Career Opportunities Review

Career Opportunities movie posterSynopsis
Jim Dodge (Frank Whaley) has a hard time holding down a job and an even harder time holding back his wild imagination. As a last option, Jim is hired as the night janitor at the local Target. During his first night on the job, he discovers Josie McClellan (Jennifer Connelly), daughter of a local wealthy businessman, also inside the store. As the night goes on, they learn more and more about each other.

Review
I didn’t know anything about Career Opportunities besides the famous shot of Jennifer Connelly riding the penny horse. When I eventually learned what movie that scene was from, and learning it was from a film written by John Hughes no less, I quickly sought it out. That excitement had died down by the time the credits rolled. If I hadn’t known it was written by Hughes going into the film, I would not have believed it if I had learned that piece of information after watching it. Career Opportunities lacks the charm I have come to expect from his scripts. The set up is pretty standard fare for a Hughes’ coming-of-age film: a young man and a young woman who appear to be complete opposites of each other come together and form a bond. However, if this is a story you want to watch from Hughes, there are plenty of his other films that do it better. I will say that Frank Whaley as the fast talking Jim Dodge is a highlight of the movie and has the charisma needed to carry such an intimate movie. On the other hand, Jennifer Connelly, as beautiful as she is, is flat and not very expressive. Whaley and Connelly together are the driving force of Career Opportunities, so to have their chemistry be less than perfect becomes a liability to the film.

I thought Career Opportunities was OK 😐 There’s a standard expected from a film penned by a writer of John Hughes’ caliber. Unfortunately, this film does not fulfill those expectations. While Frank Whaley carries this movie the best that he can, the script and his co-stars don’t quite rise to his level. It’s no surprise that this film has barely been re-released on home video compared to Hughes’ more notable films. There are many movies in his filmography where any one aspect of this film is done better, so if you’re itching for a Hughes’ teen comedy, go watch one of those films instead.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Bryan Gordon – Director
John Hughes – Writer
Thomas Newman – Composer

Frank Whaley – Jim Dodge
Jennifer Connelly – Jose McClellan
Dermot Mulroney – Nester Pyle
Kieran Mulroney – Gil Kinney
John M. Jackson – Bud Dodge
Jenny O’Hara – Dotty Dodge
Noble Willingham – Roger Roy McClellan
Barry Corbin – Officer Don
Andrew Winton – Boy #1
Andy Greenway – Boy #2
RonReaco Lee – Boy #3
William Forsythe – Custodian
John Candy – CD Marsh

Mulan (2020) Review

Mulan movie posterSynopsis
Mulan (Yifei Liu) disguises herself as a man to join the royal army when the Emperor (Jet Li) decrees that every family must send one man to enlist after China is attacked by BΓΆri Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and his army.

Review
The live-action Disney remake train just keeps on rolling. This time it’s Mulan’s turn, following in the footsteps of remakes of other Disney Renaissance films such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. The animated Mulan film is one of the favorites in my family, so we watched Mulan together. We’ve had mixed opinions about the recent live-action remakes but we went into this film hopeful that one of our favorites would be just as enjoyable as the original. But like Disney’s other attempts to translate beloved animated classics to live-action, Mulan fell short.

Before I get into what I didn’t like, I’ll talk about what I did like. Mulan looks beautiful. The color palette is very vivid and bright. The fight sequences were well choreographed, taking inspiration from classic Kung Fu movies with characters performing acrobatic feats. During the fight sequences, the action was mostly in-frame without much shaky cam, one of my personal pet peeves. So to summarize, everything looked nice.

However, a movie is not going to stand on visuals alone and unfortunately, that’s about all this film had going for it. From a characters perspective, there was little to no growth for any of the characters but particularly for Mulan (Yifei Liu). From the opening scene, she is shown to be someone with extraordinary ability and talent, possessing a large amount of β€œchi.” Since she started out with immense power, she didn’t have anywhere to grow. For example, in the animated original, Mulan learned to use her intelligence to overcome obstacles. There was none of that learning here. In the animated original, we could see Mulan wasn’t that strong, but through hard work we saw her grow into a formidable warrior. There was none of that growth here. When Mulan wanted to do something, she was just able to do it. This type of character who can do everything naturally has been a favorite of Disney’s lately but it is not the correct way portray characters who are supposed to be role models for younger audiences.

Another great part of the 1998 Mulan is the abundance of different and memorable characters. Characters like Yao, Po, and Ling each have their own personalities and different aspects that make them unforgettable. And I can’t say enough about Eddie Murphy’s Mushu, who single handedly carries the movie with his charm, charisma, and humor. The 2020 Mulan has none of these fun characters. In fact, it was very hard for me to tell Yao, Po, Ling, and Cricket (who is a human character now instead of an actual cricket) apart from each other. During their introductions it was easier because they quoted lines from their animated counterparts but after that, I couldn’t tell you who was who. Even Mulan’s love interest blends in with these characters and doesn’t stand out in any way. All the supporting characters simply felt the same.

A large part due to the fun characters mentioned above, the animated classic, despite its setting of war and some dark moments, is still a light and joyous film. This film, on the other hand, is the exact opposite, which I guess isn’t that surprising given it lacks any kind of entertaining characters and Yifei Liu gives a mostly wooden performance, making it difficult to tell any emotion she is feeling. This film takes itself way too seriously and completely misses what made its animated predecessor so endearing.

I thought Mulan was OK 😐 This film’s biggest fault is that it doesn’t understand what made the original work so well and become a beloved instant classic. It’s a pretty wrapping surrounding a humorless, lifeless husk inside that is stuck going through the motions. There’s no fun, there’s no drama, and there’s no reason to like or care for any of these characters. Years ago when Disney announced plans for live-action remakes of many of their films, I was cautiously optimistic. Now, after several films that haven’t lived up to the legacy of the originals and failed to bring anything new to their stories or characters, I think it’s safe to say I am no longer excited for many of the upcoming live-action remakes. Now I’m just scared.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Niki Caro – Director
Rick Jaffa – Screenplay
Amanda Silver – Screenplay
Elizabeth Martin – Screenplay
Lauren Hynek – Screenplay
Harry Gregson-Williams – Composer

Yifei Liu – Mulan
Jason Scott Lee – BΓΆri Khan
Li Gong – Xianniang
Donnie Yen – Commander Tung
Yoson An – Honghui
Tzi Ma – Zhou
Rosalind Chao – Li
Pe=Pei Cheng – Matchmaker
Xana Tang – Xiu
Ron Yuan – Sergeant Qiang
Jun Yu – Cricket
Chen Tang – Yao
Doua Moua – Po
Jimmy Wong – Ling
Jet Li – Emperor
Nelson Lee – Chancellor