Tag Archives: exploitation films

September 2019 Book, TV, and Film Roundup

As October is welcomed with its sweet rainy weather, I cozied up at home drinking coffee and watching films. Hence, this roundup is a longer one. Before you get reading, I just want to mention that I may have to stop writing the roundups for the next few months. I am getting closer to my highly anticipated graduation and things have been busy in a nice way. I will, however, keep writing reviews for individual intermedia products that I like.

If you like reading posts like this one, consider getting me a coffee here. I write a lot faster with caffeine.

The Shelf

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Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985) by Neil Postman

I have read snippets of Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death numerous times for classes throughout the university. I never had the chance to read the full book until I came across it in a second-hand bookstore this summer. It is a foundational book from Postman, the media theorist, and educator, that takes both Orwell and Huxley’s predictions about the techno-future and shows them under a clear lens for our eyes.

Part I sets up the importance of epistemology; in other words, the information about how media come to our lives is just as important as how we engage with it. There is invaluable information about the history of typography here. Postman wants to make sure we know the difference between how things were, and how things are. While we retained important information then, we get trivial knowledge that is worthy of a few quick seconds now. Hence, the news does not mean anything; people die on TV, and we get over it. In Part II, Postman digs deeper into the social components of our lives and how they are represented on TV. He talks about religious shows that are drained out of their spirituality to entertain a wider audience and keep their attention for long periods, too. He, then, talks about politicians as actors on TV and strongly despises it. He argues, TV strips the political content out of its history and ideology. Lastly, he argues that TV as an education gadget cannot work simply because it lacks interaction. When education becomes an entertainment toy, it stops educating.

In the final chapter, Postman decides it is time we stop flipping the pages and gives us the answer to the following question: Who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements? He does not suggest we eliminate TVs altogether, but de-mythologize them, break them apart and be aware of their purpose as the amusement objects that they are. This book is one that needs to be read a few times because of its information-heavy nature. It is, in fact, a holy book for anyone interested in media.

The Small Screen

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Great News (2017-2018)

This is a very sweet, sweet sitcom that I came to love. I eventually clicked play simply because I was hoping to get a somewhat realistic look into a newsroom setting. I did not binge-watch the whole thing at one sit, but I could easily see myself doing that, too. The story seems to be about Katie but truly, it is about her relationship with her mother (Carol). Carol decides it is time for her to follow her dreams and starts going to journalism school while interning at the newsroom. The series tackles the workplace dynamics, power structure, and also the patterns of Katie and Carol’s mother-daughter relationship and how this looks within a workplace setting.

Season One mainly deals with Katie’s dilemma about having her mom around. We get to know all of the characters and decide who we like and who we probably won’t within the coming seasons. It is set up very well. On the other hand, what drives the story of Great News is the mother-daughter relationship, which actually may choke you up quite a lot (especially in the first season). In season two, we realize that Katie may have a love interest: Greg, the British producer. With that, there are numerous awkward scenes and anticipation that one of them will open up. Another bonus in season two is the guest appearance of the brilliant Tina Fey. Let me stop before I give too much away– in summary, this is a cute show to cheer you up but you may be sad to know that it is not cleared for another season with Netflix.

The Big Screen

 

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Rambo: Last Blood (2019)

With its significantly larger budget of $50 million, Rambo could not attract enough viewers to fill the theatre seats (Box Office $60.3M). The question of whether Sylvester Stallone will retire from playing Rambo flew around for years. However, the vague interest wasn’t enough to find Rambo appealing once he was out of the war zone, as seen in Last Blood.

Why was Rambo simply bad? The legendary Stallone’s acting was not enough to hold a poor screenplay together. The screenplay of the fifth Rambo film has been a hot topic of Stallone’s interviews in 2018. Morrell and Stallone previously worked together on a soulful story for this last journey. Little did they know that the producers would prefer going with the version we saw on screen today. Hence, the human trafficking plot resulted in Stallone announcing his retirement from playing Rambo. You can read more about Morrel’s interview on the topic here. Continue reading

Disney’s Live-Action Aladdin: If it wasn’t for the Genie…

Copyrights: Disney Studios.

