Tag Archives: Kelly Marie Tran

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.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

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.

Raya-and-the-Last-Dragon-Critica-de-Cinema-1-min

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.

4a65a48d879dc5c97cde1d341d118c94_4096x1715_439b7b1c

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.

10349557

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.

a2d5d8c8e7c9c5740ab1955ce44136e7

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.

Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Review

Time: 141 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Adam Driver as Ben Solo/Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Finn
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Naomi Ackie as Jannah
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Richard E. Grant as Allegiant General Pryde
Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata
Keri Russell as Zorii Bliss
Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca
Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico
Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
Director: J.J. Abrams

The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more as Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron’s (Oscar Isaac) journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle commences.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I’m aware that it took a while for this review to come out, I’ve just been a little busy and I felt like I needed to watch this movie twice to be able to collect my thoughts on it before I could write it. Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. Not only was it a Star Wars movie and the finale of this sequel trilogy, it would also essentially conclude the whole Skywalker saga. I really didn’t know what to expect, it was quite a big task that they ahead of them. I’m also not going to lie, some of the initial reactions had me a little worried. Despite some problems I had with it (which I have with every Star Wars movie aside from one), I actually thoroughly liked The Rise of Skywalker as it was.

There’s only so much that I can talk about, I will do my best to keep this review spoiler free as possible. The first act was a little rough. It jumped from place to place, it was jarring, and it just overloaded you with information. Thankfully it does pick up over time. Not that the issues aren’t still there, but it definitely helped watching it again when you know what’s happened in the plot. By the time it reaches the second half, the movie really picks up. The Rise of Skywalker is more plot focussed than character focussed, and the pacing is fast, constantly moving the plot forward in just about every scene. It’s not necessarily a good thing though, as the movie doesn’t really allow for some moments to breathe. In that, this movie really needed to be longer. You’d think that since Disney had Avengers Endgame earlier this year wrapping up a huge storyline in 3 hours, that for a giant conclusion of 3 whole trilogies would be given much more than 2 hours and 20 minutes. Even if those scenes wouldn’t add a lot in terms of plot, it allows time to reflect on what’s happened and not make everything feel so tightly packed. On another note however, it seems that a lot of scenes or aspects have been cut from the movie. For example some details are shown in the visual dictionary of the movie that don’t make it into the final on screen product, and I don’t necessarily mean cut subplots (although that’s also possible), but things that could literally add maybe 5 minutes at most to the runtime, yet add a lot to the movie. For all the reveals that this movie is constantly throwing out, there’s still critical things that aren’t explained, one is a critical part involving Palpatine that I honestly can’t believe didn’t make it into the released movie (if they ever came up with an answer at all). Reveals and answers aside, some of how they are handled them are also a problem at times. It literally felt like some of the characters were just telling the audience what the answers are as quickly as possible, almost like it was in a rush and it wanted to get it out quickly, it felt a little lazy at times honestly.

There have been talks about how The Rise of Skywalker ‘retcons’ parts of The Last Jedi. While I can’t comment on how J.J. Abrams felt about The Last Jedi, I wouldn’t say that it quite does that, although it no doubt would’ve been taken in a very different direction if Rian Johnson made the movie. There’s just a couple of aspects that Abrams seemed to have backpedalled on. One was the unnecessary part with Kylo Ren repairing his mask after he destroyed it early in the last movie. It’s not bad or anything but doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense and really doesn’t add too much to the movie (even if it is a cool looking mask), especially how he keeps taking his mask off anyway. The other is something that I know a lot of people are very split on. The problem about talking about this part is that there’s so much I want to say about this one aspect but I can’t even hint at it too much or I’ll begin to spoil it. What I can say is that I’m mixed about this decision, it ultimately takes things in a less interesting direction for me personally. However, I guess it could’ve been way worse, and looking at that decision separate from the previous movie, I guess I like the idea, and I was able to accept it and follow along with where they took it. On the whole though, I liked most of the plot and the directions they took (key word being most), and there are some great callbacks to the other Star Wars movies. A lot of people throw around the word ‘fanservice’ but for a conclusion of a 9 movie long series, you should be expecting that. I liked most of the ‘fanservice’, and it’s not as obnoxious as say some of what they had in Rogue One or Solo. There are also some great moments and parts to the movie, which I won’t spoil of course. I’m not going to be a conspiracy nut about this movie (yet) but I get the feeling that part of my issues of this movie were things that were caused by problems behind the scenes. For those who don’t know, Colin Trevorrow was attached to direct and co-write but then was fired (or left the movie) over ‘creative differences’, and that’s when J.J. Abrams was brought in to direct and co-write alongside Chris Terrio. However, they kept the same date even though they were already in pre-production when Trevorrow stopped being involved. Now maybe the same choices would’ve been made, but I get the feeling that had they pushed the movie back even a little, parts of the movie would’ve been handled a little better.

