3 Stars Movies

Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019)

It has reached the point where I am feeling sorry for Dora the Explorer. In modern society, she has been the punching bag of little kid shows (I grew up when the punching bag was good ole’ Barney and Friends). Admittedly, I too thought it was a joke when I heard that there was going to be a live action film of the titular young heroine and was just as shocked as anyone to learn it was the truth. Still, when IMDB users (roughly 200 of them) all go on the film’s page and decide to post in the Parent’s Guide that the PG rated movie should be ranked “severe” in all categories…well, the joke has gone too far (thankfully, it was corrected).

In short, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is still a nice family flick (though much more for the kids, although I admit I found myself smiling once or twice). The film starts off where the TV show takes place, with young Dora and her cousin Diego going off on adventures in the rain forest with her faithful monkey Boots and the mischievous fox Swiper. Diego and his parents move to the city, leaving Dora and her parents (Michael Pena and Eva Longoria) in the rain forest.

Flash forward ten years, and teenage Dora (Isabela Moner) is still her upbeat self, eager to explore and help her parents find the Lost City of Gold. Of course, her parents don’t think she is ready to help, so she is sent to live with her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg, nephew of Mark) and his family, as she explores her greatest challenge yet: High School. Soon, Dora finds herself back in the jungle with Diego and two new friends, the somewhat reserved Randy (Nicholas Coombe) and the rather high strung brainiac Sammy (Madeleine Madden), as they search for her parents who have gone missing. They still have to encounter Swiper the Fox (Benecio Del Toro), but still have the guided help of Boots (whose one scene of speaking is done by none other than Danny Trejo).

The screenplay tool of “fish out of water” has been used countless times, yet it works here, mainly because of the sheer dedication of Isabela Moner. Even the most savage of haters will admit it takes a lot to carry a movie, especially if the source material is of a former six-year-old explorer who talks to the camera (which the movie does playfully nod at). Moner never loses her appeal, even when she is singing about situations you would never think anyone would sing about in any genre of film. Even when other obscure things happen on screen, she is still herself, and it is rather impressive. In short, it is a performance worthy of respect.

As stated before, parents should not look at the user contents on IMDB. It is rated PG, with some minor action and peril, but no swearing or nudity. There is one scene that does contain flowers making certain characters hallucinate in a rather comical and bizarre way. Nonetheless, any age is fine seeing this film.

One of the key aspects of Dora’s philosophy (as taught by her parents) is that she is an explorer, “not a treasure hunter.” For kids, this could be a valuable lesson when it comes to Christianity. The exploring of God’s word (i.e. reading the bible) is its own treasure, wisdom that surpasses all (see Proverbs 3:13 and 8:11).

I was about the age of eight when the original Jumanji (the Robin Williams one) came out. It had its scares but was still fun at the time. Like that film, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is intended for kids over adults (though there are still some things adults would like). The special effects are not anything great (like Jumanji, which has CGI that is borderline laughable), but it is not entirely the movie’s fault (not every movie has the money that a Marvel film would have). It gives lessons to kids (along with the aforementioned one on treasures) that other movies have done in the past, like believing in yourself and the value of teamwork.

The spirit of Dora and the Lost City of Gold is still rather contagious and makes me even willing to say that the film is more enjoyable than any of the recent Disney Live Action Remakes.


Rating: 3 out of 5.
5 Stars Movies

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

For the past ten years, Marvel has made (for the most part) solid entertaining movies. Few movies have been any kind of a threat of dethroning Marvel’s work (Iron Man, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther). Now comes the cream of the crop, Avengers: Infinity War.

If you have seen any of the Marvel films (I know you have), you know there have been six infinity stones in the universe. They are being hunted by Thanos (Josh Brolin), in his quest to bring balance to the cosmos. This is done with the infinity gauntlet, which he can use to wipe out half of all living things, with a snap of his fingers. Standing in his way are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Captain America (Chris Evans), … ok, basically everyone in every Marvel movie except for Ant-Man and Hawkeye.

Remember Spider-Man 3, when there were too many characters and story lines? Well, Infinity War has only one real story line and one villain. Nevertheless, all the star players are not only here, but needed. After all, that is how hard it is to defeat a guy like Thanos. The first ten minutes alone prove my point because “We have a hulk” isn’t good enough for the Asgardians.

Credit also must be given to directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Each character is given not only the same amount of screen time, but the right amount of it. Kudos to the actors for remembering the old rule: no small parts, only small actors.

Speaking of which, there is even a role for Peter Dinklage. I mean that transition not as a put down joke, but from the heart. There is no doubting the man’s talent.

Perhaps the greatest difference between the films of the MCU and the (now defunct) DCU is that the former has far more layered characters. After spending a decade with most of them, we have seen a character arc in nearly every one of them, and have seen there ups and downs, fears and beliefs, strengths and weaknesses. How applicable are the words from Proverbs 18:24; “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” The heroes are not blood related (Thor and Loki are brothers, but not by blood, as is the case for Gamora and Nebula), but have gone thru so much they may as well be. How can that not be relatable?

John 15:13 tells us a deep, moral truth: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.Avengers: Infinity War recognizes this truth time and time again. One critical point in the plot is the discussion over whether to kill Vision preemptively to stop Thanos from getting the Mind stone. Vision was willing to die (and did!) for his friends.

Parents, Infinity War is darker than most other Marvel movies, but still an acceptable film for Middle Schoolers and above.

That is all I will say, because this is not a movie to read about. It is one to experience. And what an experience.


Rating: 5 out of 5.