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'The Lion King': Reigns On

By Michael S. GoldbergeriBerkshires Film Critic
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Watching director Jon Favreau's spectacularly buoyant homage to the circle of life, I bemoaned not having had a little niece or nephew on loan to give me the moppet point of view. As Art Linkletter noted, kids say the darnedest things, and a quote from Taylor or Max would have at least facilitated an opening paragraph. Hey, I'd of credited them. 
 
But then, as "The Lion King's" joyous, action-filled and altruistic wisdom unreeled before my consistently amazed eyes, it came to me. It was a Ponce de León of the mind. Blown away by the seamlessly elegant, completely
infatuating majesty of the special effects, the eight-year-old in me was, for 118 engaged minutes, reawakened. I also had a sudden craving for some Goobers and a Coke.
 
It is all too often that we tout the commonly available special effects of an otherwise mediocre movie, a polite but tiring indulgence that happily is not the case here. The photorealistic, computer-animated process employed in this remake of the 1994 conventionally animated Disney film represents a moviemaking watershed. It is the biggest FX leap since the filmic abracadabra conjured in "Avatar" (2009). Come the Oscars, when they perfunctorily segue to the technological awards given out earlier in some hotel lobby, wherein a gaggle of tuxedoed and gowned eggheads receive their statuettes, a renewed respect will prompt my hearty applause.
 
In the plain parlance of the Uber driver who did have benefit of his urchin offspring during a recent viewing, "They really look like real animals. It's scary. We won't need zoos, though I'm kind of against that anyway. It's like a variation on the bio-mechanics of 'Jurassic Park.'" To which I replied, "Yeah, just have to hope that those who would foist Big Brother on us for their perpetual power don't latch on to the same wizardry."
 
To which he then replied, "Hey, how do you know they already haven't? I mean, if you think about it, this guy we have now doesn't act or look that real?"
 
Coupling this magic with the humanitarian import of animals proffering witty and wise axioms about the business of living a righteous and productive life, "The Lion King," which will gross millions of dollars, proves folks still want goodness in their entertainment. Too bad so many of them don't hold their political choices to the same beneficent standards. There is an aberrant disconnect in the parent who will make sure his tots benefit from the goodwill espoused in "The Lion King," but give not even lip service to the tragedy of children systematically abused on our borders. I'm sure Mufasa, the sage and judicious king of the jungle cut short in his reign by his avaricious brother, Scar, voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor, would have some poignant criticism of that.
 
Now, perhaps to be picayune, but nonetheless true to my own, idiosyncratic view of modern culture, I have to voice my objection to this king stuff. While it may be awkward, and the whole idea of royal progression would be skewed if the film were to be titled "The Lion President" or "The Lion Prime Minister," fact is, the crown in fairy tales is a literary appendage that no longer has a basis in real life. Most civilized nations have by now gone the constitutional democracy route, even if some forlornly unenlightened folks haven't received the memo. The United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth may have the power of decision when it comes to the color of the curtains at Windsor Castle, but the rest of that throne nonsense went out with bleeding sick people with leeches.
 
Thus it only follows that at the après theatre dinner at McDonald's, I might apprise a resultantly bored Sarah and Sam about the concept of a benevolent dictator, and how it's OK for fictional purposes, but otherwise a slippery slope leading to the loss of liberty. Hmm … no wonder no one wants to go to the movies with me.
 
The social studies, pontificating portion of my review completed, I guess I should say a few things about the film. Although most of the world is by now familiar with the saga, the combination of resplendent landscapes and superb voicing of the magnificently imaged players breathes a reinvigorating spirit into the franchise. Verbalized in his best, classically momentous plosives and fricatives, James Earl Jones' Mufasa royally convinces us of his magnanimity as
he tutors Simba in the finer points of noblesse oblige. And, in supplying the sort of lighthearted counterpoint that imbues a work of this philosophical heft with universal appeal, Seth Rogen's whimsical interjection as Pumbaa, Simba's warthog version of Sancho Panza, is comedy relief par excellence. All of which should alert parents, grandparents and other assorted caregivers that their own princes and princesses will be commanding their accompaniment to "The Lion King."
 
"The Lion King," rated PG, is a Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release directed by Jon Favreau and stars the voices of Donald Glover, Beyoncé and Seth Rogen. Running time: 118 minutes

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North Adams Puts Up Christmas Trees for the Holidays

 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — It's beginning to look a lot like the holiday season with the installation of the city two Christmas trees on Main Street. 
 
The Highway Department traveled to Pownal, Vt., on Thursday morning to take down a 30-foot fir donated by the Pownal Fire Department. The tree stood for many years in front of the station on Route 346 and was lighted for the holidays. The department decided to have it removed because it was impeding the sight lines of drivers trying to exit the station and the adjacent post office.  
 
"A smaller tree will replace the large tree this spring and set farther back from the road," the Pownal Fire Department posted on its Facebook page. 
 
The tree arrived with a police escort to Monument Square with some lights already in place. It was trimmed by Lonny Cimonetti, who will be retiring next year, and hoisted into place with a crane from Atlantis Corp. of Stephentown, N.Y. Personnel from the highway and Wire & Alarm stabilized in place in front of the Civil War Monument. 
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