"Aladdin" Movie Review

As usual I've took a couple days from my first thoughts review video (here), and now it's time to get into my full thoughts on the live-action remake of the Disney Animated Classic, Aladdin after getting some time to let it sink in. I can't believe how excited I still am about this film. It totally lives up to its own phrase, "diamond in the rough". That said, there will be some layers to this review. First, I want to get into how this film stands up to its animated predecessor. This is the part I couldn't believe the more I thought about it. As great as Robin Williams is, I think I now actually prefer this out of the two. Probably because it hits every single beat of the original. With only  slight changes & additions. Changes that seem only there to compliment the realistic nature of live-action, & additions that go on to further the mythology of the tale without changing it any way. It being live-action also gives it room to draw on so much more emotion. In today's context, animated Aladdin is a smartphone, the live-action Aladdin is the upgraded version. Speaking of upgrades. Sees like a good time to get into the music. With the addition of Jasmine's new two part song, along with some amazing dance numbers, this film seem more a musical than the original. All the original songs got a new remix if you will. However, they stayed so true their original counterparts if I played the right snippets, you'd think only the artist performing had changed. Basically there was a very subtle hip hop influence injected into each. Like a 80-20 mix, 80% original, 20% hip hop. It blended perfectly at that rate. One of the things that worried me going in. Jasmine's new song I mentioned earlier was an amazing piece of music performed beautifully. It seemed a strange place to add it, but by the time she was halfway done the hair on my neck was standing up, & I didn't care about its placement anymore. I also mentioned the dance numbers earlier. These were amazing! Also a mix, this time Hip Hop meets Bollywood, & I never wanted to learn a dance in my life until I saw this. This blew me away! I loved the dance choreography in this film. Never really seen anything like this in my life. Now, before I sign off I want to break down the standout acting performances contained in this film. I have to start that by mentioning the overall chemistry between the cast as a whole. The chemistry displayed made it look as if these people had been really good friends for years that just decided to make a movie. I couldn't believe how tight knit they all seemed. I'll break 'em down first with the one everyone was most worried about, Will Smith as the Genie. When he first was cast, I told a lot of nay sayers if we could get old Fresh Prince, Bad Boys Will Smith, he could pull it off. If anyone has the charisma to even attempt to fill those big shoes Robin William's left behind he could, but only if he could tap back into something we haven't seen for a long time. That's exactly what we got. I haven't thought Smith was having a good time making a film in a long time. It was so refreshing to see this return for someone who at one time was one of my favorite acting personalities. He took full ownership of this role & totally made it his own, & the addition of keeping him around throughout to be Aladdin's advisor was a perfect addition. Definitely one of the additions that puts this over the top. Mena Mossoud was also just cast perfect as Aladdin, as was Naomi Scott as Jasmine. You believed every minute of their love story. Not just that though, every other aspect of their characters as well. From his thief with a heart of gold, to her frustrated Princess who's beauty hides her mind. These three carried this film to the heights it reached, but they did definitely have some back up in that feat. Nassim Pedrad was great as the new character & best friend to Jasmine, Dahlia. Even if I did immediately realize why she was there, i loved her role. The biggest one i was worried about going in though was Marwan Kenzari as Jafar. Jafar always came off as downright sinister even in just his look, where this guy didn't to me. What he lacked in sinister look though, he made up for in performance. This guy oozed evilness from the start. They added some extra layer to the character too that worked very well. I noticed at the end af my first thoughts vid that I didn't mention the digital characters of Abu, Jago, & the Magic Carpet. I at least have to mention how real these characters came off. You would totally have thought that they not only trained these animals, they also went out & got an enchantment put on a rug. Beautiful effects abound, & set pieces for that matter. Every place form the alleys of Agrabah to the Cave of Wonders seemed so real. Last but definitely not least though, Guy Ritchie. I think the craziest part of all this is how this stays so true to the animated original, but at the same time is totally a Guy Ritchie film. The chase scenes are absolutely amazing. The storytelling is fluid, with virtually no downtime. Totally Guy Ritchie. Anyway, all in all I completely loved this film. Definitely my favorite out of all the live action remakes Disney has done so far. If they can keep them to this level, I can't wait to see what's next.

