Tag: Fantasy

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Ready for that new movie, Spider-Man: All the Hype in the World?

Oh, it is called No Way Home. Fine, that is fine. It could have also just been called “Print Money for us Please” because a lot of people are going to see this movie and they are going to see it fast. This is arguably the most excited people have been for a movie since Avengers: Endgame. After all, in our last Spider-Man movie, we were given a very strong credits scene. [Note: I hated that this was a credit scene. That scene was really important for the film. It made the ending really work. The fact that it was “credits” scene and arguably less important really bugs me]. It helped build up the hype.

I personally am hoping that this movie does…something to help establish what the actual fuck Marvel (even if Sony is helming this film like always) is doing with their time. If I see one more “Present Day” tag line in the MCU this year I will lose it. No one has any clue when any of these movies are taking place, because they all are in the future based on the Thanos Snap.

Is this one in 2024? 2025? Who knows. Will the movie know? Doubtfully.

JUMP
Is she enjoying this ride? 
Spider-Man: No Way Home takes place basically right after the end of Long Way Home. Mysterio’s last trick. Telling everyone Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) identity and blaming the bad stuff on Parker.

Now everyone knows! Now everyone knows about his friends and his girlfriend (Zendaya) and that causes issues. Some still love him, some now hate him. Some just want to make his life miserable. Hell, it is even affecting his ability to get into college. Because they know his name, and they aren’t sure if they want that publicity or trouble. Is he a MURDERER?

Needless to say, Peter feels like shit about this. And he hates it more that it is affecting those who love him and he loves in returns. So he wants things to change. Maybe time travel? Maybe people can just forget the whole thing happened? Maybe magic can be involved?

Well, once magic gets involved, and potentially unstable magic at that, it seems like the reality Peter knows is not going to be the same forever. Time to face old villains for the first time.

Also starring some other people you know from these movies. Tony Revolori, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Martin Starr, J.B. Smoove, J.K. Simmons, Benedict Wong, and Hannibal Buress. Also (checks trailers to see what is and isn’t a spoiler) Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Rhys Ifans, and Jamie Foxx!

Anyone else? Maybe! Maybe we also get other villains played by Paul Giamatti, Dane DeHaan/James Franco, or Topher Grace? Maybe we get villains in the last two movies showing up, like Michael Keaton and Jake Gyllenhaal. Will we have past Spider-Men like Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire? Will DONALD GLOVER appear as old Miles Morales?

Doc Ock
This isn’t a spoiler, this is the main advertisement! 

Spider-Man: Oops! All Villains! edition. Frankly, I wondered if this would feel crowded. Crowded is what they were going for after all. And arguably, crowded villains helped kill the last two Spider-Man franchises. “But no! This time we will do it better!” And how is that? By giving us previously established villains so we don’t need an eight hour movie. Sure, it requires a five film commitment, but they figure if you are watching these new ones, you probably already committed to the over 20 that is the MCU at this point.  So why not five more, assuming you didn’t already have them?

It works though. For those without the previous films, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I can’t get myself in that headspace. It is a risky move, and a ridiculous move, but damn it, trying new stuff is one of the reasons I watch movies. To see those that make risks, and this film is so risky. I don’t care what the past has told us, MCU printing their name on it doesn’t always guarantee success. Having a likable cast can help a lot.

This is the most emotional we have seen Holland as our web crawler before, and that includes the time when he didn’t feel so good in outer space. From the villains, Molina brings the same despair and anger he had before. Foxx felt better and more confident than the shit they gave him in his original. Ifans/Church were very underutilized, in more ways than one. I just assume the actors couldn’t really be involved that much with the film.

But Dafoe? Holy shit Dafoe. He has had like, twenty years to forget how to be the Green Goblin, and I was honestly worried about him the most. I know he is a fantastic actor, but even early on into his scenes in this one, I was skeptical, but that dude NAILED IT so hard. That is some real good review writing right there. What an absolute madlad he is. Why did they kill him off in that first film? So sad.

Honestly, people will get mad at me if I say much more. So in order to keep things vague and mysterious, I will. Let’s just say, I cried once, and it is not likely a moment you would fully expect. There is obviously an early credits scene, and an end credits scene. Feel free to leave early after the first one, in my opinion. The post credits scene is trash.

4 out of 4.

Encanto

Welcome to Encanto, or what I also call it, the second Disney Animated film this year. Disney has been doing an every other thing in regards to their films. One a musical and one that is not. We are at the musical one which meant I went in pretty excited despite being a bit weary about the overall plot.

