Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Aladdin (2019)

Image is property of Disney

Aladdin (2019) – Film Review

Cast: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen

Director: Guy Ritchie

Synopsis: A live action retelling of the 1992 animated classic in which a street urchin is sent by a nefarious vizier to retrieve a magical lamp that contains an all powerful genie…

Review: In many ways, it feels like someone at Disney was almost given the powers of a magical genie themselves. One of their wishes would have been to make the studio lots of money, simply by remaking all their animated back catalogue. Hence, the Disney live action remake train magic carpet has now flown its way to the world of Agrabah and to the story of everyone’s favourite kind hearted street urchin.

With their first live action adaptation this year, Disney was forced into making a few significant alterations. Here though, they have taken the decision not to tamper with things too much. We meet Aladdin (Massoud) an orphaned street urchin who routinely steals items to get by. Though when he meets the beautiful Princess Jasmine (Scott) he falls head over heels in love and strives to win her heart. All the while the villainous Jafar (Kenzari) sends Aladdin to capture a magical lamp in which an all powerful genie will grant its master these wishes three, which Jafar plans to use for nefarious purposes.

Of all the directors in the world Disney could have hired to direct a live action Aladdin film, Guy Ritchie right away feels like an odd choice. The direction Ritchie takes is so unremarkable that it feels like almost anyone could have directed this film and no one would be any the wiser. Stylistically, there’s no risks taken, it’s all very colourful, but nothing stands out. It’s all very unremarkable, which, like with Dumbo feels like a mistake, as there could have been an opportunity to utilise the director’s talents to give these live action films a voice of their own and to really justify their existence. Otherwise, it just feels like the sole purpose of these live action remakes is to just make the studio money.

He might have been the source of much ridicule and scorn in the build up to the film’s release, but to his credit Will Smith actually does a decent job in the role of the Genie. Though Robin Williams’s take on the character will always be iconic, Smith’s efforts to make the character his own are valiant. He’s by far and away the main source of laughter in the film as he tries to get Aladdin to be a suitable match for Princess Jasmine. Though he is basically playing himself, he’s, by far and away, the main source of laughter in the film. Naomi Scott holds her own as Princess Jasmine as she makes an effort to assert herself from the constraints that the society places on women. Though, her chemistry with Massoud’s Aladdin isn’t the best and unfortunately Massoud doesn’t have the charisma required to be a leading man, likewise for Kenzari’s portrayal of Jafar, who is just extremely one dimensional and bland.

The dialogue can feel a little bit wooden at times. There is a decent attempt made to recreate the wonderful songs of the original, and though they are well done, they just don’t live up to the quality of the music that the animated film captured. No expense was spared when it came to the production design, nor the costumes as both are lavish but unfortunately this is just isn’t enough to breathe new life into this story. You could have all the wishes in the world but not even the most powerful of genies would be able to prevent this live action remake from failing to live live up to its animated predecessor.

Splendid production design and costumes, and the Genie was thankfully not the horror story we feared it would be, but a poor villain and some stilted dialogue ensure that this is not a whole new world you’ll want to revisit any time soon.

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Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Independence Day (1996)

independenceday
Image rights belong to Centropolis Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Independence Day – Film Review

Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Vivicia A Fox, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch

Director: Roland Emmerich

Synopsis: After a wave of alien attacks obliterate several major cities of the world, the remaining human forces that survive prepare to launch an assault on the extra terrestrial invaders and fight back.

Review: When a movie features several recognisable landmarks such as the White House, or The Empire State Building being blown to smithereens, then you know what kind of movie you are in for, particularly if said movie is directed by one Roland Emmerich.  A director who has since gone on to make his name with a handful of disaster movies, many of which also feature big global destruction. Disaster movies are certainly his M.O and while sometimes it works, sometimes it really doesn’t (see Godzilla 1998.)

It is on the eve of the Fourth of July and all of a sudden, these colossal sized alien spacecraft appear out of the sky and poise themselves above many of the world’s major cities. Of course, these alien beings aren’t here to play sports with us and be friendly, no they’re here for one purpose, global destruction. Soon enough, they pull the trigger and blow the aforementioned cities to hell, and what remains of the human race, led by the President Thomas Whitmore, must find a way to repel the hostile visitors, and it is certainly an entertaining, but bumpy ride!

white house boom

With these disaster films, you’re not here for brilliant Oscar winning performances and or well written, well developed characters with gripping dialogue. The main reason you are here is to watch shit get blown up, and Emmerich certainly brings that in abundance. Of course, this can be boring as hell to watch without any substance to it, but there is some substance to it. The iconic shot of The White House being blown to kingdom come has certainly become an iconic moment of cinema, and the action scenes that accompany the arrival of these big bad aliens are very well shot and well handled. The CGI for the alien ships, especially at the time of the release, is also very impressive. You really feel the scale of these ridiculously large ships as they hover over the cities of the world, with many fatalities once the trigger has been pulled.

