Movie Reviews

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

shang-chi-legend-ten-rings-movie-review-2021Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Runtime: 132 Minutes

Main Cast: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, Wah Yuen, Florian Munteanu, Ben Kingsley

Plot: Shaun/Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is forced to face the past he thought he left behind when his father’s organisation The Ten Rings comes looking for him.

My Thoughts: I said it before and I’ll say it again, after all the lockdowns and cinema closures it feels so good to see and hear that Marvel opening on the big screen. Even more so on opening weekend with a good crowd! I’ll admit to not being hyped about Shang-Chi, only because I’m not the well-versed in martial arts movies, but I’ve come to trust now that Marvel continually make movies that I highly enjoy, so I wasn’t worried. And too right! Shang-Chi might be a martial arts movie first, but it’s got the classic Marvel stamp all over it. It’s funny, it’s action-packed and the choreography is stunning.

That was my main take-away from the movie. Yes, there are a lot of fight scenes, but they’re all meaningful and for me, there were four stand-out sequences. The bus, the skyscraper, when Shang-Chi’s parents met, and of course the final showdown. All of them I would happily watch again and again. I’ve seen mentions of it before in blogs and on Twitter but surely there’s a case to be made for a Best Choreography award during awards season? I’m grateful that the trailer didn’t give a lot away because there were some breathtaking moments that could have been spoiled for a sell, not forgetting to mention a particular furry creature!

Also, consider this post my petition for Awkwafina to be cast in, like, everything. I love her so much. Her comedic timing is everything and her chemistry with Simu Liu was just perfect. That sappy part of me really wanted them to have a romantic arc to their friendship but I’m also glad they didn’t, in a way. I can’t wait to see how Shang-Chi fits in with the other MCU characters, he’s such a likeable character and this was a promising origin story.

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Best Bit: It’s impossible to pick just one bit, even after thinking on it for a couple of days. On the comedy side, it’s the karaoke every damn time. For action, the fight between Shang-Chi and his father for the pure epic-ness of it. But my heart would say the fight sequence between Shang-Chi’s parents when they first met. It was half fight, half dance and I felt all the emotions.

Worst Bit: This is going to be an unpopular thing to say but I really wasn’t a fan of Iron Man 3. I’m going to be as vague as I can now but the character brought back from that movie was funny, but didn’t add anything to the story for me. That character’s companion however, was a very welcome addition!

Fun Trivia: This is legendary Hong Kong film actor Tony Chiu-Wai Leung’s first role in an American film and his first English-speaking role, even though he has always spoken it fluently.

My Rating: I know I always give ratings out of 5, but it feels wrong in this instance so for today only, Shang-Chi gets 8 out of 10 rings!

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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

Ocean’s Eight (2018)

oceans-eight-movie-poster-2018Director: Gary Ross

Main Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Richard Armitage, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Awkwafina, Sarah Paulson, Dakota Fanning

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime

Plot: Debbie Ocean, the sister of Danny Ocean, finishes a prison sentence and assembles an all-female crew to attempt the impossible – a diamond heist during the New York City annual Met Gala.

My Thoughts: I can’t even tell you how much fun this movie is. To all the ladies out there, grab your girlfriends, order some takeout, but don’t stick on that well-used copy of Bridesmaids, watch this instead. While you’re at it, don’t leave the boys out, because there’s plenty here for everyone to enjoy!

Honestly, all I really want to do is rave about how amazing the opening scenes are with Sandra Bullock. I came out of Need for Speed wanting to drive my Fiat 500 like a Lambourgini, I came out of Wonder Woman feeling like I could kick someone’s ass, and I came out of Ocean’s Eight with an incredible impulse to shoplift. I didn’t, of course, but she made it look so easy! I just love Sandra Bullock so much.

If you’ve seen a lot of heist movies (I haven’t) then there’s probably nothing new here, but the ride is fun enough regardless. Also, I normally hate when singers turn up in movies thinking they can act, but I really enjoyed Rihanna’s performance!

With my serious hat on, it was so great to have an all-female main cast where each character got roughly the same amount of limelight, and each of their roles in the heist was just as important as the others, making them all equal. These ladies kick ass!

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Best Bit: Watching Sandra Bullock manage to shoplift all those cosmetics with such ease and confidence. I couldn’t work out how her approach was going to work but when it clicked for me, it was so funny.

Worst Bit: So, we ended up picking the only showing of the day which had subtitles, which was annoying as hell because even though I didn’t need them I couldn’t stop myself from reading them!

Fun Trivia: In her 2011 book, Mindy Kaling expressed an interest in wanting to do a reboot of Ocean’s 11, called Ocean’s 5, that would feature an all-female cast.

My Rating: I was going to do diamonds, but that seemed too obvious, so I’m giving it 4 out of 5 nine-balls!

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