I HAD NOT THOUGHT OF HER for some years. She was a friend of a friend of mine; so, we would occasionally see each other at gatherings. Her appearance was always kept to a high fashion level, from shoes to jackets; she did not come out and say where she shopped, but many of her clothes would tell you by the logo or label that was prominently displayed. My conversations with her were kept to light pleasantries. I never knew until later that she had been conducting research on me. In fact, I found out she would always investigate any new men who came into this circle of friends. And by research, I mean she would find out the men’s occupation, marital status, living situation and several other key factors that would determine if they were worthy of her dating them. The thing that I found the most appalling was her use of her employer’s resources to investigate the credit worthiness of these men. She would pull reports that would show a history of the guy’s finances and FICO scores. I could not believe it when I heard about it; she was not looking for love, she was looking for a large bank account as far as I could tell. SHE WAS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF a greedy person. All she was looking for was someone who could fund her whims and purchases, in my opinion. The reason I thought of her after all this time was due to seeing this movie. The story it is based on is a classic one, Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. When I first heard this story, the phrase “open sesame,” became part of my vocabulary. What little boy did not want to have the power to open things just by uttering those two words? However, it was this story where I learned about greed. From reading the story, I later noticed there were several movies that had the same message. The Thief of Bagdad, Arabian Nights and Aladdin’s Magic Lamp to name a few, besides television shows such as Scooby-Doo! In Arabian Nights or the opera Ali Baba; over many decades the public has been exposed to this classic story. Now comes along this live version of the animated film from 1992 and again I get the chance to see what greed can do to people; however, I do not think what I saw was what the movie studio intended to show us. FROM A CHANCE MEETING OUT ON the streets, a poor street urchin gets the chance to make his wishes come true. However, he is not the only one. This adventure comedy presented an updated version of the tale. Starring Will Smith (I Am Legend, Wild Wild West) as Genie, Mena Massed (Run This Town, Let’s Rap) as Aladdin, Naomi Scott (The 33, Power Rangers) as Jasmine, Marwan Kenzari (Ben-Hur, Murder on the Orient Express) as Jafar and Navid Negahban (12 Strong, Charlie Wilson’s War) as Sultan; this now is my 3rd time seeing this version of the story, having seen the original animated film and the live theater production. If you have never seen any of these then you might enjoy this family film more than I did. I knew Will would have a hard time doing a performance that would be as memorable as Robin Williams’ take on the Genie, and sure enough it was just okay overall. Aladdin’s singing voice was not that good to me and I did not find any chemistry between him and Jasmine. The special effects were nothing special; to be perfectly honest, I was underwhelmed by this picture. All I could think of was the movie studio’s greed allowed this film to come to fruition.
2 ¼ stars
LOOKING at him there was nothing that distinguished him differently from anyone else. The only thing one could say about him was his height; he was one of the tallest boys in the neighborhood. He was a friend of mine who lived across the street from me. What did make him stand out from everyone else in the neighborhood was his name. No one had a name even remotely close to his or anyone else in his family. Their last name as well as some of his siblings’ first names had so many syllables. As far as I knew no one really cared that they had unusual names compared to the rest of us in school. I remember at some point being told by him that his family was Armenian. It sounded so exotic and far away compared to the rest of the families on the block. This bit of information was treated more like a footnote; all it meant to our circle of friends was his family had traveled halfway across the world from a place none of us had ever heard about before. THROUGHOUT my schooling; I am talking elementary, high school and college; I cannot recall ever hearing or having a discussion about the historical events that were depicted in this dramatic movie. I do remember the events that led up to World War I started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. With World War II a prominent part of its history was the systematic extermination of people based on their faith, heritage, sexual orientation, among other distinctions. Regarding the First World War, I cannot recall part of its story involving a particular group of people targeted for elimination. Sitting through this film a part of me was shocked by the action taking place in several scenes. Not because it was especially graphic, gratefully it was not, but due to the historical significance that somehow was missing from my education. The story in this picture was something larger than what I had imagined. MEDICAL student Mikael Boghosian, played by Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), always wanted to be a doctor. The Ottoman Empire had other plans for the Armenian man. This film festival winning movie also starred Charlotte Le Bon (The Walk, The Hundred-Foot Journey) as Ana Khesarian, Christian Bale (The Fighter, The Big Short) as Chris Myers, Shohreh Aghdashloo (Rosewater, The Story of Soraya M.) as Marta Boghosian and Marwan Kenzari (Ben-Hur, Loft) as Emre Ogan. Oscar who I think is a gifted actor did not disappoint in this movie; however, Christian Bale was miscast. His role not only did not offer him much to work with, but was more involved with the 2nd story line that I found did not belong in this film. The culprit for this film not reaching full potential was the script. I get the idea studios believe a story needs a love interest, but the whole love triangle scenario in this story was a distraction. There were so many opportunities to mine dramatic intensity that instead was passed over to focus back on the relationship between the three main stars. It was sad because based on what I saw this picture really could have been memorable. After the film was over I had to stay seated and think about how extraordinary it was for my friend and his family to have been living across the street from me.
2 1/3 stars