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Movie reviews: Mulan ★★★

Disney’s warrior tale gets the live action treatment


IT'S bizarre to imagine it now, but in early March, Mulan star Yifei Liu stepped on to the red carpet in a stunning gown for the glittering premiere of Mulan.

Hundreds of people sat side by side in a dark cinema to watch Niki Caro's epic-scale live-action production of Disney's animated classic. They didn't know it then, but it was the only time US audiences would watch the movie on the big screen for the foreseeable future.

Within days, the movie's March release date was delayed as Covid-19 made its presence felt. It's been a time like no other.

Following months of attempts to reschedule during a virus that continues to rage, Mulan is now going to Disney+ for family audiences crying out for new movies. But it'll cost you. Disney+ subscribers in Ireland will have to pay another €21.99 for Premier Access, which allows you to watch the film as often as you like. It will be available free to subscribers of Disney+ from December. It will also be on select platforms including Apple, Google and Roku.

The movie makes a number of departures from the original film. The talking dragon Mushu, voiced by Eddie Murphy, is absent here. Instead we're presented with a new character, a witch named Xian (Li Gong) with questionable motivations. What fans of the original may miss most is the lack of songs.

This take, then, is a different animal, more reminiscent of stylised action dramas, and it works reasonably well on that level. It's beautiful to look at, the action and battle sequences are very well choreographed and Liu makes an earnest and convincing lead. But it falls short of feeling like a classic.

The movie tells how Mulan, a born warrior and the daughter of a top military man, bucks against tradition and convention in sixth century China.

When the Emperor of China rules that one man per family must serve in the army to help defend against invaders, Mulan steps up to take the place of her father, who is unwell.

But to do so she must disguise herself as a man and take on the challenge of keeping her secret from her vast army of male colleagues. Stealing her father's sword, she rebelliously sets off on her journey.

Fans of the original film may feel disappointed by this overhaul, but Disney have been accused of giving us tired remakes in the past, and this is a modern take on the tale of the Chinese folk hero.

Jessie Dazzles to lead surreal story

I’m Thinking of Ending Things ★★★★

Rapidly rising Killarney star Jessie Buckley is offered the chance to step up as the lead in Charlie Kaufman's latest - and step up is exactly what she does.

Buckley is simply sublime in this movie from Kaufman, who wrote or co-wrote such eccentric and moving stories as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. He also directs here. The movie debuts on Netflix this weekend.

As offbeat and complex as Kaufman's best stories, this story is complicated and surreal in its structure but truly simple and moving in its message.

Adapted from the novel by Ian Reid, we first meet Buckley's young woman in a car journey through the rural American snow with her boyfriend of six weeks, Jake (Plemons) as they travel to meet his parents.

If, like me, you felt six weeks was a little soon, she is having second thoughts too - she is fond of Jake, but he seems a little unsure of himself, and she doesn't know where the relationship is going.

Things take bizarre turns when they arrive at his family home. His parents (Collette and Thewlis) seem a little overexcited, the dog is behaving very strangely. Buckley's character is convinced she can see herself in family photographs, and key characters grow older and younger. The stage is all set for a psychological thriller, but Kaufman is more ambitious than that.

If you try to take it at face value it'll tie you in knots - better to find step with Kaufman's surreal style and focus on the existential stuff. This is a movie about love, life, the passing of time and making the most of it, and it's a truly moving and darkly amusing movie.

High velocity bromance

Lemans 66 ★★★★

YOU can almost smell the petrol and feel the thrust of the racing car engine in Le Mans 66, a pulsating thriller that documents one of the most notorious rivalries in motor-racing history. It's now available on Sky Cinema.

By the early 1960s, the Ford motor company was the biggest and most powerful in the world. But it wanted more - and feared the upcoming generation, with money in their pockets, would migrate to sassier, sexier brands like Ferrari.

In 1963, Enzo Ferrari was approached by Ford about a possible merger of the two businesses. When they were firmly rebuffed, Ford vowed to take them on in their own turf.

The 24 hour Le Mans race is one of the oldest and most high-stakes tests of speed and endurance in the world, and Ferrari was by far the dominant car at that time. Ford set about beating them with a car to be designed in just a matter of months.

Step forward top automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) who is hired by Ford to take on the massive task. But he knows that even the greatest car needs an exceptional driver, and calls British racer Ken Miles (an excellent Christian Bale) to join him. Trouble is, Miles is nobody's yes man.

The movie creates a powerful sense of drama and tension and brings home the sense that these drivers could crash and burn at any moment.

Our own Cathriona Balfe, continuing to forge a big-screen career following the success of Outlander, is engaging in a supporting role here, as Miles' wife and the mother of their young son in this adrenaline hit.

Daisy Ridley (right) and Kristin Scott Thomas are to star in Women In The Castle. It tells the story of three women during WW2.

Marion Cotillard (left) has signed up to star in emigrant drama The Brutalist. The movie is set in post-wartime America.

Irish Independent