Last weekend I put on my big girl pants & knocked out my taxes. Technically they’re not that difficult, but it’s a task crossed off my to-do list so I’m celebrating the victory. 🎉 This past weekend was a different story. I found myself in a deflating situation Friday morning & spiraled so quickly, I could barely move by the afternoon. That might sound dramatic, but I feel like I’ve been moving against the tide for months so that was my body giving in to mental and physical exhaustion. I had to be gracious, allowing myself to do whatever the heck I felt like doing, including RELAX. I read books, took naps, cheered on Team USA in the winter olympics, & started season one of Downton Abbey. I also managed to continue & finish my 7-day cardio challenge which made me feel so proud. 🔥 Life is not smooth sailing, but what defines you is how you handle the waves that come along. So cheesy, I know, but it’s true. My days look much different in 2022, & I’m in career limbo at the moment, but I’m taking it one step at a time. If you’re doing your best to survive, I’m right there with you. You are NOT alone! ♥️
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! 🌙
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!
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• 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.
I hope you don’t have Disney fatigue because we have two more remakes to discuss. Up next is The Lion King from 2019. This was my first viewing:
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• Right away this looks like a one of those nature documentaries that Disney makes from time to time. I feel like I’m on the African savannah watching real animals live their lives. No matter how you feel about the cast or story, you have to admit the CGI is impeccable. I had heard some criticism about how the mouths look. Now that I’ve seen the movie myself, I can contribute to the discussion & say I wasn’t bothered by how the talking mouths looked. They didn’t look any different than the animals in The Jungle Book. That being said, I could see why it was bothersome. The CGI is so realistic that it’s hard to believe those are the same talking animals from the 1994 movie.
• Let’s look at some of the cast. Number one, I want to shine a spotlight on Shahadi Wright Joseph who reprised her role as young Nala from the musical. I could be wrong, but I’m only aware of one other actor who has played the same role on Broadway & onscreen: Jonathan Freeman as Jafar. At a young age, she is already in exclusive company. What an accomplishment! Number two, I don’t mind new voices for familiar characters as long as they do the role justice. In this case there aren’t too many weak links, but I’ll go into more detail later on. What I really want to say is that bringing James Earl Jones back to voice Mufasa was 100% the right choice. Some will agree, & others will disagree. I realize that sticking with the same voice might hold the remake back from being its own unique project, & I respect that criticism. However, I’m a selfish Disney fan, & hearing James’ voice was a nice dose of nostalgia. On the flip side of the coin, I had to watch him die as Mufasa for a second time which was awful. 😭
• I need a moment to squeal about young Simba. HE IS SO FREAKING ADORABLE!! 😭💕
• I really liked the dark tone of the Be Prepared scene, but it wasn’t as good as it should’ve been vocally. Jeremy Irons’ role was always going to be a big one to fill. Chiwetel Ejiofor was up to the task with his superb acting, but his singing voice was lacking. He himself has joked that he was “talking in a tuneful way.” That’s just not good enough for an iconic Disney villain song. A comment on YouTube said it best: “DUDE I WAS WAITING FOR HIM TO SING WHEN I REALIZED THAT HE WAS ALREADY SINGING?????”
• Reliving Mufasa’s death was HEARTBREAKING! 💔 Scar killing his brother then pinning the blame on his young nephew is still one of the cruelest moves in Disney villain history. Simba’s little face & body language are too much to handle, especially with CGI that looks WAAAY too real. 😭
• I didn’t watch The Lion King as a child, but I did grow up on Timon & Pumbaa so those two characters are near & dear to my heart. I knew Seth Rogen would do a good job as Pumbaa, but I had doubts about Billy Eichner from the moment he was cast as Timon. He did have some good moments, but I didn’t love the performance as a whole. In my personal opinion, his singing voice & talking voice had the same problem: they didn’t match the character. I will say his singing was surprisingly good; not perfect but better than I was expecting. Seth isn’t a trained singer, but Pumbaa is the kind of character that can get away with below average vocals, although I would’ve preferred them to be a bit better. As a pair, Billy & Seth sounded their best during The Lion Sleeps Tonight & Can You Feel the Love Tonight. Hakuna Matata was always going to be a losing battle because JD McCrary & Donald Glover were not messing around with their vocals. So good!
