Incredibles 2 (2018)

Released: June 15, 2018. Directed by: Brad Bird. Starring: Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Vowell. Runtime: 1h 58 min.

Writer/director Brad Bird and stars Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson and Samuel L. Jackson are well-aware it’s been 14 years since the The Incredibles, as they address this wait before screenings of Incredibles 2. It is a long time – long enough for Holly Hunter (Helen Parr/Elastigirl) to turn 60, the same age Craig T. Nelson (Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible) was when they made the original in 2004.

But now Incredibles 2 is finally here and it’s a great nostalgia trip after all these years. I smiled so much during the opening scene because it’s so entertaining, and I thought it was worth the price of admission alone.

Politicians of Metroville still want superheroes to stay hidden and not intervene. Not everyone wants supers to be hidden – as the CEO of a telecommunications company, Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) have come up with a way to get supers back in the good graces of Metroville.

They want to use Elastigirl (Hunter) to show the government supers can save the day without a lot of structural damage. That’s the main reason they pick her over Bob (Craig T. Nelson) – because he causes the city so much money. “Big problems need big solutions,” Bob explains. This time, Helen’s out on secret missions and Bob’s the stay-at-home dad.

It’s so cool watching Elastigirl fight crime for the bulk of the film this time, as her powers of stretching all over the place is visually more interesting than Bob just using his strength on everything. Plus, Holly Hunter is generally amazing so more screen time for her is welcome. The rest of the voice cast is also really great.

The main plot is Helen foiling the plans of a mysterious figure called the Screenslaver, which is entertaining and has a lot of well-animated, dazzling action scenes. Some aspects are predictable, but the pure entertainment of the third act more than makes up for it. The story’s also very well-written.

I generally loved the plot so much because it’s so cool going back to these characters, and the Parr’s family dynamic still feels fresh after 14 years. The parents do switch roles this time. Bob deals with jealousy of Helen fighting crime and him being pushed into the shadows of parenting, and it’s handled with humour.

He seems more like Bob in this film than Mr. Incredible, but he shines whenever he’s in his super suit. Speaking of super suits, Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) also has enough chances to shine. Other fan favourite Edna E. Mode (Brad Bird) also has a great appearance.

Bob helping Dash (Huck Milner) with homework and him screwing up trying to help Violet (Sarah Vowell) with boy problems will be relatable for dads. The biggest laughs come from the scene-stealing Jack Jack (Eli Fucile) who’s unable to control his newfound powers. That’s a huge thing Bob has to deal with. Anyone who’s seen the Jack Jack Attack short film will definitely love this sub-plot. He’s one of the most entertaining aspects of the film and Brad Bird seems like he’s having a blast writing this.

Besides the great old characters, we get to know a few new heroes – Sophia Bush as Voyd, for example – and they’re fun side characters that Bird explores. The film’s storyline flows nearly as well as the original and the dialogue’s still sharp and the humour’s great. Michael Giacchino’s score helps a lot with the film’s nostalgic feeling, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Score: 90/100

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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

Mr. Peabody and Sherman (2014)

Mr. Peabody and ShermanReleased: March 7, 2014. Directed by: Rob Minkoff. Starring: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter. Runtime: 92 min.

Let’s take this into consideration right off the bat: Mr. Peabody and Sherman won’t win best in show. The filmmakers don’t have the aspirations to make the greatest animated film out there – their intention is to entertain all ages with colourful animation and clever humour. This pleasant surprise succeeds with a sweet-natured flair. The main character is Mr. Peabody, voiced by TV’s Modern Family star Ty Burrell, who is one of the world’s greatest minds – winning Nobel prizes and holding knowledge close to his heart. He does all this, even though he is a dog. (That’s why the ‘best in show’ joke is so funny!) 

