Monday, March 29, 2010

Top 6 Video Games of 2009

The Best of 2009

Next up on the Rollin' look at 2009 is the wonderful world of video games.  In addition to the caveats introduced in the first week's post, the video game post needs one additional major admission.  I'm a Nintendo boy through and through, always have been, probably always will be.  I don't have any other systems and I have no desire to (unless Natal delivers or the XBox can become a true media center).  The point is, take this list with a big old boulder of NaCL, because I am far from a hardcore "gamer" and this list is more of a "cool games I played on Nintendo systems that you might enjoy as well" list as opposed to a true "best of".

Let the listing commence!

6. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box - Technically this is the second game in the series but it's the first I've played and I instantly regretted missing the first as this transported me back to 5th grade when my entire world revolved around riddles and brain teasers.  It's paradigm shift after paradigm shift wrapped loosely in a story of a detective teaching a young apprentice how to find unique solutions to complex problems.   This and the first game (Professor Layton and the Curious Village) are on the Nintendo DS and, as you would expect, use the touch screen very well.  The puzzles range from split second easy to "I can't believe I still can't figure this out 3 hours later, this is a kids game right?" hard.

5. Art Style: Orbient - The art style games are available on Nintendo's downloadable channel (Wii Ware) and are a collection of simple, yet addicting, concept pieces.  This one involves using gravity to collect moons and planets while traveling through several different universe concoctions.  Using only two buttons, one to gravitate towards other bodies and the other to repel against them (sounds like a weird dating sim, or maybe just a subtle Jersey Shore reference), you must navigate deftly through space to accomplish each task.  What's great is that it manages to nail the tricky frustration index, where it's just difficult enough to give you a sense of accomplishment when you succeed, but not so difficult that you launch your controller into orbit and never play it again.

4. Defend Your Castle - Another Wii Ware game, this one is from the genre of games known as Castle Defense games (the title may have given that away).  Castle defense is a genre that I usually loathe, because it often feels like a game built on busy work and futility.  There is no winning, only postponing of the losing, and all of your actions are simple staving off the inevitable collapse of your empire.  Yet somehow the simplicity and art design of this one cuts through that and becomes addicting and fun.

3. New Super Mario Brother Wii - I love this game for two reasons, nostalgia and family.  It's nice to see the old school Mario side-scroller come back into vogue with the New Super Mario games (both on DS and now Wii) and as much as I love Super Mario Galaxy (which I still consider one of the best games of all time), nothing gets the nostalgia juice pumping like jumping Koopas on the way to a flagpole slide.  The family aspect is another great addition as this is easily the best "fun for the whole family" game we have ever owned.  Not only do all ages love it, but all ages can play together without much frustration.  This is because of some new game mechanics that allow the game to still be challenging for older players while younger players can just jump around having fun.

2. Bit Trip Beat - It should be fairly evident by now but I'm loving the Wii Ware.  This makes number three on the list and means half of my list is coming from Nintendo's online offerings.  Maybe it's because they are simple, or maybe it's because they don't cost much, but whatever the case, Bit Trip Beat is an indescribably fun and compelling experience.  It's like a breakout or pong styled game but with a techno beat and hypnotic visuals that go along with the gameplay.  It's hard to describe, but it's kind of like a rhythm game mixed with a sideways Missle Command.  Just download it already, my head hurts just trying to explain.

1. Wii Sports Resort - A lesson in taking something amazing and making it amazinger.  Nintendo showed it had a grasp on what made Wii Sports (the first official Wii game) a hit by producing this follow up that not only advances the technology (the Wii motion plus is MUCH better), but also exceeds the fun and re-playability of the first. What the game really excels at though is sheer mass.  There are so many sports and options of play within each that you could spend hours just trying to play each of them, let alone trying to get good. Of the many new options sword play and basketball are fun, but it's the archery where I think the game really shines.  Everyone is likely to have their own favorite activities here, but it's hard to imagine someone not enjoying something that this disc has to offer.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

And Nintendo's successor to the DS is......

