Tag Archives: Bill Murray

Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation

Ever been alone in a foreign hotel, city or entire country? There’s a mournful feeling of simultaneously being saturated in another culture and also being terminally disconnected from your surroundings, it’s a curious sensation. In Sofia Coppola’s brilliant Lost In Translation the two main characters find themselves awash in nocturnal Tokyo and marooned in a sea of aching unfamiliarity. Add to that the fact that both of them are at a place where they feel sort of stalled on the freeway of their lives and you have a sadly hued romantic drama that feels like no other.

Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is a washed up movie star who’s in town to endorse a Japanese whiskey label, constantly harried by superfluous phone calls from his wife (Nancy Steiner) who he’s clearly growing apart from. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is a newly married girl whose husband (Giovanni Ribisi) neglects and almost seems to resent her, tied up in his own work while she wanders aimlessly from her hotel room to the bar and back each night. It’s there that these two find each other, find companionship, conversation and yes, romantic chemistry but that is something that Coppola handles in an infinitely more realistic and mature fashion that one usually gets with Hollywood scripts.

Last night was my first ever viewing of this film so I’m a bit late to the party and still basking in the warm glow of the initial first impression but I can already tell I’m in love with and will revisit many more times. Translation is definitely the key word here; Bob and Charlotte speak very little Japanese and as such must find other ways to converse with those around them, be it body language, a laugh or other. But they also kind of need to get used to their own personal vernacular and how it relates to the other. There’s a fairly sizeable age gap between them and they come from different backgrounds so they must adapt to each other, and watching these two actors do so is a joy. Murray is quiet, soft spoken and his comedic edge is almost reined in of his own volition, like he wants to be funny but he’s just too sad to pull it off other than the occasional ironic flourish. Johansson is quiet, contemplative but blessed with a keen intellect and intuition, it’s the perfect role for the actress who, lets face it, sometimes gets cast on her looks and we forget what beautiful charisma she has as well. Coppola lets the friendship between them happen as it probably would in real life: awkwardly at first until they’re comfortable with each other, then with easy and enthusiastic abandon. My favourite scene of the film is where they attend a karaoke party and we get to see them at their happiest and lowest of inhibitions. They sing their hearts out, laugh, steal glances at each other and live in the moment. It’s the most romantic scene of the film and they don’t even touch each other, but the energy is there, carefully guided by their performances and Coppola’s direction. Few mainstream films get the complexities and ethereal realism of this type of situation right, but this one nails it for a dreamy, hypnotic, bittersweet story that you don’t want to end, until it does on a questioning note that we as the audience were never meant to know the answer to. Amazing film.

-Nate Hill

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Wes Anderson’s Isle Of Dogs

Wes Anderson’s Isle Of Dogs might be the guy’s best film so far, it’s miraculous on all levels. Now, I’m someone who previously wasn’t really an Anderson fan and had to warm up to his aesthetic as the movies came down the pipeline. With Life Aquatic and Tennenbaums I was left a little cold, a little meh. It took Moonrise Kingdom for me to be like “Ok.. this is pretty good,” by the time Grand Budapest rolled in I went “fuck yeah this is great,” and Dogs pretty much had me flipping over the moon. Much of the appreciation I have is for the breathtakingly detailed, tactile and textured stop motion animation technique employed here, a dazzling bag of tricks that brings a parallel dimension version of Japan to painstaking life, and fuels the story of one young boy (Koyu Rankin) looking for his beloved dog Spots (Liev Schreiber). The boy’s power mad Uncle (Kunichi Nomura) is the Mayor of Nagasaki Town, where dogs have been prohibited and banished to gargantuan Trash Island, where they live a savage, poverty ridden existence. The doggos here are voiced by an incredible cast of eclectic actors, which is par for the Anderson course. Bryan Cranston steals the show as Chief, a moody mongrel with violent tendencies who consciously contemplates why he is the way he is and has a beautiful arc. Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Anjelica Huston, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Fisher Stevens, Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton and more round out the rest of the puppers, each with their own distinct furry idiosyncrasies to offer. The message here is obvious and plays a bit too much into the state of current affairs when it should have been content to be a fictitious romp, but all is well. Anderson & Co. have also whipped up a supremely elaborate script that is as full of stimulating details of language and interactions as is the visual palette. This is a rollicking adventure, a tail of friendship, a deadpan screwball comedy, a satirical sideshow and a gorgeous work of visual art rolled into one unclassifiable piece of ingenuity.

