Category Archives: action adventure

Disney’s Updated, Cuddly Dragon

Disney has had great success of late producing new versions of familiar classics. First it was The Jungle Book, and now Pete’s Dragon. Both the original and this update mix live action with an animated dragon but in very different ways. In the original, the dragon (Elliott) was intentionally made to look like a cartoon character. The studio wanted to extend its success with Mary Poppins, which had mixed live action with animated sequences so successfully. In the current version, Elliott is , through the magic of CGA, made to look real. He’s a dragon with fur, instead of scales, and with his broken tooth and goofy grin, he’s like a big plush teddy bear.


The current movie is interesting in that it mixes in some L’Enfant Sauvage to the story. When Pete’s parents are killed while the family is on an outing in the remote woods, Elliott raises him for 6 yeas before he’s discovered by mankind. He was 5 when he went missing so apparently doesn’t have all that much trouble fitting back into society. The movie is a great little family film and says a lot of family and loyalty. It’s also a two-hankie film, but they’ll persevere, they’ll be tears of joy in the long run. That’s the magic of a movie like this, which carries on the Disney tradition of wholesome entertainment, something we certainly need as an  antidote to this age of lies and corruption. The Blu-ray, seen on a 4K display, is breathtaking at times; there’s also a DVD in the package in case you haven’t upgraded formats lately, and an HD copy you can take with you.  Highly recommended.


Disney’s 2nd Time Around for “Jungle Book” is a Charm

The Disney studio has a long history with Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Back in 1967 the Disney animators created an animated version of the tale with lovable characters, at least one hit song (“The Bare Necessities”), and a lot of charm.  Kipling wrote and published the stories largely in magazines from 1893-94. Now in 20016 Disney has revisted the stories with a combination of live action, motion capture, and digital processing for an extravaganza that looks nothing like animation per se.

Jungle Book Live Bluray

Everyone talks but the elephants, who are quite above it all. This is not as jarring as you might think, especially given the talented voice actors on hand. Bill Murray is ideal as the jovial bear, Baloo, and Idris Elba terrifying as the disfigured tiger, Shere Khan. The boy, Mowgli, is played with charm and restraint by newcomer Neel Sethi. The vistas, the visuals of the jungle world, are nothing short of jaw dropping, as is the integration of many types of animation and live action.  Two minutes into the film, you believe you’re in a real location. The fun extra on the making of the movie will show you how much you’ve been deceived. The Blu-ray disc is one of the sharpest and colorful that I have ever seen. Did I mention King Louie (Christopher Walken)? It seems a crime that an actor should be paid for having so much fun. Fabulous family fare!

Two Terrific Action Films

I love movies that make me think or that deal with some social condition or the human spirit, but let’s face it – once in a while I just want to see an action adventure movie that thrills and entertains in doing so. This past week I was lucky to see two really good ones. Spectre at my local Regal theater and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation in the comfort of my home on the 65″ screen. Spectre might be the best James Bond movie yet, and I’ll talk about it when it’s available to view at home. Mission…is available on a dandy Blu-ray disc that gets four stars easy.

Mission Impossible Rogue Nationa

Once again Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt, the indefatigable agent who always gets the job done, no matter the obstacle. Simon Pegg is back on board as his often humorous sidekick, Benji Dunn, as is Jeremy Renner as the head of Hunt’s elite squad. This time, that elite squad has been squelched by the CIA (led by a snarky Alan Baldwin), and the guys are on their own in trying to discover if The Syndicate, a collection of rogue agents, really exists, and if so, to annihilate it. Matters are complicated by Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) a gorgeous and athletic agent who may or may not be playing them.  There are car chases, motorcycle chases, shoot outs, and a tense underwater sequence. The pacing is breathless but there are enough resting places that one can catch his breath before the action starts again. In short, the pacing is perfect, the acting is perfect, the plot is engaging, and the mystery never lets up until the final twist. The Blu-ray disc has a drop-dead-gorgeous image and the sound is full bodied and has lots of presence. For once the balance between dialogue and lease breaking sound is perfect. Too many movies these days drop the dialogue way down and the effects way up so you’re faced with the dilemma of having to be blown out of your house by the effects just to hear the script. Not so with serves as a model of how it should be done. There are lots of extras, by the way, that explain how some of the stunts were done and enhance the viewing experience. Four stars and maybe a half more – don’t miss it.

