Category Archives: Just Having Fun

Coco

Another day, another movie…

Today little bears are spellbound by Coco. Incredibly, it is the first time that little bears are watching the Disney Pixar animated film that celebrates the Mexican tradition known as Día de Muertos.

Coco is unlike pretty much any other film: it presents death as a life-affirming inevitability, with a story line about grudges and abandonment, the importance of family, community, tradition and remembrance, The protagonist, Miguel, is a twelve-year-old boy in the fictional Mexican town of Santa Cecilia — named for the patron saint of musicians — and he is trying to get out from under the shadow of his great-great-grandfather, who left his family to pursue a career as a musician. His wife, the ferocious Mamá Imelda, was left to take care of their young daughter, Coco. She instituted a permanent household ban on music and started making shoes.

Coco is the story of Miguel, a young boy eager to follow his passion for music in a family that has banned music for several generations.

We meet Coco as an old woman. Her daughter, Miguel’s grandmother, Abuelita, now runs the family and its shoemaking business with an iron chancla. Earnest, sweet Miguel teaches himself to play the guitar in the attic, watching and re-watching tapes of the bygone star Ernesto de la Cruz. On the Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), he accidentally shatters a framed photograph on the family ofrenda, then spots a hidden detail in the picture, one that makes him suspect that his wayward ancestor was in fact de la Cruz himself. He sprints to the town mausoleum, hoping to borrow de la Cruz’s guitar and prove the value of music to his family. Instead, the guitar turns Miguel invisible, and whisks him across a skybridge covered in thick, soft marigold petals that glow like lava. He falls to his knees in the petals, and then looks up to see a grand floating metropolis, confetti-colored in the darkness: the Land of the Dead.

Miguel with Mamá Coco
Miguel with Abuelita

The second and third acts of the movie are mostly set in this city of jubilant sugar-skull skeletons, where you exist only as long as you are remembered by the living. (You can cross over to the living world on the Día de Muertos, but only if your photo is on display.) Miguel joins up with a raggedy show-biz hustler named Héctor, who’s desperate to get his picture back up on an ofrenda, and who says he can bring Miguel to de la Cruz. Héctor lives in a waterfront shantytown filled with people who are about to be forgotten; at one point, he begs a guitar for Miguel off an ill-tempered cowboy named Chicharrón, who vanishes as soon as Héctor finishes singing an old dirty song.

The film’s depiction of the land of the dead is visually vibrant, a whimsically imagined illustration of this traditional realm.

Eventually, Miguel realizes that Héctor is his real ancestor, and the movie sprints to a conclusion that’s as skillfully engineered to produce waterworks as the montage at the beginning of Up. But until the end, Coco is mostly, wonderfully, a mess of conflict and disappointment and sadness. Héctor seems to have failed everyone who takes a chance on him. Miguel’s face, painted in skeleton camouflage, often droops as if he were a sad little black-and-white dog. Coco is animated by sweetness, but this sweetness is subterranean, bursting through mostly in tiny details: the way that both Mamá Imelda and Miguel’s grandmother brandish shoes when they’re angry; or how the daffy Xolo dog that accompanies Miguel on his adventure is named Dante; or how the skeletons return to their city through the Day of the Dead’s efficient T.S.A. system, declaring the churros and beer that their families gave them for their journey home.

Miguel’s ancestors declare him as a human to the T.S.A when he enters the Land of the Dead
Miguel with Héctor

Traveling from the land of the dead to the land of the living also requires going through Day of the Dead’s T.S.A. system. The dead must present themselves to an officer who conducts a computer search for their image. Their photo must be found on an ofrenda; if it isn’t there, it means they are no longer remembered by their family or friends, and they are not be allowed to walk across the cempasúchil bridge to the land of the living. Looks like immigration is tough even in the afterlife.

Before Coco hit theaters, it was easy to doubt that the movie would present Mexican culture as expansively and gorgeously as it does, with such natural familiarity and respect. It is Pixar’s nineteenth movie, but its first with a nonwhite protagonist; Lee Unkrich, the director and creator of the initial story, is white. The movie’s working title was Día de Muertos, and, in 2013, Disney lawyers tried, absurdly, to trademark that phrase. But Unkrich and his team approached their subject with openness and collaborative humility: they travelled to Mexico, they loosened Pixar’s typical secrecy to build a large network of consultants, and, after the trademark controversy, they asked several prominent critics to come onboard. Coco is the first movie to have both an all-Latino cast and a nine-figure budget. It grossed more than 800 million dollars worldwide, won two Oscars, and became the biggest blockbuster in Mexican history.

