Tag Archives: animated film

My Thoughts on: Wish Dragon (2021)

After finally sitting down and watching Wish Dragon on Netflix, I have to confess I have (once again) learned a powerful lesson: one should never judge a movie by its first 20 minutes alone. Because while Wish Dragon does get off to a rather slow start, it does eventually come into its own with a beautiful story to tell.

The story of Wish Dragon is set in modern Shanghai and follows a capable (but poor) young man named Din, who unexpectedly finds himself in possession of a magic teapot containing a “wish dragon” named Long who can grant him three wishes. If that sounds suspiciously familiar to the plot of Aladdin, well, it is, and on that basis alone I almost gave up on the film because, let’s be honest, Disney did that story years ago and did it very well.

But there’s a key difference between these two films and that is the titular wish dragon Long. This pink dragon is no Genie, and the film is well-written to make sure we don’t think of him that way. Long is an unexpectedly complex character; he started off irritating but slowly grew to become one of my favorite characters in the film. Long isn’t just a magical dragon, he has his own motivations that color the story and that creates a completely different relationship between Din and Long than what exists between Aladdin and the Genie. It’s a brilliant twist on this kind of story actually, and I’m glad I stuck with the film to see how this story arc played out.

Another thing I love about Wish Dragon is how this story puts a platonic twist on the “boy wants girl” story trope. When I first heard of this film and realized there was a young man and young woman involved, I rolled my eyes and thought “here we go, another YA animated romance film. Next!” And then I saw the part in the trailer where Din admits that he does NOT want Lina to fall in love with him, he just wants her back as his best friend. And that made my jaw DROP. That….you don’t see that in stories, or at least you didn’t until now. It was so refreshing to see a story where romance is NOT the ultimate goal of these magic wishes (another key difference from Aladdin).

And then there’s the film’s themes about telling the truth and friendship. Of course the most important theme in this film is friendship and how it is one of the most important things you can have, even more than money or fame. But…at the same time there’s an almost equal emphasis on telling the truth, be it about what you really want in life or being honest about who you really are. You need to be honest with yourself and the world about what you really want, at least that’s what I gathered after watching this film.

As a quick side note, I might also say that Wish Dragon also has a smaller lesson embedded in it, that being “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” It’s a lesson you don’t see implemented consistently with magical wish-granting stories, but Wish Dragon does make good use of it in this film, and Long even snarks about how one should “be careful what you DON’T wish for” in reference to this idea.

Now, as much as I ended up loving Wish Dragon, it does take a little while to get going. I beg you to be patient with the film’s first act because once things are properly set into motion, the story is a lot of fun. Other than that, I have no real complaints about this film. The animation is smartly done and the music, as I learned from talking to the film’s composer, is indeed a perfect blending of East and West.

Despite some minor flaws and a slow start, Wish Dragon proved itself to be everything I was promised and more. It proves a story like this doesn’t need romance to work and it also rams the lesson home that money is NOT everything nor is being rich everything it’s cracked up to be. As the credits rolled, I found myself more than happy with what I’d seen and I happily recommend checking this film out on Netflix.

Let me know what you think of Wish Dragon on Netflix in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Music, Magic, and Dragons: Talking With Composer Philip Klein About Wish Dragon (2021)

Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

I have been super excited about Raya and the Last Dragon for so long, a part of me felt like the movie would never actually come. But at last, the movie became available on Premiere Access on Disney+ and against all the odds I found myself paying up the $30 to check it out on release day because the film looked that good in the previews.

As it turns out, this was a great decision to make, because Raya and the Last Dragon is amazing. Seriously, believe the hype you hear about this movie because this is some of Disney’s best work. The story is set in the fictional world of Kumandra, which is based on various parts of Southeast Asia. With her world threatened, Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) sets out to find Sisu, the Last Dragon (Awkwafina) and save the world.

With a premise like that, you might think you know how the story is going to play out, I know I did. And I was completely okay with how I thought the story was going to go: girl goes on an adventure, girl finds dragon, girl saves the world. However….that’s not what ended up happening because the movie is about so much more. To be sure, there is a LOT of girl power in Raya and the Last Dragon, and I loved every minute. But at the end of the day, the story isn’t just about a heroine saving the world, or even two or three heroes getting together to save the day. The real story is about coming together and trusting people, and building a better world on that basis. Given how messed up the world has been with racism and similar issues, the message in Raya and the Last Dragon couldn’t be more timely. There’s also a strong message about taking responsibility for one’s actions. I admit to being resistant about this particular message, but the character pointing this thing out was right: you need to admit when something is equally your fault and not just blame the other person.

