“Incredibles 2”

I loved Pixar’s superhero movie, The Incredibles, but didn’t hold my breath for a sequel. I’m happy to report the overdue sequel is as incredible (pun intended) as its predecessor.

The Parr family continue fighting crime as The Incredibles. After a fight with a diabolical villain ends in disaster, superheroes are once again outlawed. Things change when billionaire media mogul Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) recruits Helen (Holly Hunter) to reprise her Elastigirl alias. Meanwhile, Bob (Craig T. Nelson) struggles as a stay-at-home dad dealing with Dash’s (Huck Milner) homework, Violet’s (Sarah Vowell) teen angst, and Jack-Jack developing a new power every five minutes.

Director Brad Bird once again shows great passion and skill with the highly entertaining Incredibles 2. This is a beautifully animated, hilarious, and thrilling sequel. Bird admitted he waited fourteen years to make sure Incredibles 2 was as good as the original; it’s close.

The formula is familiar; Bob misses his superhero life while he and Violet debate how to raise their kids, there’s a superhero revival opportunity, and a self-righteous supervillain. The villain is a cyberterrorist called Screenslaver, who manipulates people to commit crimes with electronic screens.  Why? Because Screenslaver feels that society is lazy and too dependent on superheroes.

Despite the grandiose action sequences, the highlight of the film is Jack-Jack! The surprised reactions from Bob, the kids, and Edna (Brad Bird) are hilariously realistic while Jack-Jack’s powers range between funny (he turns into a giant baby), cute (he fights a raccoon with his newfound powers), and occasionally scary (he turns into a goblin-looking creature at one moment). The repeated line, “Jack-Jack has powers?” never gets old here.

The big reveal with Screenslaver is a tad predictable, but I can forgive that minor flaw due to Bird’s directing, Michael Giachinno’s epic music score, and a strong cast. Nelson and Hunter once again deliver wonderful and expressive performances and Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as Lucius Best/Frozone and has great one-liners. Odenkirk applies his Saul Goodman charm as the shady-yet-charming Winston, Catherine Keener is terrific as Winston’s tech-wiz sister, and even Sophia Bush of One Tree Hill fame has a few solid moments as the socially awkward superhero, Voyd.

This summer is packed with comic book films. We already got Deadpool 2 and Infinity War (both great comic book movies), but Incredibles 2 might be the best superhero movie of this summer.

Grade: A

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“Finding Dory”

The first fifteen minutes of “Finding Dory” were a drag until a funny thing happened – it tied into the beginning of “Finding Nemo.”

“Finding Dory” takes place a year after “Finding Nemo,” and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) now lives with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence). Marlin still struggles to tolerate Dory while Nemo looks up to her. When Dory begins to wonder where her parents are, she goes on a quest to find them, dragging Marlin and Nemo along. And like in its predecessor, they meet new friends, encounter perilous situations, and learn the meaning of family.

“Finding Dory” is a faster-paced film compared to “Nemo,” and we barely get a moment to breathe. I rarely consider animated movies intense, but I’ll make an exception in this case. I attribute this to the film being focused on Dory, our lovable fast-talking amnesiac fish.

Dory has a lot of depth in this one and we get an insightful study of short-term memory loss and its struggles. She also has a great moment where she monologues about not having a plan (no, not like “The Dark Knight”), and it makes her stand out more.

Marlin is along for the ride in “Finding Nemo,” and it’s a rehash of him overcoming his neurotic behavior. However, Ed O’Neil’s voice work as grumpy octopus Hank is fantastic. He’s a polar opposite of Dory, helping her on her adventure, despite trying hard to stay emotionally distant.

“Finding Dory” is an unnecessary sequel, and could have been boring, but between the beautiful animation, narrative tie-ins to “Nemo,” the origin of Dory’s whale-speaking, and the voice acting, it’s a solid sequel and better than “Cars 2,” and “Monster’s University.”

Grade: B+

The Best Movies Of 2015

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It’s my favorite time of year and my favorite review to write – MY FAVORITE MOVIES (OR FILMS) OF 2015!!!! This year was a solid year, especially in the genre films department. Now I have a couple of disclaimers.

  • I go see at least three or four movies a month, but it’s hard to catch everything. So films on other peoples’ lists like Straight Outta Compton, Room, and Carol won’t be on the list.
  • I really wanted to see The Revenant, but it won’t be out until a week after the new year, so it’s unfortunately not a contender.
  • There are a few movies you’ll see on this list and think, “Hey, why didn’t you review or mention this?” It’s because I either saw them before I launched this blog or after they were released on video.
  • A grade doesn’t mean I have to rank an A+ over an A. There’s even a movie I gave an A+ that’s not on the list at all!

On that note, I have some honorable mentions that didn’t make the cut, but are still worth mentioning:

  • Beasts of No Nation (the only A+ movie not on the list) was a beautiful and harrowing war film about innocence lost, featuring Idris Elba’s finest performance to date.
  • Creed restored my faith in the Rocky franchise, thanks to Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone.
  • The End of the Tour is the best road trip movie I’ve seen in the last few years and featured Jason Segel’s finest work.
  • Ex-Machina was a disturbing and suspenseful sci-fi thriller that had great commentary on objectification.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service – was the best spy movie I saw in a year loaded with spy movies, and featured one of the most innovative and memorable fight scenes to date.
  • Trainwreck was a very funny and surprisingly dramatic comedy that introduced me to the talented Amy Schumer.

And now let’s get down to it! My top 10 favorite films of 2015 are:

10) It FollowsIt Follows may have the ridiculous concept of a dark sex comedy, but it’s also a very disturbing commentary on teen sexuality and a strong message to young kids about safe sex.

