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Luca (2021) Review

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Luca

Time: 95 Minutes
Voice Cast:
Jacob Tremblay as Luca Paguro
Jack Dylan Grazer as Alberto Scorfano
Emma Berman as Giulia Marcovaldo
Saverio Raimondo as Ercole Visconti
Maya Rudolph as Daniela Paguro
Marco Barricelli as Massimo Marcovaldo
Jim Gaffigan as Lorenzo Paguro
Peter Sohn and Lorenzo Crisci as Ciccio and Guido
Marina Massironi as Mrs. Marsigliese
Sandy Martin as Grandma Paguro
Sacha Baron Cohen as Uncle Ugo
Director: Enrico Casarosa

Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, the original animated feature is a coming-of-age story about one young boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. Luca shares these adventures with his newfound best friend, but all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: he is a sea monster from another world just below the water’s surface.

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I only knew a little bit about Luca going into it, I just knew it was a Pixar Animated movie set in Italy. I only found out that it involved sea people when I watched the trailer like a day before watching the movie. So I really had no prior expectations going in and I’m glad I checked it out, I enjoyed it a lot.

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To get this out of the way, Luca is not very ambitious by Pixar standards or animated movies standards, and is very much formulaic. It was light and fun with a lot of humour, but I was still invested in how the story played out. Essentially it’s an easy coming of age summer hangout movie, and the lower stakes story was honestly rather refreshing. It is a conventional story on the surface but it works well because of the execution. I’ve seen some reviews comparing Luca to a Studio Ghibli/Hayao Miyazaki movie and its pretty apt comparison. Luca is a coming of age with a high concept premise with sea monster people while still being anchored to a simple human scale. It’s a simplistic plot but has a lot of character work and has a big heart at its centre. It is a tale of acceptance, individuality and friendship, as well as a story about self discovery and hiding one’s identity to fit in. It definitely excels in its quieter moments too. I am fine with it not being particularly original or ambitious, but I do think it did feel a little too content with its tropes. The fish out of water story has been done plenty of times and it doesn’t really do anything different here (outside of being a literal fish out of water story this time). There were some plot and character aspects that could’ve been expanded on and developed to give some context, and some cliches that make it into the film could’ve been avoided. Some of the conflicts particularly could’ve been handled better. Luca’s parents are scared of him leaving the ocean and it just felt very familiar and by the numbers and could’ve been fleshed out. Even the eventual conflict between the two main characters comes out of nowhere and feels rather forced. The finale from a story standpoint is good, the action in the climax does feel very familiar to other animated films, but is still fun. It also still packs an emotional punch near the end because of the characters, particularly with the strong friendship established between the lead characters. Luca is 100 minutes long and that was the right length for it, which is helped with the good pacing which never gets too slow.

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The characters were quite memorable and were good all round. The young lead characters with Luca, Alberto and Giulia, and the voice acting from Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer and Emma Berman respectively were great. The strong lead friendship between Luca and Alberto in the forefront was fantastic particularly, and drives much of the movie. The rest of the characters were pretty good too, there were only two that stood out as being out of place. The first was the villain, who is basically just a bully and it feels like the movie didn’t really need him and worked fine without him. With that said it’s something you can look past, and if you’ve been a little annoyed at twist villains and tragic villains in animated movies nowadays, then you’ll probably like his addition here. The other is the uncle of Luca, if only because he was voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen but ended up being a cameo since he only had one scene.

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The direction from Enrico Casarosa is great. The animation style is a bit different from most Pixar movies but is still absolutely gorgeous, definitely one of their best-looking movies. It seems to capture this town in Italy perfectly, with its depiction being whimsical and vibrant in contrast to the dark and deep ocean that the film starts off in. The character design is great especially with the sea monsters. The score from Dan Romer was warm and fitting for the film.

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Luca is not one of Pixar’s best but it’s a really good and enjoyable animated movie, it is gorgeous to look at, and has endearing characters and a formulaic but still heartfelt story. It might not be anything new or special, but it’s a refreshingly simple and fun summer hangout flick and definitely worth checking out.