Along with this amazing story is an equally awesome voice cast. Kelly Marie Tran absolutely kills it as Raya, it doesn’t take much and you’re completely hooked into her character. This is the type of Disney princess I’ve been dreaming about for years, even Queen Elsa (despite her awesomeness) didn’t quite hit the nail on the head for me as much as Raya does. She’s a badass warrior, but also sweet and compassionate. Watching her grow from beginning to end of the story is a fun experience.

And pairing her with Awkwafina’s Sisu makes one of the best parts of the movie. Sisu is nothing like what I was expecting, but that’s okay because I loved every minute of screen time she had. I’ve never seen a dragon like Sisu (I’m used to large scaled dragons like Smaug) before but she’s beautifully animated and she feels alive, which is a sign that you’ve nailed the CGI.

Then there’s the music (you know I had to mention that part). James Newton Howard, one of my favorite composers, has put together an amazing score that helps bring the different areas of Kumandra completely to life. As you might expect, it’s tinged with elements of Southeast Asia as well, I’m sure a behind the scenes look would confirm that a number of traditional instruments were used in the instrumental mix. The music definitely helps create the idea that the different areas of Kumandra are their own separate and unique places.

All of this is to say that Raya and the Last Dragon was not only worth the wait, it was also worth the $30 I paid to see it now instead of waiting until June. Disney has put together a story that honors its Southeast Asian inspiration, while also creating a new world that I would be more than happy to visit again. And the story will take you by surprise in the best way possible. I would love to go into more detail than that, but to say literally anything else would be giving too much away. You really do need to see this for yourself.

Go watch Raya and the Last Dragon (available now through Premiere Access on Disney+) and then let me know what you think about it in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

 Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Soul (2020)

When Soul was bumped from its November 20th release date to Christmas Day on Disney+, I instantly knew what my top goal for my mini-Christmas vacation would be: sit and watch Soul with my family.

Not only was I successful with this goal, I also ended up watching a pretty enjoyable movie, though not one without a few flaws (I’ll get to that later). In fact, it was so much fun I didn’t realize until after the credits had rolled that (minor spoiler alert) there isn’t really a villain in this film. Which, if you think about it, doesn’t happen all that often. But really Soul doesn’t need a bad guy because it is dealing with a whole lot already.

Soul is, without a doubt, the deepest animated film I’ve ever seen. Think Inside Out and ratchet it up by a factor of 100 and you’ll be pretty close to the mark. In fact, Soul is so deep, that I wholeheartedly agree with every critic who has said that Soul is not and should not be considered a movie for children. This film deals pretty openly with matters of life and death, hinted reincarnation, chakras, the astral plane, the afterlife in general, and in short what it means to be alive on this Earth. It was a bold, BOLD move to deal with all of these concepts in a single film so openly and I applaud everyone involved with the film for putting that part of the story together. You might not agree with all of the beliefs presented or referenced in Soul (for example, I don’t believe in reincarnation), but you can easily appreciate the tone the film is going for: that there is way more to life and living than you might think.

Jamie Foxx as Joe Gardner is an absolute delight. As a musician myself, I could totally feel the pull Joe is feeling between following his dreams of being a full time musician, and taking the pragmatic route by being a band teacher. Joe is the perfect kind of everyman to take us through the story, and the scenes where Joe loses himself in “the zone” while playing the piano….those moments spoke to me the most.

Tina Fey as 22….it took a while but she grew on me as the story went on. By the time the film reaches the emotional climax (and it IS emotional), I was fully invested in what happened to 22.

Also, I have to say I LOVE all of the music scenes in this film. It’s great to see jazz given such a prominent spotlight in a Disney Pixar film, and I really hope this encourages everyone watching, young and old, to give jazz another listen if they’ve dismissed the genre in the past.

Now, while I loved a LOT about Soul, it is not a film without flaws. Most noticeably…the middle of the film. I tried and tried to get around it, but I can’t excuse the middle act of the film. I had a feeling from the previews that something of a “screwball” nature would be occurring, but I was not prepared for what actually happened. Here’s the thing: this gag they go with (minor spoiler alert: when Joe’s soul is trapped in a cat’s body) is kind of funny, but it doesn’t quite fit what comes before and after. It’s almost like the writers struggled with how to transition from the beginning to the climax of the film and this was the best they could come up with. In other words, this part feels like it came from a slightly different film.

