“Shady Hollow” by Juneau Black | Book Review

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“In the woodland village of Shady Hollow, animals live side by side, predator and prey alike. Life is quiet, and the harmony is threatened by nothing bigger than local gossip. Reporter Vera Vixen is a recent transplant, and she doesn’t let anything stand in the way of getting the scoop. The most recent piece of news was the crowning of a new spelling bee champion, eight-year-old Ashley Chitters. When local grouch Otto Sumpf is found dead in the mill pond, the suspicious circumstances shake up the town and bring several issues to light. Vera is hot on the trail of the killer, putting herself in the direct path of danger. Has Miss Vixen met her match in murder, or will her nose for news solve the case before more bodies appear?”

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I’m going to keep my spiel short and sweet, just like “Shady Hollow. If you’re the kid who grew up watching Franklin and Little Bear on Nick Jr., this is the adult version with a pinch of murder and a dash of sleuthing. The setting is just as charming as the book cover advertises, and the story is the embodiment of cozy. Did I mention there’s a map of the town à la Hundred Acre Wood? My ideal day now has a new look: coffee at Joe’s Mug, hours of shopping at Nevermore Books, and lunch at the Bamboo Patch.

I flew through 219 pages and bought the other three books in the series before the ink had a chance to dry on Vera Vixen’s newspaper article. The pace is so soothing, and my only regret is picking this up during the heat of summer because it’s much more suited to a blanket nest and pumpkin spice latte; I would add chilly weather to the list, but I live in California so that only happens on one random week day in February, if we’re lucky. I’m struggling not to award this book with every star in existence, but the big reveal broke up the comfortable rhythm, not bad but more abrupt than it needed to be. My rating is an optimistic four stars, and I’m fully prepared for this to become a new favorite series and obsession I won’t shut up about. I’m dying from the adorableness as I speak so I’m leaving now to pick up the sequel because life outside Shady Hollow isn’t worth living.

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Content Breakdown: 

*Disclaimer: This section of my review is thorough and might contain SPOILERS.

Alcohol & Smoking: Mentions of Alcohol, Beer, Cigars, Cigar Smoking, Cordial, Intoxication, Liquor, Pipe Smoking, Spirits, & Wine

Blood, Death, & Violence: The murder investigation involves blood, drowning, a head wound, poison, stabbing by knife, & descriptions of dead bodies. 

A character is revealed to be a former surgeon whose license was revoked after a patient died during what should’ve been a routine surgery. 

There’s an attempted attack, the attacker loosening a boulder to roll down a hill & crush the victim; the victim suffers a few bruises from jumping out of the way. 

During a knife attack, the victim suffers a paw wound & multiple cuts from broken glass after an escape attempt through a window. 

Religion/Spirituality: Brief mention of spending one year living & praying in silence at a monastery 

During Otto’s funeral at the cemetery, we’re introduced to Parson James “Dusty” Conkers, a clergyman from Shady Hollow Church. 

Sensual/Sexual: There’s a character who’s treated with contempt due to her reputation as a serial dater who entertains many different men at her home, at least one of them married. Throughout the book, she’s referred to as “Home Wrecker,” “Hussy,” “Mistress,” & “Lover.”

Single Parenthood: Joe has been a single father to his son Joe Jr. ever since his wife left them without reason or warning.

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🌟 Find author Juneau Black here:

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*Note: “Juneau Black” is the pen name of authors Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagel.

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– Lauren Michele ❤️

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“The Three Dahlias” by Katy Watson | Book Review

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“In the early eighties, actress Rosalind King originated the onscreen role of lady detective Dahlia Lively, the creation of Golden Age author Lettice Davenport. Fifteen years later, Caro Hooper introduced the character to a whole new generation, gracing TV screens for twelve years. Less than a decade has passed, and Dahlia is headed to the big screen once again, this time portrayed by former child actress Posy Starling who’s trying to reverse a bad reputation and revive her career. A three-day summer convention is being held in the late Lettice Davenport’s honor at Aldermere, her family home, and in attendance are relatives who still reside in the house, three generations of Dahlias, the movie crew, and VIP fans. As the weekend commences, real mysteries start popping up, threatening to derail the summer festivities. Caro, Posy, and Rosalind couldn’t be more different, but they’re well acquainted with the detective mind of Dahlia and team up to figure out what’s going on. When the situation escalates to murder, the three actresses appear out of their depth but continue to push for answers. Will the tenacious spirit of Dahlia Lively prevail, or should her three successors give up their amateur sleuthing before one of them gets hurt?”

