Based on the Arabic folktale Aladdin and the Magic Lamp from the book One Thousand and One Nights (aka "Arabian Nights"), plus the 1940 film The Thief of Bagdad, Disney's animated Aladdin from 1992 was the most successful movie of that year, grossing $217 million in the US and over $504 million worldwide. The hand-drawn animated film's massive success led to two direct-to-video sequels, The Return of Jafar (1994) and Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996), an animated series for TV, and a Broadway musical adaptation. Now, after the success of other live-action Disney remakes like Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast, British director Guy Ritchie is reimagining the beloved animated classic as a big-budget, live-action, Bollywood spectacle with flying carpets, magic genies, and a lot of wishful thinking.
Romanian filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu has quickly established himself as one of the most unique and clever Eastern European directors making original films these days. Between Infinite Football last year, and his new feature at Cannes this year, Porumboiu has proven that his mind is unlike any other and is giving us some of the quirkiest, weirdest, smartest, and most interesting cinema that you'll discover in tiny art house cinema all over the world. His latest film is an adventurous dark comedy titled The Whistlers, a cops and criminals story from Romania about a double-crossing cop-criminal who is recruited to help get a guy out of jail in exchange for cash. For the first half I wasn't even sure where this story was going, but by the end it was obvious he was giving a nod to Hitchcock's quirky capers and classic film noir. And having fun doing so.
Olivia Wilde. The American actress, who derived her stage name from Irish author Oscar Wilde, is best known for her roles on television series including "The O.C." and "House", and in films like Tron: Legacy, Cowboys & Aliens, Year One, In Time, Drinking Buddies, and Rush. Now, the talented star of stage and screen is working behind the camera. After directing the shorts Free Hugs (2011), Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: No Love Like Yours (2016), and Red Hot Chili Peppers: Dark Necessities (2016), Wilde is making her feature-length directorial debut with Booksmart, an uproarious and unfiltered coming-of-age comedy that's equal parts Superbad, Lady Bird, Can't Hardly Wait, and Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, filled to the brim with a bevy of top-notch performances from an ensemble of young, up-and-coming stars.
For his next film, Quentin Tarantino is taking us back to the year 1969. Right at the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood. When hippies roamed the streets, men landed on the moon, and westerns were at the end of their time. Tarantino's ninth feature film is titled Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and it premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival playing in competition - a major feat. He won the Palme d'Or back in 1994 for Pulp Fiction, and has returned a few other times previously with Grindhouse and Inglourious Basterds. This sprawling, nearly-three hour "Old Hollywood" feature is one of Tarantino's most casually entertaining – part of it is a western, part of it is cruising around Los Angeles, and part of it is a story about a fading TV actor and his badass stuntman. There's plenty of slick moments in it, alas it doesn't best his previous films.
Bong Joon-ho reigns!! I didn't think he could be any better than he has already been (almost every film he has made is fantastic - from Memories of Murder to Okja), but South Korean master filmmaker Bong Joon-ho has delivered yet another near-perfect film. His latest film is titled Parasite, a dark comedy with some twists and turns and shocking moments and hilarious moments, and it's absolutely amazing. A complete and total knockout, a masterpiece of cinema. Oh my goodness gracious, it's so fucking good. This is one of Bong Joon-ho's best films, and I LOVE all of his films, so it's hard to even say that this is better than any of them before but he might just be getting better the more he makes. A complex construction of satire and social commentary worked into an intelligent, amusing, devious, uniquely-Korean script that is a total knockout.
Acclaimed filmmaker Terrence Malick returns to the Cannes Film Festival this year 8 years since winning the Palme d'Or in 2011 for The Tree of Life. His latest film is officially titled A Hidden Life (in French: Une vie cachée), originally called Radegund while in production - which is also the name of the town in Austria (St. Radegund) where most of the film takes place. This 2 hour, 53 minute-long film tells the true story of a young farmer in rural Austria during World War II who refuses to sign an oath to Hitler, landing himself in prison. We have seen and heard many stories about conscientious objectors, but this time it's told from the perspective of the Nazis - or rather, someone who was conscripted to join the Nazi army (like most Germans and Austrians) and refused to do so. His family was scorned and spat at, and he never could get out of jail.
I genuinely love animation and I always enjoy catching every new animated film, wherever they may come from, however they may be made. I Lost My Body, also known as J'ai perdu mon corps, is a charming new French animated film directed by Jérémy Clapin about a missing hand. This first premiered in the Critics' Week sidebar at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and it's wonderful. Really wonderful. One of the most imaginative, ambitious, and touching animated films of the year - there's no debate. It's unconventional and unique, but so easy to enjoy and fall deeply into, even if it is just a bit creepy at times. I'm so glad I caught this film in Cannes, as it's a smaller one and animation usually gets brushed aside at this festival. But this deserves our attention, and the acclaim, as it's a truly beautiful film and a one-of-a-kind animation creation.
Two men on a rock in the ocean slowly go mad. In 2015, Brooklyn-based filmmaker Robert Eggers made quite an impression in the film industry with his vintage indie horror film The Witch. He's back with his second feature film, titled The Lighthouse, and let me be the first to tell you that it's a masterpiece. I have no qualms proclaiming this right away, because the film is absolutely phenomenal. Perfection. Eggers' The Lighthouse premiered in the Directors' Fortnight sidebar at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, and it deserves to breakout and be adored by moviegoers all over the world because it really is an extraordinary work of cinema. Every single shot is masterful. The score is exquisite. There are frames from this that will be studied for decades. It's visceral, intense, hilarious, terrifying, engrossing storytelling about two men and madness.
There's no rules, no limits, to the kind of stories that can be told in the sci-fi genre. They can be big or small, space operas or intimate dramas or even noir thrillers, commenting on and critiquing society, politics, and culture through smart storytelling. Vivarium is another terrific indie sci-fi feature, a twisted thriller set in only one location. This premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the Critics' Week sidebar, and was barely finished just a week before they brought it here. It's also yet another new sci-fi film borrowing from "Black Mirror" and "Twilight Zone" as a contained concept that doesn't provide all the answers, but it's clever and captivating enough to keep us wondering what's next. I dug this film. It's my kind of twisted, minimal sci-fi.
Maybe all we need is just a little bit of happiness. Maybe happiness is all there is. Or maybe not. Little Joe is a clever, crafty little sci-fi fairytale that is destined to become a cult classic. This low budget drama is the latest written and directed by Austrian filmmaker Jessica Hausner, and it's playing in competition at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. The film has some flaws, and is way too slow, but there's something alluring and intelligent about it that sticks with you and buries itself in your mind. And even though it's honestly pretty easy to figure out what's going on, it's the way she brings this idea to life and portrays it all on screen very minimally that makes it especially captivating. The film achieves so much (in the way of thought-provoking storytelling) with so little, an effective example of very low budget filmmaking expanding upon bigger ideas.
With the original John Wick, screenwriter Derek Kolstad and co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch created an atmospheric neo-noir thriller with exhilarating action sequences, an iconic action hero in John Wick, and an equally iconic lead performance by Keanu Reeves. The film, about an ex-assassin (Reeves) who comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that killed his dog, earned $88 million worldwide, and thus began the John Wick Cinematic Universe™. Stahelski and Kolstad doubled-down on the non-stop, exquisitely choreographed bloodshed in the sequel John Wick: Chapter 2 while exploring the mythological, hyper-real criminal underworld John Wick inhabits. Now, with John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Stahelski and Kolstad walk a tightrope between world-building and trigger-pulling to deliver a propulsive action flick with some of the most impressive stunts and set pieces in American action cinema.
There's a new film that just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year titled Les Misérables, but it has nothing to do with Victor Hugo's famous novel (of the same name) or the musical or any of that. It's a contemporary story set in a suburb outside of Paris, France, and it's a remarkably fresh, masterful feature directorial debut of a filmmaker named Ladj Ly. The festival is just getting going, but it's one of the best films I've seen here so far - impressive in every way, especially from someone making their first feature film. But damn does it rule. It's an intense watch. This Les Misérables is one of those intense films that you take a deep breath while watching, and only start breathing again once it's over. I admire how raw and honest and ambitious it is. The story gives us plenty to chew on, while never descending into negativity or hopelessness.