Rebecca

18 Oct

‘Rebecca’: Much like the new Mrs. de Winter, gorgeous retake is haunted by earlier version

By Tom Meek
Friday, October 16, 2020

Ben Wheatley, the mind behind such dark endeavors as “High-Rise” (2015) and “Kill List” (2011), has said this “Rebecca” is not a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 Academy Award winner (Hitchcock’s first Hollywood film) but instead a new envisioning of the gothic novel by Daphne du Maurier. The casting here is a tad off; in Hitch’s version the venerable Laurence Olivier played Max de Winter as a brooding yet debonair depressive, while in Wheatley’s re-spin we get a hunky Armie Hammer (“The Social Network,” “Call Me By Your Name”), who doesn’t seem quite as much in the throes of grief about his perished wife of the title. No, Wheatley fires this up as a stately love affair between two physically blessed people: Hammer’s widower and Lily James (“Cinderella”) as the new Mrs. de Winter. The two meet in Monte Carlo, Max just getting back into circulation after the death of his wife and James an American semi-stranded abroad. Sparks fly instantly, and Wheatley and his stars spend some time steaming up the screen before moving on to the psychological and mystery components of du Maurier’s work that Hitchcock and crew mastered so effortlessly.

For those unfamiliar with the work, once nestled at Max’s lush, seaside Cornish estate Manderley – cinema’s other big sweeping iconic manse, along with Tara from “Gone With the Wind” – the new Mrs. de Winter becomes haunted by the specter of the former Mrs. de Winter through Max’s aloofness, her own psychological delusions and the bitingly barbed politeness of the head caretaker, Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas). There’s also a revisiting of what really happened to Rebecca. Wheatley, adroit at dread and a master of dark, atmospheric effect, applies these talents to awkward effect here, with some working seamlessly and others lifting you out of the tale. It’s shot gorgeously by Laurie Rose, who’s worked on most of Wheatley’s other films and makes the most of the bigger budget and palette here. Hammer and James are fine, no matter how deeply handicapped they are by living in the shadow of Olivier and Joan Fontaine; but the film really perks up when Mrs. Danvers is on screen, with Thomas worthy to follow Judith Anderson, who earned an Oscar nod for the part in Hitch’s production. Also notable is Sam Riley (“Control”) as the devious Jack Favell, who had connections to Rebecca and an acrimonious relationship with Max. 

You have to admire Wheatley for taking on such a mantle. It’s a heavy one, and there was Gus Van Sant’s 1998, frame-by-frame remake of Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960) out there to warn him off. Right, it’s not a remake, but the comparisons are inevitable and the expectations sky high.

A Rainy Day in New York

14 Oct

‘A Rainy Day in New York’: Woody Allen’s latest, if you’re willing to see it, makes it into theaters

By Tom Meek

This may be going out on a limb, but can it be that one crisis covers for another? I mean, would Woody Allen’s “A Rainy Day in New York ” find a release if there wasn’t Covid, theaters were fully open and the ire of the #MeToo moment was still the poker-hot social issue? I wonder. Back in 2019, when #MeToo brought renewed focus on charges of sexual misconduct against Allen from his daughter Dylan Farrow, Amazon dropped the film and many of its stars – Jude Law, Timothée Chalamet and Elle Fanning – distanced themselves from the project and the director.

Allen, whose filmmaking career has spanned seven decades and employed some of the biggest thespian talents (Joaquin Phoenix, Javier Bardem, Cate Blanchett) and given rise to others (Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep), has had more recent misses (“Wonder Wheel, ” “Irrational Man,” “Magic in the Moonlight”) than hits (“Cafe Society ” and “Blue Jasmine”). Given his run in the ’70s and ’80s churning out comedy classics such as “Annie Hall ” (1977), “Sleeper” (1973) and “Hannah and Her Sisters ” (1986), one has to wonder if the tabloid controversies haven’t taken their toll on Allen’s artistry. 

The good news is, that after much ado (Allen had sued Amazon over the non-release) “A Rainy Day in New York ” is something of a solid-effort uptick. Nothing new or earth-shattering, mind you, just a nice revisit to the Allen universe where characters collide in a comically (dark) cloistered and privileged environment. “Rainy Day” is similar in atmosphere and scope to “Cafe Society.”

