Well this weekend at the Moore Warren Theater I had the opportunity to undergo an entirely new filmgoing experience. It’s definitely not one I’d recommend though.
At around 10:40 PM Saturday night, just as my showing of Booksmart was about to begin, I got an alert on my phone warning of a thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado, headed in my general direction. Not exactly the message you want to see while hanging around Moore, OK.
Soon a message broadcasted over the building’s emergency intercom telling everyone inside to leave the auditoriums and move to the hallways, as apparently they’re the safest place to be during a storm.
So for the next 30 minutes or so me and a couple hundred of my new best friends got to hangout in the corridors of the Warren, looking at weather radars, discussing storm anxiety, and watching David Payne on our phones.
Fortunately for us, no major severe weather made it to the Warren that evening. My heart goes out to those in El Reno though. There’s nothing more terrifying to me than a tornado hitting in the middle of the night, and I can’t imagine the loss each and everyone affected is going though.
For those who were at the Warren though, we just had to wait a few minutes for our movies to restart back where they left off, and all was right as rain.
I have to say, even though nothing truly catastrophic happened to me or my fellow theatergoers, it definitely isn’t an experience I soon want to relive.
But enough about tornadoes. I know I’m sick of thinking about them at this point.
I should be talking less about weather and more about movies, if nothing else to distract myself from all the severe thunderstorms in the forecast
This week featured yet another live-action remake of an animated Disney classic, a horror movie that asks “what if Superman was evil,” and a coming of age comedy featuring the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde.
Let’s get to the reviews.
First up is “Aladdin.”
Based on the classic 1992 animated film, this live-action film follows Aladdin (Mena Massoud), a street rat who discovers a genie (Will Smith), granting him three wishes.
In order to have a chance at winning the heart of the beautiful princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), Aladdin wishes to be transformed into a charming prince. At the same time though, the evil sorcerer Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) is hell-bent on securing the lamp for his own sinister purposes.
Here we go again. The next live-action remake of another animated Disney classic.
My expectations of these movies has forever been lowered after Disney’s cold and thoughtless reimagining of “Beauty and the Beast.”
And since then, “Dumbo,” which came out earlier this year, hasn’t exactly inspired my confidence in Disney’s ability to remake their beloved classics.
Plus the fact that Guy Ritchie was brought on to direct “Aladdin” didn’t exactly dissuade my concerns for the film.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Ritchie as a director. His style generally just isn’t my favorite.
Not to mention that his latest movie, “King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword,” was a boring mess of a film.
All that said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I came into this movie with incredibly low expectations.
Thankfully though, this remake of “Aladdin” didn’t turn out nearly as bad as I assumed it would. In fact, I’d say I actually enjoyed it. At least for the most part.
The story, while still familiar to fans of the original, has a few noticeable changes. The most noteworthy of which belong to Jasmine, her motivations, and romance with Aladdin.
Instead of introducing Jasmine well after Aladdin’s “One Jump Ahead” music number, she gets to be a part of the entire action sequence, getting her involved with the story earlier on.
The Jasmine of this film isn’t a woman wanting to marry for love. In fact she’s not terribly interested in getting married at all, despite frequent suitors offering marriages for alliances.
Her aspirations are much higher. She cares about her country and she wants to be the next Sultan. And why not? She is the only heir to the throne. And why should some random prince be the one to rule her country?
This motivation change has a drastic effect on Jasmine’s character. One that’s quite a bit of an improvement on the original in my opinion.
Of course there’s still romance between her and Aladdin, in fact thanks to the film’s longer runtime more time is dedicated to seeing the pair fall in love, but I really like that finding love isn’t Jasmine’s singular goal in life.
It gives her a chance to be more of her own person in the film, and gives her a lot more agency as a character overall.
Naomi Scott embodies this new Jasmine perfectly.
Her performance stood head and shoulders above everyone else in the entire film. Her screen presence alone was outstanding.
I was dumbfounded by how incredible she was here, especially since her only major role before this film was the Pink Ranger in “Saban’s Power Rangers” a couple years back.
And to top it all off, not only can Naomi act, but she can actually sing as well. Unlike some other actresses in these live action remakes. I’m looking at you Emma Watson in “Beauty and the Beast.”
