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Dev Patel Does Dickens Well in The Personal History of David Copperfield

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Tilda Swinton, Dev Patel, Hugh Laurie, and Rosalind Eleazar in The Personal History of David Copperfield
Photo: Searchlight Pictures

In an alternate universe in which there was no pandemic, 2020 might have been a major year for Dev Patel, who was supposed to spend the summer being seen starring in two period pieces from hip directors. He plays Sir Gawain in The Green Knight, a seemingly horror-inflected take on the 14th-century legend from David Lowery that was slated to premiere at SXSW. And he’s the title character in The Personal History of David Copperfield, Armando Iannucci’s whimsical adaptation of the 1850 classic about a man whose formative years are marked by repeated reversals of fortune. It’s not just that these films set up Patel as part of a race-bending vanguard, though together they did, positioning him as a face for how much more can still be done with well-trodden standards, in terms of style and approach as well as casting. They also presented him as a classic kind of movie star, resplendent in the marketing material in his period garb and flowing hair as he played Victorian heroes and Arthurian knights.

But there was a pandemic, and while The Green Knight got punted from the 2020 calendar, The Personal History of David Copperfield has been left to linger in the cul-de-sac of late August. A take on Charles Dickens from the creator of Veep wouldn’t be the broadest of sells in regular times, much less times in which everyone is trying to figure out whether moviegoing makes any sense in terms of personal and worker safety. But for whatever it’s worth, rewatching the film this week, I found myself liking it more than I did when I first saw it at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September. It’s a sweeter, milder affair than Iannucci’s last film, 2017’s The Death of Stalin — that bitterly dark comedy that portrayed the power struggles of the Central Committee as a mundane but murderous dysfunctional workplace. But there’s a resilient buoyancy running through The Personal History of David Copperfield that proves irresistibly moving by the end of its journey. Its protagonist weathers hardships and cruelties in addition to benefiting from acts of kindness, and yet he never loses his capacity to be fascinated by people, a quality that’s comforting without feeling cloying.

The Personal History of David Copperfield doesn’t make fun of its source material so much as it has fun with it — Morfydd Clark, for instance, plays both David’s widowed mother and his mismatched first love Dora. It’s still a story that touches on child labour, debtors’ prisons, and other plights of poverty and class, but Iannucci leans into the text’s humor while adding a touch of surreality, turning it into a 19th century bildungsroman by way of Alice in Wonderland. When the orphaned David is sent to stay with the forever-in-debt Micawbers, headed up by the garrulous patriarch played by Peter Capaldi, creditors reach through the windows of the family’s London house to grab unwisely placed clocks and pull the rug out from under the door, nearly taking the baby with it. When he’s cornered into tea with the oily would-be attorney Uriah Heep (Ben Whishaw) and his mother (Lynn Hunter), he’s served enormous, dense baked goods — “I like a heavy cake,” Uriah muses, weaponizing hospitality in addition to obsequiousness.

The film does some altering and condensing in shaping David’s life into a series of episodes, but still makes room for a sprawling ensemble to fill out the roles of the outsize characters he encounters. Darren Boyd and Gwendoline Christie play the cadaverous Murdstone siblings, who take over David’s childhood home like vampires who, once invited in, can’t be expelled. Housekeeper Peggotty (Daisy May Cooper) provides a consistent counterbalance of warmth, especially when she takes young David for an idyllic visit to Yarmouth, where she and her fisherman brother and foundlings Emily (Aimée Kelly) and Ham (Anthony Welsh) live in an overturned barge. Tilda Swinton plays David’s eccentric aunt Betsey Trotwood, who takes her nephew in and introduces him to her even more eccentric cousin, Mr. Dick (Hugh Laurie). Aneurin Barnard is Steerforth, a moody fellow student at David’s school for gentlemen, while Nikki Amuka-Bird plays his brittle, status-conscious mother. Then there’s Benedict Wong as lovable alcoholic Mr. Wickfield, and Rosalind Eleazar as his daughter, Agnes, whose rapport with David is unmistakable to everyone but David himself.

Coming from a filmmaker whose best work has been marked by its deadly precision, the humor in The Personal History of David Copperfield sometimes comparatively tends toward the fuzzy and overly gentle. But it’s hard to begrudge it that when it’s also capable of bright bursts of delight. The naïve David submits to being an observer for much of the story, with a recurring motif being the way he allows others to call him by whatever nickname they prefer — but it’s clear that the film itself represents his subjective view beyond just his voiceover narration. The camera gazes up at the Murdstones, early on, from the level of a child. A second visit to Yarmouth as an adult finds the place far less bright and much more lacking in headroom. Like the Jo of Little Women, David eventually finds himself writing the movie that we’re watching, and the film closes with a not dissimilar scene — albeit one that serves as an ode to chosen families as much as biological ones. There’s a touch of wistfulness to those final sequences, too, especially given how, with the stroke of a pen, it spares one character their sad fate in the book. The Personal History of David Copperfield is a film about how the young man at its center becomes a writer — and what use is authorship if not to pick the ending you want?

