Wednesday, April 28, 2021

OLD vs. NEW: Mulan

A while back I started a thread of reviews where I compared originals and remakes. Now, seeing that this summer I will conclude the weekly run of my blog, there are a couple of movies I wanted to get off my chest. March was about franchises, now let us look at movies that remade - for better or worse - and see how they compare. Here we go:

Mulan (1998/2020)

I remember, as this was the first VHS tape we got when we moved to Italy, and I just loved Mulan, really, it was unique, and fierce and just a wonderful female protagonist. We can argue all day about the issues stemming from horrible casting until recently, indeed, representation was more than lacking, and there are still fights to be won even today. That is why, when it comes to this live action version, I first of all am proud of see a cast of all Asian or Asian-American actors. There are hundreds of them in Hollywood, one better than the other. Stop just casting them in movies about the yakuza, not caring at all whether they are actually of Japanese descent. After the casting, what else good is there to say about the new Mulan? ... very few things, unfortunately. The colors were gorgeous, the costumes, make up and the environment for one... the cinematography knew what they were doing. I really liked Yifei Liu in the role of Mulan, and it isn't her fault that the script was the way it was... I also loved that Mulan's horse looked the same as its cartoon predecessor. That's about it when it comes to the positives.

Before I go on with my comparison, allow me to recommend to you the reviews of Amanda the Jedi, who also references the review of Accented Media. and finally the pitch meeting on the Screen Rant channel. All of these do a much better job at summarizing what I will talk about, and have also helped me in formulating my thoughts. 

Let us look at what people loved in the cartoon Mulan:
  • The tale of a woman who prevails simply by using her mind and skills.
  • Beautiful music.
  • Funny characters, who are also wholesome and bring the plot forward.
  • A possible love story, but more importantly, that of trust among soldiers and friends.
  • The price of betrayal and learning to face its consequences.
So the new Mulan had NONE OF THESE. And I haven't even mentioned Mushu or the lucky cricket... most of all the best thing about Mulan, in my opinion, is the enemy, Shan Yu leading the Huns, who does not speak, he strikes fear in the hearts of others, he does not leave anyone alive, and he cannot be outsmarted by men. There is actually a need for Mulan, someone who does not think like men, in order to finally stop him. The villain in the live-action... was and idiot. He did NOTHING. I did not fear him, I did not care for his stupid revenge plot, if that is what he was doing... The reason Shan Yu is a fantastic villain is because of the metaphor for war being a faceless enemy. And also the underlying message of the fact that evil does not need to have a sad backstory for it to be deadly, was lost completely in the live-action. I remember being scared of that enemy, while here he was simply laughable. 
And I am just FURIOUS because all the changes in the live-action made absolutely no sense. I have read and watched hours of reviews on how Disney has been trying to "amend" for criticism of the films that it had made before the 2000s. And OK, I am biased because I just love everything about the original, but if I force myself, the only criticism I can bring is the historical accuracy, or the lack of it. So, perhaps, if you were to remake this story, I would focus on that more... Now... giving Mulan Jedi powers feels like the f*cking opposite of historical accuracy. I could give a list of the issues with the new movie, but I am going to just mention one, the biggest, and that comes back to the historical background. What was this movie about? Who is the target audience? It is not a war movie - which would have made sense; it is not a comedy; it is not a musical; it is not a romantic; it is not deep enough to be dramatic or tragic even... Who is the intended audience for this movie? I cannot get over the fact of how the plot was absolutely about nothing. 

So watch it? No. Just don't. I decided to because so much bad criticism hit the movie that I got curious to see if indeed it was as bad as they say, or if perhaps this too was a victim of internet trolls or high expectations. Well... it was not. I think this movie would have been great, but as I have written in some of my reviews before, the more people try to remake cartoons by trying to conform to new social norms, the more plotholes they contain, leaving behind something very hard to watch or enjoy.

Until the next item on my life!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Now Streaming: The Prom

This is the 10th year of my blog, and as always, I have at least 40 movie reviews planned, as well as my personal entries and a good chunk of games and TV shows. Some of these are going to be classics that I just took off my bucket list, others are going to be contemporary ones streaming on major services online. So let us just get onto the next item on my list of chores:

Four struggling actors from Hollywood decide to take on a good cause to get the papers talking about them again. They end up helping a girl named Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), who cannot go to her school's prom, because she wants to take a girl. In their attempt to be fake good people, they actually put their own egos aside and grow with the main character.

