My last post was a bit of a downer so tonight I’m focusing on sources of joy from my Thursday. Even though I’m exhausted & don’t feel good, I was productive with my work tasks. I got some reading & note-taking done for the book review I’m currently working on. Pssst, I’ll let you in on what I’m reading: “Gilded” by Marissa Meyer. ❄️ I placed an order for an exciting, TikTok-approved YouTube video. I watched Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman which is one of my comfort shows; obviously I love it for the strong female lead & beautiful Colorado mountain views. 😉 My parents treated my brother & I to Sonic ice cream, which I can never say no to; if anyone’s curious, I got an M&Ms blast. 🍦 I listened to some throwback Disney songs while doing a Lucy Wyndham-Read arm workout; I’m on day 3 of the 7-day challenge, & I finally managed the whole thing without stopping for a break. FEEL THE BURN! 🔥 Last but certainly not least,I purchased the brand new Neopets Faerie AOP T-Shirt from Cakeworthy. I wear their all-over-print shirts every single day so you can imagine how extensive my collection is. When I saw a teaser for their Neopets collection, I IMMEDIATELY marked my calendar. If you need me, I’ll be looking out the window, impatiently waiting for my package. 🧚♂️
When life gives you lemon after lemon after lemon, it’s nice to set aside time to make lemonade. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the bad & forgot about all the good that’s right there. Writing all this down was very therapeutic so I thank you for indulging me. 💕 I’ll try & do these casual updates more often, especially after good days like today. I hope you had a great Thursday too. Good Night! 🌙
I said I would be back with news so here I am. I applied for another promising work-from-home job, only to find out the listing had been on the internet since mid-December; I saw a listing posted at the very end of December which is why I applied. There were 600+ applicants, & the company was already at the end of the interview process so there was a 0% chance my application would be looked at. MAJOR BUMMER! That was my second official rejection which doesn’t sound like much, but it is when you consider the time & energy required for the application alone. I also made two inquiries on social media which both ended with “No.” At the risk of sounding dramatic, my confidence is shaken, & I’m feeling defeated. I’ve cried myself to sleep more than once, & my stress levels are off the charts. The other day I tripped going up a flight of stairs, bruised my knee, & spilled coffee all over me & the carpet. I. BROKE. DOWN.
I know I’m coming off as a huge baby, but two months ago I left a retail job that was a constant source of toxicity in my life. I was mentally & physically ill day after day, week after week, month after month. I couldn’t take it anymore so I took a risk & left. I had enough savings to support me for a little bit so I switched on Vacation Mode for the last two months of 2021. Well, I was supposed to. Being the sick, twisted person that I am, I turned into my very best workaholic self & barely enjoyed the holidays, this being my first chance to do so since starting retail in 2015. I know, I have a problem. Boundaries between personal & professional life are not my strong suit. I would say I’m working on it, but lying is a sin.
Now that you know more about my situation, perhaps my reaction makes a little more sense. I’ve been very picky about where I apply because I REFUSE to get stuck at a job for five and a half years again. I’m two years away from turning thirty. I need a big girl job, a career that’s going to support me long-term. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a “dream job” because to me, that’s my blogs & YouTube videos. However, I want it to be something that fits me as a person, maybe even something that taps into one or more of my interests. I see girls my age with jobs they love. Artists starting successful small businesses. Disney fans working for Disney-centered companies. Readers working for bookish companies. In my head & heart, I know what I’m looking for is possible & not just a pipe dream.
Recently I had to set aside the job search because my part-time side job picked up. I have administrative & blogging tasks to catch up on; I’m also doing some social media work, which I’ve never done before. New experiences are always great for growth! That is consuming most of my time, & any spare minute is going into online content because I’m determined to make something out of my corner of the internet. That is where I currently stand. I don’t know what the next few weeks hold, but I’m doing my best to take it one step at a time with my head held high. After a disappointing finish at the Northern Trust Open last year, golfer Jon Rahm pressed on to his next tournament, the BMW Championship, & told reporters: “I must say, for all those Ted Lasso fans out there, be a goldfish. If you haven’t seen the show, you’ve just got to check it out. I feel like almost everybody knows. Have you seen the show? It’s basically [the] happiest animal in the world is a goldfish. You know why? He’s got a 10-second memory. I played great golf last week, just a couple bad swings down the stretch, and that’s the most important thing to remember.” That’s my motto for 2022. Be a goldfish! 🐠
“You know what the happiest animal in the world is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? Got a 10-second memory. Be a goldfish Sam!”– Ted Lasso
Synopsis: After the loss of her beloved grandfather, 28-year-old Jemima Button is unexpectedly handed the keys to his allotment plot. She doesn’t share his enthusiasm for gardening but can’t follow through when the time comes to give it up. Now she has five chickens and a garden to care for, and her amateur mistakes are catching unsolicited criticism.
