29 Jan

A retelling overcast by bleakness
January 29, 2010


MOVIE: 3/5


Hey. Where’s the talking dragon?

Isn’t there supposed to be a talking dragon? Well, obviously, this gritty-yet-sensitive retelling of the oft-told legend of woman warrior Hua Mulan is targeting a different crowd than the much-loved Disney version.

Not only is there no talking dragon, there’s no colour, no humour, no music, and no fun.

Vicki Zhao stars as the title character, a determined girl in fifth-century China who decides to take her father’s place in the army when he’s called up to fight the invading Ruruan led by the evil Modu (Hu Jun).

Mulan proves to be a natural fighter and soon finds herself rising through the ranks after killing an enemy general.

Along the way she finds time to flirt – ever so lamely – with her fellow commander Wentai (Chen Kun).

The most grating thing about Mulan is probably that its tone of superior sadness never varies from start to finish.

Mulan is a mopey girl who becomes a mopey soldier who becomes a mopey general who retires a mopey woman.

Surely when she initially undertakes her duty there should be some sense of adventure.

Surely when she suffers losses in defeat there should be feelings of anger and defiant fervour.

And hey, how about every once in a while she shows us a smile?

Even when Mulan is giving her big, inspirational speeches to rally her troops, there are tears streaming down her face.

Vicki isn’t really to blame, as directors Jingle Ma and Wei Dong seem to have instructed the entire cast to listen to Cat Power CDs before shooting.

The sets and costumes are nice, if bland. The battle scenes are occasionally interesting, if uninspired.

The talent seems to have been in place, but someone seems to have got the idea that war isn’t Hell, it’s a Hallmark Moment.

For extras, there’s a 15-minute making-of with no English subtitles.

Jason Johnson


MOVIE: 3/5


I found this among my ever-expanding collection of DVDs No One Wants To Review, and thought, what the heck.

The film starts off with a hobo’s head exploding, and gets progressively classy from there.

It’s the future, and corporations control the world. There’s a Trojan condoms ad running up the side of the Washington Monument, there’s a Pepsi logo on the moon, that sort of thing.

Cuba Gooding Jr plays a guy named Luke who is whisked away by the evil Hope Industries after getting hit by a truck. They plant a chip in his head that saves his life, but also erases his memory and causes him to see a constant stream of advertisements.

He’s taken under the wing of a resistance movement that favours candy-coloured hair, and goes in search of The Truth. Which is, of course, Out There.

Snark notwithstanding, I have to say I kind of like it. It’s fun. Extras include a solid making-of.



MOVIE: 1.5/5


In Not Forgotten, Jack Bishop lives a happy life with his daughter Toby and his second wife in a small US-Mexico border town.

But behind the white picket fence, Bishop hides a dark secret. And when Toby – who clings to the memory of her ‘mysteriously dead’ mother – suddenly goes missing, Bishop’s violent occult past resurfaces.

What also resurfaces is my impatience with nonsense.

I would have liked to have been sympathetic to the film, perhaps concluding that the execution did not do the film’s premise justice.

But I find myself unmoved with this supernatural thriller void of a plausible premise, stripped of logical continuity and filled with depth-less characters.

With turns that blindly go back and forth across the border, and twists you can see a mile away, Not Forgotten is definitely a film that should be forgotten.

Kane Cunico

The NewPaper

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