• Donald Glover is a fantastic Simba. I only have one teeny tiny complaint: His voice doesn’t match the CGI character during his years in the oasis with Timon & Pumbaa, specifically the scene when Nala finds him. His voice has a teen/young adult tone to it while his lion body looks very intimidating. Once he’s in the Pride Lands ready to take back his crown, his voice becomes more serious & matches the way he looks. I want to clarify that this isn’t Donald’s fault because that’s exactly how Matthew Broderick sounded in the original film. The CGI just looks so realistic that the believability fades a little bit when you hear Simba talk during that point in the story. The cartoon movie got away with it because it was, well, a cartoon.
• In the remake, Can You Feel the Love Tonight was sung by Simba & Nala. Obviously the crew wasn’t going to put Beyoncé in a musical scene & not have her sing. I’m not a big fan of the pop nuances but respect that she was allowed to make the song her own. I felt the same way about the brand new song Spirit. It’s a good song on its own but sounds like something that should play over the closing credits, not during the movie. According to composer Hans Zimmer, that was its original spot before a last minute change. Personally I think that move was a mistake, but it doesn’t sound horrible. I’m just not convinced that it belongs.
• Easter egg alert! When Timon & Pumbaa come face to face with the hyenas, the meerkat sings Be Our Guest to distract them, a familiar tune from Beauty and the Beast.
• In the beginning of the movie when young Nala & Simba wander into the elephant graveyard, they’re attacked by a group of hyenas led by Shenzi. At the end when Scar and the hyenas take on Simba & the lionesses, Nala faces off against Shenzi. This is her chance to get revenge as an adult, & the victory does indeed land in her corner. Gotta love that storytelling!
• Everything looked so realistic that I started to feel bad for Scar at the end. I had to snap out of my CGI trance & remind myself how evil he’d been for the last two hours. Don’t fall for the trap & feel pity! He’s one of the best Disney villains because he’s one of the worst Disney villains.
💬 Closing Thoughts: Animal-led movies have to be perfect, like The Jungle Book, otherwise I lose some interest & rewatch it very little, if at all. The original Lion King is a classic so the remake had to be perfect. It came close . . .
It goes without saying that James Earl Jones was perfect as Mufasa, & his Queen Sarabi was also perfect, her voice provided by Alfre Woodard. Chiwetel Ejiofor was perfect as talking Scar, but his singing wasn’t strong enough for Be Prepared. JD Mcrary was perfect as young Simba, & Donald Glover was perfect as adult Simba. Shahadi Wright Joseph was perfect as young Nala. Beyoncé was good as the voice of adult Nala; I’m just not convinced that her style of singing meshed with the soundtrack. John Oliver was perfect as Zazu as was John Kani as Rafiki. Seth Roger was great as Pumbaa, but his singing could’ve been better. Billy Eichner was just okay as the voice of Timon. The hyenas were perfect. Eric Andre & Keegan-Michael Key were a comedic duo as Azizi & Kamari while Florence Kasumba voiced their fierce leader Shenzi. The CGI was unbelievably realistic. Seriously, it felt like I was watching real animals act out a classic Disney story. This was a stunning movie with an almost perfect cast & almost perfect soundtrack. It is so annoying that it came so close to perfection but missed the cut because of a few fixable issues, much like Beauty and the Beast. The problem with a remake not being perfect is that there’s a perfect original movie to watch instead. This movie won’t be ranked high, but it doesn’t deserve to be ranked super low either so expect it to land somewhere in the middle.
🏆 Major Awards: Best Visual EffectsOscar nomination (Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, Elliot Newman, & Robert Legato) |Best Animated Feature Film & Best Original Song – Motion Picture (Spirit – Beyoncé, Ilya Salmanzadeh, & Labrinth) Golden Globe nominations |Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media, Best Pop Solo Performance (Spirit – Beyoncé), Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media (Hans Zimmer), & Best Song Written for Visual Media (Spirit – Beyoncé, Ilya Salmanzadeh, & Labrinth) Grammy nominations
❓ Original or Remake: I will definitely rewatch the remake, but this battle is a no brainer. The Original is superior!
