“Luca” stars Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Marco Barricelli, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, and Jim Gaffigan. Released on Disney+ on June 18, 2021, the film has two sea monsters embarking on a life-changing adventure in a seaside town.
The film featured the directorial debut of Enrico Casarosa, who directed the Pixar short “La Luna” and served as a story artist for films like “Ratatouille”, “Up”, and “Coco”. We all feel different on the outside. That’s what makes us human. Especially those two boys, whose appearances are more than what they seem. This latest film from the legendary minds of Pixar takes us from the afterlife to the Italian Riviera, where the legends of the sea monsters are true. This was supposed to premiere in theaters this month, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney and Pixar decided to dump it onto Disney+ at no additional cost. Although, it is set to hit theaters in international markets that don’t have the service. This marks the second Pixar film to debut on the streaming service, following “Soul” back in December. On the bright side, we don’t need to worry about paying an extra $30 to watch it as we did with “Raya” and “Cruella”. Aside from that minor issue, I was really looking forward to this one. Not just because of the Pixar brand but also its themes and inspiration towards the concept and culture. Pixar has already done wonders in making stories based on different cultures from Paris, Scotland, and Mexico, so it makes sense for the filmmakers to give Italy some animation love as well. With that said, let’s head on down to Italy and see if this is another hit for Pixar.
The film’s story takes place in the Italian Riviera between the 50s and 60s. It tells the tale of Luca Paguro (Tremblay), a teenage sea monster who lives on an undersea farm with his parents, Daniela (Rudolph) and Lorenzo Paguro (Gaffigan). He is curious about the world above the sea, even though his parents forbid him to go there. One day, he encounters another sea monster named Alberto (Grazer), who convinces Luca to explore the outside world with him. Disguised as human beings, Luca and Alberto explore the small town of Portorosso, where they meet and befriend a young girl named Giulia Marcocaldo (Berman) and her father Massimo (Barricelli). They later encounter a series of mishaps that could expose their secret identities and threaten the existence of their species. The film is a literal fish-out-of-water story that pays tribute to the Italian culture and celebrates the importance of friendship and acceptance. It explores the friendship that helps people grow and be more independent and allows them to be themselves despite their differences. Enrico Casarosa translated those themes into a subtle and charming tale about two sea monsters exploring the human world for the first time. The result is another vibrant and heartfelt hit from the Pixar dream team. Casarosa was a perfect choice to direct this film because of his inspiration, heritage, and vision and how they were incorporated into its imaginative style and storytelling. The film had a suitable amount of heart, charm, and emotion in its plot and characters to provide a sense of summer joy and wonder in its scenarios. The only issue I had with the story was that it was a bit simplistic at times, along with the fact that it borrowed some elements from “The Little Mermaid”. Compared to the other Pixar classics like “Toy Story” or even last year’s “Soul”, “Luca” is one of the more watered-down films from the animation studio, focusing more on the charm and kid-friendly fun rather than sophisticated storytelling. Aside from that, there’s still some Pixar magic swimming around in this fishy tale that’ll impress plenty of adult fans of the studio. The characters in “Luca” were highly relatable and full of life, primarily due to their solid depth and the voice cast. Jacob Tremblay did a fantastic job voicing the title character, who’s full of curiosity yet nervous about the outside world. Jack Dylan Grazer was also great as Alberto, who helps Luca face his fears, and Emma Berman made a remarkable first impression as Giulia. Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan also had some amusing moments as Luca’s parents. The only character that I didn’t like was Ercole Visconti, voiced by Saverio Raimondo. Ercole is a local bully who constantly picks on Luca and the others and serves as the film’s antagonist. He was probably one of the weakest characters that Pixar has created, in my opinion. Not only was Ercole a cliched and annoying “villain”, but he also had the most obnoxious voice I have ever heard in an animated film. I mean no disrespect to Raimondo, but man, the way he talks (and acts) made me want to run him over with his own Vespa. I’m pretty sure it was intentional for them to make Ercole like this. If that’s the case, then congratulations, Pixar. You created a horrible person that I want to punch in the stomach. The film also benefited astoundingly from its animation and portrayal of its Italian environment. The animation was unique compared to the usual style from the other Pixar films, most notably the character designs that somehow resembled those from the stop-motion projects from Aardman. It’s unique in a way that perfectly captures the richness of Italy while displaying plenty of creative and detailed visuals that we’ve come to expect from Pixar. Everything about the animation was beautiful, colorful, and fresh. I also liked the musical score by Dan Romer, which helped generate a sense of authenticity in its locations.
