Mulan


Viewed – 08 September 2020 Disney+

I never got around to watching the animated original, yet it had always intrigued me … but unlike some other live action Disney remakes of late, I thought this would suit such a take better. Telling the tale of a young woman in ancient China who chooses to join the Emperors army disguised as a man, after an invading army declare war.

This is a gorgeous movie, awash with vibrant colours, beautiful costumes and stunning scenery and locations. Yes, there’s an overdose of CGI and occasionally the use of green screen for backgrounds is a bit obvious, but overall this was a treat for the eyes. Martial arts star Donnie Yen appears as a general who trains up the Emperors army, and an unrecognisable Jet Li appears as the Emperor himself. Jason Scott Lee’s vengeful leader of the invading army is good but he’s overshadowed by Gong Li’s brilliantly ruthless witch, who is definitely one of the movie’s stand out characters. Yet Liu Yifei as Mulan herself is very good, tough yet vulnerable and can handle the various elaborate fight sequences and carries the movie well. Yet the star here is the direction and visuals, Action scenes are plentiful and the camera work is often unique and stylish.

The story is nothing that special though and gets rather predictable. Some of the gravity-defying fantasy aspects can get a bit silly too. Also I found myself having to suspend belief when Mulan was disguised as a man, but still looked feminine to me. However, despite these things, I was still highly entertained from start to finish. One to check out.

Verdict: Recommended

What I’ve been watching


I thought I’d start doing a series of posts on here that cover my viewing habits outside of reviewing. I’ll offer brief thoughts and cover a number of titles, which at least doesn’t leave some movies without an opinion or two. So let’s get started…

This weekend I watched two movies that I have in my collection, starting off with believe it or not, a Buster Keaton movie. I have been inspired of late by various YouTube channels (shout out to Luke at Razorwire Reviews) that cover movie collecting, and some have covered the silent era. I’ve not watched any of Keaton’s movies before and recently purchased a 3 movie set. So I started off with 1928’s ‘Steamboat Bill Jr’ one of his most famed that I enjoyed quite a bit (and loved the last ten minutes). It was quite different and fun to experience a silent movie, with a very entertaining piano / orchestral accompaniment which I’m guessing was newly produced for the restoration. Keaton is certainly very likeable and the stunt work in this one is impressive. I can say this certainly made me thirsty for more.

Steamboat Bill Jr

I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve been attempting to revisit my past love of Hong Kong cinema but can’t say they are having the effect on me they once did. I suppose I’ve changed a bit. It may also mean I won’t rush to get the Blu-ray releases that are coming out lately … but those I have purchased, I do intend to watch. One such title is ‘Mr Vampire’ from 1985, a fantasy comedy-horror set in a small town that seems quite used to the presence of vampires and ghosts. The comedy is amusing but very silly and isn’t as enjoyable as the various vampire encounters where the main action takes place. Director Ricky Lau certainly knows how to film action and the stars here are very skilled in Kung-fu and acrobatics. Effects work, make-up etc is dodgy and the story is weak, but overall I still enjoyed this.

Mr Vampire

I also finished season three of Ozark on Netflix. A solid season with a powerful ending. Ozark has easily become one of my favourite shows of late. I also finally began watching the third season of The Handmaid’s Take – a great opening episode, as intense and brilliantly acted as ever. Can’t wait to continue with this.

Well that’s me for now. Expect more reviews as well as similar blog posts to the above, soon…

Craig.

The Hidden Fortress


Viewed – 17 July 2020. Blu-ray

(Akira Kurosawa season: part one)

I’d heard many good things about legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa over the years, how he had influenced so many directors, his style having defined much of cinema as we know it, from the John Ford Westerns to Sci-Fi sagas like Star Wars. So I thought it high time I sat down to one of his movies, having recently picked up a box set of some of his most famed titles.

This movie from 1958 starts out with a duo of squabbling farmers who stumble upon the plight of a missing Princess and an invading army hellbent on killing her and claiming the kingdom for themselves. Initially hoping to turn their fortunes around by finding the Princess and claiming the bounty, the farmers soon find themselves befriending her and her bodyguard – a former General.

