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

Captain Marvel (2019) Review

Captain Marvel (2019)

Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

Based on Captain Marvel by Stan Lee & Gene Colan & Carol Danvers by Roy Thomas & Gene Colan

Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set in 1995, the story follows Danvers as she becomes Captain Marvel after Earth is caught in the center of a galactic conflict between two alien worlds.

My Opinion:

I’m short on time & haven’t even done my February Roundup post of movies I’ve watched but figured I better say a little something about Captain Marvel. After all the weird controversy and all the whining and all the sad losers down-voting it online before even seeing it, I didn’t know what the hell to expect. I’ve really enjoyed all the Marvel films although I’d never call them personal favorites and I feel that they’re all the same story and follow the same formula. I’d happily live without more superhero movies for a while. However, the Marvel ones are thoroughly entertaining and have a fun sense of humor that I appreciate (they’re popcorn movies – superhero films should be fun!).

Anyway, I thought I’d do a quick review of Captain Marvel since it’s had such unfair treatment and I wanted another positive review out there in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and, dare I say, I liked it even more than several other MCU films. I thought it was actually stronger as far as story & character development than some of the other standalone origin films (it’s way more fun than Thor, for example, as much as I lust over Hemsworth). I’ve added Captain Marvel to My Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Ranking (HERE). I’m still on a high after seeing it so, yes, I may have it a little too far up the list but it’ll be obvious that my favorite movies are the “funny” ones and I’m happy to say that Captain Marvel has way more humor than I was expecting. Pretty ironic after all the “why can’t she smile on the poster?” idiocy, huh? Samuel L. Jackson was especially hilarious (I adore that badass motherfucker) and it was a delight seeing him with Larson: Their real-life friendship gives them a great on-screen chemistry.

Wait. No. Goose was the most humorous character! Who the hell doesn’t love Goose after seeing this movie?

Is Captain Marvel a perfect film? No. Does it break Marvel’s formulaic superhero mold? No, other than its superhero lead being female. The movie does drag at the start but I feel the same about most other origin films. I thought they could’ve done much more with the characters played by Bening, Law & even Lashana Lynch as they were very underdeveloped. The young girl was sweet – I’d like to see more of her if they were to ever do another film (Oops – I just Googled her character! We’re likely to see her…).


Larson was really good in this role so I’m happy she’s proven everyone wrong (not that haters would ever admit it). I’ll be honest & say that I wasn’t sure of the casting choice either as she’s so good in serious dramas such as Room & Short Term 12 and I couldn’t picture her as a superhero. And as I said earlier, the Larson/Jackson duo was great. Seeing SO much of Nick Fury was fantastic. It’s about time! I loved him and the de-aging thing was scary good.

Will this movie be speaking to me more, though, since I’m female and was a similar age in 1995 so of course loved the references and the music? Probably. (No Doubt! Garbage! Hole! Blockbuster!!). So what? We all like different things and this movie won’t speak to everyone in the same way. I get that. But to trash it (without even seeing it) makes no sense to me. There’s a bit of “girl power” stuff but it’s not over-the-top or annoying (there’s actually a good message about never giving up, which is a message for everyone). In fact, this film is far less “political” than a lot of other superhero films. It’s a typical MCU film but actually more fun than a lot of them. And as for DC, I actually sort of enjoyed Captain Marvel as an overall film a little more than Wonder Woman. Sorry! I do think Wonder Woman is a stronger character. I’m a total sucker for the Eighties more than the Nineties, though, so I’ll probably prefer the next Wonder Woman. Give me 80’s music over 90’s! It feels a little sexist to compare the two but it’s hard to not make a comparison. Both these female-led films are really good examples of the superhero genre and are undeserving of backlash. But I honestly don’t give a shit when it comes to the genders of a film’s stars: I just want a good, entertaining movie. That’s what I got.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Stan Lee Cameo: First of all, there’s a lovely Stan Lee tribute at the start of the film which I’m sure has left everyone very teary-eyed. Then his cameo, fairly early in the film, was easily one of my favorites (and so adorably 90’s!). They even made a very small change to this cameo after his death, which made it even more meaningful (you can read about it HERE but it’s obviously a spoiler).

