The new “Aladdin” in theaters is disappointing, but “Booksmart” is a brilliant directing debut from Olivia Wilde. A run-of-the-mill horror film, “Greta,” is in home video.

I’s Viewing the Videos.



As horror films go, “Greta” is acceptable for fans of the genre, but fails to be special enough to appeal to a broader audience.

There are plenty of jump-out–of-your-seat scary moments, but those and awesome work by Isabelle Huppert and Chloë Grace Moritz can’t overcome the lame dialogue.

The evil Greta (Huppert) plants handbags on the subway in New York. If someone is misguided enough to return it, then bad things happen.

If you want to be scared without complications like grown-up dialogue and creative situations, sit back and be scared. Otherwise, skip this one.

Recommended for fans of the genre. Three Palm Trees for fans.



The new live-action version of “Aladdin” is entertaining but it’s not going to be a classic.

By itself it’s not too bad, but compared to the original, it’s a big disappointment.

And unfortunately, anyone who saw the iconic animated version from 1992 with Robin Williams as the genie will consider the new version a weak effort, retelling the fairy tale set in set in a mythical 18th century Middle Eastern country.

This is the most recent in a string of remakes by the Disney Company from movies that probably should have been left alone: “Dumbo,” “The Jungle Book” even “Mary Poppins Returns.” The last one was enjoyable, but did we really need it?

This movie features Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine — both promising relative newcomers. Aladdin is a street hustler, but cute because, well, this is a Disney movie.

Aladdin sneaks into a palace where he tries to woo the princess and ends up in the desert, where he finds that magic lamp and the genie.

Will Smith is the Genie, who has blue skin and a computer-enhanced, buffed-out body.

When he sings, it’s often contemporary music, which may work in an animated world, but in live-action it’s somehow jarring

They’ve updated the story, making the princess a more contemporary woman who wants to rule over her kingdom with justice and equality. And they’ve given the princess a sidekick (handmaiden) played with scene stealing skill by Nasim Pedrad.

Things grind to a halt about a third of the way in when the Aladdin encounters the Princess in her chambers. He’s supposed to be charming and unfinished, but he’s such bumbling idiot that it’s hard to see why the Princess would be attracted to such a hapless individual.

There are moments of high energy and lavish musical productions, but those moments can’t make up for the fundamental weaknesses of this movie.

Two Palm Trees.


Sometimes a movie comes out of nowhere with a jolt of excitement and energy to make viewers take a step back from its impact.

“Booksmart” is that kind of movie. It’s a breakthrough new take on a classic film genre.

There have been plenty of teen movies with male characters. This one is about females and it’s not just women actors saying the same old words. It’s new, different and excellent.

Five female writers fashioned a witty and complex script, directed with style and perfect timing by first time feature director Olivia Wilde.

High school super achiever best friends Amy and Molly realize on the last day of school that while they stayed totally focused on academic achievement, their classmates who spent four years partying and misbehaving got admitted into high quality colleges just like they did.

. Molly intends to be the youngest Supreme Court justice ever, and Amy is off to help residents in underdeveloped Africa.

They decide to make up for all that they missed by partying hard the last day and night of school. Complications ensue, including the usual: wild parties, arrests, drugs, sexual encounters, relationships ruptured and restored and unexpected revelations about friends.

Besides being whip-smart, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) complement each other, provide encouragement and even break into a spontaneous dance (without music) to greet each other.

Things are helped with a great supporting cast including Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte as Amy’s parents and Jason Sudekis (Wilde’s fiancé) as the principal who wants Molly and Amy to just relax and enjoy the fact that they made it through high school.

“Booksmart” is solid comedy with plenty to think about without being preachy. Four Palm Trees.


Lady Bird

Beanie Feldstein (“Booksmart”) has a small role in another breakthrough effort by a female director, Greta Gerwig. The story of a troubled relationship between a high school senior and her mother is funny and heartwarming at the same time.


Home videos are simply rated recommended or not recommended.

New Releases are rated as follows:

Five Palm Trees: Must see

Four Palm Trees: Worth seeing on the big screen

Three Palm Trees: Recommended for home viewing or on the big screen

Two Palm Trees: OK if you’re not paying

One Palm Tree: Skip it. Save your money and your time.

Load comments