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Dora And The Lost City Of Gold (2019) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Dora and the Lost City of Gold Review

Director: James Bobin
Writers: Nicholas Stoller (screenplay by), Matthew Robinson (screenplay by)
Stars: Isabela Merced, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña

In the real world, I’ve been a middle school teacher for over 20 years, making me deserving of the Medal of Honour. My chosen field of professional masochism is also why I continue to play the lottery for investment purposes.

Middle schoolers are an eclectic – and exhausting – batch of younglings to spend your days around. Some still play with Legos, others are twerking at school dances and a great number of them consider professional YouTubing to be a viable career option, so there’s no need to master such trifles as composing a coherent sentence. One thing they all share, however, is a general disdain for the past, including their own. What was once shiny and new generally expires faster than raw chicken, destined to be shunned and ridiculed once they’ve “outgrown” it.

This is especially true of children’s entertainment. A program like Dora the Explorer may have educated & engaged them just a few short years ago, but now it’s stupid, cheesy and poorly made. Being inherently egocentric, they’re no longer able to view it in the context of its intended audience. It doesn’t occur to most of them that Dora the Explorer is a no-longer a party they’re invited to.

But Dora and the Lost City of Gold actually does extend that invitation, welcoming back anyone who grew-up on the show, as well as parents who endured it during their kids’ preschool years. A live-action update of the long-running Nick Jr., program, the film is created to appeal to more than an audience of toddlers. What’s truly surprising is how successfully it manages to do that, making it one of the better family films of the year.
When not questioning my life choices (to quote one of Dora’s amusing throw-away lines, uttered by a teacher, of course), I write about movies and have been permitted the opportunity to parlay that love into teaching two periods of a writing class called Film Studies, where we watch, discuss and review films from various eras and genres. Each class consists of 35 seventh and eighth graders. Since Dora and the Lost City of Gold is several decades closer to their demographic than mine, I thought it would be interesting to show it to them and observe their reactions. And indeed it was.

Nearly all of them avoided it in theatres because…well, it’s Dora. In fact, when I announced it as our next film, I was greeted with more than the usual amount of groans. A few kids even asked if I was serious. Since it was likely most of them hadn’t willingly watched the show in years, we began with an old episode, during which time they jeered and made sorry attempts at MST3K-like shout-outs. They mockingly sang-along with the songs and generally had a good time at poor Dora’s expense, repeatedly quipping how dumb she was by breaking the fourth wall to ask the audience for help finding objects when all she had to do was turn around.

But a funny thing happened when we started watching the film itself. Though both classes were prepared by resume their cavalcade of crass comments, Dora and the Lost City of Gold kept beating them to the punch, poking fun at its own basic concept with unexpected self-awareness. The story itself has Dora (Isabela Moner), now 16 years old and sent to live with her aunt & uncle (and Diego, of course) while Mom and Dad search for Parapata, a mythic Incan city. She’s never been out of the jungle or around kids her own age, nor has she changed one whit since she was six. She’s basically a fist-out-of-water, to the amusement of her peers and Diego’s embarrassment. These scenes are genuinely funny without being cynical or mean-spirited.

Of course, no Dora film is complete without an adventure. In this case, she, Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) and two school acquaintances are kidnapped by a trio of mercenaries who also seek Parapata and need Dora’s map. Much of it plays like a kid-friendly Indiana Jones adventure and, while not quite as fresh as the first act, is fun, surprising and frequently very amusing, with a lot of clever dialogue (some of which flew over the heads of my students). Moner is note-perfect as Dora (you haven’t lived until you’ve heard her sing the “Poop Song”), though the whole cast (especially Michael Pena & Eugenio Derbez) have their share of great moments. Ironically, only the infrequent – and terribly-animated – appearances of Boots and Swiper remind us of the film’s kiddie show origins.

