Everyone believes in something, and some people truly believe in fairytales. What Disney has taught young children everywhere is that if you do have a dream, you should always push forward and fight for what you want most. It’s not about the kingdom, or winning the affection of a prince or princess, it has always been about achieving your own personal goals, no matter what they may be. Of course, life comes with many obstacles that one must overcome, but those obstacles just make you stronger in the end. It’s nice to know that Disney will continue reworking these old fairytales to modernize them for a new generation. That way there’s always an appreciation for these wholesome, heartfelt stories.
In Sneakerella, we meet El (Chosen Jacobs), who is an aspiring sneaker designer from Queens. He works as a stock boy in the shoe store that once belonged to his late mother. He hides his artistic talent from his overburdened stepfather and two mean-spirited stepbrothers. When El meets Kira King (Lexi Underwood), the daughter of the legendary basketball star and sneaker tycoon Darius King (John Salley), sparks fly as the two of them bond over their mutual affinity for sneakers. With a little nudge from his best friend Sami (Devyn Nekoda) and a sprinkle of Fairy Godfather magic, El finds the courage to use his talent to pursue his dream of becoming a ‘legit’ sneaker designer in the industry.
The film caters to the talents of Chosen Jacobs, who will easily become a young Disney star. His voice, acting abilities, and great dance moves made him shine in every scene. Even though this film is reworked from the original story and slightly altered like A Cinderella Story was, it still felt original. It felt like a modern-day story that works in favour of new-age technology to get the classic story to work. The use of social media worked for the most part, but like any millennial, we know it’s easy to find someone by searching for them in every possible way, by using keywords. It worked and it didn’t, but it was still fun to watch. Jacobs and Underwood had really sweet chemistry, which made their duets adorable to watch.
Sneakerella had some strong moments because of the beautiful lyrics in the songs that were written specifically for this film. Even though the story of Cinderella has been remade over and over again, it was nice to see this modern take for a new generation. The link to El’s past with his mother being the heart of their neighbourhood carried emotional weight throughout the film. He just wanted to pursue his dream of making sneakers to make his mom proud and carry on her legacy in his way. It is heartfelt and sweet, even though the film does drag a bit in the last half. Some of the schemes went on for too long making the ending feel like a bit of a drag. The music and choreography are what make this film enjoyable and, of course, the performance from Chosen Jacobs.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
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.
After nearly a decade, since Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was released in 2003, there has been confirmation from Disney that there will be, not one reboot, but TWO reboots, of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. One is a stand-alone film in the Pirates franchise and it is not considered a sequel, reboot or spin-off. Margot Robbie is set to star and Birds of Prey screenwriter Christina Hodson, is set to write the screenplay. The other film, is in fact, a spin-off, which was rumoured as a Disney+ series. It has a $100 million budget and is headed by Chernobyl creator, Craig Mazin and Ted Elliot (who wrote for the previous Pirate franchise), in order to take it in a fresh direction.
Here is the thing, Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the most solid, live action, Disney adventure films, that they have in their library. The women in the franchise, have always elevated the story, especially Pirate King Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). The others that come to mind, are Anamaria (Zoe Saldana), Tia Dalma or Calypso (Naomie Harris), Angelica (Penélope Cruz) and Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario). They have all made their mark on screen, there have been women at the forefront, in each of the Pirates films, so to make two spin-offs, that are female led, discredits the work these women put into their roles.
It is a franchise that cannot function without Captain Jack Sparrow, Elizabeth Swann or Will Turner and I will stand by that. After having a marathon of the five films myself. I can honestly say, that whatever Disney attempts to do with these female led reboots, they will never come close to what they had almost 20 years ago. The way Disney makes their films now, is completely different than how they made them 20 years ago and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Their storytelling has changed and it seems that they cannot create a darker atmosphere for their films anymore. It is always light hearted fun and the characterizations are at surface value.
While watching The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), I felt an instant wave of nostalgia and I was surprised, that I watched this as a young child because the film is scary. It has this dark, eerie, ghost story feel to it, from the very beginning. Verbinski managed to hook you within the very first scene and make you want to learn all about Pirate mythology. The story is pretty haunting for a young child to watch, as the curse makes Pirates, who are aboard the Black Pearl, change into skeletons when there is a full moon. The special effects were so well done, it still blows my mind to this day, that everything was smoothly rendered. It was not a film for young children, whatsoever, but it is still in the Disney library.
Dead Man’s Chest (2006) is my favourite out of the entire saga. It takes all we have learned from the first instalment and amplified it by 100. The action sequences, side deals and manipulation, made a great impression on so many people. The CGI for Davy Jones was exceptional and Bill Nighy gave a solid performance. Jones and his whole crew, were horrific sea creatures and it was so well done. Each movement that was rendered, felt so lifelike and authentic, that it still gives me nightmares. The battles between ships were also elevated and the design for ‘The Flying Dutchman’ was perfect. Not only was this a perfect sequel, but it had one of the best cliffhangers of the decade.