Allen’s alter-ego this time is a lad by the name of Gatsby Welles (Chalamet), something of a college-aged Holden Caulfield. He’s well-off, already flopped out of an Ivy League institution, simmering with discontent and adorned with an attractive arm piece named Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) who seems less interested in Gatsby than in celebrity. (Allen made a similarly named film in 1998 with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kenneth Branagh that not enough people lent their eyes to.) Gatsby also has a bit of a complicated relationship with his highbrow mother (Cherry Jones, biting deep into the juicy part). Much of what propels the film, besides the imposing event of the title that pushes players together – i.e., through a shared cab ride with someone you’d rather avoid – is the love triangle that develops when Gatsby runs into Chan (Selena Gomez), the younger sister of a girl he used to date and whose trickle-down tales of that former romance pin Gatsby in the 4-6 range for things such as romantic attentiveness and kissing.

The overly ambitious and greener pasture-looking Ashleigh remains in the dark, or uncaring, as she’s just scored a big journalistic scoop interviewing a famous filmmaker (Liev Schreiber) in the throes of late career melancholy. This leads to introductions to a neurotic screenwriter (Law) looking to step out on his wife, whom he things is cheating on him, and the hot actor du jour (Diego Luna) – think DiCaprio, Clooney or Phoenix. 

The windup comes a bit fast, and the revelations come out of left field, but be thankful Jones’ domineering grand dame holds it all together. Chalamet, still hot off his Academy Award turn in “Call Me By Your Name” (2017), feels a bit lost in the traffic here, as he did in “Little Women” (2019). Gatsby is swept along by the action, not driving it. The actor’s boyish good looks play to and against the part, and is best when he’s rocked on his heels either by mum or Gomez’s puckish challenger. 

For folks longing for a classic Woody Allen film, this is as about as close to the spot as it’s been in years, maybe even a decade. It’s not close to a classic, but also a film we might not have seen in a wide release if the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die,” did not get pushed to 2021. Theaters, now closing because of such delays, need quality content, and there’s a dearth of it. (Just look at what’s playing at Kendall Square or in any AMC theater, while Regal Fenway is re-closing). “A Rainy Day in New York ” is not James Bond or “Tenet,” but it is the next best thing for now.

On the Rocks

1 Oct

‘On the Rocks’: Coppola’s back with Bill Murray, on the hunt for infidelity with a daughter adrift

By Tom Meek

Sofia Coppola’s one of the directors whose movies I eagerly await. She pulled me in with her gauzy debut of teen angst, “The Virgin Suicides” (1999) starring Kirsten Dunst, and cemented her status as a filmmaker to watch with her follow-up “Lost in Translation” (2003), a beguiling chapter of detachment and ennui abroad. With “On the Rocks” she re-teams with that film’s co-star, Bill Murray, for something similar but yet far less striking. Part of that may be the film’s gaiety in these times of debate madness and Covid spikes; also too, like “Marriage Story” (2019), which starred “Translation” co-star Scarlett Johansson, well-intentioned delves built around beautiful people with means who happen to hit an emotional speed bump can be a hard sell. “Translation” steered around that adroitly with deep, lonely portraits buoyed by meted measures of droll humor, and Coppola’s take on “Marie Antoinette” (2006) gave the blasé final French queen (“let them eat cake”) a soul.

Here we have Laura (Rashida Jones), a writer who thinks her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans), is cheating on her. They seem like a free-spirited romantics when we meet them at their wedding and they blow off the party to jump in the hotel pool. But now, with two kids, a degree of detachment has set in and they’re hitting some of the snags Coppola’s clawed through before. There’s a general glumness in their spacious New York flat, but you can’t put your finger on the exact reason. Girl talk with BFF Vanessa (Jenny Slate) just underscores Laura’s writer’s block and obsessive suspicions. Enter Laura’s dad, Felix (Murray, who really has the smugly chummy thing down), an eternal hedonist, world traveler and serial philanderer. There’s no woman who doesn’t get a second look, and you can tell Felix was never really the greatest dad. If there was any doubt, the record gets set straight when Laura shares her fears about Dean with him and he comforts her with a gallon of gasoline and a flamethrower – telling her all the ways men cheat and citing examples of his devious skill at it.

