Movie Review: Inside Out

There’s something about seeing emotions personified that helps remind you of what it’s like to relive those memories that you hold close. I guess it’s great for kids but looking at it as an adult provides a different perspective.

A child wrestles with her emotions after moving to San Francisco.

Since I first heard of the concept years ago, I put it in my mental calendar. I thought it would make for an interesting film. Back when I was an animation major, I had an assignment where I had to personify an emotion. When the first images of the emotions were released, I posted it to our animation group on Facebook because it was relevant. Seeing it now reminded me of it (I recall it was similar to Disgust, but more illness related).

When it came out to theaters, I wanted to see it with my autistic best friend. There was a bit of humor in it when coupled with the notion that all autistic people can’t express emotion and we were going to see a film that was about emotion. I tried my best to avoid reading spoilers but from my online friends (the majority of which are autistic), this came highly recommended. I went in with tissues in my pocket, hearing that it was going to be a tear-jerker. Sadly, no tears were shed on my end, something that really bugs me on a personal level because I wanted to feel the emotion at the point where everyone said it would be. I’m still a bitter about this but I won’t bore you with the details.

If it sounds like I’m going to repeat what you’ve heard or know about it, you’re right. After going for more than a year without a Pixar film, it was definitely worth the wait. The fact that we get two Pixar films this year (personally not sure about The Good Dinosaur as of this writing) really adds the icing on the cake. To be honest, I wasn’t a fan of the past three films of theirs as I was with, say, Ratatouille or Up. While it may be a return to classic Pixar, we are getting a third Cars, a fourth Toy Story, and a second Incredibles (the last is the only one of the three I’m looking forward to). With this and The Good Dinosaur, it’s a matter of savoring these original films before the sequels come in.

Judging by the crowd at the showing I attended, there weren’t many kids. I figured that would be the case as I was trying to figure out how this would be marketed for kids. One TV spot I’ve seen repeatedly introduced each emotion but ended the list by saying “And you know what sadness is.” What was meant by that line, I’m not sure. If I were a kid, I’d probably focus on the colorful emotions, possibly picking up on some of the humor. As I am, I was able to appreciate it on an immediate level. It also helped that I was dealing with some emotions prior to the screening and figured this would help me.

I’ve been a fan of Michael Giacchino’s work since I was introduced to him on LOST. This meant knowing that he has some heart-tugging pieces, like the death theme from LOST (most notably in the final episode) and the montage from Up. When it came time for the sad part, I recognized some of his traits and I was reminded of these scores. And yet, not a tear was shed. I figure that repeat listens will provide some closure as there won’t be any dialogue.

In the end, I wish I had felt all the feels, as today’s youth puts it. I do appreciate the fact that it’s OK to be sad, something that isn’t heard much. It’s actually comforting to see, especially in this new wave of kid’s media. That’s not to say that this was just a kid’s film, but rather that the message can be directed towards them. I’m definitely adding this to my collection, that much is certain.

P.S. I didn’t care much for the short. I expect it’ll be a nominee for Best Animated Short but I don’t expect it to win.

8/10

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2

 

Don’t look at me like that, Toothless. Seriously, stop it.

Hiccup and Toothless try to save Berk from another dragon war by preventing a growing dragon army from attacking.

I caught this yesterday with some friends. I had heard from my friends, mostly animation majors, that this was amazing; the conclusion was mostly drawn from gasps and “I KNOW!”, so I walked in knowing that it had to be amazing. Long story short: it is, in some aspects.

Most of the images are all about scale. From seeing Toothless and Hiccup fly among the clouds to the reveal of the Alpha, there’s a bit to take in. From where I was, I was further away from the screen than I normally would be in a theater but I suppose that didn’t matter. I was caught up in the world of Berk and I felt like I had a sense of scale.

Scanning the audience, I found more adults than children present. There were groups of just adults strolling in and taking their seats. Sure, there were kids but to see the room filled with more adults is surprising. I suppose like the previous film, there is something that connects viewers regardless of age.

There are some bouts of turbulence in the film’s flight pattern. The other Viking adults (Astrid, Snotlout, etc.) are sent to the back for the majority of the film. Whenever a scene focused on them, I forgot that they were even part of the film. They’ve aged, sure, but they haven’t matured, save for Astrid.

