Bonus Content, Animation Save Disney/Pixar’s ‘Luca’

Courtesy: Disney/Pixar

Sea monsters are the stuff of Hollywood lore.  From the monster in Universal’s The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) to the giant, radioactive octopus in It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), to the one and only giant, radioactive lizard itself, Godzilla (1954) the giant radioactive lizard in Godzilla’s inspiration, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, they have been great fodder for Hollywood and audiences alike.  Yet for all of the success that sea monster movies have had over the course of Hollywood’s history, not every movie of that ilk succeeds or has succeeded.  The latest to come up short is Disney/Pixar’s Luca.  The 95-minute movie takes on the classic plot element to tell a story that while entertaining, falls short of expectation.  That is the case even with its welcome deeper social message.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the movie’s story is both positive and negative, its bonus content serves to make up for those problems at least to a point.  It will be discussed a little later.  The movie’s animation rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s new home presentation.  All things considered, Luca proves to be one of Disney/Pixar’s less memorable offerings.

Disney/Pixar’s Luca is not the best nor the worst of the cinematic offerings that the companies have released over their more than 25 years together.  It is neither a failure, nor is it a total success.  That is proven in part through its story.  The story centers on two young friends, Luca and Alberto, who happen to be “mer-boys”/sea monsters  The boys meet completely by chance one day while Luca is out herding (yes, herding) fish.  The boys’ chance meeting leads to an immediate friendship, when then leads to what is really the center of the story, Luca’s desire to grow up, and discover what else is out there beyond his own home.  It is a timeless story element that has been used in so many movies from Disney, Pixar, and other studios.  Finding Nemo (another Disney/Pixar movie) even uses this plot device as its basis.  Along with all of that is the deeper message (that some might call “woke”) about taking pride in who and what one is rather than hiding that reality.  Now all of this seems all good and fine on the surface (no pun intended).  The problem with it all is how the story begins and progresses.  The whole thing opens so abruptly with Alberto stealing stuff from a fisherman’s boat one night and getting partially caught in the process.  From there, the focus shifts to Luca in the real opening.  Audiences are introduced to Luca as he is herding the noted fish.  He discovers the things that Alberto had tried to steal from the fisher but lost in getting away from that secondary character.  As the boys’ friendship grows, they make their way to a nearby town that is known for its fishing and sea monster hunting. 

Over time, the boys learn that the townspeople have only hatred for sea monsters.  This is where one needs to back up a bit.  There is zero set-up in the story’s opening about this divide between humans and sea monsters.  Not even that brief nighttime preface to the story really sets it up.  Why is the hatred there?  That is never answered.  Though, ultimately at the story’s end, the humans and sea monsters do end up peacefully co-existing.  That’s not giving away too much, as no Disey/Pixar movie is going to have a sad ending.  Audiences are just expected to accept that the humans hate sea monsters.  Eventually, the story does somehow manage to right itself, even though the whole thing of the bicycle race and winning the Vespa just seems like a desperate attempt to justify the boys staying in the town.  For anyone who is confused at this point, good.  That is how the movie’s story will ultimately leave viewers feeling.  Simply put, the story overall just feels so contrived and lacking any real structure.  Add in the unbelievable aspect of Luca and Alberto’s friendship just happening so fast and audiences see even more, the problems posed by this story.  There is no denying here that Luca’s story is problematic but ultimately not a total failure.  The bonus content on the other hand proves well worth watching.

The bonus content that comes with the home release of Luca is important to discuss because of its role in understanding the movie’s final story.  Among the most important of the movie’s bonus features is its collection of deleted scenes.  It is understandable why many of the scenes featured here were cut from the final product.  That includes one of the movie’s original opening sequences.  The second opening on the other hand, is a different matter.  That opening in question really should have been examined and worked out more rather than omitted.  The sequence in question opens with Luca narrating the opening, a la Diego in Coco.  Luca’s voice is heard talking about the island as the camera closes in on an aged map showing the island’s location.  Luca talks about the island and its residents.  This is where things start to get iffy.  Rather than showing the island’s residents actually being the sea monsters, it would have made more sense if Luca had pulled a twist and said the island in question was beneath the waves.  The writers could have then had him talk about why the surface island’s residents hated sea monsters so much.  That brief setup would have done so much to make the rest of the movie so much more enjoyable.  Sadly, the movie’s writers and creative heads opted not to go that route, ultimately making the story that much less engaging and entertaining.  To the positive though, this and the other deleted scenes show in their own right, the importance of the movie’s bonus content.  They in themselves make for plenty of discussion among audiences.

