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:
In 1972 Aretha Franklin went back to her roots to record her gospel album, Amazing Grace, live at The New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Fascinatingly this concert film was originally scheduled to release the same year, but due to difficulties syncing the audio tracks with the visual print, Warner Bros relegated it to the vault. Now almost fifty years later, following her death in 2018, Franklin's family arranged the film's release.
Amazing Grace puts the star in the star spangled banner. Initially directed by none other than Sydney Pollack (with Alan Elliot applying the finishing touches) this hair-raising documentary has so much soul and energy. The authenticity of the production perfectly captures Mrs Franklin's enormous presence, not that anybody could really contain her glory and gusto.
Franklin's vocals shoot straight through your heart like a silver bullet. Pollack throws you straight into the dripping heat of the swaying church hall, but more importantly demonstrates the unity and spirit her performance brings - something that is indeed cause for celebration. Ultimately, this is a movie all about experience: with lots of shimmy and shake - Amazing Grace flaunts one of america's finest talents. Even if it is just 88 minutes of pure singing...
Does anybody remember that corny 80's comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels? No, I don't think anybody does. Alas in the era of deplorable cash grabbing, MGM has given the flick a modern feminist makeover. Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson star as con artists, one low on rent, one worth a million, who team up to take down the men that have done them wrong.
Plenty dirty and rotten but with no true scoundrels in sight - this excruciating reboot will hustle you out of your money. Producing the same sensation as having bleach poured directly into your eyes The Hustle robs you blind. It's unfathomable that this movie actually exists - led by British comedian Chris Addison - I have never seen a film fail so spectacularly when attempting to produce any form of enjoyment. The jokes are so painfully unfunny that you begin to wonder which children's book they swiped them from.
Hathaway is the worst she has ever been here, the Oscar-winning actress adopts this bizarre British accent that is so over-the-top. As for Wilson - she literally plays the exact same role we have seen her in time and time again. These performances, along with the diabolical script makes this one of the most catastrophic movies I've ever seen.
With all that being said, I must draw your attention to the one redeeming feature of The Hustle. My auntie Kristina Anna Hagström is a fantastic artist and MGM had the pleasure of using one of her sculptures in the movie! Kristina has a striking and unique vision, forget the movie and check out her wonderful work:
It's Scotland, in 1994 - the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act has just been passed which declared it illegal to have gatherings around music, wholly or predominately characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats. We follow two teenage boys from different sides of the tracks - Robert (Brain Ferguson) from a middle-class family and Spanner (Lorn Macdonald) growing up with violent older brother Les. They risk everything to attend an illegal rave, hoping for the best night of their boring lives.
Beats is a stirring and potent coming-of-age tale. Brian Welsh's exceptional cinematography and stark black and white pallet functions as a bleak backdrop to the boys' dull lives - whilst ironically rejecting the vibrant strobe connotations of the title. Beats truthfully conveys the economic decline and political unease of the period. Welsh takes an extremely unembellished glance at two adolescents who each struggle with their class and social status.
At first his approach is a tad wooden, the family meal in the dinning room feels awkward and staged. Robert comes from a fairly privileged background, his family is preparing to move to a swankier new housing estate. In different circumstances we have Spanner - a reckless but misunderstood joker who lives with his abusive and criminal brother. Welsh beautifully conveys this sense of nature vs nurture - we see Robert uncomfortably stepping outside his sheltered life alongside street wise Spanner who faces prejudice and extreme violence - in one particularly tense scene in which his face his held directly above a burning cooker. Integrally, the dynamic between Robert and Spanner is marvellously authentic.
The only colour on display is when the two take drugs at an illegal rave; mimicking the ultra trippy Jupiter landing scene in 2001 - this moment is immensely disorientating but freeing for the lead characters. A real unexpected gem that came from nowhere.
Beats is an absolute rave.
John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum
The original John Wick was a thrilling success, even if it coasted on its dark style. From David Leitch - who later went on to direct Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2 - its bona fide thriller formula was given a fresh coat of paint with inventive choreography and hand to hand combat. We were even more surprised when Chapter 2 came out, and followed - possibly improved - upon its predecessor.
