Luca

Posted on June 16, 2021 at 1:55 pm

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for rude humor, language, some thematic elements and brief violence
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Some peril and violence
Diversity Issues: Disability issues, diversity a theme of the film
Date Released to Theaters: June 18, 2021

Copyright Disney Pixar 2021
I’ll get to the details in a moment, the story, the characters, the music, the themes, and of course the inevitable Pixar movie question — Will it make you cry? But first, maybe because of the whole cooped up inside the house for more than a year thing, I have to tell you about the sunlight on the water in “Luca,” Pixar’s film set on the coast of Italy. As Carlos Saldanha did with Brazil in “Rio,” director Enrico Casarosa brings us his deep love for the place he grew up, and every moment brims with tender affection for the Mediterranean setting. This movie may not make you cry but for sure it will make you sigh in appreciation. And it has a spit take for the ages.

Luca, voiced by Jacob Tremblay of “Room” and “Wonder,” lives under the sea off the coast of a fishing village called Portorosso. This is not the underwater place of Nemo or Ariel, but its own very distinctive and fully-imagined world. Luca is not a merman or a fish, exactly. He is a young sea monster, the son of loving parents Daniela (Maya Rudolph) and Lorenzo (Jim Gaffigan). He is responsible and well-behaved, herding a school of fish. But like Ariel, he is curious about the world outside the water and wants to learn more about what his family calls “land monster town.” His mother cautions him that it is dangerous. But he meets Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer of “Shazam”), who shows him that sea monsters turn human when they are out of the water and introduces him to some of the wonders of the human world: sunlight, gravity, music, gelato, and…Vespas. Alberto’s dream is to have a Vespa and explore the world.

The — I’m just going to call them boys — try to build a Vespa on their own. But when they meet a spirited human girl named Giulia (Emma Berman) who tells them about a three-part race with a Vespa as the prize, they join forces. This being Italy, the three parts are: swimming, biking, and eating pasta.

But the five-time previous champion, a bully named Ercole (Saverio Raimondo) will do whatever it takes to win again. A single drop of water turns the boys back into their sea monster form, so when the sky starts leaking, I mean when it rains….well, it’s a challenge. Luca’s parents have taken human form to find him, tossing water on every boy they see.

The voice talent is exceptional, with Tremblay, Grazer, and Berman creating distinctive, endearing characters. A brief betrayal is shocking and dismaying because we are invested in their friendship. The film manages to weave in a number of themes with subtlety and insight as the character navigate their differences, as parents learn to love and let go and friends discover that you can stay friends even if you take different directions. Now excuse me while I put on some Puccini and cook pasta for dinner.

NOTE: Watch the credits for some sketches that continue the story and an extra scene with a character voiced by Sasha Baron Cohen.

Parents should know that this film includes peril and some violence. A disabled character is presented as strong, confident, and capable. A character has divorced parents and divides her time between their homes and another child is abandoned by his parents. Differences and acceptance are a theme of he movie. And while underwater Luca is a protective guardian of fish, somehow on land he has no problem helping Giulia’s father catch a boatful so he can sell them.

Family discussion: When should you say, “Silencio, Bruno!” and when should you listen to “Bruno?” Who in your life is an underdog? What do you do when friends want different things? Why did Alberto tell Luca to leave?

If you like this, try: “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory”

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The Mitchells vs. The Machines

Posted on April 29, 2021 at 5:23 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for action and some language
Profanity: Some schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended cartoon/action-style peril and violence, no one seriously hurt
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: April 30, 2021

It’s refreshing to see a movie for families that is not only exciting and delightful but one that acknowledges a crucial truth we usually pretend to ignore. And that truth is: families are weird. All of them. Yes, even yours. And there’s more: family weirdness is awesome and wonderful and, it turns out, exactly what we need to defeat the robot apocalypse, as well as any other daunting but less drastic challenges like everyday life.

