Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Bob Grimm

After a 14-year hiatus, the Parr family is finally back for more superhero shenanigans in Pixar’s Incredibles 2, a sequel that retains the zippy, funny spirit of the original. It’s not as good as the first, but it is still Pixar’s best “sequel” since Toy Story 3.

The film picks up where the last one left off, with a criminal named Underminer (the voice of the ever-Pixar-present John Ratzenberger) looking to cause some trouble—just as teen Violet Parr (Sarah Vowell) is meeting a boy. Superheroes remain in hiding, but rich tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) is looking to change that.

Winston has a plan to get superheroes back in the limelight, and that plan involves Elastigirl/Helen (Holly Hunter) fighting crime and gaining publicity on a crazy new motorbike. While she’s out getting her superhero groove on, Mr. Incredible/Bob (Craig T. Nelson) must stay at home and take care of the kids, including Violet, Dash (Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile).

To recap the children’s powers, Violet can go invisible and produce force fields, while Dash is really fast. Jack-Jack, as we found out near the end of the original, has emerging powers himself—and Bob is newly witnessing them all. Jack-Jack can do a lot of things: He can reproduce himself, journey to other dimensions, catch fire and turn himself into a demon baby. The Jack-Jack subplot gets a lot of laughs, most of them out of the baby’s sheer amusement with himself.

Of course, Bob’s superpowers will be needed again, and the whole family will eventually need to save the world from comical baddies. While the film feels a bit repetitive at times, the great voice work by Hunter, Nelson and Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone keep it consistently entertaining. Bird himself returns as the voice of fashion guru Edna Mode, who becomes Auntie Edna when Jack-Jack and his exhausted dad are in dire need of a baby sitter. Make no mistake: It’s Jack-Jack and his cookie-craving craziness that steal the show this time.

As with the original, it’s the little nuances that make the Incredibles so much fun. I still love how Elastigirl’s mouth curves when she talks—a direct ode to Hunter’s actual face—and Violet’s teen angst continues to be hilarious. The original Incredibles was groundbreaking for its onscreen action, and this one continues in that tradition. There’s also a memorable new villain in Screenslaver, an entity that hypnotizes people into submission via video screens. No doubt: This a nod to and critique of our modern-day attachment to screened devices.

In a nice piece of stunt casting, the character of Rick Dicker, voiced in the original by the late Bud Luckey, has been recast with the voice of Jonathan Banks. Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fans know Banks as the henchman of Saul—aka Bob Odenkirk—so having both their voices here is neat stuff for geeks.

It may seem a little odd that the sequel-happy Pixar took so long to give the Parr family another chapter—but the reason for the wait falls squarely on writer-director Brad Bird’s shoulders. Bird created the characters, and Pixar gave him autonomy when it came to giving them another chapter. Bird wasn’t in any kind of rush, so we might have to wait another decade plus for another chapter.

That’s OK. While the Incredibles are clearly ripe for many stories, one great chapter (the original) and another very good one (this installment) make for a great franchise already—and a surefire summer good time for everybody in the family.

Incredibles 2 is playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

American Animals is a heist movie based on a true story—and the film has an original twist.

Writer-director Bart Layton has made a narrative film based on the real-life robbery of treasured collectibles by four young men. Layton casts the four with the great talents of Evan Peters, Blake Jenner, Barry Keoghan and Jared Abrahamson, resulting in an exciting and funny retelling of the heist, which had some normal guys dressing like old men to steal paintings and Darwin books from a kindly librarian (Ann Dowd).

The twist: Layton also gets the real-life people to tell their accounts of what actually happened, so the film has a true documentary element. Rather than playing like some campy criminal re-enactment TV show, the film comes together in a way in which the real guys are right at home in the proceedings. It’s a genius move that gives the movie some real-life heft—without taking away from the drama and craziness of the crime. In fact, their presence truly enhances everything, making this one of the more unique crime films in memory.

Peters is terrific as Warren Lipka, the bad-boy mastermind of the group. (Lipka himself makes for an entertaining counterpart in his interview segments.) Jenner continues to be a great up-and-coming actor, while Keoghan impressively adds to a resume that includes Dunkirk and The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

One of the movie’s great elements is the difference between the storytelling and the actual interviews—something Layton comically exploits on more than one occasion. The result is a movie that gets high marks for originality along with its solid performances. You’ve never seen anything quite like it.