The dialogue, while touching, does set up each plot point for the film if you pay attention. When I picked up on some of these lines, I figured it was only a matter of time before said event happened. Thankfully, I focused on other things in the meantime.

I’m sure, if you haven’t heard already, that there’s a line that Gobber mentions that hints at something that may be present in the third movie. I’d read about it and had anticipated the response in the theater. There were several chuckles among the adults, myself included. If it means what I think it means, then it’ll be a pleasure to watch.

It’s beautifully rendered, even without the 3D glasses as I saw it. I felt like I could live in Berk and be completely fine with it (as long as I get my own Night Fury). The dragon nest is stunning, though I felt like I stumbled into Avatar because of the look. Still, it’s a beautiful environment.

Is this better than the first one? Yes. New territory is explored and we see Hiccup and crew change once again. It’s not the usual retread that sequels usually suffer, but it does have some missteps. I’ll end up watching this again when the DVD comes out with some animation majors just because. Now comes the hard part: waiting for the third.

8/10

Movie Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

 

If that isn’t an impressive shot for a stop-motion film, I don’t know what is. I’m jealous. Last night, I went to my library and found this in the “new releases” section. This was the first time I could get it as other patrons had previously checked it out. Now I want the Criterion print on my shelf.

Mr. Fox returns to stealing chickens from three evil farmers who try to kill him.

I’m still new to Wes Anderson’s work, only having seen Moonrise Kingdom, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and now this. Even from just those three films, I can see that he has an eye for composition and color palette. Nearly every frame can be a beautiful photograph tucked away in some scrapbook in the attic. Speaking of color, here’s the color map for the entire film.

As I waited for the DVD player to warm up, I noticed the rating on the back listed “slang humor” as an advisory. While it isn’t the strangest reason I’ve found for a rating, I saw where it came from. In the film, instead of using actual profanity, every word is replaced with “cuss”. I don’t have a problem with the actual use (other than making sure my viewing environment is secure from impressionable ears) but after a while, it does lose power and meaning. Here, the euphemism (being a family film and all) has a new spark of life and maintains its power throughout. At one point, a wall in the background is seen vandalized with “CUSS”. That’s funny, along with the fact that this was a 20th Century Fox film.

Halfway through the film, I was interrupted and was asked to do some chore. It was the first time my eyes looked away from the screen. I felt a little disoriented as for the past 45 minutes, I was in a symmetrical world with clearly defined focal points. Now, everything was asymmetrical and unclear. Once I resumed play, I felt back at home until the end of the film. I’m fine now, but it’s incredible if a film can do that to your vision.

Looking back on it, I wonder who the audience was. Besides fans of Wes Anderson, Roald Dahl, and stop-motion animation, I didn’t see any indication of a specific audience. I don’t remember seeing tie-ins with fast food joints or any kind of merchandising outside of a soundtrack. People did watch it, as it made a little more than their budget. It’s an official Criterion Collection selection, like I mentioned above, but those are mainly for the serious collector and viewer. So who is it for? I’m not exactly sure.

It’s not a perfect film but I enjoyed this film and look forward to adding it to my personal collection. It’s different but fantastic.

8/10

Movie Review: The Story of Luke

 

It seems like very few films dealing with autism in any aspect hit mainstream audiences. On a few occasions, I’ve browsed through the Wikipedia section on autism films and found that the majority of them are not at all familiar. The only films I’ve heard of and seen are Rain Man and Mary and Max. It was through a WordPress post that I found this film, currently free to watch on Hulu. With those points, I figured I should take a look.

Luke, an autistic man, tries to get a job so that he can get a date and “screw”.

Lou Taylor Pucci’s portrayal as Luke is very well done. I go as far as to say that it rivals Dustin Hoffman’s role as Charlie. The nervousness, the stimming (rocking back and forth), the echolalia, the specific interests, the recall, the social awkwardness, the speech patterns, the need for routine; all of this is there. I give the movie props for having an autistic protagonist.

