Tag Archives: Marwan Kenzari

Aladdin (2019) Review

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Will Smith as Genie
Mena Massoud as Aladdin
Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine
Marwan Kenzari as Jafar
Navid Negahban as The Sultan
Nasim Pedrad as Dalia
Billy Magnussen as Prince Anders
Director: Guy Ritchie

Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a lovable street urchin who meets Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), the beautiful daughter of the sultan of Agrabah (Navid Negahban). While visiting her exotic palace, Aladdin stumbles upon a magic oil lamp that unleashes a powerful, wisecracking, larger-than-life genie (Will Smith). As Aladdin and the genie start to become friends, they must soon embark on a dangerous mission to stop the evil sorcerer Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) from overthrowing young Jasmine’s kingdom.

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I missed 2019’s version of Aladdin in cinemas, and I’ve only recently caught up on. I really didn’t know how I would feel about it leading up to its release. I like Naomi Scott and Will Smith, and I’ve liked most of director Guy Ritchie’s movies I’ve seen. However certain parts of the trailers I weren’t really feeling, not to mention I’m not that hyped for live action Disney remakes in general, even if a couple are decent. It looked like it could be a real mess, but nonetheless I gave it a shot, and hoped that I would somewhat like. I was actually surprised at Aladdin 2019, it’s not anything great but it was quite entertaining.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve watched the original Aladdin, so I can’t remember exactly how similar in plot the new movie is to the animated version. From what I can tell, largely plotwise it’s the same, however certain plot points and moments were handled differently. Having forgotten how the original movie did certain things, I don’t think I have a problem with how they handled the plot in this version of the story (except for maybe Jafar, which I’ll get to in a bit). It is a little long at 2 hours and 10 minutes. Not that it dragged or anything, just feels like it is a little stretched out. I think it’s like 50 minutes into the movie when Aladdin encounters the Genie for the first time. Maybe 5-10 minutes could’ve been shaved off the first act but it’s not a big deal. While it does some different things with the plot, it’s basically just the same plot, so there aren’t any surprises. So as the movie is progressing you’re just waiting for certain plot beats to occur. I’m not quite sure I’d call the movie ‘soulless’ (like most of the other Disney remakes have been called), but that let’s just say I was mostly just watching the movie go through the motions and wasn’t actually invested in the story.

Mena Massoud plays Aladdin and he did a pretty good job in his role. Same goes for Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, her singing was particularly good (they even give her a new original song for her to sing, that wasn’t in the original movie). Following Robin Williams’s work in the original Aladdin as The Genie is not easy by any means, he’s solidified that as one of the best animated voice performances. Will Smith however managed to have his own take on the iconic character, which was really the only thing that he could’ve done. He’s by far the standout in the whole movie and he improves every scene that he’s in. Even though I like other aspects of the movie as well, I really don’t think I would’ve liked this movie as much without Smith’s Genie. Probably the weakest link of the main cast however is Marwan Kenzari as Jafar. I don’t think it’s necessarily his acting ability that’s the problem. He’s much less over the top in this version, and instead they try to have a much more serious take, which is fair enough, they actually went all in instead of having a half measure of both the original and the new take. With that said it didn’t really work out, he’s not threatening, he’s not interesting, he’s not memorable, he doesn’t even convey any kind of presence at all. Whenever he came on screen, he just seemed like some random guy who I guess was the villain, rather than the powerful and dangerous Jafar. Supposedly there’s going to be an Aladdin sequel based on the sequel to the original animated movie titled Jafar’s Return. If that’s the case, then they are going to need to change a lot with this version of Jafar in order for him to make it work, because after seeing him in this movie, it doesn’t sound appealing at all.

I generally like Guy Ritchie and most of his work here is pretty good, definitely not one of his best movies though. The visuals are bright and overblown, which could be too much for some people, but I’m at least glad that they went all out instead of just replicating exactly what the animated movie did. The CGI mostly worked, but occasionally it had some really fake looking moments. Whenever it came to the Genie however, the CGI actually worked really well, and complemented Smith’s performance nicely. The editing could be a little off at certain points, especially near the beginning. There’s a chase scene that also had some singing and it was really rough. Thankfully the direction of the singing scenes improved later on. The singing itself was mostly fine, though most of it really sounded like it was autotuned and that really took me out of it.

