Aladdin (2019) Review

Aladdin movie posterSynopsis
With the help of the magical Genie of the lamp (Will Smith), Aladdin (Mena Massoud) becomes a prince to impress Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). Meanwhile, the royal vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) is also trying to get his hand’s on the magic lamp to use Genie’s magic for his own nefarious purposes.

Review
I’ve been feeling conflicted about these live-action remakes Disney has been releasing these last few years and plan to release in the foreseeable future. On one hand, I enjoy seeing these wonderful animated classics realized and interpreted into live-action versions of themselves. On the other, most of them are so beloved that it will be hard to top the originals for most audiences. For me, I grew up on the 1992 Aladdin, and is so ingrained in my history as a cinefile that I highly doubted this remake would do anything to surpass it. However, not one to dismiss a film before I watch it, I went into the theater with an open mind and ended up leaving pleased.

One thing that Disney has been nailing (mostly anyway) about these remakes are the leads. Firstly, Naomi Scott is absolutely stunning as Princess Jasmine. She updates the character to be more than just a damsel looking to escape the confines of the palace. Scott’s Jasmine is confident and determined, characteristics seen in her animated counterpart but Scott takes that foundation and elevates Jasmine to whole new heights. Her song, “Speechless,” perfectly captures Jasmine’s spirit and is nailed by Scott. “Speechless” is bound to become a classic Disney song belted at the top of their lungs by many.

The titular character is played by Mena Massoud. While he doesn’t capture the same spirit of his character the same way Scott captured the character of hers, Massoud plays the part well; he captures the charm of Aladdin well enough. He also has good chemistry with his co-stars, especially Scott and Will Smith. I’d say his biggest weakness is he doesn’t have the same singing chops as Scott or Smith. Songs like “One Jump Ahead” or his parts in “A Whole New World” lack the same energy of Brad Kane, Aladdin’s singing voice actor in the animated version.

Leading up to this film’s release, there had been a lot of talk as Will Smith as Genie. Robin Williams famously voiced Genie in the animated version and brought his unique energy and comedy to the character. Smith smartly didn’t try to emulate Williams. Instead, he played Genie in a very Will Smith way, creating a different kind of Genie that worked within the context of the film. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that Smith doesn’t become the characters, the characters become Smith. Smith’s Genie is still larger-than-life and zany but doesn’t have the pizzazz of Williams’ Genie. Instead, Smith’s Genie is infused with Smith’s hip-hop and brand of comedy you’ve come to know and love over the years. While it garnered some criticism when he was announced to be playing the character, Smith’s Genie, like Williams’ before him, is one of the most entertaining and exciting aspects of this film.

I don’t bring up a film’s production design much in my reviews but dammit was this film gorgeous. The streets of Agrabah were filled with all sorts of vivid colors. Most of the time here is spent following Aladdin as he travels and runs through it. Another viewing just to pick out more details in the streets and bazaars would be worth it. Then the palace is even more extravagant. The architecture and set design is unlike any other. Last but not least are the costumes. Like the rest of Agrabah, they are bright and lavish. Jasmine’s outfits in particular are dazzling and truly fitting of a princess.

As for the film’s villain, Jafar left me wanting. Marwan Kenzari wasn’t bad in the role, he just wasn’t the right fit for it. He doesn’t have the menace the animated Jafar is known for. Like Jasmine, Jafar’s backstory and character was expanded on but unlike Jasmine, his changes don’t add much to the character, only seeming have been added to make a scene in the latter part of the film work better. Kenzari’s Jafar simply lacked the iconography that made the animated Jafar such a great villain.

Like the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, and as this year’s The Lion King live-action remake appears to, Aladdin follows the animated source material pretty closely. Jasmine and Jafar are given more backstory and Genie gets his own love interest in Jasmine’s handmaiden Dalia, played by the humorous Nasim Pedrad, but if you’ve seen the Disney Renaissance version, then you’ll know exactly every story beat and exactly how the story plays out.

I’ve noticed a trend in these Disney live-action remakes: remakes of older films, such as Dumbo or The Jungle Book, don’t stick so closely to the story of the animated versions they are remaking. But for remakes of more recent films, such as Beauty and the Beast and this, they stay more faithful the the characters and story. I’ve said that for a remake to justify its existence, it needs to provide something new, either with the characters, story, or both. For example, Dumbo, tried to tell a similar but fairly different story as the 1941 Dumbo, or Maleficent told the story of Sleeping Beauty from Maleficent’s perspective. As my feelings on these vary, at least they did enough to warrant their presence. Aladdin, while enjoyable, doesn’t do enough to properly answer the question “why?”