...the Nintendo 3DS!  Nope, not 3 screens (that would be a TS, for TrioScreen, DS is DualScreen, remember?), IT'S 3D!!  OK, so it's not that big of a shocker, considering the entertainment landscape appears headed for a full on make out session with the third dimension (a spit-swap I fully support, by the way).  What is interesting about this is the part about making it work without glasses (auto-stereoscopic for us word nerds).  To do this the system will use the front facing camera to track head movement and the built in motion sensors to track system movement so that the picture on screen can adjust as you look around to give the illusion of depth.   It sounds a bit too good to be true, and I'll withhold true judgement until I can get my own peepers on it, but if anyone can pull it off the Wonka-ish geniuses at Mario's house can.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Top 41 Songs of 2009

Welcome to my 2009 favorites list!  Every Monday for the next several weeks I will post a new list of favorites from the past year (yes, I know Spring 2010 is already here, just humor me and pretend this is a timely pursuit)  By the end of the next couple months you will know the pop culture touchstones for my life over the final 365 days of the zero nine.

Please remember these important facts when digesting:

- These are my favorites, not technically best ofs.  They are certainly the things I think are "best", but I do not pretend to separate my own life experience and world view from that decision.

- These are not recommendations.  Unless specifically mentioned I am not encouraging you to see or hear the items on these lists.  Use your own discretion on what you think is appropriate for you.

On to this week's list:

Top 41 Songs of 2009

This are, in reverse order, my 41 favorite single serving music masterpieces that were released in the year 2009.

41. Mutemath - Spotlight
40. Beckah Shae - Here In This Moment
39. Family Force 5 - Keep the Party Alive
38. Gary Go - Wonderful
37. Swimming with Dolphins - Up In the Stars
36. Toby Mac - City on Our Knees
35. David Cook - Come Back To Me
34. B. Reith - Antidote
33. Lanae Hale - Back and Forth
32. Jade Harrell - The Unseen
31. Bidwell - Beauty Queen
30. Bebo Norman - Britney
29. Then There Were None - Thank the Watchmaker
28. Jaymes Reunion - Fine
27. Brandy - Right Here (Departed)
26. Nathan Walters - Escape
25. Lights - Saviour
24. Downhere - My Last Amen
23. Grits - Fly Away
22. Kris Allen - Live Like We're Dying
21. Krystal Meyers - Love It Away
20. Until June - The Man Who Lost His Soul
19. Natasha Bedingfield - Pirate Bones
18. Troma - Falling Down
17. Marvin Winans Jr - You Never Let Me Down
16. Francesca Battistelli - Free to Be Me
15. Tenth Avenue North - Hold My Heart
14. Washington Projects - Move
13. Disciple - Whatever Reason
12. The Myriad - A Clean Shot
11. Switchfoot - Mess of Me
10. Owl City - Fireflies
9. Daughtry - What About Now?
8. Lecrea - Live Free
7. Britt Nicole - Glow
6. Capital Lights - Outrage
5. Flynn - Dishes
4. Group 1 Crew - Movin'
3. Joy Williams - One of Those Days
2.  Rush of Fools - Lose It All
1. Jordin Sparks - Battlefield

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Review Of April's First Post-Davies Episode Of DOCTOR WHO!!

Doctor Who: Matt Smith portraitI was pumped to see this early review of the first episode of the new season of Doctor Who.  It's not out on BBC for a couple weeks and then BBC America another week after that, but it's certainly not too early to start simultaneously geeking out and fretting about it.  I truly am excited to see how Matt Smith falls into his role, but I'm also pretty nervous, as this is the first Extreme Doctor Makeover I've ever been put through.  I joined the fan club after Eccleston had already handed off to Tennant and the majority of my love for the show is in the charisma and charm of the way Doctor David has embodied the role.  However, this early review gives me quite a bit of hope, and also reminds me that it's not just Tennant that I love, it's also writer/producer Steven Moffat.   My favorite episodes, almost without exception have his name stamped firmly on them, and with him at the helm I believe the ship is safe.   Give me a couple weeks and I will tell you for sure.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Conan O’Brien Updates from the week

