Mulan 2020 | Movie Review

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🎥 Cinematography by Mandy Walker

👗 Costumes by Bina Daigeler

🎬 Directed by Niki Caro

🎞 Edited by David Coulson

🎼 Music by Harry Gregson-Williams

📋 Produced by Chris Bender, Jason T. Reed, & Jake Weiner

📝 Screenplay by Amanda Silver, Elizabeth Martin, Lauren Hynek, & Rick Jaffa

🌟 S T A R R I N G

🐪 Arka Das as Red Fez

🍵 Cheng Pei-pei as the Matchmaker

🗡 Chen Tang as Yao

⚔️ Donnie Yen as Commander Tung

🗡 Doua Moua as Chien-Po

🦅 Gong Li as Xianniang

🐎 Jason Scott Lee as Böri Khan

👑 Jet Li as The Emperor of China

🗡 Jimmy Wong as Ling

🦗 Jun Yu as Cricket

📜 Nelson Lee as The Chancellor

⚔️ Ron Yuan as Sergeant Qiang

👩🏻‍🦱 Rosalind Chao as Hua Li

👨🏻 Tzi Ma as Hua Zhou

👧🏻 Xana Tang as Hua Xiu | Elena Askin as young Xiu

👩🏻 Yifei Liu as Mulan | Crystal Rao as young Mulan

🗡 Yoson An as Chen Honghui

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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 with the 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. 🎶

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6PZm8vhm6I

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNprQYHenNI

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxPGNjhpOAc

💬 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.

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🍅 Rotten Tomatoes: 73% Critics | 50% Audience

🏆 Major Awards: TBD

❓ Original or Remake: The remake should be applauded for its efforts to be different. However, the original movie is perfect so this decision is easy. Original!

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Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KK8FHdFluOQ

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🎥 Stay tuned for my final rankings tomorrow! 🍿

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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Revisiting Beauty and the Beast 2017

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🎥 Cinematography by Tobias A. Schliessler

👗 Costumes by Jacqueline Durran

🎬 Directed by Bill Condon

🎞 Edited by Virginia Katz

🎼 Music by Alan Menken

📋 Produced by David Hoberman & Todd Lieberman

📝 Screenplay by Evan Spiliotopoulos & Stephen Chbosky

🌟 S T A R R I N G

👗 Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe

🐗 Dan Stevens as Beast / The Prince

☕ Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts

👸🏻 Emma Watson as Belle

🕯 Ewan McGregor as Lumiére

💋 Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette

🧙🏻‍♀️ Hattie Morahan as Agathe / Enchantress

🕰 Ian McKellen as Cogsworth

🎭 Josh Gad as LeFou

🔨 Kevin Kline as Maurice

💪🏻 Luke Evans Gaston

☕ Nathan Mack as Chip

🎹 Stanley Tucci as Cadenza

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Back in March 2017, I saw this movie in theaters & reviewed it. I’m going to revisit my original thoughts & see if I still feel the same way. This was my 2nd viewing:

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Beauty and the Beast was one of my favorite Disney movies growing up. The love story goes beyond girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy. Belle is the first human, not counting the enchanted objects, to look past Beast’s exterior. Her attention and kindness encourages him to become more human, making his inner transformation just as important as his outer change. They develop a friendship first and then fall in love. I am ashamed to say that despite being initially excited, I allowed myself to be swayed by critics giving their opinion based on the trailers. Once the movie was released and I heard great feedback from lifelong fans, I started to relax and get excited again. I finally saw the movie last Wednesday. When the title card filled the movie screen, I got chills and teared up. In that moment I realized how emotional the experience was going to be for my inner child.

• In the name of consistency, I have an obligation to tell you that fireworks go off over Beast’s castle instead of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. We love a themed castle intro on this blog! I was less emotional in the beginning then I was in the movie theater back in 2017 because there wasn’t as much adrenaline running through me. To be honest, I was thinking of the things I didn’t like before & bracing myself for the movie to be much worse than I remembered. Boy oh boy was I in for a surprise! 

