Film Review: “Jungle Cruise”

  • Starring:  Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt and Paul Giamatti
  • Directed by:  Jaume Collet-Serra
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 7 mins
  • Disney

The tale is told of the Conquistadors that sailed down the vast and dangerous river in search of the petals of a certain plant.  The petals, called “The Tears of the Moon” were said to cure any ailment and reverse any curse.  But of course, it’s just an old tale.  Right?

Full of fun, with another winning performance by Dwayne Johnson – I think if he met me he and I would be best pals immediately – “Jungle Cruise” is the latest Disney attraction to become a feature film and, I must say, it’s pretty darn entertaining.

We are introduced to the Houghton siblings – brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) is every bit the prim and proper Brit he seems to be while his sister, Lily (Blunt) is the adventurer in the family, having spent a good portion of her adult life searching for the mystical petals.  While looking for a boat to take them down river they meet Frank (Johnson) who is currently doing his best to avoid Nilo (Giamatti), the local bad guy.  If you’ve seen “Roadhouse” think of him as the jungle version of Brad Wesley.  A deal is made and the threesome head into the great unknown.

On the plus side, “Jungle Cruise” makes great use of CGI, creating a jungle, and all of its inhabitants, with amazing realism.  Tigers. Spiders. Monkeys.  You name it, they’re there and they look amazingly real.  The cast is in great form, with Johnson happily spouting puns (we call them “dad jokes” today) whenever he gets the chance.  Also well cast is Jesse Plemons, whose character, a former German army officer, is as obsessed with the petals as Lily is.  He’s a little over the top, but in a good way. 

My only major problem with the film is that it seemed about 30 minutes too long.  You can only battle zombie pirates so long before it gets boring.  If I wanted a three hour tour I’d wait for “Gilligan’s Island – the Movie,” which I’m sure will be in theatres soon!

Blu-ray Review “The Jungle Book (2016)”

Actors: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o
Directors: Jon Favreau
Rated: PG
Studio: Walt Disney Studios
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Run Time: 106 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

I have to admit right off that I didn’t love this film. Before you jump, the visuals were amazing and at times it was almost difficult to see the line between real and CGI with the characters but I wasn’t grabbed in. I have the fonded appreciation for director Jon Favreau and his work. He updated this 50+ year old film with some outstanding technology but overall, the film feels too dark for me and doesn’t have that cheer of the original.
The voice cast is extremely strong here including Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, Scarlet Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o, Garry Shandling and Giancarlo Esposito. These are some A-list names here and they all do a great job especially with Murray and Walken singing there respective tunes. So once again, I didn’t love this film but I did like it. I just was hoping to leave with more of a smile.

Official Premise: Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”), based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, “The Jungle Book” is an all-new live-action epic adventure about Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley), and the free-spirited bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray). Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who don’t exactly have his best interests at heart, including Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johansson), a python whose seductive voice and gaze hypnotizes the man-cub, and the smooth-talking King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken), who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower: fire.

Despite my opinions on the film itself, the Blu-ray is nearly perfect. Since the visuals in the film are so outstanding it is only expected that the 1080p transfer would deliver it perfectly. From the CG characters to the landscapes there is so much detail through this film. From the water to the hair on the characters, it is all beautiful done and shows up amazing on Blu-ray. I would be curious to see how this looks on 3D Blu-ray. The same goes for the film’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 which delivers a wonderful experience with from the subtlest sounds to the massive battles. Kudos to John Debney’s score for delivering a very well-rounded score.

“The Jungle Book” doesn’t come jam-packed with extras but there is a solid making-of extra, two featurettes, and an audio commentary from director Favreau. Also a DVD copy of the film and a Digital HD code are included. The commentary track is very insightful. Favreau goes into depth on the production and delivers a highly recommended track, I appreciated the film a little more after listening to this track. “The Jungle Book Reimagined” runs just over 30 minutes and looks into the making-of the film from the visual effects to the voice casting etc. Lastly there are two quick featurettes included. The first is “I Am Mowgli” which focuses on casting Neel Sethi and the second is “King Louie’s Temple: Layer by Layer”, which break down the film’s key scene.