The good news is, while the middle of the film lags here and there, it more than recovers at the climax to leave me feeling very satisfied with the overall experience. I know there’s a lot of discussion about Joe spending a significant chunk of the film looking….other than himself, but really jazz and African-American culture is given such a spotlight…..pardon me if this sounds too forward, but I feel like it sort of balances out in the end.

I highly recommend Soul to anyone who hasn’t gotten the chance to see it yet. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year (and in the craziness that has been 2020 that’s saying a lot).

Let me know what you think about Soul in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

 Animated Film Reviews

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Soundtrack News: ‘No. 7 Cherry Lane’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Available Now

Milan Records has release the original motion picture soundtrack for No. 7 Cherry Lane, an album of music from iconic director & writer Yonfan’s new animated film composed by Yonfan himself, Yu Yat-Yiu and Chapavich Temnitikul. Set in 1967 Hong Kong, No.7 Cherry Lane originally debuted at the 76th Venice Film Festival in 2019, where it was awarded Best Screenplay, and has since toured film festivals around the world in advance of its opening in Hong Kong later this summer.

 

Described by the director as “my love letter to Hong Kong and cinema”, No.7 Cherry Lane is Yonfan’s 14th motion picture – all of which he has written, directed and produced – and his first since 2009. It is also his first animated feature.  The eclectic score of lush orchestral music was composed by artists including Yonfan himself, Yu Yat-Yiu and Chapavich Temnitikul and recorded live in Prague.

YONFAN states that his motion pictures share an underlying theme of passion. A true auteur, his films are entirely self-produced, directed, written, and distributed. Yonfan began directing features in 1984, often for his own production company Far Sun Film, and has worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Japan. He has made a total of fourteen movies, set in various periods and locales, first receiving international notice at the Berlin International Film Festival with the gay-themed drama Bishonen. His subsequent film, the Chinese opera-based Peony Pavilion, was named one of the year’s ten best by Time magazine in 2002, and garnered Rie Miyazawa the Best Actress award at the Moscow International Film Festival. His previous feature, Prince of Tears, was Hong Kong’s selection to compete in the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film, and was selected for competition at the 2009 Venice Film Festival

The theme song “Southern Cross” was composed by Yonfan and the rapper BOYoung, fusing together a 1940s, Shanghai-style melody sung by legendary Taiwanese singer CHYI YU, with a contemporary style performed by BOYoung and ZOE YU. This bold juxtaposition represents the collision of yesterday, today and tomorrow at the heart of the movie.

No.7 Cherry Lane tells the tale of Ziming, a Hong Kong University undergraduate, entangled between his amorous feelings for a self-exiled mother, Mrs Yu from Taiwan in the White Terror period, and her beautiful daughter Meiling. He takes them to different movies and through a series of magical moments on the big screen, forbidden passions are revealed. And the era coincides with Hong Kong’s turbulent times of 1967.

NO.7 CHERRY LANE (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)

TRACKLISTING –

1.          Behind the Cherry Lane

2.          Rhythm of the Breeze

3.          Sunset Whispers

4.          Room at the Top

5.          Into the Red Chamber Featuring Wang Fang, Zhao Wenlin

6.          Night Rider

7.          A Love Story

8.          Southern Cross Featuring Chyi Yu, BOYoung, Zoe Yu, Kenneth Tsang, Zhao Wei

9.          Descending the Stairs

10.       A Dream Charade Featuring Sylvia Chang

11.       Winter Cometh

12.       Last Romance Featuring Chyi Yu

See also:

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My Thoughts on: Trolls World Tour (2020)

*warning: mild plot spoilers for Trolls World Tour follow

Well, it took a lot longer than I thought it would, but today I finally sat down and saw Trolls World Tour after picking the blu-ray up this morning. While I am disappointed that I never got to see this one in theaters, I was still looking forward to checking the story out.