Día de Muertos has its roots in a pre-Hispanic commemoration of deceased loved ones that is practiced by some Latin American indigenous populations. The film draws its cultural inspiration from several Mexican variations of this tradition, which also happen to be those most commonly found in the United States.

Within Mexico there are many regional and community-specific interpretations of the tradition. There are the indigenous traditions of celebrating ancestors as they were practiced before the arrival of Europeans, with many distinct variations within the local communities. Then there is the Day of the Dead that merged with Roman Catholic practices after the arrival of Europeans in the Americas. There is the Mexican national celebration, the Day of the Dead tradition introduced to the U.S. by Mexican Americans during the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and the Day of the Dead traditions that are practiced by recently immigrated Indigenous Latino populations in the U.S. To name a few.

The representation in Coco is a composite, but the individual elements would be recognizable to those familiar with the tradition. The film is rich in Day of the Dead imagery such as decorated cemeteries and ofrendas (offerings) — temporary memorial spaces devoted to deceased family and friends. These spaces are filled with favorite foods and beverages, images of loved ones, candles and an abundance of cempasúchil (marigolds). Even the bridge between the place of the living and the place of the dead is made of cempasúchil petals.

Frida Kahlo

Some of the movie’s characters, in both human and skeletal form, come straight out of central casting. You find celebrities like Frida Kahlo, Lucha Libre wrestlers and mariachi musicians in traditional regalia, as well as an assortment of relatives whom we can all identify. Some of the characters are neither living humans nor skeleton beings, but they are certainly well-known to most Mexicans. Dante, the Xoloitzcuintle dog who accompanies Miguel on his adventures, is a hairless, ancient breed considered to be the national dog of Mexico. Through the course of the film, Dante transforms into a living alebrije — a folk art form of fanciful, elaborately painted creature sculptures. In the movie, alebrijes are companions to the deceased.

Miguel with Dante

Even the depicted spaces are recognizable to those familiar with the tradition and with Mexico. Miguel’s town evokes a tranquil colonial village complete with cobblestone streets, arched colonnades, wrought iron and clay-tiled roofs. The place of the dead, filled with all sorts of activity and nightlife, is an expansive, colorfully lit urban space built on ancient pyramids. Real-life locations in Mexico were the inspiration: the city of Oaxaca became Santa Cecilia, the land of the living, while Guanajuato became an imaginary Land of the Dead, a dazzlingly vibrant, stacked metropolis.

Coco is a powerfully communicated story about the importance of family, community, a sense of belonging, tradition and remembrance.
Miguel with his family in the Land of the Living

Coco is a powerfully communicated story about the importance of family, community, a sense of belonging, tradition and remembrance, an exploration of values that feel increasingly difficult to practice in today’s actual world.

Unless you are a little bear! It’s time for a Mexican feast 🙂

Mulan is 20!

Twenty years ago today, Disney’s Mulan hit theatres and inspired viewers with lessons of perseverance and girl power.

Back in 1998 Mulan charted a new direction for Disney’s animation studio, combining the traditional elements (brave heroine, cute and funny sidekicks) with material that was more adventuresome and grown up. It is also a film that adults can enjoy on their own, without feeling an obligation to take along kids, or bears, as a cover 🙂

The 2018 release of the live-action film Mulan would have been a perfect way to commemorate the animated Mulan‘s 20th anniversary, but we have to wait until 2020 now. It took five years to make the animated film, so here’s hoping that the delay is a sign that cast and crew are making sure the live-action film is phenomenal. It’s our favourite Disney princess film! Also of all the Disney princess stories to re-create, Mulan might be the best choice right now: a story about a woman defying gender stereotypes to succeed in a male-dominated field feels particularly pointed in today’s climate.

The master of ceremonies 🙂

It’s a princess party, but none of these princesses wait around to be rescued! Tiana and Merida, Belle and Rapunzel are smart, daring, and more than likely, they’ll be doing the rescuing themselves!

