Black Widow

Set in between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Natasha Romanoff, on the run from the law, encounters friends and enemies from her past as she confronts her dark origins.

With the return of theaters, it’s so exciting to see a Marvel movie again on the big screen, a whole two years after the last one, Spider-Man: Far From Home. The action, set around the globe from Cuba to Budapest, is exciting and more grounded than other MCU films. It focuses less on superhuman or fantastical abilities and more on the grit and hand-to-hand combat, along the lines of spy films like Jason Bourne and Atomic Blonde. The fights have lots of impact and feel nail-biting — there’s only a few weird moments of slo-mo that weren’t needed. Scarlett Johansson never lets us forget why she’s such a beloved actress and Avenger, and Natasha’s spirit is ever present as personal revelations about her surface. It’s really great to see her front and center, headlining her own film, but it feels like it should’ve been released back in 2017, in between the films it was set. In a cinematic universe all about bringing in connections from past films and setting up future ones, it feels weird to ask the audience to dial their brain back only a few years to an era we already passed where films like Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther are set. What requires even more suspension of disbelief is the fact that we know where Natasha’s journey leads afterwards in Infinity War, and ultimately ends in Endgame. However, that doesn’t completely sink the film’s quality and consistent enjoyment factor, from the get-go with an exciting opening action scene. The visuals consistently stand out, which was enhanced for me by the 3D experience, and the pacing is also strong for a film that’s 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Florence Pugh is the highlight of the film, bringing her fantastic acting chops to the emotion and heart of the film, and shares some wonderful scenes with Johansson as well as David Harbour and Rachel Weisz, who form Nat’s makeshift family. Pugh and Harbour bring their already respected reputations with them, but reinvent themselves with memorable, humorous and heartfelt roles, though Weisz is worth mentioning too. My main issues are mostly minor, but the themes aren’t often as emphasized as in other MCU films, which is a shame, and the progression of the plot isn’t as strong either. It isn’t Black Widow’s best appearance, don’t go in expecting The Winter Soldier, Civil War or Endgame, but better late than never to have her as the lead in her own film. The villain are also very uninteresting, and though he does the job to motivate our hero, Ray Winstone’s performance is very one-dimensional. His sidekick, however, Taskmaster, is a very intimidating presence who’s great to watch. It’s overall not top-tier Marvel material, but still a satisfying standalone film that utilizes its tone, action set pieces, and cast well, and worth the theatrical experience, as always, stay seated for the credits and enjoy and intriguing post-credits scene.

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Luca

Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, Luca shares an adventurous summer 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.

Luca proves that Pixar’s stories are always rooted in family appeal, charm, and emotional truth. Though it’s not as revelatory as Inside Out, Coco, and Soul, it would be unfair to dismiss it solely for that reason. It provides a sweet story about differences and compassion, though that may be the main aspect that draws similarities to other animated films like Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid, especially the idea of a young character wanting to leave the nest to the disapproval of an overprotective parent. The strongest aspect of the story is the innocence of the main characters, such as their friendships, heart, and aspirations. The purity of childhood is beautifully depicted and draws parallels to the feels of old Italian cinema. Jacob Tremblay and Jack Dylan Grazer deliver great voice performances and their parts’ friendship beautifully anchors the story. Maya Rudolph, who was also wonderful in the 2021 Netflix animated film The Mitchells vs the Machines, seems to never do wrong and here plays Luca’s sea creature mother. Be on the lookout for a special voice cameo in the first act from a beloved star that you may or may not miss. The characters are ones to root for, and their wonder and awe of the world around them is such a fun part. Whenever Luca must face his fears, he goes “Silenzio, Bruno!” to silence the voice inside of him that tells him he can’t, a relatable message for all of his. The animation of the Italian settings is terrific, although the character designs feel more 2-dimensional than Pixar’s previous films. The musical score by Dan Romer is the highlight of the productional values and even warrants an Oscar nomination if you ask me. The movie keeps bringing new situations, sometimes obstacles they must face and sometimes humor — both situations and details off to the side that will make you laugh. Ultimately at all culminates in another heartwarming story that feels exactly like what we all need right now — no matter your age — presenting many themes to children in a positive light that won’t ever feel exclusively for kids either, as Pixar excels at making stories that fit every audience’s desires without exception.

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F9

Dominic Toretto is leading a quiet life off the grid with Letty and his son, little Brian, but a new threat will force Dom to confront the sins of his past to save those he loves most. His crew joins together to stop a world-shattering plot led by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they’ve ever encountered: a man who also happens to be Dom’s forsaken brother, Jakob.