The sets are stunning. The village is like the picturesque interior of a snowglobe isolated from the rest of the world. There are golden, ornamental baroque details all over Beast’s castle, specifically French Rococo. Under the curse, the exterior is dark and dramatic; the word gothic comes to mind. As the centerpiece of the story, the enchanted rose is as striking as it needs to be. The theme is appropriately weaved into other parts of the film; Maurice attempts to pick a white rose from Beast’s garden, and Belle’s baby rattle is a red rose. Don’t even get me started on the final scene. The flower-draped ceiling is GORGEOUS!! The entire ballroom looks like springtime, airy & bright.

• Yes yes yes!!! This movie is indeed gorgeous, especially the scenes that take place in the castle. And that final ballroom scene? *faints from the beauty* 😍 

Belle is the same beloved character but with a few modifications. Her day-to-day outfits are a quirky mix of materials and patterns, and combat boots are her footwear of choice. The wardrobe update matches her new role as an inventor just like her father Maurice. The yellow ballgown is a simpler design than it’s 1991 counterpart, but when you see how it moves onscreen, doubts will fly out of your mind. The gold touches make it shine, and the skirt floats through the air as if it were weightless. The look wouldn’t be complete without the gold ear-cuff, a subtle nod to Belle’s unconventional style. There is no need to say much about the celebration dress. The way it looks and moves in the ballroom during the final scene will take your breath away. Belle’s hairstyles are simple but very beautiful. My personal favorite is her updo in the library scene accessorized with a blue headband. Of course I have to mention Beast’s wardrobe which goes through a transformation of its own; it becomes more refined and princely as the movie goes on. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran deserves a lot of credit because she came up with outfits for a character who is animated during most of the film. A lot of work went into making sure the animated garments had the depth and detail of tangible clothing. The animators did a phenomenal job.

• I mostly feel the same. I didn’t love the gold ear cuff as much this time around, but I can overlook that one small detail without much hesitation. I know the yellow dress is controversial, & I agree it could’ve been better. However, I don’t hate it as much as the majority. You know why? The celebration dress is stunning enough to erase past sins. The pure white gown embellished with romantic pink flowers is a springtime vision paired with the prince’s powder blue ensemble. 

Alan Menken is a musical genius so it’s a no-brainer that I like all of the new songs, especially Evermore. In terms of flow, Days in the Sun is a nice song, but it feels unnecessary. There is no nice way to say this so I’ll just rip off the band-aid. Many of the vocals are heavily edited, and I suspect it has more to do with lack of vocal ability than over-zealous audio editors. It is a fact that Dan Stevens hired a vocal coach to learn how to sing for this movie, and Emma Watson has never sung professionally. I am thrilled with their acting performances, but the vocals leave a lot to be desired; they sound robotic and lack emotion. I found myself holding my breath every time they sang because I desperately wanted it to sound good but knew it probably wouldn’t. A few times I was pleasantly surprised. Emma did a good job with Belle (Reprise), and Beast sounded much better in the second verse of Evermore. I saw a comment on YouTube regarding Emma’s vocals that was well put. I can’t remember the exact words, but this is the basic idea: The original songs, written for an experienced singer, are above Emma’s capabilities. She sounded better singing the songs written for her portrayal of Belle. I had the same problem with Ewan McGregor and Emma Thompson. Ewan has sung before in a film, and for the most part his vocals sound good. I know Emma can sing, and I think she was a great choice for Mrs. Potts. The issue is inconsistency. Sometimes the vocals sound good, and other times they sound heavily autotuned. Since both roles require a certain voice, it is possible that manipulation was required to help Ewan and Emma stay in character while singing. The song Beauty and the Beast is a turning point in the story, and Mrs. Potts’ singing voice ruins a bit of the magic in what is an otherwise beautiful scene. Listening to it again, the vocals sound better than I remembered, but there are still some parts that don’t sound as nice as they should. Knowing that Emma has a great voice makes this even more of a heartbreaking disappointment. I love the cast, but this movie is a musical. Acting and vocals should be split 50/50 when considering the potential actors. Perfection was well within reach for this film, and lack of vocal ability was the one and only roadblock. Consider the rave reviews that Josh Gad and Luke Evans are receiving. Why do you think that is? Not only are their acting performances spot-on, but their vocals are spectacular. That is why they are the most successful part of this musical film. I want to end my rant by mentioning that I find the entire soundtrack to be over-edited, even the experienced voices such as Kevin Kline. I would have preferred less effects and rough edges. At least the final result would have sounded more genuine.