But…Lin-Manuel Miranda helped make the plot of the film, and the music behind it. And I can’t not get behind a project he is involved in. Hell, watching Vivo was a surprise for me because I didn’t know he was involved with that.

If you look back at my review of Raya, you would have seen that Disney has been kicking Pixar’s ass the last few years overall. And not surprisingly that was still true. Luca was okay, Encanto was amazing. Pixar can just disband now. Before we get Cars 4.

panic
Don’t tell any kids I said there could be a Cars 4. They might start acting up. 

Years ago, Alma Madrigal (María Cecilia Botero) was on the run with her husband and three kids, with members of her community, in the Columbia mountains. They were being chased out by invaders. And in that time, she lost her husband in order for the rest of her family to be saved. She prayed and wished for help, and her magical home was born, protected in the mountains, to grow a wonderful community that looked out for each other. And her three kids were given magical powers once they hit a certain age, to help protect the community. And their kids as well.

That is, until we got to Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz). The door didn’t work. No powers were granted. Something was wrong. But she is upbeat nonetheless. Who needs /powers/ in a family of superpowered individuals in a magical house to have a good time?

But her younger brother is now up for his. The first since she was denied. If his power doesn’t manifest, was it her fault? And if there starts to be visions of her breaking their magical house and tearing their family apart, will it be her fault? And should she just, like, leave, you know?

Also starring the voices of Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitan, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Rhenzy Feliz, Adassa, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Maluma, Mauro Castillo, Alan Tudyk, the singing voice of Olga Merediz, and of course, John Leguizamo.

mirror
You see, the house is a metaphor…for family.

A lot of these recent animated Pixar/Disney movies have had a mostly predictable plot. Frozen would end with her in control of her powers. Moana would return the heart of Te Fiti. And in Luca they would be gay, do crimes. But I found myself constantly guessing at where it would go in this movie and being wrong, and I really enjoyed that. I mean, I knew it would involve the house breaking, or not. Powers being gained, or not. But the how? The why? That was exciting and unique in the movie.

I loved the music in Encanto so much, I wished I could listen to it on my way home from the theater. But alas, at that time it wasn’t available yet. I even waited to write this review until I had a chance to re-listen to the songs. So many of them feel great, with layers and multiple voices, and different harmonies. I was surprised to find that Beatriz also sang all her own parts. She was very limited in In The Heights, so I just assumed she couldn’t sing, but she did great.

Encanto is just a beautiful movie. I think it is interesting that the main character is clearly interested in embroidery, given her clothes and what’s in her drawers, but it was never actually talked about at any point in a significant way. It is just a fact about her character. I especially liked the animation when they did the Bruno, Luisa, and Isabela songs. It was just constant visual explosion on the screen, and it left me in down right awe.

I am happy that Disney made a somewhat simple and small movie about people with gifts. I am glad they didn’t go against what they were preaching the entire film like they did in so many other classic Disney tales. And I am glad that Miranda’s genius keeps growing, and I hate him, and I love him, for it.

4 out of 4.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

And now, presenting, the 25th film in the MCU series, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Of course, definitely the hero you imagined would be in this chain of movies eventually.

For fans of Marvel movies, they should be stoked. We get more representation, a richer group of deep cut heroes, and of course, potentially a fix for the “The Mandarin” plot of Iron Man 3. Fix is a weird word, and I still find it hard to talk about Iron Man 3. The Mandarin twist was terrible for people who like the comics, but it was a great twist from a regular movie going point of view. But still, despite the problematic nature of that villain, it was disappointing that he wouldn’t ever make it into the MCU.

You know, until now, but fixed in the best way they could.

3D
Do movies come out in 3D anymore? Did the Pandemic kill that?

For over a thousand year, the ten-rings have been around at least, giving one man (Tony Leung) immortality and great power in China. He used it for the quest for more power, and building up an organization, and a life without worry. But he wanted more. He wanted to discover the location of a mystical lost city, supposedly blessed by the gods, named Ta Lo. There he met Li (Fala Chen), whom defeated him for the first time, and they fell in love.

The village abandoned, they had two kids, and now, decades later, Shaun (Simu Liu) is living his best life alone in San Francisco, being a parking attendant with his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina). Their high school friends are confused by their relationship, or lack there of, and why they are seemingly wasting their life away. But hey, they are having fun, and that is important.

But what is that? Assassins? After his jade necklace his mom gave him a long time ago? Turns out, much to Katy’s surprise, that Shaun can really fight like an ultimate badass, and he has been hiding it from her. Looks like Shaun is getting dragged back into a past he wanted to escape from and forget.

