Friday, September 3, 2021

Weekend Screen Scene: Mogul Mowgli, We Need To Do Something, Cinderella

Riz Ahmed stars as a musician who must face an uncertain future when diagnosed with a debilitating illness. No, I'm not talking about last year's Sound of Metal. This time, Ahmed is a rapper, not a drummer, and the illness is an autoimmune disease and not deafness. (If he's not careful, he may find himself typecast.)

Mogul Mowgli is a smaller movie than last year's Sound of Metal, literally--it's filmed in the classic square academy ratio--but it's also a bigger one, addressing issues of immigrant identity and legacy. Ahmed plays Zed, a London native of Pakistani decent, who is just hitting it big with a hip hop career, landing an opening gig on a major tour. When illness hits, he's forced to rely on the help of his parents, who can barely comprehend his life and career choices.

Riz Ahmed received an Oscar nomination for Sound of Metal, but his performance here is even more impressive, perhaps because it hardly feels like a performance at all. Having a long second career in hip hop, Ahmed wrote all of his rhymes in the film and is a natural during the performance scenes; I wish there were more of them. Director Bassam Tariq likes to delve into fantastic and surreal realms at times, but the film succeeds most when it's grounded in reality.

Mogul Mowgli is currently playing in select theaters.

A family takes shelter in their home bathroom during a violent storm, and soon find themselves dealing with things much scarier than high winds in the claustrophobic horror movie We Need To Do Something

This is a family you would not want to be stuck in an elevator with for ten minutes (Pat Healy adds World's Worst Dad to his growing resume of horrible characters), so watching them suffer through days of entrapment is a bit of a slog, and what they must deal with gets repetitive, building up to an ending that, while effective, probably would have more impact in a short film, or in an episode of a horror anthology.

I will say this though, that bathroom is fabulous.

We Need To Do Something is currently playing in select theaters and is available to rent online.

Do we really need another version of Cinderella? Much less a jukebox musical version? I mean, didn't we just get a Disney reboot a few years ago?

No, we don't need another Cinderella, but at least this one attempts to modernize the more eye-rolling aspects of its classically thin story, giving Cinderella some goals bigger than getting married so she can get out of her stepmother's basement. It's also got a pretty good cast, including Idina Menzel as the stepmother, Billy Porter as the fairy godparent, and James Corden as a mouse-turned-footman. Camila Cabello is also suitably spunky as the heroine. 

But despite laughing a few times (Maddie Baillio and Charlotte Spencer as the stepsisters are probably the best things in the film), I couldn't get past the film's disjointed blend of modern (the majority of the songs in this jukebox musical are pop classics like Rhythm Nation and Material Girl), and classical (the story still takes place in some mythical "long ago" time). Also, the costumes are wretched, especially Cinderella's ballgown, which is probably the most disappointing wardrobe reveal since Molly Ringwald showed up to the prom in a butchered vintage dress in Pretty in Pink.

Cinderella is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

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