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Constable, imprint of Little, Brown Book Group, through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

I can’t even imagine what goes through an author’s head when their work is compared to Agatha Christie, the one and only “Queen of Crime.” Those are big shoes to fill, and I wouldn’t wish that pressure on anyone. That’s exactly what’s happening with Katy Watson’s debut, and as an Agatha fan, I agree on many counts. The book opens with an invitation and Aldermere House map which makes you, the reader, feel like one of the guests. The story takes place during a modern time, probably not far off from 2022, but it feels so much like a classic mansion murder mystery that you forget what year it is until someone mentions their cellphone. The convention is dedicated to Golden Age author Lettice Davenport, let’s call her Agatha’s fictional peer, and though she has passed away, her presence is felt everywhere. Aside from story after story about Miss Davenport’s life and career, each chapter begins with a quote from one of her Dahlia Lively detective novels, a deceptively small detail. The quotes don’t take up much of the book, but Katy Watson went to the trouble of creating excerpts from a book series that doesn’t exist which makes the fictional world where it does exist seem that much more real. That is maximum effort, and I applaud it.

Sometimes, on a rainy evening, you reach for a thriller to elevate your heartrate and maximize the chills in the room. Other times, you brew your favorite hot beverage and reach for a sleeper that’s going to lull you into the depths of coziness while intriguing you enough to devour page after page. “The Three Dahlias” is the latter, a mystery that’s less about action and more about brainstorming. Yet another way Katy Watson has captured the essence of Agatha’s work, almost exclusively focusing on the detectives methodically working through the clues until an answer presents itself in the eleventh hour. Speaking of detectives, I dare say the best part of this book is the dynamic between the actresses-turned-sleuths trio. They’ve all assumed the role of Dahlia Lively for films and television and gleaned enough knowledge to fake their way through detective work until something sticks. Rosalind King is the oldest and most prim and proper, and though she now finds herself passed over for leading roles due to age, she’s earned enough respect as the original Dahlia to be able to walk among the convention crowd and get answers to her questions. Caro Hooper likes to take charge and be the center of attention, much to the displeasure of Rosalind; she often loses herself in the character of Dahlia, shying away from being herself when it’s easier to hide her personal struggles behind a facade. Posy Starling rounds out the trio as the youngest member and the newest Dahlia; she is a disgraced child star recently returned to England and trying to distance herself from a substance abuse past with a new chapter in her career. Three women, different ages, contrasting personalities, and the combination works, like three liquids that shouldn’t mix, but if you trust the process, they eventually blend into something of substance.

I’m going to stick with my normal procedure and give this debut four stars, leaving room for improvement. I enjoyed it but struggled to focus at times due to the pace. There was a little something missing, but this is a solid foundation for the in-progress sequel. I’m not sure what Katy Watson’s plans are, but she has the makings of a great modern murder mystery series on her hands. I highly recommend you check out this debut mystery that has, thus far, flown under the radar. It may not have enough action for thrill-seeking readers, but mystery enthusiasts will find more than enough meat to sink their teeth into.

*NOTE: The expected U.S. publication date is July 26th, 2022.

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Content Breakdown: 

*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might be different in the final copy.

*Disclaimer 2: This section of my review is thorough and might contain SPOILERS.

Abuse: It is briefly implied that Posy’s last relationship was abusive.

Alcohol, Drugs, & Smoking: Mentions of Alcoholism, Amaretto, Brandy, Cigarettes, Cocktails, Drug addiction, Gin, Intoxication, a Pub, Rehab for substance abuse, Sobriety meetings, Whisky, & Wine

Main character Posy Starling is a recovering addict, and there are numerous mentions of her experience with rehab and sobriety meetings. She no longer drinks alcohol.

One of the side characters who never makes an appearance is mentioned as an addict who ran away from home as a teen, got pregnant, and moved back home, only to relapse several times and struggle to keep a job.

Blackmail: PLOT SPOILER – Three characters are blackmailed with photos. The first group of photos shows the victim under the influence despite being on a sobriety journey. The second group of photos is sexual, & the blackmail note mentions there’s a tape. The third & final group of photos shows the victim in an affair with someone else’s husband.

Blood & Violence: There are dolls left lying around as a threat, each representing a method of murder such as poison & stabbing.

