“American Animals”, The Incredibles 2″ & “Hereditary”

A few weekends ago, I had the pleasure of going with my mother to a local film festival in Oklahoma City. For three days we saw a slew of shorts, documentaries and unique features, all while enduring the excruciating heat. Given such a packed weekend, I wasn’t able to see a lot of the new releases. So I’ve had to play catch-up a bit, and thus this review is going to be a little different. Instead of one, I’ll be talking about three films that I believe are worth talking about. I’d planned on seeing Hotel Artemis and Ocean’s 8 as well, but you know what, sometimes things don’t go as planned. I might get to them eventually, but I won’t make any promises.

  • American Animals
    • I walked out of the film festival knowing I’d just seen two of the best films of the year. The first was a documentary called Daughters of the Sexual Revolution, a fascinating account of the rising popularity of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders in the 1970s and their controversial role in during the sexual liberation movement. The second was a documentary-esque feature that, unbeknownst to me until the opening credits began rolling, is based on a true story. A pair of rebellious childhood friends (played by Evan Peters and Dunkirk’s Barry Keoghan) team up with two fellow college students (Blake Jenner and Jared Abrahamson) to steal rare books from their university’s special collections library. They’re confident at first, but with several blunders being made every step of the way, the men quickly find themselves waist-deep in disaster. What I love most about this film is its style. It depicts the true events seriously, while also highlighting its audacity with a subtle, darkly comedic undertone. The film often cuts back and forth between the characters and interviews with the real people they’re portraying, thus playing with the idea of perception. An event may be described and shown one way, but when it’s described by a different person, the scenery suddenly changes. Creative choices like this help create a unique presentation. The performances are strong and believable (with Evan Peters stealing the show), and the suspense built during the third act is incredibly effective. Overall, American Animals a fantastic movie that’s sure to be overlooked. So I implore you to see it if it’s playing in a theater near you. You won’t be disappointed. (4.6/5 stars)
  • The Incredibles 2
    • For fifteen years people have waited for a sequel to The Incredibles. Fifteen years! During that time Pixar’s been spitting out lackluster follow-ups like Monsters University (which I actually like fine), Cars 2 & 3, and so on, and yet no second Incredibles movie. Why the wait? Well apparently the studio has been taking their sweet time to get everything just right. Luckily for them, it paid off. Picking up exactly where the first left off, we find the Parr family once again forced into hiding after a messy battle crumbles part of the city. Things look optimistic when the parents are recruited by a hero-obsessed tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) for an elaborate plan to regain the public’s trust and reverse the governmental ban on superheroes. To execute said plan, Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) goes back to work fighting crime while Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is left at home to take care of the kids. But it seems the whole family needs to come together when an elusive villain called the Screenslaver threatens the city. Written and directed by Brad Bird, The Incredibles 2 is exactly wanted it to be. For the most part at least. The action is, dare I say it, incredible. The animation is gorgeous, and the voice-acting is beyond fantastic. The film tackles a lot of mature themes including politics and what it truly means to do something heroic. The dynamic among the Parr family is just as strong as it was in the first. You legitimately believe they’re a real family. Everything involving Jack-Jack is both hysterical and unbearably adorable. The film’s only glaring flaw is its villain. It’s obvious who the Screenslaver is as soon as they pop into frame, and their motivation makes no sense. Other than that, The Incredibles 2 was worth the wait. It’s funny, it’s smart, and it’s exciting. It delivers in almost every way. (4/5 stars)
  • Hereditary
    • Whenever I hear a horror movie is as amazing and scary as The Exorcist, I usually chuckle and say, “Yeah. Sure.” It’s one thing for a film to get positive reviews, but whenever it’s compared closely a cinematic masterpiece, I take it will a grain of salt. It’s a marketing scheme, really. Plus, in the case of horror movies, it takes a lot to scare me. With all the hype surrounding Hereditary, I was interested and excited, but open to the fact that it might be good, just not strong enough in the scare department to leave an impact on me. As it turns out, Hereditary is right up my ally. The film is about a family that comes undone after the matriarch passes away. Amidst their grief, strange things start to occur, and a disturbing family secret finally comes to light. Hereditary is a slow-burning horror film that weaves together Kubrick-esque camera work, chilling imagery, and terrific performances (especially from Toni Collete and Alex Wolff) to create what I believe is one of the creepiest movies of the year. It executes familiar tropes in a way that makes them seem original, and as the story moved along, I wasn’t sure where it was going. The atmosphere is tense and unsettling. From the opening frame, you know something isn’t quite right. And as the film goes along, it sinks deeper and deeper into your skin, in the best way possible, of course. It does get a little exposition-heavy in the final few minutes, but honestly, after the chaos it takes you through in the first few acts, it’s not as bothersome as you might think. Overall, I really enjoyed Hereditary. It’s definitely not for everyone. Don’t go into it expecting a typical jumpscare-infested horror movie. This one’s truly unique, and I do recommend seeing it. Just be warned. (4.5/5 stars)

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