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Movie Review: Mulan (2020)

Mulan

Directed By: Niki Caro
Starring: Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Jet Li

My Rating:

I know this movie came out over a year ago and it was not popular among Disney fans. They are complaining that it’s a terrible animated-to-live-action adaptation. I should know better than to listen to “fans”. These days the only thing “fans” do is complain (I’m looking at you alleged “Star Wars fans”). It wasn’t until my wife watched this movie on Disney+ that I finally saw it.

Unpopular opinion, I disagree with all the Disney princess fans. This is the Mulan movie we should have gotten back in 1998. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ming-Na Wen’s Mulan (who makes a cameo at the end), but it’s just another Disney princess love story.

It’s About Culture (and Kicking Ass)

A key indicator as to whether I really like a film is if I’m looking up the trivia on IMDB to learn more. I did this for this movie. It wasn’t a surprise to read that it was a conscious choice to stay “true to Chinese culture and traditions”. This is why Mushu is missing, which fans also hated. He is essentially replaced with the phoenix, a significant symbol in Chinese culture. Also, the phoenix happens to be one of my favorite mythical creatures. Martial arts is also a staple of Chinese culture and this is a Disney princess martial arts film.

Ask anyone that knows me well and they will tell you that I’m a sucker for a martial arts film. It’s exciting to see Jet Li back in a “martial arts” film although I think he’s retired from martial arts. This is probably why we don’t see him perform much in the film. However Donnie Yen and Liu Yifei make up for that. In fact Liu Yifei is a trained sword fighter. It turns out she is in a movie called The Forbidden Kingdom where she “held her own” against Jet Li and Jackie Chan.

Listen. If you want to see a live-action version of the 1998 film, then keep waiting. This movie is not it. However if you want to see Mulan kick ass as a sword fighter and martial artist, then you need to check out this movie.

Movie Review: The Tomorrow War

The Tomorrow WarThe Tomorrow War IMDB Link

Directed By: Chris McKay
Starring: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J.K. Simmons

My Rating:

I heard different things about this movie, but I generally avoid most reviews. Since the days of Siskel and Ebert nobody has come close to their caliber of movie analysis. Granted, I rarely agreed with Ebert who once said that a comic book movie wasn’t “realistic enough” … because comic book characters are real. Anyway, enough soapboxing about those guys, may they rest in peace.

This is a time travel movie and we all know how I feel about time travel movies, it’s rarely done right. However I really like Chris Pratt and I was very curious about this movie so why not check it out.

Quick Synopsis and My Review

A wormhole opens suddenly and armed soldiers come through. They say they are from the year 2050 and the humans are losing a war with an alien race. The population of the planet has been decimated to the point of extinction so they need to draft people from the past to fight a war in the future. The entire human race is at stake.

spoiler alert!!!

The following content contains spoilers for The Tomorrow War.

My father-in-law said this is “definitely a Matt movie” and I can’t argue with that. I did enjoy this movie and I may even watch it again some time. It does rely heavily on the suspension of disbelief and I will get to that in a bit. I cannot recall very many (if any) dramatic roles for Chris Pratt. I know the Jurassic World movies had their dramatic moments but those are more adventure driven than drama. However he’s always been Andy Dwyer and Starlord so this movie is definitely outside his typical range. In all honesty I think he did a pretty good job.

Also, J.K. Simmons is jacked in this. I mean, for 66 years old the dude looks like he could arm wrestle a grizzly bear. You may also recognize Hanna from the Dexter series.

A Paradox On Both Your Timelines

This is where the spoiler comes in so if you want to see the movie first, then stop reading. When Chris Pratt’s character is drafted and he’s sent into the future to fight the aliens his team is receiving their orders from a Colonel. It turns out that this Colonel is Pratt’s characters daughter, now an adult. In fact, not only is she a Colonel, she’s also an MIT trained bioengineer and she’s working on a toxin to kill the aliens.

When she creates the toxin she asks her dad (Pratt) to return to the past and synthesize the toxin and return to the future to eradicate the aliens. Things happen and he can’t return to the future, however they discover that the aliens have been on the planet for 1,000 years buried in ice in Russia.

