Let’s Hope Disney’s “Hercules” Remake isn’t Another “Aladdin”


Disney’s remake library is about to get just a little bit bigger with the news of the live-action remake of their 1997 animated hit, Hercules. Hercules and Aladdin just so happen to be two of the most well-received movies from the 1990s’ Disney Studios renaissance. 2019’s Aladdin was a disappointing remake. Though it did fine at the box office, it was panned by critics, received a 57% on Rotten Tomatoes (as opposed to the original’s 95%) and understandably stirred controversy online for not addressing the harmful Arab representation of the first one. So if Disney wants to avoid another Aladdin situation, what are the pitfalls they can avoid with Hercules?


Changing the tonal nature of the movie.

1992’s Aladdin and 1997’s Hercules shared a similar light-hearted tone and colorful animation.

ALADDIN

With Guy Ritchie at the helm, the 2019 Aladdin created kaleidoscopic chase scenes with dynamic camera movements. Though stylistically interesting, the cinematography and quick edits did not fit with the family friendly, fairy tale-esque tone of a starry-eyed Disney movie. Though a Guy Ritchie trademark, the chase sequences and action packed moments did not fit. Aladdin should not resemble Sherlock Holmes or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Instead, it should adopt the whimsical, soft light and wonder-filled tone of a kids movie. Trying to clumsily incorporate two different tones will dilute the quality of both. Though 2019 Aladdin tried to inject as much color as its original, it still felt as if it were tinted with a cold, bluish filter, therefore making the magical elements (Magic Carpet, Genie, etc..) seem more computerized and less whimsical.

HERCULES

Hercules has an analogous child-like innocence to it. A simple and strong story added to a colorful animation to create its tone. By using vibrant colors for the Gods and darker gradations for the underworld, we got another element of visual storytelling.

The Pitfall: turning it into a Beowulf -type greyscale gritty remake and veering too far away from the warm and friendly tone of the original.


Trying to Recapture the Magical Performance of the Original.

One of the biggest similarities between both animated versions is an incomparable voice performance.

ALADDIN

For Aladdin, that was obviously the Genie. No would could ever churn out a performance with more comedic ability, energy and stream of consciousness improvisation than Robin Williams. That was unmatchable voice work. Though a valiant effort, even veteran voice actor Dan Castellaneta (who plays none other than Homer Simpson on The Simpsons) voiced the Genie on the animated remakes, which were not as well received.

In the 2019 version, Will Smith did the best he could, but he tried too much to be like Robin Williams, the larger-than-life, pop culture referencing comedian who talks a mile a minute. What that did was only remind the audience that he was not Robin Williams. It was too similar of an interpretation of the Genie and so Will Smith had the misfortune of having an insurmountable task: trying to replicate -or worse- improve upon Robin Williams’ performance. Will Smith is a good actor so he muddled through, but asking him, or any actor, to operate and think like Williams is an impossible demand.

HERCULES

James Woods’ “Hades” tour de force performance is uniquely brilliant. His wit, dry, deadpan delivery only elevates the movie and crystallizes the drama and three dimensional villainy of the character.

The Pitfall: to have someone try and mimic the original performance. Whoever they pick would have to differ from that characterization of “Hades”. By doing that, the potential actor would make Hades their own, and mount a unique perspective on the troubled villain of the movie. Also, while a good voice actor, please don’t cast James Woods again.


Leaning on the Source Material

Both of the original movies were based on old literary tales.

Tales from 1,001 Nights by Anonymous: 9780241382714 ...

ALADDIN

It’s hard to place exactly where Aladdin occurs because the literary source material is itself controversial. Disney set both of their Aladdin movies in the fictional and vaguely Syrian city of Agrabah. Most of what we know of Aladdin is not from Scheherazade, but from Antoine Galland’s french translation of 1001 Nights in the 18th Century (whom he transcribed from a Syrian storyteller). In that version, Aladdin is actually Chinese. This taps into a tragically Orientalistic retelling of Aladdin. For those who are unfamiliar, orientalism is the practice of augmenting a culture’s exoticism and has its roots in colonial era-xenophobia. Simply put, Western or European writers (in this case, Galland) mystify a culture in order to sell it to European markets and gain from the East meets West confusion by portraying the East as a backwards, mysterious and homogenous culture (aka, the “Orient”). Disney capitalized on this Orientalism by borrowing from Indian architecture (the sultan’s palace is a replication of the Taj Mahal), Middle Eastern culture, and by leaning into exoticism and mystery.

HERCULES

Hercules is, of course, based off of Greco-Roman mythology. The 1997 movie transposed some elements to current day. Thebes became a foil for New York and Danny Devito’s character borrowed more from a “New Yorker” stereotype. He was a sarcastic know-it-all: hardly an ancient Greek stock character. That being said, the actual plot of the film was a pretty good synthesis of the Greek mythology, but with a few modern twists and turns.

