Monday, February 25, 2013

'Brave' Heart

Directors: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell
Voice Taent: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters
Released: June 22, 2012

Oscar nominations:
Best Animated Movie (won)

Brave marks the first Pixar movie with a female as the lead. To be honest, it had never really crossed my mind that a female had never headlined one of their movies, probably because they've made movies with toys, fish, cars, and robots and even those characters were male or voiced by males or considered male, they still weren't human characters. In Brave, all the characters are human (well, most!) Merida, the main character (voiced by Kelly Macdonald, who I know best for playing The Grey Lady in the last Harry Potter movie) is a 16 year old Scottish princess who has hair, while incredibly realistic and amazing, would drive me crazy. It's so long and curly and if I had hair like that I would either want to pull it back or at least chop most of it off! She is a free spirit and loves spending any free time she can get riding her horse (more like galloping!) and perfecting her archery skills (while doing this upon her galloping horse) and climbing 100 foot cliffs with a gushing waterfall right next to it. Ahh, with animation you can do anything!

Merida's mother (voiced by Emma Thompson) teaches her daughter how to be a lady and is getting her prepared to be betrothed by one of three young gentlemen from royal families who are each the oldest in their clans, but Merida wants none of that. When she learns that the first born that completes a task of her choosing gets her hand, she immediately chooses archery and after the three of her suiters take their turns, announces she will be competing her for own hand and wins the contest. This greatly upsets her mother and they have a huge fight. Merida ends up running away where she runs into a witch who tells Merida she can cast a spell on her mother that will make her change her mind on Merida being married. Well, Merida's mother does "change" for a lack of better word, but it's best not to give away any spoilers. I didn't know anything about this movie going in and didn't expect it to go in that direction and I was glad I wasn't spoiled about anything.

Merida is very selfish and quite the brat. Of course she learns her lesson at the end and she and her mother do come to terms on the situation. I would be lying if I said I didn't shed a few tears, but that's Pixar for you! Their movies always have to go and make me cry!

This movie feels like Scotland threw up on it. Scottish accents, Scottish music, red hair galore, everything is just Scottish. I love the Scottish accent and don't have any problem with it, but sometimes it was like, enough already! We get it! These are Scottish characters who live in Scotland and listen to Scottish music. I'm surprised there wasn't a Scottish terrier to be seen!

I had low expectations seeing this movie because it seemed like everybody didn't like it. I had heard comments on how it would be considered a a great film if it had not been Pixar, but the Pixar name always makes a huge target on their movies to be perfect, so therefore it was only "good" or "decent", but not great, but I actually quite liked it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

Chinese Firecracker

Directors: Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook
Voice Talent: Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, BD Wong, Pat Morita
Released June 19, 1998

Oscar nominations:
Best Score,  Comedy or Musical - Jerry Goldsmith (lost to Stephen Warbeck for Shakespeare in Love)

If you remember, when I wrote my review for The Lion King, I said that Beauty and the Beast was my favorite animated Disney movie and I couldn't decide between The Lion King and The Little Mermaid for third place. I didn't tell you what my second favorite was because I would be reviewing it shortly and here you have it! Mulan is my second favorite animated Disney movie. It is one of the last Disney movies from the '90s just right before Pixar started to take over.

Let's first start with the fact that Mulan is the coolest Disney "princess" ever. She's technically not really a princess, but whatever. Actually, heroine would be a more accurate word. Mulan is the coolest Disney heroine ever. Sleeping Beauty? She spends the majority of the movie SLEEPING! And her name is Aurora and who can pronounce that? Cinderella? She does nothing but clean and whine to her Fairy Godmother about meeting her Prince Charming. Snow White? She has to depend on seven small men, for God's sake! Ariel? Great swimmer and pretty hair, but spends way too much time wanting to be a human only to impress the cute guy she saw on a boat. Belle? Love the voracious reader Belle, can't say anything bad about her, but she's nowhere near kick-ass as Mulan. Jasmine? Not even her movie. She's just arm candy for Aladdin. Pocahontas? People, the real Pocahontas did not look that good in real life, plus she also moons over some guy.

Let's make a top ten list of why Mulan is the coolest Disney heroine, shall we? (I looked to the Disney Wiki for some help on these).

Mulan as Ping
1. While all the other Disney heroines wear gowns and have flowing hair and worry about whether their true love will ever arrive, Mulan is willing to risk her life to disguise herself as a boy and serves in the Chinese Army so her father won't have to. (One male from each family in their village is ordered to serve by the Emperor).