After ages of being a name on a waiting list, 42-year-old Melissa Robins finally has an allotment plot to call her own. She dives right in, eager to be creative and take her mind off her husband who is working away from home. When loneliness pushes her into a close friendship with a fellow allotmenter, tongues start wagging, and her reputation takes a nosedive.
Despite her age, 80-year-old Dorothy “Dottie” Nesbit maintains a three-days-a-week dusting routine at Lerwick Manor, a job that dates back to her parents. She also grows prize-winning delphiniums and serves as secretary on the allotment association committee. Becase of her unofficial title as local matriarch, her eyes and ears are everywhere, and she is not afraid to get involved and give an opinion.
These three women lead very different lives, but now find themselves neighbors at the Lerwick Manor Allotment Association. Together they will face the barrage of drama that is a typical day at the allotment plot. Will they weather the storm, or is one of them on her way out?
I started this book at a sluggish pace thanks to pages of drawn out description. For example, the section that describes Jemima Button’s first visit as plot owner to the Lerwick Manor Allotment Association: she enters the gate, notices the more unique gardens while following the figure eight pathway, & arrives at her destination six pages later. The detail about her grandparents’ front door is lovely, how after generations of memories it now decorates the plot which is passing from Thomas Quinn to his granddaughter. Some of the description adds to the story, but there could’ve been more editing to remove the pages of tedium, especially in the first half of the book.
Initially Melissa’s point-of-view interested me the most because I liked her personality, but by the end I found her attitude off-putting. I know gossip is an ugly thing, but she could’ve handled herself better. When you choose to spend time alone with a handsome, single man while your husband’s away for work, don’t be shocked when your small, tight-knit community starts to talk. To balance things out, I did appreciate her genuine care for Jemima as they became friends. Dottie is likeable but experiences very little development. She’s more of a bridge between characters and storylines. I enjoyed the Sassy Dottie moments; they added some spice to her character. Her POV lands in the middle which leaves Jemima, my favorite. I found her personal journey relatable, and her potential romance is what truly kept me invested in the book. The pace of her story picked up too quickly in the final chapters, but I like where people, places, and things ended up so I’m not too upset about it.
I now want chickens and an allotment plot, specifically on Shetland, so I think Erin Green did her job. However, I’m lowering my rating because of lengthy descriptions and slow pace, giving “From Shetland With Love” three stars. Don’t expect fireworks-level excitement because this book is exactly what the cover sets it up to be, a slice of life story centered around allotment plot owners and their day-to-day issues. If you like to sit outside in the sunshine and read to unwind, this might be the book for you; if you enjoy gardening, even better!
Fun Fact: Thomas Quinn named his chickens Tonight, Madras, Korma, Roast, and Nugget (or possibly Kiev); all of them are affectionately known as “his ladies.” As a tribute, Jemima named her duck Crispy. I felt you should know all that because it tickled me throughout the entire book.
Tiny as or Tinier than a newborn’s winky – Pages 33 & 301
*DISCLAIMER: In order to be thorough, there are moments that will be spoiled in this section of my review.
Page 104 – Melissa feels attraction to Levi, a man who is not her husband
Page 169 – It’s implied that Melissa doesn’t want to mention Levi’s name to her husband
Pages 171 to 173 – Melissa hugs Levi & cries on his shoulder after a tense FaceTime conversation with her husband
Pages 190 to 195 – Melissa spends the day with Levi alone, having conflicting thoughts about her marriage. Aside from being alone together in a car on a day-long roadtrip, nothing inappropriate happens.
Page 206 – Melissa & Mungo are tangled up on the floor of The Veggie Rack covered in Jemima’s pumkin chutney which has exploded. Dottie walks in on them & assumes something else is happening. Melissa humorously describes the scene as looking like a “kinky sex session with a fetish for orange lube.”
Page 231 – Jemima describes Ned’s strong jawline & cleft chin as sexy, feeling nervous flutters as he’s buttoning up a coat she’s borrowing from him
Pages 236 to 238 – Jemima lets Melissa know the allotmenters are gossiping about her & Levi’s possible affair, & the latter exclaims “You wanted to be the one to blow the story wide open, and then you can confirm that we’re shagging like rabbits in the potting shed!”
Pages 240 to 241 – Melissa contemplates the affair rumours flying around & the silly idea that she’s “conducting a full-blown knocking shop.” She glances around her small potting shed & remarks “ . . . there’s hardly enough room to stash a folded deckchair, let alone perform some sordid affair or energetic sexual gymnastics! There’s a sodding window, for God’s sake! Someone must think I’m a right exhibitionist if this is my place of choice for frolicking.”