American Animals is now playing at Mary Pickford Is D’Place (36850 Pickfair St., Cathedral City; 760-328-7100) and the Palm Desert 10 Cinemas (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-340-0033).

Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons are a winning, inspiring father-daughter team in Hearts Beat Loud, a musically infused cinematic gem that will stand as one of this summer’s under-the-radar greats.

Frank (Offerman), a record-store owner (he sells mostly vinyl) with a gruff attitude, is dealing with tough economic times—which is not good, considering his daughter, Sam (Clemons), is about to leave for medical school. He informs his landlord, Leslie (Toni Collette, having a great year), that the store will be closing. Frank finds himself at a sort of spiritual crossroads.

He takes solace in his mandatory musical jam sessions with his kid. Both of them are decent-enough musicians; in fact, Sam is actually pretty damn good. She has a knack for songwriting but doubts her talents. Frank pushes her to create, marvels in what she’s able to come up with, and suggests they form a real band.

Sam pushes back, wanting to focus on the whole becoming-a-doctor thing, but Frank persists, ultimately uploading one of their demos to Spotify. He hears the song in a coffee shop one morning—and it’s a great moment. As a testament to how the face of the music industry has changed, an artist hears his music streaming on somebody’s “mix” rather than on the radio in his car. The film is somewhat of an endorsement for Spotify and vinyl.

None of this would work if the music stunk. It doesn’t—it’s good. Offerman and Clemons combine for some sweet music-making, including the film’s title track, one that is repeated often in the movie. Offerman is no Hendrix, but he handles his guitar parts with enough finesse to make you think he’s been playing for a long time, while Clemons is a natural wonder with a great voice.

It must also be said that the people in this movie have great musical taste. The soundtrack and the characters reference a who’s-who of great artists, including Ween, Animal Collective, Jeff Tweedy, Spoon and Mitski. Hearts Beat Loud is the best music-store movie since High Fidelity.

Even more inspiring than the music is a love story between Sam and new-friend Rose (American Honey’s Sasha Lane). Their relationship’s depiction surprises in that it’s allowed to happen without any discussion—it’s just two people falling in love. The film’s other love story—the bond between father and daughter and their musical adventure—is equally lovely.

Offerman, a successful comedic actor, is proving he’s also a dramatic real deal. He had a good co-starring role as a stoner in The Hero, last year’s ode to actor Sam Elliott. He also killed it as one of the McDonald brothers in The Founder. This time out, he has a starring role that allows him to show all kinds of range. The final look he gives his daughter in this movie is priceless.

As the movie’s true heart, Clemons boasts a beautiful singing voice to go with her solid acting chops. She and Offerman are strong enough here to overcome the few moments when director and co-writer Brett Haley (who also directed Offerman in The Hero) drifts into obvious territory. The material is never bad, but there are moments that could’ve been hokey if it weren’t for Clemons and Offerman making them better.

Collette, who deserves awards consideration for her barn-burning work in Hereditary, lends a lot to the film in her supporting role, including a karaoke moment that reminds us that she can sing. Also: Let it be said that it’s always great when a production can coax Ted Danson into playing a bartender.

So, yep, Hearts Beat Loud has real music, real love, and Sam Malone slinging drinks—and as a result, it’s a resounding success. If Offerman and Clemons don’t win you over here, you are a super-grouch.

Hearts Beat Loud is now playing at the Palm Desert 10 Cinemas (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-340-0033).

A family gets its proverbial ass viciously kicked in Hereditary, writer-director Ari Aster’s more-than-impressive feature debut. This is a horror movie that will bruise your brain, make your blood run cold, and stay in your system well after you’ve left the theater.

Annie (an incredible Toni Collette) has just lost her controlling, creepy mother. Annie has some control issues of her own, which sometimes manifests itself in her creation of miniature models—often depicting her home life with husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne, doing his best work in years), son Peter (an impressive Alex Wolff) and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro, who will break your heart). While every member of the family seems to be earnest and decent, they are also dysfunctional—with a capital “D.”

The loss of her mom, the pressure of an upcoming show of her miniatures, and the demands of parenthood have Annie on edge, to the point where she seeks counseling. At a support group for people mourning the recent loss of loved ones, Annie meets Joan (the remarkable Ann Dowd), a surprisingly cheery woman who has recently lost her son.

When tragedy strikes, Annie finds herself leaning on Joan a little more, to the point where she accepts teachings on how to do a séance and communicate with the recently departed. Annie does a couple of rituals at her house, and it all seems innocent enough—until creepy apparitions start appearing, and malevolent spirits start messing things up for Peter, who responds by hitting the bong.