Overall, “Luca” is a vibrant blast of charisma and emotion that’ll touch the hearts of people who appreciate the summer days. Unfortunately, it fell a bit short compared to some of the other Pixar classics regarding its story and villain. However, it still retained the same charm and imagination that the studio is known for to craft another bonafide hit for families. With its delightful voice cast, charming characters, compelling storytelling, and remarkable animation, the film is a joyful yet simple sea monster tale that signifies big things to come for first-time director Enrico Casarosa. It's worth checking out if you have Disney+ and you’re looking for something simple, fun, and heartwarming.
“Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” stars Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Frank Grillo, Richard E. Grant, Antonio Banderas, and Morgan Freeman. Released on June 16, 2021, the film has Michael Bryce teaming up with Darius Kincaid’s wife to save her husband and the world.
The film is directed by Patrick Hughes, who also directed “Signs”, “Red Hill”, and “The Expendables 3”, and it is a sequel to the 2017 action-comedy, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”, which was also directed by Hughes. Do you think protecting an assassin was a pain? Wait until you try protecting his tough-as-nails spouse. This year’s explosive summer movie season continues to bounce back with a sequel to a modestly successful action-comedy that united Deadpool with Nick Fury. A Marvel movie without the involvement of Marvel. I thought “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” was a fun late-summer treat that featured great chemistry between the main actors, some decent action, and good laughs. So it’s no surprise that I was looking forward to its follow-up. This sequel may seem like a cash grab for those who weren’t fond of its predecessor, but it does appear that it has the same qualities needed to satisfy some of the original’s fans. The question is, are they enough to justify its existence?
The film takes place after the events of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”. Michael Bryce (Reynolds) struggles to move on after protecting notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Jackson). To help him cope with this event, he goes on a company-mandated sabbatical, which allows him to relax without using lethal weaponry. His day of relaxation abruptly ends when Darius’s wife, Sonia (Hayek), pulls him back into action to rescue her husband. After doing so, Michael, Sonia, and Darius are then tasked by Interpol to locate Aristotle Papadopolous (Banderas), a terrorist tycoon who plans to use a power drill to destroy the European power grid. The trio will have to join forces once again to guard the world while surviving each other. Action comedy sequels tend to provide the same strengths as their predecessors while going all out with their plot. The strategy doesn’t always work well for everyone, especially people who aren’t fans of the originals, but they sometimes compensate with their sense of fun and humor. “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is one of those sequels. While a step down from its predecessor in terms of its plot, the sequel offered enough laughs and chemistry in its cast to deliver a watchable follow-up for those who enjoyed Bryce’s first insufferable bodyguard duty. You can quickly tell that it’s more strictly towards fans of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” just by how it relies on action and adult language for laughs rather than tell an award-winning story. If you don’t like the original because of that, I can assure you that you might loathe this one even more. The story was about as corny and far-fetched as a B-rated spy movie, and the humor, despite some hilarious moments, had a sense of tediousness that’ll leave some viewers feeling like Michael Bryce: extremely annoyed. What do I mean by “tediousness”? How about spending 100 minutes listening to Salma Hayek’s Sonia cussing up a storm and plenty of yelling from the main characters? That would’ve made someone want to shoot themselves in the head. But despite its overuse of R-rated language and mindless action, did I have a good time watching the chaos unfold? That has always been the question I asked myself while experiencing a flawed film like this. It is whether or not I had fun with something as imperfect