Inside Out

Pixar proving that it really does know us Inside Out…

This film is Pixar’s best outing yet. It’s so clever, moving and beautifully told – in the way only Pixar an master. An outstanding treat of a film for both kids and adults. Both silly yet serious, it manages to articulate the traumas of growing up in a way that both reflects them for the kids but prompts self-reflection from the adults. It cannot be emphasised enough how universal the film is, with a multitude of jokes that will appeal to all markets. It’s witty, yet warm and oh-so wise. Joy. Sadness. Fear. Disgust. Anger. These are all emotions that we feel, often simultaneously, yet this film makes us consider the true power of these emotions and how they are all equally important – in a manner that will make you giggle and possibly shed a tear or two.

11-year-old Riley lives in Minnesota with her mum and dad. For Riley, everyday is a great day. She loves her family, friends, hockey and goofing around. With Joy (Amy Poehler) at the helm in the Headquarters -Riley’s conscious mind- to influence Riley’s actions and memories. Joy, along with Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), use a control console to interact with Riley. Even after 11 years, they still cannot understand the purpose of Sadness (Phyllis Smith). Yet Riley’s life quickly changes, with her family moving to San Francisco for her dad’s work. Whilst Joy and the other three emotions are trying to negotiate Riley’s well-being upon moving, they most also deal with Sadness who has started to touch some of Riley’s happy memories, transforming them to be sad. When trying to fix one of these memories Joy and Sadness end up being transported away from Headquarters into the labyrinthian maze that is Riley’s mind.

It’s immensely hard to find the words to explain just how extraordinary this film is. In typical Pixar-style it has created a film with a premise that seems so obvious, the idea of our emotions having personalities, yet manages to create something so beautifully poignant, entertaining and moving. Riley’s turmoil is so well reflected, it will bring back evocative memories for all. For the parents of the audience it could only be doubly heartfelt – an opportunity to see inside your child’s mind!

How these aspects are converted onto the screen are what makes Pixar so innovative. We have the Train of Thought, Personality Islands and the dreaded Memory Dump. A stand-out sequence has to when Sadness, Joy and Bing-Bong (Riley’s long forgotten imaginary friend) stop by the production studio for Dreams. It’s just so meta, with the revelation that dreams are actually created in a movie studio style-operation, reflecting on the manufacturing and perception of moving image. All of this is incredibly astute, but told in a way that is accessible to all ages. But what really makes us care about the events of this film is the characterisation. All the characters are fully developed and three dimensional – Riley is portrayed as such a lovely kid going through a real crisis, her loving parents doing all they can to help and their bond is so endearing. The emotions do steal the show here – they each have nuances and quirks yet are all untied with their tender treatment of Riley.

If you decide to go to the cinema only once this Summer, this is the film to see. It’s conceptually daring in both emotion and intellect, so comforting and simple but also affecting and thoughtful. A masterpiece.

Mini-Review: Lava

lava

Like all Pixar movies this film starts with a short, a beautiful love story called ‘Lava’. Told through song, a lonely volcano expresses his need for a companion he can love. It’s a beautiful sequence, the colourings and textures of the island landscape with the camera panning over so elegantly create an almost mythical tone. It’s hard to believe how far, animation-wise Pixar and its technology has developed since ‘Knick-Knack’ (1989) one of its earliest and similarly themed shorts. A timeless and universal theme presented in a extraordinary setting and style – setting you up perfectly for the main picture.

Magic Mike XXL

Are you ready for ‘one last ride’..?

In 2012 Magic Mike was something of a surprise hit. Channing Tatum (playing our eponymous hero) used his pre-Hollywood experience as a ‘male entertainer’ (the apparently preferred term to strippers) to produce a movie which reflected both the sexiness and seediness of the industry. It also inspired millions of women to re-listen to ‘It’s Raining Men’ and be unable to separate it from Tatum’s… athletic… and memorable choreography. Earning $167 million at the box office, on only a $7 million budget, it’s unsurprising that we return back to Mike’s world of male entertainers. This time it’s XXL, and in this case size really does matter…

