SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (2018): Brazen Ballsy Bothering

Confrontation is hard to make inviting. Especially in our modern world where it seems like we’re being bombarded with loud blaring voices of varying political spectrums on a daily basis, the idea of going to a film that directly dangles commentary and a point of view in your face seems like torture to endure. The truly great films that take on the times they are made in tend to stuff such material in a package so delectable that the confrontation becomes part of the entertainment. Baked firmly into the weirdly cartoonish action of Boots Riley‘s Sorry to Bother You is plenty of sharp satiric jabs of the knife that almost blindside audiences because of how much is being thrown at the screen. Yet, Riley isn’t disguising anything. Of the many things Sorry to Bother You is, it isn’t subtle. Yet, that’s not that much of a hindrance at all.

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Given his history as a rapper and musician, Riley puts so much into the mix (figuratively and literally) with this simple story of a young man trying to make his way in the corporate world. Riley basically takes this simplistic premise he plants his lead character Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) into. At a time where he’s desperate to rise from his meager means and impress his rebel rousing performance artist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), Cassius clings onto a job as a telemarketer. While he’s initially quite terrible at selling over the phone, Cassius eventually learns the secret from his older co-worker (Danny Glover) to use his “white voice” in order to appear confident, as presented by white comedian David Cross dubbing of Stanfield when he’s on the phone. This propels Cassius up the corporate ladder, alienating his co-workers and dragging him into dark webs of conspiracy that go to ludicrous places.

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Despite the wackier areas it goes to, Sorry to Bother You never loses that relatable bitterly satiric bite the whole way throughout. Cassius is a masterful example of a worried young everyman in our modern world; trying to survive while pondering if anything they do ultimately matters. Stanfield embodies all of this with his typical quiet charm that radiates as a young man trying to navigate the world of capitalism and find a path that leads to dangerous places. A hero with believably manipulatable morals in the face of opportunity. Plus, the use of His quietness perfectly bounces off Thompson as an outwardly mobile woman of color out to express herself, yet has an oddly earnest sincerity toward Stanfield’s reserved charms. So as he slowly starts to lose his morals, this other worldly satire keeps an honest emotional core that’s sad to see dissipate with their relationship and Stanfield’s desire to betray his friends Salvador (Jermaine Fowler) and Squeeze (Steven Yeun). Squeeze admittedly feels like a bit of a waste for such an underrated charismatic presence, but Fowler stands out as an affably aloof guy for Stanfield to bounce off of. One back and forth of The Dozens that takes overly complimentary turns between the two is one of the comedic highlights of 2018 so far.

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The path through this story as depicted in Sorry to Bother You is unlike most other films out there. A funhouse full of garishly colored caricatures of the larger world. Where callers are motivated by the idea of tagging vs bagging bodies and shown as literally teleporting into the private homes of the people they call. The elaborate production design finds the familiar corners of our world. It’s like turning the dingiest corners of an Oakland city torn apart by grime & poverty, only to find the neighborhood slowly transforming into a Pee-Wee’s Playhouse version of that same street. Riley manages to make a movie that feels like a feature length energetically odd music video that largely keeps that pace for an hour and forty five minutes of run time. It’s a feat that I’ve never quite seen duplicated cinematically and Sorry to Bother You does it effortlessly. Riley stuffs so much into everything from the overall sound mix to the curious background extras to breathe unique life into this strange world. Whether it’s a small reference to our modern political landscape or some due wearing a tie dyed shirt, it gives us a peak into this capitalist dystopia Riley has created as a mirror of our own world.

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Yet, Sorry to Bother You doesn’t lose sight of the message in the middle of the chaos. Despite how over the top someone like the eye patched Mr. ________ (Omari Hardwick with a white voice from Patton Oswalt) or the manic corporate honcho Steve Lift (Armie Hammer) serve as icons of what selling out human kind can be. The individuals of apathy and desire for greed that give a human face to look to as a way of representing the garish culture these character populate which only feels like a few degrees higher than our own. One where the biggest thing on TV is literally a show where people are beaten severely on camera in front of a horrific game show set called “I Got the S#*@ Kicked Out of Me” and the leading employment opportunity is Worryfree, a not at all thinly laid metaphor for prison workforce that’s treated as a stress free job/housing development. All of this is mostly displayed in the background, but firmly cements Boots as a modern film satirist of the likes not often seen since Alex Cox or Paul Verhoven. Where the turns taken are never expected and smash you head on with what is being said.