• I have notes to add as well as some revisions:

I’m not sure what didn’t click the first time, but Days in the Sun is a lovely song which adds to the story of the objects. 

I still love the song Evermore. One detail I failed to mention is the 28-second instrumental intro which all Beauty and the Beast fans should know because it plays as the original 1991 movie begins; a shorter version opens the 2017 movie. I didn’t catch that connection until I rewatched the animated movie which is exactly why I’m watching both the originals & remakes for this series. I love those nerdy details! I still prefer Josh Groban’s version of the song, but considering Dan Stevens took voice lessons for this movie, he did a good job. My biggest complaint is the overediting. I know an effect was used to aid the Beast voice, but I don’t think his singing had to sound robotic as a sacrifice. 

I have the same complaint regarding Emma Watson as Belle. I will continue to say this over & over again: If she wasn’t going to have a singing double or go through intense vocal training, I would’ve preferred that autotune take a backseat to a soft, rough around the edges voice. Rewatching the movie gave me this epiphany: It sounds like Emma recorded the songs alone in a large room with major echo. It doesn’t match what Belle is doing onscreen, whether that be walking through the village or exploring the castle. There are a few parts that sound okay, but that’s just not enough. I’m seriously considering a petition to request that Disney rerecord the singing & use a light hand with editing. Honestly, that change would make it near perfect because I love everything else about this film.

The sound editing for Emma as Mrs. Potts & Ewan as Lumière isn’t as bad as I remembered. They are both experienced singers & sound great in character. The same goes for Kevin Kline who only sings one song How Does a Moment Last Forever, an emotional moment that tugs at the heartstrings. I think I was being nit-picky about the audio because of Beast & Belle’s voices, but now that I’ve calmed down, every other character was fine with only a few rough spots. 

Animation was the perfect medium for this story because it is a fairy tale that is not at all grounded in reality. When considering a live action version, you have to ask yourself if the story will translate. I commend the crew because I was a believer every step of the way. I like the realistic design of each enchanted object. They fit the style of the movie and still feel like the same beloved characters. I love the way the friendship develops between Beast and Belle.  There are so many amazing scenes I could mention such as the library and Belle’s childhood home in Paris, but I will stick with one. Up until the ballroom scene, I was fully invested in the budding friendship. During the waltz when Beast lifts Belle, I felt a strong wave of emotion and instantly knew the relationship had become a love story. I was worried about the transformation because I wanted to be in the moment; I didn’t want to only see Dan Stevens in a wig. I am so relieved that the scene came together because it cemented the couple’s chemistry. I know that Belle’s final quote is controversial, but I LOVED it. I found the playful moment to be cute and relatable.

👸🏻 Belle: “How would you feel about growing a beard?”  😘

🐗 Beast: “GROWL!”  😉

• Yes yes yes!!! I still agree with everything I said about the art direction, the enchanted object designs, & the relationship between Beast & Belle. Dan & Emma have great onscreen chemistry which worked well before & after the beast-to-prince transformation.

💬 Closing Thoughts: There are details that disappoint and frustrate me, and I’m not afraid to talk about them. However, I can’t change anything so there’s no use dwelling on the negative. My emotional reaction speaks volumes, and I will definitely be watching this movie again. Please go and see it before you form an opinion. You might be pleasantly surprised! 

