*Disclaimer: I’ve read “Persuasion” by Jane Austen but am much more familiar with the 2007 adaptation starring Rupert Penry-Jones and Sally Hawkins. Just assume that’s what I’m referencing during the entirety of this review. This story has been around since 1817, but I’m still issuing a warning. There will be book spoilers as well as 2022 movie spoilers. SPOILERS AHEAD! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!
After feeling immense disappointment over the official trailer, I was prepared to hate this movie with not a trace of positivity in sight. To my credit, I gave it a fair chance and actually liked some elements in the first sixty-eight minutes. The scenery was beautiful, and most of the acting performances were a pleasant surprise. Suddenly, Anne Elliot squatted in the woods to relieve herself, and I was done. My good opinion once lost is lost forever, and boy oh boy was it lost.
The cast as a whole is satisfactory, so much so that they deserve to be listed one by one. Richard E. Grant and Yolanda Kettle are unbearably snobby as Sir Walter Elliot and his daughter Elizabeth, and Nikki Amuka-Bird’s Lady Russell is an endearing mother figure to Anne, despite her lapse in judgement regarding Frederick. Lydia Rose Bewley doesn’t have much screen time as Penelope Clay, but she did a good job with what she was given. Ben Bailey as Charles Musgrove is an attentive father and a husband with the patience of a saint. Mia McKenna-Bruce did a darn good job as Mary Elliot Musgrove, bringing a youthful spin and humor to a role made so hilarious by Amanda Hale in 2007. Izuka Hoyle and Nia Towle are the picture of beauty as Henrietta and Louisa Musgrove, young and wild and free; I was expecting them to be a bit sillier, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter.
Continuing with the cast, Edward Bluemel is fine as Captain Harville but overshadowed by Captain Wentworth’s other best friend. Afolabi Alli is incredibly sweet as Captain Benwick, making the most of very little screen time. When we first meet him, he looks like a lost little boy while mourning the loss of his fiancé; in the end, he finds love again and is the picture of unadulterated happiness. He’s an absolute teddy bear, and that interpretation works for me. I was scared to see Henry Golding as the “villain,” but he took the bull by the horns as Mr. William Elliot. He was so despicable that I found myself hating him, which I didn’t think possible, while also applauding the performance. I am, however, still wishing upon a Jane Austen star that we see him as the dashing love interest one day, someday, soon. Please make it happen somebody, anybody!
I apologize to Austen enthusiasts who are familiar with this story, but I’m going to recap for those who aren’t. “Persuasion” is a romance based on reconciliation. Once upon a time, Anne and Frederick were young and in love, but she allowed her family to persuade her that a wealthier man would be a more suitable husband. Seven years later, Frederick returns to town as a naval captain with status and money but still very much heartbroken and angry. Anne is also nursing a broken heart, regretful over the life-changing decision she made; she bears the sting of Frederick’s coldness as penance, believing he will forever hate her and rightfully so. They start to find themselves in each other’s company constantly, and the discomfort slowly melts away. When their tension reaches a point just beyond agony, a new beginning is right around the corner. Down the street actually. Wink wink!
Let’s look at the leading pair, starting with Cosmo Jarvis as Captain Frederick Wentworth. The writing and portrayal of this character was not well done. Frederick wasn’t angry enough; he’s supposed to be bitter and soften little by little as he witnesses how Anne’s embraced her own mind and opinions. Yes, he’s still in love with her, but he fights those feelings and hides them behind a cold exterior. This version of Frederick was soft around the edges from the beginning, right on the border of being an awkward, “cinnamon roll” character. Dare I say the term “wishy-washy” comes to mind! I’ll add that I didn’t like the accent used for this performance. At times it felt off, like an impression of a posh gentlemen rather than the voice of an austere naval captain.
