Richard speaks to “CTV News at Six” anchor Andria Case about television and movies to watch this weekend including the Disney reboot of “Mulan,” the anti-hero series “The Boys” and the inspiring documentary “Rising Phoenix.”
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with host Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including the new Disney+ look at the classic story of “Mulan,” the cerebral thrills of “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” and the hockey movie “Odd Man Rush.”
Richard and “CP24 Breakfast” host Pooja Handa have a look at some special streaming opportunities and television shows to kill time over the weekend including the Disney+ live action reboot of “Mulan,” the truth is stranger than fiction documentary “Class Action Park” on HBO Max and the “Beastie Boys Story” on Apple TV+.
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with guest host Matt Harris to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the live-action remake of the animated “Mulan,” now on Disney+, the cerebral Netflix head-scratcher “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” the Pepe the Frog VOD documentary “Feels Good Man” and the hockey flick “Odd Man Rush.”
The last time we saw the story of Mulan, a young woman who disguised herself as a man to enlist herself in the Imperial Army in place of her ailing father, it was in the form of an action musical that was Disney’s animated film to feature an Asian heroine.
Twenty-two years later Disney has dropped the songs and upped the body count in “Mulan,” a live action remake, featuring an all-Asian cast and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” producer Bill Kong behind the scenes, that premiers this week on the Disney+ streaming service.
Based on a sixth century legend called “Ballad of Mulan,” the new film lets go of many of the stereotypes that marred the animated version, hewing more closely to the tradition tale. Set in China during the Han dynasty in a quiet village, the story follows Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei), the martial arts-trained eldest daughter of famed warrior Hua Zhou (Tzi Ma).
When the Emperor of China (Jet Li), fearing a threat from the invading Rouran army, led by Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee), a skilled warrior fueled by anger over his father’s death and shape-shifting witch Xian Lang (Gong Li), he orders the conscription of one man from every household in the land to form a mighty militia.
As the father of all daughters Fa Zhou volunteers but is in no shape to go to war. Unbeknownst to him, Mulan disguises herself as a man and enrolls, risking her life and the dishonor of her family if she is discovered.
“Mulan” doesn’t feel like the other recent Disney live action do-overs. It is different enough in style, emotional content and tone from the animated movie to be a stand-alone with only a tenuous connection to the past. Director Niki Caro drags the story into the twenty-first century, emphasizing themes of female empowerment, allowing Mulan find her own inner-strength and potential and not rely on a Disney prince. The sparks that flew between Li Shang and Mulan in the original are mostly absent—as her commanding officer the power imbalance was deemed inappropriate for 2020—replaced by platonic love interest Chen Honghui (Yoson An).
The reported budget of $200 million is very much evident on the screen. The gorgeously shot Wuxia style action scenes are epic, and for the family audience, relatively bloodless considering how many people are dispatched by Mulan’s deadly blade. Occasionally they fall prey to a heavy hand from editor David Coulson but the sheer size and scope of them, even on the scaled down Disney+ television presentation, are eye-popping. A more intimate climax with life-or-death consequences for Bori Khan, Mulan or the Emperor, is a nicely rendered showdown that effectively delivers a good, exciting mix of action and character dynamics.
“Mulan” is a welcome addition to the Disney remake roster. It plays like a grown-up version of the animated film, bringing the story into the modern age, while keeping the family appeal intact.
We’ve been lucky this year. The summer season has provided a bumper crop of blockbusters from Iron Man in May to July’s mega chartbuster The Dark Knight which shattered every attendance record known to man. The good times had to stop sometime, though, and with the release of The Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor they come to a screeching halt. Seven years after the last installment of the Brendan Fraser franchise The Dragon Emperor proves that bigger and louder is not necessarily better when it comes to summer entertainment.
In the new Mummy movie treasure hunter Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and family—wife Evelyn (Maria Bello taking Rachel Weisz’s place), their son Alex (Luke Ford who is actually only 13 years younger than Fraser and 14 years younger than Bello) and hapless brother-in-law Jonathan Carnahan (John Hannah)—are in Asia and once again run afoul of ancient supernatural forces when Alex awakens a wicked 2000 year-old Emperor Mummy (Jet Li). The evil one’s plan is double-pronged; he wants to use his army of undead warriors to conquer the world while getting revenge on the sorceress who cursed him two millennia ago.
Very loosely inspired by the 1932 Universal Boris Karloff classic the first two Mummy films were actually comedies disguised as horror. In the place of real scares were family-friendly thrills more in line with vintage Saturday-matinee horror-adventure classics than anything that’ll really send shivers down your spine. The third installment follows suit, except the jokes aren’t funny, the thrills are non-existent and worst of all, there’s no actual mummies. I guess that saved on the movie’s tissue budget but a movie titled The Mummy should have at least one character wrapped head to toe in toilet paper.
As big a waste of money and effort as we have seen on the big screen for some time, The Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor fails on almost every level. Usually Brendan Fraser can muster some goofy charm as he walks through these low-rent Indiana Jones rip offs, but here he’s so disengaged you can almost see him reaching for the pay check while spouting bad one liners and battling blue-screen baddies. Maria Bello does a bad Rachel Weisz impression featuring the worst faux English accent since Kevin Costner created his own unique dialect in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Top billed star Jet Li has very little screen time and the rest of the cast are so bland they barely rate a mention.
In a summer where computer generated images on screen have become passé—both The Dark Knight and Hellboy favor practical effects to baffle the eye over CGI wizardry—The Dragon Emperor relies too heavily on fake looking binary code fabrications. The “wow factor” of CGI dried up long ago and the movie’s cheesy looking, but helpful Yetis and other computer created creations leave the film feeling old-fashioned and out-of-date.
Just like the evil mummies who cause so much trouble in this franchise The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor proves that some things should never be resurrected.