Hello, and welcome to another episode of moviemanMDG's "Movie Talk", where I talk about everything film-related. The DC Extended Universe has many interesting stories behind the scenes, but none of them intrigued me more than the "Justice League" scenario. In 2013, visionary director Zack Snyder was brought on board to helm a retelling of Superman's origin story. That came to be known as "Man of Steel". Despite receiving a polarizing response from critics and audiences, the film became a financial hit, resulting in Warner Brothers fast-tracking a DC cinematic universe to compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What happened afterward is where things got a little…troublesome. The next two films in the DC Extended Universe, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad", were met with generally negative reviews from critics and fans even though they gained a respectable amount of money at the box office. Although the "Wonder Woman" film managed to become the best-reviewed installment in the franchise, so there's that. But the studio's problems didn't get worse until the release of "Justice League" in November 2017, not just the film in general, but also what happened behind the scenes. During production, Zack Snyder left the project altogether when his daughter committed suicide in March 2017. As a result, Warner Brothers hired Joss Whedon, the man who helmed "Marvel's The Avengers" and was responsible for rewriting the "Justice League" script, to take over as an uncredited director. Whedon's direction happened to be brighter and more humorous than Snyder's darker style for the DC Extended Universe. Sadly, that direction proved to be far more disastrous than the "dark and broody" aspect. When it premiered in November 2017, the film became a critical and financial disappointment, resulting in Warner Brothers losing around $60 million. It was heavily criticized by reviewers and DC fans for its writing, tone, characters, and over-reliance on CGI, officially derailing Snyder's "Justice League" arc for good. This resulted in the studio changing course to focus more on making standalone franchises in the DC universe, like "Aquaman", "Shazam", and the upcoming "Batman" reboot with Robert Pattinson.
After the release of "Justice League", or "Josstice League" as fans like to call it now, an online petition was created to tell the studio to release the "Snyder Cut" of the film. What seemed to be another pointless petition by a so-called "fan" turned out to be a revolution as multiple people showed support for the movement. After years of outcry and a bunch of clues showcasing the existence of Snyder's original cut, the studio finally decided to allow Snyder to finish what he had started, and the rest is history. So the moral of the story is that if you complain long and hard enough, you'll get what you want. It worked for the Sonic design, and it worked for the "Snyder Cut". Fans are weird sometimes. This was something that caught me by surprise after everything that happened with the original cut. Even though I enjoyed watching "Justice League" when it first came out, I can understand why people weren't that impressed with it in the first place. When I first found out that the Snyder cut of "Justice League" is officially moving forward, I became intrigued and excited, mostly the former. I was delighted to hear that Zack Snyder was given a chance to release his own version of the film as an HBO Max original. However, I was also interested in finding out whether it'll make much of a difference or not in terms of quality. It made a difference with the extended version of "Batman v Superman", so the same could be said with "Zack Snyder's Justice League", right? In today's episode of "Movie Talk", I will be finding the answer to that question as I take a look at Snyder's own version of one of the more divisive films in the DC Extended Universe.
Before I begin, allow me to bring you up to speed on what "Justice League" is about in case you haven't seen it. The film featured an all-star cast that consists of Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, and Ezra Miller. The film's story takes place after the events of "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice", where Batman (Affleck) attempts to unite the other heroes with special abilities following Superman's (Cavill) death. Those heroes consist of Wonder Woman (Gadot), Aquaman (Momoa), The Flash (Miller), and Cyborg (Fisher). These heroes must learn to become a team to protect the world from the vicious Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) who, along with his army of Parademons, seek the three Mother Boxes on Earth. The director's cut of "Justice League" obviously has the same plot as the 2017 version, but it also offers a lot more content that Snyder had initially intended to include in his film before he left. It has many additional scenes, new characters, and plenty of world-building elements that tease the upcoming installments in the DC Extended Universe. This resulted in its runtime being a whopping four hours compared to the original's two hours. Not only that, but it also got a rating upgrade because of the additional content. Instead of the kid-friendly PG-13 rating that Joss Whedon's version had, "Zack Snyder's Justice League" got slapped with an R rating due to its amount of violence and language. Prepare to hear Batman drop the F-bomb. Now an R-rated DC Extended Universe film is nothing entirely new as "Birds of Prey" was just released with an R rating last year, and that was the original cut. The extended edition of "Batman v Superman", which Snyder directed, was also released with an R rating. As usual, an R rating doesn't always translate into a good film, let alone an upgrade to a PG-13 rated property. See the "Hellboy" reboot and the 2020 version of "The Grudge" for example. It's the storytelling quality that determines whether or not the film is watchable for its audience. Because of its runtime, the film is divided into six chapters, or parts, for the HBO Max release as well as an epilogue so that viewers can take some small breaks during their viewings. Since I already did a full-on movie review of the original cut of "Justice League", I will be doing something different for the director's cut. I will be looking at the individual parts one by one (with or without spoilers) and then give my overall thoughts on the film based on my thoughts on them. That way, it will be easier for me to talk about it in full detail rather than watch it all the way through and then do a review format on it. I'm okay watching a film that's between two-and-a-half and three hours long in one sitting, but a film that's over that limit? That's not happening. If you haven't watched "Justice League" already, please do so before you read any further, whether it's the 2017 version or Snyder's own version. Anyway, without further ado, let's dive right back into the DC "Snyderverse" and see if it really is the definitive version of "Justice League".
