Movie Reviews

Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

raya-and-last-dragon-movie-review-2021Director: Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada

Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure, Family

Runtime: 107 Minutes

Main Cast: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Izaac Wang, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Alan Tudyk, Jona Xiao

Plot: Many years ago in the land of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. When an evil force threatened their lives, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save the humans, leaving behind a powerful stone that turned the humans against each other. Raya’s father tried to unite them all but failed, leaving Kumandra’s fate in Raya’s hands.

My Thoughts:  I really hope this is the last time I have to watch a new Disney movie in my living room instead of on the big screen, it’s just not the same. Also, is it just me or has Raya and the Last Dragon had virtually no marketing? I don’t watch regular TV to see adverts there but I’ve heard nothing on the radio, seen no posters on buses or billboards, nothing at all. So if you read reports on how Tom and Jerry (2021) is beating this at the box office, don’t for a second think that it’s because Raya is a bad movie. I don’t think it’s up there with the instant classic Disney movies, but it’s still great.

It’s biggest strength lies with its characters. Raya is instantly likable and she’s fearless. As with most Disney movies, the sidekicks are the scene-stealers. Sisu the dragon made me laugh every time she was on screen, Awkwafina did such a great job voicing her. Izaac Wang voices a young boy named Boun, an energetic kid left fending for himself whilst running a restaurant on a boat. He’s so lively! And I haven’t even mentioned half of the supporting cast yet.

Raya and the Last Dragon has some strong Moana vibes to it, but I can’t help but compare it to Onward. Both great animated Disney movies, both with enthralling characters and a stunning fantasy world. But both are missing that extra bit of magic that’s stopping them from being great. Once the disaster had taken place and Raya’s mission was clear, it felt like a quite generic adventure movie. Travel to each location, get the piece of stone, restore the peace, and so on. It’s a fun journey but there aren’t any surprises along the way.

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Best Bit: I thought Raya’s little rag tag gang couldn’t get any better. Then they added a con-artist baby and I lost my mind. After that, they got a big ol’ brute join them and don’t even try to tell me he wasn’t one of the regulars at the Ugly Duckling from Tangled!

Worst Bit: If having to watch this at home instead of the cinema wasn’t bad enough, I had to suffer through my husband making terrible jokes whilst half-watching the movie and half playing his Playstation. “I hope her Dad doesn’t lose his…chiseled chin!” Ughhhhh!

Fun Trivia: The land of Kumandra is inspired by the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Laos.

My Rating: Three and a half tomatoes I wish I had to hand to throw at the back of my husband’s head.

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Movie Reviews

Moxie (2021)

moxie-movie-review-poster-2021-netflixDirector: Amy Poehler

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Runtime: 111 Minutes

Main Cast: Hadley Robinson, Lauren Tsai, Alycia Pascual-Pena, Nico Hiraga, Sabrina Haskett, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Ike Barinholtz, Josephine Langford, Clark Gregg, Amy Poehler

Plot: After a shocking display at her school where new girl Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Pena) stands up to the boys voting and making lists about the girls, Vivian (Hadley Robinson) discovers her mother’s rebellious past and finds the inspiration to start Moxie, a magazine calling for all the girls at school to rise up against the way they’re treated.

My Thoughts: I adore Amy Poehler, ever since I fell in love with her character Lesley in Parks and Recreation. I was so excited to see her directional debut Wine Country (2019) but it was a real let down. That said, I was more than willing to give Moxie (2021) a watch and I’m SO glad I did, it’s brilliant. I wouldn’t call myself a rebel exactly but I do rebel in my own, smaller ways. High School was where I was most rebellious, I think. On the last day of school it’s a tradition (in just the UK or elsewhere too?) to get all your friends to write messages or sign their names on your school shirt. On our last day we were told that it wasn’t allowed, no reason for it, we just weren’t allowed to. Well, I didn’t listen and I encouraged my school mates to do the same, and we did. By lunchtime I was sent to the Head Teacher’s office for being disruptive but by that point so many of us had rebelled their only choice was to let us continue or send our whole year home. We won!

