Welcome back! I’m continuing my cinematic tour of 2019 with John Wick: Chapter 3-Parabellum, a small horror film titled Brightburn, and the latest version of Aladdin. Naturally, these movies are very different from each other. They also have completely different strengths and weaknesses. Are any of these films worth seeing in theaters? Considering the price of movie tickets and concessions, that’s an important question. I’ll explain everything below. Happy reading!
I’m starting this post with the third John Wick film. It begins right after the second John Wick movie ended. Our titular antihero is on the run because he was excommunicated from an international league of assassins. That means the High Table placed a huge bounty on his head and the other mercenaries are in hot pursuit. It’s a tremendously violent journey, as expected from the John Wick universe.
This is a highly entertaining movie! I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. The action scenes are phenomenal. Actually, the action scenes are even more impressive in this film than the other John Wick installments. It’s a huge adrenaline rush with brutal violence and really creative kill scenes. The fight choreography is amazing and I can tell Keanu Reeves did many of his own stunts. Every action sequence was shot clearly and effectively with the best view for the audience. Parabellum has some of the best action scenes I’ve ever seen.
The characters also drove this movie forward. Keanu Reeves is the perfect fit for John Wick. He’s dark and troubled, but honorable at the same time. Despite having unnatural fight skills, he’s still oddly relatable somehow. In a way, he’s a star crossed lover who wants to ride into the sunset with his dog. It’s really hard not to root for him. Usually, I don’t think Reeves is a very good actor, but he always gives a killer performance in this role. He’s so calm and yet totally determined. The supporting cast was fine as well, including Halle Berry, Lawrence Fishburne, and others, but Keanu Reeves stole the show. I want give some attention Mark Dacascos as Zero, a rival assassin. He's also quite effective in the action scenes and very funny. I was surprised with his comedic ability.
This movie is also artistic on unexpected levels. It’s hard to explain, but the cinematography and stunt choreography is so complex, intriguing, and beautiful. I’ve never seen this type of situation in blockbuster films. The music also helps the film and general flow. I wouldn’t say it’s the best score, but the music works very well with the action and momentum. The world building is quite nice too. Parabellum covers multiple locations with gorgeous architecture and landscapes. Even the big cities like New York are fantastic in appearance. Watching the hustle and bustle of New York City in the twilight hours is very pretty.
Unfortunately, I have to address a couple flaws. Hardly any movie is perfect. Don’t expect great storytelling in this film. The plot is very thin and it’s simply not the primary focus. It’s just about an exiled mercenary who’s trying to survive. Granted, I don’t expect amazing plots in the John Wick series.
My next point of criticism is also one of the most entertaining parts. John Wick is virtually a superhero and I’m not sure if anyone can kill him. He’s practically bullet proof. You can throw him off a building, stab him, shoot him, and run over him with a car. Somehow, he’ll walk away with only a few bruises. That’s cool, but entirely unrealistic. John Wick is just a human being without enhanced powers. So, it doesn’t make a lot of sense of you think about the situation. But I’m not going to complain too much because it’s a really fun element.
Naturally, I’m going to recommend this film to any fans of action movies. It’s so much fun and very different than most blockbusters. If you like the other John Wick films, Parabellum won’t disappoint you. I doubt this movie is still running on IMAX screens, but that’s the best way to watch it. This wouldn’t be a good viewing for people who can’t handle excessive violence. Parabellum is a lot more brutal than the other John Wick installments.
Now I’m going to cover Brightburn. It’s a little horror film that turns the superhero genre upside down. Brightburn is a deconstruction of the Superman mythos. What if the most powerful superhero decided to terrorize the world instead of saving it? That’s essentially the main plot. A spaceship crash lands in a small town called Brightburn. The vessel contains a seemingly human infant who is quickly rescued by a nearby couple. As the child grows, he becomes increasingly angry, arrogant, and psychotic. Will this child turn around and become a true hero or will he burn down the world? Mankind is in trouble if he takes a dark turn.
Brightburn isn’t a bad film, but I can’t give it a lot of praise. In a way, the movie is exciting, suspenseful, creepy, and a decent adrenaline rush. It has good jump scares and tons of gore. Believe it or not, the gruesome elements work really well. It fits in the film’s tone and adds more entertainment value to the kill scenes.
I'm pretty sure this movie is trying to set up a sequel. I’m actually looking forward to it. The Brightburn universe could add more characters and extra chapters to the overarching story. I’m sure everything will depend on ticket sales, but it could lead to another cinematic universe.
The characters also have great development. I wasn’t particularly impressed with any of the performances, but the characters were well written. A seemingly normal and affectionate family winds up in ruin because their child is a sociopathic being from another planet. It takes a while for him to reach this point too. Brandon Breyer is the super powered being in question and he starts out like a normal child who loves his adoptive parents. Then his alien instincts take over and it’s a heart wrenching journey. It’s a depressing story, but still interesting.
Beyond that, I wasn’t incredibly thrilled. Brightburn is neither good nor bad. I’ve seen similar deconstructions of Superman and all of them are superior to this film. The Red Son comic books and Injustice video games are much better. They’re more developed with better stories and characters. We haven’t seen this type of superhero treatment in cinema before, but it’s not unique in other forms of media. Therefore, Brightburn isn’t unique or special after all.
This film doesn’t have a lot of substance. I realize the horror genre struggles with this problem frequently, but the movie needs to have better storytelling. It barely has a plot at all. Why does Brandon become evil? It vaguely tries to give an explanation, but this boy primarily kills people just because he wants to cause mass destruction. Villains need to have a motivation and I can’t figure it out beyond a violent nature. Brightburn doesn’t explore Brandon's alien race either. It seems like a missed opportunity. This film could have created a fascinating mythology and we don’t get to see it.