-Nate Hill

The Farrelly Brother’s Osmosis Jones

ScienceWorld once did a colourful exhibition called Grossology, in which various parts of human anatomy are presented in garish, cartoony displays. The Farrelly Brother’s Osmosis Jones reminds me quite a bit of that, an inspired, juvenile little creation that seems to have slipped through the cracks. Focusing on the human body, or rather one human body in the form of out of shape, sloppy schmuck Bill Murray, it’s one of those rare half live action, half animated flicks, a concept which I love but one that only works out if you do it right. It worked magic in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it train-wrecked in Rocky & Bullwinkle, and went more middle of the road in stuff like Cool World and The Pagemaster. Here it works pretty damn well, if a little better on the animated side, where most of the focus is put anyways. Murray is Frank, a walking disaster whose lifestyle reflects the culmination of the Farrelly’s career in terms of utmost vulgarity. Zooming inside his body, a sassy technicolor world emerges, sentient forces living in infrastructure not unlike our own, albeit peppered with so many delightful jokes, gags (some which will kick the reflex into action) and word-plays it’s hard to keep up. Chris Rock plays a lively white blood cell cop who responds when Frank eats a hard boiled egg that’s home to a deadly virus, and runs all about the City Of Frank chasing it down, joined by a robotic cherry flavoured Cold Pill (David Hyde Pierce). City Hall is Cerebellum Hall in the Brain, the bowels resemble skid row, Mafia bacteria thugs reside in the armpit, and you get the idea. The imagination runs wild here, if a little grotesque in areas. The live action bits suffer in terms of writing and realism, they just feel like a queasy SNL skit and never have enough weight. It’s non stop fun when the animation kicks in though, a slightly off-Disney style that stimulates the screen visually and pops with every colour combination you can imagine. My favourite has to be Laurence Fishburne as Thrax, the deadly virus attacking Frank’s nervous system, a gangly, evil eyed freak who sports purple dreadlocks, a contagious Freddy Krueger style index finger and enjoys his job a bit too much. William Shatner is great as sleazy Mayor Phlemming too. It’s not as much fun as stuff like InnerSpace, and the live action clashes with the animated world in places where it should seamlessly mesh, but it has one admirable quality in spades: imagination. The jokes and ideas within Frank’s body are hurled at you a mile a minute, and you’d need to watch it at least twice to catch every little barb and dad-joke worthy pun. Good times.

-Nate Hill

Problem Children with Big Eyes who make Biopics that’ll give you Goosebumps: An Interview with Larry Karaszewski by Kent Hill

As the child from a working class family in South Bend, Indiana, Larry was introduced to the movies by his father. He was not restricted as to what he could watch, so he watched it all. After high school he debated between pursuing either a career in comedy or a life in pictures.

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Larry opted for the movies, and soon found himself at USC. It was there that he would meet Scott Alexander, and together they would form not only a friendship, but also the foundation of a prolific career as a successful screenwriting duo.

After (and though it launched a trilogy of films and even an animated series) Problem Child, the screenwriters struggled to find work. It seemed as though they had been typecast buy their work and so looked to independently produce a biopic they were working on about the notoriously bad filmmaker Ed Wood.

As fate would have it, word of the project reached director Tim Burton. After expressing interest, the boys would have to hammer out a screenplay in double-quick fashion. They succeeded, and this, the first in a string of biographical efforts, would re-establish them in Hollywood and from it they would carve out their place in the genre and become, in many ways, its ‘go-to guys.’

Biopics of Larry Flynt and Andy Kaufman would follow, seeing the boys team up with Academy Award winner Milos Forman. They would go on to re-team with Tim Burton as well as dabble in a variety on different genres including everything from a kid-friendly version of James Bond to horrific hotel rooms were you’ll spend a night or perhaps even an eternity.

Larry and Scott have garnered the highest accolades the industry has to offer and continue to deliver. While trying to get a hold of Larry for this interview I caught him riding high on his recent wave of success, so I would just have to wait for the tide to turn. I am however, glad that I did. It was, as it is ever, a privilege to chat with a man whose work I heartily admire. I love the films he has written and I look forward to the projects that he and Scott have in the pipeline.

