New films to stream this September

Published September 9, 2020, 6:13 PM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

While the rest of the world have their cinemas successfully reopening with COVID protocols in place; we’ll have to wait a bit longer here in the NCR, with the MOA drive-in the closest we can get to recapturing the old magic of “heading to the movies.”

So for the most of us, it’s the streaming channels we enjoy at home and on our smart devices.

Here’s a rundown of some the latest choice releases:

“Mulan” (Disney+): To watch this big budget release, you’ll need a VPN (plus the additional ‘renminbi’ to access this Premier) or some enterprising friend; as the service has not officially opened in our region. The latest live-action remake of Disney, this film is one of the big victims of the pandemic, and is still set for theatrical release in regions without the app service. While the Disney remakes have often gotten a lot of flak from critics and die-hard fans of the original animated features; this “Mulan” smartly takes inspiration from the well-loved 1998 film, but bravely charts its own path – something I’m sure required long discussions between Kiwi Director Niki Caro and Disney. To her (Caro’s) credit, she had her 2002 family drama “Whale Rider” under her belt, a film that surprisingly carries the same themes as “Mulan.”

This results in an Action Drama 2020 “Mulan” that draws inspiration from contemporary Chinese martial arts films, while maintaining its central themes of female empowerment, family, duty to country, honor, and retaining some of the lighter situation-comedy touches of the original film.

As Mulan, Yifei Liu is terrific, doing her own stunts and making us forget she’s actually 33 years of age. Donnie Yen and Jet Li play the Commander & Emperor respectively, and Gong Li plays a witch with shape-shifting abilities. There’s a CGI-created Phoenix which serves as a supernatural element harnessed to guide and protect Mulan (replacing Mushu, a character much-loved in the 1998 film, but had a negative reception in China).

Almost all the other Disney remakes took the path of frame by frame reverence to the original; and I loved how this “Mulan” deviated from that. While this has resulted in very divisive and strong reactions, I appreciate how this results in it’s being a genuine stand-alone. You can’t say this is just a live-action version of the 1998 film; and you can watch the original, and then watch this new film, and enjoy each film for their own merits – something we can’t really say about “Lion King,” “Beauty & the Beast,” and so on.

The relationship between Mulan and the witch is also something to admire, how sisterhood can define what being a woman is all about. I know there are some out there sorely disappointed by this remake, but I think that has more to do with projecting their own expectations, rather than allowing this film to define itself. So yes, it is the best live action Disney remake so far, in my books.

“Palm Springs” (Hulu): It’s not easy to take a worn out premise like “Groundhog Day’s” time loop and turn it into something fresh and exciting; but that’s exactly what “Palm Springs,” an exuberant and crazy RomCom, succeeds in doing.

Invited to a wedding with his girlfriend, Nyles (Andy Samberg) eventually hooks up with the sister of the bride, Sarah (Cristin Milioti), and from there some really outrageous, hilarious things transpire.

JK Simmons is in for the wild ride, and it’s Milioti who really shines as the harassed romantic heroine. Fun screenplay, and well worth seeking out; if only for how it manages to redefine RomCom for today.

“Get Duked!” (Amazon Prime): Here’s a low budget Indie comedy that becomes the gold laminated calling card for writer/Director Ninian Doff.

The premise is three juvenile delinquents team up with a nerd on a Duke of Edinburgh field trip in the Scottish Highlands, and it descends into a riotous series of misadventures that include social commentary on class warfare – a band of toffs are out to cull less desirable members of society. You’ll love one character who only acknowledges when he’s called DJ Beatroot, and their psychotropic use of rabbit poo. Think young version of “Trainspotting” meets “Deliverance,” but funny!

“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (Netflix): Beyond the K-entertainment series and the YA fare, there still are offbeat projects getting the green light from Netflix.

Based on Iain Reid’s existential novel, here’s Charlie Kaufman directing and adapting for screen. Premise is a girl, Lucy (the luminous Jessie Buckley), being taken by her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, Jake (Jesse Plemons), to meet his parents who live on a farm. Toni Collette and David Thewlis are incredible as the very weird parents. As can be expected from Kaufman who wrote “Being John Malkovich” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” it’s all about the inner self. Strange; and not for everyone.