The Incredibles (2004)

The Incredibles

IMDb

Released: November 5, 2004. Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson. Directed by: Brad Bird. Runtime: 1h, 55 min.

In Metroville, superheroes are forced into retirement by the government after getting hit with lawsuits, and the supers promise to refrain from superhero work. Effectively, this makes their secret identities their only identities.

For Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), not being a superhero is a big ask. 15 years after supers are forced into hiding, Bob works in insurance claims by day and hangs out with Lucius Best/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) at night, listening to police scanners. Since he can’t be heroic as Mr. Incredible, the cinematography makes his days look dark and depressing.

When he’s given an assignment by a mysterious person to be heroic on a remote island, everything’s brighter. After this, he and his family are forced into super action – including wife Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and their kids Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Spencer Fox), as baby Jack Jack stays at home with a babysitter.

“The Incredibles” is about a family that must hide their powers – Violet can go invisible and make forcefields and Dash can move at super speeds – but otherwise they’re an average family. Helen and Bob even parent differently like normal families.

Bob says that their powers make them special; Helen wants them to know their powers aren’t the only thing that make them special. They’re mostly on the same page – except in a moment that should be punishment for Dash after he puts a thumbtack on his teacher’s chair, Bob’s just excited that Dash was going too fast to be seen on camera.

The Incredibles (pic)

Dash, Violet, Bob and Helen in The Incredibles. (IMDb)

While embracing who you are is an important theme, family’s the most prominent one. One of the film’s coolest moments is when the Parr’s stand together as The Incredibles for the first time, ready to fight the villains as a family. And that moment especially set to Michael Giacchino’s score makes it feel so awesome, and the score is great throughout.

The villain himself, Syndrome (Jason Lee), is well-written by writer/director Brad Bird. Syndrome is a rich guy who creates his own powers by creating gadgets and weapons and his backstory of desperately wanting to be a hero and facing rejection put him on his supervillain path.

The screenplay’s one of the film’s strongest suits as everything flows so well throughout. The lesson that Bob has to learn that being a hero isn’t the most important thing, and that he can be a hero by being a father, is also insightful. Everything’s top-notch here from the dialogue, humour, great characters and action scenes. Bird just brings it to life in such an amazing way.

Bird has some funny comments about villains in general, one of which is an observation on drawn out villain monologues when they could defeat the hero at any moment. “The guy has me on a platter and he won’t shut up!” says Lucius. Bird also voices scene-stealing fashion designer Edna E. Mode, who designs super suits, and her bit about “no capes” is one of the film’s funniest moments.

Score: 100/100

Advertisements

Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

Ocean’s Twelve. Released: December 10, 2004. Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts. Directed by: Steven Soderbergh. Runtime: 2h 5 min.

Spoiler warning: There’s a spoiler for “Ocean’s Eleven” in the opening paragraph. 

In “Ocean’s Twelve”, the old squad reunites to do one more heist when Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) comes back for what they stole from him in the first film. It’s three years later and he wants the money back with interest. Without much of a choice, the Eleven must do what they do best: steal things to pay off their debt.

A new character here is Catherine Zeta-Jones as a detective, Isabel, on the tail of the Eleven. She also gets nice character moments and doesn’t feel cliché, even though she’s a love interest of Rusty (Brad Pitt).

She’s one of the film’s antagonists, and there’s also the Night Fox (Vincent Cassel), a rival thief who fancies himself the world’s best thief, and challenges Danny’s (George Clooney) team to stealing an item. The character sounds name sounds more like a comic book villain, but he’s just a petty thief.

The individual heists in this film are still entertaining even though they lack the flair of its predecessor. There are a lot more problems raised in this film but there are also a lot of interesting solutions.

Ocean's Twelve

Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and George Clooney in Ocean’s Twelve. (IMDB)

The fact that the franchise exists in the real world with real celebrities gives comedic opportunity for writer George Nolfi. This includes an amusing cameo by Topher Grace, and it also makes things get really fun when Tess (Julia Roberts) gets dragged into the film’s scheme.

Most characters get their chances to shine again. Nolfi thinks of creative ways to get characters out of the picture for some time – like sending Yen (Shaobo Qin) somewhere else in a duffle bag, even though his character’s role is small enough as he just speaks Chinese.

Sometimes getting these characters out of the way for awhile is helpful because it’s hard to keep track of all of them. It’s also interesting to watch the Nolfi tinker with the formula more and see how it works outside of Vegas. It still works and offers entertainment, and it’s nice to see them stealing things again.