Film Review “The Jungle Book”

Starring: Neel Sethi
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Rated: PG
Running time: 1 hr 45 mins
Walt Disney Pictures

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Here are some facts about the 1967 animated film “The Jungle Book:” It was one of the last films to be personally supervised by Walt Disney; Disney was so unhappy with the musical score that he had it re-written – only keeping the song “The Bare Necessities” at the urging of others – the song would go on to be nominated for an Oscar. Now comes a live-action version of the Kipling story, one that is not necessarily meant for its intended audience.

The story begins with young Mowgli (Sethi) running through the jungle with his adopted wolf brothers. Try as he might, he is not able to win the race, much to the chagrin of his “father,” who is trying to raise him like one of the pack. Trouble begins when the Tiger named Shere Khan (voiced by the amazing Idris Elba) shows up hoping to make a snack of the young boy. However, he is deflected by others, causing him to become angry. Knowing the little guy isn’t safe, the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) decides that Mowgli must leave the jungle and return to man. However Shere Khan has other plans.

Told through the amazing use of computer generation, “The Jungle Book” is very faithful to the animated film that precedes it. Young Mr. Sethi is the only human being in the cast (and on film), with the rest being brought to life through the magic of special effects. And brought to life they are. From the mean and angry tiger to the funny and understanding bear, the characters leap off the screen. Which may present a problem to younger viewers, many who may be horrified at the image of Shere Khan murdering Mowgli’s wolf “father.” And if that doesn’t terrify you, there is a great wildebeest stampede that will surely get their attention.

An attempt is made to tone down the darkness by keeping two of the songs made popular in the 1967 animated feature. However, both Bill Murray voicing “The Bare Necessities” and Christopher Walken performing “I Wanna Be Like You” seem like they belong in a film less intense. You’ve been warned!

Blu-ray Review “The Jungle Book 2”

Actors: Haley Joel Osment, John Goodman, John Rhys-Davies, Jim Cummings, Connor Funk
Directors: Steve Trenbirth
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Walt Disney Home Entertainment
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Run Time: 72 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

“The Jungle Book 2” was original made for direct-to-video but followed the path of “Return to Never Land” and “The Rescuers Down Under” and headed to theaters. The film is fun, exciting and packs some great music. It is not the best Disney sequel but it follows up well to the classic 1967 film. It combines old friends that we love and some new friends as well. It also packs a great voice cast including John Goodman as Baloo, Haley Joel Osment as Mowgli, Mae Whitman as Shanti. My 21 year old daughter has watched this five times already. A must own for any Disney fan!

Official Premise: Now that Mowgli¹s living in the “man-village”, he cherishes his new best friend and little brother, but he still has that jungle rhythm in his heart. He misses hanging out with happy-go-lucky Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther. Yearning for freedom, Mowgli runs off into the jungle ­ and encounters his enemy Shere Khan! This time, he¹ll need both his new human family and his old jungle friends to help save the day.

Disney did such a wonderful job with this Blu-ray release delivering a new digital master as this film hits Blu-ray for the first time. The 1080p high definition transfer looks amazing, especially for a Disney direct-to-video cartoon. The colors are vibrant and really pop-out. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track also works very well with the film’s songs, which are so fun including a few bare necessity as well.

In terms of special features, there is some decent content but nothing outstanding or new to report. There are two deleted songs, each with on-camera intros from EVP, Sharon Morrill and SVP/Music, Matt Walker. “I Got You Beat” and “Braver” songs are played out to storyboards. “Music and More” is a sing-along with the movie & music videos for “Jungle Rhythm” and “W-I-L-D”. Lastly there is “Backstage Disney”, which gives some behind-the-scenes look into the film and it’s legacy.

