Theater Review: “The Lion King” in Kansas City

Disney’s “The Lion King”

Music Hall – Kansas City, Missouri

May 10, 2018

 

AMAZING!  That is the first word that popped into my head as “The Lion King” began.  While being mesmerized by the animated and musical Rafiki (Makelisiwe Goga), we were treated by a parade of animals down the aisle, from the rear of the theater to the stage.  Birds.  Gazelles.  Elephants.  They strode past in their proud majesty and filled the stage.  And for the next two and half hours, the excitement never died.

“Rafiki” in THE LION KING North American Tour. ©Disney. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Based on the 1994 animated film of the same name, the story of “The Lion King” is much as it was in the film.  Some of the characters are fleshed out more and there are more songs, also written by Elton John and Tim Rice.  The characters are familiar and are portrayed in an amazing way.  While the majority of the lions just wear lion heads, other characters are portrayed by actors holding/wearing puppets.  The effect is jaw-dropping.  Even the lovable duo of Timon and Pumba are portrayed this way, a way that is not distracting in the least.

The original show, which is now the third longest running show in Broadway history, was nominated for an amazing eleven Tony Awards, winning six, including Best Musical.  I’ve been attending shows, both on Broadway and off, since 1980, and I would easily put “The Lion King” in my top 10 of best shows ever.

“The Lion King” runs in Kansas City at the Music Hall through May 27th.  For ticket information, or to see where the tour is heading next, click HERE.

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Theatre Review “The Lion King” @ Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts – Orlando, FL

The Lion King
Show dates: February 14–March 11, 2018
Walt Disney Theater at @ Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
445 South Magnolia Avenue
Orlando, FL 32801
Tickets: start at $35.25

I remember like it was yesterday when “The Lion King” opened up on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater in October of 1997. I saw it that year and was mesmerized by the outfits and the set, just beautiful! Years later I had a chance to see it again in Las Vegas in 2009 and again I experienced that wonderful same feeling. Last night, I experienced that same feeling again. From the moment the lights went down, I immediately got the chills! The music came on and the cast come flooded through the seating area in full costume, singing at full volume. This was magic!

The Walt Disney Theater at @ Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is a wonderful spot to enjoy theatre. Coming from Broadway, this theatre easily rivals the experience for me personally. The sound is fantastic. The seating is so comfortable much better than a ton of the old Broadway theaters, I can recall. They even utilized two of the box seating areas and had musicians playing living music throughout, which really added a nice 3D sound. I have to admit though, they seemed a little distracting during the song, “Be Prepared” since it seemed a little out of sync.

Buyi Zama has played Rafiki in the stage production of “The Lion King” since day one and it was such an amazing experience to get to see her again in this role, now for the third time. She doesn’t miss a beat and she is on point from seeing her over 20 years ago! Coming off the last ‘Gazelle’ National tour, Mark Campbell, returned a Scar and easily commanded the stage. Besides a little technical difficulty with his mask, was on par if not better than John Vickery in the Broadway production! Literally gave me chills when he spoke!

Buyi Zama as “Rafiki” in THE LION KINGNorth American Tour. ©Disney. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Having seen “The Lion King” live on Broadway and in Las Vegas, this easily one of my most enjoyable to see how it came to life. This felt like a full Broadway production. Even after the show, we got a chance to go backstage and got to view how everything is stored and all the costumes and how the set works. It was amazing. I also got some insight from Mark Campbell, who describes some difference in how the sets move in and out of place and how climbs up the set pieces during the herd sequence, so it really just showed how much goes in behind-the-scenes.

The ensemble cast should also get a shout out here because they were just amazing, when we were backstage we saw how easy of the ensemble cast has 10-15 outfit changes per show. It was simply extraordinary. “The Lion King” started its nearly one month run on February 14 and runs till March 11, 2018, so if you can catch a show I would highly recommend it. Tickets can be purchased here!

Disney’s THE LION KING Performances Begin on Wednesday, February 14 and Play for Four Weeks Through Sunday, March 11 at Dr. Phillips Center

Buyi Zama as “Rafiki” in THE LION KINGNorth American Tour. ©Disney. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Orlando, FL, January 29, 2018 – Casting has been announced for the Orlando return engagement of Disney’s The Lion King. The show’s first appearance in the Walt Disney Theater at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and it’s third time to Orlando, the four-week engagement runs from February 14 through March 11.

The production features Mark Campbell as “Scar,” Gerald Ramsey as “Mufasa,” Buyi Zama as “Rafiki,” Nick Cordileone as “Timon,” Greg Jackson as “Zazu,” Ben Lipitz as “Pumbaa,” Gerald Caesar as “Simba,” Nia Holloway as “Nala,” Keith Bennett as “Banzai,” Martina Sykes as “Shenzi” and Robbie Swift as “Ed.”

The role of “Young Simba” is alternated between Joziyah Jean-Felix and Ramon Reed and the role of “Young Nala” is alternated between Danielle W. Jalade and Gloria Manning.

Rounding out the cast are Derek Adams, Kayla Rose Aimable, Andrew Arrington, William John Austin, Eric Bean, Jr., Kolin Jerron, Thabani Buthelezi, Sasha Caicedo, Kyle Robert Carter, Thembelihle Cele, Erynn Marie Dickerson, Tony Freeman, Mukelisiwe Goba, Deidrea Halley, Jalen Harris, William James Jr., Jane King, Gregory Manning II, Christopher L. Mc Kenzie, Jr., Nhlanhla Ndlovu, Aaron Nelson, Selloane Nkhela, Phylicia Pearl, Christopher Sams, Jordan Samuels, Mpume Sikakane, Sadé Simmons, Kimber Sprawl, Kevin Tate, Jennifer Theriot, Courtney Thomas, Shacura Wade, Zola Williams and Krystal Worrell.

Coming to Orlando as part of the 2017 – 2018 FAIRWINDS Broadway in Orlando season tickets start at $35.25 and may be purchased online at drphillipscenter.org, by calling 844.513.2014 or by visiting the Dr. Phillips Center Box Office at 445 S. Magnolia Avenue, Orlando, FL 32801 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, or 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday. Online and phone ticket purchases are subject to handling fees. For groups of 10 or more please contact Group Sales at Groups@drphillipscenter.org or calling 407.455.5550.