Also starring Meng’er Zhang, Michelle Yeoh, Wah Yuen, Florian Munteanu, Andy Le, Ben Kingsley, Tim Roth (maybe?), and Benedict Wong.

rings
Orange and blue colors for an action film shot? How original!

Can Marvel still make me care about more and more superheroes? The answer is a resounding yes!

To answer my inquiry above, this is an interesting movie to arguably be a direct sequel to Iron Man 3, but it closes off some of the open stories from that film in an exciting and worthwhile way. By having an artifact for over a thousand years helping shape parts of human history, it had the potential to feel ret-conn-y but it made its limited use seem overall plausible. If the villain gets to be the dad of this story, it feels like it is earned and respected their relationship, and the waves that it has gone through over the decades. That’s right. Another strong Marvel villain.

Liu is a wonderful lead, both in terms of his acting and his physicality that he brings to the role. Awkwafina works extremely well here as well, although just about her character, whereas the sister, played by Zhang, brings a different interesting angle for a powerful woman fighter into this universe.

One minor bug I had, and this is true about every movie that does it, is when they have very specific flashbacks (in this case, 1996), and then come back to present and literally tell us it is the present day. Normally, that is already annoying, because in a few years that makes less and less sense. If it is supposed to be 20 years ago, say it, don’t let it mesh over time. However, this film has to take place in like, 2023 I imagine? Based on everything, it is after Thanos’ snap had been reversed, so it isn’t even present day now.

A bigger complaint is a trope that this film did, that I don’t know the right name for. But if 90% of the film is spent towards trying to prevent this one irreversible bad thing from being happened (door open, something summoned, spell cast, etc), and then it actually happens at the end? Well, it gets resolved very quickly and then we wonder if it actually was worth all this effort this whole time. At least with Infinity War, the bad thing happened, and then it wasn’t fixed for a long time.

This doesn’t take away from the incredible choreography, effects, fighting, and new characters for us to swoon and simp for. I am excited for what he can actually bring to the future of these franchises, and I want more. Give me that diversity. (Also me, I don’t know if Eternals will be my type of film, but that is a later story).

3 out of 4.

Cinderella (2021)

Cinderella, Cinderella, there are so many movies about Cinderella. And books. And plays, I bet. Sometimes I wish things never made it to the public domain so we wouldn’t have to get new versions of the same thing a thousand times.

At the start of Disney’s “let’s make all of our old stuff into live action” phase, Cinderella was one of the first ones. It was pretty, but it was pointless.

So why now? Why another one? Well, this one isn’t Disney, so that is probably a plus. Maybe it will be more edgy. (Checks rating, it is PG). Nope, not that.

Oh, this one is a musical. And not just a musical, but a jukebox musical. It is really easy to make a jukebox musical on the most basic level, but it is pretty hard to make a GOOD jukebox musical. For every Moulin Rouge! there are ten Strange Magics.

toss
And frankly, at this point, this is a toss up.

Plot wise, you know the basics. Ella (Camila Cabello) is living with her step-mother (Idina Menzel) and two step-sisters (Maddie Baillio, Charlotte Spencer), and isn’t having a good time. They aren’t related, they are just in a house of convenience, so she has to do a lot more chores and takes a lot more scorn. She does make dresses though. She wants to have her own dress shop one day, but women can’t own businesses due to the laws of the land. That is horsefuckery.

Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) is a prince who doesn’t really want to be a prince. Fuck the responsibilities and expectations. He wants to just hang with his bros. Have fun. Live his life. He doesn’t want to be forced to be marry, and doesn’t look forward to taking over from his folks (Pierce Brosnan, Minnie Driver) in the future. His younger sister, Gwen (Tallulah Greive) definitely does want to lead, but she is, you know, a ~~woman~~ so she has no seat at the table. That’s a theme, damn it.

Anyways, step mother is going to be mean, there is going to be a ball, there is going to be a fabulous godmother (Billy Porter) and a clock is going to strike midnight. But does Ella or the Prince actually care about love and the old version of a happily ever after?

Also starring Romesh Ranganathan, James Acaster, James Corden, Fra Fee, Doc Brown, Rob Beckett, and Jenet Le Lacheur.

fab
Yes they say godmother damn it, and I am all here for that.

