Monday, June 18, 2018

Review: "Incredibles 2" is a worthy, fun-filled, and brilliant follow-up

Incredibles 2 Review

Pixar has been a champion box office machine, but its also been a studio that has kept creativity and storytelling front and center for many of its movies. It's a studio that has earned the right amount of clout that, even as a 29-year-old man, even though they specialize in family films, I'll watch anything they release, without a trailer, bar none. They have earned that right, and not many studios nor individuals have garnered such an honor.

But I will admit, its been a chore to watch some Pixar films, yes you read that correctly. Ever since the turn of the decade, Pixar has been playing the sequel game. Besides the "Toy Story" sequels, the slew of sequels that Pixar has created have been less than amazing. I don't care that much for the "Cars" sequels, and I thought "Monsters Anniversary" was a wet blanket. I also didn't think "Finding Dory" was anything that special. After making the perfect trilogy in "Toy Story," I had faith that Pixar could even do sequels, but that faith has been tested mightily already. Now, I am very uneasy about a "Toy Story 4" coming out next year.

Easily my favorite of the Pixar films has always been "The Incredibles." You can probably blame my lifelong fascination with superheroes on that, but I can't help myself. "The Incredibles" is for a lack of a better word, incredible. It's such a clever take on the superhero genre, a fun spin on how the superhero movie works, and yes, even had a great message about being special in this world, and what exactly that means. While I've secretly wanted a sequel for a long time, I was worried that Pixar may not do it justice, and just shell one out a sequel just for quick cash. When it comes to their sequels, they seemed to have abandoned the one thing that made them special as a studio, creativity and storytelling. 

Alas, an "Incredibles" sequel got made. It's fourteen years later, and I've always had a theory that the more years you move away from a certain movie, the less relevant it becomes. There have been plenty of sequels to movies that were twenty or even thirty years old that just didn't feel right because they were so far removed. This plus the trouble Pixar has with sequels left a very bad taste in my mouth, and I was ready to right the whole thing off. It didn't help that the trailers made the film look like a mere clone of the first film.

Maybe it was lowered expectations, maybe it was my genuine love for the original film, but I left my viewing of "The Incredibles 2" with a huge smile on my face. Not only is "The Incredibles 2" a worthwhile sequel, not only is a good movie, Brad Bird has directed and written another incredible installment of this series. Brad Bird wrote and directed the first film too, and he seems to have a good handle on the characters he created, and time seems to not have slowed down his ideas and how this wonderful family of superheroes work. Bird cooked up another solid story to pit these characters against and mixed with the colorfully brilliant animation that we've come to expect from Pixar, you are in for one wild ride.

So remember The Underminer from the first film? He showed up right as the credits began to roll? John Ratzenberger from "Cheers" provided his voice? Well keep him in your thoughts because "The Incredibles 2" begins with that showdown after Dash's track meet. The fight with The Underminer goes less than well for The Parr family and they fail to stop The Underminer from robbing a bank, causing serious damage in the process. While the city appreciated that the superheroes defeated Syndrome in the last movie, the idea of damage and accountability are still fresh, and the Parr family have to relocate again. The leaders of the world are planning to come together to discuss the fate of all superhero activity and all the Parr family can do is wait.

Soon after relocating, Winston Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk) of DEVTECH has a plan for a publicity stunt to get public favor back for the superheroes and he plans to use Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) in a new city for this stunt, she's picked because she's the least destructive of the entire family. So Elastigirl goes on these secret missions while Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) stays home with the kids. He's a little jealous at first that Deavor doesn't want to use him, but if his wife is the only way for him to get back into a super suit to fight crime, then he firmly stands next to his wife. This all leads to a showdown with Screenslaver, a mysterious villain who is connected to the plot.