Ticket buyers are reminded that Dr. Phillips Center is the only official retail ticket outlets for all performances. Ticket buyers who purchase tickets from a ticket broker or any third party should be aware that Dr. Phillips Center is unable to reprint or replace lost or stolen tickets and is unable to contact patrons with information regarding time changes or other pertinent updates regarding the performance.

The North American touring productions of The Lion King have been seen by more than 19 million theatergoers. Having already played more than 70 cities across North America, The Lion King now proudly returns to Orlando to make its debut in the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Shows, dates, times, prices, and artists are subject to change.

Dashaun Young as “Simba” in THE LION KINGNorth American Tour. ©Disney. Photo by Joan Marcus.

ABOUT THE LION KING

In its 20th year, THE LION KING continues ascendant as one of the most popular stage musicals in the world.  Since its Broadway premiere on November 13, 1997, 24 global productions have been seen by more than 90 million people.  Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (under the direction of Thomas Schumacher), THE LION KING is the only show in history to generate six productions worldwide running 15 or more years.  Performed in eight different languages (Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese), productions of THE LION KING can currently be seen on Broadway, London’s West End, Hamburg, Tokyo and Sapporo, Madrid, Scheveningen, Holland, and on tour across North America, for a total of eight productions running concurrently across the globe.  Having played over 100 cities in 19 countries on every continent except Antarctica, THE LION KING’s worldwide gross exceeds that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history.          

THE LION KING won six 1998 Tony Awards®:  Best Musical, Best Scenic Design (Richard Hudson), Best Costume Design (Julie Taymor), Best Lighting Design (Donald Holder), Best Choreography (Garth Fagan) and Best Direction of a Musical.  THE LION KING has also earned more than 70 major arts awards including the 1998 NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, the 1999 Grammy® for Best Musical Show Album, the 1999 Evening Standard Award for Theatrical Event of the Year and the 1999 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Choreography and Best Costume Design. 

The show’s director, costume designer and mask co-designer Julie Taymor continues to play an integral part in the show’s ongoing success.  The first woman to win a Tony Award for Direction of a Musical, Taymor has in recent years supervised new productions of the show around the world.

The Broadway score features Elton John and Tim Rice’s music from The Lion King animated film along with three new songs by John and Rice; additional musical material by South African Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer; and music from “Rhythm of the Pride Lands,” an album inspired by the original music in the film, written by Lebo M, Mark Mancina and Hans Zimmer.  The resulting sound of THE LION KING is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, ranging from the Academy Award®-winning song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” to the haunting ballad “Shadowland.” 

The book has been adapted by Roger Allers, who co-directed The Lion King animated feature, and Irene Mecchi, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay.  Other members of the creative team include:  Michael Curry, who designed the masks and puppets with Taymor, Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound design), Michael Ward (hair and makeup design), John Stefaniuk (associate director), Marey Griffith (associate choreographer), Clement Ishmael (music supervisor) and Doc Zorthian (production supervisor). Anne Quart serves as co-producer.

For more information worldwide, visit LionKing.com.

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About the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization operating the state-of-the-art performing arts center in downtown Orlando, Florida. With its opening in November 2014, the performing arts center launched its vision of Arts for Every Life by being a gathering place for creativity and discovery; a vibrant urban destination where artists, audiences and students come to experience, explore and learn. The two-block community destination features the 2,700-seat Walt Disney Theater, 300-seat Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater, Seneff Arts Plaza, Dr. Phillips Center Florida Hospital School of the Arts, the DeVos Family Room, and other event rental spaces. Future expansion includes Steinmetz Hall, a 1,700-seat acoustical theater, along with rehearsal, classroom, office space and commercial development spaces. Dr. Phillips Center is a private non-profit collaborating with the City of Orlando, Orange County, the City of Winter Park, the State of Florida and generous donors.

FAIRWINDS Broadway in Orlando is presented in partnership with Broadway Across America and Florida Theatrical Association. FTA is a non-profit civic organization with a volunteer board of trustees established to ensure the continued presentation of quality touring Broadway productions and the promotion of arts education throughout the state of Florida. For more information, visit FloridaTheatrical.org .

Broadway Across America (BAA) is part of The John Gore Organization family of companies, which includes LionKing.com and The Broadway Channel.  Led by 11-time Tony-winning producer John Gore (Owner & CEO), BAA is the foremost presenter of first-class touring productions in North America, operating in 44 markets with over 400,000 subscribers. Current and past productions include Beautiful, Cats, Chicago, Dear Evan Hansen, Groundhog Day, Hairspray, Hello, Dolly!, Million Dollar Quartet, On Your Feet!, The Producers, School of Rock and Waitress. LionKing.com is the premier theater website for news, exclusive content and ticket sales. For more information please visit LionKing.com and Broadway.com.

 

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Blu-ray Review “Lion”

Actors: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Nicole Kidman
Directors: Garth Davis
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Lionsgate
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Run Time: 120 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

“Lion” is what I like to call an award season film. These films are not usually my favorite. This film packs some major talent starring Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman. The film is impressive scenery. The locations were easily the best part of the film. I can’t call this film bad but at the same time I can say that it wasn’t for me. Others might love it but for the cast and locations its worth taking a look to see which is you.

Official Premise: A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.

“Lion” comes as a combo pack with a Blu-ray + Digital HD copy included. The 1080p transfer showcases the film’s beautiful landscapes. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also solid but recently most tracks are at all 7.1, so it’s debatable especially since this sort of film doesn’t need a 7.1 track to be good. Special features are lacking with only having a lyrics music video, some deleted scenes and a five part collection of featurettes in “Behind the Scenes Gallery”.

 

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“La La Land” Dances Way to Record 14 Academy Award Nominations

“La La Land,” writer/director Damien Chazelle’s love letter to the classic Hollywood musical, tied “All About Eve” and “Titanic” in receiving an amazing 14 nominations for the 89th Annual Academy Awards.

The film has a chance to join “It Happened One Night,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Silence of the Lambs,” which took home the prizes for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay. “La La Land’ earned nominations in all of those categories and added nods for Original Score, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Production Design, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. The film also earned two nominations in the Best Original Song Category.

Joining “La La Land” in the Best Picture category are: “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell or High Water,” “Hidden Figures,” “Lion,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight.”

Best Actor nominees include Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic) and Denzel Washington (Fences)

For Best Actress, the nominees are Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Emma Stone (La La Land) and, in her 20th acting nomination, Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

The Academy Awards will be awarded on Sunday night, February 26th.