The Mitchell family is four people who love each other and drive each other crazy. The one telling us the story is Katie (Abbi Jacobson), a teenager getting ready to go to college at her dream school, where she will pursue her passion, filmmaking. She is very close to her dinosaur-loving little brother Aaron (voiced by very much not a little kid Michael Rianda, who also co-wrote and directed and provides some of the other voices). But her struggles with her dad, Rick (Danny McBride) go beyond the usual teenage separation because there seems to be no middle place between their interests. Hers is in making films, many featuring the family’s very goofy-looking wall-eyed dog Monchi, plus hand puppets and a lot of graffiti-like digital effects. His is in nature and more analog craftsmanship and fix-its. Katie’s mother, Linda (Maya Rudolph), tries to act as mediator between them, but the relationship is strained. Katie can’t wait to get to school, where she is sure she will be with people just like her.

And then Rick changes the plans without asking or even telling Katie. Instead of her flying across country to get to school in time for orientation, the family is going to drive her there. And family car trips are known stress-relievers, right? Yeah, I know, quite the contrary.

Meanwhile, at an Apple-like company run by Mark Bowman (Eric Andre) is introducing its latest line of gadgets, personal robot assistants who clean and bring you refreshments and do so many cool things that their predecessor, a SIRI or ALEXA-type voice assistant, gets tossed aside. Remember “Terminator?” And “Wargames?” and “I, Robot?” and lots of other movies where technology gets literally out of hand? Not to mention centuries of stories about hubris and what happens when humans go too far?

And that is how the Mitchells end up being the only ones who can save the world. If they can learn to work together and to try some skills outside their comfort zones.

The movie is fast and fun and funny and exciting. It does not take itself too seriously and it has a vivid, poppy energy with a hands-on look in contrast to the chilly perfection of some computer animated films. We get glimpses of Katie’s “sweded”-style films and I loved the way her aesthetic appeared in the large film we were watching as well, with some hand-lettered commentary and sticker/emoji-style effects. But most of all, it is a heartwarming tribute to families and to the unconquerable spirit that lurks within the weirdness.

Parents should know that this film has extended fantasy/cartoon-style peril but very little violence and no one gets seriously hurt. There is some schoolyard language and family stress.

Family discussion: How would your family fight the robot apocalypse? Can you try to make a movie like Katie or make something with your hands like Rick?

If you like this, try: “The LEGO Movie” and its sequel

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The Mitchells vs. The Machines: Win a Free Pass to the Virtual Premiere!

Posted on April 10, 2021 at 11:09 am

Copyright Netflix 2021
25 lucky people are going to win a free pass to the new animated family film from the people behind “The LEGO Movie.” “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” stars Maya Rudolph, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Olivia Colman, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Charlyne Yi, Conan O’Brien, Sasheer Zamata, Elle Mills, and Jay Pharoah in the story of an ordinary family who find themselves saving the world from the robot apocalypse.

It all starts when creative outsider Katie Mitchell is accepted into the film school of her dreams and is eager to leave home and find “her people.” Her nature-loving dad insists on having the whole family drive her to school and bond during one last totally-not-awkward-or-forced road trip. But just when the trip can’t get any worse, the family suddenly finds itself in the middle of the robot uprising! Everything from smart phones, to roombas, to evil Furbys are employed to capture every human on the planet. Now it’s up to the Mitchells, including upbeat mom Linda, quirky little brother Aaron, their squishy pug, Monchi, and two friendly, but simple-minded robots to save humanity.

THE MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES – (L-R) Maya Rudolph as “Linda Mitchell”, Abbi Jacobson as “Katie Mitchell”, Doug the Pug as “Monchi”, Mike Rianda as “Aaron Mitchell”, and Danny McBride as “Rick Mitchell”. Cr: ©2021 SPAI. All Rights Reserved.