Aladdin 2019 was pretty decent, although it’s got its issues, it’s entertaining, and Smith, Massoud and Scott worked well in their roles. I’m still not on board with these Disney Animated remakes, and just the very idea of them still feels like soulless cash grabs to me. I will say though, at least with Aladdin, they attempted at changing some aspects to have an ‘updated’ take on the story, even if it doesn’t completely work. If you’re the least bit curious, check it out, but if you’ve hated all of Disney’s live action remakes, then Aladdin isn’t going to change your mind.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Adult Themes
Cast
Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot
Tom Bateman as Bouc
Penélope Cruz as Pilar Estravados
Willem Dafoe as Gerhard
Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff
Johnny Depp as Samuel Ratchett
Josh Gad as Hector MacQueen
Derek Jacobi as Edward Henry Masterman
Leslie Odom Jr. as Dr. Arbuthnot
Michelle Pfeiffer as Caroline Hubbard
Daisy Ridley as Mary Debenham
Marwan Kenzari as Pierre Michel
Olivia Colman as Hildegarde Schmidt
Director: Kenneth Branagh

A lavish trip through Europe quickly unfolds into a race against time to solve a murder aboard a train. Everyone’s a suspect when Detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) arrives to interrogate all passengers and search for clues before the killer can strike again.

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I was curious about Murder on the Orient Express, I had never read the original book or watched any adaptations. It was the cast and crew involved that had me interested, especially with Kenneth Branagh directing and starring. As someone who hasn’t seen any version of the story beforehand, I ended up thoroughly enjoyed Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express. The performances (particularly from Kenneth Branagh) and the direction really make this movie. It does have some issues (particularly with its characters) but its good elements far outweigh the weaker elements overall.

I can’t comment on any similarities and differences between this and the original book or other adaptations, so I’ll just treat it as its own thing. It’s not a flashy typical Hollywood whodunit, it is slower paced and feels restrained. I can see a lot of people getting bored of this movie so if you’re going to see it just know that it is very slow paced. The pacing didn’t bother me personally, it felt just right. I was quite intrigued throughout the whole movie, my attention didn’t waver once. This movie has a surprisingly amount of effective humour, especially from Branagh’s Poirot. One issue that I had is that there is so much going on that at times it is hard to follow. At the end, even though I understood most of what happened, I had to look up the plot to clarify certain things. You have to be paying close attention or you could miss details, I know because I was paying attention and I didn’t pick up all of it. The second problem and probably the biggest problem is the handling of the supporting characters. The supporting characters aren’t developed or fleshed out that well. You might be able to remember some aspect about them (like in terms of the actor or the character’s job) but that’s about it. So when names are being thrown all about by Poirot as he theorises what happened, it’s a little jarring and at times hard to follow what’s going on. Its hard to remember these supporting characters, I can barely remember any of the supporting characters’ names, save for a couple.

This movie has a lot of A list actors but the true star of this movie is Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot. He is a little over the top but it works, Hercule is a quirky and likable character and its basically worth watching the movie for this performance alone. Also he manages to sell that over the top handlebar moustache. We have a large and talented supporting cast with Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Colman, Penelope Cruz, Leslie Odom Jr., Johnny Depp and others. For many of those who have had long careers like Judi Dench and Willem Dafoe, their performances here aren’t going to rank up as one of their best but they play their part well, in fact everyone plays their parts rather well. A stand out to me was Josh Gad, who surprised me, he’s usually known for comedic roles in movies like Frozen and Beauty and the Beast. But here he proves that he is really good in a dramatic role. Even Johnny Depp was good, granted his performance was one of the weaker performances and he doesn’t have a massive amount of screentime. As I said, the actors played their roles well, it’s just that the characters really weren’t that fleshed out that well aside from Hercule. I have no issues about the acting however.

Kenneth Branagh directs the film very well. The cinematography is truly great, it’s beautiful looking. The long takes also help show just how big of scale everything is. It makes use of its locations very well. The editing also was top notch and worked well, especially in the scenes where Poirot is piecing together what happened.

I’m not sure how much you’ll like 2017 Murder on the Orient Express. I think you will at the very least appreciate and enjoy Kenneth Branagh’s performance and his direction. Personally, I really liked it, with the acting (especially from Kenneth Branagh) and the direction and the plot which is mostly done well. There are some aspects that didn’t quite work in terms of some of the characters but for the most part this movie does everything right. Branagh has mentioned that he was interested in doing more films with the character of Poirot and I am completely on board for that. I’d love to see him make a return.

