Episode 276: Raya and the Last Dragon

This week we dig deeper into Disney’s newest animated tale, a fantastical adventure in a Southeastern Asian inspired land where a dragon must join forces with a human warrior princess to unite a broken world. This film’s themes provide a timely message and come wrapped in a visually spectacular package that we thoroughly enjoy discussing in depth.

Raya and the Last Dragon Spoiler Review – 05:25

The Connecting Point – 54:46

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Episode 267: Soul

Caless Davis is here to join us as we do some soul-searching about Pixar’s newest animated feature film. It’s got heavy existential ideas, jazz, a talking cat, and the first ever black leading character in a film by the studio. Oh, and it’s really really really freaking good.

Soul Spoiler Review – 0:07:28

The Connecting Point – 1:15:33

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Episode 265: Anna and the Apocalypse

Sneaking in a Christmas episode right before the calendar turns over to 2021. This is a fitting end for the year we’ve just experienced. Like Anna sings, “I will believe” that things will get better. Enjoy this gushing over a fantastic musical zombie comedy. We hope it makes your day a little brighter.

Anna and the Apocalypse Spoiler Review – 10:35

The Connecting Point – 55:29

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Episode 264: Flight of the Navigator

We finally “get around” to having a conversation about one of our favorite childhood science fiction films. We talk about why some fondly remembered movies hold up better than others as adults and discuss both the sci-fi mystery and road trip halves of this classic in detail.

Flight of the Navigator Spoiler Review – 05:21

The Connecting Point – 57:01

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Episode 259: Bolt

Continuing on this week in our cinematic exploration of that special bond between human and canine, we take a look at a rather underrated piece of the Disney movie collection. We also briefly discuss a dog-centered award-winning short film that now has an even more special place in Aaron’s heart.

Bolt Spoiler Review – 13:06

The Connecting Point – 44:17

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Episode 258: Isle of Dogs

Our next film about dogs sums up our feelings on canine companions in its very title. Yes, we do love dogs. We enjoy discussing how Wes Anderson’s signature whimsy shows up in this stellar animated work and also how watching this in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is a little bit extra eerie.

Isle of Dogs Spoiler Review – 0:12:14

The Connecting Point – 1:01:33

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Episode 257: The Art of Racing in the Rain

We resume discussing dogs in film with the adaptation of Garth Stein’s outstanding novel about the dog of a race car driver. It’s full of inspirational life lessons and touching relatable family drama that gets at the heart of the special bond between humans and their canine companions.

The Art of Racing in the Rain Spoiler Review – 0:07:14

The Connecting Point – 1:04:09

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Episode 255: Frankenweenie

This week begins a stretch of episodes celebrating man’s best friend, in honor of Aaron becoming a first-time puppy parent. We start with the perfect dog film to discuss around Halloween, as it is filled with homage to classic monster and horror films of the past, but still has a sweetness to it that all pet owners can feel.

Frankenweenie Spoiler Review – 05:35

The Connecting Point – 49:11

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Episode 251: Dead Poets Society

Jacob Neff joins us to discuss our September Donor Pick winner in a month we aim to honor the late, great Robin Williams. Our conversation has us debating the merits of promoting artistry versus realism and wondering whether Professor Keating’s methods would be beneficial to all students, as well as trying to understand what makes this film such a beloved favorite for so many viewers.

Dead Poets Society Spoiler Review – 0:09:31

The Connecting Point – 1:15:02

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MOVIE REVIEW: Made in Italy

Rating: R / Runtime: 1 hour and 33 minutes

The story in James D’Arcy’s directorial debut is a familiar one. A character estranged from someone they love learns the truth about why their relationship has fractured and finds reconciliation while spending time together away from their normal lives with a focus on reminiscing about the past. In this particular telling, Jack (Micheál Richardson) is facing an impending divorce and seeks his father’s help to fix up their old house in Tuscany, Italy in order to sell it so that Jack can purchase a London art gallery from his soon to be ex-wife’s family. The villa is in rough shape, requiring much more effort than Jack was expecting, thus increasing the amount of time he and his bohemian artist father Robert (played by Richardson’s real-life Dad, Liam Neeson) must spend together. They argue often about the prospects of selling the family home and a general air of frustration looms due to the inability of the two men to discuss the circumstances of Jack’s dead mother, who died in Italy while he was a young boy, and why his father has been so removed from his life since then. While in Italy, Jack also meets beautiful local chef, restaurant owner, and single mother Natalia (Valeria Bilello), who further complicates his feelings about the future.

With very little imagination, you can likely figure out where this story goes. It is predictable in the most obvious of ways, despite the occasional surprise reveal about Robert and Jack’s past. And yet, the emotional journey “Made in Italy” takes the viewer on goes through so many feelings. It’s got a fair share of sadness and anger but plenty of happiness and hope, as well. Though the characters aren’t deeply developed, Neeson and Richardson (a first-time leading man) pair well together on screen and deliver an extremely believable portrait of these two men and their strained, yet clearly loving, relationship. The film’s mostly a drama with some hilarious natural comedy, but its romantic subplots are also genuinely sweet, handled with respect, and don’t overwhelm the narrative.
Visually, “Made in Italy” is a lovely film to look at. Mike Eley’s cinematography is effective in close-ups of characters and interior locations but really shines when capturing the beauty of the Italian landscape. There is, however, a lack of magic that many associate with Tuscany. Despite showing a few local meals and one particularly wonderful scene where the town comes together to watch an outdoor movie, it felt oddly like a side character when the setting should have been a star. Alex Belcher’s score is one other highlight to note, bringing in just the right soothing sounds to match the emotional beats of the film, and complemented well by a solid soundtrack.

“Made in Italy” is unlikely to be a film that turns heads as it does nothing flashy at all, but it is the kind of movie we simply don’t see much of anymore. There is no sex, there are no drugs, there is no violence, and its characters deal with their very realistic and human problems with maturity, kindness, and understanding, leading to a sweet depiction of relationship restoration that parallels the restoring of the house. I unexpectedly found myself swept up in its uplifting charm and find it to be some good hearty medicine during a difficult time in world history.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.