a character of its own. Secondly, it's really a shame that Vikander won for The Danish Girl because she is simply superb in this one. From her initial meet-cutes with Fassbender which carried a believable aire of innocent flirting to her gradual spiral into a bit of depressive madness, she pulled me in (as did Fassbender who works surprisingly well in this environment as a romantic lead). Like you, I think the last act goes through one too many story machinations, but I think this ends up being better than "Place Beyond the Pines," yet doesn't reach the emotional levels of "Blue Valentine" for me.

September 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJHR

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