Where does the film go from there? It’s kind of an “I Spy” bonding story with Laura making up fibs about where she is so Felix and she can spy on Dean and his lithe, eager assistant Fiona (Jessica Henwick), including air trips to foreign countries. A nifty, Woody Allen-esque development comes a bit late in the film and ties up too quickly; the film needs an extra stretch of runway to really stick the landing. Jones, Quincy’s daughter who was so good as a legal negotiator in “The Social Network” (2010), is an affable presence, but she doesn’t quite project writer. Murray, of course, is the reason to see the film. Those big, satirical eyes and rubbery mouth convey volumes in a look, and when he speaks, it’s usually to let the quills fly. “On the Rocks,” not just because of Murray, feels like a sequel of sorts to “Translation” – older man with status with a young woman in a drifting relationship under his wing. It’s not as complex or provocative, and you never feel like anything is truly at risk, but you’re happy to spend time with this daddy-daughter duo as they wrestle with their very first-world problems.

The Boys in the Band

1 Oct

‘The Boys in the Band’: Having a gay old time, from the stage to Netflix in over a half-century

By Tom Meek

It seems that 1968 is all the rage in 2020. Last week we had Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” about those held responsible for the 1968 Democratic Convention riots; over at the Roxbury International Film Festival there’s “The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts The Tonight Show,” a documentary about NBC’s socially minded response to race riots in the late 1960s. Now there’s this cinematic adaptation of Mart Crowley’s “The Boys in the Band,” a play weaving in and out of a gay birthday party in a New York City flat that’s thrown into chaos when a straight man shows up. The revisit is not so much fond nostalgia, but a dialogue about where we are now: divided, having seemingly made little progress.

Learning of the Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”) produced project, I wasn’t quite sure another film version of Crowley’s honest and open look at gay culture pressure-cooked by social judgment was necessary. The 1970 adaptation directed by Willam Friedkin (who would go on to do “The French Connection,” “The Exorcist” and “Cruising”) was a tight, clustered affair driven by anger and revelation. That’s somewhat less true here. There’s more bounce and ebullition before the sour turn of confronting one’s past and hard truths. The play was resurrected on Broadway in 2018 for its 50th anniversary, and the stage director there (Joe Mantello) and entire cast boot up for this Netflix production – with better sets, multiple takes and a bigger platform.

The cast is excellent, especially Jim Parsons as party host Michael, who inadvertently invites an old college friend, Alan (Brian Hutchison), who’s straight (is he?). Michael’s got a lot of catty sass – “Just because I wear expensive clothes doesn’t mean they’re paid for” – which peels away when Alan shows up and strikes another party member in the face for using female pronouns for men and being a “pansy.” And the guest of honor hasn’t arrived. From there the boozy evening spirals inward and downward, not so much because of Alan, but because of global self-hating that’s in frame from scene one. These are deeply carved characters that have been known and lived in. The masks get pulled off and you’re in, in deep.

Continue reading

The Powerful Coe

1 Oct

Catching up with Charles Coe, an enduring voice where streetscape changes but race issues linger

By Tom Meek
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Poet Charles Coe is the subject a film screening Wednesday as part of the 22nd Roxbury Film Festival’s opening night lineup. (Photo: Gordon Webster)

As noted in Sunday’s Film Ahead column, the 22nd Roxbury Film Festival kicks off virtually Wednesday, with “The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show” by Yoruba Richen, about Johnny Carson stepping aside to let Belafonte host in the wake of race riots in the late ’60s, and the short “Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business” by Christine Turner.

What’s Cambridge-centric about the opening night lineup is the inclusion of another short: Roberto Mighty’s “Charles Coe: Man of Letters,” about the longtime Cambridge resident, poet and musician. If you’ve ever been to a Cambridge or Boston area poetry reading you’ve probably heard Coe deliver one of his truths in his signature baritone voice. Or you may have seen his recent photographic exhibit at the Boston Public Library, “What You Don’t Know about Me” (2018), or as part of Rashin Fahandej’s “A Father’s Lullaby” exhibit at the ICA last year.

Though Coe did not write poetry seriously until the 1990s and published his first collection, “Picnic on the Moon,” in 1999, to date he’s published three collections of poems, been a Boston artist in residence and earned an honorary doctorate – not bad for a guy who never got a bachelor’s degree.

“You know, I swear I was just buying notebooks and pencils with my mom for school,” Coe says, “and the I blinked and I’m turning 68.”

