Friday, June 29, 2018

Movie review of “Incredibles 2”. Reviewed by Emily Maier

Run time: 118 mins

After fourteen long years, everyone’s favorite family of superheroes is back in “Incredibles 2.”
Growing up, “The Incredibles” was always one of my favorite movies, so I was (incredibly) excited to see what Pixar did with this second installment.

“Incredibles 2” picks up right where “The Incredibles” left off, with the Parr family teaming up to fight a mole-like villain known as The Underminer. Unfortunately, things don’t go exactly as planned and, in a world where superheroes are already deemed illegal, this only adds fuel to the fire.

In an effort to put people’s faith back in superheroes, the owners of a corporation known as DEVTECH enlist Elastigirl to star in their campaign to repeal the anti-superhero law. As Helen takes off to fight crime, Bob/Mr. Incredible is left to navigate his new role as a stay-at-home dad.

Overall, I was really happy with the turn this movie took in terms of the focus on characters. Though the first movie mainly followed Mr. Incredible, he took a backseat in order for “Incredibles 2” to explore Elastigirl’s character. The movie’s reversal of stereotypical gender roles was very refreshing; with Helen becoming the family breadwinner and Bob taking on the full-time task of raising three kids. It was also exciting to see more of Frozone, Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack. Though I had been hoping for more scenes with Edna Mode, the screen time she does get is perhaps the funniest portion of the film, so it’s hard to complain.

I was also surprised at the rather realistic portrayal of teenagers. Violet and Dash are both susceptible to moody outbursts and instances of rebellion, but they developed as they learned lessons throughout the film. Oftentimes, movies will use children to take whatever steps are necessary to further the plot, causing unpredictable characterization. But “Incredibles 2” let kids be kids, and their actions felt natural instead of some forced plot device.

The animation is wonderful. This is ultimately expected of a Pixar movie, but I still found myself in awe of the natural fluidity of each character. Looking back at the first movie, there is a pronounced difference in the level of animation – after all, things have come a long way in fourteen years!
One of my only complaints is that the plot was often very predictable. Though “Incredibles 2” attempted a couple “twists,” even these seemed rather obvious. Still, I didn’t feel this took too much away from my overall enjoyment of the movie.

The action scenes were intense and the slower, family-centric scenes were heartfelt, so there was never a time in which I felt bored.

Nostalgia aside, “Incredibles 2” holds up perfectly fine on its own. Many sequels to popular animated films often have trouble finding their own voice, but I didn’t find this to be the case with “Incredibles 2.” The film expands upon already beloved characters and delves deeper into themes brought up in the first movie. Though I didn’t find “Incredibles 2” quite as compelling as the original, it was still a solid addition to the story.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Movie review of “Hotel Artemis” by Emily Maier

Run time: 97 mins 

Set in the year 2028, “Hotel Artemis” tells the story of an underground hospital in the service of criminals. The film opens with a botched robbery in Los Angeles in which two brothers are injured during their shootout with the police. They manage to take shelter in the “Hotel Artemis”, but their struggles are far from over.

Within the walls of the Artemis, tension bubbles between the wounded criminals. Outside, riots wreak havoc all around the city, as clean water has become a luxury that the poor of Los Angeles cannot afford.

The best thing about “Hotel Artemis” is the cast. With big names like Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Dave Bautista, Sofia Boutella, Charlie Day, Zachary Quinto and – last but not least – Jeff Goldblum, the star power did not disappoint.

Jodie Foster’s character, referred to as The Nurse, and she runs the Artemis with efficient professionalism; compared to the chaotic criminal underworld and the riots raging around her.
The Nurse is an ironically understated presence in the film. I was particularly fond of The Nurse’s friendly banter with her faithful orderly, Everest (Dave Bautista). All in all, each member of the cast was wonderfully colorful in their roles, but Sofia Boutella in particular, stole every scene she was in. 

Her fight sequence toward the end of the film was beautifully choreographed and fast-paced.
The violence and language throughout “Hotel Artemis” are what give the film its R rating. While most of the action is not too graphic, there are a couple scenes that might affect even a seasoned fan of gore. All in all, the R rating felt necessary to achieve the brutal, gritty aesthetic that the movie was going for.

However, the film struggles and loses some credibility in regard to the plot. Beneath all the blood and neon lights, “Hotel Artemis” tries to construct a narrative about familial duties and the difficulties that these obligations can put people through. While it’s an interesting theme, the film ultimately feels like it bit off more than it can chew. Instead of having a central plot, “Hotel Artemis” seems broken up into a variety of sub-plots.

These sub-plots include a mother trying to come to terms with her son’s death, a man caught in the web of his brother’s self-destructive behavior, and a son trying to prove himself to an indifferent father. The plot is additionally fragmented by other sub-plots about stolen jewels, a paid assassin with a secret target, and an injured cop seeking help.

If you find yourself thinking this seems like too much to fit into one movie, you’d be right. While most of these sub-plots are compelling, there was no time to develop any of them because they were all vying with each other for screen time. This not only impacts the plot but the pacing of the movie as well. Every time a new storyline was added into the mix, the audience was forced to change gears as the previous sub-plot was thrown on the backburner.

While I was hoping for something a little more in the “John Wick” vein – a rapid-fire action flick with a similar premise – “Hotel Artemis” had enough going for it that I felt content upon leaving the theater.

Though the film definitely should have cut down on the sub-plots, it was still an entertaining story with an interesting premise. Overall, “Hotel Artemis” was most enjoyable when it was staying true to what it was – a fun action movie.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Movie Review: “Solo: A Star Wars Story” Reviewed by Buford Picklefeather

Riding out the gentle waters left behind from the wave of the most divisive “Star Wars” movie ever
made – “The Last Jedi”  the latest anthology film, “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, was entrusted with healing the wounds of die-hard and casual fans alike. This challenge seemed all the more unattainable when “Solo’s” directors, best known for their box office smash hit, “The Lego Movie,”  left production of this film due to their creative differences. Longtime fans became all the more skeptical when word came back that actor Alden Ehrenreich, bestowed with the “Solo” moniker, was receiving on-set acting lessons; and that rather than being released in mid-December, as its post Disney predecessors, it would be receiving the traditional Lucas-era May 25th release date.

However, there was one small grain of hope that this film may be worthwhile: Lawrence Kasdan. Kasdan was the writer responsible for “The Empire Strikes Back” and the original “Indiana Jones” film and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” He answered the writing call from then producer George Lucas in 2012.

The finished product, directed by Ron Howard, took the proper cues set in place from Kasdan and J.J. Abrams efforts in force awakens, and flourished with them. The art direction felt real, specific and inspired, with no divide between the original trilogy and the present. The characters all felt as though they had a back story and a purpose for being who they were and being where they were at that time; while setting themselves up for the consequences of their actions in later films.

There was a perfect balance of whole heartedly invited humor, conviction and action with astonishing performances from Donald Glover taking the reins from Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and Woody Harrelson as “Solo’s” mentor. Like “Rogue One,” Solo makes for the perfect idealized prequel to the original trilogy. Despite “Solo” currently making less domestically than anticipated, the combination of every facet of the creativity working seamlessly together will contribute to the longevity of the film beyond its theatrical release and leaving its mark in what is now the vast Star Wars Universe.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Book Review: “How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?” Reviewed by Briana Bizier

Parenthood is an emotional roller coaster; especially with very young children. The high moments
when you feel like your heart is bursting with love compared with trying low moments when you feel like your home has been taken over by a monster - Or a dinosaur.

Jane Yolan and Mark Teague’s (illustrator) whimsical children’s book, How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?” captures the high emotions of parenthood in clever, colorful illustrations; while also providing a good-natured message or reassurance to adults and children alike.

Younger readers will enjoy the colorful illustrations of actual dinosaurs, including species like Tsintaosaurus and Nothosaurus, as they alternately wreak havoc in the human world and warm their parents’ hearts with spontaneous loving gestures.

Those same parents, meanwhile, delight in the bewildered expressions of the illustrated human caretakers as they watch their wild dinosaur children run screaming across the playground or throw spaghetti into the air during a dinner disaster. Because, while two-year-olds are objectively small and adorable, trying to get one to cross a parking lot can feel like you’re dragging a Triceratops; and driving with a child in tantrum-mode is just like being stuck in a sedan with a Pachycephalosaurus.

It’s rare to find a children’s book whose language and illustrations stand up to repeated viewings by parents and kids alike. Yet “How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?” is one of those rare and wonderful picture books that can be enjoyed over and over. Small children will be reassured that, yes, parents love their little dinosaurs no matter what. And parents will be similarly cheered by the gentle reminder that the many challenges of raising children are universal.

Even for dinosaurs.

You can find a copy of “How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?” in the children’s section of the Raymond Village Library.

Briana Bizier is a member of the Raymond Village Library Board of Trustees

Friday, June 1, 2018

Movie Review: “Book Club” by Lorraine Glowczak

1 hour 44 minutes

Taking time out on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, I went to the theater to watch the “Book Club”. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this film ever since I knew it was going to be in theaters. I was a little apprehensive that it would fail all my expectations and the big-screen celebrities that came together would drop the ball on great acting and the whole thing would fall flat. That was not the case at all. I was pleasantly and delightfully surprised at the real and comedic approach this film took to highlight the realities that come with certain expectations while aging in today’s society. 

“Book Club” stars Jane Fonda as Vivian who has never been married and is a successful luxury hotel owner. It also stars Diane Keaton as Diane. The word is – this role was written specifically for Keaton, so they kept her name. She is a recent widow after 40 years of marriage and her two grown, married and over-protective daughters (Alicia Silverstone and Katie Aselton) treat her as if she is already on “her way out.”  

Candice Bergen stars as Sharon, a federal judge who has focused on her career and has not been in a relationship since her divorce 18 years ago (unless you count her relationship with her cat). Mary Steenburgen stars as Carol and she is the only one of the four friends who has remained married. She is a successful chef whose relationship with her husband (Craig T. Nelson) needs a little spark and pick-me up.

In the film, the four long-time friends and book club members do not discuss the literary likes of “Moby Dick” by Hermann Melville (although Diane will lead one to think so), but instead they ooh and ah over the “Fifty Shades of Grey” series by E. L. James. Believe it or not, this book series is the catalyst of self-reflection and living their lives fully.

In each storyline, the women experience varying degrees of fun with matters of sisterhood, joy, hope – and yes, sex (subtle and often only referenced in the film). If diversity in race, social and financial status is what you are looking for in a movie, “Book Club” will fail to offer you that. It only contains one demographic of successful, white, heterosexual and wealthy women.

Due to the occasional strong language, a few references to sex (with one questionable - although funny - scene) and a lot of wine consumption, this film may not be a family go-to. However, I suspect it will be enjoyed by both men and women 40 and over since this is the age that one begins to think about their own mortality. Women 20 to 39 years old may enjoy it as well, since the film carries strong messages about female friendships and healthy relationships.

Without a doubt, this film is a must see for those who need a laugh; and it helps us all to not take the aging process too seriously.