5. Christopher Robin
Directed by Marc Forster, Christopher Robin released in 2018, following a now adult Christopher. With his days in the Hundred Acre Wood long behind him, Christopher (played by Ewan McGregor) is now a hard headed businessman with little time for his young daughter. He finds himself reunited with Winnie the Pooh and all his friends, and rediscovering the magic of childhood. The plot is quite thin, but even so there's something remarkably charming and lovely about Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore making their way across London to find their beloved Christopher, and the movie has a lovely message. Christopher Robin could have been a much better movie if so much of the focus wasn't on Christopher's daughter. McGregor gives a wonderful performance, and his scenes with his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood are pure Disney magic.
Kenneth Branagh directed the 2015 live action adaptation of Cinderella, starring Lily James as the eponymous fairytale princess, with Richard Madden as the Prince, Cate Blanchett as the wicked step-mother, and Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother. As one may expect from Branagh, Cinderella is a sumptuous, indulgent movie, which is an almost perfect retelling of the original. Branagh has added to the original, expanding the story yet still remaining faithful to the classic movie. The incredible costumes and score, plus impressive performances from the cast, all combine to deliver a truly great live-action remake, and one which definitely improves on the original. Plus, James is the perfect Disney princess.
It may come as a surprise to some, but Aladdin 2019 is definitely one of the better Disney live-action retellings. It's faithful to the original, but adds some twists to the story to keep it modern and fresh. Strangely, the trailers released for Aladdin really didn't do it justice, especially the musical numbers, which are lavish and highly entertaining. Naomi Scott and Mena Massoud are perfectly cast as Jasmine and Aladdin, especially Scott who seems born to play the role. As for Will Smith as Genie; taking on a role that had been made so iconic by the late Robin Williams was never going to be easy, and there are moments when he seems to be doing an impression of Williams, and it doesn't work so well. However, most of the time, Smith revels in his part, and his natural easy going demeanor and humor really shine through.
2. Beauty and the Beast
A live-action remake of one of Disney's most successful animated movies was never going to be a small thing. Beauty and the Beast was the first animated movie to be Oscar nominated for Best Picture, it won Best Original Score, and three of its songs were nominated for Best Original Song, with "Beauty and the Beast" emerging triumphant. Its remake may not have garnered the same accolades, but it did gross over $1.2 billion worldwide.
Directed by Bill Condon, Beauty and the Beast features an A-list cast; Emma Watson plays Belle, with Dan Stevens as the Beast. Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson, and Stanley Tucci are just some of the other names to feature. Beauty and the Beast's score lends itself perfectly to the big screen live-action musical treatment, and Evans, Gad, and Stevens in particular turn in exceptional performances in this regard. However, while Watson is perfect as Belle in many ways, her singing falls short; she misses the classical vocal training that her predecessor, Paige O'Hara, had. It's a near perfect retelling of the original, and while many have issue with it being so similar, its familiarity is not a bad thing. Beauty and the Beast is one of the most expensive movies ever made and it shows; it's like a giant Broadway musical on the big screen, and that can never be a bad thing.
1. The Jungle Book
In 2016, Jon Favreau introduced The Jungle Book to a whole new generation, this time told with realistic animals. Technically, The Jungle Book is more of a CGI remake, since the only live being in the whole film is Neel Sethi as Mowgli. However, it's easy to forget we're watching CGI animals on the screen, even though they all talk. The Jungle Book is hugely enjoyable, and Favreau is a master at making animals seem realistic, while still capable of human thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. The voice cast are also perfectly matched to their characters, with Bill Murray voicing Baloo, Ben Kingsley and Bagheera, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, and Christopher Walken as King Louie, to name but a few.
The Jungle Book has been praised for its visual effects, storytelling, and has a massive 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It definitely improves upon the original, and is spellbinding to watch owing to its outstanding CGI. Favreau is also helming Disney's The Lion King remake, to be released in 2019, and given his impressive pedigree with The Jungle Book, we should be in for a real treat.
- Aladdin (2019) release date: May 24, 2019