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Pixar, Tag and Loads of Movies for Fathers Day Weekend

Hope Madden Hope Madden Pixar, Tag and Loads of Movies for Fathers Day WeekendStill from Tag, via IMDb.
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Looking for something fun to do with Dad this weekend? Lots of options, including a 50th anniversary release of 2001: A Space Odyssey in 70mm, which begins a week-long run at Gateway Film Center this weekend.

Or, there’s some new Pixar, an amiable game of Tag, a better-than-expected remake, some new horror, family drama…a bit of everything, really. Here are some thoughts on what’s worth it.

The 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. Picking up 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 the kids.

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

While the Deavors 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.

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.

Grade: B

Tag

by George Wolf

The premise is ridiculous. It’s also attention-grabbing, and mostly true.

Five years ago, a front page Wall Street Journal article hipped the world to a group of 10 friends who’d been playing the same game of tag for more than 20 years. Adhering to their original rules, and then amendments to those rules, they’d stalk each other every February.

For the film version, the month has changed to May, and the group scaled down to the four (Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Hannibal Burris and Jake Johnston) that think they finally have a plan to tag the fifth (Jeremy Renner), who has never, ever been “it.”

The WSJ reporter who tags along (Annabelle Wallis) becomes an effective device to organically handle the questions we’re wondering about, and the entire ensemble quickly establishes a chemistry that feels true

Hamm, Johnston and Renner carve out layered characters with ease, while Helms and Burris are basically leaning on their usual, but reliably funny, personas. Nice assists come from Isla Fisher as Helms’s highly competitive wife, and some assorted memorable weirdos (Steve Berg, Nora Dunn, Thomas MIddleditch).

The script from Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilin stays funny and hip throughout, pausing just long enough to reflect on friendship and adulthood without getting sappy. It’s more than enough fuel for this likable ensemble to play with and come out a winner.

Grade: B+

SuperFly

by Hope Madden

The 70s blaxploitation classic Super Fly was no masterpiece, but it was a provocative time capsule of flash, style and soulful soundtrack. Any attempt to recapture the spirit seems doomed to failure.

But Director X, with a decades-long career in flashy music videos showcasing the same kind of decadent lifestyle first glamorized by films like Super Fly, has the cred to take a good swing.

Plus, he throws in some Curtis Mayfield just when you missed him the most.

It’s clear X and screenwriter Alex Tse (Watchmen) are fans of Gordon Parks Jr.’s first and most important film. Tse is surprisingly faithful to the original. Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson) is a successful drug dealer who wants out while he still looks good, but The Man and an assortment of less-controlled colleagues complicate an already difficult process.

Oddly enough, the splashy support (Jason Mitchell, Michael Kenneth Williams and Esai Morales, among others) which enlivens the film immeasurably, also helps to showcase its weakness—Jackson. There’s no conflicted soul inside that leather duster and skinny jeans, no tormented mind beneath that pompadour. Sure, O’Neal’s karate and cape now seem embarrassingly of-the-moment, but his performance evoked a restlessness and internal conflict that Jackson cannot manage.

A clever new image built on the skeleton of the groundbreaking ’72 film, SuperFly does not manage to provoke, intrigue or satisfy in the same way as the original. It does have style, though, and something relevant to say.

Grade: C+

A Kid Like Jake

by Rachel Willis

What happens to parents when they’re confronted with the truth about their child? In A Kid Like Jake, the titular Jake is not the kind of five-year-old boy who likes trucks and cars, but rather princesses and fairy tales. His parents, Alex and Greg (Claire Danes and Jim Parsons), see it as a harmless phase. But when it seems possible it’s more than a phase, they’re forced to confront their own fears and prejudices.

Writer Daniel Pearle (adapting from from his play) and director Silas Howard address a topic that deserves attention. With a sensitive touch, they’ve crafted a film that is heartfelt and earnest.

As Jake’s parents, Danes and Parsons work best together when they’re at odds. The dialog during Alex and Greg’s most charged moments is impeccable. Their idyllic scenes, on the other hand, are shallow. The attempt at showing us a loving family is superficial, and it’s hard to root for people we never get a chance to know.

However, there are interesting dilemmas explored in the film. When Jake wants to dress as Rapunzel for Halloween, Alex instead brings home a pirate costume for him. Her rationale is that she wants to avoid weird looks or negative comments. She wants to “protect” her son. But as Jake acts out, it’s clear that her protection is misguided. Rather than defending her son, she’s part of the problem. Greg comes to this realization more quickly, recognizing his son’s change in demeanor as a sign he’s unhappy. It leads to confrontations that are uncomfortable, yet recognizable.

As for Jake, most of what we learn about him comes from exposition. This is likely a result of the transition from stage play to film. In some ways, it works, as Jake knows who he is. But in a world that needs greater representation for gender nonconformity and transgender men and women, it would have been nice to spend time with Jake instead of only seeing him through other people’s eyes.

Grade: B-

Feral

by Hope Madden

Here’s the thing about Feral. It’s a decent movie: well-paced, competently directed, solidly performed. And there is not a single interesting, novel, surprising or inspired moment in it.

Maybe one, but it’s not reason enough to make this movie.

Co-writer/director Mark Young follows up half a dozen low budget, middling-to-poor horror and action films with this adequate take on a monster-in-the-woods tale.

The sole reason the film stands out in any way is that Young’s hero, Alice (Scout Taylor-Compton) is a lesbian. Equally refreshing, males are as likely as females to fall prey to the hungry forest beast.

Bravo the nonchalance with which this is depicted, as the film does not strain to call attention to the novelty of this final girl and hero twist.

Yes, it’s about time. And yet, maybe Feral needed at least one other thing to set it apart? Because as it is, it’s simply a checklist of cabin-in-the-woods horror tropes, faithfully rendered, right up to the waning moments of its running time.

Taylor-Compton offers a perfectly serviceable performance, as do most of the actors around her. Olivia Luccardi, Renee Olstead and Landry Allbright all work to provide something close to a second dimension to underwritten, throwaway characters.

Together, cast and director generate scares by relying less on imagination and more on your familiarity with the genre itself. Therefore, assuming you’ve ever seen a horror movie in your life, you will not be scared.

Grade: C+

Also opening in Columbus:
Filmworker (NR)
Gotti (R)
The Seagull (PG-13)
That Summer (NR)
The Year of Spectacular Men (R)

Read more from Hope and team at MADDWOLF and listen to her weekly film podcast, THE SCREENING ROOM.

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