Double Review Week With Raya and Boogie
Plus new links you must read and movies coming to streaming this weekend
No big feature story this week. Instead, I have reviews of the Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon and Focus Features’ Boogie. I’m currently working on two new assignments and we’ll have a special guest on the podcast next week to discuss the movies of director Steven Soderbergh. If you’d like to hear our past episodes, click here.
Raya and the Last Dragon
Raya and the Last Dragon takes place in the fictional land known as Kumandra, inspired by the cultures and people of Southeast Asia. Prosperity and unity pervaded the land, but something sinister appeared. Creatures known as Druun began invading; turning fathers, mothers, and children into stone. One dragon was able to finally keep the Druun at bay, but now centuries later, a catastrophic event brings the return of these evil creatures. The hope of an entire civilization rests in the hands of Raya.
Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) is an atypical Disney Princess. She has a lot in-common with Polynesian Princess Moana; she’s tough, adventurous, and extremely capable. Raya’s introduction is all about her commitment to her heritage, one that she has been training for her entire life. Hate and fear has made the once unified lands of Kumandra into five wholly distinct tribes, each one vying for power and security. Her adversary comes from someone who has invalidated her trust, Namaari (Gemma Chan), the princess from the Fang tribe. With trust lost and a relic Raya was tasked with protecting destroyed, what is left of Kumandra falls. Six years later, Raya is tasked with finding the last dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina), with the hopes of bringing prosperity back to her people.
The crutch of the story is a scavenger hunt. Raya and Sisu discover that when all the pieces of the relic are reunited, that’s their best opportunity to save the world from the Druun. So Raya and Sisu visit each of the four other tribes to collect the missing pieces and along the way are going to visit beautiful locations inspired by Southeast Asia and meet a group of individuals that might ultimately assist them.
As expected from a Disney Animated Studios production, Raya and the Last Dragon is absolutely beautiful. From the varied and extremely detailed environments to the epic action sequences, Raya and the Last Dragon is a stunning picture. Even so, Raya’s adventure isn’t wholly unique. It’s easy to predict where this is going to go from the start. I enjoyed myself while watching the movie, but I found myself wanting more from it. Whether that was original songs or characters that didn’t follow the same structure over and over (each one of the people Raya meets on her adventure is some kind of adversary she needs to win over), I can’t exactly put my finger on it.
Raya and the Last Dragon will be available this Friday on Disney + for $29.99. My suggestion is that you wait for it to come available on the service without an added price. If you do eventually watch Raya, you’ll enjoy yourself, even if you might find yourself asking for something more. [B-]
*Boogie is coming to theaters on March 5th, but I suggest you wait for the VOD release coming soon.*
Alfred “Boogie” Chin (Taylor Takahashi) is an extremely talented, Asian, basketball player. His nationality is important because it not only defines who he is, but also sets the stage for the systemic racism he will experience from others and himself. His parents expect him to excel at Basketball for not only his own dreams, but because of financial reasons as well. Boogie is expected to provide for his family given his talent and all that they’ve given up to get him where he is. Those dreams of success are only dreams, because the scholarships aren’t coming in. The scouts have seen players like him before, players like Jeremy Lin, who had success with the New York Knicks before petering out. His only chance for a bright future comes from winning a game against a rival school with one the nation’s top young talents, Monk (Bashar Jackson (a.k.a Pop Smoke)).
I was pleasantly surprised by Boogie. Basketball movies are usually a genre of film that I go for anyways, but I was still impressed. That being said, all Basketball movies should end with a contest held on the streets. As I said at the top, Boogie’s life is run by the expectations of those around him and even himself. Although he has this outward swagger of confidence, he has a lot of fear inside. He worries that he won’t be enough for his girlfriend Eleanor (Taylour Paige) and that defeating Monk might be outside of his ability. Boogie has to discover what makes sense in his life and who exactly he is living his life for. Another aspect that Boogie has going for it are the performances. Paige having appeared in a few movies including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Zola, really shines here and shows why she’s an exciting up-and-coming actress. The late Bashar Jackson is also great as Monk and its a tragedy that his life was cut so short. I recommend Boogie once it comes to VOD in a few weeks. [B]
Kelly Marie Tran survived the online bullying following the premier of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Now as the voice of Raya in Raya and the Last Dragon, she’s back in the spotlight and talks with The Hollywood Reporter’s Rebecca Sun on the experience with Star Wars, the pressures of representation, and her new movie. For another review of Raya, check out this review from THR’s Inkoo Kang.
There are two new streaming services for you to be aware of. First, there is Paramount + which is a rebranding of CBS All-Access. Second, there is Discovery +, which is home to shows from networks HGTV, TLC, Investigation Discovery, and the Food Network. The Verge reporter Julia Alexander writes about how Discovery + has become her favorite network to watch while she works. Background noise if you will. Whether that is a worthwhile reason for subscribing is up to you.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the Disney + Marvel show, WandaVision. After watching the first three episodes, I couldn’t recommend it. I’m here to tell you now that if you can make it through those first three episodes, the show finally opens up in the fourth episode. Immediately. There is only one episode left and The Ringer’s Daniel Chin has (spoilers in link) written about the loose ends heading into the finale.
Streaming this Weekend (Mar 5-7)
Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney + Premier Access, Theaters)
Coming 2 America (Amazon Prime)
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run (VOD, Paramount+)