I thought Aladdin was GOOD 🙂 I had mixed feelings about one of my favorite Disney animated movies being remade but I went in hoping for the best nonetheless. Even though it doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself from the 1992 animated classic, this film still manages to be entertaining. And really, for a remake of a film that is so dear to me, that’s the least I could have hoped for.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Guy Ritchie – Director / Screenplay
John August – Screenplay
Alan Menken – Composer
Benj Pasek – Lyricist
Justin Paul – Lyricist

Mena Massoud – Aladdin
Naomi Scott – Jasmine
Will Smith – Genie
Marwan Kenzari – Jafar
Navid Negahban – Sultan
Nasim Pedrad – Dalia
Numan Acar – Hakim
Alan Tudyk – Iago (voice)
Frank Welker – Cave of Wonders (voice)

The Films That Started It All!

The Film That Started It All Blogathon Banner

Hello, friends!

Today I get to talk about a fantastic subject: the movies that started my love for film and cinema. This is brought to you by the wonderful Caz from Let’s Go to the Movies and her The Film That Started It All Blogathon. I have already reviewed all of the films that “started it all” for me. So instead of a review, I will tell you about some of my early experiences with these films and why those experiences are important to me. In my about page, I briefly mention this topic but who really reads my about page anyway?

When talking about early films in my life, there are so many I could discuss. I could talk about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze and how I would watch it everytime I would spend the night at my Grandparents’ house. I could talk about how Jurassic Park was the first PG-13 my parents let me watch. I could talk about Ocean’s Eleven and Wild Wild West and how my best friend and I would watch those all the time together and, between the two of us, quote both of those movies in their entirety. I could talk about Million Dollar Baby and how that was the first movie that really made me consider blogging about movies because I was disappointed no one personally told me how amazing it is. But I’m not going to talk about any of that.

Depending on how long you’ve followed me and this blog, you might have an idea of what movies I will talk about. I’m going to talk about three movies. Well, two movies and a trilogy. Of course, I’m talking about Aladdin, Disney’s 31st animated feature film, Toy Story, Pixar’s groundbreaking first feature film, and the Star Wars Original Trilogy, George Lucas’ revolutionary space opera.

Before moving on, I feel like I should give you some background of Disney’s importance in my family. In short, we are a Disney family. One of my aunts had Mickey Mouse decorations all around her house. Every Christmas and birthday another aunt gets me Disney movies. We aren’t afraid to bust out the Disney Charades or the Disney Edition of Scene It? at family gatherings. Recently when shopping, I came across a game centered around Diseny songs and promptly bought it and shared my discovery with my family, which was met with resounding elation. One Halloween, my cousin and I dressed up as Aladdin and Jasmine. And currently, there is a standing Disney duet challenge between my sister and me and two of our cousins. So yea, Disney is an important part of my family and an integral piece of my life.

Aladdin movie posterHonestly, I don’t remember much about how I got into Aladdin, it came out when I was a toddler, but what I remember, and what my parents always remind me of, was how often I watched it. As soon as it was over, I would rewind it and rewatch it immediately. This was a daily occurrence in my house. Often watching it multiple times a day, multiple days a week. Since I was as a kid, it’s hard to say what exactly captured my attention about the film but I have some good guesses. First, the songs. They are so catchy and easy to dance to, especially when you aren’t aware you have no sense of rhythm. Second, Genie. Played by the one-of-a-kind Robin Williams, Genie was so energetic and funny. I didn’t get most of the pop culture references but I didn’t care. Here was this blue guy flying around on screen being funny and causing all kind of magic to happen on screen. And third, the action and adventure. Since Aladdin was a male protagonist, the film catered more towards a male audience. Where a movies like Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid were more of a romance, Aladdin played out much differently. While it did have a princess, the relationship between her and Aladdan wasn’t the focus; there was much more action and a sense of adventure, which no doubt captured my young imagination.

Toy Story movie posterNot long after, another movie caught my attention. At the time, I didn’t understand how innovative Toy Story was for Hollywood and animation, I just knew I really, really enjoyed it. Like Aladdin before it, Toy Story was constantly in my VCR and played on repeat. I had already conditioned my parents to watch the same movie over and over again, so continuously watching Toy Story never phased them. The same things that drew me to Aladdin also drew me to Toy Story. The story was great, I loved the characters, and it was exciting, keeping my little kid mind occupied. Also, I couldn’t get enough of the 3D animation. Of course, the fact that Woody’s and Buzz’s and all the other toy’s owner was named Andy added greatly, too. That shared name between me and the movie’s Andy helped me form a bond and personal connection to the characters that I didn’t have with other films.

I’ve mentioned my parents several times. My dad’s influence was responsible for my obsession love of a galaxy far, far away. I wouldn’t call him a hardcore Star Wars fan, but he did enjoy them. I remember the year he received the “Faces” Original Trilogy VHS box set for his birthday. He didn’t push me to watch them but he didn’t have to. Once I watched them, I was hooked. I would regularly pop one of them, usually A New Hope or Return of the Jedi with The Empire Strikes Back sprinkled in there every now and then, after school or on the weekend. My ninth birthday was Star Wars themed, from the cake to even my presents. My dad and I shared many movie tastes but Star Wars would always be special to us. The Phantom Menace would become the first movie I saw twice in theaters. He enjoyed it so much after our first viewing he went to see it a second time and I wasn’t about to refuse because honestly, I enjoyed it quite a bit, too. After that, we would see every new Star Wars movie together. Unfortunately, he passed away before The Last Jedi was released. Given how divisive it was among fans, I would have loved to hear his opinions on it.

Over the years, my movie tastes have changed and evolved. However, my appreciation and enjoyment for action, adventure, and comedy can be traced back to these films. Many movies have influenced me as a cinefile and my love for the cinema, but you might say these are the films that started it all!

Thanks for reading! Check out the rest of the wonderful entries for Caz’s The Film That Started It All Blogathon.

Until next time, cheers!

Ranking the Disney Renaissance Films (Featuring Flick Chicks)

The Disney Renaissance is an exciting era of Disney’s history.  For those of you who don’t know, the Disney Renaissance is the period of Disney films starting with The Little Mermaid in 1989 and ending with Tarzan in 1999.  During this time, Disney films saw a resurgence in their quality and most (if not all) of the films were critical success and mostly financial successes.  The Little Mermaid was Disney’s first animated fairy tale since Sleeping Beauty in 1959 and the first Disney animated film to have a Broadway musical feel to it.  Alan Menkin composed scores for many of the Disney Renaissance films, working with lyricists Howard Ashman in the early films before Ashman’s passing.

For many kids who grew up in the 90s, this was a fantastic era of Disney films to be a child.  Feeling nostalgic, I asked the ladies of Flick Chicks, the wonderful Allie and Jenna, if they would join me in taking a look back at this time of animated film history.  They were all too eager to join in! Jenna and Allie review all sorts of films and television series in their unique style you will see below, as well as offer monthly movie trivia.  Their love for Disney probably rivals my own.  Go give them a visit once you are through here if you don’t follow them already.

Disney Renaissance Banner

The girls and I decided to make our best attempts to rank the films from the Disney Renaissance.  There are ten films so that made things nice and round. This is obviously not a definite list since our opinions are constantly changing and all these films are great but we made our best attempts at it.  Allie will give her list first. Allie’s contributions are in purple and Jenna’s are in red.

Take it away, ladies!

When Drew dropped us an email asking if we would be up for collaborating on a post with him, we were super excited. When we carried on reading and found out he wanted to rank the Disney Renaissance movies with us, we were a little hysterical! We don’t need to be given an excuse to gush about Disney movies! I am in a great place at the moment because my niece is discovering the old school Disney films for the first time so when that little face looks at me and says ‘Aunty Jenna, can we watch The Little Mermaid’ my face lights up and I proceed to sing and make her dance to every song. Makes my heart happy.

This has been so much harder than we thought, though. I mean, ranking any kind of list is near on impossible for me, but there are movies at the bottom of this list that I love! The Renaissance period between 1989-1999 was undoubtedly one of, if not the best times for Disney movies. I feel like there is an immediate divide between the ones I have watched thousands of times and the ones I have watched only once, there is no in between. It’s the period we grew up in, and I hold these movies very close to my heart. So without further ado, let’s do this!

10) The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

Now, I feel mean putting this one last, but it’s the one I remember the least. I do remember crying though, for sure. I definitely cried when the eagle (I thought it was a seagull haha! Omg maybe it was and I’ve remembered wrong?!) was captured, and I probably cried at the end as well because of how happy it was. There’s definitely a running theme between Disney movies and me crying, ha! I think what I enjoyed the most about The Rescuers Down Under was that it taught me how to treat animals, and that’s stayed with me my whole life.

