Luca (2021) & Raya And The Last Dragon (2021) Reviews

Can’t believe I didn’t review these two big new Disney & Pixar releases right away. Well, I’ll be posting my June Roundup post next week but figured I better give these slightly more than just the mini-reviews in those posts. Here we go…

Raya And The Last Dragon (2021)

Directed by Don Hall & Carlos López Estrada

Starring: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Izaac Wang, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Thalia Tran, Lucille Soong, Alan Tudyk

Music by James Newton Howard

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
In a realm known as Kumandra, a re-imagined Earth inhabited by an ancient civilization, a warrior named Raya is determined to find the last dragon.

My Opinion:

I was weirdly looking forward to this. Well, maybe that’s not weird? Plenty of middle-aged women love Disney movies. My mom & grandma do too. We grew up with them. I thought this looked really good in the trailer & watched it as soon as it became available as part of the Disney Plus subscription. It’s good. I liked the animation and there were some strong characters & a decent story. Is it as strong as Disney’s very best films? No, but it’s far from the worst and has quite a reputation to live up to if compared to the best. It’s also sadly not nearly good as Moana, which it’s of course going to be compared to the most as that’s also quite recent & was very good. Who cares? It’s still an enjoyable film. And I loved her pet Tuk Tuk! Forget the dragons – I want my own Tuk Tuk!


So cute!

I’m sure what either does or very much doesn’t work for people watching this is Awkwafina as Sisu the dragon. She’s very “love her or hate her”. Well, luckily I like her (and her vag) just fine so I liked her as the quirky dragon. But I prefer when Disney doesn’t use very obvious voices & over-the-top comedians who can throw you out of the story a bit & make the films less “timeless”. I’m actually not crazy about Robin Williams in Aladdin for this same reason & I liked Williams as an actor & comedian a lot (RIP – I will forever be sad about that). I guess I just like my Disney films to stand the test of time but, hey, I’m old school. Or maybe just old… Oh well – I liked the Awkwafina dragon anyway. And I loved Tuk Tuk, as I said, and of course Raya is yet another great new addition to the “strong female Disney characters” thing so I was happy as they’re really the three main characters we see the most. Oh, and Raya’s dad was kinda hot.

I think this movie unfortunately loses its way in the middle of the film. It started out very strong and the ending was fine (although, come to think of it, I kind of can’t fully remember the ending now!). I feel like I say this in half my reviews lately (I’m old & I’m tired) but I did snooze a little in the middle so could do with watching this again sometime. I liked it enough that I wouldn’t mind a rewatch. I think, mainly, too many additional characters got added along the way and they weren’t that great compared to those I’ve already mentioned. In fact, one was really annoying (the dumb baby). Even my daughter was like “that baby is dumb” so I’m afraid my pickiness about movies is rubbing off on her. (Dumb baby is in the image below). There was also probably a bit too much going on story-wise for any young kids to follow with so many different regions fighting each other and so many characters to keep track of. I feel a little unfair rating this when I know I could do with rewatching it. But the middle bit & the dumb baby did make me lose interest for a while. Maybe I’ll change my mind & up the rating half a point after a rewatch.

My Rating: 7/10

Luca (2021)

Directed by Enrico Casarosa

Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, Marco Barricelli, Jim Gaffigan

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
On the Italian Riviera, an unlikely but strong friendship grows between a human being and a sea monster disguised as a human.

My Opinion:

My beloved Pixar! I’m such a big Pixar fan. I think their best movies are among some of the very best movies overall, even compared to non-animated films. And anyone who knows me knows I love to rank movies so, if you really need to know, here’s my Pixar ranking (from my least favorite to my favorite):

23. Luca
22. Cars 2
21. The Good Dinosaur
20. Onward
19. Cars
18. Incredibles 2
17. Finding Dory
16. Monsters University
15. Soul
14. Toy Story 4
13. Coco
12. Ratatouille
11. A Bug’s Life
10. Brave
9. The Incredibles
8. Up
7. Toy Story 3
6. Toy Story 2
5. Inside Out
4. Finding Nemo
3. Toy Story
2. Monsters, Inc.
1. WALL-E

Not seen Cars 3 – Maybe I should watch that…

Okay, I honestly feel really bad about putting Luca last as I thought it was a very sweet & very wholesome film. It was actually so sweet & felt so genuine that I don’t feel right saying anything bad about it. I really did feel like the filmmakers put their hearts into making this & that comes across in the movie. The two boys & the girl they befriended were likeable and watching the movie was… Pleasant? Like, it would be impossible to think mean & nasty thoughts while watching this. It was a nice, peaceful family film.

