Raya and the Last Dragon ***
Animated fantasy. Voices: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina and Gemma Chan. Directors: Don Hall,
Carlos López Estrada, Paul Briggs and John Ripa. PG V.
In the ancient land of Kumandra (inspired by several Southeast Asian cultures), humans and dragons unite to fight off the Druun, evil spirits that turn living creatures to stone. They manage to stop the Druun, but at a cost: while humans are brought back to life, dragons remain statues.
Five centuries later, Kumandra has split into five tribes and one chief’s dream of uniting his people is shattered by treachery, leading to the return of the dreaded Druun.
Now it’s up to the chief’s daughter, Raya (Tran), to move past her hurt and anger at the devastating betrayal. She must find the last living dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina), to help fight the Druun and bring peace to Kumandra. But she’ll need to regain her trust in people if she’s to have any chance of success.
With a heart-warming story, beautiful visuals and the usual light comedic moments you expect from Disney, Raya and the Last Dragon is a delight and sure to entertain both children and adults.
Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians) do a stellar job of carrying the film, and they’re ably supported by a starry cast – including Chan (Humans) as antagonist Namaari, Daniel Dae Kim (Lost) as Raya’s dad and Sandra Oh (Killing Eve) as Namaari’s mom.
You might feel the absence of those catchy songs that make Disney animated flicks so memorable. Without them the film loses steam from time to time, which highlights the formulaic plot.But the excellent fight scenes and warm character work should keep viewers entertained throughout.
– BIANCA LAMBRECHTS
IN CINEMAS NOW.
Chemical hearts ***
Romantic drama. When withdrawn 17-year-old Grace (Lili Reinhart) moves to a new town, self-proclaimed romantic Henry (Austin Abrams) is immediately drawn to her. After Henry and Grace are chosen to co-edit the school paper, they grow closer and Henry, longing for that once-in-a-lifetime connection, falls in love with her. But a past traumatic experience has changed Grace and her emotional recovery defines the landscape of their new relationship.
If you’ve enjoyed dramas based on young adult books such as Five Feet Apart, All the Bright Places, and The Spectacular Now, then this dark and poignant piece depicting teens dealing with trauma, loss and heartbreak is for you. It’s based on the novel Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland.
Reinhart (Riverdale) and Adams (Dash & Lily) deliver great performances and the experience of growing up is beautifully depicted. But the pace is rushed, giving little space to develop the characters, and some aspects seem far-fetched, such as the teens’ incredibly mature responses to events.
Overall, it’s worth watching but fans of the book should manage their expectations.
– CAMILLA THOROGOOD
AMAZON PRIME VIDEO. 2020. 93 MIN. 16DLSV.
Comedy drama. Two out-of-control planets collide when street urchin Tallulah (Elliot Page), and reluctant middle-aged mom Carolyn (a delicious Tammy Blanchard) meet in a hotel in New York, when Tallulah steals food just as Carolyn opens the door.
Mistaking Tallulah for a housekeeper, Carolyn asks the teen to look after her toddler, Maddy (played by twins Evangeline and Liliana Ellis), while she prepares for another night of partying.
Tallulah decides to “save” Maddy and takes her to the rundown van in which she and boyfriend Nico (Evan Jonigkeit) travelled America. Nico has left her and gone home to his mother, Margo (Mom’s Allison Janney), and when Carolyn calls the cops, a panicked Tallulah shows up at Margo’s flat, claiming Maddy is Nico’s child.
If you enjoyed movies like Juno (2007), which also co-starred Page and Janney, or Page’s breakthrough movie, Hard Candy (2005), you’ll love this. It’s a superior independent movie with clear messages about identity, loss and the power of women connecting. A remarkable film.
– PIETER VAN ZYL
NETFLIX. 2016. 111 MIN. 13DLNSV.
A: All ages D: Drugs H: Horror L: Language N: Nudity P: Prejudice PG: Parental guidance
S: Sex V: Violence