F9 will fulfill the fans and audience’s expectations of adrenaline-pumping, large-scale action the franchise delivers. But is it enough this time around? The answer is — the movie is best when focused on the action set pieces and excitement, but the theatrical experience is strictly needed. And the Fast & Furious saga was built just for that. Justin Lin, who directs for the franchise for the fifth time, understands the massive grandeur necessary to experience the action. He directs expensive, impressive stunts that will get you excited — when you don’t think about how they obey the laws of physics. He also brings back the comedic, irreverent sense these films need which I don’t think Hobbs & Shaw managed to nail without becoming too parodical. The comic relief in this series has always been Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris as Roman and Tej and they give so much to this movie with their humorous banter. However, it’s the villains that bring the fun to a halt. Charlize Theron, who’s normally one of my favorite actors, is terrible once again as Cipher, but at least in the last one she was imposing and raised the stakes — here she does almost nothing. John Cena’s performance also didn’t work for me — and neither did lots of the supporting cast shoehorned in from previous films. The villains’ plans and objectives are also boring and not treated with enough care for the audience to even feel like there is a real possibility of danger. Tej and Roman even comment on the fact that after all they’ve been through in these films, they feel “invincible”. And whenever the movie tries to connect to predecessors and tie up “loose” ends with exposition, it feels incredibly heavy-handed and unfitting, and often just there as fan service, especially a certain character who is brought back. This excessive use of flashbacks feels like a pause in the story rather than world-building as the movie believes it is.

F9 continues the growing expansion of the series which started as films about street racing into what they are now, enormous, expensive superhero movies. Logic has been thrown out the window for a lot of the action sequences in this movie, but Lin treads the line between practicality and splendor to keep the audience there with the nail-biting and excitement he wants to deliver. And as said before, the comedy is very important here and he handles that well too. Whenever the script inevitably takes itself seriously at times, though, with big twists and tiring cliches, it becomes a checklist of a formula that the series keeps repeating. The franchise’s reputation has given fans room to laugh both with and at the story, but that’s only excusable with a series that has evolved so expeditiously without truly alienating any demographic of moviegoers. The first 30 minutes are genuinely great and the action gets the audience going and laughing, and the loud action throughout will get you excited, it’s just the series’ character development that feels like it’s given up on truly reinventing the wheel. After all, the saga is notorious for Vin Diesel’s “family” mottos. Although its mostly what you’d expect from this franchise, perhaps for the Fast Saga, that may as well be enough — especially when the scale keeps aiming higher and in a consistent direction that graps onto what its audiences want from an enormous, irreverent theatrical experience like this.

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Cruella

Cruella dives into the origins of the infamous 101 Dalmatians antagonist. Emma Stone is seriously great as the lead and another reason to praise the actress as well as the seemingly impeccable casting directors at Disney. Her performance is charming, unpredictable, and twisted. Though she is notoriously an insane criminal and dog-killer, she is likable in comparison to the other big Emma of the film. Emma Thompson plays a ruthless, egomaniacal fashion designer whose absolutely repulsive without a single redeeming quality. Her repugnance reminded me of Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, another evil, sadistic, fashion designer. Thompson portrays this narcissism and wickedness well, and the movie does a mostly good job, aside from a few lines, keeping her out of cartoonish territory. The relationship between the Emmas onscreen is easily a gripping anchor for the film’s story. Two other standouts are Cruella’s loyal surrogate brothers and sidekicks, played by Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser. My favorite was especially Hauser, who is much more comedic (and British) than his other popular turns in films like I, Tonya, Richard Jewell and Da 5 Bloods, and nails every moment he’s on screen. As a fan of his, I was especially glad to see him be in a film with a wide audience like a Disney film.

Cruella‘s script manages to, for most of the runtime, distance itself from the famous story it’s inspired by, despite a few nods and a shoehorned post-credits scene thrown in for the Disney hardcore fans. It feels very much like a Craig Gillespie movie — like his previous film I, Tonya, it’s a fast-paced chronicle of a morally ambiguous woman’s journey into such obscurity. However, it’s the hyper-stylistic approach that’s most detrimental to the film. The soundtrack is a nonstop barrage of rock music with no room for silence or drama, with one popular rock song after the other, and the music choices being frankly on the nose and unoriginal (seriously, why do so many films use “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones?). Had the style kept some of this energy but toned it down to make scenes feel less fluffy and more dramatic for its villain, the movie would’ve resonated more. With such gorgeous production design and costumes that made me awe (and trust me, I don’t always notice beauty in costume design like I did in this film), as well as solid acting and writing, why didn’t Disney trust its audiences to stay engaged from these elements instead of throwing in popular music every second? There’s also a little too much narration for my taste, and you can tell this took inspiration from Scorsese’s hyper-style he trademarked with Goodfellas and The Wolf of Wall Street — a style at least one big movie a year feels the urge to adapt. The movie’s script is best when it follows the psychotic nature of Cruella and her descent into darkness, which Stone wonderfully portrays and is the most intriguing part of the film. It’s also enjoyable to point out the similarities between Cruella and other popular solo movie villains like Joker and Harley Quinn (who headlined the considerably entertaining Birds of Prey), I only wish this movie embraced what worked so much about those two aforementioned films’ approach to their villains. And that’s not saying they should have gotten rid of the energy and fast pace — which does work once Estella becomes Cruella — just give the darker, more unpredictable moments of Stone’s performance room to breathe rather than be edited like a fun heist sequence from an Ocean’s Eleven movie. There’s also a few iffy moments of CGI, including the dogs and a scene involving water, that made me cringe. Cruella is entertaining, fashionable, and has fun with its concept, but feels boxed in by a soundtrack poorly edited into the film that weakens the impact of certain scenes and connections to the original IP that feel thrown in just to check boxes on a studio checklist. Those who are interested will enjoy it, as it’s certainly a good time that’s carried well by its cast, especially the insanity conveyed by Stone, but I feel like there was potential for a stronger film in the editing room.

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A Quiet Place Part II

Following the events of the predecessor, the Abbott family now face the terrors of the outside world. With both A Quiet Place and its sequel that’s now playing in theaters everywhere, John Krasinski has proven himself to be not only an awesome actor but a master filmmaker. It worries me whenever a studio greenlights a sequel to a great film that stands alone perfectly, but A Quiet Place Part II is one of the rare occasions where the sequel lives up the original, and not only that, but along with that 2018 film, is one of the best horror/thrillers of recent years. A lot of it is thanks to Krasinski’s direction and the style which made the concept and storytelling of the first film so memorable. The opening sequence is nail-biting and even though the violence is kept at a PG-13 level, the film knows where and how to scare most effectively with showing and not showing certain things. For example, we see scenes from characters’ perspectives so the aliens and action aren’t always in the frame but sometimes in the background. The cinematography and editing are great as well, but it’s the sound editing that makes the movie. It’s the small noises that make you terrified for the characters as they try to survive among creatures who can track them based on any small noise from a distance, and the sound creates its own tension without a single jump scare. The loud sound effects of the monsters contrast this excellently and make this a terrific theater experience.

Emily Blunt may be at her best in this series as a mother trying to protect her kids, including a newborn, from otherworldly threats that are a family’s worst nightmare. Cillian Murphy is also excellent as a new addition to the cast, a cynical, hopeless survivor who is changed by his time with the Abbott family. Millicent Simmonds, the deaf actress who plays the deaf daughter in the film, may be the film’s heroine as she takes on challenges courageously and delivers a stellar performance, with not only some of the most positive deaf representation I’ve ever seen in film but all around a brilliant actor and lead role. Noah Jupe, who plays the son/brother, is again excellent, and he’s proven himself with these films as well as his magnificent roles in 2019’s Ford v Ferrari and Honey Boy. And even with just a cameo, Krasinski himself makes his presence felt throughout the film, passing the courage and good-ness of his character from the last film into his children and the world of the movie. Beyond the brilliant scares, which are only strengthened by techniques such as cross-cutting that Krasinski marvelously uses to make scenes more powerful and symbolic, the film retains the heart that made its predecessor so emotional — in every frame and line, this is a movie about a monster apocalypse, but also about parenthood, family, human survival, and hope. And one can’t help but think that with a family taking back their world by venturing back into the unknown and fighting back against the apocalypse, it’s a perfect film to represent our return to theaters. I, for one, had not been to the theaters since Tenet last August, when some screens briefly reopened, and this is an impeccable choice to return to the big screen with for the thrills, sound, and amazing effects and story that will more than satisfy those who know what they’re in for, and for the shared experience we’ve been longing to have back and can finally experience for a new blockbuster once again.

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The Oscars (93rd Academy Awards) Winners

After a crazy year with movies being released in streaming and hybrid formats, the Oscars have finally happened, this time in late April! In case you missed it but want to find out who won, here you go:

Best Picture: Nomadland
Best Director: Chloe Zhao – Nomadland
Best Actor: Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Best Actress: Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah
Best Supporting Actress: Youn Yuh-jung – Minari
Best Original Screenplay: Promising Young Woman
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Father
Best Animated Feature: Soul
Best Original Score: Soul
Best Original Song: “Fight for You” (from Judas and the Black Messiah)
Best Cinematography: Mank
Best Film Editing: Sound of Metal
Best Production Design: Mank
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Best Costume Design: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Best Animated Short: If Anything Happens I Love You
Best Visual Effects: Tenet
Best Sound: Sound of Metal
Best Foreign Language Film: Another Round (from Denmark)
Best Documentary Feature: My Octopus Teacher
Best Live-Action Short: Two Distant Strangers

I think for what they were given, the Oscars did a good job creating an interesting show with a more intimate space and less people than the Dolby Theater. There were a lot of great winners and milestones, including Chloe Zhao as the 1st woman of color to win Best Director and the 2nd woman to win the category. My favorite win of the night was Daniel Kaluuya who I’ve been a fan of since Get Out, and blew me away as Chairman Fred Hampton. However, I was susprised by the winners for Best Actor and Actress. The expected winners were Chadwick Boseman and Carey Mulligan who I was rooting for. Boseman delivered a magnificent final performance and not only was it my favorite lead performance, it would’ve been a terrific way to honor his legacy. Mulligan was also brilliant in the provocative and unforgettable Promising Young Woman, and I would’ve awarded her — it also wasn’t so long since Frances won in that category for the fantastic Three Billboards in 2017. McDormand has now won 3 times in that category, but won an additional time this year for producing Nomadland, a unique film experience that won the biggest award of the night! Another Round is an excellent Danish film and the director Thomas Vinterburg’s speech was the most moving of the night. However, I have to give a special shoutout to the award-winning short films — Two Distant Strangers (live-action) and If Anything Happens I Love You (animated) are available on Netflix and tackle grounded issues, but I should warn you that they are guaranteed heartbreaks and both took my breath away with their creativity and messages. My Octopus Teacher is also a wonderful documentary, and this comes from someone who normally isn’t into nature docs but this one really moved me, find it on Netflix too. Many of these terrific films that won are available on streaming services including Netflix, Amazon, HBOMax and Hulu, and I beg you not to sleep on them. Seeing new entertainment releases helped me get through this unusual time without theaters — which we’ll hopefully see the return of soon!

Academy Reveals Poster Art for 93rd Oscars - Awardsdaily - The Oscars, the  Films and everything in between.

Godzilla vs Kong

The culmination of the 4-film MonsterVerse franchise pits two of the greatest icons in motion picture history against one another – the fearsome Godzilla and the mighty Kong – with humanity caught in the balance.

This massively awaited film had plenty of promise, but ended up being a disappointment for me. What should’ve been a visually enthralling epic turned out to be a cartoonish WWE smackdown with sloppy direction and editing, and the worst writing in the franchise. The visual depth and feeling of actual destruction and danger from Godzilla: King of the Monsters is completely gone, and the visual style here is a lot less nuanced. While the storyboarding of this film must have been incredible, the CGI itself in some parts could have used some improvement to seem more seamless and epic, and a little less digital, which is odd because it had 2 years in post-production, less than its better-looking predecessor. Some cool visual moments are often ruined with silly editing choices like slo-mo and weird cuts, as well as some randomly placed rock songs that couldn’t have felt less fitting. The movie has a lighter tone than its predecessor, but unfortunately the messy editing and lackluster story aren’t willing to support that vision and maintain a style that consistently delivers.

