Incredibles 2

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Brad Bird

Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Helen Hunt, Sarah Vowell, Samuel L. Jackson, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Eli Fucile, and Sophia Bush.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 14 years since the first incredibles film was released back in 2004. Considered by many one of the best super hero movies ever made, the exploits of the Parr family were an instant classic, so it’s a surprise that in a world where we’ve had 3 Cars movies, 3 Toy Story movies, a sequel to Monsters Inc. and a sequel to Finding Nemo, that it’s taken this long. That’s mainly down to writer and director Brad Bird, who has been spending his time in live action, having directed Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Tomorrowland in the years between. He returns here, bringing his retro-futuristic style back to the big screen. A cynic would say that it’s a safe move after the box office failure of Tomorrowland, but I’d like to believe he felt he had a good enough idea to warrant going back.

Incredibles 2 starts exactly where the first film left off. With Underminer attacking the city, and the Parr family suiting up to stop him. It doesn’t go perfectly, and the Parrs’ get a wrap on the knuckles as they are reminded that superheroes are illegal. Dejected, the Parr family go back to motel living whilst Bob contemplates taking back his old job. This is when Winston and Evelyn Deavor show up. The brother and sister duo behind a huge tech company who want to help legalise heroes again. To do this they require Elastigirl to be the new face of supers. She wreaks the least amount of havoc during her heroics. So whilst Helen Parr is off fighting crime as Elastigirl, it’s up to Bob to look after the kids, including baby Jack-Jack whose powers are just starting to emerge.

Structurally, Incredibles 2 follows the same format as the first movie. The premise here though is the role reversal between Bob and Helen. This time it’s Bob left at home, and Helen is the one who gets to shine as a superhero. Bird deftly cuts between the two, finding a sweet balance between huge action sequences and domestic comedy. If the structure is familiar, it does allows for new avenues to be explored. In the first movie Helen’s domestic story revolved around believing Bob was having an affair, here though Bob has to learn to set aside his own pride to allow his wife to shine, and work out that sometimes a subtler approach to parenting is needed. Helen’s action beats could be considered as more of the same superhero antics, but Bird changes the tone here from the first film. Elastigirl is a different kind of hero from Mr Incredible, and the tone reflects that. She uses her brain as much as her powers, and her action beats have more of a Batman influence to them, especially a night time scene which combines the best of The Dark Knight and Batman: The Animated Series.

If the action sequences thrill, the thing that holds the film together is the comedy. The film really soars when the super heroics are combined with everyday family life. This is best summed up when Jack-Jack meets a raccoon. It’s action packed and hilarious, by far the stand out scene in the movie. In a way though it showcases the fact that Incredibles 2 doesn’t quite hit the very high watermark of the first film. Helen is on her own doing the super heroics, and Bob’s parenting, especially of Dash and Violet, is rarely informed by their powers. The scenes with Jack-Jack stand out so much because they flawlessly combine domestic life with super powers.

As we’ve come to expect from sequels the roster of heroes is expanded. We get to meet the new superheroes at a dinner party, which is reminiscent of Watchmen. The disappointment is that they don’t really add much to the film. The only one that stands out is Voyd, who seems to have been modelled on Kristen Stewart. It feels like a slightly wasted opportunity. The villain is suitably different enough from the first film, coming across as a mix between Bane and The Riddler, but is let down by a telegraphed end of second act twist, which is almost identical to the first film.

Incredibles 2 is a fantastic super hero movie. The action is fun, and the jokes are hilarious. It’s flaws are only exposed by the fact it has to measure up to The Incredibles, one of the best super hero movies ever made. If the structure feels slightly tired, it does add plenty of new ideas and tones, some work, and some don’t. It doesn’t plum the emotional depths that we’ve come to expect from Pixar, but is nonetheless a thoroughly entertaining ride.

7/10

The Post

2017, Uncategorized

Dir. Steven Spielberg

Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Carrie Coon, Alison Brie, David Cross, Sarah Paulson, and Jesse Plemons.

Spielberg. Streep. Hanks. Three of the biggest names in film. Teaming up together for the first time. You’re already expecting a quality film, filled with importance, and gravitas. I’m first in line for every new Spielberg film. The idea of this master craftsman directing two of the greatest actors of our generation is enough to send anyone’s expectations sky high. ┬áSpielberg makes two types of movies these days: family blockbuster, and historically important dramas. For every Jurassic Park there is a Schindler’s List, for every BFG there is a Lincoln, and this year we have Ready Player One and The Post. An important historical drama that can come across too much like an intellectual exercise.

The film follows Kay Graham, owner of The Post, and Ben Bradlee, The Post’s editor. Kay, played by Streep, is a woman battling for respect in a mans world. She’s in the middle of turning The Post into a public company, whilst still retaining her families control. This will all go smoothly unless a crisis puts the sale in jeopardy. This crisis appears in the form of the Pentagon Papers. A government report on the Vietnam war, which if released would have turned the American people against their involvement in the war, perhaps ending the war six years earlier. The New York Times publishes these papers, but are soon shut down by the Nixon administration. When the papers are obtained by The Washington Post, Graham finds herself caught between the future of her company, and Tom Hanks’ Ben Bradlee’s desire to publish the papers in order to hold the government accountable.

The film is a fantastic study of shifting power dynamics. Whether it’s between the government and the people, those with the moral high ground and those without it, or between men and women. The setting of the film may be the struggle to publish the papers, but the heart of the film is Kay Graham’s struggle as a woman in a mans world. Spielberg directs these scenes with a fierce intelligence. Nothing is coincidental. Take the scene where Graham arrives at Wall Street, as she climbs the stairs past a group of women to reach the top and a room full of men, which is perfectly mirrored near the end of the movie. Or the scenes between Bradlee and Graham where the camera suddenly goes high, pointing down at Streep, making her look small in the frame, and how the camera slowly lowers as she fights back, turning the two of them into equals. This is a director at the top of his craft.

The sublime ensemble cast are all fantastic too, with Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk emerging as a real standout next to the heavy hitters of Hanks and Streep. The film is at its most fun when following Odenkirk, a┬áreporter on the search for the Pentagon Papers. During these moments, where the film is a journalistic thriller along the lines of All The Presidents Men, is when the film really starts to flourish. It’s thrilling, entertaining, and fun. Spielberg wrings the minutiae of reporting, and publishing a newspaper for all the tension it’s worth. When in the newsroom his camera never stops for breath, constantly moving and swirling around the corridors and offices. It throws the audience directly into the situation.

It’s a superbly well made film, but somehow manages to feel unsatisfying. Like having the greatest chef in the world and the best ingredients, but finding your meal has been undercooked. After a great prologue, the film suffers a dull half hour, incredibly heavy with exposition. It’s all important stuff, but the delivery is far from compelling. The film also has some pacing issues, slowing down whenever Streep is on the screen. Streep is her usual fantastic self, but the way Spielberg tells her part of the story comes across as too much of an intellectual exercise, both for the director and the audience. It robs the films climax of the emotional heft it should have had.

Superbly acted. Well made. Entertaining in parts. Spielberg’s The Post is a fascinating story with some real parallels with the modern world. It’s a shame that it too often comes across as an exercise in making a good film rather than being great one.

7/10