Page 241 – While conversing with Jemima, Melissa exclaims “Seriously, don’t you? Don’t you believe me and Levi are arranging sordid shagathons in here . . . me propped up on the rickety workbench over there and him squashed in between the sodding window and my new paraffin heaters!” Jemima humourously responds “I can just imagine it, though I suggest you focus a little more on comfort and ambience: a few candles and a swathe of rich fabric might enhance the boudoir effect for both of you.”
Page 242 – Levi tells Melissa the allotmenters are gossiping about Jemima & Ned possibly sleeping together
Pages 245 to 247 – While in The Cabbage Patch, Melissa takes the opportunity to tell off the allotmenters who are present, setting the record straight that she & Levi have never kissed or slept together.
Pages 262 to 264 – Melissa scolds Levi for not backing up her outburst in The Cabbage Patch, exclaiming “We aren’t a couple. We’re not having an affair or getting jiggy in my potting shed!” Levi criticies her husband’s disinterest in her needs & wants & implies he wants more in their relationship.
Page 335 – Dottie describes Natalia as “a real-life stunner exuding sex appeal and class”
Pages 344 to 347 – Levi and Melissa have a serious conversation in front of people at the festival before slipping away to a private corner and kissing. The chapter ends suggestively with both agreeing to meet back at Levi’s place.
Pages 348 to 349 – Melissa’s husband Hamish shows up at the festival to surprise her. While helping him look for his wife, Dottie spots Levi and Melissa gleefully leaving the manor together. Hamish doesn’t mention seeing them, but it’s implied that he did.
Page 351 – Jemima walks in on Natalia sitting on Ned’s desk and describes her skimpy attire.
Pages 356 to 358 – Dottie warns Melissa about Hamish being at the festival, and she goes straight home, kissing and making up with him.
Pages 366 to 367 – Jemima and Ned share their first kiss in the Lerwick Manor garden during the sweetest, most romantic moment in the whole book.
Page 378 – Jemima and Ned kiss again.
Anxiety – Jemima’s struggles with anxiety are mentioned throughout the book. The worst & most described panic attack takes place on pages 353 to 355.
Infertility & Death/Loss – Jemima is dealing with the recent loss of her grandfather Thomas. There are also mentions of how she coped when her mother died of cancer. There is a brief mention of Ned’s parents struggling to have a child as well as their untimely deaths from cancer. On pages 306 to 310, Dottie and Melissa find Bill who has died while sitting on his allotment plot bench; his body is removed from the property by an undertaker.
I don’t even know where to begin so I’ll start by saying ‘m deeply sorry for disappearing. My blogs mean the world to me, but 2021 kicked my butt. PERIOD. Drama went down at my retail job, & when I could no longer handle the stress mentally & physically, I put in my two weeks. The cherry on top of being unemployed was not getting a job I really wanted three months after applying. I made the decision to enjoy the last two months of the year & do something I never do: enjoy family time during the holidays! In typical Lauren form, I didn’t keep my promise. Well, technically my family did make some great memories in November & December. However, my workaholic tendencies reared their ugly head, & I worked myself into the ground. I’m so exhausted & need a vacation from my two-month vacation, as ridiculous as that sounds. Going into the new year, I have one potential job on my radar. I’m terrified & want to throw up every time I think about going through the application process again, but my sad bank account is pushing me forward. I have no choice! I have to get a job NOW. I’m feeling a fresh wave of nausea talking about this so let’s move on & take a look at what productivity I did manage during 2021:
Let’s take a look at the numbers: I ended 2021 with 488 art blog followers (down from 497), 475 lifestyle blog followers (exactly the same), & 322 subscribers + 154.3K views (up from 293 & 140,868).
I could let those numbers discourage me, but there were things in 2021 that were beyond my control. It wasn’t possible for me to be more active unless I wanted to make myself sick so, in the wise words of Elsa, I’m choosing to Let It Go. I’m currently looking for a work-from-home job which would give me more freedom to be creative on the side. If all goes well, you’ll hear from me again very soon. 💕
📖 Synopsis: On top of trying to please her parents, Rabbi Goldblatt and Dr. Rubenstein, and manage a chronic illness, Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is secretly a best-selling author. Why is it a secret? Because she writes Christmas romance novels! When her boss requests a Hanukkah romance, Rachel isn’t sure she can find enough inspiration in the Festival of Lights to create the same magic as her Christmas books. Just when life couldn’t get any crazier, Jacob Greenberg comes back into her life, arriving in New York City to throw the ultimate Hanukkah party with his successful entertainment company. The two of them have very different memories of what transpired eighteen years ago, but one thing is clear: both of them walked away from that summer at Camp Ahava with a broken heart. Can Rachel work alongside Jacob long enough to find book inspiration at the Matzah Ball, or will the reappearance of her camp archenemy ruin the double life she’s worked so hard to maintain?
Jews come from so many different backgrounds, making our worldwide family equal parts incredible and meshuggeneh. Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt’s upbringing doesn’t mirror my own, but this messianic Jewish girl still found common ground and comfort in her story. Rachel’s dad is a rabbi so she grew up under intense scrutiny, trying to meet the high expectations of her family and community. I was nodding my head at every single sentence because my dad’s a pastor, and life as a pastor’s kid is the same as that of a rabbi’s kid; eyes are on you at all times, people scrutinizing everything you do and gossiping the minute something doesn’t meet their approval. I do not say this lightly: I get it. I totally get it! That’s the biggest reason why I connected to this book beyond surface-level enjoyment.
If you’re a fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope, Jacob and Rachel’s romance is for you. Thanks to miscommunication spanning eighteen years, they hold a grudge against one another for post-summer camp broken hearts. I am ridiculously persnickety when it comes to character flaws and couldn’t help feeling annoyed at the lies and secrets for no good reason. However, I fully understand that’s a major detail supporting the plot and don’t officially consider it a negative. Afterall, the conflict is what makes the ending that much sweeter. Sweeter than Sufganiyot!
For the most part, this book is a home run. Minor details were repeated when unnecessary, such as adult Jacob’s memory of young Rachel’s high ponytail and hot pink shorts (pages 56 & 78). Some Jewish phrases were explained while others were not. There are enough context clues to keep you out of the dark, but I can understand why it might frustrate non-Jewish readers, though I would encourage a quick Google search for the sake of education. In the final pages the onstage moment between Rabbi Goldblatt and his wife Dr. Rubenstein led to a sweet parent-daughter moment, but the set-up was too cheesy for my taste, the overheard dialogue unnatural.
There were very few negatives within 385 pages, but I’m leaving room for improvement because this is Jean Meltzer’s author debut, a mighty impressive one I might add. Four out of five stars. There is familiarity for members of the tribe and common ground for gentile readers. No matter who you are, it will take mere pages to feel like you’re wrapped in the cozy warmth of a Hanukkah blanket. Read this book with my blessing. Chag Hanukkah Sameach!
“My journey of Hanukkah,” Toby said simply, “has spanned ninety-one years. I have celebrated this holiday in Germany, France, New York and Paris, all over the world with my grandson, during good times and bad times alike.” She quieted, a small sadness sitting there at the tip of her throat. “But what I always explained to Jacob is that these candles are a metaphor. They remind us that we always have a choice. We can be someone who snuffs out another person’s candle and, in the process, makes the world a darker place. Or we can be the type of person who spreads light. Better to be the shamash–one candle that lights all the others and brightens an otherwise dark world.” – Bubbe Toby Greenberg, Page 182
Grammar & Spelling Page 107 – “Symbols” instead of “Cymbals” Page 166 – “Kendell Jenner” instead of “Kendall Jenner” Page 242 – “It that strange?” instead of “Is that strange?” or “Is it that strange?” Page 307 – “Leaning into whisper” instead of “leaning in to whisper” Page 354 – “Once Esther Shapiro is finished her set” instead of “Once Esther Shapiro has finished her set”
Sensual/Sexual Moments Page 89 – Sensual inner monologue about a man’s body Page 239 – Sensual inner monologue about a man’s body Page 307 – One kiss Pages 307 through 313 – Jacob visits Rachel’s apartment at night. It’s implied that they might sleep together, but nothing happens. Page 371 – One kiss Page 378 – One kiss, Jacob carries Rachel into her bedroom
Other Mentions of alcohol & drinking throughout the book plus an instance or two of drunkeness
It’s a gross understatement to say 2020 was a rough year so I won’t say it. Instead I’ll look forward to the new year with cautious optimism & lots of prayer. Speaking of prayer, I recently heard Joshua Aaron’s Hebrew cover of the song The Blessing, & it is a spiritual experience. It’s the perfect prayer to lead us into the coming year so I recommend you find a quiet spot, close your eyes, & let the song wash over you. Wishing you & yours a healthy 2021! 💙
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” ’ “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”– Numbers 6:22-27
• The world lost Kobe Bryant & his daughter Gianna along with Alyssa, John, & Keri Altobelli, Ara Zobayan, Christina Mauser, & Payton & Sarah Chester. Kobe was my favorite athlete & one of my biggest inspirations; I still don’t have the words to describe the deep sorrow I feel or how much I miss him. 💔
Let’s take a look at the numbers: I ended 2020 with 497 art blog followers (up from 486), 475 lifestyle blog followers (up from 472), & 293 subscribers + 140,868 views (up from 274 & 121,601). I must admit those numbers are extremely disappointing & feel like a slap in the face after a year of work. Even though I wasn’t very active creatively, I put my all into every single blog post & video I produced. I’m letting my self stew in misery for a bit, but then I’m going to suck it up, hold my head high, & do better in 2021.Onwards & upwards! ➡️ ⬆️
📖 This Bible verse feels very appropriate after the year we just endured so I’m leaving you with Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to break down and a time to build up; A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain and a time to lose; A time to keep and a time to throw away; A time to tear and a time to sew; A time to keep silence and a time to speak; A time to love and a time to hate; A time of war and a time of peace.”
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Another year, another failed Blogmas. I like to be consistent. 😂 This year my excuse isn’t work because I had less shifts than I’ve ever had in December thanks to 20% capacity in malls. My excuse this year is . . . um . . . well, I’m not actually sure what it is. Lack of motivation? I was excited for the holiday season back in October, but something inside me fizzled as the days went by. I didn’t put up my family’s nativity scene or watch my favorite Christmas movie The Nativity Story. In fact, I barely watched any holiday movies. I did listen to a fair amount of festive music, but that was about it. If you’re feeling left out in the cold over here on my lifestyle blog, I didn’t do Vlogmas for my YouTube channel either. I desperately wanted, nay, needed to be in the Christmas spirit this year, but I just couldn’t muster up the energy to celebrate. Despite an undercurrent of sadness draining my energy, I still managed to have a lovely day at home with family on the 25th. I watched The Santa Clause & played Crash Team Racing with my brother, cooked a repeat of Thanksgiving with my mom, & watched the Lakers game with my dad & brother. The Lakers beat the Mavericks! 💜💛 We ended the festivities with a fire, popcorn, & Wonder Woman 1984. I didn’t like it as much as the first movie, but it was still a lot of fun to watch. Highly recommend! After that my brother & I watched Friends until midnight, the official end of Christmas. I guess all of that is a good metaphor for 2020, feeling down but making the best of the situation. In the words of Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane, “From now on we’ll have to muddle through somehow so have yourself a merry little Christmas now.” 💚 🎄 ❤
H A P P Y H A N U K K A H 🕎 M E R R Y C H R I S T M A S 🎄 H A P P Y N E W Y E A R 🎉
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After fourteen movie reviews, the time has come to rank these Disney remakes from best to worst, & I am S-C-A-R-E-D. I can be a critical person, but I like to have fun when I watch movies; I always try to find the positives & not focus on the negatives. This was a difficult task for me, & I’m still not sure if these are truly my final rankings. But, I need to wrap up this blog series so I’m stopping & giving you the results of many, many, many hours of deliberation.
• I don’t want to make you wait any longer than you already have so here they are, my remake rankings. I took into account many different factors: my favorite remakes, the remakes that were most successful, the remakes that improved upon the original film, the number of complaints I had for each remake, etc. Because of that, there might be a few surprises. Cinderella is currently my favorite remake, but it came in 3rd because The Jungle Book & Christopher Robin are the only remakes I couldn’t come up with criticisms for. Pete’s Dragon isn’t the remake I’ll rewatch the most, but I think it’s a huge improvement over the original movie; the stunning visuals & heartwarming story are the two main reasons why it earned the 4th spot on my list. Beauty and the Beast is an absolute shock to me, but rewatching it made me realize it’s a better movie than I’ve given it credit for, shortcomings & all. Aladdin edged out Mulan because it only has one mediocre villain versus two mediocre villains. The Lion King is in the middle of the pack because while it has stunning visuals, it didn’t perfectly replicate the original movie or make any improvements. I really like Alice in Wonderland, but it got edged out by improved special effects post-2010 & remakes of movies that I have more of a personal connection to. Maleficent was good enough to close out my top ten followed by the adorably imperfect Lady and the Tramp. Two unsuccessful & unnecessary sequels find themselves at the bottom of the list along with Dumbo which will always be one of my least favorite Disney movies. There you have it! Those are my rankings . . . for now. 😉
• Here are my rankings of the original animated movies. There are only 11 because the remake sequels were not based on an original movie. Christopher Robin is the exception, but it wasn’t based on one particular film so I didn’t add one.
For those of you that stuck around for 16 days, I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. I would love to hear your rankings down below in the comment section. There are more Disney remakes coming so keep an eye out for more movie reviews. Which ones are you looking forward to most? I’m excited for Cruella, Hercules, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, & Lilo & Stitch. 😊
The final Disney remake I’m reviewing is Mulan, the most recent offering to grace our screens. The original is my favorite Disney princess movie so I’m going to be very thorough & very honest. Buckle up!
• ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • S P O I L E R S • A H E A D • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ •
• First of all, I’d like to acknowledge that Gong Li has been on this blog before. Check out this Cannes red carpet blog post from 2019. I promise you won’t have to scroll too far!
