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Mulan (2020) Review

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Mulan 2020

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Yifei Liu as Mulan
Donnie Yen as Commander Tung
Jason Scott Lee as Böri Khan
Yoson An as Chen Honghui
Gong Li as Xianniang
Jet Li as The Emperor of China
Tzi Ma as Hua Zhou
Director: Niki Caro

To save her ailing father from serving in the Imperial Army, a fearless young woman (Yifei Liu) disguises herself as a man to battle northern invaders in China.

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I was very sceptical about the live action remake Mulan to say the least. I only saw the original Mulan for the first time within the last two years, so it’s not like I had a long running love for it, even though I did like it. However, these live action Disney remakes have mostly just been fine but generic. When I saw the new Mulan I liked it even if I didn’t think it was anything better than okay. But it does get worse the more I think about it.

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One of my biggest complaints of Disney’s live action remakes is that they play things really safe, pretty much just replicating the animated movies in an uninspired way. Mulan did slightly interest me from the trailers as it actually looked like it had a vision beyond just copying the animated movie, it actually looked distinct. Overall, it’s roughly the same movie but there are some small yet significant changes. At first I thought about complementing the movie for at least trying to be something different. With that said, the movie itself didn’t turn out so well, and some of those differences are partly responsible for that. Despite some complaints from others about the filmmakers taking away the music, I don’t really have an issue with that. Most of my issues boil down to three main issues. The first issue I have is with regards some of the changes made. For every aspect they remove from the original animated movie, they don’t necessarily substitute it with something, and so it feels empty a lot of the time. Sometimes some things are also carried over from the animated movie and altered, and end up being rather pointless. An example is that the comedic relief from the original being a dragon played by Eddie Murphy isn’t in this movie. What bothers me isn’t that the character isn’t here in the live action movie, what annoys me is that he is seemingly substituted with a phoenix that only appears a few times of the movie, rather pointless really. I don’t mind the movie taking a serious perspective to make itself stand out from the original. However none of the moments made an impact, it just felt like it was going through the motions. As a result, it feels very bland from beginning to end.

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My second main issue is with regard to the character of Mulan and the overall message. In this new version of Mulan, the lead character is powerful because she has high amounts of chi (which I’ll get back to in a bit). She is pretty much a superhero, which takes away all tension from the action scenes, not to mention takes away relatability from her as a character. Speaking of relatability, it seems like the movie is actively avoiding emotion as well. An important scene where Mulan makes the decision to replace her dad in the coming war was quite powerful in the original. In the remake, the filmmakers just can’t wait to get into that armour and out of there, with not a shred of emotion given. The messaging is also different. Mulan 2020 unlike its predecessor doesn’t work as an empowerment story, aside from the aforementioned lack of relatability of Mulan, it just doesn’t jell with the fact that essentially the story is (and uncomfortably so) rooted in imperial nationalism and devotion to monarchy. Now that’s certainly different from the animated movie, but it’s significantly worse. Then there’s my third issue, although the film looks like it’s being accurate to Chinese culture, from actually hearing from some experts talk about it, it doesn’t quite get it right. It is clear that for all their best attempts, the movie was clearly made by a white crew because it lacks authenticity. I previously mentioned about Mulan apparently being so powered because of her chi, in that she has a lot of it. However, it’s worth knowing that chi is actually energy, not midichlorians or some other power level. So understand that when characters mention that Mulan has a high level of chi, it’s like they are saying that she has a high level of blood or something. Hearing some different perspectives on some of the representation of the culture, in my mind the movie just gets much worse. The rest of the script is pretty bland and by the numbers, doesn’t do enough to keep you invested, characters are forgettable, and you don’t really feel anything throughout.

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The acting is a bit mixed. Some actors like Donnie Yen and Jet Li work well and give reasonably commendable performances. Much of the rest of the cast however are just serviceable and nothing special. Even the lead actress who plays Mulan, Yifei Liu, is okay at best. To be fair most of the issue with her is the writing of the character as previously mentioned, she’s two dimensional and rather bland. The villains are completely forgettable and I don’t really have anything to say about them.

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The direction from Niko Caro is a bit of a mixed bag. The visuals are good (if sometimes in a bland way), and the colours can sometimes be nice. The action scenes is also very flawed, and it’s mainly to do with the very messy editing, there are a lot of cuts during the action. The CGI can be hit or miss, it ranges from being decent to really bad.

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I can’t tell if you’d like the 2020 version of Mulan. If you’re curious about the movie at the very least, then I’d say it’s worth checking out for yourself. If you love the original Mulan, you might take issues with some of the changes. I liked the movie alright when I saw it, but right now, I think it’s rather average at best.