Part 1: Don't Count on It, Batman
Let's kick this experience off with the first 30 minutes of the director's cut. Following the title sequence that represents Superman's death scream being heard from across the globe, part one showcases extended sequences of scenes that were in the original "Justice League" cut, such as Bruce Wayne convincing Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, to join his team, Wonder Woman saving the children from terrorists, and the battle between the Amazonians and Steppenwolf. "Don't Count on It, Batman" immediately sets the stage of what viewers will expect in the remaining chapters in terms of the technical aspects. The aspect ratio was different, the lighting and tone were more muted, it's more violent, and the dialogue has been changed to fit Snyder's style. Heck, even the musical score was changed for the director's cut. Instead of Danny Elfman from the original cut, the score in "Zack Snyder's Justice League" was composed by Tom Holkenborg, also known as Junkie XL. The score reflects more on the emotion in its epic scope than the light-hearted "Avengers"-like tone. It reminded me a bit of the music from "300", especially during the Amazonian sequence, but in a good way. The big highlight of part one, in my opinion, was the Wonder Woman sequence in which she battles the terrorists. In terms of Snyder's direction, the scene successfully showcased how violent and intense the filmmaker intended to represent in his own version. Also, I found it cool to see Wonder Woman kick some butt in R-rated fashion. I would also like to mention Steppenwolf, who got a major makeover from the original version. His armor was more detailed and spikier than his original design, and he's much more ruthless when it comes to his personality. While the CGI for Steppenwolf was still noticeable at times, I like what they did with this version of Steppenwolf so far, thanks to Hinds' menacing performance. Whether or not his role will change will depend on the rest of the parts that follow. Overall, "Don't Count on It, Batman" is a solid beginning to this four-hour-long heroic journey. It instantly showed that this isn't Joss Whedon's "Justice League" or even DC's "The Avengers". This is "Zack Snyder's Justice League", plain and simple.
Part 2: The Age of Heroes
The second part is where the expanded story truly shines. "The Age of Heroes" included a much larger perspective on not just the heroes but also its world-building and the villains. Part 2 has Bruce and Alfred (Jeremy Irons) continuing to search for more heroes. At the same time, Diana discovers the greater danger that's to come thanks to the fire arrow sent by the Amazonians. This segment offered more insight on specific elements such as S.T.A.R. labs, Steppenwolf's backstory, and Bruce's redemption arc after Superman's death. It also introduced some characters that didn't appear in the original cut, including Arthur's mentor Nuidis (played by Willem Dafoe), DeSaad (Peter Guinness), and the big bad God himself Darkseid (portrayed by Ray Porter via motion capture). I want to point out that I was really impressed with the design of Darkseid. He's exactly what I imagined him to be like in live-action form. Menacing and frightening. How much screen time he'll have after this part remains to be seen. I also liked the scene between Arthur and Nuidis, mostly because of how it sets up Arthur's path that's later explored in the solo film. It didn't feel like an unnecessary addition since the film has elements that teased the other DC films that came after it. The flashback sequence showcasing the war between Darkseid and the "Defenders of Earth" was also nicely detailed and shot in terms of the cinematography and script. Some of the CGI was still far from perfect, but it compensates by giving the viewers more understanding of its history. Then there's Steppenwolf himself, who happens to have a much bigger purpose compared to his role in the original version. Instead of him being a by-the-numbers villain, he's now a threatening and determined villain who seeks to end his banishment from Darkseid by collecting the Mother Boxes and enslave humanity. "The Age of Heroes" kickstarted its purpose of showcasing more depth in its story and the characters on the right foot while also teasing the reunification of Earth's mightiest defenders.