Seems like Conan O Brien is all over the news this week with the impending announcement of him going to FOX. and 11PM. Then there is, of course, the theater tour and also this weird tie-in to a drug bust in Jersey.  But the most intriguing announcement to me involves shooting his theater tour as a documentary to release to theaters.  Conan making a movie may be the most genius move of them all.  The thing I continue to say about Conan is that he has an extremely fervent following of fans who never watch him.  Why?  Because his audience won't invest in a nightly talk show, it's simply too much of a commitment.  The old media idea was that the more content you could provide the more dedicated your fanbase would be, but this only works if its a captive audience.  Conan's fans, and I count myself as one of them, have too much going on to tune in for an hour each night.  New media is learning the lesson very quickly that more isn't always better.  In the wild west of Podcasting many casters are learning that they get better numbers when they decrease their content production.    People want to consider themselves loyal, but they have a million other content avenues clamoring for their attention.  So a movie makes sense because it allows CoCo fans the opportunity to pledge allegiance and only give up a couple hours of their time.  In similar fashion, I think when the new show does launch, it would do well to air a weekly or even monthly highlight show that would allow people like me to invest in Mr. O'Brien at our own pace.   Conan O' Brien has handled this mess about as intelligently and honorably as possible, and now may just be the perfect chance for him, and his fans, to transform the talk-show landscape.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Idol Thoughts (Playing Catch Up, Top 12)...

Does Idol even start until the Final 12?  Don't get me wrong I enjoy the prelims for sure, it's just there isn't much to the "contest" part until we get everyone singing on the same night, right?  Whatever the case, now is as good a time as any to throw some opinions out on this year's crop.  In the past I have live blogged the performance shows as some sort of pop culture catharsis, but sadly this year I don't get to see the performances until the next night (There's this little show named LOST that moved to Tuesday nights that I figured I should pay attention to).  So by the time I'm ready to wow you with my insight and predictions the cat firmly has four paws planted outside of the bag.  So maybe instead, each Thursday, I will post my thoughts on the standout performances, America's decision making, and possibly do some overall rankings and predictions on the season.

But before we get to that, is anyone else enamored by Simon's inability to pronounce the letter g at the end of words?  It's somethink I've noticed as he's helpink the contestestants with there sinkink and everythink, and now I can't quit thinkink about it.

On to the performances....

Big Mike (B+)  Could be our darkhorse (more later).

DD (C-)  Not long for the competition.

Casey (B) 9th place voice with 6th place appeal.

Lacey (B-)  I like her voice, but a B or B- performance almost always goes home (more later)

Garcia (C) Rode his early performance of "Straight Up" into the final twelve, but there doesn't seem to be too much more to him.

Katie (C-) Wants to put Connecticut on the map, which is good, personally I think all 50 states should be on there.  Gone soon.

Tim (D)  Worst performance of the night, which = safe for one more week.

Sibhan (A) My personal favorite, it's like a female Lambert without the creepiness or one trick ponyness

Lee (B+) Jeremy Camp Jr. (heretofore referred to as JCJ) gets my other vote for darkhorse contender.

Paige (B-) Laryngitis eh? Nice.

Aaron (B) My least favorite but was really pretty good this week.  He just has a little bit of that Archuletta precociousness to him that annoys me.

Crystal (A) Obviously the early favorite, which likely means 4th place and an amazing career anyway (more later).  Simon said she may have been over-thinkink which made me wonder did he mean over-thinging and if so did he have a lisp and meant over-singing?  I'm so confused.

America's decision making:

Wrong choice, but not surprising, call it the curse of the B- (last season's Top 12 and Top 11 eliminatees got a B- from me the week they went home). In the early stages you simply don't want to be just south of a good performance.  It leaves people with no passion to vote for your amazingness and no urgency to keep you from getting eliminated.  If there's anything my years of obsession with the Idol votes has taught me, it's that sticking around is all about fanbase development and motivation.  Lacey had very little of the former and zero of the later this week.


I've decided that there are three Idol archetypes that happen each season.  The front runner that gets eliminated too soon, the dark horse that wins, and the polarizer that locks up second.  Here are the likely candidates (resisting urge to make obscure LOST reference) for each of the three.

