Aladdin (2019) Film Review

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When it comes to the live action remakes of Disney’s animated classics, the results most definitely vary. For me, some are absolutely enchanting (Cinderella), while others are middling and underwhelming (Maleficent). When it comes to Aladdin, I will be honest and say I was extremely nervous to see this movie. Not only does the 1992 Aladdin rank at number 4 in my list of favorite animated films, but the trailers left a lot to be desired and felt somewhat off and disjointed. It’s puzzling how the trailers did not do the film justice, but it just goes to show you how significant context is. Those fears were not only put to rest, but absolutely vanished and replaced with sheer delight and overall love. Indeed, much like the classic song we are treated to a shining, shimmering, splendid film that is infused just the right amount of nostalgia and feel of the original, while also adding some wonderful and rich new story beats, character enhancements, and music. Aladdin is a visually sumptuous, funny, and heartfelt retelling of the classic story that soared right into my heart.

Casting/Performances & Story/Character Enhancements

When it comes to any film, but especially in these Disney remakes, casting, and in turn performances, plays a crucial role in the overall quality of the film. And one of Aladdin’s finest attributes is indeed its cast. Mena Massoud is a brilliant and perfect Aladdin. He’s charming, funny and earnest with a dynamic energy and dazzling smile to match. He was able to make Aladdin’s agility look natural and believable, and his journey of self discovery that his strength of character was always there really touching. Naomi Scott’s Jasmine is equally terrific, infusing the feisty princess with heart, compassion, strength and an intelligence that comes from inherent nobility and desire to truly help her people. Individually, they are fantastic. Together they are equally wonderful with significantly more screen time together which added some lovely depth to their relationship, and showcased a natural, sweet, romantic chemistry that helps makes Aladdin and Jasmine remain of Disney’s greatest couples.

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Of course, a great deal of the film’s success rests on Will Smith’s Genie’s shoulders, and is undoubtedly who audiences were anticipating the most. No one can ever replace or replicate Robin Williams. What he created was unique, brilliant and beloved. But Smith truly brought his own amazing spin to the character. He brought a great deal of charm, sweetness and humor, and with the music a hip hop flair that he is not only known for but does exceedingly well. He was charismatic, but also at times profound and importantly very human. And that may be one of the best things Smith brought to the role. Instead of trying to replicate the larger than life portrayal by Williams, this Genie is more grounded, which not only felt appropriate but was undeniably likable. And like the original, the friendship between Aladdin and Genie is poignant and the cornerstone to the film’s themes, and the chemistry between both actors is terrific. I’m going out on a limb here and saying that this may be my favorite role Will Smith has ever done.

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The more human and grounded qualities in the other cast members and characters, as well as the story additions and changes are also what made the film work so well. What works in an animated film may not always translate or work in a live action one. Moreover, it’s important to distinguish it from its predecessor and add the necessary story beats needed for a new and longer live action film. In Aladdin’s case, these changes felt necessary and were executed beautifully. Jafar for example is an amazing villain in the animated version, but mostly a mustache twirling, over the top kind of villain whose evilness is obvious. That is great and works perfectly in an animated film. But I loved what they did with this new version of Jafar, who is younger, handsome and much more subdued. Marwan Kenzari grounds the character and showcases that villainy not only can come from a place of hardship but also that evil may not always look as such. It can be simmering under a surface that can be very attractive and persuasive. Honestly, much like they did with Gaston’s character in Beauty and Beast it’s important to portray villains in this realistic way. The same can be said for the Sultan (Navid Negahban), who is more reverent and realistic rather than goofy, as well as the animal characters of Abu, Iago and Rajah. There is obviously still the fantastical element about them but they feel closer to reality and in turn perfectly blended into the story. I smiled whenever they were on screen. Moreover, some other character and story additions that I absolutely loved were Jasmine’s hand maiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad) who was sweet, funny and gave Jasmine a true friend and another scene partner that added real humor and heart. Some other changes were made at the climax and conclusion to the story that I won’t spoil, but they were refreshing, added dynamic action, and meaningful messages that a modern audience will certainly appreciate.

