The Incredibles 2 (2018)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Picking up precisely where the last film left off, The Incredibles 2 follows the Parr family as they continue to struggle with the government, homework, boys, and pretty much all the same problems they had before. Except, this time, there may be a solution to their woes. See, even though superheroes are illegal in this world, there are people, powerful people, who want to bring them back into the sunlight. One of them approaches the Parrs, and offers to let them stay in his mansion, and get superheroes legalized again, if they come and work for him. Specifically, if Helen Parr, aka Elastigirl, comes to work for him. See, of all the classic superheroes in this world, she had the best track record when it came to not causing collateral damage, so if they want to convince people supers should be legal, they need to show that they can stop crime without blowing stuff up. So it’s up to Bob, aka Mr. Incredible, to watch the kids. Will he be able to manage? Will Elastigirl help make supers legit again? Well, watch the movie, and find out.

The Incredibles is a very important movie to me. Not only did I love it when it first came out, but I’ve actually grown to appreciate it much more as I’ve gotten older. Because, believe it or not, there is a ton of stuff in it that is super mature, and that simply did not register with my 8-year-old brain. I didn’t know what lawsuits were, or what attempted suicide was. I had no concept of mid-life crises, or adultery. I also didn’t pick up that the movie was a giant homage to 60s spy films. So much stuff in that first flick only became clear to me after I grew up, and, honestly, I think the movie’s become a lot more relevant in recent years. The Incredibles was made before the big superhero boom that started in 2008, and yet, it feels like a response to the MCU. It points out so many cliches and tropes in superhero cinema, and it’s villain, Syndrome, is, in many respects, the perfect analogue for the entitled, mean-spirited fanboys that have become so vocal and prevalent in recent years. What I’m trying to say with all this is, The Incredibles is fantastic, and whenever you have a sequel to a successful film come out 14 years after the original, there’s a strong likelihood that it’s going to be bad. Fortunately, The Incredibles 2 isn’t bad. In fact, it’s quite fun. The animation is superb, far better than the original’s (though that’s just a byproduct of technology improving over time). The music is as jazzy as before. It’s great to see Elastigirl get the chance to shine in the lead role. The believable family dynamics are still there, And the action scenes are amazing. They’re easily the best part of the movie. Basically, this is a fun, exciting movie with a whole lot of what you liked about the first Incredibles. And, odds are, you’ll walk out the theater satisfied.

That said, it’s not as good as the original. And I know that that’s a cliche, to say that a sequel isn’t as good as the original, but there is a reason I say that here. Part of what made the first Incredibles so good was the fact that it was a fresh perspective on the superhero genre. Now, though, after 14 years, we’ve seen every conceivable incarnation of the superhero–from the dark and gritty, to the lighthearted and comedic–and this film doesn’t really have anything new to bring to the discussion. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t really have anything to say about the genre, which is kind of disappointing. On top of this, the film picks up precisely where the last one left off, and yet, characters behave as though they didn’t undergo the arcs they had in the previous flick. Elastigirl still wants her kids to suppress their powers. Mr. Incredible still would rather go off and punch people than spend time with his family. Violet is still insecure around boys, and Dash is still bad at homework. And as if this weren’t bad enough, certain characters, like Dash and Frozone, really don’t get anything to do in this movie. The identity of the villain is also pretty easy to predict, and his/her motivation isn’t nearly as compelling as Syndrome’s from the original. FInally, the movie does a lot of stuff with Jack Jack, the baby of the Parr family who, in the previous flick, was revealed to have multiple powers, and it kind of got on my nerves after a while. They make a big joke out of saying “Oh, he also has this power, and this power, and this power” but it does get to a point where he feels too powerful, and he more or less acts as a deus ex machina. There’s also one scene where he fights a raccoon that totally took me out of the movie. It was so silly, and so inconsistent with the tone that the film had established up to that point that it kind of ruined the movie for me. Now look, I’m probably a minority on this point, since a lot of reviews I’ve read found Jack Jack’s bits to be funny, but I kind of hated them, and they brought the film down for me.  Even so, they aren’t enough for me to tell you to not go see this movie. It’s fun, exciting and the heart is still there. It’s the best Incredibles sequel we could have hoped for after all this time. And, I have to say, I absolutely adored the short film, “Bao” that came before the main movie. If you’re Chinese, or of Chinese descent, like me, you are going to love, and empathize with it, so, so much. It’s great.

