Tag Archives: Gemma Chan

Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) Review

RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON

Raya and The Last Dragon

Time: 107 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Voice Cast:
Kelly Marie Tran as Raya
Awkwafina as Sisu
Izaac Wang as Boun
Gemma Chan as Namaari
Daniel Dae Kim as Chief Benja
Benedict Wong as Tong
Sandra Oh as Virana
Thalia Tran as Little Noi
Lucille Soong as Dang Hu
Alan Tudyk as Tuk Tuk
Director: Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada

Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. However, when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned, and it’s up to a lone warrior (Kelly Marie Tran) to track down the last dragon and stop the Druun for good.

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I had heard about Raya and the Last Dragon for the past months, it’s the latest Disney animated movie and it looked pretty good from the trailers. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going in, but the movie actually turned out better than I expected it to be.

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Raya and the Last Dragon is an exhilarating and beautifully told fantasy adventure. The storylines and characters that inhabit this world were unique and interesting to watch (although I could’ve done without the baby and monkeys). The movie does move very fast, and I was quite invested in the story. There were some moments where the film could have slowed down a little, but on the whole the fast pace works to the film’s benefit. I liked the movie from the very start, but it really finds its footing when the main group of characters begin to get assembled. As Raya meets these new characters, she has to learn to trust them and pretty quickly, you can pick up that trust is the main moral and message of this story. With the addition of each new character, Raya learns a lot from her new friends and takes the first step in putting her trust in someone else. So thematically, the movie has plenty to offer. It does quite well in terms of world-building, and by the end I actually wanted a bit more from this world. One thing to note is that the movie doesn’t have musical numbers where characters suddenly burst into song, and while it’s to be expected from Disney animated movies, I actually like that they don’t have them here. It is a risk for them when they have such a wide target audience, but I’d say it pays off. Something that has been said about this movie which I will repeat myself as well is that the plot is very predictable and derivative, and structurally it may appear to be similar to other Disney animated movies like Moana or Tangled. The fetch quest, band-forming and lesson-learning genre has been done to death by now, but that didn’t make it any less investing for me. Despite its familiarity, it manages to keep it at least a little interesting throughout. Its humour doesn’t always land as well as it potentially could’ve, especially with how they implemented it in the movie and overall story. It’s not necessarily bad and it isn’t a dealbreaker, but truth be told, only some of the jokes really hit. There are some essential exposition dumps that could’ve been done slightly better, but it’s at the level of most modern day animated movies and again aren’t a dealbreaker.

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There’s a solid lineup of characters in this movie, and the voice cast are great playing them. Kelly Marie Tran is perfect as protagonist Raya, Awkwafina is a scene stealer as Sisu (the last dragon), and Gemma Chan is also a standout as the character of Namaar.

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Don Hall and Carlos Lopez Estrada directs Raya and the Last Dragon greatly. First of all, the animation is stunning, this is probably some of Disney’s best animation, absolutely stellar and gorgeous. There are a number of settings and places here that are immaculately presented here. Each location, character, object, or detail feels so profoundly gorgeous. What particularly stood out was the action, which was insanely good. The swordplay and hand to hand combat is sleek, and the combination of martial arts techniques were used so effectively. With this and the film’s incredible lighting, Raya and the Last Dragon makes for an awesome visual experience, and honestly it is worth watching the movie for that alone. Additionally, James Newton Howard’s score is powerful and enthralling, especially during the action sequences.

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Raya and the Last Dragon is a solid and very well-made animated movie. It has a familiar and somewhat predictable story but it’s entertaining and works for what it is, with some enjoyable characters. Additionally, the voice cast are great and it’s beautifully animated. Definitely worth watching.

Captain Marvel (2019) Review

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Brie Larson as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Ben Mendelsohn as Talos/Keller
Djimon Hounsou as Korath
Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser
Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau
Gemma Chan as Minn-Erva
Annette Bening as the Supreme Intelligence/Dr. Wendy Lawson
Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson
Jude Law as Yon-Rogg
Director: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is an extraterrestrial Kree warrior who finds herself caught in the middle of an intergalactic battle between her people and the Skrulls. Living on Earth in 1995, she keeps having recurring memories of another life as U.S. Air Force pilot Carol Danvers. With help from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Captain Marvel tries to uncover the secrets of her past while harnessing her special superpowers to end the war with the evil Skrulls.

