On DVD & Blu-Ray Today: August 30, 2016

What's the point? That's the question director Jon Favreau and the brass at Disney had to answer if they were going to justify the money and man hours required to bring the visually stunning "live action" version of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book to the big screen some fifty years after the Disney animated version taught generations upon generations of children the bare necessities of life. What would be the point of retelling this story to the current generation in an updated form? What more could they bring to it that children might not elicit from that 1967 original? In short, would there be more of a point to it than simply showing off the technical wizardry of Weta Digital and their visual effects work? The funny thing is, we more than likely remember the 1967 version through nostalgia-filled eyes that cloud our judgment of the actual film. In going back and watching that film-the one I very much enjoyed as a child despite being born in the late eighties-it quickly became apparent there wasn't much substance to the story and that the film was more a collection of little scenes filled with different, but interesting animal personalities that featured catchy songs written by the Sherman brothers and very little more until Shere Khan showed up at the end to create some type of tension. And so, going into this latest version of Kipling's story that would pull from both that source material while being heavily inspired by the '67 film the biggest improvement they could make would be in the story department by crafting a narrative that held a driving force with serious forward momentum and a throughline plot that, at the very least, would add a little more significance and reason to seeing the film in the first place. With screenwriter Justin Marks (whose only prior feature credits include a Street Fighter film and a TV movie) though, we are brought the one thing I couldn't even have imagined to add and that was a cohesion to the thinly connected events of the original animated movie. Giving purpose and connection that take Mowgli (Neel Sethi) from point A to point B lends the film a real ambition making the stunning visuals only more of an achievement. Full review here. Video review here. B-

If you bought a ticket to Me Before You you knew what you were getting yourself into. The movie itself, based on the novel by Jojo Moyes (who also penned the screenplay) and directed by first time feature director Thea Sharrock, knows what it is and has no qualms with embracing the tropes of the romantic drama genre. Its ultimate goal is to have tears flowing from your eyes as you leave the theater and if you are indeed bought a ticket to Me Before You and were subsequently crying as the credits rolled you were probably happy with said purchase. That is what audiences want from a movie like this and for the most part, Me Before You delivers. What isn't necessarily expected from such a film, but that Me Before You tends to deliver in spades, is an endearing quality of humanity. It isn't anything new to find a relative nature to the characters at the core of the conflict in movies such as this, but with our two leads here Moyes smartly adds another layer to their relationship that takes it beyond being non-traditional and not just based on if issues of the heart will keep them together or draw them apart. Rather, this caveat elevates the story to one that forces us to contemplate the courage needed to redirect a life that has been thrown completely off course. That may sound slightly dramatic in itself given the tone this film initially takes on is quite affable, but when it comes down to it-when the relationship has been developed and the tears inevitably shed-there is left a large amount of respect for Me Before You for not only embracing the recurring archetypes of its genre, but for daring to try to improve upon them. Whether this be through the act of stronger characterization in our female lead than typically seen, the sometimes downright dislikable nature of the male lead or the generally high quality of acting on display-there is something pedigreed and understated about the final product that allows skeptical audiences to appreciate its willingness to improve upon acknowledged tropes while pleasing the target audience in a way they may not have known to be possible before. All in all, Me Before You is a tearjerker that earns that title through improving on and adding to the familiar while still hitting every box on the genre checklist. Full review here. B-

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