9) Tarzan (1999)

Again, I feel mean for putting Tarzan here, but in my defence, when I first watched it as a child, I was on a Jungle Book hype, and my child brain only had room to love one jungle-related movie, so this one got pushed aside (I wish I had thought of this excuse!). It’s only really now, after far too many remakes, that I can fully appreciate this version. It was absolutely fine, it was full of adventure, and I really wish we didn’t have yet another version coming out soon!

8) Mulan (1998)

I was so into this when it first came out. I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy, and as much as I enjoyed rewatching my favourite Disney princess movies, watching a female become one of the boys and kicking ass was all of my dreams come true. Mushu really captured my heart too, and that developed into a love of all things dragons and knights in shining armor. I only ranked it this low because I haven’t seen it for years, and I don’t know why. I’ll remedy that soon!

7) Pocahontas (1995)

Ugh, isn’t Pocahontas just one of the most beautiful movies of all time? I wasn’t a fan of this one as a child, it’s adult me who appreciates this for what it really is. I think it was released too soon after The Lion King, and suffered because of that. In fact, if anyone hasn’t watched this since they were little, I’d highly recommend giving it another try now. I’ll think you’ll enjoy it much more this time round. How strange, I have actually said that I don’t feel like I appreciated it as a child and I need to give it a go now I’m grown up! Now it’s a must!

6) Hercules (1997)

Oh I can’t believe I’m about to admit this, but I didn’t watch Hercules until this year. I know! I bring shame to myself. I feel guilty even typing this. I don’t even know why I didn’t watch it years ago. Maybe I was studying Greek mythology at school and it felt like homework? Who knows. All I know now is that this movie is so much fun.Just don’t watch it with my fiance. This is his favourite Disney movie of all time and he can repeat every single line, how did I not know this, I feel a Zero to Hero duet for the wedding!!. It’s quite scary actually. He’s going to enjoy Disneyland more than I will, I just know it.

5) The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Now it’s getting harder to rank these. This movie made me feel so sad at the cinema, I cried non stop for about ten minutes. It’s one of those movies that I watch and then hate myself for it. It’s so good, but it makes me so sad afterwards, it’s heartbreaking. It’s also got one of the greatest songs in movie history, The Bells of Notre Dame. It gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it.

4) The Little Mermaid (1989)

This is the first Disney Renaissance movie, and definitely kicked the time period off with a bang! It came out when I was born, but it was most likely one of my first Disney movies that I got to watch at home. It’s the soundtrack that made me fall in love with it, and started my childhood obsession with collecting any and all odd objects that I would find throughout my days. I haven’t seen it for years, but thanks to my Mum’s impressions, I can remember clear as day the line Ursula says about ‘body language’! this is my favourite villain line in any Disney movie EVER!

3) Aladdin (1992)

Disney has always been about making dreams come true, but Aladdin brought a much more adventurous way of this, with the help of Robin Williams voicing the Genie, one of the greatest Disney characters of all time, agreed!. This is one that’s still just as much fun to watch as an adult, and the songs are just so catchy. I can’t forget how terrifying the carpet dash out of the cave was either. I had an Aladdin Super Nintendo game, and that cave level still gives me nightmares. I feel like I may forgotten parts of this film, I need a Disney Renaissance marathon.

2) The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King was my first experience at the cinema, a day I’ll never forget. I was that kid who was probably in every screen around the world that year, who started sobbing and asked aloud ‘Mummy, is he dead?’(best cinema story ever!). It took a whole year to get over that trauma I think, but The Lion King rapidly became my favourite movie ever. I had the stuffed toys, I wanted trips to the zoo every weekend, and unfortunately for my poor Mum, I wanted this movie put on every tea time.

1) Beauty and the Beast (1991)

My number 1 spot literally changes every day, but in my heart I know Beauty and the Beast has to come first. Belle was (and is) my favourite Disney princess, she was the one I could relate to the most when I was younger. I had no interest in clothes, or shopping, all I wanted to do was find somewhere quiet to read a book. Just everything about this movie makes my heart ache, from the gripping story, the beautiful romance, the fun characters, and the songs that I still play in my car now. I have found a new love for Gaston (the song) and have blasted it out of my car every day this week on the way to work!

Now Jenna’s turn!

10) Tarzan

I feel bad putting this at 10, however I have to because I can’t comment on it as I haven’t seen it. Drafting this post has reminded me how little I have actually seen of Disney films or only seen once and can’t remember. I would guess I would like Tarzan and it is now on my watch list but that’s the best I can do!