• Because of my rants about the singing & effects, you probably think this movie isn’t highly ranked. This is where I surprise both you & me. There are many things to consider. First, this film is close to being a shot for shot remake with very few changes, even in dialogue. Second, I was more emotional during the remake, crying at least three times; I only cried once during my rewatch of the animated movie. Third, I can say without hesitation that the animated movie is better because it has no vocal shortcomings. However, if the singing voices were fixed, I would choose the remake. GASP! I took this review one step further & timed how long Belle sings onscreen. In the span of 120 minutes, she sings for approximately . . . FOUR MINUTES!! That’s only 1/30th of the movie. Stepping back & looking at the big picture, her voice is an important one but wasn’t featured much in an otherwise great movie. Going the extra mile yet again, I watched the movie for a third time with my brother, a frequent movie watcher who is brutally honest. He’s not a fan of musicals, but at the end he told me the criticisms had been too harsh. He didn’t even cringe or say one negative thing the entire film! So, where does that leave my ranking? I won’t reveal anything right now, but you should be prepared for this movie to land very high on the list, higher than even I thought it would be.

• 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 • 🐗 • 💘 • 👸🏻 • 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 •

🍅 Rotten Tomatoes: 71% Critics | 80% Audience

🏆 Major Awards: Best Costume Design (Jacqueline Durran) & Best Production Design (Katie Spencer & Sarah Greenwood) Oscar nominations

❓ Original or Remake: Repeating what I already said, my choice is the original, but if the singing voices & sound editing were fixed, I would choose the remake.

• 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 • 🐗 • 💘 • 👸🏻 • 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 •

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3Nl_TCQXuw

• 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 • 🐗 • 💘 • 👸🏻 • 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 •

Alice in Wonderland 2010 | Movie Review

Maleficent 2014 | Movie Review

Cinderella 2015 | Movie Review

The Jungle Book 2016 | Movie Review

Alice Through the Looking Glass 2016 | Movie Review

Pete’s Dragon 2016 | Movie Review

• 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 • 🐗 • 💘 • 👸🏻 • 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 •

🎥 Stay tuned for another movie review tomorrow! 🍿

• 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 • 🐗 • 💘 • 👸🏻 • 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 •

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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Aquaman Review

I’m starting the new year with a review of Aquaman, my family’s 2018 Christmas movie. Even though I’m a “DC Girl For Life,” I still have the ability to be constuctively critical. In short, I loved this movie. In depth, there are a few things that bothered me:

  1. Some of the camera angles & shots took me out of the movie. The beach training scene between Arthur and Vulko involved back and forth shots of both characters straight on. It felt odd and a bit too melodramatic. In the Italy scene with Arthur & Mera, the atmosphere dramatically changed to a cheesy rom-com and felt out of place in an adventurous superhero movie.

2. Speaking of the rom-com scene, that brings us to the terrible soundtrack. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I specifically dislike the songs from the Black Manta costume creation scene (“It’s No Good,” Depeche Mode), the Italy rom-com scene (“She’s A Mystery To Me,” Roy Orbison), and the infamous Pitbull cover of Toto’s “Africa.” I should clarify that those first two songs aren’t bad; they just felt out of place. The Pitbull song is the one I hate with a vengeance, with or without the movie. All that being said, the score is amazing, and I really like the end credits song “Everything I Need” by Skylar Grey which fits right in with the tone of the movie’s finale.

Let’s end with two MAJOR positives:

  1. I  teared up twice: once during the title sequence from pure, unadulterated joy & again when Arthur Curry is proclaimed king of Atlantis because FINALLY we have the Aquaman we deserve on the big screen.

2. My dad loved the movie! You definitely won’t understand why that is such a big deal so let me provide some clarity. He enjoys movies like Darkest Hour and The Post. Superhero blockbusters are usually a little too weird & rarely impress him as great films. I 100% expected him to either fall asleep or walk out of the theater unimpressed. Shock of all shocks, he stayed awake the whole time and loved both cast and plot. 😱

I can understand why length was an issue for some people. Right before the finale, it started to feel like the story was being stretched out . . . and then BAM! It ended with an E P I C fight; I teared up; and all was forgotten and forgiven. Lastly, I want to give the cast & crew a round of applause. Director James Wan brought Atlantis to life which is no small feat considering you can’t actually film an entire movie underwater. There wasn’t even one weak link in the cast; I was impressed with every single performance, and I can’t wait to see more.