During a tour of Aldermere House, the contents of shelves in Lettice Davenport’s office are described: books on anatomy and poison, the knot from a noose, a bottle with a poison sticker on it, and a line of bullets.

Chapter 8 begins with a Dahlia Lively quote which is said while she holds the hand of a corpse.

In chapter 11, there’s a brief mention of World War II & a bomb landing on Lettice Davenport’s building of flats.

PLOT SPOILER -There is a murder via poison, & the victim is described as looking relatively unharmed aside from the vomit coming out of his mouth.

A character is attacked from behind, hit with a heavy object which leaves a bloody head wound.

PLOT SPOILER -A dead body is discovered in a river, described as bloated, grey, & naked; it’s later revealed that the victim suffered blunt force trauma to the head. The person who discovered the body screamed long enough for her voice to go hoarse & later mentions not being able to sleep because all she sees are the bulging, staring eyes of the victim.

During the big reveal, the murderer throws the contents of a poison bottle into Rosalind’s face. Posy throws herself in front of Rosalind, but thankfully it’s only a bottle of glitter labeled as poison.

Cheating: PLOT SPOILER – There are two characters having an affair. The history of the situation is complicated, but the black & white facts are her having a relationship with her friend’s husband & him staying with his wife despite insisting she isn’t the woman he truly loves. 

Fake Pregnancy: PLOT SPOILER – There’s a discussion about a character who announced a pregnancy, but once her boyfriend married her, the baby was never born. It’s not known whether she faked the pregnancy or lost the baby, but it is known that her boyfriend wasn’t planning to take their relationship any further before the announcement.

Language: B*st*rd, Bloody, D*mn, Heck, & H*ll

Pregnancy & Adoption: PLOT SPOILER – Details are given about a character’s father who was given up for adoption at birth. His mother fell in love with her cousin, but he wouldn’t commit when she got pregnant because he had an understanding with a family friend, a more suitable wife. The son tried, and later on his daughter, to reconnect with the biological family & was met with rejection.

Therapy: Posy mentions having a therapist & dealing with the aftermath of a past relationship, possibly abusive. 

Sensual/Sexual: There is one kiss which happens as part of the murder mystery game at the convention.

In chapter 16, Juliette admits to sneaking out of Aldermere to meet her boyfriend. There’s no definite mention of what they were doing, but Juliette says they were too busy to notice any suspicious activity outside the house.

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🌟 Find author Katy Watson here:

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– Lauren Michele ❤️

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“The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea” by Axie Oh | Book Review

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“This is a tale of bravery and sacrifice, a retelling of the Korean folktale “The Tale of Shim Cheong.” Believing they’re cursed by the Sea God who once protected them, Mina’s village annually chooses a bride and throws her into the sea as a sacrifice for peace. Still, floods and wars continue to ravage the land with no end in sight. Shim Cheong is the latest choice, her unmatched beauty thought to be a sign of the “true bride” and impending peace. Her sweetheart Joon risks punishment by death to ride in the boat, joined at the last minute by his younger sister Mina who wants to protect him. Knowing how much the young couple loves one another, Mina bravely throws herself into the sea where she’s carried to the Spirit Realm. She finds the Sea God, but he isn’t the merciless ruler she was expecting; he’s trapped under a sleeping spell. With the help of her new acquaintances led by the enigmatic Shin, Mina navigates a world of demons and spirits to wake her groom and save her home before time runs out, and she can no longer leave as a human.”

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If you added “The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea” to your TBR because of Kuri Huang’s stunning art, fear not because the setting and atmosphere are just as magical as advertised on the cover. I wanted to dive in and never come back, minus the sacrifice part of course. My favorite part was the friendships Mina found on her journey through the Spirit Realm which led to an emotional twist that hit me like a ton of bricks. Wow! I may or may not have sobbed in a bubble bath late at night for a lengthy period of time.

Just like Axie Oh’s other book “XOXO, I thoroughly enjoyed the fictional world and platonic relationships but didn’t quite fall for the romance, although I did feel it a little more in this story. Some of the banter was cute, but overall, the love story felt too young and rushed. My head wanted to root for a happy ending because the couple is swoonworthy in theory, but there were no heart palpitations or stomach butterflies for me, I’m afraid.

Due to an uptick in my enjoyment, I’m giving my second experience with Axie Oh’s work four stars. I recommend this beautiful Korean fantasy to readers who are familiar with the young adult genre and don’t mind a young love romance that doesn’t dive too deep. The world and characters will enchant you!