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There’s a lot of hype that was going into Captain Marvel, and there was a lot of potential. On top of it featuring familiar MCU characters like Nick Fury and Phil Coulson a couple decades earlier and featuring the additions of great acting talent with the likes of Brie Larson, Ben Mendelsohn and Jude Law, it is covering a key character in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. While a lot of the MCU movies follow familiar beats (especially in the trailers), I’m usually hyped for them nonetheless. However when it came to the Captain Marvel trailers, I just felt considerably underwhelmed, which had me a little nervous because usually the marketing for these movies are decent at least, and was starting to wonder whether maybe this movie would be one of the lower tier movies in the MCU. I’m happy to say that the trailers did not do the movie justice. While not groundbreaking, Captain Marvel was quite a lot of fun and was a lot better than what I thought the movie would be.

If you are a fan of the MCU, then you don’t even need to look at my review, go out and see it right now. The first act is a little rough, it’s not bad and the pace is reasonably fast, but it didn’t really have much of my interest. It only sort of picks up as the second act starts, when Captain Marvel arrives on Earth and especially when she starts interacting with Nick Fury. At the halfway point however when certain reveals happen, that’s when the movie considerably improved and I knew that this movie was actually quite good. It’s because of this aspect that manages to separate itself from other MCU origin stories (even though there are some similarities that can be seen). To the movie’s credit, it kept the plot considerably tight. While most of the MCU movie recently have been having runtimes as long as 130 minutes in length, Captain Marvel kept it shorter at 2 hours. While it didn’t have me riveted early in the movie, it felt like every scene here had an actual purpose and moved the plot along. As the movie is in the 90s, there a lot of references to things in the 90s. Most of it was enjoyable but it does occasionally slip into relying on it too much. Another thing I’ve noticed was that this movie tries so hard to link things to the Avengers (in ways that I won’t spoil), many of them are really on the nose but I guess I’ve become used to that after watching 21 of them now. There is one connection which I already know a lot of people don’t like, and while it’s a bit funny, it probably went a little too far and was just silly, and not in a good way. Final note about the story is that it unfortunately feels like a bit of a filler movie. After Infinity War, there needed to be a movie establishing who Carol Danvers is. While they have done that, they really didn’t go further than that. Most of that is to do with the character of Captain Marvel herself, which I’ll get to in a bit. Last thing to say, there was applause at my screening for the opening Marvel credits, and for very good reason. Also be sure to stick around for the mid and post credits scenes.

One of the complaints of the Captain Marvel trailers was that Brie Larson was coming across as being a little bland, and I’ll admit that I could see what they’re talking about. Much like the movie, the trailers really didn’t do her justice because she’s really good here. However, she is a little held back by the writing. Larson performs what she is given and she definitely does well here, very likable and believable enough in the role. However she wasn’t as interesting as I hoped she would be. She was a pretty easy lead to follow and it established her character in a basic way, but it didn’t do more than that, I wasn’t as invested in the story as much as I wanted to be. This is all on the writing however. It works fine enough for her and this movie and isn’t bad by any means. I just have a feeling she’ll be like Thor and Doctor Strange, who were pretty good in their debut appearances in the first solo movies but in later film appearances grew and became much more interesting and better characters. Samuel L. Jackson plays a much younger Nick Fury and actually gets to be one of the main players of the movie, which is nice to see considering that in most of his appearances in the MCU he’s been a supporting role. He’s definitely a very different Fury to what we’ve seen in the past movies but that works for Jackson. The playoff between him and Brie Larson was really entertaining to watch and was among the strongest parts of the movie (no surprise considering how the strongest part of the director’s previous movie Mississippi Grind was the chemistry between the leads Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds, they really do well at character interactions). The scenestealer of the whole movie however was Ben Mendelsohn as the lead Skrull. Mendelsohn is no stranger to villainous characters but this is one of his most standout performances and does a lot here (see for yourself why that’s the case). On a side note I thought the handling of the Skrulls was really great (no spoilers). Other supporting members like Lashana Lynch and Anette Benning play their parts. Jude Law was also good here, however I feel like due to his reasonably important role in the movie we should’ve gotten a little more depth from his character. Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson and Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser were nice to see once again but they really feel just like connectors to the other movies instead of actually having a reason to be in the movie. I mean I guess it made sense showing Coulson given that they are already covering young Nick Fury, but Ronan in this movie could’ve been replaced by any throwaway character, or even just not included in the overall plot.