9) The Hunchback of Notre Dame

This film scared the bejesus out of me when I was a kid, I don’t know why I just really didn’t like it. (I can’t argue with you here but for some reason I still love watching it!) I am also not so keen on the story, not that Disney films in general have a great track record for reflecting the real world preferring to focus on fairy tales, true love and happily ever after, but this one really stuck with me. The good guy is supposed to get the girl, not the better looking one!! Maybe in hindsight, this one actually reflects real life moreso than the others with the not so great looking nice guy gets friend-zoned for the good looking jock!

8) Mulan

Mulan, the most under rated Princess in all of the Disney-verse, Ariel left her family and whole life to be with a man, Jasmine gave up the throne for a man, Belle gave up her freedom for a man/beast and Mulan…..well she saved CHINA!!! That being said, I’m not that keen on this film, I actually found it really boring and haven’t watched it again since the first time. Admitted, I think I’m a sucker for the happily ever after and true loves kiss!!

7) Pocahontas

Did anyone ever watch this film more than once? I’m not sure when I watched it as a kid I actually understood a lot of it. I will say that it does have a killer soundtrack that I regularly sing full volume in my car. I always remember not liking the animation, it looked so different to the Disney films I had watched before and it always put me off. Plus I didn’t like the love interest, with the likes of Eric and Aladdin to compete with, John Smith had no chance. Maybe I need to give this a go now I’m older and able to appreciate the story a bit more. See, what did I tell you!

6) The Rescuers Down Under

Just to clarify, that’s an eagle. Either that or the biggest seagull ever.

I had completely forgotten about this but I did in fact have it on VHS and watched it until it wore out. I don’t remember much of the story to be honest but I get a warm and fuzzy feeling in my tummy when I see images from the film or clips. I do remember the flying scene on a bird or seagull, I can’t remember the detail but I loved it. Excuse me while I go and watch it again and also having only just realised that this is a sequel, give the first one a go as well!

5) Hercules

This is another one that the soundtrack makes the movie. This must be good as I have seen the whole movie but in multiple sittings and all the wrong order and I still love it. Zero to Hero is a singing staple in my car (even though I sing all the wrong words – I think songs are even better when you make up your own lyrics). I really love all the random pop culture references and spot new ones every time, my favourite quote ‘It’s a small underworld after all….’

4) Aladdin

The Genie, need I say more! This film would have been waaaay down on the list if it wasn’t for Robin Williams comical genius – am I right in thinking he had complete creative freedom and pretty much improvised most of his lines?! Amazing soundtrack (would expect nothing less from Disney) and an action packed fun fest with a genuinely scary bad guy.

3) The Lion King

Oooooh Mufasa (still my favourite think to shout at slow moving cars, Mufasa!), that scene still haunts me, all the feels! I love everything about this movie and I pondered whether to put it at number one, but I was such a princess when I was a little girl that the other two just pipped it. However, this film has some of the best characters, Timon and Pumbaa, such legends. The sing along factor also has to be considered, who doesn’t know the words to Hakuna Matata.

2) Beauty and the Beast

I always wanted to be Belle at any fancy dress party (unfortunately my Mom put me in a red tshirt and a cotton wool beard and sent me as Doc instead!!) and I love the music and would sing along to the video all day. The animation in this is truly stunning, especially the dancing scene in the ballroom, really beautiful. This was really close to being number one but my heart will always be under the sea…..

1) The Little Mermaid

Like Allie my first cinema experience was a Disney film but it was The Little Mermaid for my 5th birthday, I don’t think I moved through the entire thing. I was completely awestruck by the colours and the characters and that feeling has just grown with me over the years. I still get goosebumps during ‘Part of your world’ and I still jump every time King Triton shouts and now I get to watch it with my niece who does exactly the same and it makes my heart melt. I had all the merchandise for this one, lunch box, thermos, Ariel doll, flounder soft toy. You name it, I had it.

My turn!

10) The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Maybe it’s because I haven’t watched this as many of the other films on this list, but I am not a big fan of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  This was one of the first movies I remember watching in the theater and it did not sit well with me.  It was very dark for my childhood eyes. As a child, it was hard for me to understand why Frollo acted the way he did toward Quasimodo or the Gypsies.  When compared to the other movies from the Disney Renaissance, the music isn’t as memorable.  However, the voice cast is great with Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Tony Jay, and Kevin Kline. Maybe if I give this another watch now that I’m older my feelings will change.

9) The Rescuers Down Under

Despite being only ninth on my list, I watched The Rescuers Down Under regularly as a kid.  Bernard and Bianca are such a fun pair to watch travel through an unfamiliar place.  Especially when Jake gets between them.  John Candy as the albatross Wilbur is probably my favorite character from the entire film, though.  Candy is such a funny comedic actor and brings those chops to his voice work as Wilbur.  The Rescuers Down Under is kind of the odd-man-out compared to the rest of the Disney Renaissance films since it’s not a musical. However, it is an exciting adventure that can still stand with the rest of the films of the era.

