Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Incredibles (2004)

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Image is property of Pixar Animation Studios and Disney

The Incredibles – Film Review

Cast:  Craig T Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Spencer Fox, Jason Lee

Director: Brad Bird

Synopsis: After a public outcry, superheroes are forced to put away their capes and live in everyday society. However a deadly plan to wreak world havoc forces one super family to band together to help save the world.

Review: Largely thanks to the work of DC and Marvel, superheroes are currently enjoying a great boom in popularity in Hollywood at the moment. Yet back in 2004, the superhero fever hadn’t quite reached the level it enjoys at this moment in time. Nevertheless, it didn’t need to have the soaring popularity it currently enjoys for an idea about a superhero family, all with extraordinary abilities, in a world that has superheroes aplenty to gain traction. From an idea first spawned in 1993 by writer and director Brad Bird, after being brought on board the Pixar train that up to that point hit a home run with with all of its prior releases, and soaring critical praise, Bird’s superhero dream finally came to fruition, and soared spectacularly so.

Focusing on Robert Parr AKA Mr Incredible, a super strong superhero who after committing a selfless act of heroism leads to fierce criticism from the public and gives the government a great big headache, which ultimately forces the superheroes to relocate, and to become as they say “average citizens, average heroes.” So reluctantly, Bob settles down with wife Helen AKA Elastigirl who has the ability to stretch, and their three children, Violet who can create force-fields and turn invisible, Dash who has super-speed and Jack-Jack whose powers are somewhat undefined.

Bob is experiencing something of a mid life crisis, with a dead end career. This is until he has a chance to put on his mask and suit up once again, setting off a chain of events that lead to some super entertaining excitement from a studio that has almost always produced cinematic gold. Bird’s screenplay is witty, entertaining and slightly moving at times, with lots of gags aimed at adults for good measure, as one might expect from Pixar.

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Animated characters certainly have demonstrated in the past that they have the power to pull on the heartstrings of the audience and once again, Pixar nails this with flying colours, as it so often does. Bob is a character whom many could undoubtedly relate to, in terms of his career and his burning desire to put on his mask again, but not the cape, the cape must never be worn at all!

Each of the family members are well developed characters, and each absolutely gets their moment to shine, with tremendous voice work by all concerned, Bird himself lends his voice to the quite brilliant and eccentric Edna, yet Samuel L Jackson’s Frozone is in many ways the scene stealer, with some brilliant one liners and a fantastic exchange with his wife that surely ranks up there as one of the best scenes ever put to screen by Pixar.

Bird had animation experience after directing 1999’s The Iron Giant, and although that film suffered at the box office, his talent is undeniable. His script is matched by the film’s enthralling action sequences, whether its hero vs villain, or hero vs machine. It is faultless stuff and the detail on certain aspects such as the hair and the explosions is remarkable, almost as close to real life as it could get.

This pun probably has been mentioned in every review for this film ever written, but it really is incredible, and well recognised with the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, as well as one for Sound Editing, Throw in an excellent score by the ever excellent Michael Giacchino and you have all the ingredients to make a truly excellent Pixar film, and a studio that with this making it sixth big release, had six super hits, and only went from strength to strength.

The Incredibles really sets the standard for superhero movies, animated and live-action alike, with relatable characters, some great dialogue, and some truly enthralling action sequences.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

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Image is property of Warner Bros Studios and Heydey Films

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Film Review

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, David Thewlis, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Synopsis: In his third year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter is facing a new threat, in the form of the dastardly Sirius Black who escapes from Azkaban Prison and is believed to be after Harry.

Review:  The Harry Potter fandom are certainly a passionate bunch, and although there are those out there who may not have enjoyed what he brought to the franchise, every Potter fan ought to raise their wands to Chris Columbus. The director behind the first two films brought a steady hand to both movies and ensured the solid foundations of the franchise were laid. For the third outing to Hogwarts however, Columbus chose not to direct. Instead the director’s wand was passed to Mr Alfonso Cuarón, and what an inspired choice that turned out to be.

After his brave battles in taking down You-Know-Who on the back of a man’s head and You-Know-Who again in his younger self, Harry has plucked up the courage and decided enough is enough with his ridiculously evil muggle family, and escapes into more familiar and friendly terrain, in the company of his best friends Ron and Hermione. Yet before he goes, there is a hilarious incident with another member of his nasty muggle relatives. He soon finds himself back on that train to Hogwarts for the commencement of his third year, and it’s on that train when the viewer realises, that this year at Hogwarts, things are going to get darker and creepier than ever before, not least with the sinister Dementors that are lurking around Hogwarts.

Cuaron is certainly an outstanding visual director, and with this film he shows off his considerable talent in more than a few brilliant sequences. The film’s visual qualities have certainly taken a big leap forward when compared to the first two movies, and the film takes on a considerably more darker tone which is epitomised by the presence of these Dementors who are at Hogwarts because of the man who has escaped from Azkaban and is said to be coming to kill Harry, this would be one Sirius Black, played excellently by Gary Oldman. Kloves is again penning the screenplay, and he understandably does have to axe some material to streamline the script, yet the translation from  page to screen remains at a consistently solid level. Additionally, the action is much more intense in this instalment and incorporates some very exciting elements such as time travel into the story.

The acting from the main trio remains at a steady pace, they’re certainly not Oscar worthy, but their performances are assured and it’s clear that they are growing in confidence. The performances of the veterans if you will such as Rickman and Oldman certainly help bring the acting standard up a couple of good pegs. This is further aided by the tremendous work of David Thewlis playing new Professor Lupin, and the introduction of Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, having taken over the role from the late Richard Harris, proved to be another excellent casting choice. The film’s effects are also for the most part, considerably improved, except in the case of the werewolf, well the less said about that the better, it could and should have been so much better.

Nevertheless, Azkaban marks a noticeable improvement in quality from Philospher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets. The shift to a much darker, more ominous tone is immediately noticeable, and it helps to deliver a really engaging and gripping story that helps set the wheels in motion for the franchise. This is because as we all know, a certain dark wizard, thought to be long since dead, is stirring…

Darker in tone from the word go, but with plenty of humour too, Cuaron delivers terrific visuals and a really gripping story that can delight, and maybe intimidate, viewers of all ages in equal measure.

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