and halfwitted as the characters. In this case, the answer to that question is a “yes”. Sure, some of the moments were idiotic, the language was severely repetitive, and the plot was pretty formulaic. However, it had that kind of joy and energy that made its faulty brand of comedy work for me. I can admit that it won’t be for everyone, but it had enough laughs to satisfy those in need of some escapism this summer. Part of the comedy comes from the cast, which saw Reynolds, Jackson, and Hayek reprising their leading roles from the first film and some new faces joining this chaotic venture. Reynolds and Jackson continued to provide some amusing chemistry as Bryce and Darius, respectively. These two actors managed to retain the charm and humor that made their characters a joy to watch in the original despite their foul-mouthed attitudes. Plus, Jackson was more enjoyable here compared to his role in “Spiral”. Salma Hayek, who proved to be one of the best parts of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”, is now front and center in the sequel. Her performance as Sonia was suitably enjoyable as she provided more shocks and laughs than ever before. Again, the only problem with her character was the excessive language, which can grow tiresome rather quickly. Antonio Banderas was okay in his role as Aristotle, the film’s new antagonist, and Frank Grillo was entertaining as Bobby O’Neill, an Interpol agent who recruits Michael, Darius, and Sonia. The action scenes in “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” were unsurprisingly delightful and absurd to watch, so if that’s what you’re expecting, then you’ll get your money’s worth. What kept them from being top-tier was the editing. Patrick Hughes can make certain scenes energetic and fun, especially the action ones, but sometimes he can get a bit too carried away with how some of them were edited. Some of those scenes were a bit choppy at times, while others weren’t. I guess I’m more into action scenes that were more focused and cleanly edited now, thanks to the “John Wick” films.
Overall, “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is yet another average action sequel that offers more of the same, for better or worse. It took a few hits to the head by its dumb-downed storyline, uneven editing, and tedious adult humor. Despite that, the film managed to get the job done thanks to its cast, action scenes, and entertaining laughs. As someone who liked the first film, I had an enjoyable time watching it, even though it’s not as good as its predecessor. It’s one of those films that not only made me admit that they won’t impress everyone but also managed to meet my enjoyment expectations. If you like the first film, you would probably like this one as well. If not, then you should have no problem rejecting this job.
"Infinite" stars Mark Wahlberg, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sophie Cookson, Jason Mantzoukas, Rupert Friend, Toby Jones, and Dylan O'Brien. Released on Paramount+ on June 10, 2021, the film has a man discovering that his visions are memories of his past lives.
The film was directed by Antoine Fuqua, who also directed films such as "Training Day", "Shooter", "Olympus Has Fallen", and "The Equalizer". It is based on the book The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz. It's not summer vacation without a dose of action in our lives. The pandemic is nearing its end, and the weather is sunny and humid, which means that the summer movie season is officially back! It is so great to finally be able to see the delayed blockbusters on the big screen after waiting almost an entire year for them. So how about we celebrate this occasion with an original action film from Paramount+? What? Were you expecting me to review a big-budget action blockbuster made for the big screen? Don't worry. I'll get to that soon. This latest action film from Antoine Fuqua was initially set for a theatrical release last year, but the pandemic caused it to be delayed to next year. Eventually, Paramount decided to cancel its theatrical strategy and have it released on Paramount+ instead. I guess that's one way for the streaming service to keep itself relevant after its title change back in March. Whether they made the right call or not will depend on how the film turns out. With that in mind, let's see if this Mark Wahlberg-led thrill ride can kickstart the season on the right note.
The story centers on Evan McCauley (Wahlberg), a man whose daily life is spiraling out of control. He's been constantly having visions of places he's never been before and possessing skills he's never learned. Evan is then approached by a secret group of unique people known as "Infinites". The Infinites can reincarnate with the memories and knowledge from their past lives to use for their current ones, and Evan, believe it or not, happens to be one of them. When humanity is threatened by Bathurst (Ejiofor), a former Infinite who seeks to end this eternal cycle by eradicating all life, Evan will have to join forces with the group to unlock the secrets of his past and save the world. "Infinite" features a concept that took a sci-fi approach towards the topic of reincarnation, which could provide some intrigue in its world-building, themes, and characters, if done correctly, of course. Unfortunately for me, the film failed to take advantage of this strategy in favor of a dull and poorly-written action thriller that immediately wastes the talents of its cast and director. After an admittedly enjoyable opening sequence, the story quickly started to lose track of what it's supposed to do next and began planting elements from the other sci-fi films to keep itself going instead of creating an engaging plot. Not only that, but it also featured one-dimensional characters that lacked emotion and urgency, as well as a script that's both corny and nonsensical. The film also had some pacing issues that felt like some other vital scenes are left on the cutting room floor. It's like they're trying to keep its viewers entertained with its CGI-infused sequences and action-packed stunts rather than combining them with a coherent story. Antoine Fuqua is usually known for his realistic direction in genres like action, crime, and thriller. So seeing him tackle a film that combines action and sci-fi is something that could be either interesting or off-putting. As it turns out, it wound up being the latter. Fuqua's direction in the film looked like it could've been directed by someone else in my eyes. It didn't match Fuqua's style in his past movies regarding the energy and the gritty style. The performances from the cast didn't help that much either, especially Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg has been all over the place when it comes to his action-packed roles. Some of his films were highly enjoyable, in my opinion, like "Deepwater Horizon" and "Patriots Day". Others like "Mile 22" and "Spenser Confidential" weren't as explosive as I thought they would be. His role in "Infinite" is a perfect example of the latter. As much as I like Wahlberg, I have to say that he delivered the worst performance of his career so far. His role as Evan was as bland and soulless as an A.I. robot with a malfunctioning emotion chip. Even his delivery on the dialogue was pretty dull to hear. You can easily say that his performance was as wooden as a…piece of wood. I got nothing. Sophie Cookson and Jason Mantzoukas also turned in some okay performances as Nora Brightman and Artisan, respectively. Chiwetel Ejiofor, on the other hand, was honestly the most tolerable as Bathurst. He was undoubtedly a by-the-numbers villain, but man, Ejiofor knew how to make his performance as amusingly hokey as his character. The only thing that I liked from the movie was the action scenes, which took something out of the likes of "Mission: Impossible" and "The Matrix" and mashed them together to create some tasty eye candy. They're far from memorable, and the editing can be a bit of an eyesore, but they're suitable enough to provide some tiny bits of entertainment. The opening sequence was the most enjoyable part, in my opinion, due to the stunts and the direction. It's too bad that the rest of the film wasn't able to follow suit.
Overall, "Infinite" showcases an endless cycle that's filled with dullness and incoherence. Aside from its action sequences, this is a poor reincarnated man's imitation of the better-received sci-fi action films that came before it. With its mediocre cast, weak direction, rushed pacing, and bland characters, the film marks a significant low point for both Mark Wahlberg and Antoine Fuqua. On the other hand, it makes me glad that the studio decided to release it on Paramount+ instead of putting it on the big screen. I mean, could you imagine how much money they would lose if they kept its theatrical strategy? Anyway, if you're still curious about watching it despite my review, I can at least say it's worth watching once for the action and nothing else. Now let's get out of this never-ending loop so we can continue our action-packed summer movie season.
"Wish Dragon" stars Jimmy Wong, John Cho, Constance Wu, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Jimmy O. Yang, Aaron Yoo, Will Yun Lee, and Ronny Chieng. Released in China on January 15, 2021, followed by a Netflix release on June 11, 2021, the film is about a college student who finds a wish-granting dragon.
The film featured the directorial debut of Chris Appelhans. Has anyone ever wondered what "Aladdin" will be like if China made it instead of Disney? That would've been a different renaissance if that happened. However, that didn't stop Sony Pictures Animation from making that happen. Sony Pictures Animation and Netflix got off to a promising start this year with "The Mitchells vs. the Machines" back in April, proving that there's still some creativity left in that studio's noggin. This weekend sees Sony and the streaming service attempting to go two for two with a genie-in-a-bottle story set in China. According to the research I've done, the film received a theatrical release in China in January after facing some delays and earned a solid amount of money at the box office. Not a whole lot, but good enough to call it a mild success. So now its other test would be impressing the American audiences, especially the Netflix subscribers. Was it a wish that's worth getting? Let's head on down to China and find out.
