By Austin Riffelmacher
Sea creatures collecting land garbage. Parental figures warning against the human world. Fish living in fear of being eaten for dinner.
Yes, that’s the plot of “The Little Mermaid,” but it’s also the premise for the most recent Disney/Pixar film,“Luca.”
Unlike newer Pixar films such as “Soul,” existentialism is dropped in favor of a more traditional coming of age story. The result is a more emotionally nuanced family film that will surely be with viewers of all ages for decades.
The film charts the young sea monster Luca’s interest in what’s beyond his family’s underwater farm. Luca meets another young sea monster, Alberto, who shows Luca the ability to develop a human form on the surface.
The two boys find themselves in a small Italian village called Pontorosso seeking to win a local race so they can buy a Vespa. Along with a local girl named Guilia, Luca and Alberto learn valuable lessons of acceptance and friendship.
The film has a subtextual message about what makes the human experience beautiful: our constant quest for knowledge, and the fragile connection we have with nature.
“Luca” was released on Disney+ at the beginning of the summer.
Although some cinemas carried the film theatrically, the film’s emotional and physical scale are more suitable for streaming.
“Luca” is perhaps the most intimate of the Pixar films, making it the most narratively delicate.
Many viewers over a certain age will find the relationship Luca has with Alberto to be, well, complicated. This is due in large part to the filmmaker’s choice to really narrow in on the protagonist’s sensitivity.
This achievement is supported by the captivating animation and Dan Romer’s effervescent score. “Luca” was indeed a delightful summer escape. However, the last five minutes of this moving tale will have you saying, “Santa Mozzarella!”
"NEO: The World Ends With You"
By Sean Cabot
The original “The World Ends With You” [TWEWY] was a triumphant cult hit, combining a graffiti-inspired, counter-cultural aesthetic with a poignant story, fascinating characters, and one of the single greatest original soundtracks of any game ever released.
As such, “NEO: The World Ends With You” was always going to have big shoes to fill. And while its thematic elements aren’t quite as strong as its predecessor’s, it still nails what any sequel to TWEWY should: the aesthetic.
“NEO” follows a new cast of characters across Shibuya, the introverted Rindo, fashion-forward Fret, and self-conscious geek Nagi. The group is forced to team up in a seven-day battle royale in the afterlife against four other teams.
Under the guidance of the manic, math-obsessed Sho Minamimoto, the group competes to win their way back to life.
While the plot progresses slowly, the characters are likeable and entertaining, bolstered by strong vocal performances. Andy Hirsch’s Minamimoto in particular is one of the best this year.
The gameplay is similarly excellent, with an abundance of moves that can be assigned to each party member. The variety of combat options meshes exceptionally well with the abundance of enemy types.
But the show stealer is the aesthetic.
While the graphics are decent, anime-style 3D models a lot of the time, the 2D character art is gorgeous, and the soundtrack more than lives up to the legacy from the 3rst game. With so many genres covered and so many new and remixed tracks, the music is worth the price of admission alone.
“NEO: The World Ends With You” could’ve been a quick return to an obscure brand to cash in on a desperate fanbase, but it turned out to be one of the best games of the summer. If you missed the first one, don’t miss this.
"Sour" By Olivia Rodrigo
By Emily Rosenberg
You are living under a rock if you have not heard “SOUR” by Olivia Rodrigo. The 19-year-old “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” star dominated the charts this summer with angsty bops like “good 4 u,” and “traitor.” With the blasting success of “drivers license” in January, there was reasonable criticism that Rodrigo would become a one-hit-wonder.
However, Rodrigo establishes herself as a strong competitor in the music industry through catchy lyrics and a made-in-heaven voice in this phenomenal album.
There is not a single song worth skipping on this dynamic collection of diary entries.
She is influenced by classics such as Taylor Swift, Paramore, and Lorde. Some even argue that “good 4 u” straight out copies Paramore’s “Misery Business,” but Rodrigo still manages to produce a one-of-a-kind sound, something we’re not used to on the top 40s.
It starts off with “brutal,” a pop-rock track, where she whines about how she’s “so sick of 17.” Had this song come out when I was 14, I would be jumping up and down viciously in my darkest clothes – it captures the frustration of being a teen perfectly, as does “good 4 u.”
Another favorite is “hope ur ok” which tells the stories of three of her friends who had troubled lives, but she lost touch with them. This somber piece touches upon gay rights and it left me longing for the days when roaming a sandbox with my school friends was enough.
She sings, “I hope that you are happier today, cause I love you and I hope that you’re okay,” which is a tragically fitting finish as she spends most of the album ragging on exes who hurt her.
Olivia Rodrigo’s debut may be “SOUR” but the art she is creating is anything but.
"Never Have I Ever" Season 2
By Emily Rosenberg
Devi is a sophomore brainiac and harp player who just lost her father to a heart attack. After a season of chasing varsity swimmer, Paxton, getting mauled by a coyote, shoving her friend in a pool, and kissing her frenemy, Ben, Devi is back with twice the amount of drama.
The second season starts where the first left off. They’re spreading her fathers ashes on Malibu Beach, and Devi’s mom still wants to move back to India. Now with two guys interested in her, Ben and Paxton, Devi thinks she can get away with dating both of them before she leaves the U.S. forever.
Oh and guess who doesn’t want to move to India anymore?
So now Devi has to spend the rest of the season proving to Paxton, Ben, and her friends that she can do better. However, this is a little tricky when a new Indian girl shows up – she’s the only Indian girl in school! – providing her with some unwanted competition for the boys’ attention.
Devi’s got the “worst s***” as she also has other issues as her mother is considering a relationship again, and her cousin Camilla is rethinking her marriage.
“Never Have I Ever” is set in a high school, but it is for everyone. It was my favorite thing to watch after coming home from 12 hours of working at a sushi shop.
Written by “The Office’s” Mindy Kaling, this dramedy is jam-packed with unique jokes and loveable characters.
Though Devi’s f***up’s can be extremely unbearable to sit through sometimes, it all comes together in the end through little triumphs such as her friend’s coming out, their win at the relay race, and the epic Gatsby trial.
“Never Have I Ever” season 2 is one rollercoaster that didn’t last long enough.