Magic Mike ended with Mike throwing in the thong and retiring, giving up the ‘glamour’  of the industry to fulfill his dream of setting up his own company (designing and customizing carpentry, obviously!) He also gave up all the perks of the job (money, drugs and lots of women) to settle down with one girl. The sequel starts three years into his retirement, his business is going as well as could be expected in this economic climate, yet Mike’s life is not particularly…well magical. So when he gets a phone call from his old crew, offering him the chance for ‘one last ride’ and reunite for a final performance at a stripping convention (sidebar – I have no idea if this is a real thing, but I intend to find out and attend if so…but I digress!) It’s an opportunity he accepts readily, after a nostalgia- inducing dance to ‘Pony’ whilst weltering one evening (what is it about Hollywood attempting to sexualise weltering?!?) The film follows the crew as they travel to the convention, following the typical journey narrative. Things go wrong on the way, the characters experience self-reflection and make a show-stopping final performance. Yet it’s still a cracking female entertainer of a film.

Whilst the first film was enjoyable enough it tried to hard to be more than it was. It tried to be an expose of the seedy underbelly of stripping, a reflection of broken dreams and addictions. The sequel has clearly learnt from this mistake, replacing the po-faced storytelling with fun. So. Much. Fun.

What is really enjoyable about this film, and what makes it not necessarily extraordinary  but at least note-worthy, is fact it accurately portrays and liberates female desire. The choreography is designed with female engagement in mind, the male entertainers want to please and excite women. They enjoy it. And unlike many recent Hollywood films, there is no grey area here about consent – the consent of both men and women is given and celebrated.  The men dance for crowds made up of all shapes, sizes and ages – there are no restrictions here. All women are beautiful and deserve to experience desire and be desired themselves. In fact many of the scenes explicitly state this (in a way that is almost Corny but manged not to cross the line) told through mini-story arcs where the men help the women (yeah, here’s that line) embrace themselves and their worth. The cloying nature of this is minimised with the presence of some strong and fierce female characters – Jada Pinkett Smith and Elizabeth Banks steal every scene they are in.

The soundtrack is also electric – this time round it will be impossible to separate Backstreet Boys ‘I want it that way’ and NIN’s ‘Closer’ from Joe Manganiello’s (Big Dick Ritchie’s) *inspiring* routines. This film is well worth seeing, ideally with a group of friends or a cinema screen filled with admiring women. Never has a cinema been filled with estrogen on this scale, or as many appreciative cackles…

Moomins on the Riviera

Is it Moomin’ marvellous? Well, yes and no…

Going into this film with no context of The Moomins is inadvisable. In fact, I would probably recommend this film only to big fans of the Moomins (shout out to Carrie ‘Cookie’ Turner-Gould and Matthew at this point!) Unfortunately, I am not a big fan of the Moomins. Although I have vague memories of the cartoon series, of strange hippo-looking creatures going on adventures, I do not really remember enough of the series to confirm that this film is merely a continuation onto the big screen. And I really did not remember The Moomins being so… strange…

The film opens with Snuffkin (yes I have got tabs open of Google and IMDB to help with this review!) strolling across Moomin Valley.In fact the entire opening sequence (3-5 mins) is of Snuffkin on his journey, of what and who he sees along the way. It is in this aspect the film really excels – the artwork and colouring is truly extraordinary. Every single frame could be printed off and used as artwork. The hand-drawn animation is truly glorious to watch on the big screen, and sets up a would could be described as a whimsical and quaint tone for the rest of the film. Or you could describe it as tedious. But I digress…

Finally, Snuffkin arrives at his journey. At the point the party (literally) gets started. Moominpappa makes a speech about how at this present moment he would not want to be anywhere else. He then plays a bit with fire then the party is over. Then we cut to the next day and a pirate ship is the distance (there is no transition or explanation, which may divide audiences) It starts to sink and the pirates escape – leaving behind their prisoners, Little My and her sister, who are tied up. They have also abandoned two treasures chests – one filled with gold and the other, seeds. The Moomins go to scavenge, accidentially rescuing the hostages in the process. The pirates come to collect their treasure chest from the Moomin family – who chose to collect books, fireworks and seeds instead. The pirates leave. The next day, whilst relaxing in the garden, they decide to go to the Riveria. They go to the Riveria. Various adventures happen. They go home.

