‘Raya and the Last Dragon’? More Like ‘Raya and the Dragon-Who-Can’t-Stop’!

Leave a comment

Raya and the Last Dragon (CREDIT:
Walt Disney Animation Studios/YouTube Screenshot)

Starring: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Izaac Wang, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Thalia Tran, Lucille Soong, Alan Tudyk

Directors: Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: PG

Release Date: March 5, 2021

Now that I’ve seen Raya and the Last Dragon, do I want a dragon of my own? It doesn’t have to be a “last” dragon, but I guess if that’s all that available… Anyway, if she’s voiced by Awkwafina, I won’t complain. In fact, that’s a positive in my book! She’s good company. That’s probably my most positive takeaway about this movie. Sisu’s a friend to all, as she’s been imbued with the personality of the lady who voices her, i.e., one of our favorite current Queens-bred rapper-actor-comedians. And I’m also happy to report that friendship ultimately shines through brilliantly in this flick, even with creatures who initially seem like they’re going to be enemies. That’s great news in a world in which magic objects can turn people to stone. You suddenly find yourself alone, but next thing you know, a dragon’s your best friend.

Also, the music reminds me of Woodkid’s “Run Boy Run,” a song that’s had a surprisingly strong pop cultural impact.

Grade: 3 out 5 Credit Purchases

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Blindspotting’ is a Little Messy, But It Has Plenty to Say About Violence and Gentrification

1 Comment

CREDIT: Ariel Nava/Lionsgate

This review was originally published on News Cult in July 2018.

Starring: Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Ethan Embry

Director: Carlos López Estrada

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: R for Confrontational Profanity and Intense Physical Violence

Release Date: July 20, 2018 (Limited)

Are we defined by the most extreme moments in our lives? Please, somebody, tell Blindspotting, because it would like to know!

Longtime friends and Oakland, California natives Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal star as longtime friends and Oakland, California natives Collin and Miles, respectively. They work together at a moving company, managed by Collin’s ex Val (Janina Gavankar). Collin is approaching the end of his probation, his jail stint the result of a violent incident that has forever seared itself on Val’s memory. A central question in Blindspotting is whether or not Val can ever look past Collin at his worst, and looming even wider is the question of whether or not Collin and Miles can look past the version of their hometown that they grew up in.

Gentrification has arrived for every urban area in this country with any hint of trendiness, and Miles could not be more opposed. Collin is more serene about the matter, perhaps because he has more intimate experience with the consequences of myopia. Development efforts may take away local color, but they also can make cities safer. Alas, they often just tuck the danger away into hidden corners, which Blindspotting does not turn its eyes away from. If only gentrification could clean up a population’s morality and make it more compassionate. It is a phenomenon that has its failings, but those failings do not call for as violent a reaction as Miles is predisposed towards. There is a lot of confrontation from all directions in this movie – the challenge is to cut through your blind spots and find the most useful message.

Blindspotting is Recommended If You Like: Daveed Diggs breaking big, Socially conscious sitcoms, Wayne Knight cameos

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Kwik Ways