Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MULAN (2020)

Any of you that actually paid $30 for this on Disney Plus’s Premier Access…especially when you could’ve waited three months to watch it for free…what were you smoking? And to those that did and actually enjoyed this movie…seriously, what were you smoking? Was it expensive? Were you eating Member Berries during it? You had to be, because MULAN (2020) is a disaster on almost every level of film making I can think of. Put aside the fact that the cartoon in the 90s is a cinematic classic and is still likely to make you feel good to this day. Put aside the classic songs from it. Put aside all the controversies of the making of this live action remake, from some of the controversial locations it was filmed at, to the unauthentic filmmakers behind the camera (pssst, they’re white!), to the lead actress supporting police brutality in Hong Kong. Put ALL that aside. Judge Mulan as if it were this brand new toy you can play with. No prior notions…and it still fails on almost every level of film making I can think of. I couldn’t relate to the character of Mulan because from the get go, as a small child, she has chi like strength and abilities, making her training scenes seem trite and unnecessary. The main villain male is hardly in the movie and what little he is in is a cookie cutter, plain Jane, cardboard cut out of a character. The film, even though it has an over $200-$300 million budget, looks cheap. It looks like most of the film was shot inside a studio, with props here and there, and terrible, terrible green screen everywhere that joins the Star Wars prequels in how out of place it looks to everything else. The female empowerment message is watered down and not earned, especially when it is basically resolved only half way through the film. I’ll get into more in a minute, but all of this is just the tip of the spear of how poorly made and executed this film is.

To quote a friend on Facebook, “remember Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon? Well this is like that but way worse.” To quote another friend on Facebook, “It’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Disney.” You can both say that again and again and again. Not only does Mulan rip off a lot of the flying martial arts from that movie throughout the entirety of this one, but it cheaply rips off a symbolic scene from the final season of Game of Thrones, a season that has been critically slammed by all as being lazy and pretentious (I’ll give you a hint at the scene: the wings but not a dragon). That’s how I would describe this film if only given two words: lazy and pretentious. I promised myself that I would try my best to not compare this to the animated version, but to prove a giant point, I’ve got to. In the cartoon, Mulan EARNS her female empowerment arc. She trains, and she trains hard, to become the great warrior she was destined to be. In this live action remake, she’s basically Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. People complained that Rey was too strong in the force without any training and at such an older age. Well here, Mulan mastered the forc…errr I mean these flying chi martial arts abilities with absolutely no training. There is a beginning scene where she masters a fall as a young child that literally was so bad I laughed out loud hard. Hence, all this proves is that SHE HAS NO ARC IN THIS MOVIE. The female empowerment message that is as bright as day and so good in the classic animated film is lost here and nowhere to be found. Her training scenes here are a joke as she masters everything like a walk in the park. She’s like Anakin Skywalker too, already the chosen one without really having to do shit to prove herself. She leaps through mid air twice in this movie to effortlessly kick a giant spear and a small arrow into an enemy’s chest (I laughed inappropriately both times). And both times does it look goofy, unrealistic, and dumb.

Was Jet Li, who plays the Emperor, dubbed over in this film? From what I’ve researched he wasn’t but his words never quite matched his lips and he looked like he really didn’t want to be there. I think he accepted the role as a wish from his daughter, but isn’t he sick and has since removed himself from private life? Doing research he has hyperthyroidism, which causes fatigue and weight loss. He should’ve stayed home. All of the backgrounds in this movie, except for when characters are inside buildings, look awfully fake. Everything looks as if it was surrounded by green screen…are you meaning to tell me that they couldn’t have just shot at real locations? If the reason why they tried but couldn’t because the filmmakers were predominately white, including the writers and director Niki Caro, I wouldn’t be too surprised. This whole film watered down and feels unauthentic. You are meaning to tell me that Disney couldn’t have hired Chinese filmmakers that knew a lot about their history, lore and culture to film and show us something really special? I’m not saying do the whole thing with subtitles or something like that, but surely there were more talented filmmakers out there that could’ve done a better job than Niki Caro (she has arguably only directed one decent film, Whale Rider) and company did? I’m surprised the Chinese government hasn’t out right banned this film from screening in their country it feels so fake. Fuck they should’ve just got Ang Lee to write and direct this (he actually did direct Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, his best film) and even with his rocky track record of late, he could’ve done a much, much better job and had it be more realistic and emotional than this.

