Incredibles 2 (2018)

Director: Brad Bird

Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huckleberry Milner, Samuel L. Jackson

Screenplay: Brad Bird

118 mins. Rated PG for action sequences and some brief mild language.

 

Incredibles 2 was about to become a thing of legend, an anticipated film that seemed to never come. I didn’t believe it myself until the first teaser, but here we are. So then the real question comes, was the wait worth it. Thankfully, yes, it really is.

The sequel picks up right where the first film left off, with The Underminer’s attack on the city. This event triggers more government scrutiny on masked vigilantes, until Bob (Craig T. Nelson, Book Club, TV’s Coach) and Helen (Holly Hunter, The Piano, TV’s Here and Now) are offered to be sponsored by Winston Deaver and the company he runs with his sister, Evelyn. Elastigirl is the first step of the plan to ease the public’s view of heroes because she tends to cause less property damage, leaving Bob behind to take care of the kids. As Elastigirl hunts down the villainous and mysterious Screenslaver, a criminal who uses television screens to hypnotize his victims, Bob struggles to teach Dash (Huckleberry Milner) about New Math, help Violet (Sarah Vowell, A.C.O.D., Please Give) get through boy troubles, and figure out just what the deal is with Jack-Jack.

The first thing to note with Incredibles 2 is how well-structured the film is, especially for picking up right when the first film ended. That’s not an easy feat if it isn’t thoughtfully planned out ahead of time, and it doesn’t sound like the cliffhanger from the first film was planned to be actually resolved, but writer/director Brad Bird (Ratatouille, Tomorrowland) took the story laid out and enhanced the quality of the first film in the process, making a two-film arc that works really well together. These films are two sides of the same coin, and they are both all the better for it. Bird stated numerous times that he wouldn’t make a sequel until he had the right story for it, and Pixar gave him the time to do just that.

An important element of a sequel gestating for 14 years is the need to grow with the audience. The Harry Potter franchise understand the need to grow with its audience, as did Pixar favorite Toy Story, but Incredibles 2 takes it a step further. The violence and adult content associated with the sequel is interesting and risky and proves that Pixar is not a company that makes children’s movies, but instead a company that makes animated films for everyone to enjoy. Incredibles 2 employs the first usage of a gun in a Pixar film as well as heightened language. Again, not issues from this reviewer, but I am proud that Bird is unafraid to grow with his audience and use what it necessary to make the film he wants to make.

The voice work is exemplary here, especially Holly Hunter’s work. She gets a lot more to do here with the lead character swap of the sequel. This is not an easy feat for sequels as well, especially when thinking about Pixar’s previous failure in character-swapping Cars 2. It was disastrous there and it works quite well here, mostly because Helen was a well-written, well-defined character in the first film, whereas Mater was comic relief and never that well-rounded to begin with.

It’s nice to see the reversal and how it affects Bob. He is someone that doesn’t think about anything but saving lives and defeating evil, so forcing him to stay in the shadows is an interesting character arc. I didn’t like how his story roped in Edna Mode, but I can live with it. I was able to relate to him more as a character due to the difficulty he has to face in day-to-day minutiae.

The Screenslaver is an interesting villain this time around. It’s nearly impossible to top Syndrome with the uniqueness of the villain this time around, but I did enjoy the hunt. The big problem from a story perspective is how simple it is to figure out the identity of the Screenslaver. I was putting it together rather easily, and the clues are there. Maybe I was the only one, but I felt it was a clear direction.

I suppose there should be some discussion on the controversy here. Yes, Incredibles 2 has some sequences involving flashing images that may be harmful to people with epilepsy. It was definitely straining to my eyes, and I don’t usually have trouble with that, but I left the theater with a headache. Is it a problem? Yeah, kind of. This was a poor decision and I’m surprised no one thought about the effect it would have on the big screen. I think, at home, it won’t be an issue,but this was a major mistake. There were other ways to make these sequences work on film. Still, I’d rather watch this sequence than discuss the other controversy the film has: public outcry over the lack of “The” in the title (seriously, this was also a thing).

Incredibles 2 is an all-around wonder of a film, and though it isn’t as strong as the first film (but really, that’s a tough ladder to climb), it is still quite an exceptional experience. Barring some pacing issues in the second half of the film, Incredibles 2 is a well-structured and emotionally resonant sequel that moves its core group of characters forward in new and exciting ways. This is definitely one to see.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Kyle’s Top Ten Films of 2017

 

Hey folks, another year has come and gone and here we sit, at the end of it, looking back on what was. 2017 had some truly great films and I’m going to count down my top ten today.

Just a couple notes before we get into all this:

  • These are my personal top ten films of the year from the many I have seen. I judge the films from my list in their success as a film in what they are trying to accomplish.
  • I haven’t seen all the movies released in 2017. If you read this list and find that something is missing, let me know, drop a comment, and start the conversation. Everyone loves a good recommendation.
  • Due to some of the heavy-hitters of Oscar season still on the way, this is a tentative list and it will change as more limited release films open up.

There, with all that out of the way, my Top Ten Films of 2017.

 

  1. Wind River

-I was not entirely excited about Wind River. That’s not to say anything wrong about the marketing, but I didn’t know anything about it and, living in an area with intense cold several months of the year, I wasn’t all that interested to see it in the summer. Thankfully, my other plans fell through and I ended up at the theater. Wind River is the powerful tale of a murder on an Native American Reservation and the unlikely duo who team up to solve the mystery. It’s been said a lot but this is Jeremy Renner’s best performance of his entire career. Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water, Sicario) jumps into the director’s chair this time around and crafts a tightly-paced and shocking look at these characters and their world. It’s emotional, exciting and thought-provoking in every stroke.

 

  1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi is an incredible new addition to the Star Wars lore for the simple fact that it surprised me. I haven’t been genuinely surprised in a Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. Writer/Director Rian Johnson created a follow-up that subverts expectations while simultaneously honoring what has come before and driving forward on a new path. Not everyone loved it (someone once said that the people who hate Star Wars the most are the fans) but I enjoyed it for all the reasons that others didn’t love it. It’s exciting, emotional, and funny, and I cannot wait to see it again.

 

  1. Thor: Ragnarok

-With Thor: Ragnarok, Director Taika Waititi and Marvel Studios have given the public the closest thing to a new Flash Gordon that we are likely to get. A rollicking 80s road-trip style space movie with everyone’s favorite god of thunder and his pal the Incredible Hulk,  Ragnarok embodies the best of what the MCU has to offer, an incredibly fun and riveting blast of a film that stands on its own while contributing to a larger narrative. In Hela, we get an interesting villain with ties to Thor, and new characters like The Grandmaster, the Valkyrie, and Korg keep the thrills light and fluffy.

 

  1. Okja

Okja is one of the best films that Netflix has ever released. It is a strange tale, a unique tale, a funny-at-times tale, and a heartfelt tale. It’s the story of a girl and her superpig Okja. The company that created Okja , Mirando, has invested a lot of money in crafting a creature that is environmentally conscious with a minimal carbon footprint that tastes great, and now they plan on harvesting Okja to make billions for themselves, but Mija is not about to let the company take her friend. The film is one of the weirdest I’ve seen in a long time, but thanks to top-notch directing from Writer/Director Bong Joon-Ho from a great screenplay by him and Jon Ronson, Okja is a powerful ride from beginning to end.

 

  1. Dunkirk

Dunkirk is a film made for the theater experience. I was lucky that a colleague of mine got tickets to the 70mm/IMAX presentation and I was floored by the majesty of it all. The scenes in the air were breathtaking. The sequences on the beach were thrilling. The scenes on the boat were emotional. The whole film experience was astounding. Then, I watched it again when it hit home video. The film is still exhilarating. Even with the loss of the massive screen, this is a tightly-packed narrative that has so much going on but still feels so focused.

 

  1. Blade Runner 2049

-Who would’ve guessed that a sequel to a cult classic sci-fi thriller would be good? Blade Runner 2049 is even better than the original! How the hell did that happen? Director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) takes what works about the original film and crafts a companion piece that stands on its own and connects really nicely to the original film. Blade Runner and its sequel become two sides of the same coin, a breathtaking double-feature that is well worth the lengthy runtime. Harrison Ford returns as Deckard and joins Ryan Gosling’s Agent K, providing some of the best work in either of their careers.

 

  1. Lady Bird

-Greta Gerwig directs Lady Bird with such realism that it brought me back to a time in my youth when I was very much like Saoirse Ronan’s Christine. This incredible coming-of-age story feels like it’s the first of its kind in a world where dozens of similar films are released each year. The terrific chemistry between Christine and her mother is palpable and real. The film wanders through Lady Bird’s life as she encounters situations that many of us have been through in this interesting semi-autobiographical look at adolescence from a fantastic up-and-coming director.  I can’t wait to see what she does next.