Dakota Johnson’s portrayal of Anne Elliot was better than expected. She did well with the humor and breaking of the fourth wall. My favorite acting moment of hers was the bathtub scene. Anne thinks Wentworth is engaged so she’s sobbing over losing her first and only love for a second time. As someone who’s experienced similar heartbreak, that moment was uncomfortably authentic. Shifting to the cons, I didn’t like the way Anne was written. She reminded me too much of Lizzie McGuire, clumsy and shouting out random nonsense in uncomfortable situations. Also, she consumes a lot of alcohol; I don’t want to sound snobby, but that’s not a trait I would’ve chosen for this character. Don’t make me mention the moment by the tree again! Injecting bleach into my brain won’t be enough to scrub that traumatic image from my memory. The modern dialogue was present but not heavily featured which made it stand out even more. They should’ve gone all in or scrapped it because I almost stopped watching due to secondhand embarrassment. Let me lay out what I was expecting: Anne’s father and sisters are greedy and needy so she spends a lot of time caretaking and completing the adult tasks no one else will touch. In her late twenties, she’s considered an old maid and nothing special to look at, an underappreciated wallflower despite her kindness and sense of responsibility. The 2022 version of Miss Elliot is conventionally pretty and missing a dose of maturity therefore she’s not as recognizable as she should be.
The writing woes don’t stop there! I felt zero chemistry between the leads, exacerbated by unnecessary changes to their love story. Anne and Frederick have a heart-to-heart conversation halfway through the movie and put aside their differences to be friends, squashing any and all tension leading to their romantic reconciliation. Tension to the point of agony is the bread and butter of “Persuasion,” and Netflix made a huge mistake messing with that. The ending is the cherry on top of this warm, melted sundae. Instead of giving every branch of the story it’s moment to shine, everything is crammed into one scene. The “Lyme group” reunites, and while Anne talks to Captain Harville, Frederick writes his classic letter, staring at the back of her head and eavesdropping on the conversation. Cringey with a capital ‘C’! When she turns around and finds him gone, she walks over to the table, discovers his letter, and runs after him. She sees Mr. Elliot making out with Penelope Clay and wishes them happiness, an absolutely bonkers moment considering that level of affection while unwed is extremely inappropriate in Austen times, and Anne had yet to answer William’s proposal from two scenes prior. Don’t blink because you’ll miss her finding and kissing Wentworth. Yes, that is indeed how fast everything wraps up. As if there weren’t enough idiotic changes, the film ends with Miss Clay and Mr. Elliot’s wedding because who the heck wants to see the leads get married onscreen. Since they were so set on showing the wedding of two side characters, I would’ve rather seen Captain Benwick and Louisa’s ceremony because I actually cared about their chemistry and happy ending. At least Anne and Frederick share a lovely moment on the beach before the credits roll, the best chemistry out of one hour and forty-seven minutes.
I’m proud of myself for giving this movie a chance because initially I was going to ignore it. A few elements were a pleasant surprise, but this will not be a new addition to my Jane Austen rotation. Thank you for reading all seven of my opinionated paragraphs, and shout out to my besties Katie and Traci for ranting with me before I started writing my review. This has been quite the experience. Now I’m going to cleanse my palate with a rewatch of the 2007 adaptation. Rupert and Sally are still the gold standard! ❤️
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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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.
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.
Ms. Darbus is the High School Musical equivalent of Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter. She’s dramatic but loves what she does & the kids in her care. ♥️
HSM 3 came out two weeks before my 15th birthday. Two of my best friends joined me for dinner & a movie theater date. I even made HSM-themed gift bags! Yes, I was THAT superfan. 😂
Final thoughts for the day: I forgot to update you on Disney Plus issues so buckle up. I didn’t experience that many problems in the beginning like other people, but it’s gone a bit downhill since then. Every time I add to my watchlist, previous items disappear. I have to search for certain movies & shows which defeats the purpose of having everything in one place on a watchlist. A recent update added a “Continue Watching” feature, but that hasn’t been working smoothly. For example, I could pause what I’m watching, exit out of the app for a little bit, & come back to the very beginning of that same show or film. Add that to the spinning blue circle of death, and it’s very frustrating to skim through & film clips for a vlog. 😂 I understand the bugs of a brand new app so I want to make it clear that none of this is a dealbreaker. I just want to be honest about how the app is performing right now.