Here is a complete list of the nominees:

Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

Actress in a Supporting Role
Viola Davis, “Fences”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”

Animated Feature Film
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Moana”
“My Life as a Zucchini”
“The Red Turtle”
“Zootopia”

Cinematography
“Arrival”
“La La Land”
“Lion”
“Moonlight”
“Silence”

Costumed Design
“Allied”
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
“Florence Foster Jenkins”
“Jackie”
“La La Land”

Directing
“Arrival”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight”

Feature Documentary
“Fire at Sea”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Life, Animated”
“O.J.: Made in America”
“13th”

Short Subject Documentary
“Extremis”
“4.1 Miles”
“Joe’s Violin”
“Watani: My Homeland”
“The White Helmets”

Film Editing
“Arrival”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“Moonlight”

Foreign Language Film
“Land of Mine”
“A Man Called Ove”
“The Salesman”
“Tanna”
“Toni Erdmann”

Make Up and Hairstyling
“A Man Called Ove”
“Star Trek Beyond”
“Suicide Squad”

Original Score
“Jackie”
“La La Land”
“Lion”
“Moonlight”
“Passengers”

Original Song
Audition (The Fools Who Dream), “La La Land”
Can’t Stop The Feeling, “Trolls”
City Of Stars, “La La Land”
The Empty Chair, “Jim: The James Foley Story”
How Far I’ll Go, “Moana”

Production Design
“Arrival”
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
“Hail, Caesar!”
“La La Land”
“Passengers”

Animated Short Film
“Blind Vaysha”
“Borrowed Time”
“Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
“Pearl”
“Piper”

Live Action Short Film
“Ennemis Intérieurs”
“La Femme et le TGV”
“Silent Nights”
“Sing”
“Timecode”

Sound Editing
“Arrival”
“Deepwater Horizon”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”
“Sully”

Sound Mixing
“Arrival”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”

Visual Effects
“Deepwater Horizon”
“Doctor Strange”
“The Jungle Book”
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Adapted Screenplay
“Arrival”
“Fences”
“Hidden Figures”
“Lion”
“Moonlight”

Original Screenplay
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“The Lobster”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“20th Century Women”

“Manchester by the Sea” Dominates 4th Annual MediaMikes.com Awards

Writer/Director Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea” led all films in the 4th Annual Media Mikes Awards, which are voted on by both readers and staff of the web site.

Besides being named the Best Film of 2016, “Manchester by the Sea” took home the awards for Best Actor, Casey Affleck, as well as Best Original Screenplay for Lonergan. It was also the only film to win multiple awards.

Best Actress went to Natalie Portman for her performance as former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in “Jackie.” Best Supporting Actor was Dev Patel for “Lion” while Viola Davis was selected as the year’s Best Supporting Actress for “Fences.”

Damien Chazelle was named the year’s Best Director for “La La Land” while “Zootopia” was chosen as the Best Animated Feature.

As in past years, over 3,000 entries were submitted by readers in seven categories, with the staff of Media Mikes choosing the winners in the Original and Adapted Screenplay, Original Musical Score and Documentary categories.

Below is a complete list of winners:

BEST FILM: Manchester by the Sea

BEST ACTOR: Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

BEST ACTRESS: Natalie Portman – Jackie

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Dev Patel – Lion

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Viola Davis – Fences

BEST DIRECTOR: Damien Chazelle – La La Land

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Zootopia

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Jay Cocks and Martin Scorcese – Silence

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: OJ: Made in America

BEST ORIGINAL MUSICAL SCORE: Mark Mancina – Moana

Film Review: “Lion”

Starring: Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman
Directed by: Garth Davis
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 2 hrs 18 mins
The Weinstein Company

Our Score: 5 out of 5 Stars

I’ll admit up front that I am a sucker for films that deal with adoption. I was adopted when I was 18-months old. Inspired by the film “Antoine Fisher” I eventually tracked down my birth family, learning that I was originally the middle of 11 children. That’s right – thanks to a movie I found 10 brothers and sisters. So when I learned that adoption plays a large part of the film “Lion,” I was anxious to see it. And I’m so glad I did.

It is the mid 1980’s when we first meet the young boy Saroo (Sunny Pawar in an amazing performance). Saroo idolizes his older brother, Guddu (Abhishek Bharate). He follows him around and helps him steal coal from the mining trains that pass their small village. They sell the coal for money to help their mother, who works as a laborer carrying rocks! Yes, even in the 80’s people still got paid for carrying rocks. One night, against his better judgement, Guddu agrees to take Saroo with him. The boys get separated and Saroo finds himself on a train taking a journey that takes two days to end. Now alone in the bustling city of Calcutta he must live on the streets. Unable to speak the language (he does not speak Hindi) and unable to find his village featured anywhere on a map, he is placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by a family in Australia. In the blink of an eye he goes from poverty to wealth and grows into a well-adjusted young man. But he never forgets his past and the family he left behind.

Powerful. That is how I’d best describe “Lion.” In a way I consider myself lucky that I was adopted as a baby. I had no idea the loving family I had been taken from. After meeting my brothers and sisters I learned that I was the family “urban legend.” The oldest child, my brother Anthony, would tell the others that they had a brother “out there” somewhere. When I met Anthony he told me that for quite a while after my birth and subsequent disappearance he would sneak out at night and look for me. My only memories from my youth are of myself and my adoptive parents. To have been age five when I was separated from my family would have been beyond traumatic. Young Mr. Pawar gives an award-worthy performance as the young Saroo. As does Dev Patel, who plays Saroo as a young adult. This is a film made up of moments. Whether it’s Saroo with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara), or his adoptive parents (Kidman and David Wenham) or just him alone with his thoughts, each moment builds on the next. Bring your Kleenex!

Media Mikes 2016 Fall/Holiday Movie Preview

Labor Day has come and gone, and unless you’re dressing up as a ghost, you better not be wearing anything white! With the end of summer comes the beginning of fall and the start of Hollywood’s “Prestige Movie Push!”

We’ll take a look at what the studios hope are their best bets to fill the multiplexes and bring home the Oscars. Once again, a big thank you to our friends at Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) for some synopsis information. Opening dates noted are subject to change at the whim of the studios. Enjoy!

OCTOBER 7

THE 13th

Documentary
Directed by: Ava DuVernay

The director of “Selma” gives us an in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality.