Direction and Visuals

I am a fan of many of Guy Ritchie’s films and his signature style. Aladdin is a much brighter and happier story than his usual fare but he was still able to bring his moments of slowed down or sped up film that is his trademark in some of the dancing and action sequences that I comes to expect from his work. This may be off putting or odd to some, especially if unfamiliar that this is Ritchie’s trademark visual that he always employs. I personally find it fun, but it may not be for some viewers. In addition to the direction, indeed all of the visuals are sumptuous and wondrous, from the rich and colorful costumes and sets to the sweeping camera work. These truly are an artistic feast that are both similar to the original but something entirely different and often as magnificent as what we saw in Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. And while the blue version of the Genie is still a bit jarring on first glance, you quickly get used to it and are simply looking at the character.

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Music and Songs

If I were to rank my favorite Disney soundtracks, 1992’s Aladdin is tied for the top spot with The Little Mermaid, so there was certainly a great deal to live up to with these new versions of the songs and score. All of the songs that we love are included and are brought to life with amazing and fresh takes and a different but wonderful energy. It’s difficult to actually choose a favorite, but “Friend Like Me,” which was already so fun and colorful in the original, has the same kind of fun flair and new hip hop vibe, also found in “Prince Ali,” which is slower, but drawn out in a way that almost felt necessary with the changes to Genie’s character. There is definitely a vibrant Bollywood influence to this number, while “One Jump Ahead” is just fun and gives added interaction between Aladdin and Jasmine. “A Whole New World,” which is my favorite Disney song, perhaps may not soar as high as the original, but at the same time, it’s almost impossible to do so. What is does do a give us a beautiful new version on this romantic scene. And I loved it vocally, orchestra wise, and visually with new locals the couple flies throughout and a lovely depiction of their inherent and natural chemistry. The new song “Speechless,” which is a anthem of strength given to Jasmine’s character, is a great song and moment for her arc. However, it’s inclusion, which is sung in a dream like sequence, and songwriters are La La Land and The Greatest Showman’s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, instead of one of Menken’s other collaborators feels a bit disconnected and decidedly different from the rest of the songs. Is the song great? Yes, indeed it is. But its style does feel like a Paul and Pasek song as opposed to a Menken song.

Lastly, what is truly remarkable is that Menken composed new versions of his Aladdin themes and motifs as well as all new orchestrations for the entirely of the film, all of which are magnificent. They are deep, rich, and gorgeous and profoundly demonstrate what we already knew- that that Menken is not only a living legend for his body of work, but can still compose equally brilliant new musical scores. Menken should be revered in the same breath as such illustrious composers as John Williams and Hans Zimmer.

Final Thoughts

If you are debating whether to see this new version of Disney’s Aladdin, especially if you are a tremendous fan of the original or not always sure about live action remakes, I cannot recommend this film enough. Currently, for me this Aladdin ranks just below 2015’s Cinderella, but another viewing may move that to a tie for the top spot. Regardless, what I do know is that despite trepidation Aladdin proved to be a funny, effervescent, colorful and heartfelt diamond in the rough.

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Classic Film Favorites: TCM Spotlight on Van Johnson

Every year I look forward to the Turner Classic Movies “Summer Under the Stars” because each day a different actor from the classic era is highlighted. Although I may have missed one in the past, this year I am thrilled to finally see a day dedicated to one of my favorite actors: Van Johnson. He isn’t just Lucy’s dance partner from an episode of I Love Lucy– although that is one of my favorites, don’t you agree?