The movie is a ghost story, a demon story and a witch story rolled into one, with elements of The Witch, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and, yes, The Sixth Sense. (That vibe owes a lot to the presence of Sixth Sense star Collette.) It’s also one of the more powerful depictions of a family falling apart in years, giving this excursion into horror an extra layer of depth.

The creeping dread factor starts early in Hereditary and never lets up. Aster proves to be a master of atmospheric scares, relying less upon jolts and gore, and more upon lingering shots in dark corners where you can sort of make out a ghost staring at you. Everything works up to a frightening puzzler of a finale that might have you initially asking, “WTF?” but eventually thinking, “Oh … that’s some messed-up shit right there.”

Collette is stunning as Annie, a seemingly decent person who reveals a lot of mommy issues as things unfold. Annie isn’t an openly bad person, but as the demons start to manifest, and her mother’s crimes boil to the surface, she becomes an epically bad mom. Collette mixes a quiet, withdrawn demeanor with moments of visceral, outward nastiness. Collette makes every step of this tormented mom’s unfortunate journey mesmerizing.

Wolff, building up a great career with solid turns in Patriots Day, My Friend Dahmer and Jumanji: Welcome to Jungle, gives an incredibly raw, emotionally jarring performance as the son who doubts his mom and craves stability. The destruction of his home life coincides with his transition to manhood, and puberty supremely sucks for this guy. Wolff has moments in this movie when he seems so realistically disturbed that the movie feels like a documentary.

With Hereditary, Aster gives the horror genre the kind of film that will be around for years. It has some images (Does anything suck more than a smiling ghost?) that will haunt your dreams. It also has an enveloping darkness that will leave you perhaps a bit unsettled and on edge.

Hereditary is as unpleasant as they come—and as a horror-movie fan, I say amen to that.

Hereditary is playing at theaters across the valley.

The Bluths are back together again—with more simultaneous screen time than in Season 4—in the latest Arrested Development reunion on Netflix.

The plotting of this season involves a little too much crazy stuff regarding Lucille 2 (Liza Minnelli) and the shared girlfriend (Isla Fisher) of Michael (Jason Bateman) and George Michael (Michael Cera), making things a bit haphazard. That doesn’t stop it from being very funny.

There’s a lot of weirdness at play. Buster (Tony Hale) does jail time (during which he touches a mouse!), while Tobias (David Cross) obsesses with impersonating everybody in the family. Cross remains the funniest guy on this show; he goes full-blown insane this season. Gob (Will Arnett) is dealing with feelings for fellow magician Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller), so he makes a visit to a Closet Conversion facility (which is not what he thinks). Maeby (Alia Shawkat), for reasons I won’t explain, winds up brilliantly impersonating an old Jewish woman in a retirement community.

Even it is a bit frantic, Arrested Development remains one of the funniest shows on TV. (Who knew Henry Winkler was going to be so funny when he grew up?) When it slows down for stuff like a barbecue at Ron Howard’s house (including cameos by Bryce Dallas Howard and the rest of the Howard family), it’s as funny as it ever was.

Netflix currently has eight episodes streaming now, with eight more coming later this year.

Something has gone terribly wrong in Jackass-land since Bad Grandpa.

While Bad Grandpa wasn’t technically a Jackass movie, it was a “Jackass Presents” movie, and it had the usual Jackass movie director, Jeff Tremaine. The results were the kind of fun we expect from a Jackass movie—with a little more of a narrative plot, but with the emphasis remaining on the killer stunts.

Now comes Action Point—which is a stinky pile of shit. The Jackass label and director are gone, with only stars Johnny Knoxville and Chris Pontius representing the former crew. The slant goes much more toward the narrative—a boring narrative—with only a few OK stunts thrown in. It’s an uneven, embarrassing, unfunny mess.

That’s a shame, because Knoxville proves he’s certainly still game to get his ass kicked for cinematic glory (although he’s looking a little beat up these days), and the “true” story at the center of the movie is one ripe for Jackass-type fun. Alas, the formula simply doesn’t work.

The story is based upon a real, now semi-defunct amusement park—Action Park in New Jersey—where at least six people were killed. I grew up on Long Island and would go to this park in the ’80s. It’s now legendary for its danger factor—you can see the stories on the Internet. It’s a place where safety wasn’t really on the top of everybody’s list of concerns.