The Pitfall: Making it too historical or too modern. The original balanced between both pretty well, which is the reason for its relatability and success. Though it doesn’t have as many historical and socio-political ramifications as Aladdin did, it should nonetheless try to capture Ancient Greece better than a Hollywood blockbuster like Troy.


Those are the potential pitfalls to avoid, I wish Disney and all the filmmakers, cast & crew the best of luck on the Hercules remake.

Rom-Coms From Around the World


…and where to stream them

Could you use some lighthearted romance in your life? Then you are in the right place! Here are some films that’ll make you fall in love with love, again .

Much like the Comedies From Around the World list, below is a selection of diverse romantic comedies from different countries. I’ve tried to pick iconic movies that give an introductory taste of each country’s culture, sense of humor and outlook on love. This is only just a beginning.

Let’s start this international romantic comedy festival (straight from your home)!

Germany

The Break Up Man (2013)

(Original title: Schlussmacher)

Milan Peschel as “Toto” on the left and Matthias Schweighöfer as Paul on the right

So-called “relationship expert” Paul professionally breaks up couples and thinks he knows-it-all when it comes to love, until he gets dumped. He befriends a client (a “breakup-ee”) who gives him a new lease on life and outlook on romantic love. Though Germany is not a country typically associated with romance or comedy, it is a disservice (and quite reductive) to think in those terms, as this little gem proves. 

Available to buy on: Amazon


Italy

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963)

(Original Title — Ieri, oggi, domani)

Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren

Two titans of Italian cinema, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, team up with legendary neorealist director, Vittorio De Sica, for this three-in-one comedy about romance. Cut into three short stories, with each showing couples in different parts of Italy. It also happens to have won the Academy Award for best Foreign Language Film in 1964.

Available to rent or buy on: Amazon Prime, Vudu


Japan

Shall we dance (1996)

(Original Title — Shall we ダンス?)

Kōji Yakusho as Shohei on the left and Tamiyo Kusakari as Mai on the right

Before its famous remake with J.Lo and Richard Gere; Shall we Dance? was first a Japanese film about a mild mannered salary man who learns how to ballroom dance and, by extension, learns how to lead to more fulfilling life. Wonderfully acted with a lot of funny and endearing moments watching men learn the values of dance and its steps. A cute and entertaining movie!

Available to stream on: Youtube


India

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013)

(ये जवानी है दीवानी)

Deepika Padukone as Naina on the left and Ranbir Kapoor as “Bunny” on the right

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani focuses on the wealth of discoveries life can bring. Naina and Bunny meet at two different part of their lives and decide just how they want to define their love, their futures and which dreams to fulfill. This is a joyous film, with colorful sequences depicting the Indian holiday of Holi and it contains fun dance numbers, too!

Available to stream on: Amazon Prime

Available to rent or buy on: Youtube, Google Play, iTunes


Nigeria

Isoken (2017)

Isoken (center) and her two husband options

After being nagged by her family for not having a husband despite being the oldest sister at the ripe old age of 34 (*gasp*) Isoken’s societal pressures to get married start to fade away as two potential suitors come into her life. The pressure, now, is to choose: which one will she marry? A light-hearted Nollywood (Nigerian Hollywood) romantic comedy with colorful cinematography, costume design and female-driven humor.

Available to stream on: Netflix

Available to rent or buy on: Amazon Prime


France

Romantics Anonymous (2010)

(Original Title — Les Émotifs Anonymes)

Benoît Poelvoorde as Jean René on the left and Isabelle Carré as Angélique on the right

Romantics Anonymous is a charming film that gently celebrates the often overlooked people in romantic comedies: the painfully shy. Set in a cutesy and colorful chocolate factory, Jean René and Angélique navigate their way through their emotions and their budding office romance. This movie was written and directed by someone who’s been part of the real-life Emotions Anonymous, so it offers a more sincere and compassionate look at dating while dealing with a fear of intimacy.

Available to stream on: Tubi, Vudu

Available to rent or buy on: iTunes, Amazon Prime


Argentina

Sidewalls (2011)

(Original Title — Medianeras)

The ultimate romantic comedy set-up: two people who are supposed to be together but always miss each other. Think Serendipity but with heartbroken, artistic and neurotic leads. Sidewalls is grounded in reality with wistful, at times whimsical, tonal approach. The beautiful Buenos Aires cityscapes are just a bonus! 