The Expendables 3 (2014) Review

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross
Mel Gibson as Conrad Stonebanks
Jason Statham as Lee Christmas
Harrison Ford as Max Drummer
Antonio Banderas as Galgo
Wesley Snipes as Doctor Death
Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen
Randy Couture as Toll Road
Terry Crews as Hale Caesar
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Trent “Trench” Mauser
Jet Li as Yin Yang
Kelsey Grammer as Bonaparte
Ronda Rousey as Luna
Kellan Lutz as John Smilee
Glen Powell as Thorn
Victor Ortiz as Mars
Robert Davi as Goran Vata
Director: Patrick Hughes

Years ago, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) co-founded the Expendables with Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). After Stonebanks became an arms dealer, Ross was forced to kill him — or so he thought. Now, Stonebanks is back and he’s on a mission to end the Expendables. Ross decides that the way to fight old blood is with new blood, so he assembles a team of younger, faster, more tech-savvy recruits. The battle to topple Stonebanks becomes a clash of old-school methods vs. high-tech expertise.

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It’s been so long since I’ve watched the 3 Expendables movies. I seem to remember that the first was an okay but rather forgettable action movie, and the second was noticeably better and rather fun throwback flick. However, the 3rd movie really doesn’t work, and its surprisingly because the filmmakers somehow forgot the purpose of these movies to begin with. It’s not even entertainingly bad, it’s just middle of the road flat and average.

The movie starts off well with an entertaining opening action scene (it involves Wesley Snipes breaking out of prison). After that though it’s rather weak, even as a standard action flick, and on the whole still manages to be quite boring. Expendables 3 doesn’t seem self aware like in the 2nd movie and its worse than in the first movie. The Expendables was meant to be this throwback to 80s action movies but instead this movie is about getting a new team, in fact this movie spends too much time with recruiting the new Expendables. I’m also not expecting some kind of compelling story, but even on the level of trashy action movies, this falls pretty flat. Even some of the sillier aspects aren’t entertaining this time, its just incredibly hard to get into the movie. It does improve in the third act as it gets into the climax but it’s not worth sitting through the entire 2 hour runtime to get to that point.

The whole thing about Expendables is that part of its appeal is that it had 80s action stars all together (except Jason Statham for some reason). Expendables 3 forgot that, Stallone is very much the lead but much of the original cast of the first two movies is sidelined for the younger cast. The younger cast includes Ronda Rousey and Kellan Lutz, and the younger cast really don’t add anything to the movie at all and just end up being annoying more than anything else. The older cast fare a little better, the returning Expendables cast with the likes of Jason Statham and Arnold Schwarzenegger do well enough but again, sidelined. Harrison Ford in this movie pretty much replaces Bruce Willis’s role (since Willis didn’t return due to some disagreements between him and Stallone), having a few scenes and all. It’s nice seeing him here but unfortunately doesn’t elevate the movie enough. Wesley Snipes is also a nice addition. Antonio Bandareas is a good actor and on paper him being in the Expendables movies sounds really great, but his character is really annoying, so it was a bit of a missed opportunity. Mel Gibson was a good villain for the movie, the best villain in the trilogy by far, in fact he’s probably the best part of the whole movie. There’s particularly a standout scene with him in a truck like halfway through the movie.

The first Expendables was directed okay by Sylvester Stallone and the second was much better directed by Simon West. The third movie is directed by Patrick Hughes and unfortunately wasn’t all that done well. There is a lot of cuts and shaky cam during the action scenes, its like it was directed like an average modern action movie. Unlike the previous movies in the series, The Expendables 3 isn’t given an R rating. My problem isn’t necessarily that it’s not rated R (since you could just remove the blood from the other movies and they’d work almost as well, if not better), the problem is that it feels like it was shot to be R but then they changed to PG-13, resulting in some things looking different. For example, instead of blood spurting out when people are shot, it’s just lots of dust bouncing off them. There is some really poor CGI here, I know we shouldn’t be expecting much from it, but it even feels poor compared to the previous movie. The climax is entertaining enough, however the Stallone vs Gibson fight should’ve been more than what we got, doesn’t even touch the Stallone vs Jean-Claude Van Damme fight at the end of the second film.

The Expendables 3 is not awful but it’s rather average and somehow pales in comparison to the previous 2 movies, which weren’t even that great. It feels watered down, the new cast mostly don’t add much to it, and it’s just rather boring. Pretty much the only part about The Expendables 3 that is good enough that might be worth watching is Mel Gibson, who makes for an effective villain and the best out of the trilogy. Really the only movie in this trilogy that I’d say is worth watching is the second movie. Even if you’re a fan of the first two movies, I’m not sure that you’ll like this one.