OSCAR CHANCES: Will surely make the short list.

THE BIRTH OF A NATION

Starring: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer
Directed by: Nate Parker

Set against the antebellum South, the film follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities – against himself and his fellow slaves – Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.

OSCAR CHANCES: After last year’s #OSCARSOWHITE controversy, the early buzz on this film almost guaranteed a bounty of nominations. However, it was recently revealed that writer/director/star Nate Parker and his co-writer, Jean McGianni Celestin, were accused of raping a fellow college student in 1999. Though Parker was not found guilty and Celestin had his conviction overturned, their alleged victim committed suicide. Not sure how this news will affect the Academy voters.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

Starring: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett and Justin Theroux
Directed by: Tate Taylor

In the film, being compared to “Gone Girl,” a recently divorced woman
takes the train to work every day and imagines the lives of a young couple she
sees every day. Things get weird when the young wife disappears.

OSCAR CHANCES: Blunt is already getting raves for her performance.


OCTOBER 13

MASCOTS

Starring: Christopher Guest, Parker Posey and Jane Lynch
Directed by: Christopher Guest

Simply described as “a look into the world of competitive mascots,” this is the latest opus from the great Christopher Guest. Sadly, unless I missed it, this is the first of Guest’s films that does not include Eugene Levy.

OSCAR CHANCES: Possible screenplay nod.

 

OCTOBER 14

THE ACCOUNTANT

Starring: Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons and Anna Kendrick
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor

A forensic accountant un-cooks the books for illicit clients. What I like about the trailer is that Affleck seems to be a young genius. Maybe this is his chance to play Will Hunting?

OSCAR CHANCES: Maybe.


KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW?

Starring: Kevin Hart
Directed by: Leslie Small and Tim Story

Kevin Hart performs his comedy in front of 50,000 fans.

OSCAR CHANCES: No.


OCTOBER 21

AMERICAN PASTORAL

Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning and Ewan McGregor
Directed by: Ewan McGregor

In 1968, a hardworking man, who’s been a staple in his quaint community for years, watches his seemingly perfect middle class life fall apart as his daughter’s new radical political affiliation threatens to destroy their family. Based on the novel by Philip Roth.

OSCAR CHANCES: Adapted screenplay?

IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE

Starring: John Travolta, Ethan Hawke and Karen Gillan
Directed by: Ti West

A mysterious stranger and a random act of violence drag a town of misfits and nitwits into the bloody cross-hairs of revenge. Ethan Hawke’s second western this season and John Travolta in a cowboy hat for the first time since “Urban Cowboy.” Yee-hah!

OSCAR CHANCES: Sadly Western’s very rarely get recognized.

JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK

Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders
Directed by: Edward Zwick

Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.

OSCAR CHANCES: Director Zwick has helmed three of my favorite films (“About Last Night,” “Glory” and “Legends of the Fall” but only has an Oscar for co-producing “Shakespeare in Love.” It’s about time this man was recognized, though I don’t think it’s going to be for a Jack Reacher film.

A MONSTER CALLS

Starring: Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver
Directed by: J.A. Bayona

A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom’s terminal illness.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects.

TYLER PERRY’S BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN

Starring: Tyler Perry
Directed by: Tyler Perry

Madea winds up in the middle of mayhem when she spends a haunted Halloween fending off killers, paranormal poltergeists, ghosts, ghouls and zombies while keeping a watchful eye on a group of misbehaving teens. I’m scared.

OSCAR CHANCES: I’m going to go out on a limb and say “no”

OCTOBER 28

INFERNO

Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones
Directed by: Ron Howard

When Robert Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Dr. Sienna Brooks, and together they must race across Europe against the clock to foil a deadly global plot. The second Felicity Jones film in as many weeks.

OSCAR CHANCES: Sorry, Tom, but your nomination this year is coming from “Sully”

 

NOVEMBER 4

BLEED FOR THIS

Starring: Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhart
Directed by: Ben Younger

The inspirational story of World Champion Boxer Vinny Pazienza who, after a near fatal car crash, which left him not knowing if he’d ever walk again, made one of sport’s most incredible comebacks.

OSCAR CHANCES: Both Robert DeNiro and Hillary Swank won Oscars for portraying boxers so never say never. Hell, Stallone got nominated…TWICE!

DOCTOR STRANGE

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams and Mads Mikkelsen
Directed by: Scott Derrickson

A neurosurgeon with a destroyed career sets out to repair his hands only to find himself protecting the world from inter-dimensional threats.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects.

HACKSAW RIDGE

Starring: Andrew Garfield and Sam Worthington
Directed by: Mel Gibson

WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people and becomes the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Mel doesn’t appear in this one but his dead-ringer son, Milo, does.

OSCAR CHANCES: Gibson (Mel, not Milo) already has an Oscar for directing so you never know. I’m sure people have forgotten what all of the hub-bub was about concerning him a few years ago.

LOVING

Starring: Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton
Directed by: Jeff Nichols

Back in the dark ages, Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married. Apparently they had nothing better to do in Virginia at the time.

OSCAR CHANCES: Acting, picture.

TROLLS

Starring the voices of: Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake
Directed by: Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn

Remember those little plastic things with long hair that you used to put on the end of your pencil? When I was a kid we called them Kewpies but apparently they are Trolls and they have their own movie. Good for them!

OSCAR CHANCES: Maybe best hairstyling?

NOVEMBER 11

ARRIVAL

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

OSCAR CHANCES: Picture, director, acting.

SHUT IN

Starring: Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay
Directed by: Farren Blackburn

A heart-pounding thriller about a widowed child psychologist who lives in an isolated existence in rural New England. Caught in a deadly winter storm, she must find a way to rescue a young boy before he disappears forever.

OSCAR CHANCES: Unsure, but young Mr. Tremblay should have been nominated last year for “Room.”

USS INDIANAPOLIS: MEN OF COURAGE

Starring: Nicolas Cage and Tom Sizemore
Directed by: Mario Van Peebles

The harrowing true story of the crew of the USS Indianapolis, who were stranded in the Philippine Sea for five days after delivering the atomic weapons that would eventually end WWII. If you saw “Jaws,” this is the tale that Quint tells. Other “Jaws” related facts: this was the original idea for “Jaws 2.” Also: Mario Van Peebles starred in “Jaws the Revenge.”

OSCAR CHANCES: To me it looks like a “made for TV” movie. How about Emmy chances?