Part 3: Beloved Mother, Beloved Son
The third segment provided extended backstories for two characters: Barry Allen, AKA The Flash (Miller), and Victor Stone (Fisher). Barry Allen attempts to obtain a degree in criminal justice to clear his father's name for the murder of his mother. Meanwhile, Victor is dealing with the aftermath of a car accident that killed his mother and left him critically injured, resulting in his father Silas Stone (Joe Morton) replacing his body with cybernetic parts. Not only does it introduce its viewers to Barry's love interest Iris West, played by Kiersey Clemons, but it also showcased more of Cyborg's tragic backstory as well as his complicated relationship with his father and his abilities. Zack Snyder has mentioned that Cyborg is depicted as "the heart of the movie" in his own cut, and after seeing this segment for myself, I can understand why. Cyborg is shown as an outcast who hides himself away from the world because of his new appearance and what his father did to save him from death. Not only was the Cyborg section effective in terms of character depth and direction, but it also showcased more of Fisher's solid acting skills, resulting in it being one of my favorite parts of the film so far. I also liked that the film represented Victor testing his abilities to help the poor mother pay her rent. It shows that people with gifts can make a difference. As for Barry Allen, I still enjoy him in this version just as much as I did with him in the original cut, if not better. Ezra Miller still did an outstanding job with his performance and his deliverance of his humor, especially during the pet store scene. The visuals and slow-motion sequences for Barry's ability were still top-notch as always. You can't deny the fact that Snyder was the perfect choice to showcase Barry's perspective of the world around him when he's going fast. However, Barry's running style still proved to be pretty awkward. The part also contains extended sequences of Steppenwolf obtaining the second Mother Box from the Atlantians and the Parademons kidnaping the scientists from S.T.A.R. labs. Oh, and there's more screen time for Amber Heard's Mera, but I'm sure you don't really care about that. "Beloved Mother, Beloved Son" was given a chance to explore more of The Flash and Cyborg, and it succeeded with ease.
Part 4: Change Machine
The fourth part centers on Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Cyborg rescuing the S.T.A.R scientists from Steppenwolf and the Parademons. Afterward, Cyborg explains about the Mother Boxes' powers, which Silas used to save him, leading up to the idea of bringing Superman back to life. Meanwhile, Steppenwolf discovers the location of the "Anti-Life Equation". The battle between Steppenwolf and the heroes played out the same as the original cut, just with additional and alternative scenes and Tom Holkenborg's score. Other than that, it's an ordinary superhero action scene that's filled with CGI and a boatload of epic-ness. After that, the film offered more details on the Mother Boxes and a surprising reveal of another DC character that I wouldn't spoil if you haven't watched it yet. One of the things I enjoyed from this part was Darkseid's second appearance. We've seen what he looks like back in part two, and now we get to hear what he sounds like. For someone who's unfamiliar with the character, Ray Porter sure did knew how to make him sound more ominous in terms of his impressive vocal performance. Better move over, Thanos, because there's a new tyrannical alien in town, and he's not a very nice guy. The scene involving Lois Lane (Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) was also a respectable addition to the director's cut as it explored their own mourning towards Clark's death. "Change Machine" serves as a decent climax to the film's four-hour narrative filled with action, humor, and character depth.
Part 5: All the King's Horses
Part five sees the heroes breaking into STAR labs to revive Superman. They succeeded, but at the cost of confronting him and losing the final Mother Box to Steppenwolf. Now, this is where things get even more serious. This segment showcased plenty of stuff that happened to one-up the original's take in almost every way, such as the character interactions and the fight against Superman. Don't worry. Superman doesn't ask Batman if he bleeds in this version. Personally, I am glad that they kept in Barry's reaction to Superman seeing him when he's in super-speed mode. The look on Barry's face still gets me every time. It also featured the last couple of moments between Cyborg and Silas. While I would like to see more of this interaction between the two, it's still pretty heartbreaking to see how their relationship ended. Other than that, "All the King's Horses" was able to put Superman together again. Narratively, of course.
Part 6: Something Darker/Epilogue: A Father Twice Over
The sixth and final part concludes the epic journey with the showdown between the Justice League and Steppenwolf. This is another sequence that managed to improve upon the original cut. Not only were the visuals a bit better, but the whole scenario was changed to raise the stakes for the characters, including Cyborg, who plans to separate the Mother Boxes by force. There's no Russian family to save, and the humorous dialogue between Superman and Cyborg was completely removed. They also fixed the sky, so it has a dark bluish color instead of red. It focused more on the exhilarating battle between Steppenwolf and the heroes, which the studio should've allowed Snyder to include in the first place. This was another main highlight for me because of those reasons. Then we have the film's epilogue, which took the pages right out of "The Return of the King" by showcasing multiple conclusions. That can be an annoyance for some people, but other than that, it was a respectable ending that concluded some of the characters' story arcs in the film and offered plenty of teases for what's to come in the sequels, if Snyder and the fans have their way, of course. Overall, "Something Darker" and the epilogue combined themselves to make an ending that truly lived up to the film's epic scale.