Who would have guessed that singing ability might be a good thing to consider when casting performers for a role in a musical? Thank goodness Disney didn’t make the same mistake twice.
Along with better motivation, Jasmine also gets her own song. It even has a reprise, which was easily the most emotional powerful scene in the film. The entire moment completely blew me away.
But I’ve probably gushed enough about Naomi Scott for one review. How were the rest of the performers you might ask?
Well, Mena Massoud was fine as Aladdin. His dialogue delivery was a bit off at points, but his singing was good, plus he and Naomi had some solid chemistry starting very early on in the film.
Jafar, sadly, was horribly miscast. Marwan Kenzari is just too young and pretty to portray a middle aged, snarled looking sorcerer. I don’t have anything against the actor himself, but this was not the role for him.
No one can ever really replace Robin Williams as the Genie, but Will Smith does a decent job bringing the character to life while adding his own spin on the role and music numbers. Including Smith’s rendition of “Friend Like Me,” which easily ended up being one of the best musical moments in the film, especially choreography wise.
Again, unlike “Beauty and the Beast,” this film was actually able to capture the incredible energy of the original music numbers. Or at least they did for the film’s first few songs.
Sadly, though the rendition of “Friend Like Me” is great here, nearly every other musical moment following it in the film was a disappointment.
“Prince Ali” was mostly nothing but static wide shots, which actually ended up making Aladdin’s grand entrance into Agrabah look less impressive.
And “A Whole New World” has the same lyrical problem that most songs in these Disney remakes end up saddled with.
The world Aladdin ends up showing Jasmine during the song is far less impressive than the lyrics would imply.
In the original Aladdin takes Jasmine soaring above the clouds, flying by Egypt, and stopping to watch fireworks in China.
This one? Well they just fly around a bit, float by a river, and fly right back home. All while singing about “soaring, tumbling, freewheeling” while explicitly doing none of those things.
All the animated energy that was in the film’s version of “Friend Like Me” or even “One Jump Ahead” was completely absent in “A Whole New World.”
It was just disappointing. Not only was it a sad reimagining of one of my favorite Disney songs, they didn’t even try to have the lyrics line up with the scene.
For crying out loud have the dialogue match the action in the movie. If you’re too lazy for that, change the words. Otherwise it makes it look like you don’t care about what you’re adapting.
Heck, they did just that in “Friend Like Me” earlier in the movie. Instead of Genie singing “Mr. Aladdin Sir” he says “Mister, man, what’s your name?” because in this version they hadn’t actually been properly introduced yet.
My nitpicks about lyrics aside, I still ended up enjoying this movie quite a bit, and I imagine most fans of the original will love it.
It’s definitely not without its flaws, and it’s especially easy to criticize some of the film’s weaker dialogue, but despite my complaints I think Guy Ritchie did a pretty dang good job capturing the spirit of the original without making it just another soulless carbon copy. And for that alone I am very grateful.
“Aladdin” is rated PG.
Up next is “Brightburn.”
After trying and failing to have a child of their own, Kansas couple Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman) finally seem to have their prayers answered when a mysterious ship falls from the sky, carrying a newborn baby boy.
As their adopted son Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) enters adolescence, he begins developing amazing super human powers. But instead of using his new found abilities to save humanity, his ambitions prove to be far more sinister.
If you’re thinking this sounds exactly like Superman, but evil, well you’d be exactly correct.
That’s the entire premise of the film right there.
As a kid who loved Superman growing up, this movie looked right up my alley. The concept really had me intrigued.
What would it be like if an alien came to Earth as a baby just like Superman, but instead of being a complete Boy Scout, he decided to seek a life of destruction?
What would motivate a character like that? And how would he grapple with the emotions of betraying everyone who ever loved him?
Well sadly I’m still waiting to find out, because this movie didn’t explore any of that.
Though the premise is an unapologetic rip off of Superman’s origin story, at its heart this is not a superhero or even a supervillain movie.
It’s a demonic possession movie. But instead of some malevolent spirit assuming control of a child, it’s the kid’s evil space parents who sent him to destroy Earth.
This is a generic possession horror movie through and through.
