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Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: INCREDIBLES 2 (no spoilers)

Here is the thing as a adult critic that you must do in order to not fully nit pick and hassle kid/family films like INCREDIBLES 2. An adult critic has to expect a film that is made for both kids AND adults. Just because you saw the movie as a younger fellow 13/14 years ago, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is going to be made for you now. You could put that argument with the Star Wars prequels as well, but as well all know, the Star Wars prequels had bigger problems than just Jar Jar Binks and having to satisfy both an audience that saw the originals in the 70’s/80’s, and new audience members. Where am I going with this? Well, Incredibles 2 is extremely predictable. How extreme do you ask? A new character shows up near the beginning of the film, and with just the look and appearance of this person, I tapped my wife real quick, and said, “whoever is the bad guy in this movie, it’s this person.” And I was dead on. Even some of the clues were in your face and little medium “AH-HAs” before we get to the ultimate reveal of “AH-HA.” And yes, I was a bit disappointed by that predictability. But then I thought to myself, “wait a minute, a movie like this cannot be THAT complicated, because this movie is made primarily for kids. And if you throw in too much of a complicated plot, you can lose that audience quicker than a drop of a dime. The real question is, is there enough other content there for an adult to look past that predictability (aka the journey) that will make them enjoy the movie just as much? Absolutely it does. In fact, Incredibles 2 is Disney/Pixar’s best sequel since 1999’s Toy Story 2…and that is almost two decades ago. I was able to look past the predictability and some of the same beats as the original, and what I found were genuine heartwarming laughs, feelings, excitement, and awe.

When it was bothering me a little that the film was too predictable, after the movie, I looked back on other Disney/Pixar films…and you know what? They are all basically extremely too predictable, it’s the execution of the journey that transcends all the familiar beats and cliches. You know a Disney/Pixar film isn’t going to have a dark ending. You know that Woody and his friends will be okay and be played with by some other child if not Andy, they aren’t going to have a sequence of someone actually getting away with someone throwing them in a shredder or cut to black when they are lying lifeless at the bottom of a garbage pail. We know that the father will find Nemo or Dory. We know that Wall-E will get Eve. We know that the circus bugs will help the ants get rid of the crickets, we know the rat will make the young chef famous but then be revealed as being the real cook of the kitchen. You know the feelings inside that girl are going to succeed on their journey to make her emotions okay in the end. It’s all there. The real excitement though is the unpredictable aspects of the journey before you get to the predictable reveals/endings. Like Bing Bon’s sacrifice in Inside Out. Everybody on Earth being absolute fat asses from being in space too long in Wall-E. Woody being a collector’s item in Toy Story 2. Incredibles 2 has a bunch of those unpredictable moments. The opening action sequence with the Underminer is fantastic. Baby Jack Jack completely steals every scene he is in and he has a fight scene with a mini critter that leave you in stitches. The action sequence of Elastagirl chasing this and that is thrilling and exciting. The end action sequence is great too. It’s also a great looking film and Michael Giachinno’s score was perfect as always. I had so much fun with this sequel that my slight irkness with the predictable plot soon flowed out of my body and I was able to enjoy the spectacle on the screen.

Is this movie as good or better than the first one? Of course not, and you shouldn’t expect it to be. The first one, being 13/14 years old, is now considered a classic with classic moments. You are getting something brand new here, so it’s going to take awhile for everything to sink in and consider certain scenes to be a new kind of classic. It’s going to take awhile to have those marathons with your kid or buy yourself or with some friends of watching the first and this one back to back. But it will happen! I don’t think the first one was considered a classic until a few years after it came out, it had enough time for it to be appreciated over and over again and enough where people finally came out and said, “this is as close to a perfect Pixar film we are ever going to get.” The Incredibles is my favorite Pixar film, followed closely by Wall-E and Ratatouille and Toy Story 2, so that might tell you where my allegiances lie and where I would put this film in the future where I rank my personal favorite Pixar films (Cars and its sequels will always, always, always be the bottom three films, even the forgettable Good Dinosaur didn’t hit those lows.

I didn’t really go into plot here, and I don’t necessarily need to. The movie picks up literally right after the first one ends, and nothing energy wise skips a beat. All the voice acting is again top notch and even though a lot of the film is very predictable and copies some of the same beats of the original, it still has a solid storytelling structure with no unnecessary filler. If I were to give some advice if there is a third one of these films, I would say that the supers being illegal thing has played itself out and something else needs to really drive the story. It picking up right after the first one, and not dealing with them being legalized yet was fine because the first one didn’t really address if everything was going to change right away. But now since Brad Bird use it as a primary driving force once again (I won’t reveal if he finally solves it here), for the third time, you can’t do it again. It would be like having Starkiller base, after you have already made a Death Star and a Death Star II. I did like some of the new cast in the film, Saul Goodman…errr Bob Odenkirk shows up as a guy that wants to represent superheroes and try to make them legal again, and his sister is voiced by Catherine Keener, who is also good, and Sophia Bush does a good job as a new superhero named Voyd. Oh, and if liked Edna Mole in the first film, you are going to love her here.

So yes, I completely recommend Incredibles 2, I had a wonderful time. I don’t know if it will be there on my year end list, we’ll see. Right now it is, but we still got a half a year to go, hopefully full of nice surprises. It is a wonderful family film that is no doubt going to dominate the summer. If you see some critics being harsh with this film, saying it is too predictable and that there are not too many surprises, it is because they can’t just let it go that the movie wasn’t tailored made from them now like it was 13/14 years ago. It is tailored made for families and even more tailored made for kids. In that it completely succeeds. Kids are going to love this movie, just like they love the original (hopefully you nimrods have showed them the original by now and if not shame on you). And while I said it is Pixar’s best sequel since Toy Story 2, in time, it could even be named Pixar’s best sequel period.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: OCEAN’S 8 (minor spoilers)

I was relieved to discover that OCEAN’S 8 was actually quite decent. Decent and enjoyable enough to be better than the sloggy 12 and 13, but nowhere near the greatness of 11 or Logan Lucky (Logan Lucky has nothing to do with the Ocean’s series other than being another heist film and directed by Soderberg who did all the rest but this one). It fits comfortable somewhere right in the middle. The heist was fun, and the star studded women and their chemistry to one another definitely made this one of those “female driven reboots” to actually check out, unlike the abysmal Ghostbusters we got a couple of years ago. While the story is a bit of a straight point and shoot affair (it is missing the cinematic sting of Soderberg for sure), a definite soft reboot/remake/sequel to 11 (like Force Awakens was to A New Hope), and some predictability issues, the entire being of it has just enough to give it that oomph to see where it could go if they were to possibly make a 9 and 10 (which they most definitely will). If you see this movie and wonder where the hell I got my enjoyment of it, because not a lot of critics or audiences liked it, just know that I have a soft spot for heist films.

Why? Because I believe you have to have an incredibly talented imagination and have superior skills to even write something as intricate and detail oriented as a heist film. I get truly impressed easily I guess (probably why Inception is my favorite film of all time). You get one detail wrong in those films, everybody will be all over your ass. The films starts like the first one does, with Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean, getting out of jail after a five year stint, and looking for revenge and riches. Only this time the revenge isn’t with someone that took your wife/husband, this revenge deals with the man her sent her to jail in the first place. We are let known that this is a sequel to the Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13 (even though this is called 8) because we learn that *minor spoiler alert* that Danny Ocean has just recently passed away. Although the film does leave hints that he might not necessarily be dead if George Clooney would be interested in doing a quick cameo or small role. There are also a couple of quick surprise guests from the previous film, one of them truly being incredibly funny and putting a smile on my face. Anyway, Debbie Ocean wants to rob a $150 million dollar Cartier necklace that they are going to try and get out from under the vault it has been in for more than 50 years and get it on the neck of a celebrity (a fictional one played by Anne Hatheway) and then steal it at the annual Met Gala. The rest of the details I’ll leave be so you can see the movie and enjoy the caper for yourself.

The intricacy of the heist and mainly the chemistry of all the women together made the film be better than average. Sandra Bullock is honestly just kind of Sandra Bullock in this film, but her leadership role and her dynamic with Cate Blanchett, who is definitely the woman Brad Pitt in this movie with her suave as hell character, makes up for her lack of dimension. Anne Hathaway is probably the one that shines the most here, playing the ultimate celebrities’ celebrity, completely aloof to what is going on and everything being about her, her, her. The one that probably gets the least screen time and character development is Mindy Kaling, who at least plays it straight laced and isn’t just being Mindy from The Office or The Mindy Project again. Right behind Hathaway would be Helena Bonham Carter, who always brings her A game, and plays a fun yet neurotic famous fashion designer that joins the heist because she in debt to the IRS. And then right behind Carter would be Rihanna, who I think is a better actress than she thinks she is, having come off of this as an actual cool character and her brief yet most memorable stint in last year’s Valerian. Awkwafina (is it really pronounced like the bottled water?!?), who basically is Matt Damon’s pick pocketing role has several scenes to shine, and Sarah Paulson is just as good here in anything that she does (which is a lot). The cast bounces off each other with grace and charm, and their scenes together are definitely better than the ones apart.

Gary Ross (who did Pleasantville ((still his best film)) and the first Hunger Games film) is behind the camera on this one, and frankly, his inferiority to Soderberg shows. Steven Soderberg, even with the flimsy 12 and 13 had a great visual style that reverberated throughout all the films, even at their lowest points there was something interesting on camera. Here, with Ross, it is mostly a point and shoot affair, and anything visually interesting you would assume he just completely ripped off from Soderberg. Maybe we could get Steven to come back for 9? His direction isn’t horribly mind you, but it is just plain Jane. I am though wondering if they had to film this very fast because of everyone’s schedule, so visual flair got in the way of actually getting a complete film in the can? Who knows?

But I still had fun with Ocean’s 8. And my wife, who saw it with me, liked it quite a bit as well (she had to go pee really really bad with still 50 minutes left and managed to hold it in, so that says something) It isn’t the end all be all of heist films, but that is ok, it wasn’t meant to be. It is just meant to be a quick fun summer film that you can just play along and get away from reality for for a couple of hours. I mean if you pointed a gun to my head and said, “you have 5 seconds, another all female Ghostbuster film, or Ocean’s 9 with the same cast?” I would quickly choose Ocean’s 9, no question. Female driven reboots can work, and this one proves that it can. But hopefully, maybe next time, we could get something that could become a classic. This just wets the appetite.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: HOTEL ARTEMIS (no spoilers)

Over the weekend, if Hereditary was the movie that disturbed me the most, then HOTEL ARTEMIS was the most fun. I know, I know, the Rotten Tomato score doesn’t reflect that. But like all of my friends tell me, sometimes you just have to tell RT to go fuck itself. This is one of those times. This movie, while kind of ripping off the hotel in John Wick, was fun, weird, and crazy enough for me to consider it more unique from John Wick where I am going to believe that writer/director Drew Pearce maybe took that idea and made it his own. The film features an all star cast. You have Jodie Foster giving her best performance in decades, you have This Is Us’s Sterling K. Brown just radiating coolness, you have Jeff Goldblum being…well yeah Jeff Goldblum. You have Charlie Day finally playing someone other than Charlie on It’s Always Sunny, you have Sofia Boutella being as sexy as ever (and now right under Jennifer Lawrence for me in terms of celebrity crushes) and you even have Dave Bautista playing a different kind of role. Zachary Quinto and Jenny Slate are in this too and are great in the scenes they are in. Yeah, a lot of recognizable names. And while the movie has some predictability to it, my eyes never left the screen to look at my watch to see when the film would end. It is a wholly enjoyable tight 95 minutes of hammed up, scenery chewing performances, a little bit of action, and a weird little fun plot.

HOTEL ARTEMIS is a hotel, that is also a one woman hospital, that caters to injured criminals looking for someplace local to stay/hide. The hotel has strict rules. No weapons allowed inside. You must have membership to get in. No fighting or killing the other patients. No exceptions. Well, if there weren’t any exceptions we wouldn’t have a movie right? The movie takes place actually just ten years from now, 2028, and Los Angeles is currently under riots because apparently clean water is really hard to get these days, and a clean water company is cutting a lot of people off. Sterling K. Brown’s character and his brother get injured during a non related robbery and go to Hotel Artemis for safekeeping and medical care. Jodie Foster’s character runs the hotel, with Dave Bautista as her very loyal orderly. Little do the brothers know that the hotel is almost booked up, with some of the occupants looking to break the rules that night for their own gain, and that the true owner of the Artemis is about to pay a visit.

And that’s all I will tell you. The fun of the movie is going through the story, seeing what some of the criminals true intentions are, seeing who lives and who dies, and seeing all the actors ham it up. It’s very predictable mind you, but as I’ve said before in other reviews, it doesn’t matter if the journey is incredibly intoxicating. And it most definitely is here. I loved the slightly futuristic world. Enough tech for the world to advance just a little bit in a decade, and enough resources plummeting to make the riots seem timely, but not enough to make your eyes roll. I loved the tone of the film as well as the dark look of Los Angeles during the riots. I loved, loved, loved Jodie Foster’s performance as the one and only nurse that takes care of the criminals that happen to seek help. She’s neurotic enough to completely follow her rules and not move an inch, completely OCD in each and every way, but enough of a give to be able to have a redeemable arc. It’s her best performance since…well, I don’t know when, well, actually maybe Silence of the Lambs. Sterling K. Brown is great here to, radiating such cool that my hetero man crush on him just keeps going up after this, People Vs. O.J. Simpson, and This Is Us. Dave Bautista isn’t Drax here either, and Sofia Boutella is so damn charming and sexy its unbelievable. And is Jeff Goldblum having a Blumessiance? He very well could be. Zachary Quinto also proves he needs to be a psychotic leading man in his own movie. Instead of going through the rest of the actors one by one, trust me when I say they were all pretty good.

There is nothing more to say about this film other than that the direction was good, the action wasn’t too heavy and over the top, and it made me interested in taking another trip to the hotel somewhere down the line (with the box office take this weekend though, I doubt it). This is one of those very, very good switch off your brain times at the movies. Drew Pearce hasn’t done much, in fact this is his directorial debut, which he does have a good eye with framing and other camera work/skills that can only get better from here. It is definitely his best screenplay work to date, considering that he only came up with the story for Rogue Nation, and only wrote Iron Man 3 and one other Marvel One-Shot. Maybe something even more original next time, and not so predictable could come out of his future that to me, could be bright. But this is here, now, and this will do, because I definitely enjoyed my stay.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: FIRST REFORMED (no spoilers)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a film ending can truly make or break your film. It doesn’t matter how fucking good the movie is before that ending, if your ending sucks, has a WTF kind of punchline, or you are too ambiguous, you could lose your audience. Now let’s go to director Paul Schrader before I get to reviewing his new film starring Ethan Hawke that you probably hadn’t heard of, FIRST REFORMED. Paul Schrader is a pretty great screenwriter, and kind of a meh director. And his screenwriting has definitely been hit or miss. More of a hit in the 70s and 80s and a couple of huge misfires past the 1990s (by misfires I mainly mean The Canyons and The Exorcist prequel). He is known for mainly being a Scorcese collaborator, writing great classics as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Bringing Out The Dead. Now the ending to Schrader’s new movie is going to divide a lot of people. Critics think it is fucking brilliant, but I’ve heard some audience members aren’t fucking having it, from what I’m reading. I’m going to say that while I think the ending could’ve been much much better than it was (it goes down the predictable route, then then quickly switches gears and goes into “what the fuck territory? with a huge salt load of ambiguousness), it was a bit of a let down, as I feel that Schrader was basically almost copying the ending of Taxi Driver in its “what the fuck”ness. Only Taxi Driver’s ending really really worked. This one, on my initial thoughts, made me say “huh?” when it cut to black. The ending kind of works the more you really think about it and the themes and the weighty moral center the film’s core has. I can’t really get into it without revealing it so if you know me personally, hit me up and I’ll tell you. I’m still recommending the film though, because the dialogue and everything leading to the end is pretty damn brilliant, and so is Ethan Hawke, who gives us his best performance…ever.

Very quickly, the movie is about a protestant pastor who is very ill, very alone (reasons revealed in the movie), and very dedicated to the First Reformed church, a church that is about to have its 250th anniversary. The church has mainly become a tourist attraction, with not a lot of regular daily attendees and worshippers. He’s trying to get ready of being part of the 250th anniversary celebration, collaborating with a much bigger church syndicate run by Cedric The Entertainer (yes, him, but also his best performance…ever, not comical really at all). At the beginning of the film, one day after mass, a pregnant wife, played by Amanda Seyfried (great here too), that wants that pastor to talk to her husband, who is a very depressed, very radical environmentalist, who doesn’t want to bring a child in this world that according to him, is dying. Once meeting with this individual, he begins to questions his beliefs, and his life takes a very different turn. That’s about all I can tell you before I get into the twists and turns of the thing. However, when these twists and turns come, you can eventually see where this movie is going to end, or where you think it will. I have to give it to the ending a little bit for not hitting bullseye on that particular mark, but surely there could’ve been something more concrete and original.

What I did love in this film was the dialogue, the handling of the timely weighty themes, and Ethan Hawke’s Oscar worthy performance. His initial sit down with the environmentalist is long and lasts about 10 minutes, but the way they talk and bounce off of each other in this conversation, just proves that you can keep people’s attention without any action or any new age camera work. The conversation tenses up where it needs to and tells the audience its message without getting too…pun intended…preachy. The whole film I was surprised didn’t really get in your face with the preachy. And it had every opportunity to, and every right to as well. The film is essential a Church versus big corporate pollution companies versus the Pastor’s morals and faith. Every conversation is just nuanced enough to have you guess where the conversation would’ve went if written by a less experienced screenplay writer. But this is Paul Schrader’s we are talking about here, even with his misses, he is still a veteran screenplay writer that we should be able to trust 100%, good or bad movie (can’t say the same for Akiva Goldsman though…)

Ethan Hawke’s performance is nothing short of brilliant, his best since Training Day and Boyhood. He is almost in every scene and he lights up every second of it. There are times where he could’ve completely jumped the gun and over acted, but instead goes the subtle route, to bring a more believable and realistic character to the screen. It’s spectacular to watch and if the ending had completely destroyed my faith in all of the film (it hasn’t, I just thought it could’ve been a little better) I would still recommend the film based on his performance alone. And maybe to even see Cedric The Entertainer (who goes by his real name here) play completely against type. I probably didn’t think the movie is a masterpiece that some critics are claiming it to be because, to be honest, I’m just not that religious. But I do get enough of it to know what the movie was trying to do, basically asking the question, “will God forgive us?” and thinks that it accomplished what it set out to tell, better than average.

It just depends what type of movie goer you are if you will love or hate this film. Paul Shrader early work enthusiasts will love it to death, people that can’t stand religion will probably never watch it or be that interested, religious people will like it until the ending, and modern audience who need explosions and simple tales with absolutely loathe this film. Me? I’m right after the Shrader enthusiasts, I really really thought it was great up until the ending. Now the ending didn’t ruin it for me, it was different enough not to be predictable, I just thought it could’ve been meatier. Say what you want about Hollywood’s lack of originality, but it is film’s like this that get lost in the shuffle that contradict those plights.