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Johnson was charming, handsome, so, so talented,  and one of those rare performers who seamlessly went from genre to genre in the 40s and 50s, something that many of this era did not– or at least successfully. But Johnson could do a light romantic comedy, a melodrama, a musical, or a war story amongst others and in each one he brought his own charisma and talent. This Thursday, August 25 is a day dedicated to him and the films that have been selected demonstrate just what an amazing and versatile actor he was. Here are my personal favorites:

10 am EST, 7 am PST
Duchess of Idaho
Also Starring: Esther Williams, John Lund, Paula Raymond
Directed by Robert Z. Leonard

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This is perhaps my favorite film for both Johnson and his leading lady Esther Williams. A breezy and funny delight, it’s the kind of silly, sweet romantic comedy escapades that so many long for. While Esther’s Christine Duncan is pretending to romance ladies man Douglas Morrison (to make him realize he’s really love with her best friend Ellen) she meets Van’s charming singer Dick Layn and the two are stubborn but clearly smitten with each other. And well things get complicated as they always do. Williams and Johnson made four films together and you can see why – they have an adorable and natural chemistry together. This film is just frothy fun from start to finish – the kind of movie that just makes you smile and feel good.

12 noon EST, 9 am PST
In the Good Old Summertime
Also Starring: Judy Garland, S.Z. Sakall, Spring Byington
Directed by Robert Z. Leonard

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One of the most remade stories ever, this musical remake of The Shop Around the Corner also stars Judy Garland and takes place at the turn-of-the-century in Chicago and it’s as lovely and sweet as the original. That’s right-before You’ve Got Mail and the other musical adaptation She Loves Me came this picturesque movie. The difference here is that rather than original songs, they use famous songs of the era as the two pen pals who unknowingly fall in love with each other work in a musical shop. The similarities are also wonderful with one of the most famous scenes being nearly word for word as the original and yet just as enjoyable. This is a truly charming film.

1:45 EST, 10:45 am PST
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
Also Starring: Spencer Tracy, Robert Walker, Phyllis Thaxter
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy

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This engrossing World War II drama is based on that true story of B25 pilots who volunteered for a secret mission that became known as the “Doolittle Raid.” And while that is successful, complications and tragedy arises for the crews of this mission specifically those played by Johnson and Walker. For anyone who loves history or a compelling drama, this movie is not just about a mission from the war. It’s about the individuals who served bravely, those who helped them in immeasurable ways, and the families who are left behind. Don’t worry, it does have a happy ending –but bittersweet and touching and most especially moving to those wounded in the line of duty.

10 pm EST, 7 pm PST
Miracle in the Rain
Also Starring Jane Wyman
Directed by Rudolph Maté

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A melancholy drama about two very lonely souls who meet one rainy day in New York City and soon find a kindred love between them, this is quite the tearjerker. But for those who often feel alone and long for companionship you will most certainly relate. Spiritual aspects are also quite moving and poignant as we see that what with true love miracles can indeed happen.

4:30 am EST, 1:30 am PST
Invitation
Also Starring: Dorothy McGuire, Ruth Roman, Louis Calhern
Directed by Gottfried Reinhardt

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Melodramatic but romantic and hopeful ultimately, this film is about a happily married couple whose peaceful existence is threatened when the wife learns a devastating secret about her husband. Ellen had been ill and lonely all of her life, but when her lifelong friend suddenly shows her love and an offer marriage, she finds happiness she never thought possible. I won’t spoil any more, but regardless to say it may be dramatic but it’s also real in its emotions and restores your faith in people and that love can make you stronger.

If Turner Classic Movies is not available to you, all of these films are also available on DVD for your viewing enjoyment.

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Movie Monday: Anticipated Films 0f 2016

Every year we all have a batch of movies we are really looking forward to seeing. For me, these past few years have been shorter lists than they once were and often we don’t get to the theater to see everything we wish to. I actually still have several from last year’s list still on my Netflix queue including The Man from Uncle, The Age of Adaline, Ant Man, and Far From the Madding Crowd. But this year’s list includes films that I am really excited for. Below are my top 10 plus a few others with their trailers and release dates if there are ones.

