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The Lion King

‘The Lion King’ is a remake of the much admired Disney animated classic from 1994. A popular success for all ages, the tale of love, loss and redemption amongst the African wildlife has seen it endure. With the current unending cycle of remakes, it was a given Disney would dip its oar into these waters. Having remade several animated films to the live-action sphere, Disney’s latest is a triumph for its computer wizards.

Simba is a young lion in Africa looking forward to becoming King of the Pridelands. Worshipping his father Mufasa, Simba’s life goes awry when his evil, ambitious Uncle Scar stages a coup. Forced into exile, Simba relies on the help of Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog. When tensions resurface in the land, Simba is called to action to face Scar and claim the throne.

‘The Lion Kings’ technical success is a double-edged sword. The vistas and creatures it achieves in its ‘photo-realistic’ CGI is stunning. Every crevice and flowing locks of the animals are amazingly rendered. The voice actors from James Earl Jones onwards bring conviction amidst the computerized visions. The simple story flows reasonably well with slow spots and saccharine-sweet sentiment kept to a minimum.

For all its creativity in how it looks, ‘The Lion King’ falls apart due to lack of emotional power. Whilst the voices, scenery and songs are all strong, how the animals’ reaction to events disappoints. Facial expressions are non-existent with the animal’s continual blank looks has the effect of taking you out of the story. Although individual scenes look truly majestic, how the animals barely react to them proves distracting. For all the advances in CGI, there’s still a long way to go in successfully making such computerized characters display genuine emotion as ‘The Lion King’ shows.

Admirers of the original hand-drawn version of ‘The Lion King’ may grumble at this hi-tech remake. Those who haven’t seen the initial take should at least enjoy the dazzling scenery and colourful spectacle. Hopefully technology will further improve with the added ingredient of authentic sincerity providing further kudos to films like these.

Rating out of 10: 6

Crawl

Since ‘Jaws’ stormed the cinema box office in 1975 dozens of imitators have surfaced. The ‘natural beast on the loose’ formula since has spawned its own genre. There are too many to mention with ‘Crawl’ the latest variant in an ever-expanding movie world. No less tense or implausible, ‘Crawl’ offers ghoulishly fun thrills proving that in films, it’s never safe to go into the water.

Haley (Kaya Scodelario) is an expert swimmer studying at a university in Florida. Estranged from her father Dave (Barry Pepper), she nevertheless checks in on him when a massive storm breaks. Discovering him in peril at home, Haley uses her skills to save him. She doesn’t count on Mother Nature’s relentless fury as well as a group of angry alligators ready to strike.

Alexandre Aja directs ‘Crawl’ with tongue very firmly in cheek. That’s just as well as it’s occasionally difficult to believe the dilemmas the characters face. It’s part of the charm of these films as you go along for the ride in wondering how they’ll survive the oncoming onslaught. If you can overcome the huge leaps of logic, ‘Crawl’ becomes a solid time-waster with decent scares and people to care for.

In what is essentially a two person cast, Scoderlario and Pepper give strong performances. Their roles conjure genuine believability with both giving it their all in what must have been a strenuous shoot. The CGI alligators and scenery are amazingly rendered and help move the brisk plot towards a tension packed finale.

‘Crawl’ may be derivative of ‘Jaws’ in places, including lifting some of its dialogue, but its stream-lined escapism is welcome. Filled with drama, thrills and a dash of ridiculousness, it’s a swift human vs nature battle. It may put you off going into the water like ‘Jaws’ with cinema’s fierce aquatic creatures always difficult to eradicate.

Rating out of 10: 7