It’s weird that a CGI giant gorilla has more emotional connection with the audience in this movie than the human characters, because that’s how I felt with Kong versus the humans in this film. And writing great characters has been a challenge for this saga before. Alexander Skarsgard is just there, and Rebecca Hall does well but her story wouldn’t have worked without her connection with this young deaf girl who communicates with Kong. Millie Bobby Brown and Julian Dennison are solid but their story is very uninteresting. Demian Bichir plays maybe the worst character in the entire franchise, who is incredibly bland and predictable from the moment he appears. Eiza Gonzalez’s character is also very generic. While Kyle Chandler was the lead in the last film, he gets nothing to do here — he didn’t need to be a large part again, but this just adds to the underwhelming nature of the cast of great actors in this film. The one cast member who was utilized well and perfectly cast was Brian Tyree Henry, who elevates his character’s so-so writing with great comedic relief and energy. The story itself that surrounds the human and monster characters is often frustratingly cliché, with big companies conspiring around these monsters with heroes with nonexistent character development and some laughable lines of dialogue. While this is supposed to be the biggest of the franchise, it’s ironically the shortest. At only 113 minutes, it suffers from a very rushed pace that never lets the film breathe and build atmosphere and adventure. It could’ve used another 15-30 minutes. The titular fights themselves are awesome, and the choreography when Godzilla and Kong fight is very memorable. However, by the time it gets really good it feels like too little, too late, and is also short-lived because of an underwhelming and predictable climax that goes for the least emotionally rewarding or daring conclusion possible. The end of the last film also set up the idea of monsters living among humans, but that’s completely tossed aside here for far inferior storylines that have been used in so many films before. There’s also no tension present, because although there are large, exciting monster fights, the spectacle isn’t treated with enough care to build a true epic, instead feeling like a rushed cartoon that doesn’t care much about all it has to offer besides the fighting. While it may entertain those simply looking for some fulfillment on the title, it’s sad how much more this could’ve been had the movie understood the full potential it held at hand.

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Raya and the Last Dragon

Centuries after the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity in a war, Raya sets out to unite the human tribes of Kumandra once again and stop an old threat, with the help of the last dragon Sisu.

It’s easy to wonder why Disney would waste time with an easy cash-grab sequel like Frozen 2 when tasked with original films, they knock it out of the park. Raya and the Last Dragon proves so with stunning images and settings, and an engrossing adventure that, although I wish I had seen in theaters (which wasn’t possible due to the film not having a wide release, although it is available on Disney+), makes a story that would otherwise be familiar feel inviting and visually memorable. For those seeing it on the big screen, it’ll be surely unforgettable. The mythical settings and journeys to different corners of Kumandra make this feel like a more epic journey than any of Disney’s live-action films, and the skies, buildings, lights, and natural world that the characters interact with make this another achievement when it comes to animation, and its no less than another such adventure film on Disney’s resume, Moana. Kelly Marie Tran brings a complex voice character who displays optimism, empathy, bravery, rage, and determination in many stages of the film, bringing a flawed hero but one that fits perfectly into Disney’s roster of strong animated heroes. Awkwafina is a joy as Sisu and brings much needed comedic relief and enjoyment to an already great movie. Ever since her amazing performance in The Farewell, the actress/comedian has proven to be a treasure in Hollywood. She was such an inspired and wholesome choice to voice the charismatic dragon who, although 500 years old, has a youthful energy to her as she is figuring out how to be a hero as much as Raya. Benedict Wong is also excellent as a supporting hero. While there are no one-sided villains, Gemma Chan certainly plays a standout character, and Sandra Oh and Daniel Dae Kim are great too as the parents of Chan and Tran’s characters, respectively.

The chemistry between Tran and Awkwafina’s characters, the breathtaking animation, and the large scale are the binding elements of what make this movie another instant classic. The imaginative worlds and challenges the leads face through new settings, as well as the colorful and lively action sequences, felt as exciting to me as it would to child audiences. While the film’s emotional core and themes aren’t as moving as Soul‘s, which I think had some of the strongest messages in animation lately, the movie does have touching messages that will definitely work especially for younger audiences, and serve the story well enough, about choosing trust and empathy over greed and fighting. It’s only unfortunate that Disney didn’t wait for everyone to experience this film theatrically, as it’s one of their most visually imaginative films in years. But that’s another story. Whether you do seek it out in a theater near you or stream it on Disney+, watch it with your family and loved ones.

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The 78th Golden Globe Awards

Last night, the Golden Globes honored a hectic year of movies and television. Here are the winners in the film categories:

Best Picture – Drama: Nomadland

Best Picture – Musical or Comedy: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Best Director: Chloe Zhao – Nomadland

Best Actor – Drama: Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Actress – Drama: Andra Day – The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy: Sacha Baron Cohen – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy: Rosamund Pike – I Care a Lot

Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah

Best Supporting Actress: Jodie Foster – The Mauritanian

Best Screenplay: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Original Score: Soul

Best Original Song: “Io Si (Seen)” from The Life Ahead

Best Animated Feature: Soul

Best Foreign Language Film: Minari (USA)