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Coco (2017)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Miguel Rivera is a young Mexican boy, descended from a long line of shoemakers. Many years ago, his great, great grandfather left his wife and child to pursue a career in music, a betrayal which lead to all vocal and instrumental sounds being banned in the Rivera household. Miguel, however, yearns to become a Mariachi, idolizing the now-dead musician, Ernesto de la Cruz. So, to prove to his family that he is a talented guitar player, and that he should be allowed to pursue music, Miguel signs up for the day of the dead talent show. Problem is, he doesn’t have a guitar, and no one will lend one to him. So he decides, “screw trying to buy one. I’m gonna go rob a tomb.” And that’s precisely what he does; breaking in to Ernesto de la Cruz’s mausoleum, and taking the dead man’s guitar. However, as soon as he touches the instrument, he finds himself transported to the realm of the dead. Now, if he wants to get home, he must find his ancestors, and receive their blessing. Problem is, they want him to go back under the agreement that he will never play music again, and Miguel isn’t willing to accept this. So he decides to track down the ghost of Ernesto de la Cruz, whom he has convinced himself is, in fact, the great, great grandfather who abandoned his family all those years ago, and receive his blessing instead. Will he do so? You’ll just have to watch the movie to find out.

If you’ve read my review for Finding Dory, you know that I love Pixar movies. I’ve loved them literally my entire life. And yet, despite that, I didn’t really plan on seeing Coco. Pixar’s movies, while all fairly high in quality, do vacillate between emotionally devastating all-ages entertainment, like Toy Story, Up and Inside Out, and more simplistic, kid-friendly fare, such as Cars, Monsters Inc, and The Good Dinosaur. After watching the trailers, it seemed clear to me that Coco was more of the latter than the former. And yet, I went to go see it anyway, and, I’ll say this, it was a lot better than I thought it would be. In terms of pure craftsmanship, animation, music, voice acting, the film is superb. The creativity with which the land of the dead is drawn is simply incredible. There’s one sequence in particular, where Miguel is walking through this terminal for the dead that legitimately made my jaw drop, partly because of how beautiful it was, and partly because of how much it reminded me of the Post Office in Mexico City, a historic building that you all should definitely visit. And there was a sequence towards the end where I really did tear up. So if you want to watch a gorgeous movie, which does have a heart, Coco is worth a look.

That said, it’s not one of Pixar’s best, probably because it doesn’t really feel like a Pixar movie. Most Pixar projects begin with a short film, which relates in tone and style to the main story. This one doesn’t. It also takes a while to get going, with me not really caring about the plot or the characters until they enter the realm of the dead. Then I was hooked, but that’s not until about 15 minutes in. And, finally, the film is kind of hard to buy into. What I mean by that is, certain things happen in it that don’t get explained, or just don’t jive with the rules that have been established for this world. For instance, Miguel spends the first few minutes telling you how music is banned in his household, and how if anything even remotely close to a musical note is heard, it is shut down. And yet, we see Miguel being an adept guitar player, and the movie never explains how he was able to learn to play the instrument, or how he was able to hide his skills for so long. Likewise, the film tells us that the only time ghosts can visit the land of the living is on Day Of The Dead, and yet, we see an animal, I won’t say which one, crossing over between the two realms on multiple occasions. That kind of bugged me. Now you might be thinking, “Nathan, you’re thinking way too hard about this,” and you’re probably right. But I’ve made it my career to write stories, and I can’t ignore it when a story’s narrative logic doesn’t add up. Did this error seriously hurt my viewing experience? Not really. But it did bug me, and I thought you all should know before you go see it, which I do still think you should.

Finding Dory

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

And if this movie teaches us anything, it’s that Pixar knows how to make great spin-offs. Seriously! Toy Story 2, Monsters University; these are fantastic follow-ups/prequels to classic films. And now, the subject of today’s review, Finding Dory, can officially be added to that noble list of stellar spin-offs.

This is a fantastic movie! It’s beautifully animated, wonderfully acted, deeply heartfelt, and extremely well-written. The writing, especially, is something that I want to touch on. See, I don’t think people give Pixar enough credit for their writing, which is always superb. Nearly all their films–Inside Out, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Up, Toy Story--have been nominated for Best Original Screenplay. There’s a reason why their movies are always able to move us; they’re incredibly well-written. Pixar’s superb writing skills are especially evident in Finding Dory, where several new characters–including Dory’s parents, an Octopus named Hank, a Whale Shark named Destiny, a Beluga named Bailey, and two sea lions played by Idris Elba and Dominic West–get introduced, and you are still able to remember, and care about, all of them. That’s a true testament to good writing; when you are able to introduce no less than seven new, important characters, and yet, you are able to give them enough personality, and things to do, to the point where the audience cares about, and remembers, them all.

But enough about the writing. What, you’re probably asking, is this movie actually about? Well, Finding Dory picks up a year after the events of Finding Nemo. Dory, Nemo and Marlin are all living together happily. Marlin has gotten slightly less protective, actually letting his son go to school, and Dory even works as a teacher’s assistant. But something’s not right. Dory starts getting fragmentary memories of her parents, and her life before she met Marlin. She realizes that they’re still out there, and that she needs to find them. And thus, she, Marlin and Nemo set off on a great adventure, which takes them across the ocean and through some of the most fantastic landscapes and scenarios imaginable.

As I’ve already said, this is a fantastic film. It’s very exciting, very funny, and extremely fast-paced. The fast-paced nature of the film is something that I quite enjoyed, because, as much as I love Finding Nemo, it does drag in some places. Finding Dory, by contrast, never stops moving, and has some of the most spectacular action set-pieces ever put to celluloid. Another thing that I quite like about this movie is that, there really is no villain. There’s no wicked stepmother, evil dragon, or mad scientist that needs to be defeated by the end. The situation might be described as the antagonistic force, but that situation isn’t really anyone’s fault. A final thing that I want to praise this movie for is the fact that everything Dory does, or remembers, is justified. A common complaint regarding Finding Nemo was that Dory’s poor memory was inconsistent; that she was only able to remember things when it was convenient to the plot. Not with this film. Every time she remembers something, it’s because something she saw, or something someone said, triggered that memory. And I love that. Nothing is out of the blue here. Everything is within context, and logical.

So, all in all, Finding Dory is a great movie. It’s fast-paced, beautifully-animated, and very well-written. Does it have the lasting, emotional message of its predecessor? Maybe not. But it’s still a terrific film, and one that I think you should go see. It’s a 9 out of 10.

I hope you all are having wonderful summers. If you like what you’ve read, please like this post, and follow my blog.

Inside Out

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Imaginative, moving, and in many cases, very, very funny, Pixar’s latest feature, Inside Out, is a magnificent movie, well worth the price of a ticket. Regardless of whether you’re old or young, black or white, straight or gay, I guarantee that you’ll walk out of this film with a huge smile on your face. It’s that good, loved ones! It’s that good!

Now, I realize that that’s a pretty bold assertion to make, and that I might be the slightest bit biased in this matter. After all, I grew up on Pixar movies. Toy Story, The Incredibles, Monster’s Inc–these films were my childhood. Still, I’m more than a little convinced that my adoration of this picture has nothing to do with my own nostalgic love of the company that made it. The movie currently holds a 98% approval rating on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. It’s made more than $400 million at the box office. I saw it in a movie theater packed with people–most of them adults–who were laughing just as hard, if not harder, than myself. So, yeah, I think it’s safe to say that the movie’s objectively good.

But what is the movie about? Well, it’s essentially the story of what goes on inside a little girl’s head. Her brain is a massive city. Her emotions are people with differing personalities. Her memories are these little glowing orbs that form the foundations of all the buildings. And if they get lost, oh boy, bad things happen! And that, in essence, is what this story is about–the little girl, RIley, loses her core memories, and two of her emotions, Joy and Sadness, have to go retrieve them in a wacky, colorful, and downright beautiful adventure.

As I’ve said before, there’s a lot to admire about this film. The animation is amazing. The writing is brilliant. The humor is spot on. And the creativity with which the filmmakers crafted this world is nothing short of spectacular. I don’t want to waste anyone else’s time by being redundant, so I’ll just say this. Inside Out is a near-perfect movie that I’m sure you’ll all enjoy if you choose to go see it. It’s a 9 out of 10. Watch it, love it, and watch it again!

 

If you agree, and would like to share your thoughts, please leave a reply. If you disagree, and would like to express why, don’t hesitate to do so. And if you enjoyed this post, and would like to see more, feel free to follow my blog at liusviews.com