'Luca,' 'In the Heights,' Godzilla in the 70s, and 'The Thief Who Came to Dinner.'
Current Cinema: In view of my reduced experience with both Onward and Soul, my expectations for Luca were quite low, especially considering how much joy Pixar has brought to me over the years. Luca is a modest little film, which probably made it easier for me to enjoy it for what it is: a pleasant and friendly tale about friendship. That's it, really, but it's fine and easy to recommend, if for nothing else than the sheer beauty of the animation. [Disney+]
Because I spent a good amount of time in the neighborhood depicted in the modern musical In the Heights, I easily related to the people, mood, and atmosphere. As far as the backgrounds are concerned, I felt it was faithfully recreated in the film, although from my time in the area from 1992 to 1995, I remembered far more domino tables set up on the street. (The continual, distinctive "clack! clack!" sound of tiles slapping on the table is a particularly fond memory.)
During my brief time, I remember that friends I gained were from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela, and other South American and Caribbean countries. I was always fascinated by the rich variety of skin colors on display, often within the same family. (I recall one family with three beautiful girls, each with strikingly different hair color and skin tones, from black to blonde.)
This was not unusual in the neighborhood, so I'm glad that the issue of casting has been raised, since the film's cast excludes the many, many Afro-Latinos who composed the population. While it's great that the film got made, it's certainly not exempt from issues that have bedevilled films for over a century.
As to the film itself, I enjoyed it, though it's only for those who can tolerate musical comedy-dramas, a genre which is not usually my cup of tea. That doesn't stop me from watching and enjoying it, however. [HBO Max]
Also recommended: Mideastern narrative drama The Perfect Candidate [my review at ScreenAnarchy] and A Crime on the Bayou, which recounts a galling racial incident in Louisiana that became much bigger [my review at ScreenAnarchy].
70s Rewind: My project to watch all the Showa Era Godzilla movies available on The Criterion Channel came to a happy conclusion with Godzila vs. Mechagodzilla and Terror of Mechagodzilla, the latter directed by Ishiro Honda, who helmed the first and best in the 1954. Terror is not on that level, but it sure is wild and crazy, filled with half-baked ideas which are brought to a full boil by the director and all the talented craftspeople (and suit-wearing actors!), which makes them feel very much a part of the wild and crazy decade.
Because of my rabid interest in all things Walter Hill, I've always been curious about The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973), one of the filmmaker's scripts that were directed by other people before he made his directorial debut. Of course, I know that script writing credits often don't have much to do, if anything, with the finished product, and that seems likely to have been the case here.
Directed by Bud Yorkin (the frantic and occasionally funny Start the Revolution Without Me), who may be best remembered for his longtime producing partnership with Norman Lear, the film stars Ryan O'Neal (post What's Up Doc, pre Paper Moon) as a computer programmer who has a premature midlife crisis and decides to become a thief, blackmailing his first victim (Charles Cioffi) into introducing him to other members of his wealthy social set in Houston, Texas, thereby setting him up for a series of home-invasions/robberies. He's so good-looking that he easily attracts the attention of a lonely, bored woman (Jacqueline Bisset), who is not troubled at all by his criminal activities.
The easygoing, casual comedy moves at a pretty good pace and features the eye candy of O'Neal and Bisset, with Warren Oates in pursuit as a dogged, but not very good, insurance investigator, and such stalwart supporting actors as Ned Beatty, Gregory Sierra and Austin Pendleton juicing up their scenes. Others in the cast include Jill Clayburgh and, even more briefly, Michael Murphy and John Hillerman.
It's a slight film and easily digestible. I much prefer O'Neal's performance in Walter Hill'smoody and superb The Driver, though this movie is, I would think, a more pleasant experience for younger people. [Watch TCM]
Upcoming and Intriguing: Since it was screened for critics in advance, I'll have a look at Black Widow later today at my site DallasFilmNow.com. It's a quiet weekend on the streaming front for those of us who are not Netflix subscribers, and there doesn't appear to be much of interest that will be debuting on Amazon Prime or Hulu. Personally, I'll be dipping into BritBox to sample British mystery shows this weekend.