  1. Captain America: Civil War (May 6)

Without a doubt the Captain America films, and Steve Rogers are my favorite of the Marvel Universe. So in the great debate of Team Cap versus Team Iron Man, I am Team Cap. Of course this is without knowing very much of what that entails within the context of the story. I know very little and I want to keep it that way. It’s actually refreshing going into a film without preconceived notions, especially when it comes to genre or super hero films. SO PLEASE BE KIND AND DO NOT SPOIL THIS MOVIE FOR ME!!!

  1. Alice Through the Looking Glass (May 27)

I loved the Alice in Wonderland film from Tim Burton in2010, so I was very excited when I heard that a sequel was in the works. And the Trailer only amped up my excitement. Featuring the same cast and the same visually breathtaking and whimsical visuals and only Burton can do, I look forward to seeing what new story they have come up with. In many ways I am a purist but I also love taking familiar stories and creating new ones and giving the characters surprising twists. Big surprise there given my love for Once Upon a Time.

 

  1. The Dust Storm (Release Date Unknown)

Any fan of Colin O’Donoghue has been waiting to see this movie for 2 years!! With it being screened more and more at film festivals and discussion of trying their best to get a theatrical release date. I am crossing all my fingers that this happens this year. I am a big fan of the film Once, and this definitely has that vibe. Set in Nashville and featuring a great deal of all kinds of music including country and alternative, as well as what sounds like a great romantic, dramatic story, I cannot wait to see this movie. Of course being a fan of Colin makes me want to see it even more especially when watching the trailers. Just let me see this movie already!

 

  1. Albion: The Enchanted Stallion (Release Date Unknown)

I first heard about this film being a fan of Jennifer Morrison and from the brief description it sounded wonderful. I adore fantasy films, especially ones based on children’s books, that being my specialization in Graduate School. Albion is not based on a book as far as I can tell, but it sure looks like it could be, so that is a plus in my book. But when I saw the teaser that was released my excitement for this film reached the stratosphere. I crave films like this especially since there have been no new Narnia films produced.  It looks funny and colorful and has amazing actors such as Debra Messing and John Cleese. And when I saw Jennifer would be playing multiple personalities, speaking with a perfect British accent and SINGING, I was blown away. I knew she was talented but this is a whole other level. This film better come out this year because I do not want to wait any longer!

 

  1. Finding Dory (June 17)

When I list my favorite Pixar films, I always seem to name the same ones: Monsters Inc, Toy Story 2 and Finding Nemo. One of the best parts of Nemo is Dory’s character and given that she still suffers from short term memory loss the possibilities for a stories are endless. It makes sense that if she was lost they would need to find her. I mean, remember when she could not remember where her family was. Pixar makes some of the greatest films, animated or otherwise, of this generation- always beautiful heartfelt, funny and meaningful and this one is sure to be another in their long line of classics.

 

  1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (November 18)

I must admit, as big a Harry Potter fan as I am I have not read this book. But that does not mean I am not eagerly anticipating this movie. Unlike the Potter films I will go in not knowing what happens, which will be nice for a change, my only knowledge being that of the magical world. Being a period piece gives the film an allure as I love the Victorian era and that combined with this universe that I adore will make this kind of Rowling steampunk-esque fun. And the cast is absolutely fantastic including Eddy Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton.

 

  1. Rouge One: A Star Wars Story (December 16)

The first trailer for this film was recently released and it looks like the perfect film to tide us over until the next installment in the Star Wars Saga after The Force Awakens. We always know someone stole the plans for the Death Star to help aide the Rebellion and this is their story. It is a fierce and brave woman named Jyn Erso- code name (I’m assuming) is Rogue One, played by Felicity Jones. All I have to say is that I would love this story whether the character was a man or a woman, but at the same time it is great to see them continuing to give us woman in these roles. She looks to be another great hero in the same vein and Leia and Rey.