 

  1. War for the Planet of the Apes

-How the hell did Planet of the Apes craft one of the best trilogies of all time? How does that happen? Matt Reeves takes on his second film in this franchise following Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and after having seen a few times, I can honestly say that War tops it. Andy Serkis is an actor who deserves performance credit for his role as the immensely complex Caesar, and he is matched on the battlefield by the chameleon that is Woody Harrelson, a man that can be joyful in one instant and terrifying in the next. Matt Reeves should be considered one of the hottest acts in Hollywood right now for his recent track record, and I look forward to his take on The Batman (if it ever does happen).

 

  1. The Big Sick

The Big Sick has been a critical darling since it was released in early 2017. The story, based on true events, is a dramedy based on the relationship of Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily. The movie mixes emotion and comedy to present one of the best and truest representations of love I’ve ever seen. The performances in it are all fantastic, especially Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily’s parents. The Big Sick has a lot of award consideration and I’d be more than happy to see it take away some Oscars when the time comes as it hasn’t had a wide viewing outside of the general film community, and a few statues may help with that.

 

  1. The Shape of Water

-I hadn’t even heard of The Shape of Water at the beginning of 2017. In fact, it was only during an interview for The Bye Bye Man that Doug Jones even dropped he was working on a fish romance film with Guillermo del Toro that I even knew of the film’s existence but little else. Thankfully, late last year I was able to catch a screening for the film, and I just fell in love with it. I had always said that Pan’s Labyrinth would likely be del Toro’s masterpiece, but The Shape of Water is just so personal and lovely and strange and beautiful that I couldn’t get it out of my mind long after my initial viewing. Doug Jones, like Andy Serkis, won’t garner awards recognition for his work here and that’s a shame. Thankfully, Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, and Michael Shannon turn in career-topping work here and the film is getting a lot of talk now. See this movie. It’s the best film of 2017.

 

Well, there you have it. These are my favorite films of the year. I look forward to #2018oscardeathrace to begin, and I may see a few favorites get knocked off as I continue catching up on what I missed in 2017, but overall, it was another great year for films. We’ll see you in 2018 (which is like, right now).

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Early Review] The Big Sick (2017)

Director: Michael Showalter

Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Adeel Akhtar, Anupam Kher

Screenplay: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani

120 mins. Rated R for language including some sexual references.

 

The Big Sick opens in several markets tomorrow, and I was lucky enough to catch an early viewing of the film. What did I think? It just might be the best film of the year.

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani, TV’s Silicon Valley, Fist Fight) is a struggling comic living in Chicago when he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan, Ruby Sparks, Our Brand is Crisis). The two build a romance, but Kumail’s Pakistani family are regularly setting Kumail up with other women in an attempt to force an arranged marriage. It forces Kumail and Emily into a breaking point, but when Emily ends up in the hospital sick with something the doctors cannot diagnose, Kumail takes up residence at her side while creating conflict with Emily’s parents, Beth (Holly Hunter, The Incredibles, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and Terry (Ray Romano, TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond, Ice Age: Collision Course).

The Big Sick is a touching, beautiful, and very funny look at the goings on of an American relationship, the central focus of the film being adapted from Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani’s actual courtship. It holds actual emotional resonance and is capably handled by Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name is Doris, The Baxter).

I think the biggest win for The Big Sick, apart from its excellent screenplay, come from its performers. This is a standout performance for Nanjiani, but Hunter and Romano are excellent as the awkward and impersonal Beth and Terry. This should be a year of nominations for both.

The third act does run on a bit longer than it needs, but The Big Sick is an excellent character piece. I fell in love with these characters and I can’t wait to see this film over and over again, and I  think you’ll agree. This film has become my favorite film in 2017 (sorry Okja).

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

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Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot

Screenplay: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer

151 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.

 

So, after countless years of waiting for DC to officially make a move at creating a cinematic universe, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has arrived. Now comes the real question: Can DC create a universe from some of the most popular characters in comic book history? And what exactly is this film?

Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, Argo, Gone Girl) has been obsessed with one thing over the past eighteen months: Superman (Henry Cavill, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Cold Light of Day). After witnessing the damage done to the city of Metropolis due to Superman’s fight with General Zod, and seeing one of his own buildings filled with his employees come down in the battle, Bruce does not believe that Superman should be allowed to do as he pleases, and he’s not alone. Senator Finch (Holly Hunter, The Incredibles, Manglehorn) and billionaire playboy Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network, American Ultra) completely agree. Bruce’s caretaker Alfred (Jeremy Irons, The Lion King, Race) becomes increasingly more concerned about Wayne’s mental state as the obsession grows. Meanwhile, Clark Kent’s life is moving in the right direction: He is in love with Lois Lane (Amy Adams, American Hustle, Big Eyes), he has a great job at the Daily Planet, but there is a problem. He too has become worried about a masked vigilante frequently called The Bat, but Clark finds that the world seems to be more concerned with Superman’s doings than this Bat character. When Lex Luthor sees an opening, he begins planting the seeds to bring these two heroic titans to blows, and hopefully take them both down at once.

