Month: May 2019

Disney’s Aladdin (2019) Movie Review

Earlier this week I saw a preview showing of Disney’s Aladdin, the live action version of the 1992 animated version. Will Smith replaces Robin Williams as the blue-skinned Genie, providing not only the voice but also the physical presence on the big screen. I had my doubts on whether he could pull that off. Robin Williams was a legendary comedian and the Genie was one of his most iconic roles. Never mind that I’ve never seen the animated version of Disney’s Aladdin.

The new Aladdin starts off on a boat with a father played by Will Smith, a little boy and a little girl, and a mother we hear but won’t see until the end of the movie. The father tells the children about Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, kicking off the first song called Arabian Nights. Arabian Nights is the English name for a collection of Middle Eastern folktales called One Thousand and One Nights. This collection featured the original story, “Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp,” “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves,” and “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad.” 

The premise of Aladdin should be familiar to most people who grew up on the original folktales. An evil sorcerer sends a young thief to steal the lamp from the magic cave, and the thief uses his three wishes to escape the cave, becomes a prince and overcome the evil sorcerer. Throw in a Disney princess and a soundtrack, you got a whole new family classic that is better than the original folktale.

Since this is a Disney movie, I’m going to skip the plot highlights and focus on the main characters.

  • Marwan Kenzari plays Jafar the evil sorcerer, who seems too squeaky clean to come across as evil until he kills a servant who reminded him that he was still the second most powerful man after the sultan in the kingdom.
  • Mena Massoud plays Aladdin the thief, and later Prince Ali, who stays one step ahead of the guards while stealing for a living and running freely throughout the city.
  • Naomi Scott plays Princess Jasmine, who can really sing the new theme song, “Speechless,” and pushes back against the conventions that others try to push on to her.
  • Will Smith, of course, plays Genie, who really surprised me by his ability to sing and play a very over the top character that is quite different than past roles.

I’ve read some complaints about why Genie doesn’t free himself from the lamp if he is so powerful. Pay very close attention to what Genie says to Aladdin about the limitations of his power after they first meet. Will Smith does a very good job at expressing the nuances in what Genie can and cannot do with his powers.

While I haven’t seen the animated version, I thoroughly enjoyed this live action version.


This blog post is not a paid promotion even though See It First provided two free tickets for a friend and I to see Aladdin three days before it opened to the general public. See It First is a website that offers free tickets by invitation to see preview screenings of the newest movies. I’m under no obligation to write this blog post and See It First provided no editorial guidance for this video.

What 56% Of Americans Don’t Know About Arabic Numerals

A survey question by Civic Science found that 56% of Americans are against teaching Arabic numerals to kids. What are Arabic numerals? Zero, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine. The everyday numbers that schools have taught kids in the West for the last 800 years. Snopes weighed in with a “true” rating, noting that the survey was like another viral survey question from December 2015. Public Policy Polling found that 41% of Republicans and 19% of Democrats were in favor of bombing “Agrabah,” the fictional city of Disney’s Aladdin. I very much doubt that Will Smith will be singing “bomb, bomb, bomb, Agrabah,” in the live action version of Disney’s Aladdin at the movie theaters this week. What does the survey questions about Arabic numerals and Aladdin reveal about Americans?

Arabic, sometimes called Hindu-Arabic, numerals were first invented around 500 CE in India, and used extensively by Arabic mathematicians in Baghdad in the centuries thereafter. The Arabs brought not only Arabic numerals to the West, but also fractions, decimal point, and algebra that formed the mathematical basis of modern science. The finalized form of Arabic numerals that we use today came to Europe in the 13th century CE. Arabic numerals became the rage when the Norte Dame Cathedral in Paris finished building in the same century. As scientists discovered when the cathedral caught on fire last month, 800-year-old timber burns a lot faster than brand new construction timber. Arabic numerals replaced Roman numerals to become the standard numeral system around the world.

The Civic Science survey question showed that most Americans are prejudice towards anything associated with the word “Arabic” in particular and the Middle East in general. However, I find the breakdown in responses as a reflection of education in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 25% of Americans have a college degree. Most college degree programs require algebra and calculus for graduation, exposing students to the history of Arabic numerals and Arab contributions to science.

The 29% of Americans who wanted Arabic numerals taught in schools were probably college educated or have a personal interest in mathematics. As for the 15% of Americans who have no opinion, they were being honest for not knowing and withholding judgment on what Arabic numerals were. If the high schools ever taught critical thinking, most Americans should have been for No Opinion.

A somewhat interesting coincidence that Civic Science asked about the Arabic numerals prior to Disney coming out with a live action version of their animated Aladdin. The Public Policy Polling asked their survey question about bombing the fictional city of Aladdin in the run up to the 2016 presidential campaign, as the debate over Iran’s compliance with the nuclear treaty got underway. They based the survey question on Senator John McCain singing “bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran” in tune to an old Beach Boys song during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Disney’s Aladdin had permanently fixed the story as being Persian and in the city of Agrabah even though the original text mentions neither nationality nor geography. The story may have been set in Western China, which, at one point, was part of the Persian Empire. For those of you who don’t know, Iranians are Persians and not Arabs. Replace Iran with Agrabah in the survey question, most Republicans and some Democrats would bomb the heck out of it. Never mind that Agrabah was a fictional city created by Disney, which might have been an alternative name for Baghdad in Iraq since the animated version of Aladdin came out a year after the Gulf War ended.

The brilliant minds who brought us the Second Iraq War with a $1+ trillion USD price tag 15 years ago are in the White House today, pushing for war with Iran on purpose or by accident. Something to think about while watching Will Smith in the live action version of Aladdin.

