Onward I Go with My Thoughts on ‘Onward’

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Pixar/YouTube Screenshot

There’s a certain trope that’s kind of popular in TV and movies. And you can tell that it’s popular because the characters are always so enthusiastic when it happens. In fact, it’s kind of defined by its enthusiasm. I’m talking about, you guessed it, the almighty Title Drop! It’s that triumphant moment when movie characters say the name of the movie within the course of the movie itself. If they do it really well, it makes you go, “Hey, that’s the name of the movie!” (Thanks, Arrested Development!) And Onward, as it turns out, has a doozy of a title drop. In fact, I’ve decided I would like to evaluate the entire film based on how strong that title drop is.

But first, I’ll run through some more straightforward thoughts I have. This tale of elf bros Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) attempting to resurrect their dad for one day feels like a pretty straightforward quest adventure, although it does have the added twist of taking place in a world where magic has petered out despite the population of magical creatures. Ultimately a big part of your enjoyment of Onward will likely depend on how much you connect to its message of brotherhood. And as a brother, and someone who has a brother, I must fairly say, I felt the brotherly vibes. If you too are a brother, or have ever imagined what it feels like to be a brother, you might feel similarly.

Now, back to that title drop. As the action is really starting to ramp up, with Ian taking the wheel of Barley’s trusty van Guinevere, Barley commands, “Put it in ‘O’ for ‘Onward’!”

Did that moment make me go … well, you know?

Indeed it did.

Success!

Super Fun-Time Movie Review: Toy Story 4

1 Comment

CREDIT: Pixar/YouTube

As I wrote this review of Toy Story 4 almost a week after seeing the movie, the main feeling that I have upon reflection is one of peacefulness. When Toy Story 3 arrived more than a decade after its predecessors, it brought with it familiarity but also emotional upheaval with all the life changes it sought to deal with. Number 4 is similarly concerned about new chapters, but the kind that you never saw coming, yet somehow feel so perfectly right when you let them happen. So did I cry when Woody made his final decision? I did not, not because of a cold heart, but because my warm heart was so proud of the scary, but promising, step forward I had never considered as a possibility in this series. If toys and franchises are basically immortal, sometimes they have to make big bold choices, and it’s a feat when one of them feels like the best decision for everyone involved.

I give Toy Story 4 10 Voice Boxes out of 12 Skunk Cars.

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Incredibles 2’ Uses Its Period Setting and the Responsibility of Superpowers to Show How to Be an Adult

Leave a comment

©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

This review was originally published on News Cult in June 2018.

Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Samuel L. Jackson, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Brad Bird, Jonathan Banks, Sophia Bush, Phil LaMarr, Isabella Rossellini, John Ratzenberger, Bill Wise

Director: Brad Bird

Running Time: 118 Minutes

Rating: PG for Action Sequences Involving Dangerously Heavy Structures

Release Date: June 15, 2018

The Incredibles films stick out among Pixar’s oeuvre for how much more adult they are than the rest of the animation brand’s features. That is not to say that everything else is merely kids’ stuff. Indeed, there is plenty for audiences of all ages to appreciate in the likes of Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall-E, etc. The difference is that the typical Pixar offering features childlike wonder presented with unusually mature storytelling sophistication, whereas The Incredibles and Incredibles 2 are primarily concerned with the struggles of being a grown person: how to raise a family, how to earn a living, how to reconcile the way you live with the self-identity you perceive on the inside. With this focus along with its period trappings, Incredibles 2 continues asking its franchise’s fundamental question of whether or not we have shaped society as it ought to be.

Incredibles 2, like the original, is vague about its time period, but based on the outfits, manner of speaking, and predominant technology, it is easy to peg it as 1960s America. With that in mind, if The Incredibles were to exist as a TV series, it is not too hard to imagine it as the first animated example of AMC’s stable of period dramas. (The presence of two of the stars of Better Call Saul among the voice cast certainly bolsters this perception.) Incredibles 2 features more stable (though no less harried) domesticity than Mad Men, but the concerns of Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) are not terribly different from those of Don Draper, while Helen Parr’s (Holly Hunter) career-minded focus in the face of skepticism is absolutely of a piece with that of Peggy Olson. Writer/director Brad Bird’s grounded approach to the existence of supers allows all viewers to consider that no matter what their own unique abilities are, they ought to make the best of them, for the world’s sake.

The reflectiveness and contextualization inherent to a period setting are key to getting the point across. This outing, in which Helen/Elastigirl is recruited for a PR campaign to make superpowers legal again while fighting a mysterious villain who uses screens to carry out mind control schemes, touches upon issues of media manipulation, trust (or lack thereof) in institutions, and the power and limits of basing a campaign around a single figurehead. Anyone paying attention to the political scene in 2018 will recognize similar disturbances in Incredibles 2. It is important to be reminded that these crises are not new and to know a big part of being an adult is responding to these challenges.

Bottom line: if you loved the kinetic action and family dynamics of the first Incredibles, you will probably love them all over again in Incredibles 2. If the prospect of a baby growing into his impressively wide-ranging superpowers has you excited, just wait until you see what Jack-Jack is up to. And rest assured, Edna Mode’s (Bird) scenes do not disappoint. This entry is not as mold-breaking as the original, but it is reliably entertaining and has plenty to say.

Incredibles 2 is Recommended If You Like: The Incredibles, AMC period dramas

Grade: 4 out of 5 Eye Lasers

This Is a Movie Review: Coco

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Disney/Pixar

Pixar managed to represent a pinnacle of cinematic creativity for so long because the majority of its films offered some form of storytelling that had never been told before, at least as much as that can be the case in a world where every possible story has already been told. At this point, it doesn’t look like Pixar is really trying to do that anymore (although Inside Out DID come out just two years ago). To be fair, it’s hard to keep that pace up indefinitely, so I don’t begrudge Coco for not being much more than an enjoyable story well-told. It has successfully wound its way into my heart, as I tend to react quite strongly to tales about our deceased loved ones remaining with us and looking over us from beyond. So when Miguel sings “Remember Me” to Coco, it’s striking and powerful. In general, I admire the attitude towards death embodied by the Day of the Dead. I don’t know how popular the traditions (like putting up photos of the deceased on the ofrenda) we see onscreen actually are in the real Mexico, but regardless of whether they are based on reality or made up for the film, they are appreciably sweet.

I give Coco 70 Blessings out of 100 Skeletons with No Conditions.