Not one emotion here is earned. When she sheds her boy image, only about halfway through the film, while riding her horse through computer animated back drops, I didn’t feel a fucking thing. her “romance” with one of the male warriors is rushed and barely there. There is a avalanche action sequence that is blurry, a CGI mess, and laughably bad. The acting is downright atrocious except for Tzi Ma, who plays Mulan’s father, as he seems like he’s the only one that wants to be there. The film is edited poorly and some of it looks like it was filmed for a class in college. It is just a poorly made film. If anybody that would try to argue with me on why it is a good film, I would argue that clearly 2020 isn’t making you think clearly, as you are eating tons and tons of Member Berries without even thinking of doing so. If you enjoyed this film, you are blind. The best thing about this film was the end credits with Christina Aguilera’s rendition of Reflection, which was not half bad. Go back and watch the animated version and then watch this one again and still tell me this was a well made film in its own right. I will literally laugh in your face. Did you automatically like it because you got lazy, privileged, and selfish during quarantine and would bow down to Disney just because they gave you something to watch at home and not “risk” going to a theater and getting coronavirus? You paid $30 dollars for this garbage for goodness sake (I didn’t, thankfully). Some of you sound like you will like anything, no matter how poorly made it is, if you get it at home and don’t have to leave your houses. You know what that is called? It’s called having a lazy, bias, and skewed film critique. I can see small children not knowing any better, but the adults that are loving this film should be. Those of you who recommend this version of Mulan, I hope that by the end of 2020, or by the end of this pandemic, when the dust settles, maybe you can re-watch this without nostalgia goggles, and change your poor critique reflection. You need to look past the glitz and glamour, be true to your heart, and not have Disney make a turd out of you.


Zach Zany Movie Reviews: DUMBO (2019) (A Hate Rap Poem)

This one is dedicated to Dustin Bade:

DUMBO 2019 (A HATE RAP POEM) By Zach Alexander

Who the fuck was this movie made for?

It can’t be for older people, who will instantly snore,

Not for younglings, scared back behind a door,

For tweens, they’ll think it’s a chore,

Yet it’s another loser for Tim Burton,

Hopin’ to raise the curtain, for certain,

His career, since Returns it’s been a hurtin’

An awful green screen CGI crap fest,

Live action stress test, ends up being a pest,

Hurts our childhood hearts, makes a mess of our chest

The acting, all distracting, spewing lines instead of reacting,

Detracting from a story that’s too abstracting, compacting

Cliched and no emotions impacting, redacting

From the heart of the story, a small elephant

Ehren Kruger’s script quite arrogant,

Danny DeVito borrowed from It’s Always Sunny set,

As Mac’s mom is there too as an asset, blasted,

Colin Farrell looks like he wants to kill himself,

His career on a dusty shelf, Eva Green, herself

Burton’s muse, adds nothing, it’s crushing

Michael Keaton rushing and busting,

His performance, more a gay Batman

Than a thespian with a plan, all panned,

Tried to make the movie too grand,

Instead it gives a backhand, to the Disney brand,

Finding single parent angle too bland,

Darker themes children won’t understand,

Made for no one, no fun hun,

Not surprised it didn’t gross a ton,

Remakes now shunned, wish they were undone,

Taken out to pasture with a shotgun, anyone?

Someone please slap me with some hard leather,

Or tether me to a tree, hang together, with shitty weather,

I wondered whether,

An elephant could be better,

Than new Aladdin or Lion King, be on top to blether

But Dumbo just asked them to hold his feather.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE LION KING (2019) (spoilers, because IT IS THE EXACT SAME FILM FROM 1994!!!)