 

  1. Miss Perigrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (December 23)

In college I remember some fellow classmates reading this book. I still not have yet, but from what I know about it, it’s unsurprising that Tim Burton chose to adapt it. The trailer makes the film look wonderfully weird and whimsical. It stars Eva Green and Asa Butterfield, who was also the lead in Hugo. If you have not seen that movie do it now because it’s a masterpiece. I am not sure of this will reach that level but it does look intriguing.

 

  1. Knights of the Round Table: King Arthur (July 22)

When searching for the film coming out this year I was pleasantly surprised to see this and was instantly delighted to see those involved: director Guy Richie who brought Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law to life with vigor and excitement. This film also stars Law, as well as a wonderful cast including Charlie Hunnam, Eric Bana and Katie McGrath. I LOVE Arthurian legend stories and always am interested in new interpretations. I was a fan of the King Arthur film from 2004 so it will be nice to see another take on these characters.

  1. Star Trek: Beyond (July 22)

I do not pretend to be a “Trekie” or Star Trek expert. I have always been more of a Star Wars girl. Though I have not seen other films I am sure they are great. I have however have seen the recent Star Trek films and absolutely LOVED from the stories to the cast, and this next installment will hopefully be just as good. This is the first one not directed by J.J. Abrams but given how the foundation has already brilliant been laid with the first two films, I don’t think that should deter any of us from looking forward to this one.

 

Other films I look forward to seeing:

La La Land (July 15)

Ghostbusters (July 15)

Now You See Me 2 (June 10)

Moana (November 25th)

The BFG (July 1)

So what is on your list of anticipated movies of 2016? Does it include some of these? Are there any that you don’t see? Leave a  comment and tell me yours. I would love to hear what everyone is excited to see this year! 🙂

 

New Things Coming to The Girly Nerd

Hello my Lovelies!! First of all I want to thank everyone who has ever read anything I’ve written for The Girly Nerd. You have been so wonderful and made the first 9 months of the site amazing. The kind comments and enthusiasm means the world to me. I also want to say that I am going through some changes in my life, working to makes things better and want that to reflect on the site in a positive way. Although most of you primarily visit the site because of a shared love for Once Upon a Time, and I will continue to write about our beloved show, I want to also start adding some variety to the site as often as I can. Though I cannot promise they will be something every single week, there will definitely be some new things on specific days, as well as any random fun post I want to share.

On Mondays I want to start doing “Movie Monday” where I highlight any movie I just watched that I really loved, or, and more likely, post an excerpt of a movie that will be included in a book I have been working on the past few years. “Film From the Heart” is close to completion and I will be seeking publication options very soon, but I want to share with you all some of the movies I will include in the book. Very often sharing a love for one film or show will lead to other shared tastes. Such I suspect is the case with many of you. This book will include close to 700 films, so there is definitely many to share, discuss and recommend.

On Fridays I want to do “Fashion Friday” with variety of different types of posts from “Fabulous Finds” to “Style Inspiration.” I live on a budget like many of you and believe that you can find wonderful clothes and accessories that are affordable. We all like to splurge once in a while, but reasonable prices are a must for me. Also, like anyone else, I have many different actors, musicians, and characters that I consider my style muses so those will probably be highlighted the most. Unsurprisingly I adore Jennifer Morrison in many ways, her beautiful style being one of them. Zooey Deschanel is another whose style is a constant inspiration. Others you may see as inspiration include Lauren Conrad, Ginnifer Goodwin, Audrey Hepburn, Taylor Swift, Emma Watson, Emma Stone, as well as characters from shows and films. You may or may not find lots of Disney themed fashion for instance.

These are the first of new things coming to The Girly Nerd. As always, if you can please consider making a donation to PayPal. There is a link on the homepage sidebar. This helps keeps the site running and is most appreciated.

Much Love xoxo,
Marianne

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