The next movie on my review list is Lady and the Tramp from 2019. This was the first remake released on Disney Plus, but it still had a huge budget so I’m not lowering my standards for quality. This was my first viewing:
• ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • S P O I L E R S • A H E A D • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ •
• The opening credits start as an illustration & transform into the first scene, a charming town decorated for Christmas. This is a nod to the original movie which starts the exact same way. The closing credits show the town decorated for Christmas one year later, & then transform into an illustration. Gotta love those bookend credits!
• Kiersey & Thomas have fantastic chemistry as Darling & Jim Dear. They make an adorable onscreen couple, & their newborn daughter Lulu is an absolute doll. Miss Clemons shows off her singing chops with some beautiful lullabies for the baby. Seriously, I’m about to put them on a playlist for myself. 🎶
• Unlike the other animal-led remakes, this movie took on the challenge of using real dogs. All the canine costars are adorable, but I have to give a special shout-out to Monte who played Tramp. He was a rescue from New Mexico, adopted by the film’s animal trainer Mark Forbes. Street dogs are adoptable too!
• I can imagine using special effects to make real dogs talk was no small task. However, I have to be fair because this movie had a big budget despite not being released in theaters. For the most part the dog mouths weren’t too bad, but there were some rough parts, especially with Lady.
• Tessa & Justin did a great job as the respective voices of Lady, an American cocker spaniel, & Tramp, a Schnauzer-mutt. The leading dogs were equally as adorable as their human voices, but I have to give my full allegiance to the side characters because they truly won my heart. Sam Elliott was perfectly cast as the voice of Lady’s bloodhound neighbor Trusty. My Scottish queen Ashley Jensen voiced Jock, now a female Scottish terrier with the full name Jacqueline. The two of them were incredible &, dare I say, stole the show. 👏🏻 👏🏻 👏🏻
• I love Yvette Nicole Brown so much! Aunt Sarah is a more serious character than I’m used to from her, but the gramophone scene was absolutely hilarious. Classic Yvette humor! Let’s just say her arms demonstrate how passionate she is about opera. 😂
• The Siamese cats scene was changed to avoid the offensive cultural stereotype from the original film. Si & Am are now Devon & Rex, two cats from the Devon Rex breed. The new song What a Shame is jazzy & a new Disney jam to enjoy. I dare you to listen & not snap your fingers!
• The Bella Notte scene is adorable with real dogs. Also, round of applause for Arturo Castro & F. Murray Abraham who brought chef Joe & Tony to life. They did a wonderful job with such a beautiful & classic Disney song. Bravissimo!
• Tramp once had a family. When the couple had a baby, the husband drove him to a park, threw a ball to distract him, & drove away, leaving him to fend for himself. Why would you do something like that as a pet owner?? At least take the time to find him a new home! Hearing that story broke my heart. 💔
• Janelle Monáe voiced Peg, the Lhasa Apso dog who sings He’s a Tramp in the pound. Obviously she killed it! It has the same jazzy feel as Devon & Rex’s song What a Shame. There’s something very soothing about the songs in this film. Surprisingly, out of all the remakes, this is the soundtrack I’m definitely adding to my Disney playlist.
💬 Closing Thoughts: I have to be blown away to stay engaged with an animal-led film. This movie was good, but I did zone out a few times. The charming city & sweet story are anchored by a strong cast, but they were let down by a movie stretched far too long. It would’ve made a bigger impact if the story had been trimmed to match the original movie which was 21 minutes shorter. All that being said, I liked it a lot more than I thought I would, especially after my second viewing.
❓ Original or Remake: Lady and the Tramp is not one of my favorite Disney movies, but I’m willing to rewatch either version without hesitation. Since this decision is a toss up, I’ll consult my rankings. By one spot the winner is the . . . original!
• ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • S P O I L E R S • A H E A D • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ •
• Appropriately, the Walt Disney Pictures logo is the classic Sleeping Beauty castle. When the camera pans to the sky, the intro transitions into the Moors where we see three men sneaking around. This opening scene gives me Once Upon a Time vibes. Time for a rewatch because it’s now on Disney Plus. 😉
• There is a narrator again, but Aline Mowat replaced Janet McTeer. There is no indication she’s still meant to be an older Aurora telling her story.
• I didn’t think it possible after the beauty of Maleficent, but the sequel is even more colorful & vibrant, the Moors absolutely stunning. I’m ready to book a flight & visit. It’s somewhere in France, right? 🌺 Speaking of the Moors, the pixies are back! Their CGI looks about the same as before, but it doesn’t bother me. I’m not really sure how much better they could look as heads edited onto little fairy bodies. 🧚🏼 🧚🏻♀️ 🧚🏻♂️
• Prince Phillip is played by a different actor, Harris Dickinson, who replaced Brenton Thwaites due to a scheduling conflict. For the short time that he was onscreen, I liked Brenton as Aurora’s prince. Normally I hate actor changes within a film series, but I’m about to surprise everybody. I ended up liking Harris better, not only as the prince but also as a match for Aurora. They had great chemistry!
• Once again, we find ourselves looking at Maleficent with suspicion. Has she returned to villainy, or is she the antihero she was set up to be at the end of the first film? Wait & see . . .
• First impression: King John has a sweet relationship with his son Phillip & wants to leave behind the days of war. Queen Ingrith is colder than her husband & has a fondness for weapons.
• Aurora continues to call Maleficent her “godmother” & the three pixies her “aunties.” So sweet! They are the only family she has left besides Phillip. 💕
• In the beginning of the first movie, we saw young & adult Maleficent wearing greens & browns while protecting the Moors. In the beginning of the sequel, adult Maleficent moves away from villainous black & returns to her earthy roots with a headpiece & dress that match her dark brown wings. The rest of her costumes alternate between a dark color palette & an earthy color palette, an accurate representation of a multi-layered character.
• Queen Ingrith has a secret area in the castle which she accesses by twisting the head of a mannequin in her closet. RED FLAG! Underground she has some kind of lab & weapon-making operation going on. ANOTHER RED FLAG! We get a glimpse of something else in a corner of the laboratory: a spinning wheel. A THIRD RED FLAG!
• When the queen meets Aurora & Maleficent for the first time, it’s revealed that she’s allergic to flowers which grow all over the Moors. Interesting! When she directs one too many verbal jabs at Maleficent, the fairy displays her power. At the same time the king falls victim to a curse which the royal family & Aurora blame on Maleficent. She swears it wasn’t her & leaves the castle with Diaval. As she’s flying back home, Gerda, the queen’s loyal sidekick, shoots her. Back at the castle, Phillip & Aurora suggest the Queen try true love’s kiss to wake her husband. She expresses doubt that it will work but tries anyway. She leans in & whispers “You wanted peace. Now rest in peace forever.” before kissing him. Surprise surprise, it doesn’t break the spell. All signs point to a villainous queen framing Maleficent.
• After she’s shot, Maleficent falls into a body of water but is swiftly rescued by a mysterious, winged creature. When she wakes up, she looks absolutely stunning with all her hair down. I wish I looked that gorgeous while injured or in pain. 😂 Where did she end up? She was rescued & taken to the hidden home of the Dark Fey; they are the same species of fairy as Maleficent. Their leader & Maleficent’s rescuer Conall is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, the voice of Scar in The Lion King remake. He is in favor of peace, but other Dark Fey want to declare war on the humans. It’s also revealed that there’s a reason Maleficent is so powerful: She’s the last remaining ancestor of the Phoenix, a Dark Fey ancestor. Yes, that is the mythological bird who regenerates, rising from the ashes of its previous body. That detail is very important later on so take a mental note.
• There are little magical creatures introduced in this movie that look like animals. Although they’re cute, they bring the movie down to a child’s level. It makes me feel like I’m bouncing between a fairytale & Trolls. Their scenes, though few & far between, feel too young & out of place.