For those out there saying that critics like me giving THE LION KING (2019) bad reviews, and that we are just “complaining to complain,” listen up: We do not hate all live action remakes. You’ve got some really, really good ones out there such as Pete’s Dragon, Cinderella, and the glorious The Jungle Book (directed by Jon Faverau, who did this, so there is one point of disappointment). We have reasons for not liking this movie. We can’t be like some of you casual movie goers that just loved this because you eat God damn member berries everyday. We just can’t. This film is completely unnecessary. It is literally a shot by shot, dialogue by dialogue remake, with some silent moments or action beats stretched out to also make this film somehow 30 minutes longer than its 1994 counterpart. This movie absolutely adds nothing new. And those of you saying that if the movie added different shit, we wouldn’t have liked it anyway. Not true as well, case in point: the new Child’s Play was a completely different remake, and I enjoyed it mostly for what it tried to do. This is the worst abomination to shot-by-shot live action remakes since Gus Van Sant’s version of Psycho.

And yes, I keep calling this a live action remake when technically it’s all just photo realistic computer generated imagery, and not one God damn human being is in it. But you know what I mean, it’s just easier to say that it is. And I cannot argue, the film looks absolutely beautiful. It is really hard to tell that all of this was completely made on a computer. It looks like they shot on location and just added really masterful looking CGI animals to the mix. I’m not saying it looks bad at all. It will probably end up winning the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects (which I’m fine with). It’s just that we really really really really really don’t need this movie. Gun to my head: when my son sees The Lion King for the first time, will I show him this or the 1994 Animated Version first? If your answer is not the 1994 film, every, single, time, I’m officially calling you out for being a dumb shit. #sorrynotsorry

The 1994 version will ALWAYS hold up. It is still has beautiful animation of its time, and the story, themes, emotion, drama, will always, always, always hold up. So why do I need to see a photo realistic carbon copy? The answer is: I don’t and the reason is maybe something you haven’t thought about. Look, with 1994 animated version, all the characters faces and expressions are in your face, making sure to give that look that will have any you or any other audience member smile, laugh, bawl, etc. etc. Combined with fantastic voice talent, it completely brings those characters to life even though they are obviously fictional. In 1994, I choked up when Mufasa died, I grooved to “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King,” I was terrified when Simba battled Scar at the end, my pulse raced with the stampede, I felt the love between Simba and Nala in “Can You Feel The Love Tonight,” I beamed and sang my heart out to Hakuna Matata. Did I do any of that to the 2019 version? The answer isn’t just no. It’s a hell no.

Mainly because I can’t tell what the animals are expressing or feeling because of all the photo-realistic bullshit. Sure, Donald Glover and James Earl Jones’s voices are supposed to add support to what is playing out on screen. But since all the animals look like expressionless robots, since they barely have any bombastic CGI to make their lips move or to tell what is going on with their faces (I get it, they don’t want to Baby Genuises’ it), I literally couldn’t care less for what was going on. I was BORED. I almost fell asleep several times, and I almost never fall asleep in theaters. I was seeing the exact same story I saw 25 years ago and multiple times since then on video. I wanted some new beats added or maybe something entirely different. Watching the 1994 version and then watching this back to back is exactly if I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and then watched Gus Van Sant’s: A waste of fucking time.

I said they added nothing new. That is not entirely true. I can count what they added new on one hand. 1. There is a new Beyonce song that plays over Simba and Nala racing to Pride Rock to stop Scar (they don’t even sing it, it’s just background race against time filler noise). 2. The Ed hyena now, to make everything politically correct, is no longer mentally challenged, he’s just annoying. 3. The girl hyena, once voice by Whoopi Goldberg, also gets several more lines showing she is the leader. There are other small things as well, such as Nala getting a couple of more lines, Timon and Pumba getting to finish that song lyric in Hakuna Matata that lets them say the word fart, and they also rip off the beginning of a song from a different classic Disney film in order to force the audience to elicit a member berry laugh (I rolled my eyes). But all of it is not enough to make this live action remake really stand out. It’s all unnecessary, and instead of providing enough different content to be more of a companion piece to the 1994 film, it’s just the same movie but with all the emotion stripped from it. All but one emotion, I did almost laugh once. I uh… literally almost cracked up when Mufasa died. For me, it was that bad.