Set some time after the events of the first Trolls movie, Trolls World Tour literally expands the world of the Trolls to reveal that their world is actually a LOT bigger than the first film led us to believe. It turns out Poppy’s Trolls are only one tribe of Trolls, each tribe devoted to a specific genre of music, those being Pop, Country, Techno, Funk, Classical, and Rock (with numerous sub-genres also being represented). This diversity is threatened when Queen Barb of the Hard Rock Trolls decides to unite all Troll-kind under the banner of rock by stealing a series of magical strings that will give her the power to control music (and by extension the Trolls). Naturally, Queen Poppy sets out to stop this from happening (with Branch in tow).

Trolls World Tour

Given how much I enjoyed watching the first Trolls film earlier this year, I was certain that I would love Trolls World Tour (especially once I saw Queen Barb in the previews) and I was right! This film takes everything that made Trolls fun and multiplies it by a factor of ten. I love how each of the Troll tribes are designed, each perfectly matched for their respective musical genres. Queen Barb is especially awesome (although really ALL of the Trolls are great). I really liked how the film didn’t waste much time in hinting that Barb does have thoughts and feelings beyond merely dominating the world through rock music (it was obvious to me early on that she was fighting loneliness).

There’s also a lot of cool voice cameos in this film, one of which didn’t hit me until I saw the end credits. I knew that Ozzy Osbourne was in this film (as Barb’s father, his voice is pretty hard to miss), and I also know (as a classical musician) that Gustavo Dudamel, a famous composer, was in there as well. What I did NOT know was that Anthony Ramos (one of the original Hamilton cast members) is in this film as King Trollex (seen at the opening of the film). Having recently fallen in love with Hamilton, I thought this was really cool.

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Also, I have to mention that I really enjoyed the film’s message about what it means to be a good leader (it’s important to listen to others, even if they don’t agree with you). And it’s message about the importance of diversity felt particularly relevant to me given the current situation in the world. Speaking of diversity, I like how the film ends with all of the Trolls (seemingly) living together. This looked like so much fun, I would honestly not mind if a third Trolls film was made. I’d like to see how all of the Trolls get along together.

In conclusion, if you enjoyed the first Trolls film, I’m pretty sure you’ll love Trolls World Tour as well. It was definitely a lot of fun to watch and I’m already looking forward to watching it again.

Let me know what you think about Trolls World Tour in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Trolls (2016)

Animated Film Reviews

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

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My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life (2009)

My journey through the Pokémon films continues with Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life, the 12th film in the series. This movie concludes a story arc that began in Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai. The story follows Ash, Dawn and Brock as they arrive at the town of Michina, where strange events are taking place. In the distant past, Arceus, a legendary Pokémon with the power to create worlds, lent some of his power to revive the land Michina is built on in the form of the Jewel of Life. But when the time came to return the jewel, Arceus was betrayed, the jewel withheld. Now, thousands of years later, Arceus has returned to judge humans for their betrayal. But once again, things are not as they seem and it is up to Ash and his friends to uncover the truth.

Going in, I could’ve sworn that I never saw this particular film before. But as the story played out, it dawned on me that I remembered certain parts, so while I don’t remember the exact date, it seems I have seen Arceus and the Jewel of Life before, so it was great to revisit the story a number of years later.

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It was fascinating to see how Arceus and the Jewel of Life ties The Rise of Darkrai and Giratina & the Sky Warrior together. The film’s explanation that it was Arceus awakening that set everything into motion makes sense and it answers a question I hadn’t even thought to ask while watching The Rise of Darkrai, which was WHY had Dialga and Palkia encountered each other in the first place?

Once again, the plot of this film reminded me of a previous Pokémon film, in this case the story reminded me in part of Lucario and the Mystery of Mew. Like that film, Arceus and the Jewel of Life requires our heroes to find out the truth of what happened in the distant past. Unlike the Lucario story, Ash and company actually get to travel back to the distant past with the help of Dialga. And this is where I have my one big problem with this film. As you might expect, Ash and his friends succeed in changing the past and returning the Jewel of Life to Arceus, who gratefully leaves. But when everyone returns to the present…not only is Arceus still there, he’s still angry and fighting everyone. This makes NO sense to me. The general rule about time travel is if you change the past, you change the future at the same time. By returning the Jewel of Life to Arceus in the past, there would’ve been no reason for Arceus to be there in the present, so he should’ve been gone when Ash and his friends returned. I understand there needs to be a dramatic climax but this went way over the line of believability in my opinion.

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I also have to say, I really like how the designs of Arceus, Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina complement each other. When all four are together, you can tell they kind of belong to the same “family” of Pokémon creatures. I mention that because I think it’s a really cool example of attention to detail.