That being said, you can have things getting blown to bits, and write some interesting characters in there as well. But sadly, these interesting characters are few and far between. By far the most developed, and most interesting characters are David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) a computer expert who may have the key information that is needed to defeat the alien invaders, and pilot Steven Hiller (Will Smith.) It is these two performances in particular that prevent the movie from slipping into just mind numbing action mediocrity, but they are by no means Oscar worthy. Bill Pullman also aids their cause as the President of the USA, but beyond these three, the rest of the characters are largely forgettable, and in some cases, just flat out annoying to watch.

goldblum

The film’s script does leave a lot to be desired and is a little bloated in places. Certain scenes could have been a lot shorter, and some could have been cut out of the movie altogether to reduce the 2 hour 20 minute run time. Yet the film serves its purpose as a big dumb action movie where the audience should just leave their brain at home, and throw popcorn in their face while they watch the action in all its ridiculousness unfold. The film knows what it is, and it plays on that to great extent. With a fair bit American patriotism thrown in there, as you would expect with a film revolving around an American holiday, you have yourself a cheesy and entertaining 90s action movie!

The action is cheesy but entertaining as hell with great CGI for the time, but a very paper thin script and largely weak characters prevent this from being one of the best action movies of the 1990s

b

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

After Earth (2013)

Image rights belong to Columbia, Overbrook Entertainment, Relativity Media, Blinding Edge Pictures
Image rights belong to Columbia, Overbrook Entertainment, Relativity Media, Blinding Edge Pictures

After Earth – Film Review

Cast: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Sophie Okonedo, Zoë Kravitz, David Denham

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Synopsis: When  a ship carrying father and son Cypher and Kitai Raige crash lands on an abandoned Earth, and Cypher is injured as a result. Thus Kitai must brave the perilous planet that is crawling with predators and activate a distress beacon in order to get help…

Review: A film that had the potential to be  an exciting story about a fight for survival. When in reality, it was a fight for the retention of concentration and to stay focused on the film. A struggle to resist the urge not to drift away due to sheer boredom of what was going on screen as a father and son duo battle to survive on what was once Planet Earth. It should have been an exciting adventure, the reality is that it was far from that.

With the Smith father and son duo being basically the only actors in this film, the film needs to have those two to be strong characters in order to carry the film through, and this was simply not the case. On the one hand, Will Smith was a very distant and emotionless character. He showed no emotion even to his own son and this made him a very distant and boring character to watch. Similarly, Jaden Smith’s character was equally uninteresting and borderline annoying at times. It is obvious that his character has something to prove, but he just lacked sincerity and conviction when delivering his lines. As a result their father-son bond that is central to the entire film was insipid and made the film almost painful to watch.

Shyamalan’s previous films are generally slow in terms of plot but some of them have had good acting in them and there was intrigue in his earlier work, the likes of The Sixth Sense come to mind. These films were slow except they were good. Yet, with After Earth again the plot was slow, except this time the intrigue was just not there as the two main actors were just uninteresting to watch. The chemistry between them was nowhere to be seen due to Will Smith’s emotionless character and the film suffers as a result, and it suffers badly.

To the film’s credit the scenery of an uninhabitable post human Planet Earth  is something to behold. No humanity is left and the planet is just a vast jungle. However, the  CGI is at times, completely bland. The majority of the creatures that occupy the planet are just not convincing. In a world where Avatar and the like has shown us what CGI is capable of giving cinema, yet the CGI on show in After Earth was just mediocre. A decent score accompanies the film but it is not enough to redeem it from the overall mess that this film is.

A visually impressive world, minus some of the predators, is ultimately buried in a slow and tedious plot with tedious and annoying characters. The once great career of M. Night Shyamalan has slowly descended and After Earth may well be the final straw for many people. There was something great in the potential of this film, but that greatness frittered away into blandness and mediocrity.

Visually it’s impressive, but the woeful acting from Jaden Smith, with a very weak script makes this another nail in the coffin of Shyamalan’s career.

D