This is a DC film I can stand behind, and I think my fellow fans should do the same. Moving forward, we need to focus on the positive & support the parts of our cinematic universe that we love. Things can only get better from here because the casts & crews are experimenting, learning, and growing. So what if DC is darker and/or weirder?! At least we’re daring to be different!

GO.  SEE.  AQUAMAN.  🌊

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wcj6SrX4zw

🌊 🦀 🐠 🧜🏼‍♀️ 🌊 🐢 🐟 🧜🏻 🌊🐬 🌊 👑 👊🏼 💥 🔱 🌊 🐙 🌊 🧜🏾‍♀️ 🐳 🦑 🌊 🧜🏿‍♀️ 🦐 🦈 🌊 

Check out some awesome Aquaman art  ➡️  H  E  R  E  ⬅️

🌊 🦀 🐠 🧜🏼‍♀️ 🌊 🐢 🐟 🧜🏻 🌊🐬 🌊 👑 👊🏼 💥 🔱 🌊 🐙 🌊 🧜🏾‍♀️ 🐳 🦑 🌊 🧜🏿‍♀️ 🦐 🦈 🌊 

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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Wonder Woman Movie Review

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As a lifelong DC  fan, I have never doubted that the extended cinematic universe could reach new heights and achieve much more than superhero films from the past. Superman has never been my favorite hero, but I thoroughly enjoyed Man of Steel. I loved Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and was skeptical about change. However, Batfleck won me over instantly, and my heart nearly burst from fangirl excitement during my first viewing of Batman v Superman. Despite harsh criticism, Sucide Squad was a fun ride; I especially enjoyed the dark aesthetic and witty banter. Leading up to the latest DC film, I was confident that this would be their best effort yet. After seeing Wonder Woman on the big screen in 3D last night, I can say with certainty that it was everything I thought it would be and so much more.

Saying I loved the animated Justice League TV show growing up would be an understatement. I have vivid memories of running around my house with my brother and our friends pretending to be superheroes. There was no discussion of who was better, boys or girls. We were all strong heroes on the same team, saving the world one villain at a time. Why do I bring this up? Growing up with a brother, I always wanted to hang out with the boys. If they played hockey, I did too. If they rode their bikes down a hill, I did too. If they had a swimming race, I made my own lane and swam alongside them. I won’t lie and say I never got hurt and cried, but I can add that there were times when the need to prove myself was enough to ease the pain and dry up the tears. I know my brother and his friends thought I was a nuisance, but I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. I never needed a visual of “girl power” to fill me with ambition and passion, but I understand why many girls and women crave it. I’m not one to get involved in political discussion, but I will say that I felt proud and inspired watching women kick butt.

⚠️   S P O I L E R S   A H E A D ! !   Y O U   H A V E   B E E N   W A R N E D ! !   ⚠️

The story is well written and deeper than what most would expect from a superhero movie. I appreciate the heroism that is showcased from men without superpowers. Even though the movie is fiction, it is a reminder of the sacrifice soldiers have made in wars past and present. I also appreciate the message about humanity which is relevant to the present. Diana believes that once Ares is dead, mankind will give up their desire to fight. Her heart breaks when she realizes the god of war is not controlling anybody. He plants ideas but is not entirely to blame for World War I. Steve encourages her not to focus on the men who are bad but rather hold on to the belief that there are good people, people with just intentions.

Speaking of Ares, the twist involving his identity is great. I didn’t have a clue who his human form was, and it was fantastic watching him battle his sister in “god form.” I am not the most knowledgeable DC fan so I had no idea who Doctor Poison was, but I liked her character. I mean, I liked her as much as you can like a villain. Perhaps I read too much into the portrayal, but I felt how her scars and insecurity led to her obsession with toxins and death. It is especially evident when Steve flirts with her while undercover; she feels desired and appreciated but quickly snaps out of it when he is distracted by Diana’s unexpected entrance.

Moving on to the side characters, each one of them contributed something special. Charlie, Chief, and Sameer provided not only entertaining banter but also courage and a whole lot of heart. Etta Candy was charming and made me laugh more than once. I love how inspired she was by Diana. When she sensed trouble and showed up in the alley with the shield and sword, I almost stood up and applauded. And then there are the Amazons. Their strength speaks for itself. The training scenes made me feel way too pumped to be sitting still. I wanted to swim laps and run a marathon. That is especially shocking if you know me well because I DO NOT run.