The voice casting is at least half way decent. James Earl Jones still has got it as Mufasa. I thought Timon and Pumba were the best part of the film. Billy Eichner didn’t just yell his lines like he does on his television program Billy In The Street and even though Seth Rogen did his signature laugh, it was ultimately forgivable because he did a pretty grand job the rest of the time, wasn’t just Rogen being Rogen. He made Pumba an actual character. And John Oliver as Zazu was a nice treat as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t think Donald Glover did that great a job unless he was singing. Him yelling at Scar or trying to express any kind of heightened emotion just felt like him reading off the page. Beyonce was fucking distracting because it was just Beyonce reading lines, didn’t really give Nala any unique characteristics, it was just a CGI female lion that happened to have Beyonce’s voice.

For some reason I don’t blame director Jon Favearu for this. It is possible he wanted to do something different like he did with The Jungle Book and the greedy money hungry executives at Disney told him he better not change a thing or they’ll kill him off in the MCU and he won’t be able to direct anything for Disney again. The film looks beautiful, and he did a fine job trying to re create the story shot by shot. I blame Disney completely on this. If they aren’t going to own up and do some original content soon, they need to get bold and do something special with these live action remakes, or all of us, including critics and modern audiences, are going to get tired of it super fast. I’m already tired of it, especially after the one two punch of this and May’s Aladdin (Aladdin is the better of the two believe it or not, and you see how much I hated that one). This whole thing was just a waste of my time, I really wish I had stayed at home and watched the 1994 version with my almost two year old, even though he’d have no idea what the fuck was going on. The Lion King (2019) is one of the most unnecessary remakes of all time, and one of the worst films of 2019.

P.S. The real best part of the movie was not the film itself, but during the trailers, where they showed the new preview to CATS. People were booing, laughing, and pointing negatively at the mo-cap face bullshit horror show that we’ll be getting in December (for which I’m not going to see). One drunk guy up front half way through it shouted out, “WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!?” giving me one of the best laugh out loud moments of the week. That question the drunk guy yelled out during Cats was exactly what I was thinking during the Lion King, however I was more serious, and didn’t laugh after thinking it.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ALADDIN (2019) (I’m going to spoil the $#!^ out of this piece of $#!^)

I think that other than O Brother Where Art Thou?, this is the latest I’ve ever seen a movie in its first run in theaters. And now I wish I hadn’t gone at all. **opens eyes** Shit, well I must not have a genie if I’m still writing this review. ALADDIN (2019) is the most abysmal live action remake since Mr. Magoo with Leslie Nielsen. It feels like a half-assed Disney Channel adaptation they would’ve made for the station in the late 90s. Except for two people involved in this production, everything about it offends me as a movie lover. It breaks almost every rule of Film Making 101 and everything about it screams lazy three times over. How could Disney have even dared to released such a product? Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I get it. Disney was distracted. You see, it was so preoccupied sucking its dick while counting its cash it didn’t know what giant turd it was releasing upon the world. This is easily one of the worst films of 2019.

Do I ever need to explain the story to you? No. Because if you are reading this, have seen the new Aladdin but never saw the classic cartoon with Robin Williams, I hate to break it to you, but you are a fucking idiot. I’m guessing you are here because you have seen both, maybe wondering and maybe even confused about what exactly you thought you saw when watching this travesty and maybe I can break it down to have a more clear understanding of everything. Well, I guess that is what I’m here for. Here is the main problem with the new Aladdin. This film is 28 minutes longer than the cartoon, and yet all of it feels so rushed. Even the cartoon, with it’s short 90 minute run time, took a minute or two to let the characters just breathe. Here, they abandoned characterization entirely on some minor characters to make way for Will Smith’s ego. Eh, that’s being a little too harsh. I mentioned in the first paragraph there was only two people involved in this production that actually fared well in the movie, and one of them is Will Smith.