It bumped the stakes going into the third instalment At World’s End (2007) and kept us waiting for an entire year. The score is probably Hans Zimmer’s best Pirate score to date because of the heart thumping undertones, that he used throughout for Davy Jones’ theme. It was really effective and it did not overpower the classic Pirates theme. Heading into the third one, Captain Jack Sparrow is in the depths of Davy Jones’ locker. While Will, Elizabeth and the rest of the crew head to Tia Dalma’s, to find out Commodore Barbossa is still alive. Everyone wants to save Jack and bring him back, but they need to travel to the ends of the world to go save him.
At World’s End is such an exciting final instalment to the trilogy because it explores all the Pirate Lords, who hold one of the nine pieces. The Pirate mythology is so well thought out and presented in Singapore. Everyone is pretty much a Pirate in this film, including former Commodore James Norrington. Lord Cutler Beckett also became a fantastic villain with the East India Trading Company because he wanted to abolish piracy forever. We are also introduced to the Brethren Court in Singapore with Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fat), who is the Pirate Lord of the South China Sea. There were so many big players and moving pieces in this, which made for one of the most exhilarating third acts for a third instalment.
Gore Verbinski’s trilogy was so well written because they had a clear plan from the start. You could see the foreshadowing and where the story was going to go after each film. That is how you set up a trilogy. There was always anticipation for the next film because of how invested you became in these characters. The most impressive character arc, in this whole trilogy is Elizabeth Swann’s, she broke free from her role as Governor’s daughter, learned how to deal with pirates and the high seas, leading her to eventually become a Pirate Lord! Talk about amazing character development. If you really look at this trilogy, the focus may have been on Captain Jack Sparrow, but the underdog in all this, that truly stole the spotlight was Elizabeth Swann because you do grow to love her.
The trilogy is perfect on it’s own. So when Disney pressed for a fourth instalment with On Stranger Tides (2011), nearly five years later, directed by Rob Marshall, it felt like it was an afterthought. At the end of the third one, they did allude to the fountain of youth and that Captain Jack wanted to travel there. They did leave it open ended but the only flaw in this film, was that Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann did not return with Jack. Instead we are introduced to Angelica (Penélope Cruz), who felt like a mirror of Jack, which was very fun to play with. It was also a Blow (2001) reunion for Cruz and Depp.
In this journey, Captain Jack Sparrow loses his first mate Gibbs and has a run in with King George the Second, who insists that he should guide him on an expedition to the fountain of youth. We then see that Commodore Barbossa has joined the British navy and will join Jack. His old flame Angelica, has been impersonating him this whole time and Jack finds out that she is the daughter, of the infamous Captain Blackbeard (Ian McShane) who uses voodoo magic and wields the ‘Mythical Sword of Triton’ to control his ship, the ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’.
It was a fun movie and they did want to see, if they could make a side journey, without Will and Elizabeth but it just seemed empty without them. It is always great to explore different characters like Syrena (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey), who was the first mermaid that we had seen in the franchise and to see various Pirates from mythology. It wasn’t the strongest Pirates film but we did get to know Jack a bit more, even though the writing for him in this one was weaker than the previous instalments.
The final and fifth instalment in the Pirates trilogy, was Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017), directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, which takes place six years after the fourth film. Will and Elizabeth return to save the franchise. It is now thirteen years after At World’s End and their son, Henry Turner is now aboard ‘The Flying Dutchman’ with his father. Apparently he knows of a way, to break the curse, that binds his father to the ship and needs to seek out Captain Jack Sparrow for help. In order to help his father, he needs the ‘Trident of Poseidon’ and ventures to ‘The Devil’s Triangle’.
All the big players come back and we are introduced to yet, another Pirate, Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), who is the undead Captain of the ‘Silent Mary’. Henry somehow joins the British Navy, in order to find the Devil’s Triangle and runs into Salazar. He then has a message for Jack Sparrow, that he is, in fact, going after him. Carina is on trial for being a witch, but is simply a young astronomer and horologist, who makes a quick escape and runs into Jack. It is a bit convoluted but the one thing the Pirates franchise does well, is develop their characters enough to make you like them.
Loose ends are definitely tied up, as the Turner family is reunited, Barbossa finds his long lost daughter and Jack is reunited with his crew, his ship and his love for adventure on the high seas. It was possibly the only way to end this franchise on a high note, while still leaving a little bit of mystery in the post credit scene, with the connection that Davy Jones and Will Turner share.
The Pirates franchise as a whole, is a fantastic adventure franchise, when you see how they handle their characters. The original trilogy is done so well, that it definitely can make you forget the final two instalments. It is such a great franchise and I think a reboot, spin-off or even a sequel is not the greatest idea because the momentum is gone. It will always be treasured and I think developing new, original, adventure films with women at the forefront is the better way to go. We all know that everyone will be comparing these reboots to its predecessor and that’s harmful for female led films.
Disney has changed drastically and has only been focusing on remaking the films they already have in their library. Yes, you can perceive it as making content for a new generation but I was raised on their older classics and I loved them just as much. Like many other films that shouldn’t be touched, this is one of them because I personally think it is too soon to flip this script and not have the original cast present because they are the ones that made it iconic. I highly recommend giving these films a rewatch because they do hold up years later.