The Incredibles 2 (2018, Directed by Brad Bird) English 8

Voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabella Rossellini, Sarah Vowell, John Ratzenberger, Jonathan Banks

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The Parr family, alias The Incredibles, are back. Fourteen years, four pretty undistinguished Pixar sequels later, and we finally get The Incredibles 2. There’s the father, Bob or Mr. Incredible(voiced by Nelson), with super strength. The mother, Helen or Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter), can stretch to insane lengths, oldest child, Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell) can turn invisible and create force fields, son, Dash (now voiced by Huck Milner), has extraordinary speed, and the infant, Jack-Jack, whose powers were only hinted at in the first film. The good thing about animation is that all that lapsed time isn’t a problem. Writer and director Brad Bird can pick up right where he left off, unburdened by the effects of time on his actors, able to capably portray the Parr family just as we remember them from the first film.

So that’s what Bird does. The Incredibles 2 starts where the first film ends. Dash finished his race, Violet asked out a boy, and a new super villain, calling himself the Underminer, showed up to spring the heroic family back into action. This ending seemed like a perfect setup for another installment, but as The Incredibles 2 plays out, the Underminer proves to be only a small part of the whole. The important part of the scene is that The Underminer gets away, the Parr family cause a lot of damage protecting people, and the mandate outlawing superheroes sees the protagonists relocated once again, this time to a shabby motel where Bob contemplates returning to his soul-deadening insurance job. Fortunately, their good deed in fighting The Underminer was not completely in vain as it caught the eye of billionaire, Winston Deaver (voiced by Bob Odenkirk), who has very personal reasons for wanting to bring superheroes back. He believes the Parr family are the key. The only thing is, he thinks Elastigirl is the better choice as the face of his plan, throwing Bob for a loop. This go-around, Helen is out fighting crime while Bob stays home with the kids. Dealing with Violet’s lovesick teen angst, Dash’s complicated homework, and Jack-Jack’s ever growing list of abilities, while a larger plot begins to form slowly involving a masked figure known as The Screenslaver.

The over-arching plot, due to the super villain of the piece, is good not great. It’s the one thing holding the film back from being in line with its predecessor. The villain’s secret identity with all of the red herrings have been done before, to the point that we can see the film’s third act coming a mile away. This ends up not being a major detractor since Incredibles was always best as the first film too is best remembered for its famil commentary, genre satire, and situational comedy. All of this remains intact. Jack-Jack steals the show with one of the film’s chief pleasures being  his expansive roster of powers slowly being revealed throughout the movie. I won’t spoil them here. The great scene stealer from the first Incredibles, Edna Mode (voiced by Brad Bird himself) returns and has a wonderful scene with the infant Parr.

The action sequences in The Incredibles 2 are stunning. We’re reminded that the possibilities in animation are endless, and Brad Bird pushes the envelope with every new film. Stunning is how I’d describe the animation and design of the film as well. Even without living up to the ridiculous heights of the first movies, The Incredibles 2 will, in all likelihood, be the best action comedy of the year, and the best blockbuster of the summer.

-Walter Howard-

 

Brave (2012, Directed by Mark Andrews) English 6

Voices of Kelly MacDonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson

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A teenaged Scottish Princess and world class archer, Merida (MacDonald) dreams of following her own dreams rather than do what’s expected of her. She has a complicated relationship with her loving but domineering mother, Queen Elinor (Thompson), which leads to a hasty mistake from Merida ending in the Queen being transformed into a bear. With all the makings of a modern classic fairy tale, first-rate animation and voice-over work, this film should have been so much more. The problem lies with the story which feels half-baked. With no compelling villain and no romantic love interest, there’s not much to push the story forward. It becomes a series of hijinks towards the end, and that’s really disappointing.

Toy Story 3 (2010, Directed by Lee Unkrich) English 10

Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, John Ratzenberger, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, Timothy Dalton, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Keaton, Whoopi Goldberg, Blake Clark, Laurie Metcalf

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Andy’s grown up. It’s been ages since the heroes of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 have been played with. Most of the toys in Andy’s box are gone, and the ones that are left, led by Woody (Hanks) and Buzz (Allen), contemplate the next stage in their lives. With the dusty attic as their future, they find an alternative in a local day-care center, but the seemingly perfect center turns out to be more of a prison, and so the toys look to escape. Wonderful storytelling, dialogue, and animation as with all of the Toy Story movies. Woody and Buzz are classic film buddies and their exploits are unforgettable. There are some very funny new characters, mainly Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton), and the emotional ending is a perfect finish.

Ocean’s 8 (2018, Directed by Gary Ross) English 6

Starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Richard Armitage, James Corden, Elliot Gould

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Debbie Ocean (Bullock), sister of the previous run of Ocean movies’ Danny Ocean, is fresh off of a five year stint in prison. Not reformed in the slightest, she puts into motion a plan she’s worked on for the whole of her sentence: a heist of a $150 million necklace by Cartier. To pull it off, she enlists her best friend, Lou (Blanchett), a master fence and suburban housewife, Tammy (Paulson), a jewelry maker, Amita (Kaling), a tech-wiz self-named Nine Ball (Rihanna), a pickpocket, Constance (Awkwafina), and an out-of-fashion designer, Rose (Carter). If you’re thinking that only makes seven, the eighth member of the group comes as a surprise late in the film. Debbie’s plan revolves around the Met Gala, where the necklace will be worn by celebrity Daphne Kruger (Hathaway), and her team spends three weeks leading up to the event preparing for the haul of their lives. There’s probably no point in harping on how original stories involving all female casts would better serve these stars and their audience, though it’s true. Ghostbusters struggled at the box office and this one isn’t exactly reaping in the money so far. That aside, I really liked this movie. I’m hearing the same thing from most people who’ve seen it: a breezy good time. Nothing substantial but perfectly watchable. I liked the cast which is likely a given. They all have their scenes, and Bullock always makes a compelling lead. Higher stakes (I know it sounds funny saying it about a $150 million heist) would have made the actual job more exciting, or even a more imposing villain fouling up the works. The operation went to smoothly.

25: Leatherface’s Temper Tantrum

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

For my money, the scariest film ever made. Relentless and brutal, with evil lurking in every frame, and a heroine (one of the earliest examples of “the survivor girl,” in fact, maybe the earliest) who gradually shows her toughness and ingenuity, making us root for her. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows a group of young adults taking an ill-advised trip through what looks like West Texas, stumbling upon a deranged family of cannibalistic butchers. The most famous among the family, Leatherface, stalks and kills all of the members of the group except Sally who spends the thrilling last half of the movie just trying to survive the most horrific and traumatic experiences before the film reaches its brilliant crescendo with this scene, this brisk ending, of Leatherface sulking in the glorious sun. Like all of the film, shot in an ultra-low budget fashion that only increases its effectiveness (making it feel authentic), this ending is raw. It ends, and I’m at first surprised that that’s it, but then come to see it as oddly faultless.

-Walter Howard-

26: Taking a Stand

12 Angry Men (1957)

A film set almost exclusively in one room, with a group of older men talking is one of the most entertaining, enduring, and popular classic films of any era. 12 Angry Men is a great film. I honestly don’t know anyone who doesn’t respond to it, and I’m including a large number of people who have a self-diagnosed aversion to black-and-white films. When one juror (played by Henry Fonda) faces down and slowly wins over his eleven peers who start off dead set against him, we see the effects of mob mentality as courage, honor, and bigotry play out over a hot New York day. In this, my favorite scene, character actor, Ed Begley, playing juror number 10. One of the few remaining stalwarts opposing Henry Fonda and a verdict of not guilty, juror number 10 finally reveals his character by going on a long, hateful rant about kids from the slums. The other eleven jurors respond in what becomes a powerful scene. Stagey, yes, but poignant.

-Walter Howard-

The Mystery of the Movie Pass

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I debate whether or not to tell anyone about it. In A-school detention with the Navy, we used to have to clean out the schoolhouse. I discovered an empty classroom that was perfect for hiding out in, and, after exploiting it for a week or two, in a moment of charity, I told two fellow shipmates about the room. Not being as discreet or as quiet as me, they got caught, and thereafter, the room was a no-go for everyone. My point: you find something good, keep it quiet, or else everyone will ruin it. On the other hand, I’m hearing movie pass being whispered about almost everywhere now, so it seems the secret’s out. The pass, as it stands now, is four movies a month for ten dollars. For those forerunners who jumped on the pass early, there’s not even a cap. Unlimited movies for ten dollars a month. How are these Movie Pass people making money off of this? I don’t know. How are movie theaters allowing this? It’s a mystery to me, but not one I’m willing to investigate myself. I’m expecting any day now, some big exposé  to come out and some corporate shyster to be indicted. In the meantime, I’m loving the Movie Pass. When I was first told about it, I was awfully skeptical, and honestly remain so, but, for now, it seems to work. I haven’t been rejected by a theater once.  So this is my guarded endorsement, for what it’s worth. Get it while the going’s good, because I can’t see it lasting. The more people that find out about it, the quicker its demise in my opinion. I don’t see it lasting beyond this year.

-Walter Howard-