And here we are, shocked as all I can imagine, that I didn’t hate this version of Cinderella. Honestly, random themed jukebox musicals can bug the piss out of me. Even themed ones are usually disappointing. I feel like I hear a lot of the same songs in these musicals over and over again. How many times has Material Girl probably been used in other jukebox musicals? You can tell what songs have cheaper rights than others a lot of the time through this.

Another issue with these things is that the songs usually sound…the same as the originals. You can’t hear the artists actual voice, there is nothing new to it, no tempo, just here is a cover that sounds like the original. Boring. Yawn.

And yet, for Cinderella, for the most part, it seems like they definitely tried to avoid that. I would say at least half of the songs felt relatively unique, whether it be in the sound or the way it was presented. Opening up the musical with a Rhythm Nation / You Gotta Be mash up I would have never expected (but you can tell the makers loved that era of music). I was expecting to roll my eyes at Somebody to Love (I mean, we already had a medieval fantasy film use that, come on!) and then really enjoyed it in the film context for the story. Damn.

Honestly, my biggest issue with the music is unfortunately Cabello at the lead. I don’t know anything about her as a pop artist, I don’t know if I have heard of a song by her before. But a lot of her songs come across as a generic pop sound that was overly produced and autotuned. And that is unfortunate, because other moments seem to let her actual voice come out more (slower numbers with less music behind it) and it detracts from it. Similar to the problems that came across in Beauty and the Beast.

In terms of actual story, Cinderella does attempt to fix some of the problems with the Cinderella story. We don’t have a love at first sight situation between the two anymore. Ella doesn’t just work and be submissive until magic saves her. The step-sisters aren’t bad they just are more afraid of their own mother. The step-mother isn’t the worst (until she does dress stuff) and at least give us a reason for why she is that way (doesn’t redeem her, but hey, a reason). It gives us a happily ever after that came from work, and from years of effort, and not because of getting married.

Brosnan is in this film as the king, and seemingly was picked to be in this musical just because of the backlash to Mamma Mia! singing, just to have a joke about his singing. But as old angry king he is good. Porter as the godmother worked well and gave a decent enough statement to the idea of magic and its existence in this movie. And according Jenet le Lacheur, who plays a court friend of the prince, is likely the first openly trans actor to have been cast in a Hollywood musical film, which is worth noting and celebrating. A lot of these are things Disney wouldn’t have the gall to do.

Overall, I was excited with Cinderella by the time I was done with it. I went in expecting the worst, but a lot of the soundtrack worked, and the cast of characters made it a more enjoyable and worthwhile experience. I am just annoyed more that I can’t listen to the soundtrack until the films actually release date. 2021 is the year of movie musicals.

3 out of 4.

Army of the Dead

Zachary Theodore Snyder, you have been in the news a lot lately you have.

What, with your cuts of movies, and your…well, family problems that are very sad and that sucks. But you have been mostly in the news because of other properties that aren’t your actual doing. Sure, Justice League did suck, but don’t worry, the Zack Snyder’s Justice League still wasn’t that great either, and much longer in mediocrity.

What happened to the Zack Snyder I used to know ,the one who did his own work? (Technically, I never knew that Snyder. I learned about him with 300, so I have only known him as someone who adapted graphic novels/comics to film, and I liked them. Heck, I liked Sucker Punch, which was basically his only original film at that time, not based on another property.

So I am here for a chance for Army of the Dead. His own Zombie flick, not a sequel like his Dawn of the Dead, which I most definitely did not ever watch.

gun
Should I go back and watch all the classic zombie films? Nah, let’s just shoot them from my memory.

Shit! Zombies!

They actually use the word in this movie, and that is nice, because a lot of films with zombies don’t. Anyways. Some Area 51 army dudes are transporting secret cargo between facilities, and have a stupid little accident that flips their vehicle and opens it up. And what is inside? A zombie! A smart, strong, fast zombie (Richard Cetrone), who kills the guards, makes a few zombies, and sets his sight for the place with the lights in the middle of the desert, Las Vegas baby!

This film takes place a few weeks after these events, with the city not only completely overrun with Zombies, but thankfully also walled off from the outside. There are communities outside the city, a lot of lost lives, and America might go and just Nuke it to deal with this threat before it gets out.

But one casino owner (Hiroyuki Sanada) wants his money out of there. So he hires a team to get his money, offering them a lot. They just have to go get in, hack a safe, get the money, and repair a helicopter in the city to fly out of there. And he picks Scott (Dave Bautista), a man who survived Vegas already and has shown capabilities. So he gets a team, including his daughter (Ella Purnell) accidentally.