At the same time, there’s the unpleasant part of reality that is portrayed here. The slurs, the hostility, the lack of understanding, the family problems (sometimes not at all related to Luke) show up. At least Luke does his best to stand up for himself whenever someone drop the r-word but the best others can do is offer a half-hearted apology.

This leads me to Seth Green’s performance. Having only known him from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and some cameos, I was surprised that he’d be in this film. Sure, he’s the abusive, self-centered jerk of a boss holding a position through nepotism but then he used the term “NT”, short for “neurologically typical/neurotypical”.

Now, I have to put my two cents about this scene. I have never personally known someone who is the spectrum to be that harsh. I’m not saying they don’t exist but I haven’t met anyone like that yet. Also, I’ve used the term “NT” but in discussion with close friends, both on and off the spectrum. It’s not offensive but I don’t use it in casual conversation.

With Seth’s role, the reveal was a surprise but the explanation makes sense. If someone made a simulation like what’s featured in the film, they’d make a lot of money. It’d be great for an app or even just a program for special ed classes. But in all honesty, why would someone put a relative in a position of power when they clearly can’t handle it?

The movie isn’t all sunshine and rainbows as Luke does have some letdowns. I actually like it that way as it doesn’t give Luke a 100% success rate just because he’s autistic. I know I’ve had disappointments and failures; the fact that I was on the spectrum was irrelevant.

This has won multiple awards and definitely deserved them. If you’re looking for something other than Rain Man or Mary and Max, I’d recommend it.

8/10

Movie Review: Blade Runner: The Final Cut

Just think, in only five more years LA will transform into something neot-ech. After all, we’re supposed to have hoverboards next year according to Back to the Future Part II; but I digress.

A burnt-out detective takes on an assignment that involves retiring replicants after they illegally return to Earth.

First impressions of a film are irreversible. This can be difficult when more than one version of the film exists, like Donnie Darko or THX 1138. I was told a year or so ago that the only version of this film I should see is The Final Cut. That vanished from my memory when I found a copy of Blade Runner at my library during my sophomore winter break. When the conversation came up months later, I wondered if I saw the right one. Sure enough, I did. To this date, this is the only version I’ve seen even though I own a first-run Director’s Cut on DVD and a domestic/international print (the box is in terrible condition) on VHS.

The environment is very immersive to the point where I felt cold and wet from all of the rain shown. The low-key lighting complements the derelict sets. There is nothing clean about any part of the set; everything looks and feels used.

Before I even saw the film, I had heard several pieces on Pandora. I had grown accustomed to rhythm and flow but was surprised to hear them severely truncated in the film during my initial viewing. I have the soundtrack in my car whenever there’s a rainy day (fitting, indeed).

I have heard some people comment, primarily negatively, on the slow pacing. I don’t have a problem with it. For me, I use 2001: A Space Odyssey as a benchmark for runtime. I should be able to grasp broad concepts in the time allotted while still leave information I can analyze upon repeated viewings. With films like this and 2001, the pace is appropriate. If it were any faster, subtext would be missing as well as some key points.

I would like to focus on the questions used with the Voight-Kampff machine that determines whether or not a subject is a replicant. On the surface, they seem like they have obvious answers. Other times, there may be a specific answer that could only be given as a programmed response. When watching the first Deckard/Rachel interrogation with the Voight-Kampff, Rachel responded rather quickly. The response time provided means that she can either be a human who had access to the question key beforehand or a replicant programmed with the information from the key.

Assuming the second half is true, I feel like a replicant (at least the concept) at times. I may look human and provide some kind of response but it doesn’t always feel real. It takes a lot of mental effort to function a certain way and pass as “normal”. Even Rachel asks Deckard if he even took the test, only to be given no response. It seems only fair if the test is adminstered to those who will proctor it later on.

Originally, I had planned to review every single print available and list the differences. I changed my mind, mostly because it’s been done (complete list here). Also, the 1001 list doesn’t specify which print should be viewed. Consider this my sole review for the film.

Not everyone will like this film, I get that. There are enough thrills and content to satisfy anyone looking for a serious film. If you haven’t seen this yet, I strongly recommend watching The Final Cut before anything else.

8/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

IMDB Top 250

AFI Top 100 (2007): #97

400 Nominations for AFI Top 100 for both years