• Having said what I just said, the horrible laboratory scene near the end of the movie is so awful & sad. Lickspittle, Queen Ingrith’s appointed lab worker, tests a new weapon on a tiny magical creature. It is a success, killing the little guy instantly. NO!! 😭
• During the wedding festivities, the other two pixies scold Thistlewit for eating the rice rather than throwing it. She retorts that it’s a waste to throw rice rather than eat it. That is definitely something I would say about any kind of food! 😂
• Finally we find out the queen’s backstory: Growing up, her family had a kingdom that bordered the Moors. One winter, the humans struggled to survive while the fairies thrived. Ingrith & her brother believed they should take what they needed to survive, but their father was adamant that they keep the peace. He sent his son to the Moors, but the son never returned, leading the kingdom to believe he’d been killed by a magical creature. Out of fear, the citizens overthrew the king, & Ingrith was exiled. Later on when she married John, King of Ulstead, she still held hate in her heart toward the Moors, determined to declare war & get revenge.
• Part of Ingrith’s evil plan was locking the wedding guests from the Moors in the chapel. The deadly poison developed in her secret lab was then released into the air through an organ played by Gerda. Flittle, the beloved blue fairy, sacrificed herself to clog the organ & save her friends. NO! I’m not crying, you’re crying!! 😭
• During the final showdown between Ingrith & Maleficent, Aurora steps in & calls Maleficent something she never thought she would call her: “Mother!” Right after that beautiful moment, Maleficent shields Aurora from from a poisoned arrow shot by the queen. Ingrith then reveals she spread a false story about Maleficent throughout the kingdom, painting her as a villain after the sleeping curse five years ago. She thinks she has accomplished her goal by defeating the most powerful fairy. The problem is those pesky ashes that Maleficent’s death left behind. Yes, she does indeed rise from the ashes in the form of the Phoenix she is descended from. Ingrith throws Aurora off the castle tower in anger, but Maleficent is right there to save her daughter. When she returns to her fairy form, she’s wearing an absolutely stunning all-black, velvet dress with lace details. Never accuse her of being unfashionable! The best part is what she does to Queen Ingrith; she turns her into a goat. 😂
• Diaval & Maleficent still have some great banter:
✨ Maleficent: “I missed you.”
🐦 Diaval: “Did you bump your head, then?”
✨ Maleficent: “I did.” 😂
• You’re probably wondering what happened to King John. Well, the spinning wheel in Ingrith’s laboratory was the same one that Aurora pricked her finger on five years ago. The evil queen used the spindle to stab her husband & put him to sleep, only to wake from true love’s kiss. Her kiss didn’t work because she never loved him, thinking him weak for wanting peace with their magical neighbors. After the queen is defeated, Lickspittle presents the spindle to Maleficent who swiftly destroys it, breaking the curse & awakening King John. Happy ending!
• I noticed an interesting parallel between the first movie & its sequel: Aurora had an evil dad who was a king, & Phillip had an evil mom who was a queen. Both parents were blinded by their own agendas, sacrificing everyone & everything else in their lives.
• In the beginning of the movie, Aurora wears a blue dress then changes into a pink dress to meet her future in-laws. This a nice nod to the “make it pink, make it blue” scene which was omitted from Maleficent. At the end of the movie while Aurora is walking down the aisle at her wedding, Knotgrass & Thistlewit argue over the color of her dress. “Make it green! Make it pink! Make it green! Make it pink!” Flittle, now a beautiful blue flower, steps in & makes the dress blue. *sigh* I’m crying again! 😭 💙
• If you thought the prince & princess’ blue wedding outfits were the peak, you were wrong. Their final white outfits are even more stunning, illuminated in golden sunlight. The cherry on top is Maleficent flying away as she says she’ll be back for the christening. They’re having a baby! 💕
💬 Closing Thoughts: I hate to be the viewer that can’t suspend belief & enjoy a film. However, I must admit I struggled with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. Initially I was unsure about the changes in the first movie so the sequel was even riskier in my eyes. Obviously the second film required more creativity because the the original fairytale didn’t have a second part. I liked some of the things the crew did with Aurora & Maleficent’s story but never reached a point where I felt fully immersed. I think the two main characters were just too familiar to believe an entirely new tale about them.