In conclusion, "Zack Snyder's Justice League" was quite an experience for all of the right reasons. Was it a flawless masterpiece? No. Was it better than the Joss Whedon cut? Absolutely! The Snyder Cut succeeded in providing something that the 2017 version lacked: a soul. Not just in its storytelling but also in its characters. Its four-hour runtime did seem excessive, especially for those who're planning on watching the whole thing in one sitting, but the pacing and its riveting story helped kept my attention from start to finish. There were also a couple of parts where the CGI looked a bit rough. Despite those flaws, the Snyder Cut is bigger, better, and more heroic in every way thanks to some solid performances from the cast, Snyder's direction, Chris Terrio's screenplay, Tom Holkenborg's score, and its entertaining action sequences. From my personal perspective, I wouldn't consider this as an ordinary director's cut. I would consider this as a gift. A rewarding gift to the fans who showed their support for Snyder's vision of the DC Extended Universe, even though "Man of Steel" and Batman v Superman" were understandably flawed. It's more of a way of saying "thank you" to those who pushed the studio to allow the director to make the "Justice League" movie he wanted to make without interference. Sure, it's not going to impress everyone, but in the end, all that matters is that the fans actually did something good for once. It brought the "Justice" back into the "Justice League". If I were to grade this film, I would gladly give it a B+. This is a superb upgrade to the heavily flawed 2017 version that I will highly recommend to DC fans and general audiences. As for the young fans of DC, I would advise them to watch it with a parent or guardian. Oh, and don't forget to plan out your bathroom breaks before you start. You're going to need them. If you're reading this, Mr. Snyder, congrats on making your own version of "Justice League" a reality, and I can't wait to check out your next project on Netflix in May.
“Yes Day” stars Jennifer Garner, Édgar Ramírez, Jenna Ortega, Julian Lerner, and Everly Carganilla. Released on Netflix on March 12, 2021, the film has two parents creating a special day where their own kids make the rules.
The film was directed by Miguel Arteta, who also directed films such as “The Good Girl”, “Youth in Revolt”, “Cedar Rapids”, and “Like a Boss”. It is an adaptation of the children’s novel of the same name by Amy Krause Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. It’s times like this when we all grow tired of people always saying “no” in front of our faces. The perfect counter-argument for this is that they want to protect us from the consequences that soon to follow. However, it doesn’t usually work out well when they’re abusing the heck out of it. We could all use a day where people could not say no to anything, no matter how dangerous or crazy they are. Enter the latest original film from Netflix, which showcases this special day that could bring us closer together or break the bank. Whichever comes first. Since there weren’t any major films for me to look at this week, at least not until “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” on Thursday, I couldn’t let this film go to waste. The people involved in the film, director Miguel Arteta and actress Jennifer Garner, and its concept are enough to capture my interest. But are they also enough to deliver a watchable comedy for families? Let’s find out.
The story follows Allison (Garner) and Carlos Torres (Ramírez), a couple who were once courageous to try out everything. Once they have their three kids, however, they wind up being compelled to be overprotective just like any other parent on the planet. One day, Allison and Carlos discover an idea that might help solve all of their problems, and that idea is a unique day known as “Yes Day”. A day where for 24 hours, they have to say “yes” to everything, no matter what. With a few ground rules, of course. While spending this crazy day with their kids Katie (Ortega), Nando (Lerner), and Ellie (Carganilla), Allison and Carlos came to realize that it might be what they need to bring the family closer together. To sum this up briefly, it’s another harmless film made for general audiences, mostly families. It’s not made to be another awards contender like “Mank” or even “Judas and the Black Messiah”. It’s there to entertain those who needed a break from the harshness of reality, and that’s generally it. I honestly don’t mind watching these types of films, especially the ones that seemed to be critic-proof, as long as they have a suitable mixture of heart and humor in their storytelling. Those are the key elements that sometimes help them become big hits for their target audience, which are families. “Yes Day” did have enough charm to keep me entertained in terms of its messages and the cast. However, the film’s concept wasn’t fulfilling enough to make this day as fun and special as it should’ve been. For a concept that’s as insane as a day full of “yeses”, the film surprisingly felt limited when it comes to Arteta’s direction and Justin Malen’s script. The characters only did five main activities throughout the day, ranging from eating an ice cream mountain to going to a theme park. While there were a few moments during those activities that actually put a smile on my face, there’s absolutely nothing that I would consider memorable and highly entertaining, humor-wise. Not even Nat Faxon as Mr. Deacon was able to deliver some huge laughs for me. I understand that it didn’t want to be so over-the-top that it becomes unwatchable, but in some cases, making a film ridiculous is better than not making it over-the-top at all. That’s how I feel about this situation. In other words, its execution lacked the insanity needed to get me in a mood to rewatch it soon. Although, it’s far from a complete disaster. Sure, the script had plenty of corny and simplistic elements that you would see in a sitcom episode. Still, as I mentioned before, it had enough charisma in its appeal to provide some harmless entertainment. Much of the charisma came from the cast themselves, most notably Jennifer Garner, who previously worked with Miguel Arteta on 2014’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”. Man, that title is a mouthful. If you enjoy Garner in her other roles, then there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy her performance as Allison as well. Personally, I thought she did well in this film, but it’s nowhere near as superb as her career-best performance in “Love, Simon”. However, I will admit that she has strong confidence starring in films like this, no matter how good or bad they are. Édgar Ramírez was also all right as Carlos, while Jenna Ortega continues to be a respectable young actress thanks to her passable performance as Katie. If the cast isn’t enough to get you to watch it, maybe the appearance of the famous singer H.E.R. might get you to reconsider? Yes, you read that right. H.E.R. is in this film, but only in its third act. For people who like H.E.R., she’s an okay addition to the cast.
