Disney are churning out these live-action remakes quicker than a loose meat grinder. And for what? to make a quick buck, whilst tarnishing fans' love for the original it seems. The studio continue their greedy streak hot on the heels of the aimless reimagining of Dumbo earlier this year. Here we have the next Disney classic on the chopping block - or so it seemed ...
When the initial trailer was released this remake was, suffice to say, destroyed thanks to the meme savvy social media users. There was something quite off about the look of the genie - with shoddy CGI, Will Smith's face moved separately to his body - and it didn't go unnoticed. It's as if the movie was under some dark spell, which was about to determine its immediate failure, or perhaps not.
Aladdin really is a diamond in the rough. This pantomime spectacle makes all your wishes come true, flourishing with vibrant colours and zippy action. Whereas Disney remakes are typically devoid of sentiment Aladdin has so much heart - consistently hilarious and even romantic. Guy Richie celebrates Arabian culture in bold and extravagant fashion - giving this glittery adventure a true purpose. Energised with the addition of traditional dances and dresses Richie thinks a little beyond the standard Disney blockbuster template, delivering a bouncy and dazzling piece of representation. Even if the result is ladened with his unbearably choppy editing style; the opening number One Jump Ahead, starts this flashy musical on a fairly dull note, cutting deftly between Aladdin and the trail of mischief left in his wake.
The cave of wonders is flooded with jewels and rubies, but the Genie really is Aladdin's greatest find. Robin Williams left a large lamp to be filled - but Smith brings his own original zany wit to the character, living up to the iconic Williams, although never imitating him. Smith fizzles as the blue sorcerer, boasting brilliant one liners and a side-splitting, ad lib gag about jam that goes on and on. Though initially seemingly wooden, Mena Massoud is cheeky and charming as the riff-raff street rat Aladdin turned Prince Ali - brilliantly capturing the urchin's infectious sense of adventure. Jafar is a serious cause for concern though, Marwan Kenzari's vapid take on the evil Royal Vizier threatens to bore the genie back in the bottle. Happily Naomi Scott wows as a promising new talent - Princess Jasmine is given a progressive modern revamp - with clear-cut ambitions to be Sultan of Agrabah. Sadly though, her new song Speechless feels completely out of tone and spontaneously poppy (despite its valuable message). Richie struggles to film the sequence with the camera awkwardly shifting around the Princess. By contrast Aladdin's musical numbers are consecutively stupefying, Friend Like Me feels like three-thousand volts running through your veins.
Aladdin is as magical as a carpet ride above the streets of Agrabah. With an overwhelming sense of energy Disney have brought back the Arabian Nights with purposeful cultural representation and a knee-slapping sense of fun. Though it may not be a Whole New World - this is easily the finest live-action Disney feat since 2007's Enchanted.
First of all, let me address the fat-bottom sized elephant in the room. In the wake of Bohemian Rhapsody it was revealed that original director Bryan Singer had the mic snatched off him during the filming of Bo Rap due to his Prima Donna style hissy fits on set - clearly the pop star subject became a little too real. Then came Dexter Fletcher, a rising and respected director that Fox sought out to fine tune the filing off-key music biopic. Months later, hot-off the heels of his commercial hit (though never actually credited for it) Fletcher brings us his second pop film, the story of Captain Fantastic himself.
Rocketman blasts expectations into the sequinned cosmos. Emphasising how the pop star has always stood out, Fletcher employs glittery costume design and electrifying musical numbers. Rather poignantly this rainbow biopic is bedazzled with stunning dream sequences that explore Elton's wild and outrageously flamboyant personality, whether he's composing his own orchestra in the comfort of his bedroom or blasting off into the stars. Rocketman is a perfect embodiment of this music legend.
Beyond the glitz and glamour this astro story also reaches great heights whilst having its feet firmly placed on the ground. Whereas the emotionally devoid Bohemian Rhapsody glazed over the crippling affects of drugs as well as Freddie Mercury's devastating battle with AIDS, Rocketman isn't afraid to delve into the darker aspects of Elton John's life. Fletcher doesn't censor key moments; coke is snorted by the second, and the scene where the singer loses his virginity is approached with sensitivity - we genuinely feel the emotional release of this milestone.
All the same what gives the film its sincerity is the applaud worthy performances. Taron Edgerton is no candle in the wind, strapping on his wedged platforms and parading plenty of rose-tinted sunglasses. The young Welsh actor shoots straight for superstardom with this unforgettable tribute. Doing so much more than imitating the singer, Edgerton juggles a wide range of emotions - brilliantly capturing his one-of-a-kind talent and the anxious struggles of coming out as a gay man, and particularly the explosive diva tantrums. Elton's sexuality is approached with knowledge, truth and understanding - Bryce Dallas Howard (who admittedly seems too young to pass as Mrs Dwight) reflects the harsh reality of an unsympathetic parent - her inability to fully embrace her son's alternative lifestyle leads to their troublesome relationship. Through all this Fletcher creates a far more emotionally resonate and non-superficial biopic than his previous offering.