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Well, we have a lot to discuss, so let’s start at the beginning. The title of the film is very strange. The decision to excise the “vs” in favor of a “v” implies a court case, which confuses me as I don’t understand why you want a superhero movie to be a court case, but I’ve already started to digress.

This movie’s plot seems to want to go everywhere but doesn’t actually get anywhere. It seems like two screenplays jammed together: one is a Batman v Superman movie, the other a Dawn of Justice movie. The problem here is that the glue used to stick these movies together is weak and flimsy. The Batman stuff is great, particularly their dealing with the origin, which is fleshed over the opening credits like how The Incredible Hulk treated theirs. Since this is the second Batman of this decade and the third iteration of an origin, I’m glad they decided to go this route, citing that Batman Begins did it the best it could ever be done. And what a Batman they picked! Ben Affleck owned this role. I learned from my initial criticism of Heath Ledger’s casting for The Dark Knight when Ben Affleck was selected to don the cowl for the nest Batman. I pulled back and thought, let’s just wait and see. And I was right, folks! Affleck’s performance was real and yet unlike anything we’ve seen from the Caped Crusader.

How’s the Superman stuff? Eh, not all that great. Henry Cavill doesn’t have the acting chops to do much, and his character is wasted on a convoluted plotline anda misunderstanding of the Man of Steel. I read countless times that this isn’t so much of a Man of Steel sequel but rather a backdoor pilot for the Justice League, which isn’t true. This is in fact a direct sequel as it fits every plot point of the previous film into this one, even the finished plot threads, and the movie bloats because of it.

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Now onto the Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, Fast & Furious 6, Criminal) of it all. Wonder Woman is great. With only 16 lines of dialogue, Gal Gadot does her best to leave a presence here, and she does. It’s a great introduction to this character and truly excited me for the next installment featuring her.

Among the film’s principal faults lie Jesse Eisenberg, who plays a very new and very different incarnation of Lex Luthor. He did one incredible feat in this film. He made me hate Lex Luthor, but not in a way that works. Eisenberg skewers every scene is in by playing some goofy and unhinged extremes. For a character who was apparently written with such realism, none of that comes to play here. I was arguing with someone who claimed to understand (but not like) Eisenberg’s portrayal of the greatest criminal mastermind of our time. He told me that I didn’t like the performance because I wanted Gene Hackman back. I answered back that I didn’t like the performance because it was a poor performance. There were multiple moments in the film that feature Luthor in public essentially having a mental break. I was sitting in the theater and wanted to see someone just look at him and think that this guy is absolutely insane. The worst of it was all this press that came out later and announced that Bryan Cranston had been looked at, as had Tom Hanks (based on his incredible work on the underrated Cloud Atlas), and yet Eisenberg had been selected in order to reinvent the character. WHAT?!?

Let’s talk some on the Dawn of Justice portion of the film, which does get us into some spoilery territory, so be warned. Batman v Superman is seen as almost a Justice League origin story in a lot of ways. It sets up Batman, Wonder Woman, and even introduces us to several other members of the team. A major problem here is that the audience is spoon-fed the Justice League. The references and setups are literally beaten over the heads of viewers. There are better ways about this. The introduction of the Justice League was terrible sans The Flash, who got a quick moment of reveal that actually worked for me. As for Aquaman and Cyborg…yuck. Cyborg even wasted the origin story on a poor expository flitter of a moment with no style whatsoever. Absolutely stupid. Now, the film does have some subtlety here when they dance around some of the dark past of Bruce Wayne, but it doesn’t do this enough. You could even have thrown some of this into a post-credits scene to get it out of the main narrative.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is, to me, a more enjoyable experience than Man of Steel, but as far as a cohesive story, it is not. This is a collection of some really cool moments squeezed into a movie that’s bursting at the seams. Ben Affleck gets great redemption from his previous Daredevil failure (in a world where Ryan Reynolds and Chris Evans are also getting second chances) and is easily the best part of this film (Scott Adkins blames the Oscars for why Ben Affleck was cast, but doesn’t understand that Scott Adkins was not cast because he was Scott Adkins). I’m excited to see where this franchise is going (Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman) but I’m nervous that the DCEU is not getting off to a great start and can’t really afford to fumble anymore. Overall, the film is divisive and has some great elements, but there is just too much that is found guilty in this court case.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, click here.

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