Tag Archives: Brad Bird

Screen Savers

Incredibles 2

by George Wolf

I’m no math whiz, but 2004 seems somewhere close to 14 years ago. You wouldn’t know it from Incredibles 2, where no time has passed. Kicking off right where the original left off, the long-awaited sequel delivers just enough of the same charm to stave off some stale odors.

The super-powered Parr family has been sidelined, along with all the others like them, thanks to the law against superheroes. But when the evil Screenslayer starts cyber-attacking the city, local tycoon Winston Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk) and his tech-savvy sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) hatch a plan to get the supers back on the job.

It starts with putting Helen Parr aka Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) on the trail of Screenslayer, leaving Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) alone to care for baby Jack-Jack, help Dash (Huck Milner) with his homework and Violet (Sarah Vowell) with her first heartbreak.

Brad Bird returns as writer/director, armed with a worthy game plan but not quite enough nerve to swing for the fences.

While the Deavor’s groom Elastigirl for a media makeover, Screenslayer’s plan is to use technology against its users, and to “destroy the people’s trust in it.” Call that incredibly timely, and fertile ground for some Zootopia-style animated bite.

Bird is more interested in exploring the warm family fuzzies. That’s fine, but the “can clueless Dad handle the house while Mom’s at work?” angle feels every bit 14 years old, even more so when you consider the edgy path Bird abandons to chase one so safe and comfortable.

But hey, it’s summer, why so serious?

Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) is back in chill mode, the action sequences pop and the animation has the requisite pizazz. I2 is a part 2 that’s easy to enjoy.

Outside of the near-perfect Toy Story franchise, Pixar sequels (much like sequels in general) have often faltered. Incredibles 2 ranks as one of their besteven with all it leaves on the table.







by Hope Madden

Aaron Eckhart is a conundrum, isn’t he? He’s talented enough to land any indie gem, granite-jawed and handsome enough to elevate it to mass market appeal. Think Thank You for Smoking.

And yet, for every Rabbit Hole there’s an I, Frankenstein; for every In the Company of Men, an Incarnate.

His latest – his fourth of this calendar year – sees Eckhart as the wheelchair-bound, unshaven, grimacing Dr. Seth Ember. He’s damaged, damn it!

Don’t call him an exorcist. He doesn’t exorcise demons; he evicts supernatural parasites. He has an ability. You see, when he was young, he realized, “When I was asleep I could go into the minds of the possessed.”

How did he figure this out? How often did he get drowsy in the proximity of a possessed person?

No matter – can’t you see he’s damaged?!

When a liaison to the Vatican (Catalina Sandino Moreno) – don’t even get Dr. Seth started on the church! – lures him to a case of a possessed 11-year-old, it isn’t to save the boy. Oh no.


No. It must have something to do with his damage. I’ll bet director Brad Peyton (that genius behind San Andreas) will soap-opera direct some weirdly stilted, flat and extreme-close-up-laden bit of ponderousness explaining the whole thing, but you will have lost the will to live before it’s all clarified.

There is one moment – not a scene, but a single moment – in this film where I believed Peyton might, maybe, possibly do something interesting.


Worst thing about Incarnate? It’s not the made-for-SyFy-CGI. Not the superficial storyline, not the flatly uninspired direction. (Honestly, if Peyton had directed from inside a coma the film couldn’t have looked or felt more lifeless.)

It’s not the tedious ensemble performances, not the wildly predictable series of twists. It’s Eckhart. It’s as if he’s angry at us that he took this dog.

We didn’t make you do it, Aaron. We only sat through this festering corpse of a movie because you were in it.

I believe we’re owed an apology.



Twofer ‘Toon Tuesday For Your Queue

You can put that obscenely expensive, insanely large HD TV to good use this week, as How to Train Your Dragon 2 releases for home entertainment. As visually arresting as its predecessor, Dragon reunites viewers with Hiccup and his beloved flying dragon Toothless as they take on dragon-napping pirates led by Drago Bloodfish. That is how you name a villain! Breathtaking visuals and a story rooted in family and frienship make this sequel well worth looking into.

An obvious double bill is the gorgeous, moving and thorougly entertaining original How to Train Your Dragon, but we hate to be so obvious. Instead we’re recommending another film about a boy, his unusual best friend and their adventures: The Iron Giant (1999). Director Brad Bird’s first feature roots itself in 1950s Cold War hysteria but tells a story brimming with immediacy. It’s also one of the more deeply touching animated adventures you will ever find.

Outtakes: Hippies, Chickens, Sobbing Women and Iron Giants


I somehow missed The Iron Giant when it was originally released. I’m not sure how. My son Riley, pictured here as a hippie, was a 6-year-old in ’99 – clearly the film’s target audience.



In a nutshell, director Brad Bird (who’d go on to win two Oscars with Pixar) puts Vin Diesel’s voice inside a weapons-grade robot from space.


At the height of the Cold War, lonely Hogarth befriends the monster, teams with a beatnik (Harry Connick, Jr.), and tries to hide the innocent metal heap from the US government that seeks to destroy it.


And yet, I neglected to get the boy to this film, and never saw it myself until years later when I was babysitting for my niece Ruby (pictured here as a chicken).

Chicken Ruby


She owned the book and had seen the film once already, but Iron Giant was her Netflix streaming choice one rainy afternoon. From her comfy spot on my lap, her head just beneath my chin, she kept me abreast of the plot: he’s really a bad guy; he makes crazy stuff with metal scraps; he’s a really very bad guy.

And then, the next thing you know, I am bawling. Just gulping and sobbing, tears rolling off my cheek and slapping the top of Ruby’s little head.

My God that movie broke my heart.

This is the Superman movie you want to see.

If you get the chance, check out this surprisingly powerful animated gem. It screens this week as part of the Gateway Film Center’s From Book to Film series. Catch it Saturday, 7/13 at 1:30 PM; Monday, 7/15 at 7 PM; or Wednesday, 7/17 at 1:30 PM. Go to http://www.gatewayfilmcenter.com/  for tickets and details.

Bring a hanky.