Once again, I finished a Pokémon film that I really liked by the time it was over. Arceus and the Jewel of Life is definitely one of the better films in the series, and it caps off an excellent story arc. Definitely watch this one if you get the chance (but make sure you watch the others first for full effect).

Let me know what you think about Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Pokemon-The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back (1998)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: The Movie 2000 (1999)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon 3: The Movie: Entei – Spell of the Unown (2000)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon 4Ever- Celebi – Voice of the Forest (2001)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon Heroes: Latios and Latias (2002)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Jirachi—Wish Maker (2003)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew (2005)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea (2006)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai (2007)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Giratina & the Sky Warrior (2008)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Animated Film Reviews

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Giratina & the Sky Warrior (2008)

My ongoing quest to watch all of the Pokémon has now brought me to Pokémon: Giratina & the Sky Warrior. This was the 11th Pokémon film in the series and serves as the follow up to Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai from the year before. In this story, Ash and company (Dawn and Brock), find themselves accompanying an adorable hedgehog Pokémon named Shaymin to a special flower garden, while having to avoid the mysterious Giratina and a power-hungry individual known as Zero (who has an unhealthy interest in Giratina’s powers).

I was curious to see exactly how this film tied in to The Rise of Darkrai and was very pleased with what I found. Far too often, stories feature earth-shattering battles, only for a sequel to show the world operating as if nothing happened in the previous installment. Giratina & the Sky Warrior is nothing like that. This story makes clear that the battle between Dialga and Palkia had consequences so severe that Giratina felt obliged to get involved and hunt down Dialga himself to let the legendary creature know exactly how he felt about it. That appears to be the overriding message of this film, that actions have consequences, even if we can’t see them.

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Beyond that, I couldn’t help but notice that the story arc with Zero trying to capture Giratina held more than a passing resemblance to Lawrence III and his plot to capture Moltres, Zapdos, and Articuno in Pokémon: the Movie 2000. Zero even has a floating vessel to get around in just like Lawrence III did. Granted their motives for doing so are somewhat different, but at their core Lawrence and Zero are both trying to contain legendary Pokémon creatures. I’m not saying this similarity is bad per se, I just find it curious that Zero and Lawrence III are somewhat similar. To be fair, a little similarity here and there is to be expected, when you have a film series as long running as Pokémon, some plot elements are bound to repeat themselves.

I also have to talk about my favorite thing in this entire film: Shaymin!! For years I thought Vulpix was my favorite Pokémon but it seems I’ve been missing out all this time. Imagine my delight when I discovered a hedgehog-like Pokémon like Shaymin exists. She’s so cute it’s almost unbearable, and she can shape-shift too! I know now, if Pokémon were real, I would have a Shaymin. That being said, I’m pretty sure they’re called “gratitude Pokémon” sarcastically, because my goodness did Shaymin have an attitude! That being said, I still love Shaymin.

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The Reverse World, to put it mildly, was a mind-trip. It almost felt like being dropped into an M.C. Escher painting (well, maybe not EXACTLY like one, but close enough). I kind of love how casually Ash and his friends take being dropped into parallel dimensions, since this is the second film in a row that something like this has happened to them.

On a final note, I couldn’t help but notice that the story of Giratina & the Sky Warrior essentially ends on a cliffhanger, as the film all but states that Giratina is off to search for Dialga (presumably to continue their fight). While you couldn’t really tell that the story begun in The Rise of Darkrai would be continued, Giratina & the Sky Warrior makes it pretty obvious that the story isn’t over. On that note, I look forward to the ongoing adventures of Ash and company, and I’m curious to see how the fight between Dialga, Palkia, Giratina, and whoever else gets involved, turns out.

In conclusion, I really liked Pokémon: Giratina & the Sky Warrior. It carries on the story begun in the previous film, it has one mind-trip of a location in the Reverse World, and it has a pretty enjoyable story too. Definitely recommend it!

