‘Home Sweet Home Alone’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

After two months of watching horror movies, it’s time to switch gears and get into the Christmas spirit. Disney’s Home Sweet Home Alone is a fun adventure for the whole family. Yes, we know the original Home Alone is truly something special, but little Archie Yates brings his own charm when playing Max Mercer. The concept is roughly the same but the execution is a tad bit different and modernized. It is a fun family movie but just like it’s predecessor, it’s all about the kids having fun watching another kid getting to do whatever they want without their parents around, and that’s the goal.

The reason why this one was a bit different was because the focus wasn’t on Max Mercer at first. Instead, the focus was on this other couple, named Pam (Ellie Kemper) and Jeff (Rob Delaney), who have been dealing with financial issues and they can’t afford to live in their home anymore. Jeff lost his job and is looking to find another source of income. As he searches Google, he comes across this rare doll on eBay that is going for $20,000. Luckily, he is one of the owners of the precious few that have been sold, the issue is that it has been taken and he desperately needs to get it back.

On the other side of things, Max lives in a very hectic household and secretly wants his family to disappear. Sure enough, the very next day, Max gets his wish and his family leaves him at home while they go to Tokyo. It seems a bit too far and random in this case but hey, the kid still gets his wish. The best part of the movie is Max just enjoying his free time and doing everything he has always dreamed of doing. He plays video games all day, builds a new Lego set, and eats all the junk food he can. Then when the pranks come in, it pays homage to one Kevin McAllister, while adding a really funny VR headset piece to update the shenanigans.

Home Sweet Home Alone isn’t as charming as the original but it is a playful, updated version for a new generation. Either way, the Home Alone movies will always be dear to our hearts and will keep us laughing at the slapstick comedy. It does get a bit too over the top and repetitive at times, but Archie Yates is adorable and fun; the movie will just fly by because of him. There is a great supporting cast who is committed to the story and they are able to deliver on the comedic beats so the parents can also enjoy the adult humour. It definitely gets you in the Christmas spirit and that’s what we all need right now.

‘Luca’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Pixar films never fail to make anyone emotional. The filmmakers find a way to pull at your heartstrings every single time. Luca takes place along the Italian Riviera, in Portorosso. Under the sea, there is a whole world of fish, or rather, sea monsters. There are old legends surrounding the sea monsters, and if they were to ever be seen by the townspeople, they would be killed on the spot. Director Enrico Casarosa dives into Luca’s (Jacob Tremblay) family dynamic. His mother Daniela Paguro (Maya Rudolph) warns him of the dangers of the surface world. She hovers over him and is overprotective, prompting him to take matters into his own hands.

Luca is Pixar’s most beautiful film to date. Each new addition to the Pixar library just improves upon the last release. The animation style is a bit different than others but it just perfectly captures Italy. Being Italian myself, this film felt like home for me. From the piazza in Portorosso, to the names of Mrs. Branzino, and yes, Giuseppe being used on-screen, to using new phrases like “Silenzio, Bruno!”, to even showing the espresso bars, when it’s break-time at 2:00 p.m. It is truly an Italian film, but apart from that, it is a movie about acceptance, adventure and finding your identity.

Courtesy of Disney Pixar

Luca’s dynamic with Alberto Scorfano (Jack Dylan Grazer) is interesting because of how they help each other. Alberto is a sea monster, who lives alone on the surface. Luca is just testing the waters, being on land, learning from Alberto. The budding friendship is beautiful to watch because they pulled each other out of their shells. In their loneliness, they built a wall surrounding their true selves, out of fear of not being accepted by others. Alberto is closed off because of his past and Luca is afraid of everything because of his mother. Which, in reality, is how Italian mothers take care of their children, especially their sons.

Director For Disney/Pixar's Luca On The Film's Beautiful Italian Setting -  LRM
Courtesy of Disney Pixar

As they make their way to Portorosso, in search of a Vespa, they meet a young girl named Giulia (Emma Berman), who is energetic and very optimistic. In order to get this Vespa, Giulia suggests entering a triathlon, to win the prize money for the Vespa. The trio join forces against the arrogant Ercole Visconti (Saverio Raimondo), who has won many triathlons before. The film is pretty straightforward but the power of friendship, and love for adventure, will bring you into the world of these characters. What Casarosa does so well is gear this film towards a younger audience with dreamlike sequences and vibrant colours in his imagery, all while carrying a powerful narrative about individual growth among friends.

Luca is one of the funniest Pixar films to date. It is light, energetic, heartfelt, and has a wonderful soundtrack to go with it. Not only is the score great but the Italian pop songs that were chosen worked so well. The film will have you laughing, dancing, and of course, tearing up during certain scenes. On the surface it may seem like a fun summer film but it does pack an emotional punch. Everyone has had issues with their friends and the struggles shown in this film are universal. It is truly one of Pixar’s best and it will always have a special place in my heart.

‘Cruella’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Cruella is one of the best Disney live-action films to date. It has beautiful costume design, great camerawork, career-defining performances and a wicked soundtrack. This prequel is the one we didn’t know we needed. It is a bit darker than other Disney live-actions, but it’s so much fun to watch Stone dive into this character. The story is about young Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) who aspires to be a fashion designer. We see young Estella struggle with her identity, as she has a bit of a wild side that she doesn’t have control over. Estella has a tragic past and we get to see how she becomes Cruella.

Going into this film, I had very low expectations and I was pleasantly surprised with how much fun this film was. Cruella will have you hooked within the first ten minutes because of how fast-paced it is. We get a voiceover narration from Emma Stone and it sets the tone for the rest of Estella’s adulthood. The story was well-written and it worked for who Estella would grow into. Estella being a fashion designer worked perfectly and the wardrobe is absolutely stunning. We have Estella working for the Baroness (Emma Thompson), who takes her under her wing and uses majority of her designs.

The film unfolds quite nicely and the twists are perfectly placed. They aren’t over the top, or completely random, they really do work for the story and there are moments that will shock you. The cast is wonderful, Stone and Thompson are incredible together, their chemistry carried the film. It was so fun to watch them go back-and-forth and they give iconic performances. This is truly Stone’s best performance to date and she blew me away. Having two women on-screen, pull these performances out of each other was pure magic.

Craig Gillespie’s Cruella is one of the best films of the year! The London punk aesthetic works extremely well to give the visual edge to Estella and her world. What I found really interesting, is that the exterior world is so loud in its production design, that it feels like the characteristics of Estella’s alter ego, fills the screen, pulling her into this other world. The soundtrack works so well and some songs were reworked to fit certain scenes. The only issue is that it did run a bit long but this was such a treat. And make sure to stay for the post-credit scene, it will make you want a sequel even more!

Make sure to catch Cruella Friday, May 21st on Disney Premier Access or, if you’re lucky, on the big screen.

Raya and the Last Dragon Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Raya and the Last Dragon is pure magic. From the second we meet young Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) and her father, Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) there is an instant connection to them. The father/daughter storylines always get me emotional and incredibly invested in the story. Raya learned so much from her father, from fighting techniques, to leadership, to uniting people. The story is quite simple, Raya must go on a quest to retrieve five pieces of a whole, in order to unify Kumandra and bring the dragons back. In doing so, Raya meets such fun, wonderful characters along the way, that make the adventure so engaging!

The beauty of Raya and the Last Dragon is South Asian representation. On Raya’s quest, we learn so much about her culture and traditions. The animation was stunning and the score that accompanied the film, especially during action sequences, worked incredibly well. Raya, ventures out to find the last dragon with her sidekick Tuk-Tuk (who is the first cute character we fall in love with) and we get to explore each kingdom with her. Along the way, Raya finds Sisu (Awkwafina), Tong (Benedict Wong), Boun (Izaac Wang) and Little Noi (Thalia Tran). All of these characters have all lost someone dear to them because of the Drunn, which are sinister monsters that threatened their land.

Featuring Kelly Marie Tran as the voice of Raya and Awkwafina as the voice of Sisu, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Raya and the Last Dragon” will be in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on March 5, 2021. © 2021 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

As Raya meets these new characters, she has to learn to trust them and that is the message of this story. With the addition of each new character, Raya learns a lot from her new friends and takes the first step in putting her trust in someone else. After losing her father, to the Drunn, she couldn’t trust anyone else in the kingdom and travelled alone. The film has a great message and a lesson to be learned about how to trust again. This entire voice cast did a fantastic job and the animation for their characters was so great! They came together as a family, to help each other through the grieving and they delivered such heartfelt moments.

Raya and the Last Dragon is absolutely delightful and will make you fall in love with all the characters. What impressed me the most about Raya, was the fighting sequences because of how sleek they were. The combination of martial art techniques were used so effectively and added so much to Raya’s character. Many people will appreciate this story and what Walt Disney Animation did with it. They couldn’t have picked a better voice cast to bring this story to life. Awkwafina was such a knockout as Sisu and she should definitely do more animated films!

Raya and the Last Dragon drops on Disney Plus premier access on March 5th!

Flora And Ulysses Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

The magic of Disney is still incredibly powerful and shouldn’t be forgotten. What Walt Disney has created is a home for hopes and dreams. Whether you are a full blown adult, looking for a little bit of magic, or a little kid experiencing the Disney magic for the first time, these films will warm your heart. What is so wonderful about Flora & Ulysses is that it incorporates the big draw right now – comic book films – and combines it with Flora’s journey in finding a squirrel who has superpowers. Young Flora (Matilda Lawler) is trying her best to stay connected to her father (Ben Schwartz) after he separated from her mother (Alyson Hannigan).

You may think the star of the film would be the squirrel with superpowers – Ulysses is pretty cool – but Lawler’s performance is what held this together. The film may have dragged on a bit at certain parts but her hopeful, compassionate spirit is what carried the film. Within the first couple of minutes of meeting Flora, you will remember what it is like to be a kid again. Flora had a love for Incandesto and comic books. She loved superheroes because her dad was a comic book artist and she learned a lot from him. She applied the hopefulness and love from these comics to her everyday life but soon realized that reality wasn’t quite the same.

Matilda Lawler as Flora and Ulysses the squirrel in FLORA & ULYSSES, exclusively on Disney+

This hits quite hard, because as children, we all dreamed of the life we would want. We all thought of bigger and better things for ourselves. We were taught to dream big. And now that we got to a position in our lives, where the dream was has somewhat come true, it is not all it is cracked up to be. So we learn to take small the small wins as a positive and twist our reality to suit our dreams. Flora & Ulysses reminds us to look at our life and appreciate what we have, even if it is not what we thought it would be. That is the real story. Of course, the special effects with the flying squirrel was really fun and the humour that came with the family comedy worked really well.

Flora & Ulysses was a very fun watch and will bring you back to your playful childhood. This is a Disney film through-and-through. There were some jokes that I didn’t expect them to make that had me laughing. The whole cast is fun and Ulysses was absolutely adorable. The special effects for Ulysses actually impressed me and it brought the magic squirrel to life in a fun way. The film is wholesome, funny and enjoyable to sit through because of Matilda Lawler! If you want to have some fun and feel some Disney magic, you can catch this on Disney Plus, February 19th.