That's all I'll say about the plot. So many sequels are built on the spine of the previous film and while "The Incredibles 2" may look like it does that to a certain degree, there is so much fun to be had, so much that is still so creative that I couldn't help but love it. Sure, you could look at it at a service value and just say that its like the first film but Elastigirl is going on the missions instead of Mr. Incredible. But the movie's story works as a new challenge for the family as a whole, not just one parent keeping a secret from the rest of her family. The villain twist from the first film felt a bit obvious, whereas the villain twist here isn't who you'd expect. The movie doesn't really deal with the more of the same regarding relocation acts or anything, instead it plays similar to "Captain America: Civil War" where the movie's general theme is whether or not superheroes are a force of real good in the world. Screenslaver works kind of like Zemo did in "Civil War" excepts with brand new motivations and a slew of new gadgets at his disposal. While you may see a similar connection from the first film, its not something that derails the movie.

Plus, more Jack-Jack. It's just amazing. The scene where Jack-Jack, the literal infant of the family who somehow has an over-abundance of superpowers, fights a raccoon is the highlight of the movie. Jack-Jack literally steals the show. So much so that if Brad Bird goes for three, I'd love a slightly grown-up version of Jack-Jack, in a "Legion" type movie, but that will never happen so I'm essentially talking out of my ass. I just love Jack-Jack so much in this movie. 

In conclusion, it seems like Pixar has put my theories of sequels to bed. Maybe Pixar can make a fun, daring, and yes creative sequel if they really put their mind to it. "The Incredibles 2" is the movie I hoped for for over a decade. I am so glad that we got another adventure with this family, and now I can only hope we can continually check in on this family, seeing how they are doing as the years wear on. Pixar has once again gained my faith back and they continue to keep me curious about all of their work.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Unfriended: Dark Web trailer

There was a movie that came out a few years ago, 2015 if I remember correctly, called "Unfriended." I reviewed it here for the site. If you remember correctly, I wasn't much of a fan of it. I figured that I'd forget and never have to think of it again. But astonishingly, there is a sequel coming out later this year.

Now, the first film dealt with a ghost getting revenge on a bunch of kids who were on a Facetime/Skype type call one night. This sequel looks like it is leaving the supernatural aspect behind, doing something different. In this trailer, it looks like a group on a Facetime/Skype style call find out one of their friends stole a laptop, and that the laptop contains sensitive material on it revolving the Dark Web, a place full of illegal activity. A group within the Dark Web find out and track the stolen laptop. They begin to mess with the group, and take them out one by one. Or at least that's what it looks from the trailer.

I wasn't much of a fan of the first film. I can't build lots of sympathy for person who stole a laptop. That's always the biggest thing when it comes to horror movies. If you are making a horror movie about young people getting killed, you better make sure we care about who is getting killed. Otherwise you are going to have a film full of random death. This looks to be another crapfest, but I hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

World of Jokers

So just this past week, there has been lots of Joker news. I am talking about THE JOKER, the popular Batman villain. A few months back, I reported on a Joker origin movie. The movie was to be directed by Todd Phillips (director of The Hangover) and the crime movie god himself Martin Scorsese was going to produce the movie. The film was set to star Joaquin Phoenix as The Joker himself. Apparently, its still happening, but with a budget drop. Yesterday, it was reported that the movie will have a $55 million budget, I have no idea what the budget was before but apparently there was a drop.

I actually thought that maybe the Phoenix-Phillips-Scorsese Joker movie was kaput, since it was also reported this week that Jared Leto will be getting a solo Joker movie. The same Joker Jared Leto played in "Suicide Squad." This news is a little surprising since "Suicide Squad" became fairly unpopular and Leto's Joker was highly criticized. Now apparently he will be getting his own movie soon. No plans so far, or what it would even be about, but it is in the works.

Will our film industry get over-saturated with Joker flicks? Will these movies come out around the same time? Is Warner Brothers trying to create its own "Armageddon-Deep Impact" scenario where they are the only winner? Will anything about these movies be profitable? Well, honestly, people love The Joker so perhaps one of them will make some dough. How if at all will these movies relate back to the DCEU, and if they aren't, what's the point?

We'll see how these ideas materialize. DC and Warner Brothers are promising lots of things for a franchise that hasn't been solely popular, so I wonder what will happen here.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Dumbo Trailer

I know some people find it a bit shameless that Disney is cashing in on their old animated classics by simply turning them into live-action tales. But you know, I have to hand it to the studio. The live-action conversations have been good, by and large, and I've been enjoying what I've been seeing so far. Perhaps the nostalgia train is working for me, but I would be lying if I didn't say that I like the live action versions in general.

One of the next live action films on the Disney docket is "Dumbo" coming next year. It is being directed by Tim Burton, who thought made the only crummy live action Disney film. Yep, I didn't care for his "Alice In Wonderland" films at all. So I was totally was not onboard for another Burton adaptation. But the first teaser for "Dumbo" actually looks quite majestic. It sounds like they will be playing pretty close to the original source material for this. The film will star Colin Ferrell, Danny DeVito, Micheal Keaton (Batman and Penguin reunited!) and Eva Green.

Doesnt look like the typical Burton fair, but perhaps that's a good thing.

Can't wait to see more!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Review: "Ocean's 8" is much more than meets the eye

Ocean's 8 Review

I really like girl power in movies, and I certainly don't mind seeing female-led movies. Some of my favorite movie heroes are Sarah Connor and Trinity and Ellen Ripley and The Bride. I don't mind remakes of movies about women. With all of this said, it comes off as nothing more than a politically correct publicity stunt now that we are living in a all-women craze. Let's remake every successful movie but with all women! It's a nice thought, but it's a dead-end creatively and a perfect reminder that there are several people out there who misunderstand what this is all about. A few years ago, there were many screaming for Charlize Theron to play a female James Bond, when James Bond being a womanizer has always been part of his character. Were they planning on making this female James Bond a lesbian? If not, then simply calling a female spy James Bond isn't James Bond, it would be something else, so why not just embrace that something else? I would rather see an entire series of "Atomic Blonde," another spy movie starring Theron, then having her play a female James Bond simply because the Social Justice Warrior populace is asking for it.

That was my biggest problem with the female-led "Ghostbusters" a few years ago. It had absolutely nothing new, exciting or innovative to offer. It was a publicity stunt for the sake of it, a shameless way to make a few extra bucks off of a franchise that should have been left alone. Sadly, its tough to really discuss this, since even remotely suggesting it means I am anti-women, and that's just sad all around. You are responsible for the art you create and once you've created something it belongs to the audience. If the audience denounces it, then that's that, it doesn't mean that everyone is anti-feminism. The female-led "Ghostbusters" movie was not funny, despite all the good talent involved, it referred to the old movies simply for referring to them, the special effects were good if the year was 1995 and it just felt like more of the same instead of doing something fun with the universe.

I still can't fathom why these "remakes with all women" are still on the rise, and I was prepared to not give two shits about "Ocean's 8." Much like the original "Ocean's 11," its filled with great talent, like Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rhianna, Mindy Kaling, Helena Boneham Carter and even Richard Armitage. Sandra Bullock is Debbie Ocean, a mastermind who recruits a group of all-women criminals for a big heist. It already sounded like more of the same but with a PC twist, and that sounded like a waste of time.

"Ocean's 8" begins like the original did too, with a camera facing a distraught Debbie Ocean, in jail garb. The camera stays on her the whole time during a conversation about parole, you never see who she's talking to. This entire technique was used in the first film and its so shamelessly pulled from the original that I thought I was going to see a repeat of 2016's "Ghostbusters," a mere remake of a great movie with nothing but a political stunt being the only worth to see it. I was ready to hate it, I was ready to have so much of my time wasted.

I was ready for a lot of things. But then I kept watching. Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett are great in everything they do, they are some of my favorites. Richard Armitage is wonderful when he's snarky and unappealing, and he made a good foil for Bullock's character. James Corden shows up as an insurance fraud investigator and does some nice work. Anne Hathaway is good, but it always depends on the role. Sarah Paulson is a superstar from TV who seemed to transition well to the big screen. Mindy Kaling has some good comedic timing. So maybe I thought it wouldn't be a complete waste of time, and as I continued to watch the movie, the women did an impeccable job bringing these characters to life. I was also surprised to see that the movie IS NOT a remake. It's a continuation of the George Clooney movies. Debbie Ocean is Danny Oceans sister, Elliot Gould and Qin Shaobo from Clooney's movies make appearances here (Matt Damon also had a cameo in the movie, but it got cut). I appreciated that this took place in the same universe, instead of being a tepid attempt at something new. (It actually made me sad to learn that Danny Ocean is now deceased, making no room for a crossover of any kind. BOO!)

George Clooney's movies were all about criminals who were smart, cool and hip. Those movies were clever and slick. I wouldn't call "Oceans 8" clever or slick, but that doesn't mean that it tries hard to please. This is a movie about smart movie, but it has its own identity, it has its own feel and I applaud that the movie has its own beating heart, instead of merely trying to be what Clooney's movie was back in 2001. There is still plenty of fun to be had here, and its beating with a pulse of its own heart. That I can appreciate quite a bit.

I thought that it was a little disappointing that Sandra's character and Richard's character were once dating, and this whole plan just boils down to a revenge heist. That simply just copies too much on what was done before and I wished for a little more imagination when coming up with a reason to assemble all of these criminals. I also found it to be a bit cheesy that all the pop songs that appear in the movie are songs about women. It seems just a little cliche and a little too on-the-nose to be taken seriously. But perhaps that's the point the filmmakers were trying to make, trying to make something that was one-the-nose. The thing is, the movie already mostly works as just a caper film. Something fun and fresh, you don't need all that cliche stuff to remind the audience that you're making an all women movie. Just leave it how it is.

I know "Oceans 8" is continuation of a popular franchise, but it truly doesn't feel like any other movies out right now. I am glad that I was pleasantly surprised by this. I don't completely love it, but I found "Oceans 8" to be mostly enjoyable. In a blooming summer season, you probably will too.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

"The Predator" trailer

The film franchise that is "Predator" has been all over the place since its inception. Some of the original movies are pretty good, nothing that blows my mind though. "Alien vs. Predator" may have been fun in concept, but horrible in execution. Sorry folks, but I can't even stand it as dumb fun. The remake by Robert Rodriguez from 2010 that had an all-star cast was so profoundly pedestrian that it never got the franchise off its feet. I've had a rough relationship with this franchise, so its hard for me to get too excited over a new movie.

I like Shane Black as a director, but I like it when he's able to thrive with his own material, the most corporate thing he did was "Iron Man 3" and its the only MCU movie I return to the most for pleasure. Has he learned something since then? He's got a killer cast to work with here including Sterling K. Brown, Olivia Munn, Jacob Trembley, Alfie Allen, Thomas Jane, Yvonne Strahovski, "Moonlight's" Trevante Rhodes, Keegan Michael-Key, and Boyd Hollbrook (who I swear looks like a grown-up Tom Felton). That's quite the line-up, and I hope they all shine, but there better be a story worth telling here.

Halloween trailer

I always liked the original "Halloween." Its one of the best horror films ever made. Bar none. Yes, its a slasher movie, but it helped define that subgenre that may not be as popular as it once was. Plus, for its time "Halloween" is impressive because it didn't rely on blood and sex and exploitative violence to be "Scary." The movie truly is all about terror, and that's what I love about it. I have it in my collection of movies, and I love watching it every October.

The sequels? Not so much. The remakes? Absolutely fucking not. I thought the franchise was dead for sure. But David Gordon Green is now taking a stab at it, reviving it after many years. He's bringing Jamie Lee Curtis back as Laurie and continuing her story. I love that idea, and the movie itself looks like its going to be high on dread. Yes, it looks more violent than the original movie. Violence doesn't bother me, but you better use it towards building some genuine terror. We shall see what happens, but for right now. Looks good.