Aladdin and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Guy Ritchie
The Disney money train just keeps on rolling, doesn’t it!? With nowhere else to go but back to the well, they’ve been pumping out remakes, reboots, and even sequels for some time now with… let’s say MIXED results. In fact, Dumbo might have been the last straw to finally knocking these into MOSTLY BAD territory; and I’m not liking the way that Lion King movie is shaping up despite its solid casting! Still, Aladdin is probably the film BEST suited for the big budgeted live action retelling considering how cinematic and adventurous it is, and the fact that the story’s already been done in live action in the past! Can Disney pull off another remake of a beloved nineties property, or are we gonna have to wait for Maleficent 2 for things to get back on track? Let’s find out!!
In the wondrous city of Agrabah, there once lived a thief known as Aladdin (Mena Massoud) who spent most of his days stealing apples and talking to his monkey Abu; presumably because he gave up on forming attachments to other humans and find that monkeys are less likely to stab you in the back. I mean they COULD what with apposable thumbs, but that’s beside the point! What’s important is that one day he meets a woman in the local bazar who doesn’t seem to understand how money works which you’d think she WOULD considering she’s Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), the one and only daughter to the Sultan (Navid Negahban), but I guess when you’re THAT rich possessions and currency don’t hold much value. Thankfully Aladdin is there to smooth things over, and by smooth things over I mean help her run away, and the two hit it off almost immediately which would normally be good news if it weren’t for the fact that she can only marry a prince. That’s where the Sultan’s Grand Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) comes in who sees something in this street rat and wants to use him to get his hands on the Magic Lamp for clearly nefarious purposes, and so spins him a tall tale of how doing this one job for him will get him all the riches he could dream of and become a prince in his own right! Well Aladdin at least holds his end of the bargain up, but things inevitably go wrong and he’s stuck there with nothing but his monkey, a magic carpet and oh yeah THE MAGIC LAMP which houses a TERRIFYING Genie (Will Smith) that promises him three wishes for finding his lamp! What will Aladdin wish for, and will it be enough to win the heart of the Princess? How long can he keep up the ruse he concocts, and will he be able to fool the sharp witted Vizier; even WITH the Genie’s magic? More importantly, who needs a Genie when you can capitalize on people’s nostalgia? That ALREADY gets you all the riches in the world!!
“Do you trust me? To tastefully pay homage to an animated classic?” “Well…”
Alright everyone! Now that we’ve had our fun with the GOOD list, it’s time to put on some work pants as we start wading through the unimaginable dreck that was yet another “fun” aspect of the abysmal year that we all had to suffer through. You know what though? Most of us made it through to the other side, so if looking back at the year that couldn’t beat us and having a laugh (or one last bitter tirade) at the pathetic excuses for entertainment that made daily life just a little bit worse, well I think we all deserved it, don’t you?
Anyway, let’s not beat around the bush any longer! WE’RE DIVING RIGHT IN!!
Dishonorable Mentions: Death Note & Bright
Since I didn’t even bother trying to watch another Adam Sandler movie this year, this dubious distinction goes to two OTHER Netflix features; albeit it for very different reasons. The truth of the matter is, I didn’t particularly mind either of these films as I think they had some good ideas buried within their mediocre (and cheap looking) execution with Death Note having an interestingly different take on its main character (a whiny little punk with issues of inadequacy instead a megalomaniacal genius) and Bright having an ALRIGHT set up for what is essentially a weaker version of 16 Blocks. That said… yeah, these films are REALLY flawed and in glaringly offensive ways. As much as I like the idea of taking some of the pomp and circumstance out of Death Note and reframing Light Yagami to be a less foreboding figure, I don’t see why that necessitated him to be white since they never play with that change in his identity within the text of the film. There could have been a component of White Privilege to the story (especially with L being black), but that seems to have never been the intent on the part of the filmmakers who simply seemed to associate AMERICAN REMAKE with WHITE AS DEFAULT. Similarly, the half-baked and ham fisted social commentary in the script for Bright creates one of the most cringe inducing screenplays of the year which has Orcs standing in for Black People in a world that still has Black People, and it even finds an excuse to get Will Smith to say “Fairy Lives Don’t Matter” before beating said fairy to death. Sure, the movie picks up once it gets away from its proudly ignorant views on race and becomes a straight up chase film with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton (who’s under a decent enough make up job), but that’s hardly enough to excuse everything that it gets wrong in the process. Now I don’t want this to come across as Netflix bashing because they DO put out quite a bit of decent content as I’ve heard good things about First They Killed My Father, Beast of No Nation, even The Babysitter, and while it wasn’t my favorite King Adaptation this year I thought Gerald’s Game was pretty good too. That said, they’ve had quite a few stumbles over the years, pretty much starting with their awful Adam Sandler deal, and these two movies are just further examples of their awkward steps towards becoming a media empire of their own; something they’ll need to keep working on now that Disney is gonna own everything else in the world and will eventually come out with their own streaming service to try and crush them. If Netflix wants a chance to survive the Disney/Fox merger, they’ll need to avoid having clunkers like this clogging up their service.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros. Pictures
