MOVIE REVIEW: The Incredibles 2

written by David Steffen

The Incredibles 2 is a superhero family action/comedy animated feature from Pixar, released in June 2018.  It’s the sequel to The Incredibles, the first in the series, released way back in 2004.  The Incredibles 2 picks up where the first one left off, after the superhero family has had their first big win together thwarting Syndrome’s plan to set up superheroes for failure, and with the emergence of the Underminer’s big drilling machine from under the city.

The family joins together again to save the city from the Underminer (John Ratzenberger), and soon after Elastigirl aka Helen Parr (Holly Hunter), Mr. Incredible aka Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson), and Frozone aka Lucius Best (Samuel L. Jackson) are approached by rich superhero-sympathist brother-and-sister business partners Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener), who want to start a new campaign to make superheroes legal again, starting with financing Elastigirl to fight crime and improve the public image of supers.  Bob and Helen talk it through and decide that she should do it, in part to make a more accepting future for their children Dash (Huck Milner) and Violet (Sarah Vowell).  Bob stays home to watch the kids while Helen goes out on this mission, and their baby Jack-Jack begins manifesting superpowers.  Soon a new supervillain rises, Screenslaver (Bill Wise), who uses hypnosis to turn others into his minions.

People who are susceptible to strobelight-triggered seizures should be aware that there are some scenes which have intense strobe effects without warning, so I would suggest you should avoid this movie for your health.

Overall this movie fits Pixar’s high-caliber storytelling, lots of fun action, funny lines, memorable images, and high adventure.  As with almost all of Pixar’s other movies I would highly recommend it, and I would see it again myself given the opportunity.  In particular, with a young child myself, I completely related to Bob Parr at home trying to take care of a superpowered baby who has teleported into another dimension or has turned into a monster at the mention of cookies.

But there was something that bugged me about one of the storytelling choices here that is not up to Pixar’s usual storytelling standards–Pixar pulled a major and obvious retcon of the events from the first movie… and it’s not clear why.  At the end of The Incredibles, they discover Jack-Jack has powers.  It is, in fact, a major plot point that contributes to the resolution.  The super-villain Syndrome is very good at risk-assessment and he has plans for how to deal with every anticipated threat.  The only way that they succeed in defeating him is that he tries to kidnap Jack-Jack and Jack-Jack suddenly starts manifesting powers in an highly unpredictable way.  This distracts Syndrome long enough and he ends up getting sucked into a jet engine and the jet crashed on the Parrs’ house.  But… Pixar has apparently decided that somehow, Syndrome was defeated, and the Parrs’ house was destroyed by a jet crash, but that somehow this happened without Jack-Jack manifesting his powers.  And now Jack-Jack unexpectedly manifesting powers is a major plot point in this movie.  I suspect that they did this because they felt it would be implausible for Helen to leave Bob alone with the family right after Jack-Jack starts showing powers, but they could’ve figured out a way to write around that.  So that bugged me, not enough to hate the movie, but enough that it was distracting, especially when each character declared “Jack-Jack has powers?!” as though we hadn’t already known about all that already.


MOVIE REVIEW: Get Out (Ray Bradbury Award Finalist)

written by David Steffen

Just a few days ago I reviewed most of the Ray Bradbury Award finalists (an award that is held alongside the Nebula Awards for movies), but I didn’t review Get Out because I hadn’t quite gotten a rental of it yet.  Just before the Nebula voting deadline, I’ve watched it and slipped in the review–the voting deadline is tonight!

Get Out is a thriller/horror film written by Jordan Peele and distributed by Universal.  It won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay and was on the final ballot for Best Film of 2017.

Photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) reluctantly agrees to accompany his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) to her parent’s isolated rural estate.  Chris worries that her parents won’t be welcoming of a black man dating their white daughter.  He meets her neurosurgeon father Dean (Bradley Whitford) and hypnotherapist mother Missy (Catherine Keener) and brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), who all (unsurprisingly to Chris) make discomfiting comments about Black people.  There are a lot of things that are… off about the Armitages and what goes on on their property.  Their servants (both Black) (Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel) are oddly intense and hostile toward him, and Missy repeatedly pushes Chris to let her hypnotize him out of his cigarette habit.  One night, when he comes back into the house after sneaking a smoke, Missy catches him alone and seems to hypnotize him, but he wakes up sure it was a dream.  The next day the Armitages have company, a yearly gathering of all their friends, and things only get weirder.

This is a hell of a movie.  Intense.  Very well written, and the actors are all incredible, often acting on at least two distinct levels–trying to put up a reasonable facade for their visitor while other odd behaviors slip through that front.  Even when nothing overtly scary is happening the sense of unease rarely leaves, only waxes and wanes as you try to figure out what is going on with these people.  Particularly great actors are the actors who played the servants, constantly showing these odd little behaviors, saying polite things with eyes and smiles a bit too wide.  And when the movie gets scary it gets Scary.  Not a lot of movies scare me, but this one genuinely had me on the edge of my seat, on an emotional ride with the characters, and not just depending on cheap jump-scares to manage it.  Not every moment of it is dark, there is comic offsets as well, especially from Chris’ friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery) who he calls to talk about the weird stuff going on and Rod constantly throws out freaky theories about what’s going on and tells Chris to get out.

I barely watched this before the voting deadline, but this got my vote.