Tag Archive: Awkwafina


Notable in part for being the first animated movie out of Disney without the work of creator John Lasseter in 15 years, the next major animated movie from Disney features the voices of two well-known genre stars, and it looks a bit on theme with Disney’s last live-action movie, Mulan.  Raya and the Last Dragon is all computer-animated, and it features the voices of Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as Raya, a warrior heroine who is seeking the Last Dragon, named Sisu, voiced by comedy actor Awkwafina (Jumanji: The Next Level), all in a classic fantasy The Hobbit or The Last Unicorn-homage tale.

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Nora from Queens pic 2

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you need something to laugh at–and who doesn’t?–a quick fix can be found with Comedy Central’s new series Nora from Queens (full title Awkwafina is Nora from Queens), the latest of that niche New York neighborhood local comedy show.  The series was produced by Comedy Central, but airs across several cable channels, including MTV2, which is airing all ten episodes beginning this afternoon.  The series of half-hour episodes is a semi-autobiographical look at Awkwafina, stage name of rapper/actor Nora Lum, who switches up her name slightly to Nora Lin for the series.  Viewers will find a lot of truth with Nora, whose real-life persona won a Golden Globe best actress for The Farewell, and she’s had breakout roles in Ocean’s 8, Crazy Rich Asians, and Jumanji: The Next Level.  Just don’t let the kids in the room–Awkwafina’s humor is over-the-top, all-out vulgar at times, and right there with Sarah Silverman’s stand-up comedy, even evoking some Cheech and Chong ghosts of comedy past.

As with the real Nora, Nora in the series was born of a Korean American mother (who died when Nora was young) and Chinese American father, and raised by her father and grandmother.  Here BF Wong (Jurassic Park, Mr. Robot, Awake, Gotham) plays her amiable dad, a single father whose own mother lives with him and Nora (creating the core of the humor).  Looking for a girlfriend, he sets his sights on a woman he meets at a single parent support group, played by Jennifer Esposito (Spin City, The Boys).  Nora is frequently entwined in chaos with her nerdy but somehow more successful cousin, played by Bowen Yang (Saturday Night Live), who proclaims 2020 as “Year of the Ass.”  He couldn’t be more on point.

Nora from Queens pic 1

But the best of the series is Nora’s sweet, mouthy, and feisty grandma, played by Lori Tan Chinn (Roseanne, Spin City, Orange is the New Black).  Chinn has all the range, and gets the best writing and dialogue in the show, crude and endearing at the same time, like Ruth Gordon in Every Which Way But Loose.  Grandma goes to the casino, but not to gamble, instead to watch Korean dramas with her friends.  She picks fights with Korean Americans, is a bit racist toward Italians, and a highlight of the series is a flashback episode centered on her meeting Nora’s grandfather, all produced as a melodramatic Korean drama.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In brief, it’s the best adventure, fantasy, and comedy in theaters in 2019 and a great way to begin your new year.  Jumanji: The Next Level is still packing-in theaters a little more than two weeks into its run–an alternative to the other holiday releases and guaranteed to leave you smiling at the end.  The four stars didn’t miss a beat in their return, swapping roles and adding new laughs, and the new characters inside and outside the game are perfectly matched to tell a new tale.  Two films down and Jumanji: The Next Level is now the new major adventure fantasy franchise, up there with Tarzan, The Jungle Book, Conan the Barbarian, John Carter of Mars, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy, and Indiana Jones.  Put this sequel at the top of the best of those franchises.

The studio didn’t hold back on new action sequences–inside the movie again Jumanji is the same video game of curious origin.  The new levels introduced this time increase the stakes in bigger and better ways.   A bridge-crossing scene with swarming apes and a geometric, Mario Brothers/Donkey Kong-like element is now going to be the adventure film standard to try to beat.  Sure, there are throwbacks to jungle adventures of the past, but it’s not derivative, all presented in fresh ways.  As another tour inside a video game (like Tron and Ready Player One), you’ll have the added fun of spotting video game influences (like Pitfall and Q-Bert), including a new, more difficult gauntlet.