The cast generally do a good job in their roles. Daisy Ridley is once again great as Rey, and she’s got quite a lot to do in this movie in particular, and I liked her arc. Even if you’re not satisfied with where they take her character, Ridley more than sells it with her performance. One thing that The Rise of Skywalker does better than the other two was it gave John Boyega and Oscar Isaac a little more to do (though unlike The Last Jedi they didn’t really get arcs of sort, again this is a plot driven movie). Unlike the past two movies, you actually get the trio of Rey, Finn and Poe together, and that was great to watch. Anthony Daniels’s C-3PO is generally a side character in all these 9 Star Wars movies and hasn’t really stood out in them, but for whatever reason he got to do slightly more in the plot of this movie, and even had some standout moments and lines. Adam Driver is once again fantastic as Kylo Ren, and I’m pretty confident in saying that this would be his best performance as the character. Both the performance and the character are great, and truly one of the highlights of this whole sequel trilogy. There was a concern about how they would handle Carrie Fisher’s role of Leia, after Fisher’s death a few years ago. They actually used footage from The Force Awakens to place her in the movie. Some of the ways they used her in some scenes felt a little awkward and you are constantly wondering what the original context of her scenes are, but you can tell that they definitely did the best that they could in a difficult situation, and they pulled it off well enough.

Some of the returning cast unfortunately don’t really get a lot to do in the movie. It was great seeing Billy Dee Williams return as Lando Calrissian, though I would’ve liked to have seen him in the movie a lot more. Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux and Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata also return, but both of them don’t really get much to do. Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico was a prominent supporting character in The Last Jedi, however her role is significantly reduced in this movie, and you feel it more with her than the characters I just mentioned before. It does feel very weird to just reduce her to a background character who really doesn’t get to do much of anything. She could easily be written into being a present supporting character in the movie in at least the first act, but for some reason they deliberately seemed to have given her the bare minimum to do. I’m just hoping it’s not because her character received a lot of ‘backlash’ (to put it mildly) in the last movie. The new cast do well enough. Naomi Ackie and Keri Russell play some supporting roles in the movie and are quite good, however I wish that they could’ve been more in the movie, and I felt like it was possible for them to be involved with the plot than what we got. Richard E. Grant is good as a general in The First Order, and one of the secondary antagonists of the movie. He’s nothing that we haven’t seen before in Star Wars, but Grant does well with what he’s given. I can’t talk too much about Ian McDiarmid as The Emperor for spoilers stake, but I can say that he played the role appropriately. With that said, I had some issues about the Emperor with regard to his involvement with the plot. Let’s just say that he suddenly has a larger part to play in the movie than you’d think based off the teases of him in the trailers, and I have mixed feelings about it. I guess I accepted it, but it could’ve been so much more interesting and inventive than what they ultimately went with. Not to mention it introduces him very quickly and a bunch of information is thrown at us about him that we just have to accept. It probably wouldn’t be so jarring if we knew that he was alive in any of the other two movies.

J.J. Abrams once again directed this very well, delivering on a visually stunning movie. There are so many sequences that are just stunning to watch, with the action being fast paced and rather entertaining. The locations and set pieces are also great, there are some very memorable sequences that stand out amongst the Star Wars movies as a whole. The score by John Williams for the Sequel Trilogy haven’t really lived up to the other Star Wars trilogies (outside of Rey’s Theme, Kylo Ren’s theme, and the Resistance theme) but it’s still pretty good, and that’s the case with this movie as well.

I can’t determine whether or not you’ll like this movie. I can tell that some people who hated The Last Jedi will like The Rise of Skywalker more, and some who love The Last Jedi will dislike The Rise of Skywalker, or at least be bothered by many parts of it. As for myself though, I liked it. I’d say that it’s my least favourite of the sequel trilogy and it has some things that hold it back from being better (I really hope there will be an extended cut released in the future). However, I think there’s a lot of great in here too. The cast are good, it’s directed quite well and visually stunning to watch, and I liked a lot of the ideas that were present, and most of how they ended things. If you are somewhat invested in this storyline, just watch it for yourself whenever you get the chance.

Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi (2017) Review

Time: 152 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Finn
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke
Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma
Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico
Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo
Benicio del Toro as DJ
Director: Rian Johnson

Rey (Daisy Ridley) develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1]

Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. I loved The Force Awakens and with Rian Johnson attached to direct the sequel I was looking forward to where the story would progress. The Last Jedi has what you would typically expect in a good Star Wars movie, great characters and top notch visual effects and action sequences. But it managed to do something that recent Star Wars movies haven’t been able to do: surprise me. It went in directions I didn’t expect. After thinking upon it for a while, The Last Jedi just might be one of the all time best Star Wars movies.

