This time last year, when most of us were quarantined and studios were removing their high-profile releases from the calendar, I couldn’t wait for big movies to come back. Now I’m wondering how the heck I’m going to talk about four new movies and two home video releases in the space usually allotted for my weekly column? Here goes nothing.


Rated PG for rude humor, language, some thematic elements and brief violence. Available on Disney+ June 18.

Set in a beautiful seaside town in Italy, “Luca” is a coming-of-age story about a young sea monster (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) who learns he can turn into a human if he sets foot on land. After befriending Alberto (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer), a fellow sea monster who has lived above water for a while, Luca experiences an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta, scooter rides and new friends.

Shocking news: Pixar made a great movie. Crazy, right? Unfortunately, because of the pandemic traffic jam, “Luca” — like “Soul” before it — is skipping the big screen to become a Disney Plus exclusive. That’s a shame, since the gorgeous visuals deserve to be seen on the big screen. Regardless, it’s still a powerful experience thanks to the heartwarming story and a lighter touch than we’ve come to expect from Pixar (meaning that instead of being emotionally devastating, it just made me cry for a few minutes at the end).

Tremblay and Grazer are terrific, as are Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan, who play Luca’s overprotective parents. Following several Pixar films with existential stakes, it’s weirdly refreshing to watch such a “small” movie from the studio. I don’t mean that as an insult at all — sometimes it’s great to see an intimate story told well.

Grade: A-

‘12 Mighty Orphans’

Rated PG-13 for violence, language, some suggestive references, smoking and brief teen drinking. Opens in theaters June 18.

Based on a true story, this drama centers on Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson), a World War I veteran who accepts the position of head football coach at a Fort Worth orphanage during an era when kids without parents were stigmatized and bullied. However, perhaps fueled by his own secret — he was an orphan himself — Russell went on to develop innovative strategies that, while controversial at the time, would reinvent football for the modern era.

Fans of sports dramas will find plenty to love about “12 Mighty Orphans.” It’s packed with the tropes we’ve come to expect from the genre, but the story and performances make it worth a watch. Wilson is solid in an understated role, which speaks to how Depression-era men were expected to keep their emotions and anxieties buried, and also allows him the opportunity for his co-stars to shine. That includes the excellent Martin Sheen as Russell’s alcoholic assistant coach; Rooster McConaughey (Matthew’s older brother) as the local sportswriter; Ron White (yes, that one) as the local sheriff and Wayne Knight as the mustache-twirling villain.

I particularly liked how director Ty Roberts keeps things low-key, aside from a weirdly cartoonish performance from actor, co-writer and co-producer Lane Garrison. Also, while I loved seeing the legendary Robert Duvall appear in one scene, it was a little distracting since he never shows up again. Nevertheless, while viewers will likely guess where the story is headed, Roberts and his actors make the journey compelling.

Grade: B

‘The Sparks Brothers’

Rated R for language. Opens in theaters June 18.

I know squat about music, so I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of Sparks, the group founded by brothers Ron and Russell Mael, before watching this ridiculously entertaining documentary. However, I do love anything filmmaker Edgar Wright does, and his adoration for the cult band radiates off the screen and made me appreciate their impact on pop music.

Featuring commentary from celebrity fans Flea, Jane Wiedlin, Beck, Jack Antonoff, Jason Schwartzman, Neil Gaiman, Patton Oswalt and more, Wright attempts to explain how a rock band can be successful, underrated, hugely influential and criminally overlooked all at the same time. As he succinctly explains it, Sparks is your favorite band’s favorite band.

As with all of Wright’s films, this documentary doesn’t just cover the decades-long career of Sparks, it also satirizes the genre’s format and tropes. Fortunately, that’s right in the Mael brothers’ wheelhouse. Not only did their band lay a foundation for much more notable musicians to build on, the duo also mocks the absurdity of rock star excess. I can’t wait to watch this one again on a giant screen with the loud speakers.

Grade: A-

‘Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It’

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, some strong language including a sexual reference, and suggestive material. Opens in theaters June 18.

In this powerful and entertaining documentary, Rita Moreno takes viewers through a career that has spanned more than 70 years, telling stories about her time as a singer, dancer, actress, activist, wife, mother, and grandmother. Her memories are funny, heartwarming, tragic and infuriating in equal measure. Over the course of several decades, she has battled impossible odds and an industry rife with racism and misogyny to become one of only a handful of EGOTs — people who’ve won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.

Director Miriam Perez Riera mostly allows Moreno to speak for herself, offering a glimpse into her past as well as her work in the present era. That includes her work on the now sadly cancelled “One Day at a Time” update and Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of “West Side Story,” scheduled to hit theaters this December.

The filmmaker also speaks with Moreno’s longtime friends and colleagues, including Hector Elizondo, Gloria Estefan, Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg, Eva Longoria, Justina Machado, Norman Lear and Lin-Manuel Miranda. (The latter two also serve as executive producers.) I got a chance to watch this one during the Atlanta Film Festival and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Be sure to check it out in the coming weeks.

Grade: A-

Home Video Spotlight


Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity/graphic nudity, some disturbing violence, and bloody images. Opens in select theaters June 18 and available on Blu-ray and DVD June 22.

Clint (Willem Dafoe) tends a bar at a snowbound roadhouse whose patrons speak a language he doesn’t understand, and things may not be what they seem. Desperate for answers, he drives a sled team to a nearby cave, but finds no peace. Are the spirits that confront him mere figments of his imagination — or will they slowly tear his body and soul to pieces? This mind-blowing psychological thriller is directed by Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant) and stars Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man).

‘Indiana Jones 4-Movie Collection’

Ratings vary. Now available on 4K Ultra HD for the first time.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Paramount Pictures is releasing all four “Indiana Jones” films on 4K Ultra HD in an impressive box set. Each of them has been remastered from 4K scans of the original negatives with extensive visual effects work done to ensure the most pristine and highest quality image. All picture work was approved by director Steven Spielberg. In addition, all four films were remixed at Skywalker Sound under the supervision of legendary sound designer Ben Burtt. The set includes a collectible booklet with behind-the-scenes images, original theatrical trailers, access to digital copies and a Blu-ray with seven hours of previously released bonus features.

Twitter: @IAmJoshSewell