Overall, “Yes Day” wasn’t able to make this day special in its own right. However, the amount of heart and charisma put into this flawed yet harmless family film made it hard for me to say “no”. On the one hand, it’s a heartwarming experience that works well as a piece of escapism for kids and their parents. On the other hand, it’s a corny and tame comedy that didn’t quite live up to its ludicrous expectations regarding the direction and script. If harmless movies are your thing, then you might get some enjoyment out of this one.
"Coming 2 America" stars Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Shari Headley, John Amos, Tracy Morgan, Wesley Snipes, and James Earl Jones. Released on Amazon Prime on March 5, 2021, the film has Akeem Joffer traveling to America once again, but this time, to search for his son.
The film was directed by Craig Brewer, who also directed films such as "The Poor & Hungry", "Hustle & Flow", "Black Snake Moan", and "Dolemite Is My Name". It is a sequel to the 1988 comedy, "Coming to America". After more than 30 long years, the prince has finally returned. "Coming to America" is one of the comedies that fully define Eddie Murphy's career as one of the funniest and endearing comedians in Hollywood. While it didn't become a huge critical darling when it was first released in 1988, it did become a cult following for fans of the comedian as the years went by. In today's world, when a film becomes a cult classic, a follow-up is soon to follow, and that comedy classic just happened to be one of them. Even though I haven't watched "Coming to America" that much, I did remember liking it because of Eddie Murphy's impressive ability to portray multiple characters in a single film. This gave me the perfect excuse to check out its sequel. Well, that and the fact that I have enjoyed some of Murphy's works growing up. Was it a worthy successor, or was it another long-awaited sequel that should be dethroned immediately? Let's find out.
The film once again follows Akeem Joffer (Murphy), the prince of Zamunda who is happily living his new life with his wife Lisa (Headley) and their three daughters Meeka (KiKi Layne), Tinashe (Akiley Love), and Omma (Bella Murphy). He received word from his ailing father, King Jaffe (Jones), that he has unexpectedly birthed a son during his first adventure in Queens, New York. With the law stating that only a male successor can inherit the throne, Akeem and his aide Semmi (Hall) must journey to New York to find his son, bring him to Zamunda, and train him to become a prince. He must complete his mission while also taking on the responsibilities of being the new king of Zamunda. Let me start things off by looking at the film's title. They literally replaced the word "to" with the number 2 in "Coming to America" and expected me to go along with it. I'm sorry, but this is both lazy and confusing, in my opinion. I mean, imagine someone walking up to you and mentions "Coming to America". Chances are you'll wind up being puzzled as to which "Coming to America" they're talking about: the one with the "to" or the one with the "2". Just call it "Coming to America: Part 2" or something. Any sequel title will do besides what we got now. Okay, now that I got that out of the way, let's talk about the film. Long-awaited sequels to memorable films from the past have been nothing but a gamble recently, especially in the comedy genre. Even though it felt nice to revisit our favorite characters, the follow-ups often fell short of their predecessors in terms of the execution and the humor. "Coming 2 America" is sadly one of those follow-ups. Admittedly, I did enjoy seeing Eddie Murphy's charming self again as he reprised his roles as some of the memorable characters he has created: Akeem, Clarence the barber, Saul the barbershop customer, and even soul singer Randy Watson. However, his performance (or performances) can only take the sequel so far. While "Coming to America" served as a fish-out-of-water story about a prince from Zamunda finding true love in America, "Coming 2 America" shortened Akeem's time in America in favor of a Zamunda story about the importance of family, the importance of being the best person one can be, and of course, finding true love. It was a pleasant change of pace to see Zamunda in the spotlight, which could be largely due to the success of "Black Panther" and the fictional land of Wakanda. However, it paid the price by missing a huge opportunity for Akeem to explore New York in modern times further. Even with the change of scenery, the film wasn't as worthy as it could've been as it resorted to retreaded elements from the first film for nostalgic purposes. A prime example of this is Akeem's son Lavelle (Fowler). He happened to be the younger copy of Akeem in terms of the fish-out-of-water element and his attempt to find a connection with a special someone in the form of the royal groomer Mirembe, played by Nomzamo Mbatha. It's literally the reversed version of "Coming to America". I'm surprised they didn't call it "Coming to Zamunda" based on the direction they went. The film was also bogged down by a plot that's obnoxiously predictable and disappointingly tame compared to its predecessor. This is the latest collaboration between Eddie Murphy and director Craig Brewer after they previously worked on "Dolemite Is My Name", which I thought was really good, so I would assume that they would deliver the same type of success with this film as well. Unfortunately, my assumption was wrong. Aside from a couple of entertaining moments, Craig Brewer struggled to maintain the interest and charisma in his storytelling, resulting in his direction being surprisingly subtle. As for the humor itself, I thought it was okay, if not forgettable. A couple of moments gave me some chuckles, including Wesley Snipes's enjoyable performance as General Izzi and Leslie Jones as Mary, Lavelle's mother. I'm so glad that Jones is still finding work nowadays. Other than that, the rest of the jokes didn't land for me. I guess that's what happens when they make a PG-13 rated sequel to an adult-rated comedy. Aside from its decent cast, I will give the film credit for the Zamunda set designs and the costumes, especially the latter. If you thought the Wakanda costumes were stellar, wait until you see what Zamunda has in store in their wardrobes. They looked absolutely divine.
