The Little Mermaid Review

The Little Mermaid has some amazing visual sensations at the beginning, involving repeated transitions from below the water to above the surface. That is where the technological features of the film are the most enchanting. After that, Ariel’s voice provides much of the magic.

This newest version of The Little Mermaid is not animated like the original 1989 version, it’s a remake of the Disney classic with actual people and a lot of CGI. There are many characters who provide moments of exhilaration in the film. Ariel is played by Halle Bailey, Prince Eric is played by Jonah Hauer-King, Ursula is played by Melissa McCarthy, King Triton is played by Javier Bardem, Daveed Diggs is the voice of Sebastian, Jacob Tremblay is the voice of Flounder, and Awkwafina is the voice of Scuttle.

Those who love the original
version of The Little Mermaid will recall that Ariel is a mermaid living below the sea. She has a fascination with humans and a burning desire to know of what it is like to live on land with humans. Ariel’s father, King Triton, is protective of her and prohibits her from leaving her home in the sea. Her crab friend Sebastian tries to be an advocate for her, but Ariel feels that the world around her is a disappointment and she is full of despair. But when Ursula comes around all that changes.

Ursula is a sea monster and she makes a deal with Ariel to trade her voice for human legs so Ariel can see what life is like out of the sea. Once Ariel is on shore she believes she has found her love, Prince Eric. But she is torn with a range of questions. Can she continue to be dishonest about not being a human? Can she trust Ursula? Is her world below the sea in danger? Are her sea creature friends Sebastian and Flounder safe? Fans of the earlier version will know the answers.

Some of the joy I found in this film came from a number of spectacular and exhilarating tunes written by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Jacques Oftenbach, including Under the Sea and Part of Your World. But my enjoyment was even more from reliving the original film, only with with actual people instead of animated characters.

Ariel wanting to feel loved gives The Little Mermaid much of its vibrant energy. The film also shines in the connecting of friendships in a magical world. The sea is full of wonders, and The Little Mermaid gives viewers many reminders of the joys we’ve all experienced with Disney films.

The Little Mermaid is a classic for kids and families, and it’s one that will give many Disney fans an enjoyable movie experience. It is also one where adults (including myself) can be reminded of the Disney wonder from our younger days. Because it’s not animated like the original, there’s not necessarily a lot of nostalgia, but it is a positive experience. Three stars for The Little Mermaid.


Master Gardener Review

The opening credits of Master Gardener include segments of different plants growing with disturbing music playing in the background. The environment in the film’s tense and eerie introduction displays the brilliance of writer and director Paul Schrader. After this setup, the film transitions to the main character elaborating on plant types and the history surrounding them. The mind of someone who has a fascination with plants is just the beginning of the unexpected in Master Gardener.

The movie’s main character is Narvel played by Joel Edgerton. Narvel is an expert of horticulture and gardening. His boss is Norma played by Sigourney Weaver. Norma asks Narvel to mentor her niece, Maya, who is played by Quintessa Swindell. The garden is called Gracewood Gardens. Narvel is the king and the guide to the operations of this beautiful environment. Narvel even narrates about plants and their background during sporadic moments in Master Gardener.

The enthusiasm of Narvel and is work at Gracewood Gardens is calculated and extremely accurate, but the gardening and plantations are not the sole focus of the story. The story is about Maya, the one doing the apprenticeship with Narvel. Gracewood Gardens is Narvel’s sanctuary, and it offers a landscape of potential knowledge and necessary patience for Maya.

There are tensions to consider as Master Gardener goes deeper into its character studies. Schrader always finds a way to stir the pot in his projects. Maya and Norma are related and there is a past conflict between them. Narvel has a bad track record as well and with his involvement, there is more depth to the film’s eerie continuity. As conflict arises, Narvel’s narration regarding gardening continues and begins to get more personal. Then Maya begins to grow more comfortable with Narvel. Is it appropriate, however, for them to have a close bond?

Narvel’s past is unsettling, haunting, and unexpected. Master Gardener is poetic in its approach to Narvel advocating for Maya due to problems in her life with individuals she can’t dismiss. This creates boundary problems as Narvel and Maya grow closer which in turn lead to problems with Norma causing hatred and disgust to linger.

Narvel’s knowledge of gardening begins to serve a deadly purpose. There is a moment where he mentions to some shady people that his sheers can do more damage than pruning. Schrader finds the right time to have the evilness rise in Narvel. As Maya is Narvel’s new responsibility, he must consider how both their lives could be impacted. There may be a point where neither can go back to a life where the darkness was once put behind them.

Schrader is a true auteur as a writer and director.  I felt the brilliance of his invigorating concepts throughout Master Gardener. What came to my mind as I watched this movie were previous films Schrader has written ranging from Taxi Driver (1976) to Raging Bull (1980) to The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).  All these films are masterpieces directed by Martin Scorsese. I have come to realize that the personalities of Schrader’s characters make his projects so amazing. No one can go wrong with the mind of Schrader.

Beneath all the troubles, the love of Narvel’s gardening has surreal moments. The pasts of both Narvel and Maya are painful. Narvel’s love for gardening symbolizes a craft which allows one to leave the past behind. This proves to be a daunting challenge due to the circumstances in Master Gardener. The writing and directing of Schrader, as always, allows the audience to develop a better understanding of the unexpected tensions and their eventual outcomes. Three and a half stars for Master Gardener.

The Unknown Country Review

As The Unknown Country opens, the audience will feel its eerie vibe blended with vast lighting of majestic cinematography. It delivers the feeling that its main character is looking for resolution. The film also displays thriving moments of optimism. The Unknown Country is a portrait of illumination and the emotions throughout the movie dazzled me. There is a light to be found in The Unknown Country which makes its audience feel that it is imminent.

The Unknown Country gears on Tana (played by Lily Gladstone). She is depressed and trying to find positive redemption. Tana is on a journey to rejoin her family, so she drives from the Midwest and goes through the border of Texas to Mexico. Her journey is a harsh and tiring adventure. As she travels through the different towns and states, she passes through moments of real-life events ranging from the post-2016 election social climate to places that struggle with challenging economic impacts. Many of the people she visits are in turmoil due to scarce resources. Her realization is that she is not alone in feeling disconnected, but she appreciates the mountains and the landscape around her are positives in life. The many landscapes invigorate her mind and open her up for more change.

The Unknown Country is one of the best films about a fictional story because of how fiction is blended with true historical events. These real-life situations made me think back to the days of 2016. The film helped me realize that during hard times we need to learn to embrace the little things that make us feel alive. In The Unknown Country Tana gets better as her journey continues. As she learns from her own narrations, the audience will feel a sense of encouragement regarding a new life for Tana.

The trail for Tana is long and challenging. Her loneliness is on and off, but as she experiences new faces and places, the narrative continues to be compelling. It is a film that reminds us that sometimes escaping to new worlds of reality can have meaning and improve empathy. Audiences will feel Tana’s heartache and they will have faith in her. The turmoil is just the beginning for Tana, but it is not forever. The Unknown Country portrays a meaningful ride.

Finding the light in hard times can cause mixed emotions. It creates anxiety and can cause us to overthink our own errors. While it is painful to think about persona failures, it is important to remind ourselves that making mistakes is natural. Learning from mistakes is most important.  The Unknown Country is a representation of Tana starting fresh on her road to reconnecting with her estranged family. It is not so much about focusing on her family, it is focused on the positive vibes that slowly come her way on her road trip. I absolutely loved the scenery, and I loved the writing. It is a story that is unlike any other. Four stars for The Unknown Country.

Treating cinema in many forms of art!

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