This was easy to get into, as I had had some trepidation concerning if I’d like this sort of movie. However the bumbling, squabbling farmers are good fun and the General, played by Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune is a likeable yet imposing presence that I was quickly routing for. The actress playing the Princess was also appealing even if her dialogue is limited for the most part. Kurosawa’s direction is decent with a few stand-out sequences including a tense one on one fight, a large scale escape from a fortress involving a ton of extras, and an eye-catching ‘fire festival’ sequence. George Lucas has named this as an influence on Star Wars, yet apart from his similarity between the farmers and R2D2 and C3PO, that’s where I felt comparisons ended.

It’s a tad long at 138 minutes, and isn’t as eventful as it could have been, with much of the running time taken up by the (admittedly enjoyable) banter between the four main characters. It’s also unclear who the invading army are (the mongols?) and what the setting is. Yet for my first foray into the movies of Akira Kurosawa, I still got a lot out of this, enough to make me thirsty for more.

The Blu-Ray from the BFI box set I picked up has a very pleasing, clear B&W image that’s quite eye-catching at times. Subtitles are also well done and easy to follow. Sound is effective, with clear dialogue and a pounding score despite being in standard stereo. Extras are a let down though, with only an interview with George Lucas and a trailer. There’s also strangely no scene selection.

Verdict::

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Good

A-Z Challenge – conclusion


Starting this challenge on May 1st, I guessed there would be times it would get quite challenging (duh), as in order to keep on track I would sometimes have to watch a movie from my Blu-ray collection that I wasn’t in the mood for. As the weeks went by, I would swap and change titles to better support what mood I found myself in, and to explore a variety of genres and sometimes titles from different countries.

… in support of physical media

I think on a whole the final list of 26 movies is a nice and varied one. Below you can take a look at the list in full (complete with my verdicts) and draw your own conclusions … and maybe feel inspired to attempt something similar yourself?

Arietty – Recommended

Betty Blue – Good

Carlito’s Way – Recommended

Die Hard 2 – Recommended

Edge of Tomorrow – Recommended

Frenzy – Good

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Essential

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Poor

Interstellar – Recommended

Jurassic Park – Essential

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang – Good

La La Land – Recommended

Mission Impossible: Fallout – Recommended

North By Northwest – Good

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – Good

Parasite – Recommended

Quantum of Solace – Good

[REC] – Recommended

Sympathy For Mr Vengeance – Recommended

Time Bandits – Recommended

Unforgiven – Good

Vertigo – Good

The World Is Not Enough – Good

X-Men Days of Future Past – Recommended

Your Name – Essential

Zu Warriors of the Magic Mountain – Poor

I’m really proud to have completed this challenge in the time frame i gave myself (ending on June 30th) and hope to attempt something similar again in the future. If I was to pick a highlight from the movies I saw, it’d probably be Parasite, although watching Time Bandits again was great fun too. I also enjoyed discovering some Hitchcock movies. Disappointments? Unforgiven, which I found quite boring, and Zu Warriors of the Magic Mountain which wasn’t as good as I remembered. Otherwise I had a good time with the majority of my choices. Now though it’s back to normal and high-time I got onto checking out some newer movies that I can review.

Craig.

A-Z Challenge – update 3


Well, this is becoming quite the challenge for me personally. I’ve now reached letter S having ploughed through 7 more movies. Revisiting La La Land for L was surprising in how much I enjoyed it and appreciated the story second time around, and would now rate it higher than my existing review. For M, Mission Impossible Fallout was an easy pick as I’d brought it on Blu-ray awhile back and not got around to watching it. Yes just as good if not better on second viewing.

La La Land

Reaching N … I chose another Alfred Hitchcock classic, North By Northwest … an exciting man-in-the-wrong-place mystery thriller with Cary Grant that was a lot of fun. O was one my most disappointing movie of last year, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and although I enjoyed it a little bit more, it overall didn’t work for me and I stand by my initial review.

I recently reviewed Parasite, my letter P and was overall impressed with it, despite a somewhat far-fetched ending. Q was the mostly reviled Bond outing Quantum of Solace, a movie I still think is ok but the story is weak and unengaging even though Daniel Craig is still good and some of the action is great. Then we came to R and I chose the Spanish found-footage horror [REC] a movie I really like even if subsequent viewings do dilute the experience for me.

Now will I get the remaining 8 movies watched by June 30th? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.