‘Lightyear’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

“To infinity… and beyond!” 

For those born in 1995 (like myself), Toy Story was something special. Our generation grew up with Andy and his toys. So to see this franchise get bigger and better as the years go on is great. Lightyear has been a long time coming and it makes sense for the Buzz Lightyear toy to have his origin story displayed on the big screen. Yes, this film is made for everyone, but it also felt oddly personal for 90s babies. Maybe, I’m just an emotional person when it comes to Pixar, but this just felt different. It was a weird mix of nostalgia and a brand new story for the Buzz we know and love. What worked so well is that the Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story and the Buzz Lightyear in his origin story both had the same character development. Those callbacks to the toy version made Lightyear special. 

In his original adventure, Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) embarks on an intergalactic adventure with a group of ambitious recruits and his robot companion. The story is straightforward and has many obstacles for Buzz along the way. Lightyear is dedicated to the Space Ranger program and thinks that is what defines him at the beginning of this film. He has his best friend, Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) who is with him every step of the way. And in true Pixar fashion, within seconds, we understand how strong their friendship is. Some beautiful, heartfelt moments between the characters show the importance of having the right support system around you. Once, Alisha’s granddaughter Izzy Hawthorne (Keke Palmer) comes into the mix, the pressure of fulfilling a legacy is also shown. In a way, Izzy and Buzz both help each other understand their place in the world. 

Naturally, when we think of Buzz Lightyear, we think of Tim Allen. But now, hearing Chris Evans voice the original character that the toy is based on, it’s impossible to hear anyone else. Evans has always wanted to be in a Pixar movie and having him play one of the most iconic Pixar characters is perfect casting. Voice acting can be difficult because of the line delivery, but Evans made it seem effortless. It’s almost like you could see him saying the lines as we saw Buzz on screen. He was so expressive and just so wonderful as Lightyear. This works because Evans is such a likable actor and Buzz is an iconic character, so it feels like a comforting combination. Similar to Evans, Keke Palmer was a joy to watch as Izzy and she matched Evans’s energy. Having both of them on two different journeys with one common connection made for an interesting dynamic.

Lightyear has stunning animation that will take you into space with Buzz Lightyear. Pixar has perfected its animation and it has gotten to the point where it seems so lifelike. The scenes in space, especially on an IMAX screen feel so epic in scale. Animation can always push the boundary a bit more than live-action and that’s why it added a different feeling when watching this on the big screen. Even though the story may feel a bit generic, the emotional connection with Buzz and the Hawthornes moves the story along. The one character that will be everyone’s favourite after watching this movie is Sox. He is a little robotic cat, that Alisha got for him as his emotional space companion. Buzz learns to love Sox and the two of them make a great pairing throughout the film. This movie is fun for the whole family and is something old Toy Story fans will appreciate because it will make them feel like a kid again. 

Lightyear will be released in theatres Friday, June 17th. 

‘Sneakerella’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

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.

Sneakerella premieres on Disney Plus on May 13th.

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.

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.