Without further ado I present, the award-winning screenwriter and all-round nice guy . . . the one, the only, Larry Karaszewski.

WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

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Many filmmakers over the years have tried to make films out of Hunter S. Thompson’s books but the first completed effort did not surface until 1980 with Where The Buffalo Roam. It is not a good film. And yet, I find myself oddly fascinated by this deeply flawed effort. Perhaps it is Bill Murray’s truly inspired one-note performance and the stories of his deep immersion into the role. So deep that he has never fully been able to shake Thompson’s persona since. From articles that appeared at the time of its release, the project seemed doomed from the get-go with a first-time director clearly out of his depth and a problematic screenplay that Murray and Thompson tried in vain to improve during filming. The end result speaks for itself.

The film begins with a situation familiar to anyone who’s read Thompson’s work – under pressure to get an article done by a strict deadline for Blast magazine (aka Rolling Stone) for his long-suffering editor Marty Lewis (Bruno Kirby wasted in a thankless role). Up against it, he decides to write about his friend and attorney at law Carl Lazlo, Esq. (Peter Boyle). The film proceeds to flash back to San Francisco, 1968 and Thompson is holed up in a hospital room with a Wild Turkey I.V. drip (nice touch) and his own private nurse. Lazlo shows up (through the window no less) and springs his client for a road trip in a muscle car that bears more than a passing resemblance to the one James Taylor and Dennis Wilson drove in Two-Lane Blacktop (1971).

After this promising start, the film stalls with a bit where Thompson pretends to draw a lady’s blood which is pointless and painfully unfunny. Although, things perk up slightly in the next scene where he attends a court case that Lazlo is working. In the courtroom, he proceeds to mix up a Bloody Mary while he waits for the proceedings to begin, which is fairly amusing. Lazlo’s defense of four hippies stops the film cold. It is supposed to show his righteous fight for the underdog and the futility of working within the system. It is supposed to set up the struggle between the counterculture and the establishment, which epitomized the 1960s. Instead, it just comes across as dull and preachy.

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jumps to Los Angeles, 1972 as Thompson covers the Superbowl as depicted in the book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. After a tedious bit where he checks in, the film reaches its funniest point (not a hard feat, mind you) as Thompson stages his own Superbowl in his hotel room. He corrals a maid and a room service waiter into playing an impromptu game and, in the process, trash the room in a humorous scene that is the closest this film gets to realizing Thompson’s writing that was often filled with absurdly comical passages.

However, the film stalls yet again when, surprise, Lazlo shows up to take Thompson (and us) away from fun and sidetracks the narrative with painfully obvious political and social commentary as the crazy attorney tries to get his client to join a band of revolutionaries. The whole sequence makes no sense and is a total bore but does make you thankful for the fast-forward button. At this point, I really appreciated what a great job Terry Gilliam and Johnny Depp did adapting Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) to the big screen.

Fortunately, Thompson doesn’t have much time for Lazlo’s revolution and splits. The film segues into an amusing example of one of Thompson’s infamous college lecture appearances where he conducts a rowdy Q&A session to an adoring crowd of students. It is here where he utters one of his most famous pearls of wisdom: “I hate to advocate weird chemicals or insanity to anyone but they’ve always worked for me.” For anyone who has seen vintage footage of Thompson at one of these college campus appearances, the film’s recreation is spot on – a rare moment of verisimilitude.

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ends on a high note as it traces Thompson’s misadventures on the campaign trail, pitting him against the elite press corp. as he invades the plane carrying respectable journalists from newspapers like the Washington Post, much to the consternation of a White House representative (played by Animal House alumni Mark Metcalf). Not surprisingly, Thompson gets banished to the “zoo” plane with all of the technicians. It’s a chaotic, noisy crowd where Thompson fits right in. He proceeds to get a straight-laced journalist (played wonderfully by Rene Auberjonois) whacked out of his skull on prescription drugs (he’s later found in the plane bathroom singing, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”). This allows Thompson to steal his press credentials, which he uses to meet President Richard Nixon in a bathroom where he proceeds to freak the man out with his Gonzo behavior.