Let me know what you think about Pokémon: Giratina & the Sky Warrior in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Pokemon-The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back (1998)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: The Movie 2000 (1999)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon 3: The Movie: Entei – Spell of the Unown (2000)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon 4Ever- Celebi – Voice of the Forest (2001)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon Heroes: Latios and Latias (2002)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Jirachi—Wish Maker (2003)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew (2005)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea (2006)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai (2007)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life (2009)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Animated Film Reviews

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai (2007)

My quest to watch all of the Pokémon movies continued with Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai, a 2007 film that is the first of 4 films set in the “Diamond and Pearl” era. This is the 10th Pokémon film overall and, to my knowledge, is the first to begin a storyline that is continued in a followup story (the rest of the films thus far have been standalone features).

Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai is a weird one, even by Pokémon standards. The closest thing I can compare it to is the third Pokémon film with Entei and the illusory world created by the Unown. Actually, in hindsight, that’s not a bad comparison at all, since the Unown are spotted in the dimension where Dialga and Palkia are fighting. But I digress…before all of that, the story begins with Ash, Brock and Dawn (no more May and Max, I’ll miss them) traveling to Alamos Town for, what else, a Pokémon tournament. Predictably, their plans become disrupted when strange occurrences begin disrupting the town, occurrences that appear to be caused by a mysterious Pokémon known as Darkrai, though not everything is as it seems.

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I’m embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until I watched this film that I learned what Darkrai looks like. Right up until today, I thought Palkia was Darkrai (in my defense, I’ve never played Pokémon Diamond & Pearl so there’s no way I could’ve known). That being said, Darkrai freaked me out just a little bit, though I’m hard pressed to say why. Something about his appearance is just unsettling. You know what else was unsettling? The extended nightmare sequence where the ghostly Pokémon are floating around. That’s when things really got weird in my opinion. I get that things can get strange when you have two massive Pokémon that can manipulate time and space respectively, but still, weird is weird.

One thing I did enjoy very much was Baron Alberto, which is to say I loved to hate him. Actually the entire situation with Alberto and Alice reminded me quite strongly of Gaston and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Alberto seems to think he’s entitled to Alice’s affections and he also doesn’t seem to be able to take no for an answer. But the biggest similarity? He’s determined to blame Darkrai for everything, he even rallies the other Pokémon trainers to take down Darkrai in an almost identical manner to Gaston rallying the townsfolk to go after the Beast. Quite an interesting parallel if you ask me.

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But the thing I liked most about Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai is the role that music plays in the climax. It was already awesome enough that the Space-Time Towers are shaped like a massive musical instrument (they vaguely remind me of a lyre), but then to have the power of music be what it takes to get Dialga and Palkia to stop fighting, that just blew me away. I feel like music doesn’t always get its just due when it comes to storytelling, and to have a story not only acknowledge but emphasize the power that music can have, that’s just something special. I loved the sequence where ‘Oracion’ plays from the Space-Time Towers; it was beautiful and so, so well done.

While Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai did weird me out at times, I did enjoy the overall story. More than that, I’m eager to see where the story goes, since I know now that the next two films continue the story that was begun here. If you haven’t seen this one, I do highly recommend it. I’ve still yet to see a Pokémon story I didn’t like.

Let me know what you think about Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Pokemon-The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back (1998)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: The Movie 2000 (1999)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon 3: The Movie: Entei – Spell of the Unown (2000)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon 4Ever- Celebi – Voice of the Forest (2001)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon Heroes: Latios and Latias (2002)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Jirachi—Wish Maker (2003)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew (2005)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea (2006)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Giratina & the Sky Warrior (2008)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life (2009)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew (2005)

After a lengthy delay (largely due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that temporarily killed any desire to watch and review anything), my quest to watch all of the Pokémon movies continued with Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew. This is the eighth Pokémon film in the series and it came out in 2005. The story follows the ongoing adventures of Ash, Pikachu, Brock, May and Max as they help a Pokémon called Lucario unravel the mystery of why he was sealed away by his master, Sir Aaron, a thousand years ago. And oh yes, did I mention Mew puts in an appearance?

I’ve yet to see a Pokémon film that I didn’t like, but this definitely has to be my favorite after the first three films (which in my mind will always be the best). The story is fairly straightforward: Ash and company stumble onto an adventure, Team Rocket inevitably tags along, and Ash must to do something to save the immediate area. The story’s setting is out of this world. There’s a beautiful castle, the phenomenal Tree of Beginning that looks like a tree but is actually made of stone and crystal, and (I can’t mention this enough) some completely adorable scenes with Mew. I’ve loved Mew ever since the first Pokémon movie and this story has more than enough of the adorable critter in it.