Overall, "Coming 2 America" is another follow-up that falls prey to the "long-awaited sequel" curse. Despite Eddie Murphy's decent portrayal as Akeem, the sequel wound up being a toned-down retread of the original. With its underwhelming plot, tame humor, familiar elements, and desire for nostalgia, the film fails to receive the royal treatment. While I didn't hate the film entirely since it had a few good intentions under its belt, I couldn't help but feel disappointed with the execution that it represented in my eyes. Which kind of sucks, considering how much I love Eddie Murphy. Oh well, here's hoping that his next film will be better. If you want to watch it for yourself because you love the original, then, by all means, go right ahead. I'm sure that you'll enjoy it a lot more than I did…or not.
"Raya and the Last Dragon" stars Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh, Benedict Wong, Izaac Wang, Thalia Tran, and Alan Tudyk. Released on March 5, 2021, the film is about a warrior who goes on a journey to find the last dragon.
The film is directed by Don Hall, who also co-directed "Winnie the Pooh", "Big Hero 6", and "Moana", and Carlos López Estrada, the director of "Blindspotting". It is the 59th film in the Walt Disney Animation Studios library. The people from Disney have not only been producing some fantastic animated features throughout the years, but they have also been creating breathtaking worlds inspired by other countries and their mythologies. For "Frozen" and its sequel, the world of Arendelle was based on Norway and Scandinavian culture. The world and characters created for "Moana" were inspired by Polynesian mythology. The "Big Hero 6" environment was a combination of San Francisco and Tokyo. The latest animated feature in Disney's library appears to be no different as the studio attempts to take its audience to the magnificent fantasy world inspired by Southeast Asia. No, I'm not talking about the world based on "The Last Airbender". They don't have enough money to buy Nickelodeon yet. I'm talking about a world filled with fearless warriors and mythical dragons. It's no surprise that this was one of my highly anticipated films of the year due to the Disney brand, its invigorating concept, and Kelly Marie Tran's involvement, who is making a solid comeback so far after the whole "Star Wars" fiasco. Everything that has the Disney brand is a must-see for me, whether it's live-action or animated. The film marks the studio's latest attempt to test out Disney+'s Premier Access, allowing subscribers to pay 30 dollars to watch it on the streaming service. Because that turned out so well with the "Mulan" remake. I'll be relying on Disney+ because even though it's also playing in theaters, I still couldn't find the time to go to the cinema to see it. With that in mind, let's see if this animated adventure is another massive hit for the Mouse House.
The film takes place in the fictional land of Kumandra, where humans and dragons live in harmony. That is until a group of evil spirits called the Druun crashed the party and threatened to destroy everything in their path by turning everyone into stone. The dragons used their powers to create an orb to ward off the Druun, sacrificing themselves in the process. The people's obsession for the orb's power resulted in them being divided into five different tribes, each named after a different part of a dragon: Fang, Heart, Tail, Spine, and Talon. The Heart tribe has acquired the orb and has been guarding it against the other tribes ever since. 500 years later, the leader of the Heart Tribe, Chief Benja (Kim), has been training his daughter Raya (Tran) to be the guardian of the orb. When a sudden betrayal by Namaari (Chan), one of the members of the Fang tribe, lead to the orb being destroyed, Raya must journey across the land to search for the water dragon known as Sisu (Awkwafina), who happens to be the last dragon in existence, and save her people from the Druun. The film once again used the usual Disney formula that has been captivating audiences for years. It has the fearless princess, it has a supporting character who serves as both the comic relief and a source of inspiration, and it even has the cute animal sidekick. It's as plain as the horns on Sisu's face. It's just that noticeable. However, the studio tends to make this formula work every time by creating engaging stories and breathtaking worlds that resonate with the world around us. Unsurprisingly, the trend continues with "Raya and the Last Dragon", an immersive and thought-provoking animated adventure that may rival the likes of Nickelodeon's "Avatar: The Last Airbender". This film had plenty of vibrant sceneries and intense action sequences that will give many audiences goosebumps for hours, but it also delivered an intelligent and well-rounded story that we all need right now. The film represents a world where people are divided due to fear and betrayal, which somehow reflects the situation we're in now. It serves as a reminder that it takes trust and teamwork to unite the world. It's simple for the kids but also suitably effective for the adults. The story can be a bit predictable for some people. Still, the execution of its storytelling and characters was strong enough to provide an equal amount of action, heart, humor, and visual splendor. One of the strong aspects of the film was the voice cast. The majority of them were Asian American, which showcases the studio's continuous support for diversity and representation behind the scenes. Kelly Marie Tran was given the task to bring another potential Disney princess to life onscreen, and she succeeded. Her vocal performance was undeniably