“The Mountain Between Us”

A private pilot with no flight plan would make most frequent flyers a tad uneasy, but when you have to make your own wedding or perform a life-saving surgery on a small boy, qualms get pushed to the back seat. This survival romance film is enjoyable even with the narrative details flying in the wind. Not a film for realists, “The Mountain Between Us” oozes a morality rarely seen in modern film. Selfish and reckless are replaced by intense responsibility for others. Fiancés don’t plot revenge on their competition, and dogs don’t seem to thin with lack of sustenance. Lovers don’t call if you are married. Sex is just as romantic sans bathing for weeks on end. Yet, the visuals are breathtakingly beautiful above and below the tree line, and above and below streams and frozen pools.

Kate Winslet is Alex. She is not a person who waits patiently, and she trusts her instincts to problem solve. A photo-journalist by profession, Alex shoots a cougar with a flare gun as easily as she snaps a picture. She has determination to spare as she treks through snow mounds with an injured leg. The handsome Idris Elba is the new Ben Casey, neurosurgeon hunk. He is Ben Bass to squelch any confusion. Ben is logical, has endured personal tragedy, and believes the first rule of survival is “stick together”. This is the trust walk of all trust walks. His instinct tells him that they are going to die on the mountain. Ben and Kate save each other numerous times. Grief and survival mix with a found cabin stocked with two cans of soup. Somehow we know that they will make it, but we worry about the golden lab.

Beau Bridges and Dermot Melroney make up the supporting cast. They are equally fine actors. Bridges as the Vietnam vet charter pilot who dies mid-air of a stroke is perfect charm and surprise. Melroney is Mark, the fiancé who knows how to let his love go. Director Haney Abu-Assad does a marvelous job with the plane crash, the perilous ice slides, and the frozen lake plunges. The ice cave and hillside shelters, the low lying clouds, and the sunsets are all romantic balances to the harsh pains of starvation.

The ending may take me to the Charles Martin novel. I can’t imagine anyone getting away with a running sidewalk scene outside of LaLa land.

“The Jungle Book”

Rudyard Kipling wrote the rhythmic and balanced line : “for the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack”. Why scriptwriter Justin Marks had the trusted bear Baloo call this chant “propaganda” neglects the revolutionary theme of diverse creatures working together.

In fact, all “The  Jungle” ‘s  creatures could be grouped according to those with primarily self-interest and revenge on their minds ( take Kaa, King Louis and  Shere Khan,as examples) and those with aid and support of others foremost in mind ( like Bagherra, Akela, Raksha and Baloo) The Peace Rock scenes mirror nirvana for a time, where all hierarchies are put aside.

I was very pleased that my six-year-old grandniece selected the little group of tumbling, squealing wolf cubs, especially Grey Brother, as her favorite animal of “The Jungle”. Practicing their howls, having fun and cooperating seem like  values consistent with a kindergarten graduate.

Jon Faureau directs some scary scenes. The natural laws of the forest primeval are here. (Warning to those considering taking a two,three, or four-year-old) Learning how to run is highly sanctioned.  Neel Sethi, as Mowgli, practices with the panther, Bagheera, at the film’s start. Ben Kingsley’s voice is mellow and fatherly in his admonitions.

In fact, for me,  it is the voices that have prominence in this film. Christopher Walken’s orangutan, King Louis, is terrifying , as are his monkey hoards. His ” I want to be you” just may be problemed-solved by swallowing Mowgli up whole. And Scarlet Johannson’s hypnotic and sensuously-voiced Python lulls us into danger with its warmth.

One of my favorite scenes is of Baloo ( Bill Murray, sounding like Seth Rogen ) becoming Mowgli’s river raft as they both sing “The Bare Necessities”. Mowgli, the man- cub of Kipling’s imagination, demonstrates his tricks (  his problem-solving ) by constructing all kinds of pulleys and crane-like devices to help the lazy Baloo retrieve his  beloved honeycombs.

Mother and father wolves score high points for sacrifice and love. Another reason why I loved my charge’s favorite animal choice.  Akela ( Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha  ( Lupita Nyong’o) soar above the Bengal tiger Shere Khan ( Idris Elba) in  nurturing warm fuzzies.

According to “The Guardian”, ” The Jungle Book”  2016 has garnered 684 million dollars worldwide so far. I don’t know exactly why 1893 original magazine stories and their moral tales draw such attention, but teaching younger viewers to stay in their seats until the final credits roll is a laudable goal. Teach them to watch the scroll of first names and scout for their own.  My grandniece found no ” Lydias”, but she did count eight “James’, her little brother’s name. Teach the young that    “going  to the movies” supports the creative work of many. “The Jungle Book” ‘s theme of cooperation will be even further enhanced.