Movie Reviews

Jungle Cruise (2021)

jungle-cruise-movie-review-poster-2021Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy

Runtime: 127 Minutes

Main Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall, Edgar Ramírez, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti, Veronica Falcón, Dani Rovira, Sulem Calderon

Plot: Based on the Disneyland ride, Jungle Cruise is the story of Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and how she and her brother McGregor (Jack Whitehall) hire the help of local skipper Frank (Dwayne Johnson) in order to find a long-lost ancient tree with healing powers that could change the future of medicine.

My Thoughts: Well hello, summer blockbusters! I enjoyed a year of indie releases but I have to admit, it’s so much fun going to the cinema for a big, loud, dumb blockbuster movie starring Dwayne Johnson. Sorry Scorsese, but that is cinema *chef’s kiss*. Jungle Cruise is one of my favourite Disneyland rides and although I couldn’t fathom how a boat ride full of Dad jokes could be turned into a 2-hour movie, I’ve been excited for it ever since it was announced. It’s a lot of fun and a perfect summer movie for families, although there were quite a few jump scares!

I’m just learning that Jack Whitehall isn’t well liked on Film Twitter? That’s fair enough, but let’s not get hasty and put him on the same shelf as that other UK comedian who we all find annoying, I can’t even bring myself to say his name. The thing with Jack Whitehall is he’s a bit of a posh d**khead, but he knows he is and that’s all part of his humour. He must have the hardest working agent in the world to get this role but he’s perfect for it, as is everyone else in this movie, to be honest. Dwayne Johnson is all over action movies lately and he brings the charisma and energy you expect from him (but I’m going to be gutted when I finally get back to Disneyland and he isn’t my skipper). Emily Blunt is as gorgeous as ever and kicking ass which we love to see. Jesse Plemons is having the time of his life!

The whole thing has a Pirates of the Caribbean vibe which is expected, and the long runtime whizzes by with the action starting straight after the opening credits. It was so great watching it in a busy cinema screen and being part of the buzz. It was the first time a cinema trip felt ‘normal’ since I went to see Rise of Skywalker I think. If this is the start of Disney continuing to turn their rides into movies I’m here for it, but the only way to turn It’s a Small World into a movie would be for it to be a 15-rated horror movie, thank you please.

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Best Bit: I wanted to watch those early scenes on loop for the whole duration. Dwayne Johnson being the skipper for the cruise full of tourists and telling the jokes that the actual skippers at Disneyland do was just so magical for me. If I closed my eyes I could be back there, celebrating my 30th birthday with a churro in one hand!

Worst Bit: I’m so glad my little one isn’t old enough to see this yet because there were so many parents exchanging looks after a certain character was killed off and shouted ‘scheisse!’. The kids in the row in front of me were laughing out loud and repeating it and although it might be a ‘worst bit’ for the parents, it was a ‘best bit’ for me!

Fun Trivia: There are several elements from the park attraction featured in the trailer. The most notable is the “back side of water” gag that most of the cast members use during the attraction.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 suitcases belonging to McGregor that got dumped into the river.

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Movie Reviews

Cruella (2021)

cruella-movie-poster-review-2021Director: Craig Gillespie

Genre: Comedy, Crime

Runtime: 134 Minutes

Main Cast: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Mark Strong, John McCrea, Emily Beecham, Tipper Seifert-Cleveland, Kayvan Novak

Plot: Set in London in the 1970’s. a young Estella is determined to make a name for herself in the world of fashion. Forced to live with two fellow thieves whilst they were all still children, Estella grows up surviving through petty crime until she finally gets herself a job working for the designer she admires most, The Baroness.

My Thoughts: I’m in that small camp of people who are all for these live-action Disney remakes. I’m yet to encounter one that butchers a precious childhood memory and most (I’ll admit, not all) have been fantastic, so no complaints from me here. However, I’m not a fan of 101 Dalmatians. I just didn’t really watch it as a kid, so I don’t have that nostalgic tie to it. I have a soft spot for villains though and I’m OBSESSED with Emma Stone, so I’ve been really looking forward to Cruella. Letting Emma Stone unleash her inner crazy side is always the right thing to do.

The movie has it’s issues. The pacing and the long runtime didn’t work at all towards the end. It felt like the movie had come to a satisfying conclusion with an opening to a sequel and then no, there’s still another 30 mins to go so put that popcorn back down! Also, am I meant to be rooting for Jasper and Horace so much? It’s fun because the henchmen are only ever background noise in most movies and yet they almost steal the limelight here.

Emma Thompson makes an excellent villain here. There’s no good vs evil in Cruella, just one evil vs a bigger evil and oh these girls are on fire. I just can’t. It’s taken over a week to make my thoughts coherent, I might actually love Emma Stone more than Adam Driver at this point. She’s the perfect choice for this clumsy girl just trying to make an impression, and somehow even better with the black and white hair and the outfits and the cane and the “darling” and oh, just simply breathtaking. Give the movie a chance, just for me? And stay for the mid-credits to see what’s coming over the horizon from Disney.

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Best Bit: I enjoyed this from the start, but the movie is at it’s best when Cruella finally takes over Estella and the battle between her and The Baroness truly begins. The outfits just keep getting better and better until that moment of ‘oh no, she didn’t, did she?’

Worst Bit: It’s definitely messed up when I find myself happily watching movies about terrorists or husbands avenging their murdered wives, but watching a movie about a woman who kills dogs for fun gives me pause. I won’t spoil how Disney handled that element to Cruella’s character but I was so tense about it!