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Content Breakdown:

*Disclaimer: This section of my review is thorough and might contain SPOILERS.

Alcohol: Mentions of Drunkenness, Liquor, & Wine

Blood & Violence: A character slashes her palm with a knife as a pledge.

A character says the humans are responsible for polluting rivers & streams with bloodshed.

During a fight, a spray of blood splatters a paper screen in the room; in the same scene, there’s an inflicted wound & mention of dripping blood.

There are numerous mentions of a murdered body that was tossed into the sea.

As an “Imugi,” Kirin can cut himself open (i.e. his palm) & use his silver blood to heal, an ability he uses a few times. He’s thanked by a recipient of his healing powers who remembers how it felt when his warm blood oozed into the wound.

Mina tells a tale in which a man finds an injured swallow & nurses it back to health, receiving wealth in return for his good deed. His older brother mirrors those actions to receive the same wealth, but after he pushes a baby bird out of the nest to expedite the process, he recieves bad luck instead, including a beating from a group of demons.

During a conversation on page 175, the words “left bleeding on the floor” are said as a hypothetical situation. In that same scene, a knife is used to cut an attacker, leaving a bleeding wound on his cheek, and one of the rescuers stands above the unconscious bodies he’s responsible for.

On page 180, Mina sees the River of Souls in person, witnessing the steady flow of pale, bloodless bodies & a child desperately trying to get out.

When two “Imugi” clash on page 192, the bigger creature bites through the skin of the other & draws blood.

A character is shot in the shoulder by a crossbow and left in a coma due to blood loss.

An “Imugi” is stabbed in the neck by a sword, writhing in pain & spewing blood & venom.

At the end of chapter 33, a character is pierced through the heart by an arrow, blood flowing out of his mouth as he slowly dies.

There are at least seven other brief mentions of blood throughout the book.

Creatures, Gods, & the Afterlife: A main element of this story is the web of gods, goddesses, & the afterlife. Among those named are a death god named Shiki, the goddess of creation, the goddess of moon & memory, & a white fox demon who eats human men (and women within the Spirit Realm) & is served by a group of priestesses. Additionally, there are mentions of shrines & temples.

There’s one deity known as the god of gods & ruler of them all: the “Sea God.” Every year a girl is thrown into the sea, given to him as a bride in hopes of peace.

There’s a dragon-like creature called an “Imugi” who worships no gods, instead believing it can become a god itself by living long enough or fighting a certain number of wars.

The Spirit Realm is a place between heaven & earth where gods, spirits, & mythical creatures reside. They pulled themselves from the River of Souls, not wanting to move on to another life. Once they die in the Spirit Realm, they return to the river for the final time.

Humans craft paper boats to carry their wishes to dead ancestors in the Spirit Realm who will bargain on their behalf with lesser gods to fulfill dreams & desires.

Disability + Insensitive Language: There’s a blind character who’s known by villagers as “Shim the Blind,” a nickname that could be interpreted as insensitive & reductive.

Death: Mina’s father died at sea & her mother in childbirth.

On page 18, there’s a discussion about a baby who was born early & died because any child born during the storms doesn’t survive; this death is mentioned again later in the book.

Mina touches a paper boat & has a vision of a young, pregannt woman crying; she tries to help, but the wish is old, the woman & her child long since passed away.

Language: B*st*rd

Orphaned: Mina was raised by her grandparents after losing both parents.

Sensual/Sexual: From the end of chapter 22 to the beginning of chapter 23, two characters sleep wrapped in each other’s embrace as one of them battles a fever.

There is kissing on pages 287 & 320.

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 🌟 Find author Axie Oh here: 

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– Lauren Michele 

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Goodbye 2021 | Hello 2022

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I don’t even know where to begin so I’ll start by saying ‘m deeply sorry for disappearing. My blogs mean the world to me, but 2021 kicked my butt. PERIOD. Drama went down at my retail job, & when I could no longer handle the stress mentally & physically, I put in my two weeks. The cherry on top of being unemployed was not getting a job I really wanted three months after applying. I made the decision to enjoy the last two months of the year & do something I never do: enjoy family time during the holidays! In typical Lauren form, I didn’t keep my promise. Well, technically my family did make some great memories in November & December. However, my workaholic tendencies reared their ugly head, & I worked myself into the ground. I’m so exhausted & need a vacation from my two-month vacation, as ridiculous as that sounds. Going into the new year, I have one potential job on my radar. I’m terrified & want to throw up every time I think about going through the application process again, but my sad bank account is pushing me forward. I have no choice! I have to get a job NOW. I’m feeling a fresh wave of nausea talking about this so let’s move on & take a look at what productivity I did manage during 2021:

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Goodbye 2020 | Hello 2021 (Lifestyle Blog)

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Let’s take a look at the numbers: I ended 2021 with 488 art blog followers (down from 497), 475 lifestyle blog followers (exactly the same), & 322 subscribers + 154.3K views (up from 293 & 140,868).