If you’d like to attend the virtual movie premiere with pre-show on Monday, April 26th at 6:00pm EST, send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com! You do not need to have a Netflix subscription to attend. The first 25 to enter will be there! (US entries only)

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Tiffany Haddish, Regina Hall, Natasha Lyonne, Maya Rudolph, and Jane Fonda: On Comedy

Posted on June 29, 2019 at 8:00 am

Alex Borstein (‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’), Natasha Lyonne (‘Russian Doll’), Regina Hall (‘Black Monday’), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (‘Fleabag’ ‘Killing Eve’), Maya Rudolph (‘Forever’), Jane Fonda (‘Grace and Frankie’), and Tiffany Haddish (‘The Last O.G.’) join Close Up with The Hollywood Reporter for this season’s lively, uncensored, Comedy Actresses Roundtable.

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sisters-movie-300x158.jpg

Sisters

Posted on December 17, 2015 at 5:59 pm

Copyright 2015 Universal Pictures
Copyright 2015 Universal Pictures
BFFs Amy Poehler and Tina Fey clearly had a whale of a good time making this movie.  Watching it is another story, and not nearly as good. Yes, I suppose it’s fair to say that women’s humor can be as raunchy and crude and politically incorrect as men’s. But in both cases, it should not have to be pointed out, crude and raunchy are not enough. It has to be funny. There are some genuinely funny moments in “Sisters,” but unfortunately they are lost in an avalanche of gross-out gags. That’s gags in both senses of the word — plus there is literal gagging in the film, and probably in the audience as well.

If only they had trusted the original concept, based on screenwriter Paula Pell’s real life return to her parents’ home to get her stuff so the house could be put on the market. (You can see Pell in the film — she’s the one gagging in a brief appearance at the beginning.)

There’s a lot of comedy to be mined there, the bittersweet sort through the flotsam and jetsam of childhood and adolescence, the inevitability of the “What were we thinking!” moments as we look through old clothes, photos, and diary entries, and the sister dynamic, too, with the closeness and understanding only people who lived in your home and shared your parents have — and the competition and instant return to juvenile emotions that sometimes brings.

Fey and Poehler tried to add some interest by switching the roles from their last collaboration, with Fey as Kate Ellis, the wilder, less responsible sister, a beautician single mother with a teenaged daughter and Poehler as Maura Ellis, a compassionate nurse with a one-eyed rescue dog, divorced for two years and still feeling bruised and insecure.

The Ellis parents (James Brolin and Diane Wiest) have moved into a condo in a retirement community and want the girls to clear out their old room. They hate the idea of giving up the house, and so decide that what they need is one last big, wild party, like the “Ellis Island” parties Kate gave in high school. Kate pushes Maura to invite a handsome handyman neighbor (Ike Barinholtz, the moral and emotional center of the film and please put him in many more movies right now) and somehow he consents. Though Maura’s behavior around him is weird and off to the point of being disturbing, but for some reason he finds it appealing. They do not invite Kate’s old mean girl rival, Brinda (Maya Rudolph, one of the other bright spots), but she shows up anyway, on the policy that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, and if you can’t join ’em, call in a noise report to the police.

The fun includes the inevitable dance number and trying on clothes montage and some brief appearances by John Cena and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s” Santino Fontana.

Here’s what’s not so fun (potential spoiler, but it’s in the trailer): a character falling backwards on a sharp, pointed object that gets lodged it his rear end for a supposedly hilarious scene of extraction that seems to go on forever, lots of humor about how getting drunk or smoking weed or having sex with someone you’ve just met is a sign of liberation, a guy who makes endlessly corny “jokes” so we are supposed to laugh at him for it, a mother whose teenager has to explain that it should not be her job to be the grown-up, condescendingly mistaking a construction worker for a homeless guy, condescendingly mistaking a nail technician for an oppressed person who never has any fun, a joke about “c–kblocking our parents,” and humorous ingestion of some very strong drugs. It’s more slumber party skit than movie, too slight for its running time and beneath the talents of America’s sweethearts.

Parents should know that this film has very explicit and crude sexual references and situations, gross-out comedy and graphic images, sexual situations, drinking and drug use, comic and slapstick peril and violence

Family discussion: Was there a house you were sorry to leave behind?  Why was it hard for Kate to do what her daughter wanted?  

If you like this, try: “Baby Mama” with Fey and Poehler

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