You have your kid, who gradually does creepier and creepier things until he begins attempting to murder everyone in sight.
And you have the loving mom, who could never believe her little Timmy or Johnny would be possessed by a demon. At least until the very end.
The only thing this movie is missing is an insane demon hunting priest waiving crosses around, splashing holy water everywhere.
It’s so disappointing. Here we have a rare supervillain movie, not an anti-hero with questionable motives or tactics, a film starring a genuinely heinous character, and all we get is yet another demonic possession flick wearing Superman’s skin.
To give this movie some credit though, the use of super powers here in a horror setting were quite good.
Just the concept of a super strong, lightning fast, invincible kid with laser vision hunting you is pretty terrifying. If there’s one thing this movie delivers on, it’s the way Brandon deals with those he sees as his enemy.
The deaths here are shockingly gruesome and definitely not for the faint of heart. If the idea of a woman pulling a shard of glass out of her own eye makes you squirm, this probably isn’t the movie for you.
As horrifying as the fatilities are though, the rest of the film just doesn’t stack up.
The writing here tries to be funny one moment, but then somber and terrifying the next.
While other horror filmmakers have managed to strike an amazing balance between horror and comedy, Jordan Peele being the most recent example, the people behind this movie just don’t have the same deft touch.
Overall, I didn’t hate this movie, but I was certainly underwhelmed. If you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to watch a movie where Superman was evil, this isn’t it.
However, if you enjoy disturbingly gory deaths revolving around a possessed child, this film might just be for you. Just ignore the carbon copy superhero setting.
“Brightburn” is rated R.
Last this week is “Booksmart.”
Academic superstars and best friends, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein), suddenly realize on the eve of their high school graduation that they should have worked less and played more.
Determined never to fall short of their peers, the girls set out on a mission to cram four years of fun into one night.
Now here’s a treat. The feature film debut of an popular actor turned director.
Olivia Wilde, probably best known for her role as Thirteen on TV’s “House,” is sitting in the director’s chair this time around.
It’s always interesting to see a new filmmaker come on the scene. As far as movies go, they’re basically an unknown quantity. Even if they’re good at acting, it definitely doesn’t automatically mean they’ll have an eye for directing film.
Well after this movie, I have to say I can’t wait to see what else Olivia Wilde has in store as a film director. She made this first outing of hers pretty dang hard to top.
I dearly loved this movie.
As someone who grew up as a bit of straightedge and a little anti-social, I found these two girls who had never broken the rules or partied with their peers incredibly relatable.
The friendship between Amy and Molly felt so incredibly genuine. The two of them have this fantastic chemistry together.
Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are both sensational here.
It wouldn’t surprise me if this was a breakout role for the both of them. I could definitely see these two being in many more comedies in the future.
In fact, I’d say they bounce off of each other better than most of the tried and true comedy duos I’ve seen as of late. They’re also probably the dorkiest of duos I’ve seen lately, but for this movie it really works.
The dialogue here is sharp as a tack and the comedic timing in this film is absolutely on point.
I’ve seen so many comedies which rely exclusively on gross out moments and shock value for humor, and while this movie does have maybe one or two such scenes, the large majority of this film’s funniness comes exclusively from the banter between the characters.
There were so many moments throughout the movie where I just couldn’t stop laughing. The writing and performances here are just hilarious.
At first I was a little concerned the writing here was just trying to be as “woke” as possible, especially concerning Dever and Feldstein’s characters who came across as ridiculous stereotypes of progressive teenagers. But as the movie moved on it was clear this was mostly just a setup to show how wildly disconnected the two of them were with their peers.
I see a lot of people comparing this film to 2007’s “Superbad,” the comedy that really put Jonah Hill on the map. I think the comparison is pretty on point, at least storywise, and not just because Beanie Feldstein is Jonah’s younger sister.
Both movies really feel like this incredible journey, an evening Odyssey of sorts, where the journey is even more important than the destination.
Overall, I had a fantastic time watching this film. It’s easily one of my favorite movies of the year, filled to the brim with hilarious moments, clever writing, loveable performances, and a fantastic soundtrack.
A must see for those who love coming of age comedies.
“Booksmart” is rated R.