I was mostly satisfied by the winners, even though the presentation was far from perfect with the hybrid in-person/virtual format. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler did their best but clearly they thrive best with a full audience and even though they tried to stick it to the HFPA’s controversies, Ricky Gervais did a much better job last year. The nominees were also far from perfect — Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods was completely shut out. Minari won Best Foreign Language Film because it is mostly in Korean, but sparked controversy because it was produced in America, so why not let it qualify for Best Drama? In my opinion, cinema is cinema and the boundary of subtitles is simply an addition to watching a film when it’s in a different language, not an obstacle. Sia’s directioral debut Music was nominated despite apparently having an offensive representation of autism, and Hamilton, while culturally resonant, was a filmed musical, not really a movie. So in that weak comedy category, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm was the only decent one in my opinion (but still not excellent), while Emma, On the Rocks, and The King of Staten Island would’ve made for great nominees over Hamilton, Music, and The Prom. There was also the controversy coming up of the lack of black members in the HFPA. While this was addressed and needs to continue to be addressed, a large number of black artists did also win awards during the ceremony, including the incredible Daniel Kaluuya who took my breath away as Fred Hampton. Another deserving win was the late Chadwick Boseman, who delivered one of the best performances of the year and his wife paid touching tribute to the legend as he won posthumously. Chloe Zhao became the first woman of color to win Best Director for her unique work in Nomadland, and there was a record number of female director nominees, including Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman and Regina King for One Night in Miami — all three were deserving of a nomination to me. However, the one win I disagree with was Andra Day — she was amazing in her debut role, but having seen all 5 of the films in her category, I think all 4 of the other performances were superior. Carey Mulligan and Vanessa Kirby were groundbreaking in their respective films, and I wish one of them had won. Jane Fonda also won a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in films, TV, and activism throughout the decades.

2021 Golden Globe Nominations: See the Full List | Entertainment Tonight

Soul

In Pixar’s latest film, which after delays from theaters, is now out on Disney+, Joe Gardner is a music teacher who aspires to make it big as a jazz pianist. However, on a big day where his dreams start to get closer, he gets into an accident that separates his soul from his body, bringing him to the You Seminar, a limbo where souls are prepared to start a life on Earth. He goes on an existential journey through New York with another soul and learns the true purpose of life.

Soul brings no less to the screen than the lively, all-ages-friendly adventures that Pixar has made us used to. Director Pete Docter, who has brought to life Pixar classics like Monsters Inc. and Up, brings the same wondrous animation and spirit to Soul that he brought to Inside Out. The streets of New York are depicted with such realism and beautiful, diverse energy. The You Seminar is also portrayed vividly although not difficult to compare to the animated corners of Riley’s brain in Inside Out. Within the first few seconds, Jamie Foxx proves to be perfectly cast as Joe Gardner, who aspires to become a famous musician while teaching middle school and living up to the expectations of his mother, also perfectly played by Phylicia Rashad (who you may know as the titular character’s mother in Creed and its sequel). Tina Fey delivers a great voice performance as Soul 22, a both unenthusiastic and curious/energetic soul who has her reservations about starting a full life on Earth. Graham Norton, in what I believe is his first film role outside of himself in Eurovision Song Contest, is funny and entertaining in a supporting role. However, an absolute standout for me was Angela Bassett, whose immediately recognizable voice brings ferocity and status, exactly what was needed for her part — Dorothea Williams, a respected jazz musician and sax player whose band Joe hopes to join.

With every following year, I realize more and more how intricately mature Pixar’s films are to not just appeal to kids, but also tug on the heartstrings of adult audiences, and never compromise the entertainment for any age group, even with a film like this that has some physical comedy. Like I said, the lovely animation is hard not to appreciate — even small details like cars passing by feel rhythmic. At first I was surprised by how quickly the story gets going but as the film progresses, it develops Joe even more with his decisions in and out of his body. The plot also manages to play with concepts about life, history, and souls in believable and fun ways. It’s easy to notice borrowed elements from Inside Out and Coco, though, especially the visual tones of the former and the afterlife aspect of the latter. The writing is also a little all over the place in a few moments, but ultimately nails its themes. It’s a film that reminds you to live in the moment and amount life not just to our goals, but to every cherished memory we have with our world, ourselves, and our loved ones. Viewers will be able to connect as the film emphasizes the passions we all chase and can’t live without, and stresses the importance of those things that “bring out the real you”, but reminds you to embrace every minute of life on the way.

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