I could let those numbers discourage me, but there were things in 2021 that were beyond my control. It wasn’t possible for me to be more active unless I wanted to make myself sick so, in the wise words of Elsa, I’m choosing to Let It Go. I’m currently looking for a work-from-home job which would give me more freedom to be creative on the side. If all goes well, you’ll hear from me again very soon. 💕

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 🥂

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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Ha Bracha | A Blessing Over 2021

It’s a gross understatement to say 2020 was a rough year so I won’t say it. Instead I’ll look forward to the new year with cautious optimism & lots of prayer. Speaking of prayer, I recently heard Joshua Aaron’s Hebrew cover of the song The Blessing, & it is a spiritual experience. It’s the perfect prayer to lead us into the coming year so I recommend you find a quiet spot, close your eyes, & let the song wash over you. Wishing you & yours a healthy 2021! 💙 

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” ’ “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”  – Numbers 6:22-27

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzqrWae5lK4

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Yevarechecha Adonai, VeYishmerecha • The LORD bless you and keep you • יְבָרֶכְךָ יהוה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ⁠

Ya’er Adonai Panav Eleycha ViChuneka • Make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you • יָאֵר יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ⁠

Yisa Adonai Panav Eleycha, VeYasem Lecha Shalom • The LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace • יִשָּׂא יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם

Yehi chasdo aleicha le’alfei dorot • May His favor be upon you to a thousand generations • יהי חסדו עליך לאלפי דורות

Mishpachtecha viladecha • Your family and your children • משפחתך וילדיך

Dorotecha achareicha • Your generations after you • דורותיך אחריך

Rucho telech lefaneicha • May His presence go before you • רוחו תלך לפניך

Letsidecha achareicha • Beside you and behind you • לצידך, אחריך

Misvivecha belibecha • All around you and within you • מסביבך, בליבך

Hu itcha • He is with you • הוא איתך

Baboker uvaerev • In the morning in the evening • בבוקר ובערב

Betzetecha uvoecha • In your going and your coming • בצאתך ובואך

B’sivlotecha beoshrecha • In your weeping and rejoicing • בסבלותיך ואושרך

Hu itcha • He is for you • הוא איתך

Hu itanu im kulanu • He is for us, He is with us • הוא איתנו עם כולנו

Hu itcha • He is for you • הוא איתך

Shalom • Peace • שָׁלוֹם

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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I Had the Holiday Blues | Belated Blogmas 2020

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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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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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

Beauty and the Beast 2017 | Movie Review

Christopher Robin 2018 | Movie Review

Dumbo 2019 | Movie Review

Aladdin 2019 | Movie Review

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil 2019 | Movie Review

Lady and the Tramp 2019 | Movie Review

The Lion King 2019 | Movie Review

• 🇨🇳 •🍃 •🌾 •🌸 •🏔 •🔥 •👩🏻 •🗡 •🐎•🎇 • 🇨🇳 • 🍃 • 🌾 • 🌸 • 🏔 • 🔥 • 👩🏻 • 🗡 • 🐎 • 🎇 •

🎥 Stay tuned for my final rankings tomorrow! 🍿

• 🇨🇳 •🍃 •🌾 •🌸 •🏔 •🔥 •👩🏻 •🗡 •🐎•🎇 • 🇨🇳 • 🍃 • 🌾 • 🌸 • 🏔 • 🔥 • 👩🏻 • 🗡 • 🐎 • 🎇 •

Subscribe to my blog to receive email notifications, and check out my other links listed below.