The Predator (2018) Review

Time: 107 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual references & offensive language
Cast:
Boyd Holbrook as Quinn McKenna
Trevante Rhodes as Nebraska Williams
Jacob Tremblay as Rory McKenna
Olivia Munn as Casey Bracket
Sterling K. Brown as Will Traeger
Keegan-Michael Key as Coyle
Thomas Jane as Baxley
Alfie Allen as Lynch
Augusto Aguilera as Nettles
Yvonne Strahovski as Emily McKenna
Director: Shane Black

From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home. The universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a boy (Jacob Tremblay) accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and an evolutionary biologist (Olivia Munn) can prevent the end of the human race.

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The Predator, the fourth film in the franchise, was on my most anticipated films of 2018 list. With a cast that included Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Thomas Jane and more, and on top of that, original Predator cast member Shane Black (who directed The Nice Guys, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3) being the writer and director of the movie, everything looked like it could be something great. With that said, I had some concerns in the lead up to its release. It looked way too comical, and I wasn’t really sure that would work for a Predator movie. The news about the large amount of reshoots and cuts didn’t make it any better (not to mention the controversy with a real predator originally being in the film, thankfully that was dealt with quickly). While I can understand a lot of the mixed reactions, I surprisingly found The Predator to be quite enjoyable. No, it’s not as good as the original, it’s not one of Shane Black’s best and yes it has some issues, but it also has some really good elements to it.

I should clarify that I’ve only seen the original Predator, so I can’t compare The Predator to the 2nd and 3rd movies (Predator 2 and Predators). However I didn’t feel lost so I feel like anyone who’s seen only the first movie could jump right into The Predator. Shane Black is a great writer, who wrote Lethal Weapon 1 and 2, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight as well as the films he’s directed (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys). Unfortunately his writing for The Predator is a very mixed bag. With regards to certain things like the dialogue, it feels like a B grade Shane Black was writing it and not Shane Black at the top of his game. You can definitely at times feel like it is his writing, but it’s not as strong. One thing I will say that Shane Black does do better with The Predator than the original Predator is that there is some attempt to have some emotional moments and depth with the characters. It almost always doesn’t work but I appreciate the genuine attempts. As good as the original Predator movie was, there was really nothing to these characters. On top of that, it does try some things different with the story, with a large amount of it being set in a suburbia (though we also get some sequences in the forest) and also being a much more comedic sort of movie. Now that doesn’t guarantee that the movie will be great but the best thing that each instalment can do is try different things. At the same time there are some problems with the movie. Some plot elements really don’t work well, such as Jacob Tremblay’s character who has Asperger’s and plays a big role in the movie, that plotline is a little too silly and doesn’t fit in with the movie. Shane Black has directed some very funny movies, his 3 previous movies all hit very hard whenever the comedy was present. With The Predator on the other hand, the comedy didn’t always work. It wasn’t painfully cringe worthy or anything like that, but a lot of it doesn’t work. I’m not sure if the comedic tone really works for the movie, but as I said before at least it is trying something different. There are some callbacks to the original Predator, and while I only picked up two, both of them were painful and hamfisted callbacks. To give an example of what I mean, one guy has a line “Get to the choppa” (that’s not a typo, he says choppa like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original movie). The Predator is yet another movie that has been the victim of studio interference and cuts (by Fox Studios of course). Now its nowhere like what they did with Fant4stic, but you can definitely feel that something is off about it. This is especially prevalent in the third act, which feels like a more conventional movie and seems to lack a lot of the Shane Black writing from the two acts and feels really simplified. Also the way it ends with the Predator in the end feels underwhelming. The last scene in particular is going to be very divisive especially to long time fans of the Predator lore. It is sort of sequel bait and it’s really weird and I’m not even sure what to think about it. It really has to be seen to be believed.

The cast generally do quite well. Boyd Holbrook is the lead of the movie and he does quite well in his role, however he’s a rather simple and conventional protagonist, really just a passable character. The group that Holbrook’s character teams up with, ‘The Loonies’, fair much better in comparison. They consist of Trevante Rhodes, Keegan Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen and Augusto Aguilera and they do well in their roles. Some are better than others, and you don’t necessarily care a great deal for the actual characters. but they all play off each other really well. Trevante Rhodes stands out as being particularly great. Olivia Munn works well in the movie for the most part (the scientist part to her character is a little hard to buy). Sterling K. Brown plays a 2 dimensional human villain and thankfully he plays up the role to being borderline cartoonish because the character is really generic and doesn’t have much to it. There were a lot of problems with Jacob Tremblay’s character but he plays his role well enough. Yvonne Strahovski really does play a really minor role, and really isn’t used to a fifth of her potential, her character could’ve been played by literally anyone and it wouldn’t have mattered.

