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.
Joker: In this re imagined world from that Batman universe, Joaquin Phoenix adds new layers to this iconic character while talking frankly about mental illness.
The Song of Names: Based on the book of the same name, the film follows a man who is trying to discover the secrets of a missing childhood friend.
Frozen II: This sequel to the mega-hit Frozen was well worth the six year wait. Instead of doing a slap-dash direct to video type sequel, the filmmakers expanded this world in new ways, making the story even more relevant.
This will be my last post for 2019. Wherever you are, thank you for reading this year. May 2020 be bright and hopeful.
The best stories are universal. Regardless of the time it is set in, the place it is set in or the culture that it is set in, these stories are timeless and speak to all of us.
Writer/director Lulu Wang’s new semi-autobiographical film, The Farewell, is set in China and New York City. Billi (Awkwafina) was born in China and raised in New York City. When her beloved grandmother, known as Nai Nai, is diagnosed with cancer with only months to live, the family decides to keep it from her. Under the pretense of a fake wedding, the family comes together in China.
But Billi is troubled by the lie. She must decide if she will be the one to spill the beans or go along with the scheme.
This movie is one of the best films of 2019. Up to this point, Awkwafina has built her career on comedic roles in films such as Ocean’s Eight and Crazy Rich Asians. In this film, she plays a young woman who is dealing with an emotionally tough decision. The humor comes from the narrative, not from broad jokes or an outrageous character. In playing this toned down character, Awkwafina proves that her acting abilities go way beyond comedy.
The thing that stood out to me about TheFarewell is that anyone can relate to these characters and their story. At some point, our parents and grandparents reach that point in their lives when their health is not what it was. It is then up to the younger generations to make decisions, which are frequently never easy and rife with challenges.
One of the most common tropes of the romantic comedy genre is the objection to one half of the lead couple by their well-meaning family and/or friends. The question is, is this common narrative used wisely or is it an easy way out by the writer or writers?
In the new movie Crazy Rich Asians (based upon the book of the same name by Kevin Kwan), Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is a Chinese American college professor living and working in New York City. She has been dating Nick Young (Henry Golding) for a year when he invites her to join him at a family wedding in Singapore. Nick hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with Rachel about who his family is in the social hierarchy of Singaporean society. When they get to Singapore, Nick’s mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) isn’t exactly pleased with her son’s choice of a partner.
But Rachel is not without allies. Her college roommate, Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina) is from Singapore and has been begging Rachel to come visit for while. Rachel also becomes close friends with Nick’s cousin, Astrid Young Teo (Gemma Chan), whose life is not as perfect as it seems. Will Rachel and Nick live out their happily ever after or will his family get in the way?
While Crazy Rich Asians falls squarely within the romantic comedy genre (with the standard character tropes and narrative), it is not the same old, dry predictable romantic comedy. Aside from a cast of Asian and Asian-American actors (which is a long time coming), the movie is funny, charming, romantic and heaves much needed life into a genre that for many died a long time ago.
Heist films are nearly as old as Hollywood itself. The question, is, does the film standout within the genre or is it just too unbelievable?
Ocean’s 8 is the next chapter in the Ocean’s movie series.
Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) is the sister of Danny Ocean (George Clooney), the protagonist of the previous Ocean’s films. When she gets out of jail, she gathers a crew together to steal a necklace worth millions of dollars at the Met Gala.
The crew includes Lou (Cate Blanchett), Amita (Mindy Kaling), Tammy (Sarah Paulson), Constance (Awkwafina), Nine Ball (Rihanna) and Rose Weil (Helena Bonham-Carter). The necklace is to be worn by Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) at the Met Ball in New York City.
I loved this film. While it helps that the main cast is made up of a group of diverse female performers, it is the narrative that makes the film enjoyable. It is funny, well written, thrilling and worth a trip to the movie theater.