Movie Reviews 

Raya and the Last Dragon

by Alan Rapp on March 1, 2021

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Raya and the Last Dragon
  • IMDb: link

Raya and the Last Dragon movie reviewThrough an extended opening sequence, heavy on narration, we’re introduced to the divided nation of Kumandra which was once threatened by the film’s underdeveloped boogeyman monsters known as the Druun (think less scary version of the creatures in Edge ofTomorrow). Years later, the last guardian of magic (Daniel Dae Kim) and his daughter Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) are betrayed by the selfishness of humanity as the Druun escape leading Raya in search of the last dragon who was able to stop the Druun centuries before.

After a flashforward restarts the movie again, a handful of years later, we’re introduced to an adult Raya and her search for Sisu (Awkwafina). Raya is a solid addition to the Disney Princess line, even if her movie is hellbent on telling her story as awkwardly as possible at times. Along the way she’ll meet other survivors the Druun haven’t yet turned to stone. As a Disney film, it should be no surprise that we’ll get some cute animal characters as well in Raya’s traveling companion Tuk Tuk (Alan Tudyk) and a band of thieving Ongis who take care of the young Noi (Thalia Tran).

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The Father

by Alan Rapp on February 26, 2021

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Father
  • IMDb: link

The Father movie reviewThe Father offers a view at the world through the eyes of an 83 year-old man (Anthony Hopkins) fighting Alzheimer’s and dementia. Events and characters are jumbled due to Anthony’s (Hopkins) confusion about where he is living, and even the identity of the the people around him who are only sometimes recognizable. Events are often incomplete and shown out of order, to allow the audience to stumble through Anthony’s reality with him before enough is finally revealed to piece together more of his reality than he seems capable of fully understanding.

Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams, Mark Gatiss, Rufus Sewell, and Imogen Poots all come and go throughout the film as Anthony struggles to remember who each is as his frustration leads to anger and resentment. Hopkins is the glue which holds the film together, but each actor adds another level to the Anthony’s distorted world. Director Florian Zeller adapts his own award-winning play Le Père for the screen offering a heartbreaking account of one slowly loosing their grip on reality that is often soul crushing in its honest and bleak examination of dementia and how it affects an individual as well as those around him.

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The Mauritanian

by Alan Rapp on February 25, 2021

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Mauritanian
  • IMDb: link

The Mauritanian movie reviewBased on the true experiences of Mohamedou Ould Salahi (Tahar Rahim) being held by the United States Government for years for suspected ties to 9/11, director Kevin Macdonald‘s film chronicles his stay in Guantanamo Bay and the work of his lawyers (Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley) to earn his release, not because they believe he is innocent but they believe what happened to Salahi was unconstitutional.

The cast is stellar. We also get Benedict Cumberbatch as the prosecutor with personal ties to the case and Zachary Levi as a sort of shady government agent who doesn’t want the methods for extracting information revealed. Much of the film examine how hard it is to go up against the United States Government in court, especially when Federal Agencies have the power to redact and deny information. The film chooses to make Salahi’s innocence, and in some ways the character himself, of secondary importance over a legal argument that almost never sees the inside of a courtroom. It also relies on big shocking emotional reveals not unlike screenwriters call-out both the Government and the people of the United States for their frenzied reaction to 9/11.

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Minari

by Alan Rapp on February 12, 2021

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Minari
  • IMDb: link

Minari movie reviewMinari gives us a look at the American dream through the eyes of a Korean-American family relocating from California to rural Arkansas where Jacob (Steven Yeun) hopes to make his fortune growing and selling Korean vegetables across the region while he and his wife (Yeri Han) temporarily make due with jobs at a nearby hatchery. Although his wife is far from certain about his plan, or their new double-wide mobile home, the family works to put down roots and begin a new life. And life is what Minari is all about.

The semi-autobiographical film by writer/director Lee Isaac Chung showcases the family’s ups and downs in 1980s Arkansas far from anything or anyone that remind them of home. At times amusing, such as dealing with the couple’s rambunctious son David (Alan S. Kim), at times uncomfortable, such as the couple struggles over Jacob’s priorities putting the farm above the family, and at times heartbreaking, as the family struggles with misfortune, Minari is a well-crafted slice of life from an unique perspective that feels lived-in and real. Chung’s love of the time and place is palpable in every scene of the film as he wistfully peers back through the years for home.

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Nomadland

by Alan Rapp on January 29, 2021

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Nomadland
  • IMDb: link

Nomadland movie reviewNomadland is a quiet, contemplative film not unlike Into the Wild or Wild in which a character leaves behind the conventions of society in search of something their former life can no longer offer. In the case of writer/director Chloé Zhao‘s tale, adapted from the book by Jessica Bruder, our character is an older widow who has lost nearly everything in the Great Recession including the home she made with her late husband when the town completely collapsed.

Taking to the road in a van, we travel along with Fern (Frances McDormand), meeting a number of other people in the same position searching for a way to make due with the little they have and hang on to the last of their independence. We discover a large community of the nomads, helping each other learn the tricks to survive. Bruder’s book took an in-depth look at the real nomad culture of older Americans hitting the road in RVs of all shapes and sizes looking for work and a way to get by. We don’t have to guess about the reality of these characters as many people play themselves in the film making Zhao’s tale an unusual blend of dramatic character study and documentary with Fern acting as the audience’s doorway into this world.

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