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Josh Reviews Incredibles 2

July 16th, 2018
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Back in 2004, Brad Bird’s The Incredibles was a revelation — an extraordinary animated film that was gorgeous and funny and moving.  It was a major change of pace for Pixar (it was their first film with human beings as the main characters), and it was also, in the era before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one of the best superhero movies I’d ever seen.  For those of us who knew and loved Brad Bird’s animated film The Iron Giant, it was no surprise that Mr. Bird could create an extraordinary animated film, but still, the delights of The Incredibles are hard to overstate.  Fourteen years later, The Incredibles still stands as one of my favorite Pixar films, AND one of my favorite superhero films.  I was, of course, excited when, after long years of wishes and speculation, it was announced that Mr. Bird and Pixar were finally in serious development on an Incredibles sequel.  But could a sequel made fourteen long years after the original recapture the magic of that first film?

For the most part, I am very happy to report that Incredibles 2 does!!  The first Incredibles still stands as the superior film, but this sequel is a beautiful companion piece, an exciting and very entertaining new chapter for these characters.  It’s a thrill to be able to return to this world.

Although this sequel has been released fourteen years after the original film, it’s set immediately following the climactic battle at the end of the first film, and we get to follow the repercussions of those events on the Incredibles family (the Parrs).  While the family was able to save the day and return to the public eye, the law that bans supers didn’t magically vanish overnight, meaning that the Parrs are continuing to break the law each time they don their costumes and fight crime.  After a battle in a city center with “the Underminer” causes major damage, the “Super relocation” program is permanently ended, meaning that Helen and Bob, along with their kids Violet, Dash, and baby Jack-Jack, are left on their own to figure out where to go and how to make a living.  Enter Winston Deaver, a wealthy super-hero fan who offers to use he and his sister Evelyn’s resources and PR know-how to get the public back on the side or the Supers.  Winston and Evelyn ask Helen to be the front-person for their campaign, leaving Bob to tend to the kids.

There is a lot to love about Incredibles 2.  Despite the long gap between films, I was pleased by how effortlessly the film is able to step back into this world and these characters, and the enjoyably fun and somewhat … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Tomorrowland

June 10th, 2015

Brad Bird is one of my favorite directors, and so I was excited by the prospect of a new film with him at the helm.  I was also intrigued to see what would result from combining his voice with that of Damon Lindeloff (showrunner of Lost) and Jeff Jensen (a great writer for Entertainment Weekly who shares story credit on the film).  Sadly Tomorrowland is a disappointment, a bland all-ages film that has a few fun moments but otherwise fails to leave much of an impact.

Disney's TOMORROWLAND..Casey (Britt Robertson) ..Ph: Film Frame..?Disney 2015

In 1964, young Frank Walker brings the jetpack he invented to the World’s Fair.  He catches the eye of a young girl named Athena, who helps him find the secret entrance (in Disney’s “It’s a Small World” ride, a nice touch) to a fantastic, futuristic world.  (The “Tomorrowland” of the title, get it?)  Cut to years later, when a teenaged girl named Casey encounters Athena, who mysteriously hasn’t aged a day.  Athena gives Casey a Tomorrowland pin which gives her glimpses of the magical Tomorrowland, and then sets Casey on the path to meet Frank, now a middle-aged man (played by George Clooney) who was banished from Tomorrowland years ago.

I don’t automatically assume that a movie based on something from a Disney theme park will be bad (enough people certainly loved the first Pirates of the Caribbean, though I was never a huge fan), though a movie with such a mercenary origin does tend to inspire some doubt.  Ultimately one of Tomorrowland’s many weaknesses is that we get to spend so little time exploring the actual Tomorrowland itself.

Brad Bird has always made all-ages films.  One of his main skills has been the adult way he has approached those films, refusing to dumb them down for an “all audiences” approach.  His films can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike, and they have always been chock full of humor and heart, with rich characters and real dramatic stakes.  Sadly, Tomorrowland has almost none of those things.  Any edge or sense of drama or danger has been sanded off the film.  There’s never any sense that the characters are in any real danger.  More importantly, there are no real emotional stakes for any of the characters.  Casey starts off the movie happy and well-adjusted and ends the film the same way.  Athena is, by her very nature, unchanging.  And although George Clooney’s Frank is supposed to be a broken man when we first meet him as a grown-up, George Clooney doesn’t give the character any real darkness.  He’s gruff but it doesn’t feel like real anger or bitterness, just a charismatic fellow playing at being gruff.  George Clooney can be a great actor … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (and the Dark Knight Rises Prologue!!)

I’ve really enjoyed all three Mission: Impossible films, though none of them quite reached perfection in my mind.  Probably my favorite part of all three films is the first 30 minutes of the first one, where we got to see an awesome team of super-spies engaged in some really fun, twisty covert operations.  Then, of course, they all get killed off and the film (and the sequels) turns into the Tom Cruise super-hero show.  J.J. Abrams’ third installment was a big step back in the right direction, but even in that film I felt the team was too-quickly sidelined.

What a delight it is to report, then, that I think the latest installment, Ghost Protocol, is the strongest film in the series so far!  I saw the film in huge, glorious IMAX, which is how I highly recommend that you see it as well.  People are all atwitter about 3-D these days, but I think that seeing a film in IMAX represents a far more immersive experience than the often-distracting 3-D effects.  (Although I did just see Martin Scorsese’s new film, Hugo, in wonderful 3-D — check back here on Wednesday for my full review).  Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible film takes full advantage of the huge canvas that IMAX has to offer.

I’ve long-worshipped Brad Bird, from his work on The Simpsons to his amazing animated films The Iron Giant (GO SEE IT right now, you won’t regret it), The Incredibles, and Ratatouille.  Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is Mr. Bird’s live-action directorial debut, and it represents a triumphant announcement of an incredible talent.

The action in this film is phenomenal.  Ghost Protocol is alive with action, from start-to-finish.  This film MOVES.  There are so many gleefully inventive set-pieces that I hardly know where to begin.  There’s the opening break-out from a Russian prison, with the film’s playful withholding of the identity of the man being rescued.  There’s the fiendishly clever way the IMF team infiltrates the Kremlin.  (I LOVE the screen employed by Ethan and Benji in the hallway.)  Then there’s the gangbusters sequence in which Ethan (Tom Cruise) is forced to scale the exterior of the tallest skyscraper in Dubai.  In the trailers, I actually thought that scene looked rather silly.  But in the film I found it to be a bravura sequence of phenomenal special effects and mounting tension.  Here is where seeing the film in IMAX really pays off.  There’s a terrific shot in which Ethan steps out of the window onto the side of the building.  Suddenly the camera follows him out, and we the viewers are right there vertiginously hanging off the building right along with him.  As the sequence escalates and things … [continued]