2. Mulan's journey isn't about finding her one true love. She doesn't sing a lovesick song to some prince-in-waiting. She doesn't get married at the end of the movie. She does have the hots for Shang (voiced by BD Wong) who is the commander of the camp Mulan belongs to, but their relationship is one that goes from him being disgusted by Ping, Mulan's wimpy alter-ego, to respect for Ping when Mulan shows that his training has helped her become a worthy warrior to anger when he learns that Ping is actually Mulan and she has been lying to him all this time to friendship when he visits Mulan at her home to thank her for what she did and she invites him to stay for dinner. (Grandma approves of him!) There is a little hint that there is a chance of romance, but it's not until the last few minutes of the movie. I think they get married in the direct to video sequel, but I've never seen it. (I stay away from direct to video Disney sequels!) A romance is the furtherest thing from the movie.

3. Mulan saves the Imperial City from the Huns and gets bowed to by everyone in the city (a moment similar to that scene in Return of the King) and is thanked personally by the Emperor himself (voiced by Pat Morita aka Mr. Miyagi!) She's also offered the position to become his advisor, but turns it down because she wants to be with her family.

4. Mulan is the first Disney "Princess" who isn't an actual princess because she wasn't born or married into royalty. That right there makes her much more compelling.

5. Mulan gets her own bad-ass montage when she makes the decision to leave her family and serve in the Chinese Army as she cuts her hair with a sword and leaves her family a token of herself as a way to say goodbye. It's been awhile since I've seen every Disney movie, but I don't remember anyone else having a cool montage like that with serious music in the background.

6. Mulan is not shallow about her appearance. She cuts her hair (it's still long enough to pull back, but still) and pretends to be a guy for god's sake. She is also the first Disney Princess to wear shorts and a tank top! The very first time we see her that is what she's wearing. She does wear dresses in the movie, but for most of it she's wearing pants which is highly unusual for a Disney Princess!

7. Mulan is the first Disney Princess to kill the film's villain - which I did not know until I read it on the Disney Wiki. You have to admit that's pretty impressive! Now she did have the help of her dragon guardian, Mushu (voiced by Eddie Murphy), but still pretty impressive.

8. Mulan is the first Disney Princess to be visibly wounded which means she is not afraid to get hurt and she is one tough (fortune) cookie! Haha.

9. Mulan is the only Disney Princess who can do both martial arts and archery.

10. Mulan depends on her wit and intelligence to solve problems and does not rely on her beauty or a man like most of the other Disney Princesses because Mulan is awesome! She used her mind when she used the weights to climb that long pole, when she caused the avalanche that killed all those Huns, and when she killed the main villain. Mulan is one smart (fortune) cookie!

If that's not enough to convince you that Mulan is by far the best, coolest Disney Princess ever, then please state your case for who you think deserves to be #1. I will say that Belle is a close second. I do love Belle.

Mulan is voiced by Ming-Na Wen who, besides voicing Mulan, is best known for being on ER. Lea Salonga does Mulan's singing voice and she also did Jasmine's singing voice in Aladdin. 

The songs in the movie are pretty solid. I don't love all of them, but they're all good. There are only four songs with the rest of the music being a score. "I'll Make a Man Out of You" is one of my favorite songs from a Disney movie...ever! And if you saw my movie montage, you'll notice that I had that song playing during stills of Kill Bill. The scene in Kill Bill 2 where Uma Thurman is being taught martial arts by Pai Mei reminds me of the scene in Mulan where all the characters in the Chinese Army are training in that song montage. So you have a Disney movie on one end of the spectrum and a Quentin Tarantino film on the other!  "Reflection" is the big song from the movie that was made into a single by Christina Aguilera and it's a very pretty song, but not my favorite to become a radio single.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie and one that always makes me laugh is when we are first introduced to Mushu and he's trying to make himself appear larger than he is using his shadow. When Mulan and her horse see it's just this tiny little dragon that she mistakes as a lizard, her horse just starts stomping on it and while brutal, is it the funniest thing and always makes me laugh!