Let’s face it, no one will ever ever ever ever ever ever ever come close to even matching the genius of Robin Williams’ Genie. In fact, if they had given Oscar’s out for voice acting back in 1992, he surely would’ve won one. Will Smith at least tries to make Genie is own (even with all the same old songs and shit) and he at least looks like he wants to be there. Iago isn’t a character in this. He says maybe 4 complete sentences, with Alan Tudyk replacing the great Gilbert Gottfried, and is only there to turn into a giant evil parrot at the end to try and make a really out of left field last act magic carpet chase scene work. The fat old chubby but lovable Sultan is replaced by some random guy with a beard that looks like he wants to hang himself from the palace balcony for even agreeing to be in the movie. Even Abu I feel was short changed except for one or two “aw shucks” looks into the camera and don’t even get started on the magic carpet. 5 seconds in the old cartoon gave more characterization to that fabric than this whole film did.

But who’s the worst culprit? You thought I was going to say Aladdin didn’t you? But no. While I think Mena Massoud looks the part, and has one or two charming moments, I honestly think he’s rather dull. But that I don’t blame on his acting, I blame on the direction given to him and the hackneyed screenplay he had to read from. No, the worst character in here is Jafar. Jafar in the cartoon was the bad ass of bad assery. He was pure evil and when he walked into the room, everyone knew it. For a drawing, it was one of the most confident villains I have ever seen in any kind of animated film. Here….Jafar who? Like, who was he? If I could describe him best, he felt like a whinier Anakin Skywalker from Attack of the Clones. He got high pitched and just cried and scream to people about power and shit. He wasn’t intimidating at all, and I was wondering why most of the film someone didn’t just walk up to him and kick him straight in the nuts to shut the fuck up. He seemed THAT fragile.

Other than characterization, the screenplay is a giant mess. For some reason they decided to combine Aladdin’s ‘One Jump’ song ALONG with meeting Jasmine. They took two separate character moments that set up who these people were and tried to combine it just to get to the Genie a little bit faster. In all the scenes that everything needed to take a breather, it felt rushed, and all the scenes that needed to be cut for dragging, was dragged out as long as possible. There were two scenes of Jafar and the Sultan where I was looking at my watch, clocking how much longer that scene would go on. It was insulting as a film goer. And the awesome climax in the original cartoon, where the stakes were raised and Jafar turns into a giant bad ass snake? Completely gone. The climax to this feels like the climax to the novel version of Twilight: Breaking Dawn, where opposing characters are just one opposite sides of the room from one another trying to out talk and maneuver the other one.

The only other person that walked away from this garbage that was actually really good and look like she wanted to be there was Naomi Scott as Jasmine. She was the confident, brave, bold, and smart heroine that she needed to be. I never considered in the cartoon her to be a damsel in distress (even though there were a couple of scenes to argue that notion) and in this film, THE ONLY THING IT DOES RIGHT, is too completely strip away that stereotype and make her the bad ass princess that we know and love. Naomi Scott is a good singer, and her voice is lovely to hear on screen, but that new solo song they gave her, ‘Speechless,’ felt wayyyyy out of place and didn’t match the rest of the film, and in fact, slowed it down. In the climax, where things are supposed to amp up, she breaks out to the rest of the song she started earlier in the film, and it just felt sloppy. The whole controversial thing of the film making her Sultan at the end that’s getting a lot of flack for Disney trying to be ‘woke’ or whatever it is called? Probably the LEAST controversial thing about the film, and in fact, was one of the few changes that worked.

Oh, I guess two more points I could say that I liked, but they are just fleeting praises, like finding a tiny speck of gold in a pile of shit. I think the “Whole New World” sequence was done well and I liked that they kind of gave the Genie more of a definitive sweet and sappy ending (although Nasim Pedrad, who was a part of that ending, was wayyy under used). And that’s it. The Cave of Wonders scenes, including the journey to the lamp and trying to escape were rushed, boring, and editing poorly. The CGI in almost every frame looked like shit, including the Blue Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Agrabah just looks like every film that has a old boring palace in the middle of a desert location. I could go on and on, but it’s too tiring too. Director Guy Ritchie should be ashamed of himself. He obviously didn’t have any of his trademark directing in the film, because The Mouse was busy forcing his hand to do its bidding. This film opened up a whole new can of worms to seriously getting me to start hating live action remakes. Disney will never have a friend like me if they continue churning out this assembly lined bantha poo doo.