That is it for my 30-day Disney+ marathon. I hope you’ve enjoyed geeking out over Disney with me. If you need more ME in your life, I’m doing a Hallmark Christmas movie marathon. 🎄 Thank you so much for your support! You’ll be hearing from me very soon. 💕
0:25 is the moment our jaws dropped to the ground realizing Zac Efron has the voice of an angel. The moment we scratched our heads in confusion over why he didn’t sing on his own in the first movie. This is a hill I will die on: ZAC EFRON SHOULD’VE SUNG IN THE FIRST HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL MOVIE!! I know there are stories about him not feeling confident enough in his own abilities. That’s a lie from the pit of hell! Zac Efron can SAAANG, & nobody can sway my opinion.
“Can’t be Gabriella. Whenever she calls, he just blushes.” Love this moment & quote from Coach Bolton. 😂
“I’m saving up for a car so I can take that lil’ hottie on a proper date.” *sigh* We didn’t give Corbin Bleu the attention he deserved. I’ve always been in love with him, but I know that Zac got most of the spotlight. For what it’s worth, Corbin is still 🔥 😍 If you need evidence, watch this scene:
You have to watch the scene to really get the context & emotion, but it’s too hilarious not to mention here. 😆
Mr. Fulton: “Distribute these in the staff area, but not until the end of shift.”
Taylor McKessie: “What? Wait!”
Mr. Fulton: “No discussion, Miss McKessie. This is a business. Welcome to the world of adults who wish to keep their jobs because they have mortgages they wish to pay, tuition bills, car payments, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So, sometimes, we have to perform tasks, however unpleasant, that are necessary for that all-too-important paycheck to land in our all-too-empty pockets!”
Taylor: “May I get you a cup of tea Mr. Fulton?
Mr. Fulton: Chamomile would be lovely.
More proof that ZACSHOULD’VE SUNG IN THE FIRST MOVIE! My friend Katie got me a birthday card that sang this song. Poor Troy can’t sing anymore because I played the song so much. 😂
High School Musical 2 premiered on August 17, 2007. I coordinated a sleepover for me & two of my best friends. I wore an HSM shirt & painted my nails red & white in honor of the East High Wildcats. We made ice cream sundaes & ate popcorn & screamed until we lost our voices. It was one of the best nights of my life.
Final thoughts for the day: ONE MORE DAY! ONE MORE DAY! ONE MORE DAY! Are you ready for my Disney+ marathon to end? I’m sure you’ve all loved reading my ramblings everyday. 😂 On a serious note, I truly appreciate those of you who’ve supported me for 30 days. If you’re a new follower, I hope you’ll stick around to see what else my lifestyle blog has to offer. See you tomorrow! 👋
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HSM was directed by Kenny Ortega. I don’t need to tell you who that is. 🌟 If you don’t know, you don’t deserve to know. 😂
It’s not a secret that Drew Seeley provided Troy Bolton’s singing voice. Please hold. ☎️ I will provide my feelings tomorrow . . . 😑
In the beginning of the film when Troy arrives for the first day of school, Chad Danforth says “. . . it’s gonna be a happy wildcat new year man! Because in two weeks we’re going to the championships with you leading us to infinity and beyond.” To infinity and beyond. Buzz Lightyear. Toy Story. 🧸
Ms. Darbus might actually be my favorite HSM character. She’s dramatic & reminds me of my film teacher in college. She also has the best quotes, & her banter with Coach Bolton is hilarious. 😂
*Chad is holding a basketball* – “Mr. Danforth! This is a place of learning, not a hockey arena.”
“And while we are working, let us probe the mounting evils of cell phones. Perhaps the most heinous example of cell phone use is ringing in the theatre. The theatre is a chapel of arts, a precious cornucopia of creative energy.”