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Disney Plus Mulan Fails to Make an Impact

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Disney Plus’s most anticipated movie of the year was Live-Action Mulan, the infamous remake of the 1998 version of the Disney classic Mulan. With a budget of almost $200 million and alot of hard work involved, the film release’s expectations and excitement were at an all-time high. Disney’s marketing team left no stone unturned in promoting the film throughout the world as Mulan was one of the most influential female protagonists in a Disney movie. 

Mulan was known for her power and courage to take a step towards change and create a name for herself instead of becoming a burden for her family. She brought them honor but not through finding a compatible suitor, but through her bravery in fighting amongst the opposite gender when it was considered a taboo. 

But did the real Mulan walk in the footsteps of the animated one? Did it create an impact as strong as the classic version, which people love and adore even after 23 years? Sadly, no. The live-Action Mulan was nothing like the 1998 Mulan because it was not supposed to be that way. 

The old Chinese folklore inspired the Live-Action Mulan. The Balad of Mulan, which was different, more serious, and portrayed a much more feminist approach by eliminating any romantic or cartoonish elements or characters from the remake. 

The elimination of the character of Mushu came as a surprise for all the die-hard Mulan fans who were anticipating the voice-over of Eddie Murphy in a better-animated dragon who is by Mulan’s side, aiding in tough times. We did see a dragon, but it was a silent companion only coming in need. The remake also got rid of all the eventful songs which were hummed as we watched the animated version all the time.

Another setback was the mediocre release of Mulan during the Pandemic, which basically ruined the official March release. Mulan eventually made the screen on September 4 on Disney+ Premier Access, a pay-to-view for $30 across the US. In contrast, countries where Covid-19 was under control, saw a theater release like China. But that hardly made 50% of the total movie budget. Disney hoped to make some dollars in China by accurately depicting the Chinese culture and actors, but that didn’t happen either. 

Viewers with access to Disney+ also did not venture enough on the Premier Access service. What further disappointed the release was Mulan’s availability on multiple torrents and platforms for free in HD quality on its release. VPN users worldwide watched the movie for free without paying a whopping amount of $30 for a single film, while the whole service along with other streaming services cost ⅓ of the price. 

Live-Action Mulan was also under scrutiny for shooting in the Xinjiang, the region of China where Uighur Muslims were detained and imprisoned in concentration camps. This sparked outrage over the entire social media, where Muslims worldwide protested against the Chinese government’s actions. Disney+ did not state an official apology on their platform, nor did they acknowledge their wrongdoings, probably to stay clear of the Chinese government’s atrocity. 

Meanwhile, even within China, Mulan failed to impact the Chinese audience as they have a much better take and approach to recreating any Chinese epic or myths. Their cinema is far more advanced in portraying their culture with local actors and a local production house. As we all know, China has a strict censorship policy on international content, and they have an alternate of their own. It applies here as well. 

Lastly, the ill-natured tweet of the lead actress Liu Yifei, openly supporting the Hong Kong Police’s atrocities when China was implementing new security policies on Hong Kong, claiming it as a part of the Chinese government. The Hong Kong police came under fire for mistreating peaceful protestors and using harsh means to disperse the crowd. This tweet leads to #boycottmulan across the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Thailand. 

Liu Yifei made no outright apology. 

Despite so much anticipation, live-action Mulan came under alot of controversy and failed to make a solid impression on the audience, despite holding a strong message for its feminist audience. Wrong timing and a few wrong decisions cost Disney millions of dollars and somewhat tarnished the reputation of their remake sagas. 

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5 Underrated Shows on Netflix USA You Must Watch Right Now!

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American Netflix is home to hundreds of TV shows across multiple genres. Still, it could be hard at times to find something binge-worthy on it. Now we all have that one friend that’s perfectly content with re-watching their favorite TV series, but the rest of us normies find it a tad boring. We’re on a never-ending hunt for the next big show hoping to inject some excitement into our otherwise mundane existence. However, with so much to choose from, it’s only natural that a few gems go unnoticed when scrolling through the recommendations. 

Don’t sweat it! After spending endless hours of research, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 underrated shows on Netflix USA that are definitely worth your time.

Can’t access US Netflix in your home country? There is an easy way around. Just download a Netflix VPN, connect to a US server, and start streaming. 

  1. 1994

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 5 episodes

Year of release: 2019

1994 is a modest 5-episode docu-series offering the perfect guilt-free, binge-watching experience. The show revolves around a promising presidential candidate in Mexico who stands to threaten the status quo. Seen as a threat by the powerful elite, he gets shot during one of his televised political rallies. If the events of the first episode seem unusual, then what follows is downright bizarre. 

Viewers are in store for surreal events backed by actual interviews and real-life footage that ups the ante with each passing episode. 1994 is a fascinating, informative, and rich account of one of the most turbulent times in Mexico. It not only gives viewers a glimpse of the past but also a story that follows a narrative very close to what we’re seeing in our present political climate.