This is one of the few occasions a recent mainstream film has understood the isolation and struggle of both homosexuality and addiction. But Rocketman is more than a label, it shouldn't be romantanised nor is it a gimmick - Fletcher leaves a trail of stardust for everyone to become inspired by. As all these elements beautifully come together, Rocketman celebrates the value of individuality through one of music's finest performers.
Side note: I would like to point out my friend Greg May. He plays young Elton John's hand double and I believe Rocketman is all the better for it. Watch out because this music prodigy is certainly going places.
Olivia Wilde has made her name through supporting roles in Tron: Legacy (2010) and Her (2014) but now she's hopping on the recent trend of small actor turned indie directors. In a recent interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Wilde mentioned The Big Lebowski as her favourite comedy - explaining how the drug scene in her debut feature was inspired by the Coen Brothers' indescribably off-the-wall romp.
Booksmart looks at two academic superstars Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) who have worked hard - without playing hard - their whole school aged lives. Now, on the eve of their high school graduation these best friends try to cram four years of fun into one wild night. Much like its two studious lead characters though, this tame coming-of-age flick stays by the books. Putting herself in the double-knotted shoes of Amy and Molly, Wilde has made effective use of her library card and drawn inspiration from an archive of quirky teen comedies from Superbad (2007) to Easy A (2010). Despite all of this, the result is disappointingly formulaic and generic - with a script that isn't anywhere near as outrageous as it thinks it is.
There are a scattering of oddball characters and situations that make Booksmart an undeniably enjoyable time - the forever fabulous Billie Lourd is off her nut and makes for a hilarious and certainly spontaneous ongoing gag. However, the film is centred around these two sticks in the mud finally letting loose - but they don't really get up to many real shenanigans, more awkward, slightly weird situations. Perhaps that's the whole point of Booksmart - taking the perspective of two introvert characters and scrutinising their struggle to fit in with the popular in-crowd. Nevertheless, it doesn't make the film anymore noteworthy.
The friend dynamic sizzles thanks to Feldstein - a hilarious A-list comedian in the making. Her uniquely loud and hilarious tone - which we've seen trickles of in Bad Neighbours 2 and Lady Bird - is finally brought into the spotlight. Feldstein has a distinct way of delivering lines for maximum comedic effect, she puts her own spin on typically throwaway one liners and Booksmart cements her as an exceptional talent. On the other hand we have Dever - there isn't anything bad about her performance but there's no denying Amy is a boring character. As with the plot, I'm sure this shy bookworm flick is written as Wilde intended - but as recent coming-of-age big hitters have taught us, there has to be an interesting character at the centre otherwise the film lacks a key sense of relatability. So, just as Amy is the plainest Jane of all, Booksmart really doesn't stand out.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
In Hollywood, it's becoming second nature for every major studio to have their own cinematic universe. First we had Disney and the MCU, then Warner Bros and DC, now amongst many other insignificant franchises Warner Bros also deliver their monster movie universe. Not to be confused with their other monster movie universe - Dark Universe - in which they hope to bring classics like Frankenstein back from the dead - but that instantly failed thanks to the atrocity that was Tom Cruise's The Mummy (2017). Anyway, aimless movies aside (or rather not) Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the last movie before King Kong vs Godzilla - that is literally it's only purpose.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a kaju sized headache. Deep in the lab of Warner Bros HQ, Director Michael Dougherty has designed a radioactive hybrid of Independence Day: Resurgence and 2012 - with all the stupidity and irrelevance to boot! The crypto-zoological agency Monarch develop a sonar device which they believe can control the incredible Titans that once ruled the earth. However, when technology fails (of course), all twenty-seven monsters rise from the depths of the planet; the human race hangs in the balance; and Godzilla must prevail.
The only city levelling problem here isn't twenty seven rampant creatures, it's the genuinely pathetic writing. Overcrowded with five different writing credits - King of Monsters' screenplay is as messy and destructive as the showdown between Godzilla and King Ghidorah. The dilaog is so pitiful, during the film Ken Watannabe states "No. I read it in a fortune cookie once. A really long fortune cookie." - do you get it? Because he's Chinese and he said fortune cookie. This level of ignorant and casual stereotyping proves why films like this should be extinct. Later when Rodan explodes out of a dormant volcano ripping a chunk of Mexico to shreds in the process, the military absurdly explain "We've developed a new anti-hydrogen missile" that makes the atomic bomb look like a pin drop.
King of the Monsters gives a whole new meaning to cookie cutter characters. At the core of this creature feature is an extremely insipid torn family plot line between Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobbie Brown. Brown is no longer protected by her Stranger Things cocoon - her debut outside the streaming service is dreadful, crying and moping in her typical one dimentional fashion. Chandler is the most compelling as a father desperate to keep his family in tact, but Farmiga is manipulated by a script that allows characters to completely change their motivations within seconds of the same scene.
There are a handful of stunning colossal visuals: the lightening breathing three-headed dragon King Ghidorah, as well as Mothra's hypnotic light display. All in all, this lazy sequel is just extremely loud. It gets to the point where the city wrecking and intense kaju battles become a bit too much - because if there's one thing this film's taught me is that less is definitely more. Long live the king? More like: Long live the hollow blockbuster.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters:
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.