I want to give Chris Pine the credit he deserves for his portrayal of Steve Trevor. Steve has some doubt regarding his significance within the war, but he never gives up fighting and doing what he feels is right. His humility is refreshing and endearing; it reminds me of a certain Marvel hero by the name of Captain America. Near the end of the movie, he discovers a way to change the course of the war and puts thousands of lives above his own, cementing his value as a soldier and a person. (MAJOR SPOILER) His death, which brought tears to my eyes, was probably the most emotional scene. I do have a serious question though. Have we really seen the last of him??…

Last but not least, Wonder Woman herself. There was a lot of doubt about Gal Gadot because she is a relatively new name in the movie industry. I am not exaggerating when I say she has beat down all doubt and laid the criticism to rest. It was fascinating to pick apart her portrayal and find the nuances she brought to the character. As a child, Diana is curious and eager (credit to Lilly Aspell). As a teen, she is determined (credit to Emily Carey). As an adult, she is ready to combat any evil that might enter Themyscira. Once she ventures away from home, her naive view of mankind is shattered by the realization that their choice to fight one another is not controlled by Ares. Initially she wants to stop fighting, but once Steve’s encouraging words sink in, she accepts her new mission in life as a protector. She is a strong warrior ready to fight at any moment, demonstrated by her willingness to walk into German-controlled territory and protect innocent lives without hesitation. She also has a kind spirit and the willingness to seek the good in people. Her gentle side is seen when she handles Charlie’s PTSD with compassion and encouragement. Brava Gal!

🎶 I have to mention the genius that is Hans Zimmer. He is not the composer for this movie, but we have him to thank for Wonder Woman’s AMAZING theme music. I got chills when it first played. 🎶

🎬 Congratulations to the cast & crew on a job well done! I want to give a special shout-out to director Patty Jenkins. The finished results prove the effectiveness of her leadership. This is a career-defining film, and she should be very proud of the impact it is having on people around the world. 🎥

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Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSB4wGIdDwo&list=PLVfin74Qx3tUT-xIY0_xefei1p3auVaCh&index=1

G O   S E E   T H E   M O V I E   R I G H T   N O W  ➡️   http://wonderwomanfilm.com   ⬅️

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– Lauren Michele <3

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Beauty and the Beast 2017 | Movie Review

• 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 • 🐗 • 💘 • 👸🏻 • 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 •

🎥 Cinematography by Tobias A. Schliessler

🎬 Directed by Bill Condon

🎞 Edited by Virginia Katz

🎼 Music by Alan Menken

📋 Produced by David Hoberman & Todd Lieberman

📝 Screenplay by Evan Spiliotopoulos & Stephen Chbosky

🌟 S T A R R I N G

👗 Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe

🐗 Dan Stevens as Beast / The Prince

☕ Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts

👸🏻 Emma Watson as Belle

🕯 Ewan McGregor as Lumiére

💋 Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette

🧙🏻‍♀️ Hattie Morahan as Agathe / Enchantress

🕰 Ian McKellen as Cogsworth

🎭 Josh Gad as LeFou

🔨 Kevin Kline as Maurice

💪🏻 Luke Evans Gaston

☕ Nathan Mack as Chip

🎹 Stanley Tucci as Cadenza

• 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 • 🐗 • 💘 • 👸🏻 • 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 •

Beauty and the Beast was one of my favorite Disney movies growing up. The love story goes beyond girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy. Belle is the first human, not counting the enchanted objects, to look past Beast’s exterior. Her attention and kindness encourages him to become more human, making his inner transformation just as important as his outer change. They develop a friendship first and then fall in love. I am ashamed to say that despite being initially excited, I allowed myself to be swayed by critics giving their opinion based on the trailers. Once the movie was released and I heard great feedback from lifelong fans, I started to relax and get excited again. I finally saw the movie last Wednesday. When the title card filled the movie screen, I got chills and teared up. In that moment I realized how emotional the experience was going to be for my inner child.