Also starring Tig Notaro, Matthias Schweighöfer, Raúl Castillo, Samantha Win, Huma Qureshi, Garret Dillahunt, Nora Arnezeder, Theo Rossi, Ana de la Reguera, Omari Hardwick, and Michael Cassidy.

zombie queen
Oh you are so lovely, my zombie queen, and so…slightly blurry. 

Army of the Dead has a lot of zombies in it. Not the most zombies I have ever seen in a film. Shit, did you see World War Z? There were a bunch of zombies in that one shot. But we got types of zombies! Regular zombies, dehydrated zombies, smart/armored zombies, maybe robot zombies, shit we got a Tiger Zombie. Zombies for days, and all breeds. I am not some Zombie purist who thinks the only good type of zombie is one that shambles and is brain dead. It doesn’t really matter to me, because zombies are made up so who cares what anyone does with them?

This is a strange opinion for me to take, given the whole film critic thing, but despite having some plot issues and strange edits, the interesting take of zombies in an interesting scenario won me over in the end, as an entertaining flick.

The film has a lot of strange additions to the plot, and hints about what is to come, and not all of them take hold. For example, the piles of zombies who just need rain to be rejuvenated. Does this film feature rain at all? Hell no. And frankly, the ending is extremely insulting, with the sequel set up, purely based on the time the character has during it, compared to what we already know about zombies earlier in the film. It doesn’t make sense in the context of this film, but it could probably make sense with even more backstory or science behind it, which likely future ones would work on doing.

That doesn’t mean things are okay! But also, some of these things are red herrings and mysterious at the same time. The ending is incredibly clunky, and a lot of that is probably attributed to the fact that Tig Notaro replaced Chris D’Elia entirely after the film had been shot, due to his sexual assault/harassment history. I can’t remember exactly what, but it wasn’t that good. Given the problems with that, a lot of this is better than anticipated.

This world created had a lot of potential, and the moments that I enjoyed far outweighed the slower moments, the ending, and any plot awkwardness.

Bring on more smart zombies, I say.

3 out of 4.

Sensation

I got a feeling, inside my bones. It goes electric when I turn it…on? (Wait, it should be electric before being turned on. To be turn onable one would assume you have electric capabilities already, but what do I know).

Sorry, I am not here to criticize Mr. Timberlake, that was a different review. I am here to talk about different feelings a person might have, or at least, different sensations.

The movie Sensation is made in not-America (this time Canada!)  and it is an independent film that deals with themes of superhero potential and potential virtual worlds. What is real? What is not? It can be the next mind explosion or it can be a drop in the water and no one care for it. Which will it be…which will it be…which will it be…

bench
Ah yes, time to get on roofs, look out on the city, and think about feelings. 

Andrew Cooper (Eugene Simon), no relationship to Anderson Cooper (probably), does have some questions about his genetics. He submitted his DNA to a testing facility, to find out about his medical history and real history, all of that, and apparently things have gone awry since then.

Long story short, he is special. More special than the other special people. He might even have some super powers. He might be able to see that his reality isn’t a reality, and be able to distort things because shit isn’t real anyways. Can he get powers from emotions? We shall see!

But what even is reality? Maybe everything is a lie and this shit is fake.

These mind fucks also feature Emily Wyatt, Jennifer Martin, Marybeth Havens, Alastair G. Cumming, Anil Desai, Kai Francis Lewis, Alex Reid, and Lorraine Tai.

bus
Is this bus real? If it is a real bus, where did the roof go? Hmm?!

If that plot description sounded vague, that is because 98% of this film went in my brain and out the other. It never once made me care about the people in it, or what they were saying. I remember only a few scenes, just days later, and the ending, but it is not like it is an ending I want to remember.

This movie takes ideas from other films, crams a few of them together, and leaves nothing desirable at the same time. I wouldn’t say the ending is predictable in that I knew how it would end. But it was predictable in that I knew it wouldn’t feel satisfying or justify the time spent watching Sensation.

Fuck. I went in a little excited based on the plot line of this one. No one made me know of this films existence, I found out about it on my own from a VOD release site. I didn’t go in wanting it to be bad. But it was just so full of drivel and rehashed other plots that it had no chance of keeping my interest.

You all probably won’t see it, because you probably didn’t know it even existed, so this warning won’t mean much. But definitely do not waste your time.

0 out of 4.

Godzilla vs. Kong

Godzilla. King Kong. Lizard. Ape. Will buildings get destroyed? Yes. Buildings will get destroyed.