superb as she delivered a well-balanced mixture of humor and drama into her character. After everything that has happened to Tran during her "Star Wars" days, I'm thrilled to see that Disney allowed her to bounce back with a role that's worthy of her talent. If you're reading this, Miss Tran, I'm proud of you. Keep up the good work. As for Raya herself, I have absolutely no problems with her. I thought the filmmakers did a great job developing Raya as someone who's internally fearful of trusting anyone due to what happened in the past. Keeping up with tradition, Disney has created another strong, independent princess that kids can look up to. She's dynamic, she's vulnerable, and she's pretty good with a sword. The main highlight of the cast has to go to Awkwafina as Sisu. She stole the entire show in every scene she's in. Not just because she's hilarious but also because of her ability to provide some depth into her character. Sisu is definitely the type of character that should stand alongside Robin Williams' Genie and Dwayne Johnson's Maui as one of the most memorable supporting characters that Disney has created. The rest of the cast was also great, ranging from Gemma Chan as Namaari to Alan Tudyk as Tuk Tuk, Raya's giant pill bug companion. Tong (Wong), Boun (Wang), and Little Noi (Thalia Tran), the allies that helped Raya on her journey, were fun and lovable additions to the film, with each of them having their own moment to shine. What's great about these characters was that the film didn't see them as heroes and villains. It saw them as people who have different beliefs and are blinded by fear. That's what made the rivalry between Raya and Namaari so enticing and believable in my eyes. The fight scenes between the two were riveting, but they also painted a bigger picture of their conflict with one another. The film's animation also played a huge role in the film, and it looked incredible. The character designs, the world of Kumandra, the visuals, the scope, the action sequences. Everything in "Raya and the Last Dragon" was nicely detailed, awe-inspiring, and more importantly, respectable to the culture it's based on. Even the stellar musical score by James Newton Howard was suitably accurate to the film's atmospheric environments.
Overall, "Raya and the Last Dragon" has enough action and heart to keep the Disney Animation train going. The significance of the film's themes also serves as a nice bonus for its success. Thanks to its strong cast, brilliant animation, and smart storytelling, the film not only marks another win for the Disney team, but it is also the best animated film of the year so far in my opinion. Sure, it's a bit more intense than "The Croods" and even "Tom & Jerry" when taking the action scenes and frightening imagery into account (I'm looking at you, Druun). However, it has a more tolerable narrative for the parents to handle than the ones in those two films. Plus, if your kids can handle the likes of "Big Hero 6", "Zootopia", and "Moana", I'm sure they can handle "Raya" as well. I would highly recommend this film to everyone, including those who love animation and some of Disney's recent animated films.
"The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run" stars Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Clancy Brown, Mr. Lawrence, Jill Talley, Carolyn Lawrence, and Mary Jo Catlett. Released in Canada on August 14, 2020, followed by a Paramount+ release on March 4, 2021, the film has SpongeBob going on a quest to rescue his pet snail Gary.
The film was written and directed by Tim Hill, who also directed films such as "Muppets from Space", "Alvin and the Chipmunks", "Hop", and "The War with Grandpa". It is based on the television series SpongeBob SquarePants created by Stephen Hillenburg. Nickelodeon is the home to some of the best cartoons of the 1990s. You got the likes of "Rugrats", "Ren & Stimpy", "Rocko's Modern Life", "Hey Arnold", and of course, "SpongeBob SquarePants". Ever since its debut in 1999, "SpongeBob" has been an unstoppable cultural phenomenon that refuses to slow down and one of the popular cartoons that fully defined the channel. Created by marine science educator Stephen Hillenburg (Rest in peace, good sir.), this animated show centering on an anthropomorphic sponge and his nautical misadventures has been on the air for more than 20 years, spawning 13 seasons as of this writing, video games, theme park rides, and three full-length movies. Today, I am finally looking at SpongeBob's latest adventure that took forever to come out in the United States. I was really excited about this film because I personally adore SpongeBob growing up. I was also curious to see how the show's style translates from 2D to CGI animation, which is the first in the film series to utilize this type of animation. Of course, the pandemic hit, theaters were closed down, and the film got delayed with the other 2020 releases. After a while, Paramount decided to release the film in international territories via Canadian theaters and Netflix and allow the United States to get it last via on-demand and the newly-rebranded Paramount+. I'm not too fond of the studio's release strategy back then, and I'm still not fond of it now. They're so lucky that Paramount+ has a lower price. That's pretty much the reason why I was so late to the party, along with many others who also reviewed it late. However, all that matters is that it's finally here in the States, and I have enough money to add Paramount+ to my streaming service collection so that I can revisit everyone's favorite sponge. With that in mind, let's dive right in and see if this sea-worthy adventure is as fun as eating a Krabby Patty.