End Credits Scenes: There are two end credits scenes. The mid-credits scene has me very excited for Endgame (and got a very big reaction from an equally excited audience in my cinema). Don’t miss this scene. There’s also a funny post credits scene that got a lot of laughs from the clued-up people who stuck around (seriously, people – how do you not know by now that there are scenes after the Marvel end credits start rolling?!). Oh – and not only did the mid-credits scene get a huge reaction, all the funny bits in the film got lots of big laughs from my packed audience. So much for the “predictions” that this film would be a flop & that no one wanted to see it…

Number of people using their phones during this movie: Three. STOP LOOKING AT YOUR FUCKING PHONES IN CINEMAS, PEOPLE! It’s a bright fucking screen in a dark fucking room! Do you really think that the eyes of everyone sitting behind you don’t immediately go to your goddamn bright screen when you look at your phone?! SO FUCKING DISTRACTING. So fuck you very much to the woman who ruined the Stan Lee tribute as well as a very important moment of backstory explanation during this film by flashing her stupid phone. *Rant over*

Here’s No Doubt’s Just A Girl. I’ve always loved this song.

Exam, Paul Williams Still Alive & The To Do List Movie Reviews

Happy Bank Holiday Monday to those in the UK who won’t be reading this since you’re not at work pretending to work while actually reading blogs! Then I think you Americans have next Monday off? So, since no one will be around the next couple of weeks, I figured it was time to do a few more mini-reviews of movies that I didn’t give enough of a shit about to review when I watched them a year ago. Sounds like fun, right?! 😉 Here we go…

IMG_9874

Exam (2009)

Directed by Stuart Hazeldine

Starring: Adar Beck, Chris Carey, Gemma Chan, Nathalie Cox, John Lloyd Fillingham, Chuk Iwuji, Luke Mably, Pollyanna McIntosh, Jimi Mistry, Colin Salmon

My Opinion:

Exam is the best of these three movies, which doesn’t say much for the other two. I’ll say that Exam had a brilliant concept and I did appreciate that. It started out pretty great but got too far-fetched & silly by the end, which was disappointing since it had a lot of potential. I’m feeling lazy today so I’ll let Wikipedia give you the set-up:

The film is set in present-time United Kingdom in an alternate history. Eight candidates dress for what appears to be an employment assessment exam; they enter a room and sit down at individual desks. Each desk contains a question paper with the word “candidate”, followed by a number, from one to eight. The Invigilator, a representative of the company named DATAPREV, explains that the exam is 80 minutes and consists of only one question, but there are three rules: they must not talk to the Invigilator or the armed guard at the door, spoil their paper, or leave the room. If they do, they will be disqualified.

That sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? And it is – it’s why I watched this movie. And it gets even more interesting when the exam starts and the candidates discover the one question. The state of the world in this alternate history, which we learn a little about as the movie progresses, does help to explain the lengths that these eight candidates are willing to go to in order to get this job. But not quite… As to be expected, there are a couple of pricks who you’re meant to immediately dislike but none of the characters are very well developed and you don’t care enough about any of them to really care who will get the job at the end.

Had the characters been better instead of so one-dimensional and had the story been less far-fetched by the end, I’d have liked this one a lot more. I did really enjoy the mystery involved with the whole thing. It was fun seeing the candidates trying various ways to figure out what the hell was going on with the bizarre exam. In a world (shit, did I just use the “in a world” phrase?) where times are desperate, as in the story’s alternate history, you can almost believe that these candidates will do anything to get this very important job. However, the movie doesn’t manage to make us believe that “this could really happen”, which sucks as I think it could. Exam reminded me a lot of The Purge, which is another movie that I thought had a brilliant concept & so many ideas to be explored but never were. Like The Purge, Exam feels like a wasted opportunity (although I really liked The Purge and find myself always sticking up for it).

Don’t let my negativity discourage you if you like the sound of this movie. I think I may just be too picky in always expecting movies to have some deeper sort of meaning. If you don’t think about it too hard & are able to suspend disbelief, you may get some enjoyment out of Exam.