Watching the class during the film, there was a noticeable shift in their overall attitude. Since the schedule forced us to watch it over three class periods, the groans instead came from being forced to wait until the next day to continue. With the exception of those too-cool-for-school kids required to hate everything, the response to the film was overwhelmingly positive, many of whom admitted it was a lot better than they were expecting. This the first “meta” movie most of them have ever seen and they thoroughly appreciated those aspects of it.

Like the students in my film class, Dora and the Lost City of Gold wasn’t at-all what I expected. It’s fast, silly fun and continuously inventive, amusingly self-aware while still holding reverence for its origins. One would have to be hopelessly cynical – or a perpetually angry seventh grader – not to play along.

Dora and The Lost City Of Gold (2019) Movie Review By The Moviie Couple


Dora and the Lost City of Gold Review

Director: James Bobin
Writers: Chris Gifford (based on the series created by), Matthew Robinson (screenplay by)
Stars: Isabela Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña

Moviie Couple here!   We went to see Dora and The Lost City of Gold this weekend!  Remember we are just a married couple that loves movies!  We’re here to tell you if we liked it.  Film experts we are not!  Just a quick reminder of our rating system.   Mrs. Moviie Couple and I, rate films on whether they are worth the cash spent on a night out.  we use a 1-6 Dollar Bill system.  1-2 Bills equal a waste of both our time and money!  3-4 Bills equal Meh to Pretty Good, money well spent!  5-6 Bills equal Wow!  Well worth the price of dinner, movie and sitter!  Please take our money again!

Dora and the Lost City of Gold brings to the silver screen the titular cartoon heroine from Nickelodeon’s Dora The Explorer! Back in August 2000, the world was introduced to Dora, a seven year old latina adventurer that entertained a generation of kids for eight seasons, with her talking backpack, map and monkey friend Boots!  Exploring her jungle, outwitting foxes and teaching kids a bit of Spanish all at the same time!  Updated for this live action adventure, we catch up with a high school age Dora (performed by Isabela Moner) as she is sent by her explorer parents (Played by Michael Pena and Eva Longoria!) to the big city to attend high school with her cousin and childhood bestie, Diego (Yes, for those cartoon historians, Diego starred in his own Nick Jr cartoon Go Diego Go! Unfortunately that show is never referenced here).

While innocent, homeschooled Dora is sent to explore this, as of yet to her, undiscovered world of selfies, social media and high school bullies, her parents head off to discover the Lost City of Gold, Parapata! After a bumpy start to High School life,  it doesn’t take long before Dora is off to the jungle in search of her missing parents, with a few new classmates in tow!

The students and Diego played by Jeff Wahlberg, Nicholas Coombe and Madeleine Madden get dragged along as Dora reunites with Boots and runs afoul of her old nemesis Swiper the masked fox!  For the “I can’t believe I’m writing this record”  Boots the Monkey and Swiper the Fox are voice acted by Danny Trejo and Benicio Del Toro!  Wow, just Wow!   Directed by James Bobin of recent Muppet Movie fame, Will Dora find her missing parents?  Can she prove herself to her judgmental city peers?  Does the City of Gold exist?  Is this pint sized Lara Croft ready to face the real life dangers and challenges awaiting her?  Is this film simply a death trap or is it the high school equivalent of Raiders Of the Lost Ark?  Will you wish you stayed home or will come away believing a Fox can talk?  Grab you maps, insect repellant and pink backpacks everyone, it’s time to find out!

Mr. Moviie Couple:  Honestly, I remember the Dora cartoon from my children watching her years ago.  With that in mind, I was very curious after seeing the trailer for this film.  I would even say I was a tad bit excited to see how this would all be pulled off.  How would they update Swiper the Fox for a live action film?  It didn’t take long before the movie lets us know that much of what we saw in the cartoon was the product of young Dora’s imaginative adventures growing with only her cousin Diego and her parents around for company.  This worked well for me.  The acting was pretty par for the course for a movie of this type.  The lone standout to me was the performance of Isabela Moner as Dora.  This young actress really carried the show.  She conveyed Dora’s earnestness in each and every scene!  No spoilers! (Oh man!…, see what I did there?)  But even in the very Croft/Indiana Jones third act, Moner never drops the innocent innate goodness of Dora throughout the various situations!  Muy Bueno!