The movie does double duty as an epic quest and rollicking comedy.  Comedians turned comedic actors Jack Black as Dr. Shelly Oberon and Kevin Hart as Mouse Finbar again are comedy gold.  Even the small bits are a scream–Hart riding and getting off a camel is a lesson in physical comedy.  They make the movie loads of fun, but straight man roles performed by Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan as in-game characters Dr. Smolder Bravestone and Ruby Roundhouse share the credit for the laughs, too.  If you’ve seen Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, you’d expect big comedy from the sequel.  And that’s where the writing genius comes into play, thanks to a script by writer/director Jake Kasdan and writers Jeff Pinkner, and Scott Rosenberg.  How do you bring back the hour movie stars, the four young actors who played the original players (Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner, Alex Wolff, and Ser’Darius Blain), the rescued Alex played by Colin Hanks, and in-game characters played by Nick Jonas, and Rhys Darby without re-hashing the first movie?  You’ll have to see it to find out.  Just be prepared for some great twists and surprises.

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Merry Christmas!

It’s that time of year again, time to take a look forward at what movies should be on your radar for 2020.  Are you going to see them all?  Heck no.  These are the genre films we think borg readers will want to know about to make their own checklists for the coming year–and they are only the films we know about so far.  We pulled 85 of the hundreds of films that have been finalized or are in varying stages of final production, slated for next year’s movie calendar.

What looks to top the list for most fanboys and fangirls?  Ghostbusters: Afterlife Scarlett Johannson solo in Black WidowA new James Bond movie, No Time to DieVin Diesel in Bloodshot and a new Fast & FuriousThe original Tom Clancy novel series is finally continuing with an adaptation of Without Remorse Comic book adaptations are in less supply in 2020, but look for Venom 2, Wonder Woman 1984, Eternals, The New Mutants, Morbius, Birds of Prey, The Old Guard, and did we mention Black WidowCompare the below list to our 2019 list and even the 2018 list, 2017 list, 2016 list, 2015 list, or 2014 list, and your takeaway may be seeing the studios moving genre content from the big screen to the small screen via streaming services.

Do you like sequels?  There are far less coming to theaters in 2020 than in 2019, but many more remakes of movies, books, and TV shows are on the way.  In fact, with all the blockbusters in 2019, 2020 looks pretty tame as the cinema marquee is concerned.  Some films don’t have locked in release dates yet: Amazon Studios and Netflix haven’t revealed dates for the following 2020 releases (those we know you’ll find on the calendar below):

  • 7500, a film about a highjacked airplane, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Amazon Studios)
  • The Dig, a film about a woman finding archaeological treasures on her land, starring Ralph Fiennes, Lily James, and Carey Mulligan (Netflix)
  • Horse Girl, Alison Brie stars and directs this story about an awkward girl who fuses her dreams with reality (Netflix)
  • Jingle Jangle, an animated Christmas story with the voices of Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, and Hugh Bonneville (Netflix)
  • Louis Wain, biopic of the 19th century artist starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy, and Andrea Riseborough (Amazon Studios)
  • The Old Guard, adaptation of comic book story, starring Charlize Theron and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Netflix)
  • Radioactive, a film about Marie Curie, starring Rosamund Pike and Anya Taylor-Joy (Amazon)
  • Rebecca, adaptation and remake of the Daphne Du Maurier classic novel, starring Lily James, Keely Hawes, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Armie Hammer (Netflix)
  • Welcome to Sudden Death, sequel to Jean-Claude van Damme 1995 movie starring Michael Jai White (Netflix)
  • The Willoughbys, animated adaptation of the Lois Lowry book, with voices of Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, and Jane Krakowski (Netflix)
  • Wonderland, murder conspiracy mystery starring Mark Wahlberg, Allan Arkin, and Colleen Camp (Netflix)

Some of these films will have revised release dates, or get pushed to 2021.

So grab your calendar and start making your plans–here are the movies you’ll want to see in 2020 (and some you might not!):

January

The Informer – Thriller, starring Joel Kinnaman, Rosamund Pike, Ana de Armas, Common, and Clive Owen – January 10.

Underwater – Thriller, stars Kristin Stewart in underwater horror story – January 10.

Dolittle – Family/Comedy, stars Robert Downey, Jr. in remake of the classic, with voices of Tom Holland, Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer, Emma Thompson, Antonio Banderas, Ralph Fiennes, and Michael Sheen – January 17.