8) Tarzan

The first two films were easy to place but now I’m beginning to move into the part where it becomes more difficult. I think one of the things I enjoy the most about Tarzan is that it was the original songs were done by Phil Collins. Tarzan isn’t a musical per se but it still feels like it a little bit.  The characters aren’t the ones singing but it still has many songs.  It sounds so different than the other films since Collins is the one singing.  Taking place in the jungle, the animation looks great with all the beautiful greens.  CGI and hand-drawn animation were in complete sync, a great feat considering the technique of mixing the two had only began little more than ten years earlier.

7) Pocahontas

Pocahontas is probably the most colorful of the Disney Renaissance films.  I mean, just look at “Colors of the Wind!”  But I think where Pocahontas falls short of the other films is the story.  It doesn’t quite have the engaging story that many of the other movies on this list. The music also was good but it wasn’t as memorable.  In its defense, it did follow The Lion King, which is a tough act to follow.  That said, it still is a lot of fun.  Flit and Meeko are a great comedy pair.  I really liked Mel Gibson as the voice of John Smith and David Ogden Stiers as Governor Radcliff. I’ll watch Pocahontas if I come across it on TV but it still is one of my least watched movies from the era.

6) Beauty and the Beast

I know what you are thinking, “Beauty and the Beast is only number six?!” I know, I know.  Although it is a great (fantastic) film, even being the first animated film nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, I just never watched this a lot when I was little.  I think that being a boy, I didn’t get into the princess stories as much. My favorite part is the music. “Be Our Guest” is one of my favorite Disney songs of all time. I think “Gaston” is one of the more underrated villain songs next to “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” I love Beauty and the Beast, I just don’t love it as much as the films in the top half of my list.

5) The Little Mermaid

Ah, the one that started it all. The Little Mermaid was more my cousin’s and my sister’s movie than it was mine but I still always had fun watching it.  “Under the Sea” rivals “Be Our Guest” as one of my favorite Disney songs.  Ursula is one of my favorite Disney villains, if only for her awesome song, “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”  I think between King Triton, Flounder, Ariel, or Eric, everyone can find a little bit of themselves in the characters.

4) Hercules

I didn’t watch Hercules more than a few times when I was younger but when it got it on DVD, I couldn’t watch it enough.  The animation is very unique and makes it look like you are watching a Greek painting come to life.  Disney really knows how to do its villains during this time because Hades was an absolute blast.  He was a quick and smooth talker.  James Woods added a lot to the part.  Meg isn’t your usual maiden.  She may be a damsel and she may have been in distress on more than one occasion but she is plenty capable of handling herself.

3) Mulan

Years and years ago, I was with my mom looking for birthday gifts for my little sister (not the one who loved The Little Mermaid).  I came across the DVD of Mulan and told my mom that’s what I wanted to give my sister as her birthday present. She looked at me and said “Are you sure it’s for her and not for you?” Despite my mom being right, I played it off. “No, no. It’s for her. She loves this movie.” I didn’t know if that was true or not but I really wanted Mulan in our collection and being a kid, I figured this was going to be my best chance of getting it. My mom reluctantly bought it and I gave it to my sister a few days later. What happened next could not have played into my little lie any better. My sister loved it! She watched it everyday for probably two months straight.  Mulan was to her as Toy Story was to me when I was around her age. I think I thought I managed to trick my mom but I’m pretty sure she knew all along the real reason why I wanted to get it for my sister so badI love everything about Mulan. Every song is catchy and awesome. The characters are fun, especially Mushu and Crickey. The story is great and is particularly empowering for girls. This film came towards the end of the Disney Renaissance so it had a lot to live up to and it managed to live up to those expectations and then some.

2) The Lion King

I know that Beauty and the Beast is considered the crown jewel of the Disney Renaissance but I think that honor should actually belong to The Lion KingThe Lion King probably has the best story of these ten films, the songs are just as good, if not a little better, and Lumiere and Cogsworth have nothing on Timon and Pumbaa.  Not to mention Scar, who might be the best Disney villain. His plan actually works! Let’s think about that for a moment. Out of all the Disney villains who came before, he became king, exactly like he wanted.  Sure, you might say he was defeated by Simba but I would come back and tell you that was after what was probably a few years (the time wasn’t really mentioned). He held onto the crown for a decent amount of time.  Not many (if any) other Disney villains can make that claim.