Anyway, I’m digressing massively. The girls at Vivian’s school are subject to judgement every day, and not even just from the boys. One girl is sent home for wearing a tank top by a female teacher. The worst part? Another female student was wearing almost the exact same top, but she wasn’t as developed so it was deemed fine. I guess it’s clear that although we’ve come a long way as females, we still have a lot of work ahead of us! Despite tackling serious issues, Moxie is still a fun and vibrant movie, there’s something for everyone to enjoy here.

If anything, I think the characters were maybe a little too stereotypical, but I’m nitpicking here and trying to find faults, on the whole I had a blast. It was good to see that Vivian wasn’t portrayed as some saviour character either, she messed up and had to face the consequences of that. It also showed how boys can be supportive too – Seth (Nico Hiraga) was such a positive character, just a genuinely nice guy who wants to be helpful but also has the courage to stand up and call someone out on bad behaviour.

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Best Bit: Honestly, I could pick so many moments. The creation of the Moxie magazine, the speeches towards the end of the movie? Great scenes. And maybe it’s silly but when the teacher Mr. Davies commented on the walk out and then opened his hands to show the heart and star symbols? I wanted to do a little cheer!

Worst Bit: Maybe I wasn’t paying proper attention for this scene but why did Vivian and Seth have a date at a funeral parlor?! I swear I put my cup of tea down, looked up at the TV and there they were, cuddling in a coffin. *shudder*

Fun Trivia: The song that the Rockport High School marching band plays at the assembly and at the football games is to the tune of “For Boston”, the traditional fight song of Boston College and Boston College High School. Director and co-star Amy Poehler is a Boston College alumnus, and graduated from the college in 1993.

My Rating: 4 and a half Rockports – they might be the name of the school in this movie but when I was at school they were the brand name of the shoes all the chavs wore!

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Movie Reviews

Wolfwalkers (2020)

wolfwalkers-movie-review-poster-2020Director: Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart

Genre: Animation, Adventure, Family

Runtime: 103 Minutes

Main Cast: Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, Sean Bean, Simon McBurney, Tommy Tiernan, Maria Doyle Kennedy

Plot: Trying to settle in their new home in Ireland, Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) is desperate to join her father outside the city walls in hunting down the wolves who live in the woods. After sneaking out she meets Mebh, a young Wolfwalker looking for her mother.

My Thoughts: I love Disney. I grew up with Disney movies and I have them to thank for my love of animation. They continue to make fantastic movies – but I miss the older styles of animation that we don’t see in the mainstream studios anymore. Wolfwalkers is absolutely stunning, every single frame looks like a piece of art to be hung on the wall. It somehow looks so simple, but full of intricate details at the same time. You really have to see it to believe it.

This is the kind of movie I want to introduce my daughter to when her attention span is longer than an episode of Blippi! It’s about love, family, friendship, accepting others for who they are, and being open to a world of possibilities. Robyn is headstrong and determined, and will stop at nothing to help her family and friends. Mebh is wild and carefree, and yet guarded at the same time. They’re both really well developed characters and more importantly, great role models for children to look up to. Wolfwalkers is definitely more of a children’s movie but it’s a perfect one.

I don’t know what kind of chance it stands for the major award ceremonies. It’s certainly picked up a lot of attention from smaller critics groups, if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t even know the movie existed. The Academy doesn’t seem to give smaller studios a second thought, I don’t think an indie animation has won in the last 10 years. BAFTA are much more open minded, I cried a little when Klaus (2019) won last year so PLEASE BAFTA – do the right thing!

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Best Bit: I love the transformation from person to wolf. It must be so difficult to portray the magic in a 2D animation style but it works so well. I had no idea Wolfwalkers was the third installment of an ‘Irish Folklore Trilogy’ by Tomm Moore so you can be sure I’ll be checking out the other 2 movies!

