A couple of things become eminently clear in the first five minutes of Raya and the Last Dragon. The first is that this may well be the crowing visual achievement of Disney’s in house animation team in the post-hand drawn era. It’s gorgeous stuff. Breathtaking. Second, the whole thing is very ‘on-brand’. The twenty-first century Disney Princess owes a lot to the Frozen mould and that’s both a blessing and a curse. When Dwayne Johnson’s Maui cracked the code in Moana – ‘if you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess’ – that was irony. In Raya, it’s marketable. Take that as you will. Raya doesn’t sing but she doesn’t do much we’ve not seen before either.
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No end of spinning has proven a particularly convincing argument that Disney hasn’t lost faith in Artemis Fowl. Indeed, was the writing not on the wall when those high up announced its shift to a digital only release? And this following trailers so dispiriting that fans of the beloved Eoin Colfer book series from which the film originated screeched blasphemy. The result is predictably bland fantasy inaction. What should have been ‘Die Hard with fairies’ hits the ground heavily as National Treasure with tweens.
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Handsome, clever and rich that she is, you’re not really meant to like Emma. Jane Austen did, naturally; but her vain, spoilt heroine was always supposed to vex readers. To this end, no film nor televisual take on the novel has ever truly hit the nail on its heroine’s handsome head. Gwyneth Paltrow proved far too endearing in Douglas McGrath’s 1996 adaptation, whilst even Kate Beckinsale’s humbling just missed being worthy of it. Enter Anya Taylor-Joy and a splendidly smug showcase for the ages. Directed with verve by Autumn de Wilde – the titular full stop is intentional and referential solely to the film’s ‘period’ setting – Taylor-Joy’s Emma meddles in affairs of the heart as though to do so is her right by birth. What marvellous casting. Such fun.
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