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Bill Murray certainly has Thompson’s distinctive voice and unique physical mannerisms down cold. In the opening scene, he nails the man’s tendency to sudden outbursts of anger and conveys his love and use of guns. Thompson also had a tendency to mutter to himself, often dictating into a tape recorder, which Murray does quite well. Best of all, the comedian spouts many Thompson-erisms at certain points that make you wonder if they were the parts that Murray and Thompson rewrote or that Murray, channeling Thompson, improvised. But for all of this hard work it still feels like a caricature of Thompson, or rather his public persona, like the Uncle Duke character in Doonesbury, but it is still fun to watch. Murray’s performance does contain moments of inspired lunacy, like the hospital room scene and the hotel Superbowl sequence. He does the best with what he has to work with but it’s an uphill battle and he’s constantly thwarted by the unorganized screenplay and ho-hum direction.

In the late 1970s, Thompson’s agent Lynn Nesbit called him one day and told him that movie producer Thom Mount wanted to pay $100,000 for the rights to “The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat,” a eulogy for his attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta, which appeared in the October 1977 issue Rolling Stone magazine. Thompson agreed to have it optioned without seeing a script figuring that the film would never get made because Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas had been optioned several times and never made. He remembers, “Then all of a sudden there was some moment of terrible horror when I realized they were going to make the movie.” In 1978, illustrator Ralph Steadman (who had worked with Thompson on numerous occasions) was asked to create a poster for the film. He used a drawing entitled, Spirit of Gonzo as the basis but this incarnation disappeared and in 1979 he created a completely different poster.

Thompson met with the film’s screenwriter John Kaye but felt that the man understood more than what was in the script. “I was very disappointed in the script. It sucks — a bad, dumb, low-level, low-rent script.” By his own admission, Thompson admitted that he signed away having any control so that he couldn’t be blamed for the end result. In the early drafts, Lazlo’s surname was Mendoza but this was changed after Nosotros, a group of Chicano actors and filmmakers, threatened to generate controversy if the character was played by Anglo actor Peter Boyle.

Before principal photography began, director Art Linson took a four-month crash course on directing. Steadman observed the first-time filmmaker on the set and said that it was “pretty obvious that he was in no frame of mind to catch the abandoned pure essence of Gonzo madness, which can only happen in uncontrolled conditions.” However, Steadman also felt that Linson’s “fanaticism for the subject he was trying to portray was undoubtedly there, and his sincerity, too,” but that the director was under the impression that the film was going to be a runaway hit before he’d even begun filming it and therefore refused to take any chances with the material.

While making Where the Buffalo Roam, Murray hung out frequently with Thompson. They were known to pull some wild stunts, like the time, at Thompson’s Aspen, Colorado home, after many drinks and arguing about who was the better escape artist, the writer tied the comedian to a chair and threw him into the swimming pool. Murray nearly drowned before Thompson pulled him out. The comedian also hung out with Steadman, who gave Murray his impressions and observations of Thompson’s mannerisms. According to Steadman, within two weeks of Thompson being on set, Murray had transformed into him.

Just before principal photography began, Murray became apprehensive because of the shortcomings of the script. Kaye claims that Thompson and Murray changed parts of it during filming and, at that point, he chose to no longer be involved. Linson did allow Murray, with Thompson’s help, to add lines on the set. Years later, Thompson said that he and Murray wrote and they shot several different beginnings and endings for the film but none of them were used. Murray and Thompson continued to be concerned with the film’s lack of continuity and in early 1980 added voiceover narration. Where the Buffalo Roam was sneak-previewed in late March and the last two scenes and most of the narration were missing. Murray was reportedly furious. Universal ended up shooting a new ending and three days before release, a press screening was canceled because of editing problems.

Thompson even served as a consultant on Where the Buffalo Roam but this did little to translate the author’s warped vision to the big screen. While watching the film, it becomes readily evident that, despite Murray’s inspired performance, Kaye and Linson had no idea what Thompson’s books were trying to say. The film seems more like a collection of rather tame highlights from the man’s work, including Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, The Great Shark Hunt and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Where the Buffalo Roam owes more to the sensibilities of Animal House (1978), with its goofy humor, than Thompson’s savage political satire. Mount also produced Animal House and ended up casting a few of the supporting actors from that film in this one. With Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, we laugh along with Thompson and his attorney but at a certain point the film makes it a point to show that these guys aren’t very nice and are quite destructive – to themselves and those around them. It is this darkness that is missing from Linson’s film, which is a light-hearted romp, a slob comedy.

