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Almost Famous

Almost Famous is 2000 comedy-drama film written and directed by Cameron Crowe. It’s partially based on Cameron Crowe’s own experiences as a teenaged writer for Rolling Stone. Seems to me that Cameron Crowe is a bit of an overachiever. So I have a confession to make. I saw this movie for the first time a week ago. Every time someone has mentioned this movie, I smiled, nodded my head, and pretended to know what everyone was talking about. A good portion of my life has been a lie. I’m sorry.

But I’ve seen it now. It’s a pretty good movie. I understand why it’s still relevant fifteen years later. Almost Famous tells the story of William Miller (played by Patrick Fugit), a high school student who gets tasked with writing an article for Rolling Stone about a band called Stillwater. Stillwater might be a fictional band, but they still rock hard. William goes on tour with the band, while forming a friendship with Penny Lane (played by Kate Hudson in her breakout role), a groupie with a heart of gold, and an uneasy alliance with the various members of Stillwater.

It’s a coming of age story. William learns about life and love, he loses his virginity, and he finds himself. It’s a period piece set in 1973 but it doesn’t feel dated. It has a great soundtrack, filled with tons of real classic rock songs and pseudo classic rock songs written for the movie. It features the best use of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” ever put on film. The cast includes a bunch of A-listers before they were super famous like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Jason Lee, Zooey Deschanel, Anna Deschanel, Jimmy Fallon, and Rainn Wilson just to name a few.

The movie has a nice pace in the beginning, but it starts to drag along towards the end. It could have been thirty minutes shorter. They should have skipped most of the stuff that happens after they all sing “Tiny Dancer.” The plot fizzles out and loses momentum. It’s still good though. I would recommend that you watch it if you haven’t yet. Better late than never.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Incredibles

Pixar knows how to make good movies. They don’t always make them (Cars 2, cough cough), but they know how to make them. And The Incredibles is a good movie. Director Brad Bird’s film is about a man burdened with a family trying to relive his old glory days. When he was a superhero. And his family all have powers too, but they aren’t super enough, and so he ditches them on fake business trips to fight crime for a mysterious boss that ends up being his arch-nemesis. It’s not just a great computer animated movie; it’s also one of the best superhero movies to date.

Craig T. Nelson provides the voice for Mr. Incredible, Holly Hunter plays his wife, Elastigirl. Samuel L. Jackson plays Frozone. And Jason Lee steals the flick as Syndrome, the evil villain who turned to crime after Mr. Incredible rejected him as a sidekick. Holly Hunter has a weird lispy voice and it’s not fun to listen to. She’s the only complaint I have with the casting. Everyone else is great and helps out the movie. She’s a decent actress, but her voice makes me want to rupture my eardrums with a sharpened pencil.

Superheroes are larger than life. Especially in this movie. The Incredibles do, well, incredible things. Mr. Incredible is super strong. Elastigirl is super flexible. The daughter Violet can turn invisible and project force fields. The son Dash has super speed. And baby Jack-Jack can do anything. They all have amazing powers and gifts, but it’s the family dynamic that you relate to. It grounds the movie in reality, so that when fantastic things start happening you actually care about what happens to them. If you make your characters believable, the unbelievable seems more likely. This is the first Pixar movie where people are the main characters. People like talking toys and bugs, but they can relate to other people easier.

Originally this movie was going to be traditionally animated. It might have still been a decent movie, but the scope of the movie would have been lost. The action sequences are dynamic, and the sets are impressive and immersive. Computers make better environments that hand-drawn pictures on paper can’t emulate. The Incredibles has to be a computer-animated movie; live-action or traditional animation doesn’t suit the tone of the movie.

This is a movie that you can watch with anyone. You want to share this experience. It’s a great family flick, but you can watch it with your spouse or secret lover, you can watch it after the Super Bowl with a couch full of drunks. Grandma can watch it. Little Timmy can watch it. And everyone will be entertained. People like to be entertained.

The Incredibles is an awesome movie. It is why people go to the movies. They want to laugh and cry, and be thrilled and be taken on a ride. You want to see things that you’ve never seen before, and if it’s a good movie, you want to see those things again and again. If you can watch a movie multiple times and it’s still fresh and exciting, than it’s a good piece of art. Good job Brad Bird. Good job Pixar. You done good. Now make a sequel already.

Critically Rated at 16/17

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