This is where that suspension of disbelief comes into play. This movie creates a time paradox. Chris Pratt gets the toxin from biological material extracted from the alien in the future. Then he returns to the past and kills the alien using the toxin. So if he kills the alien in the past, how does it exist in the future to create the toxin in the first place? It’s a paradox but I think it’s just subtle enough that the suspension of disbelief works here.

Did you see it? What did you think of The Tomorrow War?

film_reel“The screen is a magic medium. It has such power that it can retain interest as it conveys emotions and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle.”
– Stanley Kubrick

 

Movie Review: Wonder Woman 1984

Wonder Woman 1984Wonder Woman 1984 IMDB Link

Directed By: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Kristin Wiig, Pedro Pascal

My Rating:

While this is my first movie review of 2021, I did not see this movie in 2021. In fact we watched this film on New Years Eve, so technically I saw this movie last year. However since it was a movie we watched in the evening, I did not have time to write up a review before 2020 ended. I think we were all ready for 2020 to be over.

The year is 1984 (obviously, by the title) and Diana is still going about her day covertly rescuing people and stopping crime. Although it’s been 40 years, she still laments the death of Steve Trevor and seems to accept the fact that she will always be alone. She befriends Barbara Minerva, a socially awkward archeologist and anthropologist who finds a particularly powerful artifact. An artifact that grants wishes, but at a terrible cost. Now she must stop The Cheetah and Max Lord from abusing the power of this “dream stone”. 

Biggs’ Review

I am really surprised to find so many low and harsh reviews of this movie. I’ll admit it isn’t as good as the first movie but I, honestly, didn’t think it was terrible. There isn’t as much action but Chris Pine provides sufficient comic relief. I really enjoyed Pedro Pascal’s (aka The Mandalorian) performance as Max Lord. Actually, if I’m being honest, Kristin Wiig is an excellent villain. I’m used to seeing her in more comedic roles (ex: Bridesmaids) so when she becomes full on Cheetah, she looks pretty damn badass.

My harshest criticism would probably be the end. The tactic Wonder Woman uses to “defeat” Max Lord is a little corny. Granted Wonder Woman’s whole philosophy is built on the power of truth (hence the “Lasso of Truth”) so it fits the character. Unfortunately human kind is not so willing to embrace truth so its difficult to believe that she can easily convince the world to “renounce their wishes”. I’m also not really sold on the way in which Max Lord “touches” millions of people via a satellite broadcast. I feel like that whole scenario wasn’t entirely thought out.

Initially I wanted to give this movie 3.5 stars but the addon only supports whole numbers. Since I would consider watching this movie again I decided to go ahead and bump it up to 4 stars. I think Patty Jenkins did the best she could with the script she was given. I’m excited to see what she does for the Rogue Squadron movie; hopefully she will have better screenplay writers.

What did you think of Wonder Woman 1984?

film_reel“The screen is a magic medium. It has such power that it can retain interest as it conveys emotions and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle.”
– Stanley Kubrick

 

Movie Review: Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. BanksSaving Mr. Banks IMDB Link

Directed By: John Lee Hancock
StarringTom Hanks, Emma Thompson
Release Year: 2013

My Rating:

I realize this movie is 7 years old but nobody is really going to the theater right now so I might as well review something new I’ve watched. Perhaps others on the fence about this movie will finally reach their decision about whether or not to watch it.

Tom Hanks must be one of those actors that can be made to look like anybody. It’s an uncanny transformation to be able to go from Fred Rogers to Walt Disney. Personally I think his portrayal as Fred Rogers is nearly spot on, while he mostly just nailed the look and mannerisms of Walt Disney. He never actually sounds like Disney, however, that is not a deterrent in this film.

Brief Synopsis and Biggs’ Review

This movie is based on true events about the adaptation of Mary Poppins to film. Walt Disney has been pursuing the rights to produce Mary Poppins for 20 years but the author, P. L. Travers, refuses to give them up. Finally, in 1961, she agrees to travel to Los Angeles to oversee the adaptation of the film. However, she is not very forthcoming and really pushes Walt Disney to his wits end.