Score: 70/100

Mr. 3000 (2004)

Released: September 17, 2004. Directed by: Charles Stone III. Starring: Bernie Mac, Angela Bassett, Michael Rispoli. Runtime: 1h 44 min.

I decided to review this because I’m about to reach 3,000 tweets on Twitter and I thought this would be a review of a movie with ‘3000’ in the name would mark the occasion. 

Bernie Mac stars as the very, very self-confident (fictional) Stan Ross in Mr. 3000. He got the name by reaching 3,000 hits playing for the Milwaukee Brewers. He thinks the name is synonymous with greatness and he talks about the name like it’s his big-headed alter ego or superhero name. Granted – Stan Ross would make a boring movie title.

He’s so obsessed with the name that the moment he achieved 3000 hits, he quit the game and abandoned the Brewers in July in the middle of a pennant race (even for fiction that’s totally unacceptable). Now it’s nine years later in 2004 and he’s the owner of the Mr. 3000 Shopping Centre and desperately wants into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Fact checking uncovers that he’s only Mr. 2997 because of a clerical error. Since his name simply loses meaning, the 47-year-old goes back to the MLB to try to get his 3,000-hit crown back.

Interestingly, if Ross were real, he would be tied for 30th on the career hitting record list with Roberto Clemente, who finished with 3,000 hits over 18 seasons, ending with a .317 batting average. The film’s writers did some research since they say Ross finished with a .314 batting average and if we assume he started playing at 20 – he’d have played about 18 seasons.

I think his ego would have prevented him from retiring when he did since he would have had a couple of good years left. Since he wants to be the best – you’d think he would just keep climbing up the hitting leader boards instead of being content with 30th. I digress and accept that he quit so he can have the name, just since the premise is amusing.

The baseball realism was lacking since he was brought up with September call-ups into the big leagues without doing spring training or any sort-of rehab games. I know he’s one of the greatest (fictional) hitters of all-time, but the guy hasn’t played pro ball in nine years.

He basically has a month to just get three hits, and when he starts striking out left and right it’s hard to believe since he was one of the best hitters of his time. Even though it’s about bringing old school into new school and trying to show how much the game has changed, I’m not believing that he’s going to be hitting like Mario Mendoza (one of the worst hitters in history).

It’s only plausible he stays in the Majors because the Brewers are fifth out of six teams in their division and because his presence sells tickets. High stakes are removed for the Brewers because they’re in a terrible position and the only thing they can play for is a respectable finish. It just leaves Stan to root for, but that’s hard because he’s such a jerk – plus, since he has a month to get three lousy hits, the stakes aren’t that high.

Mr. 3000 photo

Stan Ross (Bernie Mac) demands his 3,000th hit ball back from a fan at the film’s beginning. (Source)

It’s an entertaining film and Bernie Mac is believable as the title character; he’s touching at times and keeps the Ross from always being unlikable. Still, the character and his arrogance is the film’s biggest hurdle. It doesn’t help that there’s another Brewers player – Rex “T-Rex” Pennebaker (Brian White) who’s just like Stan. Rex needs a slice of humble pie, but Stan needs the whole bakery.

If you can get past Stan’s arrogance, it’s fun because Mac is funny as the character when his ego’s in check. One of my favourite moments is when Stan is working out and he looks like a fool because he’s so out of shape. It’s delightful that he’s put in his place, and his silence is nice. Then he’s fit again and his cockiness returns. It’s not good character work if one of my favourite aspects is the main protagonist looking like an idiot.

Angela Bassett’s a highlight as ESPN reporter Mo Simmons. She’s one of Stan’s old flames, and brings a natural charm to Mr. 3000 and keeps the man himself grounded. He is way easier to tolerate when she’s around. Before she’s there, he’s an ass – even with the charming Bernie Mac playing him. Some of his worst moments are calling his new team little leaguers.

There are a few memorable laughs, especially a joke that Japanese pitcher Fukuda (Ian Anthony Dale) doesn’t know how to swear properly. The pay-off’s funny when teammates try to teach him. Some of the jokes about how old Stan is fall flat, but there are a few funny ones including one about Viagra.

It’s a mediocre feature but it becomes an entertaining sports movie at the literal halfway point. Before that it had a handful of chuckles but it never gets fun until Stan starts enjoying the game of baseball, too, and learning that it’s not all about him.

Score: 60/100

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

A Series of Unfortunate EventsLemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Release Date: December 17, 2004

Director: Brad Silberling

Stars: Jim Carrey, Jude Law, Meryl Streep

Runtime: 108 min

Tagline: On December 17, Christmas cheer takes a holiday

Violet (Emily Browning), Klaus (Liam Aiken), and Sunny Baudelaire (Kara Hoffman and Shelby Hoffman) are three intelligent young children who receive terrible news that their parents have died in a fire and have left them an enormous fortune not to be used until the eldest child is of age. When they are sent to live with Count Olaf, a greedy distant relative, they soon learn he is trying to steal their fortune for himself.

Because of the seriously insane Olaf, they meet colourful relatives along the way after he does some… questionable acts. He tries to kill the children, first of all. You read that right. He checks the train schedule, parks his car on the tracks, and locks the kids in the car, leaving them for death. He doesn’t stop there. This sadistic and fairly obnoxious “actor” would do just about anything to gain the family fortune. He’s strange and creepy, but Carrey gives a great performance.

The acts Olaf goes through are sometimes much too mature for young children, and a lot of it is extremely dark. Especially for a family film. The third act is by far the strangest of the feature and frankly, it made me very uncomfortable. It’s necessary for the story, sure, but it’s just too strange for words. Though, the actions these characters often do make this a memorable feature. There are some great emotional moments, and even though the third act seriously creeped me out, it ends on a great and emotional note.

This film is based on Lemony Snicket’s thirteen-book series entitled A Series of Unfortunate Events. I know what you might be thinking: One movie based on thirteen books?! It really isn’t as crowded as it may sound. It flows well and the production design is fantastic and it’s a nice film to look at, because the cinematography is notably great. I did care for the three central characters on some level because they just lost their parents and I really wouldn’t want to see their fortune lost and have them be miserable until they’re eighteen years of age. Since their parents did die, many could relate to them, and the audience, can at least comprehend their sorrow. Though, most of us couldn’t say a psychopath actor tried to steal our fortune by trying to kill us and dressing up in weird costumes. If one is to take any morals from this story, they would be: 1) Just give the kids a damn chance and listen to them, because they could sometimes really help; 2) Some actors are just bat shit crazy, and 3) If you correct someone, they might get really pissed off and you won’t ever be seen again.

Meryl Streep is great as an irrational phobic; and Billy Connolly is fantastic as Uncle Monty, an eccentric herpetologist. Though, Jim Carrey is the real highlight of this. He has some hilarious jokes that may be sure to make you laugh out loud, and his impression of a dinosaur is worth the DVD price alone.

This film is really refreshing to me, mostly because it is just so self-aware. In a few moments of suspense, the narrator, Jude Law impersonating Lemony Snicket, makes his typewriter jam, so we are left with a twenty-second cliffhanger as he tries to fix his typewriter. It’s really humorous, and I love films like that. He also warns the audience that this will be an unpleasant story with suspicious fires and carnivorous leeches, not a dancing elf, but that movie probably has plenty of seating in theater two. So, like he warns you and I am about to warn you, this film isn’t for extremely young children, so just listen to the narrator and go see the little lame happy elves. Everyone else, stay, it’s a pretty unique, strange family feature.

72/100

Unpolished Review: 50 First Dates

50 First Dates

Release Date: February 13, 2004

Director: Peter Segal

Stars: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Rob Schneider

Runtime: 99 min

Tagline: Imagine having to win over the girl of your dreams… every friggin’ day.

[Note: I wrote this review early on when I wasn’t writing a whole lot for reviews, so I’m calling those an unpolished review, which I’d like to rewrite in the future, I’ll explain it more when I make a category for it. I’m too drained to make a page right now]

It’s actually a pretty good romantic comedy, as far as the standards of Sandler films go (plot-wise).

Adam Sandler plays a ladies’ man named Henry Roth, and wants to change his ways after meeting the wonderful Lucy. What he finds out the next day is that Lucy was in a terrible car accident, which gave her short-term memory loss, where her memories of the day get wiped clean when she wakes up the next morning. Now, Henry must make her fall in love with him every day, if he wants her to stay in his life.

It’s usually very cute, funny and sweet. It isn’t a horrible plot at all, and has some great on-screen chemistry between Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler.

It also stars Sean Astin, Blake Clark and Rob Schneider.

If you’re a fan of Adam Sandler or romantic comedies, check it out. It isn’t bad at all, and is really worth one or more watches.

 75/100

Mean Creek – One of my favourite independent film experiences.

Mean Creek

Release Date: January 15, 2004 (Sundance Film Festival)

Director: Jacob Aaron Estes

Stars: Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz

Runtime: 90 min

Tagline: Beneath the surface, everyone has a secret.

After a young boy, Sam (Rory Culkin), is bullied by a troubled fat boy, George (Josh Peck); Sam’s brother, Rocky, and Marty concoct a plan. They plan to lure George out into the woods for Sam’s “birthday” for a boating trip, and play a cruel prank on the boy as a way to receive vengeance for Sam. While on the boating trip, Sam, Rocky, Clyde and Sam’s girlfriend, Millie, see that George really isn’t all that bad of a guy, and they want the plan to be called off. Though, Marty is the type of guy who likes to commit to doing something, henceforth he doesn’t want the plan to be called off. Will the scheme work out as planned; or will things go completely awry?

A lot of it is an often poignant ride about adolescence, and is a fairly impressive film that is a bit slow at the beginning and drags at some areas near the end, but it’s quite the memorable story.

The emotional content of it all is quite great, and often powerful – and the young actors do a very good job with each of their roles. It’s a pretty impressive little crime drama that was humbly made for the sum of $500,000, and they use that money well.

The beginning is just really trying to get into the story and introduce each of the characters, so in ways it is slow but the opening sequence opens up to the film well. I only like a few characters here though, I couldn’t relate to a few of them. The ending drags on in some areas, but the very end saved it for me. The story of the film made it the most memorable for me. The main appeal of this was Josh Peck, he’s such a good actor.

I found myself relating to both Sam and George by the end of it all, though. I feel I should explain how I related to George as he’s the bully. I related to Sam because he was bullied and is an often timid character.

 

*SORT OF SPOILERS, I EXPLAIN THE CHARACTER OF GEORGE A LITTLE*

I found myself relating with George by the end of it all because he was a troubled character. I’m not a bully or anything, I just relate to the guy because all he wants to do is just try to fit in, which is how I relate to him the most. Since he’s just seen as this bad guy, he doesn’t get out as much as he’d like to and he’s just hardly invited anywhere. He tries to fit in and he tries to be nice, but he can be fake at times because he doesn’t really be himself throughout. And then at the end monologue when he was talking about how he was going to make a documentary of his life so people would actually understand him, moved me.

 *END OF SPOILERS*

The film is really well-cast, but some may be turned off by the excessive swearing. That may be the only thing that tainted my view of the general thing, but I still did really enjoy it. A lot of the swearing was necessary, as a means to make some sequences more emotional and intense.

This film made me think this: if the well-cast characters and the swearing of Stand by Me were tossed in a blender with the disturbing content and intensity of Deliverance, you’d be left with this low-key crime drama, Mean Creek, which makes for a fairly satisfying flick.

Mean Creek is a well-casted and memorable film that was poorly paced in some areas but nonetheless emotionally strong and thought-provoking and fairly impressive despite some poor camerawork that I can overlook, it’s an experience that I would like to see again because it offers a nice experience. If you like B-movie crime dramas, check it out.

75/100

Spider-Man 2 – A film review by Daniel Prinn – Spidey’s back for a winner

Spider-Man 2

Release Date: June 30, 2004

Director: Sam Raimi

Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina

Runtime: 127 min

Tagline: This summer a man will face his destiny. A hero will be revealed.

[Spider-Man 2] is a great example of a film where sequels turn out better than the first outing.

Everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man is back for this really sweet sequel. Peter Parker is still dealing with his powers and responsibilities and how they often intrude with things of his “normal” everyday life. Parker is also dealing with relationships, and often feels there is just about too much on his feast of a plate. Also, well of course, he has to deal with new villains: Doctor “Doc Ock” Octopus. Octopus came to be after yet another experiment gone wrong (seriously, where do they find these  stupid scientists who always find away to screw the experiment up and turn to a life of crime?!). With the mechanical tentacles that attached to his back now controlling his every move, he tries out his new abilities on the innocent citizens of New York.

The film is quite solid and has memorable action sequences and is pretty well-paced; and the film really doesn’t drag on in many areas or overstay its welcome. This flick has better action sequences than the first and Parker has grown more charismatic as his confidence has grown. In some ways I enjoyed it more than the first, and in other ways not.

I preferred the villain of the first, because the character of Doctor Octopus doesn’t overly interest me, I mean it’s interesting that he’s being controlled by the mechanical tentacles and he’s bent on revenge, I just didn’t feel he was a great villain. And people don’t really watch super hero films for the hero (on most occasions), we’re in it for the villains.

Some of the flick is quite memorable, but other scenes are a little forgettable. It’s fairly well- paced and a great action film experience.

The film stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris and J.K. Simmons. The direction by Sam Raimi is also really good.

It’s the best film of the Spider-Man trilogy.

80/100