But I was mostly just bored. And, yes, I fell asleep in the middle of this one too (I did catch up on what I missed later). I’m sorry! I apologise to the filmmakers! Your movie is very sweet and the main three characters are very nice! I complained a bit about Raya having too many characters but I think Luca is missing all the extra “small role” characters that Pixar always do soooo well. Look at how awesome each & every character is in things like Toy Story & Finding Nemo, even down to the ones with very few or even no lines (especially those turtles, dudes!). I wasn’t interested in any of the lesser characters in Luca. Okay, yes – it meant they really got to focus on the main three friends but I’m used to Pixar giving us loads of characters to love in every film. The other characters in Luca were bland other than maybe the weird uncle (I think) who lived very deep in the sea & was nice & weird. Yeah, of course I liked the weird sea monster with no social skills! That’s what this movie needed: More weirdos. It was far too wholesome. I also wasn’t crazy about the animation, which was disappointing as I did like the director’s lovely Pixar short La Luna . This just didn’t look like a Pixar film to me. I guess the style worked better as a short film.

I’ll finish this before I say anything too negative because I don’t think this movie deserves that. It’s certainly not a bad film. Not at all. It’s just not up to Pixar standards. To be fair, I was maybe a little harsh putting it below Cars 2 which I don’t even remember. But, as much as I almost hate those Cars movies, I have to admit those still did a decent job with having more than only three good characters. Sorry. I wanted to like this much more! It did have a lovely message about not hiding your true self so that was nice. (I need to stop saying “nice”)

My Rating: 6/10

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019) Review

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)

Directed by Jake Kasdan

Based on Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Danny Glover, Danny DeVito

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
This time, the adventures continue in the fantastic world of Jumanji, where nothing is what it seems to be. The players must return to the dangerous game; however, their characters have exchanged with each other leaving us the same heroes but with different looks. Moreover, we must find out where the rest of the players are in order to beat Jumanji again.

My Opinion:

I honestly kind of love these new Jumanji films. There aren’t enough good live-action “family” movies nowadays and they fill that gap perfectly. We had so many fun family movies in the 80s! Why do they make so few now? And by good I mean ones that are enjoyable for all ages. A lot of family films are aimed at pleasing only the kids in the audience and they’re a waste of time. Family movies don’t have to be dumb or boring for anyone over the age of 10. I want to take my kid to movies that I enjoy just as much as she does, dammit. And we (and the hubby!) thoroughly enjoyed this and Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle.

I’m old. I was an adult when the first Jumanji came out in 1995 so it’s not special to me in the same way that it is to those who were kids at the time. I do like it as I really liked Robin Williams but I think this reboot(?) has been fantastic. And, admittedly, the first one is very dated in that way that so many 90s movies with certain special effects now are. As much as I normally hate reboots, etc, they can sometimes work when they get them right. Those who loved the 1995 film will now have (or soon have) kids they can watch these with and updating it into a video game was a wise choice. But, mostly, the new ones are damn funny. Good writing and a good cast has made for two really good family cinema trips. For me, they took a great original idea and managed to improve on it with these.

I won’t ramble on forever since I have lots of 2019 movie reviews to catch up on. If you liked Welcome To The Jungle, you’ll like this. If for some strange reason you didn’t like the last one, you won’t like this. Yes, it’s essentially the same story again but mixing up the characters was a great way to make this one different from the last. It was funny to see who was better at acting out different people this time. Surprisingly, Kevin Hart was a big highlight as he’s hilarious doing Danny Glover impressions. Spot on! And his bickering with Dwayne Johnson was a delight. I can’t say I really believed Johnson as Danny DeVito, though, and I always love Jack Black but he’s still best as Bethany (Madison Iseman). It didn’t matter too much, though, as it was still funny and there’s an extra surprise in store that I won’t spoil. Oh, and I loved seeing DeVito & Glover for a decent amount of time before getting into the game. I’m ready for this to be a trilogy (and I’m sure that’s likely, as is hinted at in an end credits scene).