The princesses are also kind and generous and share the cakes with their bear friends 🙂

Mulan, a peasant girl who disguises herself as a man to join the army in place of her aged father, is a legendary figure from ancient China. Originally presented in the 5th century poem Ballad of Mulan, her adventures rose in popularity as a folktale and have inspired numerous screen and stage adaptations, including the 1998 Disney animation.

It was one of Disney’s first major motion pictures to feature a non-white leading character, it consciously and interestingly challenged gender roles, and it marked a shift in Disney’s official princesses, introducing one of the company’s first leading ladies who wasn’t entirely dependent on her love interest. Two decades later, Mulan still kicks as much butt as it did when it was first released 🙂

Mulan is defying not simply convention, but her family’s desire that she abide by the plans of a matchmaker and marry whomever she selects for her. The opening scenes in the film show Mulan botching the interview with the matchmaker – she sets her pants on fire, a nice Freudian touch 🙂

The movie breaks with the tradition in which the male hero rescues the heroine, but is still totally sold on the Western idea of romantic love.

Disney movies since time immemorial have provided their leads with comedic sidekicks, usually in the form of animals, although teacups and chandeliers are not unheard of 🙂 Mulan is accompanied on her journey by a scrawny dragon named Mushu, whose voice is performed by Eddie Murphy.

The film is very funny. Mulan’s grandmother delivers some of the greatest lines, the cricket is a solid side-kick, the dog is adorable, the horse is a hoot, and the Emperor gets it!

Unfortunately, societal conventions are not changed quite so easily, but hey, it’s a Disney film!

With group hugs 🙂

The film is pure story, character, movement and form, without the distractions of reality or the biographical baggage of the actors. Music and lyrics for Honor to Us All, I’ll Make a Man Out of You, A Girl Worth Fighting For, Reflection, and True to Your Heart were written by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel, with Lea Salonga providing the singing voice for Mulan.

I’ll Make a Man Out of You is a powerful transformation scene. It’s also a tongue-in-cheek comment on sexism: Manning up is perceived as the only way to become strong enough to win the war, yet it’s Mulan who works harder than everyone else and rises to the occasion first.

Good thing it’s funny, we’ll be watching Mulan all day! 🙂

Batman and Superman

When do you think Lego will make a Superman movie? We had fun at the movies with Lego Batman 🙂

Puffles and Honey at IMAX in Melbourne to see the Lego Batman movie

Little bears are debating Batman vs Superman. The science, not the movie. The movie isn’t much to write home about 😦 Although we warmed up to Ben Affleck’s Batman in Justice League. He was positively teary eyed when they brought back Superman!

Superman has the ability to fly, he has super strength, x-ray vision, invulnerability, super speed, heat vision, freeze breath and super senses. As Lex Luthor described him, he is a “living God on Earth”. Superman gets his powers from Earth’s yellow Sun, basically making him a large solar powered battery. Meaning when he is here on Earth he has the potential to wipe out all of humanity.

Batman is very cynical and as he puts it, “he’s had a bad experience with freaks dressed like clowns”, so even though we know Superman is really a good guy, The Dark Knight isn’t convinced and wants to take him down. But Batman wasn’t born with any genealogical advantage, he doesn’t have mutated cells which makes him a capable crime fighter, he just uses his brain.

Batman’s ability stems from science and engineering and with his family fortune he is able to bankroll some of the most advanced pieces of technology the world has ever seen.

Bruce Wayne / Batman and Barry Allen / Flash in Justice League

Batman made his first appearance in Detective Comics back in 1939 and he was more of a super sleuth then a hero, using his wits and lock picks to help solve crimes. However as he moved into the 1940s his gadgetry became more advanced when he started using infrared goggles that enabled him to see in the dark. Infrared light isn’t visible to the naked eye but everything above absolute zero temperature gives off infrared radiation in the form of heat. So Batman would be able to use this technology, not just to see in the dark, but to also target people as they would stand out against the colder background. Night vision goggles were first developed by the US in the early 1940s to assist with the war efforts, however German armies were using a form of night vision even earlier, which they used as a short range search light on board their Panther Tanks.

Batman made his debut in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). Cover art by Bob Kane.

As Batman moved into the 1950s he seemed to shift slightly into science fiction. This was to keep up with the trends of the times and would often involve him firing ray guns at enemies or even flying into outer space. In Batman issue 109, he used a heat-ray to detonate explosives underwater, three years before optical lasers were invented. This may seem a little far-fetched but the military have been working on this for quite some time. They have built a non-lethal weapon called the Active Denial System, which directs high frequency microwaves over 500 meters. It’s about as hot as a lightbulb and is able to neutralise people without causing them serious harm. Similar to a microwave it excites the water and fat molecules in the skin and instantly heats them. This system was launched in 2010 during the war in Afghanistan but was never used. The military have developed other equipment that uses microwaves in a way that can destroy electrical equipment or even disrupt missiles guiding systems when launched at planes.

Batman has always managed to stay one step ahead of his mortal enemies, but he’s never taken on anyone quite like Superman. For starters, Superman has the ability to fly. Lex Luthor once theorised that this was because he must have come from a gigantic planet with enormous gravity, so his race had to develop natural anti-gravity organs in order to function. On Earth this would mean he would be able to control his own gravimetric field allowing him to fly.

Batman doesn’t have the ability to fly, but he does fall with style. His cape is made of ‘memory cloth’ which, when charged, has the ability to realign the molecules and become rigid, letting him use it to glide. Material, just like this, is actually in the works. One method of creating this effect is using magnetorheological fluid. This is usually a type of oil, which contains lots of little particles that when subjected to a magnetic field, becomes rigid thus increasing its viscosity. So incorporating this into a kind of fabric could potentially turn Batman’s cape into a reality. However there are people who glide similarly to Batman without the use of magnetorheological fluid.

Gliding using a wingsuit

They use wing suits. Wing suits adds surface area to the body and enables a significant increase in lift. There are slits on the arms which allows the suit to fill up with air, which permits them to glide. By manipulating their body as they free fall through the air they are able to gain great distances as they plummet towards the ground.

In the original comics Batman’s costume was made of cloth, but this became problematic as it was constantly being torn. So he developed his suit, not only to stop it tearing, but to also stop bullets.

Molecular structure of Kevlar: bold represents a monomer unit, dashed lines indicate hydrogen bonds.

Kevlar is a para-aramid synthetic fibre that’s five times stronger than steel making it perfect for Batman. It’s able to be woven into a material and when worn, the fibres are able to stretch meaning it’s capable of stopping both bullets and knives. Although in the recent films, we notice he hasn’t got as much dexterity when it comes to hand to hand combat. In fact, he hasn’t got enough dexterity to cross a busy road. The kevlar made his neck increasingly stiff making it hard for him to react quickly when being attacked. Batman upgraded his suit to Kevlar plates placed on top of titanium dipped tri-weaved fibres. Just as strong but it gives him more flexibility. This design parallels ceramic armour. Ceramic armour is 70% lighter than Kevlar and uses boron carbide, a black crystalline powder, that when heated can be turned into ceramic plating that’s as strong as diamonds. The military use ceramic plates on tanks and even inserts them into soft ballistic vests making them wearable, protecting their soldiers from enemy fire.

Batman’s suit is also coated with Nomex, which is a flame resistant material. When exposed to intense heat, the fibres carbonise and thicken, creating a barrier between the skin and the fire. The material doesn’t melt and it doesn’t burn which makes it perfect for firefighters to use. In Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman has again upgraded his suit to a hefty suit of armour designed to withstand the blows of super strong extra-terrestrials. Plus a few other nifty features as well.

Despite the impressive nature of Batman’s suit, the most essential item of clothing he wears is his utility belt. It is packed with everything a vigilante needs. Thermite bombs to get through doors, a re-breather to breathe under water and the most famous of all his gadgets, the Batarang. Ben Affleck got to keep a Batarang from the movie!

Image from Batman: The Movie (1966). Adam West’s Batman using Shark Repellent Bat Spray

In Batman: The movie (1966), Adam West’s Batman even uses shark repellent bat spray to get rid of a shark that’s munching on his leg as he dangles from a helicopter. This may sound ludicrous but shark repellent spray does exist and it was specially designed to protect sailors who got stranded in open water. When it was being developed, scientists found that the thing to drive away a shark is the odour of a dead shark. Dissecting what it is exactly that sends them swimming, it was found that certain copper compounds, such as copper sulphate and copper acetate, in combination with other ingredients could replicate the smell of dead shark. It’s actually purchasable online at a very reasonable price, so be like Batman, always prepared, and carry shark repellent in your belt just in case of a freak shark attack.