Let us go in order. I just love musicals, a good musical can take me away with the songs. If you do not like songs in a movie, why are you here? Why are you reading this? Go away! I hate comments like "good movie, but too much singing" oh my god man, look up the definition for musicals! I love the singing and the dancing and I cannot emphasize enough how much better everything is in a musical. That said, there are some out there that I did not love, and I deem to be in need of fixing and readjusting, so I can be critical, but I am also biased. I find that as long as you own your biases, you will be fine. So let us go into the review:
No. 1:
Jo Ellen Pellman was a great lead for this movie. Terrific young actress with great singing voice. The clothing department dressed her in very hipster clothes, but by making her be the only character in her school with this style, there was a kind of "she's THE lesbian" vibe to it, which was really silly. And I want to start off with this, because I have something very particular to say about the LGBTQ representation in this movie. So point two:
No. 2: James Corden's portrayal of Barry Glickman: it was really fantastic. I read a lot of reviews bashing him, and people are idiots. I do not care that some believe this kind of feminine gay men to just be a stereotype, because I have met people like him in my community, exactly like it. As a student of minority representation in Hollywodd, I can tell you, that there is a basis for certain kinds of stereotype. But as a member of the LGBTQ community, no, I was not offended by a straight men playing a gay man. Now, we can argue, that the role should have gone to a gay actor, well, that is true, if they favored James Corden because he is straight - but there is absolutely no evidence of that. Not to mention, that the cast did have openly gay and terrific actor Andrew Ranells as Trent Oliver. I honestly believe, that there was no ill intent here, and although I WANT more diversity and representation in Hollywood, I also want actors to play any kind of character. The same way I loved the cast of Hamilton (2015), the same way I loved Taron Egerton in Rocketman (2019), that is the same way I'll love a good actor doing a good job. I will die on this hill: James Corden did a terrific job.
No. 3:
I really felt that Nicole Kidman, playing Angie Dickinson, was underused. We can argue, of course, that that was her role, and being part of the supporting cast on the Broadway stage, she was also the supporting cast here, so overall, we got what we were promised. Nonetheless, there was more star power.
And finally, No. 4: Meryl Streep playing Dee Dee Allen... oh my god. She was just supurb! We all know she is great, but this character had a lot of layers to it, and I just love Streep in a musical. She was selfish, she had a character arc, she had a love story... the whole deal. My favorite part actually was that she started to date a younger man, Principal Tom Hawkins, played by Keegan-Michael Key, and it perfectly made sense. They connected, they were cute, she opened her heart to a man, which was not easy for her. I particularly enjoyed it, because another criticism and trope Hollywood is trying to break, is having older male actors having young female co-stars as the romantic interest. Here you had the reverse and one, I did not think that the age mattered, 2, you need to trust the script to take you on the journey with it. Women in Hollywood should not be looked down of for aging... honestly, the older the sexier! 

So watch it? I really wanted to write this review because I heard a lot of controversy around this movie, although all it did was adapt - very marvelously - an award winning Broadway show, whose casting nobody was interested in, yet they did not hold back when it came to James Corden... I really want everyone to see this movie because it is an endearing story, and I personally might never get to see anything live on broadway and thus am happy to have this be available to me when I want.

Until the next item on my list!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

OLD vs. NEW: Total Recall

A while back I started a thread of reviews where I compared originals and remakes. Now, seeing that this summer I will conclude the weekly run of my blog, there are a couple of movies I wanted to get off my chest. March was about franchises, now let us look at movies that remade - for better or worse - and see how they compare. Here we go:

Totall Recall (1990/2012)

Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger/Colin Farrell) seeks a more entertaining life, so he decides to visit a place that implants memory. Being burdened by the weight of a dream, he asks to have the memories of a spy. However, he awakes to have had memories supressed already, of his true secret agent identity, that of Hauser who completed missions for and against the government... or did he?