1) Aladdin

If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, it should be no surprise that Aladdin is my number one Disney Renaissance film. It shares the number one spot as the film of my childhoodAladdin was my go to movie for years (still is sometimes).  I couldn’t get enough of it! Although it is titled Aladdin, Genie steals the show. Robin Williams proved that he could do anything. Iago probably is another favorite character of mine.  Can I mention Jafar for a second and how menacing he is? That cackle of his gave me goosebumps. More than Belle, more than Simba, more than Ariel, I enjoyed being by Aladdin’s side as he was called a street rat, was tricked into going to the Cave of Wonders, found the lamp and escaped to become a prince, went on a magic carpet ride with the princess, was discovered as a fake prince, and when he finally defeated the evil sorcerer.  It was an adventure I was thrilled to be a part of.


And there you have it! Huge thank you to Jenna and Allie of Flick Chicks for taking the time to write this post with me. It was a ton of fun and gave me another excuse to revisit one of my favorite times in cinematic history. It’s exciting to see how much Disney films have influenced our lives, even being among each of our first theater experiences. The writers at Disney truly are master storytellers and know how to affect people across generations, across oceans, and across time.

How about you? What are your favorite films of the Disney Renaissance?

Cheers!

PS, Jenna, I need to see a picture of you dressed as Doc!

Childhood Films Blogathon: My Fave Five Films From My Childhood

Childhood Films Blogathon Banner

The wonderful Caz over at Let’s Go to the Movies is putting on a great blogathon this weekend: the Childhood Films Blogathon.  I’ve talked many many times about the films I enjoyed and watched over and over in a time referred to as “my childhood.” So far, I’ve already reviewed Aladdin and Jurassic Park and before the end of the month, I will have posted reviews for Toy Story and Ocean’s Eleven. So instead of reviewing another childhood favorite, for his blogathon I’ve compiled a list: a list of the films I regularly popped into my VCR (DVD player in the case of Ocean’s Eleven) when I was growing up.  Here are my fave five(-ish) films from my childhood.

The Mummy5) The Mummy

I remember the birthday I received The Mummy and The Mummy Returns.  I didn’t ask for them but one of my relatives got them for me anyway.  I’m sure glad they did.  I watched them so many times.  Going on an adventure with Rick O’Connell and Evey into the desert to find the treasure and end up awakening the cursed Egyptian priest Imhotep, eventually needing to defeat him is simply a fun and wild ride.  The Mummy Returns was great, too. I especially liked the pygmys in the oasis but The Mummy takes the cake in my book.  This and its sequel are also the only two films I have on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray (for now).

4) Ocean’s Eleven / Wild Wild WestWild Wild West movie posterOcean's Eleven movie poster

I’ve paired Ocean’s Eleven and Wild Wild West together because these are the two movies that my best friend and I would watch all. The. Time.  Seriously, between the two of us, we could quote both of these movies in their entirety.  Ocean’s Eleven is my favorite heist movie (spoiler alert for my heist fave five list whenever that happens).  George Clooney and Brad Pitt are perfect together and the entire team, the rest of the eleven if you will, are just a blast. Wild Wild West tends to not be favorable with most viewers but I find it hilarious. Will Smith and Kevin Kline make a great comedy pair and I laugh every time I watch it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze3) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

Don’t laugh, hear me out.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in its nature, is a farce. It’s meant to be ridiculous and not to be taken seriously. For the longest time, I hadn’t seen any of the other two TMNT movies, only The Secret of the Ooze.  But you know what, that’s all I needed.  I can guarantee that any dude who grew up in the late 80s to early 90s watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and had at least a few of the action figures.  The Secret of the Ooze had humor, action, and Vanilla Ice’s Ninja Rap.  Seriously, how can you not enjoy that?

2) Jurassic ParkJurassic Park movie poster

Jurassic Park has a well deserved place on IMDB’s Top 250 movie list.  Not only does it have a great story, developed characters, a moving score (thank you John Williams), and dinosaurs, but it was a huge milestone in visual effects.  But let’s be honest, the dinosaurs were enough to draw in my attention.  The special effects looked so real that sometimes it is hard to believe that this is a film and not some documentary. Steven Spielberg knew how to make things suspenseful while still being light.  Although this has a PG-13 rating, I’d say it’s a mild PG-13, which was one of the reasons my parents let me watch it when I was much younger than that.