Let's start with the Front-Runner

This slot has been occupied in the past by Jennifer Hudson (Season 3), Chris Daughtry (5), Melinda Doolittle (6), Brooke White (7),  and Danny Gokey (8).  Not all of which obviously have gone on to great things, but each were consider very likely to win early in their seasons.  This year the obvious pick for front runner is Crystal, and I see no reason for that not to hold.

The Polarizer

This is the most consistent and easy to predict of the archetypes.  I babbled on incessantly the last two seasons about how Archuletta and Lambert were perfect polarizer picks, meaning they were guaranteed to come in 2nd, because they had the votes to get there but that as other people left, the votes "against" them would continue to pile on to the other remainders.  Idol history is littered with the 2nd place polarizers.  Before Adam and David there was Blake Lewis (6), Bo Bice (4), and Clay Aiken (2).  You could even argue that Diana DiGarmo (3) and Justin Guarini (1) fit the mold (I would argue that Season 3 had no polarizers, but Diana did have her fervent fans and those who hated her).  In fact, the only season that seems to completely contradict this theory is season 5 where Taylor Hicks (who should have been a polarizer) somehow managed to hypnotize the entire country into believing he could be a star over Kathrine McPhee.  This year's leading candidate has to be Siobhan, except for one thing, despite Simon's insistence this week that some would hate her performance.  I'm not seeing the backlash this season yet like I did with Archie and Lambchops.  Time will tell.

The Dark Horse

This is probably the most important person to identify because it will likely be the winner.  Kris Allen, Jordin Sparks, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood, even Kelly Clarkson all fit.  It's hard to remember now but these people didn't catch fire until very near the end which is so important when trying to pick up vote shrapnel from your fallen comrades.  The season's in which we see an early favorite winning (David Cook, Ruben Studdard) are the two seasons it became a two person race almost immediately.  Season 2 everyone knew would be Clay or Ruben, and the battle of the Davids dominated season 7 once people realized Brooke just didn't have the stage presence to pull it off.  Point being, if this becomes Crystal vs. Siobhan, the whole dark horse thing goes out the window and the winner will be determined by which of those two ends up more endeared to the audience.  But as it is right now, I select Big Mike or JCJ (fine, Lee) to play the spoiler role towards the end game, especially if JCJ can come out of his shell.

Official Week 1 predictions:

1st - Lee
2nd - Siobhan
3rd - Crystal
4th - Big Mike
5th - 12th - The others

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Great Interview with Jimmy Cams on Avatar and 3D

That's right I called him Jimmy Cams, I'm hoping it catches on.  Whatever you call him, you can't call him passionless.  I'm drawn to people who are passionate about what they do and you can almost feel Cameron's passion in almost every word of this compelling interview.  Pay special note to his idea of how 3D should be used in the future, the tease that Avatar may be back this summer with new material, and that Titanic will eventually see it's destruction in 3D as well.  Say what you will about J-Cam (is that better?)  but there are only two movies that have made over 600 million in the US and he wrote and directed both of them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hitchcock Posters Reimagined

If you watch this space long enough you will eventually realize I have an unhealthy love for Pixar, Toby Mac, LOST, and, yes, Alfred Hitchcock.  So when somebody rethinks the poster art for four Hitch classics it's a gimme that I want to show you.  You can check out the original posts from artist Laz Marquez for more.  Personally, I wish he had done North by Northwest, Rope, and Shadow of a Doubt as well.

The Original Undercover Boss.

See that picture, it's Jesus.  Ok, technically it's C.O.O. of  Waste Management Larry O'Donnell on an episode of Undercover Boss, but it reminds me of Jesus.  Since they have recently announced the next companies and episodes for the show, I thought I'd throw a couple thoughts your way on why it seems to be resonating with me so many people, and why that scruffy guy in the neon green vest makes me think of the long haired sandled guy from Nazareth.