Ammunition restocked, guns reloaded - we cut to our third instalment in the John Wick franchise. After killing a member of the high table - this super-assassin is on the run, with a $14 million bounty on his head. Wick is no longer slick. The bullets jam fatally in the chamber, bringing this sequel to a jolting stop. Returning director Chad Stahelski demonstrates his clear influence as an ex-hollywood stuntman; the choreography starts fairly excitingly but soon turns repetitive and exhausting. It's as if the film has a set list of various stunts which loop for the entire film. Whereas the previous episodes have used carefully composed action sequences to its advantage - Parabellum will make you out of breath due to tiredness rather than excitement. Even the violence becomes ridiculously gratouitous.
However, Stahelski does showcase his own gorgeous aesthetic. Whether it's the pouring rain agasint the neon billboards of Times Square or the mystical blue skies and golden sand dunes of Casablanca. Parabellum might just be the most visually entrancing entry in the series. Furthermore, there are some brilliant action scenes: an exillerating motorbike chase and a very creative one-take shoot out which is very remincent of video game style combat. Keanu Reveas is always superb in these types of roles but the same can not be said for his co-stars. Despite having the best gimmick with two man-eating alsatians - Halle Berry's character is dreadful, creating further sucpion as to why the actress is no longer active.
Hopefully this is the closing chapter for the John Wick trilogy. There are some moments of artistic flourish, and Parabellum isn't without its exciting moments - but crucially the sharp editing which has been one of the series' strongest selling points, is wasted here for generic action and superflous violence.
John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum
He lives and breathes! Yes, after a month or so of intense school work and exams HMBW makes a triumphant return. This may or may not be the greatest comeback since The Force Awakens - but I thank you all for hanging on so long. I have seen a plethora of movies since I've been gone and I'm thrilled to finally catch you up on them. So enough of the chinwagging - here is my first in a series of cluster reviews, summarising the ups and downs since Easter...
It has taken a staggering eight months for comedian Bo Burnham's directorial debut to hit UK cinemas. Released in the same weekend as a small film named Avengers: Endgame - Eighth Grade stood quietly in the corner, overshadowed by others - much like our introvert protagonist Kayla Day.
Eighth Grade follows this shy teenager as she tries to survive her disasterous last week of middle school before moving up. Elsie Fisher blossoms as a young wallflower consumed by social media and modern societal expectations. Burnham's tremendous coming-of-age tale is remarkably in touch with the youth of today, as well as his uniquely uncomfortable exploration of teenage girlhood. From practising slobbery wet kisses on your hand, to experimenting with a banana - Eighth Grade realises the struggles girls must face at this age and the lengths they go to in order to gain social acceptance.
Burnham isn't afraid to drop you right in at the deep end, taking his time to present the painfully awkward reality of adolescence. It's endearing yet heartbreaking to see Kayla stutter over a single sentence for about five minuets, to see her father haplessly try to connect with her - but sometimes the scenes drag on a little too long.
Furthermore, the music choices feel quite jarring. Anne Meredith's plunky, electro score stands out but not always in the best way. Whilst it cleverly echoes the snapchat dependent teenager wildlife, sometimes it breaks up the pleasant toe-nail curling flow of the movie. That being said, Eighth Grade has produced a promising new filmmaker who has an eye for the discomfort of human experience, and a young actress who cleverly understands the subtlety of performance.
Tolkien feels as long but no where near as magical as a read of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The family of the legendary author have shunned the movie - and with good reason too. According to Sky News, Tolkien's estate put out a statement saying how they neither "approve of" or "endorse" the Finnish director's movie. To be perfectly honest, Dome Karukosi couldn't have made this extraordinary individual seem more ordinary if he had tried.
A war-time biopic without any enchantment - Tolkien misses everything that makes the mythical author so significant. We see glimmers of his inspiration: a bird shadow cast by a spinning lamp and wicked thorn branches creeping through a moonlit window both hint at the middle earth setting. Sadly Karukosi lapses into a crummy Dead Poets Society-esque drama instead, and isn't helped by Nicholas Holt's incredibly dry performance.
