Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

Raya and the Last Dragon
Director: Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada
Writer: Qui Nguyen, Adele Lim
Cast: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Izaac Wang, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Lucille Soong, Alan Tudyk, Dichen Lachman, Sung Kang
Seen on: 2.6.2021

Plot:
There used to be one country called Kumandra. But after a terrible plague, the Druun, that turned everybody it touched to stone, and that could only be stopped with the dragons – who all turned to stone themselves – the country split into five realms: Fang, Tail, Talon, Heart and Spine. The last of the dragon powers in form of a stone is in Heart, guarded by King Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) and his daughter Raya (Kelly Marie Tran). Benja would like to bring the five realms together again, but his plans don’t come to fruition. Instead, the magic stone is broken and the Druun return. There is only one hope for Raya now: finding Sisu (Awkwafina), the last dragon who supposedly was just lost and not turned to stone.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a beautifully animated, emotionally touching film. It is pretty much what you hope for when you go to watch a Disney princess film – an absolutely satisfying experience.

The film poster showing Raya standing in the middle, with Sisu above her. The rest of the image is separated in five parts, four representing one of the film countries and the fifth showing Raya and Namaari charging each other.
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Frozen II (2019)

Frozen II
Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Writer: Jennifer Lee
Based on (or rather inspired by): Hans Christian Andersen‘s fairy tale The Snow Queen
Sequel to: Frozen
Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton, Jason Ritter, Rachel Matthews, Jeremy Sisto, Alan Tudyk, Ciarán Hinds
Seen on: 18.12.2019

Content Note: (critical treatment of) colonialism, racism

Plot:
Anna (Kirsten Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) lifted the curse off Arendelle and Elsa has risen to the throne, making an excellent queen. But when things finally seem to be okay, a voice starts calling Elsa – a voice only she can hear. It beckons her, but it’s only after strange – and threatening – things start happening in Arendelle that Elsa resolves to go. She knows she has to find a forest that used to be the kingdom of Northuldra and the place where her own grandfather was killed by the natives. And Anna knows that she will not let her sister go on any mission alone anymore. So they start making their way north together with Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Sven, and Olaf (Josh Gad) to rediscover history.

Frozen II feels very in tune with the first Frozen film, though personally I found the music not quite up to snuff. No matter, though, because the themes the film tackles more than make up for it: surprisingly heavy for a children’s film, they still handle them mostly well.

The film poster showing the main characters and smaller Elsa doing some ice magic.

[SPOILERS]

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Aladdin (2019)


Aladdin
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writer: John August, Guy Ritchie
Remake of: Aladdin
Cast: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Jordan A. Nash, Taliyah Blair, Aubrey Lin, Amir Boutrous, Numan Acar, Alan Tudyk
Seen on: 24.6.2019

Content Note: orientalism, brownfacing

Plot:
Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is poor and often has to steal to survive. When he meets a handmaiden of the Princess at the market, he takes a liking to her, not knowing the handmaiden is actually Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) herself. When he visits her in the palace, he is caught and the king’s advisor Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) realizes that Aladdin is just the man he needs to retrieve a magic lamp from an enchanted cave. Things don’t work out the way either man thought, and it’s Aladdin who ends up with the Genie (Will Smith) who resides in the lamp and promises Aladdin that he can win Jasmine – with his help.

Aladdin was generally unnecessary as a remake. The old one would have continued to be enough. But since they did it, at least it is entertaining – if you can look past the fact that it’s still pure orientalism.

The film poster showing Alddin (Mena Massoud) holding a magic lamp in his hands, a monkey on his shoulder. Behind him are Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and the Genie (Will Smith), as well as a small Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). Below him is a flying capret and treasure.
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Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Ralph Breaks the Internet
Director: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore
Writer: Phil Johnston, Pamela Ribon
Sequel to: Wreck-It Ralph
Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill, Sean Giambrone, Flula Borg, Timothy Simons, li Wong, June Squibb, Dianna Agron, Jason Mantzoukas, Vin Diesel, Nicole Scherzinger, Irene Bedard, Kristen Bell, Jodi Benson, Auli’i Cravalho, Jennifer Hale, Kate Higgins, Linda Larkin, Kelly Macdonald, Idina Menzel, Mandy Moore, Paige O’Hara, Pamela Ribon, Anika Noni Rose, Ming-Na Wen
Seen on: 30.1.2019
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Plot:
The arcade is going rather well and Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) enjoy being best friends. But Vanellope is starting to get increasingly bored with the limitations of her game. When Ralph tries to help, things don’t go as he planned and Vanellope finds herself with a broken game. In an attempt to find the necessary replacement, Ralph and Vanellope go into the internet – which opens a whole new world for them. But one that isn’t without its pitfalls, either.

Wreck-It Ralph was already a whole lot of fun, and Ralph Breaks the Internet did take things up a notch for me – simply because the internet is much more my area of “expertise” than computer games. I really, really enjoyed it.