Nick Fury As Spider-Man’s New Daddy

A new trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home dropped this week, prefaced with an Avengers Endgame spoiler warning from Tom Holland. If you haven’t seen Endgame after it made over $2.5 billion at the box office, don’t watch the new trailer or continue reading. After the first trailer dropped three months ago, I made a video speculating who would make a better father figure to a young Peter Park, Tony Stark or Nick Fury. With Captain Marvel and Avengers Endgame behind us, and Far From Home coming out on July 5, 2019, let see how well my speculations held up.

My most glaring error was that Peter Parker was already on his school field trip in Europe when he ditched the school bus to join Tony Stark at the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War. I speculated that the timeline would reset in Endgame and Far From Home would resume with him ditching the school bus to join Nick Fury instead. The school field trip in Infinity War was to the Modern Museum of Arts in New York City. The school field trip in Far From Home was to Europe during summer vacation.

Because the timeline was not reset in Endgame, Far From Home will take place six years after Spider-Man: Homecoming. Endgame starts three weeks after Thanos snapped his fingers to eliminated one-half of all life in the universe at the end of Infinity War.

Captain Marvel shows up, rescues Tony Stark and Nebula in space, and takes the Avengers to the planet Titan, where they discover that Thanos used the Infinity Stones to destroy the Infinity Stones. If she used her superhero powers to reset the timeline all by herself, Endgame would have been a much shorter movie and spared my bladder from three hours of trauma.

Yes, Captain Marvel is that powerful.

Endgame skips ahead five years to when Antman gets out of the quantum realm, finds the Avengers, and convince them go on a cosmic treasure hunt to collect the Infinity Stones from parallel timelines since the past cannot change. Add another six months for Fat Thor to sober up, Tony Stark to build his time machine, and the rest of the universe returns from being snapped out of existence.

Peter Parker’s class, if not his entire high school and everyone in New York City, returns as if the timeline was reset. The population at large should be split between those who returned unchanged and those who stayed behind for six years. Maybe Thanos was a Republican who snap the Blue States like New York out of existence while leaving behind the Red States.

With Tony Stark dead at the end of Endgame, Nick Fury has no choice but to assume the father figure role for Peter Parker. Based on the new trailer, I no longer think that is the case. Nick Fury will put a boot up Peter Parker’s wazoo to get him to become Spider-Man. Happy, who was too friendly with Aunt May in the last trailer, will become the father figure that Peter Parker need to help get over mourning for Tony Stark.

An alternative theory is that Nick Fury is MJ’s baby daddy. Considering that Peter Parker’s last girlfriend’s father was the super villain Vulture, his next girlfriend having a superhero father wouldn’t be that far fetch. Nick Fury as Peter Parker’s father-in-law might be a boot too many up the wazoo.

Is Nick Fury’s MJ’s baby daddy?

Watching Avengers Endgame At Pruneyard Cinemas

I wasn’t planning to see Avengers Endgame during opening weekend since tickets were sold out two weeks in advance at many movie theaters in Silicon Valley. While AMC Theaters added more showings around the clock, I wasn’t going to see a sold out showing on Saturday at 4:30AM. A group of friends were seeing the movie at Pruneyard Cinemas in Campbell on Sunday at 6:00PM. One of them dropped out at the last minute and they asked me to join them. This was my first visit to Pruneyard Cinemas, a dine-in movie theater and restaurant that opened over a year ago.

Pruneyard Cinemas occupies the former locations for Pizza My Heart, Camera 7 movie theater, and a bar-and-grill restaurant. When entering the theater lobby, the kitchen doors and ticket kiosks are to the left, and the entrance to the restaurant is to the right. What was Pizza My Heart became the kitchen for the new establishment, and the old box office for Camera 7 became a storage room for the kitchen. The new restaurant is the Cedar Room with a bar along one wall and tables on the other side.

The layout of the theaters was no different than it was under Camera 7 for 15 years and United Artists for 43 years: Theaters 1 and 2 to the right, women and disabled restrooms straight ahead, Theaters 3 through 7 around the corner, men restroom up the stairs, and concession stand to the left. One notable change was the removal of the drop ceiling to reveal the wooden beams of the gable roof and open up the space overhead.

While food and drinks are available at the concession stand and bar, most people wait until they sat down inside the theater to order. The 6:00PM showing of Avengers Endgame was in Theater 2, the second of the two largest theaters. We were let into the theater 20 minutes before the movie started. Being a traditional movie theater, it was long and narrow. Each row had powered recliners with an attached table and cup holder that can swing inward. Unlike the powered recliners in a Dolby theater, these powered recliners can go all the way horizontal, if you like watching a movie between your feet or the first half of Avengers Endgame puts you asleep.

Waiters dressed in all black went down each row to take orders. I can’t say anything about the food since I don’t eat out at the movies and I’m not much of a foodie, but I did order a glass of Coke and a glass of water. My friends did order food and each one got a big plate, which smelled very good from where I was sitting, and they all reassured me that it was great. Most of the food arrived before the house lights dimmed for the trailers. If you’re into watching the trailers before the movie, you might find it distracting with waiters and busboys delivering food until the movie started.

Because this is a traditional movie theater, the screen was darker than the bright Dolby and IMAX screens. Our reserved seating was in the back center, which, in my opinion, was too far away from the screen for me to enjoy the movie. I felt like I was watching Avengers Endgame from the backseat of a car at a drive-in rather than at a dine-in. Food and ticket prices for the Pruneyard Cinemas is in line with other theaters in Silicon Valley, making it an reasonable alternative if you want to eat something better than plain old concession stand food.