If you haven't seen Undercover Boss, the concept is fairly simple.  A head honcho CEO type from a large company hits the trenches to see what life is like on the lower end of the totem pole.  The resulting education is not only revelatory but surprisingly touching as bosses see both the good and bad at the grass roots of their company.  As I watched the first few episodes (specifically seek out the Hooters episode, it's fantastic... seriously) I was shocked at how much the show nailed me at my emotional core, and then it hit me.  Each week is basically the story or our own salvation.  I don't want to delve too much further into over spiritualizing the minefield that is reality television, but once you see God as the ultimate CEO, the rest of the metaphor really kind of writes itself .  Whatever the case, I'm hooked.  Now if I can just figure out how to glean some spiritual insight from Jersey Shore....

Monday, March 15, 2010

Court upholds 'under God' in Pledge of Allegiance

Hopefully this court decision will put the whole "Under God" thing to rest for good.  I do find it interesting to hear Christians celebrating this, when the court is essentially saying, "Go ahead, use the phrase under God, it doesn't really mean anything anyway."  That is what "ceremonial" means, right? This is exactly why this stuff is a distraction and not a worthwhile use of our energy, there is no valuable, practical endgame to it. (cough... War on Christmas... cough).  Keeping a group of words in our pledge and on our coins doesn't change anyone's heart, (Half the people who say it don't mean it, and half the people who mean it don't feel the need to say it), and it doesn't make the nation any more or less Christian (setting aside my usual nations aren't Christians, people are, rant).  People on both sides of the issue know there is really only symbolic victory to be had here in a cultural war that we really should be trying to end instead of win.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pixar and Nintendo at GDC

Just a couple quick links from the 2010 Game Developers Conference that you might find interesting as passed on by IGN.

- First is some great info (as well as some great sidestepping) from Nintendo of America's head honcho Reggie Fils-Aime (pronounced Fees-uh-may, I think)  In this interview with Reggie he drops knowledge on Pikmin 3, the new Super Mario Galaxy, and refuses to hint that a new Zelda may be coming this year.  He also deftly avoids mocking the PlayStation Move, Sony's new tangible admission that Nintendo got it right and they are playing catch up.

-  Second, here is a quick must read of lessons in storytelling from Pixar (the greatest movie studio of all time) that they present to game makers to try to inspire them to quit telling the same story over and over again.  It's simple but profound stuff and will take you all of 90 seconds to read through.

Betty White to host 'Saturday Night Live'

Might Makes White.

Betty WhiteSo SNL gave in and allowed the internet that puppy they've been begging for.  Now they just have to promise to feed and take care of it and clean up it's messes.  If you don't know the backstory, just know that somehow a group of random strangers started to coalesce around the idea that this golden aged girl would make a great SNL host and it snowballed into a curious but effective viral infection.  The truth is, it's a no lose situation for NBC and Lorne Michaels (who picked mother's day weekend for White's debut).  If she does well the show succeeds, and if she does poorly it's the internet's fault.  Either way, the publicity will be up enough to guarantee a few extra eyeballs and offers SNL a relevance in pop culture it hasn't had since Tina Fey pronounced maverick with a northern accent (an idea, by the way, that the internet could also claim as it's own, though to be fair, that one was a gimme.).  The real question, though, is how can "we the people" of the internet leverage this power for more than just novelty SNL hosts?  Can we start a viral that leads to Russel being retroactively declared the winner of Survivor 19?  How about one that forces Carmen out of retirement to do a full album of "story songs"?  Better yet, someone quickly start a Facebook Fan page to get Dave Ramsey instituted as our new Secretary of the Treasury ("The first thing you need to do United States is put $1000 into a savings account for emergency purposes.")  Point being, if the whiners heroes of the internet can get Betty White in as host of SNL, what other glorious victories might we accomplish?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Well, Hi There!

Well, looky here.  I have a blog.  What so ever shall I do with it?

OK, to be honest I don't want to spend long here doing the whole, "Sorry for not blogging for so long, this time I promise to stick with it" routine, because the internet is littered with enough of those type of posts already (I think there's probably three of four of them in my own archive).   Also they assume two things that I'm not sure are really true:

1) That you even realized I had stopped.

2) That it won't happen again 2 months from now.

The point is I wanted to relaunch not just with a new look (cause really, who doesn't want 2/3rds of their giant head plastered at the top of every page) but also with some new features that will hopefully make my incoherent ramblings on pop culture more accessible and user friendly to the select few who find them interesting or entertaining (Hi Dad!).

Before we get into that though, just an update on life in general.

I'm a Missourigander now, at least that's what my son called us when we moved down here from Michigan in February.  I'm sure the actual term is something like Missourian or Missourite or something along those lines but as former Michiganders it made sense to him.  I'm also sure I could Google it in about 5 seconds and know for sure, but I'm just that lazy.  I will tell you this though, whatever you call them, these Missouri people are amazing and have been overwhelmingly welcoming, encouraging, and generous.  I now do the morning show at 88.3 the Wind in Springfield (we have an Iphone AND an Android ap.... take that Apple!) and spend my days gorging on the many local eateries, including Lambert's Cafe (where they throw your food at you they want you to have it so bad) and Andy's Frozen Custard (where they have an item called the James Brownie Funky Jackhammer that is just as delicious as it's name is confusing).  They also have TWO Chick-Fil-As, a fact that remains a primary reason I took the job (people continue to believe I'm joking when I say this, but I promise you, we don't joke about Chick-Fil-A in my house), that and it was 75 degrees on March 10th.  Sure, there is the occasional house eating tornado that drops in, but it seems like a fair trade for a moderately warmer climate and easy access to the occasional Chick-n-mini for breakfast.

So I figure with all the life change going on, now is as good a time as any to better focus and relaunch my own personal online pop-culture venting machine known as

Some differences you may notice:

1) Less Videos - Don't get me wrong, I enjoy them and will certainly do more, but to be honest, I miss writing.  There's something about being able to construct humor in sentence form that I find tremendously appealing.  Ok, fine, substitute "trying" for "being able" in that sentence if you must, but it is a pursuit I find challenging and worthwhile.  I've been inspired lately by what Jon Acuff is doing over at "Stuff Christian's Like" and really believe there is a place for my voice to come through here in a way it can't on video or even over the air on my daily show.   I will likely still do videos for my reviews (I just don't have the time it takes to craft a real review) but my commentaries and lists will almost solely be pounded out on a keyboard from here on out.

2) More Posts - but shorter.  In fact, Rollin will become more of a true blog in that most of the posts will be links to found content with brief commentary.  My goal will be to allow my addiction to consuming pop-culture content turn into your freedom to not need to.  If you have an interest in movies, tv, music, technology, gaming, or the internet and how that relates to your faith (or lack thereof, not judging, just want to be inclusive) then I can be your pop culture blood hound, seeking out our common interests, bringing you back what I find, and dropping it, tail wagging wildly, at your feet.

3) A Better Archive - I've taken the time to apply labels throughout my archives to give you better access to the things you are interested in.  Only want to read about technology stuff? Click tech.  Only want to see the reviews?  Click reviews.  Want to relive the horror of me ranking American Idol higher than The Simpsons in 2006? Just click Best of 2006.  As the content becomes more voluminous this will be key in you zooming in on the stuff you find most intriguing.

In my four years of doing rollin', and the previous three running (long story, maybe later) I've always seen this space as my own personal outlet to record and proclaim my pop culture proclivities, and if you can find some use from it all the better.  Thanks for checking in, and let's get rollin'!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

From the archives: The Incredibles Review

Before blogs existed I wrote for an actual website.  Scary, huh?   Check out this classic gem.

That's Incredible!!
("The Incredibles" PG)
(Monday Review 11/15/4)

Going to a Pixar film is more of an event than just seeing a movie. It's never just about the opening to ending credits, it's about the entire experience. It's the anticipation, then the kids talking through the movie ("Mommy, that's the same way Buzz Lightyear starts!"), there's the previews (including the debut of the new Star Wars and Pixar's next film "Cars"), and of course the Pixar short that directly precedes the feature (In this case a wonderful piece of encouragement called "Boundin'").  It is a testament to Pixar's genius that all of these things somehow work to enhance the main event and not distract from it. It's like the chef who knows his meal is more than just the final entree.  It's the perfect appetizers, the immaculate presentation that, though amazing in their own regard, really ultimately serve to prepare the way for the main course, and what a main course it is.