upload.jpg

"Dumbo" Movie Review

So as usual, after my first thoughts video (see that here), I like to let the movie set in awhile before I go over my full thoughts. This time we're talking about Disney's newest live-action adaptation of an animated classic, Dumbo. First off, I really enjoyed this film. Is it perfect? No. It has it's problems. Which I'm gonna go over first to get out of the way. The biggest problem stems from the human element. I'll get more into that as I break down the performances. Next, early on there's some shaky CGI. The crazy part about that statement is to me it had nothing to do with the flying elephant scenes. Those to me were probably some of the most amazing parts of the film. Finally, it felt a little slow to start. Mainly, due to the first 30 minutes or so containing a large & depressing amount of loss. This is also where you hit 95% of all the beats of the original animated classic. Starting from the beginning credits you see the Medici Bros. Circus start up on there tour, & by the end of the credits it's a dilapidated shell of its former self. Followed by the first scene of the kids greeting their father fresh off the train from WW1 to the knowledge he's lost his arm. On top of that we revisit all of the sad notes of the original Dumbo. Which, like I said earlier, pretty much gets summed up in the first 30 minutes of runtime. To me the rest of the story is where this film really shines. As I've been saying leading up to this, out of all the classics, Dumbo really was the shortest on substance. So, from it's announcement, I knew this would be the one to be built on with new content. That's my favorite part about these live-action adaptations, when they're done right. Not changing any of the core storyline, but building onto it, an enriching it that much more. This aspect was my favorite part of this film. This is where you meet my favorite human performance of this film in the form of Michael Keaton's Vandemere. A very realistic wolf in sheep's clothing villain. Kind of an anti-Walt Disney, creator of a steampunk version of Disneyland in the form of Dreamland. He's the epitome of greed, but a realistic version as well. Coming off as a philanthropist out to help everyone succeed their dreams, only to show his true colors once he gets to what he wants. A master manipulater, I loved to hate this character. This performance alongside the poor man's version of pretty much the same character in Danny DeVito's, Medici, were hands down best human presences this film had. They found a way to separate the two. Where while Medici was also fueled by getting a buck any way he could, he still had a since of family when it came to his troupe. His decisions seemed more fueled by his allegiance them,  then the pursuit of wealth. I also found Colin Farrell handled his role well. He was surrounded by so much loss & confusion throughout. I felt like he did well portraying a lost soul, just going through the motions of life. Where this film fell short in the human aspect for me was in Eva Green, & the two kids. I never really cared about Eva Green's character throughout. Much less her "evolution" from beginning to end. More so, in the kids. They just didn't seem to drive the emotion they should have through the course of this film. That said, part of me thinks they deliberately tried to keep the human aspect of this film toned down to make Dumbo the true star. And if that was the case, they did a great job in my eyes keeping him the frontrunner for this film. From the time that elephant take his first flight this film takes off. As Keaton's character said, it made me feel like a kid again. I compared it to the first time we saw Reeve's Superman fly. My favorite part of this film however, was how it was handled by director, Tim Burton. Tim Burton usually has a style all over his films, that you can distinctly notice is his. That said, my favorite Burton films don't have this thumbprint. This falls in that category. If no one would have told me going in this was a Tim Burton film, I probably wouldn't have known until the credits rolled. He really did deliver an aesthetically beautiful film here though. Where I siad the CGI was shaky in the beginning, was immediately made up for. Not only when Dumbo took flight, but also in the amazing steampunk homage to Disneyland in the form of Dreamland. Totally amazing, & the set pieces that made it up were absolutely beautiful. I also loved the way he subtly hit all the points you remember from the original, without beating you over the head with them. His handling of the pink elephant scene is reason alone to see this in the biggest theater you can see it in. So all in all, though not perfect, I highly enjoyed myself through the course of this very good family film. I will definitely add it to my collection, to enjoy with the family many more times. Curious what everyone else thought though? Let me know in the comments, like, & share.

