Raya and the Last Dragon Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Raya and the Last Dragon is pure magic. From the second we meet young Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) and her father, Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) there is an instant connection to them. The father/daughter storylines always get me emotional and incredibly invested in the story. Raya learned so much from her father, from fighting techniques, to leadership, to uniting people. The story is quite simple, Raya must go on a quest to retrieve five pieces of a whole, in order to unify Kumandra and bring the dragons back. In doing so, Raya meets such fun, wonderful characters along the way, that make the adventure so engaging!

The beauty of Raya and the Last Dragon is South Asian representation. On Raya’s quest, we learn so much about her culture and traditions. The animation was stunning and the score that accompanied the film, especially during action sequences, worked incredibly well. Raya, ventures out to find the last dragon with her sidekick Tuk-Tuk (who is the first cute character we fall in love with) and we get to explore each kingdom with her. Along the way, Raya finds Sisu (Awkwafina), Tong (Benedict Wong), Boun (Izaac Wang) and Little Noi (Thalia Tran). All of these characters have all lost someone dear to them because of the Drunn, which are sinister monsters that threatened their land.

Featuring Kelly Marie Tran as the voice of Raya and Awkwafina as the voice of Sisu, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Raya and the Last Dragon” will be in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on March 5, 2021. © 2021 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

As Raya meets these new characters, she has to learn to trust them and that is the 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. After losing her father, to the Drunn, she couldn’t trust anyone else in the kingdom and travelled alone. The film has a great message and a lesson to be learned about how to trust again. This entire voice cast did a fantastic job and the animation for their characters was so great! They came together as a family, to help each other through the grieving and they delivered such heartfelt moments.

Raya and the Last Dragon is absolutely delightful and will make you fall in love with all the characters. What impressed me the most about Raya, was the fighting sequences because of how sleek they were. The combination of martial art techniques were used so effectively and added so much to Raya’s character. Many people will appreciate this story and what Walt Disney Animation did with it. They couldn’t have picked a better voice cast to bring this story to life. Awkwafina was such a knockout as Sisu and she should definitely do more animated films!

Raya and the Last Dragon drops on Disney Plus premier access on March 5th!

Flora And Ulysses Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The magic of Disney is still incredibly powerful and shouldn’t be forgotten. What Walt Disney has created is a home for hopes and dreams. Whether you are a full blown adult, looking for a little bit of magic, or a little kid experiencing the Disney magic for the first time, these films will warm your heart. What is so wonderful about Flora & Ulysses is that it incorporates the big draw right now – comic book films – and combines it with Flora’s journey in finding a squirrel who has superpowers. Young Flora (Matilda Lawler) is trying her best to stay connected to her father (Ben Schwartz) after he separated from her mother (Alyson Hannigan).

You may think the star of the film would be the squirrel with superpowers – Ulysses is pretty cool – but Lawler’s performance is what held this together. The film may have dragged on a bit at certain parts but her hopeful, compassionate spirit is what carried the film. Within the first couple of minutes of meeting Flora, you will remember what it is like to be a kid again. Flora had a love for Incandesto and comic books. She loved superheroes because her dad was a comic book artist and she learned a lot from him. She applied the hopefulness and love from these comics to her everyday life but soon realized that reality wasn’t quite the same.

Matilda Lawler as Flora and Ulysses the squirrel in FLORA & ULYSSES, exclusively on Disney+

This hits quite hard, because as children, we all dreamed of the life we would want. We all thought of bigger and better things for ourselves. We were taught to dream big. And now that we got to a position in our lives, where the dream was has somewhat come true, it is not all it is cracked up to be. So we learn to take small the small wins as a positive and twist our reality to suit our dreams. Flora & Ulysses reminds us to look at our life and appreciate what we have, even if it is not what we thought it would be. That is the real story. Of course, the special effects with the flying squirrel was really fun and the humour that came with the family comedy worked really well.

Flora & Ulysses was a very fun watch and will bring you back to your playful childhood. This is a Disney film through-and-through. There were some jokes that I didn’t expect them to make that had me laughing. The whole cast is fun and Ulysses was absolutely adorable. The special effects for Ulysses actually impressed me and it brought the magic squirrel to life in a fun way. The film is wholesome, funny and enjoyable to sit through because of Matilda Lawler! If you want to have some fun and feel some Disney magic, you can catch this on Disney Plus, February 19th.

Soul Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Soul is the perfect film to end the year with. It is an animated film that reinstates the meaning of life and the purpose we serve in the world. It is beautifully animated because Pixar has perfected their rendering technology to make everything lifelike. The story is well-written and is incredibly heartfelt. Everyone has dreams or goals they want to accomplish at a certain time in their life. While trying to achieve those goals, they forget to live their lives.

This movie is one of the most important pieces to come out this year. I think everyone has lost themselves a bit during this pandemic. For the majority of this year people have reevaluated their lives and how they live. While watching Soul you will gain a new appreciation for life because director, Pete Docter shows us how wonderful the small things in life are through a character named, 22 (Tina Fey). We often question what our purpose in life is and as we try to navigate our way through this journey, we lose sight of the small things that can make us happy.

