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

Gemini Man (2019)

gemini-man-2019-movie-review-posterDirector: Ang Lee

Genre: Action, Sci-Fi

Runtime: 117 Minutes

Main Cast: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong, Douglas Hodge, Ralph Brown, Linda Emond, Ilia Volok, E.J. Bonilla

Plot: Henry Brogan is the best hitman his Government has, but as he’s getting older, the job is eating away at him, and he retires. He discovers his last target wasn’t who he was told he was however, and now he’s on the run whilst also trying to uncover the truth.

My Thoughts: I wanted to start this section with a summary of how Will Smith’s movies have been received terribly as of late, but Rotten Tomatoes gave me something more interesting to mull over, check this out:
Gemini Man – Tomatometer (25%) Audience Rating (84%)
Bright – Tomatometer (28%) Audience Rating (84%)
Aladdin – Tomatometer (57%) Audience Rating (94%)
Turns out only the critics seem to hate Will Smith movies after all! I’ve always liked Will Smith, I tend to put him in the same category in my mind as Dwayne Johnson. When I watch their movies I’m not expecting a masterpiece, but I know I’ll be entertained.

I didn’t enjoy Gemini Man as much as I wanted to, but I have to blame a lot of that on the trailer, which has been heavily pushed in the UK for months now. It honestly shows off the entire plot, and for a movie thin on plot to begin with, it didn’t leave much to enjoy when it came to going to the cinema. There are some breathtaking action sequences, sure, but the rest felt mostly like filler. I think most would enjoy this more if they went in blind.

At the end of the day, although I was disappointed that there weren’t any big surprises along the way, the cast and the action was enough to keep me happy for the runtime and that was enough for me on a Sunday evening.

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Best Bit: One good thing to come from Gemini Man is a showcase of how fast computer technology is moving. Remember in Rogue One, how obviously CGI’d Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing were? I had no idea, but the younger Will Smith was created in the same way. I thought it was the de-aging technology that was used in Captain Marvel but no, and the difference in quality in just 3 years is quite baffling!

Worst Bit: *SPOILERY SECTION* So perhaps I lied when I said the whole plot was in the trailer. There’s a little twist at the end, but it’s so obvious that it’s coming that it ended up being quite a comical moment. Know what would have been a good twist? Original Will Smith finding out that he was a clone, too! Hollywood, sign me up, yo.

Fun Trivia: From 2003 to 2010 Nicolas Cage was attached to the project. It was finally due to go into production in 2008, but Cage convinced Jerry Bruckheimer to work on the live-action remake The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010) instead.
I don’t know whether to be thankful or gutted after reading this!

My Rating: I heard you like Will Smith, so I put 2 and a half Will Smiths in my blog post about a Will Smith movie starring Will Smith…

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