And that is it in terms of the plot. It is incredibly simplistic and that both works, yet also doesn’t. Yes, it is a kids film but that doesn’t mean it has to be so simple or almost lackadaisical. Also, if this really is a kids film, I’m not so sure they would understand that many of the jokes or nuances. In fact the entire sequence in the Riveria is essentially a satire of a Monte Carlo- esque resort: about how ‘appearances can be deceptive’, to ‘be careful what you wish for’ and how ‘the grass isn’t greener on the other side’. Snorkmaiden is wooed by a charming celebrity man/dog/thing, who rivals Moomin in her afffections. It takes a fencing duel for her to realise the error of her ways. One character, the Marquis Mongaga, in fact personifies woes of consumerism completely. He spends most of the film charmed by the misadventures of Moominpappa (adventures I can only presume are recounted events from the comic strips?) until he feels bold enough to confess- he would give it all up to be a poor, struggling artist. Needless to say, he isn’t really suited to the lifestyle he has glamourised.  In this sense the film is quite clever, gently poking fun at bohemia and culture with some rather sharp gags. But this is done in a manner far too episodic for it to actually flow as a film.

This film, perhaps like marmite, will divide audiences totally. One side will leave the cinema describing it with adjectives including, ‘wistful’, ‘gentle’, ‘charming’, ‘mischievous’, ‘heartwarming’ and ‘eccentric’.

The other side will leave asking, ‘What did I just see..?’

Tomorrowland

Disney does dystopia – and it’s a rather dull world after all…

tomorrowland_ver5

With a running time of 2 hours and 10 minutes it is difficult when watching Tomorrowland to understand where that time goes. Unfortunately, this is not in the positive way of ‘time flies when you’re having fun!’ More like, ‘what took you guys so long?’ The film is so generic and vague with terms of the audience it is pitching to that it ends up appealing to no-one. The entire film feels like a set-up for a sequel – a sequel which, judging it’s current box office takings, will not happen. The film is a victim of scriptwriting – of safe, as opposed to lazy, scriptwriting.

All the expected tropes of a Disney film are here; a main character (Casey Newton, played by Britt Robertsonwith a unique ability that makes her an outcast (her instinctive knowledge of science, in case you didn’t work that out from the surname); a sibiling who acts older than their years (looks roughly 11 but has the wisdom on someone five times that); a single parent upbringing (mum died under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind an embittered genius scientist of a father); a British villian (Hugh Laurie); a call to arms (in the form of a mysterious young girl) and an opportunity to save the world (from it’s self – more on that later…) aided by a maverick elder figure (George Clooney).

All of this combined creates a film which we feel like we have seen before – arguably just with a new and futuristic setting. The idea is that we are aligned with Casey, as she is inducted into this world via a pin. The pin is delivered to her by an unknown source (unknown to her, we know it is Athena who has established links to Tomorrowland) which upon touching takes her to the ‘World Of Tomorrow’ (if you are a fan of Futurama you just got that reference and probably read it in your head in the appropriate tone of voice…) Casey spends two minutes (literally, as shown by the back of the pin) in Tomorrowland and is desperate to go back. Frank Walker (as played by George Clooney) is just the man to do it.

What procedes their meeting is the exciting set piece you have probably seen from the trailers, which have been front-loaded for the past few months. It is a fantastic set piece. It is also the best bit of the film. The rest is merely set up – conversations, discussions and fights which delay our arrival to Tomorrowland. Once we arrive the film’s messages, which have been not-so-subtly placed throughout the film, are then articulated in their entirety – obviously via the British villian giving a great speech. True, there are some important ideas being highlighted within this ‘great’ speech, but there are also some ideas which are either unnecessary or contradictory. It is hard to establish as a viewer whether I should be trying to fix my current world, or using my creativity to help establish a new and better one.

The film also has an important message about hope – of never giving up on one’s dreams. I hope that this film helps Hollywood realise it needs to get some original ideas…

No, not really George. Thanks for the offer though...

No, not really George. Thanks for the offer though…