Though a bit slow at the beginning, perhaps because we know the story so well, “Aladdin” is a movie made for the big screen. When Will Smith (Genie/Mariner) enters, that’s when the fun really begins. Smith is as large and developed as a heavyweight and can, of course, do everything and anything the possessor of his “home,” the magic lamp, desires. Aladdin (Mena Massoud) has a good heart and classic handsomeness; we never suspect that he will use the lamp for his own purposes. With the help of a magic carpet and a very funny capuchin monkey named Abu, Aladdin survives various scrapes to return to his Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott).
This is a musical, recalling favorites from the previous version of this film in 1992. That one was the first animated feature to hit the half-billion-dollar mark in income. “You Never Had a Friend Like Me,” “A Whole New World,” and Jasmine’s closing aria, “I Won’t Be Silent,” are the musical highlights, but the color and dramatic camera work in the movie convincingly maintain the flavor of the myth right to the concluding “Bollywood” number as the screen fills with color. You can almost smell the spices of Arabia as the dancers whirl about the stage.
So, you know the story and you know how it ends, but big deal. Just relax and enjoy a trip into film the way it used to be made. It’s quite a trip, even without a magic carpet.
Olivia Wilde makes her directorial debut in this fast-paced, very funny account of the last two days of high school seniors Beanie Feldstein as Molly, the valedictorian of her class, and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy, her best bud and close runner-up for class honors. They may be academically talented, but they have virtually no social sense, so they decide to par-TEE on the last night before graduation.
This is about high school kids, but they are today’s high school kids so their language may be a bit rough for some and they talk a lot—an awful lot—about sex since they know so little about it. Amy is a confirmed but non-experienced lesbian who has her eye on a girl who she thinks is gay. Molly, on the other hand, has her reluctant eye on the captain of everything athletic, Nick (Mason Gooding). The funniest character among funny characters is Gigi (Billy Lourd), who shows up at every party, usually at least half smashed.
At first this film appears to be another version of the high school-targeted films you’ve seen so many times before, but it rapidly morphs into something more and better. Wilde keeps a firm hand on the throttle, keeping the comic pace steady and fast and maximizing the talent of her leads for both comedy and drama. Molly’s mooning over her total opposite, Nick, has great comic moments while Amy’s struggle with her sexual identity is moving. All in all, a very delightful coming-of-age comedy, just right for the season.
The White Crow (R)
This is the fascinating biopic of Rudolf Nureyev’s defection to the West in 1961. Perhaps the most famous dancer of any genre in the world at the time of his defection, Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko) eluded KGB agents with the help of friend Clara Saint (Adéle Exarchopoulos), fiancée of the son of Andre Malraux, the French Minister of Culture at the time. Malraux’s son died along with his brother in a car crash days before Nureyev met Clara. I include this much detail because her relationship with Malraux’s son is a turning point in Nureyev’s escape to the West.
Rudi, as his friends called him, came from low stock through folk dancing to an audition with the Bolshoi School. He preferred the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in St. Petersburg, associated with the Mariinsky Ballet. Its director, Alexander Pushkin (Ralph Fiennes), took an interest in him and took him into his home where Nureyev was seduced by his wife, Xenia (Chulpan Kharmatova).
Tension in the film builds as Rudi becomes careless and goes out with Westerners in Paris during the Kirov Ballet’s performances there. He insults officials and refuses to behave as a good Communist. The photography in the film is fascinating; those periods occurring in the WWII era are filmed in black and white or washed out color while the later days are in full color. This is one of the better dance films I have seen, and it brought back a lot of wonderful memories. If you ever wanted to dance, this is the film to see because you can get a taste of Cold War shenanigans as well. (A “white crow” in Russian tradition is a person who just won’t or can’t fit in.)
Flash some lights, let ‘em flicker
Brandon’s eyes can kill ‘em quicker
Use lots of blood and make it red
So we are sure they all are dead
Wonder why this kid came in a nut
Maybe we can find out from Jabba the Hutt
Answers from this mess of nonsense
We won’t provide to ruin the suspense
Just know that if you spend your money
You should be shut out by your honey
Trash is trash and this is too
I have given my warning to you.