NOVEMBER 18

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

Starring: Hailiee Steinfeld, Blake Jenner and Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Kelly Fremon Craig

High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother. Is that weird? When I was in high-school I wanted to date my best friend’s older sister. Hopefully Stevie Nicks got some money from this.

OSCAR CHANCES: Nada

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Jon Voight and Ezra Miller
Directed by: David Yates

The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards 70 years before Harry Potter reads his book in school. Even though Harry Potter and his pals are less than 20 years old it seems like they’ve been around forever.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects, music (the great James Newton Howard)

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Starring: Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams
Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan

An uncle is forced to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.

OSCAR CHANCES: Both Affleck and Williams have been nominated in the past so I’m not ruling anything out.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

Starring: Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal
Directed by: Tom Ford

An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale. November is Amy Adams month.

OSCAR CHANCES: Across the board


NOVEMBER 23

ALLIED

Starring: Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

In 1942, an intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war. Cotillard isn’t married so maybe we can look forward to reading about “Bradarion” soon.

OSCAR CHANCES: Pitt, Cotilliard and Zemeckis have been there before.

BAD SANTA 2

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates and Tony Cox
Directed by: Mark Waters

Fueled by cheap whiskey, greed and hatred, Willie teams up once again with his angry little sidekick, Marcus, to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve.

OSCAR CHANCES: I thought Billy Bob deserved a nod for the first film but I’m going to say no.

MOANA

Starring the voices of: Dwayne Johnson, Alan Tudyk and Nicole Scherzinger
Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall and Chris Williams

A young woman uses her navigational talents to set sail for a fabled island. Joining her on the adventure is her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui.

OSCAR CHANCES: Animated feature, original song

RULES DON’T APPLY

Starring: Warren Beatty, Lily Collins and Ed Harris
Directed by: Warren Beatty

An unconventional love story of an aspiring actress, her determined driver, and the eccentric billionaire who they work for. Beatty has been wanting to do a Howard Hughes-based film since the 1970s. Not sure if this is what he had in mind back then but, after a 15-year absence, it’s great to see him both in front of and behind the camera.

OSCAR CHANCES: Only two people have been nominated in the same year for acting, directing, writing and producing the best picture: Orson Welles and Warren Beatty. And Beatty did it TWICE!


NOVEMBER 25

LION

Starring: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman
Directed by: Garth Davis

A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.

OSCAR CHANCES: Many


DECEMBER 2

LA LA LAND

Starring: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
Directed by: Damien Chazelle

From the creator of “Whiplash” comes a film about a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. And it’s a musical!

OSCAR CHANCES: Early film festival buzz say’s this may be the film to watch (both on screen and at awards time!)


DECEMBER 9

MISS SLOANE

Starring: Jessica Chastain
Directed by: John Madden

An ambitious lobbyist faces off against the powerful gun lobby in an attempt to pass gun control legislation.

OSCAR CHANCES: Actress. Madden directed the Oscar-winning “Shakespeare in Love.”

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY

Starring: Jason Bateman and Jennifer Anniston
Directed by: Josh Gordon and Will Speck

When his uptight CEO sister threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager throws an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand.

OSCAR CHANCES: Zip

DECEMBER 16

COLLATERAL BEAUTY

Starring: Will Smith and Keira Knightley
Directed by: David Frankel

A tragic event sends a New York ad man on a downward spiral.

OSCAR CHANCES: I’ve already had to apologize to Will Smith twice for doubting he’d get nominated for “Ali” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.” There won’t be a third. Good luck Will.

FENCES

Starring: Denzel Washington and Viola Davis
Directed by: Denzel Washington

An African American father struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life. Based on the August Wilson play.

OSCAR CHANCES: YES!

THE FOUNDER

Starring: Michael Keaton and Patrick Wilson
Directed by: John Lee Hancock

The story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. You may look at your next hamburger differently. Keaton is said to be so good that they pulled the film from it’s original release date.

OSCAR CHANCES: Keaton

A KIND OF MURDER

Starring: Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel
Directed by: Andy Goddard

In 1960s New York, Walter Stackhouse is a successful architect married to the beautiful Clara who leads a seemingly perfect life. But his fascination with an unsolved murder leads him into a spiral of chaos as he is forced to play cat-and-mouse with a clever killer and an overambitious detective, while at the same time lusting after another woman. This will be a day of decisions for Patrick Wilson fans.

OSCAR CHANCES: Don’t see any

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

Starring: Felicity Jones, Jimmy Smits and Warwick Davis
Directed by: Gareth Edwards

Or, as I like to call it, “Episode 6.5” The Rebellion makes a risky move to steal the plans to the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow. Holy crap! The Death Star, Leia’s family, Darth Vader AND Wicket the Ewok? I’m already in line!

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects, make up.

DECEMBER 21

20th CENTURY WOMEN

Starring: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning and Laura Wiggins
Directed by: Mike Mills

The story of three women who explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s.

OSCAR CHANCES: Can anyone tell me why Annette Bening hasn’t won an Oscar yet? Didn’t think so. Keep your fingers crossed.

ASSASSINS CREED

Starring: Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Justin Kurzel

When Callum Lynch explores the memories of his ancestor Aguilar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassins society. This synopsis seems so crazy considering the cast. I wonder if the two leads made the same mistake Bill Murray did when he thought “Garfield” had been written by one of the Coen brothers!

OSCAR CHANCES: Fassbender elevates everything he’s in so I’m not saying no!

PASSENGERS

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt
Directed by: Morten Tyldum

A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early. It’s so weird to see Lawrence in a movie at the end of the year NOT directed by David O. Russell. Oh well, there’s always next year.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects, technical stuff

PATRIOTS DAY

Starring: Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Monaghan
Directed by: Peter Berg

An account of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s actions in the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists behind it. Sounds better than what I thought it was – knowing Wahlberg is a huge New England Patriot fan I thought it was about a day with Tom Brady. The third film by Wahlberg and director Berg and second this year.

OSCAR CHANCES: Oh yes.

SING

Starring the voices of: Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Garth Jennings

A koala named Buster Moon has one final chance to restore his theater to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

OSCAR CHANCES: Animated film….maybe.