Disney Legend, Floyd Norman talks about his work on “The Jungle Book”

Animator, Floyd Norman was named a Disney Legend in 2007. His first feature for Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty”. He worked under Walt’s personal supervision on story sequences for “The Jungle Book”. In 1997, Norman moved to Pixar Animation Studios where he joined the story crew for “Toy Story 2” and “Monsters, Inc.”. He continues to work for The Walt Disney Co. as a freelance consultant on various projects. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Floyd about “The Jungle Book” and working personally with Walt Disney.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us what it is like to see a film like “The Jungle Book” restored and presented on high definition Blu-ray?
Floyd Norman: It is delightful to know that people still appreciate this film. It continues to amaze us that worked on it nearly 50 years ago that it is still loved by audiences. It seems to have a life of its own and I love that.

MG: Have you seen it yet and if so how do you feel it looks having worked on it?
FN: I do not really see that much of a difference. I know that the film looks clean and pristine. The guys who did the restoration have done a terrific job, so no complaints there.

MG: You worked under Walt Disney’s personal supervision on story sequences including the song “Trust in Me”, tell us about that process?
FN: It was very simple [laughs]. In a way it was simple, yet also very complex. When I began working on this particular sequence, I was handed some rough notes from Larry Clemmons, who was credited on the film for the story. I called him our writer because he has an actual typewriter and that made him a real writer [laughs]. So he wrote me notes about the sequence and for this one it was going to be Mowgli’s meeting with Kaa the Snake. So that is pretty much all I got. We were told that Kaa was going to try and hypnotize him and then funny stuff would happen. So that is what I had to go with “funny stuff was going to happen”. I had to come up with that “funny stuff”. So like I said in one sense it was a very simple job as well as being very complex because we had to figure out what was that funny stuff and how was it going to happen. They just kind of turned you loose and let you do your job.

MG: How long did a scene like that take to complete?
FN: It is difficult to remember. I would say a few weeks, maybe three weeks to completely storyboard that sequence. That was considered normal during that time. I had no real rush because Walt Disney was either in Europe or working on other matters and wasn’t able to review it right away. So I definitely had amble time to work on it.

MG: Did you find that working directly with Walt Disney did you have any creative freedom or did you follow a set path?
FN: Oh no, I found that I had a good deal of creative freedom. Surprisingly more than I ever realized. I initially came in expecting to be told exactly want to do and that was not the case at all. I came in and they said “Here is the sequence and just go do it” [laughs]. So given very little guidance or direction, I just went off and did what I had to do. The good news was that whatever I did, they seemed to like it [laughs]. The main thing, and the most critical, was that Walt liked it. So as long as Walt likes it you are safe [laughs].

MG: Can you compare your work on “The Jungle Book” to some of your other earlier films including “Sleeping Beauty”, “The Sword in the Stone” and “Robin Hood”?
FN: It was actually totally different because on those films, I was actually working on the animation. For “Robin Hood”, I was an animator and didn’t do any storyboard work at all. It was just animation. Having said that, I feel that the story in “Robin Hood” was pretty terrible [laughs]. I can afford to say that because I didn’t story work on “Robin Hood” [laughs]. But I did have a lot to fun animating it. I worked on animation also with “The Sword in the Stone”. The cool thing about that project was that I got to work personally with Milt Kahl, who was acknowledged as being one of the finest Disney animators of all-time. Milt is a giant in the world of animation, so that was a big deal for me. I was still a kid when I worked with Milt; I was only in my 20’s. Milt was a tough guy but it was such a great experience.

MG: Unlike some animators you embraced the digital age by working at Pixar and definitely software for animation; tell how you feel animation has changed?
FN: Oh, there is no doubt that animation has changed. Once again, following in Walt’s philosophy, “You have to embrace change, not run from it”. When I saw what Pixar was doing, I thought that I had to work for these guys. So when the opportunity came for me to go to Pixar in 1997, I was ready to pack up and go. Not everybody was, mind you, Pixar was at that time not a well-known studio. They only had made one film, which was “Toy Story”. I think that you have to move forward as Walt believed “Don’t fight technology. Embrace it and learn how to use it”. That is what Pixar did and they are continuing to do that. Certainly that would have been what Walt would have done as well.