The story once again follows SpongeBob SquarePants (Kenny), a fun-loving sponge who enjoys pretty much everything, such as his friends, his job at the Krusty Krab, and more importantly, his pet snail Gary (also voiced by Kenny). One day, Plankton (Mr. Lawrence), the Chum Bucket's tiny owner, realizes that SpongeBob was responsible for his failures and not his business rival Mr. Krabs (Brown). To get SpongeBob out of the picture, Plankton abducts Gary and takes him to Atlantic City, where a selfish ruler named King Poseidon (Matt Berry) uses slime from sea snails to keep himself young. It's now up to SpongeBob and his best friend Patrick Star (Fagerbakke) to travel to Atlantic City and rescue Gary from Poseidon. If you're familiar with the show and the previous two film adaptations, you would immediately recognize its comedic style right out of the gate in "Sponge on the Run". It's energetic, it's silly, it's meta, and it's also heartfelt. Those qualities are what made "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" and "Sponge Out of Water" so delightful and fun for longtime fans and newcomers. "Sponge on the Run" is unsurprisingly no exception. Filled with nonstop laughs and a charming yet delirious road trip plot, the film offered almost exactly what audiences would expect from a full-length SpongeBob adventure. Not only that, but it also works as an endearing celebration of the popular character and the people's hearts he has touched for years. Considering the fact that Tim Hill has worked on the show with Hillenburg for 20 years, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Although, I would have to agree that the film's story wasn't as sea-worthy as SpongeBob's first big-screen outing. Similar to "Sponge Out of Water", the plot in "Sponge on the Run" borrows plenty of elements from some of the show's episodes, especially the "Have You Seen This Snail?" special in the show's fourth season. There were also some flashback sequences that showcase SpongeBob's first encounter with his friends during summer camp, especially Gary. Those sequences happen to tie into the show's first spin-off series, "Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years", which is also available to watch on Paramount+. The flashbacks were admittedly cute and thoughtful despite being used as a source of promotion for the spin-off. However, they do tend to break up the pace a bit in the film's third act. Plus, the flashback involving SpongeBob's first encounter with Sandy Cheeks (voiced by Carolyn Lawrence) as children messed up the show's continuity as they first met in the series premiere back in 1999. Aside from those flaws, the story is an entertaining blast of colorful insanity with respectable messages that should resonate well with younger fans and newcomers. Keeping up with the source material's tradition, the film featured a few celebrity guest stars joining alongside the series' central voice cast, such as Keanu Reeves, Awkwafina, Snoop Dogg, Danny Trejo, Reggie Watts, and Tiffany Haddish. Out of all of those people, I personally enjoyed Reeves and Awkwafina the most in terms of the humor and screentime. Reeves plays Sage, a tumbleweed with the actor's face on it who assists SpongeBob and Patrick, while Awkwafina voices Otto, Sandy's ill-mannered robot. Those two actors succeeded in providing as many laughs and zaniness as the main characters themselves. As for the main cast, they're just as fantastic as always, with Tom Kenny and Bill Fagerbakke being the main highlights as SpongeBob and Patrick, respectively. Matt Berry also did pretty well with his amusing vocal performance as Poseidon, the main antagonist. Fun fact: Berry also starred in "Sponge Out of Water" as Bubbles the Dolphin. While I wouldn't say that Poseidon is a well-written villain, I would give the filmmakers credit for coming up with something new for SpongeBob to face rather than reusing Plankton from the first film. The next thing I want to talk about is the film's animation. As mentioned before, this is the first SpongeBob film to be animated in CGI as opposed to the regular 2D animation from the show and the first two films. This direction did seem odd at first, but after seeing how much care and effort the animators put into making this style, I got used to it right away. The CGI animation worked wonders in matching the vibrant slapstick and zany style of the show's 2D animation in terms of the character designs and the backgrounds. Plus, whoever decided on detailing the textures on Sandy's fur deserves a raise. It's no Pixar, but it's pretty enough to earn this animation upgrade. The humor was also just as hilarious and clever as some of the comedy in the show's earlier episodes. There were a couple of jokes that tend to appeal to the modern crowd, but they managed to provide some suitable laughs regardless.
Overall, "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run" is a lively blast of nautical nonsense that relies on charm and humor to overcome its familiar story. Even though it falls a bit short of its predecessors, there's still some fun to be had in the film that'll leave longtime fans laughing with delight. With its brilliant voice cast, its charming yet flawed story, amusing humor, and solid animation, "Sponge on the Run" is another respectable addition to the show's legacy. It's not an absolute must-see for everyone, but it may help cure people's boredom during the pandemic. It's worth checking out on Paramount+ or on-demand if you're a SpongeBob fan. As for those who aren't, I would say watch the earlier episodes and the first two films first and then decide whether to watch it or not.