Available to stream on: Hulu

Available to rent or buy on: Youtube, Google Play


Brazil

The Way He Looks (2014)

(Original Title — Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho)

This queer coming-of-age movie follows Léo, a blind teenager who (along with his best friend Giovana) is convinced that he will never find love. Things change with the arrival of new kid, Gabriel. This movie gives a tender, intimate and honest portrait of teenage-hood and of first love. A must!https://filmreviewsblogfood.wordpress.com/media/b3cf5cce2b8e53c9a59875287fb525e0

Available to rent or buy on: Amazon Prime, Vudu, Google Play, Youtube


USA

Lars and The Real Girl (2007)

Bianca and Lars (Ryan Gosling)

Whatever preconceived notions you have of Hollywood romantic comedies can be left at the door for Lars and The Real Girl. This offbeat and heartwarming story follows socially inept Lars, as he decides to dip his toe into the overwhelming world of dating by starting a relationship with “real girl” (doll) Bianca. Ryan Gosling delivers a sweet and endearing performance and this indie darling demonstrates an empathetic, original and thoughtful look at love.

Available to buy or rent on: Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google Play, iTunes


So ends this international romantic comedies list. Enjoy some easygoing cinema with any one of these movies!

Article (written by me) also published in Incluvie’s Medium Page.

LATE NIGHT REVIEW

As Mindy Kaling ventures into her first feature film, her character, Molly, discovers what it’s like to work for Late Night TV.

One thing that Mindy Kaling knows by now- its how TV works. And writers’ rooms. The writers room she depicts in Late Night is that of a boys club, JUST funny enough, usually assholes, and one thing is abundantly clear: they are lazy.

Her character Molly, on the other hand, is new to the TV world. She doesn’t know any of those things yet. We experience the discovery alongside Molly and empathize with her newness, her work taken for granted, and her efforts to fit in.

When she first walks in, everybody asks her to get coffee not thinking she could be a writer. And then she literally doesn’t have anywhere to sit for her first writer’s meeting (she comically ends up using a trash can). These jokes would’ve fell flat if not for Mindy Kaling’s performance. Another example of a cliched instanced is when Molly comes to work at the studio for the first time, all starry eyed, starting to relish in her new life.. only to be hit with trash a second later. But, Kaling’s execution makes this joke work.

After having her own two-person show and writing on The Office and then creating and writing The Mindy Project, Mindy Kaling has proven she can write just as well as she acts. Never ending with ideas and possessing the tenacity of having her voice heard, she is much like her character in this movie. Which brings us to all the other…

CHARACTERS

Katherine Newbury: Molly’s boss and the late night talk show host. Emma Thompson is a brilliant actor. She brings the words to life and goes back and forth between cruelty and vulnerability with such ease. Unfortunately, some things go over rather quickly for this character (her depression isn’t much explored, neither the reason behind her part-time cruelty).

Walter : John Lithgow plays Katherine’s husband and seems like her rock. It appears he was a piano player of once great fame who now has Parkinson’s and stays indoors at all times. That doesn’t stop him from being one of the most likable characters in the whole movie (certainly THE most likable man), brimming with insight and support.

Tom: Some of the character arcs for the fellow writers are a bit small, see: inexistent. The biggest arc seems to come from Tom, the head monologue writer (pictured below). He starts off not accepting Molly as an actual writer, then he starts to see some of her jokes may have value or insight and by the end he’s pushing her to stay in TV writing.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!

There is a brief romantic interest with Charlie (played by Hugh Dancy in an American accent.) He is one of the writers that doesn’t seem to have much of an arc – instead taking on the role of the workplace playboy. He flirts with Molly which leads to a confusing conclusion (did they sleep together? will this affect their professional relationship? etc..) and we find out later he had an affair with the show host.

AGEISM, SEXISM & DIVERSITY

This film must take place in an alternate universe, because a WOMAN is a late night tv host who’s been on the air for 30 years. A lifelong late night host, also a woman. Crazy, I know. Which is why this is a work of fiction, sadly.

Within this world, however, it seems there’s still instances of ageism, sexism and lack of diversity. The studio exec (played by fellow The Office alum, Amy Ryan) wants to give Mrs. Newberry the boot, claiming low ratings to make way for a young brash comedian- in touch with the kids.

There was one part of the movie that had an interesting take on the sexism that comes from an extra-marital affair. The secret that Katherine Newberry had an affair leaks out which means she is en-route to losing her show. In contrast, in David Letterman’s similar real life experience, it seemed his show was never in jeopardy. This part of the movie raises the question about our society’s different faithfulness standards and if it seems to be more understanding towards men in that regard.

Otherwise, the sexism and diversity issue are mostly highlighted through Molly’s experience. Not only is she the only female writer but also the only writer who’s a POC.

“I’d rather be a diversity hire than a nepotism hire.”

Finally, the message of this film is that diversity is good for everyone, a win-win that can only cast a wider net of audience members. This is shown with the filmed segments “Katherine Newbury: White Savior” that boost the show’s ratings, and in the final scene where we see the writers room full of faces of different race and color.

Though Late Night takes on more serious topics for a comedy, it does so in a straightforward and pleasing way. Making it a very watchable comedy with some reality check behind it.

Worth it for: Emma Thompson, John Lithgow’s sweet character, and of course, Mindy Kaling.

This movie, although predictable, has charming moments and actors. – ⭐⭐⭐

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