The film poster showing Ralph standing on a wife sign that floats through a city filled with social media icons. Vanellope is standing on his shoulder.
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Deadpool 2 (2018)

Deadpool 2
Director: David Leitch
Writer: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds
Based on: Rob Liefeld and writer Fabian Nicieza‘s comic character
Sequel to: Deadpool
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, Karan Soni, Eddie Marsan, Stefan Kapicic, Brianna Hildebrand, Shioli Kutsuna, T.J. Miller, Leslie Uggams, Lewis Tan, Bill Skarsgård, Terry Crews, Brad Pitt, Alan Tudyk, Matt Damon, Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy, Evan Peters, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alexandra Shipp
Seen on: 8.6.2018

Plot:
After his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) is killed, Wade Wilson aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) unravels. His life is literally shot to pieces and it’s Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) who puts him back together again. Reluctantly, Wade agrees to kind of join the X-Men and tries to help with an out of control mutant, Russell Collins aka Firefist (Julian Dennison). But Russell doesn’t really want help and things are more complicated than they look anyway when Cable (Josh Brolin) turns up and claims to be from the future and that he needs to stop Firefist to avert catastrophe.

I enjoyed the first Deadpool movie, but I wasn’t completely enthusiastic about it, so my expectations for this one were rather mild and while Deadpool 2 doesn’t surpass them, it does stay on the same level as the first one: Fun in many ways but some things don’t work that well for me.

Film poster for Deadpool, showing him in the famous pose from Flashdance, only instead of water falling on him, it's bullets.
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42 (2013)

42
Director: Brian Helgeland
Writer: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Chadwick BosemanHarrison FordNicole BeharieChristopher MeloniRyan MerrimanLucas BlackAndré HollandAlan TudykHamish Linklater
Seen on: 20.4.2017

Plot:
It is 1946. Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) is an excellent baseball player, but confined to the underfinanced, underrecognized and generally looked down upon Negro League due to the color of his skin. But Jackie is also not somebody who accepts things as they are, so when he is approached by Brooklyn Dodgers exec Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) to play as the first black player in the Major League, he takes the chance. But unfortunately not everyone sees Jackie’s potential, most of the people only see the color of his skin – and they are not happy about it.

Baseball is not really my thing, but learning about racism is definitely something I’m trying to do, so I decided to give 42 a chance. And it is a decent, albeit not groundbreaking and surprisingly white film with a fantastic Boseman in the lead.

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Moana (2016)

Moana aka Vaiana
Director: Ron ClementsJohn Musker, Don Hall, Chris Williams
Writer: Jared Bush
Cast: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk
Seen on: 3.1.2017

Plot:
Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) has always been happy on her island, but curious about the sea that surrounds it as well. But nobody on her island really ventures out to sea. But then an ancient curse starts to affect their island, a curse set into motion by the demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson). Moana knows that she has to do something about it: she has to find Maui and make sure that he makes things right. And that means leaving the island.

Moana is a beautifully animated film with absolutely fantastic movie. There are some issues but I was able to really fall into the film regardless.

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Rogue One (2016)

Rogue One
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writer: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Guy Henry, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits, James Earl Jones, Daniel Mays, Geraldine James, Warwick Davis, Michael Smiley
Part of/Sidequel/Prequel to: Star Wars
Seen on: 18.12.2016

Plot:
There are rumors that the Empire is building a great new weapon, called the Death Star. The Rebel Alliance has caught wind of that and hatches a plan to steal the plans for that weapon as they heard that there was a structural weakness that they may use to destroy it. They believe that Jyn (Felicity Jones) may be the key to success as her father (Mads Mikkelsen) seems to be involved with the planning. But Jyn hasn’t seen her father in 15 years and she’s also not all that interested in helping the Alliance. But they do reach a deal and Jyn finds herself accompanying pilot Cassian (Diego Luna) on the mission.

I will probably never be super excited about Star Wars – it’s just not my franchise. But I did enjoy Rogue One a whole lot, despite a couple of lengths it suffered from.

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Trumbo (2015)

Trumbo
Director: Jay Roach
Writer: John McNamara
Based on: Bruce Alexander Cook‘s biography of Dalton Trumbo
Cast: Bryan CranstonMichael StuhlbargDiane LaneHelen MirrenAlan TudykLouis C.K.Sean BridgersAdewale Akinnuoye-AgbajeElle FanningJohn GoodmanDean O’GormanChristian Berkel
Seen on: 17.3.2016

Plot:
Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) is an immensely successful screen writer and at the height of his career – when his affiliation with the Communist Party means that he gets caught up in a political witch hunt and is finally imprisoned and put on a blacklist. And he’s not the only one affected – his family suffers, too, as do quite a few colleagues who also get branded as communists. Unable to work officially, he devises a plan how he and his colleagues may ensure their livelihoods.

Trumbo is pretty much how you’d expect it. It’s expertly crafted and tells an interesting story very well. But it plays everything so safe, it’s hard to get excited about it.

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Zootopia (2016)

Zootopia
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Writer: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, Shakira, Kristen Bell (in a small cameo)
Seen on: 13.3.2016

Plot:
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) has always dreamed of becoming a police officer. And although there has never been a bunny police officer before, she fights her way through the academy and into active duty in the capital – only to be relegated to doling out parking tickets. But even then she promptly finds con man Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), although she can’t actually arrest him. But when carnivores start going crazy and threaten the peace of Zootropolis, Judy realize that there are bigger fish to fry – and that she needs Nick’s help to catch them.

Zootopia is a sweet, funny, entertaining film that might not be quite as progressive as it thinks it is. But that’s debatable and it certainly is very good to watch.

zootopia

[SPOILERS]

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