DECEMBER 25

GOLD

Starring: Matthew McConaughey and Bryce Dallas Howard
Directed by: Stephen Gaghan

An unlikely pair venture to the Indonesian jungle in search of gold. When he was outrageously thin in “Dallas Buyer’s Club” McConaughey still looked good. In this one he’s bald and….dammit!

OSCAR CHANCES: No sir.

WHY HIM?

Starring: James Franco and Bryan Cranston
Directed by: John Hamburg.

A dad forms a bitter rivalry with his daughter’s young rich boyfriend. Based on a story by Jonah Hill. Somebody needed money.

OSCAR CHANCES: I’m ashamed that I have to include those words with this film.

DECEMBER 28

PATERSON

Starring: Adam Driver
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch

Set in the present in Paterson, New Jersey, this is a tale about a bus driver and poet.

OSCAR CHANCES: Love Jarmusch. Maybe a witting nod.

Chantel Riley Talks About Broadway’s “The Lion King” and Her Role in the New Film “Race”

Born in Toronto, Chantel Riley’s path to stardom began when she realized she wasn’t doing what she truly wanted in her life. She is now. Since 2012 she has starred as Nala in the Broadway musical “The Lion King” and last year was able to take time off from the show to begin her movie career with a pivotal role in the new Jesse Owens bio-film RACE.

During a break in her busy schedule, Ms. Riley took the time to speak with me about the physicality of “The Lion King,” her role in RACE and why one day she hopes to be able to “ease on down the road!”

MIKE SMITH: Tell us a little bit about your background? How did you end up on Broadway?
CHANTEL RILEY: I’m originally from Toronto and I went to University in Toronto. After school I pretty much got a 9-5 job but after about a year and a half I realized it definitely wasn’t my thing. (laughs) Because I was a performer. I had taken dance lessons and I had grown up singing in my church. I just had an idea that something else was out there for me. I had no idea what it was but I knew I needed a change. A friend of mine told me about an open casting call they were having in Toronto for “The Lion King.” I had never auditioned for anything before in my life. This was my first time doing anything like this. So I went to the audition and got a few callbacks, which was very exciting. I had a couple well extended lunch breaks…I kept having to go downtown for these callbacks. A couple months later I got a call from my agent and they wanted me to audition to be part of the cast of “The Lion King” in Germany. So I flew to Germany, did the audition and booked the job on the spot. I did the show there for about a year and then I auditioned again for Julie Taymor, who directed “The Lion King” on Broadway, and was offered the role of Nala in New York on the Broadway stage. And here I am!

MS: So basically you’re just like Shirley Jones…you just show up and you’re on Broadway!
CR: (laughing) Exactly!

MS: You’ve portrayed Nala for quite a while now. Do you have to prepare anything special for yourself to keep the performance fresh? I can imagine doing the same thing 8 shows a week for a couple of years might get boring after awhile.
CR: Yes I do. I keep occupied by taking classes and making short films. These things keep me thinking outside the box. I also use what I learn from the classes and the films and bring it with me on the stage. It gives me a new sense at how I look at each performance every night. And this also gives me the chance to try something new. Every night we have a new audience. So it’s a great way for me to try new techniques and to find different ways of performing.

MS: I’ve never seen the show on Broadway but I’ve seen photos and the occasional video clip. It’s a lot more than just standing on a stage and singing. Is the show more difficult physically as opposed to musically?
CR: The show is very physical. We’re constantly on stage and we play lions and zebras and other animals. My role has me constantly running around. If Nala isn’t jumping on-stage she’s jumping off-stage. There’s a lot of activity. AND singing. I sing two songs in the show. We sing live and the dancers are moving non-stop. So it is a very physical show.

MS: You have an important role in the upcoming film RACE. What is your character’s relationship to Jesse Owens in the film?
CR: Quincella Nickerson was someone who was very close to Jesse Owens. She was not only his friend but a huge fan of his. She was a socialite whose father owned a huge insurance company in California. At that time that was pretty huge…that an African-American could be that affluent. She spent a lot of time with Jesse…attending parties and things. There were rumors going around that she and Jesse were engaged to be married. They spent a lot of time together. So we see a lot of that in the film…a lot of her in the film.

MS: If you could play one role on Broadway, either current or a show from the past, what would it be?
CR: Definitely Dorothy from “The Wiz.” I think that would be such a fun role. It would be so exciting. And it’s such fun music. That would be so much fun!

MS: What do you have coming up next?
CR: I’m working on a new short film with James Brown-Orleans, a fellow cast member from “The Lion King.” We’ve done a lot of short films together. Our most recent film, “Teacher’s Nightmare,” just won the Wendy’s International Short Film Award for Best Drama. That’s pretty cool.

Disney Begins Production on “The Lion Guard,” an Animated Disney Junior TV Movie and Series Inspired by “The Lion King”

Disney

Disney Television Animation has begun production on “The Lion Guard,” an animated television movie and series that continues the story introduced 20 years ago in the acclaimed Disney animated film “The Lion King.” Geared towards kids age 2-7 and their families, “The Lion Guard” television movie will premiere in Fall 2015, and the subsequent series will debut in early 2016 on Disney Junior and Disney Channel.

The wildlife education experts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park will serve as consultants on “The Lion Guard” stories, which will incorporate themes of conservation, family and community while also highlighting problem-solving, creative thinking and diversity. Author and Swahili expert Sarah Mirza is the language and cultural advisor.

Nancy Kanter, Executive Vice President, Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide, said, “The story of ‘The Lion King’ has deeply touched families around the world since its original theatrical release 20 years ago. We look forward to introducing a whole new generation of kids to both the Disney legacy characters and to new friends and heroes.”

“The Lion Guard” begins as Kion, the second-born cub of Simba and Nala, assumes the role of leader of the Lion Guard, a group of the bravest and brightest tasked with preserving the Pride Lands. Instead of assembling a team of young lions to serve with him, Kion challenges tradition by calling upon friends he believes are the best choices – Bunga, a fearless honey badger; Fuli, a confident cheetah; Beshte, a happy-go-lucky hippo; and Ono, an intellectual egret. Stories will include special appearances by Mufasa, Timon, Pumbaa, Rafiki, Zazu and Kion’s older sister, Kiara, the future Queen of the Pride Lands.

Disney

“The Lion Guard” movie and series were developed by Ford Riley (“Special Agent Oso”), who also serves as executive producer. Howy Parkins (“Jake and the Never Land Pirates”) is director. Christopher Willis (“Mickey Mouse”) is the composer.