The attempts to combine these franchises (well, one recent Kong Movie and two recent Godzilla movies) into one ultimate destruction battle was a lofty one, but clearly not one unheard of in our connected universes strategy of films. It was a guarantee, I imagine, to one day occur. I tried to come in ready for it, but honestly, I still never saw Godzilla: King of Monsters from two years ago, and at this point, I can’t imagine I will.

I was hoping that seeing the other two intro films would be enough, but it looks like this film made mostly throw backs to that last one, versus the other two. Damn it.

In Godzilla vs. Kong, the director promised there would be an obvious winner and not some bullshit tie overall. That is an important claim to make and really one of the main reasons I decided to even watch this one.

blast
Oh, Rave Godzilla has to be one of my favorite Godzillas. 

Rawr! Let’s get it on! Wait, no, not yet. First of all, Godzilla has been firmly established as some sort of Alpha Predator, whose sole purpose and existence is meant to make sure no other threats ruin the world. Godzilla doesn’t want to destroy, it wants to keep the balance and go back to the depths.

Kong though is another alpha predator thing. So some people are worried that this means Godzilla is going to come and destroy him at some point, so they have him in hiding, sort of.

There are also some corporations doing corporation things. There is a theory of a Hallow Earth where these beasts must have come from, that is likely to have huge power sources. So some companies want that power. Some want to just return Kong to his home. Some want to destroy all the monsters. You know, typical stuff.

Overall, they are going to have to fight, multiple times, and we are going to have to see things get fucked up along the way.

Also starring some humans like Alexander Skarsgård, Brian Tyree Henry, Demián Bichir, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Kaylee Hottle, Kyle Chandler, Lance Reddick, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, and Shun Oguri.

kong
Is this his “fuck around, find out” face?

Hey? Do you like monsters fighting? Then this film has some of that! Honestly, I did think there would be more fighting overall, so I am surprised that there wasn’t even more. But I guess only two main monsters can wail on each other for awhile. There are some minor monsters in the Hallow Earth area too, but they don’t do much for the action or the plot.

Of course the plot is weak. And again, I am disappointed about how much of it is based on the King of Monsters film, just because I hadn’t seen it. Literally any returning characters (outside of the giant ones) were from that movie. It did have some surprises in store, which helped keep things interesting. But at least early on, the slowness of the plot, and even the first battle, failed to keep things super interesting for me.

Now one major plus is that the fight scenes were all incredible visible and detailed, and I loved that. Giant monster fights and CGI have usually meant a lot of dark fights, or messy blurs, where your mind has to put in the action, but that only happened a little bit in the first major fight, due to the underwater aspect. The major fights that mattered where very clear and that added a huge amount of awesome to the film.

And what about the winner? Did the director lie? No. Not really. I can understand the moment they are saying that there would be clearly one winner, no takeaways. But we still had to fall into some similar versus film tropes that I also wanted out of my movie. From what the director said is the definitive answer, I agree with who was chosen, as it is the one that makes the most sense.  However, again, still, they make it super definitive either. It isn’t as final as I would have hoped based on the remarks, so really, the director remarks set up my expectations to be higher than they would have been otherwise.

Godzilla vs. Kong is still a lot of fun, especially in the last third. Just have to slog through the human stuff, and the early battles.

2 out of 4.

Raya and the Last Dragon

I’ve noticed that since 2016, (so five years ago), I have rated Disney Animation Studios higher than Pixar Studios movies. It is an average of 2.8 versus 1.8 out of 4. That is a whole number grade! Here is my table for comparison.

disneypixar

Now sure, Pixar has churned out more, but it has the only zero, and has a lot of 1s. The only reason Disney is so low due to disappointing sequels. Pixar also has disappointing sequels, but also disappointing for me original movies.

That is all. We will see how the charts look after Luca comes out this year.

But for now, as you can see, I loved Raya and the Last Dragon, a new Disney princess (maybe?) movie, that also features zero songs, which is not just rare, but a first.

dragon
You see that dragon? It won’t sing at all. Shocking. 
Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) is your typical daughter of a chief. Her father, Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim), is training her as a warrior to protect a magical orb. What does this orb do? Well, lets go back into the history.

Five hundred years ago, there were these evil spirits named Druun that multiplied quickly and turned people into stone. There was also a lot of dragons. This was not fun. So all of the dragons banded together, made this cool orb thing, and it banished all of the Druun! And somehow, turned all the dragons into stone in the process. Very sad times.

