Cinderella (2021) | What If Ella was like Belle?

This modern interpretation of Charles Perrault’s classic fairytale by Kay Cannon is a comedy musical featuring well-known pop and rock hits, in addition to several original songs. Camila Cabello stars as the title character in her acting debut, alongside Nicholas Galitzine (The Craft: Legacy, Handsome Devil) as the prince, Billy Porter (Pose) as the fairy Godmother, Idina Menzel (Frozen) as the Stepmother, and Pierce Brosnan (A Long Way Down, The November Man) & Minnie Driver (About a Boy) as the king and queen.

Premise:  Ella is an ambitious young woman who has big dreams for her future that are thwarted by her patriarchal society. With the help of her Fab Godmother, she perseveres to make them come true.

Review: Going in I didn’t know this movie was a Jukebox Musical, which is not a problem for me since I loved Moulin Rouge, but it’s important to note that it is one because that helps a lot in the enjoyment of the movie. The song choices are great, they work well with the story, modernizing it just enough and making it fresh.

Even knowing this was a musical, I was still shocked at the talent involved. For one I recognized a lot of British comedians and actors, but I kind of expected just a few cast members to sing. Here most of them have a musical number or/and participate in one. There are also many clever little changed to the story that shift things a bit without them being a total reboot of the story and characters. In this version some characters have more to do while others were added to the story. For example, Menzel’s stepmother is more mean than straight up evil and her motivations make some sense, the king and queen have more to do, and changes have been made to the prince that matches with the ones made to Ella.
Ella has more agency, she’s driven, and not exactly waiting to be saved. She’s more like Belle than the classic Cinderella. I also like that Cinderella wasn’t supposed to be considered ugly, just unkempt, her stepsisters even acknowledges that she is beautiful at one point. I always found it weird in other versions that everyone seem to act like she’s ugly until she puts on sparkling dress.

The movie also has a lot of comedy in it, and the cast does a great job with it. Cabello being the least experienced here doesn’t embarrass herself in her performance, she does a good job. Porter as the fairy godmother fits in so well that it doesn’t distract from the movie at all. Music aside, the plot has a whole is what that fairytale would be like if it was written nowadays. it’s not perfect but it entertains.

Cinderella is a fun movie, with a nice song selection, and changes that brings a nice spin to the classic fairytale.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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Nightbooks | Trailer

Nightbooks is about a young boy named Alex becomes the prisoner of a witch (Krysten Ritter); to avoid certain death, he convinces her to let him tell her a scary story every night. Upon meeting the witch’s servant, Yazmin, the two must use their wits to escape her apartment, a magical labyrinth filled with various dangers, before the witch kills them both.

  • Writers: Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis, J.A. White.
  • Director: David Yarovesky
  • Stars: Krysten Ritter, Lidya Jewett, Winslow Fegley, Khiyla Aynne, Jess Brown, Luxton Handspiker, Miley Haik, Liam Couvion, Taylor Belle, Eden Gjoka.

Nightbooks will release on Netflix on the 15th of September 2021.

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Yes Day | Light Children Entertainment

After Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – argh that title is long – Jennifer Garner and director Miguel Arteta are teaming up again. This movie is also based on a book, an illustrated book by author Amy Krouse-Rosenthal & illustrator Tom Lichtenheld. The movie stars along side Garner, Edgar Ramirez , Jenna Ortega, Julian Lerner & Everly Carganilla.

Premise: Allison and Carlos decide to give their three kids a “yes day”, where for 24 hours the kids make the rules.

Review: For a family movie this one is on the higher-end of the spectrum because it has great production value and the story is quite good. There’s so much to love about this film. The story is balanced. It’s fun and serious without being too over the top, it is a bit but it’s a movie. They’ve established a lot about the parents in very little time, which help making this family look real.

The best thing about Yes Day is the cast. There are two things that I noticed about this cast, one they picked great actors, who can be silly and serious and not have that be jarring. And the second thing, which is the most important is, they let the cast be who they’ve established them to be. I mean the Torres family wasn’t half Latino by name only. I’ve seen so many films with a diverse cast that showed nothing of that diversity. As if skin tone or just looking diverse is all there is to their identity. Here it’s not just the casting, or a first or last name but moments where this family is showcased has having two cultures and not just one. I appreciated seeing the parents speaking in both English and Spanish to the kids. I also very much enjoy the cameos in this movie, they made the experience better.