Fun Trivia: A popular myth is that filming was delayed due to Emma Stone dislocating her shoulder at a Spice Girls concert in London, where she fell off her friend’s shoulders in June 2019. Stone later explained that the night before the Spice Girls concert she was running in boots on a wood floor, slipped, and broke her shoulder in two places. She went to the concert with her arm in a sling, and didn’t go in for an x-ray until the next day. Filming was delayed while Stone went to physical therapy.

My Rating: I keep going back and forth in my mind about whether this is a 4 or a 4.5, I need something in between those two. But for now, it’s a solid 4.5 circular slices of banana stuck to Estella’s face.

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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

Hamilton (2020)

hamilton-disney-poster-review-2020Director: Thomas Kail (Screenplay written by Lin-Manuel Miranda)

Genre: Musical, Biography, Drama, History

Runtime: 160 Minutes

Main Cast: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Renee Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff, Chris Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones

Plot: A recording of the live performance of the Broadway hit Hamilton from 2016, telling the story of one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton.

My Thoughts: Every now and again I get the pleasure of watching something that I love so wholeheartedly, I find myself at a complete loss for words. I tried to write my post earlier in the week but it turned into a 500+ word ramble about a musical play I was in as a kid, I’m all for going off topic every now and again (hence the blog name) but this was too much, so you can look forward to that in a future post of its own soon. So back on track. I’ve never been a theatre person. When I went to New York for my honeymoon my husband and I made the effort to see a show on Broadway, how can you not? We chose Finding Neverland because it was a) Disney and b) a musical, and we had such a good time. So yes, Hamilton was a must when it got released on Disney+.

My knowledge of American history all comes down to one of my favourite ever games, Assassins Creed III. I know enough to know who the main characters in Hamilton are and how the story goes, which was handy. As for the show itself, I knew nothing at all. When the first song started with that hip hop vibe (I sound 900 saying that) I was really taken aback, but oh boy, it goes so well. There isn’t a single song in the whole performance that didn’t make me want to get up and cheer.

So there you have it, a review that tells you next to nothing useful. Not that I write ‘proper’ reviews anyway but…just go and watch Hamilton.

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Best Bit: I feel like every new song became my favourite song, but the ones that stick out the most to me are My Shot, You’ll Be Back, Right Hand Man, What’d I Miss, Cabinet Battle #1…okay you get my point. I tried to only pick my favourites and it’s still a long list.

Worst Bit: If I tried to fault it at all, the only thing I can think of it that the second half feels slower than the first, but it still contains some epic moments, and the finale itself is just beautiful.

Fun Trivia: The cost of filming the show in June 2016 for later exhibition as an independent movie was financed by its three main producers for less than $10 million. In February 2020, Disney paid $75 million for the worldwide rights to release it, believed to be the largest price ever paid for a single film acquisition. Other studios that expressed interest in the film rights included Warner Bros. Pictures, 20th Century Fox (which would eventually be acquired by Disney) and Netflix.

My Rating: A full 5 copies of Assassin’s Creed III which gave me all the background knowledge of American history I needed to understand what was actually going on.

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Movie Reviews

Artemis Fowl (2020)

artemis-fowl-movie-review-poster-2020Director: Kenneth Branagh

Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy

Runtime: 95 Minutes

Main Cast: Ferida Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad, Tamara Smart, Nonso Anozie, Joshua McGuire, Colin Farrell, Judi Dench

Plot: Artemis Fowl Senior has been kidnapped by…a hooded baddie with a raspy voice. This mysterious person wants Artemis Fowl Junior to find a magical object called the ‘Aculos’. Young Artemis is about to learn that the Irish tales of fairies that his father read to him every night are real.

My Thoughts: I didn’t write this post to hop on the ‘we hate Artemis Fowl’ bandwagon. I went in with an open mind, hoping to enjoy it. My tastes in movies aren’t always the best and I often have a soft spot for family movies. Not for Artemis Fowl, though. This is up there with Jupiter Ascending (2015) for me. It’s all just a bit…dumb. Which is a shame, because I hear the book is excellent. Then again, I also hear the movie strayed away from its source material.

Firstly, what dirt does Josh Gad have on Disney? He must just be on their payroll by now. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy, but if you want to cast someone scruffy with a gruff voice, why would you cast Josh Gad? Which brings me to Judi Dench. Goodness me, the last thing I saw her in was Cats (2019). My throat actually hurt every time I had to hear Judi Dench put on that voice. Whyyyyyyyyyy.

I didn’t have a problem with the story itself, but it felt like it was told in the least exciting way possible. There’s a huge, hidden world out there with fairies and dwarves and goblins, but I felt no magic at all. It also didn’t help that little Artemis Fowl himself is one of the most unlikeable characters in the movie. I cared an awful lot more about the young fairy Holly Short than him, and he was just as unlikeable at the end, too.

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Best Bit: At the mid-point of the mess that is this year, with cinemas still not open and Tenet pushed back 2 weeks, I was just happy to be watching a new release, good or bad!

Worst Bit: According to my husband, watching Josh Gad expand his jaw to tunnel his way through the ground and fart out dirt was the most horrifying thing he’s seen in his life. And he quite literally watched in the moment our daughter was born. So…there’s that. Sorry if you lost your appetite.

Fun Trivia: The film has been in development since 2001. Eoin Colfer (author of the book) has jokingly stated that the movie would be finished two years after he died.

My Rating: 2 packs of throat lozenges that I’ve been saving for Judi Dench. Is she okay?

artemis-fowl-2020-throat-lozenges-judi-dench