Friday, June 15, 2018

Incredibles 2
Star Rating: 3.5/4

            As you can tell, Pixar has given you 14 years to know where your super suit is, so make sure you remember because the beloved super family is back for the greater good. In a year where several movies have served as pop culture fan service or pop culture parodies, Incredibles 2 falls into the latter category but ends up beating them all in terms of quality. In terms of it being a parody, it doesn’t go that far. It merely takes all recent pop culture trends and references them to construct its own original narrative. Incredibles 2 may not be as lovable as its predecessor but the final product deserves the superlative in the team’s name.

            The film takes place a few minutes after the first one where the Incredibles must face a new threat, the Underminer (voiced by John Ratzenberger). He begins to plow through the streets of Metroville in his gigantic drill, trashing everything in its path. Underminer is soon outnumbered by the family. Even though he escapes, the carnage is all but unnoticed by politicians and the public. It also grabs the attention of billionaire businessman Winston Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk) who wants to legalize superheroes in a setting where the opposite takes place. Deavor chooses the mother of the group, Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter), to carry out new missions to fulfill his goal. Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), on the other hand, volunteers to watch their three superhuman children while she is away.

            All of this is a setting that mirrors the cinematic universes presented by both Marvel and DC. We have a multitude of superheroes all in one world facing the same dilemma. If you recall the first film, you would remember how all supers are forced into retirement by a registration act to prevent any possible collateral damage in the future. You may have seen this with Captain America: Civil War (2016) but there aren’t as many characters that play into the story this time. So yes, the plot is basically a less cluttered version of Civil War and shows how that story could have gone if it was a loose adaptation of that particular comic, but it paves the way to satisfy the desires of those who wish for more representation in Hollywood. Marvel and DC are capable of doing this but it seems new here since the focus is on Elastigirl instead of Mr. Incredible.

            Now, onto the characters. You may wonder how the series will be with the shift in perspective. After seeing this film, you’ll probably think it works fine. Mr. Incredible still has room for character arc as a guy wanting to relive his own glory days but must adapt to the present as a father. He may seem conceited and might seem as a repeat of his transgression in the last movie, but it makes sense. Most who see an opportunity to revert back to better times would.

            As for Elastigirl, you probably know her as one woman you do not want to mess with. Now that she has more screen presence, you will have more to support that argument. She is a strong-willed mother who wants to do what is best for her family and must take the risk of putting on her old suit to do that. All this takes place with Deavor’s mentorship who embodies a Professor X personality type from the X-Men films. Deavor and Professor X want to end discrimination peacefully and believes showing the goodness of the oppressed will do so. Hats off to their actors for their portrayals.

            With the protagonists and supporting characters aside, here’s the question you might be wondering: what’s a superhero film without an antagonist? Based on this review, you may think that the antagonists are the politicians. That’s not the case. The villain is known as Screenslaver whose voice actor won’t be revealed here as that will lead to spoilers. He wants to keep superhumans illegal. After you learn this character’s true identity, the ambition to get rid of them all reflects on the movie industry’s dependence on superhero films for guaranteed box office successes. You obviously know by now how much money a superhero movie can make nowadays. To avoid any other potential spoilers, just know that Incredibles 2 works like both Deadpool movies in terms of satire.

            Incredibles 2 also works like any other film in its genre. It’s got exhilarating action and likable characters. There is also quite a bit of humorous moments. The previous one was funny in placing its primary roles dealing with midlife crisis in modernity. You’ll still find that here. However, it differs from them in the fact that you might be so drawn to the heroes this time. Childhood really sticks with you, doesn’t it?

It also feels fresh. Another sequel to a popular Pixar picture was Finding Dory (2016) which was good in its own right but very recycled. In the first act, Incredibles 2 seems to lack in the quality that made the first so lovable, but as it goes on, it finds its groove. It is undoubtedly easy to love in the end. So, with that being said, you may simply want to ask: is it worth the wait? To quote a line from the series: Yeah, baby!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story
Star Rating: 2.5/4

            Solo: A Star Wars Story acts as a blast from the past which some will approve of while others may not. I am also certain there are many people who do not want to see anyone but Harrison Ford as this beloved character but lead actor Alden Ehrenreich deserves a chance.

The first line Ehrenreich utters assures us that he can pull off the role. In the first scene, Han escapes from authorities on a planet called Corellia. Though bruised, he meets with his girlfriend, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), who is amazed by actions. He then utters the line, “You should see the other guy.” This moment is where he nails the personality of Han with his cockiness that borders on confidence. Since this takes place many years before the original Star Wars (1977), it feels refreshing to see a younger Han who is more inexperienced and more vulnerable. He seems like a different person but this allows Ehrenreich to play him with a mixture of eccentricity and genuine sense of optimism. The force is definitely strong with this one.

On a quick note, there are three other actors that stand out from everyone. I would like to give credit to Donald Glover for playing a young Lando Calrissian. If anyone is going to play a character once portrayed by someone like Billy Dee Williams, that actor needs to be charismatic. Fortunately, Glover is in this film. His character may not have been as essential as some may thought but Glover shines brightly. The next actor who does well is Paul Bettany. He may have played Vision in Infinity War last month but I really like him as a bad guy. His sly delivery and voice gives him that appeal. Lastly, I must ask: how are the droids in Star Wars always the best part of these movies? Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Calrissian’s personal droid L3-37 is absolutely hilarious as one trying to find her purpose in the galaxy.

In this film, we see how everything falls into place. Here, we see how Han gets his last name and meets Chewbacca (Joonas Suotama) for the first time. Han and Chewie get tied up working for crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) in exchange for removing the price on their heads. Solo works like Revenge of the Sith (2005) in the sense of how it ties into A New Hope. I know I might get a lot of backlash for saying this, but that’s the main reason why I actually liked Revenge of the Sith. For me, if the filmmakers tie it up well, it’s fun to see. It’s also great to see Han and Chewie form their friendship that’s pretty much a bromance. I loved that particular gag for this iconic duo.

We as an audience can get absorbed into the narrative. The first scene contains impressive art direction and production design reminiscent of Blade Runner (1982). On the contrary, some of the action sequences in the beginning may not feel too exciting but it undoubtedly improves as the film continues especially the scene where Han first flies the Millenium Falcon. At the film’s very best, these moments are pulse-pounding and nail-biting.

Despite all of these working to its benefit, the biggest flaw of Solo is how derivative it is. Its story is a combination of the original Star Wars movie and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). That’s how it plays out. There is a possibility the intention was to make references to the Star Wars franchise but it feels like a rip-off. Many believe this is a result of Disney purchasing the brand to make more money. Maybe they’re right.

Another setback is the score. I know that is a big statement to make since John Williams’ themes are ones we still hum today but this time, the score is different and not for the better. John Powell, who is a skilled composer, does the music and I couldn’t help but notice the extensive choir use in its pieces. I never thought of any Star Wars film to rely on this at any point. Even though I like Powell overall, How to Train Your Dragon (2010) is probably his best work, I would’ve preferred the great Michael Giacchino more who brilliantly incorporated Williams’ themes with his own style in Rogue One (2016).

Solo can make us feel like it drags on for a little while. At one point, we sit in the theater waiting for the plot twist we know is coming that the anticipation makes the experience feel longer. This even adds to how generic the movie as a whole can seem. The approach was to make it a space western and I could see that. There were shots in the film that paid homage to those film that starred Clint Eastwood such as Han having his hand on his blaster, ready to fire. Also, Han is a loner and a rebel without a cause but could that carry a trilogy? This personality type seems anti-climatic and contradictory to decipher what this film might be other than decent entertainment so it’s hard to tell if it could work in the future.

If there are more, I wouldn’t mind seeing how Han develops his relationships further with those he meets here. It will absolutely be another exciting action film with nice visual effects, but what more than that?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Deadpool 2
Star Rating: 3/4

            Deadpool 2 is a parody of everything pop culture related. It works like Ready Player One (2018) in the sense of the numerous amount of references toward it and tying them into a narrative. Although the latter requires more thought to understand what the main purpose of it is, Deadpool 2 is easier to comprehend. The whole concept plays with irony. Here we have a protagonist who never wanted to do good and merely pokes fun at the general idea of playing superhero but must step up to be one. This sequel generally works as a comedy and in its execution even though it may not be as fun as its predecessor.

            Taking place two years after the events of the first film, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is now an international mercenary. He lives with his girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), and they decide to try and have a child together but enemies of his raid his house and end up killing her. As a form of healing, he joins the X-Men and encounters a young pyrokinetic mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison). Later, he meets another mutant named Cable (Josh Brolin), who is basically what Two-Face from The Dark Knight (2008) would be if he were a cyborg and from the future. Anyway, Cable time travels to this year to kill Russell before he commits a genocide that would affect millions around the world. Terminator (1984), anyone? Like in Aliens (1986) where the protagonist sees a young child in themselves, Wade decides to protect Russell from harm.

            Known detractors of this genre would find Deadpool 2 highly conventional. In a way, it is. This film borrows so many elements from successful films before it in order to construct its own plotline that it can feel generic. Also, many would argue that because it is a Marvel film there is nothing new for the studio to do anymore but that is not the case with Deadpool 2. Even though this picture contains the themes and messages of most films from this company, it takes time to make fun of it. The main character himself shows that Marvel can take a joke.

            Wade Wilson himself could seem like the butt of a joke since he is the mercenary who will never stay quiet but then he turns the tables so quickly on everyone. He breaks the fourth wall and knows he is in a movie which allows him to bring on the punchlines. His most interesting aspect is how he wouldn’t qualify as a superhero entirely. In the first film, he was just a violent brute out for vengeance on those that did him wrong. He never wanted to do any good so having him do good could defy what fans interpret as his character but he has to develop somehow if this series is to continue although it leads to tender moments that are at times comical, especially one scene at the end where the filmmakers use a piece from Marco Beltrami’s score of Logan (2017).

            This whole show belongs to Ryan Reynolds who also co-wrote and co-produced this feature. He brings so much humor to his performance that it feels natural but that’s all that can be said. The acting is spot-on but no one really shines bright. This even applies to Josh Brolin. He did an outstanding job as Thanos in Infinity War last month, yes, and he makes a suitable Cable but he is not as resonating as he is in the former. Cable is a surprisingly good match for Deadpool but that’s all I can state.

            In terms of direction, everything feels shrunken down in scale. I know that would be funny to say for an Ant-Man movie but that’s true here. It last a little less than 120 minutes while Infinity War went on for almost 150 minutes so it feels quicker but that can also take away from its enjoyment. Additionally, this motion picture was also made on a reported budget of $110 million which is much less compared to the $320 million budget of Infinity War. The point of Deadpool 2 is to decrease the scope and use more practical effects so it can add to the satire. If that was the main goal, it worked. The funny thing is how some of the visual effects shots look clearly unrealistic yet I would say the same thing with the superior quality of Black Panther from this winter. Either it looks great or it doesn’t.

            If Marvel’s rival, DC, can satirize themselves with the graphic novel and 2009 motion picture Watchmen, maybe they took a cue from them by greenlighting this new film series. All in all, I know some are getting tired of the growing number of superhero movies, but this is necessary. The protagonist allows us to take somewhat of a break from the genre and laugh at it. It points out what some may find as flaws and has the guts to recognize its own. Simply put, it points out the tendencies that build those final products yet ends up being one of those final products itself. Irony can be so perplexing.