Brandon’s mother, played by Elizabeth Banks, makes super annoying decisions. Horror movies are infamous for having characters who make stupid choices. She chooses to ignore everything. Brandon develops jarringly unnatural powers and he appears to be the chief suspect in multiple deaths or disappearances. She just pretends that everything is fine. I realize parents aren’t necessarily objective with their children, but she can’t possibly be that dense. It’s a common cliché in horror films and I find it lame.
You can probably skip this film in theaters. In fact, I doubt most people would want it on Blu-Ray. Give it a shot on Netflix, Hulu, cable, or additional options for home viewing. You might find it creepy and interesting, but I don’t recommend spending money on movie tickets. Despite my lukewarm reception, I'm still looking forward to a sequel. It might be more compelling.
Aladdin is the final movie on this post. It’s a remake of Disney’s animated version, focusing on the titular protagonist who also happens to be a thief on the streets on Agrabah. Aladdin undergoes a long journey where he befriends a magical genie, falls in love with a princess, and combats an evil sorcerer. Throughout his journey, the he learns about the true meaning of friendship and happiness.
This movie is surprisingly excellent! I went in the theater with low expectations because the trailers were disappointing, but the finished product is great. It captures the spirit, aesthetic, entertainment value, and essence of the animated release. Aladdin has spectacle, fun music, amazing characters, and plenty of action. It’s a classic Disney fairytale that’s suitable for the entire family. Guy Ritchie directed the film and I’m not usually thrilled with his work, but this one came together really well. He knows how to shoot grand set pieces with an emphasis on adventure. These skills also come in handy during the musical numbers. Ritchie made some changes, but the movie is still faithful to the source material. Overall, it’s a heartwarming experience that’s a whole lot of fun.
I love several of the characters. Mena Massoud plays Aladdin and I believe he fits the role perfectly. Actually, I like this version of Aladdin much better than the animated one. In the past, Aladdin was never one of my favorite Disney princes, but I warmed up to Massoud’s portrayal. He’s sincere, charming, roguish, and a little bit goofy. I thought he turned out to be a pretty good singer too. Naomi Scott was incredible as Princess Jasmine, Aladdin’s love interest. She has better character development and many contemporary elements in this film. Scott’s performance is feisty, genuine, elegant, and very progressive. Unlike Aladdin, Jasmine was always one of my childhood favorites. My viewing was a nostalgic experience and the new elements work well. Scott is also an exceptional singer. The vocals tend to be some of the weaker elements in these Disney remakes, but she’s legit. Some of you might be worried about Will Smith playing the Genie, but he’s awesome. He’s a fun and charismatic version of the character. Smith isn’t giving a recreation of Robin Williams’ performance. This version of the Genie is completely unique and suitable for his talent. I like him both in human form and the floating, blue giant. The CGI companions are also enjoyable, including Abu the monkey, Rajah the tiger, and the magic carpet.
I’m going to address some technical elements. Most of the visuals effects are terrific with the exception of the green screen. All of the major VFX look clean and magical, but the green screen effects are super obvious. We can’t have a live action version of Aladdin without grand visual effects and it really elevated the viewing experience. I also feel impressed with the production design and costumes. Everything comes together with the right context. Somehow, the production design and costumes looked awful in the trailers, but they're fabulous on the big screen. The music is wonderful as well. It’s kind of like cheating because the music was taken from the animated film, but it still counts. The pacing is really good too. It’s much longer than the animated film, but the story doesn’t feel slow at all. Everything moves at a comfortable and brisk pace.
I don’t have many complaints, but a couple of things are worth mentioning. Marwen Kenzari plays Jafar, the Sultan’s Vizier and the movie’s antagonist. He’s a very weak interpretation of the character. This version of Jafar is unusually young, sneaky, and conniving. It didn’t work for me. He comes across as whiny, jealous, and unintimidating. I have no idea why they casted someone who was so young. He couldn’t be experienced enough to be a Grand Vizier. The animated version of Jafar was sinister, Machiavellian, evil, and a little bit scary at times. I didn’t notice any of those elements from Kenzari’s portrayal. However, I don’t believe it’s his fault. That was probably Guy Ritchie’s idea. Jafar’s parrot, Iago, isn’t great either. He’s just a regular parrot who says a few lines.
I’ll mention one negative comment about the music. Will Smith isn’t a particularly good singer. He’s definitely the weakest of the main trio. Granted, it didn’t bother me very much. He’s a fantastic Genie and his musical numbers don’t require the most masterful performances. Will Smith has enough personality and charisma to make up for his weaker singing abilities.
The marketing team deserves to be fired. After the first full length trailer was released, I was shaking because it was so awful. Aladdin was a special film during my childhood and I was afraid the live action remake was going to be a catastrophe. Apparently, the trailers had no reflection on the overall product. Thank goodness! I don’t know why it happened, but everything looked really bad in the trailers, such as the VFX, acting, costumes, music, and production design. Don't let the marketing material scare you away. The movie was just fine.
Should you see the remake of Aladdin in theaters? Definitely yes! It’s a great experience and solid fun. Naturally, it’s not a good viewing for people who hate musicals. But in general, mainstream audiences should have an enjoyable time.
Thanks a lot for reading my reviews of three summer movies. Have you seen any of these films yet? If the answer is yes, what did you think? Keep checking for more posts about movies, games, steampunk, writing, sports, and other topics. Remember, you can always find something cool and interesting here. Take care and enjoy your night at the movies. Bye!
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