9) Sicario – Perhaps the darkest and most nihilistic movie on my list, Sicario shines through the darkness, thanks to Denis Villeneuve’s visceral direction and powerful performances from both Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro. This is one cartel thriller that isn’t for the faint of heart.

8) The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino’s newest Western is also not for the faint of heart, but still an absolute blast. Part murder mystery and part classical Western, Tarantino’s beautiful direction brings out the best work from its cast, particularly Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins.

7) Love & Mercy – I hate music biopics, but Love & Mercy is more of an engaging psychological study of a broken man than a generic Brian Wilson biopic. Paul Dano plays young Wilson with frenetic energy while John Cusack portrays the older fragile version of Wilson in this unique music film.

6) Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – Thank you, J.J. Abrams, for giving us a great Star Wars movie for Christmas. New and old blood, nostalgia mixed with more character-driven storytelling, Star Wars ranks among the best Star Wars installments to date.

5) The Martian – Ridley Scott returns to form and directs the year’s most optimistic movie featuring this year’s most likable protagonist, Mark Watney (Matt Damon in his best performance). This is a survival sci-fi tale that will have viewers laughing while engaged in science and disco music.

4) Steve Jobs – Director Danny Boyle and writer Aaron Sorkin crafted the best film that no one saw this year! Shame on the film goers for skipping a visionary fast-paced biopic, featuring a brilliant performance from Michael Fassbender as the titular character.

3) Spotlight – Likely this year’s Best Picture winner, Spotlight is a gripping and important journalism piece that follows people (not heroes or villains) and their struggles writing an investigative piece on molestation in the Catholic Church. Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel MacAdams all deliver standout performances as our protagonists.

2) Inside Out – Pixar is back with the very beautiful, funny, and emotional Inside Out. Director Pete Docter (Up, Monster’s Inc.) continues to combine basic genre formulas with innovative storytelling in the form of an animated film. In this case, a disaster movie with insight on emotions.

1) Mad Max: Fury Road – What a film! WHAT A LOVELY FILM! That’s the fanboy part of me talking, but the reason why Mad Max is #1 is because George Miller rebooted his own franchise and topped his previous installments. Between the action sequences with stuntmen and reliance on basic props for visual effects, we rarely get an action movie with as much effort put into it as Mad Max: Fury Road. Also, I can’t remember the last time I saw an action movie that treated an ensemble of female characters as powerful people and passed the Bechdel test. These reasons are enough to please all film goers and not just action fans.

Thanks a bunch for reading this countdown! At the bottom, tell me if you agree or disagree with my list. Also, what was your favorite film of 2015?

 

Top 5 Summer Movies of 2015

I’ll keep this very brief, but here are my picks for the top 5 summer movies of this year.

5) Jurassic World – I know a lot of people disagree with me here, but it’s two hours of nostalgia at its finest. Funny and suspenseful, Jurassic World keeps me invested as a fan of the Jurassic Park franchise.

4) Trainwreck – I’ll ask this – why hadn’t I heard of Amy Schumer before seeing Trainwreck?! She’s fucking brilliant!

3) Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – Tom Cruise hangs on the side of a plane, nearly drowns, crashes a car, and chases bad guys in a high speed motorcycle chase in the best installment of the franchise.

2) Inside Out – You know you found a special animated film that depicts the highs and lows of growing up while paying tribute to abstract art and disaster movies.

1) Mad Max: Fury Road – It’s the action movie no one expected to like then went back to see it three more times! Why? Because it’s a groundbreaking, beautiful, and thrilling spectacle.

Where’s my worst? Well, it’s no competition with “Fant4stic”, ladies and gents!

“Inside Out”

Forget about “Cars” (2006), “Monster’s University” (2013), or the painfully mediocre “Brave” (2012). Pixar has now returned to form.

“Inside Out” follows a twelve-year-old girl named Riley, who moves from Minnesota to San Francisco with her parents. She’s very cheerful, outgoing, and loves hockey, which is attributed to her emotions’ leader, Joy. Alongside Joy are Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger; they all politically manage Riley’s emotions and behavior with Joy often bringing the best out of Riley. However, when Sadness clumsily ruins some of Riley’s happiest memories, Riley shuts down and grows confused and anxious like twelve-year-olds do. Disgust, Fear, and Anger don’t help as they constantly screw up Riley’s activities more-so while Joy and Sadness work together to correct this mess.

Short and sweet, “Inside Out” is a total gem. Director Pete Docter (“Monster’s Inc.” (2001) and  “Up” (2009)) continues his masterful talent by combining a genre film with an emotional story empowered by beautiful animation. Remember how “Monster’s Inc.” was essentially a kid’s Dystopian Sci-fi story? “Inside Out” is a kid’s disaster movie, but inside the kid’s head! No, this is NOT an animated version of “Inception” (2010).

The highlights of “Inside Out” include a very trippy abstract sequence in “Imagination Land,” a witty montage where you see the emotions operating Riley’s parents’ brains, and a clever and hilarious sequence where Sadness and Joy attempt to trigger a nightmare in Joy’s head to wake her up.

Like all of Pixar’s greatest works, the story is emotional and very bittersweet. Joy spends most of her time micromanaging Sadness’s moves, feeling she brings nothing but chaos and destruction to Riley’s life. To be fair, Joy’s not wrong, but their relationship is a strong metaphor of happiness and sadness balancing each other out.

I’m not going into further detail here but I’ll let you know that “Inside Out” is worth every penny. Please, go see this movie!

Grade: A+