Another helpful tool is Batman’s grappling gun. He uses an air gun to shoot a grappling hook to the top of tall buildings, and he pulls up at a fairly quick speed. In order to lift the Dark Knight quickly, the grabbling gun would need a powerful motorised mechanism. A standard lightbulb uses roughly 60 watts, this motor would need at least 5000 watts to work but it is doable. Atlas Devices is a global provider of innovative solutions for security and defence. They have the capability to use such grabbling motors for rescue and extraction missions. They have been specially designed so they can lift two people at a fast pace increasing their chances of success during rescue missions.

Two of the founding members of Atlas Devices demonstrating their Atlas Powered Ascender (APA)

It is impossible to grow up to become Superman, but it is technically possible to grow up to become Batman. And it’s definitely possible to become best friends, like little bears 🙂

We might give Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice another go, but for now it’s time to watch Wonder Woman. Again 🙂

Original story on Science Made Simple, heavily biased towards Batman, on account that in the battle between brains and brawn, brains win all the time. If only! That’s the wishful thinking of a scientist 🙂

Saturday Morning with Super Friends

🙂

This year is both the 80th and the 40th anniversary of Superman.

Superman debuted in the first issue of “Action Comics” No. 1, cover dated June, 1938, but actually hit the stands on April 18, 1938. Comic companies traditionally put a date on the cover two months later than the actual date of release in the hopes the magazines will stay on the stands longer.

Cover of Action Comics 1 (June 1938). Art by Joe Shuster.

It was two teenagers from the East Side of Cleveland, Ohio, that first imagined a caped superhero dressed in red, blue and yellow, with a giant “S” on his chest. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were geeky 17-year-olds wanting to create a character to look up to. They found it in Superman.

According to Gerard Jones’ book Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book, Superman’s story — of being catapulted from planet Krypton to Earth, where he was raised by a Kansas farmer and his wife, as Clark Kent — came to Siegel in pieces over the course of a single night: “I hop out of bed and write this down, and then I go back and think some more for about two hours and get up again and write that down. This goes on all night at two-hour intervals. I dashed over to Joe’s place and showed it to him…. We just sat down and I worked straight through. I think I had brought in some sandwiches to eat, and we worked all day long.”

Siegel and Shuster began writing comic strips from their homes, and eventually from their New York City base. In 1938, though, they sold their superhero for a mere $130 to DC Comics.

The character that made his first appearance in the June 1938 issue 1 of Action Comics remains a household name.

Why has Superman resonated with so many people for so long? He speaks to an elemental experience that crosses racial and cultural lines. Superman is more than just a hero who is faster than a speeding bullet or more powerful than a locomotive; he is the ultimate immigrant story.

To quote The New York Times theater critic David Rooney, Superman was “born on an alien planet, he grows stronger on Earth, but maintains a secret identity tied to a homeland that continues to exert a powerful hold on him even as his every contact with those origins does him harm.”

Before he made his first appearance in Action Comics, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created a short story in 1933 entitled “The Reign of the Superman,” which Siegel self-published in his fanzine, Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization. It was the story of a drifter named Bill Dunn who gained incredible psychic powers after a mad scientist gave him an experimental drug. Transforming into Superman, Bill proceeded to straight-up murder his creator and proceeded to do what any one of us would do in that situation: abuse his powers for his own selfish amusement and gain! Ultimately, this “Superman” gets his comeuppance when he loses his powers and is forced to return to a life of vagrancy, haunted by the fact that he lived long enough to see himself become the villain. Sure we’d get a version of Superman that’s a total jerk, but at least he wasn’t an out-and-out monster.

Back in 1945, Superman’s superheroic antics didn’t just catch the eye of thousand of readers, but it raised some seriously red flags at the FBI. In April 1945, a strip penned by Alvin Schwartz involved a device known as the cyclotron, better known as an atom smasher. With the U.S. government hard at work on building an atomic weapon of their own, the FBI felt compelled to pay a visit to the DC Comics offices to ensure that there were no leaks. Schwartz claimed that he learned about cyclotrons from a 1935 issue of Popular Mechanics, and learned years later that Jerry Siegel–who was in the military at the time–had been questioned too. Ultimately, the FBI forced DC Comics to bring the storyline to a swift conclusion because it was getting a little too close to reality. So it turns out that Kryptonite isn’t Superman’s only weakness after all…

