Cinema Dispatch: Mulan

Mulan and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Niki Caro

I’ll be honest, the animated Mulan wasn’t exactly one of my go to films when I was a kid.  I was more of an Aladdin/Pixar fan and while I remember Mulan being GOOD, it never really stuck with me like a lot of other films did.  But hey!  That’s why Disney is doing all these remakes in the first place, right?  To not only cash in on Nostalgia dollars for people who DO remember the original but to try and get the people who didn’t care for it the first time to invest in the property and maybe build a new theme park ride around it.  Does this remake of the 1998 classic hold up to and even SURPASS the original, or is this another live action remake from Disney that fails to bring anything new or interesting to the table?  Let’s find out!!

China is being attacked by the… Not Huns (Let’s get down to business!  To defeat… the Rouran Khaganate!) and it seems they have a witch on their side (Gong Li) that’s wreaking havoc on their outposts along the Silk Road.  In order to stop these invaders, the Emperor (Jet Li) orders the conscription of one man from every family in the country, and one of the villages they arrive at (which looks quite a bit like the slums from Kung Fu Hustle) is the home of Hua Mulan (Yifei Liu) and her family.  Her father (Tzi Ma) having no sons of his own volunteers to go despite having fought in a previous war and has a disabled leg because of it, but as you know this doesn’t sit well with Mulan and so she goes in her father’s stead; leaving the village in the dead of night and donning the identity of a man.  Mulan under the guise of Hua Jun must make it through the intense training of Commander Tung (Donnie Yen) while also keeping her identity as well as her overwhelming strength a secret; lest she bring shame on her family or even be executed by the very country she’s here to defend.  Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and the awesome witch lady might have the right idea, but Mulan is not about to let a little thing like impending death keep her from protecting her family and her homeland!  Will Mulan be able to successfully navigate the men’s world of warfare without her secret being discovered?  Who are these villainous rouges attacking China, and what’s driving them on their quest to conquer the country?  If they make a sequel to this, will it ALSO be about a feminist revolution in China or will they go in a different direction with it?

“My name is Hua Mulan.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”
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Cinema Dispatch: The Circle

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Unforgettable and all the images you see in this review are owned by STX Entertainment and EuropaCorp

Directed by James Ponsoldt

So you’re telling me that there’s a movie with Emma Watson, John Boyega, Tom Hanks, AND Patton Oswalt!?  This is either gonna be the greatest movie of all time, or a HUGE disaster if they managed to rope in THAT kind of cast for an EVIL GOOGLE movie!  Now techno-thrillers aren’t always the easiest idea to sell considering how hard it is to truly capture something that the world interacts with on a very intrinsic level on a daily basis which runs the risk of not fully understanding the material that is being explored (*cough* The Lawnmower Man *cough*) and even ones that succeed in that still tend to have a rather short shelf life considering how quickly technology changes and therefore what we fear about them does to.  Does The Circle manage to surpass expectations to become that one rare techno-thriller that ISN’T completely laughable, or is it yet another failed entry in the genre?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Mae Holland (Emma Watson) getting the chance to work in the Customer Service department of The Circle.  What is The Circle?  Well, it’s basically a social media account a la Facebook, but with a lot more functionalities tied to it… so basically a Google+ account if anyone actually gave a shit about those.  The Circle is ALSO the gigantic facility where all the employees work and most of them end up sleeping, eating, socializing, and partying for months on end; barely getting a glimpse of the outside world from their little techno-paradise.  They’re all led by their charismatic leader Steve Jobs… I mean Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), who drags them all into an auditorium every damn week to tell them what crazy idea they’ll be working on next with his second in command Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt) standing off to the side and making sure everything goes according to plan.  Now the longer Mae stays there, the more obvious that these people are acting just the TINIEST bit silly what with their undying devotion to the idea of THE CIRCLE (whatever the hell it’s supposed to represent) and them being one big interconnected community with no secrets.  After all, if you know something, then why not post it for the world to see?  She’s not the only one slightly skeptical about all this as some dude who just likes to hang out on the outskirts of the cool parties (John Boyega) also doesn’t trust what The Circle is up to, but then he doesn’t seem to be doing anything to stop it.  Anyway, The Circle’s plans for world domination… I mean effective social media services, gets creepier and more invasive as time goes on; eventually sweeping Mae right in the middle of it as she soon becomes a spokesperson for The Circle and what it represents.  Can Mae put an end to… whatever the hell The Circle is planning before it’s too late, or has she already drunken the Kool-Aid?  Will John Boyega get to do anything in the movie, or is he basically just a cameo?  Is there anyone less threatening than Tom Hanks, even when he’s trying to be a bad guy?

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Oh, he can’t be THAT bad, right?  Wait a minute… that’s what they WANT you to think!

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