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I really like how this story uses “time flowers” as a way of looking into the past to find out what happened without resorting to true flashbacks every five minutes. It’s really interesting how the story actually seems to employ the “unreliable narrator” trope. That is, it forces you to question if you can really believe the accepted version of what happened to Sir Aaron, or if Lucario’s version of events is actually correct. The truth, once it’s revealed, is pretty heart-wrenching (but I’m discovering that’s par for the course for Pokémon films).

My favorite visual in the film has to be the secret world inside the Tree of Beginning. It’s amazing how many of these Pokémon films involve secret worlds where Pokémon thrive without any interference from humans. This one is particularly well put together, and I genuinely wished it was a real place I could explore, that’s how beautiful it was. On a separate note, it’s also fun to watch all of the Pokémon interact with each other. Even though all they do is repeat their own names, you still get an idea of what they’re saying.

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The one character that surprised me the most in this story was Kidd Summers. When she initially started snooping around the castle, I was convinced that she was the bad guy for this film, the kind that would ingratiate herself with Ash and company before revealing her true colors. But not only was that not true, now that I think about it, there really isn’t a villain in this story (and no, Team Rocket doesn’t count, they don’t even really try anything this time). That shows what a good film this is, when you get totally engrossed in the story despite there not being a villain for our heroes to go against.

If you’re looking for Pokémon films to try outside of the first three films, I highly recommend watching Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew. The story was excellent and the animation was spot-on. This was truly a great story about the world of Pokémon and I hope you get the chance to check it out.

Let me know what you think about Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Pokemon-The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back (1998)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: The Movie 2000 (1999)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon 3: The Movie: Entei – Spell of the Unown (2000)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon 4Ever- Celebi – Voice of the Forest (2001)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon Heroes: Latios and Latias (2002)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Jirachi—Wish Maker (2003)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea (2006)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai (2007)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Giratina & the Sky Warrior (2008)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life (2009)

My Thoughts on: Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Animated Film Reviews

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

My Thoughts on: Onward (2020)

Onward is a film that I’ve been pretty excited about ever since it was announced because, let’s face it, in a world dominated by ongoing franchises, sequels, reboots, etc., you don’t see wholly original stories all that often. This is one such example and it lived up to pretty much all of my expectations.

The story is set in a fantasy world turned on its head. Imagine a world filled with unicorns, mermaids, elves, fairies, even manticores…but modernized. Instead of using magic, modern technology took over. Enter Ian and Barley Lightfoot (Tom Holland and Chris Pratt respectively), two brothers who have an amazing opportunity thrust upon them: the chance to be reunited with their late father for one day only. This revelation sends the brothers on an insane quest to achieve the impossible.

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I’m not sure where to even start because there is so much to love about Onward. First of all, Tom Holland and Chris Pratt are fantastic together. I’ll bet anything they recorded lines together because the chemistry between the two is off the charts. Also, there’s something just inherently funny about all of these fantasy creatures living in a modern suburban environment. I know this is hardly the first story to put fantasy creatures in a modern setting, but the way Onward does it is just a lot of fun. Outside of the Lightfoot brothers, my favorite character is the Manticore, she is in one of my favorite moments in the entire film.

The setting of New Mushroomton is beautifully rendered and contains a lot of Easter Eggs. I won’t spoil any of them but there’s one pretty early in the film that made everybody in the theater laugh. Also, fans of Dungeons and Dragons will likely love this movie because one of the major plot elements is basically straight out of a D&D book (the film doesn’t call it that but the reference is obvious). And the one spoiler I will mention: the fact that all of the spells in the roleplaying book are real is just funny.

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The quest, once it gets started, is mostly hilarious though (this being Disney/Pixar) there are some serious twists and turns before it’s all over. Onward deals several emotional gut punches, none of which I can discuss for spoiler reasons, but believe me when I say that you will need tissues before the end credits roll. It’s very satisfying to watch Ian and Barley grow throughout the story. The ending will probably surprise you, by the way, but I do understand why Disney/Pixar went the route they did. It’s very atypical for this kind of story, and it’s nice that the studio tried something new.

All in all, I highly recommend Onward to anyone wanting to have a good time at the movies. I would be more than willing to go see a sequel, as this is a world I very much want to visit again. Bravo to everyone who helped create such a beautiful story and bravo to Disney/Pixar for creating something original!

Let me know what you think about Onward in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook