Inside Out Review - Disney Pixar craft a wondrous world of mixed emotions in this stunning animation
After watching the beautiful short, Lava (2015), the type which always precedes any feature length Pixar piece, one could be fooled into thinking that the cinema experience couldn’t get any more heartfelt or poignant. It does. Welcome to the beautiful, transcendent and touching experience that is the world of Inside Out (2015).
The film takes us on a 90 minute journey traversing the inner workings of Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) - our young protagonist’s - brain and psyche, notably how her central emotions; Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black), and Fear (Bill Hader), impact how she lives and remembers moments of her life. From her first instants as a newborn baby, to her passion for hockey, and her loving family, Riley's life has mostly been a joyous one. All five of her glowing yellow core memories reflect this. But as she verges on the last days of true childhood, her family decides to pack up and move to San Francisco from their home in Minnesota, leading to a conflict between her emotions on how best to handle the situation. As she struggles to find herself in a new city, school and home, her first sad core memory develops, and inside the Headquarters that are her brain, the ensuing scuffle to fix this sends both Joy and Sadness out into the depths of her Long Term memory. As things go awry in Riley’s real-life, so to do things begin falling apart inside her head, memories begin turning blue as Sadness touches them, and the islands that define aspects of her personality begin to crumble. If Riley is ever going to be Riley again, Joy and Sadness need to find their way back and remind her who she really is.
Firstly, the film is filled with countless inside nods to how our brains work, but are simplified exquisitely for the young audience. The emotions themselves are representative, each a different colour, and charged with a different role. Whilst you could expect Fear or Disgust to be mainly negative emotions, they instead play a crucial role in keeping Riley safe. Outside of these portrayals however, there is also a stunning use of common ideas we often overlook. There is a literal ‘train of thought’, a brain freeze, the easy ability to confuse facts with opinion, Déjà vu, long-lost imaginary friends, a gated subconscious, the Dream Production Studios (which make features such as ‘I Can Fly’, and stars actors such as Rainbow Sparkle Unicorn), and Déjà vu. Whilst some of these aspects will surely go over children’s heads, the stuff that does sink in makes for an important educational tool.
To lighten the mood, sprinkled generously amongst the film and its gloomier moments is a humour that delights both old and young. We finally receive an understanding of why annoying commercial jingles play on repeat in our heads, by way of memory sifters who take pleasure in continuously throwing the recollection to headquarters. Or why we only ever remember ‘chopsticks’ out of four years of piano lessons. But better than that, we get an observant and hilarious look into the minds and emotions of other characters, such as Riley’s Mum and Dad. This happens by way of an elaborate scene placed almost half-way through the film which, arguably, is a point that makes the movie. When her mum asks her how her day has been, and she receives an unhappy response, she cues Riley's father to talk to her. Snap into Dad’s brain, and all his emotions are too busy reminiscing on a sport game, that he doesn’t quite grasp the question; “Is it Tuesday? Did we forget to put the bins out again? Oh no, did we put the toilet seat down?” The scene plays out as a gorgeous interaction of the varying ways people think, jumping back and forth between Mum, Dad and Riley’s brains, and utilising fantastic writing to make lines such as “was that sass?” and “the foot is down” so noteworthy.
Inside Out is a film rich in its expression and understanding of things. Down to the rather nuanced DNA-structured ladders used to reach the long term memories, and the synapse structure of the brain's headquarters, the film is constantly endeavouring to teach kids things without them realising it. For those that say the messages and education the film provides is too complex, and may go over the heads of the young intended audience, such critics are not giving enough credit to the subliminal and subconscious power our brains have, something the film impressively conveys.
Above all, Inside Out is Pixar returning to its best, reaching both children and adults alike with its wonderfully fashioned, thought-provoking, and utterly heart-wrenching tale. Whilst Pete Docter’s story and direction is a straightforward one, it is a surprise that the message and theme has not been tackled before. When depression and other changes in emotions are often disregarded or demeaned in conversation, it’s a refreshing change to see someone finally discussing them. Its triumph therefore lies in convincing kids that it’s not about trying to joyous all the time, but rather, how important it is to strike a balance. How, in the end, it is okay to have mixed emotions about life.
Rating: 4.5 emotions out of 5
Jurassic World Review - The claws are out as tried and tested prehistoric plots are let loose in this blockbuster
It’s been 22 years since the first film and 14 years since the last movie was released, but finally the Park is open. And once again, they’re not about to make the same mistakes, they’re going to make all new ones. Richard Hammond would be proud. Isla Nublar, the original site A from Jurassic Park is the now fully transformed Jurassic World, a theme-park commoditised around dinosaurs. There are rides on baby triceratops, giant aquariums with mosasaurs, and even gyrospheres to give you an up-close experience with the once extinct creatures. But in today’s consumer driven society, people are no longer content with just seeing dinosaurs. The once extinct animals are just not ‘wow’ enough anymore. People are demanding something newer, bigger, better, scarier, and basically has, well, more teeth. So the good old scientists, led by B.D. Wong reprising his role as Dr Henry Wu, alongside the corporate machine that runs the show, decide that the way to increase attendance is to cook up a genetically modified dinosaur.
So, what could possibly go wrong? In the words of Dr Ian Malcolm; “Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running and um, screaming.” Jurassic World (2015) brings the same old tried-and-tested concept as its precursors, and unfortunately little else. The park is for once running smoothly (no one is getting eaten) but losing interest from the public, so the scientists, keen to up the ante, go and play God, creating a smarter, bigger and all round more pissed off dinosaur, that, as animals do, falls prey to its basic instincts to figure out its place in the food chain (hint its up there at the top). Subsequent dino-escape scene and cue the havoc.
The once daring and revolutionary formula of the original is instead disenchanting and overused here, plainly stated throughout the film and its casting. Instead of Sam Neill as the gruff child-hating palaeontologist, we get Chris Pratt (in fine form both literally and figuratively) as raptor-wrangler Owen Grady, a gruff-but-comedic Indiana Jones like character, who rides a motorcycle, wears a leather vest, and for some reason gained experience to work with dinosaurs by being in the navy? Similarly Bryce Dallas Howard takes the reins as female lead Claire, who is not quite as spunky as Laura Dern’s Dr Ellie Sattler, or as daring as Julianne Moore’s Sarah Harding. Instead she is a bland authoritarian hell-bent on preserving her femininity in the face of all the chaos by remaining clad in high heel shoes despite being chased by a T-Rex. Rounding out the protagonists are Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson as brothers Gray and Zach, the nephews of Park Manager Claire, and the stock-standard link for children to the movie.
Such a formula has so much potential, if it was executed on the same level as the original. Instead, the characters fall into one-dimensional frames, the neurotic business woman, the sexy animal whisperer, the teenager more concerned with looking at girls than at the once extinct creatures around him. Despite fantastic acting on the parts of Howard, Pratt and Simpkins, only Owen crosses the line as a character you want to root for, representing a more normal, less chaos-y, and sexier looking Jeff Goldblum. The rest are caricatures to the ‘making a transformation’ trope that adventure films rely on, and lack any real chemistry or connection with each other and the audience. Why Owen and Claire are painted as love interests baffles, considering the complete lack of build-up or passion, with their backstory being reduced to a single line informing audiences that they have only ever been on one date (which she micro-managed and drew out an itinerary for). The villainous character of Hoskins, whilst effectively brought to life by Vincent D’Onofrio, somehow manages to conjure even more one-dimensionality, introducing a sub-plot about using dinosaurs as weapons, which shifts so far from the virtuous themes about humans playing God that made Jurassic Park the defining film it is, that it almost lands the film back on the mainland and away from any semblance of sophistication.
What Jurassic World does do however, it does well. What would a good dinosaur movie be without a bit of mayhem, and Jurassic World certainly serves it up. There are more dinosaurs, more action, and a stunning use of animatronics that damn-near brings a tear to the eye. The eye-level-hunting dinosaur scenes that made the first film the success it was, and guaranteed the T-Rex a place in nightmares the world over, are used to great effect. The fear is absolutely palpable when you see just how big the Indominus teeth are. The dinosaur fight scenes are also slick and ferocious, like the beasts themselves. The final clash in particular is executed so wonderfully, that it is a fitting pay-off for making it through the film, and a great nod to the ending of the first film. Whilst the CGI raptors don’t always look convincing here, they are finally utilised for something other than the traditional villains’, and it’s a refreshing change.
Above all, the film is a clear homage to Spielberg and his 1993 classic, and a satisfying addition for fans. From classic soundtracks that drift in and out of the movie, to long lost banners, night-vision goggles, and beloved beast cameos, there has been care taken to tell the audience that we are still a part of the world Spielberg created all those years ago. Whilst Spielberg took back seat for this movie as executive producer, handing the reins over to relative newcomer Colin Trevorrow, whose most stand-out film to date was the impressive Safety Not Guaranteed; it is easy to see his influence stampeding throughout. From scenes that fundamentally mirror moments from the first film; such as the glorious entrance through the Jurassic World gates, through to life-like animatronic dinosaurs suffering as humans look on; Spielberg is constantly reminding us that it is he that is the true king of dinosaurs. It’s a shame therefore that he didn’t direct. Whilst Trevorrow has crafted an interesting, and entertaining film, that certainly keeps the adrenaline pumping and the eyes open, it’s a shame that with a film like Jurassic Park as its precursor, it instead chooses to rest on the laurels of that great, instead of pushing past it to become its own masterpiece.
Rating: 3.5 Dino-Footprints out of 5
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