With its agenda focused on the live-action reenactments of its all-time classic films, Disney’s Aladdin followed the recent Beauty and the Beast and Dumbo films to find its spot in the local theatres. Anyone who watched the animated Aladdin would agree that it is a risky choice for a live action adaptation. The 1992 Alaaddin was the greatest dance of colors a screen could ever house in itself. During the Disney renaissance, Aladdin was the film that made the second highest profits for Disney.

There are some things that need to stay in their initial artforms to meet up and play with our imaginations. 1992 Aladdin will always be one of those films for me. For this very reason, I had low expectations from this remake. I have more than a few comments to make. So, let’s start, shall we?

The Good
The scene in the cave that built up to Aladdin‘s iconic encounter with the Genie was spectacular. Yes, we have the green-screen technology here in 2019, but not one ever granted me a time travel with the green screen before. The particular scene was a favorite of mine. It also marked the point in which Will Smith (or “the genie”) took the reins of the film and started dominating the screen, leading us through the mystical possibilities with a sense of humor.

I have to admit, I never really liked Will Smith’s acting choices. The guy is talented, but his films never really spoke to me. Alaaddin, though, is the proof that you can put Will Smith, an animated monkey, and a carpet together, and keep a crowd entertained. He often outplayed the rest of the actors (not— Menna Massoud*) and erased them off of the screen for me. Production-wise, this is bad, but Smith surely deserves praise. It is not his fault that the casting didn’t work out the best, right?

*I have never watched Menna Massoud in any other productions. To me, he did not lead the film, but he seems to be a promising actor. While I could see many of the characters easily replaced by someone new, Massoud’s energy and visuals brought the animated Aladdin to life. If there is ever a sequel, Massoud’s portrayal holds a promise to be iconic.

The Bad
Both the accents and non-accents made me cringe. Why is it that the two lead characters have smooth accents? Why is it that the rest of the cast is speaking with unnoticeably noticeable accents that just hang in the air? I am confused. I am also not sure if this is a move by the production team to make the exotic film somewhat politically correct, or they were simply scared of criticism. What do I think? Time for a reality check. This is obviously an ethnic story re-made for profits. You can’t walk away from criticism and you obviously will offend people. So, make a choice and stand with it.

I adore the original Aladdin soundtrack. My long-time musical theatre experience often makes me give mediocre reviews for the on-screen musical adaptations. I can’t say I adore the re-make soundtrack, I can’t say I hate it. It is okay, which sounds like an insult to such great music. This is mainly because of Naomi Scott and the ensemble, that really failed to thrill me as I had hoped. Disney films, to me, are made complete by the ensemble in every way. Sadly, I did not see or hear it in Aladdin.

Let’s get to Jasmine’s solo. It finally revealed the complexity of Jasmine’s powerful character. The song was beautiful, but I couldn’t help but wonder whether Celine Dion was singing it. Seriously, close your eyes and tell me I am wrong. It did not nor will it ever fit into the classic soundtrack. It is a great attempt at girl empowerment but absolutely fails to represent the Middle Eastern roots of Aladdin.

The Ugly
There are different opinions about the origin of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp’s story, but the common knowledge is that it is from the Arabian Nights. It was painful for me to see this identity crisis throughout the film. The ruler is the sultan, there are notions to the Arabic serai (or palace) regime, and it greatly reminds me of the prime time Middle Eastern tv shows about the Ottoman Empire. And on the other hand, I could swear the costumes and cinematic angle of the happy dancing is out of Bollywood. The intention seems to be directed towards inclusivity. Sadly, my eyes I couldn’t see that. I saw a mish-mash of different cultural figures put together, and it was chaotic.

Should you see Aladdin? Absolutely. Set your expectations low, but as Aladdin says, trust him—and the genie, of course.