Originally released in June 1994, the Academy Award-winning animated film “The Lion King” is a Disney story with long-lasting appeal and creative interpretations across multiple Disney businesses.

The lifetime global box office total for “The Lion King” is $987.4 million; its 2011 3D re-release was #1 for its first two weeks; its Grammy Award-winning soundtrack sold over 14 million units; a Tony Award-winning musical, now in its 17th year on Broadway and with 10 productions in eight languages currently running worldwide, has been seen by over 70 million people around the globe and is the highest-grossing Broadway production in history. The North American tour and the Broadway show each surpassed $1 billion in ticket sales while global ticket sales surpassed $5 billion worldwide (from 22 productions). The Lion King is one of the biggest home entertainment titles of all time, and the direct-to-video release of “Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride” is one of the best-selling direct-to-video releases of all time. “The Lion King” franchise also includes 85 episodes of the Emmy Award-winning animated television series “The Lion King’s Timon and Pumbaa” andpopular attractions at Disney Parks and Resorts. Twenty years since the film’s release, “The Lion King” also continues to resonate with millions of fans who connect with the enduring story and timeless characters through a wide range of products, including nursery décor, bedding and junior fashion.

Marking the animated film’s 20th anniversary, a special edition of the soundtrack exploring the stories behind the songs will be released June 24 as part of Walt Disney Records’ Legacy Collection. An electronic dance music version of “Circle of Life,” by music producer/composer/DJ Mat Zo, is on the recently released DCONSTRUCTED, a collection of EDM remixes of classic Disney songs.

3D Blu-ray “The Lion of Judah 3D”

Directed by: Deryck Broom
Starring: Ernest Borgnine, Leon Clingman, Georgina Cordova, Scott Reeves, Asunta D’urso Fleming
Distributed by: Warner Home Video
MPAA Rating: PG
Release Date: March 27, 2012
Running Time: 87 minutes

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 1 out of 5 stars

I am not usually a big fan of strong faith themed films. But I am a sucker for 3D and talking CG animals. This film isn’t terrible but it isn’t very exciting either. It feels like one of those films that are sold at the supermarket register. The 3D effects are really good though and I did enjoy its presentation on Blu-ray as well. I thought the 3D was used well and fun for kids as well. I really couldn’t over the mix of modern day dialogue from animals in the time when Christ was alive and taking place in Jerusalem. If this film wasn’t so heavy on the faith, it might have been a lot better but with a title like “The Lion of Judah”, you have to expect that.

The film follows a lamb named Judah and his stable friends as they try to avoid being put up for sacrifice in Jerusalem the week before the crucifixion of Christ. Basically it is the story of Easter told from the perspective of a pig, a horse, a rat, a rooster, a cow and a donkey. The film also has a notable cast including Ernest Borgnine (“The Dirty Dozen”, “The Wild Bunch”), Georgina Cordova (Nickelodeon’s “Winx Club”) Scott Eastwood (“Invictus”, “Gran Torino”) and Michael Madsen (“Kill Bill”).

The Blu-ray presentation is impressive for a film I did not expect much from. The video looked sharp with its 1080p transfer, especially in 3D. The audio packed a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, which worked well with the effects and the music. The only special feature included on this Blu-ray is a short featurette called “The Lion of Judah: Behind the Scenes”.

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Premise; Judah’s new friends, led by Slink the clever mouse (Ernest Borgnine) and Esmay the motherly cow (Sandy Patti) meet up with Jack (Scott Eastwood), a teenaged donkey with an attitude. Jack is less than happy to be part of the crew, but when the furry and feathered band of stable animals get separated and needs saving, it’s Jack who rushes to their rescue. Even the best efforts of Jack and the rest of the stable friends are not enough to save Judah. In this incredible tale of adventure and compassion, it takes the greatest hero of all, The King, to save Judah…and all the other animals, too!

Blu-ray Review “The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride”

Directed by: Darrell Rooney, Rob LaDuca
Starring: Neve Campbell, Jason Marsden, Jennifer Lien, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Suzanne Pleshette, Robert Guillaume, Andy Dick,
Moira Kelly
Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures
MPAA Rating: G
Release date: March 6, 2012
Running time: 81 minutes

Film Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Let’s start with the fact that “The Lion King” is a very hard act to follow. “Simba’s Pride” came during a time when Disney was popping out a direct to video sequel on many of the films in their library. Quality-wise it is really lacking and does not pack the same magic that its predecessor had. This film focuses on Simba and Nala’s newborn daughter Kiara and follows her as she grows up. She meets the heir of Scar, Kovu and the two befriend each other. This creates a feud between Kovu’s mother Zira and Simba. Overall if you are looking for more “Lion King”, I would highly recommend “The Lion King 1 1/2”, it has great heart but also is very witty and funny.

The Blu-ray presentation is impressive with a sharp colors in the video and an DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Like the recently released “The Lion King 1 1/2”, it feels like what it is a direct-to-video film but the high-def transfer looks good overall. Also like “The Lion King 1 1/2”, the special features are all presented in DVD quality. I find that very disappointing and a bit of a let down from Disney. The only high-def feature is a short called “Timon & Pumbaa’s Insectapedia”.

The standard definition features are “One By One”, which is really cool animated short, which would have looks great in HD. “Timon & Pumbaa: Find Out Why” is a Q&A featuring science trivia. “Proud of Simba’s Pride” is a brief typical behind-the-scenes featurette. There is also a music video for “Love Will Find a Way,” performed by Kenny Lattimore and Heather Headley. Lastly there is a feature with Timon & Pumbaa called “Discover Blu-ray 3D”. Overall disappointing features for a less than stellar release.

Blu-ray Review “The Lion King 1½”

Directed by: Bradley Raymond
Starring: Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Matthew Broderick, Julie Kavner, Jerry Stiller
Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures
MPAA Rating: G
Release date: March 6, 2012
Running time: 77 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

“The Lion King 1½” is the sequel that was meant to follow “The Lion King” not “Simba’s Pride”. It is fun and really showcases the series’ best attributes…Timon & Pumbaa. The duo use a remote control to skip around the events before, during and after “The Lion King” in a MST3K-style. The Blu-ray presentation looks fantastic and the colors just look so sharp and clear. The sound is not Disney’s usual 7.1 track, instead has an DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. It is decent overall still.  Of course this film stands in a place separate from the original film’s quality but if you are looking for some sharp humor and an overall good time then this film is definitely worth checking out.