“Poldark” – Must See Summer Entertainment from PBS

Poldark is a remake of an earlier BBC series, and both are based on a series of novels by Winston Graham. Ross Poldark fights in the American Revolution, body on the English side but heart on the American, and gets severely wounded and left for dead. Two years later, very much alive but with a scar to prove his nearness to the grave, he returns home to Cornwall to find that his father has died, his inheritance is next to nothing, and his girl, thinking him dead, is about to marry another man. He sets out to reinvent himself and once again become a recognized leader in his community.


The actor playing Poldark must hold the screen whenever he appears and smouldering Irish actor Aidan Turner fills the bill, reminding us that in spite of the popularity of Magic Mike, hirsute  men can still reign as sex symbols. Like the old Bond saying, women will want to be with Poldark, men will want to be him.  Turner’s Poldark has swagger and then some. The other characters are ideally cast and the magnificent, craggy Cornwall coast also plays a great part in the visual impact that this series has. The photography is stunning and the period details feel entirely real; the costumes look lived in. PBS is airing the show on Masterpiece at 9 p. m. on Sundays. One episode has gone down – use “on demand” for that and set your DVR for the rest.


Foreign TV Via Netflix

Netflix streaming, which I consider one of the great values out there, has always had a smattering of foreign TV, subtitled and all, but that small number of titles has blossomed into a large number that have their own separate search division. Here are three of the  best, which you also might be able to obtain on DVD or Blu-ray disc, depending on your access. But wherever you find them, don’t miss these superlative shows.

The Code

The Code is an Australian show, so it is in English without subtitles. It’s concerned with one of action drama’s favorite topics – government cover up. A young couple, cruising in the outback, gets involved in an accident and the girl dies. A video is involved that proves that the girl was murdered. Two brothers pursue the truth. Reporter Ned Banks (Dan Spielman) wants the story for his raggy newspaper, brother Jesse (Ashley Zukerman) is a computer hacker extraordinaire, who keeps the brothers informer but also at odds. The whole cast is find but American actor Zukerman is especially good. Suspense builds and builds for six episodes. and the photography and sound are first rate. Netflix has season one, there’s apparently a season two (also six episodes) in the wings.


Salamander is a Belgian TV show and carries easy to read English subtitles.  It’s about espionage and that favorite topic again – government coverup – adding another favorite theme – the heist. Sophisticated thieves go through sewer  tunnels to gain access to a bank’s  safe deposit boxes. They empty 66 of them, taking papers and photos that might prove embarrassing to government officials were they to be revealed. The bank wants no police involvement, fearing the knowledge of the contents of those boxes might bring down the government. One policeman, Paul Geradi (FIlip Peeters) seeks the truth and for his trouble becomes a wanted man, pursuing justice against all odds. Though 12 episodes long, Salamander is taut and exciting to the end, each episode ending with a cliffhanger that propels a viewer on to the next chapter. Breathtaking thrills and lots of cat and mouse action, with multiple cats and multiple mice! A second season is in the works, as is an English language remake.


The Messengers is a French show and like no other I’ve seen.  It’s subtitled and set in a French seacoast town that has vistas of amazing beauty. Three recently buried bodies are discovered exhumed and placed in the show house of a new housing development. They’ve been positioned so as to imitate an average 3-person family. It happens again, and this time, a photograph of a former police investigator is left behind. That man, Paul Maisonneuve (Thierry Lhermitte) rejoins the force and along with his former student, Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier), now a full investigator herself, sets out to find the culprits. In episode 3 it becomes clear that these crimes are a distraction to hide a real crime. That one is solved in episode 5, the other in the final episode 6. This show, like Salamander, is exceptionally taut, with splendid photography, and also has Class A movie style acting.  Lhermitte, usually known in France for comedy, and Dompnier have hand in glove chemistry. It’s wonderful to watch them work together.  Lhermitte walks off at the end of this one, but I’ve a feeling he’ll be enticed back for a second season. Let’s hope so.