The film centers on Din (Wong), a working-class college student in Shanghai who struggles with achieving a better life. He later discovers a green teapot that houses a mighty wish-granting dragon named Long (Cho), who is forced to grant three wishes to Din before he can enter the Spirit world. I'm starting to get "Aladdin" vibes already. They set off on a journey throughout the city to search for Li Na (Bordizzo), Din's childhood friend who moved away with his father (Lee) years ago to live a lavish life. Their adventure will lead them to learn about what matters most in life while trying to prevent the magical teapot from falling into the wrong hands. Like Netflix's "Over the Moon", "Wish Dragon" used plenty of Chinese elements for its storytelling, along with a dash of Disney's "Aladdin" for the extra texture. Okay, it's more than just a dash. My only concern going into the film was that it might provide some easy-to-point-out elements similar to the Disney classic, making viewers quickly judge it as a Chinese rip-off. After watching it for myself, it turned out that my concern was correct, but to my surprise, it didn't negatively affect my experience towards it. Was it as fantastic as "Mitchells vs. the Machines"? No. Was it the best film that Sony Pictures Animation has produced? No way. Was it enjoyable enough for me to recommend to families? Yes, it was. Not only was the story well-paced and comical in some moments, but it also offered enough heart and freshness in its material to prevent it from being a 100% rip-off. It's far from original, and it can be pretty predictable for those who want high-quality storytelling in animated films. However, it had a sense of appeal in the characters and plot to provide some decent entertainment, wacky chuckles, and solid messages for the kids and even some adults. In addition to its delightful story, the film also featured a talented cast from the Asian-American front. Jimmy Wong and Natasha Liu Bordizzo were respectable in their roles as Din and Li Na, respectively, but the real show-stealer was "Harold & Kumar" star John Cho as Long. His distinctive vocal performance gives off a whole new identity to Long, who I can describe as a dragon version of Genie with an attitude and a lack of patience. You do not hear John Cho's voice. You hear Long's voice. He can be a bit irritating due to his selfish personality. Still, Cho's performance, combined with his character's comedic chops and backstory, makes him a bearable side character that's pivotal to the film's central theme. He's no Genie, but when it comes to wishes and laughs, he's got enough skills to make our dreams a reality. The film's animation is what you would expect from a Sony Pictures Animation project: smooth, cartoony, and undeniably vibrant. While it didn't hold a candle to what "Mitchells" and "Spider-Man" offered regarding inventiveness, the style was at least serviceable in providing some colorful visuals and humorous slapstick.
Overall, "Wish Dragon" is a derivative take on the Disney animated classic that inspired it, but it's also a fun and radiant rip-off that'll make people's wishes for a tolerable animated film come true. It couldn't wish itself away from its predictable story and familiar elements. Despite that, its voice cast, vibrant animation, and entertaining plot make this another appropriate addition to the Sony Pictures Animation library. If you're looking for a simple yet enjoyable family film and have a Netflix account, give this one a try.
"Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway" stars James Corden, Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, David Oyelowo, Elizabeth Debicki, Margot Robbie, and Colin Moody. Released on June 11, 2021, the film has Peter Rabbit running away from his garden home.
The film was directed by Will Gluck, who also directed films such as "Easy A" and "Friends with Benefits", and it is a sequel to the 2018 family film, "Peter Rabbit", which was also directed by Gluck. It is also based on the stories of Peter Rabbit created by Beatrix Potter. Easter may be over, but that doesn't mean the bunny can't come out to play. This weekend brings us another round of animal-friendly fun this summer after starting out rough last weekend with Spirit's underwhelming return to the big screen. This time, it's the return of everyone's favorite troublemaking rabbit. "Peter Rabbit" is one of the films that people either love or hate. Families loved it because of its charm, colorful humor, and talking CGI animals. At the same time, people who read the books despise it due to the film's changes to the source material, including the characterization of Peter himself. As usual, the box office totals outweighed the negativity, resulting in Hollywood digging up a sequel to that live-action/animated hit. However, it took a while for it to arrive in theaters because of the pandemic forcing the studio to delay it multiple times. Now that we're one step closer to freedom, we are finally able to see the mischief-making rabbit back on the big screen. As someone who hasn't read the "Peter Rabbit" books, I thought the first film was pretty good, even though it fell into its usual trappings from the other family-friendly live-action/CGI hybrids. So it's no surprise that I was looking forward to watching its follow-up because of it. Was it a worthy sequel that keeps Peter's legacy hopping along, or was it something that'll leave me hopping mad? Let's find out.