Once it became apparent, to a grumpy filmgoer such as myself, with Swiper the Fox’s first onscreen appearance, (where he is wearing his mask and talking to a group of mercenaries without anyone freaking out),  that the earlier explanations trying to tie the cartoon version to the live action film was now out the window.  I remembered that this movie is really made for kids or young adults that actually watched the cartoon with regularity!  My need to understand Swiper or Boots in a real world setting faded soon after and I started to really enjoy this movie for what it is.  Part Mean Girls, Part Indiana Jones (especially the third act with a cool nod to the Last Crusade) and Part walk down nostalgia lane.

Packed with great messages about being true to oneself, the value of everyone and the bond of family, what more could you ask of a film with a target audience ripe for all these positive concepts.
Overall, I enjoyed Dora due to a great lead performance and a fun concept, but to be fair, if you have no feelings of nostalgia or never cared for Dora The Explorer, you’ll probably hate it.  With all that in mind, I must quantify my rating.  If you are a kid or a young adult who grew up watching Dora, I feel its a solid 4 Bills!  BUT, if you have little to no history with the cartoon it’s a solid 3 (probably a 2 if not for Moner’s performance).  So for me, I give Dora and The Lost City of Gold 4 Bills!  Pretty Good!  Overall a good time!  If not entirely Delicioso!

Mrs. Moviie Couple:  Hola!  Senora Moviie Couple aqui!

It was so enjoyable to see all the cartoon characters brought to life in this movie!

All the actors did a fantastic job in their respective roles and Boots was very cute and funny!

The moral of this story really should have been used to promote it more.  Being true to yourself, even when being teased for it!  Never changing who you are for acceptance reasons, are both great lessons to teach our children these days!

We here at Moviie Couple work hard not to spoil the plot twists and turns or even big movie reveals, but I have to make an exception for one scene in this film.  I feel a responsibility to speak on this particular scene.  Dora and her friends are lured into a field of dangerous plants, once the plants are awakened they spray a pollen that when the characters breathe it in, they all begin to hallucinate.  It is played for laughs, as the characters see themselves as they appeared in the original cartoon.   Dora even thinks she is speaking to her map and backpack, as she imagined all those years ago.  I think it’s up to a parents discreation as to whether or not they want to expose their children to a scene like this one.  Or perhaps you can use this as a teaching moment to speak about hallucinogens to your kids depending on their age.  Either way I wanted to alert parents about the scene in advance so they can decide for themselves.

I have to give Dora and the Lost City of Gold 2 Bills!  Despite some fun, it drags a bit too long and I wish I had saved my money and waited to catch it on Netflix.  It will be a great watch for kids at home or for a family movie night on the couch, but not as an expensive night out!

On the way home, We spoke of the old cartoon. I still strove for an explanation of Swiper talking and nobody caring!  Am I the only one? Guess so. The Mrs. ribbed me a bit about how I was actually looking forward to this one and what more did I expect?  At the end of the day, we both had different experiences, who knew Dora the Explorer could be so divisive?  With my 4 Bills and her 2 Bills we come up with a solid 2 Bills maybe a Shaky 3 Bills.

Till next time, keep your binoculars close by, your backpack strapped tightly and never trust a talking fox wearing a mask, especially if he sounds like Benicio Del Toro!  Be sure to check our facebook page for a clue to our next movie up for review!  Mr. & Mrs. Moviie Couple out!

Extinction (2018) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

Extinction Review

Director: Ben Young
Writers: Spenser Cohen (screenplay by), Brad Kane (screenplay by) (as Brad Caleb Kane)
Stars: Michael Peña, Lizzy Caplan, Amelia Crouch 

Plot:  A father has a recurring dream of losing his family. His nightmare turns into reality when the planet is invaded by a force bent on destruction. Fighting for their lives, he comes to realize an unknown strength to keep them safe from harm.