Worst Bit: *MINOR CHARACTER SPOILERS* So, I knew Robyn’s father was voiced by Sean Bean but I thought nothing of it until a particularly perilous moment. If you’ve watched enough of Sean Bean you’ll know his characters don’t tend to fare well. I had this sudden OH NO moment- but it all worked out okay for him in the end.

Fun Trivia: In early versions of the story, Robyn was a male character. During an online panel at TIFF both directors confirmed that Robyn was originally written to be a boy, but that something in the story ‘just wasn’t working.’

My Rating: A full five pitchforks that you should set aside and leave the wolves in peace!

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Movie Reviews

Minari (2020)

minari-movie-2020-review-posterDirector: Lee Isaac Chung

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 115 Minutes

Main Cast: Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Youn Yuh-jung, Will Patton, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Scott Haze, Darryl Cox

Plot: Jacob (Steven Yeun) is moving his family from the West Coast to Arkansas in search of a new way of living. His wife Monica (Han Ye-ri) doesn’t approve of the ‘house on wheels’ that he’s bought. Their son David (Alan Kim) and his sister aren’t upset by the move but are bored senseless. That is, until, their Grandma moves in with them.

My Thoughts: It doesn’t matter how many times I get proven wrong, I still judge books by their covers. Or, I guess, movies by their posters. I tried to watch Boyhood (2014) and couldn’t do it, I was bored just as much as the kids in Minari. It’s tainted that little sub-genre of dramas about families with no defined plot, and I wrongly assumed Minari was cut from the same cloth. Now that it’s getting so much award buzz it landed back on my radar and I finally gave it the chance. It’s a beautiful movie that I wished would never end.

The stand out star by far is Youn Yuh-jung, who plays the kids’ grandma. Oh, she reminded me so much of my own Granny at times, I miss her so much. She wasn’t a ‘proper’ grandma either, she didn’t bake cookies – she made what was probably the world’s worst cheese on toast that I still loved. She had what she called her ‘naughty voice’ which is when your mind just really wants to do something childish like, oh I don’t know, push your granddaughter into a bush whilst taking a walk! David hates the fact he has to spend so much time with his grandma but she never stops trying to win him over, even when he plays a cruel prank on her!

Coupled with that strained relationship is Jacob desperately trying to turn the land around their home into a successful farm. He pours in every last penny he has and puts everything on the line – including his relationship with his wife and I wanted so hard for him to succeed. The entire movie is just so wholesome, and tender. There’s no other way to describe it.

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Best Bit: Pretty much every moment between David and his grandma was pure perfection but when David made friends with another boy and his grandma told him that his penis was broken? Absolutely classic! One of those jokes that means absolutely nothing unless you’ve seen the movie, of course.

Worst Bit: I can’t say exactly because of spoilers but if I say ‘Noooo Grandma, what did you do?!’ you’ll hopefully understand what part I mean. My heart sank into my feet at that moment and it was already down to my knees by then. Do me a favour, if you can, and tell your grandmother’s you love her – for me.

Fun Trivia: Steven Yeun’s red hat was a gift from his mother when he was 17.

My Rating: 4 and a half bottles of ‘water from the mountains’.

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Movie Reviews

What I Watched: February 2021

Well, hello March. It’s yet another month of lockdown to go but at least the weather has taken a turn for the better. We get out of the house every weekend for our daily allowed exercise from the government and when you have a 3-year-old that means sometimes layering up for an hour of muddy football, but this weekend has been absolutely glorious.

I have to tell you something only you’ll appreciate, too. You might remember for Christmas my husband got me a Schitt’s Creek jumper, all black with the words ‘Ew, David’ on it. Well, my daughter just loves to match clothing lately and has gone on and on and on about wanting her own ‘Ew David’ jumper. She’s never even watched the show (and why would she?) but with the help of eBay, I managed to make her one. I promise you she loves it, but trying to get her still for a photo is impossible!