Maybe its my love for Mary Poppins but I really enjoyed this movie. Based on some of the reading I’ve done, the events in this movie, for the most part, are historically accurate. They took a few poetic liberties, but since they had the actual tapes of her and one of the Sherman brothers, you know they couldn’t bend the truth too much. I love how they incorporated some of the real life Disney culture into the film, such as the “man is in the forest” phrase animators would say when they heard Disney approaching.

There isn’t a lot of humor in this, it’s pretty much your typical heart-strings drama however it gave me an immense amount of nostalgia. I doubt the real P.L. Travers would ever approve of this film but it’s really interesting to see the story of this beloved Disney classic was, almost, never made.

I definitely recommend this movie, especially if you are a Disney fan and/or love Mary Poppins.

film_reel“The screen is a magic medium. It has such power that it can retain interest as it conveys emotions and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle.”
– Stanley Kubrick

 

Trolls World Tour Review

Movie Review: Trolls World Tour

Trolls World Tour ReviewTrolls World Tour

Directed By: Walt Dohrn
StarringAnna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake

My Rating:

This is one of the first films to go straight to a streaming release instead of theaters due to the coronavirus pandemic. Coincidentally the movie studio made quite a bit of money. The films digital success was even discussed on the morning news. The numbers indicate that the movie studio probably made more money because of the digital release than they might have from a theatrical release. I doubt that dooms theaters … at least I hope not.

Be that as it may, the film itself was just OK. Most of the original cast reprise their roles, except Jeffrey Tambor as King Peppy. We rented it for my daughter’s birthday because she really likes Trolls. There are points in the film where you wonder if it was made while under the influence of illicit substances. Perhaps the same kind used when making the “Charlie, the Unicorn” videos. (At least the Charlie videos were funny).

It ends in the same old “love conquers all” sappy crap however I feel like the movie uses music as a metaphor. Everyone likes different kinds of music and no one particular genre of music should be eliminated. The movie makes the point that we should all respect each other no matter which music we listen to. Granted I don’t know if the metaphor is intentional but considering all the divisiveness in the world today, I think the same rule applies.

I watched it for my daughter, but I’m not in a hurry to see it again.

film_reel“The screen is a magic medium. It has such power that it can retain interest as it conveys emotions and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle.”
– Stanley Kubrick

 

Movie Review: Onward

Movie Review of OnwardOnward

Directed By: Dan Scanlon
StarringTom Holland, Chris Pratt

My Rating:

A side effect of these extraordinary times is the early digital release of new movies. The latest Disney film became available on Disney+ after only a month in theaters. While nothing will compare to the theater experience, it’s nice to be able to see new movies during quarantine. Keep in mind, not all movies will be free with a subscription to a streaming service. Another obvious perk to Disney+. Here is my movie review of Onward.

Brief Synopsis

Spiderman (Tom Holland) and Starlord (Chris Pratt) team up for this typical Disney “feel good” film. Ian (Holland) and Barley (Pratt) Lightfoot are eleven brothers who lost their father to illness. Upon Ian’s 16th birthday their late father prepared an extraordinary gift. He was a wizard before the world forgot about magic, and he has a spell that can bring him back for one day. Now the brothers must embark on an amazing journey to complete the spell that will “complete” their father’s gift.

Biggs’ Review

Onward is not just about the family bond, but sibling bond. As I already said, this is your typical heartwarming animated film, but it’s quite enjoyable. The most entertaining element about this film is visualizing Chris Pratt performing his lines while recording them. In fact I even went out to see if there are any YouTube videos of Chris and Tom in the recording booth (FYI, there are). At any rate, as a gamer of, primarily fantasy video games, I can easily identify with Barley. However, there is more about this film that kind of hit home.

Barley is the older but nerdy sibling; while Ian is more down to earth, but not really a popular kid in school. While Barley is comfortable embracing his nerdy personality, Ian struggles to be accepted and often feels embarrassed by his brother. I have a younger sister who may have struggled with an older brother that loved Star Wars, reading books, collecting comic books, playing video games and embracing the geek life.

So watching Ian and Barley discover that special sibling bond felt very real to me. It will pull on those heart strings. This movie is definitely worth watching, especially if you have siblings.

(Click here to read my other reviews)

film_reel“The screen is a magic medium. It has such power that it can retain interest as it conveys emotions and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle.”
– Stanley Kubrick

 

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