Back in 1938, Siegel and Shuster were elated to sell their character Superman to DC Comics for the not-so-princely sum of $130. Adjusted for inflation, that’s approximately $3,200 today. What followed was a lifelong struggle as the creators tried fruitlessly to regain legal ownership over their creation. Although they received decent wages for writing and illustrating Superman comics, DC eventually fired them in 1947 after they duo launched a lawsuit against the publisher. Ever in dire financial straits, Siegel would return to DC a few times over the years, but ultimately left again in 1965 after launching a second, unsuccessful lawsuit. When Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman film finally went into production, Siegel launched a PR campaign protesting the way DC had treated Shuster and him. As it turns out, publicly shaming them was just the ticket. DC’s parent company, Warner Brothers, reinstated their byline, giving them creative credit once more after a 30 year hiatus, and granted them a lifetime pension of $20,000 per year plus health benefits, which was later increased to $30,000. Though it was hardly the end of their woes, it was a small victory for the men who gave the world a hero it sorely needed.

You could take Superman’s identity by using his social security number! In 1966’s Action Comics #340, DC decided to give Clark Kent a Social Security number, 092-09-6615. That number belonged to a New York man who had passed away a year earlier. While Giobatta Balocchi’s relatives may have been confused at the time, they should be proud that their dearly beloved’s social security number is in the super-strong hands of none other than Superman.

Every hero needs a weakness, but in the case of Kryptonite, it was first invented as a clever means for actor Bud Collyer, who played Superman on The Adventures of Superman radio serial, to take a much-needed vacation. So in June 1943, they introduced the deadly mineral Kryptonite as part of “The Meteor from Krypton” story arc. A stand-in for Bud moaned in pain until Collyer came back from vacation. Although Jerry Siegel wrote an unpublished story in 1940 called “The K-Metal from Krypton” featuring an early version of Kryptonite, it wasn’t until 1949’s Superman #61 that it became an integral part of the Superman comic mythos too. And oh what a part it would become.

Everyone knows about Green Kryptonite, the chunks of Superman’s home planet that drain his powers and render him helpless, but there’s a whole spectrum of Kryptonite out there, and they’re all weird as hell.

Red Kryptonite: also weakens Superman, but much more effectively than Green Kryptonite.
Black Kryptonite: splits any Kryptonian into two separate entities, one good and one evil.
Blue Kryptonite: does the exact same thing as Green Kryptonite, but to Bizarro.
Gold Kryptonite: normal kryptonite affected by atomic radiation, this nullifies all superhuman abilities granted by yellow sunlight.
White Kryptonite: kills all the plant life of any world it touches.
Red-gold Kryptonite: temporarily erases Kryptonians’ memories.
Orange Kryptonite: gives any animal that touches it superpowers for 24 hours.
Pink Kryptonite: which appeared as a satire of ridiculous Silver Age stories, turns Kryptonians gay.

Superman The Movie was released in 1978, with Christopher Reeve as Superman. An interesting fact, Superman The Movie was not the highest-grossing film of 1978, Grease managed that feat, despite middling to scathing reviews — a “klutzburger” one critic said.

Christopher Reeve is almost everyone’s favorite Superman. He had the most successful run as the character and when most people over the age of 25 think of Superman, they see Christopher Reeve.

Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent / Superman

But not little bears! They are more partial to Henry Cavill’s Superman.

Richard Donner’s Superman is very slow-starting. The first time Superman appears in his red, blue and yellow uniform is nearly an hour into the film. The film does open on the planet Krypton with his father Jor-El preparing him to be launched into space. But those aren’t action scenes; they provide weight to the origin story every superhero requires.

Superman‘s most influential element is probably its special effects. Superman did lots of stunts in his earlier incarnations in movie serials and on TV, but rarely had effects like these been linked to the genre. Some of his heroics are frankly laughable, as when he descends to the bottom of a rift in the earth caused by an earthquake and literally pushes the earth back up into place. Or when he flies into the exhaust of a missile and tilts it off course. And in the height of absurdity, he flies so fast around the planet that he reverses time and saves Lois Lane’ life. The problems of logic presented by that stunt beggar the imagination.

But these effects, on a vast scale, are done well, and they upped the ante in the superhero genre. They are done traditionally, with back projection, traveling matte shots, blue screen, optical printers and all the other tools now rendered obsolete by CGI.