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Sorry to Bother You is an example of a film that may not be for everyone that should still be seen by everyone. It’s challenging cinema that could and – based on the amount of people who walked out of my screening at a certain late breaking plot point – will alienate mainstream audiences who were merely looking for a fun time. Sorry to Bother You delivers plenty of funny highly entertaining joke set pieces, but doesn’t do so lightly. It can be brutally hard to watch for how real the heightened events can feel on more of an emotional level, but challenging cinema like this is exactly what needs to be encouraged. Even for the few jokes that fall flat, Sorry to Bother You keeps steadfast to its mission statement of confronting the audience on issues of race relations, capitalism gone mad, cultural erosion and the line between success & selling out. Even if it “bothers you,” the bothering is worth letting you get hit in the face.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Soda Cans to the Face

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Friday the 13th Goes To Hell: A New Beginning – Double Edged Double Bill Episode 10

If a teen gets killed in the woods, does Jason Voorhees make a sound? Of course he doesn’t. But you’ll be hearing the screams of Adam Thomas and Thomas Mariani for days to come as they take a look at two of the under-examined entries in the slasher franchise Friday the 13th in honor of… well, Friday the 13th. First, the good pick is the controversial fifth entry A New Beginning, in which a copy cat killer takes on the likeness of Jason for a series of murders. Not usually too beloved amongst Jason fans, but Adam and Thomas find their tastes may differ from the norm. Then the even more divisive Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday, where in Jason becomes a worm creature that travels from person to person. It’s muddled, but our duo’s thoughts may surprise you more than a coroner eating Jason’s heart. It’s a doubled edged machete of good time that you can listen to here!

To stay up to date about the podcast, follow us on Twitter @DEDBpod, our Facebook page and send us feedback at doubleedgeddoublebill@gmail.com! If you like the show, please go on iTunes to subscribe, rate and/or review us to give the show more visibility!

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ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018): Smaller Stakes for Large Rewards

Three years ago, the first Ant-Man came right on the heels of Avengers: Age of Ultron. After such a bloated and underwhelming event for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the story of recently released from prison thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) using his heist skills to take some tech and become a shrinking based hero under the guidance of scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his agile daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) seemed refreshingly smaller scale by comparison. Still, a complicated production history and a storyline that felt far too similar to the now-standard origin formula of the original Iron Man held back Ant-Man from realizing his true potential. So, it’s even more refreshing to see director Peyton Reed return to these characters in a production all his own and allow for far more creative freedom to play with concepts merely introduced in the first film while still keeping the overall stakes personal for Ant-Man and The Wasp.

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The most refreshing aspect of Ant-Man and the Wasp centers heavily on increasing the roles of Hank and Hope. While both still have moments of technobabble ladened exposition that somewhat hampered the last film, Hank and Hope’s regret over the actions that lead to Hank’s wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) to disappear into the Quantum Realm – where she shrank to subatomic levels and couldn’t be found – grounds this potentially alienating sci-fi concept far more weight and tragedy. Douglas and Lilly display a lasting grief when their interacting over the vague sci-fi antics that allows for a more weighted perspective to all the nonsense. It’s something the MCU has attempted before, but the difference here really is a lack of muddling the motivation. The Quantum Realm is merely a colorful effects ladened prison that has kept these two away from someone important in their lives. So whether they’re spouting exposition or battling their way against the special effects creations on display, that singular motivation shines through.

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This emotional grounding also helps out the first titular character of Ant-Man and the Wasp. Scott’s daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) was a cute presence that was set up as more of a plot device for the creative climactic fight. Here, Cassie is a constant motivator for Scott to improve himself after being on house arrest by not making rash decisions. He sticks to his house arrest and delightfully goes all out to entertain his young daughter while staying inside of the perimeter of his house. Endearing us to that relationship allows us to still side with Scott’s lesser decisions that occur later on because they’re baked in trying to improve his life to support his daughter. Whether it be for the sake of making sure his two year house arrest sentence runs its course without the meticulous FBI agent Woo (Randall Park) finding out about his new heroic actions or making sure his new business with his hyperactive former crime buddy Luis (Michael Peña) stays afloat. The latter element also allows for a more authentic reasoning for why Luis & Scott’s other sidekicks Dave (T.I.) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) to be involved, even if their comedic relief is still rather uneven and occasionally a tad too reliant on stereotypes.

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This heart even translates to our major villain Ava aka Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who is one of the more creatively powered and engaging villains of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ava’s motivation makes her less of a villain and more of a tortured soul who lacks true clarity while being clouded by her pain. Her backstory has a layer of youthful tragedy and constant torturous pain that keeps us invested in her plight rather than uninterested. Again, not unfamiliar to the MCU. Yet, her central motivations aren’t for revenge, but seeking some form of normalcy and center in a world that’s caused her to experience intense pain on a regular basis. It helps that her power to float through solid matter is wonderfully realized on screen as a method to truly match and challenge the shrinking and enlarging of our heroes. It even manages to outweigh an underwhelming use of incredibly talented Walton Goggins as a smaller scale villain who over stays his welcome.

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Peyton Reed’s ability to display all of this character based humor and desire during the action set pieces of Ant-Man and the Wasp isn’t something to be understated. Reed sets himself apart from the Avengers grand scale style action by keeping everything grounded in these characters bouncing off each other. Whether the characters are in a high speed chase that involves them shrinking within a car or growing large as they attempt to catch villains who are scampering away. It’s a playful type of interaction that plays on the massive moment of Scott’s enlargement in Captain America: Civil War and gives it more of the goofy personality that fits this particular brand of Marvel. In the way that the first film played on the dynamics of a heist film, Reed plays with components of a chase film. All our characters are racing against time on a figurative, metaphoric, massive and extremely small scale.

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There’s one scene in Ant-Man and the Wasp that truly sums up the balancing act both this series and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In this scene, Scott is… let’s put it as “compromised” while he’s talking to Hank and Hope. It plays both on a core emotional connection of the characters and on the awkward nature of the situation. On paper, it’s a scene that shouldn’t work. It should play as schmaltzy and comedically inert. Yet, the world we’ve been introduced to through Peyton Reed’s delicate direction is treated seriously by stakes of the story for our characters and how the emotionally impact are displayed by our likable and engaged ensemble. Ant-Man and the Wasp is the tight rope between the cosmic otherworldly jargon of Doctor Strange and the communal togetherness of Spider-Man: Homecoming.  It’s on a smaller scale than Avengers Infinity War, but the emotions matter to us and that’s what’s important more than how it would affect the world overall. That being said, the mid credit stinger does slightly throw this out of whack for the sake of continuity… and the post credit one is a massive troll on a level that kinda slow clap worthy.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Sub-Atomic Particles

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09: Invasion of the Battlefield Snatchers – Double Edged Double Bill Episode 9

Yes, rat brains! Adam Thomas and Thomas Mariani have invaded your eardrums for another episode of Double Edged Double Bill. This week, the double feature is focused on alien invasion films, the duo is going after some big titans of the topic. First, the 1978 version of the classic story Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s got everything; goopy effects, 70s hair and Jeff Goldblum! After that, the man animals suffer through Battlefield Earth. The infamous flop that damaged the goodwill John Travolta had built post-Pulp Fiction. Good thing Gotti is bringing that back up, right? It’s an episode you’ll be listening to (here) next! You’re next!

To stay up to date about the podcast, follow us on Twitter @DEDBpod, our Facebook page and send us feedback at doubleedgeddoublebill@gmail.com! If you like the show, please go on iTunes to subscribe, rate and/or review us to give the show more visibility!

Hurricane Veronica (2018 in a Nutshell) – Double Edged Double Bill

2018 is at the half way point and that means it’s time to reflect on the last six months. Adam Thomas and Thomas Mariani have picked films released earlier in the year for this week’s episode. The good film is the possession horror film Veronica from Netflix, though Adam and Thomas are arguing the level of good on display. Then, the boys dig into the forgotten disaster heist mash up Hurricane Heist to ponder why it only stayed in release for about a week in March. Was it the terrible southern accents, personification of gale force winds or just more than a few hub caps thrown in our faces? Listen here to witness all the madness!

Shout out to Sam Brutuxan for helping pick our double bill during the intro. To stay up to date about the podcast, follow us on Twitter @DEDBpod, our Facebook page and send us feedback at doubleedgeddoublebill@gmail.com! If you like the show, please go on iTunes to subscribe, rate and/or review us to give the show more visibility!

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JURASSIC WORLD FALLEN KINGDOM (2018): Cretaceously Cruel and Unusual

Jurassic Park never really needed to be a series. 25 years ago, Jurassic Park pretty much told the essential story with this concept; man builds dinosaur park, dinosaurs find way around man’s puny attempts to keep them caged, man runs away from his dinosaur park in shambles. From there, there’s not a lot to go on. The Lost World presented an attempt to preserve these dinosaurs by documenting them for public interest while the villains were trying to bring them to society for personal gain. Jurassic Park III presented a rescue mission in a long abandoned version of the park where the dinosaurs had further evolved in man’s absence. Jurassic World thought to actually try to make the park viable for a hot second… before the first film was just sort of repeated again, only adding genetic crossbreeding to liven things up. Now, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has chosen to basically… mesh all of this together into one giant stew that nobody asked for and with a nice hot pinch of bitterness to boot.

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is such an ungainly mess. The first half is this weird kind-of-genuine-but-also-satiric take on humanitarian efforts against animal cruelty being squashed by political ideology. Our former park operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is spearheading an effort to save these dinosaurs from the island where an active volcano is set to destroy them. It’s a noble effort and one that brings up many moral quandaries which Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) spells out for you in some very tact on court room hearing scenes. Yet, there’s this weird cruelty streak that  Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom wallows in for a lot of it. We’re obviously meant to side with those trying to preserve these creatures. Yet, the film isn’t too shy about showcasing dinosaurs being shot, mutilated, drowned, burned alive and countless other horrible ways of hurting them. It’s a cruel method of trying to build up these majestic creatures and excessively showcase people hurting them with blunt force for the sake of shallow investment. Even Blue the raptor who we’re meant to sympathize with most feels like she’s exclusively brought to life for the purpose of plot convenience and to gain audience sympathy through being hurt. Thus, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a hypocritical and unpleasant experience to sit through as it simultaneously endears and punishes the very creatures we came to see without much balance or forethought to the fact that it’s dealing with heavy upsetting subject matter in an inanely written fashion. In other words, a big dumb blockbuster dealing with real world metaphor like a careless explosion.

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None of this is helped by our already thin protagonists from the last film showcasing a true lack of development on any meaningful level. Howard sort of stays in the mode of the generically bad ass female archetype she clumsily stepped into being last time without ever progressing beyond it. Luckily she’s not alone as we need to have the exact same type of blithering banter with former dino trainer Owen (Chris Pratt).  Th two continue to have all the sizzling chemistry of meat that still is being defrosted in a microwave as they’re back to square one in their will-they-won’t-they-even-though-they-did-previously relationship. Pratt’s generic smolder feels like such a massive waste of his boyish charm that Parks & Rec and Guardians of the Galaxy used so wonderfully by giving him flat one liners and not allowing him to make multiple expressions. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a pit where many things go to die and humor is a recurring victim on its list. Every joke out of Pratt’s mouth falls flat has an annoying screaming fit from Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) to compliment it in audacious annoyance. All while they bumble around an island that’s either on the brink of being destroyed by a volcanic eruption that is very close to destroying them or conveniently not erupting just long enough for them to run over to another side of the island and just sit there.

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Then the second half of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom comes into play. After we’ve experienced a literal volcanic eruption on an island, everything just sort of deescalates to a more secluded locale for more intimate dinosaur action. Now, one may make the mistake of assuming going from a large spectacle laced environment may result in more focused character work or some inventive use of the dinosaurs. Oh but how both assumptions are so wrong. So blatantly wrong. It’s hard to say this without spoiling things explicitly. So, I won’t say anything too specific about the decrepit Dr. Hammond stand-in Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) who seems pretty long in the tooth and has a lot space in his estate. Dare I possibly hint anything about his conspicuously kind aid Eli (Rafe Spall) or the shadowy mercenary Ken Whatley (Ted Levine) who seek to shelter dinosaurs while being blank slates that clearly couldn’t have any kind of ulterior motive? Don’t worry, as I won’t divulge any extensive details about the mysterious granddaughter of Lockwood Isabella (Isabella Sermon) who may hold the key to the future of this series alongside some shadowy figures in the corners of the Lockwood estate. Just trust me on this; all of these characters travel down a path that’s either incredibly predictable or astonishingly terrible. Neither is a good road to go down and present a new set of lows for the franchise, where reveals are blurted out and brushed aside & repetition from previous entries are warped into a mangled nightmare scape of stupidity that feels like the worst meat smoothie of terrible.

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Keep in mind that all of this really has to do with the story as constructed by writers Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly. The saddest thing about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is that director J.A. Bayona is trying so hard to make a good looking film out of all of this. His knack for the horror genre (as seen in the still incredibly underrated The Orphanage from a decade ago) shows off in some immersive bits of atmosphere. Moments that seem like something out of a dinosaur ladened night terror that could have worked in a more fantastical take on this same concept. Even bits of the more action heavy disaster show off Bayona could work well in big budget spectacle as he did in his flawed yet well crafted disaster film The Impossible. There’s a chase scene that leads into an underwater sequence that briefly gives the allusion that there’s any kind of tension involved for our lead characters in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. There’s even far more noticeable use of animatronic dinosaurs here than in the previous entry, making the dinosaurs at least feel slightly more consistently in the frame. Alas, most of these qualities are squandered in service of a story that takes mind boggling detours off a cliff similar to the previously mentioned sequence.

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Surely this extensive bashing on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has come off as a bit hyperbolic. Like the rantings of someone who probably isn’t a fan of seeing dinosaurs on a big screen or doesn’t get chills from hearing the Jurassic Park theme. Rest assured, Jurassic Park is still a favorite and I’d love nothing more than to see a sequel that at the very least ends up being a solid movie with somewhat likable characters and curious new avenues we could go down. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom doesn’t accomplish this mostly because of just how unpleasant an experience it is even on basic level. For all the problems I had with the last film, at least Jurassic World seemed to be genuine in its silly repetitive adoration of the franchise. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom feels more like a patchwork Frankenstein creature of the four previous films to craft some sort of new narrative to run things into the ground on. It’s the sort of cynical blockbuster filmmaking that irks me. Where – while attempting to nostalgically pander, reveal twists that lack any sense of narrative cohesion, lay out avenues for a future sequel to bumble around in and soullessly manipulate for shallow modern commentary – we’re aiming for all the quadrants to the point of appeasing none of them. There’s such an absence of genuine passion that even the iconic T-Rex’s appearances are animated with pure displeasure in being there. Never before has computer animation so accurately and unintentionally portrayed a sense of contractual obligation from an animal. That is the sole innovation Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom brings to the franchise. Moving ever forward, folks.

Rating: 1 out of 5 Stolen Vials of Dino DNA

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Jurassic Park, Meet Your New Partner Theodore Rex – Doubled Edged Double Bill Episode 7

Dr. Thomas and Dr. Mariani are welcomed to Jurassic Park to study dinosaurs. But they’ll need a partner to help them out. Fortunately, Theodore Rex was killed in the line of duty, so returning guest Sam Brutuxan is here to help breakdown two dinosaur films in anticipation of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom coming out. Our first feature is the infamous Theodore Rex, in which Whoopi Goldberg contractually obligates her way through a buddy cop comedy with a dinosaur puppet. Then, the original 1993 Jurassic Park that gave everyone a weird attraction to Jeff Goldblum and dinosaurs. Sit back and watch as these podcasters, uh, find a way to discuss this double feature! Listen here!

Shout out to Scott Johnson for helping pick our double bill during the intro. To stay up to date about the podcast, follow us on Twitter @DEDBpod, our Facebook page and send us feedback at doubleedgeddoublebill@gmail.com! If you like the show, please go on iTunes to subscribe, rate and/or review us to give the show more visibility!

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WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR (2018): Comfort With Purpose

Mr. Rogers died on my eleventh birthday. Sorry to get a bit personal right off the bat, but it’s something I haven’t really dealt with until Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood came back into the consciousness with Won’t You Be My Neighbor, a documentary that examines the life and career of Fred Rogers. Plus, in reviewing a documentary about a figure so public, it’s hard not to tie it to some kind of personal perspective. After all, Rogers’ children’s show ran from 1968 to 2001, meaning I was part of the last generation to grow up with his soothing calm demeanor. In fact, the last really calm demeanor of any children’s show host out there. Mr. Rogers was a unique figure in terms of children’s television throughout his tenure. Back in the early days of children’s show hosts, clowns would throw pies at each other and introduce cartoons. As time went on, Rogers had to contend with shows about superheroes, transforming robots at war with each other and angry cartoon characters screaming at each other.

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I grew up with those shows as well and still have fond memories of them, but even at a young age I recognized that Mr. Rogers was unique. Director Morgan Neville examines that unique perspective in Won’t You Be My Neighbor from many varying perspectives. People who worked directly with Rogers, personal friends & family who knew of his backstage persona and people who grew up watching him. The recurring factor throughout all three groups in terms of comments about Rogers are that he truly deeply cared about what children consumed and how they were treated by media gatekeepers. While I still don’t necessarily regret any of my non-Rogers childhood media, that care clearly wasn’t present in the more violent or double entendre ladened programs I usually consumed in my youth. The fact that there isn’t such an alternative now – especially in the world we live in now – is a true tragedy. The last time I could even remember something remotely similar was the Disney Channel/Jim Henson Company production Bear in the Big Blue House, which set a calm demeanor and welcoming atmosphere as the titular Bear character brought kids into his home.

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Yet, few other kids shows also broke nearly as much ground as Fred Rogers did and in ways that I honestly was too young to remember. Won’t You Be My Neighbor explores how Rogers explained complex topics of racism, assassination, disability and many others to children without disguising it or hiding behind too convoluted a metaphor for them to parse out. Even a show as celebrated as fellow PBS program Sesame Street did such things on rare occasion. Meanwhile, Mr. Rogers is handling the cycle of pointless carnage that was the Vietnam War during his first week on the air. One can tell that his early years of being on far more traditional and stagnant kids shows like The Children’s Corner had pent up a desire to expand what the format could do and say. Neville displays this through showcasing surprisingly preserved archival footage that portray an intimate frustration coming from Rogers as well as some simple yet gorgeous animation that directly connects the puppet figure of Daniel Tiger to Rogers’ lower moments of his childhood. It says so much about Roger’s inner monologue without having the ability to interview him and with the same amount of simple effectiveness as Roger’s show.

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a more traditional documentary with talking heads that you’d expect. Yet, there are peaks that feel more personal and intimate than one would expect. Every person interviewed had some kind of connection to Rogers, whether it’s his wife Joanne, his sons or his co-workers. They all reveal a portrait of Rogers that closely resembled his onscreen persona but with a few glimpses into his troubled past, occasionally bawdy sense of humor and doubts about how things should be handled. Probably the best example is François Scarborough Clemmons who played Officer Clemmons on the show. Clemmons made history as the first black recurring character on a children’s show, but there were conflicts about his homosexuality that Rogers wasn’t keen to initially because he feared that current sponsors at the time wouldn’t be for this. It’s a rare moment where Mr. Rogers wasn’t on the right side of history and the ways in which Clemmons describes how that relationship turned are some of the most heart wrenching moments so far in a film this year.

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor is honestly full of so many tear jerker moments like this, but without being all that tragic a story. Fred Rogers lived the life he wanted and died happy with the work he had done, even if he wondered whether or not it had made a large difference in the world. The documentary itself shows off the countless ways that disprove his doubt, but the important thing that Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood imparted was allowing kids to embrace having feelings of doubt or regret or fear or sadness and being comfortable with the idea that we all feel that way. That we all live to have bad things happen and that confronting that unpleasantness of life and find something to positive to work out of it. Thinking back on my eleventh birthday and hearing that news, I remember not feeling sad. I wondered if it was because of a sense of ambivalence. Then thinking back on Won’t You Be My Neighbor, it dawned on me; I wasn’t sad because I knew Mr. Rogers had taught me about how death was a natural progression of life. Which is why his message will outlive many of the shows that were around him… or at least, it hopefully will.

Rating 4.5 out of 5 Gorgeously Simple Songs

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INCREDIBLES 2 (2018): Incredibly Doesn’t Mess Things Up

The Incredibles came out fourteen years ago. I know. Let it sink it. Accept the passage of time. However, it’s important to remember that time and place. Superhero cinema of the time had reached its first true peak with Spider-Man 2 that summer. Pixar was a still an independent company. Disney had yet to buy both Marvel and Star Wars as properties. Basically, times are different from when we last saw the Parr family come together and embrace their powers in what many – including myself – would argue is the best Pixar film. Where superhero submerging due to government interference breaths an antsy desire to go back in the field challenged by a grounding in domesticity. In a world of Marvel Cinematic Universes, one wonders how Incredibles 2 can live up to that legacy while getting with the times. Especially when it takes place immediately where the first film left off.

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Well, it’s safe to report that Incredibles 2 accomplishes the bare minimum; it earns an argument for its own existence. Other Pixar sequels like Finding Dory or the Cars films rarely give us any kind of reason to get behind them aside from “you recognize the first movie? Well here’s MORE of it!” While Incredibles 2 harkens back to moments in the first film, rarely does it feel we’re treading old ground without exploring new avenues. This is writer/director Brad Bird‘s first sequel and his return to animation after the disastrous live action Disney flop Tomorrowland that showed even the man behind The Iron Giant and Ratatouille could be fallible. Bird’s humbling didn’t hobble his usual talent for character based animation or heartfelt storytelling. If anything, there seems to be an underlining apology from Brad Bird for embracing his traits that some have accused his work of being objectivist with TomorrowlandIncredibles 2 directly takes on the idea of misrepresenting these characters as pillars of greatness to never be questioned. There’s so much subversion and human strength in the entire family, which Bird and the Pixar team display through so many delicate quiet moments and zany bits of character animation.

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Admittedly, there’s more of the latter than the former than the average prior Bird film, which goes to say that this is in the latter half of his filmography. Maybe his time away from animation has given him more of an instinct to go full hog with the creative fast pace zaniness he couldn’t quite achieve in Tomorrowland or Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Of course, this isn’t a consistently bad thing for Incredibles 2. Jack Jack Parr is easily the most creatively designed and executed character animation in any recent Pixar film because it takes advantage of the medium by allowing for his revelation of having an endless amount of superpowers pop up. He’ll multiply or turn into a monster or disappear into another dimension at the drop of the hat. Yet, Bird manages to reign this in by giving this infant actual character and motivation in every step. Jack Jack’s face indicates a being with a small yet developing brain being curious and excited about each new power or even having a motivation to use them. The scene involved Jack Jack attacking a raccoon he perceives as a threat is a classic example.

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In fact, much of the actions focuses around Bob “Mr. Incredible” Parr (Craig T. Nelson) getting used to the idea of being the caregiver of the children of the home manages to work surprisingly well. Bob – so used to his brute strength as a way of getting around his problems – now has to contend with being a caregiver. This is making Incredibles 2 sound like an animated remake of Mr. Mom, but it’s more of a perspective change for Bob that develops him as a character. While his wife Helen (Holly Hunter) is off being the superhero he secretly got to be in the first film, Bob has to stay behind and be a hero through the small deeds that have fulfilled Helen’s daily life while he’s been off at a day job. It’s less of “isn’t a man doing a woman’s job hilarious” scenario and more of a parent growing closer to his kids during their most crucial moments in their lives. Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner) bounce off of this pretty well as Bob tries to desperately keep things together and progressively looks more haggard. Their family dynamic faces conflict in ways more traditional than super powered fights, leading to awkward family confrontation that faintly reminds those watching of Brad Bird’s early animation work helping to develop the look and feel of The Simpsons during its initial three seasons. Dysfunction isn’t just based in the none-supered.

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Now, with Helen’s subplot in Incredibles 2, the conflict that’s most authentic isn’t so much with the characters as much as it is an audience’s inner turmoil. On the one hand, it’s wonderful seeing Helen as Elastigirl in the field on her own. As Bob learns how she kept things together, she’s getting back into the swing of things with heroics. She’s tough, confident yet always trying to improve herself as she just misses her target and tries to plot out their next move. All of this showcases a woman giddy at her opportunity, but not wanting to rest on laurels. She’s a positive dimensional role model, which translates perfectly as even more superheroes are introduced into the universe after Elastigirl opens the door for more of them to come out of hiding like the nervous portal creating Voyd (Sophia Bush). It’s one of the more nuanced female roles in Pixar’s history and allows for the always reliable Holly Hunter to balance the fret of her motherhood responsibilities with the thrill of being the spotlight hero for once.

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Yet… so much of the stuff around her introduces the major underdeveloped elements of Incredibles 2. Namely, the plot catalyst of the Deavor siblings Winston (Bob Odenkirk) and Evelyn (Catherine Keener). The two of them are the business and tech brains behind the company that’s trying to resurrect superheroes respectively. It’s an intriguing conduit for Incredibles antics considering the rather quick resolve of the Superhero Relocation Program of Rick Dicker (Jonathan Banks). Yet, their exposition and dialogue comes off the most contrived and quickly put together. Winston’s nostalgic love of superheroes introduces some layer of potential parallel given the subversion of traditional family roles that the Parrs are going through… but that never takes shape. Same with Evelyn’s more independent knack for creating inventions that just sort of seems put upon, without ever taking full advantage of the “sisters doing it for themselves while under the thumb of the man” dynamic she and Helen go through all that well. This is especially eye glaring as our new villain Screenslaver (Bill Wise) comes to play and increasingly shows that his generic look is about all he – and any other possible constituents – could have. All of this jumbles much of the plot during the second half and never quite coalesces nearly as well as the inner personal conflicts of the titular family.

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Without going too much further into potential spoilers, this whole subplot manages to waste all the new superheroes as personalities for our leads to interact with after a certain point. Even Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) has more screen time than in the original yet rarely has any kind of impact on what’s going on. The same for Voyd and all the other funny eye catching heroes that come into the fray before being hoisted for convenience’s sake. Still, Bird manages to take advantage of all the super beings during any of the elaborate action set pieces of Incredibles 2. Right from the opening fight between the family and The Underminer (John Ratzenberger), the flights of fancy in the fight choreography and gadgetry on hand to fight our superheroes is consistently wonderful, managing to have a rule of thumb that doesn’t break any uncanny valley like many CG assisted superhero fights of recent years. Each of the family has an internal consistency of some sort with how they are portrayed using their powers, even Jack Jack. Which makes any of the big action set pieces feel grounded in a sense of character around them. I only wish some of the other supers got the same treatment.

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Yet, Incredibles 2 doesn’t feel like it wants to build a cohesive Marvel Cinematic Universe as much as it wants to progress our titular characters while sneaking us a peek at the larger purview of this universe. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The first film worked because it was a domestic chemistry story first and an action superhero romp second. Bird knows this but also that the world needs to be opened up to allow our family to permeate and diverge in ways the original film didn’t. Still, if we ever get another entry in this franchise, it’s clear that we’d need to have some kind of time jump. We’ve exhausted most of what we can do with an infant superhero and mid-life crisis parents. Progression from here is the only thing that can effectively widen the scope while keeping the stakes rooted in the family interaction. For now though, Incredibles 2 complements the and expands upon original while keeping a toe in the slightly safer side of familiarity.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Jack Jack Powers

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Wizards Rock… A Doodle – Double Edged Double Bill Episode 6

This week, Adam and Thomas are getting pretty animated. Well, they’re watching some cartoons anyway. Joining them for this animated adventure is Scott Johnson, beer enthusiast and animation nut. The first film for this episode’s double feature for the evening is Wizards, the 1977 Ralph Bakshi film that stretches the limits of what one would consider a traditional family film. Then, our trio tries to process Don Bluth’s 1991 flop Rock A-Doodle. One is a celebrated piece of animation made during the Golden Era of Hollywood. The other is Rock-A Doodle. It’s a fun time full of assassin robots, Elvis roosters and intrusive narration! Listen here!

To stay up to date about the podcast, follow us on Twitter @DEDBpod, our Facebook page and send us feedback at doubleedgeddoublebill@gmail.com! If you like the show, please go on iTunes to subscribe, rate and/or review us to give the show more visibility! Also, check out Thomas’ appearance on fellow Podbean show The Horror Returns discussing Hereditary!

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