– Lauren Michele ❤

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Revisiting Beauty and the Beast 2017

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

🎥 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

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

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:

•  ⚠️  •  ⚠️  •  ⚠️  •  ⚠️  •  ⚠️  •  S  P  O  I  L  E  R  S  •  A  H  E  A  D  •  ⚠️  •  ⚠️  •  ⚠️  •  ⚠️  •  ⚠️  •

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

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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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Ballad of Mulan

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THIS IS NOT A DRILL! In seven days, my favorite Disney princess Mulan will have her own live action movie,  a Chinese ballad brought to life by an all-Asian cast. This version of the 1998 animated movie will not be a musical but instead focus on Chinese culture & serve lots of martial arts action. I am here for that! 👏🏻 👏🏻 👏🏻 Mulan is a kick-butt princess, & I need the world to give her the respect & support she deserves. Because of COVID-19, the original March release was cancelled. Instead it will be released digitally on September 4th & available to stream for $29.99 on Disney Plus as well as Apple, Google, & Roku. I’ve read that it will have a cinematic release in countries where it’s not available to stream. Let’s rewind back to the price to stream it early on Disney Plus. I know many people are struggling financially right now, and the idea of paying for a movie on top of what you’re already paying for the Disney Plus streaming service is off putting. However, this is a brand new movie that is losing out on movie theater revenue. It was never going to be free! The average movie theater ticket costs around $9.30, & a Blu-ray can cost  $25 or more, bringing your total to approximately $34.30. I don’t know how it will work on other apps, but once you pay $29.99 on Disney Plus, the movie is yours to keep as long as you have an account. You’ll also be able to share the movie with family & friends by logging into your Disney Plus account. They might even split the cost with you! Please join me in supporting my favorite Disney princess & putting aside thirty dollars to purchase her new movie. I have a feeling it’s going to be amazing, & I can’t wait to see it after years  of waiting. Don’t forget to spread the word & support the soundtrack!

🇨🇳  • 🏔  • 🌸  •  🦗  •  🐉  •  🏹  •  🗡  • 🌸  •  🏔  • 🇨🇳  • 🏔  • 🌸  • 🦗  •  🐉  •  🏹  •  🗡  • 🌸  •  🏔  •

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-eFm–k21c

🇨🇳  • 🏔  • 🌸  •  🦗  •  🐉  •  🏹  •  🗡  • 🌸  •  🏔  • 🇨🇳  • 🏔  • 🌸  • 🦗  •  🐉  •  🏹  •  🗡  • 🌸  •  🏔  •

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

🇨🇳  • 🏔  • 🌸  •  🦗  •  🐉  •  🏹  •  🗡  • 🌸  •  🏔  • 🇨🇳  • 🏔  • 🌸  • 🦗  •  🐉  •  🏹  •  🗡  • 🌸  •  🏔  •

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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Birds of Prey

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Birds of Prey came out this past February, but I unfortunately didn’t make it to a theater, the reason having nothing to do with the movie or reviews. I was very excited to see it, but honestly the harsh criticism leading up to the release was a major bummer. I understand that DC fans are disappointed with a large portion of our cinematic universe, but that doesn’t excuse negative reviews of something that hasn’t even come out yet. Sadly, people did not show up like they did for previous DC films. I don’t want to feed the idea that it struggled because it’s a female-centric film but can’t help doubting the motives now that I’ve seen it for myself. The filming and music and costumes and cast were all fantastic. Color me confused because I have no idea why it came and went without the support I expect from the DC Comics community. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a total flop. It doubled its budget & received mostly positive reviews. However, its box office gross ranks last in three different categories compared to the seven other DCEU movies that have come out since 2013. I think the lack of success can be interpreted in a couple different ways, but I’d like to confront the elephant in the room. One of the biggest complaints had to do with the feminism and politics people picked up on in the trailers. I want to make one thing clear: YOU NEED TO GIVE THINGS A CHANCE BEFORE YOU PASS JUDGEMENT! I had concerns about the movie too but still gave it a fair chance. Turns out I love it, & there was never anything to be worried about. Now’s your chance to make amends & show it some love. Watch it on HBO Max, buy the DVD/Blu-Ray, stream the music, purchase the soundtrack, follow the cast, & spread the word. All I ask is that you give Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn a chance. 💋

•  💎  •  🚨  •  💀  •  🐤  •  🔪  •  🃏  •  🏹  • 💎  •  🚨  •  💀  •  🐤  •  🔪  •  🃏  •  🏹  • 💎  • 🚨  •  💀  •

–   A W E S O M E   B I R D S   O F   P R E Y – I N S P I R E D   A R T   –

•  💎  •  🚨  •  💀  •  🐤  •  🔪  •  🃏  •  🏹  • 💎  •  🚨  •  💀  •  🐤  •  🔪  •  🃏  •  🏹  • 💎  • 🚨  •  💀  •

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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