This film is very unique in it’s approach, especially amongst most Disney’s direct-to-video attempts. It is not only a sequel but also a midquel and a prequel. That’s right, this film stands out and takes us through the story we did not see in “The Lion King”. It starts before the events of “The Lion King” and gives some back story for Timon (Nathan Lane). We find out how Timon met Pumbaa, his search for Hakuna Matata, his meetings with Simba and the events thereafter. Basically it is just the in-between stories told from Timon & Pumbaa perspectives and it really is enjoyable.

Unlike the great Blu-ray transfer, the special features do not fall into the same category. Besides the short “Timon & Pumbaa’s Vacation Safari”, everything else is an SD port of the last DVD release. There are seven early deleted scenes that are just story-boarded. The scenes include: “Opening Concept #1,” “Opening Concept #2,” “Old Fearless Buzz,” “Timon Talks to Dad,” “Timon, Dad & Mom,” “Intro to Scurry, Flinch, Sniff” and “Timon & Pumbaa Look for Oasis.” “Timon: Behind the Legend” features Peter Graves in this faux bio about Timon. “Before the Beginning” is a behind the scenes looks at the production with director Bradley Raymond and producer George A. Mendoza. There is also the music video for “Grazin’ in the Grass,” performed by Raven-Symone. Lastly there is a feature with Timon & Pumbaa called “Discover Blu-ray 3D”. I wish that these features were in high def and not standard, just doesn’t feel right to release SD on Blu-ray.

3D Blu-Ray Review “The Lion King”

Directed by: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
Starring: Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson, Robert Guillaume, Madge Sinclair, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Jim Cummings
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures
MPAA Rating: G
Running time: 87 minutes

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

Alright so we have all seen “The Lion King”, many many times and the film only seems to get better for a film made over 17 years ago. We are excited about watching this film for two reasons, one it is the first time it is has ever been restored and released in high definition Blu-ray and the other is the fact that it was converted to 3D. When I hear that Disney is converted their films into 3D, you just know it is being done right. Honestly, I was in awe by the 3D effects that were created for this film. Between “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, “Beauty and the Beast” and this film recently, Disney has me on the end of their finger. I have to admit that this is honestly one of my best Blu-ray’s that I have the privilege of owning. If you are looking for a reason to purchase that 3D TV, this will definitely give you the nudge that you need.

Of course we all known about the story of “The Lion King”. This film is going to be passed down from generation to generation over the years and will never be forgotten, nor will it’s story. The music in the film is so fantastic and has not aged a day. The Blu-ray presentation on this disc is so vibrant and beautiful that I had to go back and watch it a second time right away just to make sure that I experienced everything. You are not sure what to expect from a almost 20 year old hand drawn animated film but it really surprises and shocks you. Disney never skimps on the sound for its Blu-ray either, this one also included amazing 7.1 surround sound. Every piece of grass, every word in the songs are heard perfectly.

The special features on the film are just as special as the film itself. For fans of Audio Commentary, producer Don Hahn and co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff deliver a good time. “Pride of The Lion King” is a 40 minute new retrospective producers, Walt Disney World heads and other cast and crew members discussing the film, its production and its legacy. “The Lion King: A Memoir – Don Hahn” is exactly what it says it is a look back to Don Hahn in 1994 working on the film. The next feature is a collection of extras from Disney’s Virtual Vault and were only available via Disney’s online “Virtual Vault.”
There are 15 minutes of Deleted & Alternate Scenes presented in HD, “Zazu Flatters Mufasa,” “King of the Wild,” “Scar Wants Nala As His Queen,” “Simba and Nala Reunited” and “Zazu Flatters Scar.”The Morning Report is an extended scene brings a song written for the musical to animated life. Bloopers & Outtakes are always fun to watch when it comes to an animated feature. Another HD feature an art gallery with hundreds of images ranging from Character Design to Visual Development to Storyboards and Layouts and Backgrounds. A cool feature for kids (and parents) is a Sing-Along Mode with the film’s songs, karaoke style. Lastly the sneak previews on this disc are actually amble and worth nothing with trailers for some films like “Lady and the Tramp”, “Tinker Bell and the Pixie Hollow Games”, “Tinker Bell and the Secret of the Wings”, “Prep and Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” and “Treasure Buddies”.

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Available on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack + DVD Tuesday, October 4th

To celebrate Disney’s Diamond Edition Blu-Ray™ release of “The Lion King”, Media Mikes would like to giveaway 10 copies of the Blu-ray™ Combo Pack (Blu-ray™ + DVD). If you would like to win one of these great prizes, please leave us a comment below or send us an email and let us know your favorite song from “The Lion King”. This giveaway will be open until Monday October 10th at Noon, Eastern Time and is only open to residents of the United States. Only one entry per person, per household; all other entries will be considered invalid. Once the giveaway ends, Movie Mikes will randomly pick out winners and alert the winners via email.

The Blu-ray™ debut marks the first time “The Lion King” has been available in any form since 2004. Featuring pristine high definition picture and sound, the Blu-ray™ creates an incredible at-home experience with a host of picture and sound enhancements, interactive features and bonus content, including a new set of hilarious animated bloopers.

Synopsis:
Embark on an extraordinary coming-of-age adventure as Simba, a lion cub who cannot wait to be king, searches for his destiny in the great “Circle of Life.” From the stunningly beautiful opening sequence over African vistas, to the hilarious escapades of “Hakuna Matata” with Timon and Pumbaa, to the awe-inspiring moment when Simba takes his rightful place atop Pride Rock, you will be thrilled by the breathtaking animation, unforgettable Academy Award(R)-winning music (1994: Best Original Score; Best Original Song, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”) and timeless story.

Sound:
5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix, English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 KHz/24-bit), French, Spanish

Bonus Features:
1. Blu-ray™ Feature Film + Bonus
2. DVD Feature Film + Bonus
3. Interactive Blu-ray™ Gallery
4. Classic DVD Features Powered By BD-Live!
5. Disney Second Screen — Interact With Movies On Your Laptop Or iPad™
6. 4 Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scenes
7. Never-Before-Seen Bloopers
8. Deleted Song
9. The Morning Report: Extended Scene
10. Pride Of THE LION KING
11. THE LION KING: A Memoir — Don Hahn
12. Disney Sing-Along Mode