• Staying consistent with mentioning all the themed intros, a Chinese landscape was added around the castle. I actually wondered if the castle itself was a nod to the Shanghai Disney park so I looked it up. My intuition was correct! It is indeed the Enchanted Storybook Castle from Shanghai Disneyland.
• It wouldn’t be right for me to start anywhere other than the cinematography because off the top of my head, there are at least five shots I want to frame & hang up around my bedroom. Seriously, the picturesque scenery is breathtaking. It’s right up there with the New Zealand landscapes that created what we know as Middle Earth. Funnily enough, some of the Mulan scenes were filmed in New Zealand. Small world! 🇳🇿
• I am head over heels in love with the costume choices for each part of the movie, especially the vibrant colors in the different cities & villages. One of the most interesting costumes is worn by Xianniang. Her flowing sleeves & metal skirt mimic the feathers & wings of the hawk she transforms into. Her crown & belt are made of bones which is very creepy but also incredibly cool. On top of all that, her hands are talons, even when she takes a human form. I had high hopes for this villain, & you’ll find out my final thoughts later . . .
• The score is beautiful & atmospheric, incorporating melodies from the original soundtrack which is a nice dose of nostalgia. Right before the matchmaker scene, Mulan says “I will bring honor to us all,” & the melody of Honor To Us All can be heard. The melody of Reflection plays during the night training scene, & Mulan’s reflection is visible in the water. Many fans were upset about the omission of musical numbers, but this interpretation is meant to stand on its own. I’ve seen people giving bad reviews because the remake deviated from the animated movie, & I don’t think that’s fair because Disney made it very clear that this would be a different kind of Mulan movie. It would not have worked as a musical.
• This reimagining of Mulan’s story is narrated by Mulan’s father Hua Zhou, a perfect choice. At the very heart of this movie, you won’t find a romance or even a warrior’s tale; it is the story of a bond between a father and daughter. When everyone else is annoyed by Mulan’s antics and faux pas, her father is always there, supporting her the best that he can. It’s obvious that he’s proud of her, even before she returns home from war a decorated hero. In fact, when that time comes, all he cares about is that she’s back home safe & sound. I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING!! 😭
• Mulan’s chi is an early indication that she could be seen as a witch by the general public, her ultimate connection to Xianniang. Hua Zhou tells her chi is meant for warriors, not daughters, & she needs to hide her gift away & silence its voice. Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about this addition to the story. Mixed in with some of the martial arts sequences, it felt very cheesy. For example, young Mulan jumping off the roof or adult Mulan running up & across palace buildings. I just don’t think the spiritual element blended seamlessly; it could’ve been cut completely & not affected the movie at all.
• Our first villain sighting is Xianniang taking over a merchant’s body as a disguise, a hint that she’s a witch. Next we see her cohorts, the Rouran army, in black clothing riding black horses toward the outpost where she’s located. Right from the start, they’re portrayed as a brutal group. Xianniang is especially cutthroat during the invasion, killing many soldiers herself & not giving it a second thought. She is very powerful, but the leader Böri Khan sees her as nothing more than a lackey, causing division within their partnership.
• I was so excited to see Jet Li as the emperor, but something was not right about his voice & audio. Every time he talked, specifically in the throne room, it seemed like his mouth wasn’t synched with the audio.I hate to say this, but it’s very cringey & something that shouldn’t have been overlooked. Speaking of audio, there’s another mistake in the first throne room scene. The lone soldier who survived the Rouran invasion tells the emperor that Böri Khan is fighting alongside a witch. The problem is that the audio says “woman,” but the actor said “witch” in the original scene. They obviously changed that part of the script & re-dubbed the audio. I know that’s such a small thing, but I’m the kind of the movie watcher who will notice.
• Mulan’s horse Black Wind looks exactly like Khan from the animated movie. That detail alone tugs my heartstrings! ♥️
• Spotted: Mulan’s cherry blossom comb! I respect the changes made to give this remake it’s own voice, but I also love the details brought over from the 90s movie that make it feel like a familiar book I’ve read over & over again. 🌸
• Remember the chaos the spider caused in the matchmaker scene? I felt that in my arachnophobic soul! 🕸 🕷 😱
• First of all, it’s incredibly messed up that Mulan’s father is expected to fight with a leg injury. Second, I love that before he bravely commits to fighting, he pointedly says he has no sons but the blessing of two daughters. Later on while he’s preparing for battle, Mulan says that if she were a son he wouldn’t have to fight. He tells her that he regrets nothing about his life, implying he doesn’t wish his daughters were sons. I must reiterate that their bond is the heart of this story. I cannot praise Tzi Ma’s performance enough! 👏🏻 👏🏻 👏🏻
• Around the 25:30 mark, Mulan’s face can be seen in her father’s sword reflected back from the camera. Yifei Liu improvised knowing that would happen, & it was executed so well that it was kept in the movie.