Anyways, the orb still does its thing, but the other tribes think that the orb gives the Heart tribe extra power and success for their lands and people. They want the orb for themselves. Chief Benja wants to reunite all the tribes to one glorious nation, and not continue with this otherism.

Well, sure enough, something bad happens, the orb breaks! Each tribe grabs a piece, but now the Druun are now back and that makes things worse. Raya is going to have to fix the orb, and get her people back to normal, and maybe even find a dragon along the way. You know, the last one (Awkwafina).

Also featuring the voices of Benedict Wong, Gemma Chan, Sandra Oh, Izaac Wang, Lucille Soong, and of course, Alan Tudyk, as an animal that only makes sounds.

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If you train for hours to fight, then you are going to want to fight.
Raya and the Last Dragon has music, but is not a musical. Did that take away from it? Well, fine, probably not. But I would have loved some songs regardless. But I can’t take away points because I would rather a movie be a musical. I would rather all movies to be a musical.

Raya still kicked ass. She is definitely the strongest fighter of any “Disney princess” before her. Not sure if she is a princess yet officially, but she was the daughter of a chief, so, you know. There isn’t a lot of competition amongst the princesses who can fight or do magic,  but Raya is like a goddamn ninja (yes, different cultural term than this film, but I don’t know a better word). She is quick, and arguably deadly, but doesn’t always use her fighting skills to get out of jams. But that is almost always her plan A.

And having her so driven and technically violent is great, because throughout the film it is technically seen as a flaw, especially from the dragon’s point of view. Why not try friendship, and trust, and things that involve stabbing someone? (No, we don’t see a lot of dead people in this movie who get stabbed, mostly statues. We can’t have a Disney film with a high body count for real).

I love Raya, she is strong and flawed. I am fine with the dragon. She is consistent and not just a humorous sidekick. What I didn’t expect is all of the other side characters that along the journey would also show up and be important to the rest of the story. Great side characters, all full of personality and interesting. They made me cry at the end. I did cry I believe twice, or just one long slow cry, depending on how you break them apart. I will go with two cries.

The movie becomes a bit typical, when it comes to “go to next region that is very different, and then find the next piece.” But each one does have new characters and the orb fragment is protected in different ways. And the ending, while a little predictable, I think is done in a nicely unpredictable way, at least when it comes to the order of events.

Bring on all of the Raya Halloween costumes.

4 out of 4.

Flora & Ulysses

Flora & Ulysses is the latest movie released straight to Disney Plus, and maybe would have gone to theaters if it didn’t exist? Hard to say.

This one is based on a popular book series, so it has a following already, but it is not a giant franchise everyone knows about.

It also involves superheroes. So Disney wants to win at the superhero game, so it is probably why they picked it up. And hey, now they can easily make references to Wolverine in the film and it doesn’t have to go through any weird legal loopholes.

Gotta be good to control everything.

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Maybe feels better than being a little girl with a squirrel in a box.
Flora (Matilda Lawler) is a superhero lover and a cynic (that latter fact she will say over and over again). She is pretty smart too. Her mom (Alyson Hannigan) is a romance novelist in a funk, probably due to her recent divorce. Her dad (Ben Schwartz) is a comic illustrator and creator, but he can’t get any of his work published and is going full midlife crisis and doesn’t know how to even.

But Flora is surviving it all. And she believes heroes might be out there. Not from hope, but through observations. And when she saves a squirrel from a vacuum cleaner that was behaving weirdly with straight up squirrel based CPR (yes, imagine it, yes), she thinks this might be his radioactive vat. Especially because he is strong, can maybe fly, and can type in English.

So Flora wants him to prove himself and find his purpose, but it seems like everyone is out to get her having a squirrel companion. Especially an animal control agent (Danny Pudi) who has a specific vendetta against squirrels.

So, is he really a superhero squirrel? Or was the real superhero squirrel the friends they made along the way?

Also starring Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Anna Deavere Smith, Bobby Moynihan, and Kate Micucci.

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I apparently was living just to eventually see Abed wrestle a CGI cat. 
DuckTales! Whoo-ooo! I have barely seen any of the new franchise that I know is ending soon, but it has had good reviews from kids and adults alike. And did you know that most of the main cast is in this film? Pudi/Schwartz/Moynihan/Micucci all have roles big or small. The only big name missing is David Tennant. It is a weird ole Disney Umbrella reunion.

Flora & Ulysses is an ideal family film. It has slapstick comedy and verbal comedy. It has good natured characters for the most part. People want others to succeed and want the best for everyone else. The squirrel is cute and destructive. It has references and jokes that only older people will get, without them being like “oooh adult jokes”. It was good fun for me and my kids of all ages.