Courtesy of Pixar and Walt Disney Pictures

Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a music teacher at his local school and he has one student in his class that has soul when she plays the trombone. She loves playing and Joe can tell that it comes from such a special place. He knows that she was meant to play that instrument, much like his connection to playing piano. Joe is a wonderful music teacher because he believes in the connectivity and the artistic nature of music. There’s a feeling one has when connecting to art, it’s a special feeling and Docter presents it so well. The score from Reznor and Ross elevated the animation and will bring you into the atmosphere Docter created. It is a film that you will lose yourself in because of how stunning it is.

Courtesy of Pixar and Walt Disney Pictures

Soul is emotional and incredibly moving because it has conversations about the choices people make in their lives. What makes us fully formed people? Why do we have the need to find a purpose in life and if we don’t we consider ourselves failures? These are internal struggles that we have all faced, time and time again. There is one scene in a barbershop that I absolutely loved because of the conversation about career paths and life struggles. Life doesn’t always deal the best cards and everyone has to find a path that suits their situation, even if you stray away from your dreams.

The meaning of life isn’t something that can be explained, or even found, there is no answer to the age old question. Humans are placed on Earth to live, to simply exist, while experiencing the wonders life has to offer. Soul will make you appreciate all the memories you have, whether you remember your first bite of pizza ever, the first time waves crashed over your feet at the beach, or the first time you experienced a sunset, those small moments made an impact. That is why life is worth living. It’s not slaving away at your job, it’s not struggling to find your purpose, it’s simply living and that’s a beautiful sentiment.

Mulan (2020) Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Disney has given us another live action film from their vault and it is completely different, than what anyone had in mind. To some, the change of pace can be seen as refreshing, honest to the cultural story and beautifully shot. On the other hand, it can also be seen as a very bland, uninteresting, heartless reconstructed version of the Mulan we know and love.

The film lacks any emotional connection to Mulan (Yifei Liu) because her performance was so wooden and lifeless. The fact that her journey as a woman is completely stripped in this film, is what turned me off. The whole point of her story, is to see her grow into the woman she wants to become, not the ideal, that everyone in her village wants for her. I feel like that entire journey was lost because the story focused on the army, instead of her.

The cinematography is probably the best part of the entire film because there were some beautiful shots, but everything else was lacking. The first act felt rushed and yet the story also dragged on. There were quick cuts during action sequences, which made it difficult to understand what was happening. The VFX that was used looked like it was unfinished and at some points, it seemed like the green screen was visible.

It was really hard to get into a film that didn’t have any substance, it just felt weaker than the other live action films and I really wish I enjoyed it. I loved that there is representation on screen. It was great to see Asian culture depicted properly, and on such a grand scale, but I just couldn’t get into the film at all. I just wish there was better dialogue and a stronger story.

Mulan is a bland restructured version of the animated film we all know and love. The heart of Mulan is stripped away in this film and the acting is unconvincing. The tight combat scenes are executed well but the poor editing, creates plenty of issues for the film as a whole. It is always hard not to compare it to the animated film because so many of us grew up only knowing that version.

These live action films are very tricky to adapt because of our connection to the material. Animation is a beautiful medium on its own, so naturally people will be overly critical of a live action adaptation. In this case, Mulan is a completely different version because its focus is on what she can do for her country, instead of discovering who she is inside.

BLACK IS KING Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Black Is King is an intricate, personal and deeply moving visceral album, that revised the old tale of The Lion King. Beyoncé Knowles – Carter represents the roots of Black culture and history through the tale of Simba, a young Lion who is the heir to the throne. The representation of a young Black child, next in line, to be King, in his own bloodline, was incredibly moving. It is about family values, loving your heritage and passing all that down to the next generation.

Beyoncé is, and will always be, the best and most brilliant artist of our generation because she has developed a higher level of Entertainment. She is on another level of genius through the medium of music and as a visual storyteller. Her direction, among the other extremely talented directors that created this beautiful piece, including; Emmanuel Adjei, Pierre Debusschere, Jenn Nkiru, Ibra Ake, Dikayl Rimmasch, Jake Nava and Kwasi Fordjour. They all brought different styles and presented beautiful symmetry through dimensional art pieces throughout the film.

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Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios 

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Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios 

The songs are really empowering and uplifting, it is a wonderful way to tell different stories and it seems as if Beyoncé has mastered that, as we were first introduced to her style in Lemonade. She is a perfectionist and it shows through her art and the fact that she has presented this elevated level of storytelling, at this point in her career, shows that she is not stopping and will continue to excel. She has pushed the boundaries for Black creatives and has given a stunning visceral album about Black culture, that spans across the globe.

Black Is King is a perfect visual album and Beyoncé is the Entertainer of the Decade with everything that she has accomplished. This piece is so meticulous and vibrant because of her detail in the costume design and production for each video. It is pieced together with poems and voice overs from The Lion King  (2019) and it revamps the story to fit it’s true, original form, that it was intended to be through Black heritage.