In an interesting post-script, Murray had a tough time shaking Thompson’s persona after filming. Murray made the film between the fourth and fifth seasons of Saturday Night Live. When the fifth season began, the comedian was still channeling Thompson, showing up to meetings with the long black cigarette holder and sunglasses. One of the show’s writers said, “Billy was not Bill Murray, he was Hunter Thompson. You couldn’t talk to him without talking to Hunter Thompson.” Early in the fifth season of the show, Murray sometimes looked bored on-air and was described as acting like “a tyrant” backstage by some. He seemed to be angry at everyone and very uncooperative. After the film was released and tanked at the box office, as well as being trashed by the critics, the studio quickly pulled it from theaters. Murray started to act more like himself and no one brought up the strange period where he acted like Thompson. Years later, Murray reflected on the film: “I rented a house in L.A. with a guest house that Hunter lived in. I’d work all day and stay up all night with him; I was strong in those days. I took on another persona and that was tough to shake. I still have Hunter in me.”

Where-the-Buffalo-RoamAfter the film’s dismal reception, no other adaptations were completed. It took actor Johnny Depp and his friendship with Thompson to get any kind of serious attempt at an adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas even considered. In the end, I think that the problems I have with Where the Buffalo Roam are best summed up in a speech Thompson gives at the end of the film where he says, “it just never got weird enough for me.” Amen, my brother.

THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

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There’s always a certain amount of trepidation when a filmmaker like Wes Anderson, known for making intimate and personal films, starts making movies on a more ambitious scale – bigger budgets and movie stars in an attempt to appeal to a larger audience – that he will lose all of the qualities that made his movies so interesting in the first place. Easily his most accomplished film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) merged his stylized dialogue and quirky characters with elaborate sets and action set pieces in an exotic locale.

After his best friend is eaten by a Jaguar shark, famed oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) vows revenge. The problem is that the fish is endangered and he’s having trouble raising money for the expedition. He also meets Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) who may be his son by a woman he met 30 years ago. So, he convinces the young man to join his expedition in an attempt to make up for three decades of neglect.

Ever since Bottle Rocket (1996), Anderson’s movies feature a water motif in some form or another, whether it is Anthony and Inez’s first kiss in a swimming pool in Bottle Rocket or Max Fischer’s desire to build an aquarium in Rushmore (1998). With Life Aquatic, Anderson finally realizes his fascination with water head on by crafting an homage to Jacques Cousteau.

Life Aquatic also continues Anderson’s thematic pre-occupation with flawed father figures and their sons. There is the burnt out Mr. Blume and Max in Rushmore and Royal and his children in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). In Life Aquatic, Steve tries to reconnect with Ned in the hopes that they will bond while hunting for the Jaguar shark. Like Blume and Royal, the world seems to have forgotten about Steve. He’s washed up and hit rock bottom now that his best friend has been killed.

The film also continues Anderson’s structuring of his movies into segments. In Rushmore, the story was broken down into months serving as acts in a play, with Tenenbaums, it was chapters as in a book and now with Life Aquatic it is days as Steve’s mission is being filmed for a new documentary. This structure reinforces the magical, almost-fairy tale feeling that Anderson creates in every one of his films by drawing attention to itself as a fanciful tale.

Bill Murray turns in another excellent, low-key performance as the melancholy Zissou. With his beard and gruff, macho attitude, Steve comes across as a Hemingway-esque figure with a dash of Cousteau. And yet, no matter how extravagant things get, Murray always keeps things grounded with his sparse performance. Over the course of his career, the comedian has been gradually refining his style of acting. He gained fame in broad comedies like Stripes (1981) and Ghostbusters (1984) but has fine-tuned his style to a less-is-more approach with movies like Rushmore and Lost in Translation (2003). His turn in Life Aquatic is just the right blend of comedy and pathos.

Most films don’t warrant much thought or discussion, but Anderson gets more and more interesting with each new effort. They are filled with so many fascinating little details crammed in each and every frame, repeated thematic motifs and minor characters who often wander in and out of the background of scenes. His movies are magical, existing in their own unique worlds and bursting with ideas that are almost too much to absorb in one sitting. As was the allure of David Lynch’s short-lived T.V. show, Twin Peaks, one of the appeals of Anderson’s films is that we want to be in these quirky worlds he creates and we want to know his characters. We want to lose ourselves in his universe and the beauty of DVD is that they allow us to revisit the worlds of his movies any time we want.