First thing I want to say is to make sure you don’t see any spoilers, I saw none of them before going in and I was surprised by many of the things that happened. For that reason, I can’t go into too much depth about why this movie is great. The story is darker and bleaker than The Force Awakens, yes it is still quite fun, it has very effective humour and it does have its good dose of adorable creatures in the form of Porgs, which are these little penguin hamster creatures (and surprisingly they are actually cute and not annoying). It’s very much still Star Wars. But at the same time it feels like its something different, most people in charge of this film wouldn’t go in this direction with its story and characters. If you felt that The Force Awakens plays it way too safe, I can see you liking The Last Jedi more. I can see this film dividing some audience members with regard to some of the decisions that the story takes but for me, I loved these decisions. I know I’m being very vague when talking about the plot but that’s because in order to do that I would have to go in depth and I just can’t, not in a non-spoiler review at least. As for whether some of these risky decisions should have been made at all, I think that a lot of it will depend on how the story is resolved in episode 9. This movie is 150 minutes long, making it the longest Star Wars movie to date. For the most part it earns its long runtime, and I say for the most part because there is a section which takes place on a planet with Boyega’s Finn and Marie Tran’s Rose that feels rather unnecessary. Outside of that I think most of the plot is great.

The returning cast is great, Daisy Ridley continues to impress as Rey, John Boyega is great as Finn and Oscar Isaac’s Poe gets a lot more to do here. Regardless of what you think about the character of Snoke, there’s no denying that Andy Serkis acted so well, this time we see Snoke in his non-holographic form and Serkis is so fantastic in his scenes. Carrie Fisher is as usual great as Leia and yes, she does have her chance to shine in certain moments. Carrie Fisher will be sorely missed. We also get some newcomers. Kelly Marie Tran is really good and likable in her role, if I can understand correctly this is the first real film that she’s been in and she does such a great job here. Laura Dern is also quite good in her role. If there’s a weak link, it’s Benicio del Toro’s character, Benicio is quite good in the role but the character feels like he could be played by anyone and wasn’t that memorable and didn’t feel that necessary. If I was to pinpoint the two stand outs of the whole film, I’d say that it’s Mark Hamill and Adam Driver. Mark Hamill is fantastic as Luke Skywalker, Luke has clearly been through a lot and has changed as a result from Kylo’s turn to the darkside and the guilt that he feels for it. He’s less hopeful and he’s not quite what you’d expect him to be but you can tell it’s still Luke, not just a grumpy old Mark Hamill. Not only is this the best Hamill has been as Luke Skywalker, it is also the best he’s ever been in a live action film. With regard to some of the polarising decisions of the film, many of them surround him, that’s all I’ll say. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren was one of the highlights of The Force Awakens and he was a highlight once again here. He’s even more conflicted and unstable now due him killing his father in episode 7 (if you haven’t watched The Force Awakens you really shouldn’t be reading this review by the way) and watching his journey was intriguing. Kylo Ren is almost at Darth Vader’s level in terms of Star Wars villains. Really everyone is great here, and they all get to have at least one moment to shine.

Rian Johnson directed this film excellently. The visual effects are incredible, there wasn’t a moment that stood out to me as being out of place in terms of CGI. The cinematography… I’m just going to say it, out of all the Star Wars films, The Last Jedi has the best cinematography. There are countless beautifully shot sequences, all of them fantastic. All the action sequences are great and I’d consider most of them to be amongst the best in the Star Wars series. It succeeded so well at making these sequences feel incredibly tense. The only sequence that felt out of place was the one I mentioned earlier with Finn and Rose, and even then that’s more to do with tone and how unnecessary it felt. The score by John Williams was also great, while his score for The Force Awakens was fine, it was below the quality of most of the other Star Wars scores. Here with the Last Jedi it’s absolutely great and it adds so much to the scenes.

Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi wasn’t what I was expecting, along with being fun and entertaining, it is much more, it makes decisions that will divide its audience and for it to be this risky, I have to give Rian Johnson a lot of props. The story was so different from what I was expecting and without giving anything away, I loved it. I personally loved almost everything in this movie, all but one or two aspects. I’m going to say this now, The Last Jedi is in my top 2 favourite Star Wars movies. This movie is already dividing some audiences, even those who liked it have some aspect that they aren’t entirely sure about. So I say this, avoid all spoilers and just go into the movie with no expectations, even if some of the decisions are different, just be willing enough to go with it. And don’t try to predict where the story is going, because you won’t. I couldn’t be happier with this film and I’m now waiting with anticipation and nervousness to see whether Episode 9 will deliver a solid conclusion to the new Star Wars trilogy.