REVIEW: Incredibles 2 Leaves You Wanting More

 

Elastigirl leaves the baby with her house-husband in Incredibles 2.

Alongside Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc., The Incrediblesis a foundational Pixar film, a veritable neoclassic that explores the changing dynamics of family life disguised as a superhero film from the 60’s. The film invigorated the career of Brad Bird, who crashed and burned with the Iron Giant, a critical darling that didn’t connect with audiences.

The Incredibleswas a smash hit, and Bird moved on to bigger things (the narratively ambitious Ratatouille, his first live-action film Mission: Impossible 4), but following another box office miss (the unfairly maligned Tomorrowland), the Pixar creative returned to Pixar to helm a sequel of his first hit… 14 years after the original.

Incredibles 2 picks up seconds after the original’s ending, mid-battle with the Underminer. The considerable destruction that ensued from that encounter forced the Parr family to go back into hiding. Broke and a little bored, when a millionaire offers them to spearhead a PR campaign to bring superheroes back, they are happy to accept. There is a catch, Helen a.k.a. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) is the one chosen to be the face of the movement.

Suddenly a stay-at-home dad, Bob a.k.a Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) struggles mightily: Homework is ridiculously hard, daughter Violet is sullen as ever, and baby Jack-Jack has dozens of powers and can’t control a single one of them. Meanwhile, Elastigirl thrives in her new job, although the new villain in town –the Screenslaver– is getting on her nerves.

The home front chaos is far more compelling than the adventure that ties all together, mainly by how compelling Bob, Violet and Jack-Jack are, together and separately. Bob is not exactly ‘woke’ and even though he doesn’t get in the way of Helen, he is clearly begrudging his spouse. Violet’s priorities are not in line with the rest of the family, especially when facing the possibility of a boyfriend.

The relationship of Bob and Helen is another highlight. Never mind the disagreements, their partnership is one you can believe. Take recent superhero hits Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War: A good chunk of the plot hangs on coupledom, and yet the undoing of these pairs left me cold. Bob and Helen have a shorthand and know when to push a point and pull their punches. It’s a successful marriage in a nutshell.

I don’t plan to spoil the identity of the villain here. Suffice to say, like all good antagonists, it has a valid motive and a cool and unusual modus operandi. It’s not nearly as flashy as fanboy-gone-wrong Syndrome, but it has more depth.

The only aspect of the film that doesn’t quite work is the conclusion. Probably because the scenario is not particularly dramatic, or the threat is too mild to taste, the stakes feel low. That said, Incredibles 2 gets an easy pass on character strength alone. 3 ½ planets.

Incredibles 2 is playing everywhere.

Sunday Matinee: Jack The Giant Killer

In 1958 Ray Harryhausen helped make The 7th Voyage of Sinbad which became a big hit with audiences. A rival film producer named Edward Small decided that he wanted to cash in on The 7th Voyage of Sinbad‘s success. He made Jack the Giant Killer which got released in 1962.

Small hired director Nathan Juran who directed The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and along with Sinbad actors Kerwin Mathews who played Sinbad and now plays the hero Jack and Torin Thatcher who played an evil wizard in Sinbad and in Jack plays an evil wizard called Pendragon.
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Sunday Matinee: It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive

Shout Factory has just released Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive trilogy on blu-ray and it looks fantastic.

I’ve written before about the first It’s Alive about a horribly deformed monster baby being born and then going on a rampage to get home to Mom and Dad. Cohen was a master of low budget horror movies. God Told me To and Q were both fantastic and the original It’s Alive is highly entertaining.
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Sunday Matinee: Kill Bill

Quentin Tarantino’s homage to grindhouse action, samurai, martial art movies was also a showcase for actress Uma Thurman.

Thurman stars as The Bride, a woman who was once a part of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. On her wedding day, while pregnant, her former squad members stormed the wedding killing everyone. The leader of the group Bill (David Carradine), The Bride’s former lover and father of her child shots her in the head. The Bride survives but is in a coma for four years.
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Sunday Matinee: Yes, Madam!

After the 1970s there were several big movies that featured bad ass woman action lead roles. 1979’s Alien with Sigourney Weaver which needs no introduction and 1980’s Gloria with Gena Rowlands as a woman trying to save a kid from the mob. There was also a lot of bad action movies. She, Sheena and Red Sonja just to name a couple.

Today’s Sunday Matinee is 1985’s Yes, Madam a Hong Kong action film starring Michelle Yeoh – in what was her first starring role.
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Sunday Matinee: Lady Snowblood

A woman gives birth to a baby girl while in prison in the late 1800 Japan. The woman dies after the birth but before she dies she wants her daughter Yuki to continue her plan of vengeance.

Yuki (Meiko Kaji) grows up learning how to fight and kill. She needs to kill three more people. Before she was born her mother and her mother’s husband were attacked by a group of four people. The husband was killed and the mother was raped. The mother tracked down one of the four and murdered him which is why she was in prison. While in prison she purposely got pregnant by one of the guards so she could have a child to finish seeking vengeance.
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Sunday Matinee: Coffy

Pam Grier had co-starred in several women in prison movies and a few blaxploitation films before getting the lead role of 1973’s Coffy.

Blaxploitation films had exploded in popularity and American International Pictures had lost the rights to make Cleopatra Jones – which Warner Bros. made and released in the same year. American International Pictures being American International Pictures quickly raced and made Coffy to beat Cleopatra Jones in theatres.
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Sunday Matinee: The Big Doll House

Women in prison movies started becoming be in the late 1960s with films like 99 Women. Naturally Roger Corman’s low budget exploitation film company New World Pictures started making them in the early 1970s starting with The Big Doll House in 1971.

Directed by Jack Hill the movie was shot in the Philippines. Judy Brown stars as Collier a woman sent to prison for the murder of her husband. Once in prison she meets Alcott and Bodine (Roberta Collins and Pat Woodell). She also meets Grear (Pam Grier – in her first big screen role). Gear is a prison bully and lesbian who has her eyes set on Collier after her current girlfriend bores her. Meanwhile the sadistic female guards and warden Miss Dietrich (Christiane Schmidtmer) like to torture the prisoners.
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Sunday Matinee: Come Drink With Me

Marital arts in movies have been around on the screen since the early days of film. But the massive international popularity of them wouldn’t really begin until the 1960s. In 1966 The Shaw Brothers Studio produced a movie called Come Drink with Me which would kick start a massive onslaught of martial art movies.

Come Drink with Me starred actress Cheng Pei-pei in the lead role as Golden Swallow a bad ass martial artist who is out to try and save her brother who has been kidnapped by a bandits have allied themselves with an evil monastery lead Abbot Liao Kung (Yeung Chi-hing). On her journeys she is helped by Drunken Cat aka Fan Da-pei (Yueh Hua), a former member of the same martial art master that trained Abbot Liao Kung.
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REVIEW: (Groan), Lucy

Oh, Lucy! was the first movie I saw in last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. I remember thinking “what a pointless oddity. I’m positive I will never hear of this movie again.” And here we are.

Produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, Oh Lucy! is not the film you would expect from the Anchorman duo. Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima), a lonely middle-age woman living in Tokyo, rediscovers her joie de vivre when by chance lands in an English class with John (Josh Harnett, don’t ask). The expat’s teaching technique consists in giving the student a blond wig and an American identity, “Lucy”. (Seriously, people have problems with Isle of Dogs and not with this?)

Unbeknownst to John, the class triggers a tectonic shift inside Setsuko. She loosens up, quits her job and decides to actively pursue the English professor. John has gone back to America, you say? No problem! She has a passport.

There are a couple of additional complications (John is dating Setsuko’s niece; Setsuko and her sister can’t stand each other) that give the film a whiff of screwball comedy, but Oh Lucy! never takes off: Harnett is no one’s idea of comedic performer and Shinobu Terajima embodies too much pathos to come across as funny.

The film is more effective while in Japan. The moment the action moves to Los Angeles and the “fish out of water” cliché kicks in, Oh Lucy! loses its charm. The tonal inconsistency is jarring: This is a comedy that opens with someone launching himself in front of a train, and clearly there is something wrong with Setsuko that is never addressed.

If nothing else, Terajima’s performance keeps the film watchable, but the low stakes and even lower production values hurt the overall experience. The message -the connections you make in the world may save you in the end- is a sweet one, if about as pat as they come. One and a half planets (out of five).

Oh Lucy! opens this Friday 13th at the Roxy Theatre.