“It’s called crime and punishment, Bolton. Besides, proximity to the arts is cleansing for the soul.”
*Referencing the basketball team* – “This school is about more than just young men in baggy shorts flinging balls for touchdowns.”
“Now, I give every student an even chance, which is a long and honorable tradition in the theatre, something that you wouldn’t understand, but if he is planning some sort of a practical joke in my chapel of the arts . . . I will not allow my ‘Twinkle Town Musicale’ to be made into a farce.”
“This morning, during free period, will be your chance for the musicale auditions. Both singles and pairs. I will be in the theatre until noon for those of you bold enough to extend the wingspan of your creative spirit.”
“Casting the leads of a show is both a challenge and a responsibility, a joy and a burden. I commend you and all other young artists to hold out for the moon, the sun, and the stars. Shall we soar together?”
If you’re an HSM superfan, you know better than to skim past Chad Danforth’s wardrobe. Every graphic t-shirt he wears features a fun/funny quote such as “I come with my own background music.”
Remember the vocal warm-ups that Ryan & Sharpay Evans do?? I’ve been doing those ever since I saw the movie for the first time. I also sing Troy & Gabriella’s version of What I’ve Been Looking For. No voice lesson is complete without either of those things. 🎤
After they perform What I’ve Been Looking For, Sharpay reminds Ryan that she told him not to do the jazz square. He replies with “It’s a crowd favorite. Everybody loves a good jazz square.” My friends & I quoted this in dance class every time we did jazz squares across the floor or in a routine. 😂
During the montage of Troy & Gabriella preparing for their callback, I’m pretty sure Zac Efron’s singing voice was used for Breaking Free. When they perform the entire song at the end of the movie, the first few lines also sound like Zac. Listen carefully! I really do think it’s him & not Drew. And yes, I do know that his voice was mixed with Drew’s. The majority is still Drew. I can’t talk about it. You’ll find out why tomorrow. 🤭
📣 G – O – D – R – A – M – A – C – L – U – B – EXCLAMATION POINT! 😂
I saw something in the credits that legitimately surprised me. I didn’t know that Drew Seeley, credited as Andrew Seeley, helped write Get’cha Head in the Game. 🎼
Final thoughts for the day: I’ve already said a lot so I will bid you goodnight & stop talking. I hope you enjoyed my HSM lovefest because there are two days left, & there’s really only one way to end this marathon. 😉
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Newsies is directed by Kenny Ortega, director of The Cheetah Girls 2, the Descendants trilogy, the High School Musical trilogy, & Hocus Pocus. If that isn’t enough, he choreographed for Dirty Dancing, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, & Pretty in Pink, three classic films.
👁 Spotted: Baby Christian Bale! He is A D O R A B L E 😍 Also, his voice is so sweet. 🎶
Final thoughts for the day: I’m a little upset that no one told me to watch this movie sooner, but better late than never. I loved it, & the soundtrack immediately went on my Spotify playlist.
🎵 When I dream, on my own, I’m alone, but I ain’t lonely. For a dreamer, night’s the only time of day when the city’s finally sleepin’. And my thoughts begin to stray, and I’m on the train that’s bound for Santa Fe. 🎶
Final thoughts for the day: I never watch Bambi because it makes me so sad, but I have no regrets. The characters are stinkin’ adorable, & the animation is beautiful. My Disney+ marathon is winding down. How’s everyone feeling? I must admit I’m very tired & a bit of a grinch at the moment. Hopefully I can get some much needed rest & relaxation soon. See you tomorrow! 👋
8:45am – Bath + Ducktales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp 🛀
Final thoughts for the day: Unfortunately I don’t have much to say tonight. Look at that wake-up time! I am EXHAUSTED. 😴 It was nice to relax in a nice, warm bath & enjoy a nostalgic adventure with some of my favorite ducks. I don’t think I ever watched this movie as a kid so it was cool to finally see it. More Ducktales is never a bad thing!