The only movie I’ve seen from directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck was Mississippi Grind, and their work here was mostly good. The action scenes were a bit of a mixed bag, it’s mostly to do for the editing. The editing for the movie in general was good but it was very hit or miss when it comes to the fight scenes. The biggest example is the advertised train battle scene, and yes the editing is as bad as it looked in that one released clip. I don’t remember the editing in the later action scenes being as bad but I don’t remember them much outside of Captain Marvel unleashing her powers (which are done quite well to be fair). The visuals effects on the whole are quite good and the highlights really were Captain Marvel’s powers shown on screen later in the movie. The most impressive visual effects however was the de-aging effects on Samuel L. Jackson, which I’m going to be quite honest, is so far the best de-aging effects I’ve seen in a movie. Sure, we had Blade Runner 2049 and the Ant Man movies, but those were for like two scenes max, and Nick Fury is present for the whole movie. Very impressive work here. While most of the movie takes place on Earth, I do like the little bit we see of the other locations. The makeup and costumes were also great, from Captain Marvel’s outfit to the makeup of the Skrulls (which do actually work a lot better in the film than how they appeared in the images).

Captain Marvel isn’t one of the best MCU movies but it’s still pretty good. It’s a little rocky to start with and it suffers from feeling like a filler movie, like it’s just there to establish the character for Endgame. Despite some of my issues however, I can’t deny that I had an absolute blast watching this, the performances (particularly from Larson, Jackson and Mendelsohn) were really good, and it does some interesting things with the story that I didn’t see coming. Definitely looking forward to seeing Captain Marvel in Endgame and beyond.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018) Review

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Contains coarse language
Cast:
Constance Wu as Rachel Chu
Henry Golding as Nick Young
Michelle Yeoh as Eleanor Sung-Young
Gemma Chan as Astrid Leong-Teo
Lisa Lu as Shang Su Yi
Awkwafina as Goh Peik Lin
Harry Shum Jr. as Charlie Wu
Ken Jeong as Goh Wye Mun
Director: Jon M. Chu

Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is happy to accompany her longtime boyfriend, Nick (Henry Golding), to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. She’s also surprised to learn that Nick’s family is extremely wealthy and he’s considered one of the country’s most eligible bachelors. Thrust into the spotlight, Rachel must now contend with jealous socialites, quirky relatives and something far, far worse — Nick’s disapproving mother (Michelle Yeoh).

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Crazy Rich Asians was a movie I had been hearing about for some time. Romantic comedies are probably one of my least favourite genres of movies but some of them are great like 500 Days of Summer and The Big Sick. Obviously one of the things that stood out about this movie is that it has a mainly Asian cast and done by a major studio, and so I was interested in checking it out. Crazy Rich Asians is a pretty solid romantic comedy that can feel very familiar to other romantic comedies. However it is definitely something significant for representation, is quite funny, has a lot of heart to it and it is definitely worth checking out.

Crazy Rich Asians is actually based on a book of the same name (which was also followed by two sequels), however I haven’t read it so I can’t really say how the film adaptation differs from the novel. Like I said, this is a romantic comedy, and a lot of the tropes associated with romantic comedies are present here. It’s also not one of the more unpredictable romantic comedies out there and doesn’t really do anything too differently from others (outside of the different culture). Even with a different setting and maybe slightly different characters, it does still feel very familiar a lot of the time. On top of that, I will admit that the first half is nothing too special but decent and it’s the second half is where it picks up. It is genuinely heartfelt however, especially towards the third act. It’s also quite funny (as to be expected) and the dialogue is really good. At 2 hours it does feel a little overly long, I’ve only seen the movie once and I can’t pick any particular scenes to cut out, but there is definitely a length or pacing problem. It’s probably why the film improved in the second half, at that point it picked up in the story a lot.

The whole cast are great in their roles. Constance Wu and Henry Golding are likable as the leads and share some very strong chemistry. Other actors like Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Awkwafina (she in particular is a standout here) and others do great work as well.

Director John M. Chu hasn’t done a lot of great work, the only other film of his that I’ve seen was Now You See Me 2, but he also directed Step Up 2, Step Up 3, Step Up Revolution, GI Joe Retaliation and Jem and the Holograms. However, I think he did a solid job with Crazy Rich Asians. One thing that Crazy Rich Asians really does well is show off the culture really well, from the locations, the music, the food (so much food), all the culture is on display and I’m glad that they really took advantage of that for the movie. The only bad aspect of the direction was that there was one scene early on involving texting/social media with this weird editing and visual effects which really felt out of place from the rest of the movie. You’ll know which one it is and it really stands out but it’s a minor issue nonetheless.

Crazy Rich Asians is funny and heartfelt and worth watching. It’s second half is better than the first, and it’s not that different from other romantic comedies (falling into many of the same tropes and clichés) but overall it’s still good. It’s also undeniably significant with all the representation. I’m glad to hear that there is a sequel in the works already, and I’m on board for it.