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The sets are stunning. The village is like the picturesque interior of a snowglobe isolated from the rest of the world. There are golden, ornamental baroque details all over Beast’s castle, specifically French Rococo. Under the curse, the exterior is dark and dramatic; the word gothic comes to mind. As the centerpiece of the story, the enchanted rose is as striking as it needs to be. The theme is appropriately weaved into other parts of the film; Maurice attempts to pick a white rose from Beast’s garden, and Belle’s baby rattle is a red rose. Don’t even get me started on the final scene. The flower-draped ceiling is GORGEOUS!! The entire ballroom looks like springtime, airy & bright.

Belle is the same beloved character but with a few modifications. Her day-to-day outfits are a quirky mix of materials and patterns, and combat boots are her footwear of choice. The wardrobe update matches her new role as an inventor just like her father Maurice. The yellow ballgown is a simpler design than it’s 1991 counterpart, but when you see how it moves onscreen, doubts will fly out of your mind. The gold touches make it shine, and the skirt floats through the air as if it were weightless. The look wouldn’t be complete without the gold ear-cuff, a subtle nod to Belle’s unconventional style. There is no need to say much about the celebration dress. The way it looks and moves in the ballroom during the final scene will take your breath away. Belle’s hairstyles are simple but very beautiful. My personal favorite is her updo in the library scene accessorized with a blue headband. Of course I have to mention Beast’s wardrobe which goes through a transformation of its own; it becomes more refined and princely as the movie goes on. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran deserves a lot of credit because she came up with outfits for a character who is animated during most of the film. A lot of work went into making sure the animated garments had the depth and detail of tangible clothing. The animators did a phenomenal job.

Alan Menken is a musical genius so it’s a no-brainer that I like all of the new songs, especially Evermore. In terms of flow, Days in the Sun is a nice song, but it feels unnecessary. There is no nice way to say this so I’ll just rip off the band-aid. Many of the vocals are heavily edited, and I suspect it has more to do with lack of vocal ability than over-zealous audio editors. It is a fact that Dan Stevens hired a vocal coach to learn how to sing for this movie, and Emma Watson has never sung professionally. I am thrilled with their acting performances, but the vocals leave a lot to be desired; they sound robotic and lack emotion. I found myself holding my breath every time they sang because I desperately wanted it to sound good but knew it probably wouldn’t. A few times I was pleasantly surprised. Emma did a good job with Belle (Reprise), and Beast sounded much better in the second verse of Evermore. I saw a comment on YouTube regarding Emma’s vocals that was well put. I can’t remember the exact words, but this is the basic idea: The original songs, written for an experienced singer, are above Emma’s capabilities. She sounded better singing the songs written for her portrayal of Belle. I had the same problem with Ewan McGregor and Emma Thompson. Ewan has sung before in a film, and for the most part his vocals sound good. I know Emma can sing, and I think she was a great choice for Mrs. Potts. The issue is inconsistency. Sometimes the vocals sound good, and other times they sound heavily autotuned. Since both roles require a certain voice, it is possible that manipulation was required to help Ewan and Emma stay in character while singing. The song Beauty and the Beast is a turning point in the story, and Mrs. Potts’ singing voice ruins a bit of the magic in what is an otherwise beautiful scene. Listening to it again, the vocals sound better than I remembered, but there are still some parts that don’t sound as nice as they should. Knowing that Emma has a great voice makes this even more of a heartbreaking disappointment. I love the cast, but this movie is a musical. Acting and vocals should be split 50/50 when considering the potential actors. Perfection was well within reach for this film, and lack of vocal ability was the one and only roadblock. Consider the rave reviews that Josh Gad and Luke Evans are receiving. Why do you think that is? Not only are their acting performances spot-on, but their vocals are spectacular. That is why they are the most successful part of this musical film. I want to end my rant by mentioning that I find the entire soundtrack to be over-edited, even the experienced voices such as Kevin Kline. I would have preferred less effects and rough edges. At least the final result would have sounded more genuine.