I definitely enjoyed Pudi playing a cartoon villain like role. It was weird and fun to see Schwartz as just a good guy dad trying to protect his daughter. It was good to see Hannigan really just doing anything outside of host work since How I Met Your Mother. A fun cast with an interesting topic.

There is not much negative to say about the movie at all. I agree it probably wouldn’t have made a lot of money in the theaters, but seems like a perfect one to watch on screen at your home. It is a movie that I just gave a chance and it definitely hit those good feels throughout the run time.

3 out of 4.

Earwig and the Witch

Here it comes! Studio Ghibli has crossed a line many animation companies have already crossed. They have made a CGI movie. Will they fully cross over and become completely CGI? They were probably the last major holdout that was doing a more traditional look for all of their animated releases.

And I already hate it. I will admit, looking at the stills/trailer for Earwig and the Witch, I didn’t have high hopes for the film. It doesn’t look  great at all. The animation levels look like a small independent company doing their first film ever, that happens to be CGI. Not a pretty successful animation company trying CGI. They have money, they can make it look better.

But alas, I have been iffy on Studio Ghibli movies lately anyways. I have been having a hard time getting into their whimsy and mystery. Maybe this one will fix it?

plane
Spoilers: It wont. 
Earwig (Taylor Henderson) was left on the porch of an orphanage as a baby, from a mysterious woman. They didn’t like that her name was Earwig, and apparently from a witch, so they figured they would hide that latter fact and also call her Erica Wig.

Ten years later, she is a bit of a terror in the orphanage. She does what she wants, she whines and complains, and she knows she wont be adopted ever, so she is biding her time. That is until a scary lady, Bella Yaga (Vanessa Marshall) and a tall scary guy, The Mandrake (Richard E. Grant) waltz in and totally pick her. But why?

Well, Bella Yaga is a witch, she could sense the witchy-ness in Earwig, and she needed an extra set of hands for potion making. Earwig thinks she will learn how to do magic and will totally help out! Turns out that Bella has absolutely no intention of making it pleasant for Earwig, or teaching her magic. Just someone to gather ingredients.

Ah, this new situation sucks. Who would have known that you can just adopt a kid to get a house worker?

Also featuring the voices of Kacey Musgraves, Logan Hannan, and Dan Stevens as a cat.

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“Damn, that’s a huge witch.”
There are quite a few problems with Earwig and the Witch. And honestly, the CGI is probably the least of its concerns. The CGI is still not great and notably average or below average throughout the movie, but it is not the biggest cause of concern.

Band plot – Worthless. Check out this poster graphic for the film. It is the most common form of advertisement I saw. It definitely does not represent this film. There is a brief band plot, involving history, the witch, mandrake, and Earwig’s mom. And it goes absolutely no where. It certainly doesn’t end up with them all being a band together with Earwig the lead vocals. This poster makes it look like a musical or band movie or anything, and it certainly is not. It teases some of these elements, and never does anything useful with them.

Earwig – She has no growth in this film. She is put into a trial to overcome and succeeds. The problem is, she started as a do whatever she wants child, and the movie ends the same, although definitely worse. No lessons learned. It is a terrible message. When she kept repeatedly calling the cat by her old friend’s name, I assumed it was some twist about the old friend being the cat. But no, they are two different entities. She is just a shitty kid who doesn’t care about the names of who she is talking to. They made a kids movie about a shitty kid.

The ending – By far, this is likely going to be the worst ending of a movie I have seen all year. I can easily imagine this movie making my worst list, and it is far too early to know where it land. But holy shit, this ending is such a waste.

SPOILERS ON THE ENDING. SPOILERS ON THE ENDING. Okay, here it is…It just ends! After some changes with magic occur, we get some weird time jumps, and it feels like the last hour of movie should have taken like 20-30 minutes max. It feels like the movie is about to start and do the main plot. And then with the a door opening and a mom arising, the movie is like, lololol credits. It makes absolutely no sense to have an ending there. It is like we got a prologue of an eventual story, but one I will never seek out, because of being dicked around in this film.

I hope this movie continues to get blasted, because it is truly really bad. And I hope Studio Ghibli doesn’t look at this and blame it on the CGI. Because sure, it is bad, and if it helps not make more like this, then that is swell. But fix the goddamn narrative structure, because this movie is absolutely a waste of anyone’s time who decides to watch it.

0 out of 4.