LUCA: 3 ½ STARS
Set on the Italian Riviera, “Luca”, the new film from the animated giants Pixar and now airing on Disney +, is a fantasy story about sea monsters with beating human hearts.
Jacob Tremblay is 13-year-old Luca Paguro, a shy sea monster with the curiosity of a typical teenager. When he discovers objects that have floated from the surface, he wonders what the world outside the sea has to offer. Despite the stories his parents Daniela (Maya Rudolph) and Lorenzo (Jim Gaffigan) told him about the fisherman and the horrors of the mainland, his free-spirited best friend Alberto Scorfano (Jack Dylan Grazer) was above the waterline and convinces the shy Luca to visit the mainland.
On land, Luca and Alberto, who look like a cross between the creature from the Black Lagoon and the 1970s Saturday Morning TV celebrity Sigmund Ooze, transform from underwater creatures into human form. By mixing, they explore the seaside town of Portorosso, discovering the pleasures of pasta, ice cream and especially Vespa. City tyrant Ercole Visconti (Saverio Raimondo) sets his sights on them, but a young girl, Giulia Marcovaldo (Emma Berman) befriends them and has an idea that could help them get their own Vespa.
“Luca” is a whimsical coming-of-age story. The very specific story of sea monsters who yearn for more in their lives, contains universal messages about finding commonalities not differences, fighting bullying and never giving up. The moral is a bit on the nose – “Some people will never take it, and never take it, but he seems to be able to find the right ones.” .
However, in his small, cold-blooded heart, “Luca” speaks of friendship. The kind of bond that is created between children who discover the world and its possibilities. Director Enrico Casarosa, who directed Pixar’s 2011 Oscar-nominated short “La Luna”, aided by the fun vocal work of Tremblay and Grazer, captures the youthful exuberance needed to make the story work.
“Luca” doesn’t have the emotional resonance of the classic Pixar era – think “Up”, “WALL-E” and “Ratatouille” – but what it lacks in the gut punch feeling it makes up for with the imagination, action and the good – natural look of finding a place to belong, above and below sea level.
HITMAN’S WOMAN’S BODYGUARD: 2 STARS
“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” the Odd Boyfriends movie starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson and now playing in theaters, is a story about finding your logical, non-biological family, disguised as a shootout comedy ’em up violent.
At the start of the film, Michael Bryce (Reynolds) is “like a belly dancer with no torso”. He lost his bodyguard license and is in therapy. Tormented by bad dreams, he is obsessed with a client who was killed by hitman Darius Kincaid (Jackson) while in his care. On sabbatical in Capri (“like the pants”) in Italy, he imagines a world without bodyguards or guns.
But his newfound inner peace did not last long. As he shakes up his old life, he is brought back into the game, stalked by Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek), who uses firepower and moxy to lure him out of semi-retirement to save her husband, Darius. . That’s right, the guy who haunts Michael’s dreams.
As the bodies pile up as a result of their rescue attempt, it turns out that Darius actually said, “Bring me anyone BUT Michael Bryce!” Nonetheless, this mismatched trio work together to stop a madman (Antonio Banderas) from destroying Europe and throwing the world into chaos.
“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is a sequel to the equally boisterous 2017 film “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” but despite the appealing leads and the addition of Hayek, Banderas, and Morgan Freeman, doesn’t have the same silly charm. The first film was an over the top mix of exotic locations, violence, jokes and romance. The suite contains all of these elements, but is somewhat less than the sum of its parts.
Considering the talent involved, this should be more fun.
Reynolds weaves his way through with a line like a master craftsman, reminiscent of the kind of goofy, clever characters he played early in his career. Jackson uses his profanity in profanity and is eclipsed only by Hayek, whose entertaining use of salty language would make a sailor blush. But, remove those sworn frills, and you’re left with some quick laughs, laid-back video game violence, a body count that rivals the “Lord of the Rings” franchise, and an unconvincing attempt at sentimentality.
Between the shootings is a barely sketched subplot about finding family wherever you can, but it’s played for a laugh and gets lost in the ballet of bullets and explosions.
“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is pure escape, a strong and brash flick that mixes well with popcorn, but leaves a fun aftertaste in the mouth.
CENSOR: 3 STARS
In “Censor”, a new psychological horror film on VOD, Niamh Algar plays Enid, a stern young woman who brings childhood trauma to her job of censoring English films.
Set in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, “Censor” makes it clear that Enid views her work as an essential service. Her profession, she says, is to protect the public by removing eye gouges, gut twitching and other horrific staples from the “wicked videos” she projects before they’re released. Convinced that these bloody exploitation films feed antisocial behavior, she is delighted. Her colleagues mockingly call her “Little Miss Perfect”, but she has a dark side.
When she reviews a gorefest called “Don’t Go to Church”, it brings back long-held memories of her sister Nina’s disappearance. Going deeper into the work of famous film director Frederick North, she stumbles upon Alice Lee (Sophia La Porta), an actress who looks exactly like her late sister. In Search of Answers Enid visits the set of North’s new film, and his descent into madness begins.
“People think I create horror,” North says. “But I don’t. The horror is already there, in all of us.
“Censor” works on several levels. It contains elements of the obnoxious video that Enid tries to suppress, but as fact and fiction intertwine, it’s his efforts to edit his memories that resonate. She is motivated in her work by a trauma in her life, and vice versa.
As “Censor” goes from paying homage to the wicked videos that feed into the first part of the story to a psychological portrait of Enid’s issues, it’s clear that she can no longer say what’s real and what isn’t. is not. Driven by guilt, she is unable to move from grief to acceptance. This is the root of his problems, not the outward influence of art, however grotesque it may be.
Welsh-born director Prano Bailey-Bond doesn’t have enough power to keep the premise intriguing until the end, but she does fill the screen with compelling imagery, some inspired by the VHS horror aesthetic of the horrific period of the video, others reflecting the drab gray of 1980s England. This adds up to a film that elegantly explores the relationship between art and real life.