There is no dynamism between the group, even the faint mention of Bilbo Baggins rings more exciting than these bland individuals. Likewise, Holt's relationship with Lily Collins is functional rather than romantic. Swords replaced for pencils, horses exchanged for bikes - Tolkien makes the man behind the magic seem even more improbable.
You could not imagine a more unlikely couple than this - but oh my does Long Shot make this relationship click. Johnathan Levine (from 2017's truly trash Snatched) takes a brilliantly impossible pair who stick two fingers up to the dating algorithm that said they could never make it. In this funny and fresh comedy we see Journalist Fred Flarsky reunite with his now extremely powerful childhood babysitter crush Charlotte Field. During her campaign for the Presidency, Charlotte hires Fred as her speech writer and the two begin to connect.
Sparks fly in this progressive rom-com that gives contemporary politics a run for its money. Playing over one of the film's montages is Bowie's "Modern Love" - and no song could summarise this weirdly charming flick better. Steering away from her typical Atomic Blondness Charlize Theron proves to be a dab hand at comedy, while Seth Rogen delivers probably the most charming performance of his career. But put together though this oddball couple are inseparable. Beyond their marvellous performances Theron and Rogen have a genuine connection, impressively ping ponging off one another comedically. Nevertheless, it takes a while for the jokes to pick up - especially in the first twenty minuets.
Long Shot is certainly a special rom-com. Levine updates the typical genre conventions and expectations of the male and female characters, Theron is depicted as powerful and willing, she holds a great deal of responsibility but shows reasonable vulnerability - wearing the trousers in the relationship, yet Rogen is the one who pursues her. As the film cleverly mentions at one point - it's Pretty Woman but he's Julia Roberts and she's Richard Gere.
Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah mould their screenplay to fit the modern climate - literally. Cleverly criticing a certain president who simply doesn't believe in climate change - Long Shot advocates for environmental preservation through Charlotte's ultra green agenda. This is one of many examples that prove how relevant and important this rom-com is, although it shoots itself in the foot with unnecessarily crude humour - this long shot isn't as impossible as it seems.
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu
The release of Detective Pikachu is a big deal - not just for fans of the quirky manga but for Japanese pop culture itself. In fact Pokémon's success has been so momentous, many would even argue that the pocket monsters are a key aspect of the country's current identity. Though we've previously seen Ash and the gang in TV shows, games and straight to DVD movies - Detective Pikachu is the first major Pokémon flick.
From Dan Letterman (Monsters vs Aliens and Shark Tale), this story takes place in a world where humans and Pokémon live in harmony. Our hero Tim stumbles upon a talking Pikachu - the two band together to unravel a dark mystery that threatens the tranquility of Ryme City.
A candy-coated mix of Blade Runner and Who Framed Roger Rabbit - Detective Pikachu zaps like a bolt of lightning. This neon-drenched caper shows clear influence from staple sci-fi movies, vibrant street light lurks into the shadows similar to how Ridley Scott plays with artificial lighting in his 1982 masterpiece. I know that's a grand comparison to make - nevertheless Letterman's eye popping visuals intelligently pay homage to previous genre greats. But ultimately this is a detective story, and thanks to a reasonably well constructed script Detective Pikachu is "very twisty". When we reach the third act, things become fairly by the book but overall this wacky comedy will keep you guessing.
One of the biggest concerns with this movie was Ryan Reynolds voicing the yellow fluff ball. Quite simply, he works as Pikachu because he doesn't - the casting choice is so outrageously left field yet so marvellously distinct. As an amnesiac caffine addict, Reynolds brings even more of his Deadpool wit to the table - and suffice to say, he is absolutely hilarious.
Detective Pikachu has this zippy energy that really gives it momentum. There are enough colours and big set pieces to feast your eyes on, as well as a scattering but not an over abundance of your favourite Pokémon. Tim's quest to find his dad is as cute as it needs to be, but perhaps not as cute as the furry detective himself. However, most integrally, it was an amazing experience to see Pokémon fans' collective awe over the film from an outsider's perspective - without a doubt the most pleasant takeaway from this dazzling feast.
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu:
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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.