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Instead of what has been done at past panels at San Diego Comic-Con–having a panel for each or just a few major projects–Marvel Studios exec Kevin Feige was on-hand to get several announcements out the door and as many key cast members in and out of his single panel as possible.  For the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase IV, that means tying in Disney’s (pay) streaming service with the movies.  The big takeaway?  New logos are pretty much all there is so far to share, plus key casting and timing announcements.  And although the last Phase had some changes along the way, it looks as if these ten projects will round out the entirety of Marvel over the next few years.  The biggest frustration for fans of the X-Men and Fantastic Four is why nobody at Marvel has been getting a head start on these two massively popular teams of characters–money is definitely going to be left on the table for the duration of Phase IV by pushing out these projects.  Why aren’t these Priority #1 with someone at Disney in light of the long lead-time the corporation had for the Fox acquisition?

The new time table is straightforward: Black Widow movie (May 1, 2020), The Falcon and the Winter Soldier TV series (Fall 2020), Eternals movie (November 6, 2020), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings movie (February 12, 2021), WandaVision TV series (Spring 2021), Loki TV series (Spring 2021), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie (May 7, 2021), What If…? animated series (Summer 2021), Hawkeye TV series (Fall 2021), and Thor: Love and Thunder movie (November 5, 2021).  The most eagerly awaited film after this year’s Avengers: Endgame was the hinted-at Guardians of the Galaxy/Thor or Asgardians of the Galaxy team-up movie, but Marvel still has not confirmed that project, unless it’s tied into the 2021 film.  Also relegated to “in development” status: Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and the next Tom Holland Spider-Man movie (Spider-Man is Iron Man’s replacement, right?).  Silence seems to confirm the death of the Marvel Netflix universe of Luke Cage, The Punisher, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist, and maybe even Disney+ projects Runaways, Ghost Rider, and Helstrom.  FX’s Legion was already announced as canceled, and we lost track of how many times The New Mutants movie has been pushed back.  Even bigger unknowns are the next Ant-Man and The Wasp, which had Hank Pym actor Michael Douglas already discussing it as a prequel, and if anyone is thinking about Prince Namor the Submariner, nobody is talking.  It begs the question:  Does Disney have too much to handle now?

As a beginning Disney’s Marvel side seems to be taking a lead from its Star Wars division, with its offerings targeting a mix of fans old, new, and in-between.  For the fans of the MCU so far you have plenty, a Black Widow (presumably prequel) and Thor movie as bookends for Phase IV, and TV series to keep alive Falcon, Winter Soldier, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Loki, Doctor Strange, and Hawkeye.  For new audiences (and possibly much older comic book readers) there is Shang-Chi and the Eternals to get to know, along with the announcement that Luke Cage’s Mahershala Ali will be playing Blade in a reboot movie at the beginning of Phase V, the vampire hunter who, like Spider-Man, has already seen an entire series of movies outside of the MCU.

The details are an eclectic mix of things you might want, things you didn’t know you want, and things you won’t know what to make of:

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So how do you change the innerworkings of a game-based movie that was such a breakout comedy without gutting the heart of the film that made it all work so well?  Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle as a reboot was such an improvement over the original film Jumanji from 1995 that it really took audiences by surprise in those late 2017 cold winter months (check out our review here).  In the previous film teenagers get sucked into a video game and emerge into the roles of Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Franklin “Moose” Finbar (Kevin Hart in his funniest performance ever), Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black playing his trademark Jack Black routine).  So will returning director Jake Kasdan and writers Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg give us a whole new game or take another approach for the next?

The first trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level might have the most apt of titles.  The inside-the-game characters are the same (phew!), but the video game won’t be the same, instead giving the characters and us–the audience–a new level of play.  And the real-world players are moved around a bit, with some new twists.  All the kids are back, but Spencer’s grandfather, played by Danny DeVito, and his friend, played by Danny Glover, get sucked into the game with Spencer lost somewhere, and Martha stuck with Fridge trying to find him.  Martha is still Ruby/Gillan, but everyone else is different: DeVito is Smolder/Johnson, Glover is Moose/Hart, and Fridge is Shelly/Black.  So the swap of kids for old men in the bodies of our lead actors is the new conceit.

The next adventure brings back Nigel (Rhys Darby) as gamerunner and somehow Nick Jonas is back, too, as long-time player Alex–or will Alex really be someone entirely new?  They could change up all these character roles over and over and we’ll keep coming back for more.

Here’s the great first trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level:

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