Movie news: Nina, Marvel, and Jungle Book(s)

Nina is even worse than expected

The Zoe Saldana led biopic based on singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone was the subject of controversy long before it came out. The casting of Saldana, specifically, has been regarded with derision. Saldana is a relatively light-skinned African-Latino woman. Simone was a defiantly African-American woman with far less delicate features. When reports emerged that Saldana was using dark makeup and a prosthetic nose to compensate for the differences, the chorus of criticism only intensified.

Now that reviews for Nina have finally started rolling in, we know that the casting was symptomatic of a much larger problem — the movie is, to put it bluntly, really bad. The movie, currently struggling to hold up a comically low 3 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, meanders from act to act as it portrays a uni-dimensionally troubled Simone in a manner that borders on caricature.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said, “The word on this Nina Simone biopic has been so toxic for so long — it was filmed in 2012 but only released now — I was really hoping to find something good in it. No luck.”

The Marvel juggernaut rolls on

As is the case with most weeks leading up to the summer, Marvel dominated the movie news cycle with a flurry of announcements, rumors, and reviews this past week. First, the bad news: the Inhumans movie has been pulled from Marvel’s movie calendar. The Inhumans are a subspecies of humans that the Kree (an alien race) experimented on millennia ago. Now, when Inhumans are exposed to the “Terrigen Mist,” they suddenly and violently transform into powerful beings.

Marvel’s reasons for pulling Inhumans are easy to guess — the parallels with X-Men, another Marvel property, are wide ranging. More than anything else though, the head honchos at Marvel have their hands full right now. New entries to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), from Spiderman: Homecoming, to Ant Man and the Wasp, give Marvel little space or incentive to launch another brand new franchise.

Kevin Fiege, President of Marvel Studios, said:

“Since we made our initial phase three announcement, we added Spiderman, which was a big joyous coup for us. We added Ant Man and the Wasp, which was a big fun continuation of that story for us. Walt Disney Company has announced an Indiana Jones film for right around that same time. So I think it will shuffle off the current date [of Inhumans] that it’s on right now. How far down it shuffles, I’m not sure yet.”

On a more positive note, Marvel’s Summer 2016 juggernaut, Captain America: Civil War has been garnering rave reviews. Civil War is currently sitting on a 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the highest of any Marvel movie to date. This is absolutely incredible when one considers the monumental ambition of Civil War. The movie has to pack in more MCU characters than your average Avengers film, build a legitimate story that splits these characters down the middle and sends them to war, set the foundations of the MCU through its critical Phase Three, all while being a self contained “popcorn movie” with enough quips and spectacular action set pieces to wow the average viewer. Consider Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as an example of everything that can go wrong when a movie tries to do too much.

A tale of two Jungle Books

If you haven’t seen the Jon Favreau directed, Disney produced The Jungle Book, I’d highly recommend checking it out. As a live action retelling of the animated classic, The Jungle Book blends spectacular visuals with the classic, virtually flawless original story. In particular, the voice cast is absolutely top notch. Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, and Bill Murray as Baloo work together (with Scarlett Johannson, Lupita Nyong’o, and Neel Sethi), to make for a rollicking and fun retelling.

That said, if you don’t get a chance to catch this Jungle Book retelling, worry not! A Warner Brothers production, with an arguably even more impressive director and cast, is on the near horizon. Jungle Book: Origins, directed by Andy Serkis, and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Christian Bale, and Cate Blanchett is on track to come out in early 2018.