I nearly drowned in the tidal-wave pool (others actually did); I marveled at the cannonball-loop slide I could never go on because it was closed (due to broken bones, limbs and noses; that ride is lamely immortalized in this movie). There was also an “alpine slide” with a cement track atop which you rode in plastic car with a shaky brake; you were in complete control of whether or not you met your bloody demise. It was fucking crazy.

Sadly, the movie inspired by it is not. It’s dumb, and it plays it safe. It’s basically an insult to the legend of Action Park, or Death Park, as we liked to call it.

Knoxville plays D.C., an older man baby-sitting his granddaughter in the present day. The role calls for the old-age makeup Knoxville usually wears so well. D.C. reminisces about a crazy park he once owned called Action Point, and the story flashes back to the 1980s and D.C.’s efforts to create a thrill ride/water park where “you are in control.”

Back in the ’80s, D.C. tries to save the park from evil land developers while trying to entertain his daughter, Boogie (Eleanor Worthington-Cox), who is visiting for the summer. There’s some sentimental nonsense involving the father-daughter relationship, which acts as nothing but a roadblock to what we want to really see … the stunts.

Those stunts are only mildly amusing, and few and far between. They include Knoxville getting catapulted through a barn (pretty good), Knoxville getting blasted by a water hose (OK) and Knoxville hanging around a beer swilling bear (funny the first time; been there, done that by the 10th). At one point, they tempt a squirrel into Pontius’ shorts to fetch acorns and tickle his balls. It does appear to me that some animals—including the squirrel, an ostrich, an alligator and a porcupine—were mildly abused during the making of this film. Any animal that has to hang out near Pontius’ ball sack should be considered harmed.

Let’s face it: Knoxville needs to slow down on the daredevil stuff, lest he meet an early grave. Bad Grandpa, and now Action Point, are evidence of this. What Knoxville needs is a new Jackass crew he can mentor from the sidelines.

Action Point is proof he is beyond the point where he can take a herd of buffalo to his midsection. It’s also proof he needs Tremaine and co. to help guide the mayhem. This new crew is lamer than the cannonball loop being closed every time I tried to ride it.

Action Point is playing at theaters across the valley.

Some well-choreographed action scenes can’t help low-budget sci-fi thriller Upgrade, well, make the grade.

Logan Marshall-Green stars as Grey, a muscle-car-loving geek who fixes classic autos for rich people in the future. After he and his girlfriend (Betty Gabriel) have an accident in her self-driving car (I don’t know how I will ever be able to get into one of those things), Grey is left paralyzed and hungry for revenge.

One of Grey’s clients, a tech giant named Eron (Harrison Gilbertson), has a solution: an implant called Stem that will bridge the gap between his brain and severed spinal cord. What he doesn’t tell Grey is that Stem will internally speak to him with a voice like that of Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and that when Stem takes over his body, he will have ninja skills.

This sounds fun, but many of the performers in this movie seem like they’ve never been in front of a camera before. While there’s plenty of action in the flick, and that action is often good, most of the movie consists of characters speaking terribly delivered dialogue. It’s also lacking a much-needed sense of humor.

If they made an Upgrade sizzle reel—a 15-minute summary of all the cool fight scenes and chases—that would be worth viewing. Unfortunately, this movie is a lot longer than that.

Upgrade is now showing at Mary Pickford Is D’Place Entertainment (36850 Pickfair St., Cathedral City; 760-328-7100;); Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 844-462-7342); and Century Theatres at The River and XD (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-836-1940).

Howard Stern, sporting a silly gray beard in order to give his pal David Letterman a hard time, sits for a terrific interview in the latest installment of Netflix’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.

Stern, who got his big television break on Letterman’s show many years ago, is shown in footage from their first meeting together on TV—sporting a terrible mustache and somehow looking older than he does now. The action then skips to present-day, with Letterman sporting that crazy beard and Howard with shades—but without upper-lip hair.

The two talk about broadcasting in general, Howard’s upbringing, and the hazards of celebrity. Stern is his usual self-conscious self, complaining about his looks and worrying he’s ruining Dave’s show. He looks fine, and he’s a great guest.

Of course, they touch upon Donald Trump and his many visits to each of their shows, including Trump’s gross bragging about his own daughter’s hotness. Letterman invites Howard to visit Utah with him, and not surprisingly, Howard declines.

The show—the final episode of the first and possibly only season of My Next Guest—ends with Letterman riding off into the sunset on a horse. Is this the symbolic end to Letterman’s TV days? Gee, I hope not. This show is proof Letterman has plenty left in the tank.