Friday, February 8, 2013

My first movie montage

If you can spare ten minutes, I would appreciate it if you could take a look at my first ever movie montage! I've had my iMac since 2009, but only recently learned how to use iMovie (I guess I should have taken those Apple classes!) It took me a few days, but I made this montage of movies I like along with different songs that I thought would go along with them. I tried not to use the movie's theme songs, but I do have a couple movies where I use songs from their soundtracks. Some of the song choices are meant to be funny, some are more serious, and some are even a bit meta! So I hope you enjoy! I subtitled it "Part 1" because I plan to make more in the future. I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Not Ready To Make Nice

Shut Up and Sing
Directors: Barbara Kopple and Cecelia Peck
Released: November 10, 2006

This is a documentary about the Dixie Chicks and the aftermath of lead singer Natalie Maine's "anti-American" comment and how that pretty much ruined their career. From about 1998-2003 they were one of the most popular groups, country or not, and of course they had that huge hit, "Goodbye Earl". I love the Dixie Chicks. I have all of their albums. My favorite is their second album, Fly. That has "Goodbye Earl" on it along with some of my other favorites, "Cowboy Take Me Away" and "Cold Day in July." Unfortunately since some people are idiots and take everything way too personal, their career hasn't been the same since the "controversial" statement Maines made.

Okay, so I'm sure everyone knows what happened, but allow me to recap it. In 2003, during a concert in London, Maines said she was against the war (like a lot of celebrities were) and said she was ashamed to be from the same state as the President. Now if she had just said the first comment, there might have been a few grumbles (from their hugely conservative fanbase), but I don't think they would have suffered from the massive boycott and plummeting ratings that they did just for saying that they were ashamed Bush was from Texas. That's the reason everyone got into such a hissy fit. And when I say everyone, I'm talking about the extreme right wingers as I'm sure there were conservative Dixie Chicks fan who didn't get into such an uproar over what they said. I cannot stand the extreme right wingers. And to be fair and unbiased, I also cannot stand extreme left wingers...they both need to calm down! But it was the only extreme right wingers that were angry and upset over what Natalie Maines said. First of all, while she was serious about being against the war, when she made the quip about Bush being from the same state as her, you could tell it was said as a joke. (They showed footage of that moment at the concert). One of the London papers wrote about it, then it became this huge global news item. And second of all, WHO CARES? She didn't say she wasn't proud to be an American or wished the President dead or anything. What she said really wasn't that bad, but unfortunately since their fan base is mostly made up of Republicans (with a few exceptions of course!), it got out of hand.

Sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robinson are the other "Chicks" and while they supported Natalie and her comments and stood beside her (as she got most of the vitriolic attacks), you could tell they wished Natalie had kept her mouth shut or had spun it a different way. One of them suggested they apologize and said it was meant as a joke (which it was), but Natalie refused. When her manager suggested they try to put up a video of one of their new songs on CMTV, she refused, saying it was a lost cause since that audience didn't want to listen to their music. Not that I blame her, why bother trying to win over an audience that you can't win back, but you can tell she was making all the decisions.

The people they offended would burn their CDs which is fine, it's your property, do what you want with it, but they would also call in radio stations that played their music and told them they would boycott the station if they didn't stop playing Dixie Chick music. If I had been a DJ, I would have told that person to go suck an egg and would play nonstop Dixie Chick music. But alas, there's a lot of crazy right wing people out there and a lot of them called in with threats of boycotting country radio stations across the country and they had to listen to the people because they would lose a lot of ratings. I remember after Chris Brown assulated Rihanna, the top 40 stations didn't play his music for, like, maybe a month, but now you'll hear his songs every once in awhile. You don't hear his songs as often as Rihanna's or Katy Perry's or Lady Gaga's songs, but they still do play them. With the Dixie Chicks, who never assaulted anybody, I don't think I've ever heard their songs on the radio again, especially a country station. They might have played their single about the whole ordeal from their 2006 (and most recent) album, "Not Ready To Make Nice" on a non-country station a few times. I don't listen to country stations that much, but I've never come across a Dixie Chick song. If anyone has heard any, I'd love to know.

That 2006 album was also their most recent so it's been awhile since they've made an album. They are still together (I had to check the Wiki!)  and I hope they do make more music because they always have great songs. They did win the Grammy for Best Album of the Year in 2007 and "Not Ready to Make Nice" won Record of the Year. Natalie Maines made a comment about how if this debacle had never happened, they never would have gotten to be on the cover of Entertainment Weekly or interviewed by Diane Sawyer. I guess it's true what they say about there being no such thing as bad press!