On DVD & Blu-Ray: September 10, 2019

I know it's beyond cliché to begin ones film review with a quote from the film you're reviewing, but the 2019 live action re-make of Aladdin was also the last place I expected to find a quote that was compelling enough to open said review with. While, at this point, I guess I won't technically be "opening" the review with the quote...it's close enough. "The more you gain by pretending, the less you actually have," is the quote in question by the way. As this is said by Will Smith's much discussed and often much maligned interpretation of the Genie it immediately became more evident that not only was this new iteration of Aladdin not completely tone deaf to the world in which it exists, but that it also works as something of a meta-commentary on how these live-action versions of these classic animated stories work or not depending on how much of a creative endeavor they are in and of themselves. The Jungle Book, for example, shouldn't have worked because the story was as thin as a wafer and the original was more or less a series of musical numbers, but by default of digging more into Kipling's narrative and creating this immersive environment with photo-realistic characters the film came to feel like something of an endeavor worth rewarding even if the final product wasn't as exceptional as the individual parts would lead one to believe. This is also why Beauty and the Beast didn't work and why Cinderella lands somewhere in the middle of the pack. Alice in Wonderland is the exception given that one had much the same level of investment as Jungle Book, but for one reason or another-didn't work. Guy Ritchie's Aladdin only plays pretend for long enough that it warms the audience up to the idea of this new version before beginning to carve its own path and therefore making it its own thing-peaking its head out from under the legacy of the original. In other words, it doesn't gain its credibility by being a carbon copy and therefore amounting to nothing more than a flash in the pan money-maker, but there's surprisingly enough here to give 2019's Aladdin strong enough legs to stand on its own; actually having a fair amount to offer. I'm as surprised as the next person about this revelation given the trailers and TV spots were more indicative of a train wreck than a triumph and while Ritchie's film isn't necessarily a triumph in the boldest sense of the word it is a triumph in the sense that it made this 90's-raised thirty-something dude who viewed the original animated film as something of the holy grail of animated films appreciate this new movie not just as an entertaining distraction that honored the original, but as an entertaining endeavor that both honors the original and finds new purpose in its own existence. Full review here. Video review here. B-

It's been five years in real time, but in the life of John Wick (the entirely endearing Keanu Reeves) the man has had one hell of a month - if that. From losing his wife to losing the puppy his wife bought him to killing the son of the mob boss that killed his dog and stole his car leading him back into a life he only thought he'd left behind. In this ill-fated scenario, Mr. Wick found himself dealing with more and more repercussions of his actions to the point that at the end of the second film he was so filled with rage that he would seemingly never be able to forgive anyone who dared cross him again...much less himself for having allowed his life to slip back into these old routines. So filled with rage, in fact, that he broke the only rules he'd ever had to follow thus forcing the hand of his powerful friend, Winston (Ian McShane), the owner of the grounds on which Wick had broken said rules of the league of extraordinary assassins that he was assigned the label of "excommunicado" therefore placing a $14 million price tag on his head and an army of bounty-hunting killers on his trail. These are the kinds of things that happen when one kills a member of a shadowy international assassin's guild though, not to mention a member who was seated at what is referred to as the "High Table". John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum begins with the stakes as high as they've ever been-even Wick's closest friends are unable to look past the bounty in order to give this broken man another chance. It is in this scenario and current mental state the character inhabits that make it fairly critical to have seen the previous films in director Chad Stehelski's now trilogy of films. Parabellum kind of assumes we're present in the theater because we're already invested in the character and then moves forward with such a momentum that there's little time to catch-up if you're not already in it. That said, the pacing is not just an excuse to continually grow the breakneck speed of the action as well as the scope, but is more a stylistic choice that every function of the script adheres to and if the John Wick trilogy has done one thing consistently it's adhere to stylistic choices. As the series has progressed more layers have been added, but never have these brought the story, character development, or action beats down. Rather, each of these elements necessary to making a feature motion picture are held to the same standards the action is. That isn't to say the dialogue is as Shakespearian as the action, but does it function so as to effectively elicit the intended visceral reaction of the audience? Damn straight. Full review here. Video review here. A-

Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die is just weird enough that everyone will think it's funny.

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