  1. Rise of Empires: Ottoman

Genre: Drama

Season(s): 1 season; 6 episodes

Year of release: 2020

Following the wildly popular show Ertugrul—at least in the eastern part of the world—Rise of Empires: Ottoman features a historic mix of immaculate production value and dramatic re-enactment of the 1453 fall of Constantinople. A Turkish production, the show is entirely in English and revolves around the life of a young Ottoman Sultan named Mehmet. It shows how the 21-year old leader risks everything to conquer a city his father and so many others failed to take before him.

This point marked a crucial juncture in history: The fall of the Roman Empire and the transition of a local regional entity to that of a global superpower. While the show does have its set of drawbacks (such as the frequent History Channel-type flashbacks), the appeal of our protagonist is sure to have viewers in for a memorable ride. 

  1. Wild Wild Country

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 6 episodes

Year of release: 2018

The mere mention of Wild Wild Country in front of veteran Netflix viewers is sure to garner you some respect points. Based on a true story, Wild Wild Country tells the tale of an Indian cult that’s decided to relocate to Oregon. What ensues is a series of unusual events as the locals struggle to come to terms with the new inhabits and in particular, the eccentric leader of this cult: Bhagwan. This mini-series manages to capture and re-tell a significant—albeit unusual—event in American history and media and retell it in a way that’s sure to leave some viewers scratching their heads!

  1. Lenox Hill

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 9 episodes

Year of release: 2020

For those looking to embark on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, look no further than Lenox Hill. While we do recommend this docu-series especially if you’re a fan of Grey’s Anatomy or ER, Lenox Hill is not your average watch. It’s a far cry from what you’d call a feel-good series as it reveals the brutal reality associated with people diagnosed with really bad things.

Set in New York, the show follows the story of an ER physician, an OB-GYN, and two brain surgeons that are part of a small-time hospital competing with bigger establishments. It lifts the curtain from the otherwise romanticized emergency-ward that we’ve grown accustomed to and accurately depicts the struggles of both patients and doctors.

This highly emotional series might not sit well with everyone but if you want to watch a story about individuals that sacrifice everything to save others then this one’s for you.

  1. Borderline

Genre: Comedy

Season(s): 2 seasons; 12 episodes

Year of release: 2016

The Office is the most viewed show on Netflix according to Chicago Tribune which is a pity because its contract is set to expire on January 1, 2021. Enter Borderline, a British comedy series and ‘mockumentary’ of sorts that follows a similar pattern and humor as The Office. Set in the fictional Northend Airport instead of an office, viewers are quickly introduced to a slew of funny and ridiculous personalities.

The best part of the series is that it has its own version of Pam, Dwight, Jim, and a Michael type-boss. It also doesn’t try too hard to resemble its more popular counterpart and a few episodes are enough to make you wonder why more people aren’t watching it!

Agree with our list? Know of some underrated shows that need more love? Let us know in the comments section below!

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The Advantages of Online Casino Welcome Bonuses

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When it comes to online gambling, the industry is thriving in 2020. Although casinos are banned in many countries, people still find ways to enjoy their favorite games of chance. However, considering the level of competition on the market, it may be difficult for a beginner to find a good online platform and take advantage of all offers. In this article, you will learn the benefits of casinos’ welcome bonuses.

What Is a Sign-Up Bonus?

As we have already established, the industry is growing rapidly and companies are desperately looking for new ways to attract customers. A welcome bonus is often used by online casinos to get new leads and players in the future. However, the best casino bonuses can be easily used to the player’s advantage. Here are the main reasons you should not neglect this offer.

  1. It saves your money

Quite obvious, right? Well, this is the main reason why you should always use welcome bonuses in online gambling: it is always better to not risk your own money. It is especially true for beginners. Since they have no experience, it is fairly common for beginners to lose their initial investment and be done with gambling for good. However, if you use your welcome bonus as a way of getting the basics skills, the chances of success will rise significantly.

  1. It allows you to try several games

Another common issue beginners face is a lack of understanding of which types of games they want to try: slots, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, etc. If you use your sign-up bonus, you will be able to play several games and choose the ones you like better. Moreover, you can take advantage of a welcome bonus on several online gambling platforms. That way you will try out even more options.

  1. It will make future gambling more profitable

Besides beneficial sign-up bonuses, good online casinos usually have great loyalty programs. For instance, the company may double up to five first deposits on the platform. If you invest 100 USD, you will get 200 USD to your account. More money — more games — more chances of winning.

Although a welcome bonus is a great way of upping your gambling game, there are a few things you should pay attention to. Firstly, a good bonus does not equal a good platform. Before choosing a casino, make sure that the company is legal and trustworthy. Since there are many scams right now, it is essential if you want to save your money. Moreover, check the available deposit/withdrawal methods and their terms.

We hope that this article has shown the true power of online casinos’ welcome bonuses and how you can use them to your own advantage. Follow our tips while choosing a platform and enjoy the best gambling experience.

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