Aladdin movie posterToy Story movie poster1) Aladdin / Toy Story

“Another twofer? Drew, you are cheating” I can hear you say.  But you know what? I don’t care.  I could probably trace my love of movies back to these two great classics.  I am honestly surprised I didn’t wear out the VHS tape on either of these from watching them repeatedly.  Aladdin‘s message about being yourself and Toy Story’s about friendship are just as powerful today as they were over 20 years ago.  My cousin and I enjoyed Aladdin so much that we dressed as Aladdin and Jasmine for one Halloween (she was Jasmine, of course).  I can’t say enough positive things about these two films.  They will always be a part of me at my core and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Check out the rest of the entries in the Childhood Films Blogathon here.

Aladdin Review

Aladdin movie posterSynopsis
Aladdin (Scott Weinger), a street boy, is always getting into trouble and dreams of living in the palace. Princess Jasmine (Linda Larkin) is being forced to marry but doesn’t like any of her suitors. When these two cross paths in the market place, they fall in love. However, Jasmine can only merry a prince, so Aladdin gets help from the magical Genie of the lamp (Robin Williams) to turn him into a prince and marry Jasmine. Meanwhile, the Sultan’s (Douglas Seale) royal vizer and trusted adviser, Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), tries to retrieve the magic lamp for himself to take over the kingdom.

Review
Oh, man. Aladdin. This is one of my all-time favorite animated films. When I was younger, I would watch my VHS copy everyday (at least until Toy Story was on home video). Over the years I have constantly watched it over and over again. There is something about Aladdin that no matter how many times I watch it, I still enjoy it just as much as when I would drive my parents crazy watching it nonstop.

In 1992, computer animation was in its early stages. Beauty and the Beast was the first animated movie to really utilize the technology the year before. Aladdin picks up where Beauty and the Beast left off. It beautifully blends traditional and computer animations. In scenes like the Cave of Wonders collapse, it can be difficult to see a distinction between the two. It truly is a sight to behold.

A movie is only as good as its characters. When you don’t like the characters, chances are you won’t like the movie either. One of the reasons Aladdin‘s story is so great (and powerful) is because the film establishes a connection between the viewer and the characters early on. Aladdin means well, even though he is a thief; Jasmine wants to get married for love, not because she has to; Genie is trapped and wants freedom. These are all relatable, adding another layer to the story/characters.

Disney hit the nail on the head with the voice casting. Jonathan Freeman is calm and malicious as Jafar, which makes Jafar even creepier considering how evil you know he is. Gilbert Gottfried is spectacular as Iago, Jafar’s loudmouthed, eccentric parrot. But hands down, the best casting is Robin Williams as the magical Genie. He can change his voice and mannerisms so quickly it’s amazing. Animation is limited only by the imagination, and Williams’ imagination seems to have no bounds. He fills this movie to the brim of all sorts of celebrity and character imitations. Some may go over the children’s heads, but these make it fun for the older viewers. Being an animated (not literally of course) person himself, Williams is a perfect match for Genie.

I’m going to break from this review for a moment to tell a story. Don’t worry, it will come back around. As I mentioned before, I watched Aladdin all the time when I was a kid. One of the people who ended up watching it with me was my dad. Now my dad and I have a very similar taste in movies, but he tends to lean more towards action and slap-stick movies. This last time watching Aladdin, he saw what I was watching and sat on the couch next to me and watched it with me. When I told him I was surprised he decided to join me, he took a jab at me about how many times he saw it then said, “It has been a while, I figured it was time to see it again.” Later, my little brother, who for some odd reason refuses to watch any movie not made in the last ten years, saw my dad and me watching Aladdin, sat down next to us, and the three of us finished the movie together.

What my story is getting to, and really the reason I think Aladdin is such an amazing movie, is that no matter who you are, or your taste in movies, almost everyone enjoys Aladdin. The excellent story, memorable and relatable characters, catchy songs, and Robin Williams’ voice work makes Aladdin a movie that is genuinely enjoyed by all ages.

Rating
5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ron Clements – Director
John Musker – Director
Ted Elliott – Screenplay
Terry Rossio – Screenplay
Alan Menken – Composer
Howard Ashman – Songwriter
Tim Rice – Songwriter

Scott Weinger – Aladdin
Brad Kane – Aladdin (singing voice)
Linda Larkin – Jasmine
Lea Salonga – Jasmine (singing voice)
Robin Williams – Genie / Merchant
Jonathan Freeman – Jafar
Frank Welker – Abu / Rajah / Cave of Wonders
Gilbert Gottfried – Iago
Douglas Seale – The Sultan
Jim Cummings – Razoul / Farouk