Shane Black’s overall direction is pretty good. Larry Fong’s cinematography as always looks good. The action was for the most part was really good and entertaining, I like how it fully embraced its R rating and goes all out with violence. The effects for the most part worked really well, but other times it can look not so good. The CGI blood in particular looks absolutely terrible. I liked how they portrayed the Predators in this movie, being really big, intimidating and threatening. However the second Predator, much bigger than the first one, uses a lot of visual effects, and at times it can look really fake, particularly in the last act. The score by Henry Jackman is very reminiscent of the original Predator and it actually really worked for the movie.

The Predator clearly has some issues. It is a little disappointing and it doesn’t live up to the talent of the involvement of Shane Black, the cast and the name of the Predator franchise. Some of the weak humour, story points and other elements does hold back the movie from being anywhere close to being at the same level of the original. Still, there is some good stuff to be found in the movie. Some of Shane Black’s additions were good (even if it felt like B grade Shane Black most of the time), the cast worked well in their roles and it was quite entertaining generally. If you liked the original Predator, check it out knowing that it is filled with a lot of silly things and go into it expecting a somewhat entertaining movie. Again, wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be but wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be.

Wonder (2017) Review

Time: 113 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Coarse Language
Cast
Julia Roberts as Isabel Pullman
Owen Wilson as Nate Pullman
Jacob Tremblay as August “Auggie” Pullman
Izabela Vidovic as Olivia “Via” Pullman
Noah Jupe as Jack Will
Mandy Patinkin as Mr. Tushman
Daveed Diggs as Mr. Browne
Director: Stephen Chbosky

Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time.

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I was curious about this movie ever since I heard that it was going to be made. I actually studied the original novel Wonder in English class in school, so I was interested. With director Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and a talented cast, it definitely looked like it had potential to be quite good. I have to say that this is a really good movie and a great adaptation of the book, definitely a movie that everyone should watch.

I admit it’s been years since I read the original novel of Wonder but from what I can tell the movie is very faithful to the book. The novel is split up into different sections focussing on different characters and the film is partially that as well. Despite the movie being one hour and 50 minutes long, it did feel a little long at times, but that’s maybe that’s because I remember many of the events of the movie and I was waiting for them to occur. To everyone else I don’t think the length or the pacing will be a problem at all for them. Wonder is also very effective at having emotional moments, you really get invested in this movie and these characters, which is helped by the main characters being quite likable. It also showed well how much Auggie’s appearance has an impact on other people, on his sister, on her sister’s friend, on a boy at school, etc, which is part of why this movie stands out so much, you aren’t just purely focussed on August and what he’s going through. The sweet moments that happen also doesn’t feel forced at all, they all actually felt genuine. On the whole I had no issues with Wonder, it was just a really good movie which also had some good messages to it.

The acting is really great from everyone overall. Jacob Tremblay was great in the lead role of August Pullman. Tremblay was great in Room and he was also good here too, proving himself once again to be a really good actor and one of the best child actors working today. He had a lot of make up on (which was by the way great and effective) and he manages to act very well through it. Also there was good acting from the mother, father and sister played by Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Izabela Vidovic respectively, the chemistry and dynamic between them all was quite strong and they really did feel like a family. The rest of the supporting actors, including the child actors were also good and were very believable in their roles.

This movie was directed by Stephen Chbosky who also directed the great Perks of Being of a Wallflower and he did a great job here too. As previously stated, the makeup on Tremblay was great and made him look ‘different’ enough, yet it wasn’t too over the top and allowed Jacob to act with it.

Wonder was a really good adaptation of the novel and was a good movie in itself as well. The story was just wonderful, the acting was really good and it’s a really good movie that people of all ages can watch. In fact really everyone should watch Wonder, it’s a really good movie that also has some good messages to it. So I definitely recommend everyone watching it, I guarantee that the vast majority of people will like this movie.