Tag Archives: Brad Bird

“THE INCREDIBLES 2” Review (✫✫✫)

SOURCE: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

One childhood later…

Can a good thing come too late? You tell me. Can a thief return your wallet after spending all of your money? Can a firetruck put out the fire after your house already burned down? Can a lover apologize after admitting to cheating on you? The answer is yes, a good thing can absolutely come too late. And like Syndrome once said a long time ago, Incredibles 2 came too late: 15 years too late.

In perhaps the most unnecessary sequel since Cars 2 (oh yeah, I went there), Incredibles 2 picks up right after the Incredibles encountered the Underminer at the end of the first movie (which is incredibly frustrating, since Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack haven’t aged a day, whereas I’m so old that I’ve grown a beard). Despite saving the day not once but twice, supers are still outlawed by the federal government and are still considered menaces to society, despite the good that they try to do.

Enter Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), a telecommunications CEO and super-fan that wants to legalize superheroes and bring them back into the spotlight. Pouring his investments into a massive PR campaign to make supers well-liked again, Deavor enlists in the help of Helen Parr, a.k.a. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) to carry out missions and change the public perception of superheroes. With Elastigirl busy out superheroing, Bob (Craig T. Nelson) is left at home to watch over the kids, and despite being Mr. Incredible, he is certainly not the most incredible Mr. Mom.

First thing’s first: Incredibles 2 looks gorgeous. That’s to be expected of course, considering we waited a decade and a half for the bloody thing to come out. Regardless, the visual feats Incredibles 2 achieves are nothing short of spectacular. It not only deserves to be compared to its predecessor, but it demands to be seen as superior.

The action is much more proliferate in Incredibles 2, and that’s generally to be expected, considering how heavy a role the action played in the first Incredibles. Still, I was impressed at how unique and clever the spectacle was and how Pixar didn’t just repeat themselves from the first movie. In one exhilarating chase sequence, Elastigirl was chasing a runaway train on her Elasti-cycle, which separated into two halves, allowing her to make flexible leaps with her torso while driving. That was an incredibly inventive way to use Elastigirl’s abilities, and I caught myself being on the edge of my seat as I watched her leap on top of cars, railroads, and buildings chasing the train. My favorite scene from the film had to be when the adolescent Jack-Jack’s powers were emerging and he fought a raccoon rummaging through his trash in the backyard. No, this is not some special, super-powered raccoon. It’s just a super-baby fighting an everyday, average, frightened raccoon. Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy would have been mortified.

The visuals and the action were great in the the first Incredibles, and they’re just as fantastic to watch here. Where its sequel begins to falter is its plot. Unlike the first movie, where its writing was fresh, organic, and addressed real-life family issues and emotions, Incredibles 2 feels too generic for its own good; like it knows it has to churn out a sequel and just came up with the most basic concept it could just to save time on its production schedule. Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting anything ground-breaking with Incredibles 2. Lord knows the movie could have been The Godfather of animated superhero sequels and still not be up-to-par with the first movie. Even with that expectation, however, I was disappointed at how unspectacular the film’s premise really felt.

Take for example the movie’s villain Screenslaver (Bill Wise). Simply put, he’s your average supervillain megolomaniac, a guy conjured up just to fight our heroes with nothing more to add to their personal stakes. Compared to Syndrome from the first movie, who had a traumatic childhood experience where he reasonably felt betrayed by his heroes, Screenslaver simply does not have the gusto to be a driving force behind this movie’s conflict. Yes, his powers are interesting and unique enough to control the supers against each other. So what? That doesn’t make him a compelling character, and his motivations for fighting the Incredibles are just plain weak. One of my best friends even turned to me in the theater and told me how he thought the movie was going to end. Sure enough, the film ticked on like clockwork, and my friend’s predictions almost happened word-for-word.

I’m not surprised by the simplicity of this film’s story. Quite honestly, I was expecting it. What I am surprised by is how long it took for writer-director Brad Bird to make this. It’s been 14 years since The Incredibles came out. Since then, Bird has released multiple stellar pictures, including the masterful and moving Ratatouille, the exciting and revitalizing Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and even the mediocre Tommorrowland was filled with vision and imagination. Time and time again, Bird has proved his worth as a creative storyteller. And you mean to tell me you waited half of my literal life span for the right inspiration???

Sorry, I’m not buying that. I was Dash’s age when the first Incredibles was released, and now here I am older than Violet, expected to feel the same way about it when I was younger. Real life doesn’t just pause like that. Even Toy Story 3, which also had a 10-year release gap between Toy Story 2, had the good sense to fast forward in time with its characters. That’s because as Andy grew, so did we. I was a little kid playing with my favorite toys when Toy Story 2 came out, and then I grew up, becoming a young adult by the time Toy Story 3 was released. I even graduated from high school the same year that Andy did. But with The Incredibles, there is no growth, no reflection that we’re supposed to look back on. I’m just an adult expected to go back in time to my youth so I can feel the same about The Incredibles as I did when I was 11. How is that reasonable? How is that fair?

I’m tasked with answering the most basic question here: Is Incredibles 2 good? The simple answer is yes, it is very good. Like the first movie, Incredibles 2 is fast-paced, funny, and exciting, further challenging the blurred lines between animated and live-action films and what they can accomplish for their audiences. The complicated answer is that its quality doesn’t matter. I’ve long left my childhood behind, just like millions of eager fans like myself have years ago. Time has passed. We’ve already grown up. And Incredibles 2 means less to us now than it would have if it were released seven or eight years ago.

In either case, be on the lookout for Incredibles 3 in the future, where it will undoubtedly come out when I turn 60.

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“THE INCREDIBLES” Review (✫✫✫✫)

SOURCE: Buena Vista Pictures

Mister and Misses (Plus the kids)

I’ve never seen a film like The Incredibles before, and I doubt I will ever see another one like it again. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen plenty of my fair share of superhero movies before, including more recently X2 and Spider-Man 2. But The Incredibles in particular is special even compared to those movies. Like Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and Finding Nemo, The Incredibles challenges the visual and emotional capability of the animated motion picture and asserts it as equal to its live-action peers, and so it is. The Incredibles has earned every right to be compared to the likes of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and the many others that will come after it.

Taking place in a world where Supers are as common as regular folks are, The Incredibles follows one super-heroic family trying to re-accommodate into normal American life. Bob Parr, a.k.a. Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is the super-strength super-dad of the family going through a mid-life crisis of sorts, while his wife Helen a.k.a. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) is just trying her best to be a good housewife and mother for her kids. Speaking of the kids, they’re facing adolescent issues of their own, with the force-field wielding Violet (Sarah Vowell) struggling with her shyness around a school crush, the speedster Dash (Spencer Fox) frustrated that he isn’t allowed to participate in school sports, and the baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile)… well, everything and anything that can go wrong with being a super-baby.

One day, Bob gets a secret message enticing him back into superhero work, despite it being outlawed by the federal government. Reminiscent of the old days of superheroing and wanting to give it one last go, Bob suits up as Mr. Incredible and sets off for one incredible adventure with his family.

The visuals are nothing short of astounding in this movie. Just like with Toy Story and Finding Nemo, The Incredibles is a colorful, vibrant adventure beaming with impressive detail and saturation. Yet, even by Pixar’s already impressive standards, The Incredibles still manages to stand out. How? Simple: the speed and motion of character’s animation is fast-paced and exciting, on-par with other superhero fan-fares that features similar exhilarating action.

It doesn’t take long for us to notice this. In fact, in the first 10 minutes alone, Mr. Incredible 1) Saves a cat from a tree, 2) Stops a high-speed car chase, 3) Interrupts a rooftop robbery, 4) Saves a citizen from leaping off of a building, 5) Fights a super villain in the middle of a bank heist, 6) Saves a child from a bomb attached to himself, 7) Stops a train from derailing off of its tracks, and 8) Makes it just in the knick of time for his own wedding. When I say this movie feels like the Spider-Man, X-Men, or Superman movies, I mean it. This movie is so exciting to watch that you feel like it can compete with most action movies, let alone animated ones as well.

I wondered why this movie felt so different compared to the rest of the animated genre? It doesn’t feel like its aimed at children, after all. What with its highly-stylized action violence, explosive spectacle, and more darker, mature moments, I wondered why this felt so adult-oriented despite its PG rating? Then I remembered: this film was directed by Brad Bird, who also helmed the animated science-fiction film The Iron Giant years ago. Like The Iron Giant, The Incredibles is a movie filled with ambitious vision; daring in its visual art and far-reaching in its emotional range. In many ways, they’re both very similar films. They both portray the modern American family robbed by normalcy and dysfunction. They are both thrown into extraordinary circumstances that they find mesmerizing and fascinating. And ultimately, they pull themselves out of their dire situations through the greatest superpower of all: family.

You’ll also notice how the movie has an aesthetic that satires 90’s spy movies such as James Bond and Mission Impossible. I wasn’t sure how exactly that was going to work for an animated superhero movie like The Incredibles, but it works beautifully. The scenery evokes the feel and grandeur of MI6 headquarters, while the Incredibles’ gadgets are reminiscent of the toys that Q provides Bond to bring with him on his missions. Speaking of Q, there’s a spoof of the character here named Edna Mode, who’s hilariously voiced by Brad Bird himself, and she provides a personality so melodramatic and overbearing that she couldn’t help but remind me of those high-strung fashionites not unlike Edith Head or Anna Wintour. And the music by Michal Giacchino is especially sleek and snazzy, with its jazz horns blaring and its drums beating like those smooth spy jams you listened to growing up.

Go and see The Incredibles. My review cannot get much simpler than that. It’s an exciting, action-packed, suspenseful, funny, and wildly entertaining thrill ride that not only blows most of its animated competition out of the water, but also most of its live-action superhero counterparts as well. To put it in one word, the movie is simply… incredible.

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“MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL” Review (✫✫✫1/2)

Pray for Tom Cruise’s sanity.

There is something seriously wrong with Tom Cruise if he is not pissing his pants while scaling up the world’s tallest building in Dubai. In Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, he shows he’s more daring by stumping a feat that he matched in MI2 where he free-climbed up a canyon wearing nothing but a safety harness. This time, he’s climbing up the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai, which happens to be the world’s tallest building at a whopping 829 meters. That’s the equivalent of three Eiffel towers.

What is wrong with him?

This feat, among others, demonstrates that Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is by far one of the most visually spectacular of all the Mission Impossible movies. It’s also one of the more entertaining ones as well. Like the other Mission Impossible movies, there is never a dull moment, and never a thrill wasted. There is appeal in every scene of every shot, whether it is a ridiculous chase/action sequence, a precise line of exposition, a humorous exchange of dialogue between characters, or Cruise pulling off yet another stupidly insane stunt that would probably kill anyone else. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is the definition of great moviemaking.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol takes place a few years after the events of the third Mission Impossible. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), who was previously happily married to his wife, Julie (Michelle Monoghan), is now incarcerated and in a federal prison in Moscow, Russia. What he’s doing there, we have no idea. Not until later in the movie.

He is broken out of prison with the help of two IMF agents: agents Carter (Paula Patton) and Benji (Simon Pegg), who you would remember as the dorky, but funny, computer geek we saw in Mission Impossible III. They are ordered to break Hunt out of prison for one reason: assistance on an upcoming mission where they have to break into the Kremlin to discover the identity of “Cobalt”, a global criminal who intends to start an international nuclear war in order to issue a new era of peace. His idea is similar to Ozymandias’ in the 2009 film Watchmen: before humanity can be saved, there first needs to be something to save them from. That is, at least, what “Cobalt” believes.

Here is a film where the visual spectacle and design of the film overwhelms the story that is being told. In the two previous Mission Impossible movies, that was a weakness. Here though, I applaud it for its ambition in visual spectacle and for its audacity to impress the audience in sheer spirit and style alone. Besides the climbing of the Burf Khalifa sequence, I can name many other sequences that really impressed me, such as the prison break scene in Moscow, the breaking into the Kremlin, a chase scene between Ethan and “Cobalt” in Dubai, and a final spectacular fight sequence that takes place in a car lot in India. I was so impressed by all of these sequences that I went back to the theater to watch it again just for those scenes alone.

Don’t think for a second, however, that just because the story is secondary to the action, it doesn’t mean it cannot hold up on its own. One thing I was initially worried about with this movie was how it would handle being a sequel to Mission Impossible III, which I thought was a fine way to end the franchise on a happy note. How they tie that movie into this one is brilliant, and there are many moments where we can pick up what happened to Ethan and Julie in between the events of MI3 and Ghost Protocol. This is where the film’s emotional appeal comes from. Ethan is trying to recover from what happened with him and Julie in the past, and as husbands and lovers, we can sympathize with Ethan and his problems. It isn’t tear-wrenching, but it doesn’t need to be. It gets a response from its viewers, and it doesn’t need an explosion and a falling building to get it. As a movie that is action-focused, it impresses me that the movie focuses on all the areas that it needs to: not just the ones that will bring it the biggest bucks.

Cruise, of course, is as slick, cool, and crazy as he always is, and comes back to this movie with the same charm and charisma that made him an icon in the original “Mission Impossible” movies. Paula Patton, who is most known in supporting roles like “Déjà Vu”, “Precious” and recently “Jumping The Broom” plays here yet another supporting role who is just as effective in other movies as she is here. She is smart, ambitious, and incredibly passionate, who puts in everything she can into every shot. And, if I may say so, she looks damn good while doing it.

Two actors who I felt had great presence in the film: Benji, played by Simon Pegg, and a new character named Brandt, played by Jeremy Renner from The Hurt Locker. I loved both of them in this movie. If Cruise and Patton provided the action-packed, exciting moments in the movie, these two provided the comedic relief. I can remember countless lines of dialogue from them both that made me and everyone else in the theater laugh. One especially funny scene was basically a re-enactment of the iconic dangling scene from the first Mission Impossible movie. Was it exciting, suspenseful, and nerve-wracking? Yes, but Benj’s oblivious comments combined with Brandt’s agitated responses culminated for a very funny moment that started off very unnerving and heart-pounding. Few films have the capacity to be able to switch from one tone to another; this film does it with surprising efficiency.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this film is that this is the director’s first live-action film. Director Brad Bird is famous for animated critical successes such as The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille, but no live-action films prior to Mission Impossible. How was he able to make this and make it look so amazing? Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is visually spectacular, sharply humorous, and relentlessly spirited and invigorating. It may not be the best Mission Impossible, but it is definitely the best sequel.

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