The film once again follows Peter (Corden), Flopsy (Robbie), Mopsy (Debicki), Cottontail (Aimee Horne), and Benjamin Bunny (Moody) as they accept their former rival Thomas McGregor (Gleeson) into their lives. Their owner Bea (Byrne) has opened a business making children's books based on Peter and his friends. Although, Peter isn't taking a liking to the books portraying him as a naughty rabbit. When he sees that the books and his "bad seed" personality will be part of a marketing plan helmed by Bea's publisher Nigel (Oyelowo), Peter decides to run away, hence the film's title. He soon gets caught in a series of mishaps when he meets Barnabas (Lennie James), an older rabbit who claims to know Peter's father. Like its predecessor, "The Runaway" contains a simplistic plot and several attempts at kid-friendly comedy, both physical and dialogue. It also maintained the main character's personality as a mischievous rabbit who often gets himself and others into trouble and eventually learns from his mistakes. Those things alone are enough to drive away people who have an extreme fondness for the source material and dislike the 2018 film. However, those elements also helped "Peter Rabbit 2" become a decent follow-up that offers plenty of heart and fluffy CGI animals for the kids to enjoy. Sure, it's just as flawed as the original, but that doesn't mean I didn't have a fun time watching it. It had a few moments in its story and characters that I liked a bit more than the first film, as well as moments that made the sequel a small hop backward. In other words, I liked it just as much as I did with its predecessor, but for different reasons. One of those reasons is the story. "The Runaway" delivered another by-the-numbers plot that didn't offer any surprises and depth in its narrative and characters, especially Barnabas, one of the film's new characters. I might even say that it's as simplistic as picking tomatoes out of the garden. But it's a by-the-numbers plot that some adults, including me, might enjoy more than others. The story featured tons of cartoonish charm and fun action that families would come to expect from a film about a talking rabbit. More importantly, it continued Peter's comedic coming-of-age journey to become a better person, or a better rabbit in this case, with an endearing message about appreciating one's self without letting others tell them who they are. I still believe that some people are misunderstanding what these films are going for in terms of Peter himself. They only made him like this to teach kids the importance of caring for others rather than themselves and learning from the blunders they made to become respectable adults. It is something that I would gladly defend until the day I die or the day I get mugged by a die-hard "Peter Rabbit" fan. Whichever works. Along with its predictability, the story suffered a bit from its main human characters, most notably Thomas McGregor, played by Gleeson. While I thought Gleeson was serviceable in his role, his character only served as a test dummy for slapstick and nothing else. Those moments made me laugh a couple of times, but I can admit that they can be a bit far-fetched for some viewers, mainly when the film used CGI for some of Gleeson's cartoony stunts. Rose Byrne and David Oyelowo also did well in their roles as Bea and Nigel, respectively, but the real stars are the voice cast for the animals, the film's primary focus. James Corden once again did a decent job voicing the title character and providing some tolerable bits of humor. He can be a tad annoying at times, yes, but it was overshadowed by the amount of appeal he delivered for his character's cunningness and caring ways. The rest of the voice cast, ranging from Robbie as Flopsy to Lennie James as Barnabas, was just as delightful and entertaining as they were in the first film. The humor was also the best part of "Peter Rabbit 2", in my opinion. In addition to its physical comedy, the film included plenty of clever meta jokes that gleefully poke fun at Peter's behavior in the first film and the obsession with "modernizing" classic source materials for a new generation. It's the sense of irony that allows viewers to laugh at themselves rather than irritate or criticize them.
Overall, like its furry protagonist, "Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway" is a troublesome yet charismatic sequel that'll warm the hearts of people who enjoyed its predecessor. It maintained some of the strengths that made "Peter Rabbit" a delightful watch for families, but it still kept some of the weaknesses that made the detractors furious in the first place. Regardless of what the haters will say about my opinion, I was pleasantly entertained by this family-friendly follow-up due to its cast, humor, and heartwarming messages. It won't be for everyone, but it is a solid choice to see for those who need some goofy laughs and genuine rabbit charm this summer.