Touching on another of the bonus features, the feature titled, “Our Italian Inspiration” makes for its own appeal (and to more appeal for the movie) because every local studied in this feature shows up in the movie.  Even the subtlety of the railroad tunnel going through the mountain is there, as well as the “marina” for the boats.  If there is one thing that Disney and Pixar have always done right, it is making every one of its movies as believable as possible in their look.  That has always been done by doing the fullest research into the subjects for the movies’ stories.  This story is no exception to that rule.  To that end, audiences will gain even more appreciation for the movie’s bonus content and at least a little more appreciation for the movie if only in terms of its aesthetic elements.

One more item that shows the importance of the movie’s bonus content comes in the form of “Secretly A Sea Monster.”  This roughly 30-minute feature delves into the movie’s animation and the painstaking efforts that went in to making that item believable.  Audiences, especially those with any interest and education in art, will find this discussion engaging and entertaining.  The mention of the animation styles used in Coco being carried over to this movie to a point is interesting, too.  When this feature and the others examined here are considered together, they make fully clear, the importance of the movie’s bonus content.  They work together to make the movie at least a little bit more worth watching at least once.  Keeping that in mind, the bonus content is just one more of the movie’s most notable elements.  Speaking of animation, that aspect rounds out the most important of the movie’s elements.

The animation featured in Luca because it marks a change in direction for Disney and Pixar.  It is more comparable to Aardman Animation’s movies (E.g. Shaun The Sheep, Timmy Time, Wallace & Gromit) than the more overly defined CG presents exhibited in every one of Pixar’s existing works.  The irony is that (again reaching back to that feature about the movie’s animation) where Aardman Animation’s movies are all stop motion/claymation, this movie was done fully through computers.  It shows that despite what so many studios would like to think, it is possible to give these modern animated movies some identity in this aspect.  To that end, Pixar, Dreamworks, and other studios need to take this to heart and see if they can create something more original if only in terms of its look.  It is just nice to have that change of pace from Pixar.  Keeping that in mind, this element is, next to the movie’s bonus content, Luca’s only other fully positive element.  The two elements join with the problematic but still somewhat engaging story to make Luca worth watching at least occasionally.

Disney/Pixar’s Luca is a presentation that is anything but perfect.  It is not a failure, though.  The movie’s story is problematic in terms of its general construction and its pacing.  However, the familiar plot element of the main character wanting to explore and find out more from the world is reason enough to give the movie a chance.  The welcome message about self acceptance also plays into the story’s appeal, making for at least a little more reason to watch.  For all of the problems posed through the movie’s story, its bonus content makes up for those issues at least to a point.  That is because they give more insight into the movie’s creation, including insight into what Luca could have been.  The movie’s animation style rounds out the most important of the movie’s elements.  It stands out because it shows that it is possible for studios to give their cookie cutter CG flicks actual identities separate from themselves since they refuse to use hand drawn animation, which gives even more identity to presentations.  All three noted items are important in their own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered, they leave Luca a movie that while not a failure, is also one of the less memorable sea monster based movies that Hollywood has ever turned out.  More information on this and other movies from Pixar is available at:

Website: https://www.pixar.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Pixar

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pixar

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MPI, Cohen Media Group Making Their Name With Their Latest Uncovered Classic

Courtesy:  Cohen Media Group/mpi media group

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group/mpi media group

The partnership between Turner Classic Movies and Warner Home Video has made the two companies leaders in re-issuing cinema classics.  Universal Studios is a close second thanks to the recent re-issues of Cape Fear, its Alfred Hitchcock Essentials collection, and it Universal Monsters collection. Now two more companies are staking their claim in the classic movie world.  Those companies are Virgil Films and Cohen Media Group.  Early in 2013, the two companies partnered for the release of what is one of the single greatest classics of all time in the Thief of Bagdad.  Now months later, they have released an even lesser known classic in Perfect Understanding.

The plot of Perfect Understanding rests in the agreement between Swanson’s Judy and Olivier’s Nicholas that could be equated to an open marriage.  Right off the top, it’s obvious just how original this is, considering social norms and values of America in the early 1930s.  The agreement between the couple is meant in order to break the trend that the couple sees among its friends.  Neither wants to end up like their friends.  Ironically enough, it is because of the agreement that the couple reaches the point of its friends.  The ensuing story is unlike anything that fans of the rom-com genre have seen since.  It’s obviously not just another typical boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end story.  It’s almost Shakespearian in a way when one really goes back through the story a couple of times and analyzes it at a much deeper level.  It should also be noted here that despite a run time of an hour and half, the story actually moves along at a relatively easy pace.  This, along with the largely original story is another positive to this unearthed gem of a classic film.

For a film of its era and its style, Perfect Understanding could very well have been much longer and less able to relate to viewers, even today.  Luckily, it didn’t do that.  And roughly eight decades after it premiered it’s still as funny today as it was in its premiere.  Taking into account the film’s age, it’s incredible that it still sounds and looks as good as it does to this day.  What audiences see and hear is largely what audiences heard when the film first premiered so long ago.  It is a true testament to those charged with restoring the film to its original glory.  And now thanks to those individuals, a whole new generation of film buffs can enjoy this rare classic.

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Shout! Factory Gives Film Buffs Even More Laughs In New MST3K Set

 

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Thank goodness for Mystery Science Theater 3000 and thank goodness for Shout! Factory keeping this classic comic science fiction show alive on DVD.  This modern classic is one of the single greatest shows ever created for film lovers.  There was no other show like it during its time.  And there has been no show like it since.  On the surface, the very concept of a man and his robot friends watching a bunch of really bad B-movies sounds like something wouldn’t work.  But it did.  And it still does today.  Now, fans of MST3K have been rewarded once again for their loyalty with another new collection of so bad they’re good movies and great skits from an equally great modern classic TV show.   

Shout! Factory released the latest volume of this modern classic earlier this week.  Included in this brand new set are four more movies that are so god awful that they’re great.  Contradictory, no?  This four disc set is anchored by the absolutely campy sequel to Universal’s The Creature from the Black Lagoon in Revenge of the Creature and the equally campy Operation Double 007.  1955’s Revenge of the Creature sees the return of the famed creature.  This time out, the creature actually becomes a bit of a sympathetic character as it’s captured by scientists and taken to an aquarium in Florida to be studied.  Awakening in the aquarium and gawked at by hundreds of people, the creature (played here by Ricou Browning) becomes angered and tries to escape his tank.  This leads to more strict means to hold the creature, which only makes it angrier when it finally escapes.  And as was the case with classic monster flicks of that era, it went after the first young, attractive woman it saw as it wanted her for a mate.  The creature is of course stopped in the end and the damsel in distress saved.  While the film is absolutely campy, the very fact that it’s part of a franchise featuring one of Hollywood’s great movie monsters, having the opportunity to take in this flick will be appreciated by any true classic movie buff.  As an added bit of trivia, a young Clint Eastwood plays an uncredited role in this campy sci-fi classic.

Revenge of the Creature is a great addition to the new MST3K set from Shout! Factory.  It’s just one of the movies included that make the set great for anyone that wants to go back in time to just one era of Hollywood’s “Golden Age.”  Along with that flick, classic film buffs will also appreciate the even campier, Operation Double 007.  This largely forgotten flick from 1967 starred the younger brother of now retired actor Sean Connery, Neil.  Neil plays a plastic surgeon that is brought on board by the British government when his older brother (who just happens to be a secret agent) turns out to not be available to help them for a special mission.  Here’s where things get completely ridiculous.  The mission in question involves Neil stopping the evil crime syndicate Thanatos from using a giant magnetic wave device that will stop all metal machinery in the world.  Yes, it’s laughable.  But that’s what makes it so fun.  Of course, the action is just as campy, making it that much more fun and funny.  Think it can’t get any worse?  It can.  Not only is the plot and the action hilarious, but the scriptwriters didn’t even try to give Connery’s character a name.  He is actually called by his real name throughout the story.  There is even more that classic film buffs will love and laugh at throughout this movie proving why it’s one more that’s so bad that it’s great.  Thanks to being part of this new set, it’s one more movie that would be great for a classic camp movie marathon.  Of course, it’s just one more in this set.  Audiences will also love Robot Holocaust and Kitten with a Whip.  They finish out the four disc set that’s available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct at Shout! Factory’s online store, http://www.shoutfactorystore.com.

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