Saturday, 27 March 2021

What I'm Watching: March 2021

A recap of my month in movies and streaming, featuring Amazon Prime's Coming 2 America, Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon and Netflix's Drive to Survive docuseries.

Coming to America/Coming 2 America (Prime Video)

After being bombarded with ads for Coming 2 America on Facebook for the month before its release, I decided to take the plunge – but that also meant watching the 1988 original first, which was a film that had been sitting on my to-do list for a while, but I'd never gotten around to.

So on a lazy Sunday earlier this month, I settled in to watch both back-to-back (well, part two spilled over into the second night because I needed sleep), and didn't regret the decision – even if it's plain as day that the long-awaited sequel isn't a patch on the original. 

Coming to America, the first one (these titles are confusing!), is a riot. It's Eddie Murphy at the height of his powers, playing multiple characters and successfully straddling that grey area between raunchy humour and saccharine romance. The sequel is less successful, straight out of the gate, and it quickly falls into that 'comedy sequel' trap of regurgitating a lot of the same gags, some lifted verbatim from the original. 

Some might find the callbacks charming – particularly those who grew up with the first film. But for me, watching both film in quick succession, it was harder to ignore the repetitive nature of Coming 2 America – not just the jokes, but the basic plot structure too. 

That's not to say it's a total flop. I still had fun with it – particularly Wesley Snipes and Tracey Morgan's characters. But overall, I think the sequel was hewing too closely to what people remembered and respected about the original, and forgot to strike out on its own and do something new.  

Formula One: Drive to Survive (Netflix)

The third season of Netflix's Drive to Survive series charts Formula One's unconventional 2020 season; one that was delayed for months due to COVID, saw the paddock visit new tracks and some old favourites, and made headlines around the world when Lewis Hamilton matched Michael Schumacher's record seven titles and Romain Grosjean survived a scary fireball crash.

That's not all though; season three unpacks an incident-filled year that also saw Pierre Gasly capture our hearts with a stirring win at Monza, Daniel Ricciardo's dramatic defection from Renault to McLaren, Ferrari's fall from grace and Alex Albon's continued struggles in the Red Bull pressure cooker. 

As an accessible entry point for newcomers and casual fans, Drive to Survive is unsurpassed – it straddles that divide nicely in that it can cater for both the layman, flicking through Netflix for something high-octane to occupy their time, and ardent F1 fans who already know the season and its storylines inside out. Tight editing, some clever (but not misleading) manipulation of events to heighten the drama and some incredible behind-the-scenes footage make Drive to Survive an unmissable sports docuseries. Give it a whirl, if you haven't already. 

Raya and the Last Dragon (In cinemas/Disney+)

An ancient kingdom characterised by warring factions, magical creatures and a mythology rooted in Asian cultures – the world of Raya the Last Dragon is awash with rich details that pop out of the screen courtesy of some truly sumptuous animation.

The story centres around Raya (voice of Kelly Marie Tran), a warrior princess who is searching for fragments of a magical gemstone that can restore Sisu (voice of Awkwafina), a fabled dragon with the power to destroy the Druun. In her quest, Raya is joined by a collection of ragtag characters from across the kingdom – from a ninja baby and its three monkey accomplices, to an axe-wielding chieftain. 

The underlying message behind Raya and the Last Dragon is an intriguing one – it preaches trust in one another and urges its viewers to be the bigger person, someone who can offer the metaphorical olive branch and seek resolution, rather than becoming consumed by grudges and petty squabbles. It might be a little simplistic, but there's power in that simplicity – and it's through the exploration of this core theme that the film unites its protagonist and her nemesis Namaari (Gemma Chan). 

A colourful, bouncy animated film that once again thrusts female characters to the forefront, you can't go wrong with Raya and the Last Dragon when looking for something to keep the kids engaged this Easter.

Moxie (Netflix)

Directed by Amy Poehler, Moxie is a coming-of-age teen drama about a shy 16-year-old girl Vivian (Hadley Robinson) who decides to tear down the patriarchy and start a feminist revolution at her sleepy suburban high school. It's an ensemble piece that also stars Patrick Schwarzenegger, Clark Gregg and Poehler as Vivian's mum with a punk rock past. 

It's a cool concept that starts out strong; there's a really compelling core story here about Vivian finding her voice, forging strong friendships (and seeing some others tested), and standing up for herself. Coming of age films are a dime a dozen, but Moxie sets itself up as something fun and different that audiences may not have seen before – it's got something to say, it's got a cool attitude and it's pretty funny to boot.

Where I think the film struggles is when it reaches the home stretch; there's a plot development towards the climax of the film that is really jarring and sees the tone suddenly shift into 'oh shit, this is serious' territory. Not to say that's a bad thing, I just think the change in tone is a bit abrupt and maybe not foreshadowed as effectively as it could have been. It's got spunk, it's got pep – and only puts a foot out of step at the final hurdle – so I'd say give Moxie a spin, if teen drama is your thing.

The Flight Attendant (HBO Max/Fox One)

A light and frothy thriller that doesn't take itself too seriously and goes to some seriously strange places along the way, The Flight Attendant is the better of the two HBO Max shows I've seen so far – the first being Ridley Scott's high-concept sci-fi Raised By Wolves which...yeah, nah. Not great.

The Flight Attendant though is something different. It's a smart and sexy whodunnit with comedic and espionage elements, plus some interesting storytelling techniques – internal monologues shared with the victim sit at this show's core – that move things along a brisk pace. Having only really seen Kaley Cuoco in The Big Bang Theory, I was intrigued to see her in something that didn't rely on canned laughter and the typical sitcom bag of tricks. 

She makes for a compelling lead here, as the alcoholic and dishevelled flight attendant Cassie who runs afoul of the authorities while staying in Bangkok, before embarking on a twisty mystery that takes her all over the place. The whole cast is great, to be honest, and the central hook – what happened to the mystery man and what's his story – is an intriguing one that remained interesting right the way through. 

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC/Netflix)

Season seven of NBC's Brooklyn Nine-Nine arrived on Australian Netflix this month, so I've been catching up on what is essentially the only good sitcom currently still on the air – seriously, where have all the good network sitcoms gone?

Anyway, at only 13 episodes, this season is significantly shorter than the usual 22 or 23 that we're usually treated to, but something is always better than nothing. The central storyline running throughout is that of Jake and Amy trying to fall pregnant and start a family, which in sitcom land often means we're entering the 'endgame' – and what do you know, it was recently revealed that the eighth season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine will be the last...

Which is a shame, because this show hasn't lost any of its lustre since it migrated from Fox to NBC. If anything, it's grown legs and prospered in an environment that feels freer and more open for creative flourishes. There's more an edge to some of the humour now, plus the characters are generally goofier and the scenarios more outlandish. Which is to say Brooklyn Nine-Nine still bangs and this latest season is no different – a continued evolution, rather than reinvention, that will satisfy fans.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't seen any of these, but I plan on watching The Flight Attendant. Eventually I'll get around to it.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...