These are based on a simply magnificient short story by Phillip K. Dick, entitled "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" (1966), which I recommend everyone reads before or after the movies. I really enjoyed the first movie, although incredibly disgusting at times, I was super happy that I watched it in daylight, it was one of those early sci-fi movies that needed a remake. First, taking out the disgusting elements worked to the benefit of the remake. Second, having his presumed wife Lori Quaid (Kate Beckinsale) also be the lead agent was a great move. In the original she was played by Sharon Stone, but she passes away and a male agent is the one to go after Quaid. There was really no need for the addition of another nemesis and I loved Beckinsale in this role. She was one to look out for. Against Melina (Jessica Biel), she was a force to be reckoned with. Then, I really loved the world constructed in the remake, as the original had a lot of secrecy and mystery about it, and in the end I craved more or a twist. The remake also allowed for the illusion of this all being just one big implant present for the viewer, and that too was very smart. The enemy, Cohaagen, first played by Ronny Cox (basically reviving his role as corporate bad guy from RoboCop), was then played by Bryan Cranston, which was a great casting decision. He just wants absolute power, and by introducing an army of robots, this remake also took us to another side of sci-fi movies, with artificial intelligence instead of aliens/mutants. I think that is just such a smart re-write, as these movies can co-exist and bring forth two great adaptations of a fantastic short story. 

So watch it? I do believe that both are exceptionally smart movies. One takes you to outerspace, the other showcases our world in a way that we have not yet seen. Visually stunning, smart and great concept, making you wonder about the plot over and over again, with two great actors being cast in the role of Quaid

Until the next item on my list!

Monday, April 19, 2021

Now Streaming: Godzilla vs. Kong

This is the 10th year of my blog, and as always, I have at least 40 movie reviews planned, as well as my personal entries and a good chunk of games and TV shows. Some of these are going to be classics that I just took off my bucket list, others are going to be contemporary ones streaming on major services online. So let us just get onto the next item on my list of chores:

After many years of studying and experiencing the behavior of these Titan animals, an expedition is prepared to enter Hollow Earth, hoping to find their home. Leading the expedition is Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård), with the help of Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who have made a bond with Kong. His location is, however, discovered by Godzilla, who has previously attacked a factory, very unlike them, as they never attacked people before. To understand why these attacks occured, a group of unlikely heroes, led by Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) enters the offices of Apex Industry after the attack has occured. The fight of the two is unavoidable, but there is more to it than meets the eyes.

I loved the trailer already, and well, I was not disappointed. I just wanted to see some kaiju have an epic battle and I enjoyed every second of it. I would like to refrain from the debate of who is stronger, as the movie very much establishes it, and it also takes us to a different problem that needs solving, mostly with the thanks of the Titans. I was simply mesmerized by the visuals, the CGI is this movie is gorgeous, it has a great cast, but FINALLY we are not focused on people like the Godzilla movies have for years now... we are here for the monsters, the kaiju, the fight, the destruction, the fear... everything BUT the humans, and I feel like this movie finally got it right in its ratio of necessary human interaction vs. the actual monsters. There are two main plots, they connected wonderfully with the third act, there was not one scene out of order, the music was great, the story was fun... I just love everything about this movie, even the occasionally corny dialogue that was clearly written for the trailer shots. 

Watch it? Well, I would tell you to wait out the virus and go see in the movie theatre, I know that I will, because this was simply stunning, and I got exactly what I wanted from this movie. Arguable all movies are made for the silver screen, but the world is a shitty place right now... this movie did help, however. If you cannot wait, do not have the chance yet, then watch it at home and enjoy the awesome ride. If you can, then go to your local theatre and make sure you get a biiiiig box of popcorn to go with it!

Until the next item on my list!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

OLD vs. NEW: Lady & The Tramp

A while back I started a thread of reviews where I compared originals and remakes. Now, seeing that this summer I will conclude the weekly run of my blog, there are a couple of movies I wanted to get off my chest. March was about franchises, now let us look at movies that remade - for better or worse - and see how they compare. Here we go:

Lady & The Tramp (1955/2020)

