Thursday, September 21, 2023


Granger at the Movies: ‘Dora and the Lost City of Gold,’ ‘The Kitchen,’ ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort’

By Susan Granger

Special to WestportNow

“Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” the live-action adaptation of the popular animated Nickelodeon series, resembles a kid-friendly Indiana Jones adventure, opening with the logo: “Everything you are about to see is true. Except that foxes don’t swipe. That’s a hurtful stereotype.” Image

As her story begins, perky 16-year-old Dora (Isabela Moner) is living with her zoologist mom (Eva Longoria) and archaeologist dad (Michael Pena) in their idyllic Peruvian rainforest cottage where she’s spent her childhood being home-schooled.

But now that her explorer parents are embarking on a perilous trek to find Parapata, the fabled Inca city of gold, Dora is dispatched to Los Angeles to live with her aunt and uncle, only to discover that Silverlake High School is another challenging jungle with its own indigenous people.

There’s condescending Sammy (Madeline Madden), the know-it-all class president; awkwardly nerdy Randy (Nicholas Coombe); and her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg, nephew of Mark), who feels humiliated by Dora’s cheerful attitude and guileless tendency to spontaneous burst into song.

Then, during a school field trip to the Natural History Museum, Dora and her pals are kidnapped by treasure hunters who are determined to track down Dora’s peripatetic parents.

Joined by mysterious Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez), the teenagers must navigate through intoxicating flowers whose spores induce vivid hallucinations and circumvent the treacherous booby traps guarding Parapata’s treasure. So it’s lucky that Dora knows Peru’s Quechua dialect.

Director James Bobin (“Alice Through the Looking Glass,” “The Muppets”) and co-writers Nicholas Stoller (“Storks”) and Matthew Robinson (“Monster Trucks”) retain Dora’s infectious enthusiasm as she learns about friendship and teamwork.

Dora’s hyper-stylized pet monkey Boots (voiced by Danny Trejo) is back, along with Swiper (voiced by Benicio Del Toro), the sneaky fox.

FYI: When Dora made her debut on Nickelodeon in 2000, she became the first animated Latina heroine in a show that included Spanish-speaking characters.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is an endearing, nostalgic 7, filled with fresh fun for the entire family.

Manhattan’s gritty Hell’s Kitchen in the late 1970s is the setting for Andrea Berloff’s R-rated crime caper “The Kitchen,” based on DC Vertigo graphic novels by Ollie Masters and illustrated by Ming Doyle.

When three Irish-American thugs (Brian d’Arcy James, Kevin O’Carroll, Jeremy Bobb) are arrested after a botched liquor store robbery and sent to prison for three years, their wives — after receiving a meager payout from misogynistic Little Jackie (Myt Watford) — are left to survive on their own.

Granddaughter of an Irish Mafia boss, Kathy Brennan (Melissa McCarthy) has two kids to support. So — out of desperation — she convinces resentful Ruby O’Carroll (Tiffany Haddish) and battered Claire Walsh (Elisabeth Moss) that they cannot only do what their husbands did — but so much better!

“We’re all done being knocked around,” she announces, assuming leadership of the swaggering trio.

Without much ado, the wives ruthlessly usurp the local ‘protection’ racket, even expanding into Brooklyn. And Claire finds love with Gabriel (Domhnall Gleeson) a trigger-happy, sociopathic Vietnam vet, who carefully teaches her how to carve up a corpse for easy disposal in the Hudson River.

Predictably, the immediate success of their brazen racketeering operation doesn’t sits well with the Irish mob, particularly Ruby’s snarling, racist mother-in-law (Margo Martindale), and two local FBI agents (Common, E.J. Bonilla). And when they broker a big union construction contract with the diamond-dealing Hasidic community, harassment quickly turns to homicide.

For writer/director Andrea Berloff, who wrote “World Trade Center” and cowrote “Straight Outta Compton,” this is her directing debut — and her inexperience shows in the humorless, thinly drawn characters, absurdly discordant tone and chaotic transitions.

On the Granger Gauge, “The Kitchen” is a frustrating 4. Steve McQueen’s “Widows” (2018) chronicles a similar saga of female exploitation and empowerment far better.

The entertainment world has changed so much that often a movie that’s streamed into your TV set offers more exciting entertainment than what’s playing at the multiplex.

That’s certainly true of “The Red Sea Diving Resort,” an action-adventure about a courageous group of Israeli intelligence officers and Ethiopian freedom fighters who safely smuggled thousands of Ethiopian-Jewish refugees out of Sudan and into Israel in the 1980s.

Working with brave Ethiopian rebel leader Kabede Bimro (Michael Kenneth. Williams), Mossad agent Ari Levinson (Chris Evans) escorts persecuted Ethiopian Jews out of their war-torn country and into Gedaref Refugee Camp in Sudan. But that’s where they’re stuck — unable to make their way to Jerusalem.

Until Levinson comes up with a crazy rescue idea: if Mossad would lease an abandoned seaside hotel, he and his team could use it as a base camp to covertly transport Ethiopian refugees to waiting Israeli ships. While the Mossad leaders (Ben Kingsley, Mark Ivanir) are skeptical, they agree to the plan.

So Levinson recruits martial arts expert/flight-attendant Rachel Reiter (Haley Bennett), physician Sammy Navon (Alessandro Nivola), diving expert Jake Wolf (Michiel Huisman) and sharpshooter Max Rose (Alex Hassell). Each is issued a new identity and warned that, if captured, they’re on their own.

After negotiating with corrupt Sudanese officials, they acquire ownership of the deserted, decrepit Red Sea Diving Resort, only to discover that tour groups of vacationing Europeans begin to arrive, lured by their alluring, colorful brochures.

These unwitting visitors provide a perfect cover for the team’s nighttime forays, continually frustrating Sudanese Colonel Abdel Ahmed (Chris Chalk) who knows something’s going on but cannot prove it. Also kept in the dark is a suspicious American CIA agent (Greg Kinnear).

Israeli writer/director Gideon Raff, who created “Prisoners of War,” the Israeli series later adapted into Showtime’s “Homeland,” has once again crafted a compelling thriller.

On the Granger Gauge, “The Red Sea Diving Resort” is an oversimplified yet suspenseful 7 — and the end credits feature real-life footage of those involved. Image

(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *