Incredibles 2 Review

It’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years since the last Incredibles movie graced the big screen. Despite technical advancements in films (like Inside Out and Toy Story 3) as well as better storytelling approaches (in films like Up and WALL-E), The Incredibles is still picked out by fans as among the best.

I’m not sure if there’s really a solid answer to why this is, but maybe it’s because The Incredibles tackles real life, complex issues (like marriage and infidelity) while also being a cool, kid friendly action movie. The Incredibles has a little bit of something for everyone, and there really isn’t an audience demographic who’d dislike this.

So, after many years of patiently waiting, Pixar and superhero fans finally get another dose of their favorite family of supers.

The film takes place directly after the previous installment (I love when a movie can do this properly) with the attack of the Underminer. After a public blunder that further calls the role of superheroes in society into question, the Incredibles (i.e. the Parrs) must go into hiding once again. That is, until they’re approached by Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), a business tycoon and superhero fan who wants to help gain public support to legalize supers. To do this they enlist in the aid of Helen Parr (Holly Hunter) aka Elastigirl to display the benefits of superhero intervention in society. While Helen’s off saving the world, Bob (Craig T. Nelson) is forced to become a stay-at-home parent, raising their rambunctious children. We get to see new and old characters, fun commentary on everyday life, and a malicious plot to undermine the existence of supers.

Incredibles 2 is quickly becoming another beloved installment into the Pixar canon. However, claiming it as a game changer or the next big cinematic leap in animation would be a major embellishment.

The visual quality saw a great improvement over its predecessor; and it’s interesting to see how far animation has come even within the past 14 years. The backgrounds and character movements are crisp and clear; making action sequences and special effects more appealing to the eye. A lot of the artwork in the film has this distinct futurism look to it that I took notice of almost immediately. I’m a fan of this style of science fiction imagery and found it nice to see here.

The villain of Incredibles 2 called the Screenslaver, whose identity is part of the big surprise twist, is sadly quite obvious from the get-go. It’s in fact so apparent that your first immediate guess is exactly right. It’d call this a minor nitpick, but I think even younger kids might find this to be a bit too blatantly obvious.

Screenslaver as a character is kind of ominous and has a fascinating monologue full of philosophical and ideological jargon. There’s actually a plethora of thought-provoking ideological clashes displayed in Incredibles 2 that I really admired. The biggest of these ideological themes is the place of superheroes in our society, which we see reflected in the beliefs of Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Winston Deavor, and the Screenslaver. It’s not the first time this has been debated in film (even being mentioned in the first Incredibles); however here I feel like we really get at the heart of the conflict in a fascinating way.

If there’s anyone who decides to take up arms against The Incredibles 2, it’s going to be over the pretty stagnant story, which perhaps is not as exciting as everyone wanted it to be. This could potentially be the case especially when you consider it’s taken Brad Bird so many years to get around to the sequel. Fans have been waiting so long they expect the best possible story to be told, and I’m not sure if this was it. I can’t help but feel that Pixar coaxed him into production far before he was ready. Really, the “stay-at-home dad” plot/ retread morals of the first film isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s understandable.

That being established, I think most audiences young and old can get a lot of entertainment value out of Incredibles 2. Even with the release of several superhero films a year (and countless television series), there’s something about The Incredibles films that really draws in its viewers. In this case, I think it’s because we’re all already in love with all these characters, and The Incredibles 2 just builds on top of that connection. The Parrs are an interesting group of superheroes that we love seeing interact and get into trouble.

How well the film will age after the superhero craze dies down is a good question that I don’t have the answer to. But if audience reactions are any indicator, I’d say The Incredibles 2 will be cherished for years to come.

The Verdict: B+

-Zachary Flint

Doucheaholics Review (2016 Indie Comedy Series)

As so eloquently defined by the Urban Dictionary, a “doucheaholic” is a person suffering from extreme douche-ness. The person who cuts you off in traffic and then proceeds to scream at you. The person who talks badly about you to your friends. The person who brags to no end about countless sexual conquests. All clear-cut signs of douchery.

Now take all these varying douches and put them together in a dysfunctional support group. And here you have the premise of today’s review, a comedy titled Doucheaholics.

Written and directed by Sean McCarthy, this award-winning indie comedy series takes place in a group therapy session humorously titled Doucheaholics Anonymous. Where bad-tempered, poorly mannered men and women go to share their experiences and feel safe from outside judgement.

In Doucheaholics, we meet the many shades and colors of douchery from a diverse group of individuals. Each with a different story to tell about their social misconduct and general aberrant behaviors. What’s interesting about this is how each person, portraying an exaggerated personality type, is rooted in a real behavior we all exhibit in our lives.

Take the character of Laura (Jenn Tripp) for example. A seemingly normal mother struggling to balance her frantic life who, after getting into an altercation with an elderly woman, goes off on a deranged tangent. It’s an exaggerated scenario that we’ve all been through to some degree. For our lives become so hectic and stressful that we can’t help but burst at the seams. The show is just a humorous, slightly satirical take on our real life conundrums.

The show has this absurd level of humor that tests how far you the viewer are willing to suspend your disbelief in the name of comedy. Occasionally Doucheaholics took it pretty far, but not once did it lose me (on account of how much I enjoyed the series). Perhaps my favorite scene displaying the ridiculous nature of Doucheaholics is when the overly promiscuous character known as D-Cup (Ashley Sullivan) sprints down the sidewalk while projectile vomiting into the air. A vile, yet comical display of creativity.

I believe the overarching concept for the show itself is simple and kind of weird, an idea you might cook up with your friends one night whilst joking around. The creators of Doucheaholics took this idea and ran with it, putting an obvious amount of pride and dedication into this project, which payed off in the long run.

Doucheaholics is a delightful romp, with an entertaining cast and self-aware vibe that you only get with a show like this. The parameters for being a douche have never been so well-defined, yet relatable to the average person all the same.

The Verdict: A-

-Zachary Flint

Check out the Doucheaholics website here

Doucheaholics Facebook page

Doucheaholics iTunes page

Super Troopers 2 Review

After almost twenty years since the release of the cult film Super Troopers, audiences decided they needed another dose of their favorite Highway Patrolman. Funded through a very successful Indiegogo campaign, Super Troopers returns for more hijinks, drugs, and ridiculous shenanigans.

Having been fired from the Vermont Highway Patrol for previous mischief, our incompetent heroes are given a shot at redemption when they’re recruited to police a small town along a newly distinguished Canadian-U.S. border. Receiving a not so warm welcome from the Canadian citizens and law enforcement (whom they call the Mounties) alike, the troopers learn that they’re going to have to play hardball with their stubborn, Canuck neighbors. All the while uncovering a smuggling operation using their unconventional policing methods. Starring Jay Chandrasekhar (who also directed the film), Steve Lemme, and Kevin Heffernan, Super Troopers 2 sets out to shock and awe with its carefree humor and frat boy mentality.

The troopers themselves are overall an enjoyable group of guys to watch interact. The actors play the characters well and have an odd charm to them, despite their bizarre behavior. Their immature behavior is frequently so extreme that it’s almost an expression of childlike innocence unfolding onscreen.

The proverbial style of humor used in Super Troopers often felt too off the cuff and unscripted, with many scenes exhausting jokes that weren’t even funny to start. On top of this, the debauchery-filled humor was so effectively distasteful that several people walked out before the halfway point, an impressive exercise in audience alienation.

Yet, maybe therein lies the mass appeal of Super Troopers. People love the randomness of the goofy antics that elicit a mix of laughter and irritation. It doesn’t always have to floor you with clever wit, it just needs to be genuine. And I firmly believe that those involved in Super Troopers 2 are genuinely funny individuals that set out to make a crowd-pleasing sequel.

This doesn’t excuse the numerous attempts at humor that fall flat, which were accompanied by awkward silences in the theater. Nor does it excuse the half-baked plot and villains we’ve seen time and time again. And at the same time, it gave me a newfound appreciation for the audiences who have a knack for this sort of goofball movie. Super Troopers 2 isn’t the highest of brow comedy, but it knows exactly what it is and will surely please its intended audience. An admirable feat that I find it hard to argue with.

The Verdict: C+

-Zachary Flint

My Neighbor Totoro Review

After my review of Spirited Away back in 2017 (my most popular post to date, mind you), I immediately decided I wanted to review my second favorite Studio Ghibli movie My Neighbor Totoro. An animation studio that, to the extent of my knowledge, never made a bad film. As you can guess, this goal has been postponed, ignored, and procrastinated for a very long time. Finally, after over a year of slowly chipping away at this article, I feel I can competently and properly review this wonderful film.

My Neighbor Totoro follows two young girls named Satsuke and Mei, as they move to the rural countryside of Japan with their father. Together they settle into their home, awaiting their mother who’s ill at the hospital. Satsuke and Mei, full of curiosity, come across a group of good-natured spirits while exploring their new home. Most notable of these spirits is the lovable fan favorite Totoro, a snuggly and plush creature who leisurely roams the nearby forest.

My Neighbor Totoro is the kind of film that you could mute the dialogue and still understand everything occurring on-screen, while also having an enriching experience. The beautiful hand-drawn animation is abundant with warm, welcoming characters and relaxing watercolor skies, lulling the viewer into a sense of contentment. The magic of Ghibli’s animation maintains a well-deserved reputation for being immaculate, and it continues to delight me to this day.

On a purely storytelling level, Ghibli films often just “go with the flow”. There’s no predictable three act structure that audiences groan at because they know precisely what will happen next. We’re merely along for the ride, traveling through a myriad of dream-like sequences of awe-inspiring music and pleasant visuals.

This way of storytelling makes films like Castle in the Sky, Howl’s Moving Castle, and My Neighbor Totoro so memorable. They stand out from the massive amounts of animated white noise that’s pumped out every year.

Years ago, the late film critic Roger Ebert noted how My Neighbor Totoro represents the perfect kind of world to live in. One without villains, conflict, or any sort of antagonist conceivable. Not only do I agree with this sentiment, I think it is key to what makes My Neighbor Totoro such a lovably relatable flick.

It’s an exploration into childlike wonder, taking you back to a simpler time of bliss. No need for bad guys in a peaceful reflection of childhood, only the curiosity and imagination you wish you still had.

My Neighbor Totoro is a family-fun masterpiece of the highest quality. There’s a reason Totoro remains so popular with audiences of all ages, garnering a cult following that only seems to get bigger as time wears on. And if there’s anything that time won’t wear on, it’s Totoro, which I believe will remain timeless and relevant for generations to come.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

Young Frankenstein Review

During the month of October, I had the incredible experience of viewing Mel Brook’s 1974 comedy classic Young Frankenstein on the big screen. Sitting in an almost completely empty theater, I watched in admiration as one of my favorite actors played out one of his most famous roles, just as people did in 1974.

The story, a comedic spoof based on various film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, focuses in on the well-educated medical doctor Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder). Frederick discovers that he has just inherited the Transylvania castle of his famous grandfather, who conducted experiments in attempts to reanimate the dead. Initially hesitant, Frederick decides to recreate his grandfather’s experiments with the help of an unlikely group of odd individuals.

If there exists a film that is so universally hailed as comedic and undeniably hilarious, then it was probably directed by Mel Brooks. Brooks utilizes every level of humor to its fullest effect, whether it be simple slapstick or a subtler humor that takes a couple of viewings to fully appreciate.

Discussing humor can be a difficult and daunting task, partly because of the subjective nature of comedy. There are only so many ways that I can say a scene from Young Frankenstein is funny, and only so many ways I can say entire films made in its image are not. Yet, with that established, I believe Young Frankenstein to be comedic genius. Brooks takes a beloved source material and handles it with such care, delicacy, and most of all, lunacy.

Pondering such questions as, “What if Igor was in denial that he had a hump?” Or even, “What if Frankenstein’s monster meeting the blind man had a more comedic punch to it?” It’s questions like these that any individual can conjure up in their heads, but only Brooks has the audacity to carry it out on the big screen.

Playing the role of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Gene Wilder gives what I would argue the best performance of his career. The frantic ravings and occasional lunacy of a mad scientist in denial about his family heritage is about as outlandish as imaginable, and Wilder fits the bill. Not only that, he becomes the character, going beyond the call of duty to give the audience an unforgettable experience. And is it surprising for me to say that whenever I hear somebody talk about Frankenstein, I first think of this movie, rather than the Universal classic?

One can hardly forget the enigmatic supporting cast, who help make this lovely masterpiece what we know it as today. My personal favorite would be Igor (Marty Feldman), a dimwitted wisecracker with a knack for making the situation worse. Something about Igor has always appealed to me unlike anyone else in the film. His onscreen presence alone is enough to elicit hysterical laughter from yours truly.

Young Frankenstein is a film I re-explore at least once a year, typically around the Halloween season, and for good reason. It’s listed as one of the greatest comedies of all time by the American Film Institute (14th), Bravo TV (56th), Rolling Stone (5th), and was even selected for the Library of Congress National Film Registry. It’s a beloved masterpiece that will hopefully be respected by moviegoers for years to come.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

 

Paddington 2 Review

I would’ve never guessed that the sequel to Paddington, a cute family comedy about a talking bear, would be made with the same care and consideration as the first. Even more shocking to me is that Paddington 2 turned out to be even better than its predecessor, with more laughs and excitement to be had then before.

Having settled down with the Brown family, Paddington bear continuously spreads childlike wonder and joy throughout his community. One day he sees a pop-up book in an antique store and decides to save up his money to purchase it. Thinking that the pop-up book would be a great gift for his aunt for her 100th birthday. However, when a thief breaks in and steals the book, Paddington is framed for the robbery. As Paddington adjusts to life in prison, he brings his warmth and joy to very unlikely people. Meanwhile, the Brown family attempts to find the culprit behind the theft and free Paddington before his Aunt Lucy’s birthday.

The most surprising part about Paddington 2 was just how laugh out loud funny it was. Who knew that situations like, say, Paddington getting a ten-year prison sentence, would have such a strong comedic output. The scenes with Paddington in jail were among the best moments of the film, and I enjoyed them to a great degree. The film jumped at every opportunity to throw in a joke, whether it be slapstick or a more sophisticated and subtle humor, and just about all of them were right on the money.

Hugh Grant as the villainous Phoenix Buchanan was delightfully hilarious and fit the mood of the story just right. The rest of the cast fit the bill quite nicely too, as they all felt very authentic and kindhearted in their performances.

Paddington 2 is quite a lot of things. Exciting. Funny. Charming. Sincere. But most importantly, the film is genuine. Paddington 2 isn’t trying to manipulate children’s emotions, and neither is it a cheap, mundane piece of entertainment to be forgotten soon after viewing. It’s a film with crystal clear, straightforward messages that any parent (or person) could get behind.

Paddington Bear teaches children how one person (or bear, in this case) can positively affect the lives of everyone around them. He emphasizes manners, honesty, and kindness, and applies these to every area of his life. Because of this, in my mind Paddington is the perfect role model. I think even adults could learn a lesson from Paddington in how to treat others, more so than children.

Usually I can come up with some sort of flaw or demographic of individual who may not benefit from watching whatever film I’m reviewing. With Paddington 2, I’ve completely drawn a blank. It’s an adorable, family-friendly adventure that nobody should miss out on.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Review

Anticipating what I assumed to be a distasteful soft reboot of a fun, lighthearted adventure film, I expected the worst from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. However, to my pleasant surprise (and curious confusion), Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle shares little resemblance to its supposed source material. Instead of a murderous board game that forces players to partake in increasingly difficult tasks, this involves the hip millennial version of the whole thing.

Four clichéd high school students are sucked into a video game while in detention. Once inside the video game, each high schooler takes on a completely different persona, kind of like an in-game avatar. These avatars are played by Jack Black, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, who all go off on a vague MacGuffin plot to stop a one-dimensional bad guy. Basically, get the thing, put it in the thing, so it will do the thing.

Jumanji is about as ridiculous and uninspired as you can possibly get, and thankfully the film knows that, making the absolute best of its lame and outrageous premise.

It’s obvious the cast is having a lot of fun shooting Jumanji, and that genuine enthusiasm easily rubs off on the audience. The journey these characters embark on and the lessons they learn along the way was where I derived most of my enjoyment.

Another big part of the film aside from the characters is the humor, which in my opinion was a tad overplayed. Some jokes work very well at first and get a good laugh, only to be drawn out for too long until they become tiresome and annoying. Other scenes intended to be humorous were incredibly childish and tonally inconsistent, leading me to assume that Jumanji had no clear audience it wanted to appeal to.

Jumanji’s strongest suit wasn’t in its humor, but in the genuine moments shared between the protagonists, who were so goofy and animated that I couldn’t help but join in on the fun. The cheesy and poorly written aspects of Jumanji all teeter precariously on “so bad it’s good”. Altogether, I think there is more amusement to be had in Jumanji’s faults than boredom or irritation.

The Verdict: C+

-Zachary Flint