Read More

"Mary Poppins Returns" Movie Review

So, if you haven't seen my first thoughts video on Disney's follow-up fifty plus years in the making you can see it here. As always though I like to let these sink in a little more, & write out a more full review. Mary Poppins Returns will be no exception to that, even though I might have took an extra day or two this time around. As I said in my first thoughts many times, this film had an uphill battle from its inception. To try to follow up a classic, 50 plus years old no less, that has stood that test of time in almost every way, is no easy feat. And even though this one doesn't quite measure up to match its predecessor being practically perfect in every way, it does manage to hold it's own as a more than solid, highly enjoyable sequel. I'm gonna break this down into sections starting first with the overall story. This is where this movie really shines. It picks up with a grown up, widowed Michael Banks just finding out he's losing his childhood home to the bank, while at the same time raising his own three, highly grown up for their ages, kids of his own. Of course his sister Jane is by his side to help out, but the Banks kids are once again in need of Mary Poppins. Oh, and Michael's kids are too. What sounds like a simple story on paper, as they try to find lost bank shares to help pay for the house, turns into a at times heartbreaking tale, filled with magic & lessons abound. The real beauty to it being how well it not only picks up in a perfect place, but totally parallels the original's theme, without taking the easy way out of just copying its successes verbatim. On top of this, the film is absolutely beautiful. From the animated scene, to the dance choreography, to even just the overall use of color, saying this film's beautiful is an understatement. Now when it comes to the acting Emily Blunt owned this movie in the title role. She made this movie Mary Poppins' movie. Which I always thought of the original as Mary & Bert's film. With Dick van Dyke stealing the scene just as much as Julie Andrews. Not the case in this film. There will be no argument, this was Emily Blunt's film. And she was perfect, fully resisting the urge to just copy what Andrews had already done, she made this character her own. There were times it was so her own, I felt she was almost even out if character, but then I would tell myself that Mary is here for different reasons this time around. So as much as she comes when she's needed, she comes in the form she's needed as well. The more I think about it, the more I really like this extra layer to the character. Another shining piece of performance goes to the three kids, who were absolutely amazing. They struck acting gold with those three. Lin-Manuel Miranda was good, but as the main side character to Mary I feel he just fell a little short. His singing & dancing was great. It's just his acting fell a little short when you compare him to his predecessor Bert. He held his own, but he couldn't quite get on that level to rival Blunt. Which would have made him that equal part like Van Dyke did in the original. A major example of that was Dick van Dyke's cameo in this film, where he steals the scene from everyone. Two major differences in this film were an actual villain, who demands your hate, & the fact that this one was a little more Broadway than the original. I mention this Broadway feel now because there was one spot that I feel this negatively affected the film. And that's in Meryl Streep's character. She was the one dance scene to many in my eyes, & I would have loved to see her character used much like Ed Wynn's in the first. I think using her in a strictly comedic role, light on the music, would have added much to her role, & to the film as a whole. The tea party on the ceiling was actually one of my favorite parts of the original, & this would have been a perfect place to pay homage to that scene. Now this is a musical, so we have to mention that. I walked out of this with the original music still stuck in my head. Now, that said, I enjoyed all but one song in this film. However, none of the music was quite up to the original's. An impossible feat by the way, as the original had some of the best music to ever be put on film. One of the songs is just guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes, but a lot of this music had more of a Broadway feel in my opinion. Not a bad thing, just something I noticed. Out of all of them i absolutely loved "Trip the Light Fantastic", & the choreography that went with it. An amazing scene. Overall, I highly enjoyed this film, & would recommend it to anyone. You'll just feel better about life as a whole after watching it. It didn't hit the impossible goal set before it 50 plus years ago, but that by no means is a failure. This is a great film, & as sequels usually go, it's even better than that. I'd love to know & discuss your thoughts as you see the film. Put them in comments, like, & share.

upload.jpg