My Rating: 6/10

Paul Williams Still Alive (2011)

Directed by Stephen Kessler

Starring: Well, mainly just Paul Williams, his wife, and the director but there’s plenty of old footage with famous celebrities to watch. 

My Opinion:

What a shitty documentary. Hell, I think I could make a better documentary. The trouble isn’t the subject as I think Paul Williams is fascinating enough to make for an interesting documentary. But god the director, Stephen Kessler, is annoying! This reminded me a bit of the John Hughes documentary, Don’t You Forget About Me (which I reviewed HERE). In both films, the makers almost feel more like stalkers than like proper filmmakers.

I’ll say that Paul Williams comes across a bit grumpy in the documentary but that’s probably understandable as the director pretty much spends the whole film talking about how Paul Williams used to be a pretty big star but now he’s nothing (which isn’t true at all, especially since Daft Punk soon after declared their love for him & worked with him on their amazing Random Access Memories album). It’s ridiculous as Paul Williams has had a longer and FAR more successful career than Kessler (his only other movie you’ll have heard of is the crappy National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation).

As for Paul Williams, I know some people here probably know nothing about him although you may recognize his face. He was (well, still is) mainly a singer-songwriter but also an actor whose most famous work was in the Seventies. He wrote songs for people such as Barbara Streisand (Evergreen) and The Carpenters (We’ve Only Just Begun & Rainy Days And Mondays). Perhaps his most famous song, though, is The Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie (it’s certainly my favorite & in my list of My Top Ten Happy Songs). He was also in Smokey And The Bandit and the spectacularly mad Brian De Palma film Phantom Of The Paradise, which I reviewed HERE. Williams plays an evil record executive in Phantom, which is a mental “horror musical” that I enjoyed so much that I decided to watch this documentary soon after. Bah! Rubbish. Watch Phantom instead.

It’s hard to know what to rate this as it IS worth checking out if you’re interested in Paul Williams and don’t know much about him. There are plenty of old clips with lots of famous celebrities & the film is almost worth watching for that alone. Don’t expect the most in-depth documentary ever, though, and be prepared to feel as annoyed by the director as Williams sometimes clearly is. I’m glad I watched it but would like to see a better documentary about Paul Williams.

My Rating: 6/10

(okay rating more for the fact that Williams is an interesting character than for the quality of the documentary)

The To Do List (2013)

Directed by Maggie Carey

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Rachel Bilson, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Andy Samberg, Scott Porter, Connie Britton

My Opinion:

How can a totally filthy sex comedy be so BORING and completely unfunny in any way? What a load of shit.

I’m thinking that maybe I truly don’t like Aubrey Plaza. I don’t have much experience with her (she’s in that Parks & Recreation thing, right? Never seen it). I didn’t mind her in the slightly pretentious Safety Not Guaranteed but then she mostly just got on my nerves in the disappointing Life After Beth. Well, I’d have to say I pretty much hated her in this. I don’t know if that’s entirely her fault, though, as I can’t say I liked anyone in this plus the movie is just plain bad. I honestly can’t think of a less funny “comedy” that I’ve seen in recent years. It’s almost as bad as a Jason Friedberg/Aaron Seltzer “parody” movie.

(Just go play with yourself instead of watching this movie – you’ll have way more fun)

So, in this movie, perfect student Plaza decides she wants to lose her virginity & do every sexual thing that she can before heading off to college. Or something like that – I don’t remember much of this movie now. Anyway, here’s her sexual “to do” list:

I wouldn’t call myself a prude so my issues with the movie have nothing at all to do with the subject matter. I do enjoy the occasional sex comedy. But what I require is for them to actually be funny. I mean, WTF is this shit?:

Aubrey Plaza’s character is beyond annoying in this movie & I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do any of the things on that above “to do list” with her. The only funny thing, looking at that list, is how it says “British?” next to “teabagging“. lol. Okay – that’s kind of funny. But the rest of this movie is NOT. This movie can go do all of the above things to itself. Yeah… Go fuck yourself, movie!

My Rating: 3/10

Now here’s the rather epic, totally 70’s prog rock-y Touch, Paul Williams’ song with Daft Punk on Random Access Memories: