Guest Post: Movie Review – Incredibles 2

Jack-Jack vs Raccoon was the best fight scene of the year

GUEST ALERT! This piece was written and contributed by Nick Curl, who had the following to say:

“Soggz wants me to plug myself but I’m not sure what to plug. I do wedding and portrait photography, so you can check me out on The Knot at https://tinyurl.com/ybe4ltg4. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram @nickcurl.”

Nick is an amazing person and I loved this review, be sure to check out his photography. Spoiler: He’s pretty incredible at that too!

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With a film title of Incredibles, you’ve already put a fair amount of pressure on yourself to live up to that word. And not only did writer/director Brad Bird do that with his 2004 groundbreaking Pixar Animation film The Incredibles, he has seemingly done the impossible fourteen years later: create a seamless transition to a part two, a film that is just as subversive, sharp, insightful, and gorgeous as the original.

I saw The Incredibles when I was eight-years-old with my dad, and I honestly don’t know who enjoyed the movie more. It was everything I could possibly want in a movie, and I proceeded to watch it about twenty more times when it was released on DVD. I patiently waited for a sequel for years, wanting to know if the Parr family successfully took down the Underminer, how Violet’s date with Tony Rydinger went, if Dash became a track and field superstar, and what was going to happen with Jack-Jack, the baby with multiple powers. Now, after fourteen years, I’ve gotten the answers (and so much more) that eight-year-old me was dying to know.

The film picks up immediately where we left off: the Parrs, having successfully defeated Syndrome, are beginning to live a “normal” life, watching Dash decide where to place in his 200 meter sprint, when the Underminer begins his rampage on Municiberg. Following their (somewhat) successful attempt at stopping the Underminer, the government decides that it’s time, once and for all, to retire the Supers. Defeated and living in a motel, the Parrs are approached by communications mogul, Winston Deavor (the fantastic Bob Odenkirk), and his sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener; truly top-notch voice work across the board), who promise Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson, who steps into the role like he never left) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter, who steals every scene with just her voice) — and all supers – the opportunity to come out of hiding.

From there, the film takes off and exponentially gains momentum to a thrilling climax reminiscent of Speed 2 (but infinitely better, I promise). The film’s A-plot, centered around Helen/Elastigirl vs an enigmatic villain, the Screenslaver, is the movie’s only disappointing aspect due to its predictability and the sense that Bird was phoning-in this aspect of the film. Without spoiling anything, the Screenslaver starts out as a truly creepy, well-motivated villain (he has a speech in the second act which felt straight out of USA’s Mr. Robot), but quickly becomes a generic character who, most disappointingly, acts against the rules that Bird had so expertly established in the first film. In The Incredibles, Lucius/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson, thankfully with a much larger role this time around) and Bob/Mr. Incredible have a hilarious conversation which jabs at one of the superhero-genre’s most irritating tropes: villains monologuing when they, realistically, should just get on with their plan and/or kill the Superhero they have prisoner. It was a phenomenal moment of genre-subverting self-awareness which made the original so iconic. Now, in an identical situation as the one Frozone described in the first film, our villain “monologues” for no reason other than to explain to the audience exactly what their motivation is. It was a disappointing moment in an otherwise spectacular film which goes out of its way to treat the superhero-genre with a realism and relatability that is rarely, if ever, seen from Marvel or DC.

So, despite the film’s weak A-plot, literally every other moment had a smile glued on my face like I was eight-years-old again. With Helen off being the face of the Supers’ Return, Bob takes up the role of stay-at-home-dad. This is where the film truly shines. Watching Bob learn the ins-and-outs of parenting his three vastly different children with vastly different issues is both hilarious and rings true for just about everyone. Violet, with her teen angst over Tony Rydinger, Dash’s homework (which produces possibly the film’s greatest line, “I don’t know that way! Why would they change math?”), and Jack-Jack’s burgeoning superpowers. Each relationship is handled with such care and joy that it’s evident if Brad Bird could’ve made a three-hour film centered around the everyday lives of our Super-family, he would’ve. And, of course, everyone’s favorite designer returns to the fun as well. Tasked with babysitting Jack-Jack overnight, Edna Mode (voiced by Brad Bird himself) is initially reluctant (“I’m an artist”), but is soon more than willing to not only watch Jack-Jack, but take him on as an apprentice of sorts (which leads to the film’s second-best gag).

The animation on display is spectacular and visually arresting. We’re still in the same world we know and love, but with finer detail everywhere you look. The cinematography is some of the best Pixar has ever produced (I’m not sure anything will top 2015’s The Good Dinosaur), and it makes for an even more immersive experience than the first film. Standout scenes include the Underminer battle, the train sequence with Elastigirl (a fantastic parallel to the first film), and the first battle with the Screenslaver (if you’re epileptic, be ready to turn away for about a minute). Brad Bird’s skill as a visually storyteller has never been clearer, and neither has his love for the Parrs.

In a market over-saturated with superheroes, whether they’re Avengers, X-Men, or the Justice League, Brad Bird has proven, once again, that finding the truth in your characters and their relationships is more important than any superpowers on display. But the powers are fun too.

The Lego Batman Movie – Movie Review

First Lesson: Life Doesn’t Give you Seat-belts

In 2014, Warner Animation Group gave us a movie that most of us thought would just be a shameless plug to sell some plastic toys…and we were right, in a sense. The only thing was that none of us expected what we got: An amazing animated movie with a great voice-acting cast, pristine animation, and an actual plot that made some adults cry like babies and made other adults buy new lego sets (the latter for me, personally). Out of all the funny lego characters we got, Will Arnett’s hilarious narcissistic and edgy take on Batman stood out in that movie…so much that here we are in 2017 with the spin-off “Lego Batman” movie, and a “Lego Ninjago” movie coming soon as well.

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Because “The Lego Movie” revolved around original characters like Emmett, Lord Business, etc, The comedy in that movie had to also have a sense of originality and had to come from the situations that the characters were in. With a property like Batman that’s been having its own movies since the 60’s, however, that wasn’t as necessary. Reviewing and recommending this movie is fairly simple: IF you like self-referencing humor and the Batman films, you will absolutely love this movie. This movie is a spoof of the property, made obvious through the medium of legos and the animation style. The more Batman you’ve seen, the better. If the Batman films and comics are always fresh in your head, you will catch all the humor and it will be a delight.

Aside from that, just wanted to mention a few things I liked and noticed:

  • This movie BARELY takes a break. It is joke after punchline after pun after self-burn after…you get the idea. If you’re in a low energy mood, this is NOT the film for you. I personally wish I wasn’t as tired when I saw it, I probably would’ve enjoyed it even more. There is a slower section in the 2nd act, but it is mainly to focus on the story…which even comedic movies need, so no complaints there.

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  • Dear Lord, some of these references were just marvelous (DCous?…get it?..sorry). There’s the things you would expect them to make fun of (Suicide Squad, BvS, Shark-Repel-ant, Batman brooding) and then there’s some stuff that I haven’t heard been referenced in a while. One of my personal favorites was Joker explaining his plan to a Security Guard, and the guard telling him its going to fail so he brings up some of Joker’s other failed plans…specifically “That one time with the parade and the Prince music” (Burton’s Batman movie in 1989). I couldn’t hold in my laughter during some of these even if I was one of the only ones laughing.
  • The dynamic with Joker wanting Batman’s attention like an overly attached crush was one of the best parts of the movie. It was just really funny to see a spoof of Joker having a purpose, I honestly didn’t expect that much thought to go into this when they just as easily could’ve went: “Oh Joker’s crazy anyway, lets just have him do clown things and focus the movie more on Batman giving one-liners”…but wow, they actually gave the audience something to work with and it’s great.

You probably saw this coming already, but since I love spoofs and meta-jokes, and since you all know my feelings about Batman as a superhero, I’m giving the Lego Batman movie a 9/10. 

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This was no doubt a shorter review since there wasn’t much to go into, but expect a longer review for “Logan” which comes out in about a month…which I am SO excited for. It took me a while to get started for 2017, but be on the lookout because some cool stuff that is out of the usual realm of film reviews is coming soon. Thanks for reading!

That’s all for now,
Soggz Out!

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Invasion! (The CW’s DCTV Crossover) – TV Review

As many of you know, the CW is currently home to four different DC Superhero shows: Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow. Even though I’m aware that most of my readers and friends only stick to watching Barry screw timelines on “The Flash”, that would still mean they were aware that this was happening due to all the marketing and effort the CW has put out for this crossover event. Despite the four shows attracting different audiences and receiving very different reception (I’m not going to open the can of worms that is “Arrow”‘s 4th season…at least not on this review), I’ve gotta say I’m a fan of this crossover event and I enjoyed a vast majority of it.  

DC managed to find their strength when it comes to live action media, and that strength happens to be making corny, fun, awkward, and exciting TV shows over at the CW. I stuck with “Flash” and “Legends of Tomorrow” since day 1, had to catch up on “Arrow” before its 3rd season and went from there, and I haven’t had the chance to check out “Supergirl”…but man oh man, I enjoyed almost EVERYONE in this crossover. The four episodes managed to entertain me and actually have implications and consequences for the individual plot-lines of each show. I’m really excited about this, so I’m going to go into spoilers and talk about each of the 4 episodes briefly. Here it goes!

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All of the hype.

[SPOILERS START HERE]

 

Supergirl – Okay so a lot of people missed this, but it was already revealed that this episode of Supergirl would serve as a “small prologue” for the crossover rather than being the actual first part of it. I know some people feel like they got tricked into watching an episode of Supergirl when they didn’t want to…but honestly I could watch Melissa Benoist any time of the day and never complain…siiiiigh…..Huh, what? Oh, right, the review. Basically we get an episode of Supergirl that gives some insight into her personality and her world until the last 30 seconds where Barry and Cisco show up and tell Kara that her help is needed on their earth. Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

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If I had a type…yeah…in case anyone was wondering…

Flash – So THIS is where the crossover really starts. We’re introduced to The Dominators, a group of aliens that have attacked earth before and do not come in peace. The all-star team is assembled and consisting of: Flash, Green Arrow, Spartan, Speedy, Supergirl, Heatwave, Atom, White Canary, Firestorm, Overwatch, and Vibe….aka (respectively) Barry, Oliver, Diggle, Thea, Kara, Rory, Ray, Sara, Jax/Martin, and (unfortunately) Felicity and Cisco (who’s basically the Felicity of “Flash” right now). Barry, Oliver, Jax, and Martin stay back to talk while the rest of the team goes out on reconnaissance, which gives us a scene here with the Future Barry’s message (revealed in Legends of Tomorrow) and the consequences of Flashpoint being realized by everyone in this universe. This was great because we really get to see Barry appear to be the “villain” in this group of heroes after he’s been looked to as an amazing guy this entire time…it shows that Barry is flawed and now even his friends are beating up on him rather than just himself. There’s a scene here where Oliver explains the deaths of his parents to Barry…and boy, that gets intense. The chemistry between Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin has never been stronger than it was in all the crossover episodes, and I REALLY hope we see these two interact more often. The episode wraps up with Barry and Oliver freeing the rest of the team from the Dominators’ mind control devices, only for five members of the team to be immediately abducted by a Dominator ship.

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Quicksilver who?

Arrow (Happy 100th episode!) – I’m going to be honest, this show hasn’t had an episode this good since season 2. The 100th episode of Arrow reminded me of why I stick with it: for moments like the ones we saw here. Oliver, Ray, Sara, Diggle, and Thea all end up in a shared hallucination that represents their ideal lives. Oliver is marrying Laurel (IT’S WHAT I WANTED ALL ALONG), Thea and Oliver’s parents are still alive, Ray is engaged to Felicity, and Diggle is the Arrow. Oliver is the first one to realize what is going down here and convinces everyone one-by-one that this isn’t real. The tension is so well done here…Oliver and company can actually enjoy this hallucination and choose to live happily for, what it seems like, the first time. After realizing that its best for them to face reality and fight, they’re greeted by the villains of the past season for this EPIC fight scene where our heroes fight the ones they have super personal beef with. Thea fights Malcom Merlyn, Oliver fights Deathstroke, and Sara finally gets to have her revenge against Damien Dahrk…and this whole thing was one of the best action scenes I’ve seen on any of these shows. Our heroes wake up and try to escape the Dominators’ ship on an alien pod, and are saved by the Waverider, where Gideon reveals to us that the Dominators are planning on using a weapon against earth.

Legends of Tomorrow – The concluding episode of the entire crossover felt like Television’s “Avengers”. Most of the action takes place here as everything wraps up,  after a time-traveling shenanigan with some of the Legends (what else is new?). It was one of those moments where your inner-12-year-old was so hyped that you begged your mom for a Flash action figure as soon as the episode was over. I can’t even explain it through words, its one of those things where you just need to watch it yourself. Oh, and that final scene with Barry and Oliver having a drink? Perfect.

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The funniest thing I heard all week (Superman Returns, if you don’t get it).