The Mummy (2017) Review

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Contains supernatural themes & violence
Cast:
Tom Cruise as Nick Morton
Annabelle Wallis as Jennifer Halsey
Sofia Boutella as Princess Ahmanet/The Mummy
Jake Johnson as Sergeant Chris Vail
Courtney B. Vance as Colonel Greenway
Marwan Kenzari as Malik
Javier Botet as Set
Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll
Director: Alex Kurtzman

Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) is a soldier of fortune who plunders ancient sites for timeless artefacts and sells them to the highest bidder. When Nick and his partner (Jake Johnson) come under attack in the Middle East, the ensuing battle accidentally unearths Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), a betrayed Egyptian princess who was entombed under the desert for thousands of years. With her powers constantly evolving, Morton must now stop the resurrected monster as she embarks on a furious rampage through the streets of London.

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I had no idea what to expect from The Mummy. It looked entertaining and I was curious about this ‘Dark Universe’ that they are creating, where all of Universal’s monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, Dr Jeykll and Mr Hyde, etc) exist in the same universe. However the movie didn’t look spectacular. Even though a lot of people really didn’t like The Mummy, I saw it out of morbid curiosity, something I’ve been doing a lot recently and once again I was pleasantly surprised. This is by no means a great movie, the writing isn’t the strongest, you’ve seen this type of movie before. But the film is entertaining, and not in a guilty pleasure way, I found the movie very enjoyable and it’s starting to get me on board with this unique universe that they are creating.

This movie is at a good runningtime, 1 hours and 50 minutes. It’s difficult to be bored, it is paced well, it doesn’t linger too long on scenes unnecesarily. This movie does 2 things, the story with The Mummy and also the development of the Dark Universe with this group called Prodigium, led by Russell Crowe’s Dr Henry Jeykll (yes, as in Jeykll and Hyde). I thought both were done well and worked together well. The Mummy storyline did enough to keep me interested, while the Dark Universe universe building got me on board with… whatever Universal are trying to do. Some of the writing does feel rather familiar, and a little cliché but I could get past it. Also, the third act does take a different direction which I really liked, it was a decision that I didn’t expect them to do and I’m even more intrigued to see where this will play in part with the Dark Universe. Tonally this movie isn’t always consistent. I’m not referring to the action and horror aspects, that was surprisingly balanced well. I’m talking about the comedic moments, during a big action scene or an intense horror scene, a joke might suddenly pop up and it often feels out of place. Then again it didn’t help that a lot of the humour wasn’t that good in the first place. Now as for the changes that the movie has made from the original Mummy (the horror movie, not the Brendan Frasier movies), I have no idea what it’s like as I haven’t seen it. It’s probably not very true to the original though, this movie is going on its own direction, and I was actually fine with that.

Tom Cruise is pretty good in this movie. However I do feel like he might’ve been slightly miscast, maybe that’s the writing though. I have the feeling that the character was meant to be a bit darker but either Cruise couldn’t express that (which he could, he’s shown in other films he can) or the writing wasn’t great enough. Russell Crowe is in this movie as Dr Henry Jekyl, he’s a big tie to the other movies in this Dark Universe. While I would’ve like to have seen more of him he was great. And yes, Dr Jeykll does have a Mr Hyde side, and that was so great to see. The supporting actors are fine, Jake Johnson is okay but his character really didn’t need to be in the movie. Annabelle Wallis is good in the movie, however the chemistry between her and Cruise didn’t always work as well as I think the filmmakers wanted it to. Sofia Boutella was great as the Mummy/Ahmanet. Most of the acting is physical and doesn’t have her deliver a lot of lines but she pulls it off excellently. She also does have great chemistry with Cruise.

I’ve not seen anything from director Alex Kurtzman until now, he did a pretty good job with this movie. The CGI isn’t spectacular, you’ve seen it before but it’s solid enough. The action sequences are very entertaining. There wasn’t really anything directionwise that I found particularly wrong with the movie. It’s just that it’s nothing that you haven’t seen before.

The Mummy was a lot better than I expected it to be. I was consistently entertained throughout with the solid direction, Cruise, Boutella and Crowe. The idea of the Dark Universe is still odd to me, it’s still not clear how the movies will tie in together and how much of a role the characters in this movie will play a part in the other movies. Still, The Mummy does enough to get me interested in these future movies, while being pretty decent itself as a movie.