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This week: animation and trilogies!
Disney sends its latest Pixar film Luca straight to streaming, while Netflix starts beefing up its Mobile Suit Gundam content ahead of its release of the latest film in the series Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway as well as its own forthcoming live-action project.
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Luca - Disney+
Pixar’s latest feature film Luca is coming to Disney+ this weekend. While some will probably call it ‘minor’ Pixar, it's easygoing vibe and low stakes are among the best things about it. It’s the story of the eponymous sea monster Luca (Jacob Tremblay) mer-shepard (his herd are shoals of fish rather than sheep) who dreams of the outside world, prevented from exploring it by his protective and overbearing parents (Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan, both delightful). He rebelliously leaves for the surface and forms a close friendship with Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), both dreaming of buying a Vespa and travelling the surface world.
It’s the kind of film that Pixar could use more of, as so many of their features have begun to suffer from being hyper-kinetic and overstuffed rather than trust their audience to pay attention. It’s happy to bask in childish wants and low stakes exploration and find maintaining a laidback pace and refreshingly low stakes as it luxuriates in the scenery of Portorosso.
Watch a trailer for Luca
The relationship between Luca and Alberto is charming, and by making it the focus of the film rather than attempts at heavy-handed existentialism, Luca feels like Pixar’s most natural film in years. The film’s visual aesthetic also sets it apart; its character designs differing wildly from the studio’s recognisable house style through their gangly limbs and almost tactile, handcrafted look, complete with weird and individualistic features for every person.
It tells its humble story so well that it begs rewatching, its successful swerve from the studios’ well-worn house style making it both their most exciting and most laidback film.
Also new on Disney+: Hide and Seek, Hitman, Hitman: Agent 47, An Innocent Man
Mobile Suit Gundam 1-3 - Netflix
More than just a show about giant mechs — although there is plenty of great giant mech action — Mobile Suit Gundam’s commitment to its anti-war themes is what makes it an all-timer. And now the classic series is more accessible than ever, with its trilogy of compilation movies (and sequel Char’s Counterattack) all coming to Netflix ahead of its release of the newest film in the series and ahead of its live-action Gundam project.
The movies are a slimmed-down recounting of the television series but are perfect for newcomers who aren’t ready to commit to 40ish episodes. As for the show itself, through its creation by Yoshiyuki Tomino, it changed mecha anime for decades to come. By placing the mechs in a militaristic setting and portraying them wholly as weapons of war he inspired what became known as the “real robot” genre, which differed from how mechs were treated as tools rather than superheroic figures.
It’s not just the robots that make the series, as Tomino’s knack for science-fiction world-building is clear from the outset. Set in year 0079 of the ‘Universal Century’, humanity has moved to space, living in space station colonies known as "Sides." One of these Sides declares itself the "Principality of Zeon" and declares war on the Earth Federation, the government currently ruling Earth. Using powerful humanoid robots known as "mobile suits," Zeon quickly gains the upper hand.
During an attack on his colony, the young Amuro Ray ends up piloting the Earth Federation’s latest mobile suit, the mighty Gundam, and becomes drawn into the war. It’s a credit to the series that even as it maintains its anti-war sentiment even amongst its impressive spectacle, every victory against the Zeon feeling like a life taken rather than just another win for the Gundam. There’s a reason that the franchise has spun out far and wide today, and this is a great way to catch up and see why for yourself.
Also new on Netflix: Fatherhood, Rurouni Kenshin 1-3
Paddington 2 - BBC iPlayer
Paul King’s sequel to the charming family movie Paddington, a reimagining of the small and polite, raincoat-wearing and marmalade-loving little bear, is almost Chaplin-esque. It carries an innate kindness to it without being downright cloying.
With a generous helping of immaculately choreographed slapstick comedy, this is done through the eponymous bear’s clumsiness and the sheer ridiculousness of its antagonist Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant, having the absolute time of his life).
Watch a trailer for Paddington 2
Buchanan is a disgraced actor turned criminal in his hunt for former glory and the cause of many of the film’s most terrific sight gags (and just regular gags). It’s all simply a joy to watch, and you should watch it. Again.
Also new on iPlayer: Kinky Boots, Entebbe, Spotlight