A house trained beautiful dog, Lady (originally voiced by Barbara Laddy), makes friend with a stray running around in the city, Tramp (originally voiced by Larry Roberts). Now, I grew up with this cartoon, I was super scared of the scenes with the rat, and for the longest time I did not get either why that is the villain... but of course, as you grow up sanitary concerns become clear in period pieces. That having been said, this has become a beloved Disney classic, so is there a need for a remake?
Now... I have been following live-actions... that is not true. I hate them and see absolutely no reason for them, and with each they make changes that are completely unnecessary. THIS MOVIE IS THE EXCEPTION. Coming out when Disney+ launched in the Autumn of 2019, it was completely off the radar, and hardly anyone talks about it. And yet, this is the best Disney live-action to date. First of all, the diversion that Hollywood is trying to integrate is perfectly included in this movie, with Darling played by Kiersey Clemons, her Aunt Sarah by Yvette Nicole Brown, as well as Lady being voiced by none other than Tessa Thompson. They fit in perfectly in this imaginary roaring 20s. That is followed by how the world was opened, how when Lady leaves her backyard the Tramp (Justin Theroux) shows her different colors and feelings, and in return, the Tramp experiences real care after years from two incredibly endearing characters, such as Darling and Jim Dear (Thomas Mann). This live-action might be shot by shot the original, but it still fixed a lot of issues that might make a cartoon from 1955 outdated for some. I keep listening to reviews of live-action Disney movies, and how they are trying to elevate originals, in order not fix controversies, which then simply yields films with horrible plotholes that just end up raping our childhood memories. Not this one. I am telling you, this is the best live-action movie out there. The cast is unique, the voice actors are great, the CGI on the dogs is simply spectacular (and I can only imagine their budget as this was a straight-to-stream release), the scenery and period accuracy was spot on, and overall I just felt really good when this movie was over.

So watch it? Absolutely. Ever since I saw it I have been raising people's awareness and recommending it left and right, because this movie needs more people to see it. And due to the super scary scenes with the rat in the original cartoon, I might just show this to my kids instead... it was so endearing and so well done. The CGI department alone deserves awards for this.

Until the next item on my list!

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

OLD vs NEW: Robocop

 A while back I started a thread of reviews where I compared originals and remakes. Now, seeing that this summer I will conclude the weekly run of my blog, there are a couple of movies I wanted to get off my chest. March was about franchises, now let us look at movies that remade - for better or worse - and see how they compare. Here we go:

RoboCop (1987/2014)

Murphy (Peter Weller) is almost killed by a group of thugs in crime ridden Detroit. He is then turned into a half robot, more of a robot actually, than human for a good while, as corporations fight over who had the best idea to clean Detroit of its filth, as the police is planning to strike. Murphy not only gets the bad guys that almost killed him, but stipulates that having a brain and a heart, he is superior to any machine meant to protect and to serve.

This movie had two sequels, which I am yet to see, as I was little impressed by the first one. Sorry, I said it... this movie has probably the best music ever, which is a tall order, as 80s science-fiction movies have some of the most famous themes in movie history. But the conflict between the corporate moguls did not interest me, and ultimately this is a revenge fantasy, which I do not think is the right way to go about it. Murphy was in there all along, but the movie forgot to show us any of his personality, thus resulting in me not caring about any of the characters. Now, this problem was mended in the 2014 re-make, starring Joel Kinnaman as Murphy, who has a special bond with his best friend, partner, his captian, as well as his wife and kid. The movie took the time to make us care about him, and that was crucial. The corporations abuse of power was incredibly well constructed, having Michal Keaton and the delightful Jennifer Ehle heading the program that made RoboCop. Not to mention, that Keaton's character Raymond Sellars, showed that he might be a corporate asshole, but there were layers to his personality; and his interactions with Gary Oldman's Dr. Dennett Norton where just incredible to watch. This movie had formidable casting. Finally, most memorable, is how Murphy slowly gains back his humanity, even when the robot brain is supposed to take over. Now, for the original, Murphy had an endearing partner, next to a sub plot of police strike and what not, but we never meet his family, his kid, we never get a chance to connect with him, as I said. His partner (of one freaking day), Lewis (Nancy Allen) is the one who gets him back, and there was no real good explanation as to why that partner cares so much either. To me, the first movie is a series is of images, while the remake is a story of a man inside the machine, and the focus IS on that man.

This remake only has a 6,1 rating on imdb, but to me personally it expanded on all the things I missed from the original. Watch it? I believe that if you are a fan of the movies of the 80s, you need to see the original first, but as far as remakes are concerned, this is a really good one, with an all star casting, that might have fallen short because the nostalgia of a trilogy of RoboCop preceeding it influences a whole generation. To me, because it wasn't that significant, I managed to enjoy the remake far more. Overall, there are some awesome sci-fi movies from the 80s that deserve to be made with much better CGI and choreography, and this definitely applies.

Until the next item on my list!