The Lion King - new films at Portsmouth cinemas

Grab the popcorn for the latest releases.

Tuesday, 16th July 2019, 4:59 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th July 2019, 10:20 am
Zazu (voiced by John Oliver) and young Simba (JD McCrary). Picture: PA Photo/Disney Enterprises, Inc.

The Lion King (PG)

Twenty five years ago, The Lion King was the cat's whiskers.

The highest-grossing hand-drawn animated film of all time continues to purr as a long-running stage musical.

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Now, director Jon Favreau employs the same photo-realistic computer wizardry, which served him well for his rollicking reimagining of The Jungle Book, to transport us to the sun-baked savanna for a virtually word-for-word remake, which trades heavily on technical excellence to justify its existence.

Screenwriter Jeff Nathanson appropriates most of the original dialogue and tempers the animated film's more extravagant flourishes.

Consequently, scheming uncle Scar is no longer a scene-stealing pantomime villain, his Machiavellian call to arms Be Prepared loses the goose-stepping hyenas and provocative Nazi imagery, and the Busby Berkeley-style fantasia of I Just Can't Wait To Be King is now a scamper around a watering hole.

Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen riff to hilarious effect as meerkat Timon and flatulent warthog Pumbaa, tucking into a banquet of bugs with gusto and cheekily referencing another Disney classic when they are asked to cause a distraction.

As before, Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones) and mate Sarabi (Alfre Woodard) maintain a delicate balance between various animal factions. Their proud leonine bloodline continues with the birth of Simba (JD McCrary), who is introduced to the world by shamanic mandrill Rafiki (John Kani) atop Pride Rock.

Mufasa's embittered brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) plots to seize control of the grasslands by forging a fragile alliance with the hyenas.

The despicable plotters lure Simba into a canyon during a stampede and Mufasa dies saving his boy from being crushed under clattering hooves.

Overwhelmed by guilt and grief, Simba flees and the tearful cub is befriended by carefree duo Timon (Eichner) and Pumbaa (Rogen).

Meanwhile, Scar's tyrannical reign reduces the lush pride lands to a barren sprawl of rotting carcasses where Simba's sweetheart Nala (Beyonce Knowles) feel powerless to oppose despotic rule.

There is no denying that The Lion King is a mighty handsome and muscular beast.

Audiences unfamiliar with the 1994 animation may consider Favreau's picture to be king of the cinematic jungle.

Out now.

Pavarotti (12A)

Near the beginning of Ron Howard’s documentary, which incorporates footage from concerts and interviews to recount Luciano Pavarotti’s journey in his own words, the ebullient Italian tenor is asked to imagine his legacy.

There are plenty of reasons to grin at Howard’s affectionate portrait of flawed musical genius, which loudly celebrate the qualities which elevated a baker’s son from Modena to the dizzy heights of global superstardom.

Pavarotti’s well documented faults are largely glossed over before Bono offers his typically forthright opinion on the appeal of Pavarotti. Howard’s entertaining film treads too lightly to break anything, certainly not fans’ hearts.

Out now.

Stuber (15)

In 2017, Kumail Nanjiani played an Uber driver in Chicago chasing dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian in the uproarious romance, The Big Sick.

It was one of the best films of the year and earned the leading man an Oscar nomination for his script. Two years later, Nanjiani slips behind the wheel to play an Uber driver in Los Angeles chasing dreams of romantic bliss with his best friend in the harebrained action comedy Stuber.

It’s safe to say Michael Dowse’s caper won’t be wooing Academy Award voter.

A mismatched buddy cop movie in the same vein as Beverly Hills Cop or Midnight Run, Stuber runs dry of imagination and creativity well before the end.

Out now.

Annabelle Comes Home (15)

The Conjuring horror franchise expands at a furious pace with a seventh instalment in as many years, embellishing the mythology of a creepy doll, which is a conduit for tormented souls.

The first Annabelle standalone feature, released in 2014, was a disappointing slice of supernatural horror hokum, which plundered Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen for scares.

A 2017 prequel, Annabelle: Creation, was a marked improvement, tracing the plaything’s hellish origins back to a freak car accident in 1943.

This new chapter slingshots forward in time to the late 1960s, dovetailing neatly with the prelude to the original Conjuring, which introduced audiences to a wooden moppet with a hand-painted rictus grin.

Writer-director Gary Dauberman’s script is a potpourri of haunted house cliches, which lightly jangle nerves but are too familiar to have us jumping out of our seats in genuine fear. He separates three central characters and a token male love interest so they can be subjected to different manifestations of evil (spooky spectres, swirling fog, grasping hands, possessed inanimate objects) before a climax where their unified force vanquishes the darkness for good.

Out now.