Coe, born in Indianapolis, dropped out of college and played bass in a rock cover band (Motown and Top 40) in Nashville, Tennessee, before making his way to Boston in the mid 1970s.


The trailer for Roberto Mighty’s “Charles Coe: Man of Letters”:Video Player00:0001:35


Before a nearly 20-year career at the Mass Cultural Council, Coe worked as a musician around the city and in the food industry. “I worked at a place called The Hungry Persian on Brattle Street,” Coe said.

It and every other eatery he named are no more. Being in the Hub for so long, Coe has seen a lot come and go.

And remain the same.

As a black man he’s experienced his fair share of infamous Boston racism, as captured in his poem “For the Ancient Boston Bar with Neon Shamrocks in the Windows, Recently Departed,” about an Irish bar where he was not welcomed. Coe said he was experiencing “great grief and dismay” anew over what is happening across the country. “Didn’t we fight those battles?” he asks incredulously. To Coe racism is like tuberculosis: “You think it’s contained and controlled, but you just need the right conditions for it to flare up. And that creature in the Oval Office is doing everything he can to set it off.”

Continue reading

Kajillionaire

27 Sep

‘Kajillionaire’: Arrested-development daughter gets glimpse of growth from a family of grifters

By Tom Meek

I’ve always been piqued by Miranda July, a Renaissance human blessed with a cool name and an idiosyncratic presence who, it seems, effortlessly churns out witty short stories (“Roy Spivey”) and quirky but not quite nervy films (“Me and You and Everyone We Know,” “The Future”). Her works always bump up against mainstream sensibilities and veer toward the dark, like a Harmony Korine movie (“Trash Humpers,” “Spring Breakers,” “The Beach Bum”) without the extreme depravity. Her latest, “Kajillionaire” is more of the same, but also perhaps, the most accessible of her brief portfolio (in “The Future” an ill cat named Paw Paw narrates, the moon talks and a T-shirt drags its mangled form along a sidewalk). It’s a double clutch of sorts that centers on the Dyne family, a trio of lo-fi grifters in Los Angeles who run rickety “skimming” schemes – pilfering mail, and insurance and store-return scams. What’s clear is that the oddly named daughter, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), is a poster child of arrested development. At the age of 26, she has the sensibilities of a 14-year-old boy, wears a bright aqua blue jogging jacket that rivals that of Seth Rogen’s journo nerd in “Long Shot” (2019) and is possessor of bad dance moves reminiscent of Ben Affleck’s smooth wannabe in “Good Will Hunting” (1998). What Old Dolio is in need of is a mall run with some female besties, but mom and dad (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger) have isolated her with their over-engineered ploys and meager living conditions; they squat in a warehouse next to a bubble factory where occasionally globular mounds of pink ooze cascade down the wall or hang from the ceiling like The Blob.

Old Dolio’s parents are caring enough. Even as they surreptitiously meander the seedy back alleyways looking for their next mark/opportunity, you can feel a solid family vibe, the same way you could in Hirokazu Koreeda’s “Shoplifters” (2018). Then the family runs into a perky opticians assistant named Melanie (Gina Rodriguez, so good in a small role in Alex Garland’s “Annihilation”) while in the midst of a ruse and she wants in on the action, even pitching a scam or two herself – grifters gotta be grifting. To tell much more how the film evolves would be to do July and company a disservice. The film does change gears, and Melanie becomes a vehicle for Old Dolio to step outside the box of a world her parents have kept her in. Melanie, in short, becomes Old Dolio’s guide to adult womanhood, and perhaps independence. The cast all around delivers nuanced performances, but Wood, so electric and edgy in Catherine Hardwicke’s “Thirteen” (2003) and the star of the hit series “Westworld,” finds a whole other thespian gear here. As Old Dolio she simultaneously conveys street wisdom and naïveté with a fluidity that’s nothing short of masterful. You can really feel the collaboration between the actress and July, something of a performance artist and a personality chameleon herself, to bring Old Dolio to life. For all its quirks and kookiness, I must say, “Kajillionaire” does, to a degree, feel like it should have colored outside the lines a tad bit more, but I’m enjoying July’s career arc. If I have anything to say about it, I’d love to see her make a film about “Roy Spivey.”

