Ready for Rent: "John Wick 3," "Aladdin"
Pick of the Week: "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum"
I love these "John Wick" movies because they're all so good at what they're doing - delivering over-the-top stylized action to make your jaw hang open, all with a knowing wink to the audience about how ridiculous it all is.
Keanu Reeves has mastered this deadpan delivery along with his fight skills, and in "John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum," he pushes himself even further on the action front with more of an emphasis on hand-to-hand combat that's really impressive.
Picking up right after the end of "Chapter 2," we follow Wick on the run as an entire underworld of assassins is trying to kill him for a 14 million dollar bounty. He turns to help from an old friend and former assassin, played by Halle Berry.
The story in this one meanders a bit more - literally getting lost in the desert at one point - but it expands on this underworld nicely. There's some outstanding action, especially one sequence featuring dogs that is a delight. Other fight scenes do go a bit too long especially in the final third, feeling repetitive. But they never fail to impress.
These are essentially bloodthirsty dances - and the movie even makes that comparison explicitly. I definitely prefer Chapter 2 to this new one, but Reeves and company appear to be promising more, and I'm already there for it.
Also out: "Aladdin"
The new "Aladdin" sure isn't good. Okay, it's not abysmal like we feared, but we're not grading on a curve here. It's bad. And what's most disappointing is there's an entire generation of kids where this will be their first exposure to "Aladdin" because Disney has made it so hard to find the 1992 classic - locked up in its stupid vault.
Some may argue that this new movie should be judged on its own merits and not compared too much to the Disney animated classic. But that's impossible to do that when the new movie invites the comparisons with what is essentially a scene for scene remake - complete with the classic songs and key bits of dialogue.
But let's say some nice things. Despite the horrendous CGI, Will Smith is OK as the Genie when he's not being asked to be Robin Williams' brand of goofy and just allowed make the role his own thing.
Disney may have also found a star in Naomi Scott as Jasmine - she positively radiates. And the writers give Jasmine more of a stake in the proceedings - a more modern female character with ambition. Scott and Smith also pick up the slack for a wooden Mena Massoud as Aladdin.
Despite the few bright spots, this is a creatively bankrupt movie. None of the new songs are keepers, and the performances of the classics just remind you how much better they were in the animated version.
Even with a reported budget north of 180 million, the sets look flimsy, costumes off Broadway quality, and the special effects not remotely realistic. It costs a lot to look so cheap. But nostalgia is a powerful thing, and for Disney, it's paying off.