Incredibles 2

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 11/6/18;
Disney;
Animated;
Box Office $608.14 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for action sequences and some brief mild language.
Voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huckleberry Milner, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Samuel L. Jackson, Brad Bird, Jonathan Banks.

Judging from the various anecdotes related in the Blu-ray bonus materials, one of the biggest challenges to crafting the long-awaited sequel to 2004’s The Incredibles was simply figuring out how to begin the film.

In fact, a significant chunk of the 40 minutes of deleted scenes included on the bonus disc are devoted to this challenge, with scene after scene of discarded ideas that just seem to be expanding on various story points established in the first film (such as a funeral for all the heroes killed by Syndrome) without contributing much to making the story of the second film a cohesive piece on its own.

So, after a 14-year-gap between the films, director Brad Bird and the filmmakers at Pixar finally decided to just pick up where the first film left off, with the Parr family preparing to battle the Underminer’s invasion of the city.

And that really was the best way to go, as it sets up a great action sequence right away while providing a clean entry into the story of the second film, which involves the efforts of a wealthy industrialist (voiced by Bob Odenkirk) to make superheroes legal again. Not to mention it pays off the tease of the Underminer’s attack, which I always wanted to see.

The sequel then settles into a formula similar to the first film, only this time it’s Helen (Holly Hunter) who takes up the task of superheroism, leaving Bob (Craig T. Nelson) to watch the kids. A new wrinkle is how Jack Jack develops his newly discovered powers, much to the surprise of the rest of the family. One of the highlights is bare-knuckle brawl between the baby and a raccoon that wanders into the backyard (a sequence originally created for the first film and based on an experience Bird witnessed between a raccoon and his dog).

And of course there’s a new villain who hates superheroes and wants to stop them all and the family has to unite to stop the evil scheme and yada yada. It’s a worthy sequel to the original that tries to freshen up the concept a bit with a story that when combined with the first film really ends up feeling like the second half of a whole.

The animation is an advancement from the first film, maintaining the same basic style but with improved detail as a result of more sophisticated techniques in CGI. And some of the character designs have been updated a bit as well.

The centerpiece of the extras is the fun new five-minute short film Auntie Edna, which details the events hinted at in the film in which superhero costumer and supplier Edna Mode babysits Jack Jack and creates a super-suit that can handle his powers. This makes it somewhat of a parallel piece with the Jack Jack Attack short created with the first film that details another babysitter dealing with the baby’s powers while the family is off the adventure from that movie.

Incredibles 2 can also be played with an optional audio commentary with the animators, so its focus is more on the visual designs and the experience of working on the film in general.

There are also more than 70 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes spread across the two Blu-ray discs. (Depending on the combo pack, the DVD or 4K UHD disc represent a third disc in the package). And a number of the 10 aforementioned deleted scenes do expand on sequences that did make it into the final cut. And there are other goodies such as character theme song videos and toy commercials that are good for a moment of amusement.

The disc also comes with the poignant short film Bao, which accompanied Incredibles 2 in theaters, and a behind-the-scenes featurette about the short.

There are also two digital exclusives that can be accessed by redeeming the digital copy code at Movies Anywhere. The first involves extensive breakdowns of two key sequences in the film (the raccoon fight and some action scenes with Helen) that run 21 minutes total. More interesting is “The Coolest Guy in the Room,” a three-minute biography of Samuel L. Jackson, who discusses what drew him to comic books.

Vudu offers an additional featurette (that seems culled from footage found in other included videos) as well as the Jack Jack Attack short, which was previously available separately at the site and not part of the digital extras of the first Incredibles.

The Commuter

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 4/17/18;
Lionsgate;
Action Thriller;
Box Office $36.34 million;
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $42.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some intense action/violence, and language.
Stars Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Elizabeth McGovern, Sam Neill.

The success of Taken paved the way for something of a cottage industry: The Liam Neeson action movie. The formula typically involves Neeson being an unassuming badass as he works his way out of a series of tense situations, often while being taunted over the phone by the bad guys.

From that it seems has sprung a distinct sub-genre: the Jaume Collet-Serra /Liam Neeson action thriller. The Commuter is the fourth film pairing Neeson with the director, following Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night.

That Neeson compares Collet-Serra to Steven Spielberg is but one of several hyperboles thrown around in the bonus materials, but does provide some insights as to why they enjoy working together so often. For his troubles, Neeson is likened by a producer to being a modern John Wayne-type hero, so I guess it all evens out.

In addition to those boasts, in the same one of the Blu-ray’s two short making-of featurettes, which run about 14 minutes in total, the film’s screenwriters have no trouble describing their effort as “Hitchcockian,” so it’s pretty clear no one involved is lacking in confidence or phased by higher expectations.

Commuter seems to takes a lot of its cues from Non-Stop, in that both films deal with a group of people confined on a mode of transportation, and evildoers threatening to destroy the vehicle and kill everyone on it unless Neeson does what they want.

In this case, Neeson plays an insurance salesman and former cop who takes a commuter train in New York everyday. He’s approached by a woman (Vera Farmiga) who proposes a hypothetical situation to him — asking if he would point out a random passenger for $100,000 and then move on with his life without knowing what happened to that person, but with the reasonable assumption they’d be hurt or killed. It quickly turns out her little game is all too real when he discovers the cash stashed in the bathroom.

He also finds he can’t simply walk away, as the bad guys are threatening his family and the rest of the train unless he points out a passenger who seemingly doesn’t belong. Neeson plays along, following the clues to the whereabouts of the mysterious passenger as he tries to work out how to protect that person while also thwarting the plans of a conspiracy that seems to be prepared for each of his counter-moves (one would think a conspiracy as well organized as this one wouldn’t need his help identifying the passenger, but then there wouldn’t be a movie).

He also turns to help from an old cop buddy played by Patrick Wilson, whose character is named Alex Murphy. Viewers can decide for themselves if his sharing a name with the guy who became Robocop constitutes an homage or is simply a distraction.

Anyway, fans of the Neeson formula shouldn’t be too disappointed as it marks off all the boxes on his checklist to produce a quaint, entertaining little thriller.