Every major name that makes it in Hollywood has a persona that is instantly recognizable to audiences.
Over the last thirty-odd years, Will Smith has developed a reputation as a genial, friendly, and overall easy-going type of guy. That reputation took a beating on Sunday night during the Oscars. Chris Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife. Jada Pinkett Smith is bald due to alopecia. Without batting an eye, Smith walked up to the stage and smacked Rock across the face.
At first, it looked like it was a joke that had been previously agreed upon by both men. But it wasn’t. Though Smith apologized during his acceptance speech for Best Actor for the film King Richard, it was not accepted. He tried again to confess that he made a mistake via his Instagram account, but it again fell on deaf ears.
As of now, the repercussions of his actions are TBA. While at the time, he may have felt like he was being a man and defending his wife, there is no excuse for what he did. My opinion is that Smith will reap what he sowed that night. Sometimes, the only way to learn is via the hard way. I have a feeling that this will be a lesson he will never forget.
When a writer sits down to create a fictional world and decides to mix genres that seem to be opposite from one another, it requires a certain amount of skill. While being true to each category, there also has to be a way for them to co-mingle successfully.
Men in Black II (2002) is the sequel to Men in Black (1997). Its been four years since Kay (Will Smith) and Jay (Tommy Lee Jones) have been in the same room. Jay has since retired from the job and has erased his memories of his previous work experience. When Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) and her henchman Scrad (Johnny Knoxville) sets her sights on Earth and MiB, Jay has two seemingly impossible tasks on his hand. He has to save the world (again) and somehow remind Kay of his past.
I remember liking this film. It has the charm and the comic sensibilities of its predecessor while building on the previous narrative. The only issue that I have is that the two female characters are built on stereotypes. Serleena is a temptress whose main weapon is her sexuality. Laura Vasquez (Rosario Dawson) is the princess/love interest who has to be rescued. Unfortunately, this is not the first, nor is this the last story in which women are not just limited in number, but forced into boxes while the men are given wings to figuratively fly.
I will try to make this review as spoiler free as I can, but if you have not seen the movie, I will not be bothered if you only read this review after you have been to the movie theater.
Hollywood has been addicted to reboots since it’s inception. Over the past few years, Disney has added to the general idea of reboots by releasing live action versions of their classic animated films. The most recent film in this sub-genre is Aladdin.
Like it’s 1992 animated predecessor, the film is set in Agrabah, a fictional Middle Eastern city. Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is an orphan who lives by the seat of his pants and whatever food he can steal. One day, he meets Jasmine (Naomi Scott), who is Princess of Agrabah. Locked in the palace, she yearns for freedom and escapes to the anonymity of the Agrabah marketplace.
Aladdin is roped into Grand Vizier Jafar’s (Marwan Kenzari) plan to find a mysterious lamp in a mythical cave. But Jafar is less than honest and leaves Aladdin to die. Inside the cave, Aladdin meets Genie (Will Smith), who offers him the possibilities that he could have only imagined of before.
When the original film was released back in 1992, I was a child and had a completely different view than I do now as an adult. Director Guy Ritchie surprised me. I’ve never seen any of his previous films, but based on the trailers, I can’t say that any of them were aimed at or appropriate for the audience that typically sees a Disney film. However, Ritchie and his creative team were able to create a film that is an homage to its predecessor while standing on it’s own two feet.
Two major changes that from my perspective elevated this film from the 1992 animated film was the expansion of Jasmine as a character and the casting of actors whose ethnic background matches the ethnicity of the characters. Instead of just giving lip service to feminism, Jasmine is truly a character in her own right. Not only does she wear more clothes, but she is more than arm candy to the man who she will potentially call husband. In the casting for this movie, the actors who were ultimately chosen are of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent. The specific choice of actors adds a level of authenticity that is lacking in the 1992 film.
Speaking of changes to the film, I was very impressed with Will Smith’s version of Genie. Robin Williams’s performance a quarter of a century ago can never be duplicated. However, Smith is able to put his own spin on the character while showing respect to Williams’s Genie.
Though the film is over two hours, it does not fee like it is over two hours. The narrative has a nice pace and the musical sequences fit in nicely with the overall story.
If I had one takeaway from this film (as was the same takeaway from the 1992 film), it was that being yourself is the most important thing and you should never change who you are to please someone else.
Reboots have been the rage in Hollywood since the beginning of Hollywood. Over the last few years, Disney has capitalized on this reboot fever by releasing live action remakes of their classic animated films. With the success of The Jungle Book in 2016 and Beauty and the Beast in 2017, some might say that they are using nostalgia as a way to fill up movie theaters.
I have to admit that I am impressed with the trailer. It looks like a fun movie, even though a part of me will always love the 1992 animated film. I appreciate that the cast is ethnically accurate to the world that Aladdin is set in. Stepping into the animated shoes created in 1992 by Scott Weinger and Linda Larkin are Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott. I am also impressed by Will Smith as Genie. Though he will never be able to replace Robin Williams’s version of the character, I have a feeling that Smith will bring his own unique sensibilities and flair to Genie.
Will I be seeing the movie when it hits theaters in the spring? The answer is likely yes.
Loosely based (and I do mean loosely based) on the folktale One Thousand and One Nights, Aladdin (Scott Weinger) is an orphaned boy living on the streets in fictional Agrabah. He falls in love with Princess Jasmine (voiced by Linda Larkin) and asks Genie (voiced by the late and sorely missed Robin Williams) to make him a prince. But the king’s right hand man, Jafar (voiced by Jonathan Freeman) sees through Aladdin’s disguise and has plans to use Aladdin and Genie for his own ends.
As much as my former child self adores this movie, my adult self has a few qualms about this movie.