The Trial of the Chicago 7

27 Sep

‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’: They’re on the stand for taking a stand, and ’68 isn’t so far from 2020

By Tom Meek

Aaron Sorkin knows his way around a courtroom, as evidenced by his play “A Few Good Men” and its 1992 cinematic adaptation starring Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise. The tightly controlled dialogue between the two A-listers bristled with personality and ideology, and that’s even more true in “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” a dramatization of the trial of a diverse lot of famed counterculture leaders – student movement activists Tom Hayden and Rennie Davis, Black Panther Bobbie Seale and hippies Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin among them – charged under Nixon AG John Mitchell for inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. At the epicenter of the riots and trial are issues of inequality, racism and police brutality; what’s old is new again, and timely in its arrival (now at the Landmark Theatre Kendall Square, and coming to Netflix in mid-October).

Sorkin, nominated for an Academy Award for “Moneyball” (2011) and “Molly’s Game” (2017), winner for his script on the biting take on Facebook’s ignominious Harvard origins (“The Social Network,” 2010) and the creative force behind “The West Wing,” takes on double duty here as director as he did on “Molly’s Game,” in which Jessica Chastain was a high-stakes poker host. He’s blessed with an impressive cast here, with Eddie Redmayne as the all-American Hayden, Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat,” 2006) as the punchily comedic Hoffman, Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies,” 2015) as defense attorney William Kunstler and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (“Watchmen”), commanding and powerful as Seale, who was implicated in a murder in New Haven, Connecticut, around the same time. On the other side of the courtroom, Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a deeply nuanced performance as conflicted chief prosecutor Richard Schultz, and Frank Langella is the specter of everything wrong with our justice system as control-minded Judge Hoffman. He and Baron Cohen’s crack-firing prankster own the screen while in frame – one makes you smile and raise your fist in the air, while the other makes you fume.

How the trial all works out is a matter of record. The contemporary relevance is haunting – leading to the bigger question of why we haven’t learned from the past. The film, with most of the drama unfolding in court (the riots is in flashbacks), is a lean, mean sizzler, taut at every turn. Given this spare, strange year, there’s a lot of Oscar timber here all around: Gordon-Levitt for one, the film and Sorkin on both ends, and three, if not four, supporting nods.

Tenet

14 Sep

‘Tenet’: Time travel caper by Christopher Nolan chooses its moment, masked against apocalypse

By Tom Meek

Well, I did it: I went to a theater and saw “Tenet.” Would I recommend you to? That’s a personal call. For me it didn’t feel too risky, but read on. I attended a 4 p.m. show at Landmark’s Kendall Square Cinema. I bought my ticket online, but still had to wait in line to show the usher behind a plexiglass shield my emailed barcode and get a printed ticket. I saw only three other people at the theater, all folks asking for senior discounts – in short, those in high-risk categories but clearly desperate for an in-theater experience, as was I. Landmark offered no snacks, and masks had to be worn 100 percent of the time. Every two seats in the theaters are blocked off, and management asks you to sit in alternating rows – something, I did not need to worry about. I was the only person at my screening. (Apple Cinemas near Fresh Pond and Alewife is showing it too, since reopening Friday.)

This being a Christopher Nolan film, seeing it on a big screen is kind of a must – in the very least for the imposing, driving score (by Ludwig Göransson, though it feels and sounds a lot like Hans Zimmer’s work on Nolan’s 2010 “Inception”) and the impressive camera work by Hoyte Van Hoytema, Oscar-nominated for Nolan’s WWII time scramble, “Dunkirk” (2017). Playing with time and space is Nolan’s thing; he did it with “Memento” (2000) to tell a murder mystery in reverse, and “Interstellar” (2012) as space travelers who go through a black hole where decades of Earth time pass in minute. Here time is imbued into objects sent back from the future. Sounds zany, right? It’s one of the things you just let wash over you, because no matter how hard Nolan and his characters try to explain, you feel like you’re just not getting it. The best I can do is that you can rewind history and insert yourself into the action – in essence, altering the future – but the catch is everyone else is moving in reverse while you’re going forward. People walk backward, cars go in reverse, and bullets get sucked back into their gun. 