Animation was the perfect medium for this story because it is a fairy tale that is not at all grounded in reality. When considering a live action version, you have to ask yourself if the story will translate. I commend the crew because I was a believer every step of the way. I like the realistic design of each enchanted object. They fit the style of the movie and still feel like the same beloved characters. I love the way the friendship develops between Beast and Belle.  There are so many amazing scenes I could mention such as the library and Belle’s childhood home in Paris, but I will stick with one. Up until the ballroom scene, I was fully invested in the budding friendship. During the waltz when Beast lifts Belle, I felt a strong wave of emotion and instantly knew the relationship had become a love story. I was worried about the transformation because I wanted to be in the moment; I didn’t want to only see Dan Stevens in a wig. I am so relieved that the scene came together because it cemented the couple’s chemistry. I know that Belle’s final quote is controversial, but I LOVED it. I found the playful moment to be cute and relatable.

👸🏻 Belle: “How would you feel about growing a beard?”  😘

🐗 Beast: “GROWL!”  😉

💬 Closing Thoughts: There are details that disappoint and frustrate me, and I’m not afraid to talk about them. However, I can’t change anything so there’s no use dwelling on the negative. My emotional reaction speaks volumes, and I will definitely be watching this movie again. Please go and see it before you form an opinion. You might be pleasantly surprised! :)

• 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 • 🐗 • 💘 • 👸🏻 • 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 •

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvW_L8sTu5E

• 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 • 🐗 • 💘 • 👸🏻 • 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 •

Beauty and the Beast Artwork ➡️ Tale as Old as Time

• 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 • 🐗 • 💘 • 👸🏻 • 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 •

Revisiting My Review of Beauty and the Beast in 2020

• 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 • 🐗 • 💘 • 👸🏻 • 📖 • 🏰 • 🧙🏻‍♀️ • 🌹 • 🕯 • 🕰 • ☕️ • 🎹 •

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– Lauren Michele <3

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I saw “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” last night.  I could gut the movie and critique it piece by minuscule piece, but that is not what I’m going to do.  Let me lay it out plain, simple, & to the point.  If you are incapable of reveling in gloom, loud noises, knock-down, drag-out fights, & a mash-up of iconic comic book imagery, this is not the movie for you.  You have been warned!

* Note: Beware!!  I did not intentionally mention SPOILERS, but there may be some mentioned by accident.

My love and respect for Christopher Nolan’s trilogy had me on high alert when plans for this movie surfaced.  I was upset and nervous about a new Batman because he is the man, the hero of all heroes in my eyes.  Christian Bale killed it as the “Dark Knight.”  Even though Ben Affleck is a fantastic actor, I was nervous because I HATE change.  I should have known better than to doubt.  The movie pulled me in with a Hulk-like grasp and didn’t let go until the closing credits (sorry for the Marvel reference).   The visuals were well done; they created a believable environment of equal parts gloom and chaos, appropriate for this particular story.  The acting confirmed smart casting choices.  Each time a familiar face appeared onscreen, I was overwhelmed by childlike excitement.  I’m still iffy on “The Flash.”  I love the character but don’t know much about actor Ezra Miller, and the suit could easily become cheesy.  I am trying to keep an open mind until I see him in a full scene/movie.  Director Zack Snyder deserves acknowledgement.  By default he takes any and all blame and goes down with the ship.  However, he is an amazing director and does not deserve the criticism he’s receiving.

I went in with doubts and tentative expectations, and yet I have nothing substantially negative to say.  Why did I enjoy it so much?  I let go of my thoughts and enjoyed the movie for what it was.  Was it perfect?  No.  A lot of content was stuffed into 151 minutes.  However, DC fans have waited a long time for a live action version of the Justice League.  I believe a sense of urgency drove the filmmaking process.  I refuse to ruin this moment of triumph in the DC Universe.  The films will only get bigger and better from here so why waste breath on complaints.  Instead, let’s all enjoy the mental picture of a 22 year old woman (me) tearing up from pure, nerdy joy in the movie theater.  You’re welcome. ;)

Official Website – http://batmanvsuperman.dccomics.com

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eX_iASz1Si8

Batman & Superman Inspired Art – Dark Knight | Man of Steel

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