My Rating: 7.5/10

The Farewell (2019) Review

The Farewell (2019) (別告訴她) (Bié Gàosù Tā)

Directed by Lulu Wang

Based on What You Don’t Know by Lulu Wang

Starring: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong, Jiang Yongbo

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows a family who, upon learning their grandmother has only a short while left to live, decide not to tell her and schedule a family gathering before she dies.

My Opinion:

This was a really good & heartwarming family film. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel, as Awkwafina can be a little annoying (like in Crazy Rich Asians, although she was also kind of fun in that). But that was a comedy and she’s good here in a very different & much more serious role. It’s not too serious, though. Although a sad topic, this isn’t a dreary film. It’s a lovely film with a likeable family but also plenty of humor.

The film is based partly on writer & director Lulu Wang’s real life experiences. In the story, a family learns that their grandmother has cancer & is dying so they decide to not tell her & instead plan a family gathering by pretending a grandson is going to get married. Granddaughter Awkwafina, having lived in America so long and now being a part of that culture, doesn’t agree with the truth being kept from her grandmother although it’s a common thing to do in China. The grandmother is great and the family feel real. They aren’t perfect and they have their differences & disagreements but they are also clearly very close. I’m afraid this isn’t sounding very exciting from my description! This isn’t some boring tearjerker (it’s a comedy drama). The characters are well developed and you care about them, which can’t be said for a lot of movies. It’s fairly lightweight – it’s not a hard-hitting drama. It’s a perfect Sunday afternoon family film without too much drama and without being too saccharine.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Ocean’s Eight (2018) Review

Ocean’s Eight (2018) (or is it Ocean’s 8???)

Directed by Gary Ross

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows a group of women, led by Debbie Ocean, the sister of Danny Ocean, who plan a highly sophisticated heist of the Met Gala in New York City.

My Opinion:

I like the Ocean’s films. Well, I didn’t actually see the last one… Oops! Guess I better watch that now. Think I missed something important?! Anyway, I enjoyed the first two but I can’t say I really remember much at all about them now. Heist movies are fun but not a favorite genre of mine. They’re popcorn movies to me. Fun, lazy Sunday afternoon movies. Ocean’s Eight was the same thing. It was fun & I enjoyed it, mainly thanks to its stars & their characters. But I probably won’t remember much about it a few years from now.

This film’s star power is far stronger than the story itself. I even like seven out of eight of these women! I find a lot of actors/actresses annoying for no good reason. By the way, the annoying one is Anne Hathaway. However, she’s fine in this in that she’s meant to be an annoying diva and she played the role well.


I really liked these characters & their very different personalities. Strangely, I possibly liked the main character the least (Sandra Bullock), although she seemed to be having fun as a “bad girl” for a change. I’m not sure if I could pick a favorite but it would be between the characters played by Cate Blanchett, Awkwafina, Rihanna & Helena Bonham Carter. Bonham Carter once again does “lady slightly off her rocker” but she does that kind of role SO well. If I could be any of them, I’d probably choose Blanchett’s character. She’s sexy & super cool. Rihanna’s hacker character was also great. I thought she might be distracting in this but that wasn’t the case at all. As the hubby & I discussed later, the only one who threw us both out of the movie was James Corden. Ugh! It really would’ve been better if he hadn’t suddenly shown up toward the end. He’s a million times more annoying than Hathaway. Oh, and Awkwafina’s character was a lot of fun – I’d never heard of her before this movie.


I haven’t said a lot about the film itself but this isn’t the type of movie you need to thoroughly discuss & overanalyze. It’s meant to be entertaining & it was. It was a little overlong. The heist was, of course, the most enjoyable part but the movie needed to end more quickly after the heist as it did drag a bit afterwards (I mostly blame Corden). I’m not sure if all their “thieving” methods were actually at all plausible but, meh, who cares about those sort of details? It’s fiction. The Met Gala setting was a good idea and I’m now FAR less annoyed than I was a year or so ago when we all first heard those Kardashithingies would be in this (THE most annoying things in the universe -I’d rather watch James Corden 24/7). But it made sense to have them there in the background (it truly was just in the background. Phew.) Fun heist, fun characters, fun movie but average story, a little too long, not believable, and James Corden. No, Ocean’s Eight isn’t perfect but is definitely worth a watch to see these actresses together.

My Rating: 6.5/10