He adopts a boy named Sherman (voiced by Max Charles), and he goes through the struggles of parenting. This dynamic makes it mildly similar to Despicable Me; at least its messages of parenting, and it makes me think of it because Peabody is an adoptive parent. (Some additional messages in the film: Acceptance and understanding each other’s differences, like being adopted by a dog.) On 7-year-old Sherman’s first day of school, he has a run-in with a bully; saying that sadism starts fairly early. The bullying is given by a young genius in her own right named Penny Peterson (voiced by Ariel Winter, who is also well-known for Modern Family). She’s angry at Sherman because he shows her up with a fact on George Washington that is not particularly common knowledge. He found it out by actually hearing it from George Washington himself. You see, Peabody built a time machine called the WABAC that allows a very cool form of parenting where he can teach his son history first-hand. I think it’s a cool way to teach history, even though it offers historic events in a simplistic way to its audience. It still must appeal to kids, correct? To solve the bullying issue, Penny and her parents (voiced by Leslie Mann and Stephen Colbert) are invited over to dinner. Young Sherman shows her the WABAC and they go on a fun adventure, but also leads to a created time rift that they must fix.

I must assume some of you are already turned off by the premise itself – a time-travelling dog. (A.k.a. my Mom who also doesn’t like talking LEGO minifigures, but has nothing against a singing snowman.) Truthfully, it is a little funky – but it’s part of the film’s charm. The film is clever in the way that it solves that whole “butterfly effect” issue. Peabody makes a rule that they are only allowed to travel back in time – for educational purposes, because who wouldn’t want to go on field trips like this? It seems that Sherman learns better if here’s there when it happens. The film does have a simplistic and somewhat formulaic narrative, but a thoroughly entertaining one. Keep in mind this is a film made for children so fans of time travel flicks are not going to get much complexity. 

Older audience members will find clever, jokes that rely on pop-culture; referencing films like Runaway Bride and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, to name just a few. The events they travel to (French Revolution, Ancient Egypt, Trojan War) does give children a much simpler and basic way to learn history and learn basic and mildly accurate facts about these historical events in the process. For instance:  The film depicts that the people of the French Revolution revolt because Marie Antoinette loved cake way too much – and they don’t have bread because they are “exceedingly poor,” and they are angry because Antoinette is eating all that she can.

I think fans of Ty Burrell’s will enjoy his work in this film a lot because this sarcastic and often punny (“I think women get married too old in Egypt, but maybe I’m just an old Giza!”) sense of humour fits his comedic delivery to a tee. It is similar to his character on Modern Family, to be perfectly honest. He fits this role perfectly, which originated as a character on the television show Rocky and His Friends from the 1950’s. 

I must confess that there is one recurring joke that gets tired, where Sherman laughs at one of Peabody’s jokes and then says “I don’t get it.” That might be purposeful in more ways than to try to get the audience to laugh – it could represent kids who actually don’t understand the joke, whether it just be a historical fact they just don’t know. Another miss at humour which runs into excessive grounds is where Colbert’s character is trying to show Peabody up and asks him to play a series of instruments after another – so there just a whole bunch of Peabody’s on-screen at one time. It could be working as subtle foreshadowing; but it just runs on a bit too long. Colbert has fun in his role. The other voicework ranges from okay to great. I think Max Charles is just alright as Sherman. Allison Janney is good in a role that is uninspiredly evil. She represents those against dogs adopting children. Stanley Tucci has some brutally funny voicework as Leonardo Da Vinci, and his likable comedic styling is worth the watch in itself – as far as I’m concerned. 

The creative film is a ridiculously fun, fast-paced adventure flick that has a quick narrative. The animation is just stunning, even if it seems to have taken character designs out of The Incredibles handbook – as Sherman has subtle similarities to Dash, which isn’t bothersome; but it gets strange when baby Sherman has an uncanny resemblance to the baby Jack Jack. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – and I wouldn’t be surprised if director Rob Minkoff attended that A113 software class for animators.

Score: 80/100

Despicable Me 2 (2013)

Despicable Me 2Released: July 3, 2013. Directed by: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud. Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt. Runtime: 98 min.

I don’t remember some of the first movies I’ve ever seen. At least the first one I saw at the theatre… I’ve been trying to remember, but I haven’t come up with the answer yet. I blame my memory and my Mom and Dad’s poor memory. Thanks a lot, parents! (Just kidding. You’re great.) Anyway, my point is, “Despicable Me 2” is a perfect choice for your weekend’s family-friendly entertainment. If your kids haven’t been to the theater to see a movie in their lives yet, even better. It will be a memorable first experience. Just make sure your tyke is five or six years old (as there is one intense-ish scare that could spook your little ones, as a child at the screening I attended, who looked about four years old, started crying; but more on that later), and they’ll have a great time. This film is endearing, charming, fitfully funny and a whole lot of other flattering adjectives.

“DM2” is a remarkably well-written tale of a bad guy who isn’t exactly a bad guy any more. Gru (Steve Carell) has hung up most of his awesome gadgets and weapons and he is trying to kickstart a business selling jellies (and maybe jams, but he’s undecided on that). Things begin to go awry when a new super-villain steals a serum that turns innocent little bunny rabbits into crazy purple beasts who will eat anything in their path. The Anti-Villain League, led by Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), recruits Gru to take down this super-villain, because he thinks like one. Gru and super agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) go undercover to take down the baddies, and hit things off in the process.

“DM2” struggles to repeat the magic of its predecessor in some aspects (with its antagonist), while it improves on it in others (with its elevated slapstick humour). The new villain is inferior to Vector of the first movie, but he produces a few laughs. He also receives an appealing back-story, and he’s particularly evil. He just isn’t the most amazing villain you’ll ever see, but the voicework enlivens him a bit. I won’t say the name of the villain, because the marketing campaign has done a good job at keeping the villain a secret from the movie-going public; but anyone over the age of five or six, will be able to see who the villain is before the “reveal”. The antagonist may be the movie’s weakest aspect, but it is strong in so many other ways.

DM2It has great heart, appealing themes of family and love, and well-written characters. Carell truly brings it again as Gru, and the character is given new layers as he struggles with over-protective fatherly instincts over his eldest daughter, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), who is attracted to Antonio (Moises Arias), the son of a restaurant owner, Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), who is suspected of stealing the serum. Gru’s mission also gets blinded by his growing attraction to Lucy. You’ll fall in love with Gru all over again, even if he isn’t yet above blasting someone with his trusty freeze ray. The unicorn-loving Agnes (Elsie Kate Fisher), the youngest daughter, is growing up very well, but she still maintains all of her signature cuteness. She also seems to be more mature than the middle child, Edith (Dana Gaier), who never feels more than a petite supporting role. Eduardo is amusing, but he is practically every Mexican stereotype shoved into one character. Kristen Wiig is just being herself to great effect as Lucy Wilde, an improvement over the cruel Miss Hattie (Wiig’s character in the first movie). Thankfully, this super agent isn’t super annoying; she turns out to be an endearing presence, and one can easily open up to her cuckoo for cocoa puffs kinda personality.

Despicable Me 2wsgg

And of course, there are the minions. They are as funny as ever with just the right amount of screen presence. They will help you watch this with a gleeful smile on your face, as they deal out slapstick humour, talk in their made-up gibberish language of Minion-ese, and sing renditions of All 4 One’s “I Swear” and Village People’s “YMCA”. (It’s seriously laugh-out-loud hilarious; and you won’t be able to stop laughing when you hear these songs in the future.) All of these characters help enrich 2013’s funniest animated film.

I think animated movies have quite a magic about them. They make me feel like a kid again (even though I just turned eighteen in December), but I still do view them with a mature eye. I see this movie as both an animated movie with lots of endearing characters and kiddish humour the little tykes will enjoy; but I also see it as a great family film with some AWESOME super-hero/super-villain action sequences and some hysterical slapstick humour, that adults will enjoy. They won’t feel the need to steal their kids’ Twizzlers and use it to strangle themselves.

Some scenes in animated movies are intense nowadays, at least for kids. “Monsters University” even has a sequence that plays out like an ode to horror movies. This film has an intense scene that could spook the hell out of kids. (So, please don’t bring any kids under the age of four or five, in case it makes them cry. In which case, it will make the 18-year-old film critic sitting in the fourth row want to knock someone the f*ck out.) All of these somewhat intense scenes have me thinking some studio should make an animated horror flick. (Oh please! It worked well with 2006’s “Monster House”…) Now that will give more adults something to feast on.

I give you... Samuel L. Jackson as a Minion. The resemblance is uncanny!

I give you… Samuel L. Jackson as a Minion. The resemblance is uncanny! (It’s been pointed out that this minion is a nod to Ted Lange in Love Boat; but this was the best picture I could find that’s closest to Jackson; I’m 95% certain there was a taller minion that looked more like S. L. Jackson…)

“Despicable Me 2” has a great atmosphere and it’s rivaled by its predecessor and Pixar’s “The Incredibles” as best animated super hero (super villain?) movie. This is the hardest I’ve fallen in love with an animated universe, that wasn’t created by Pixar. This might not make you bawl like a Pixar movie, but it will warm your heart a heck of a lot. It’s sure to entertain and make you laugh, if you have a measurable sense of humour. This movie brings a huge smile to my face, and I hope it has that effect on you. This original movie doesn’t have to be as good as “The Incredibles” or any other Pixar movie really, because this isn’t Pixar. This is Illumination Entertainment. They have created a movie with an amazing attention to detail (like making so many minions different, and even making one minion that looks a lot like Samuel L. Jackson as Jules in “Pulp Fiction”), and a spectacular universe. The music chosen by Pharrell Williams is quite possibly better this time around. I love this studio making movies, because they’re entertaining, charming and heartfelt. Illumination Entertainment is here to stay.

This movie also has cool cars, adorable minions, jokes you’ll be laughing about long after, and Steve Carell giving us an instantly recognizable Eastern European accent, that is the voice of Gru. That is my idea of a great time at the movies. In the words of Gru, “That’s what *I’m* talking, about!”

Score88/100

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of SteelRelease Date: June 14, 2013

Director: Zack Snyder

Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon

Runtime: 143 min

Man of Steel is my first film experience with the Clark Kent/Superman character. So, I cannot compare this to earlier Superman films. As an origins story, it does introduce this character in a unique way, but not a way that is particularly good.

A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.

As a highly anticipated film, this leaves a lot to be desired. I’m not saying it’s a bad movie, just not a great or even a good one.

The narrative is fairly unique, I’ll give it that. It just feels random and disorganized. At one minute, the movie is in the present – and the next, Clark is remembering something from his past. I do like flashbacks every now and then to fill in a puzzle of a movie, but this one just hops around like an Energizer bunny. The main story follows General Zod (Michael Shannon) who invades earth with some seriously sinister plans. Initially, this story is intriguing – but it takes long to get into, and the action sequences are big and stupid. This time around, I don’t know if I’d call the destruction of New York City particularly fun – or even entertaining, for that matter. I don’t think David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan write the most impressive tale of hope and superhuman abilities.

When Clark looks back on his past, it is mostly his father (Kevin Costner) repeatedly telling him that the world is not ready for Clark’s powers just yet. They might never be ready. Clark is struggling with his superhuman abilities. This coming-of-age aspect is something that could hit close to home, in the way that people have to adjust to their surroundings and find a place for them, not in the way that everyone has to learn to deal with their superpowers. This part of the story is powerful, poignant and thought out, and I appreciate it. I just do not appreciate the constant, and sudden changes in tone throughout the feature. It goes from big, stupid action to character-driven drama that feels real. It becomes bothersome quickly, and it does not make for effective storytelling.

Since Superman’s worried about what the world would think of him… Spider-Man and Batman are fairly well-received; it might change the world, but if he just wears a mask, he, Clark Kent, wouldn’t face any backlash or criticism. Masks are good for disguising. Putting glasses on as Clark Kent, and taking them off when the guy feels like putting on his cape and saving the world, is not much of a foolproof disguise. He should also lose the cape, because villains could grab it and throw him around easier. Edna E. Mode of The Incredibles would be sorely disappointed. (“No capes!”)

“NO CAPES!”

Visually speaking, this movie is a marvel. The imagined world of Krypton, and the shots of Krypton exploding, are magnificent, and have gone unmatched so far this year. The cinematography is also impressive, it looks very pure and I love the look of the movie. It’s unfortunate that nothing is really going on under the surface, story-wise. These big-budget blockbusters should really focus more on story, and less on visuals. Of course, that’s wishing for something that won’t happen. I don’t like the story at play here, and the film has an exhausting runtime. Only great movies should be allowed to be this long. There’s just very little here that is impressive. Most of it is underwhelming.

I like the cast. I love Amy Adams as an actress, and she’s great as Lois Lane, a character that doesn’t do a lot here. When she isn’t on-screen, I’m okay with it; because I mostly forget about Lane, not because Amy Adams is not a good screen presence. She is a great one. The chemistry shared between she and Henry Cavill is only okay. Henry Cavill is great as The ‘S’ Man, even if he isn’t funny; he’s stone-cold serious. But he isn’t asked to be funny, and he does bring some power to the role. This is a superhero movie that doesn’t have much humour. It has a few jokes near the end, but they feel out of place, and you’ll only catch them if you’re still awake. I’m not saying that the movie is particularly boring, but it’s very long for such an average movie… Diane Lane is sincere as Clark’s mother, and Kevin Costner is a great, scene-stealing movie Dad. His heartfelt performance will speak to you. Some of the best scenes include him.

I have noticed that DC Comics adaptations are much less funny than Marvel Comics adaptations; so maybe Goyer (and Nolan) need to learn how to write a bit more fun into their screenplay. I like a little joking around in my superhero movies; and if the story were more enjoyable and entertaining, the dark tone would be easier to swallow. I do love Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but those are brilliant and aren’t stupid. This one is big and dumb. Don’t misunderstand me, the story isn’t stupid, the action is. There’s punching and heat rays and more punching. It does not feel like a lot of thought has gone into it. This action also feels incredibly repetitive. And the storytelling is ineffective. I know that Nolan and Goyer are capable of so much more. It shows that it can be smart with its aspect of Clark learning to deal with his powers. So its change in narrative makes it go from stupid to smart, and back to stupid.

I enjoy most villains, as long as they are interesting, either menacing if they are meant to be, or funny if they are meant to be. And they have to be memorable. I love this villain. Michael Shannon is my favourite part of the movie. He is a true actor. His portrayal of General Zod is menacing, chilling, and compelling. Not to mention crazy, because he’s either yelling or flaring his nostrils, but I don’t really mind. I think it’s effective and menacing. Zod thinks his actions are noble, because he’d do anything to preserve the future of Krypton. He does not have morals. I do appreciate the writers’ decision to use Zod as the villain for this origins story, rather than Superman’s best known foe, Lex Luthor. The Mandarin of Iron Man 3 and John Harrison of Star Trek Into Darkness would bow down to GZod. I am ecstatic that Michael Shannon will now be a certified household name. However, in the movie, I do not appreciate the fact Superman’s duels with GZod’s henchmen feel longer than his duel with the actual, primary villain!

I anticipated this not as a fan of Superman, not as a die-hard fan of the superhero sub-genre, but as a die-hard fan of Christopher Nolan. Anything with his name on it, I get excited for – mostly because I trust his judgement. If he wants to spend a lot of money producing a movie, and co-writing one, I’ll pay to see it. I don’t love this. And after thinking about it a lot, I don’t like it much, either. The few worthwhile aspects to this movie is the cinematography, the stunning visuals and Michael Shannon. Overall, it’s an incredibly underwhelming and dis-a-pointing endeavour.

50/100