The question of nature vs. nurture is a tempting one to ask. Does our upbringing dictate who we are and what we believe? Or is it our perception of ourselves and the world around us?
Cruella was released yesterday on DisneyPlus. Estella/Cruella De Vil (played by Tipper Seifert-Cleveland as a child and Emma Stone as an adult) has been a rebel and an outcast since she was young. Raised by her single mother, she is left parentless at 12. Arriving in London with only her dog as a companion, she finds family in the form of thieves Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and Jasper (Joel Fry). Ten years later, they have become a trio.
But Estella wants more out of life than petty thievery. She wants to be a fashion designer. Fate sends her the opportunity she is praying via the Baroness (Emma Thompson). The Baroness is the queen of the English fashion scene. She is also self centered and selfish. What starts out as a door opening to the job of her dreams turns Estella/Cruella into a version of the person she wants to destroy. The question is, can our heroine keep up with the image she has created while being true to herself or will she sell her soul in the process?
What I loved is that this movie it proves that a female led movie does not require a romantic narrative to be successful. There are male characters who have a significant role in the narrative, but their relationships with the Baroness and Estella/Cruella are of a professional and/or plutonic nature.
Among the Disney prequels that have come out as of late, this is the best one. Though there is the argument of an easy cash grab, there are more than enough Easter eggs to keep fans of the original film happy. Expanded beyond the original narrative, it is a loving homage to its predecessor while standing on its own two feet.
The question of what if is a powerful one. We make choices and live with the consequences, for better or for worse. But what would happen if we had said or done something differently? Or if things did not go as they had?
This is the premise of the new DisneyPlus animated Marvel series. Premiering last Wednesday, it takes the narratives we know and flips them on their head. The first episode focuses on Captain America. When Steve Rogers (voiced by Josh Keaton) goes into the machine to become the super soldier that will end World War II, the end result is not as expected. A glitch causes it to temporarily break down. Jumping into action, Peggy Carter (voiced by Hayley Atwell, reprising her role from the live action films) becomes Captain Carter and leads the fight against tyranny and destruction.
The first episode is incredibly good. It was everything I expected it to be and more. I loved the twist that it was Peggy Carter who became the super soldier and not Steve Rogers.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
What If…? is available for streaming on DisneyPlus. New episodes premiere every Wednesday.
Audiences love a good antagonist. They have the ability to make the narrative more interesting and challenge both the protagonist and the audience.
The new DisneyPlus series, Loki, premiered on Wednesday. It start where Avengers: Endgame left off. When Loki (a glorious Tom Hiddleston) is able to get his hands on the Tesseract, he evades justice. But it is a short escape. Captured by the Time Variance Authority or TVA, he is accused of changing the timeline. His minder, Mobius (Owen Wilson) is in charge of building the TVA’s case against the prisoner. But when a greater evil emerges, Loki may turn from villain to hero.
What a way to kick off a new series. Hiddleston, Wilson, and company are having fun and it shows. I loved the transition from Loki being a straight up baddie to a complicated character who you want to root for, in spite of his past. Kudos goes to the production design team who created a set colored by shades of 1970’s brown and burnt orange. It is a nice change from the bright and colorful world that the Avengers live in.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
New episodes are released every Wednesday on DisneyPlus.
Emotional growth and maturity does not appear out of the blue. It requires us to step out of our comfort zone and be willing to go on a journey that by definition is never easy
The new Disney movie, Raya and the Last Dragon, premiered earlier this year. In the ancient realm of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. When the Druun threatened it’s inhabitants, the dragons stood between the invaders and humanity. But as much as they tried, the dragons were not able to protect themselves or their human neighbors.
500 years later, Kumandra is now split into five different kingdoms. Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) is daughter of Benja (Daniel Dae Kim), who is chief of the Heart kingdom. He believes in peace and is eager to return to the days when everyone lived together, but his dreams are just that. Benja brings together the leaders of the other four kingdoms, hoping that it will generate some sort of good will towards one another. What starts out a lovely afternoon turns into terror.
Years later, Raya is searching for a way to fulfill her father’s dreams. She has become a cynic, unwilling and unable to trust almost everyone she meets. On her journey, she releases Sisu (Awkwafina), the only dragon to have survived the massacre. Sisu has an open heart and believes in the good of humanity. This odd couple will have to work together to undo the past and return Kumandra to what it was.
As Disney movies go, it was pretty good. Raya is a real and relatable heroine. Her story, unlike her Princess sisters, is of self discovery and learning to trust. There is not even a mention of a romantic relationship. The closest parallel, if there is one, is the love between Raya and Benja. In most fairy tales, the father of the female protagonist is either dead or emotionally absent. It was lovely to see a parent who loves and supports his daughter beyond the traditional “find a man and settle down” narrative. I also loved that the filmmakers let Awkwafina be her full comedic self and that it felt authentically Asian without pandering to anyone.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Raya and the Last Dragon is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.
Warning: this post contains spoilers about the finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the episode.
First impressions are just that, especially when it comes to movie or television reviews. Sometimes it takes repeated viewing for a movie or watching multiple episodes of a television show to change the reviewers mind.
I do have to admit that the narrative is a bit messy, but when it came together, it came together beautifully. What started out as an odd couple/buddy comedy/standard MCU fare turned into a partial treatise on the state of the world. Though Sam is known as The Falcon, he is not above dealing everyday racism.
My favorite character is Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman). In my limited experience of this genre, most villains have one goal: to take over the world. They’re pretty cut and dry without room for subtlety. Depending on one’s point of view, Karli and her people are either terrorists or freedom fighters. This murky line has been drawn time and again throughout human history, forcing us to take sides, and determine who is good and who is bad. It is a generality that at best has created enmity and at worst, has led to murder and destruction.
I also appreciate that the character was changed to a woman (and a redhead, for obvious reasons ;)). There are still too many female characters that are boxed in by “traditional roles” and not given the room to be anything else.
It is the type of series that grows on you, which at the end of the day, is never a bad thing.
There comes a point in which a brand has to realize that not every IP needs multiple spinoffs. After the massive success of Endgame and WandaVision, the next logical step is to greenlight other offshoots with other characters from within the same universe. The problem is not every one of them is worthy of it’s predecessor. The problem with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is that while it is entertaining, it is not as good as WandaVision.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.
Warning: This post contains spoilers about the final episode of WandaVision. Read at your own risk if you have not seen it.
The MCU is not known for clean, “they lived happily ever after” endings. The pain and the joy of watching any MCU piece are the dangling story threads, especially are the tantalizing clues that come out of the mid-credit scenes.
If there was ever a guidebook on how to create a season finale, the 9th episode of WandaVision would be found within the first five pages. Kudos to Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch), Paul Bettany (Vision), Kathryn Hahn (Agnes/Agatha Harkness), and the rest of the cast. The action and the emotion were given equal weight, creating a perfect balance that was equally heart-pounding and heartbreaking.
My favorite moment was when Wanda comes back down to Earth (literally and physically) and realizes what she has done. It was a human moment in a superhuman narrative, forcing the characters and the audience down to take an honest look at the difficult choices that must be made.
If I had to choose between the mid-credit scenes, it would be the final one. The split between Wanda Maximoff as a human being and Scarlet Witch as the magical superhero was a nice representation of the two sides of the same person.
Is anyone else’s head still spinning? Season 2 better come quick.
March is Women’s History Month. This year, I would like to shine a spotlight on some of the female characters who both push against the glass ceiling and inspire us.
Behind Her Eyes (Netflix): It would have been easy to peg Adele (Eve Hewson) as the wronged wife and Louise (Simona Brown) as a modern version of Glenn Close’s character from Fatal Attraction. But both women are given the opportunity to be fully fledged characters that go well beyond the stereotypes.
Bridgerton (Netflix): For non-fans of the BPD (British Period Drama), Bridgerton would just another Jane Austen-ish historical romance/drama. But fans know that though women are second class citizens in this world, they have other abilities that are not obvious to the naked eye. My favorite characters are Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) and Lady Danbury (Adjoah Andoh). Instead of mindlessly following in her elder sister’s footsteps, Eloise would love to be free of the constrictions that women are placed under in the 19th century. For her part, Lady Danbury is a badass who knows of her place in society and uses her experiences wisely.
WandaVision (DisneyPlus): Every female character in this series is fully formed. As we learn more about this world and the women who inhabit it, their humanity is revealed in a manner that is normal and natural. They are allowed to be who they are without being pegged as certain character types and forced into boxes that can be easily checked off.
P.S. That series finale last night was nothing short of mind blowing. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am ready for season 2.
Law & Order: SVU (NBC): For a television show to last twenty plus years, it has to have a certain something about it. In a nutshell, what makes it stand out is the difficult subject the show brings to the forefront and the capable female detectives whose job it is to solve the crimes. At the head of the unit is Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). Though she has been working sex crimes for decades, the job has not hardened her. She can be tough when she has to be, but she can also be compassion and humane. Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) has fought against her demons and survived. That alone is worth its weight in gold. The newest and youngest member of the squad is Katriona Tamin (Jamie Gray Hyder). Though she still has a lot to learn, she has the passion and the drive to bring the criminals to justice.
Readers, what other female characters inspire you? Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below.
“Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors…even by children. Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views,”
Her right leaning politics is not the issue here. The issue is the correlation between being a Republican in America in 2021 and being Jewish in Nazi Germany.
Being Jewish in Europe during World War II was a death sentence. Belonging to the Republican party is not a death sentence.
I take offense to her statement for two reasons. The first is that the entire narrative of Star Wars is about the importance of protecting democracy and human rights from autocracy and hate. The second is that I am a Jewish woman who lost family in The Holocaust. Comments like these make it seem like the six million have been killed all over again.
Only time will tell if Cara will be written out completely or if Carano will be replaced. But there is one thing that is certain, firing her was the right decision.
An onscreen or onstage translation of a beloved work of fiction is not as simple as it appears to be. On paper, transforming the narrative and the characters from the page to the screen or the stage seems like a simple process. But the reality is that is difficult task to complete.
WandaVision premiered on Friday on DisneyPlus. Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) are newlyweds. Living in the world of classic family television comedies, it looks like their world is perfect. But there is a dark force hidden beneath the surface.
Before I go further, I have to warn that my knowledge of these characters extends only to the movies. I know nothing of the content in the comic books. That being said, this show is fantastic. I love that the creators used classic television shows to juxtapose the danger that is rumbling under Wanda and Vision’s feet.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely?
New episodes of WandaVision are released every Friday on DisneyPlus.