Continue reading

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

4 Sep

I’m Thinking of Ending Things’: Breaking up – hard to do even without a blinding storm of meta

By Tom Meek

The latest from the mind of Charlie Kaufman, the man who penned “Being John Malkovich” (1999) and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004), making his third directorial effort feels something of a follow-up to his trippy yet meandering 2008 debut, “Synecdoche, New York” if co-written by David Foster Wallace. Interestingly enough, Wallace is one of the many solemn topics discussed in “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” by Jake (Jesse Plemons) and his girlfriend (Jessie Buckley, whose character is never given a name and is referred to in the credits only as “the young woman”) on an arduous road trip. Other pleasant and not so pleasant subjects arise as the two sail through a brimming snowstorm: Mussolini, Wordsworth, the musical “Oklahoma!” and suicide bombers – routine stuff, in Kaufman’s universe.

Tellingly, as the sojourners dig intellectually deep into anything grim or arty, their seeming road to nowhere takes on an existential quality, an apt reflection of where the couple’s relationship is likely heading on their way to meet Jake’s parents. They’ve been dating for a few weeks and already the pairing seems doomed, if not done. The title, taken from Ian Reid’s novel (that the film is based on) is not about suicide, as one might think, but the refrain in voiceover asides by Buckley’s passenger about how she needs to end things with Jake each time he responds to her vibrant snark with glum counter offerings.

Continue reading

Mulan

4 Sep

‘Mulan’: The story’s familiar, but now live action in big screen spectacle relegated to small screen

By Tom Meek

I feel like part of the onus of this review is to answer: Is the film worth the $30 it costs to stream on Disney+? I promise I’ll get to that. First let me just say that this live-action version of the 1998 hand-animated feature (both based on an ancient Chinese ballad and historical events) is stunning to take in, most notably the set design and stunts, though the leap to a more epic and spectacular format has nipped some of the wonderment and depth of character – similar to what befell the near real-life animation redux of “The Lion King” last year. Clearly there’s something inherent in the simple classic animation construct, be it the childlike innocence or abstraction of reality, that makes theses fable-esque tales come to life more viscerally.

The narrative here is the pretty much the same as before. Mulan (Liu Yifei) doesn’t want her aging and war-scarred father Hua Zhou (Tzi Ma) to be enlisted into the emperor’s army (martial artist Jet Li, hard to recognize) after a mandate issued for one man from every household to battle the marauding hordes from the north (led by Jason Scott Lee, who played Bruce Lee in “Dragon”), so she dresses up as a boy and assumes the family post. As a soldier, Mulan proves fierce and effective, as well as being a natural leader and the butt of fellow warriors’ jokes about her Pigpen-esque odor because she refuses to partake in group bathing. The nice addition here is Li Gong (“Raise the Red Lantern,” “Miami Vice”) as a witch – something of a Morgan le Fay – in the service of Lee’s raider. Always captivating in posture, poise and projection, she’s the one who takes over every scene she’s in. Gone is Eddie Murphy’s wiseass dragon, though it’s replaced with a nonsensical phoenix that crops up to let you know a major transition has just taken place. (Geez, thanks, I didn’t know.) The other reason to see the film is the stunt work, with warriors leaping up inverted walls as if they were in an “Inception” maze and some nifty horseback gymnastics by Mulan and enemy archers; still, it doesn’t near apex wire work such as in Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) and Zhang Yimou’s “Shadow” from just last year.

Intriguingly, the film’s directed by Niki Caro, who’s made a series of impressively intimate and internal feminist-themed films including “Whale Rider” (2002), “North Country” (2005) and “The Zookeeper’s Wife” (2017) but gets a bigger palette here – and likely more studio supervision. As a result, the New Zealand-born director’s normal inward-looking lens feels obscured in the vastness.

Now back to that question: Is “Mulan” worth $30 to stream? Keep in mind you need to be a Disney+ subscriber, and if you’re not you have to lay out another $7 per month. The film, once you unlock it, is yours to watch as long as you keep paying those $7 bills, vs. let’s say “Bill & Ted Face the Music” which costs $25 to own on Amazon Prime and $20 to rent, giving you 30 days to watch it and 48 hours to finish after starting it. If you have kids who love the movie and will watch it over and over, it makes solid financial sense. If you’re a curious cinephile holed up on your own, probably not so much. The film for my money would have been more enjoyable on the big screen where the wire stunts, rich colors and meticulous sets would have stood out even more; given the safety factor, Disney’s done the responsible thing. That still doesn’t atone for what’s lost in translation, but for these times it’s a viable event for a family to enjoy safely together.