And Superman pushes on into the realm of comedy. Richard Donner pulls off a balancing act involving satire, action, romcom clichés and a full serving of clichés from hard-boiled newspaper movies. The film came in an era of Disaster Movies that took themselves with dreadful earnestness, and Alexander Salkind and Richard Donner knew the essential element of Superman was fun.

After all that, we’re going to watch Justice League 🙂

The Incredible Bears

Are at the movies to see Incredibles 2. It’s Friday and Friday is movie day 🙂

Very exciting! The film is about to start!

It was 2004 when The Incredibles hit theatres, and the modern world of superhero cinema was just getting started.

Sony and Fox were leading the way with their Spider-Man and X-Men franchises, but the idea of a connected Marvel Cinematic Universe was still a Kevin Feige dream. Superhero animation was still a heavyweight, with “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Justice League” and the ’90s Saturday-morning “X-Men” cartoon still favourites to many.

There are way more superheroes on screen these days. Marvel Studios is the undisputed king of comic book movies. DC and Warner Bros., despite missteps, created a cultural phenomenon in Wonder Woman. And the success of the Deadpool franchise means Fox won’t let go of the X-Men anytime soon.

Despite the fourteen year wait, Incredibles 2 doesn’t feel dated. And 2004 feels like yesterday. Especially for little bears who look exactly the same! 🙂

Incredibles 2 picks up precisely where the first film — which ended with a tantalizing cliff-hanger — left off, with the arrival of a new villain, the Underminer, who arose from the earth in a giant tunnel-boring machine.

The first film ended with a knowing glance — between the costumed crusader Mr. Incredible, his wife, Elastigirl, and their three kids — as well as a question: Would they continue to fight against those who would undermine truth, justice and the American way, or would they, in their own way, go back underground?

Incredibles 2 immediately sets about answering that question, in a way that will surprise no one, except to the degree that it incorporates currents in contemporary American culture — both in movies and in the news — that have developed in the intervening years. When Mr. Incredible, a.k.a. Bob Parr, shouts that he’ll try to keep the Underminer’s vehicle “away from the buildings”, it’s hard not think of the casual destruction that is countenanced by so many of today’s action-movie franchises, for which collateral damage seems almost to have become a smirking, inside joke.

There’s plenty of fun, laughs and (surprisingly intense) action. If you haven’t seen the first film, you will be able to follow along easily, but you’re missing out on a whole lot of totally wicked fun!

Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) leads the way in a time when being a superhero is still against the law. The family’s lead heroine and mom is recruited to save the day and try to bring superheroes back into the good graces of a government that doesn’t trust them.

That leaves Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) — who wasn’t asked to be a part of these efforts — no choice but to stay at home with his superpowered kids, generating moments that provide Incredibles 2 with most of its laughs. Much of the film’s comedy comes courtesy of Bob and Helen’s youngest child, the toddler Jack-Jack, who reveals himself to possess several new powers, all of which come to the fore in a scene in which he does hilarious battle with a backyard raccoon (no YouTube video of it yet).

The family dynamic continues to be the heart of this franchise. A teenage daughter, Violet (Sarah Vowell), wants nothing to do with anyone. Dash (Huck Milner, replacing Spencer Fox) would be hyper all the time if he didn’t have super-speed (which he does). And they spend their time contending with adversaries of their own: teenage boys and math, respectively. Baby brother Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) has the power to do seemingly whatever he wants, and Mr. Incredible struggles to sit on the bench with his mask off while his wife gets to be in the public eye.

Samuel L. Jackson is also back as Frozone. You half-expect his character, powered by Jackson’s unmistakable voice, to call in the Avengers, since he plays Nick Fury in that franchise. Hey, Incredibles 2 is under the Disney umbrella — they could probably make it happen — but this superhero universe is entertaining enough that extra “suits” aren’t needed. Maybe Nick Fury called on the Incredibles at the end of Avengers: Infinity War? 🙂

Edna Mode, everyone’s favourite fashion mogul, (voiced by Incredibles 2 writer and director Brad Bird) is also back, and she babysits Jack-Jack overnight. It is hilarious!

Incredibles 2 is a witty, engrossing and visually stunning adventure. Totally worth the wait!

Back home, little bears have decided to see The Incredibles again.

Hmm, chocolates, chocolate popcorn and chocolate covered profiteroles… Something is missing!

Chocolate ice-cream!