Running Time: 95 Minutes

IMDB Rating: 5.8

Why I Watched It: This is a Netflix exclusive so I saw a poster and that’s it, I went in blind I do really like Michael Pena but to counter that I’m not a Lizzy Caplan fan.

Random Thoughts: I think every character actor should get at least one kick at the can as lead in a film, now Pena has had co-leads before but here he’s front and center and it’s nice to see, he’s a very underrated actor who can do both comedy and heavy drama and that’s not easy.

As a point of interest this film is marketed heavily on the Sci-Fi elements in the film those elements take awhile to get fully introduced so be patient.

What I Liked: The thing I liked the most is that I didn’t care for the film for the first third, it was fine but boring and then it won me over.  Now I won’t spoil anything and this is the kind of film that I recommend you see without knowing too much cause there is a major twist that I think saves the film and there’s a couple of more to round out the film and for me that’s the reason to watch the film.  The twists make sense and then turn the film into something else, for the first third the film is very Sci-Fi light but then by the end it hits some very big Sci-Fi themes and they nail them.

The film starts very cliched and then becomes something else, I don’t want to say too much but at the beginning they steer you one way then man do they sucker punch you, the direction and the script is very good here, all of the twists have major effect, this is not just a twist for the sake of a twist.

Pena carries the load here, he’s good but he’s very quiet, nothing showy here but he’s solid as always.  He does a lot here with silences, you care about him cause you get the sense early on something is not quite right.  The key here is Pena doesn’t go over the top or do any big foreshadowing with his performance he deals with the twist as we do.

What I Didn’t Like: The beginning is slow and I’ll be honest I almost fell asleep and if I did I might not have gone back to finish it and that would have been a shame cause I really liked the last third but the first act is so cliched and so slow it does kill the tone and it is something they don’t fully get back, I know what they wanted to do and it was needed but they could have given the first act some energy.

After the twists the film is very good but the end does drag a bit and I’m glad the film was just over 90 minutes cause they were beginning to screw up the landing.

So I said I’m not a Lizzy Caplan fan,I just don’t like her style of acting but she’s fine here though I didn’t buy her and Pena has husband and wife.

Final Thoughts: Not a perfect film but a well written and very thought provoking Sci-Fi film well worth seeing.

Rating: 7/10

Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018) Movie Blu-ray Review By D.M. Anderson

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Director: Peyton Reed
Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Walton Goggins

When heavy metal was at the height of its popularity, most bands could be counted-on to include at least one power ballad on each album, a relatively quiet song that was seldom the best tune on the record, but got the most radio airplay and had fans whipping out their lighters during a concert.

The power ballad also served an important aesthetic purpose, offering a brief respite from the sonic fury of the rest of the album. For example, smack-dab in the middle of Metallica’s Ride the Lightning is a song called “Fade to Black.” While still heavier than anything Poison ever recorded, it was sort of a breather from the constant speed and intensity of the surrounding songs.

As films in the MCU grow longer, louder and increasingly epic, the Ant-Man films are sort-of like Marvel’s power ballads. The second film, Ant-Man and the Wasp, is more tied to the MCU story arc than the first, but steadfastly maintains the same light, breezy and humorous tone, another welcome break from the serious implications and apocalyptic battle royals where the fate of the world is at stake.

Not that it skimps on spectacle. As power ballads go, Ant-Man and the Wasp is still more Metallica than Poison. But the stakes are more personal, the characters more grounded and realistically flawed. One thing I appreciate about Paul Rudd’s amusing take on the title character is that he screws up as often as he succeeds, and most of the supporting characters (Evangeline Lilly as Hope/Wasp in particular) are just as integral to the plot. Most distinctively, the action & visuals are as humorous as they are eye-popping (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a giant Pez dispenser take-out henchman).

Other than an ominous MCU-related coda during the end credits, Ant-Man and the Wasp, while not strictly mining for laughs, is never overly serious. It’s even shorter than other recent Marvel movies, never outstaying its welcome. Like heavy metal power ballads, the film may not be among the most essential entries in the franchise, but like the first Ant-Man, it’s a welcome change of pace. Even fanboys need an occasional breather.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) Movie Review By John Walsh

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Director: Peyton Reed
Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers 
Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Walton Goggins

I finally got round to watching Ant-Man and the Wasp a good week back, just the one month after the rest of the world. I knew about the end credit scenes, because frankly, I couldn’t wait to see how they interconnected this with the events of Avengers: Infinity War and so I succumbed to reading about them on the internet. They had to do it following Scott Lang’s non-involvement and I have to say that I was pleased and relieved that Disney/Marvel didn’t intrude upon the actual films plot with any Thanos related incidents. 

This had to be a more street level, more intimate affair, focusing on Scott Lang, Hope Van Dyme and Hank Pym. I’ve always enjoyed that element to the MCU over the years. Their ability to jump from cosmic scale events to fighting a corrupt businessman with itchy fingers and a propensity for turning up at just the right time. That last bit is directly connected to this film, admittedly, but we’ve seen it time and again, in the in the other standalone films. Be it the ragtag group of terrorists in Iron Man, Yellowjacket, Aldrich Killian, or more recently, Killmonger. 

Thankfully, it is more street level. It begins with the focus on Scott Lang, post Civil War. He’s under house arrest and he unwillingly gets stolen away by Hope (Evangeline Lily) and Hank (Michael Douglas), as they try to save Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), who’s apparently alive and still trapped in the quantum realm. There’s two main antagonists and a minor, comedic one. Primarily, we’ve got Ghost/Ava (Hannah John-Kamen), weaving through doors and walls, trying her damnedest to steal Pym’s latest invention for herself, a portal to the quantum realm. 

Why does she want it? Well, her father is Elihas, a former partner of Hank, who killed himself and his wife, during a quantum experiment. This left Ava in a permanent state of agonising pain, with her body tearing itself apart, again and again. She wants Hank’s lab to extract quantum energy, in the hope of it curing her, with the help of Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), another disenfranchised ex-partner of Pym. Which would be perfectly fine and dandy, if it wasn’t for Janet being trapped within and the danger of her being killed by such an excursion. 

The second antagonist, is a wiry, snake of man called Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins). He’s an opportunistic, low level criminal and more of a traditional villain. His main objective for the entirety of the film is fairly simple. He also wants the Pym lab for his own and endeavours to sell it onto the black market for monetary gain. I described him as being similar to the Beni character from ‘The Mummy’ in that he’s full of misguided cockiness, but does have a propensity for arriving on the scene at the right time, much to the chagrin of  Scott and Hope, who he taunts frequently. Ava is a relatable antagonist, with a semblance of humanity. Sonny, is a little annoying bitch. 

Thirdly, you have Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), an FBI or some kind of law enforcement officer who makes regular trips to the Lang household to make sure Scott is maintaining his house arrest. He’s not a proper antagonist as such, but he’s a thorn in the side of Ant-Man, who often has to leave more important matters to dash back and keep up the facade of ignorance to the forty foot plus superhero wading through water in the Ant-Man suit, which is definitely not him. No way. Woo brings some much needed comedic relief along with the usual suspects of Luis (Michael Peña), a family pet sized ant and even Lang himself. 

The humour is fantastic, incidentally, and very reminiscent of the first film. It’s reminiscent of just about every MCU film in existence. They know how to blend all the different elements together to create a perfect tonal stew. Paul Rudd is no stranger to that genre too and he’s got the gift of comedic timing and hilarious line delivery. From the “Hank I would never do that to you, I respect you too much” to the “I don’t think you got the gist of the game” quip to Hope. He’s a very likeable, loveable even, goofball. Luis also brings the comedy with his antics and even a certain Mr. Douglas has his moments too with a few one liners. 