• I’ve seen some negative comments about Mulan not cutting her hair. Even Ming Na Wen poked fun at this omission! The crew did this on purpose because Chinese soldiers kept their hair long. Mulan would’ve looked more feminine with short hair, making her disguise useless. I’m not an expert on this subject, but one quick Google search says this is historically accurate, at least for certain dynasties.
• Just like the animated movie, Mulan prepares to take her father’s place while the score takes on an 80s vibe. It feels very much like a Rocky training montage before a big fight. I dug it in the 90s, & I dig it now. 🎶
• When Mulan walks away from her home dressed in her father’s armor, the shot ends withthe white phoenix statue bathed in warm light. Nice touch! Later on a real, colorful phoenix appears & becomes Mulan’s silent guide for the rest of the film. I understand that it was meant to be a more serious replacement for Mushu, but it was too cheesy. Perhaps it would’ve been better as a white spirit like her father’s crest, a bit more subtle than a colorful bird.
• I’m so glad I saw a comment about the character named Cricket because I had no idea he was meant to be a namesake & tribute to Cri-Kee. He is so sweet & adorable! He tells his fellow soldiers that his mother calls him a good luck charm because he was born under an auspicious moon. 🦗
• Donny. Freakin’. Yen. That’s literally all I have to say about him. WOW! 💥
• The remake isn’t dripping with comedy like the animated movie, but there are bits of humor added at appropriate times for lightness. One such moment is Mulan’s first time in the soldiers’ tent. It doesn’t take long for her to close her eyes & quickly volunteer for guard duty. Hilarious! 😂
• I haven’t seen anyone else mention the statue from the 31:30 mark. It’s the same statue seen in the daylight at the 29:10 mark. At night in the darkness, I think it resembles Shan Yu, the villain from the animated movie. I’m not sure if this was purposeful, but it caught my eye.
• Before training begins, Sergeant Qiang references lyrics from I’ll Make A Man Out Of You: “We’re gonna make men out of every single one of you.” Later on Commander Tung says “Tranquil with a forest but on fire within.” The line is supposed to be “Tranquil as a forest but on fire within.” I’m not sure if that was a mistake or intentional.
• Eagle-eyed fans should be able to spot Yao, Ling, & Chien-Po. Their appearances aren’t exactly the same as their animated counterparts, but they’re easily recognizable based on personality.
• During the meal scene, Chien-Po quotes the song A Girl Worth Fighting For. I’m pretty sure there’s a few more lines from this conversation inspired by the animated movie. Please note that Chen Honghui doesn’t laugh when Mulan, disguised as Hua Jun of course, describes his perfect girl as courageous & smart with a sense of humor. *sigh*
• The bathing scene is another nod to the animated movie. It’s a little different without Mushu & the rest of the soldiers, but it’s meant to be a serious moment between Mulan and Chen Honghui. Well, as serious as it can be. Obviously it’s still a humorous situation!
• I thought the martial arts stunts were a great addition to this movie. I do have a note from my brother John who’s an avid martial arts movie-watcher: “Most international martial arts films have a director and a martial arts director. This movie would’ve benefitted from that.” I’m not sure if this movie had a martial arts director or not, but I think his point was that the martial arts scenes could’ve been better.
• I know I mentioned the scenery before, but I need to rave a little more. The landscape in the battle scene when Mulan & Xianniang meet is stunning. The fog, the green hills, the yellow ice (Is that what that is?!). It doesn’t even seem real! . . . probably because it isn’t. The crew searched for a real landscape to fit their sulfurous vision but ultimately built it themselves.
• Just like the animated movie, Mulan’s identity is revealed after an injury. The difference in the live action remake is that Mulan isn’t truly injured, & she decides to reveal who she really is. When she enters the battle as herself, WOW WOW WOW!!! What a warrior moment! I definitely sobbed the first time I saw that scene. After she reveals herself as a woman & kicks butt, the enemy runs away thinking she’s a witch. This is another hint at her connection with Xianniang, setting up the very end of the movie.
• I hate to be nit-picky (not really), but I have to mention another audio error. A Rouran soldier yells “Enemy on the ridge” when Mulan shoots an arrow their way. The audio doesn’t match up with whatever he said in the scene, specifically the word “ridge.” It’s possible he messed up the line in the heat of the moment & had to fix it in post.
• Just like her animated counterpart, Mulan sets off an avalanche to take out the enemy. It is just as genius when you see it happen with real people. 🏔
• When Mulan & Xianniang meet for the 2nd time, the witch invites her to join her cause so they can form a powerful team. Basically, it would be a slap in the face of all the men who’ve held them down. Mulan says no because she is nothing like Xianniang.