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Anyway! I’m here to round up all the movies I watched last month, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

next-2007-nicolas-cage-reviewNext (2007) – Oh my god, this movie was corny as hell but I loved it. Nicolas Cage plays a magician with the ability to see into his own future, but only by a few minutes. The government want to hire him to stop a nuclear attack but he wants nothing to do with it. It’s as silly as it sounds and if it were anyone but Nic Cage I would be slating it, but it was entertaining. I still can’t decide whether I loved or hated that ending!

malcolm-and-marie-movie-reviewMalcolm & Marie (2021) – I’m sorry I never got around to writing more about this one. I put off watching it for a while because on paper it sounded like the equivalent of watching paint dry but I was hooked. It’s basically almost 2 hours of Zendaya and John David Washington arguing but it’s glorious. They’re both in the wrong (but he’s so much worse) and Zendaya gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. This movie hasn’t gotten anywhere near enough awards attention as it deserves!

Red Dot (2021)Full Review

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021)Full Review

Willy’s Wonderland (2021)Full Review

to-all-the-boys-always-forever-reviewTo All the Boys: Always and Forever (2021) – I very nearly didn’t watch this. I haven’t read the books but I hopped on the band wagon when everyone raved about the first movie and I loved it. The second one, not so much. It was boring and I think I spent the whole time on my phone. But, you know, worldwide pandemic, nothing to do, I gave the third movie a go. It really captured the magic that made the first one so fun. I’m glad they didn’t make Peter be a jerk about LJ’ following her dreams. I’m fully on board for the fourth movie now!

black-bear-aubrey-plaza-reviewBlack Bear (2020) – I don’t even know how to write a review for this one. Just know that I loved it with every bit of my being. I adore Aubrey Plaza and damn, she needs to be given more roles like this. I can’t wrap my head around what actually happened in this movie but I want to watch it again and again.

supernova-movie-reviewSupernova (2020) – Weirdly I ended up watching this in the same week as watching Still Alice (20214) for the Hidden Gems challenge, and sadly it marred my enjoyment of it slightly. Supernova is a beautiful and heart-wrenching story of dementia but it didn’t go into the depth that Still Alice did. It’s unfair to compare them of course because they tackle the subject in different ways, but Supernova was a much quieter movie than I was expecting. Fantastic performances though, especially by Stanley Tucci.

I Care a Lot (2021) Full Review

monster-hunter-movie-reviewMonster Hunter (2020) – I knew this would be garbage but my husband is a fan of the games and so he wanted to see it. It’s got some impressive CGI  and some cool action scenes but that’s about it. There’s a fun, feline nod to the games that my husband had a little nerd moment over but that was the highlight really. The product placements for Coca Cola and Hershey’s were unintentionally hilarious, I’ll give them that.

juliet-naked-movie-reviewJuliet, Naked (2018) – This has been on my watchlist forever and I don’t even remember who recommended it to me. It was probably after I raved about how much I love Chris O’Dowd, though. This was a surprisingly good rom com actually, with a bit of a love triangle thrown in there.

news-of-the-world-movie-reviewNews of the World (2020) – I’ve been putting this movie off because I’m not a fan of westerns. Many other reviewers said that the western element wasn’t really the main genre though so that and the fact that Tom Hanks is the lead is what made me give in, in the end. I mean, when does Tom Hanks ever give a bad performance? I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie, it was too slow for me, but not surprisingly, Hanks was brilliant and that final scene really tugged on the old heartstrings.

mothers-day-jason-sudeikis-reviewMother’s Day (2016) – Look, sometimes you just need to kick back on the sofa after a long day of parenting in a pandemic and watch a bit of trash with Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston in, you know? Don’t judge me! The only bad thing to come of Love Actually’s release was the copy cat movies that came afterwards. You know the ones, movies with about 20 characters in who are all somehow connected. It was nice at least to see Jennifer Aniston play an awkward character for a chance, and Jason Sudeikis…raps. So there’s that?

I also watched Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), Equals (2014), and Still Alice (2014) as part of Mettel Ray’s Hidden Gems Challenge. Last month my pick was Kristen Stewart if you hadn’t already guessed!