"The Incredibles" is the story of your prototypical Superhero family whose bane is that there really is no such thing as a prototypical Superhero family. Forced to hide their identity as "Supers" from the world, each member of the clan struggles to fit in and make due. Mom (once Elastigirl) and Dad (once Mr. Incredible) attempt to make married life work and suffer the slings and arrows of the workaday world and the domestic duties of the home. Preteen Daughter Violet disappears (literally) from sight as she struggles with fitting in at school and getting a sense of her self worth. Her younger brother Dash isn't handling school too well and can hardly contain his super speed. Only baby Jack Jack seems blissfully unaware of the difficulty of being an extraordinary person in an ordinary world.

The Wow Factor

Pixar continues to make technological strides that result in some of the most gorgeous images you will see on a movie screen. Pixar never forgets that making animation is not about trying to look amazingly real, it's about taking advantage of the fact that it isn't real to make it look amazing. You can see it in the way Dash's hair flies when he runs or the way the supersuits have the perfect sheen for the material. Once again Pixar sets the bar exceedingly high for all animation (computer or otherwise).  It's not just the technical achievement though that makes your head shake in amazement, it's also the sheer creative force that Pixar continues to be. I would have loved to have been there when they brainstormed ways that Elastigirl could use her stretchiness and watched how some of the ideas germinated. Without giving away too much let's just say she embodies what it means to be a mom stretched thin to meet the needs of her family (a fully intentional metaphor to be sure.)

The Whoa Factor

If "wow" is embodied by shaking your head in "How did they do that?" amazement then "whoa" is the drop your jaw adrenaline of absolute cool. There is no better example of this then the chase scene where Dash fully unleashes his abilities and you get 15 full minutes of your 5 year old yelling "WOO-HOOO!" or maybe that was me yelling. Either way, the action in this movie is the best superhero action of the year, if not ever (and that includes the amazing "Spiderman 2").  Now, I'm all for huge chunks of eye popping action, but it's the story that gives it the weight. Pixar's main mantra has always been "story first" and it once again shows in "The Incredibles".

The Awww Factor

At the heart of this story is family. This family that deals with the same issues as most other families. Dad deals with missing the "glory days", daughter Violet deals with fitting in at school, son Dash deals with needing an outlet for his ADHD personality and Mom deals with holding it all together. It's no accident that their superpowers reflect the issues they deal with. Mr. Incredible's brute force is an metaphor for his need to be strong for his family. Violet (as in shrinking violet) wears her hair in front of her face and hides every time the cute boy in class is around, so it's no surprise her powers are invisibility and the ability to create a force field around herself. Dash's super speed is a perfect fit for every pre adolescent hyperactive boy, and Mom's elastic limbs represent her need to be a million places at once and the flexibility every mom needs to survive. Each member learns over the course of the movie that they are strongest using their "powers" together instead of all going their separate ways. Though this family unity theme is certainly important, the message of their gifts goes deeper.  It's also about how the gifts are used. As if taking a page right out of I Corinthians 12 (that's in the Bible) there is a large emphasis on how the family must use their gifts for good. Though this is certainly a common theme in any superhero story, it's one that is touched upon more deeply here. Each family member must come to grips with how their powers fit in a world that is no longer welcoming them, which brings us to the final message that this movie slams home. "In a world where everyone is super, no one is."  These words are spoken by both Dash and bad guy "Syndrome" at different points in the movie. It is a purposeful commentary on a culture of forced mediocrity and false equality. It certainly resonates in a world where kids are told they are all the same, and grades are discontinued in favor of gold stars and candy bars. The point is some people are better at certain things than others. It doesn't make them more valuable as a life, or more important as a human being, it just gives them more ability. If a child is "super" at academics, athletics, arts, or any combination of these and other gifts it's not something that should be "dumbed down" so the rest of the class feels better about themselves. It should be celebrated, cultivated, and allowed to grow. The people who use their gifts to their fullest and for good are truly the ones we should refer to as "The Incredibles" and we shouldn't let jealousy detract from their greatness.

The truth is "The Incredibles" is well.... Incredible. And we have the superheroes at Pixar to thank for using their superpowers for good and not being afraid to be leaps and bounds better than any other studio working today.

Overall: A