• I love love LOVE that Chen Honghui doesn’t hesitate to call out Commander Tung’s hypocrisy. He point blank asks why he won’t believe Hua Mulan when he would believe Hua Jun. FACTS!
• I knew Jet Li wouldn’t see much action as the emperor, but it was nice to see him fight a little bit. Actually, that’s when he looked most comfortable. 😊
• The animated versions of Yao, Ling, & Chien-Po are the comedic relief of the army. I don’t mind that, but it was nice to see something a little different in the remake. They go from weak boys in training camp to brave men on the battlefield. They don’t disguise themselves as women to distract the enemy. They just fight!
• In the final battle scene, Mulan is still wearing her red soldier robe. I love the symbolism! She joined the army to take the place of her disabled father. Whether she’s Hua Jun or Hua Mulan, she’s still a soldier.
• In their third meeting, Mulan pleads with Xianniang to do the right thing & save the emperor from Böri Khan. This is where the villain arc loses me. Xianniang barely needs convincing to help Mulan. She already didn’t like Böri Khan, but it still seems like way too quick of a turnaround. There are hints throughout the movie leading up to this moment, but it doesn’t hit me emotionally when she takes an arrow to save Mulan. I understand the strong female empowerment message her story arc was meant to embody, but it didn’t work for me. She was brutal as a villain but never reached her full potential therefore her transformation doesn’t feel as dramatic as it should. That would’ve been rectified had we witnessed another brutal villain onscreen, but Böri Khan did not live up to Shan Yu. He had the appearance and intimidation working in his favor, but all that fizzled in the final scene. I didn’t think the martial arts choreography flowed well, and the chi was over the top. Mulan leaping from roof to roof looks like a person being carried through the air by wire, and the sequence of the emperor catching Böri Khan’s arrow & Mulan kicking it into Böri Khan’s chest is too cheesy. Two mediocre villains leading up to an anticlimactic ending left me feeling let down. It was probably my least favorite part of the movie because I thought the villains had so much potential in the beginning.
• Speaking of the final scene, I was not a huge fan of the phoenix, but I do love the camera shot of the wings behind Mulan after the emperor tells her to rise up like a Phoenix. Gorgeous! 🔥
• I would recommend you have tissues handy for the end of the film. The classic song Reflection plays once again while fireworks erupt in the sky. Inside the palace Mulan is introduced to the emperor by Ming Na Wen, the voice of Mulan in the animated movie. I cannot tell a lie. This part had me SOBBING! 😭
Fun Fact: When Mulan apologizes to the emperor before rejecting his offer to join the emperor’s guard, Ming Na Wen’s daughter Michaela Zee can be seen in the crowd turning her face toward the camera.
• Mulan is not the typical Disney princess so I’m glad this film didn’t rely too heavily on a romance. Mulan & Chen go from rival trainees to respectful colleagues to friends. Their final scene together hints at something more, their true feelings for one another. *SQUEAL* I love that! I also the love the pinkish purple hue of the lighting. Incredibly romantic! 🥰
• Mulan’s reunion with her family had me crying AGAIN. Her mom Hua Li gets so emotional despite being so harsh early on. STOP! I didn’t mention this earlier, but I like the addition of her sister Hua Xiu; they obviously have a very special bond. STOP IT! It’s her dad Hua Zhou who really turns on the waterworks for me. In the animated movie Mulan presents her dad with the sword of Shan Yu & her medal from the emperor; he throws them aside to hug her because that’s all he truly cares about. That sentiment is exactly the same in the remake. Mulan apologizes for everything she’s put her family through, & her dad says it is his daughter that means everything to him. STOP IT RIGHT NOW! 😭
• The red & black visuals behind the closing credits are stunning & made even better by Christina Aguilera’s new song Loyal Brave True. This is followed by Reflection sung in English by Christina and a Chinese version from Liu Yifei. 🎶
💬 Closing Thoughts: Even though the martial arts movie shell wasn’t perfectly executed, I think the heart & soul of the story hits deeper than people are giving it credit for. I’ve seen a lot of criticism regarding the acting & lack of connection with the characters. I strongly disagree! I think Mulan’s personal journey & relationship with her father are the best parts, grounding the movie and saving it from being mediocre or worse. Addressing the nostalgic lamenters, most of the elements people missed would not have fit into this version: Cri-Kee, Mushu, musical numbers, etc. I think the element I missed most was Grandmother Fa, but there’s an easy solution: watch the animated movie! Let’s address one more criticism: Many people complained about how many times the word “honor” was said. If I counted correctly, “honor” was said 6 times & “dishonor” 2 times. Personally, I never felt annoyed by it. My biggest issues were the cheesy chi & the mediocre villains. Other than that, I like this remake & definitely see myself watching it again.