Directed by Guy Ritchie
I don’t know about you, but the definitive King Arthur movie was already made by Monty Python in 1975, so unless Charlie Hunnam is gonna be fetching shrubberies for the Knights who say Ni I’m gonna have a hard time taking this movie seriously! Okay, so clearly we’re not gonna get a movie as good as Holy Grail (which admittedly is an impossibly high bar to set), but I did like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. well enough which was Ritchie’s last film, and while I never got around to seeing the Sherlock Holmes movies I hear they’re solid as big budgeted adaptations that favors style over substance, even if they did get overshadowed by the BBC show once that became a hit. The point is, we haven’t had a good King Arthur movie in quite a while and Ritchie is usually reliably competent with this kind of bigger than life myth making material, so maybe he’ll have a chance of clearing that very low bar set by the likes of Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur movie and A Kid in King Arthur’s Court. Can this movie manage to at least be better than those? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins long before Arthur becomes king; namely when his dad Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) was ruling shit and killing dark wizards! It’s just too bad that the guy had to have a brother because as we all know, the only purpose they serve in medieval stories is to kill the current king and assume the throne! That’s just what Vortigern (Jude Law) does here, but little Arthur just barely manages to escape after being drifted down a river on a small boat (I think we’re mixing our mythologies here). He’s found in a nearby village, grows up in a brothel, and turns into Sexy Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) who for some reason has no idea that he’s ACTUALLY the rightful king of… wherever the heck they are. They keep referring to it is as Londinum, so I guess it’ll become Camelot in the sequel. ANYWAY! You can’t keep a hero from fulfilling his destiny, and he manages to pull the sword from the stone (similar to how Link pulls the Master Sword out of the Temple of Time) which gets everyone under Vortigern’s thumb hunting his chiseled ass down so they can finally kill the Born King once and for all! Along the way, Arthur teams up with a mage (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey) who is NOT Merlin but close enough, Sir Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) who replaces Terry Jones’s mustache with a goatee, and several others; some of whom are from the original stories and other who are clearly not. Can this rag tag group of Merry Men… I mean Honorable Knights, take down the deceitful king once and for all? Will Arthur face his responsibilities and destiny with grace and composure, or will he first have to run away from them like any good Joseph Campbell hero? Did anyone proof read this script before shooting it, or was everyone on board with the giant elephants, anachronistic dialogue, and the random excursion to Monster Island?
“With this sword, I shall become The Avatar and control all four elements!!”
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros. Pictures
Directed by Guy Ritchie
We get a movie based on this show, and yet I STILL can’t get a Hogan’s Heroes reboot!? It looks the Hollywood remake machine is going all the way back to the Cold War with this re-imagining of a series that was made well before Rocky solved the Cold War by kicking Dolph Lundgren’s ass. I’ve never seen the show before, but a good old fashioned spy thriller in the vain of From Russia with Love would be a nice change of pace from the other stylish spy flicks we’ve been getting recently. Not only that, but having Guy Ritchie at the helm of something set in an era that’s known for its unique brand of style seems like a perfect pairing of director and film, so there’s plenty to look forward to here. Still, you can’t say that Guy Ritchie has been one to look at for great stories which is pretty evident by his PREVIOUS adaptations of a popular series that didn’t take long to go completely off the rails. Will this be a return to form for the venerable director, or is this just another weak outing from a guy who never learns from his mistakes? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins in early 1960’s Germany with American Super Spy Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) making his way to East Berlin. His mission is to get a local mechanic (Gaby Teller played by Alicia Vikander) to assist him in finding her father who was a former Nazi nuclear scientist and has recently gone missing. The mission is fairly simple. Convince Gaby to help the US and sneak her out of East Berlin. Things get complicated however when Soviet Super Spy Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) is acutely aware of what’s going on and tries everything in his power to stop the duo from crossing the border into West Berlin. Fortunately for the good old Stars and Stripes, Solo succeeds in his mission leaving the not so good old Hammer and Sickle twisting in the wind. Except not really! For some reason, the Soviet government and the US government decide to work together to find Gaby’s father, so now Solo and Illya have to work together to stop whatever scheme he, or possibly his kidnappers, are planning. So wait, they couldn’t come to an agreement to work together until AFTER Solo and Illya tear their way through East Berlin? Wouldn’t that have complicated any ongoing negotiations? Oh well, at least we now have our premise. It’s a spy action-comedy with the tension between Solo and Illya working for opposing sides in the Cold War informing much of the comedic strife and genuine tension throughout the movie.
“At least my country hasn’t sold its soul to the false idols of capitalistic enterprises.” “I’m sure your people feel oh so superior as they eat their potato soup and die in the Gulag.” “CAN THE BOTH OF YOU PLEASE SHUT UP!?!?”