Anderson is not only more ambitious in terms of structure and scale but also with the visuals of Life Aquatic. Shot in Italy, he utilizes the striking landscape of the country for a sun-kissed warm color scheme of yellows and browns. There are also the striking images that linger long after the film ends: the glowing jellyfish on a beach at night and the stop-motion animated fish (by Nightmare Before Christmas’ Henry Selick) and portrays them so vividly and in an exciting way.

Anderson’s career had been building up to this film. With The Royal Tenenbaums, he was able to juggle a large cast of name stars while still maintaining his artistic integrity. With Life Aquatic, he continued to use stars but upped the ante in production values and scope. However, he did not lose the intimate feeling that all of his movies possess. No matter how ambitious or big the scale, his films have hand-crafted feel to them. One gets the feeling that Anderson cares about every detail and every aspect and it is this personal touch that makes his movies so unique.

The Jungle Book: A Review by Nate Hill

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Prepare your eyes for maximum bogglement, work out your abs so you don’t bust a gut laughing, and most importantly, dust off that childlike sense of wonder before going to see Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, boldly and lovingly retold by Jon Favreau in what is the most flat out exciting, adventurous film of the year thus far. The director pulls  off a balancing act between palpable tension, character interactions that come straight from the heart and land squarely in ours, and some of the most believable, jaw dropping CGI I have ever seen on screen. The animals look so impressive and lifelike that after seeing them I shelved away some of my inherent reservations about computer generated effects as a dominant force in a piece, and simply gave in. The atmosphere is lush, intoxicating and deeply detailed, with a naturalistic feel and tone. Young Neel Sethi is tasked with being the only fully human component, and is perfect. His interactions seem real and rehearsed, immersing the viewer further into the visuals. Mowgli is a young man cub, found on the edge of the jungle by the panther Bagheera (stately, compassionate Ben Kingsley) and given to a wolf pack to be raised by alpha Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o). Not all in the animal kingdom are receiving of this man cub, especially a terrifying Bengal tiger called Shere Khan, given the rumbling tones of Idris Elba, inspiring fear in animals and audience alike. He has a rocky relationship with man, and wants Mowgli dead. Bagheera takes him far into the jungle, where they are separated and Mowgli’s adventure truly begins. He wanders into the path of Kaa (a slithery Scarlett Johansson) a monstrous, seductive python, and is taken under the wing of Baloo, an adult Winnie the poo voiced by Bill Murray. Murray is one of the film’s great delights, and as soon as he shows up we forget about all the menace and threat which preceded his arrival, and are swept up into his affable, lounging lifestyle and brightly colored neck of the woods. Murray clearly ad libbed a lot of Baloo’s dialogue, and anything he didn’t he still gives that unmistakable, winking ‘Murray’ twinge that I so love. Mowgli’s adventure continues, as he stays one step ahead of Shere Khan and is visited by the king of the monkeys, a twenty foot tall, lumbering orangutan named Louie, voiced with demented, pithy glee by Christopher Walken. As soon as he showed up the laughs erupted from within me, and reached a manic peak as he belts out the ‘Oobie Doo’ song in priceless Walken fashion, his monkey mannerisms uncannily starting to resemble Walken’s own distinct visage. Many of the animals serve as differing parental figures to Mowgli, representing elemental factions of raising one’s young. Bagheera is cautious, doubting and skeptical. Baloo is the fun loving, lenient one. Even Shere Khan has a curdled paternal feel to him, like the brutal stepfather who is damaging to his offspring. Raksha is the unconditional mother, and that devotion comes out wonderfully in Nyong’o’s souful performance. The vocal performances are aided by the stunning effects; the CGI of facial features allow the actors work to truly extend into the realm of what’s visible, with real emotions displayed by the creatures, and not a single rendering that’s anything short of lifelike. The film evokes true wonder and primal excitement, escapism that takes itself seriously yet knows when and how to play, a dazzling technical marvel, a timeless story well told, all in one cinematic package that is not to be missed. Oh, and stick around for the credits, instead of Walken out of the theatre and missing a final musical treat.