Incredibles 2

June 20, 2018 by  
Filed under Movies

“The Incredibles” asked the age-old question in the world of superheroes: what do we do about all the damage they cause while saving the world? The answer is to make them illegal. Of course, this was back in 2004 when there was no MCU or DC Universe in films. All we had were 2 “Spider-Man” films and a few “X-Men” movies.

Interesting now after 14 years, we are re-introduced to the superhero family: the Incredibles; and they are still illegal, and now it almost looks like they’re satirizing the comic book universe.

But that’s really just a backdrop, a primer to get things going. The Incredibles Family: Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner) and little baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile with the baby voice) are fighting against the Underminer, whom we last saw at the tail end of the first film. They stop him from destroying the entire city; but, he gets away, and the Incredibles still cause a lot of damage.

They are forced again to live as normal people, under the name of “Parr”: Bob and Helen. But, this time they have an ally. A wealthy business owner, Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), wants to re-instate superheroes again as he believes they are key to saving human lives and society in general. He had a family crisis that ended in tragedy, that he believed could have been averted if superheroes didn’t have to live in secrecy. So, he decides to stage a PR event that will make the public see that they really need superheroes–and makes sure to keep the cost down as far as damage to the city of Metroville. Deavor enlists Helen to be Elastigirl with the first task. He believes she is the least likely to cause damage. This causes a bit of unrest with Bob since he is pretty much the “alpha” and wants to be out there saving lives as well. Winston assures him his time will come, but the inevitable comes first: Bob has to become a stay-at-home dad while Helen is off being Elastigirl.

So, Bob takes care of the kids: he sees to Dash’s math homework, he tries to console his daughter about a falling out with a boy (that he’s somewhat responsible for), and of course…take care of baby Jack-Jack. Babies are a workout in general, but how about a baby with over 15 superpowers, that are completely unpredictable and can be dangerous? Even deadly? This culminates in probably the funniest and most entertaining sequence in the film involving a raccoon. It’ll have your kids howling, but you will be too. It’s great comedy.

And that’s all this film is: it’s just great entertainment. Sure there are some logic flaws, and it can be extremely predictable. The subplot involving Winston’s sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) goes exactly the way you think it will.

But, with the plot of Elastigirl trying to figure out the new supervillain “Screenslaver”, who is out to brainwash people and control them–including the supers (actually, especially the supers), you’re more than wrapped up in enough going on to keep you fulfilled throughout its’ 2 hour duration.

Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) is back as well, including a new swath of supers that are ready to help out and want to be “legalized”.

The film works very well because the cast is very comfortable settling back into their characters, and writer/director Brad Bird holds down the story masterfully. The theme of being yourself no matter what and not hiding who you are is clear and present, and presents a good fable for kids growing up.

My rating: :-)

The Disaster Artist

December 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Movies

Nearly 20 years ago, a simple immigrant-turned-citizen Tommy Wiseau had a dream. Nearly 15 years ago, that dream was realized in the form of a film that has been chastised (and lauded) as the “worst movie of all time”, and on par with “Plan 9 From Outer Space”. That film, “The Room”, becomes the basis of this semi-biopic of Wiseau, which is based on the book of the same name by “The Room”‘s co-star, Greg Sestero. Though the POV is Greg’s throughout the book of “The Disaster Artist”, he becomes more of an armchair sidekick in the film version, directed by James Franco. James Franco also plays Wiseau, while his brother Dave plays Greg.

The film begins with both Wiseau and Sestero as struggling actors in San Francisco, during the late 1990’s. They are polar opposites as far as their approach to acting. Wiseau is clueless, but he has no fear. He seems to have passion, but it’s hidden behind a flowing ocean of jet black hair, and opaque sunglasses. Greg meanwhile is timid, almost afraid of acting altogether. Though he wants to be professional, he has a hard time breaking through his shyness.

He is impressed with Wiseau’s fearless attitude, and his mysterious nature. Eventually, he becomes almost like a pupil to Wiseau’s strange master plan, which is to become a Hollywood star. To do that, though, he needs to make a breakthrough. After a showing of “Rebel Without a Cause”, Wiseau thinks he knows the path: just do it. He decides to make his own film. He goes and writes a script, while Greg gets more into acting, and lands an A-list agent, Iris Burton (Sharon Stone, inexplicably underused here). When Wiseau is finished, he’s ready to make the film.

Every single step is a misfire, every instinct goes against Filmmaking 101. He buys equipment rather than rents it; he uses 2 separate kinds of cameras to film: digital and standard 35mm. He fires actors and crew and replaces them like it’s a bodily function. And, above all, he can’t act nor direct competently. He’s only driven by his vision, which is really what this film is about. Deep down, apart from its obvious comedic sequences of showing us the behind-the-scenes of making such a terrible film, there is a heart beating (and bleeding) for the survival of the vision artist.

The film was briefly going to be titled “The Masterpiece”, and I’m glad it was changed back to “The Disaster Artist” because the stress should be on the “artist” and not what he thinks is “the masterpiece”. We all know what “The Room” is–even if you haven’t seen it before seeing this film, or have even heard of it, the film goes through various lengths to show you how bad it is. The end product isn’t the point–it’s the process. It’s the willingness to throw out inhibition, and go for it.

The film is also about friendship. Wiseau is extremely guarded, but he seems to allow Greg into his life without hesitation. Sure, Greg is naive and probably an easy person to become best friends with. But Wiseau sees something genuine inside him, and possibly sees a little bit of himself, before he became so reticent about people. He lies about his age, he lies about where he’s from (“I’m from New Orleans”, he continuously tries to convince others of), and he also seems to lie about where he comes up with the $6 million he spends on making “The Room”. Yes, this film was a multi-million dollar “indie” film. Sometimes, it shows. It was very professionally done, the music is lush and cinematic. It’s very appealing to the eye because it’s competently filmed. The only thing missing is good acting, good writing, and a sense of direction.

But, Wiseau and Greg’s friendship seems to bring the whole project together. Greg convinces Wiseau, even when he starts to doubt himself and the project, and the people he works with, that the film must be made because it’s Wiseau’s, and because this is what they set out to do.

Wiseau gets a little too intense for Greg at times, and the two separate for a time. But the film is finished, and “The Room” becomes legend.

Franco and Co. have a lot of fun with this material. James Franco is absolutely smashing as Tommy Wiseau, nailing every single personality tick and broken English accent. Dave is also very good as the charming and innocent Greg (although the real Greg probably still could’ve pulled off playing himself, he’s only about 7 years older than Dave, and is supposed to be playing someone in their early 20’s). Seth Rogen plays Sandy Schklair, the script supervisor and eventual actual director sometimes; Schklair can’t stand to work with Wiseau, and it’s clear to see why: Schklair is a professional, and a veteran. But, somehow the checks clear and he puts up with him if only for the money. Bob Odenkirk also has an amusing cameo as an acting teacher.

It’s the actors who play the stars of “The Room”, however, that steal the show. Ari Graynor, while not exactly looking like her Lisa counterpart, really captures Juliette Danielle’s performance–and you can’t help but pity the poor woman having to work (and bed) alongside the aggressive and weird Wiseau. Josh Hutcherson, of “The Hunger Games” fame, also doesn’t necessarily physically resemble Denny, but his performance is pitch perfect. Zac Efron even gets Chris-R absolutely perfect, though you may not recognize it’s Zefron. June Diane Raphael plays Robyn Paris very well, and anyone who has read the book knows that Paris is the most sharp of all the actors, and understands Wiseau better than he may understand himself. But the standout performance, the absolute spot-on effort, is by Nathan Fielder who plays Kyle Vogt, also known as Peter in “The Room”. His mannerisms, somewhat elitist, arrogant voice, is captured to precision. In fact, when you see the reenactments, it’s almost hard to tell them apart. And that goes for nearly everyone involved in the scenes. Kudos to the casting director, and the efforts put forth by the actors.

It’s a labor of love, in both “The Disaster Artist” and “The Room”, and it comes through very strongly. Tommy Wiseau may be a strange bird, but he’s oddly likable. He somehow makes a lot of money–not by selling drugs!–and he does something pretty incredible: makes one of the worst movies of all time; and even better, makes you love it so much you’re willing to sit through another 2 hour movie to see it made. If that’s not an immaculate achievement in filmmaking, I don’t know what is. But I do know that I didn’t know it was him, and he’s my favorite customer.

My rating: :-)