These characters are stereotypes. I get that this Disney’s attempt at cultural sensitivity and multiculturalism, but their attempt is merely an attempt, not a success.
Jasmine is 15 and an unnatural size 2. She is also the only major female character and tries to come off as a strong female character, but doesn’t really come off as the creative team intended.
All of the actors are Caucasian. Not even the scene stealing performance of Robin Williams can dull that fact.
The ending can be seen a mile away.
There is a subliminal message about underage teenage sex. Stop the video below at :19.
While more current adaptations of the movie (including the stage production, the upcoming movie with Will Smith as Genie and the reboot via Once Upon A Time) have tried to correct the errors of the 1992 film, there are some things about this film that as a thirty something, doesn’t sit well with me.
Readers, what are your thoughts about this film? I would be curious to know.
Over the years, Will Smith is known for playing a variety of roles.
In 1997, he entered the buddy comedy/science fiction genre with Men in Black. Jay (Will Smith), a streetwise New York City police officer is drafted to join the Men In Black, a secret organization whose job is to police the aliens who have landed on Earth. His partner is Kay (Tommy Lee Jones), a veteran of the MIB. When a bug’s space ship crashes and it takes the human form of a farmer to find the galaxy, an energy source that could be dangerous if it fell into the wrong hands. Jay and Kay must find the galaxy and protect it before the bug finds it first.
This movie is just so good. It’s funny, entertaining and very well done.
Seven years later, in 2004, Smith played another police officer. This time, it was in the movie, I Robot. It is the year 2035, human like robots have taken over the menial tasks that humans once did. Del Spooner (Will Smith) is a technophobic police officer who is investigating the murder of a doctor. The accused is the robot that he created.
What I liked about this movie was that it asked questions. We have all become so dependent on technology. What happens when the technology instead of working for us, thinks for itself?
A year after that in 2005, Smith jumped into the rom-com genre with Hitch. Hitch (Will Smith) is a professional coach of sorts. He helps the male schlubs of the world to win over their dream partners. While helping Albert (Kevin James), become the man that Allegra (Amber Valleta) would fall in love with, Hitch also falls in love. Sara (Eva Mendes) is a cynical gossip columnist whose latest subject is Allegra. Sara is hot on the trail of Allegra’s new boyfriend. It won’t be long before she connects the dots that lead back to Hitch.
I like this movie. While it has the predictable tropes of a rom-com, it is different because of protagonist, Hitch. Many rom coms have a female protagonist. Overall, it is an enjoyable film.
In the 1990’s, Will Smith could do no wrong as actor. Independence Day, Bad Boys and and Men In Black were all hits at the box office.
Then Wild Wild West (1999) was released. The results were not the same as it’s predecessors.
Jim West (Will Smith) is a Civil War hero who is the brawn to Artemus Gordon’s (Kevin Kline)’s brains. Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) is a former Confederate soldier who is eager to reclaim the glory that the South lost when the North won the war. President Ulysses S Grant (also Kevin Kline) teams up Jim and Artemus to stop Dr. Loveless. Aided by Rita Escobar (Salma Hayek), Jim and Artemus are on a journey to prevent Dr. Loveless from succeeding, but it won’t be easy.
Combining the genres of action, the old west, comedy, history and a little science fiction, this movie tries to entertain the audience. Were the critics wrong? No. But at least the theme song wasn’t all that bad.
Director Roland Emmerich likes to destroy the world, at least on screen.
In Independence Day (1996), it is two days before July 4th. Communication systems around the world are failing for what seems to be no reason. At first, the reason is though to be meteors. Then David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) discovers that Earth is about to destroyed by an alien race. The day before July 4th, many of major cities around the world are destroyed by the aliens. The survivors have one more chance to save Earth. Can David and Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) save the world on July 4th?
For a movie that is more science fiction than fact and more action than plot, it’s not bad. Considering that it was made in 1996, the special effects are also pretty decent.
In The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) is a paleoclimatologist. He discovers that a rather large ice sheet has separated from a glacier and could potentially affect climates around the world. At the same time his son, Sam, (Jake Gyllenhaal) is in New York City for a school trip. When the upper part of the United States is hit by a giant wave and then frozen over, Jack will go on a daring and dangerous mission to rescue his son.
Before I go any further, I will warn that anyone who sees this movie for the first time, must watch on a large screen. Watching this movie on a small television, the impact is lost. This movie hit’s home for me, especially with the idea of climate change. Now granted, this is a movie and I am sure that some liberties were taken with the plot. After Hurricane Sandy hit two years ago, this movie had elements that were very real. Especially the large wave hitting downtown Manhattan (I see that view nearly every day).
Ren (Kevin Bacon) has moved from Chicago to small town America. Rock music and dancing have been banned. While the town preacher, Rev Shaw Moore (John Lithgow) continues to preach against rock music and dancing, his teenage daughter Ariel (Lori Singer) is rebelling against her father and constrictions placed on her. With prom coming up quick, Ren and his classmates have to stand up for themselves against the adults in town in favor of the prom they desperately desire.
This movie is an out and out classic. It’s the perfect teenage rebellion movie, coupled with one of the best soundtracks ever. There was a reboot in 2011, but it doesn’t quite stand up to the original.
Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) does not want to go school today. He devises a plan to avoid his parents and the school principal, Mr. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), who is eager to catch Ferris in the act of cutting class. With his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck), they head to Chicago for a day of fun and adventure.
This is a 1980’s John Hughes directed teenage movie. It is nearly 30 years old and as perfect a teenage movie as it was when it premiered in 1986. And did I mentioned that the parade scene where Ferris sings Twist and Shout is awesome?