However, these parents are a little too nice and composed for my liking. I mean the mom got more upset at the random picture of a boy than thousands of dollars worth of property damage. Even if you live comfortably that would still rankle, so I had to suspend my disbelief because if I did half of what these kids did I would not have been grounded.

Yes Day is light fun for the kids, I enjoyed watching this with my nephew but it’s not a movie for the whole family.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Flora & Ulysses | A Lover Letter to Artists

LENA KHAN

CAST

Matilda Lawler
Alyson Hannigan
Ben Schwartz
Benjamin Evan Ainsworth
Danny Pudi


Based on the novel by Kate DiCamillo

My grown-ass self decided to watch this on my own. It’s not like I had a kid to entertain but after I watched WandaVision I decided to put this on, and let me tell you, it’s quaint. It’s a bit funny, I chuckled many times, it’s clearly geared for kids yet adults can find some enjoyment in it.
The movie also has some heart, I know what they were going for but I wasn’t feeling it as much as they might have expected me to. I don’t blame the acting because the cast was great and Matilda Lawler carried this movie throughout. She was engaging and entertaining to watch however parts of the story didn’t flow as well as it should have but overall it works. The VFX on Ulysses is also amazing, it smoothed the line between fantasy and reality well but that cat sticks out like a sore thumb because of it.

Flora & Ulysses is worth a watch, it’s a different take on the superhero genre and a nice love letter to writers and comic book artists.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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The Witches | A Quirky Dahl Dark Children Movie that Circumvents Child Labor Laws

Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Welcome to Marwen) is a writer-director-producer whose films have always caught my attention even if I haven’t always rushed to see them. Strangely enough Zemeckis is not the one who got me onto this film but three members of the cast did. Octavia Spencer (Truth Be Told, Hidden Figures, The Help), Stanley Tucci (Spotlight, Wild Card, Mockingjay), and Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables, The Dark knight Rises). The combination of these three, particularly the first two is enough for me to at least read the premise.
But since it’s based on Roald Dahl‘s The Witches I’m in. The cast also includes Chris Rock (Fargo, 2 Days in New York) in a voiceover capacity as an older Jahzir Bruno (The Oath, Atlanta), Codie-Lei Eastick (Holmes & Watson) and Kristin Chenoweth (American Gods) round out the cast.

Premise: In 1960s Alabama, a young orphaned boy stumbles across a coven of child-hating witches, while staying with his grandmother at a hotel, and gets transformed into a mouse by the Grand High Witch.

Review: Before the first trailer all I knew was that Tucci, Hathaway and Spencer are in it, but once I saw the trailer I was floored. The cast caught my attention but Hathaway as a stylish classy lady with a Glasgow smile further tipped the scale.

The movie got the fun quirky tone mixed with Dahl’s books right. It’s dark and a little f’ed up. The story is captivating, it’s almost like a true story with a sheen of fantasy. I totally recognized Roald Dahl’s style but I could also see the input that Zemeckis, Del Toro, and Barris added. It’s still a children movie though, entertaining for adults but very much made for children. Actions have consequences here and when you think about it The Witches is darker than most children movie are. There’s no resolution in this film, or to be accurate there’s no ‘everything went back to normal ending’ but more of we’re doing the best with what we got. They’re making lemonade with the lemmons they ended up with.

I enjoyed the level of details in this movie. Like I mentioned before Hathaway’s Grand Witch Glasgow smile is one but also her gloves, they make the tip of her fingers look like claws, which is what she has underneath. Octavia Spencer has a much bigger role than I expected her to have and I’m here for it. She’s brilliant striking the right tone for a spooky children movie. For a film aimed at young children, there are not many of them, they presence are felt more than seen but it works.

The Witches is a fun family movie that doesn’t shy away from the darkness while not being too extreme with it. It’s very dark but the most unnerving aspects of it managed to be subtle.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Mulan | It’s a Bit Light

The Disney animated Mulan is not a movie I grew up on. I’ve seen it and remember liking it but I couldn’t sing a song from that movie to save my life. I didn’t feel the need to, nor did I want to see the animated movie before watching this one. So I am not going to do what a lot of reviewers seem to do, basing my review on how it differs from the movie.

When I became aware of Mulan (1998) I might have suspected that it was based on something, a lot of Disney animated movies are, but didn’t know for sure. The “Ballad of Mulan” is the story, sorry poem, that inspired both films. In this live action version Liu Yifei stars in the title role, alongside Tzi Ma (Treadstone, The Farewell), Donnie Yen (Rogue One), Gong Li (Hannibal Rising, Memoirs of a Geisha), Jason Scott Lee (Seventh Son), Yoson An (The Luminaries, Mortal Engines), and Jet Li (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon, Romeo Must Die).