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman is now streaming on Netflix.

After one of the more tumultuous productions in recent film history, Solo: A Star Wars Story has made it to the big screen—completed by a different director than the ones who started the gig.

About a year ago, director Ron Howard took over for the directing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street) after producer Kathleen Kennedy showed them the door. Howard took the reins when principal photography was near completion—but then wound up re-shooting 70 percent of the movie.

The film definitely feels like more than one director had their hands in the pot. It’s sloppy; it’s tonally challenged; and scenes crash into each other at times, killing an otherwise brisk and fun pace. There are moments in this movie that feel like they were shoehorned in to fix a story problem.

Yeah, there are some definite negatives at play here—but there are plenty of positives, too. The positives aren’t enough to keep Solo from being one of the weaker Star Wars films, but they are enough to keep it recommendable, and make it a relatively good time at the movies. Diehard Star Wars fans, years from now, will probably shrug and say, “Eh, it was OK,” when asked to re-examine their feelings. In the end, Solo will probably fall somewhere in between The Star Wars Holiday Special and Revenge of the Sith.

Stepping into the iconic role of Han Solo is Alden Ehrenreich (hilarious in the Coen Brothers film Hail, Caesar!), and he’s a guy who has very little in common with Harrison Ford. He doesn’t look like him; he doesn’t sound like him; and he lacks that bemused Ford swagger. However, Ehrenreich does have his own charms, and is a likable actor, so he puts his own spin on Solo. While he didn’t feel like “the” Han Solo to me, he gets by as an enjoyable variation on the guy. Hey, not all of the guys who played James Bond were alike, but there’s more than one good Bond in film history, right?

The film is an origin story, which begs the question, “Does Han Solo really need an origin story?” As a fan, I don’t really need to know the reasons why Harrison Ford’s Solo was a scoundrel with a heart of gold, willing to shoot first and ask questions later—and also put his life on the line multiple times to save the universe. I just liked his attitude, and had no need to see how his past romantic relationships formed that attitude.

That said, it is undeniably enjoyable when he meets Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) for the first time. Han’s budding bond with Chewbacca is a constant smile-inducer, and Glover does Billy Dee Williams proud as the new Lando. In fact, his portrayal of the younger Williams is far more convincing and buyable than Ehrenreich’s younger Ford. Glover is the film’s shining star.

Not faring as well is Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra, an early Solo love interest who just doesn’t catch fire as a worthy character. Clarke has a hand in many franchises (including the latest, failed attempt to reboot the Terminator franchise), and while she is terrific on Game of Thrones, she’s yet to find a feature vehicle that suits her. She seems a bit lost here—perhaps one of the fatalities of the director switch. As an early Han Solo associate in his young gangster days, Woody Harrelson has a little more luck as the crusty Beckett.

As the film’s central villain, Dryden Vos, Paul Bettany might be the dullest Star Wars bad guy yet. This film needed Jabba the Hutt, but instead goes with a guy who sits around in a dark room, sniveling.

There are a couple of fantastic action set pieces, including the infamous Kessel Run and a terrific train heist. When the film is in action mode, and when the Millennium Falcon takes flight, and when Glover occupies the screen, Solo: A Star Wars Story soars. When Han pauses to chat or make out, it stops in its tracks. I enjoyed it … but barely.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is playing in theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

Two comic legends come together for Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a variety special that has its shining moments … but gets by on the general good feeling of seeing the two sharing a stage.

It’s not remarkably funny. Actually, it really isn’t that funny at all; a lot of the attempts at humor fall flat. It does have a couple of gigglers, including Short’s nasty talk-show-host Jiminy Glick transformed into a puppet that Martin works; the two also enjoy making fun of each other. But a musical number by Short that winds up with him in a very low-grade naked suit is lame.

The show really shines when Martin simply sits down and plays his banjo. Honestly, I could’ve watched an hour of Martin playing his banjo by himself on the stage. I didn’t even need the moment when his backing band, The Steep Canyon Rangers, showed up to finish the song. Martin playing a banjo, by himself, is one of my favorite things the entertainment industry has to offer.

While Short keeps chugging as an actor, Martin has put that part of his life aside to tour as a musician, sometimes with Edie Brickell. So if anything, this special is nice in that we get to see Martin doing some comedy again. Still, I’m one of those folks who is perfectly content to watch him pick those strings.

Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life is now streaming on Netflix.

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