The story is pretty simplistic throughout really, I pretty much nailed it all in one sentence earlier, but that’s absolutely fine for a film like this. It doesn’t need a complicated, convoluted plot to work. It gave me exactly what I wanted with the relatable, great characters we love returning, slick and quick paced action, more of Pym’s cool shrinking technology, more great humour and stunning visuals. But more importantly, the aforementioned human level antagonists and story. It was a great change of pace, it was escapism, and for me at least, an improvement on the original. That’s no mean feat either, because that was one of my favourite standalone MCU films.

My only gripe for this film was the bone headed decision from the Disney executives to delay its release in the U.K. by a month. Ok, fair enough, the World Cup was on and that can have ramifications for the box office performances. That seemed to have overlooked the fact that three of the four countries that make up the U.K. weren’t even in the tournament though. There’s little appetite in Scotland to watch England coasting to a semi-final. Watching Ant-Man would’ve been the perfect remedy. That’s before you even mention that a large part of the core demographic probably doesn’t even follow football.

It was a mistake for me and it’s came back to bite them in the arse because it’s not doing too great at the box office regardless. A large proportion will have watched a pirated copy, which is criminal, particularly for a film of this ilk. But it’s also understandable too. Nobody wants to be waiting a month longer to see a blockbuster release like this. If it was the United States getting that treatment then there’d be riots. That being said, I think the fact my biggest criticism isn’t even about anything within the film itself will speak volumes.

It’s another highly enjoyable ride from Disney/Marvel. They’ve nailed the formula at this stage, they know what fans want and they bring their A game every time now. It’s a more than worthy addition to the collection. Of course, I’m biased because I love Paul Rudd and the Ant-Man character, but it’s a highly recommended watch.

Rating: 5/5

The Vatican Tapes (2015) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

The Vatican Tapes Review

Director: Mark Neveldine
Writers: Christopher Borrelli (screenplay by), Michael C. Martin (screenplay by)
Stars: Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michael Peña, Dougray Scott

Plot:  A priest and two Vatican exorcists must do battle with an ancient satanic force to save the soul of a young woman.
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 17%   Audience 62%

Why I Watched it: It’s a horror film and it’s Netflix fault.

Random Thoughts: Possession movies are tricky, along with the Slasher movie it might be the most cliched horror sub-genre, they tend to be paint by numbers productions.  Now the one thing with this film it gives us a two for one, it’s a possession movie and an anti-christ movie, fun wow.

What I liked: Not much, there I said it.  Let me take and breath and try to come up with something positive.  I liked the supporting cast actors, all are wasted but Michael Pena does try real hard and he’s good here and his character does work for the most part.

What I didn’t like: This is a sloppy mess of a film even for a horror film this is just bad.  Nothing in this film holds together and the plot seems so rushed that we never get a bearings, the film seems like a huge cut and paste job.  The characters aren’t fleshed out at all, we never get a sense of anyone or their relationships.  I think the acting suffers here as the characters and motivations are so mucky the actors are having a hard time getting a handle of what they’re dealing with.
I like Dougray Scott and he’s a vet of genre work but here he’s lost, he plays the father and by the end I swear he’s just yelling all his dialogue.  Olivia Taylor Dudley gives a not great performance, I can’t blame here cause the story throws her character around and we never know if she is possessed or why she’s acting like she is.

The biggest flaw this film has is that it’s not only not scary but there is no suspense at all, the cliches have cliches.  They do nothing with the genre and it’s so badly directed we don’t care. Even the set up of the title so all this is on tape and the Vatican has it?  The film starts in one direction, a small story about one women and then by the third act we’re dealing with the end of the world as we know it the film changes from The Exorcist to The Omen very quickly.  The main problem is we don’t get to know these people there’s no stakes at play.  It doesn’t build, almost every scene feels disjointed.  I blame the script mostly but the film is also not edited well.  This is a mess from start to finish, it wastes some good actors but it doesn’t have a story worth telling.

Final Thoughts: Just a really badly made horror film.

Rating: 2/10