Niki Caro (The Zookeeper’s Wife) is directing, with a first screenplay by Boy Eats Girl: A Zombie Love Story‘s Elizabeth Martin & Lauren Hynek, and a revised script by Planet of the Apes and Jurassic World‘s writers Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver.

Premise: When the Emperor of China issues a decree that each family must provide one man to serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Nothern invaders, a young Chinese maiden, Hua Mulan, disguises herself as a male warrior in order to save her father.

Review: It looks like a Disney film from the very first frame. Bold vibrant colors with beautiful landscapes, the cinematography is stunning. It’s the first Disney live-action fairy tale that seems remotely connected to the others. It’s very reminiscent of Aladdin in that respect. I can believe that these two movies are happening in the same world but in different places.

The colors and the set designs are the first thing that you might notice. The movie paints a realistic view of Imperial China while also adding fantasy and/or magical elements. It’s magical realisms on film. Mulan looks like a fairytale and it has the messages that go with it. There’s a moral to the story, quite a few of them actually.

Throughout the film there are nuggets of wisdom, messages, and they blend to the story – that may be why so many people are stuck on what’s not in the movie. It has (a) beautiful message(s) but everything seems to be done to mostly keep you on an even keel emotionally. The story is not too dramatic, too humorous – it’s quite serious in fact – or too frustrating. All those things are present but they didn’t go so deep into it to incite the full blown emotion. It makes the story feel like it doesn’t have enough heart or depth.

Mulan has a beautiful story with stunning imagery, paired to a great overall message interspersed with action scenes. However there’s not enough heart in it, the film could have been a better, more thrilling emotional rollercoaster.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

TV Review: The Letter for the King | Shallow people stumbling through an adventure

The Dutch book De brief voor de Koning (1962) by Tonke Dragt has finally been developed into a TV series by Will Davies for Netflix.

Premise: 16-year old aspiring knight Tiuri finds himself on a perilous mission to deliver a secret letter to the king who lives across the Great Mountains.

Review: The premise is not the most original one out there. Reading it, it’s obvious that you’ll be cheering for an underdog, an unassuming mildly skilled naive boy, who is thrust into a dangerous situation he’s not happy about. A guy, who’ll do the right thing because he must…well not exactly.

We spent a good chunk of time getting to know Tiuri, and although he’s a nice guy, he doesn’t go out of his way to be helpful. He minds his own business and tries to be a decent guy, but not a hero.

Tiuri keeps getting reluctantly pushed into things, his step father, Sir. Tiuri, wants him to become a knight, and then he tries to assist one person and it snowballs into a mess he’s in the middle of. In fact, Tiuri actively tries to get out of that mess but gets sucked back in every time. He only truely accepts his quest when he has no other choice.

From the start Tiuri was told not to trust anyone and I appreciated that most characters were shown to not be trust worthy. Yet Tiuri was so naive and gullible for a 16 year old that it was frustrating. I didn’t want him to be a Gary Sue but not an idiot either.

Different characters shined for various reasons. Prince Viridian sounded evil but looked too pretty particularly for a harden warrior. They tried to pass him off as a vilain who thought he was a hero but that didn’t take.
Sir Tiuri was interesting to me, he’s hard, mean even, and yet he is his stepson’s the biggest champion – at least in public. There were contradicting things about him, it was like he knew something we didn’t but that got nowhere.
Piak was instant like for me, the rest of the novices felt real in their overconfidence in their own skill and doubts about what was going on. The representation throughout the show is quite seamless, race, gender and sexuality are represented but a lot of the characters were selfish and/or greedy, making you wonder why does Tiuri trust anyone so easily.

The Letter For The King‘s story builds up nicely introducing characters, places, while slowly revealing plot points. It hits a crescendo but then slows down almost to a crawl. There are a few twists but they don’t make much of an impact. It is a fantasy series with magic and a quest but it wasn’t epic enough, my excitement level dropped half-way through.

When it comes to visuals, imagery the show has its moments like, that jump – in the first episode – was just magical, a nice shot, reminiscent of E.T.; and then the final “battle” had a lot of screengrab worthy moments that you could frame.

The Letter For The King is quite entertaining, it has its moments, the visual effects are good, but the writing is a little uneven. I would watch a second season but in a “I’ll get to it when I have time” kind of way.