I’m not sure that a crossover would be such a good idea in the future, since there are few circumstances that could actually get the 4 shows together. Since this was the first one, it was acceptable to use “generic faceless army” as an excuse for some awesome superhero fan-service. This is one of those things where I geeked out so hard, probably to the point where my rationality gets a little skewed…knowing that, I’m still giving the DCTV “Invasion!” crossover event an 8/10.

I apologize that my Pokemon Sun review is taking so long, i’m still playing through it! I WILL write about it once I’m done. As for the Suicide Squad extended cut, I’ve decided not to review that and instead give my thoughts on the DC films as a whole in a future post. Let me know if there’s some content you think I’d enjoy that you’d like me to review, and please help me get my blog some more exposure if you like what you see!

That’s all for now,
Soggz out!

 

What Hurts the Modern Comic Book Movie?

From the 70s-90s, DC reigned supreme on the silver screen with their Superman and Batman movies, which captivated audiences everywhere. Fast forward to the early 2000’s, and the world was blessed with two X-men and two Spiderman movies, showing everyone that comic book movies could be amazing summer blockbusters, be entertaining and well-done, and be a gold-mine for Hollywoo (that’s not a typo, watch Bojack Horseman). Unfortunately, we were then hit with a barrage of horrible comic book movies that never seemed to end: Ghostrider, Daredevil, Elektra, Fantastic 4, Green Lantern, etc. In 2008, we were all blown away by DC and Marvel as “The Dark Knight” gave us Oscar-Worthy performances, and “Ironman” took a B-list superhero and propelled him to greatness (we can excuse the small hiccup of Ironman 2). Now we are in 2016 with three major cinematic universes for comic book movies. Comic book sales have been bumped up by new and eater readers. Its safe to say that Comic Book movies are here to stay and have become a major part of our pop culture.

So what makes a comic book movie “bad” nowadays? I’m not talking about the dry argument of “they’re formulaic, they’re all the same, I don’t like them”. I truly believe that we’re past the absolutely atrocious films (excluding the 2016 “Fantastic 4″…oh my) that are so poorly written and done, so what mistakes are being made in the modern Comic Book Movie? In this piece, I’m going to hit a few points that I’ve noticed in my long history of watching these movies. [MILD SPOILER WARNING] for the movies I use as examples, even though anyone reading this has probably seen most of them or (at this point) shouldn’t care about getting them spoiled.

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Already accepting that I’m going to sound like a butthurt fanboy for the duration of this piece

1. “Spiderman 3 Syndrome”

Yes, this is a term I just made up, but I’m going to tell you why. Think back to “Spiderman 3” and where the first two movies left off. All the major events that have moved the plot forward have culminated into Harry Osborn being the villain. However, for some reason this movie decided not only to have Harry and Peter’s conflict happen, but to include the entire fiasco involving the venom symbiote, AND add in the subplot of Flint Marko being accused of Uncle Ben’s murder and turning into Sandman? It sounds a little ridiculous to put all of that into one movie, and it was! Especially when you throw in more MJ/Peter drama (which felt like the same fight that they’ve had for the past two movies), Gwen Stacy, and inappropriate jazz choreography. When it comes to the flow of the story, Spiderman 3 can be simply described as a trainwreck.

Other examples include:

Dark Knight Rises: They tried to have Bane, Catwoman and Talia be important and have Bruce Wayne suffer a broken back, heal a broken back, and return to Gotham to fight his nemesis, save the day and name a successor. Despite still being a well-done film, it ends up being the least compelling of the trilogy with parts of the movie that felt too slow and other parts that felt too rushed.

Suicide Squad: I didn’t speak about this too much in my Suicide Squad review, but dear lord what a sloppy movie. Upon rewatch, when they introduced Katana in about 30 seconds, I definitely had my hands in my face. She’s such a cool character that we’re probably not going to see again, and her presence didn’t really hurt or add to the movie. There’s just too much in this movie that the audience ends up disregarding. Side-note: When you spend literally 5 seconds on Slipknot’s exposition, we all know that he’s totally going to die within the next few scenes.

I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be more than one villain in a Comic Book movie. I’m even open to having more than one sub-plot that’s also taking place. But when a movie tries to rely on bringing multiple iconic characters and scenes to life in the same movie, often times the characters and their motivations become overshadowed by other poorly executed sub-plots. What was originally a selling point in the trailers becomes a weak point in the overall story structure. If you want to see a movie that did this right, “Captain America Civil War” made it work by focusing everything back to the central conflict.

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Lord have mercy on my soul

2. Set-Up Movies

Remember when Sony had claims to a Spider-Man Cinematic Universe? It felt like they were trying to give Disney and the Avengers a huge middle finger, and they announced a slew of Spider-Man movies, including a “Sinister Six” and “Venom”. One of the big reasons that “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” just wasn’t a great movie was because they spent so much quality run time trying to establish a cinematic universe that they didn’€™t really accomplish anything big in the movie itself. When movies get so caught up in the big picture, we lose quality in the standalone film that we paid 10 dollars to go see, leaving the audience feeling somewhat empty and unfulfilled.

Other examples include:

Any movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe that sets up an infinity stone or feels like a glorified advertisement for a new Avengers film. I’m looking at you, “Thor: The Dark World”.

Fant4stic: I’m not joking when I say that this movie is about 90% exposition that leads up to nothing notable and keeps acting like there are 4 sequels confirmed to follow it. It feels like you’re in stasis for a good 100 minutes only to be slapped in the face at the end.

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Apparently, we only start after 3 set-up movies

3. Crossing into the realm of obscurity

This is something I’ve only really noticed recently. Casual fans of comic books, think back to “Batman V Superman” and be honest with me. Did any of you fully understand what was going on during Bruce Wayne’s dream sequence when some guy in a portal started yelling something at Bruce about Lois Lane being the key? I’d be shocked if any of you did. It’s always nice when filmmakers throw in a nod or two to the comic books, but sometimes it just leaves the audience even more confused than they originally were.

Examples include:

Batman V Superman: The “knightmare” sequence was undoubtedly a cool and well done scene on the cinematographer’s end. However, If I leaned over to my Dad and whispered “Psst, this is a nod to the Injustice series. Also that’s Darkseid’s insignia and those are Parademons from Apokolips”,, his head might’ve exploded on the spot.

X-Men Apocalypse: I watched this one with a friend who’s seen the other X-men movies, but isn’t a comic book fan by any means, and he didn’t really know how to react to a few scenes. It’s great that you wanted to give us Caliban talking to Mystique and then Apocalypse, but to most of the audience, he’s just a guy that looks weird. Not only that, after the post-credits scene revealed that Nathaniel Essex was going to be a part of the big picture now, some guy in my theater yelled out “Does anyone get that?” and the rest of the theater erupted into laughter.

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Casuals be like: Darkseid confirmed! (no, seriously, who the hell is Darkseid?)

4. “3Edgy5Me” Syndrome

This is another phrase I tend to use that no one else does, but I can explain! I love Nolan’s Batman trilogy…but I also hate that other creators said “Holy tragic story, Batman! This is so successful, maybe we could do this with every superhero!” Unfortunately this led to an onslaught of superhero stories that are described as “Dark and Gritty”. Most of these were so ridiculous that I’ve reached a point where I laugh when I hear those two words because I just know that the movie is going to be bad to an extent. It is a given that the protagonist of a film faces struggle and adversity constantly. However, when an uplifting character is turned into a tragic character, it tends to be forced and poorly executed. Not everyone can be Batman or Daredevil, that’s why unique and different characters are created so that more audiences can relate! Being edgy just for the sake of being edgy is just dumb, the movie doesn’t need to be dark to be compelling.

Examples:

The Amazing Spider-Man: Did anyone find all of that “untold story” nonsense about his parents and finding subway tokens in his dad’s calculator to be memorable at all? Throw in his romance with Gwen being “so wrong but so right” or whatever they were going for. I swear when I was watching both these movies I got Deja Vu from the “Twilight” series (I promise we can make fun of the fact that I’ve seen more than one of those later). At the end, it felt like the only reason they killed Gwen Stacy off was to have something bad happen to throw Peter into a depression that eventually gets out of in about 5-10 minutes of run time.

Arrow: This obviously isn’t a movie, but ever since season 1 of the show, people kept commenting about the odd similarity to Batman. I had an open mind, but I just had to point out that in season 3 they LITERALLY tried to make him Batman. Almost everything that happened to the character in season 3 of the show was derivative of Batman. The two were about as different as “A New Hope” and “The Force Awakens”. It was just so odd, I watch Arrow because I want to watch Arrow. I don’t watch Arrow to get a poorly-done version of any given Batman vs Ra’s Al Ghul comic.

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So there’s my humble opinion on what common errors are made in the modern era of Comic Book Movies! As always, let me know what you think because I love discussion and help a nerd out by sharing!

That’s all for now,
Soggz out!