MG: Do you still do any animation for Disney today?
FN: No animation. But I have worked on Disney storybooks from time to time. As I have time I work on Disney projects. Generally, I wait for them to call me. I don’t go looking but every now and then someone will call me. I had the opportunity to work on an electronic device that they were developing. I asked one of the Vice President’s how did they get my name and they said “John Lasseter recommended you”. I do not think that you can do any better than that getting a recommendation from John Lasseter [laughs].

Blu-ray Review “The Jungle Book”

Starring: Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, Louis Prima, George Sanders, Bruce Reitherman, J. Pat O’Malley
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Run Time: 78 minutes

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 5 out of 5 stars

“The Jungle Book” is a Disney classic and packs some of the best and most fun jazzy, toe-tapping songs, including “I Wan’na Be Like You” and Academy Award-nominated classic “The Bare Necessities”. My 20-month old daughter has been watching the commercials of this Blu-ray and has already been dancing to the music. This is the first time that this film has ever been released on Blu-ray and also the first in almost seven years that it has been released from the Disney vault. “The Jungle Book” was Disney’s 19th animated masterpiece and also the last animated feature to have Walt Disney’s personal touch. Already watched this twice with my daughter, I have a feeling we are going to get a lot of use out of this.

Official Premise: Meet the most unforgettable characters and embark on a thrilling adventure with Mowgli as he journeys deep into the jungle and learns The Bare Necessities of life from happy-go-lucky Baloo the bear. Meet Bagheera, the wise old panther, and crazy King Louie, the orangutan. But watch out for the cunning tiger Shere Khan and Kaa, the ssssneakiest snake in the jungle! Explore your family’s wild side as you venture into The Jungle Book for extraordinary adventures and a heartwarming tale that celebrates the true meaning of friendship.

Disney released “The Jungle Book” under it’s Diamond Edition banner. It comes in a combo pack with a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy included. The 1080p transfer is absolutely fantastic. I remember watching this film on VHS as a kid and now as a adult, I was literally blown away by this presentation. My daughter was literally glued to the TV and just kept pointing at all the characters and naming them. There are two options for this film in terms of audio. There is a super impressive, brand new DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. It is fantastic and really works well with the music. It also comes with the original theatrical Dolby Digital Mono track as well for audio purists.

There is some great new special features created for this Blu-ray. There is a brief intro by composer Richard Sherman, which is option way to start the film. There is an 18-minute promo featurette for Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. There is an alternate ending included “Mowgli and The Hunter”, which is presented in storyboard format. There is also a fantastic 40-minute documentary “Growing up With Nine Old Men”, which includes a series of interviews looking into chief animators. The rest of the remaining extras have all been ported over from previous DVD editions.

There is a very interesting audio commentary track with the voice of Mowgli, Bruce Reitherman, Composer Richard Sherman and interview footage edited in from members of the original production team. There is also a five-part “Making of”, which runs just over 45 minutes. Rounding out the rest of the extras include four additional featurettes, a wildlife video for kids, seven deleted songs, sing-along lyrics and music video from Jonas Brothers. Of course, be sure to also pause the film when watching to take advantage of “Disney Intermission”, which is hosted by Baloo.

Want a Chance to Win a Private Jungle Cruise Tour Skippered by John Lasseter!?

Win a trip for 4 to the opening of Cars Land and a private Jungle Cruise tour skippered by John Lasseter!

From late 1977 through spring 1978, John Lasseter, before becoming chief creative officer at Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and principal creative advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering, worked at Disneyland, and was a skipper on the Jungle Cruise attraction. Recently, a search for a photo of John skippering the Jungle Cruise came up empty. Surely there must be a photo of Skipper John somewhere? To find one, we have created a contest: the first person to submit a verifiable photo of John as the skipper of the Jungle Cruise from 1977 will win a trip for 4 to the grand opening of Cars Land at Disney California Adventure in summer 2012, and a ride on the Jungle Cruise skippered by none other than John himself! What better way to turn a Disney memory of old into a Disney memory of today?

For details on how to submit, visit or the official Disney•Pixar Facebook page:

John of the Jungle: The Search for John Lasseter: